Mar 06 2010
Space-related global trends for the next decade are summarized here utilizing a long-term, empirical approach that focuses on patterns — over the last 200 years — in the economy, technology, and society. This unique approach to multi-decade space and technology forecasting was first sketched in Cordell (1996) and Cordell (2006), and further developed with colleagues in subsequent articles and essays, including the last 21+ months here at 21stCenturyWaves.com.
The Decade 2010-2020, will feature the opening of potentially the most transformative, 1960s-style decade — in space and on Earth — of the 21st Century. CLICK .
In honor of Robert McCall, the great space artist who passed away on 2/26/2010.
The basic 4-part approach is as follows:
1) Sketch the economic framework for the decade based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years,
2) Identify recent trends in economics, technology, and geopolitics, that are likely to drive major directions — especially involving great explorations and MEPs — of the decade,
3) Where appropriate, insert specific forecasts from experts with special knowledge of key countries and/or potential events etc. (e.g., China collapse by 2015) that suggest possible scenarios, and
4) Identify Wildcards and evaluate their potential effects on the space-related trends and forecasts.
The success of this technique in providing significant insights into current and past space-related global trends and events – which you are invited to judge for yourself by perusing either the Categories or Readers’ Favorites lists — is encouraging, and has motivated this attempt to sketch major trends for the entire decade.
So, here are 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.
10. Long-term Economic Trends Point to the Opening of Potentially the Most Transformative Decade of the 21st Century
Trends in the economy, technology, and society – over the last 200 years – show that we’re within a few years of potentially the most transformative decade of the 21st century: the 2015 Maslow Window.
Featuring clusters of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WWI), Maslow Windows are extraordinary 1960s-style decades driven by rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms. Powered by widespread affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style engineering projects and explorations seem not only intriguing, but momentarily almost irresistible.
Initially in 1996, I forecasted that “the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s; it will involve major activities in technology, engineering, and human exploration … the focus will be on large-scale human operations in space and they will be spectacular.”
The 5 years immediately preceding a Maslow Window are typically challenging times of recovery from major financial panics and great recessions, like that which began in 2008; only the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window escaped this fate. The Panic of 2008 signaled that we have returned to the more “normal” pattern of pre-Maslow Window decades over the last 200 years.
Indeed, macroeconomic data over the last 200 years shows that we are on a similar GDP trajectory to that of previous Maslow Windows including the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and the especially ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window.
The first 5 years of any Maslow Window — e.g., 2015 to 2020 for the next one — are typically very active as the golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology is launched. For example, the early Apollo Maslow Window (circa 1957 – 1965) featured the Cold War, International Geophysical Year, Sputnik, the formation of NASA, Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Apollo Moon program, and President Kennedy’s ‘to the Moon in this decade’ speech to Congress. See “Fred Kaplan’s “1959 — The Year Everything Changed” Points to the New Space Age.
Over the last 200 years, repetitive geopolitical and economic trends associated with the long economic wave indicate that the 5+ years before and after the opening of any Maslow Window are stunningly dynamic times, as the major economic boom gains momentum and international tensions increase, and as international events associated with great human explorations and macro-engineering projects (MEP) begin to unfold and dominate global headlines.
In general outline, that’s the next 10 years for space.
9. A Significant Military Crisis May Develop Early in the Decade (e.g., Iran) … but like usual, it will be rapidly resolved, and indeed may accelerate the world toward the 2015 Maslow Window.
The year of Obama – 2009, along with the years especially since 2005, have clearly set the stage for the 2015 Maslow Window. Please see, State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010, and State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009.
While preparing for a return to the Moon by 2020 with our international partners (and competitors) and strategizing about the Shuttle 5-year gap, we enjoyed basking in the “greatest global boom ever” (the hallmark of approaching Maslow Windows); see Fortune magazine, July, 2007. However, global prosperity came to a screeching halt as the current great recession began in December, 2007 and the financial Panic of 2008 gained momentum.
These and other factors triggered a continuing major political realignment in the U.S., including: the Year of Obama, concerns about economic sustainability, rebirth of the War on Terror, and a new approach to NASA and the human future in space. Similarities between current and previous macroeconomic, geopolitical, and technology trends over the last 200 years signal our approach to the 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age.
