November 8, 2017

How The Right Decisions And Compounding Can Lead to Huge Results

Every 175 years something remarkable happens — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune come into close alignment. An American aerospace engineer by the name of Gary Flandro discovered that the next time this alignment would occur was in the late 1970s, a little more than a decade away.

As a result of his finding, Flandro devised a Grand Planetary Tour that would allow a probe to fly by all 4 gas giants much faster and cheaper than previously estimated. The physics behind the tour required using the planets as slingshots (gravity assists) in order to cut down on energy costs and the time needed to visit them. The end result was NASA’s Voyager program.

Two things stand out about the Voyager program:

Decisions made by NASA scientists 40 years ago have had a profound effect on the mission and its success through today. For example, despite launching after Voyager 2, Voyager 1 is currently the furthest man made object from the Earth at a distance of ~13.1 billion miles or 20 light hours (as of this writing).  The decision to have Voyager 1 start on a faster and shorter trajectory and then let nature run its course made this possible.

All it took was some great decision making, the rest was physics.

Once a successful process is put in place, the end results can be surprising. What started as a mission to check out the gas giants and their respective moons became a study of the edge of our solar system and deep space. Voyager 1 and 2 have continually sent useful data back to NASA and will continue to do so until 2020, when their ability to transmit information will finally fade. The goals achieved by the probes were not necessarily all imagined at the outset.

These two ideas from the Voyager program are highly relevant to investing....


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