Archive for the 'State of the Wave' Category

May 23 2012

Economic Rhythms, Maslow Windows and the New Space Frontier

This is the preprint version of a new paper recently accepted for publication by the international journal Space Policy:

Economic Rhythms, Maslow Windows and the New Space Frontier (Preprint)
Click HERE.

Kruti Dholakia-Lehenbauer, (Corresponding Author) and
Euel Elliott, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX, U.S.A.;
Bruce Cordell,, Bonsall, CA, U.S.A.

This paper explores the possible relationship between space exploration and long swings in the economy and socio-technical systems. We posit that the early phases of long upswings are characterized by periods of optimism and the spirit of adventures that provided a motivation for large scale explorations and other great infrastructure projects in the past. These Maslow Windows help us understand prior eras of exploration and cultural dynamism, and offer a hopeful scenario for space exploration in the next two decades. We offer some observations as to what the exploratory thrust might look like, including a return to the lunar surface combined with other activities. Of course, we also point out that the next great wave of space exploration will almost certainly have a much more international flavor than has heretofore been the case.

Over the last 200+ years, the rhythmic dance of the Stewart Energy Cycle — discovered in 1989 by the distinguished nuclear physicist Hugh B. Stewart — has been a reliable predictor of great explorations like Lewis & Clark and Apollo Moon, as well as monumental macro-engineering projects like the Panama Canal and the Apollo infrastructure.

1. Introduction

This essay examines the relationship between the exploration of space in the 21st century and the phenomenon of long economic and socio-technological cycles. The basic contention of this study builds upon prior work by Cordell [1, 2] — See Space Policy (1996) and FRQ (2006) — and Lin, Dholakia & Elliott [3]. The latter offers plausible scenarios for future exploration and exploitation of lunar and near-lunar resources. Cordell’s work, in particular, offers a foundation for the current study by providing arguments for future human activities in space based on long economic and socio-technical cycles, and their subsequent impact on human activities.

This research also proposes important linkages between space exploration, long cycles and the phenomenon of Maslow windows which are characterized by bursts of interest in exploration and human adventure, combined or integrated with large-scale macro engineering projects (MEPs). Thus, we suggest a linkage, through long cycles of a connection between earlier human exploration and development of MEPs and the near term future of humanity in space, beginning in the 2015-2020 time frame.

This essay proceeds by first discussing the role of long economic and socio-technical cycles in the global economy. We then move to a discussion of the specific relationships between economic cycles and exploration, including those activities directed toward the frontier of space. We offer a scenario that suggests the form that activities beginning in the 2015-2020 time period and lasting until about 2030 or so might take. We conclude our study with some observations about the deeper connections that may exist between human psychological needs, economic cycles and the properties of self-organizing systems …

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Mar 12 2012

State of the Wave: The Geopolitics of a Moon Base

Ex-NASA executive Charles Miller’s recent (Wall Street Journal, 2/3/12) op-ed on returing to the Moon was particularly interesting for its explicit linkage to commercial space and national security.

In the short term — As I commented last year in Space News (6/29/11) — such front-burner aspects of a Moon program will be trumped by the slow economic recovery.

President Obama’s cancellation of Constellation — the U.S. program to return to the Moon by 2020 — was not a big surprise. It appears to be merely a speed bump on the road to near-term international commercial and scientific development of Earth-Moon space and even humans to Mars.

For more perspective on a Moon base, Click: Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

In 1990, Lawrence Livermore scientists proposed an inflatable base on the Moon within a decade that would become self-sufficient, require only 60 tons of hardware transported to the Moon, and cost only ~ $ 11 B.

Miller makes the Moon base cost-effective by reducing Earth launch costs by a factor of 10+ to $ 500 per pound and achieves this by focusing on development of a totally reusable spaceplane. The technology requirements remind Miller of the X-37, an unmanned Mach 25 resuable spacecraft that launches like a rocket and lands like an airplane similar to the Space Shuttle.

According to Miller, reusable spaceplanes are the key to commercial space.

The nation that builds the first true reusable spaceplane will be in a position to dominate the much broader commercial space industry … such as satellite servicing, tourism, and medical breakthroughs from zero-gravity research.

