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It’s not an anniversary ending in a five or a zero, but 112 years ago today, a couple bicycle mechanics took off in a powered box kite on some windy dunes in North Carolina, successfully landed it, and started the era of aviation.
On the centennial of the event 12 years ago, I had essays at TechCentralStation (which no longer exists) and National Review, in which I noted that their big achievement wasn’t in taking off, but in landing. Also, on Fox News, I compared and contrasted the government versus the private sector, and noted that the space program needed the Wright stuff:
In Greek mythology, it was said that Minerva sprung fully formed, in full armor, from the head of Zeus.
Unfortunately, that often seems to be the goal of government agencies as well. A long, drawn-out program, with many incremental tests, offers many opportunities for test failures with their attendant bad publicity and potential for embarrassing congressional hearings. Moreover, the risk of such failures is increased if there is inadequate analysis before committing to hardware — hardware made all the more expensive by attempting to minimize the risk of failure, thus making any possible failure more expensive as well.
This leads to a vicious cycle of spending money to prevent failure which in turn increases the cost of the failure, which in turn results in further expenditures of funding for analysis and increased reliability, which in turn…
The space program still needs the Wright stuff. And I think these articles hold up surprisingly well.