Archive for the 'Wave Guide 5: International Space' Category

Apr 15 2011

Yuri Gargarin and the Coming Golden Age of Commercial Space

Congratulations to Yuri Gargarin’s family and friends, and the Russians for their magnificent achievement on April 12, 1961, when Gargarin (1934 -1968) became the first human to venture beyond Earth’s armosphere into outer space.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin was the first human to go into space, and so began the Modern Age in the early 1960s.

It’s hard to overstate its significance. The Wall Street Journal (4/12/11) called it

the start of the modern age … that astonished the world.

In the framework of, this transformative event is a spectacular slam dunk: It kicked off the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window in grand style. Indeed, its singular importance and precise timing was one of the key factors that initially suggested to us the existence of Maslow Windows.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window — by analogy with Gargarin’s start of the “Modern Age” almost one long wave ago, and similar rhythmic, twice-per-century epochal events over the last 200+ years — we expect to enter a new Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology at least comparable to the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

In addition to a Grand Alliance for Space , the new Space Age may also feature a commercial race to space!

For example, Clara Moskowitz (, 4/11/11) suggests that space tourism may be the ticket.

Fifty years after the Soviet Union beat the United States to send the first human into space, a new space race is heating up. This time, the players are not nations — rather, they’re commercial companies that aim to send the first paying passengers to space on private spaceships.

In an impressive demonstration of early ebullience, George Whitesides of British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic , agrees that we’re approaching a new Golden Age.

I really believe that we’re at the edge of an extraordinary period of innovation which will radically change our world.

For $200 K per person you can join over 400 others who have reserved their suborbital adventure into space (about 100 km up). Virgin Galactic says regular tourist launches will begin in 2012; Branson and his family intend to be on the first one.

If you’d like a career flying tourists to the edge of space as a Pilot – Astronaut during the new Space Age, Branson is hiring right now.

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Feb 27 2011

Commercialization of the Moon — How Soon and Who?

The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (Vol. 63, No. 2, 2010) highlights a fresh perspective on near-term lunar development. In fact, the authors assert that

Action taken in the next few years can lead to the gradual, steady expansion of commercial, market-based activity on the Moon and in the neighborhood between the Earth and the Moon.

How soon will lunar hotels accommodate serious fun-seekers from Earth?
Click .

Economists Wei Lin (Xiamen Univ., China) and Kruti Dholakia and Euel Elliott (both of UT at Dallas) imagine a bright future for international development of the Moon — potentially including lunar resources, human colonization, space-based solar power, asteroid mining, fusion energy — but wisely counsel that such endeavors,

…require a long-term perspective.

This is good advice, not only because of their multi-century timeline — 2020 to 2150 — estimated from NASA and other sources, but because of predictable long-term economic trends as well as wildcards.

For example, they list 2020-2030 as the time when human flights resume to the Moon and scientific explorations expand. But the first permanent lunar base (including first colonization and in situ resource use) dos not occur until after 2030 (-2050).

This creates a potentially serous timing issue because the 2015 Maslow Window is likely to end abuptly by the mid-2020s due to long-term economic and geopolitical forces. The last time this happened was in the late 1960s when 3 Apollo Moon missions were canceled by President Nixon in response to

…budget exigencies during a time of rising domestic turmoil over the Vietnam War…

Unfortunately, over the last 200+ years (back to Lewis and Clark), this is the typical pattern for termination of an Apollo-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology: a rapid economic downturn accompanied by a major, international war.

Every effort should be made to accelerate initial colonization activities on the Moon. Because unless a human outpost can be established in deep space (i.e., a Moonbase or Mars system colony) by the early-to-mid 2020s, we risk being trapped in LEO for several decades after 2025, like we have been since 1972.

Citing the International Space Station as an admirable model for international cooperation in space, and the continuing effects of the 2008-10 financial crisis, the authors suggest that,

Rising powers like China and India are seemingly well placed to assume a more prominent role given their growth rates and their ability to weather the economic crisis compared to the West.