The X-37 began as a NASA project in 1999 but was transferred to DARPA in 2004 where it became a secret program. Recently the X-37B spaceplane celebrated one year in orbit although its mission is classfied as is its return date.

In 2010 Tom Burghardt (Space Daily; May 11) asserted that the X-37 will help achieve Air Force Space Command’s stated goal of “space dominance” that includes,

a johnny-on-the-spot weapons platform to take out the satellite assets of an enemy, or as a launch vehicle that can deliver bombs, missiles or kinetic weapons anywhere on earth in less than two hours.

Miller confirms that our critical strategic assets in space (e.g. comsats, surveillance satellites) are currently vulnerable to potential anti-satellite weapons being developed by China (successfully tested in 2007) and even North Korea and Iran, but that spaceplanes “will transform national security” by their ability to rapidly replace such orbiting assets, and thus reduce the incentive to attack them in the first place.

Traditionally, the Moon has been viewed as the most secure location for Earth surveillance, as expressed in 1984 by the famous physicist Edward Teller at the Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century Conference. (I also spoke at this event on importing water from the moons of Mars for use in the Earth-Moon system.)

Teller stated he would like to see an outpost on the Moon (~12 people) as soon as possible. As a “special proposal” he recommended that,

Surveillance of the Earth — permanent continuous surveillance that is hard to interfere with — is an extremely important question, important to us, important to the international community, important for peace-keeping … It is in everyone’s best interest to have observation stations that are not easy to interfere with.

Teller also suggested that in the name of global peace, Earth surveillance images obtained from Moon orbit should be made “universally available.”

More recently (1/6/12), Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt — the first scientist on the Moon — sees the current status of civilian space as a geopolitical crisis for America.

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defence”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon …

Meanwhile, China is building a major new deep space launch facility in Hainan and developing new rockets and spacecraft to take over the exploration of the Moon from the United States and the free world.

Given the geopolitical significance of the Moon in the coming mid-decade Maslow Window, I have surveyed several friends in the military and NASA communities, and none claims knowledge of any studies of potential national security applications of a Moon base done over the last 10-15 years.

The closest I could come was a chilling Moon-related military scenario in George Friedman’s ( book The Next Hundred Years (2009); he agrees with Teller’s opinion of the value of Earth surveillance from the Moon and suggests that, “Sustaining and defending a base on the Moon will actually be easier than doing the same for orbital systems.”

Although no specific references are provided, Friedman insists that:

These forecasts are based on real technology, reasonable extrapolations about future technology, and reasonable war planning.

In Friedman’s mid-21st century scenario, both Japan and Turkey — two key space powers by then — become understandably threatened by powerful U.S. command and control “battlestars” in Geostationary orbits that can very rapidly direct a variety of weapons — advanced versions of the X-37, lasers, hypersonic missiles — at any point on Earth or in space.

By this time many nations will have bases on the Moon, however Japan and Turkey build an underground base on the Moon’s farside where they secretly use lunar materials to develop, build, and launch missiles to attack the Battlestars in Earth orbit.

I won’t give away how the story ends here. However, it is unlikely that “secret” military activities could go unnoticed for long on the anti-Earth side of the Moon. For example, many astronomers have already chosen the Moon’s farside as the best location for a radio observatory in this part of the solar system.

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Mar 10 2012

Bruce’s Article, “A New Apollo-Level Space Age” Appears in Ad Astra

Hope you enjoy my new article — “A New Apollo-Level Space Age” — which just appeared in Ad Astra, The Magazine of the National Space Society for Spring, 2012 (Volme 24, Number 1).

Coming Soon: A Window of Opportunity for the Next Space Age; Pictured is Wernher Von Braun, the great German rocket scientist and visionary who was the driving force in the post-W. W. II American space program.

Thanks to Pat Silver, Managing Editor of Ad Astra for producing such an excellent magazine and for this introduction:

Dear Ad Astra reader,

Are we on the verge of a new space age? Bruce Cordell thinks we are. Based on historical trends and the Maslow Window model, he sees that a resurgence of public interest in space exploration is coming soon! And that’s great news for space enthusiasts like us. In this issue, we look at the many preparations needed to send mankind back to the Moon and beyond, and how they’ll fourish there.

