Friday, April 15, 2011

About today's plan, how simple things get complicated

A case in point is this blog.  All along, I wanted it to be self financing.  But that has failed.  Why?  For the same reason that is plaguing NASA.  You start with a simple idea that should be affordable, but complexity is allowed to creep in, and that ruins the plan.

The original idea for this blog was for it to at least make some money off advertising.  That is what AdSense was for.  Since the blog is free, I figured even a little money should keep the blog in the black.  But it didn't turn out that way.  Why?

I asked the blog to do too much.  A simple idea got too complicated because I wanted the blog to not only be profitable, but to support me eventually.  It may never do that.  Besides, I don't have forever in order to get that done.  In short, I became too ambitious.  This reminds me of what we studied while I was still in college.  It was the story about the development of IBM's OS/360.  This operating system became too costly; the reason for that was that it was too ambitious.  An incredible amount of money went into it, but IBM could afford it because they were the kings of the computer world at that time.  I've learned enough from my own experience to know that mistakes can be costly.  Allowing complexity to creep in because of too much ambition is a costly mistake.

NOTE:  A quick scan of the Wikipedia link does not necessarily confirm directly my hypothesis- too much ambition leads to excessive complexity.  But I do recall that discussion somewhere.  It may have been in the classroom.  But this was nearly 30 years ago.  Pardon me, I am relying upon memory.  I think the point is valid, nonetheless.  If nothing else, it is valid in my own situation with respect to this blog.

The answer to this problem is to reduce the ambition.  Lower the horizons a bit.  If the blog is to ever survive, it must stay economical.  The same is true for space travel and colonization. 

Incidentally, that is why I believe JP Aerospace is important as a model.  It is a going concern.  They make money and that is what ensures their survival.  JP is making steady progress to his goal, but it is taking a long time.   Considering how ambitious his ultimate goal is, the ultimate goal may not be reached.  But, it is worthwhile because other things can get achieved along the way.  Besides, he just might succeed after all.

As for NASA, they started out with a simple idea, a reusable spacecraft.  But it became too ambitious a project, and that allowed complexity to creep in.  In the end, it became a remarkably complex and wonderful bit of engineering.  But it also became terribly expensive.  Like IBM's OS/360, it was only affordable because of deep pockets.  But even deep pockets are only so deep.  There are limits that have to be acknowledged.  Going forward, NASA needs to lower its ambitions on what types of spacecraft get engineered.  They should not be too complex, but instead, should be tailored to meet the needs of a particular mission.

In addition, NASA needs to become economical minded.  The nation's pockets aren't so deep anymore.  The focus should be on simplicity.  That's why I suggest the big, dumb rocket to ferry huge amounts of matter into space, but at an affordable cost per pound.  It will be up to others to take advantage of this opportunity.  That's where private enterprise can step in.

Some of this nation's leaders want to lower carbon dioxide emissions and be more green.  Fine.  Here's a way to do it.  Put carbon dioxide on the Moon.  It may sound ridiculous, and it may well be.  But carbon dioxide, even though it may be a problem according to some people, is very useful for life support.  It can be made into rocket fuel and oxygen to breathe.  It gives the chance to practice ISRU for a future Mars mission.  And it may lead to colonization of the Moon for the purposes of setting up an economical rationale for being there. 

There are even more, but let's keep this post simple.  See. I'm doing it again.  It is seductive. 

No comments:

Post a Comment