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Monte Davis

Not bad, except for that tired and stupid lead-in comparison to computing technology.

Moore's Law works because (1) IT manipulates information, and can do so more cost-effectively at smaller scales, and (2) once you have a good IC design and a fab plant, you can "print" it by the millions at small marginal cost.

Neither applies to the physics and engineering of space activity, except in providing more bang/buck from avionics and satellite electronics. If LockMartIntel could churn out 1000 microscopic launch vehicles on a wafer, none of them could reach orbit.

People don't go around saying "Gosh, computing has come so far so fast -- why are we still using the same basic technology as in the 1960s for oil tankers [or ateam shovels, or chain saws]?" So why do they keep doing so for space?

Paul F. Dietz

Actually, steam shovels went obsolete before the 1960s, replaced with diesel power. In the 1950s and 60s, cable-actuated excavators were displaced by hydraulic machinery. This latter transition is one of the stereotypical examples of a 'disruptive technology' that Clayton Christensen described in his famous book, _The Innovator's Dilemma_.

Your point that the rates of change are different is well taken, but qualitative shifts in technology do occur outside high tech.

Daniel Schmelzer

I took the lead-in as a comparison of the perceived promise of two technologies (space, computers & networking) over the decades, not a comparison of the specific attributes of the technologies.

Apollo was done with much fanfare while ARPANET was a small R&D project. During the 60s and 70s, if you would have asked a technologist to opine about which of the two technologies would have the greater impact on society in the year 2006, invariably he would have chosen space. Indeed, the PC had not yet been built. But as of now, the networking technologies are much more impactful than space and the businesses in that arena are very dynamic.

I think this was a nice seque into their Space Cowboys, since almost all of the cowboys cut their teeth in the cut-throat computer/networking business.

As for Moore's Law, it is merely a measurement of the productivity gains inherent in integrated circuit production. A similar measurement could be calculated for the rocket business, although of course the trajectory would look different. I think creating a Moore's Law for space is attractive in its own right. It appears that it should roughly follow the productivity gains of durable goods manufacturing -- roughly 4% or 5% per annum.


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