For example, a possible war with a nuclear Iran and its potential effects on world (including China) energy supplies has parallels with the extremely dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis that intensified the U.S.-Soviet Moon race early in the Apollo Maslow Window. And the potential future political effects of a lingering or unsuccessful war in Afghanistan have some warning of parallels with LBJ’s Vietnam, that eventually ended the Apollo Maslow Window.
On the other hand, assuming — by analogy with the 1960s and all previous Maslow Windows — that we are able to control our early 2015 Maslow Window international crises, the spectacular foreign policy and technology success known as the International Space Station highlights a potential direction available to humanity as we contemplate the possibility of global, united human settlement of the solar system.
Current space-related trends associated with the global recession, a possible Sputnik event, the new NASA, a space commercialism boom, political realignments in the U.S. and elsewhere, global economic and demographic challenges, state-of-the-art technology and education, and possible wildcards, support the 2015 Maslow Window and are explored below.
8. The Financial Panic of 2008 Signaled That We Were Within 6 years of a New, Apollo-Style, Global Space Age
The Panic of 2008 and its Great Recession (see #9 above) devastated any lingering ebullience from the great global boom of 2007 and ultimately became a rationale for scaling back U.S. 2020 Moon plans.
Although predicted by a few — see Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts – the Panic of 2008/Great Recession nevertheless highlighted the limitations of current macroeconomic models, especially when unassisted by a long-term, empirical approach like that of 21stCenturyWaves.com.
The severity and historical sequence of pre-Maslow Window financial panics and great recessions is documented. For example, the spectacular mid-19th century Maslow Window featured the stunning ebullience of “manifest destiny” in the U.S., Dr. Livingstone’s still-celebrated central Africa explorations, and the “technological jewel” of the 19th century: the Suez Canal. It was preceded by the financial Panic of 1837 that triggered a great recession lasting until 1843. And it was no rose garden. According to Nobel economist Milton Friedman (writing in 1960), “It is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930′s, and its monetary concomitants largely duplicate those of its later mate.”
Likewise, the ultra-ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window was preceded by the Panic of 1893 followed by a great recession. The economy began to recover in 1896 with the election of President McKinley, but unemployment did not drop below 10% until 1899.
The historical record of both 19th and 20th century pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions suggests the current great recession should run no more than 6 years. Even better news is Harvard economist Robert Barro’s study of 59 international, non-war depressions since 1870 that shows they average only 4 years in duration. This data implies that the 2015 Maslow Window will easily open on time. It should be even easier assuming the Obama administration leverages the lessons of economic history and government policy accrued over the last 200 years. But what do current economists say?
Optimists remind us that most recessions are “V-shaped” and recover like tennis balls: a deep recession produces a robust recovery, which we should see in 2010. But many others forecast only a gradual recovery, including some experts at Davos who expect another “global dip” (New York Times; 1/28/10). Despite signs of recovery, the New York Times (2/21/10) warns of an increase in chronic joblessness, and of the perils of a “Japanese decade” (1/3/10). Prominent Keynesians complain that Obama’s stimulus/bailout packages are too small, while others warn of a “Keynesian hangover.” Still others worry about expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, the potential for inflation, record debt, and the general lack of public confidence in the recovery. This situation should remind us of Stanford economist Russ Roberts’ recent column (WSJ, 2/27/10) where he seriously asks if economics is “really a science?” The economy may be far too complex for our imperfect data and limited models to routinely produce reliable forecasts.
However, what is known is that no Maslow Window over the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by a financial panic/great recession in the decade immediately preceding it. In particular, current economic circumstances resemble the great recession of the 1890s more than the post-war boom of the 1950s, and yet the 1890s resulted in perhaps the most ebullient Maslow Window in the history of the United States. That’s a reasonable expectation for 2015.
7. The Cancellation of Constellation will Create New Worlds for Space Commercialization and for NASA
President Obama’s recent budget terminates NASA’s Constellation program that was to launch astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and after this year proposes to launch American astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz launch vehicles until American companies develop man-rated Earth-to-orbit vehicles. Although some Congressional opposition to this plan has materialized (e.g., WSJ, 3/1/10; A. Pasztor), we assume that it will be substantially adopted at least for the short-term.
