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Space Exploration & Innovation: Mission Moon to Smartphones

Space exploration and technology series begins with this article. Derived for an earlier published note here, this one is improvised with more data and edited to suit the palate of my audience. We begin with Apollo 11. The report shares an overview of a few critical inventions & innovation in technology over the last 150 years predominantly in the US with space exploration, specifically lunar explorations as the focal theme encompassing the article. Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at 02:56 UT on July 21 (10:56 p.m. EDT on 20 July) with the words, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” NASA


Dawn of Space Age: Rise of Technology and Communication over the last 150 years

# Apollo 11: Dawn of Space Age: One step for man, one giant leap of mankind

The iconic Neil Armstrong step on the moon set up the foundation for the space age among millions of people globally. The Soviets erstwhile USSR were the first in space sending Yuri Gagarin, but the United States remains the only country that has landed crew on the moon and brought them back safely to Earth. Apollo 11 exemplified one of the most extraordinary scientific feats, televised and watched by 650 million people. This event left an indelible mark on people, motivating and inspiring millions to pursue careers in science. Apollo 11’s social impact is immeasurable; it refreshed space exploration among other nations and achieved the unthinkable — the ability to land humans in outer space and successfully bring them back home. The series of space exploration kick starts with the video below.


# Hello Alexander Bell:  Mr. Watson, come here; I want you

Alexander Bell

1915 is a landmark year, eternally remembered as when humans made the first Trans-continental telephone call from New York to San Francisco (Alexander Bell to Thomas Watson). The photo here chronicles some of the most landmark events in global historyAlexander Bell, a straightforward man, considered himself a teacher of the deaf. The Scottish-born American invented the telephone, i.e., transmit sound through electricity way back in 1876 but went through one of history’s most extended legal battles for patents. He immigrated with his parents to Canada in 1870 and after a couple of years established the school for the deaf in Boston, Massachusetts. As a speech and vocal physiology professor at Boston University, Alexander Bell dreamed of transmitting sound over the wire. The sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity, producing a thin metal plate called a diaphragm to vibrate. This vibration was magnetically transferred over the wire to another membrane at the listener’s end for faithful sound replication. The iconic words “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you”—was transmitted in his laboratory on March 10, 1876. Mr. Watson, not to be confused with Sherlock Home’s sidekick, the iconic detective created by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle also made history. With many inventions and patents, Alexander Bell is one of the most prolific and greatest inventors of all time.

Image Source: University of Michigan, the bicentennial celebration

  “Only the US, USSR (Russia), Europe, Japan, China, India, and SpaceIL (private) have carried out successful lunar missions.” US, Russia, and China have successfully soft-landed on the moon.

# Iconic Nikola Tesla:  Father of inventors, Electric King and humanitarian par excellence

Use of radio signals for communication began with Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian physicist, credited with sending the first transatlantic first radio signal between Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada, an area over 2000 miles. The message was a simple Morse code s. The story of technological innovation, communication, and personal magnificence is redundant without one man. Nikola Tesla: The father of inventions/inventors and humanitarian par excellence. His greatest deed is not in his stellar designs which include the first alternate current motor, grand design of AC system or electromagnetic waves but as a humanitarian. Born with a photographic memory, with godly looks and puritan streak, Tesla with 300 patents was, by all means, head by a mile of his peers. He is the greatest philanthropist of the modern era, and we will look into it in a separate article. Nikola Tesla is one of the major figures behind the scientific zest and will be perpetually covered here. Inventions kept coming by. Dictaphone was invented in 1907, Reader’s Digest started in 1922 while Time, America’s oldest weekly magazine came in 1923. The first color TV broadcast was the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954. In 1959, Xerox introduced mass scale photocopying.

