From Space to Personal Rapid Transit – Part 2 of a Conversation with Dr. Kornhauser

For those old enough to view it on television, the July 20th, 1969 landing of Apollo 11 on the moon is a “once in a lifetime moment.” Relatively few people were at the actual launch, but, as we learn in the above interview, Dr. Alain Kornhauser was able to share the moment with his parents at Cape Kennedy.

Kornhauser’s Ph.D. dissertation, Optimal Astronautical Guidance, was foundational in understanding trajectory and rendezvous points for the Apollo program. The moon was just the beginning, as the goal was Mars (hard not to think of Elon Musk). Unfortunately, for an aerospace major, like Kornhauser, funding for space travel had dried up by the time he received his Ph.D.

The downturn was so bad in the Fall of 1970 that, according to Kornhauser, there were only three advertised positions for aerospace professors and that only one was filled that year. In the above interview, he describes his relocation to the Land of 10,000 lakes where the air was cold, while the people were warm.

His experience and new relationships from teaching at the University of Minnesota led to his first career pivot from aerospace to personal mobility. At that point, the concept was personal rapid transit (PRT) with rail/guideways and personal pods. He describes some of the systems that he and his students designed.

He also received a few practical business lessons when he and Jerry Lutin tried to pitch a PRT system to connect the casinos in Las Vegas (have to think of Elon Musk, again). Although they had a unique business model approach (think slot machines paying for the mobility solution), there were too many entrenched entities against a new and better mobility solution. He explains that PRT never had its hockey stick moment.

In part 3, Kornhauser will discuss his pivot from PRT to rails.

View Part 1 here