This will be the first time in 60 years that NASA has no capability or specific plans for its own manned launch vehicle. And NASA Administrator Bolden has emphasized a new style of international cooperation in space where NASA treats its international partners as “equals” and with “respect.”
This new paradigm for NASA supports forecasts made here based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, and suggests that the new global Space Age is not far away. For example, 1) in 1996, I suggested that the next major thrust into space will occur between 2015 and 2025 (see point 10 above) and suggested this might trigger the formation of an organization in which the major space nations share power equally in program planning and management, 2) in 1992 I described an ESA-like concept for a global space organization (“Interspace”) that features “equality” among the major international partners and opportunities for others to participate based on their human, technology, or financial resources (Cordell, 1992), and 3) based on long-wave timing, in 2006 I identified 2014 as the likely timeframe when NASA would undergo a significant transformation (although I did not imagine NASA as being removed from the launch vehicle business).
For the first time the U.S. government will be subsidizing the efforts of private companies to develop a reliable manned launch vehicle to ISS, while not developing their own successor to the Shuttle. Several grants have already been awarded to private space companies.
History shows repeatedly that when you combine adequate capital with technologically sophisticated entrepreneurs that are driven by the profit motive, a mighty force will be unleashed into the marketplace. Although it will take years for them to develop a safe vehicle to send astronauts to ISS, it is highly likely that — thanks to President Obama — the space commercialization boom has finally begun.
But what of the Moon and Mars as near-term destinations for human settlers? Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (WSJ, 2/26/10) praises Obama for removing the U.S. from a puzzling Moon race (which Buzz and Neil Armstrong won for the U.S. 40+ years ago) and refocuses NASA on technology development for deep space human missions like Mars as our “long-term objective.” He then quotes President Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade…” as the type of “bold initiative” offered by Obama.
Unfortunately, unlike JFK’s Moon speech, there is currently no specific plan or timeline to go to Mars and there may not be any for many years to come. Based on long wave timing, we have only until the end of this decade until it becomes very difficult to initiate any major space program. This suggests that under Obama’s plan, a manned Mars initiative might not occur until the next Maslow Window that opens near 2071.
6. Affluence-Induced Ebullience will Drive Space-Related Expenditures to ~ $ 1 T (2007 USD) during 2015 to 2025
I estimate space-related MEP and exploration expenditures during the 2015 Maslow Window will reach between $ 1 T and 3 T (2007 USD), compared to about $ 150 B (2007 USD) for the 1960s Apollo Moon program. This is based on: 1) MEP cost extrapolations during successive Maslow Windows, and 2) ratios between previous primary-to-secondary MEP costs. Two examples of primary MEPs are the Panama Canal and the Apollo/Saturn V infrastructure, and secondary MEPs include, the Titanic and Great Eastern ships, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, and the Large Hadron Collider. All are very expensive, state-of-the-art projects (for their time) that caught the public’s imagination. This is affordable and pro-ebullient (see below) assuming that GDP in 2025 culminates between $ 29 and 35 T (2007 USD) as projected based on GDP trends of the last 200 years.
Such expensive endeavors are only politically feasible because of a powerful psychological phenomenon called “ebullience,” that over the last 200 years occurs exclusively during Maslow Windows separated typically by 55 to 60 years. Triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms, affluence-induced ebullience becomes widespread and catapults many to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. See The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.
Over the last 200 years, widespread ebullience typically collapses rapidly in response to public perceptions of financial contractions and/or wars, not necessarily the facts. And since ebullience is not a totally rational condition, it’s onset and collapse are not necessarily rational either. But the important point is that ebullience actually drives Maslow Windows, not just economics.
Currently, we’re still recovering from a great recession and the public is anti-ebullient, as expected. There is no political incentive for Obama to plan Mars missions. But as the recovery begins to revive the economy over the next few years, it’s likely the U.S. will respond much like it did in the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window led by Theodore Roosevelt.
However, even now there are signs of “early ebullience” around the world that remind us of what’s just over the horizon for space and technology development. It’s typical of the approach to a Maslow Window when certain elements of society — e.g., high-end clientele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, — anticipate the ebullience that eventually engulfs society during the height of a Maslow Window. Since we apparently are only ~5 years from the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window, early ebullience is expected.