But when will we actually see these things happen? According to Cordell, a Maslow Window, or a period of high interest in space, is due by mid-decade. The last Maslow Window opened during Kennedy’s presidency in the early 60s, the period when Wernher von Braun fathered the American space program …

Thanks especially to Katherine Brick, Associate Editor of Ad Astra, for her many suggestions to improve the article; For the text, CLICK “A New Apollo-Level Space Age.”

For more information on Maslow Windows and the new, international Apollo-level Space Age expected by mid-decade, CLICK HERE.

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Jan 10 2012

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012

2011 featured continuing economic difficulties and the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and followed most of the trends identified here last January ( “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011“) as well as the expected directions sketched almost two years ago for the coming decade (“DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020“).

2012 will be the “Year of Decision” especially in the U.S. as presidential and other major elections occur that will impact our trajectory toward prosperity, the impending Maslow Window, and the new international Space Age — all expected to begin emerging by mid-decade.

For a brief intro, see my recent Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2012:

10. Phobos-Grunt Symbolized A Key Approach to Mars Exploration:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission was to be the first sample return of Phobos material to Earth — a highly attractive Mars science and colonization strategy that was recommended by us at The Case for Mars III Conference — as well as to deliver the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the Planetary Society’s LIFE capsule. Sadly, Phobos-Grunt became stranded in low Earth orbit shortly after launch on November 9 and its launch window closed on November 21.

In Space News (9/2010) I had indicated that a Phobos-first approach is a “safe, inexpensive, and smart” strategy for Mars colonization and a successful Phobos-Grunt mission might tempt Russia and China to employ it jointly. Last January I concluded that:

Two key indicators to watch in 2011 are plans for an international Moon base and a successful Russian/Chinese Phobos-Grunt mission. They’re important because they point in different directions.

It’s interesting that less than 2 months after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China announced its development of a “preliminary plan for a human lunar landing,” (see 9 below).

However, interest in Mars remains high, including the successful launch of NASA’s $ 2.5 B Mars Science Laboratory, the continuing success of ESA’s Mars Express, NRC’s identification of Mars Sample Return as highest priority, and continued advocacy for near-term human spaceflight to Phobos (Unified Space Vision) and Mars (The Mars Society).

9. China Ascends in Space and Global Power
On December 29, shortly after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China released a white paper announcing its intention — within the next 5 years — to pursue preliminary planning for a human landing on the Moon. In addition to the continued development of their space station and enhancing their Long March series,

China will launch orbiters for lunar soft landing, roving and surveying to implement the second stage of lunar exploration. In the third stage, China will start to conduct sampling the moon’s surface matters and get those samples back to Earth.

China’s rise as a global power has accelerated. In its “New Military Strategy” report released last February, the Pentagon sees connections between China’s growing military and its aspirations in space and elsewhere,

We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea.

Surprisingly, China’s economy may become its biggest challenge due to aging demographics, a difficult regulatory environment, and bad debt; Strafor predicts China will experience a Japan-like economic collapse by 2015.

China is well positioned to competitively encourage the U.S. to become a dynamic leader in deep space as we approach the next Maslow Window.

8. A Global “Critical State” Continues to Self-Organize and Points to the New International Space Age
Iran’s actions include war games in the Persian Gulf and threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. returns its aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis) to the Gulf. Recently the US Secretary of Defense reiterated that the US would not allow the Straits to be closed by Iran, and that attempts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will “get stopped.”

Iran’s provocations suggest irrationality. For example, most of the oil through the Strait goes to asian markets, not the U.S., although global oil price spikes might be the result of closure. Iran knows the US can use force to keep the Staits open if necessary, and also that covert operations have been utilized to delay their development of nukes. And speaking of irrationality, nuclear North Korea — who apparently shares its rocket technology with Iran — has previously threatened its neighbors and others with attacks. The recent loss of their long-time dictator has heightened tensions there.

