Mar 10 2014

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2014 – Getting Our Ducks in a Row for the New Space Age

2014 will be a “Year of Decision” in the U.S as a mid-term election will influence how rapidly the anticipated new Apollo-level international Space Age will arrive. Specifically, U.S. voters will decide if the status quo will continue for two more years or if a new balance of power will set the stage for a transformative, 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

The new face of space? Supermodel Kate Upton suggests how exciting zero-g can be!
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For a brief intro to how space exploration is likely to go ballistic in the near-term, see my 2012 Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Ironically, our weak recovery and global turmoil indicate that our multi-century “ducks — economic, geopolitical, technology — are nearly in a row”, signaling the rapid approach of a 1960s-style “critical state” as described here last year in “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2013“, as well as four years ago for the coming decade, “DecaState of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.”

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2014:

10. China Triumphantly Joins the Moon Landing Club
In December China became first in the 21st Century to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon! No one had achieved this since 1976 when the Russians last did it; indeed Russia was first to accomplish an unmanned soft landing on the Moon in 1966. The first manned landing on the Moon was by the U.S. in 1969, followed by 5 more U.S. manned lunar landings (3 with manned rovers) through December, 1972.

This nearly 4-decade long hiatus of manned and robotic exploration on the lunar surface is apparently due to the Maslow Effect, involving multi-decade self organization of the international economic system into twice-per-century, transformative, “critical states”; the most recent one in the 1960s triggered the race to the Moon and changed the world during the first space age.

The end of the Moon hiatus is signaling the approaching new Space Age.

China’s new rover on the Moon is farther away than the Senkaku Islands, but is its geopolitical meaning the same?
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China’s spectacular achievement is not just of scientific significance, as most recently pointed out to me by planetary scientist Paul Spudis in a comment on my December post:

The real geopolitical threat is not necessarily from a base on the Moon but rather from China’s clear acquisition of the ability to routinely and freely move throughout cislunar space … (where) all of our national security space assets and economic space assets reside. … They have already shown their proclivity for anti-satellite activities.

Lignet.com concurs with the above point but also sees the possibility of an “asian space race” in both the civilian and military arenas. For example, if the U.S. abstains from the Moon …

The absence of a pre-eminent power on the Moon could turn into a Wild-West style land rush for the lunar surface.

By analogy with the 1960s, also a time of increasing geopolitical tension, will China “spur the U.S. into action?” asks Forbes columnist Alex Berezow.

China is now envisioning the very same sort of ambitious megaprojects that the U.S. once dreamt of more than 50 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy urged America to commit itself to achieving the goal of landing a man on the Moon..

China reminds Americans of the days of JFK when we thought we could do anything. It’s called “ebullience” and is coming soon to a country near you, as the new Maslow Window approaches this decade.

9. NASA’s Mars Fleet and Kepler Continue to Dazzle Fans of Earth-like Planets
Mars is awash in evidence suggesting the Red Planet had a large, ancient ocean of liquid water. “Oceanus Borealis” would have covered 1/3 of the Mars surface in its northern lowlands. This increases the odds of martian life as well as offering a key resource to future Mars astronauts.

Using new high resolution images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) a Caltech team recently found ridge-like features called “inverted channels” that are believed to be the eroded remains of coarse, heavy material deposited in deltas when rivers poured into the Mars ocean. Recently, a University of Texas geologist suggested large boulders seen in MRO images of Arcadia Planitia (the ocean’s presumed location) are the result of catastrophic underwater landslides.

Sedimentary deposits imaged by Curiosity in Yellowknife Bay of Gale Crater on Mars suggest that an ancient water lake lasted tens of millions of years as recently as 3.7 billion years ago.
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The car-sized Curiosity Rover touring Gale Crater has discovered lake and stream deposits that could have supported simple life. Last March NASA announced evidence of pH-neutral water in Gale Crater, which increases the odds for ancient martian life. And future Mars explorers welcomed the news that Curiosity found 2% of the martian soil was water.

One of the most important NASA science missions of all time, Kepler is the first spacecraft specifically designed to detect habitable planets, which traditionally equates with having liquid water on its surface. Currently its website lists 961 confirmed finds, including Kepler – 69c, about 2700 light years from Earth, which was the first super-Earth (1.5 Earth masses) discovered around a Sun-like star that’s in its habitable zone and might have water.

Although a reaction wheel failed last August which limits Kepler’s pointing capability, scientists are still confident they can do a reduced schedule of planet hunting.

Recent in situ radiation measurements by Curiosity en route to Mars and on its surface suggest to some that human Mars missions would represent a large fraction of the lifetime exposure allowed by NASA for an astronaut. However, the actual increase in cancer risk is only a few percent which, compared to other Mars mission risks, is very manageable. Although NASA has no current plans to send humans to Mars, Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society states that,

We are much closer to being able to send humans to Mars today than we were being able to send men to the Moon in 1961, and we were there eight years later.

However, Apollo-level space initiatives do not happen in a vacuum or by accident, and Zubrin’s insightful assertion will only be true if the 1960s (the Apollo Maslow Window) is analogous — economically, geopolitically, technologically — to the next 10-15 years. And the message of current and long-term global trends is yes: the opening of the new Maslow Window/Critical State is likely to occur very soon.

8. No New Flagship Missions for NASA: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
According to The Huntsville (AL) Times, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden indicated to the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee in early December that,

We have to stop thinking about flagship missions … The budget doesn’t support that.

Bolden also reportedly indicated that Congress could “force” one (e.g., Space Launch System) onto NASA, but “that may be the only way to get one in the future.”

Does that mean we should forget about starting major Apollo-level space initiatives now that could culminate in the 2020s, like human spaceflight to Mars, international development of the Moon, and/or large-scale space-based solar power systems?

Under normal circumstances, the answer is yes. But with the near-term approach of a new 1960s-style critical state, these are not normal circumstances!

As in the late 1950s when NASA originated, dramatic transformations will occur to enable new, unprecedented macro engineering projects in space and on Earth. In 1989 Yale professor Garry Brewer characterized JFK’s NASA in the context of a complex system as a “perfect place”:

(NASA) came close to being the best organization human beings could create to accomplish selected goals. If not the best or perfect, they were nearly so … close enough. Ironically, this very success ensured their eventual demise.

Like the critical state itself, NASA’s residence in the “perfect place” was relatively brief. To get back there, or close to it, and to do great things again, one of the pieces of the puzzle that NASA will naturally require was mentioned by Bolden: an increased budget. And, interestingly, the complementary geopolitical and technology trends are visible all around us.