For example, China is apparently moving ahead with landing humans on the Moon by the early 2020s. And while the authors neglect the stunning global boom expected near 2015, they do suggest an intriguing “paradigm shift” regarding the increasing fraction of commercial versus government (as during the 1960s Cold War) activities in 21st century space.

Whether our next “Sputnik Moment” will be triggered by expanding international commercial activities in space rather than a 1960s-stye geopolitical compettion acted out in space, is not clear. But it will likely begin with smaller Sputnik Moments in education, international economics, and in military technology that are already taking shape.

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Feb 20 2011

Stratfor’s George Friedman Likes Space-Based Solar Power in “The Next Decade”

I greatly enjoyed George Friedman’s new book, The Next Decade (2011). A New York Times best seller, it’s sort of a more focused, near-term sequel to his blockbluster, The Next 100 Years (2009).

Satellites that collect solar energy in space and beam it to Earth should begin to impact our growing energy use by 2015.

Friedman’s section on technology and demographics is both simple and powerful, and reflects basic principles regarding economic cycles and prosperity that also guide us here at

…economic expansion and contraction are driven … at a deeper level … by demographic forces and by technological innovation.

The challenge for the next decade will be that “breakthrough technologies” — the ones that stimulate prosperity by meeting key societal needs — will be in short supply.

Friedman blames the financial Panic of 2008 and the great recession of 2008-10 for reducing investment in new technologies and making people unusually risk-adverse. Plus a major engine of technological development — military needs during major wars — has not been activated by the pre-Maslow conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friedman forecasts that financial stresses will subside after 2015 (as the next Maslow Window opens) but,

Given the lead time in technological development, the next generation of notable technological breakthroughs won’t emerge until the 2020s.

While Friedman’s picture is reasonable, it’s likely he underestimates the Great Boom of 2015 that’s expected to trigger a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology comparable to the Kennedy Boom of the 1960s. The reason is we haven’t seen a financial Panic/Great Recesson sequence like our current one in over 100 years!

Back then it began with the Panic of 1893 and the Great 1890s Recession. They were followed in 1899 by one of the most spectacular recoveries and ebullient decades (i.e., the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window) in the history of the U.S..
Please see (especially Fig. 4): “The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.”

Because of the close connection of energy availability with economic growth, and the fact that most increases in energy use have come from developing countries, the question of what will power technological innovation in the next decade assumes center stage.

Increased oil use will not be able to meet global energy demands of the next decade, and Friedman concludes that the only viable choices are coal and natural gas. And while the U.S. has large domestic supplies of both, the trick is…

The president must choose the balance between the two available fossil fuels, coal and gas. Then he must tell the people that these are the only choices. If he fails to persuade the public of this, there will not be energy for the technologies that will emerge in the next decade.

One of these new technologies is space-based solar power. Friedman believes that energy needs in the future will be driven by desalination of ocean water associated with increases in global standards of living and growing industrialization, and the best long-term solution is collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth.

Progress is occurring. For example, a Southern California company, Solaren Corp. has contracted with Pacific Gas & Electric to sell it 200 megawatts of power per year starting in 2016 (Wall Street Journal, 9/27/10), after testing systems in space during 2014. While the Switzerland-based Space Energy Group’s business plan features a solar satellite in orbit in 3 years. And in 2009, Japan announced a new $ 21 B space solar power initiative.

However, Friedman warns that the U.S. government is currently funding worthy research into key technologies for cures of degenerative diseases and for robotics,

But the fundamental problem, energy, has not had its due.

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Jan 09 2011

Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam recently asked, “How about a Moon base?” (Wall Street Journal, 12/14/10).

In 1984, the great NASA Administrator during the first human missions to the Moon (1968-70), Tom Paine (left, w Pres. Nixon) said “The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.” Was he right? Is the Moon a One Hit Wonder?

The author of Rocket Boys (1998) and Back to the Moon (1999), Hickam feels that currently, NASA is up to … “Not much.” Because last year Obama sent

Mr. Bolden, the ex-astronaut, to Capitol Hill with a plan to cancel every one of NASA’s astronaut-related programs.

