Oct 12 2009

State of the Wave — Solid "BRICs" Support the Next Maslow Window

This State of the Wave summarizes specific progress toward the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and movement toward real, near-term space colonization. The focus is on events and trends of long-range significance.

Coined by Goldman Sachs in 2001, the “BRICs” refers to the dynamic countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, who Goldman suggested “could eclipse the combined economies of the richest countries of the world” by 2050.

21stCenturyWaves.com has written about them many times in the context of economic growth and space exploration over the last 18 months. However, it is extraordinary to see the BRICs so clearly demonstrating multi-decade long wave trends as well as the style of ebullience that points directly toward the 2015 Maslow Window. This brief State of the Wave is dedicated to all of them.

BRAZIL’s Olympic Glow
According to the New York Times (10/4/09; A. Barrionuevo), Brazil is “celebrating its arrival on the world stage” with its selection as the first-ever South American site for the 2016 Olympics. Despite the direct participation of President Obama, Rio de Janeiro beat out Chicago handily. According to Brazilian President da Silva, “Brazil went from a second-class country to a first-class country, and today we begin to receive the respect we deserve.” Another Brazilian ebulliently sums it up, “My Brazil is solid. We have it all.”

Since the economic benefits of hosting an Olympics are few — it is mainly a spectacle — this is truly Maslow Window-style ebullience on display from Brazil.

Brazil’s 1960s-style ebullience — its Olympic glow — extends beyond just the Olympics to being an economic powerhouse as well as a growing global space power; it’s what we’d expect of a major player in the approaching 2015 Maslow Window. For example, its economy recently dramatically exited the recession with a 1.9% GDP increase in the 2nd quarter over the first (WSJ, 9/12/09).

Quoting from my 5/20/08 Brazil post:

Brazil has Latin America’s most prominent space program including their own launch vehicles, environmental and communication satellites (some in cooperation with China), and their enviable Alcantara launch site (within 2 degrees of the equator)! In 2006, the first Brazilian astronaut — Marcos Pontes — after training with NASA, ascended on a Russian Soyuz rocket for a $ 10.5 M, week-long stay on the International Space Station. Colonel Pontes’ instant celebrity power exceeded even the best soccer stars that Brazil has to offer, and gave him access to the Brazilian president and a prominent association with Brazilian comic books and toys! …

In 1992 writing in Space Policy, I suggested that Rio de Janeiro would be an ideal headquarters city for a new global space organization that we forecast will form by 2014. Today it seems even more appropriate considering Brazil’s likely pivotal role in the rapidly approaching international race to space.

RUSSIA and the International Space Station
The European Space Agency reported this morninig that ESA astronaut Frank De Winne became the first European commander of the ISS; he took over from Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka who had been ISS commander since April. Prior to this morning, only Russian cosmonauts and U.S. Astronauts had filled this role.

Russia’s continuing leadership in space is complicated by the global recession. Stratfor reports that the Russian GDP is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2009, somewhat less than the 8% forecast previously. (For comparison, Reuters recently reported that the U.S. economy is expected to decline by only 2.5 % in 2009 (and rebound by the same amount in 2010) according to private economists polled October 5-6 for the Blue Chip Economic Indicators October survey.) President Dmitri Medvedev admitted that, “As soon as the crisis occurred, we collapsed. And we collapsed more than many other countries.”

According to Richard Pipes (Wall Street Journal, 8/22/09), former professor of history at Harvard and member of Reagan’s National Security Council, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’…” This is partly due to their victory over Germany in World War II and “the success in sending the first human in space.” But Russia’s veering in the direction of a new cold war hasn’t helped them economically; “Russian aggression against Georgia has cost it dearly in terms of capital flight.” And Russia’s dependence on the global price of energy caused their exports to drop by 47% in first half of 2009.

Although most Russians do not see themselves as European (and they are not Asian either), Pipes believes it is essential to convince them that “they belong to the West and should adopt Western institutions and values: democracy, multi-party system, rule of law, freedom of speech and press, respect for private property…” This is especially important in a world repeating many key trends of one long wave ago, including a new Cold War (e.g., their apparent involvement in the Iran nuclear program) and the international build-up toward large-scale space activities (including proposed joint Russia-U.S. manned Mars missions) in the 2015 Maslow Window. The obvious twist this time is a strong Russia/U.S. alliance in ISS, and the fact that they may serve as our ticket to ISS after the Shuttle is retired.