7. Geopolitical Tensions Point to the Approaching 1960s-style “Critical State”
Over the last 2 centuries, great human explorations (e.g., Apollo) and huge macro engineering projects (e.g., the Panama Canal) have clustered together in decade-long, twice-per-century Maslow Windows. The Windows are apparently triggered by critical states in the international economic system that self organize over decades.

Invariably Maslow Windows start off with a bang: early in the Window (or just before it) there is either a war or an international crisis with war potential. A famous example is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 involving Russia and the U.S. who together nearly ignited a nuclear war before it was rapidly resolved. Ironically, the CMC actually intensified the Space Race to the Moon between the two countries.

In 1998 National Academy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte (then at Cornell) and a colleague published their discovery that the frequency/intensity (measured in deaths) statistics of wars over the last 5 centuries displayed the clear signature (i.e., called “fractal”) of a complex system subject to self-organized critical states. In their summary:

World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.

In other words, surging geopolitical tensions are harbingers of the approaching new critical state.

Last spring when the U.S. scrambled a stealth bomber to Korea in response to provocations by North Korea, it appeared that the crisis had parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis of the previous Maslow Window.
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Last fall the rapidly evolving Syrian crisis had all the earmarks of an early Maslow Window crisis suggesting the arrival of the 1960s-style critical state was just around the corner. Click: “Syria reveals that the 1960s-style “Critical State” is Imminent

Perhaps of greatest concern, the current high-stakes crisis surrounding Iran and its nuclear program continues to intensify. Reaction to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was immediate. Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz called it a “cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions” and Israeli PM Netanyahu said it was a “historic mistake.” Even NY Senator Chuck Schumer was “disappointed” because the deal was not “proportional”; “Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions.”

A January, 2014 poll revealed that nearly 2/3 of Israelis believe Obama will let Iran go nuclear. More recently Stratfor.com reported that the Iranian Supreme Leader essentially agreed with the Israelis when he remarked, “Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will go nowhere.”

All of this is in the context of an UN report last October that Iran may need as little as one month to produce enough uranium for a nuclear bomb, which might motivate Israel to consider a strike before that occurs.

As global tensions escalate toward unprecedented levels reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s reasonable to see the imminent approach of a new, 1960s-style critical state. The Iran crisis is particularly dangerous, however even with all the bad news, multicentury historical patterns suggest we are not approaching a WW I analog. Instead the geopolitical chaos reminds us we can expect major space and technology initiatives to develop sooner than you think.

6. New, Game-Changing Technologies Are Setting the Stage for the New Space Age
In my December interview on The Space Show hosted by Dr. David Livingston, one of our live callers asked a compelling question: If we believe for a moment that a new, near-term Space Age is in the cards, shouldn’t we see more government and private technology development to support it?

The answer, of course, is yes. And we do.

During the early 1960s the X-15 was a rocket-powered aircraft that became the world’s first spaceplane. It set speed records (4520 mph, Mach 6.72), flew into space officially (above 100 km) twice, and its pilots included Neil Armstrong (1st on the Moon in 1969) for whom NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is being renamed.

In 1961 the X-15 was glamorized by Hollywood in a full-length theatrical movie of the same name that used real flight footage. Stars included Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore.

Today we’re not so lucky because the Air Force X-37b is a Mach 25 spaceplane whose technology development missions are secret. It’s public knowledge that it’s unmanned and reusable, essentially an advanced, miniature version of the Shuttle. It launches on a Atlas V in Florida and lands like an airplane at Vandenberg AFB in California although that may change soon.

The X-37b is famous for its long missions. Its current orbital mission began on December 12, 2013, and it’s still in orbit! Boeing advertises that the X-37b has advanced silica tiles, totally automated de-orbit and landing operations, and electromechanical actuators for all flight control surfaces.

DARPA is planning to build an Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) that will begin flight testing in 2017. It will place 3000-5000 lb payloads in LEO for under $ 5M per launch, and is envisioned as a true hypersonic and space access vehicle that could contribute eventually to a broad range of advanced military, commercial, and NASA missions.

Although initial U.S. work on hypersonic missile weapon systems dates back to the 1960s, it is accelerating today according to Lignet.com. The “boost-glide” concept involves a boost by a ballistic missile followed by a very rapid glide path to target — up to ~Mach 20 — culminating in a flat, low trajectory that could evade defensive systems.

U.S. hypersonic vehicles could become operational in 10 years (during the next Maslow Window) and are potentially destabilizing. Russia and China are reportedly pursuing similar systems. China recently confirmed a test of its hypersonic strike vehicle, the WU-14.

One captivating, and much less secret technology is 3-D printing which NASA and the European Space Agency believe could build a lunar base. 3-D printing has been identified as potentially having a very broad and profound influence on global business during the next decade.

The European Space Agency believes that 3D printing could facilitate the development of a Moon base leaving astronauts to just manage the process.
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An attractive idea is to mix lunar material with magnesium oxide to make a “paper” the 3-D printer can use. Engineers believe that a next gen 3-D printer could create an entire lunar building in only a week.

A variety of game-changing technologies are being developed with an eye toward facilitating human operations in space and on other worlds in the coming decade. This is consistent with the broad awareness that we are nearly ready to take a giant step in that direction.

5. Observation-based Models of the Sun and Climate Point to A Positive, Expansive View of the Future
Both the scientific community and the public are moving toward an observation-based view of climatic change as our scientific understanding expands.

For example, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in January asked a scientific sample of U.S. adults to prioritize 13 key domestic and foreign policy issues in terms of their importance to the national agenda. The number one issue was job creation (91%), followed by issues including trimming the federal budget and Iran’s nuclear program. Addressing climate change was dead last on the list (advocated by 27%).

The unfortunate irony, of course, was Secretary Kerry’s recent speech on climate change where he referred to those who disagree with him as “shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues.” Two atmospheric science professors (both fellows of the American Meteorological Society) from the University of Alabama in Huntsville — Richard McNider and John Christy — replied in the Wall Street Journal. The basic problem is predictions from complex climate models since the 1980s have not been able to match observational temperature data from satellites and balloons of the deep atmosphere (surface up to 75,000 feet); see their figure.

In fact according to McNider and Christy, NASA and NOAA satellites since 1978 have measured a warming of the deep atmosphere of only 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, per 100 years, while the models (which cannot model the physical effects of clouds, etc.) forecast much larger values.
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The “science is settled” crowd — which sadly includes some who hold scientific positions — is willing to ignore significant observational data which does not support their naive and/or politically-motivated beliefs. McNider and Christy see a parallel with the 18th century British sailors who died of scurvy when many sea captains and doctors knew the cure, and yet this information was officially withheld for over 50 years because it didn’t fit the “consensus science” of their time. In the 21st century, climate science that is not observation-based could potentially reduce economic growth, distort government policy, and promote continued fear-mongering, even of young children in school.