5. B-R-I-Cs are the Solid Foundation for a Grand Alliance for Space
The BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, and China are demonstrating multi-decade long wave trends as well as the style of ebullience that points directly toward the 2015 Maslow Window.
China is the biggest economic questionmark of the decade. Some forecasters see it eventually taking over the world economically, while Stratfor believes China will experience a major, Japan-like economic collapse by 2015. Barnett (2/13/10) asserts that China must switch to democracy soon because “democracies simply perform better–not by how they run things but by how they get the hell out of the way of those who really need to run things, aka the private sector.” But Stratfor sees China in a quadruple economic bind, including: giving employment primacy, stagnating Western imports, aging demographics, and internal income tensions. This is important because an economically robust China is often assumed to be a major space competitor of the U.S. during the coming decade. See 10 Reasons China is Good for Space.
According to Harvard’s Richard Pipes, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’.” This is partly due to their success in WW II and their “success in sending the first human into space.” Currently, Russia is not only playing a central role in ISS, it is expanding its domestic space infrastructure (the $ 13.5 B Vostochny Cosmodrome), anticipates a joint Phobos robotic sample-return mission with China in 2011-12, and speaks openly of possible joint manned Mars expeditions with the U.S. and others. However, its continuing leadership in space is complicated by its vulnerability to the global recession and its recent Cold War-like actions. See The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.
India may have the most ebullient space program in the world. It’s first Moon mission (Chandrayaan I) recently discovered water on the Moon, and advanced propulsion will drive their first robotic probe to Mars after 2013. According to the Indian President their manned orbital program will start near 2014, and will “electrify” young people in India. India’s economy has suffered “no crisis” during the global recession — growth dropped from 10% to 6.5% — which suggests not even the sky’s the limit in India as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.
Brazil is one of the most ebullient countries in the world and has a growing space program to match. Selection as the first-ever South American site for the Olympics (in 2016) is symbolic of its “arrival on the world stage.” In 2006 Brazil’s first astronaut trained with NASA, flew a Russian Soyuz, and enjoyed a week-long stay on ISS. Then he became an instant celebrity. In 1992 I suggested that Rio de Janeiro would be an ideal headquarters city for a new global space organization (“Interspace”) that we forecasted would form by 2014. Brazil rapidly exited the global recession with a 1.9% GDP surge in 2009 Q2 and expects to grow 5% in 2010. They’re well-positioned to be an ebullient, global player in the 2015 Maslow Window.
Although not a BRIC, the #2 economy in the world is currently suffering from a debt/GDP ratio of more than 2 and is scrambling “to avoid being the next Greece” (WSJ, 3/1/10). The last half century of both Japan’s economic and political history are strongly consistent with the long economic wave. For example, Japan’s “lost decade” from 1991 to 2000 is centered on the trough (1997) of the 56 year energy cycle, and Japan’s historical election in 2009 — giving it a new government — occurred after 54 years (one long wave) of almost continuous rule by the LDP. Japan’s new strategy for growth during the next decade suggests it will retain its position as a major global leader in space, including current projects like ISS as well as major new initiatives such as its planned $ 21 B space-based solar power MEP.
All the major space powers enter the decade with significant economic and demographic challenges. This makes it appear that a Grand Alliance for Space — that would be promoted by a new global space agency like Interspace — would be highly likely, because no country would have the economic flexibility to do otherwise. However, our current economic trajectory is more like that of the late 1890s great recession than the pre-Apollo 1950s, and thus an unparalleled economic boom is probable as the drive toward prosperity gains momentum in the next 3-5 years. Therefore, a 21st century version of the late 1950s International Geophysical Year scenario is still realistic, and the possibility of a Sputnik-style surprise cannot be ruled out.
4. We are the Beneficiaries of 60+ Years of Space Technology Development, and Are Capable of going to Mars, Developing the Moon, and/or Utilizing Space Resources in the Next Decade
It is incorrect to say that we do not have the technology to go to Mars.