INDIA’s Ebullient Space Program
India’s space program is among the most ebullient and aggressive in the world. The recent spectacular success of their first mission to the Moon — Chandrayaan-1 — in detecting small amounts of water on the Moon is indicative of many even greater things to come as we approach and enter the 2015 Maslow Window.

For example, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is contemplating its own robotic mission to Mars between 2013 and 2015 (as the next Maslow Window opens). ISRO anticipates using their Geosychronous Satellite Launch Venicle (GSLV) and either “ion thrusters, liquid engines or nculear power” to thrust their spacecraft to Mars. India also envisions its own Earth orbital human spaceflight program in the 2014-2015 timeframe. In support of this goal is the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, a new astronaut training center in Bangalore by 2012, and the development of a 3-person crew orbital vehicle capable of orbiting the Earth for 7 days.

India’s economy has slowed from 2007 growth rates approaching 10%, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasized recently, “There is no economic crisis in India. It is certainly true that as a sequel to the global economic crisis our exports have suffered … but even then our economy is growing at a rate of six and half per cent. Therefore there is no crisis, as such in India.”

Although India naturally feels a competition with China’s impressive space program, Indian leaders also want to enhance the development of high technology, share in space science discoveries, and excite young people. According to Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a rocket scientist who is known as the father of India’s missile program, the Indian space program will “electrify” the spirit of young scientists. This is clear evidence of early and growing ebullience in the Indian space and technology communities — exactly what we’d expect, based on international events one long wave ago, as we surge toward the 2015 Maslow Window.

CHINA’s 60th Anniversary
China recently celebrated one long wave of the People’s Republic, or “60 years of chinese communism,” says Gordon Chang in the Wall Street Journal (10/1/09). “The Chinese state will try to project strength … fearsome weapons … 200,000 soldiers … a grand procession in the center of Beijing.” And they did. Self-described “panda hugger” Thomas Barnett felt the parades showed a “lack of confidence … I see a celebration of everything that’s stood in the way of China’s return to growth and prosperity.”

From the perspective of 21stCenturyWaves.com, it’s especially intriguing that the celebration of 1 long wave of Chinese communist rule featured — in addition to massive military might — a float emphasizing Chinese success in space. The military display was intended to help the Chinese feel “a sense of security, a sense of pride,” according to one Chinese observer, whose restaurant was shut down for the celebration. However, perhaps the space float was an invitation to China’s future during the 2015 Maslow Window as a global leader in the commercial and scientific development of near-Earth space, the Moon, and beyond.

Over a year ago in “10 Reasons Why China is Good for Space,” I acknowledged Mao Zedong’s call to action in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, the rapid growth of China’s space infrastructure including its capability of launching humans into orbit (first manned orbit mission in 2003), and the international prestige and growth of Chinese nationalism (due to its popularity in China) which space has created. And although China’s economy has featured 10% pre-crisis growth, since 2008 its economy has taken big hits. Ironically, The Economist (10/10/09) is now warning that China’s recent GDP rebound might result in a bubble economy unless China adopts an independent monetary policy that frees the yuan from the dollar.

Chang laments that “the Party is increasingly out of step with the dynamic people it governs,” and despite the paranoid parade, Barnett awaits “the truly confident China to someday appear,” while former prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair (WSJ, 10/9/09) suggests that when we consider China’s last 60 years, “reflect on how far they have to go. But spare a thought for how far they have come.”

China’s interest in space — the technology, the exploration and science, the international prestige — is very “1960s”, as it is for all the other BRICs — and that’s intended as a high compliment to their capabilities and aspirations. It’s a clear international signal that we’re approaching the 2015 Maslow Window — the next Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology.

However, this time — because of our knowledge of 200+ years of Maslow Windows — we’re smarter, and we may even have a choice. I vote that we have a “Grand Alliance for Space“, featuring a unified, global approach to human settlement of the solar system. But I have to admit that the history of the Cold War space race, the exploration of Earth’s polar regions, and even the Lewis and Clark expedition suggest it will be otherwise.

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