Archive for the 'Wave Guide 2: Public Opinion' Category

Aug 07 2009

State of the Wave — Public Support For Space is Robust

Recent opinion polls suggest the American public’s support for the space program is remarkably resilient, especially considering the current global recession.

Gallup shows that public support for space has increased since 1979. Click gallup1.doc.

Just prior to Apollo 11’s 40th anniversary (July 10-12) Gallup found that 58% of respondents believe “the space program has brought enough benefits to justify its costs,” while only 28% did not. This number has increased since the late 1970s when, 10 years after the first Moon landing, only 41% agreed with Gallup’s statement; it was 47% in 1994 and increased to 55% in 1999.

This positive progression is what we’d expect as we approach the excitement of the 2015 Maslow Window, but it is especially impressive given that we’re apparently at the bottom of the worst global contraction since the Great Depression.

Dan Cano, a consultant and former political appointee in NASA, recently summarized the attitudes of many toward space costs (Space News 8/3/09),

While I fully appreciate that the international space station is a technological marvel and necessary steppingstone to learn how to live and work in space for longer trips to Mars than the Moon, it is not necessary and sufficient by itself. We need to be going somewhere. And when I hear that our nation cannot afford such journeys, I have to ask: Why can our government afford so many other things? Look at how little is spent in space exploration today compared to 40 years ago, and compare that investment and what the achievement meant to our nation and the world, even 40 years later.

Gallup also found that the fading memories of some Baby Boomers are not quite as fired up as the imaginations of those too young to have witnessed the Moon landing themselves. While 63% of those 18-49 think the space program’s costs are justified, only 53% of those 50 and over concur. Here we are beginning to see the support of 80 million Millennials (born 1980 to 1995) — who love technology and progress — for space.

Gallup’s July summary is revealing.

Americans remain broadly supportive of space exploration and government funding of it. In fact, Americans are somewhat more likely to believe the benefits of the space program justify its costs at the 40th anniversary of the moon landing than they were at the 10th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries.

Although support for keeping NASA funding at its present level or increasing it is lower now than it has been in the past, the fact that 6 in 10 Americans hold this view in the midst of a recession suggests the public is firmly committed to the space program.

This is particularly interesting in light of the Rasmussen 7/21/09 poll about a U.S. manned mission to Mars, in response to a proposal by Buzz Aldrin, where only 51% opposed it. It’s likely as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and our current economic dstress subsides, that support for manned Mars will soar.

Today I received a comment from Chris in North Carolina that is characteristic of those somewhat unsure about our space program. I appreciate his sending it and wanted to share his comment and my response.

From Chris in North Carolina:

I think, if we can come through the problems we have now (like our over-reliance on fossil fuels), then we’ll have a chance of making meaningful progress in space sometime in the next century or so. It definitely won’t be 2020.

There’s only one thing we can say “definitely” about the future: It definitely cannot be predicted with certainty!

That’s why I use a technique based on 200+ years of global economic, technology, and political trends. When you see patterns popping up repeatedly over 2+ centuries you have to be impressed. The media and most commentators have us so saturated with ultra-short term thinking that it’s hard for most to identify with a long-term perspective — that’s one reason 21stCenturyWaves.com was created.

But I think you’ve got it a little backwards, we aren’t waiting to solve all our problems on Earth before we go into space; that’s like waiting until we get well before we go to the doctor!

In reality, we’re going into space to help solve our problems on Earth !! A very important point. Energy is a perfect example of how this will work.

It’s 2009. By 2025 — within 16 years or so of right now, based on the Maslow Windows on the past 200 years — we should have international bases on the Moon, solar power satellites near Earth, and maybe the first folks on Mars. But asserting this is like time-traveling back to 1953 and walking up to someone and saying, “Do you realize that in 16 years or so the first men will land on the Moon?” But of course it happened! And it’s getting ready to happen again for the same economic and psychological reasons it did before.

That’s why this website exists: To show how how these brief, but magnificent Maslow Windows originate and how they enable unprecedented exploration and technology programs that transform the world. And that it’s starting again, right now. Even our current global recession is a typical part of this picture; please check my archived posts on this topic.

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Jul 05 2009

Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!

Special thanks to Eric Rybarczyk for his interesting emailed comments on Maslow Windows and for suggesting that I take a closer look at Buzz’ comments.

In addition to being the 2nd man to walk on the Moon in 1969, Dr. Buzz Aldrin is one of the most intelligent, energetic individuals you will ever meet, and recently, he became a “Man for All Maslow Windows!” Click buzz.jpg.

Congratulations to Buzz for his brilliant synthesis of a stunningly positive vision of the human future in space. In today’s world of major global recession, asymmetric conflict, and a brewing new Cold War, a positive vision is hugely important. As pointed out at the beginning of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window by Dutch sociologist Fred Polak in The Image of the Future,

The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as society’s image of the future is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full blossom. Once the image of the future begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture cannot long survive.

Although the details of his plan are certainly open for debate, Buzz — truly an icon of the 1960s — has provided us with an ebullient vision worthy of the 2015 Maslow Window.

The Maslow Window Model

About twice per century over the last 200+ years there are extraordinary pulses of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) that resonate around the world. These “Maslow Windows” are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience similar to “animal spirits” theorized to drive business cycles by British economist John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s. In response to ebullience, many in society ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy and, as their world view expands, find that great explorations and MEPs are not only intriguing, but seem momentarily irresistible. This captivating, but short-lived ebullience is triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms over the last 200+ years that were first described by Kondratieff in the 1920s.

Thus the classic ideas of Maslow, Keynes, and Kondratieff — synthesized into this Maslow Window model — can explain the transformative pulses of great explorations and MEPs over the last 200+ years, including our 1960s fascination with Apollo and its rapid demise in the early 1970s. This model also points to the 2015 Maslow Window as the most likely time that visions like Buzz Aldrin’s will to come to fruition and revitalize society.

The Phobos Connection

I first met Buzz Aldrin in the late 1980s at General Dynamics in San Diego. He would come down from LA to share ideas about manned Mars missions, and the morning briefings would usually culminate with lunch at a local restaurant. His interests centered on Earth-Mars Cyclers — a concept for routine interplanetary transportation that he was developing with JPL — and mine were in using Phobos and Deimos (moons of Mars) as service stations for interplanetary vehicles and as manned orbital science stations.

Buzz now advocates a manned station on Phobos by 2025 to “monitor and control the robots that will build the infrastructure on the Martian surface, in preparation for the first human visitors.” I suspect his Phobos thrust is partly driven by the Russian Phobos mission scheduled to be launched in October, 2009, but now possibly delayed 2 years. In any case, Buzz’ manned Phobos base (or even an international lunar base) is exactly what we need before the 2015 Maslow Window slams shut on or before 2025. If we cannot achieve a human outpost in deep space by that time, we could be trapped in Earth orbit as the global economy slides for decades to the long wave trough (e.g., like ~1975-1995) and eventually recovers for the next Maslow Window near 2070. Keep in mind that nobody’s been beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972, and that could occur again after 2025 unless we begin to colonize space.

