In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of NASA Tech Briefs, our features in 2006 highlight a different technology category each month, tracing the past 30 years of the technology, and continuing with a glimpse into the future of where the technology is headed. Along the way, we include insights from industry leaders on the past, present, and future of each technology. This month, we take a look at the past 30 years of Aerospace Technology.
Aerospace technology — which literally comprises both air and space technology — has seen some amazing advances in the past 30 years in the commercial aviation, space, and military areas, including the first (1976) and last (2003) commercial flights of the Concorde supersonic aircraft, and the first launch of the Space Shuttle (Columbia) in 1981. In 30 years, we’ve seen robotic rovers driving on the surface of Mars, and we’ve flown on the first jetliner completely designed and preassembled on computers — the Boeing 777. We watched Sally Ride become the first American woman in space, and today we are witnessing the advent of a new era in space travel — commercial space tourism.
The segment of aerospace to which Americans can most closely relate is commercial aviation. Most of us have flown on a jet airliner in the past 30 years, but many of us may not realize the extent to which the jet airplane has changed and improved over the past 30 years. Boeing and Airbus, the world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers, not only have improved upon their aircraft designs in the past 30 years, but are introducing two of the most technologically advanced airplanes ever made.