So why all the turmoil — now? “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, macro-engineering projects, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic system, achieved through decades of self organized criticality processes. And serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The most recent example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (early in the Apollo Maslow Window;1958-69) which almost led to a major nuclear exchange. The Iran/Korea-style conflicts suggest a world rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state” that is expected to trigger the next transformative Maslow Window — including the new international Apollo-level Space Age — by mid-decade.

7. NASA’s Kepler Discoveries Trigger A Copernican-level Expansion of Worldviews
One of the most important space programs of all time — NASA’s Kepler mission — is currently searching the skies for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, with considerable success. As of today its website lists 33 confirmed new planet discoveries, 2,326 planet candidates, and most importantly, the recent discovery of the first Earth-size planets orbiting a Sun-like star.

In what Berkeley astronomer and planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy calls “a benchmark moment in the history of science” (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), many people and some astronomers are naturally jumping on the Earth-like planet bandwagon. For example, following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society had 2 scientific meetings in 2010 to consider if extraterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend that extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

However, Howard A. Smith (Harvard Center for Astrophysics) recently concluded in American Scientist (July, 2011) that the Rare Earth Hypothesis remains viable:

“Despite the growing catalog of extrasolar planets, data so far do not alter estimates that we are effectively on our own.”

In December, UK astronomer John Gribbin published Alone in the Universe (2011) in which he traces the development of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to now, and concludes that the odds of our development are so low that we are probably alone. He cites, as just one of a large number of unlikely events, the exceptional circumstances of the large impact that produced our Moon and yet did not destroy Earth’s spin or axial tilt.

This is a scientific debate of Copernican proportions that has major implications for the presence of ETs in our Galaxy and elsewhere, the importance of human civilization and space colonization, and theological perspectives. It’s intensity will grow as more Earth-size planets are discovered.

6. Apocalypse Not Now, but the Doomsday Story will “go nuts in 2012”

The UCLA magazine (1/2012) interviews Dr. Ed Krupp (Ph.D., UCLA, 1972), 35-year director of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory and an authority on prehistoric and ancient astronomy. Given his research and professional background, he’s ideally qualified to comment on the end-of-days prophecies for 2012.

According to Dr. Krupp,

The great thing about astronomy is that you actually can predict some things. I can predict that (the doomsday story) is going to go nuts in 2012.

The pop culture fixation that when the Maya cycle of time ends on December 21, 2012 and the winter solstice Sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way – 27,000 light years away, by the way – that global havoc will ensue is “just totally untrue,” Krupp assures us.

Indeed, the Mexico Tourism Board expects more visitors in 2012 focused on the relevant Maya sites.

However, it’s important to realize that many people do not relate to space in terms of business plans, scientific advancements, technology development, national prestige, or even the excitement of discovery, but through the mystical world of astrologers and psychics. And because of the coincidental alignment of Maya end times with the approaching Maslow Window, it’s reasonable to expect that the magnitude of the public’s response – suggested by Dr. Krupp — will be intensified by the by the same “critical state” that is currently rippling into global business, geopolitics, science, and technology.

5. Slow U.S. Recovery Fits a 200-Year Pattern and Points to a JFK-style Boom by Mid-Decade
The financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession are classic precursors of the twice-per-century “critical state” over the last 200 years. While creating great hardship for many, the panic/great recession also signaled that the next JFK-style economic boom – not seen since the 1960s Maslow Window – is due by mid-decade (~2015), and would trigger the next transformative Maslow Window, featuring a new international Space Age.

That’s been the pattern over the last 200+ years, and explains why Apollo occurred during the 1960s and why we’ve been trapped in low Earth orbit for 40 years.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor (Wall Street Journal, 11/1/11) suggested recently that,

With a weak recovery – retarded by new health-care legislation and financial regulations, an exploding debt, and threats of higher taxes – the U.S. is in no position to lead as it has in the past.

Unfortunately this impacts U.S. leadership in space as well as in business, education, and technology.

Although previous pre-Maslow Window panic/great recessions have featured “double-dips” – and such concerns still exist today – the pace of the recovery will be strongly influenced by the elections of 2012 and the wildcards of Trend #1 below.