Instant Martians

Some may be surprised that Buzz suggests one-way missions as a way of jump-starting the colonization of Mars. In fact, during the 1960s, according to historian Matthew Hersch, competition with the Soviets for Moon firsts became so desperate that some suggested 1-way suicide missions, just so the first man on the Moon wouldn’t be a Soviet. But not surprisingly, NASA wasn’t interested.

However, Buzz isn’t suggesting 1-way Mars suicide missions, he’s advocating 1-way “pilgrim” missions. This makes more sense for Mars than the Moon because while it takes 3 days to get to the Moon, a manned Mars mission may take 3 years.

According to Buzz,

One-way tickets to Mars will make the missions technically easier and less expensive and get us there sooner. More importantly, they will ensure that our Martian outpost steadily grows as more homesteaders arrive.

Instead of explorers, one-way Mars travelers will be 21st-century pilgrims, pioneering a new way of life. It will take a special kind of person. Instead of the traditional pilot/ scientist/engineer, Martian homesteaders will be selected more for their personalities—flexible, inventive and determined in the face of unpredictability. In short, survivors.

Buzz’ Mars pilgrims would also have several other positive effects:
1) They would prevent the “Apollo-ization” of Mars. A dreaded effect that space advocates used to fret about where the “been there…done that” syndrome after a few landings would preclude our ever going back.
2) They would provide a planetary beachhead in space that would stimulate multi-decade plans for colonization of the Solar System even between Maslow Windows, when human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit has never occurred (see “The Phobos Connection” above). And…
3) They would provide an incentive to eventually develop interplanetary vehicles for routine transportation between Earth and Mars (e.g., Earth-Mars Cyclers) including the establishment of an interplanetary economy.

Going to Mars Together
I am on record for over 20 years as advocating an international approach to manned Mars missions, including even a specific macro-management concept for a global space agency (“Interspace”).

However, Buzz appears to be advocating a more-or-less U.S.-alone program for manned exploration of Mars, although he does propose an international program for the Moon.

This appears to contradict our spectacular foreign policy success with the International Space Station, known as an “international marvel.” As a major participant in the race to space during the Cold War, Buzz appears to favor an Apollo model for Mars over the more recent ISS experience. And there are fundamental differences between the two programs: Apollo was about space transportation and lunar exploration, while ISS is an Earth orbit MEP devoted to laboratory and space science. To be bluntly honest, the geopolitical impact of ISS is much lower than it was for Apollo.

As I’ve often written here and elsewhere, I would still like to see the U.S. achieve a “Grand Alliance for Space” with all other nations, including plenty of opportunities for cooperation and competition built in to the human expansion into the cosmos. But I have to admit, history doesn’t support such optimism. It isn’t just the story of the 1950s International Geophysical Year and the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik, it also includes Amundsen’s deliberate deception of Scott so he could be the first to the South Pole in 1911. When the historical and/or geopolitical stakes are high, humans sometimes will deceive their competition to reach their goal first.
Near-Term Issues

Buzz has conceived a vision for the near-term human future in space that is thrilling and highly motivating, but it’s certainly not without issues. These include continuing Shuttle to 2015, abandoning lunar science to a commercial-only emphasis, human rating of Atlas V, canceling Ares I, China joining ISS, and several others.

These would have to be worked out, but Buzz’ basic idea is compelling. He believes that the next major space initiative should be Goal-oriented, not focused on Infrastructure. As in the days of Apollo, if we can agree on a compelling enough goal in space, the public support and required infrastructure will quickly follow. On the other hand, bureaucrats usually favor an infrastructure approach because it’s more like a regular government program.

However, the last 200 years — including especially the 1960s — suggest that things happen fast because Maslow Windows seem to open unexpectedly (unless you understand the Maslow Window model above) and evolve quickly. Indeed, Maslow Windows don’t leave much time for extensive infrastructure development and are subject to wildcards (e.g., Vietnam).

Buzz’ genius is to apply an Apollo model for a 21st Century Mars Initiative to a multipolar space world. It’s certainly more consistent with the typical ebullience exhibited during Maslow Windows of the last 200 years than working hard to repeat a 40-year-old space feat on the Moon.

Lunar commercial development begins, Mars is reached and colonization starts, and everybody gets to play. All by 2025. It’s exciting and historically realistic.

Sounds like a lot of fun!

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May 18 2009

10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

The monumental Panama Canal was — prior to Apollo — the greatest Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) of the last 200 years. The Canal brought people together by splitting the continent, and in terms of cost, management, technology, and global significance, it has strong parallels with Apollo and the International Space Station (ISS), and offers us insight into our spectacular future.

The secrets of the Panama Canal reverberate through the last 100 years and — together with Apollo and the International Space Station — illuminate future Macro-Engineering Projects in space. Click panama.jpg.

Here are 10 Lessons the Panama Canal teaches us about the human future in space.

10. “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time,” according to ultra-historian David McCullough (1977), “…the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years…It is a work of civilization.”

In Cordell (2006) I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), who was a well-known professor of engineering, a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology, and a da Vinci Medalist (SHoT’s highest honor) in 1977. According to Ferguson, MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive and usually large in size; and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often they are aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and are highly inspiring.

This is a demanding definition that excludes many extraordinary projects like trans-continental railroads or large highway systems because, while expensive and significant, they do not stretch technology.

The Canal’s grandeur versus Apollo’s and ISS’ off-world technology, are tantalizingly suggestive of the unprecedented MEPs and great explorations that await us in the 2015 Maslow Window, as humanity’s expansion into the cosmos accelerates.

9. “The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity,” (McCullough, 1977). The enormous sacrifice in human life — called a “great war” by President Theodore Roosevelt — was in excess of 27,000, including an estimated 22,000 during the French period (1881-1889) and 5,600 deaths during the American period between 1904-1914.

The threat of tropical diseases, land slides, railroad accidents, and premature dynamite explosions contributed to the extraordinary psychological stress for the workers. And while yellow fever crippled the French effort to build the Canal, the successful medical research of Drs. Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed aided the American project tremendously.

The modern and future world is indebted beyond words to the people who risked (and often lost) their lives working on the construction of the Panama Canal. They provide a profound inspiration to those currently engaged in the human expansion into the cosmos.

8. As of the early 20th century, the Panama Canal had the highest price tag of any construction project in U.S. history; indeed, it was the largest commitment ever of resources in peacetime for any nation. It cost the U.S. about $ 375 M — $ 8.3 B in 2008 dollars — over 10 years (i.e., the Peary/Panama Maslow Window). The Canal consumed only 0.10% of U.S. GDP during that time.

Although the Panama Canal was for transportation while Apollo was the first combined MEP and Great Exploration, and it was off-world, it’s still interesting to compare their costs. In today’s dollars Apollo cost close to $ 150 B, so Apollo was almost 20x as expensive as the Canal. However, a more meaningful comparison is as fraction of GDP. During the years of their programs, Apollo averaged about 0.25% of GDP compared to 0.10% for the Canal.