Hickham likes the Moon for all the usual reasons.

It’s close, it’s loaded with resources, and we can get there with existing technology.

Why not build a 21st century Moon base …

like the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Station, and invite the world to join us.

We’ll give our technological prestige a sorely needed boost, and something else will also happen: New and wondrous products based on NASA requirements for metallurgy, composite materials, solar arrays, computers and batteries will boost our economy, just as the technologies of the Apollo mission did.

Oh by the way, it won’t cost “vast amounts of money.”

Can you feel it?
That’s what we call ebullience” — the key driver of great explorations like Apollo, and macro engineering projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal.

And Mr. Hickham, not surprisingly, has identified himself as among the elite early ebullients in the world today. We call them “early ebullients” because they are anticipating a trend that will sweep the world around 2015 — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — much like Apollo captured global headlines in the 1960s.

As an ebullience junkie myself, I personally find Hickam’s enhtusiastic Moon base idea almost irresistible. It’s spirit reminds me of the 1990 plan of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, “The Great Exploration Plan for the Human Exploration Initiative,” by three sensational physicists: Rod Hyde, Yuki Ishikawa, and Lowell Wood.

Speed was essential; the whole permanent base would take less than a decade to create, with its first inflatable hab modules in place on the Moon by 1997.

You’ve got to love their ebullient theme (circa 1990): “We already have in hand what we need for the Great Exploration of the inner solar system.” And the controversial cost estimate was great too — only $ 11 B — that’s less than $ 20 B in 2009 USD, compared to about $ 150+ B (2009 USD) for the entire Apollo program.

So simple, inexpensive starter-homes on the Moon are possible today. But the real question is: Will the American people get as excited about it as Homer and I are — or was Tom Paine correct?

This is where the long-term, empirical approach of can provide unique insights.

How Maslow Windows Work
Over the last 200+ years Americans and many others have gone exploring whenever they could afford it. These transformative, great explorations — always accompanied by MEPs and sadly punctuated by a major war — have clustered exclusively around rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms, such as the Kennedy Boom in the 1960s.

During the major booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many to higher levels in the Maslow hierarchy. Their momentarily expanded worldviews — due to elevated Maslow states — make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. Trends associated with these “Maslow Windows” provide insights to our future.

The chronology of great explorations is as follows:
Late 18th/Early 19th Century Maslow Window: Lewis and Clark
Mid-19th Century Maslow Window: Dr. Livingstone (equatorial Africa)
Early 20th Century Maslow Window: N and S Polar Expeditions
1960s Maslow Window: Apollo Moon missions

It’s clear that great explorations of new, interesting geographical sites progress from more-to-less accessible regions, consistent with the technologies of the times. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt could not outfit Adm. Peary to explore the Moon, but he did encourage him to reach the North Pole. And John F. Kennedy chose to go to the Moon — rather than Mars — because he thought it would be a challenging, yet doable global demonstration of America’s technology and economic system.

Where Will the Next Great Exploration Be?
A reasonable forecast for the next great human exploration during the 2015 Maslow Window would be Mars colonization. No one’s ever been there and it’s the next accessible (beyond the Moon) new site of interest. Plus it’s the most Earth-like world.

But suppost Mars colonization does not begin after 2015? What then?

Over the last 200+ years each Maslow Window has featured a “great exploration.” If the 2015 Maslow Window doesn’t have one it would be the first time in over 200 years that’s happened.

What about the Moon? We know it has major commercial and scientific potential, but could the Moon again have the power to rivet the attention of the global public like Apollo, the polar expeditions, Dr. Livingstone, and Lewis and Clark did generations before? Will the public see the Moon as an Earth-style “golden oldie” (i.e., a pleasant memory) with real potential for more excitement, or a “one hit wonder.”

Does the Moon Have the Right Stuff?
As we saw above, over the last 200+ years the great explorations on Earth opened up spectacular new geographic vistas through a succession of quantum leaps from Lewis and Clark to (ultimately) the polar regions. And like the Earth, the Moon has many tantalizing surface locations awaiting intrepid human explorers.