The eerie parallels between the economic and political trajectory of the 1890s – which led directly to one of the most ebullient booms in U.S. history and a transformative Maslow Window featuring the Panama Canal – and today, suggest that the prospects for prosperity will trump party affiliation or candidate identity for voter approval in 2012.

4. Solar Activity May Decline Significantly

The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus. This is highly unusual and unexpected, but the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation,

according to Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory last June. He was reporting the results of a 300-person meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Sun’s erratic behavior is based on long-term observations of its missing east-west jet stream (discovered by Hill’s group 15 years ago), the Sun’s erratic corona, and the declining strength of sunspot magnetic fields. Indeed, a simple extrapolation of the sunspot data indicates sunspots could completely disappear by 2022 (an earlier, less conservative interpretation of the data suggested 2015).

Hill suggested that one possibility is a nearly spot-free condition like that observed between 1645 and 1715 known as the Maunder Minimum.

Due to increases in solar activity over the last few months, the Solar Physics group of NASA/MSFC updated their forecast this week for the next solar max (in February, 2013) to 96. This is still the smallest solar cycle in more than 80 years but about 50% greater than during the Dalton Minimum (1790-1820).

Both the Maunder and Dalton Minima are associated with significant coolings on Earth (The Little Ice Age; B. Fagan, 2000). and are active areas of research. Likewise, breakthrough research at CERN is illuminating the possible connections between solar activity, cosmic rays, cloud formation, and global climate change on Earth. These studies are important to radio communication, power grids, satellite longevity, human spaceflight, and major climate and economic events.

3. The Commercial Space Age Has Begun:

I wanted to create a spaceship where myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space,

explains Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson (Wall Street Journal, 12/17/11).

I think it just simply goes back to watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space.

In October, Branson christened Spaceport America – “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” – near Las Cruces, NM, and despite delays, predicts his first commercial flight by next Christmas. (Leonard David, 1/3/12) predicts that 2012 will be “a pivotal year” for private spaceflight. According to Carissa Christensen, of the Tauri Group in Alexandria, VA, the commercial achievement in human spaceflight by companies like Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Blue Origin made “the end of the Shuttle program (feel) as if we mourned the passing of the mainframe but overlooked the emergence of the PC.”

Author/engineer Homer Hickam (Wall Street Journal, 11/17/11) concludes that:

What’s a government for if it isn’t funding research and development to make new stuff so we can all make new money? Human spaceflight is in that category. If we’re looking for a way to stimulate our economy today and in the future, a new space race—not relying on the Russians—is a good place to start.

2. Is the U.S. approaching a 21st Century “Sputnik Moment”?
The first “Sputnik Moment” occurred in 1957 when – in the context of an intense Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and attempts to work together in the International Geophysical Year – the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, without warning. It was called the “Shock of the Century.” Americans who had provided leadership during W. W. II and promoted international economic growth in the post-War world suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence in their educational system, their ability to compete in technology development and space, and even in their ability to guarantee national security. It seemed that the U.S. trend was down while others were headed up.

Something similar may be occurring today.

For example, the U.S. educational system seems to be in the middle of the pack in international tests of math, science, and reading. On tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries in 2009, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects, and in 2011 SAT scores in reading and writing have set new lows. Many students are looking for inspiration.

NASA seems to be adrift. While visits to asteroids and possible human missions to Mars (in the 2030s) are discussed, there is no plan or financial roadmap.

The U.S. is experiencing a slow economic recovery and uncertain future in response to the financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession. There is the perception of a lack of leadership in Washington.

President Obama’s proposed “historic shift” in military strategy involves major cuts in the Army and would limit U.S. ability to endure long-term conflicts and project power around the world (Wall Street Journal, 1/6/12).

There seems to be an unusual number of tipping points or wildcards (See Trend #1 below) that could have a major impact on the U.S. in 2012 and beyond.

Highlighting our “Sputnik Moment,” Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison H. Schmitt summarized it recently this way:

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defense”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon…

Over the last 200+ years, at this stage of the recovery from a financial panic/great recession just prior to the next “critical state” and Maslow Window, a political realignment (such as the one that began in 2008 and is continuing) has typically put the U.S. back on the road to prosperity and geopolitical ascent.

