- NASA’s Apollo program helped introduce the concept of a "moonshot": a lofty goal that may at first seem impossible.
- Some modern moonshots, such as virtual reality, were first imagined through science fiction.
- Others were the product of researchers tinkering alone in their labs.
- Today, the Alphabet subsidiary X Development is dedicated to bringing moonshot ideas like internet balloons and driverless cars to life.
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When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the moon in 1969, they helped to cement the idea of a "moonshot" — a goal or achievement that challenges what we thought was possible.
While few moonshots measure up to the Apollo program, many of the world’s greatest inventions were once thought of as similarly out-of-reach.
Virtual reality, for example, was the province of science fiction before it came to life. And the concept of DNA fingerprinting even boggled its inventor until he saw it work for the first time.
Here are some of the world’s biggest moonshot ideas that became real-life innovations.
Floating cities are still theoretical, but floating housing complexes are already standing in the Netherlands.
About 13 centuries ago, Homer envisioned a mythical floating city surrounded by "unbreakable bronze." That idea hasn’t come to life, but the concept of floating structures is very much a reality.
The Netherlands is home to floating apartment complexes and dairy farms that bob on the water, making them more resistant to floods. The United Nations is also entertaining a concept for a floating city that could address issues such as rising sea levels and overcrowding in urban areas.
Traveling through space was once thought to be impossible. Now, astronauts live there for months at a time.
American inventor Lee de Forest once predicted that space travel would be next to impossible. "Man is inherently an earthly creature and only his scientific imagination will make him a planetary emigrant," he told Voice of America in 1957.
Less than 50 years later, the International Space Station made it possible for humans to live on an artificial satellite that would weigh 1 million pounds on Earth.
Driverless cars have been slow to get off the ground, but they’re operating in Phoenix.
Car companies have experimented with self-driving vehicles since the 1920s, but the concept has became more actualized over the last five years.
In December 2018, the driverless car company Waymo deployed an autonomous taxi fleet in Phoenix, Arizona. Waymo is a breakout of X Development, an Alphabet subsidiary dedicated to bringing moonshot ideas to life.
Passengers can use an app to book one of the Waymo’s self-driving cabs, which operate across four suburbs. As of May, the company had reached 1,000 customers.
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