inNOvation

1969: Astrounauts walking on the Moon.
1976: Supersonic commercial flights.
1980: Hawker Harrier jump jet.

None of the above technologies is available today.
The Space Shuttle is in a museum and NASA is slowly developing a new launch vehicle to transport humans into space - to regain the capabilities of the 1960s several years from now.
Supersonic commercial flights are not even available to very wealthy people.
The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to implement some capabilities of the jump jet, but is becoming a billion dollar debacle instead.
What happened? Why did progress in aerospace not only stall but actually reverse?
A few months ago an Antares rocket exploded, probably due to malfunctioning engines. Those engines were built in Russia in the 1960s. Not developed. Built.
Yes, there is SpaceX, but as far as I can see, the capabilities of a Falcon launch vehicle are not that advanced compared to a 1960s rocket.
Perhaps leaders a la von Braun and JFK are what is missing today or maybe technology simply does not progress along a straight path, but I would really like to understand what went wrong in aerospace over the years.

8 comments:

Lee said...

> or maybe technology simply does not progress along a straight path,

I'm pretty sure that's true. Knowledge and technologies are lost all of the time and then reinvented sometime later because priorities are continuously changing. I worked for a large oil company for most of my career and saw that happen often. We would often work on problems, find solutions, implement the technology to some limited extent, but for some legitimate reason the technology developed was not pursued very far at the time. Regaining that knowledge is harder than it sounds. People retire or die and going through lots of old huge files is no fun and often not that fruitful.

In my opinion, the loss of technology and knowledge in aerospace had a lot to do with changing priorities at the end of the cold war.

wolfgang said...

>> technologies are lost all of the time and then reinvented sometime later

But this would be an inefficiency that could be resolved cheaply.
One way would be to make journals, archives etc. easier to access and at the same time make it easier to store know-how there.

Btw this is what Aaron Swartz was trying to do.

Anonymous said...

Study the example of China's great fleet of the early 15th century.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Correction: the F-35 is on track to be a trillion dollar debacle.

wolfgang said...

Well, according to your favorite economist that is a probably a good thing :-)

wolfgang said...

>> China

China is of course the prime example of progress stalling and even reverting.
I think Lee had a good point that priorities of societies can change - it is just not that important anymore for us to see astronauts walking on the moon.
Right now innovation mostly means internet and smartphones - I wonder if we will get tired of that too ...

Lee said...

I wonder if we will get tired of that too ...

For I guess evolutionary reasons people find themselves and others endlessly interesting. We may get tired of those particular technologies, but imagine it will be because there is some other technology that allows us to gossip more easily.

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