But here are 3 reasons why the Moon may become a “one hit wonder” and prove Tom Paine’s forecast correct.
1) The Moon is subtle. The Moon is a small, airless, dry (at least on the surface!), impact crater-dominated world with a month-long day-night cycle. It’s omnipresent shades-of-gray color scheme completes its alien, repetitive presentation, at least to public eyes.
2) Space technology and the “Been there, done that” Syndrome. Since the 1960s the Moon has been studied in surprising detail with satellite technology, and we have a fair idea of what’s there — at least on and near the surface. So relative to pre-1960s Earth — when many regions were truly unknown — robotic and human exploration of the Moon has accelerated our understanding such that it may not provide another riveting, Apollo-style transformative milestone for public enjoyment.
3) Apollo 11 was a hit. During the 1960s Apollo program the Moon was a One Hit Wonder. Although the first humans on the Moon (Apollo 11) made a big splash globally — as did Apollo 13 because lives were threatened — subsequent Apollo landings featuring spectacular geologic sites were greeted by an increasingly distracted public.

On the other hand, here are 3 reasons why the Moon might again acquire the wonder and excitement required for a great human exploration.
1) Star Trek — The Next Generation. A new generation of young people, who are unaware of Dr. Paine and did not personally witness Apollo, are increasingly excited about exploring and developing the Moon.
2) ISS and Interspace:. Many of these folks are in countries (like China and India) with growing space programs and dynamic economies. International cooperation and competition — based on the International Space Station model — may focus attention on lunar exploration starting from an Antarctica-style base like that advocated by Hickham.
3) “Potential for cultural shock and social disorientation…”. According to Dr. Heywood Floyd at the American lunar base in Clavius (“2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968), describing the alien monolith recently excavated on the Moon. Anything even remotely like this and you know the answer.
Click 2001’s Monolith on the Moon

The Tentative Bottom Line
Based on its questionable ability to motivate, Apollo-style the new Space Age, the Moon is probably a One Hit Wonder, although it will become much more than just a Golden Oldie (a pleasant memory). Indeed, the Moon is a scientific bonanza and has long-term potential for multiple MEPs supporting its future role as a major commercial, energy, and tourist center.

But barring some civilization-altering discovery on the Moon, the next great exploration will likely be in the Mars system.

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

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Dec 13 2010

China’s Recent Educational Quantum Leap Triggers a “Sputnik Moment”

All this talk about “Sputnik Moments” may seem very historical — in the most obscure sense of the word — to Millennials and others who didn’t actually live it.

For example, even Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein recently criticized Obama’s insightful allusion to Sputnik by claiming that…

Most people under 40 have no idea what Sputnik is. It’s an un-innovative way to talk about innovation.

Fifty-three years ago the surprise Soviet launch of “one small ball” became the “shock of the century” and instantly transformed U.S. education.

Some historical perspective on Sputnik is sketched HERE, but before we focus on that, let’s describe China’s great accomplishment. Almost exactly one long wave after Sputnik, according to Chester Finn of Stanford’s Hoover Institution (Wall Street Journal, 12/8/10),

China has delivered another shock. On math, reading, and science tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries last year, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects.

The United States was once again in “the middle of the pack.”

It’s hard to imagine how distraught Americans were about Sputnik in 1957, but as I wrote 2 years ago in Math and Science Education Perspectives,

Only 10 days after Sputnik the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts!

It’s a key forecast of that major elements of this Sputnik-related history are likely to repeat.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, legitimate public concerns about the state of education will skyrocket because of anxiety over America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world in space and technology. And it’s already begun.

See #3 in: “DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020”.”

Finn doesn’t see this quantum leap in China’s educational performance as a fluke at all. Indeed, he feels China will be able to replicate it with “10 cities in 2019 and 50 in 2050. Or maybe faster.”

China has delivered a Sputnik-style wake-up call to “those who think American schools are globally competitive.”

We must face the fact that China is bent on surpassing us, and everyone else, in education.

