The Countdown to the First Virtual SXSW Has Begun

JOHN L. JUNKINS
Interim President

March 16, 2021

Nearly 60 years ago, I had the privilege of beginning my research career with an undergraduate internship at NASA. The early years of the historic Apollo program were a great learning experience for me and a great moment of advancement for our nation’s science and technology.

Later I was inspired by the work of Theodore von Karman, considered the father of aerospace engineering, who said, "A scientist studies what is, whereas an engineer creates what never was!" This engineering egocentric view of science versus engineering perhaps overstates the innovation role played by engineers. However, it was the combination of science and engineering, and of imagination and creativity, that led me to dedicate my career to the field of aerospace engineering, where I could collaborate across disciplines with those who would help us win the early phase of the space race during the Apollo years that truly launched us into the final frontier of space exploration and discovery.

It seems fitting that I have spent the bulk of my career at a university that holds the rare triple-designation as a land-, sea- and space-grant institution. Throughout its history, Texas A&M has been on the leading edge of a wide variety of space research. From studying the effects of altered gravity on human health, to researching materials whose properties are optimized for mass, strength and thermal properties, to those materials that may be used to build structures on other planets, to researching propulsion systems, to optimizing trajectories to fly to distant solar system bodies, to guidance, navigation, and control of spacecraft, to searching for ancient signs of life on Mars, our faculty are working across many disciplines to help us better understand our universe and our place in it.

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was canceled. This year we're very proud that the impressive work of our extraordinary faculty will be on full display at SXSW Online, the first virtual-only event in the festival’s history.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out the keynote speakers, the film screenings and the panel discussions, including one focused on "Who on Earth Should Govern Space?," in which I was pleased to participate.

Thanks and Gig 'em,

John L. Junkins
Interim President