Re: SPACE: Beyond Apollo

Date: Thu Apr 20 2000 - 05:59:03 MDT

In a message dated 4/15/00 12:29:09 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> Is this really still true? How many parts were actually in a Saturn 5?
> I would have to think that much of a Saturn 5 is nothing but big hunks
> of sheet metal, fuel tanks and some plumbing. Size does not equal
> complexity. The parts count on things like the 767 is in the millions
> (though most of the parts are rivets). Then you have dozens of chips
> out now in the 10-100 million transistor size range.
> I would bet that the complexity of the command module was greater than
> that of the Saturn 5 itself.

Having walked around the prone carcass of the vehicle that was to have been
Apollo 19 at JSC many times and having a passing layman's familiarity with
the general design of the Apollo spacecraft, I'd say you're right on the last
score, certainly so if you include the Service Module in comparison to the
Saturn rocket itself. On the other hand, the complexity of the ENGINES was
pretty damned high -- amazing machines, they were, with lots of analog logic
built into the hydraulic systems.

> The minimum self-replicating bacteria, would seem to be able to
> do basic metabolism *and* self replication with a unique parts
> count of ~300.
> What should one use for *real* measures of complexity?
> For example, was the Apollo command module more or less complex
> than an Iridium Satellite?

Good question -- I'd say likely more complex even with physical systems
considered alone, if only because of the broad range of function designed
into the spacecraft, as well as the huge redundancy. If you consider the
information systems, as well (embodied in the crew's training and the ground
support), the complexity of the CM far, far outstrips a modern comm sat.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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