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Dec 07 2010

President Obama Scores Big Today with “that Sputnik moment.”

Does President Obama read 21stCenturyWaves? Should we appoint him as an Honorary Contributing Editor?

Well, based on his major theme today — encouraging Americans toward a new “Sputnik moment” — at the North Carolina Research Triangle, it’s possible.

He did make one good speech but sadly Obama’s been a negative influence on space… Click HERE.

Today President Obama used the lessons of Sputnik to point to the 2015 Maslow Window.

Referring to the surprise Soviet launch in 1957 of Sputnik — the first artificial Earth satellite — that shocked the world and triggered the 1960s Space Age, Mr. Obama asserted

That was a wakeup call. Once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets — we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs.

Although the President apparently gets it, (12/6/10) is lost…

President Obama is trying to inspire America’s next technological wave by referring back to a 50-year-old achievement by a defunct nation — Sputnik.

Even some Democrats shun Sputnik. According to Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein,

“Most people under 40 have no idea what Sputnik is,” Gerstein said. “It’s an un-innovative way to talk about innovation.

Maybe to some short-term thinkers, it seems unstylish, old, and defunct, and maybe the internet and Facebook have more contemporary sex appeal … but Sputnik is the key to understanding our future.

Sputnik opened the last truly transformative decade. For the first time in human history a man left the Earth and walked on another world. The stunning virtues of democracy and free markets were demonstrated and became clear to all. The Kennedy Boom — up to that time the greatest economic expansion in history — “lifted all boats” and triggered JFK’s Camelot zeitgeist.

According to the editors of the academic journal, The Sixties,

No recent decade has been so powerfully transformative in much of the world as have the Sixties.” (The 1960s decade) has become plainly iconic … It continues to not only define us but remains urgently with us.

So Obama was right to appeal to Sputnik’s compelling symbolism.

Maybe more right than he realizes, because while Sputnik opened the last truly transformative decade, it wasn’t the first, by any means.

Every 55-60 years — over the last 200+ years — there is a Sputnik/Apollo/JFK-style decade, featuring extraordinary clusters of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and sadly, major wars (World War I).

These “Maslow Windows” are driven by major economic booms associated with a long business cycle discovered in 1989 that’s documented back almost 200 years, and is correlated with the Strauss and Howe generational cycles. In response to increasing affluence, many ebulliently ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

Long wave timing points to 2015 for the next 1960s-style Maslow Window, a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

But there is one key difference between Sputnik and today.

Republican strategist Pete Snyder points out that — in contrast to the prosperous post-WW II expansion and the 1960s Kennedy Boom — the financial Panic of 2008 and overwhelming security threats have definitely gotten everyone’s attention in recent years. In response to Obama, he asks

We need something else to wake us up?

While Snyder’s facts are correct, he exposes not a weakness in Obama’s call-to-action, but an amazing strength.

The Panic of 2008 signaled a return to a familiar, multi-century pattern: financial panic/great recession pairs that — within 6 to 8 years — lead to a great economic boom which ignites the next Maslow Window.

Based on macroeconomic patterns of the last 200+ years and current global trends, this is how Obama’s message of today will likely materialize by 2015.

** Special Thanks to Contributing Editor Olivia Wolfe who suggested this topic. **

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Nov 28 2010

Harvard’s Joseph Nye sees U.S. “unlikely…(to) be surpassed…” Well Positioned for the 21st Century

With a global recession, the continuing threat of global terror, and a polarized political season, it’s easy for Americans to assume problems are many and solutions are few. And for some, this brings into focus the question of American decline.

However, in a special edition of Foreign Affairs (November, December, 2010) on “The World Ahead”, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. of Harvard takes a longer-term and broader perspective than most “declinists” and concludes that America is well-positioned to succeed in the 21st century.

Will the spectacular foreign policy and technological success of the International Space Station inspire the United States, and other global leaders, to pursue a united, global approach to human settlement of the solar system?

Nye’s approach is broadly consistent with’s view that current trends favor America as a key leader in the new (post-2015) global Space Age over the next 20+ years, and beyond.