1. Several Wildcards Could Dramatically Influence U.S. and Global Trends in 2012 and Beyond
There is a perception today of an unusual number of wildcards that have the potential to dramatically influence current economic, geopolitical, and political realities. This is typical of the unusually dynamic and highly interactive environment seen during previous “critical states.”

For example, during a brief period of President Kennedy’s administration in the early 1960s, the tipping points included: the first human in space (Gargarin), the first American in space (Shepard), the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the Peace Corps, JFK’s “To the Moon” speech, and JFK’s offer to the Soviets to go to the Moon jointly.

Here are just a few well-known wildcards – and potential tipping points — that face the U.S. and the world in 2012:

a. A major recession in the Eurozone could trigger a global depression.
b. The threat of nuclear weapons could trigger a war with Iran.
c. The threat of oil flow disruptions in the Gulf might trigger a price spike and a recession.
d. The constitutionality of Obamacare will be decided in the Supreme Court.
e. As we approach solar max in early 2013, a major solar flare produces blackouts and other EMP-related effects on Earth, resulting in economic stress.

After a list like this it’s comforting to contemplate the good news: Over the last 200+ years – that included the Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions, the Civil War, and two world wars — no Critical State/Maslow Window renaissance has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way.

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Dec 24 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas to everyone!

The “Star of Bethlehem” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

Completed in 1890, this watercolor shows an angel holding the Star of Bethlehem and the Adoration of the Magi shortly after the birth of Christ. This is based on the famous story in Matthew 2:1-12, NIV.

“The Star of Bethlehem” was the largest watercolor of the 19th century (101 x 152 inches) and currently is on display in Birmingham, England.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Dec 08 2011

Bruce Returns to “The Space Show” on January 10, 2012

It’s a pleasure to announce that I’m returning to The Space Show ( global internet live radio program, on the evening of Tuesday, January 10, 2012, from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm Pacific time.

You can listen to my October appearance on The Space Show by clicking HERE.

Thanks to Dr. David Livingston, the show’s host, for inviting me again. You can learn about him by visiting his personal website,

Extending from Elysium to the north, the Phlegra Montes — in this recent ESA Mars Express image — appear to be the site of significant ground ice of potentially great interest to future thirsty Mars astronauts.
Click .
(Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum))

We’ll explore the state of Mars science and the prospects for human spaceflight to Mars by the 2020s, including: 1) the spectacular, ongoing ESA Mars Express mission (see image), 2) NASA’s recently launched car-size Curiosity Rover, 3) the recently concluded Mars-500 simulated manned mars mission by the Russian Academy of Sciences, and 4) the apparently failed attempt to send Phobos-Grunt to Mars on the first-ever Phobos sample return mission. Phobos-Grunt may enter Earth’s atmsophere near the date of the show.

We’ll also focus on my annual list of the top 10 Space Trends for 2012. Last year’s forecasts are here: “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2011”. All this, plus my new article to appear soon in Ad Astra of the National Space Society, on the new Apollo-level international Space Age that’s expected to begin dominating global headlines by mid-decade!

Be sure to mark your calendars!

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Nov 07 2011

State of the Wave: The Economy is Down but Space is Up

As we approach the next transformative Maslow Window featuring a new international Space Age — expected mid-decade — it’s revealing to compare public perceptions of the economy, on which the space program depends, and the space program itself. In the midst of a painfully slow recovery that’s only a few years downstream from the Panic of 2008, and the great recession of 2008-10+, we might expect these circumstances to dampen people’s spirits regarding human expansion into the cosmos.

Are Americans still interested in human expansion into the cosmos…JFK-style?

The Economy is Down
For example, official unemployment continues at 9% or above, and the outlook is not good because only 80,000 jobs were added in October which is far short of the number needed to substantially reduce unemployment (>150,000 per month). And Fed Chair Ben Bernanke recently lowered its jobs forecast to 8.6% in late 2012 (Wall Street Journal, 11/3/11), assuming the European debt crisis stabilizes and there is no double-dip (nearly 40% of participants think one will occur).

