Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) has prided itself on its notable engineering programs, including the nuclear engineering program. According to the Nuclear Engineering webpage on the Missouri S&T website, “Nuclear Engineering is committed to a strong engineering program administered by highly motivated and active nuclear engineering faculty; it is the only B.S. Nuclear Engineering Degree program accredited in the state of Missouri.” Missouri S&T was one of the first institutions in the nation to have a nuclear engineering program for students, which has been around since 1960. Missouri S&T’s nuclear engineering program is now its own department, nuclear engineering and radiation science, after being housed with the mining and nuclear engineering department for almost 20 years. Many nuclear engineering students seem extremely excited about the separation. Missouri S&T junior Gabe Neura said, “I’m very excited that S&T decided to take this next step and make the nuclear department its own entity. I believe this was a much needed change for the department; creating many new opportunities for students. All funding will help benefit strictly the nuclear department and its interests. This change will also help the department grow and be able to offer more to its students in terms of class topics and class availability. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. People are looking for a sustainable clean source of energy, being the topic of many debates. I see the newly founded Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science Department growing in popularity and drawing incoming students to take part in this amazing program that provides hands on experience with a real reactor. It’s an experience not many colleges can offer and can’t wait to see where this new decision leads.” In addition, Missouri S&T junior Macklin Zinselmeyer said, “I feel like it is really good for our nuclear engineering program. Now that we’re independent, we can operate on our own interests. This will better our nuclear engineering program now and in the future.” Missouri S&T was also the first university in Missouri to provide an on-campus nuclear reactor for students to get hands-on experience. The Missouri S&T reactor is a 200-kilowatt swimming pool-type nuclear reactor and has been in operation since 1961. The reactor has several facilities focused on experiments and research for students, faculty, researchers, and those from other institutions as well.
In addition to improvements in the nuclear engineering department, Missouri S&T is making strides in other unique aspects of their education. The university is working on preparing their students for a future in utilizing and analyzing space resources. S&T has created a new graduate certificate program for students interested in space mining from civil, mining, and chemical fields of study. The certificate, a result of a space resources initiative, focuses on four areas: metallurgy, mining engineering, chemical engineering, and economics. Missouri S&T’s associate professor of geological engineering, Dr. Leslie Gertsch, stated, “The potential for mining space resources will require input from several disciplines, from geosciences to mechanical engineering to economics to political science. Missouri S&T can be a leader in this effort because we have those programs plus our aerospace engineering program. That gives us an advantage.”
Many compounds would be instrumental in the execution of space mining, such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and methane (as a propellant). Water will be the most important, because most industrial projects like mining implement the use of water in some shape or form. The need for such resources adds challenges and expenses to the prospect of space mining. Furthermore, “People who are not in space exploration think of platinum, gold, all that sort of cool stuff,” Gertsch says. “Those sound wonderful, but they’re kind of red herrings in a sense because it may be a long time before they can be produced in space and sold on Earth for less than we can produce them on Earth itself.” This certificate will provide an insightful and practical field of study as we progress further into space exploration.
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