We already have the basic technology to go to Mars and ISS can help resolve issues related to long duration human spaceflight before 2020. While advanced propulsion is always preferred on Mars missions, it is not required. Split mission concepts — where return propellants, consumables, and other cargo — are sent first to Mars orbit before the crew leaves Earth improve performance and safety for the crew vehicles. In situ resource utilization is an important technology that is needed to process propellants from water (or other substances) on Phobos and/or Mars. It needs to be developed but is hardly a showstopper. The modern technical literature on human spaceflight to Mars is extensive and goes back 50 years; a good place to start is the Case For Mars volumes that began in the 1980s.
Great explorations always involve significant risk. The risk must be identified, quantified, managed, and then accepted. In essence, you are ready to go exploring when you think you are.
Columbus and his descendants could have waited until the 747 was invented to make the trip to America — it would have been a lot safer and more comfortable — but they chose to go in 1492. There were many unknowns (a pre-mission cost/benefit analysis was difficult) and the crew suffered casualties, but the mission of exploration was a success and the world was changed. In their 1963 EMPIRE study for NASA, German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke and his staff at General Dynamics concluded that “Preliminary schedule analysis strongly indicates that a 1975 (manned) mission…to Mars is in the realm of realistic technological planning…” It was 6 years before the Moon landing, and Krafft Ehricke, Bill Strobl, and the other authors of the document calculated we were nearly ready to go to Mars. Even bolder was the pulsed nuclear propulsion system of Project Orion. Begun in 1958 at General Atomics by Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, the goal was inexpensive, fast, near-term travel throughout the solar system, and every available technological assessment of the system shows that it would have worked. Larger, classified versions would have made good star-ships, but the project lost funding due to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
Post-Apollo Mars plans were canceled by President Nixon near the end of the Apollo Maslow Window, and no human has ventured beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972. But the point is that serious plans and capability for manned Mars missions existed in the 1970s. To claim that manned Mars missions cannot be done in the next decade suggests NASA needs to be reminded of this superlative technological legacy and also needs to grow a pair — both of which will happen naturally as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and become globally enthused by its surging ebullience.
3. The U.S. is Approaching Another Sputnik-style Crisis of Confidence in Education
In 1957, only 10 days after the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik — the world’s first artificial satellite — the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! Well they did. And 12 quick years later an American stepped onto the Moon.
As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, legitimate public concerns about the state of education will skyrocket because of anxiety over America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world in space and technology. And it’s already begun.
According to The Space Foundation, “The basic problem is that the U.S. education system is not producing students in quantity and at a level of achievement to be globally competitive.” This is because of “declining interest and achievement in the math, science, and technology subjects that are critical to the space industry.”
Due to a shortage of teachers prepared in science and math, the U.S. K-12 system produces a decline in the capability of our students in these crucial subjects. For example, 29% of 4th graders are rated as proficient in science and 39% were good in math. But by the time they reach 12th grade, students have declined to 23% proficient in math and 18% in science.
International comparisons for U.S. students are also uninspiring. In 2007, U.S. 8th grade math students ranked 9th after several asian countries (e.g., Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan), and 11th behind a similar group in science.
The impending retirement of Boomers fuels concerns about declines over the last 20 years in science and engineering B.S. graduates in the U.S.; even math and computer science graduates have remained only level during that time.
With or even without another Sputnik-style event in the next few years, concerns about the state of U.S. science, math, and engineering education will become more intense during the coming decade, possibly even reminiscent of one long wave ago in the 1950s.
2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — Another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology
There is a political realignment taking place in the U.S. that began with President Obama’s election in 2008 and is continuing. It’s fundamentally about a return to prosperity. And while not always fully aware of it, President Obama is the prime motivator in America’s return to prosperity and leadership in the new Space Age. For details, see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.
Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913. But before that the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window produced the “technological jewel of the 18th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.
One key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window will open near 2015. So the key question becomes: How will Obama create the exceptional prosperity that is the hallmark of such Camelot-like times?
There are basically 2 options:
OPTION I: Obama becomes a 2-term President: He becomes the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ.
Historical/Economic Model: The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window., or…
OPTION II: Obama becomes a 1-term president: He becomes the new Grover Cleveland (and possibly LBJ), and leads to a pro-prosperity Republican presidency.
