Even though I did not work on Apollo, I disagree with the article in many ways. However, the author makes a point that I believe is very correct when he says:
" It is perfectly obvious, of course, that it was not consumer electronics that allegedly sent men to the Moon. The point here though is that advances in aerospace technology mirror advances in consumer technology, and just as there has been revolutionary change in entertainment and communications technology, so too has aerospace technology advanced by light-years in the last four decades. "
During the Apollo days its budgets where astronomical, so the spending for research and development was comparable with the military budgets of the day. So the greatest and the latest tech was being used. That tech compared to today's, is unbelievable obsolete. After the last Moon flight the NASA budgets have been a fraction of the ones during the Apollo early flights.
Along the same lines the Soviets were probably smarter designing but were hindered by their lack of consumer products and production capability. They would spend on research and develop a new technology for space or defence but there was no way to cut their production costs since there was no effort to commercialise and produce in mass the technology spin offs that could have become consumer products that never materialised. In the West, a new technology developed for the military would eventually have a commercial spin off. In order for the new product to reach the consumer it has to be mass produced and cheap. Think of Microwave Ovens (RADAR), Personal Computers, Cell Phones, GPS and so forth. This would in turn provide a more cost effective production scheme that could be used for the next military project.
To illustrate this, as my personal experience, in the 1990's it was agreed with the Russians for the Space Shuttle was to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir and a new US docking system was being designed. The US design was crap. It was finally agreed for the US to purchase a much better designed Russian Docking system. This was not a new design but a tried and true system that they had been using for years on Soyuz. When we started receiving the Russian hardware and documentation, we were very impressed with the sophistication of the design and how well it worked. However, we were surprised that there were slotted head screws and not a single Philips head (or equivalent) screw on the Russian hardware. It appeared that the Russians could not manufacture such a screw which in turn prevented them from using power tools when assembling quickly in a mass production scenario. Then there was the other issue; interchangeability of parts. There were several of the mechanical parts, including the ones that operated micro-switches that per the Russian prints indicated no final dimensions. The parts were supposed to be trimmed by hand for proper operation per the print notes.
If my observation is correct, the Soviets would had not being able to produce things quickly and cheaply enough and catch up with the US and make it to the Moon. If they had continued with a Moon programme, they would have probably gone broke sooner than when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Still, the bottom line is money. What is the return on the investment to go to the Moon? Science or prestige only is not going to be the justification anymore to go there or anywhere else.
Edited by xrocketengineer, 04 July 2019 - 01:45 PM.