Craig Kluever’s dream was born as he found himself awestruck in front of a grainy black-and-white television screen watching Apollo 11 land on the moon. He was in kindergarten. As he puts it, “that just made a big impact on me. Of course, the first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut.” Those early dreams of becoming an astronaut turned instead into a pursuit of the science behind the rockets. Today, the MU Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering works behind the scenes to solve the kind of problems involved in designing space travel—such as how to take off, how to reach a target, and, more importantly, how to return safely to Earth.
Asked how he was drawn to aerospace engineering, Kluever responds: “Well, really it’s from the Apollo days. When I was in kindergarten, I remember watching the Apollo 11 landing—the first lunar landing—on a grainy black-and-white TV. That just made a big impact on me, and of course the first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut, and when that didn’t work out I found out that engineers are really what’s needed to design these missions, so aerospace engineering just seemed like a logical thing for me.”
In the most basic definition of his field, Kluever explains that engineers apply math and science knowledge to real problems, taking existing knowledge from mathematics and the physical sciences to construct some real device or to make some system better. “What do engineers do at work?” he laughs irreverently, “they go to a lot of meetings, they work on projects, and they try to stay on budget!”
The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has recently developed an emphasis area in aerospace engineering. Kluever teaches such required courses in the general areas of dynamics (how bodies move and how forces produce certain velocities and accelerations) and controls (how to design a control system to do a particular task), and he teaches such elective courses as Space Flight Mechanics and Aircraft Flight Mechanics (how to design a space mission or determine such performance characteristics as take-off, landing, range, endurance, and stability with an airplane).