A rather remarkable European physicist at the Technical University of Denmark (Copenhagen), Henrik Svensmark, has stated openly that,

In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth — quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable.

Svensmark and his colleagues have authored an ascending theory linking variable activity on the Sun with warmings and coolings on Earth. Currently the CLOUD Experiment at the European facility CERN — conducted by an international team of scientists — continues to generate experimental data supporting the idea that some low clouds (which cause global coolings) are nucleated by the effects of galactic cosmic rays, which are naturally modulated by solar activity.

Over the last two centuries, critical states in the international economic system have led to transformative, twice-per-century Maslow Windows that have featured 1960s-style golden ages of prosperity, exploration, and technology. Evidence — some cited here — suggests the public and many scientists are recovering from fear-mongering of the past and are moving toward a more positive, observation-based view of the human future, facilitating the likelihood of near-term prosperity.

4. SpaceX Shakes the Commercial Satellite Industry To Its Roots
SpaceX, “The World’s Fastest Growing Launch Services Provider” of Hawthorne, CA launched its first satellite into geostationary transfer orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket on December 3.

The SES-8 telecommunications satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA will use its internal systems to circularize its orbit at nearly 36,000 km above the equator so it can provide direct-to-home tv broadcasts to India and Southeast Asia.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 3 launches it first commercial satellite to geo transfer orbit.
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According to Space News, the launch solidifies SpaceX’s market credibility that “it will now use to attack the global commercial market.” In the next year or so, SpaceX will compete with Arianespace for at least 15 small geostationary orbit satellites.

Since achieving its first delivery of payloads using its Dragon spacecraft to ISS in May, 2012 it has made several cargo flights to ISS. SpaceX is modifying Dragon to carry crew to the ISS and is developing the Falcon Heavy, which they expect will become “the world’s most powerful rocket.”

On the other hand, someone still waiting to make private space headlines is Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic; Aerospace America (Feb, 2014) calls it “Prove-it time for space tourism.” Last month Branson indicated that Virgin Galactic will make its first commercial flight this year, although he has indicated the same in previous years. Beginning commercial operations this year will involve a “tough schedule.”

In January SpaceShipTwo successfully completed its third test flight, this time up to 71,000 feet and a max speed of Mach 1.4. However, Branson intends to take his customers much higher than that — into space officially at 62 miles — and reports indicate subsequent engine tests in the Mojave Desert.

Branson reportedly has 650 customers signed up who have already paid deposits of $ 80 M, and he has repeatedly pledged to personally be on the first commercial flight.

What’s even more interesting is that Steven Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic finds that university students are excited about commercial space (Space News, 12/9/13).

What inspired me was the Apollo program. But now we have new generation of young people who are saying it was SpaceShipOne.

Given today’s economic uncertainty and geopolitical tensions, many young people today are looking for a reason to get excited about space, their studies, and the future in general. Imagine what they will be like when the Maslow Window arrives and someone somewhere — maybe SpaceX+… — is leaving for Mars!

3. The Panama Canal Expansion Project Radiates an “Ebullient Spirit” Characteristic of the Approaching New International Space Age
Prior to the First Space Age of the 1960s, Maslow Windows always featured at least one monumental, non-space macro engineering project (MEP) and usually a few secondary ones. During the early 20th Century Roosevelt Maslow Window, the Panama Canal was the big one and secondary MEPs included the celebrated Titanic ship.

According to historian David McCullough, Panama Canal “was one of the supreme human achievements of all time.” It was the most expensive construction project in U.S. history — ~$ 8.5 B in 2012 USD or about 5% of the 1960s Apollo program — and consumed about 0.1% of U.S. GDP compared to 0.25% for the Apollo program.

For more, click: “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.”

The Panama Canal Expansion Project was initially estimated to cost $ 5.25 B, about 2/3 as much as the original Canal! In 2006 in an ebullient vote, the people of Panama approved this project by 76.2%. According to the Panama Canal Authority, the Third Set of Locks project will respond to sustained increases in international trade by allowing more and larger ships through the Canal.

Because of disputes and cost overruns the Panama Canal Expansion final cost may eventually approach that of the original Canal and completion could be delayed for years, possibly even until 2020.
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According to the Wall Street Journal (2/18/14),

There are many cities, countries, and port authorities who are spending billions of dollars in anticipation of the traffic that will come from the newly expanded canal.

Yet ironically, even with all its current concerns, the PC Expansion Project is a spectacular, expensive, exciting, complicated, international project that countries and companies all over the world are eagerly awaiting. It remains a shining example of “early ebullience” — much like the original Canal was a century ago — that points to the near-term arrival of a new golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

This is important because — over the last 200+ years — large macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) and great explorations (e.g., discovery of the N and S poles) appear to be triggered by large economic booms, but are fundamentally driven by “ebullience” (e.g., “Panama fever”, “pole mania”) — a somewhat irrational, but highly positive view of the future.

For example, In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama fever and (north & south) pole mania; in the mid-19th century it was manifest destiny of James Polk and the central Africa adventures of Dr. Livingstone, I presume; and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

In the powerfully ebullient environment of the coming Maslow Window almost anything can happen. The only remaining question is: Where’s the Boom?

2. It Takes a Maslow Window To Go To Mars, but It Takes a Boom to Make a Maslow Window
Everybody agrees that any new major space initiative like sending people to Mars needs more budget than NASA has now. And NASA is fairly criticized for developing its Space Launch System (SLS) ahead of requirements for a specific, major exploration path.

The Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has recently encouraged Congress to develop “a long-term, committed and stable strategic plan for the U.S. space program.”

As an AIAA member myself, I appreciate her leadership on this hugely important issue…but let’s get serious for a second. The U.S. Congress: Long-term? Committed? Stable? Wow…

Even charismatic JFK during “Camelot” in the early 1960s didn’t attempt that, and his ducks — economic, geopolitical, technology — were all in a row!

Ducks matter! Only 15 years later in the mid-1980s the equally charismatic Ronald Reagan couldn’t sell a space station to Congress or the public within a decade of his proposal — and it cost a lot less than Apollo! That’s because his ducks — mainly economic ones (e.g., “Black Monday”, 1987) — were not lined up.

