Archive for the 'Perspectives' Category

Dec 02 2017

Bruce on The Space Show this Friday at 9:30am PST

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Join us this Friday 9:30 – 11 am (PST) on The Space Show where we’ll explore how long-term trends and complex systems have positioned us at the gateway of a transformative 1960s-style decade that promises stunning human activities on the Moon and potentially even Mars.

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Sep 10 2017

“Human Spaceflight to Mars as a Self-Organized Critical System”


This is the ppt for my talk to the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention on 9/7/17 at UC Irvine: “Human Spaceflight to Mars as a Self-Organized Critical System”

The presentation illuminates two questions:
1) Why has humanity been trapped in Low Earth Orbit for over 40 years?
2) Are we entering a new Apollo-level, international Space Age that will take us back to the Moon and/or on to Mars?

1. The US Economy is attracted toward Critical States 2x per century, including nonlinear “Avalanches” (physicist Per Bak’s metaphor).

2. Early geopolitical avalanches in the form of a Sputnik Moment and/or a Cuban Missile Crisis focus the public.

3. Economic avalanches include a major economic boom that’s preceded by a financial panic, a clear precursor of the new Maslow Window.

4. The Boom provides capital for Great Explorations/MEPs, and most importantly creates an “ebullient” public as many ascend the Maslow hierarchy and their worldviews expand.

5. Great Human Explorations (e.g., Apollo) and MEP’s (e.g., Panama Canal) rapidly follow.

1. The remaining key step required for a stunning 1960s-style decade of space exploration is the triggering of a JFK-level economic boom. Reportedly, that’s the #1 agenda item of the Trump administration.

2. The trajectory of Great Explorations during Maslow Windows (since Lewis and Clark) suggests Mars might be the emphasis of the next decade. However, the nomination of Rep. Bridenstine as NASA boss implies the Moon may be first, although both programs, properly structured, could be run simultaneously.

For example, the Moon program might feature an international group (e.g., ISS partners) focused on evaluation and early development of the lunar polar ice deposits. However, humans-to-Phobos would have spectacular science potential while not needing a Mars Lander or the risks and costs associated with landing right away on the Red Planet.

3. Should we expect a 21st Century “Sputnik Moment”? It’s possible the “Cuban missile crisis in slow motion”, as the North Korea crisis is called, will provide Sputnik-like shocks that eventually yield to non-military solutions. Like the 1960s space race, these could stimulate Cold War-like competitions in space.

4. The twice-per-century appearance of Critical States/Avalanches and their associated Maslow Windows is a very robust phenomena that’s likely to persist into the 21st Century. They have survived the greatest crises of the last 200+ years — including 2 world wars, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and key 19th and 20th century financial panics/great recessions.

Human spaceflight to Mars is likely to be the near-term culmination of a transformative 1960s-style decade known as a Maslow Window. Featuring great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), they are rhythmic pulses of unprecedented activity that occur twice per century.

A Maslow Window is triggered by geopolitical conflict (e.g., Sputnik; Cuban Missile Crisis), but is powered by an exceptional economic and technology boom (e.g., the JFK Boom) which collapses unemployment and increases real wages across society. As a result many individuals experience “ebullience” as they ascend the Maslow hierarchy and their worldviews expand. The most recent Maslow Window culminated in the 1960s Apollo Moon program. And right on schedule, it appears we entered a new Maslow Window in 2016.

Over the last 30 years self-organized criticality (SOC) has become a popular tool to explain a wide variety of phenomena like solar flares, earthquakes, financial systems, and even wars; e.g., Aschwanden et. al, Space Science Revs. (2016) Vol. 198, 1-4. The classic SOC metaphor is the BTW Sand Pile described by physicist Per Bak in 1987. Sand is dropped grain by grain on a pile. Eventually the sand forms steep slopes that reach a critical threshold; i.e., one more grain may trigger a system-wide change called an “avalanche”. In our case the “avalanche” analog is the Maslow Window itself.

