Obviously we all have events that define who we are as people—birth, death, the broken heart—but sometimes things happen on a global scale that change life as we know it. Waco, 9/11, and the War Between the States come to mind. As horrific as those incidents were, life eventually resumed its normality. Somewhat.
The internet, however, is a different beast. Life hasn’t been the same since we signed on to AOL to send our first Email. The worldwide web has dramatically changed our culture. However, one could argue another event actually spawned the technology necessary for the internet.
I am of course talking about the Apollo 11 mission that put mankind on the moon. Mr. Armstrong perhaps said it best when he quipped, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Without the research and development required for the space missions, the Intel Corporation might never have been founded. The processor giant certainly wouldn’t have made its Wall Street debut so soon. To quote Scott Hubbard: “Power consumption. Mass. Volume. Data rate. All the things that were important to making space flight feasible led to major changes in technology."
And you thought Tang was the only thing we got from planting the flag in a moon crater. Tsk, tsk. (BTW, Tang was not actually invented for the astronauts, but that’s a blog for another day).
We got much more from our space missions:
· Systems on board the capsules were forerunners of credit card swiping machines.
· The freeze dried foods used by the astronauts are today used by military personnel on maneuvers.
· CAT scanning technology was first used to find imperfections in space components.
· Cordless drills were used to dig for moon rocks.
· Today’s home insulation incorporates the reflective technology that protected spacecraft from radiation.
We even see better (scratch-resistant lens use a coating developed for astronaut helmets), sleep better (memory foam was invented to soften the capsule seats during landing), and run better (shoe companies adopted moon boot design technology to lessen impact).
Other than the advent of fire, I challenge you to find a single event with a greater impact on technology. So here’s to you Neil, Buzz, and Michael… and to the thousands of scientists and technologies who made Apollo 11 possible.