America’s Future Decline Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
Nye disposes of alleged parallels between the United Kingdom’s decline and the U.S., and notes that, despite its global empire and naval supremacy, by World War I the UK was not the global leader in GDP or military spending.

He suggests that belief in U.S. decline is psychological and not unusual in history. For example, Charles Dickens once observed that

If its individual citizens are to be believed, (the U.S.) always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise.

Nye mentions that belief in America’s decline rose after Russia launched Sputnik in 1957. This was the seminal, Cold War event that launched the first Space Age and triggered the extraordinary, Camelot-style Apollo Maslow Window .

China’s Future Ascent Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
Although Goldman Sachs projects that China’s GDP will surpass America’s in 2027, Nye points out that, even if true, China will lag in GDP per capita long after 2030.

A complicating factor is that macroeconomic trends over the last 200+ years indicate that the 2015 Maslow Window should close by 2025 (if not before) and that by 2027, economies may experience severe long wave-related downturns similar to 1973.

In the coming decades, not only will China feel a competition from Japan and India — both with good U.S. relations — but, according to Nye,

Whether China can develop a formula that manages an expanding urban middle class, regional inequality, rural poverty, and resentment among ethnic minorities remains to be seen.

Indeed, Stratfor continues to forecast that by 2015 China will experience a major Japan-style economic collapse.

In any case, a weakened China would not be a positive development either on Earth or in space, as I indicated in a 2008 post: “10 Reasons Why China is Good for Space”.”

American Demographic Decline and Economic Stagnation?
Unlike China and most of the developed countries of the world who’s populations are seriously aging, America’s history of immigration is the key. According to Nye …

With its current levels of immigration, the United States is one of the few developed countries that may avoid demographic decline and keep its share of world population…

Indeed, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew believes it’s “Sinocentric culture” will make China less competitive and unable to surpass the U.S. in the 21st century, because the U.S. can

attract the best and brightest from the rest of the world and meld them into a diverse culture of creativity.

This is underlined by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor who’s 2009 survey ranked the U.S. #1 in opportunities for entrepreneurship because of its

favorable business culture, the most mature venture capital industry, close relations between universities and industry, and an open immigration policy.

However, a stagnating U.S. economy would be a “showstopper” according to Nye.

Identified recently by both the current U.S. Secretary of State and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a threat to U.S. national security, the growing U.S. national debt will reach 100% of GDP by 2023 — a particularly vulnerable time near the expected end of the 2015 Maslow Window. Plus, as debt-to-GDP ratios grow, so do interest rates which limit private investment and slow economic growth.

To cure the debt, Nye recommends “spending cuts and consumption taxes that would pay for entitlements” post-recession. In fact, both long- and short-term trends in a variety of sectors point to a major economic boom by 2015.

National Power is “Like Calories in a Diet…”
More is not always better.”

The United States’ power is not what it used to be, but it also never really was as great as assumed.

Nye cites post-WW II when the U.S. was the dominant economic and military superpower in the world but could not stop the “loss” of China, or “roll back” Communism in Eastern Europe, etc. etc…

This is important because mistaken beliefs about national decline and/or power, “can lead to dangerous mistakes in policy”.

Historically, American power is based on “alliances rather than colonies.” Therefore, in the 21st century…

The United States is well placed to benefit from such networks and alliances, if it follows smart strategies.

A good example is the international, technological marvel known as the International Space Station. With a little luck, ISS could inspire a truly global 21st century approach to human settlement of the solar system.

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Oct 27 2010

The Kwisatz Haderach of Mars

Much like the final scene in the cult favorite Dune (1984) where Paul becomes the Kwisatz Haderach by spectacularly making torrential rain and oceans appear on the desert planet, something similar is happening now with Mars. For the first time, the ancient Martian ocean is being directly revealed.