JFK inherited the post-W.W. II Boom and then made it even better through his economic policies. Here’s what a Maslow Window looks like: rapid economic growth (>4 %), unemployment approaches zero, and the poverty rate falls like a stone, until the Maslow Window ended around 1970.
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And what happened to post-Apollo plans for humans to Mars? As widespread ebullience sagged in the late 1960s, due to geopolitical (Vietnam) and economic (slowing economy) ducks becoming seriously misaligned, serious consideration of human spaceflight to Mars disappeared, until recently — as we approach the new Maslow Window.

In our current counter-ebullient country, where polls indicate 80% think the American dream is over because it’s much harder now than in previous generations to get ahead, will prosperity in the form of a JFK-style boom actually return?

In fact, over the last 200 years that’s the way it usually happens. For example, following the financial Panic of 1893 the U.S. was afflicted with a serious double-dip great recession that’s has parallels with the Panic/Great Recession of 2008-10+. Recovery took off like a rocket in 1899 when growth went ballistic with a JFK-style boom that resulted in one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history.

In fact, the current slow economic recovery is part of a 200-year pattern that, over the last 2 centuries, has always culminated in a transformational Maslow Window. Can you imagine the pent up consumer demand that will explode when the economy turns around, negative animal spirits are reversed, and an expansion reminiscent of the 1960s begins?

Last year in this space I suggested that the trigger for the next Maslow Window — a JFK-style economic boom — would be associated with: 1) the U.S. oil boom, 2) the tech-led boom, and 3) the green-plus boom.

All three trends and others have remained in play and are strengthening the prospects for prosperity. In particular, the International Energy Agency says the U.S. will overtake Russia this year as the top oil producer in the world. According to WSJ (1/31/14), “The shale boom is greasing the wheels of the U.S. economy,” although 4th quarter GDP for 2013 was recently revised down from 3.2% to 2.4%.

For details I’d recommend Jack Plunkett’s book, The Next Boom, which addresses America’s favorable demographics, the next billion new consumers emerging soon globally, and how trends from energy to health care and new technologies suggest we’re “on the verge of a period of major economic growth.”

Also, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler — in Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think — show how innovations in energy, education, health care, freedom, and a variety of high technologies will provide us with “the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet.”

President Kennedy provided us with a powerful economic model that stimulated economic growth and prosperity at the highest level up to that time, and triggered the widespread ebullience that drove the transformative 1960s Maslow Window, including the world-altering Apollo program.

In today’s world, it might surprise some to hear that JFK’s highest priority was to lower tax rates, including personal and corporate, and to control government spending, which through “free market processes” would create new jobs, higher income, and more tax revenues. Given JFK’s extraordinary success, should we give it a try again?

1. “History, said Mark Twain, never repeats itself but it rhymes.” Noted Historian Margaret MacMillan
A professor of international history at Oxford University, Margaret MacMillan is also an acclaimed author, including her recent The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, which collects her wisdom on the origins of World War I.

The difficulty of this task, now in its 96th year (since the end of The Great War), is exacerbated by the fact that it appears to be the result of a complex system in its critical state — such as that which apparently existed near the end of the early 20th Century Maslow Window — where a minor event can have large, unexpected system-wide effects.

Will a new JFK-style U.S. President be elected in 2016?
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However, the following brief list of key space-related events to watch for (with brief comments) adopts Professor MacMillan’s guideline above that the best view we can have of the future is a rhyme of the past, not a repetition.

It’s based on long-term cycles, historical patterns, and current global trends, which are interpreted here in the context of the 1960s-style critical states that great human explorations, the international economic system, and wars have exhibited over the last two centuries.

Key space-related events converge on the expectation that a new 1960s-style critical state is imminent and a new Maslow Window is expected to open by 2017:

1. The appearance of the financial Panic of 2008 is a clear, multicentury, near-term harbinger of the coming JFK-style boom.

2. Over the last 2 centuries, Maslow Windows are always triggered by a JFK-level economic boom. Current U.S. growth remains sluggish suggesting the boom may be 1-3 years away, but it is coming. For example, in 2013 the Wall Street Journal (2/10) observed,

America’s success isn’t preordained. But the technological innovations circa 2012 are profound. They will engender sweeping changes to our society and our economy. All the forces are in place. It’s just a matter of when.

3. The current Iran crisis and that of North Korea — each potentially nuclear — have the potential to rise to the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and indicate the critical state is imminent.

4. The landing of China’s rover on the Moon ends the nearly 4-decade hiatus of robotic and/or human exploration directly on the lunar surface. This major milestone has the potential to trigger events which could lead to a future Sputnik moment for the U.S.

5. The general lack of direction for NASA’s human exploration program coupled with economic uncertainty, geopolitical stress, and unsettling performance of K-12 education, suggest the U.S. would be psychologically vulnerable to a Sputnik moment within the next few years.

6. The 2014 midterm election in the U.S. may play a pivotal albeit indirect role in NASA’s exploration plans by either creating a realignment of power that will ignite growth and trigger the new Maslow Window, or continue the status quo which might delay a move toward prosperity for 1-3 years.

7. Will the new JFK-style “Space President” be elected in 2016? This would be a MacMillan-style “rhyme” of JFK’s election in 1960 just prior to the opening of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

It’s intriguing to imagine potential candidates.

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Dec 31 2013

Happy New Year 2014! …and the Top 10 for 2013

Happy New Year!

PLEASE NOTE: This coming year’s “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2014″ will be appearing very soon!
For 2013′s Trends, click: State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2013
Also, you can listen to my most recent appearance (12/6/13) on “The Space Show,” click: http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2137

Here are the Top 10 Posts for 2013:
This is a special updated New Year’s edition of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during 2013. All posts are clickable and include their publishing dates.

Updated 12/31/2013

THE LAST 365 DAYS (2013) — Readers’ Favorites

1) Is Earth Unique? What This “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future — 1/5/12
2) Are We Entering a Cuban Missile Crisis-like Phase of the Approaching 1960s-style “Critical State”? — 4/27/13
3) A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10
4) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
5) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
6) AIAA — Analyst Predicts New Space Age Coming Soon — 7/6/11
7) The Meaning of China’s New Moon — 12/23/13
8 ) The Physics of Finance As We Approach the 1960s-style Critical State — 8/1/13
9) 10 Lessons JFK and Apollo Teach Us About Ebullience and the Coming Boom — 6/26/11
10) 10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space — 5/31/09

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Dec 29 2013

Did ESA’s Mars Express Broadcast the Carpenters’ “Close to You” This AM to Phobos?

Well if they didn’t, they should have!