Comparison of Panama and Apollo suggest that MEPs during the 2015 Maslow Window will dwarf Apollo. For example,

A. INCREASING PUBLIC INTEREST IN MEPS: If this trend of an increase in GDP fraction allocated to MEPs continues (i.e., increase by 2-3x over Apollo), then coming MEPs would dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (This would imply that public support for MEPs in 2015+ would have increased over Apollo by as much as it did between Panama and Apollo.)
And,

B. BOOMING ECONOMIC GROWTH: Given the projected growth based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic data — i.e., by 2025, increase of GDP by 7x over 1969; as of 2008, GNP has increased 3.1x over 1969 –, it is reasonable to expect MEPs in the 2015 Maslow Window to dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (PLEASE NOTE: As they have over the last 200+ years, rhythmic twice-per-century major economic booms trigger the Maslow Window ebullience effects on society, which fundamentally drive public support for MEPs and Great Explorations.)

Socio-economic insights from the Panama/Apollo MEP experiences and macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, suggest near-future MEPs
(e.g., including planetary bases, space solar power sats, interplanetary transportation systems) during the 2015 Maslow Window will significantly dwarf Apollo by factors of from 7x to 20x — i.e., in the $ 1 T to $ 3 T ballpark (current USD).

7. Both the Panama Canal and Apollo Moon program were fundamentally about designing, constructing, and using major transportation systems in hostile environments, and their management and technology challenges have impressive parallels and lessons for the future.

The Panama Canal’s design and technology challenges centered around the location and type of canal, and construction operations. No one had ever built an enormous structure in a tropical environment that included mysterious, lethal diseases (e.g., yellow fever) and other natural hazards (e.g., climate, snakes). This led to large loss of life and contributed to eventual failure during the French period (see 9 above). However, by November, 1905 yellow fever had been eradicated in the Canal Zone by the Americans.

In the early 1880s, the French under de Lesseps decided to construct a sea-level canal based on their successful experience at Suez — the technological jewel of the 19th century. Although the American chief engineer, John Stevens, initially agreed with the French, soon after his arrival in Panama he insisted on a system of locks (e.g., Parker, 2007).

McCullough (1977) speculates that if de Lesseps had changed his plan from sea-level to locks in 1886, the French might have succeeded — and this invites an intriguing parallel with Apollo. Although locks increased the Canal’s complexity and risk, they also reduced its cost and accelerated its schedule. This is similar to NASA’s decision to use rendezvous in lunar orbit to deliver astronauts to the Moon; this likewise increased (operational) complexity and risk, but obviated the need to develop an even bigger, more expensive launch vehicle than the Saturn V (i.e., Nova).

During the American period management challenges included supervising 34,000 construction workers and dealing with the continual threats to their lives (e.g., from accidents), as well as the unparalleled engineering, financial, political, and schedule issues of construction. The Panama Canal construction was motivated and begun by President T. Roosevelt, who made the first trip of any sitting U.S. President outside the U.S., a trip to the Canal. However, President William Howard Taft provided the most active, hands-on participation over the longest period (4 years as president) for the Canal, and President Woodrow Wilson officiated at its opening in 1914. Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt is considered “the real builder” of the Panama Canal.

The Apollo Program’s design and technology challenges centered around space transportation and operations, and crew systems. They included: 1) delivering Max Faget’s Mercury capsule to Earth orbit using modified ICBMs (e.g. Atlas for John Glenn in 1962) and returning it using heat shields, 2) testing Buzz Aldrin’s orbital rendezvous techniques in Earth orbit in preparation for John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission mode, and 3) using Wernher von Braun’s monumental Saturn V launch vehicle to send astronauts and hardware to the Moon.

During Apollo, NASA hired 400,000 people from about 20,000 companies and universities. NASA management was subject to two major influences that did not exist for Panama leaders: 1) the urgency of an actual race to the Moon with another superpower, and 2) the immediacy of live television news broadcasts that emphasized the national prestige and symbolic elements of Apollo. The Apollo Moon program was announced by President Kennedy in 1961 and is most closely associated with him. However, Apollo developed substantially under President Johnson, and the lunar landings (1969-72) were accomplished during President Nixon’s administration.

Even being situated within the major economic boom of a Maslow Window and having great leadership is no substitute for the required technologies, systems, and engineering designs. This preparation for the 2015 Maslow Window is currently ongoing by ISS, private entrepreneurs, national laboratories, and elsewhere. It’s highly likely that the management challenges of the 2015 Maslow Window will include close interaction with international partners in all phases of future MEPs.

6. Like Apollo, the Panama Canal vastly elevated American national prestige and was a direct result of international politics and conflicts.

In 1897, the U.S. acquired Hawaii as a US territory, and later as a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S.. Since the Philippines had previously declared their independence from Spain, these events emphasized the growing need for both a Pacific naval presence as well as an Atlantic one for the U.S. (Rohatyn, 2009).

“Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War. To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders”, vectored toward Cuban battle himself. Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages.

Likewise, one long wave later, new President John F. Kennedy found himself embroiled in Cuban adventures early in the Apollo Maslow Window. The first was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (4/17/61), followed shortly by JFK’s inspirational May 17, 1961 speech announcing our goal to “land a man on the Moon, before this decade is out…” Even more threatening was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 which almost triggered W.W. III. Both served to increase Soviet-U.S. tensions and intensify the competition and global political significance of the Space Race.

Many large, medium, and small space powers sense the international prestige associated with human space exploration of the Moon and planets, and intend to leverage the lessons of America’s history in this pursuit. New Maslow Windows have historically been times of increased international tensions and conflicts (e.g., the 1960s Cold War, the Spanish-American War), and it is likely such conflicts will arise again as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, possibly in connection with space. For example, Cuba has been a focal point during the last two Maslow Windows, and Stratfor suggests it may be again.

5. “To a visitor from Mars it must have seemed that the Western world in 1914 was on the brink of Utopia,” according to historians J. Harrison and R. Sullivan (1966). This pre-WW I zeitgeist was responsible for the Panama Canal, the North and South Pole expeditions, the Titanic, the ascent of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the ebullience of “Panama Fever” and “Pole mania.”

Historical accounts suggest that Teddy “Speak softly but carry a big stick!” Roosevelt may well have been the most ebullient U.S. President in the history of the country, and that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window may have been the most ebullient period in U.S. history.

In addition to his Canal initiative, T.R. was a major supporter of Adm. Robert Peary’s ebullient expeditions to the North Pole. Indeed, Roosevelt has the distinction of being the first and only President to have played major roles in both the major MEP and Great Exploration of his Maslow Window; by the 1960s, the MEP and GE had become integrated into a single project: President Kennedy’s Apollo program.

TR became the 26th President of the U.S. in 1901 while still 42 — currently the youngest person, including John F. Kennedy, to hold the presidency — and left the office in 1909, about five years before the Panama Canal opened, yet he is still known as the one who built the Canal.

The story of TR and the Panama Canal show the power of the long wave in history and for the future. Like JFK, TR appeared at the perfect time — as his Maslow Window was opening — when his ebullient personality and great leadership qualities could most benefit the U.S. and the world. According to Roosevelt himself, what was crucial for the Canal was that “somebody (namely himself) was prepared to act with decision,” (Parker, 2007). However, the last 200 years teach us that, Great leaders help, but the economy rules!