# Killer apps: Internet, E-mail, SMS, Walkman, Smartphone

Apollo 11 Space ExplorationOne of the most significant paradigms shifts in the modern era of communication was in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson sent an email to himself. The message QWERTYUIOP sent through ARPANET, a communication protocol preceded the ubiquitous internet. Ray Tomlinson is the father of the character @ so every-time you send an email, and press character @, it’s Ray. Hotmail was the first free email service provider founded by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia. Hotmail later sold for $400 million to Microsoft. At one point in time, the world’s most fabulous killer app, email transformed the way we communicate for personal and professional purposes. This invention would drastically change the productivity curve of the labour market around the world. Real-time communications exponentially increased global decision making, leading to better utilization of resources, increasing output, and wages.

Image source Apollo NASA

“However, the US turned out to be an anomaly. In a book review by Mark Kramer published in Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marks highlights US productivity grew 72 percent between 1973 to 2014, but workers wage growth increased by 9 percent. For 117M Americans, the incomes have increased from $16,000 to $16,2000 while the wealthiest have tripled their wealth.”  Freebies changed the pattern of communication and consumer behaviour. For the first time in recorded human history, consumers had an unmatched buying power. But then there is no free lunch. To support a sustainable revenue model, companies had to reinvent their revenue model, and they relied on internet advertising. Internet advertising, over the years, has become of the significant drivers of REVENUE for tech companies. This led to what we call community-driven companies which piggyback on privacy.

“In 1957, Russians sent Sputnik 1, the first human-made satellite to orbit the Earth and Sputnik 2 sent first living being, Laika, a dog to outer-space. Have you seen the movie The Cat from The Outer Space? It’s very entertaining & funny.” The rise of technology gave boost to technology-based Startups around the world and momentum to an ancillary industry, angel investing, and venture capital. Angel investing proved to be one of the best alternative investment class, especially in silicon valley funding startups which became mammoths challenging and redefining the business paradigm globally. The brick & motor structure suddenly started wobbling inundated with new-age companies, astronomical valuations, and new pathways to customers.
“Many pioneers are credited with the evolution of the internet although chief among them are Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.” Computers gave rise to a supercomputer which can make astronomical calculations in a millionth of a second. Supercomputers first introduced during the early 1960s became prominent as a significant force during the 1990s. And came another power. Artificial Intelligence; Matrix. Neo.

                     “With Supercomputers, comes great power and with great power comes judicious responsibility.” 

# Space Exploration Revisited the 1950s until now 

Numerous expeditions took to our only natural satellite i.e. moon and its important to understand a terms based on lunar exploration. Flyby is used when a spacecraft flies by the natural satellite (moon) or a planet (Mars) to take pictures. Luna 1 is the first partial success of flyby mission followed by Pioneer 4. Impact probe’s mission is to hard land intending to record images of the surface while landing. Soviets (USSR) succeeded here too but its Ranger 7 which is the turning point for space travel. The impact took 4,316 stunning pictures of the moon and its data formed the structural work for Apollo missions. Although Soviets again won the Orbiter mission by a few months, Americans finally nailed it with the first and only successful manned mission to the moon and back. Apollo 11 succeeded in setting the first crewed humans to the moon and back to Earth safely,  fulfilling President John F Kennedy’s vision of setting foot on the moon. Space exploration especially the US owes President John F Kennedy’s for kick-starting NASA’s mission to moon. A crisp vision which motivated Americans and laid out the path for space missions going forward. 

                          First works spoken from the surface of another world.
                          “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

A lander unlike an impact probe soft lands on the surface to function and share valuable data about the surface. Deep space exploration also includes space probes (orbiter and lander) missions to Mars and other planets. Over the years many more countries, including the European Space Agency, Japan, China, India, and Israel (private) have conducted lunar missions. From the 1950s until 1979 only the US and USSR conducted space explorations and after the brief science of the 80s decade, Japan stuck gold with Hiten, its maiden lunar mission. 

Vikram Lander, is one of the most ambitious landings at the farthest side of the moon near its south pole with a budget of $140 million”

Although space exploration increased over the years, the 80s was a dry decade with no space explorations. Recently Chinese soft-landed Chang’ e 4 on the far side of the moon and its rover survived eight frigid nights to share data on the unknown part of the moon. Until now this was the southernmost attempt to soft land  on the moon but Vikram lander attempted target was 1200 miles further south from Chang’ e4.