Now we know what the Carpenters really meant when they sang their mega-hit, “Close to You”…
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Lyrics from “Close to You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; recorded by the Carpenters, 1970…

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

Only a short time ago (11:09 pm, 12/28/13 California time) the Mars Express spacecraft made the closest approach ever to Phobos — only 28 miles (45 km) above its fascinating surface!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ESA and the Mars Express team!!

It’s too fast and close to take images but the trajectory data — currently being received by the 70 m NASA tracking station in Madrid — will be used to better constrain the structure of Phobos’ very porous interior!

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust …

Phobos is truly a “dream come true” especially every 2 years when a launch window opens that makes Phobos (and Deimos) more accessible energy-wise than a trip to the lunar surface!

For those of us who crave the human exploration of Mars, Phobos is indeed the key to the cosmos!

Just so you know what Mars Express must have been feeling this morning, here’s an encore performance of “Close To You”; CLICK Here.

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Dec 24 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Yesterday from Chicago Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell reenacted his famous 1968 Christmas Eve television broadcast from orbit around the Moon during which the crew read the first 10 verses of Genesis.

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave Earth orbit, travel to the Moon and orbit it, and return safely to Earth.

Captain Lovell is an extraordinary space traveler: He is the first of only 3 people to fly to the Moon twice (although he did not make a landing), and is famous as commander of the Apollo 13 mission.
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For the full text of their broadcast, Click: Celebrating Christmas at the Moon!

Lovell closed yesterday with the same message the astronauts did in 1968.

From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

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Dec 23 2013

The Meaning of China’s New Moon

Could the 21st Century shape up to be China’s on the Moon … and even — if the U.S. allows it — here on Earth?

On December 14 China took “one giant step,” to quote Neil Armstrong (44 years earlier) in that direction by soft-landing Chang’e 3 and successfully deploying the “Jade Rabbit” rover on the Moon’s surface.

This is a great achievement that could lead to Chinese astronauts on the Moon by the 2020s, and clearly signals our rapid approach to the next 1960s-style Maslow Window and the new International Space Age.

China’s new rover on the Moon is farther away than the Senkaku Islands, but is its geopolitical meaning the same?
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For historical perspective, Russia achieved the first soft landing on the Moon in January 1966 (Luna 9). And the first manned landing on the Moon was by the U.S. in July 1969 (Apollo 11) followed by 5 more (3 w rovers), with the last coming in December 1972.

Significantly, the most recent soft landing on the Moon was by Russia in August 1976. Thus China’s Moon triumph is the most recent gentle landing on the Moon in 37 years!

This 4-decade hiatus in human and robotic exploration on the lunar surface is apparently due to the Maslow Effect, involving multi-decade self organization of the international economic system into twice-per-century, transformative “critical states”.

Thus China becomes only the 3rd country in history to join the international Moon Club, as well as the 1st and only nation to do it (so far) in the 21st Century!

So…will China win the 21st Century Moon by default?

Many have noticed China’s success. For example, NASA planetary scientist and long-time major advocate of human missions to Mars, Chris McKay is now supporting a U.S. lunar base, mainly because without it we’ll be less able to influence future international plans for the Moon. Lunar and Planetary Institute scientist Paul Spudis agrees that the Chang’e-3 mission is about expanding China’s future options on the Moon, in this case by flight-testing a “new and potentially powerful lunar surface payload delivery system.”

Former NASA boss Mike Griffin believes that ISS-style international cooperation with China in a Moon base initiative is currently possible as long as the U.S. is “clearly ahead,” but this window will rapidly close as China’s space capabilities expand. Likewise, long-time NASA backer Rep. Frank Wolf (R), currently serving his 17th term in Congress, is retiring and has written President Obama asking for action regarding a “U.S.-led return to the Moon” in the next decade.

Unfortunately, the response of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is to say No to new “flagship missions” for NASA, “The budget doesn’t support that.”

Bolden’s absolutely right about the budget, but he neglects to focus on the connection between the budget and the current sluggish economy, and ultimately that’s the responsibility of his boss, President Obama.

And because Apollo-level initiatives since Lewis and Clark only occur during JFK-style economic booms, the question really is: How do we stimulate significant growth in the economy?

The formula’s been known for some time. President Kennedy used it with considerable success in the early 1960s to create the greatest boom in modern history and to support Apollo. Because of its importance, we’ll examine JFK’s stimulus program in the near future.

One more point about China’s new Moon: early leaks from China suggested a long-term program culminating in a Star Wars-style “death star” base on the Moon with significant offensive military potential.

Such hoopla is undoubtedly for internal consumption (in China), but military Moon bases are not without merit. For example, in 1984 Edward Teller extolled the virtues of a lunar base for continuous, secure surveillance of Earth. And George Friedman presents a dazzling future space war scenario featuring military bases on the Moon’s farside.
You can read more here; CLICK: The Geopolitics of a Moon Base

Did the folks in Beijing just remember to renew their subscription to Stratfor?

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Nov 21 2013

Bruce Returns to The Space Show on December 6

Published by Dr. Bruce Cordell under Uncategorized

It’s a pleasure to announce that I’m returning again to The Space Show (www.thespaceshow.com) global internet live radio program, on Friday, December 6, 2013, from 9:30 am – 11 am Pacific time.

My most recent appearance on The Space Show was last March and you can listen to it by clicking http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=1983

Thanks to Dr. David Livingston, the show’s host, for inviting me. You can learn about him by visiting his personal website, www.davidlivingston.com.

We’ll explore the state-of-the-wave in U.S. and international space today — Surprisingly, all indicators suggest that the ignition of a new, international Apollo-level Space Age is just around the corner.

We’re currently waiting for only one final step on the new Space Age “checklist” to occur before we can enter into another transformative, 1960s-style Golden Age of human expansion.

Plus, we’ll do a year-end evaluation of my annual look at space-related trends; Click: 10 Space Trends for 2013 — Featuring the Approach of the New International Space Age..

And who can resist examining current prospects for near-term human exploration of the Red Planet, including Dennis Tito’s 2018 manned Mars flyby, Mars One, and possible U.S.-Russia joint manned Mars expeditions.

See you on December 6!

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Sep 02 2013

Syria Reveals that the 1960s-style “Critical State” is Imminent

The Sunday New York Times (9/1/13) headine — “President Pulls Lawmakers Into Box He Made” — sums up the current dangerous Middle East situation that Obama aggravated by announcing, a year ago, his Red Line against the use of Syrian chemical weapons and then blinking when it occurred (see also David Sanger, NYT, 9/1/13).