A SOC system at its critical threshold displays non-linear energy dissipation and scale-free, intermittent avalanches with power-law size-frequency distributions. In a solar flare the avalanche is associated with the electromagnetic energy emitted by the flare. The Maslow Window critical state is observed in the real world to sequentially dissipate energy in several key avalanches including: financial events (a Panic and later a Boom), major geopolitical conflicts, great human explorations (e.g., Mars colonization), and macro-engineering projects. When the boom ends, and ebullience declines and animal spirits reverse, the Maslow Window slams shut, usually in response to a major war (e.g., World War I) — also a SOC process.

Our new Maslow Window is a complex system that has slowly self-organized over decades to a critical threshold which allows short-lived (< decade) avalanches — both good (e.g., SpaceX) and bad (e.g., North Korea) — to exist. However, the history of JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis during the 1960s Maslow Window (plus all others over the last 200 years) argues convincingly that major kinetic conflicts are unlikely in the next several years.

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Jul 04 2017

Happy Independence Day 2017, USA!

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Here’s the powerful speech by President John F. Kennedy of September 12, 1962 at Rice University where he announces the rationale and plan for the greatest exploration and technology event in history — the 1st landing of humans on the Moon in 1969 — and does it in the context of human progress over our entire history. His emphasis is the American spirit of freedom and discovery, and it remains highly relevant to the potentially transformative exploration and technology vistas which beckon us today.

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Jun 18 2017

Bruce’s New Op-Ed is in the Washington Times

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My new Op-Ed, “Trump, the new JFK in space” appeared today in the Washington Times.


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May 11 2008

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

A variety of long-term indicators – economic, social, technological, and political – strongly suggest that a new international space race will take shape during the next 5 – 10 years. This unprecedented thrust into space is expected to significantly exceed the scale and scope of the 1960’s Apollo Moon program and will culminate by 2025 in a variety of major activities in space such as humans on Mars, tourists on the Moon, and solar power satellites in LEO.

Long-term patterns in the economy, technology, and exploration over the last 200 years appear to have predictive power for the 21st Century. In particular, a roughly 56-year cycle was identified, where macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), significant human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), and major military conflicts (e.g., Civil War) tended to cluster together, near economic booms. The bottom-line forecast is that the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s, bringing a global focus on achievement in space exploration and a Camelot-like zeitgeist. The purpose of this Weblog is to evaluate these forecasts based on macroeconomics and macrohistory, by comparing them to
events and trends from around the world in 10 Wave Guide areas.

This long-term approach to 21st Century space forecasting is based on the concept of a “Maslow Window”, in which each successive economic boom (typically peaking every 56 years) does two things: 1) it fuels the societal affluence required to spur large-scale technology and engineering activities, and, more importantly, 2) it creates widespread ebullience by briefly elevating society to the highest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy. This ebullience creates the atmosphere of social well-being and confidence vital to undertake and support large, complex, risky, expensive, multi-year programs and explorations. The confluence of societal affluence and ebullience is seen only infrequently in modern times, when peaks in economic activity (following a 56 year cycle) triggered the four great explorations (Lewis and Clark, Dr. Livingstone in Africa, the Polar Expeditions, Apollo Moon) of the last 200 years.

In July, 2007 Fortune magazine termed the current worldwide expansion “the greatest economic boom ever”. Continued rapid growth, assuming consistent government policies, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office at least to 2011. This is precisely the trend one would expect as we approach the economic boom presaging the next Maslow Window. For example, based on economic data corresponding to the previous four Maslow Windows, projected GDP for 2025 should reach between two and three times its current value.

Evidence for the near-term approach to Maslow Window-style ebullience is also provided by travel industry statistics that indicate skyrocketing growth of adventure-type travel and extreme sports (e.g., high altitude mountaineering). Indeed, in 2003 the Wall Street Journal estimated the global market for adventure travel to be $ 245 billion. The beginning of the suborbital space tourist industry is another key step in this direction.