4. The Great Victorian Depression began with the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market on May 9, 1873 (the Panic of 1873) and rapidly spread to America. Also known as “The Long Depression” it continued until the late 1890s, and is considered by some to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is in this financial context that the French under de Lesseps began work on the Panama Canal in 1881. By 1889 de Lesseps called it quits, their effort a victim of disease, inadequate technology, poor canal design, and not surprisingly, lack of money.

In 1873 the New York Stock Market closed for 10 days attempting to achieve stability, while almost 1/4 of all railroads went belly-up, businesses failed, unemployment reached an estimated 14% (in 1876), and credit crashed.

The power of the long wave is demonstrated by the MEP-related experiences of Kennedy, Roosevelt, and De Lesseps. Kennedy and Roosevelt initiated their MEPs during major economic booms in the decades prior to their long wave peaks (their Maslow Windows) and were successful. De Lesseps initiated his during a descending portion of the long wave and failed. Since TR succeeded in his Panama Canal effort while de Lesseps failed in the same endeavor, is it possible that we are seeing the effects of markedly superior leadership rather than the power of the long wave? For example, could TR have successfully initiated the Canal in 1935? Or could JFK have launched Apollo in 1985 and been successful? In fact, history illuminated this question in the 1980s (see next point).

3. The Panama Canal and the International Space Station are intriguing examples of MEPs that began at unfavorable times during the long wave and were soon discontinued, only to re-emerge later and achieve success. The goal here is to achieve insight into the relative importance of long wave timing versus great leadership, and any other factors that may be important.

For example, President Ronald Reagan first proposed Space Station Freedom in 1984 with an estimated cost of $ 8 B. As congressional support for SSF dwindled, the end of the Cold War led to SSF being included in the International Space Station plan in 1993 with an estimated cost of $ 17.4 B. ISS orbital assembly started in 1998 and will be completed in 2010 for an estimated $ 100 B, including development, assembly, and operations.

Although both the Canal and ISS went through 8-9 year initial phases that did not achieve success, both later re-emerged under “new management” and were successful. Let’s consider the long wave timing of the “initial” phases of the Canal and ISS.

The initial Panama Canal phase was run by de Lesseps and began (in 1881) 22 years before the opening of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window in 1903, and only 4 years before the LW trough in 1885. Likewise, the initial ISS Phase was proposed by President Reagan and began (in 1984) 31 years before the 2015 Maslow Window, a full 13 years before the LW trough in 1997.

Based on long wave considerations, it’s hard to say which project should have suffered most — de Lesseps’ Canal from the Victorian Depression or Reagan’s Station from economic weakness indicated by the Crash of 1987 — but both projects should have been DOA. And they were.

But a historically interesting question was also answered. Not even President Reagan — usually considered to be at least comparable in leadership and charisma to JFK and even TR — could make his MEP materialize in the decade after he proposed it, during a downward portion of the long wave. This suggests that any leadership and/or strategic deficiencies de Lesseps may have exhibited were not the deciding factor in his lack of success — because Reagan’s Station experience suggests that the long wave trumps great leadership.

The “final” phases of both projects are also interesting, because both were successful. I have already noted that, due to perfect long wave timing and his great leadership, TR’s Canal project should have been — and was — a success. However, the ISS final phase began under President Bill Clinton (in 1993) 22 years before the 2015 Maslow Window and 4 years before the long wave trough — the identical long wave circumstances of de Lesseps’ initial Canal project; the one that failed! (Is this a coincidence??)

With identical long wave circumstances, why did de Lesseps’ Canal project fail and the Clinton/Bush II Station succeed?

Globalization? The broad, robust international cooperation flavor of ISS is consistent with the post-WW II, and especially post-Cold War, trends toward increased globalization in technology and science. The space station has picked up momentum ever since it became international.

Although it has not yet had the global psychological impact of either Apollo or the Canal, ISS is regarded by its participants as an “international marvel.” And well it should be: It’s second only to Apollo as the most expensive human project in modern history, it was made by 16 countries (almost “everybody” but China), there are 1 million pounds of hardware in orbit, and over 100 elements and modules were assembled in space.

In short, ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that is historically comparable to both the Saturn V and the Panama Canal.

And yet despite its success, ISS is anomalous because it hasn’t yet generated “Panama Fever” or Apollo-style ebullience! ISS has apparently been able to temporarily survive low public ebullience, by surfing on the accelerating wave of “globalization.”

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, it’s very likely that public appreciation and excitement about ISS will greatly increase.

2. In some ways, the Canal was the ultimate MEP of the last 200 years. Like the Apollo program (see point 6), it was an engineering marvel that required the coordination of huge numbers of people. In terms of ROI, the economic benefits of the Canal for seafaring commerce and strategic uses have been very significant over the last two long waves.

However, to increase the Canal’s capacity and deal with future competition — which now includes the Suez Canal — the Third Set of Locks Project was approved by Panamanians in a 2006 vote by an ebullient majority of 76.8%.

This Panama Canal expansion project will cost $ 5.25 B — about 75% of the original Canal cost — and will receive $ 2.5 B in international funding. Construction will generate thousands of jobs for Panamanians and should be complete by 2014, just in time for the 2015 Maslow Window. Major risks to the plan include finances and whether the traffic model of the business plan is realistic.

Panama recently elected a new president who’s committed to the Canal Expansion Project and continuing economic growth during the world recession. U.S.-educated, conservative Ricardo Martinelli — owner of Panama’s largest supermarket chain — was elected in a landslide with 61% of the vote. President-elect Martinelli’s landslide election is new evidence that “early ebullience” in Panama is continuing to accelerate as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The Panama Canal is an immensely important MEP of the early 20th Century Maslow Window that — by itself and in comparison to Apollo and the International Space Station — continues to inform us of the relative importance of the long wave, great leadership, and globalization to the probable success of potential MEPs and Great Explorations during the next 20 years.

The Lessons include:

A. If an MEP starts during a Maslow Window (with wide-spread ebullience) and features a great leader, it will succeed. Examples include the Panama Canal with Teddy Roosevelt, and Apollo with John F. Kennedy.

B. If an MEP starts during the down going portion of the long wave (during a time of counter-ebullience), even with a great leader, it will probably fail. Examples include de Lesseps Panama Canal project, and Reagan’s Space Station.

A reasonable rule of thumb is: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

However, If the conditions of Point B exist, but globalization is a significant factor, the program may survive and eventually even prosper as it approaches the next Maslow Window. The only example is ISS starting in 1993 under President Clinton.

By our definition, ISS is not yet officially an MEP because, although it is recognized by its participants as an “international marvel,” opinion polls indicate the U.S. public has embraced ISS only minimally.

This gives us empirically-based hope that — despite the evidence of the last 200 years — post-Maslow downturns in the long wave will not inevitably terminate spectacular Maslow Windows. And more specifically, that globalization has a significant role to play in mitigating counter-ebullient portions of the long wave for future multi-decade or multi-century space initiatives.