On Halloween the Wall Street Journal noted that the “Slow recovery feels like a recession,” partly because median household income in the U.S. fell 6.7% from June, 2009 to June, 2011, and also that:

No recession since the Great Depression was deeper or longer than the most recent.

And in June, CNBC reported that the U.S. housing crisis, which already entered a double-dip, “is now worse than the Great Depression.”

In his most recent poll of likely voters in the U.S., Rasmussen reports that only 17% of the country feels things are going in the right direction, while a 76% think we’re on the wrong track. According to Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal, 10/8/11),

We are in a remarkable moment and I’m not sure we’re noticing it in the day-to-day of politics and media … I wrote of the new patriotism that I see taking hold of the American establishment …

What’s behind it is fear. The economy is tanking and can take a whole world with it … They all agree—no one really argues about this anymore—the government is going bankrupt.

But Space is Up
The U.S. manned space program — which in 1969 delivered the first humans to the Moon — continues to be directionless. For example, it has no specific goal (Moon, Mars, asteroids), although an expensive Shuttle-derived heavy launch vehicle (the Space Launch System, SLS) is planned by NASA for first human flights in 2019. Others have suggested a propellant depot would be more viable economically and politically. To add to this disarray, the Mars Society reports today that OMB has zeroed out future Mars exploration programs after the MAVEN orbiter in 2013; e.g., the joint Mars missions with Europe in 2016 and 2018 would be canceled.

In this time of economic and program distress, it’s interesting to see how the public is thinking about our future in space.

The Shuttle
Last month 52% of American adults surveyed said the Space Shuttle has been worth the expense to taxpayers (, 10/5/11). This is particularly interesting when compared to public support of Apollo. According to Roger Launius, 1960s opinion polls reveal only one year between 1962 and 1972 when more than 50% of people surveyed felt Apollo was worth the cost: 1969 (53%); indeed only two other years were above 40% (1965 and 1970).

Considering that the recent Shuttle poll comes during a time of economic distress while the Apollo polls (especially during the early 1960s) were during the major JFK economic boom, it suggests that Americans remain proud of and committed to manned space.

U.S. Leadership in Space
In july, 2011 a CNN/ORC International Poll asked, “How important do you think it is for the United States to be ahead of Russia and other countries in space exploration?” The replies were: Very important: 38%; Fairly important: 26%; Not too important: 36%; No Opinion: 1 %.

The fact that 64% of Americans currently believe that U.S. leadership in space is either fairly or very important — even during this economic distress — suggests that there will be significant support for space during the upcoming 2015 Maslow Window.

JFK vs. Obama
In July, 2011 a Fox News poll asked, “Who do you think had the right idea on the importance of space exploration–President (John F.) Kennedy or President (Barack) Obama? The replies were: JFK: 63%; Obama: 13%; Undecided: 24%.

This suggests that Americans are still interested in bold human space adventures and will be stimulated by the upcoming intrernational Space Age.

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Oct 29 2011

Listen to Bruce’s 10/28/11 Appearance on “The Space Show”

It was great returning to The Space Show global internet live radio program yesterday morning (October 28, 2011). The Show is archived here for your enjoyment.

Thanks again to Dr. David Livingston, the show’s knowledgable host, for inviting me. You can learn about him by visiting his personal website.

We began by explaining how a Maslow Window is triggered by a major, twice-per-century economic boom (such as in the 1960s) and is driven by a widespread feeling of affluence-induced ebullience. As people find themselves catapulted to higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and huge technology projects seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

Many current societal trends that suggest the future will not be very bright are actually precursors of the next transformative Maslow Window. For example, the U.S. education crisis — with record low SAT scores and mediocre performance by high school students in international science and math tests — has parallels with the situation just before Sputnik in the 1950s. It’s important to remember that Sputnik triggered a renaissance in U.S. K-16+ education and led to the Apollo Moon program and the greatest prosperity up to that time. We also highlighted some key lessons for the future from John F. Kennedy’s magnificent performance as the first “space president.”