As society ascends the Maslow hierarchy it eventually aspires to fulfill what Maslow called “esteem needs,” reflecting a desire for respect from others and for others, and for self-esteem. Data relevant to these needs has been tracked by The National Conference on Citizenship. Their Civic Health Index (CHI) monitors 40 indicators across nine categories, including connections to civic and religious groups, trust in other people, trends in philanthropy and volunteer work, and awareness of current and world events.

Since 1975, subsequent to the close of the Apollo Maslow Window, the CHI has registered steep declines of 7%, a trend viewed as a “substantial and troubling pattern.” However, their data may indicate a turning point, demonstrating almost a 3 point recovery in the CHI since 1999, with a renewed ascent up the Maslow hierarchy. This is the trend we would expect as increasing affluence begins to elevate society back to the esteem and (eventually) the “cognitive” need levels that are characteristic of past Maslow Windows.

Additional evidence favoring these projections comes from the well-documented “generations” concept of William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations, 1991). Recently, the changing characteristics of successive generations have been correlated with long economic waves (about 56 years). As we approach the next Maslow Window in 2015, the Millennial generation will be coming of age. As “Civics” they will be especially supportive of Maslow Window space activities; two previous “Civics” presidents were John F. Kennedy (Apollo) and Ronald Reagan (Space Station).

Growing international interest in non-space macro-engineering projects is also a reliable indicator of the impending Maslow Window opening in 2015. A prime example is the proposed $5B+ Panama Canal expansion project expected to be complete by 2015. The corresponding wave of ebullience that normally heralds such an achievement was recently reflected in the national referendum in 2006 where Panamanians approved the risky, expensive project by 76.8% of votes.

In a world plagued by economic uncertainty, global conflict, and natural disasters, major space programs are increasingly popular. Both Japan and the U.S. have announced plans to send people to the Moon within 12 years. China also wants to establish a Moon base but is worried about costs; this is a common pre-Maslow Window concern. Russia claims to be ahead in a “race to Mars” that they expect to win by 2025. The next race to space appears about to begin, right on schedule, and upcoming posts will document this activity on the global stage from the perspective of all 10 Wave Guides.

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May 11 2008

Public Opinion — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Public opinion is a major driver for any large U.S. space program and will likely launch the next race to space within 5 to 10 years. At the Public Opinion Wave Guide is separated from Politics (Wave Guide 3) because public opinion is not always rapidly reflected in political decisions due to economic, political, and/or international events.

While public opinion polls provide direct responses to specific questions from a scientific sample, they are regarded as suspect by some because results often depend on the precise wording of questions and other factors. An excellent example is Roger Launius writing in Space Policy in 2003, “A human Mars mission has never enjoyed much support from the American people,” who then quotes polls between 1969 and 1999 that show public support hovering near or below 40%. Compare this with a statement by Alex Kirk in 2004 (published by The Mars Society), “..the public seems to be in agreement that, generally speaking, sending humans to Mars is a good idea.” He quotes a 1996 survey by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut that 67% support human Mars missions, and a 1988 survey by Time magazine who found 71% did.

On the other hand, almost everyone finds that Americans like the idea of international cooperation in space, especially with the Russians. Public views of space also seem to be influenced by popular culture (especially cinema and television); e.g., the movie Apollo 13 in 1995 which apparently elevated opinion polls about the importance of the space program by 13 % according to Yankelovich analysts in polls conducted for Boeing between 1978 and 1997. For this reason we devote an entire Wave Guide (# 10) to the monitoring of trends in pop culture and entertainment.

On the basis of public opinion polls Launius claims that popular support for Apollo was not as high during the 1960s as typically assumed. He points to polls during the 1960s asking if the federal government should fund human trips to the Moon that never rose above 45% approval and usually slouched near 40%. In fact, in 1965 one third of the country favored reducing NASA’s budget, and by 1969 — the year of the first human landing on the Moon — that percent had increased to 40% (it skyrocketed to 55% in 1975!). This suggests that popular support for Apollo started to erode almost as soon as the program was established, and supports the notion that Maslow Windows can flourish for up to a decade but then rapidly decline.