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Apr 05 2009

State of the Wave — The Economy, Pyongyang, Freeman Dyson…4/4/09

This State of the Wave summarizes specific progress toward the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and movement toward real, near-term space colonization. The focus is on events and trends of long-range significance, especially in the context of the 10 Wave Guides.

1) The Economy

U.S. unemployment is 8.5% — the worst since 1983 — and forecasters say it is headed to 10% later in 2009, and “the world economy is in the midst of its deepest and most synchronized recession in our lifetimes,” according to Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Wall Street Journal, 4/1/09).

Nevertheless, the globally slumping economy remains well within the historical envelopes of similar pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions over the last 200 years.

The New York Times (3/15/09, V. Bajaj) cautiously seeks the bottom by noting that: 1) price/earnings ratios for stocks are very low now but still about twice the P/E ratios of market bottoms for 1932 and 1982, 2) although existing house prices have declined by 1/3 (in current dollars) from their peak in 2006, they remain higher than in the housing booms of the 1970s and 1980s, and 3) Americans are starting to cut back on consumer spending of disposable income which has recently hovered near 100%. According to Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers, these are the type of early signals that suggest the crisis is easing, although it’s not clear how soon it will end.

On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office indicated recently that Obama’s budget would result in annual deficits of about $ 1 T over the next decade, and the total deficit from 2010 – 2019 would be “$ 2.3 T more than the administration forecast last month,” (Wall Street Journal, 3/21/09). This could weaken support for Mr. Obama’s spending initiatives. For example, North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad expressed concern over the long-term debt level because it “threatens the economic security of this country — I believe it in my bones.”

The odds of our current recession reaching depression status were estimated at only 15% recently by a Wall Street Journal (3/30/09, Justin Lahart) poll of economists. According to 94-year old economist Anna Schwartz, who studied causes of the Great Depression with Milton Friedman, “When you get an unemployment rate of 25%, everyone is conscious of that and fearful. We’re not talking in the league at all.” According to Lahart, a depression today would be different than the 1930s because fewer people work in agriculture and more are in service-related jobs today, plus the social safety net programs (e.g. unemployment insurance) would “blunt the blows.” Even without an official depression, Nobel economist Paul Samuelson, is concerned that “after the economy bottoms out, there could be a ‘lost’ four or five years of sluggish growth.”

Even Samuelson’s bleak scenario wouldn’t significantly delay the next Maslow Window. Indeed, growing global Maslow-style pressures to explore and colonize the Moon should have a positive economic effect; e.g., as they did toward the end of the 1893 panic/recession just prior to the Panama Canal/Polar Exploration Maslow Window.

2) North Korea Missile Launch

The launch of Pyongyang’s Taepodong-2 rocket occurred as I was writing this post; Stratfor reports that, “North Korea launched a satellite into orbit via a multistage rocket, Yonhap reported April 4, citing a statement by the Japanese government. The rocket lifted off at 0230 GMT, and it passed over Japan as planned in the flight path.”

The launch had generated global concern: The Los Angeles Times (2/8/09; J. Glionna)speculated that it might test the U.S. “The missile is pointing at Obama. North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy,” according Baek Seung-joo of the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul. Anticipating its trajectory to be over Japan, Tokyo positioned missile interceptors against the rocket or its debris (Wall Street Journal, 3/28/09). British Foreigh Office Minister Bill Rammell, while visiting Seoul, said the launch would be “a clear breach” of the UN Security Council Resolution 1718. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled the North Korean launch a “provocative act” that would have consequences.

Stratfor reported on 3/25 that according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, “all indications suggest that North Korea will actually launch a satellite.” It appears he was right.

I suggested earlier that “the North Koreans are betting that the ‘global trend of the times’ — i.e., new space programs are developing in many countries around the world — will make the DPRK story believable.” This global trend is a major theme of 21stCenturyWaves.com featuring the approach to our next Maslow Window (expected in 2015) — the culmination of 200+ years of long-term trends in the economy and technology development, characterized by a major thrust toward international human expansion into the cosmos.

On April 3, Stratfor stated that “Ultimately, the Taepodong series missiles and SLVs are showpieces — diplomatic tools Pyongyang wields with care. They are not weapons,” for a variety of reasons including inaccuracy, low production numbers, slow launch capability, and NK’s inability to miniaturize and weaponize a nuclear bomb, according to Stratfor. They expect a few more scoldings or sanctions from the UN, and that’s about it. We’ll see what happens.

3) Growing Optimism About Technology and the Future

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, this blog has consistently forecast 2 things: 1) increasing public interest in technology and space, and 2) more optimistic public attitudes toward the future. There is evidence that, even 5 to 7 years out from the next Maslow Window and in the midst of the current global recession, both are appearing.

For example, the New York Times Magazine last Sunday (3/29/09; N. Dawidoff) featured an in-depth inteview with Princeton’s Nobel-caliber emeritus physicist Freeman Dyson, whose mind is still described by his colleagues as “infinitely smart” and “extraordinarily powerful.” He is profiled as a brilliant pro-technology scientist, who’s not comfortable with Gore-style climate crisis rhetoric. According to Dyson, “the climate-studies people who work with models…come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.” But the real global warming culprit is NASA scientist “Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.” In a recent shift in public opinion, it appears the majority of Americans agree with Dyson; Gallup reports that only 38% think that global warming will have a major impact on their lives.

Another surprise was the current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2009) whose cover features a stunningly pro-technology article “Geoengineering the Climate?” In case Dyson and others are wrong, the article, by five legal, engineering, and public policy academics, favors albedo techniques to reject solar radiation and cool the Earth. In the style of volcanic eruptions, they suggest injecting sulfate aerosols or similar reflective materials into the upper atmosphere; the space-based reflective cloud technique of Roger Angel is not mentioned, despite the fact that it would be less invasive for the biosphere. Their technology-intensive bottomline is that “the option of geoengineering exists. It would be dangerous for scientists and policymakers to ignore it.”

In another pro-technology development, Gallup reports that “a majority of Americans have been supportive of the use of nuclear energy in the United States in recent years, but this year’s Gallup Environment Poll finds new high levels of support, with 59% favoring its use, including 27% who strongly favor it.” This mirrors beliefs expressed by University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, at a public event in Orange County that I organized. While acknowledging concerns about nuclear wastes and life-cycle costs, Dr. Meshkati spoke of a “nuclear renaissance” due to increased reactor safety and environment-friendly energy.

Although it is not yet obvious what mix of technologies (e.g., solar, nuclear, others) is best to address future energy/environment challenges, the trend toward pro-technology solutions and optimistic public attitudes about the future is consistent with the last 200 years and especially with our forecasts of the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

4) No NASA Administrator

Space News has concerns about President Obama’s inaction regarding a new post-Griffin Administrator. In a March 30 editorial, they suggested that the candidate vetting and Senate confirmation processes could leave NASA leader-less “well into the second quarter of 2009.” The worry is about major near-term decisions — e.g., retirement date for the Shuttle and the 5-year gap — that will affect NASA well into the 2015 Maslow Window.

