I stumbled upon a wonderful article today (www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-04/16/f-1-moon-rocket). A must read.
In the late 1960's, as the US strove to be first to the moon, Werner von Braun and his team, and the many different contractors who did the grunt work, created the Saturn V launch vehicle. It was truly the pinnacle of Rocket technology. We can learn many lessons from what they did. The above article describes how a team is currently at work to reverse engineer two of the remaining mighty F-1 engines that lay at the heart of the Saturn V. These are the engines that carried us to the moon. 24 men went, 12 walked on the surface. And we have never been back and the Saturn V has passed into history. 3 complete launch vehicles remain, stored outside and corroded past usability. But two of the main engines were in storage. One with NASA, the other with the Smithsonian.
The engine at NASA has been completely disassembled and is being scanned to create a hyper accurate computer model for virtual testing. The Engine from the Smithsonian is being put back into working order for testing with hopes that they can fire up the F-1 for the first time in nearly 40 years.
While this may seem like a history lesson and not much more important than restoring your Dad's 57 Chevy, it is very relevant and pertinent to our future. There were a number of designers who achieved great things in the days before computers and their achievements have not been matched. The Saturn V and the SR-71 stand at the top of their respective fields and are unmatched in performance by anything created since. We can learn a few things from these incredible feats of engineering.
It may be that the next step that was missed 40 years ago is at hand. The Saturn V's F-1 engines may lead to a new generation, a merger of 1960's ingenuity with 21st century production and refinements, and create something even better. It just goes to show that sometimes we need to dip into the past to go forward into the future.