Based on the history of the 1960s, Launius concludes that in the future, a large-scale space program like Apollo will only be initiated if it, “serves a larger political, economic, or national defense agenda.” This is consistent with a key forecast of that another Sputnik-like international shock near 2013 will stimulate the American people and its leaders into the next race for space. Future Wave Guide 2 posts will evaluate evidence for evolving public interest in space and related arenas.

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May 11 2008

Politics — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Virtually every major human exploration event and macro-engineering project (MEP) of the last 200 years has captured at least national attention and usually also riveted an international following. This often translates into national and/or international political forces becoming factors in the human exploration or MEP, as well as activates U.S. presidential concerns and actions. In this “Brief Perspective” we only skeletally sketch typical political forces involved to set the stage for real-time posts in Wave Guide 3.

A perfect example is President Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition just after 1800. In Jefferson’s Great Gamble, author Charles Cerami descrbes the economic boom of this Maslow Window as, “…so much success…thriving…country’s credit was so good…!” Nevertheless despite this near-Utopian financial wonderland, Jefferson feared Napolean’s strong interest in a North American empire. A scientist himself, Jefferson also burned with curiousity about the avalanche of scientific discoveries that awaited in the great unknown land of the American northwest. However, political pressure from Jefferson and Napoleon’s need to fund his cash-strapped European war machine finally motivated Napolean on April 11, 1803 to sell, “I renounce Lousiana…not only New Orleans…(but) the whole colony, reserving none of it.” Not one to waste time, Jefferson signaled the OK to Lewis and Clark who began the first major human exploration of the last 200 years from Camp Dubois near St. Louis on May 14, 1804.

The greatest MEP of the last 200 years, until the Apollo Moon program, was the Panama Canal. Despite the best efforts of the French fresh from success with Suez, technical, financial, and management problems almost doomed the disaster-plagued project until the advent of Theodore Roosevelt. In The Path Between the Seas, historian David McCullough describes Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for the canal as total, “No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is of such consequence to the American people.” In Roosevelt’s vision the canal was, “the indispensable path to a global destiny for the USA.” Success finally came. After spending almost $ 6 B (2006), suffering 27,000 worker deaths (French and American), conquering yellow fever, assisting Panama in their separation from Colombia, and excavating over 262 million cubic yards of earth, Balboa’s 1513 discovery of the Pacific coast of Panama finally came to fruition 4 centuries later when, in August 1914, the first ship passed through the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Prior to the 1960s, MEPs were always separated from major human explorations (e.g. Panama Canal vs. the Polar expeditions). However, in the Apollo Moon program — for the first time in the last 200 years — the major human exploration event was thoroughly intertwined with the Maslow Window’s MEP (see Cordell 1996, 2006). Walter McDougall, in his classic The Heavens and the Earth, explains how the pressures of the Cold War — including the surprise launch of Sputnik and America’s educational crisis of confidence (see Wave Guide 4 Perspective) — motivated the young, charismatic President Kennedy to announce on May 25, 1961 that, “…this nation should…before this decade is out…(land) a man on the Moon…and (return) him safely to the Earth.” With his supremely confident commitment to Apollo, President Kennedy became the President Roosevelt (Panama Canal) and the President Jefferson (Lewis & Clark) of his time.

Although President Kennedy was hardly alone in his enthusiasm for putting Americans on the Moon — the post-Sputnik American public and Congress were solidly behind him — the question arises about who will be the first Kennedy-like “Space President” of the 21st Century? He or she will have to be bold, capable of taking risks, willing to spend money, and above all be charismatic and visionary enough to lead America and the world into the next Maslow Window near 2015. Until recently no such individual had materialized, however many — including former Kennedy advisor and confidant Ted Sorenson (New York Times Magazine, 4/27/08) — have compared Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy, particularly with respect to the enthusiasm and confidence he inspires in his supporters. Future Wave Guide 3 posts will illuminate these mysteries by comparing the national and international political scene with our space-related forecasts for the early 21st Century.

