January 25, 2004


When I wrote this rather poorly named post about Deep Space 1, the first craft (well, perhaps I should say the first human built craft) to use ion propulsion, I neglected to mention something that caught my eye. Deep Space 1, "the little spacecraft that could," was built as part of NASA's New Millennium Program, the purpose of which is described here:

Although the objective of the NMP technology validation missions is to enable future science missions, the NMP missions themselves are not science-driven. They are technology-driven, with the principal requirements coming from the needs of the advanced technologies that form the "payload." The missions are high risk because, by their nature, they incorporate unproven technologies that, in general, will not have functionally equivalent back-ups. (Indeed, if an advanced technology does not pose a high risk, flight validation by NMP is not required.)

I thought the distinction was worth noting -- I used to make the same one when writing about the rapid advance of medieval European technology while its science remained rather primitive. It seems to me there is something of a contrast between the two, and it's interesting to see someone else, in a decidedly different context, making the same distinction.

Posted by Ideofact at January 25, 2004 11:56 PM