A popular theme is emerging that sees parallels between the current crisis and the summer of 1914 which quickly led to World War I. For example, in “Obama is Playing With Fire in Syria” (8/30/31, CounterPunch) Rob Prince and Ibrahim Kazarooni of the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies see real dangers:

The militaries of virtually the entire region are on alert. It might not take much to set a war in motion that extends far beyond Washington’s borders. What makes matters worse, is that many of the parties are itching for a fight. Indeed, a scenario not unlike that which existed in Europe in the summer of 1914 appears to be shaping up.

Are we approaching a 1914-style “critical state” in the Middle East? The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln patrols in the Arabian Sea.
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And in its recent politics blog, The Guardian (8/29/13) expressed the key idea in the title of its piece: The Syria dilemma: we don’t want it turning into another Sarajevo 1914.

A hint of what’s fundamentally driving this crisis is provided by historian Niall Ferguson in his 2010 Foreign Policy article, “Complexity and Collapse”:

Great powers and empires…operate somewhere between order and disorder … Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when complex systems “go critical.” A very small trigger can set off a “phase transition” from a benign equilibrium to a crisis.

In the spirit of Ferguson, Christopher Clark in his new book (The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914) summarizes how the WW I complex system went “critical” (italics below mine).

The etiology of this conflict was so complex and strange that it allowed soldiers and civilians in all the belligerent states to be confident that theirs was a war of defense , that their countries had been attacked or provoked by a determined enemy, that their respective governments had made every effort to preserve the peace.

This Ferguson/Clark concept is broadly consistent with 21stCenturyWaves.com’s model of transformative, twice-per-century Maslow Windows that are triggered by “critical states” of the complex global economic system due to self-organization over decades. The last one was in the 1960s — which featured the Apollo Moon program — but Maslow Windows can be traced back 200+ years to Lewis and Clark.

A brief intro to Maslow Windows is found HERE, and more info is HERE.

Because financial systems, wars, and NASA space programs are now known to be “fractal”, it’s reasonable to expect that the approach of a “critical state” will trigger extraordinary behavior (also known as “avalanches”) in all three, and history supports this. For example, the greatest economic expansion (the JFK boom) in history and the greatest ever technology and exploration program (the Apollo Moon landings) both occurred during the 1960s.

So in this context, the questions are: 1) Is Syria a harbinger of the approaching 1960s-style critical state? and 2) Is Syria likely to evolve into a global war like WW I?

Although predicting the future of a complex system in its critical state is tricky, the answers are probably and probably not.

History shows that Maslow Windows are asymmetrically bookended by wars; i.e., a smaller war or international conflict (e.g., Cuban missile crisis) just before or early during the Maslow Window, and a major war (e.g. WW I) that terminates the Maslow Window.
For more, CLICK: “Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age.”

World War I, which originated during the most intense portion of the critical state, terminated the Maslow Window in 1914. While the smaller, early war was the Spanish-American War of 1898 which only briefly preceded the onset of a stunning JFK-style economic boom that triggered one of the most ebullient decades in US history.

During the 1960s critical state, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the early international conflict that had the potential for a full nuclear war between superpowers but was rapidly resolved. In this sense it appears to have parallels with the developing Syrian crisis, as we approach the new Maslow Window/Critical State expected by mid-decade.

Although the current geopolitical situation is not held hostage to the 200+ year historical patterns of Maslow Windows and their critical states, it appears that a major war is more likely to occur in the mid-2020s after the approaching Maslow Window/Critical State has lost momentum.

Support for this general view of a limited scenario for Syria (as opposed to a WW I analog) was reported in The Daily Caller last week. Jeff Poor quotes Charles Krauthammer as asserting Friday that any missteps by Obama in Syria could trigger a “major regional war.”

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Aug 01 2013

State of the Wave: The Physics of Finance As We Approach the 1960s-Style Critical State

For most people the financial Panic of 2008 is probably the most famous evidence that conventional economic models — like those long-used by the Fed and other central banks — are simply not adequate. In fact, many decades have been littered with officially unforeseen recessions and initially minimized expansions. So many that in 2010 economist Russ Thomas (Hoover Institution & George Mason Univ) finally asked, “Is the dismal science really a science?” (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/10).

Thomas’ bottom-line is revealing:
“The economy is a complex system, our data are imperfect and our models inevitably fail to account for all the interactions.”
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Momentum is growing in this direction. For example, after asking whether economics is “a science or a religion” physicist Mark Buchanan concluded recently (Bloomberg, 7/17/13) that,

Economics is riddled with hidden value judgments that make its advice far from scientific … (and) economists would do well to derive their prescriptions from observations of how the world really works, with a healthy respect for its complexity.

In 2010, The Economist (7/22/10) reported on growing insight into complexity in the economy using Agent-based Models or ABMs, with an eye toward forecasting major fluctuations.

ABMs do not suffer from key assumptions that limit traditional (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium) economic models including a theoretical equilibrium that attracts all prices or that markets must be fundamentally rational. Instead an ABM assigns specific rules for each agent (e.g., an individual, a firm) including for example, how it regards fundamentals or technical analysis of market data. Agents can also interact with each other and learn from experience, and thus mirror real-world activities.

Michael Casey (Wall Street Journal, 7/10/13) concludes that

the Universe’s dynamic tendency toward disequilibrium and instability … (is) a direct challenge to the prevailing economic theory that markets are inherently self-correcting and always reverting to equilibrium.

Mark Buchanan sees sudden events like the 1987 stock market crash as an “avalanche” in economic behavior. In the 1980s physicist Per Bak and his colleagues originated the term “avalanche” in reference to his famous sand pile analogy to explain the behavior of a fractal system that has self-organized to a “critical state.”

This is an increasingly popular theme with econophysicists. For example, European geophysicist Didier Sornette founded the Financial Crisis Observatory in Zurich and developed his “Crash Risk Index” to monitor the approach of market-related critical states. Researchers at Oxford University, the Santa Fe institute, and elsewhere envision a super-ABM — by linking many ABM modules — that can anticipate avalanches across the globe.

Although the details in some physics-based models are proprietary (because of their commercial potential), the physics of finance has achieved significant success and recently even became a marketing tool. The Paris-based Capital Fund Management, whose chair is physicist Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, prominently features this on their website:

Research in the statistical properties of financial instruments and the development of systematic trading strategies are carried out at CFM by a team of Ph.D’s, most of them former physicists from prestigious international institutions …

And we should remember that on September 15, 2008, Scientific American magazine republished an article by Benoit Mandelbrot (who originated the concept of a fractal) on “How Fractals Can Explain What’s Wrong With Wall Street,” with this note:

This story was originally published in the February, 1999 edition of Scientific American. We are posting it in light of recent news involving Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

This is a glimpse of the exponentially expanding world of the physics of finance that provides theoretical support for our empirical model of the Maslow Window. Indeed, Maslow Windows appear increasingly to be the manifestation of “critical states” in the international economic system.