This situation is consistent with my January forecast that, despite Obama’s interest and support of NASA during the capaign, he will, of necessity, need to focus on the economy and national security. Therefore, NASA will simply not be a front-burner item early in his administration.

5) ABC News Explains the Theory of Maslow Windows!

The centerpiece of 21stCenturyWaves.com is the concept of a Maslow Window. These are decade-long intervals separated by 55 to 60 years, when major economic booms produce widespread affluence-induced ebullience. For most people, this triggers their ascent to higher levels in Maslow’s heirarchy, where major exploration and technology projects seem at least intriguing and often almost irresistible.

But why, over the last 200 years, have great explorations and macro-engineering projects not been favored by the public during the decades between Maslow Windows (e.g., 1970s, 80s, 90s)?

Gina Sunseri of ABC News (11/29/08) explains that “the space station is the most complicated engineering project ever undertaken, and astronauts are…accomplishing remarkable feats in space — but it is hard for most Americans to care much about the space program when they are worried about keeping their jobs, making house payments and putting food on the table.”

In other words, low levels on Maslow’s heirarchy just don’t make it. Thank you ABC News!

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Mar 17 2009

Public Attitudes and Prospects for Global Temperature Control

A few of my academic friends believe that the 2015 Maslow Window may not be as spectacular as previous Windows (e.g., the Panama Canal Window, or Lewis & Clark Window) because of a possible climate and/or energy crisis. They fear that the financial resources required to mitigate a global crisis will drain societal affluence and restrain ebullience — thus limiting the ascent of many to elevated levels in Maslow’s heirarachy — that are the hallmarks of Maslow Windows over the last 200 years.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, the public is becoming more optimistic about the human future in space…and on Earth. startrek.bmp.

Although the notion of “global warming,” associated with human emissions of CO2, has experienced considerable popularity in recent years, Gallup has recently sensed a turning point in public attitudes, “Altogether, 68% of U.S. adults believe the effects of global warming will be manifest at some point in their lifetimes,… (but) only 38% of Americans…believe it will pose ‘a serious threat’ to themselves or their own way of life.”

Moreover, “most Americans do not view the issue in the same dire terms as the many prominent leaders advancing global warming as an issue…Importantly, Gallup’s annual March update on the environment shows a drop in public concern about global warming across several different measures…over the past year.” This trend is probably due to growing public awareness of scientific data indicating that global warming ceased in 1998 and of unusually severe recent winters. And while Al Gore has made a major contribution to public science literacy by drawing attention to global climate concerns, his current reluctance to publicly defend his views — e.g., his refusal to debate European economist Bjorn Lomborg, and others — may be perceived by some as indicating growing uncertainty.

However, as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, two other effects will increasingly come into play: 1) the fact that Maslow Windows are characterized by unusually optimistic (even ebullient) public attitudes, and 2) the increasing global fascination with large, international technology programs and space colonization — expected during the 2015 Maslow Window — will suggest to many around the world that solutions to key global challenges (e.g., the environment, energy) will benefit from space technology and resources.

An example of this accelerating trend is already visible in futurist George Friedman’s new book, The Next 100 Hundred Years. Friedman sees 21st Century global carbon issues as moderated by population trends and the increasing use of space-based solar power (SSP) systems; SSP may also “solve the problem of delivering power to the battlefield from space”…as the U. S. becomes “the largest energy producer in the world.”

Despite it’s self-doubts and real external threats, Friedman forecasts a “Golden Age” for the U.S. in the 21st century, “American culture is the manic combination of exhultant hubris and profound gloom. The net result is a sense of confidence constantly undermined by the fear that we may be drowned by melting ice caps caused by global warming or smitten dead by a wrathful God for gay marriage…” But in an ebullient expression of Maslow Window-style optimism, Friedman’s and Stratfor’s geopolitical and technological sense is that “the United States is stunningly powerful. It may be that it is heading for a catastrophe, but it is hard to see one when you look at the basic facts.”

Friedman’s optimism is supported by conceptual studies of space systems that could ameliorate a future climate catastrophe with minimal invasive effects on the biosphere. For example, Roger Angel, a National Academy of Science member and MacArthur Fellow at the University of Arizona, envisions cooling the Earth with a cloud of small spacecraft reflectors located near Earth’s inner Lagrange point (L1), a region directly toward the Sun about 1.5 million km from Earth.

Although containing innovative design elements, Angel’s Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) concept builds upon current technologies. Fully deployed, Angel’s 100,000 km-long “cloud” would consist of millions of meter-size autonomous deflectors capable of reducing the incoming solar energy by 1.8 %, and thus cooling the Earth. Angel envisions using very thin refractive screens to deflect sunlight from Earth, to minimize the effects of radiation pressure on each spacecraft’s location near L1, and to limit the total Earth launch requirement to 20 million tons. For a launch cost of only $ 50/kg, Angel prefers an electromagnetic launch system.

Angel estimates that his space cloud could be developed and deployed within 25 years — making it potentially a 2015 Maslow Window project — with a total cost of a few trillion U.S. dollars. Although a large number, assuming the typical GDP growth implied for the 2015 Maslow Window by macroeconomic trends over the last 200 years, a decade-long program would cost roughly the same fraction of U.S. GDP as similar MEPs of the past (e.g., Apollo, Panama Canal). Use of global human, financial, and technological resources — another expected hallmark of the 2015 Maslow Window — would be central to the project.

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Nov 22 2008

The Moon is Not Enough…!

Like James Bond, who believed that “The World is Not Enough!”, The Planetary Society thinks the Moon is not enough…and frankly I agree with them!

The World is not enough… Click apollo08_earthrise.jpg.

I’ve always liked Lou Friedman and The Planetary Society! Explore the planets, humans to Mars, an international team — what’s not to like? It’s practically the meaning of life! I also enjoyed their new roadmap to the solar system: Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration in the 21st Century. And the title of their plan says it all: the Moon is not enough. They have clear differences with NASA’s current Vision for Space Exploration.

The Moon is not enough… Click full_moon_small.jpg.

There are now three fundamental visions for space: 1) NASA’s current Moon-focused Vision for Space Exploration, (VSE) 2) The Planetary Society’s roadmap featuring Mars, and 3) a vision with interstellar travel to the nearby stars as its focus. Vision 3 has been championed by the British Interplanetary Society since its 1970s Project Daedalus study, as well as by Gene Roddenberry. More recently it has resurfaced as a way to promote a multidecade, global commitment to human space exploration; in essence they believe that Mars is not enough.

Is Mars enough? Click mars.jpg.

The model of this weblog (e.g., Cordell, 2006, and “Forecasting...”) has met with considerable success in explaining great explorations and technology development over the last 200 years in the context of long-term fluctuations in the economy. For example, a) this model explains why Apollo began when it did and why it ended abruptly (as well as all the other Great Explorations over the last 200 years), b) the model pointed to a financial panic near 2008 and Obama’s likely election (although I failed to explicitly forecast them!), and 3) the model projects what we currently observe — increasing global interest in space as we approach another ebullient 1960s-like decade: the 2015 Maslow Window.

