May 11 2008

International Space — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

The intersection of projected trajectories for the world’s current and future space powers suggests there will be a major international event just prior to the opening of the next Maslow Window (near 2015). The Nominal Model timelines (see Forecasts page) suggest this will occur near 2013 (Sputnik year 1957 + 56) and will have an impact on the U.S. and world comparable to Sputnik’s launch in 1957.

One likely model is that an international consortium of space powers (ICSP) – possibly led by China – will announce their comprehensive plan for the large-scale colonization and utilization of space, probably including the Moon and possibly Mars. In addition to lunar settlements and orbiting solar power stations, their agenda might include plans for LEO and lunar hotels. Moon hotels are hardly a new idea; the Shimizu Corporation (Tokyo) had impressive designs over 20 years ago when we had meetings with them in connection with a NASA rfp at General Dynamics space headquarters in San Diego. Interestingly, despite their sophisticated concepts, Shimizu did not feature their space projects on their website before and I am unable to find any mention of them now.

Based on the current interest levels and cooperation capabilities of many countries, this ICSP scenario seems very reasonable. For example, both Japan and the U.S. have announced plans to send people back to the Moon within 12 years, and China (possibly in cooperation with Russia) wants to establish a lunar base shortly thereafter. India also has lunar ambitions. And Russia, through its American broker Space Adventures, already offers private citizens their own personal trip around the Moon (for a hefty fee). Russia also claims to be ahead in a “race to Mars” that they expect to win by 2025.

Several countries recently signed the “Global Exploration Strategy” (GES), including Australia, Canada, China, ESA, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, the U.K., and the U.S.. This strategy focuses on why we are returning to the Moon and what we envision doing there, with special emphasis on a comprehensive set of reasons for robotic and human exploration of the Moon. The GES is clearly only the beginning of a new style of international cooperation in space. Indeed, in his recent column in Aerospace America, Editor-at-Large Jerry Grey concludes that, “…despite the current ISS (International Space Station) concerns, there is no doubt that the internationalization of space is enjoying a new period of ascendancy.”(February, 2008).

So in a world plagued by international conflict, economic uncertainty, and natural disasters, major space programs featuring international cooperation are increasingly popular. This is what we would expect during a period of early ebullience as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window. Upcoming Wave Guide 5 posts will comment on events and trends about space powers from around the world and measure their progress relative to the forecasts of 21stCenturyWaves.com.

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