Twice-per-century, rhythmic pulses of unprecedented activity — in great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), monumental macro-engineering projects (e.g., the Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., World War I) — produce transformational, 1960s-style decades called Maslow Windows powered by “critical states.”

The last one was in the early 1960s and it led to the first human landing on the Moon.

Over the last 200+ years, the approach of a Maslow Window is signaled by a financial panic (e.g., Panic of 1893) that precedes it by 6-7 years. Such panics are now understood as “avalanches” in the complex international economic system due to the development of “critical states” over decades of self-organization.

Based on 200-year patterns, the Panic of 2008 signaled that we were within 6-7 years of the opening of the next Maslow Window (~2015).

Recovery from the Panic/Great Recession duo typically results in a JFK-style economic and technology boom that momentarily creates an “ebullient” population ready to tackle major projects like Apollo despite the rather bumpy road (e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis). The rapid-fire juxtaposition of both “good” (e.g, Apollo, Peace Corps) and “bad” events (e.g., CMC, Cold War) is understood now as characteristic of a complex system in a critical state subject to major avalanches (technological, economic, or geopolitical) in both positive and negative directions. Once in the critical state almost anything can happen.

Our recent statistical study of the costs of NASA space programs — over the history of the agency — showed they are fractal, in the same fundamental sense as financial markets. Thus the fact that Apollo became a featured element of the 1960s is now understood as being due to the development of its critical state.

The ongoing, linked North Korea/Iran nuclear crisis is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis and signals that the opening of the next Maslow Window is imminent. Just how imminent is still uncertain. Until the JFK-style boom appears the Maslow Window cannot blossom.
For scenarios that lead to a near-term JFK-style boom, click: “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2013 — Featuring the Approach of the New International Space Age”

Historically, wars and/or major international conflicts punctuate Maslow Windows. For example, the 1960s Maslow Window began with the Cuban Missile Crisis (nearly triggering a nuclear war) and ended as the Vietnam War destroyed any remaining societal ebullience.

This is to be expected because in 1998 geophysicist Donald Turcotte and his colleagues discovered that wars are fractal and subject to self-organized criticality — like financial systems and NASA space programs! According to Turcotte:

World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.

The early war/conflict is always smaller than the major war that abruptly terminates the Maslow Window. Widespread affluence-induced ebullience early in the Maslow Window may moderate conflicts at that time, while the terminal war accelerates collapse of the Maslow Window; the classic example is World War I.

The fact that Maslow Windows are bookended by wars and/or major international conflicts is now understood as a natural consequence of the fractal nature of wars and the development of a critical state before and during each Maslow Window.

The fractal nature of financial systems, wars, and NASA space programs informs us why “avalanches” in these entities cluster exclusively during the self-organized critical states of Maslow Windows. Expanded ABM’s will reveal the details of these mutual relationships in time (hopefully!) to illuminate our near-term, 1960s-style transformative future.

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Jul 21 2013

Does “Man of Steel” Support the Rare Earth Hypothesis?

I happened to catch Man of Steel recently and it is definitely one of the best fantasy movies ever made. But, special effects aside, this Superman has one key difference with George Reeves, an earlier MOS who flew into living rooms across America as the first space age was gaining steam.

There was once another Man of Steel who, on small screens in the 1950s, used his superpowers to defend “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
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The difference is George Reeves never had to contend with General Zod, a super-villain from Superman’s original neck of the woods, Krypton. Although Gen. Zod first appeared on the screen in Superman (1978) and also in Superman II (1980), he really started to get nasty in this movie.

His casual, but deadly approach to stamping out humanity started me wondering if there could be any REAL Gen. Zods out there.

As I’ve documented previously, widespread interest in extraterrestrials — even evil fictional ones — tends to spike as we approach a Maslow Window. The canal-building Martians of Lowell a century ago were part of this trend, as were George Reeves (Adventures of Superman) and the SETI program of Frank Drake in the 1950s and 60s, as are now the discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets, scientific meetings contemplating ET visits, and cinema like Man of Steel.

But it isn’t just Gen. Zod. For example, Putnam Books is spending big money to exploit the current “renaissance” in popular science fiction (Wall Street Journal, 5/10/13), with Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, characterized as an “alien blockbuster invasion.”

Yancey’s aliens would have warmed General Zod’s heart (if he had one); he envisions eradicating humanity in 5 stages “to preserve the planet’s resources.” First is an EMP-style attack that would fry our electronic and communications infrastructure, then trigger large earthquakes that would kill billions, and third release a lethal virus carried by birds (an idea toyed with earlier in a fun 1965 SciFi film with George Maharis, The Satan Bug)… Anyway, you get the idea!

Very popular super-villain entertainment like Man of Steel and The 5th Wave highlight three obvious issues relating to potentially real extraterrestrials:

1) HUMANS WERE DWARFED:
A major theme of the movie was the extraordinary technology that Gen. Zod and his pals had relative to humans. In one violent encounter, Gen. Zod’s aliens simply flew to an attacking jet, pulled open the cockpit and dragged the pilot out to his death. (Most of us were sitting there eating popcorn thinking it doesn’t matter because Superman will soon take them out … but let’s forget about the “it’s not an S”-guy for a minute.)

In the context of the real Galaxy, it’s a wild sensation to imagine such a demonstration of vulnerability in state-of-the-art human military forces. How should we, as people hoping for a long positive Galactic future, react to such a prospect? This is an important question that is already being openly addressed in the scientific literature.

2) ARE THERE GOOD ETS?
Near the end of the movie, as they were drumming up interest in MOS sequels, a human general (who obviously had thought about Point 1) asked Superman an important question: How can we know that you (Superman) will always be on the side of humanity?

Let’s get real for a second. While everybody would like to weekend on Alpha Centauri, isn’t it more likely that even well-meaning, “Good” ETs would have a net negative effect on humanity? Contact with highly advanced ETs would involuntarily transform our culture — a complex system subject to the Butterfly Effect — in unintended ways. In the original Star Trek TV series, this gave birth to the Prime Directive.

