Just watching the final shuttle launch and pondering a few questions.
A significant number of innovations came out of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and filtered down to public life. Some were in materials, some were in electronics, some in software algorithms and some in other technology areas. It was pretty much all new back then. When the shuttle was first being developed back in the 1970s, innovation in materials and other areas came about as well, though it did use a fair amount of recycled technology in the beginning.
But since that time, have there been any major breakthroughs directly from the shuttle to filter down? Though it never lived up to the “one launch a week” billing, it did, in a sense, become the space “truck.” Sort of an old pick-up truck. Not much new. The occasional upgrade. The occasional breakdown. But mostly just there hauling stuff around.
When the next manned launch vehicle comes out, will it deliver a wealth of innovation as did the first decade of manned space flight? Or will it be designed with primarily off-the shelf or near off-the-shelf technology?
In the 1960’s, private industry benefited greatly from the research that went on in the space program. I suspect that the next time around, whether it’s a NASA design or a commercial design, it will be the other way around and the space vehicle will benefit from research paid for by commercial activities.
Thanks for all the fish