So in the context of this long-term economic model, I want to offer a few comments on the Planetary Society’s roadmap:

1. The program focus — Moon, Mars, interstellar — really matters from a marketing perspective. The Moon suffers from the fact that humans went there 6 times almost 40 years ago. This might encourage a “been there, done that” attitude. Or will the global public see human exploration of the Moon like past generations viewed terrestrial Great Explorations; i.e., progressing from more accessible locations like northwest North America (Lewis & Clark) to more distant ones like central Africa (“Dr. Livingstone I presume”) and both polar regions (early 20th Century)? However, if the global public views the Moon as just one more stop on the road to Mars and beyond, the sequence of Great Explorations over the last 200 years — North America, central Africa, Polar regions, Moon — suggests that Mars makes a more alluring program focus — from a marketing perspective — than the Moon.

2. Global momentum is currently toward the Moon. The U.S., with its International Lunar Network, as well as many other countries (including China, Japan) have expressed strong interests in Moon bases circa 2020. Authoritative sources (e.g., National Intelligence Council) forecast a “revolutionized” international system toward 2025 (during the 2015 Maslow Window) including new players at the high table (e.g., Brazil, India) and new rules. This will enhance U.S. plans for expanding ISS-style coorperation to the Moon and beyond, and may even make a truly global approach to space (such as Interspace) possible. This trend, plus the closeness and easy access of the Moon, may make a Mars focus — even in the 2020s — less attractive to the global public.

3. Astronaut safety will drive any deep space program strategy.
Current NASA boss Mike Griffin contends that safety requires a Mars program to go through ISS and the Moon in logical steps, much like the Apollo program carefully approached the Moon. The Planetary Society report deemphasizes lunar surface infrastructure in favor of near-term human exploration of near-Earth asteroids. Although not mentioned in their report, developing human space ops experience at near-Earth asteroids will be extremely valuable at Mars when establishing human bases on Phobos and Deimos. The Planetary Society Mars-focus strategy elegantly integrates the first human missions beyond the Earth-Moon system with planetary defense (from near-Earth asteroid impacts), and with specific preparations for future human operations in the Mars system.

4. For a multidecade, global space vision to be viable, it must include a realistic geopolitical and economic framework provided by long-term trends over the last 200 years. The Planetary Society roadmap asserts that the NASA VSE goal of a human return to the Moon by 2020 may “lead to multi-decade delays in expansion of human activity beyond the Earth-Moon system.” They are absolutely right as I pointed out previously, although it’s not fundamentally because of programmatic and funding conflicts. They are more on target here: “The national economic situation exacerbates NASA’s budget difficulties and makes it likely that the stated lunar exploration timetable cannot be met.” In fact, the national (and global) economic situation is a predictable consequence of technological, exploration, and military trends that have persisted over at least the last 200 years. Ignorance of them results in disappointments like the abrupt end of the spectacular Apollo program. However, in reality, they provide a dependable framework within which multi-decade programs of any kind (including space) can be structured so they flourish and enable human expansion into the cosmos.

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Nov 14 2008

What's Even More Exciting Than Humans to Mars?

There is little doubt that proper use of modern marketing techniques would help NASA sell human spaceflight. Bob Scaringe, president of AVG Communications (Marietta, GA) quotes a 2007 poll (AIAA 2008-7872) indicating that, on the average, responders believed NASA received 24% of the federal budget, when in reality it got only 0.6%. This may be influencing the relatively large fraction (51%) of Americans who think we should cut NASA’s budget and the relatively small fraction (<10%) who actively support space exploration. Should it be Mars?… Click mars_base.jpg.

What’s most interesting is Scaringe’s point that a truly compelling long-range goal will be needed to sustain the space program, and that Mars isn’t enough. He proposes targeting the estimated 10 Earth-like planets within 30 light years of Earth. “We should make interstellar travel a long-term aim…over the next 200 to 500 years.” This program would be “responsive to short-term ROI needs on Earth as well as…the long-term survival of the species.”

…Or the stars? Click galaxy.jpg.

This is multigenerational, Star Trek-style planning in the most inspirational sense of the word!

Scaringe, a marketing consultant, suggests that the decade-long 1960s Apollo program provides evidence that a new Kennedy-like president might be able to inspire the world to seriously consider our multigenerational Galactic aspirations — which paradoxically is sadly reminiscent of the political, economic, and military realities that have afflicted us in the past.

In fact, the Apollo experience suggests that more will be required than just mega-leadership. For example, the last 200 years show that Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (including Apollo) occur in short-lived, twice-per-century pulses (i.e., Maslow Windows), that are triggered by the momentary ebullience of major rhythmic economic booms, and terminated by major wars (e.g. W. W. I).

However, imagine the power of combining a multigenerational (or multicentury) vision for space such as Scaringe suggests with a realistic, multicentury understanding of long waves in the economy — going back 200 years — and how they influence technology development, global security, and human exploration.

This scientific and inspirational approach will eventually achieve humanity’s ultimate destiny: Interstellar colonization.

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Oct 08 2008

The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte

The last 200 years teach us that approximately every 56 years great explorations like Lewis and Clark splash into history along with stunning macro-engineering projects (MEPs) like the Suez Canal. Tragically, they are usually followed shortly by a major war like World War I.

Most of this twice-per-century action occurs in the decade just before a peak in the well-documented 56 year energy cycle. These Maslow Windows are invariably the time of exceptional economic booms that create widespread affluence and elevate society to higher realms of Maslow’s Heirarchy. Thus many people momentarily find great explorations and MEPs not only tolerable, but almost irresistible.

Our time is coming. We’re rapidly approaching the opening of the next Maslow Window near 2015, and can expect the usual unfortunate escalation of international tensions of the type we saw in the 1950s during the Cold War.

Unfortunately the current parallel with the 1950s is striking. The Wall Street Journal (8/12/08) suggests that Russian tanks in Georgia revealed “Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions”: to dominate Eurasia again. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that “Georgia can be rebuilt. Russia’s reputation is going to take a while, if ever,” (CBS TV, 8/17/08). Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst with Stratfor, which Barron’s once referred to as “the shadow CIA,” suggests that, “Russia is attempting to reforge its Cold War-era influence…”

One attractive Russian target is Cuba. Since space centers are the rage around the globe these days, Russia’s offered to build them one (Reuters, 9/17/08). Of course this would just involve little things like joint use of “space equipment…and space communications systems.” If this doesn’t remind you of the Cuban missile crisis (1962) during the early Apollo Maslow Window when WW III almost began, you need to Google it. For their part, the Russians openly acknowledge that “they want to renew Cuban ties that were neglected after the Soviet Union’s collapse.”

One of the greatest sources of joy to the American public, as revealed by opinion polls over the decades, is the prospect of true international cooperation in space, especially with the Russians. And now word comes from the recent International Astronautical Congress in Glascow, Scotland that not only the Russians, but the Chinese want to go to Mars… with the U.S.!!

Such a sparkling joint great exploration concept brings to mind the phrase, “Where do I sign?” But students of long-term trends in geopolitics and history must reluctantly advise caution.

