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Engineered For Space Travel

January 20, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 3

The editorial “JFK Flew Us to the Moon” was a fine tribute to President John F. Kennedy, who inspired interest in science and technology by initiating the program to put a man on the moon (C&EN, Dec. 2, 2013, page 3). Unfortunately, the editorial implied that the moon landing was a triumph of science by stating, “Kennedy’s confidence in science was most memorably manifested by his challenge to ... land a man on the moon.” Then it quoted JFK defining the lunar landing program with these expressions: “development of the appropriate lunar spacecraft,” “to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters,” “other engine development,” and “unmanned explorations.”

These are all engineering operations that were successfully completed. Despite this, the word engineering did not appear once in the editorial.

Why was one of the most spectacular engineering feats of the 20th century presented as a scientific accomplishment? Is it out of deference to JFK, who referred to the “science and technology” that would be required for the program, implying that scientists and technicians could handle the job? Other journalists (and politicians), as Henry Petroski opines in “The Essential Engineer,” don’t seem to know the difference between science and engineering and usually credit noble scientists for successful projects and denigrate the work of engineers.

Certainly the editor of an outstanding “engineering news” magazine shouldn’t have that problem. Whatever the reason, in the future please do more to promote the good works of engineers in Chemical & Engineering News.

Herb Waddell
Berkeley Heights, N.J



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