Posted on February 25, 2024  
by Noel Guilford

On Thursday night in a crater near the lunar south pole, in a region where humans might one day live and work, a spacecraft named Odysseus became the first privately operated vehicle to land on the moon. It was the first US spacecraft to make a soft landing on the moon since the Apollo 17 crewed mission in 1972.

Kicking up a plume of dust, it settled just outside the rim of a crater 186 miles from the south pole, fulfilling its Latin mission motto Adtiga Planitia lunae — “I will reach the plains of the moon.”

The successful touchdown of Intuitive Machines’ robotic lander represented a breakthrough for the commercial space sector and a milestone in opening up the lunar economy. Three hours after the landing, Intuitive Machines confirmed that the lander was upright, in good health and downlinking data.

This reminded me that as a teenager in 1969, I watched every minute of the first manned landing on the moon.

At the time, it seemed as though it would be only a matter of a few years before man lived on the moon. We confidently expected that communities would be set up on the moon and that it would be possible to travel to and from the earth to the moon.

Perhaps now, 55 years later, it will.

Much has changed in those 55 years; technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. Although the moon landings were a giant leap toward understanding our solar system, the real leap was that the Apollo 11 launch arguably ushered in the computer age.

Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that compared to today’s smart phones, and even our smart appliances, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was an intellectually limited behemoth. While we were still decades away from Google or Amazon or from carrying a terabyte of data in a pocket device that lets us make phone calls and take pictures, the AGC was surprisingly small and nimble.

That’s not to say that the surprisingly small AGC packed anywhere near the punch that even today’s smart wrist watches do.

The AGC had 32 KB of RAM, a 72 KB hard drive (ROM) and a processor that ran at 43 kHz. By comparison, the latest Apple Watch 9 sports 64 GB of RAM  and a 64-bit dual-core processor in a thin rectangle as small as 40 mm high. Today’s smart phones have more computer power than all of NASA did in 1969.

Imagine what you’ll be holding in your hand (or inside your head) 5 or 10 years from now, never mind 55 years. The pace of technological change is now so rapid that it will revolutionise pretty much everything we do and the way we work before the end of the decade.

Are you and your business ready?

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