# Mobiles to Smartphones: Rise and downfall of Nokia, Coming of iPhone

After email, SMS turned out to be the next central killer app defining real-time messaging. Mobile phones soon followed, leading to the dawn of SMARTPHONES. The rise and downfall of Nokia, a Finnish multinational, which started as a paper mill company before dominating the mobile market in the 90s, is an excellent example of a company achieving superlative feats in innovation before losing out its global position as a leader in mobile phones. Nokia gave the world the iconic 2100 ringtone, the snake game, stunning cameras on mobile, but could not replicate its success in the smartphone category. Nokia employed an effectively multi-branding strategy to distinguish its brands of mobiles catering to different sections of the society. Nokia had it all from exclusive, luxury, and now-defunct brand Vertu to budgeted and inexpensive mobile phones for less privileged people in developing markets. Vertu sold through selected outlets as a standalone brand worked well for Nokia, not perceived as a luxury brand. The multi-brand strategy works well for fast-moving consumer goods companies like P&G, Unilever which sell brands with little association from their companies. Example Tide and Dove. Nokia led by a considerable margin any of its competitors Apple, Erickson, and Sony during the 90s. But Nokia failed to understand consumer insights, especially smartphones’ futuristic role, which proved to be a fatal mistake. Nokia is back again with its new smartphones, and maybe this comeback can be akin to rising like a phoenix from the ashes. 

Apple innovated Smartphone market launching iPhone, arguably one of the most exceptional electronic device assembled at its time. Smartphones iPhone sales still account a significant portion of Apple’s revenues, generated 48.29 percent of its revenue in the third quarter of 2019. In the smartphone market, android turned to be a game-changer, an open-source mobile operating system developed by Alphabet (Google). The platform became industry-standard, promoting a crowding in many multiple mobile players. Rise of android as a platform for mobile phones served as a considerable blow to Nokia with its Symbian platform failing to live up to its expectations. Mobile was not the only space where world-class innovation was defining a new era in communication and customer delight. Something else was cooking in an ancillary industry, and it was in music. 

# Deadman Walking: Walkman to Telstar 1

In 1979, Sony introduced Walkman to the world. Sony Walkman TPS-L2, a 14 lbs blue and silver, portable cassette player turned out to be the forefront killer idea. It changed the landscape of music and the way we heard music which led to the innovation of MPEG 3. Digital music revolutionized or disrupted the music industry. Remember, Napster, a free peer-to-peer music service which almost crippled the music industry through free music downloads founded by Shawn Fanning. Shawn, portrayed by Justin Timberlake in  Social Network, is James Bond of Technology industry or should I say, Robin Hood. Coming to Robinhood, a great love song from the movie Robinhood: Prince Of The Thieves — Bryan Adams at his best.



The competition to outer-space between the US and Russia fueled communication supremacy for many purposes. Spying became the fundamental reason for Communication, and this drove further innovation. Never in the history of humanity has technology progressed at a quantum speed within a few decades. Compared to the time taken for the evolution of humans, humans have within 1 percent of time learned to light the fire, domesticate animals, grow crops, invent the wheel, and land on the moon — may be less than 0.5 percent in time based on recent discoveries about our evolution. In 1962, the world’s first active communications satellite, Telstar 1, was launched. The satellite set communication standards for the satellite industry. For the first time, live images of news and entertainment were telecast worldwide. And the entertainment industry changed. More customers increased consumption, jobs, and GDP. If we look at technological innovations, AT&T is the father of many inventions in the last century. AT&T ultimately broke into seven smaller companies called baby bells due to antitrust laws. The advent of technology changed the world economy leading to an exponential increase in productivity wages and facilitating globalization. It was effortless to understand what was going on in different parts of the continent, and free knowledge became available. It brought about an era of collaboration between economies never seen before. As the small output of technological utility decreases with new inventions, it requires more resources and technical know-how to get an incremental delight or service from an innovation. 



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