6 Incredible Engineering Marvels

From a radio telescope that might just find alien civilisations, to the rollercoaster that will terrify the most hardened daredevils, these awe-inspiring constructions are a testament to the tenacity of mankind's engineering pioneers.

6 Incredible Engineering Marvels


Technically it's called the Five-Hundred-Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST. But some have given this marvel of Chinese ingenuity a more poetic name: the Eye of Heaven. And it really does deserve the moniker, because this is no ordinary piece of space-seeking kit. It's the largest radio telescope on Earth, a vast gleaming hemisphere which sits nestled amid lush green hills in a remote part of China. It's a surreal spectacle, like a gigantic serving dish that's been dropped from the heavens.

Created to see far into the cosmos, and hopefully pick up evidence of far-flung civilisations, the telescope was a mammoth feat of engineering. Its creation required the relocation of many thousands of local people - not just to make way for the structure itself, but to maintain radio silence for miles around the telescope. The displacement has caused controversy, but the Chinese government hopes the telescope will change the world - or at least bag them some Nobel Prizes.


The world's tallest structure may be Dubai's famous Burj Khalifa, but the world's tallest freestanding tower is actually the Tokyo Skytree. It's in a different category, because it's not a skyscraper designed to house offices or residences. Instead, the Skytree is a broadcast tower for TV and radio, as well as a tourist attraction boasting the most nerve-jangling observation deck imaginable (part of it has a glass floor, so you can look straight down at the sprawl of Tokyo below your feet).

The tower is in intricate lattice, and blends a tripod-like base with a cylindrical column, all of which is painted a newly invented colour called Skytree White. Towering 634 metres into the sky, it's just as well the elevator is so swift. Reaching a speed of 23 mph, it's almost an attraction in of itself.


A scientific research facility built on skis? Sounds bizarre and unlikely, and the Halley VI is both of those things. Made up of a succession of modules built on a floating ice shelf in Antarctica, its skis allow the whole structure - laboratories, living quarters, leisure amenities and all - to be towed as required, while the scientists get on with their work inside. The modules also have hydraulic legs so they literally stand up over excess snow.

The facility has to withstand unthinkably tough conditions, with typical winter temperatures below -20oC. And the people inside have to be as mentally strong as the base is physically resilient, enduring 24-hour darkness for 105 days a year. But even they have it easy compared to the residents of the next structure...


The single most expensive object ever built, the International Space Station comes with a $100 billion price tag. Expanding our understanding of the Earth and the universe, the station was an epic ordeal to create, being painstakingly put together piece by piece over many years. It floats close to 250 miles above the Earth, but is large enough to be glimpsed by the naked eye, with sunlight glinting off its vast, wing-shaped solar arrays.

The living and working quarters are made up of can-shaped modules that form a claustrophobic warren in which the intrepid astronauts bump and glide. Newcomers will inevitably knock things over as they get to grips with this unique and cramped environment, and it takes serious exercise to avoid the muscle wasting that can occur in space. But the views from the windows - showing numerous sunrises and sunsets throughout each day - are worth it.


The Six Flags theme park in New Jersey, USA is home to the world's tallest rollercoaster. Its dimensions are surreal to behold, with its main "hump" looming across the horizon at a spine-tingling height of almost 140 metres. Getting up there requires serious speed, with the carriages going from 0 to 128mph in under four seconds.

This velocity takes passengers straight up, at an audacious 90 degree angle, to the towering peak. And then there's a 90 degree plunge straight back down, on a spiral track that whirls everyone around as they drop back to Earth. Even seasoned theme park daredevils tend to think twice before tackling this Everest among rollercoasters.


Thought the era of epic airships like the Hindenburg was long gone? Things may be about the change. The Airlander 10 promises to inaugurate a brave new world of airships, though hopefully without a repeat of the Hindenburg's fiery fate. Created right here in the UK, the Airlander 10 is the world's largest aircraft - at 92 metres long and 43.5 metres wide, it's bigger even than the new breed of double-decker airlines.

Combining plane, helicopter and airship technology, the Airlander 10 was originally sold to the US Army, who imagined using it as a surveillance tool. Budget cuts meant the military bigwigs were forced to cancel the project and sell the Airlander back to its UK parent company, who have redesigned it for civilian use. Capable of flying for five days straight, and reaching 100 mph, it's a true marvel of modern airship engineering, although its curving, clefted shape may also inspire tongue-in-cheek onlookers to compare it to a certain part of the human anatomy.