The recent completion of the world’s largest radio telescope in Guizhou Province, China called upon the expertise of numerous engineers in its construction. Now extra-terrestrial engineers are also now being invited to make contact via the structure.

With this in mind, it’s worth taking pause to appreciate and be inspired at the achievements today’s civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical and system engineers have achieved.

Eye catching design is one thing, but engineering goes beyond aesthetics and provides functionality. Unless a beautiful building has engineering, it is little more than art.

China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)

Completed in July 2016, this is the world’s largest (500-metre wide) single aperture telescope.

Consisting of 4,450 panels with a surface area of 30 football fields, FAST is by far the largest telescope ever constructed, dwarfing the previous largest telescope of 300 metres in Puerto Rico.

The $200 million facility will help scientists understand more about the universe’s early days, detect low-frequency gravitational waves and yield five to 10 times greater potential of making contact with alien life than previously existing equipment.

Cape Wind, the US

Currently it its financing and final commercial contracting stage, this project promises to yield 468 megawatts of pure clean renewable energy by giant wind turbines located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

A total of 17 legal actions challenging the development have been unsuccessful.

Civil engineers are working closely with mechanical and power engineers to develop the electrical transmission cables and interconnections required both underwater and on land.

The resulting annual reduction of carbon dioxide is 734,000 tonnes.

Large Hadron Collider, Switzerland

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research built the Large Hadron Collider in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from around the world.

The world’s largest experimental facility is a 27-kilometre giant ring located 50 to 100 metres underground, containing super conducting magnets that have to be chilled to -271.3 Celsius to boost high-energy particle beams to travel close to the speed of light.

At a construction cost of $8 billion, researchers contend that the benefits justify the expenditure.

Millau Viaduct, France

Some 14 years of preparation, including three years of construction, has resulted in the world’s tallest cable stayed bridge. It features seven concrete pillars at a maximum height of 343 metres.

Traditionally, cable-stayed bridges were constructed in sections and hoisted into position by cranes. However, that construction method was not possible, and instead the bridge deck was constructed on either side of the valley and rolled into position before meeting in the middle.

Engineering in the construction methodology for the bridge was groundbreaking.

The result is not only breathtaking, but functional. It is the least congested and cheapest route between Paris and the Mediterranean.

Venice Tide Barrier (MOSE)

The iconic Italian city, known for its waterways, has suffered flooding from sinking soils and rising tides. A project known as MOSE commenced in 2003 and due for completion this year aims to arrest the effects of rising tides.

The MOSE project involves the attachment of numerous underwater steel gates hinged to bottom of the sea. During low tide, the gates are filled with water and fold down onto the sea floor, allowing water to escape from the city. Before high tide, air is pumped into the steel gates, displacing the water and enabling the gates to fold up from the sea floor to form a vertical barrier above the top of the sea within 15 minutes. It’s a piece of engineering genius that will, despite its detractors, provide a solution for at least the next century to rising tidal waters in Venice.

The project cost is 5 million Euros, but the complex and enormous undertaking is worthy of the cost. Many of the steel panels are over 300 tonnes and four metres thick.

So, although contact with extra-terrestrial engineers may take engineering to totally new level, we can still be eternally thankful for the achievements in engineering to date and if nothing else that gives one inspiration, enthusiasm and hope for the future of our living environment.