May 21 2011

Exploring Space Futures & Images at ISDC 2011 in the Rocket City

It was a real pleasure being part of the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) Space Business Track chaired by Clifford McMurray.

My presentation (not quite stand alone) is available here:
CLICK Cordell.EconomicBooms.ISDC.2011

Thanks to Cliff for making it a smooth event.

The symbol of the 1960s Apollo Moon program — the magnificent 363 foot tall Saturn V launch vehicle, designed by Wernher von Braun and his team at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville — is on display at Huntsville’s impressive U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
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Just a few comments on my presentation:Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration.”

1) This approach — long-term, empirical, global — is really different and leads to new ideas about the future of near-term large-scale space initiatives.

2) Standard Chartered Bank’s “Super-Cycles” chart (showing GDP growth per year: 1820 to present) is remarkable in the way it highlights that the growth Super-Cycles ending in 1913 and 1973 both ended abruptly. Both Super-Cycles also culminated in spectacular Maslow Windows (explained below) — that abruptly ended — including the 1960s Apollo Moon program. The new growth Super-Cycle apparently began in 2000 and is consistent with the next Maslow Window opening near 2015. The long business cycle discovered in 1989 is consistent with the timing of Maslow Windows, as are K-Waves and the generational cycles of Strauss and Howe.

3) The Maslow Window economic model connects to human psychology through the Maslow hierarchy: as the economic boom results in widespread affluence, many become ebullient and are catapulted to higher Maslow states where their expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. As ebullience decays — due to a war and/or the slowing boom — the Maslow Window collapses (e.g., during the late 1960s).

4) Maslow Windows can also be thought of as “critical states” attained through self-organization of the complex international economic/technology/geopolitical system. The fact that — over the last 200+ years — great explorations and MEPs display punctuated equilibria is strong prima facie evidence for their being Self Organized Criticality (SOC) phenomena. The size-frequency distribution of wars already points to their being SOC phenomena; a similar study of NASA programs and MEPs is ongoing and is expected to show the same result.

5) Although Maslow Windows appear to be critical states, they do have observable near-critical signatures. For example, 3 of 4 Maslow Windows (over the last 200 years) have financial panics (e.g., Panic of 2008), great recessions, and major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s JFK Boom) in sequence during the decade prior to the opening of the Maslow Window. Non-economic early signatures include dangerous conflicts like the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

6) To be viable, space exploration programs during the next 15-20 years must be “Great Explorations” possibly involving Mars, and they must culminate before 2025. In particular, their viability will be enhanced by early self-sufficiency in deep space. Several recently proposed programs have these characteristics…

Here are a few great space-related Huntsville locations I encountered on this trip. (All images by B. Cordell.)

At the U.S. Space and Rocket Center:
Here’s a Lockheed A-12, the precursor of the SR-71 Blackbird. It’s max speed was 2,210 mph (Mach 2.25) at 75,000 feet. It was retired in 1968.
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The Rocket Garden at the USS&RC is spectacular and includes an X-15, V-2, and many others.
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At the Von Braun Astronomical Society Observing Site.
Here’s the entry to VBAS in Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville at about 1600 feet above SL. They have 21″ and 16″ telescopes and the Von Braun planetarium.
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i just returned from the Saturday evening VBAS planetarium show and observing session with the 16″ and 8″ telescopes. It’s a wonderful, inspirational, historic place. Melissa (VBAS Board Member), Megan (UAH engineering student), and Gert (member of original German rocket team) did a super job. I highly recommend the experience.

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
The Von Braun Research Hall is the highlight of the UAH engineering complex.
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Inside the VBRH are 2 historic and inspirational murals. The first is of Von Braun (just left of center) receiving a 1960s-style hero’s welcome.
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And the other is of the whole German rocket team that moved to Huntsville in 1949, and proceeded to change the world.
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SPECIAL THANKS to the UAH Campus Police who were kind enough to give me access to the interior of the VBRH today, so I could obtain the last 2 images.

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