Tuesday, October 5, 2004
By now you probably know that Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne have won the X-Prize. This is an object lesson in three parts:
1) Design by committee doesn't work. The space shuttle and its two spectacular crashes is a perfect example of design by committee, but you'd think we would have learned from France's failure with the chauchat.
2) Iterative design does work. Burt Rutan's process of designing, testing, analyzing, and then redesigning was a spectacular success. His use of "virtual wind tunnels" and other computer-aided construction tools allowed him to save millions, if not billions of dollars in the push to the final product. The astute among you have probably noted that his designs have very little in common with the airliners we see at the local airport. And yet he's reaching into space. It's high time the airline industry suffered a major shakeout and some new blood came in -- we'd get safer, faster, cheaper air travel, and the dinosaurs would be extinct like they should be.
3) KISS works. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Rutan's designs are "no frills", and that's what keeps them going. The more so-called "safety" equipment that gets designed into a product by government fiat, or other extra googaws designed to make it sound cooler than it really is, the greater the chance of serious failure. Fewer moving parts = fewer breakages.
Congratulations to Burt and crew. Heinlein's ghost is smiling down on you right now. I only wish I'd bet money on your victory. And here's hoping the government stays out of your way. As Burt's brother Dick once said, "if people are free, they can do anything".
Posted by Tom, 10/5/2004 7:15:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...