3) DO THE BAD GUYS REALLY EXIST?
Imagine a real Zod-style civilization of advanced aliens who casually view humans as a group that should be wiped out — as long as Earth’s resources are preserved! Think how they behaved in Man of Steel. Of course that was only a movie so it was fun, but let’s imagine now that it’s real.

They could easily find us using their galactic network of self-replicating Von Neumann probes (or something even more exciting), and would have no problem terraforming Earth, as they started to in the film. There would be no compunctions like The Prime Directive, only a focus on achieving their alien goals.

If they existed, wouldn’t they already be here by now and wouldn’t we be under attack? If worlds very similar to Earth are rare in our Galaxy — part of the popular Rare Earth Hypothesis which says that high intelligence is very rare in our Galaxy — this doesn’t help our survival chances very much, because, although there will be fewer space aliens out there — it only takes ONE group to come here. And because they’re evil (and Earths are rare), they would come here as we’ve seen above.

This type of Fermi Paradox argument can be used to assert that NASTY space aliens like General Zod do not exist. If they did, they would already be here. And, as in Man of Steel, we would know it.

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Jul 10 2013

Impressions and Implications of the 2013 Roswell UFO Festival

Yesterday Google cutely reminded us of the 66th anniversary of the Roswell UFO event. In the past, although intrigued, I’ve not attended the annual July Roswell UFO festival mainly because Roswell is far away and has very warm summers.

Each year for a few days around July 4, Roswell celebrates and evaluates the most famous UFO event in history. (Images by Bruce Cordell.)
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But given the recently high profile of the UFO phenomenon — Citizen Hearing, scientific meetings at the Vatican and the Royal Society — and key people speaking at Roswell (e.g., Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr.), I decided to take the plunge.

This time Roswell not only had elevated temperatures but also an unusually early and intense monsoon. Both may have conspired to bring the crowd down a little although everyone seemed to enjoying themselves.

In Roswell UFO-related gift shops and bookstores abound. My favorite was “Roswell Landing” where I found a speculative, but interesting book by mathematician and MUFON staffer Don Burleson, about how J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, may have been directly involved in UFO crash analyses.
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My impression of the Roswell demographics was an interesting combination of the younger family-oriented groups you’d encounter at Disneyland plus the more senior folks who frequent WalMart. If you survey the festival’s schedule of events (linked above) you’ll see there was something for everyone from eight to eighty.

A lot of the action took place in the International UFO Museum and Research Center on Main Street. I remember strolling though it shortly after it was founded in 1992. This time it was much more elaborate including an autographed poster of wondrous actress Adrienne Barbeau who was a celebrity guest in 2010.
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Friday afternoon in the IUFOMRC North Library well-known Roswell authors Tom Carey and Don Schmitt reiterated their contention that over the last 60+ years the U.S. government has fibbed often about UFOs and especially Roswell.

In particular, since 1947 the government has offered 4 different, official explanations of the Roswell event — the most laughable being a weather balloon! Carey and Schmitt continue to be firmly supportive of the idea that alien bodies were also retrieved at Roswell and expressed particular frustration with the New York Times for showing no interest in witness testimony. Big surprise.

Not being a Roswell expert myself, I’ve always been curious of what became of Roswell base commander Col. Blanchard who sent out the stunning first, but rapidly countermanded press release that indicated the military had retrieved a crashed flying saucer!

Did it hurt his career?

According to Carey/Schmitt, Blanchard shot up the ladder to the Pentagon and became a 4-star general. Shortly thereafter in May, 1966 Gen. Blanchard died “at his desk” of a massive heart attack, while expecting even brighter things in his sadly aborted future. Imagine what the conspiracy theorists of today’s politicized world would make out of that…

The highlight of the UFO Festival for me was Saturday morning at 9:30 am in the Roswell Civic Center Exhibit Hall when Jesse Marcel, Jr., M.D. recounted his story of how, as an eleven-year-old in 1947, he personally examined the debris from the Roswell UFO crash. Dr. Marcel and his daughter are pictured here.
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Marcel comes across exactly like I expected him to: smart, authentic, competent, patriotic, and even very personable. It was quite an experience to hear the most celebrated (publicly speaking) living witness to what was apparently the debris of a crashed alien spacecraft. The fact that Marcel later earned an M.D. and became a successful practicing physician is relevant to his current testimony about events in 1947 because it indicates he has an excellent eye and memory for details.

Marcel likes to talk about the strange “mathematics-like” symbols on the I-beams, but I find the extraordinary properties of the “foil”-like materials more compelling. The symbols could have been faked by someone trying to simulate a crash site, but I doubt, even today, if the properties of the materials (as described by Dr. Marcel and his father, intelligence officer of the base) could be duplicated.

Dr. Marcel has no doubt personally that the Roswell debris was from a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft. Listening to him I began to feel the same way, although I still have serious doubts that are not related to Dr. Marcel. They’re based on new discoveries in astrophysics which suggest that human-level civilizations and Earth-like planets are so complex and unlikely that even in a Galaxy of 300 billion stars we could be the only custodians of high intelligence.

While smart aliens still might exist elsewhere they would need exotic transportation concepts (e.g., wormholes) to come here from other galaxies or even other universes, and would be way, way too sophisticated for clumsy Roswell-style crashes in thunderstorms.

The question is: Can we reconcile new insights about the low probability of Earth-style civilizations based on current astrophysics with Dr. Marcel’s and others’ observations of apparent extraterrestrial technologies and capabilities?

Here are two options (others are possible):
Option I. Dr. Marcel is right!
Roswell is due to an ET spacecraft. This implies that astrophysical cautions about high intelligence in our Galaxy are overestimated and high-tech civilizations exist elsewhere in the Milky Way. It also indicates that extremely advanced civilizations from other galaxies or universes also probably exist and we can expect visits from them, if they aren’t already here.

Option II. Dr. Marcel is wrong.
Roswell debris is not extraterrestrial and thus is probably due to a secret military project. If other suspected UFO crash sites are likewise not ET spacecraft it’s likely that, based on astrophysical insights, we are alone in the Galaxy. Other ultra-advanced extragalactic or extra-universal civilizations may exist and already be here, but would have little in common with us because they are tens- or hundreds- (or more) of thousands of years ahead of us.

Based on non-secret information, my evaluation of the situation is that both options are still potentially viable. And we need more data to resolve them. (Notice that in either case, we expect extremely advanced civilizations to be here, but they would not be expected to contact us directly.)

A dual track of activities like the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure as well as astrophysical studies that illuminate the origin and development of high intelligence (e.g., extrasolar planets) will eventually reveal these cosmic mysteries to everyone.

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