I know the term "exponential" is thrown around a great deal these days. However, we are in a time where exponential growth curves are forming all around us.
The last few days I wrote a series of articles pertaining to the Changing Face of Food. A lot of what is behind the idea is the exponential growth of the different technologies being pursued. While all will not work out, with so many start ups and avenues of pursuit, we are apt to see massive progress over the next half decade.
Space is another area that we are entering a second decade of massive explosion.
I read an article that detailed the pace of change within the airline industry when it got started. When we consider it, this followed a path similar to Moore's Law that catapulted computing into a completely new age.
Here is the pace that took place:
There were 6,000 airline passengers in the United States recorded in 1926. This grew to approximately 173,000 in 1929 about one million in 1936. Air passenger traffic grew faster in the United States than anywhere else in the world, largely due to superior aircraft and operations methods.
In 50 years from 1926-1976, air passenger traffic grew about 100,000 times.
In 43 years from 1976-2019, air passenger traffic grew another 10 times.
The progress being made by SpaceX is well documented. A few weeks back, the first space "travelers" were sent up by a private company when SpaceX sent two astronauts to the I.S.S.
Many feel this is a "Kitty Hawk" moment referring to the first air flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C. by the Wright Brothers.
If this is the case, much like the airline industry, space could see a 50 year run of exponential growth.
SpaceX is driving down the costs of launches. We already saw the second half of the last decade reduce the cost per flight drastically. The introduction of "reuseable" rockets has severely cut down the time (and cost) of getting stuff launched into space.
The quest for establishing space colonies is going to bleed into many areas of life here on Earth. We also could see rocket travel used to move cargo as well as people around the planet. Instead of using airplanes to go to the other side of the globe, rockets could accomplish this in a much shorter time.
Musk is looking at building a lines of rockets to be able to handle huge cargo loads. These will top what the airlines can carry.
SpaceX is making reusable rockets that are lower cost than passenger airplanes. Passenger airplanes cost about $50 million to $350 million. SpaceX is building the Falcon 9 for about $40 million and the Falcon Heavy for about $80 million. The fully reusable Super Heavy Starship will start at about $200 million and then drop to about $30 million. The upper stage Starship will drop to about $5 million when about 300 are produced every year. Airbus and Boeing were each able to deliver about 1000 passenger jets each year.
Like many, the airline industry is about 100 years old. It was a dominant force for a century, virtually without competition. Now, we could be looking at the foundation of a completely new business model that makes airlines into niche players.
Of course, Musk is no stranger to disruption. His impact on the automobile industry, another that hasn't seen a new entrant succeed in the last century, is well known. He looks to duplicate this process with SpaceX. Of course, he has much greater heights in sight.
This is becoming a familiar trend. Prices drop which leads to exponential growth in an field. This attracts more players which keeps pushing prices down. In the end, like with the computer age, an entirely new era is born.
We are seeing this process play out in numerous areas of life. This will lead to a completely different world come 2035.
Actually, by then, we will likely be off this world, at least in part.
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