IT, Telecom and the Dark Side of the Moon

Carl Weinschenk

At first blush, the connection between IT and telecom on one hand and space exploration and other dramatic endeavors on the other seems tenuous. In reality, however, they are tied very closely together. Research and development projects that push the envelope lead to everyday tools surprisingly quickly.

There are many examples of this: The concepts behind computing extend back to Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine in the 19th century and even earlier. A practical computer, however, was not built until the World War II era. During the war, rooms full of people — called computers, ironically — used manual devices to do the thousands of calculations necessary to determine artillery coordinates.

A better way was needed and it was found in Babbage's contraption. It was perfected — using hundreds of fragile vacuum tubes — into a computer called “Eniac.” The device wasn't finished until after the war, but it and other computing devices from that era are the antecedents of the devices we carry around today.

The computing tools used in the Apollo space program also paved the way toward corporate and personal use of computers. The huge mainframes that determined orbits, escape velocities and a thousand other vital tasks gave a huge boost to the industry.

Thus, it is good news that, according to Space.com, NASA has another big mission in mind:

The space agency has apparently been thinking about setting up a manned outpost beyond the moon's far side, both to establish a human presence in deep space and to build momentum toward a planned visit to an asteroid in 2025.

That's cool. It also is great news for those in the telecom and IT racket — or their grandchildren, if the vocation runs in the family — because of the research payoffs that are sure to accrue from the project. Along with what engineers undoubtedly are calling The Pink Floyd project, all sorts of sophisticated data and computing innovations will emerge from the number crunching that is necessary to determine the makeup of distant planets or to design and deliver a go-cart to Mars, operate it and transmit the images it takes back home.

The bottom line is that the connection between sophisticated and exotic cutting-edge projects and the future of IT and telecom is real. That's good for both sectors. The futurists have another way to justify what they do and the IT and telecom folks know that as long as research is ongoing, there will be exciting things coming down the pike. 



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