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May 11 2008

Math and Science Education — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Education has always been closely linked to space and this was never more true than on October 4, 1957, the day the world changed. That’s Sputnik Day — a time certainly not celebrated during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window in the U.S. — when the Soviets launched humanity’s first artificial satellite into low Earth orbit. Ironically, American forces led by German rocket expert Wernher von Braun, could probably have orbited one first but President Eisenhower was in no hurry according to Paul Dickson in his 2001 book, Sputnik — The Shock of the Century.

Only 10 days later 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! And in 1958 Congress advocated beefing up math and science education from the elementary to high schools. Senators as diverse as John F. Kennedy (soon to be the first “Space President”) of Massachusetts and Barry Goldwater of Arizona were even willing to accept new taxes to meet the Soviet educational challenge in space.

This is a hallmark of Maslow Windows: loosening of federal and other purse strings to pursue a lofty goal of international significance. In 1969 U.S. News & World Report reported that although initial cost estimates for the Moon project had been up to $ 40 B, “Congress raised hardly any questions (and)…Initial funds were appropriated swiftly to send Project Apollo on its way.”

As we approach the 1960s-style economic boom of the next Maslow Window (fully ramped-up by 2015) these patterns will repeat. In short: 1) a major Sputnik-like shock will occur near 2013 (1957 + 56) involving probably China and their international partners; see Wave Guide 5, 2) the American public will raise urgent questions about the viability of American math and science education and demand reforms, and 3) the new “Space President”, a John F. Kennedy-like figure, will respond by committing the U.S. to spectacular, unprecedented activities in space with essentially unanimous support from Congress; see Wave Guide 3.

Upcoming posts will track this burgeoning tsunami of public concern about American math and science education as it peaks and breaks on the shore of international affairs within a few short years.

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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

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May 11 2008

Space Entrepreneurs — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Fifty-six years ago in 1952 there were no space entrepreneurs, but what did exist — although Earth-bound — was almost as exciting: Colliers magazine began its first-ever series on “Man Will Conquer Space Soon.” Headed by Wernher von Braun, Colliers’ staff of world-class space experts collectively asked, “What are we waiting for?” and then compellingly described each step of the human expansion into space including the Von Braun “Wheel”, the subsurface Moon base, and the convoy to Mars!

As the space tourism industry prepares for launch, today’s aspiring space adventurers are not limited to just reading about cosmic joys, but will soon experience them personally. Bert Rutan, the dean of space-tourism advocates, who won the $ 10 million X-Prize in 2004, believes he can fly 100,000 passengers on his suborbital spaceships by 2020! Rutan is currently supplying spaceships to British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and expects the first launch in 2010 for about $ 200,000 per person. Branson’s passengers will zoom to 60 miles altitude and officially enter space. The first-ever space tourism price war is taking shape according to the Wall Street Journal (3/26/08) as XCOR Aerospace will offer thrill-seekers a ride to 37 miles altitude featuring 2 minutes of zero-g, for only $ 100,000.

Although currently not officially targeting space tourism, Bigelow Aerospace (Las Vegas) does operate the first two private space stations in history. Despite their smallish size, the Bigelow inflatable habitation modules are the precursors of orbital hotels. Undoubtedly, the future private space industry will feature orbital hotels for the penultimate astronaut-like vacation experience: circling the Blue Marble repeatedly with sunrises and sunsets every 90 minutes. The ultimate astronaut-like tourist experience is a trip to the Moon, which is already offered by the Russians through their American agent Space Adventures. Because of the hefty price ($ 100 M) and undeniable risks there have been no takers…yet. The elaborate, inviting lunar surface hotel concepts of Shimizu remain a golden dream for the 2020s.

The space tourism industry can be thought of as a spectacular, but secondary MEP — analogous to the famous 1912 passenger ship the Titanic (minus the sinking!) — heralding the approaching Maslow Window of 2015. Because of their innovations, space entrepreneurs stimulate public, business, government, and even international interest in space as they develop new concepts that challenge historical approaches and promise new adventures and profits. Wave Guide 6 posts will monitor the space entrepreneurs’ progress and their impact on the rapidly approaching 2015 Maslow Window.

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