Unintended Uses

I’m a big fan of using things for purposes other than those intended by their creators. I’ve used Legos as a reconfigurable experimental setup, a firecracker case as an electronic Palantir, and cardboard for pretty much everything except packing things (ok, I’ve used it to pack things too.)

People repurposing is useful as well – I’ve often observed the value added by an entirely different expertise/background from the rest of a team. Many people think that you are locked into a certain set of jobs by your degree or training – this is only true if you let it constrain you. Instead, the reality is that most technical degrees are pretty much interchangeable pieces of paper that say “I’m smart!”

Of course, repurposing happens all the time with technology.  Most “inventions” are actually just repurposed from an entirely different area. History is littered with examples of this – Henry Ford didn’t invent the moving assembly line, he simply repurposed the idea from meat processing factories.

I’m convinced that repurposing from other areas, rather than directed research will lead to many major advances in space technology as well. This can already be seen in the recent PhoneSats and 3d printing rocket parts. Moore’s law is quickly making expensive, space-specific rad hardened electronics irrelevant because so many transistors can fit on a chip now that you can just use a normal processor and do every calculation several times rather than needing to guarantee that radiation won’t disrupt your single attempt.

It’s always a fun thought experiment to look at things that work well around you and think how they could be applied in space.


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