The art of timeliness

A revolutionary weather satellite and the AIAA presidential election

When we conducted a survey of Aerospace America readers a couple of years ago, the results reinforced our strategy of focusing the magazine on timely developments relevant to AIAA’s members and also the broader community.

When I’m editing, I like to imagine a notional reader. It could be someone who saw something on the TV news ticker about the launch of a revolutionary weather satellite or about a mysterious and controversial new propulsion concept. Or maybe the reader is a loyal AIAA member who knows that it’s time to vote for the next AIAA president but hasn’t had a chance to learn about the candidates.

Those, in fact, are among the topics you can dive into in this issue of the magazine.

For the From the Corner Office pages, I had the good fortune of interviewing the two candidates for the AIAA presidency, one of whom will start a one-year term as president-elect on May 3. One takeaway for me was that this change of leadership won’t amount to simply staying the course. Each candidate has tangible, concrete proposals for reversing AIAA’s membership decline. Another takeaway was that these candidates want to do that because they see a vibrant institute as necessary to empower engineers, technologists, entrepreneurs and many others to make our societies stronger.

Our cover story on the mysterious thrust measurement made at NASA Eagleworks in Houston provides the best look yet at the experiment setup and delves into the many questions about whether the measured effect was actually thrust. I don’t know whether NASA’s EmDrive team is onto something revolutionary. What I do know is that if the measurement turns out to be an error, that won’t be an embarrassment to the research community. It would mean that the system of peer review and publishing worked as planned.

Few developments could be more timely than the arrival in geostationary orbit of a camera that can photograph cloud formations with four-times better spatial resolution than its predecessors. The atmosphere is on a warming trend, and that’s likely to make storms stronger and more dangerous. Maybe even in 2017. The trick is to know which of those storms will threaten populated areas, so we can reduce false alarms. NOAA’s GOES-R satellite and its Advanced Baseline Imager will help forecasters tell us that. Those stakes make the engineering challenges and budgetary twists and turns all the more interesting.★

The art of timeliness