Historical/Economic Model: The Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-13).
A Democratic Party insider on a cable TV news program recently admitted that either Obama will bring back the economy and be reelected, or he won’t and will become a one-term president. It’s that simple.
Obama’s record fall in the polls has been reflected in recent elections including the historical “Massachusetts Massacre” — referring to the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s long-time Senate seat — according to liberal columnist Frank Rich (New York Times, 1/24/10) who worries that Obama’s “populist rhetoric” is not enough. And a February CNN poll reports that anti-incumbent fever is at an all-time high. Only 34% of voters think most members of Congress should be re-elected, and 52% do not think Obama deserves a second term. On August 21 Robert Gibbs said that Obama is “quite comfortable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda might make him a 1-termer. But polls show the political realignment is not all about Obama, it’s about prosperity.
Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age — e.g., triggering a new boom in commercial space, discouraging a questionable Moon race, rekindling Americans’ desire for prosperity — within the next 3-5 years, his presidential prospects remain uncertain.
Obama’s long wave timing and election circumstances (i.e., panic/recession) have more parallels with the 1893-1913 Peary/Panama Maslow Window — in which a 1-term Democrat (Grover Cleveland) was replaced by a pro-prosperity Republican — than with the 1949-1969 Apollo Maslow Window of John F. Kennedy. And Obama’s continuing challenges with high unemployment, record deficits, huge budgets, and Afghanistan, pose real dangers for him, although he is still capable of reversing course and being successful.
But whether Obama is a 1-termer or the new John F. Kennedy, he is still creating the new Space Age according to the trajectory of macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years; in fact, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.
1. Potential Wildcards and the Bottomline for Space
The previous space-related trends –- based on macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years — will strongly influence the human future in space during the 2010-2020 decade. However, other trends that are possible and important, but much harder to evaluate — the Wildcards — may also play a role, as they have in the past. Here are three.
A Major 2020s War:
Without exception, every Maslow Window of the last 200 years has been punctuated by a major war. A classic example is World War I that terminated the utopian ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window just as it was reaching its apex. The Apollo Moon program lost its last 3 planned Moon missions due to Vietnam, and might have been decimated if Vietnam had intensified just a few years earlier. Similar situations may occur in the 2020s, toward the end of the 2015 Maslow Window. If the expected 2020s major war occurs in the late 2020s, the Great Exploration and MEPs should be mature, but if it starts near 2020 or before, it might threaten the great Mars, Moon, or other space spectaculars possible in this decade. The exact timing of this Wildcard is unpredictable.
A Space Impactor Threatens Earth:
Sometime during this decade an Earth-crossing asteroid may be discovered that threatens Earth. Assuming there is time to react, this would trigger international planning — of the type currently advocated by Rusty Schweickart — and development of space systems and coordinated operations to deflect the object. This Wildcard would focus global attention on space, possibly lead to the development of a global space agency, and remind the world of the potential resource and exploration benefits of human settlement of the solar system. In short, it could be a very positive thing.
The Chinese and Russians Announce They Are Going to Mars Together:
Near 2014, in response to the booming global recovery, the Russians and Chinese announce plans for their joint manned mission to Mars during the 2015 Maslow Window. Because they are smart, they will do it the easy, safe, inexpensive way: Set up an initial manned outpost on the martian moon Phobos, because every two years it is easier to reach (energy-wise) than our Moon, and can process expected waters into propellants, as well as coordinate the scientific reconnaissance of Mars (using a huge fleet of small robotic surface rovers) in real-time from Mars orbit, with greater safety. If things go well, in a couple years they launch an unmanned mission carrying a Mars Lander to Phobos so they can send the first humans to the Mars surface whenever it’s convenient. This would be the natural outgrowth of their current collaboration on the anticipated joint China-Russia Phobos mission in 2011. While initially viewed as a Sputnik-like event by the U.S. and others, it might trigger a truly global approach to the human settlement of Mars.
In the powerfully ebullient environment of the 2015 Maslow Window — not seen since the 1960s Moon Race, the early 20th century “Panama-fever” of the Canal, the mid-19th century “manifest destiny” of the U.S., and the seminal exploits of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago — almost anything is possible.