Once upon a time, about one energy cycle ago in the 1950s, there was the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an exhuberant time of global scientific devouring of Earth’s atmospheric and space environment. In 1954 the International Council of Scientific Unions announced plans for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY, and in July, 1955 the U.S. confirmed its intention to launch one for the IGY. Almost immediately, according to Professor Asif Siddiqi, the Soviets began a secret, crash program to beat the Americans and launch the first satellite.

The shocking result — at least to the U.S. — was the Soviet launch of Sputnik in October, 1957; an event that ignited the 1st race to space and culminated in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps on the Moon in 1969.

What will ignite the next race to space? One possible, but chilling response comes from Stratfor’s Zeihan, “It’s a fairly straightforward exercise to predict where Russian activity will reach its deepest. One only needs to revisit Cold War history.”

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Oct 02 2008

The Moon is First on NASA's List (Even If Not in Our Hearts)

Space News reports (9/30) that building bases on the Moon followed sometime later by human spaceflight to Mars, is a logical sequence for NASA, according to NASA boss Michael Griffin. Indeed, those advocating near-term human Mars missions may not be “fully cognizant of the difficulties of sending astronauts to Mars.”

To be safe, Griffin recommends that a human mission to Mars should be simulated by a stay at the space station (like interplanetary flight to Mars), and 6 – 9 months on the Moon without resupply (like being on Mars). This strategy’s been supported by the National Academy of Sciences and others in the past. In fact, going back to the Moon might be more fun than it sounds because a recent National Research Council report suggests we know more about the Moon than any extraterrestrial world, but “we have barely begun to solve its countless mysteries.”

Griffin’s strategy is reminiscent of how the Apollo program worked: every key step was rehearsed in a relatively safe environment before men landed on the Moon. For example, Borman’s Apollo 8 crew in December, 1968 was the first to achieve lunar orbit, but it did not simulate a landing. That was reserved for Stafford’s Apollo 10 crew who flew to within 14 km of the surface. And before astronauts flew to the Moon, the rendezvous operations of the Command and Lunar Modules were perfected in Earth orbit on Apollo 7 and 9.

NASA carefully rehearsed each key step before astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969. Click buzz.jpg.

However because of the Soviet-American race to the Moon, not everything was done systematically by the book. For example, George Mueller initially drew the ire of Wernher von Braun by suggesting “all-up” testing of the Saturn launch vehicle to save time.

Great Explorations over the last 200 years offer a unique perspective on the next step into space. The rhythmic, twice-per-century sequence of the hugely popular explorations was: Lewis & Clark/North America, Dr. Livingstone/Equatorial Africa, the Polar Expeditions, and Apollo/Moon. The lesson of the last 200 years is that although all four sites were riveting to the public, their chronological sequence was determined primarily by accessibility of the most interesting, unexplored site given the technology of the time.

So maybe we should bypass the Moon and go directly to Mars — the next logical Great Exploration target — because six Apollo crews already landed on the Moon almost 40 years ago. However, the Moon’s proximity (relative to Mars) and increasing international interests in Moon colonies (and even tourism) suggest the global public may soon be riveted by the spectacle of the irreversible, large-scale expansion of human civilization to the Moon.

But for Mars fans there is one lingering problem. If we take the history of the last 200 years seriously, it’s clear that even Great Explorations have only brief moments in the Sun — generally less than a decade — before ebullience fades, public support declines, and/or a war tragically intervenes. And based on the last 200 years, the next Maslow Window is likely to open near 2015 and close in the mid-2020s, assuming wildcards do not shorten it.

Assuming the U.S. (or someone) is able to return to the Moon by 2020, the bad news is that will leave only a few years at most to develop Mars systems, rehearse the crews, and execute the first human missions to the Red Planet. If we miss this Window the next one opens late in the 21st Century (~ 2071)!

But maybe the Moon will be enough for a while. In 1984, the wonderful German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke — who ironically under NASA EMPIRE contract in 1963 described mid-1970s launch windows for manned Mars as “realistic” — once told me in San Diego that Earth-bound parents would someday love being able to go into their backyards on cool, clear nights and point to the exact spot on the Moon where their children were serving!

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Sep 28 2008

Celebrating the Telescope and Mexican Soap Operas…!

Albert Einstein called him “the father of modern science” for his insistence on the primacy of observation in the scientific method. But according to the Wall Street Journal (8/28/08), some others — i.e., Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture — claim his controversial story is “like a Mexican soap opera; it never ends.”

Indeed, in today’s world, when someone says “What goes around comes around,” they’re not usually referring to Earth’s orbit around the Sun — a major interest of Galileo’s — but they could be alluding to Galileo’s continuing, 400+ years of turmoil with the church.

Galileo’s troubles with the Roman Catholic church began in 1632 when he published his powerful defense of Copernicus’ helocentric theory based on solid telescopic evidence. Apparently, the 17th century church had already endorsed the dictum of a well-known Fox News commentator — “The spin stops here!” — because they summarily dismissed Galileo’s advocacy of a circling Earth as “absurd, false, and altogether contrary to scripture.” Plus Galileo was given an indefinite prison sentence.

Click galileoimage.jpg.

However, things began to cool off in the early 18th century when the church allowed some of Galileo’s writings to be published. In 1835 it endorsed discussion of the Sun-centered model by removing all heliocentric publications from the list of banned books. More recently in 1992, after a 12 year study of the Vatican’s secret archives, Pope John Paul II publicly expressed regret at Galileo’s conviction and treatment.

As part of next year’s celebration of the first use of a telescope to study the sky (by Galileo), the Vatican received an offer from an anonymous donor to fund a statue of Galileo in the Vatican. Nuclear physicist Nicola Cabibbo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences remarked that “The Church wants to close the Galileo affair and reach a definitive understanding not only of his great legacy but also of the relationship between science and faith,” (Times Online, 3/4/08).

In fact, Galileo has become not only the Inquisition’s most illustrious heretic but also a global icon of an apparent church/science conflict. This time the Catholic Church wants to be on the right side of history, including being officially open to the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrials as well as supporting the research of professional astronomers at the Vatican Observatory.

Galileo not only laid the foundation for modern science, but by being the first to use the telescope to study mountains and valleys on the Moon as well as the Sun and other planets, he pointed humanity toward its ultimate destiny in the Galaxy: space colonization. As we approach a time of accelerating global space activities — i.e., the 2015 Maslow Window — more people are coming to appreciate the monumental contributions of Galileo to the human future in space.

For example, young people fresh from a study of Galileo’s troubles with the church and infused with an exhilarating sense of humanity’s near-term potential for space colonization, sometimes react with anger as they unintentionally judge Galileo and the church by 21st Century cultural standards. This partially explains students at Rome’s La Sapienza Univ who rejected a visit by Pope Benedict XVI last January, because of his 1990 lecture that some interpreted as a defense of the Church’s conviction of Galileo.

But we can take some consolation in the fact that, unlike some others, Galileo was not burned or beheaded, but lived his life in comfort under house arrest. Let’s hope the anonymous donor comes through with the money and the Vatican can find a suitable place for a statue of “the father of modern science.”

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