Prof. Luciano Iess

From the other side of the desk.

Teaching is, or should be, always a two-sided experience. As a teacher, my main goalshave been to help students expanding their technical background, to give them the tools to tackle and solve new problems in a rational approach, and to stimulate creative thinking. This is, obviously, what students are expecting from their professors. But, undeniably, I owe my students something equally important: the motivation and the enthusiasm to move forward and improve.

For a professor, teachingat the Master in Satellites and Orbiting Platforms is howeversomething special and different from lecturing at university courses.Most of this uniqueness is due to the students.They come mostly from the different fields of engineering, (aerospace, electronics, telecommunications, mechanical, and certainly the list is incomplete). In addition, we always had a small but very active group of physicists, and hope to host in the future also students with a background in other scientific disciplines. I cannot forget the extraordinary contribution from the officers of the Italian Air Force and Navy, always very keen to participate in the activities of the course with their own, peculiar, expertise. (With one of them I have still pending plans to resume rock climbing, after many years of inactivity!)This cultural variety is a most important resource, enrichingthe experience of the group and boosting teamwork.

One of the most rewarding experiences from my participation in space projects is the opportunity to work with and learn from scientists and engineers with very different background. Space is inherently “multicultural” and, to a certain extent, eclectic. On a smaller scale, the Master course encompasses the breadth of expertise required byindustries, agencies and research institutes involved in space exploration and utilization.The teamwork activities, rightly at the core of the course, saw the productive interaction and integration of students with complementary technical background. A couple of years ago I throw in a challenging idea for a teamwork project: the design of a mission to Saturn’s moon Titan, ending up in the delivery of a probe into one of the moon’s hydrocarbon seas for a week-long float. The same project was being developed at the same time by a team of US scientists and engineers for a NASA mission, but nothing was known about the technical solutions adopted by those professionals, as the work was carried out in competition with other teams proposing different missions. The students bravely embarked in this challenging project, combiningtechnical knowledge and enthusiasm in equal doses. The results were incredibly interesting, to the point that their work deserved to be presented at the Italian Space Agency, where it gained unanimous appreciation. At the time of this writing, there is an open call for an ESA science mission. Well, if I had the power to regroup the team, I would be tempted to beef up a bit their work and, with their help, upgrade it into a real proposal for a mission to a Titan sea!

Luciano Iess

Direttore del Corso di perfezionamento in Satelliti e piattaforme orbitali, Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza.