Feb 06 2011

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

Published by at 11:37 pm under Wave Guide 1: Economic Growth

PLEASE NOTE: This is my abstract for the 2011 International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) in Huntsville, AL at the Von Braun Center in May.

It provides a concise — rare for this blog!! — summary of the fundamental idea behind 21stCenturyWaves.com.

For my ISDC 2011 Presentation, including post-meeting comments, Click HERE.

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

Bruce Cordell
formerly General Dynamics Space Systems Division

No one has been to the Moon for almost 40 years. And despite the nearly 500 people from 38 countries who have ventured into Earth orbit since Apollo 17, this remains one of the most extraordinary facts of the Space Age.

At last year’s ISDC in Chicago, Freeman Dyson suggested that scientists who lead unmanned space projects can point to a long string of successes that span the solar system over the last 6 decades. However, Apollo-style initiatives are highly visible, risky endeavors with big price tags and significant geopolitical implications. As a result, even “40 years after Apollo we’re still stuck in LEO!”

The history of the last 200+ years – back to Lewis and Clark — shows that Apollo-style explorations and macro engineering projects emerge only during brief, twice-per-century intervals called “Maslow Windows”. They are exclusively associated with major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy boom) and appear to be fundamentally driven by long-term business and generational cycles. During the booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

Another way to think of Maslow Windows is in a fractal context, in which the international technology/economic/geopolitical system becomes highly interactive and self-organizes toward a critical state every 5-6 decades. This appears to be both a necessary and sufficient condition for globally transformative programs like Apollo.

The Maslow Window concept is useful because it provides: 1) a framework for long-range planning and the development of specific forecast models, 2) a marketing theme – Apollo-style exploration is in the tradition of the great transformative explorations that can be traced back to Lewis and Clark, and 3) a morale boost because program timing is reliably based on multi-century macroeconomic patterns and current global trends.

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