The financial Panic of 2008 and the 2008- great recession have been enormously disruptive, but are also clear signals — seen repeatedly over the last 200+ years — of the new Maslow Window’s likely arrival near 2015. We concluded by briefly reviewing how the Russia/China Phobos-Grunt mission, to be launched early next month, could become a turning point in human space exploration.

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Oct 23 2011

Bruce is on “The Space Show” this Friday (10/28)

It’s a pleasure to announce that I’m returning to The Space Show ( global internet live radio program, on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2011, from 9:30 – 11 AM Pacific time.

Thanks to Dr. David Livingston, the show’s host, for inviting me. You can learn about him by visiting his personal website,

We’ll explore the unfortunate state of U.S. education today and how it’s reminiscent of pre-Sputnik times in the 1950s just before the first Space Age was triggered. Also, we’ll dissect the eerie similarities between the 1890s and today in terms of parallel economic and political trajectories. The 1890s led to one of the most ebullient exploration and technology decades in the history of the U.S., including the age of polar exploration, the Panama Canal, and the incomparable Theodore Roosevelt. Despite our lagging recovery, is a new, near-term Space Age in the cards today? Plus we’ll look at the prospects for human bases on Mars by 2025!

Here’s more info on The Space Show:
The Space Show is more than nine years old and approaching 1,600 live radio interview shows. The focus of the program is to further space commerce, space development, science, space tourism, and above all, realistic space education relating to all these subjects and more. The Space Show strives to connect the dots for the importance and value of space for the general public in America as well as around the world. The Space Show affords the guest and listeners an opportunity for real engagement and discussion with one another.

All of the programs are archived at the website so one can hear even the first Space Show programs. Also, one can see the full list of guests that have been on the show and by clicking on the Newsletter link on the main page (or direct, use ), then scroll down the page to the coming events section and you can see who is scheduled over the next few months.

The Space Show is licensed to the non-profit educational foundation, One Giant Leap Foundation, Inc ( The Space Show is working to raise funding for its programming and expansion through corporate and other educational grants. Program copyrights are owned and held by One Giant Leap Foundation/David Livingston.

Be sure to mark your calendars!

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Jul 06 2011

State of the Wave — The Case for Space, Business, and Education

Today’s world is afflicted by natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and global terrorism. Is it possible that President John F. Kennedy’s 50 year-old vision of human expansion into space will rise again, in ~5 years, to dominate global headlines?

This weblog — founded in May, 2008 — shows the answer is yes.

Trends over the last 200+ years (including the last decade) – in the economy, technology, and geopolitics – point to the decade between 2015 and 2025 as featuring a major economic and exploration boom like the 1960s, accompanied by a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

When the 1960s wave of space exploration is viewed in the context of other major technology, exploration, and science advances over the last 200+ years, it becomes possible to forecast the next peak in human achievement. Major events in human exploration (e.g., Lewis and Clark), massive state-of-the-art engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and exceptionally destructive wars (e.g., W.W. I) are seen to cluster together twice-per-century, near times of major, JFK-style economic booms.

This empirical, long-term approach to strategic technology forecasting convincingly explains our national romance with the Apollo Moon program in the 1960s, and society’s waning interest in it in the 1970s.

Even more importantly, our scientific forecasts illuminate the probable timing and key drivers of events in our future with major implications for business, technology, and education.’s two major themes are:
A) New scientific evidence for the power of the space vision suggests that, like prior periods of significant human achievement, it is capable of being transformative for human civilization, and
B) Despite its compelling nature, the space vision will not fully begin to materialize until around 2015 when long-term trends in economics, technology, and geopolitics converge favorably again.

In the next ~5 years, major Apollo-style technology and space programs will announce the opening of the next “Maslow Window” and the new international Space Age — featuring unprecedented commercial and scientific development of Earth-Moon space, and possibly even human missions to Mars. That’s the highly likely good news.

It’s also possible that we could miss this opportunity for human expansion into the cosmos. If we do, the sobering lesson of the last 200 years is that our next realistic shot will be near the end of this century.

For more insight into our near-term future, please click … The Intro page.

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