If you want to go deep on Mars, you go to Leighton crater’s central peak; it shows “one of the best exposures of deep crust seen on Mars.”
(Courtesy the University of Arizona)

Two planetary scientists — Joseph Michalski (Planetary Science Institute, Tucson and Université Paris Sud, France) and Paul Niles (NASA Johnson Space Center) — recently reported (Nature Geoscience, 10/10/10) strong evidence in the form of carbonate rocks and hydrated silicates conveniently excavated by an ancient asteroid impact.

Once upon a time Mars may have had a major liquid water ocean covering a large fraction of its surface. “Oceanus Borealis” could have filled most of the northern hemisphere basin which is 4-5 km below the mean surface level on Mars. Popular proposals for a Martian ocean go back to the early 1990s and are based on geological evidence for shorelines and abundant steam channels, plus evidence for a warmer, more Earth-like Martian climate almost 4 billion years ago.

Key macroeconomic indicators and global trends — both recent and over the last 200 years — point to a new international Space Age igniting by 2015. As the real, science-based Kwisatz Haderaches reveal growing evidence for Mars having an early major ocean, a thick atmosphere, and even habitable environments, Mars may become viewed gobally as Earth II. It will likely become the prime target for a number of major international exploration initiatives as humans surge into the cosmos.

But the major question has always been: Where are the carbonates? A water ocean would have absorbed CO2 from Mars’ atmosphere and precipitated it in the form of carbonate rocks on the ocean bottom.

As the greenhouse weakened and temperatures plummeted on Mars, its oceans froze and were eventually covered by wind-blown dust, volcanic eruptions, and impact ejecta.

However, the carbonates should still exist in some form at depth. And this is why the Michalski/Niles discovery is so important.

Leighton, a 60 km-wide crater on the western flanks of Syrtis Major volcano, presents a plethora of clues for the interplanetary sleuth. When the ancient impact occurred, the deepest rocks exhumed were exposed at the central peak, and based on terrestrial crater analogs, this bedrock was uplifted about 6 km.

New spectral evidence reveals the central peak material consists of carbonates, clays (kaolinites) and hydrated ferromagnesian silicates. The carbonates are identified by specific spectral fingerprints between 2.35 and 3.9 micrometers, and suggest the presence of calcite or siderite.

Michalski/Niles’ preferred model features carbonate sediments – presumably formed in an ancient ocean underlying a thick CO2 atmosphere – and other local materials that are buried and altered by lavas from Syrtis Major, and eventually by hydrothermal circulations…

Heat from the overlying lavas and/or magmatic sources below would have caused liberation of fluids from … hydrated phases, as well as aqueous CO2 from the carbonates.

This cocktail can produce significant methane and is the probable source for telescopically observed CH4 above Syrtis Major. Although their model provides no direct evidence for Martian life, Michalski/Niles speculate that the hydrothermal hotspots are “a high-priority site for future
exobiological exploration.”

The probable existence of ancient hydrothermal systems on Mars brings to mind an early assessment of Mars’ natural resource potential (i.e., ore bodies) that I presented at the 2nd Case for Mars Conference in July, 1984 at CU in Boulder. I identified several possible mechanisms and regions on Mars that might be capable of mineralization, and concluded that…

Nothing we know about the physics and chemistry of mineralization, ore body tectonics, or the geology of Mars precludes the existence of significant ore bodies on Mars …

Terrestrial hydrothermal, dry-magma, and sedimentary mineral concentration processes have been identified which may have operated on Mars. In particular, mineral-rich Africa seems to share many volcanic and tectonic characteristics with portions of Mars and may be suggestive of the potential mineral wealth of Mars …

Assuming that ground ice is, and has been, widespread, and that magma bodies have produced hydrothermal solutions often during the history of Mars, the Martian mining economy should be booming by the middle of the 21st century.

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Sep 08 2010

Bruce’s Commentary is in Space News this Week

My Commentary, “Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China” appears in Space News this week (9/6/10). (See also The Articles.)

This piece follows-up on my decade space forecast of 6 months ago. I suggested that Russia and China may decide to expand their Phobos-Grunt experience (assuming it’s successful) into a joint manned Mars exploration initiative after 2015 focused initially on Phobos.

A few of my friends in the space business have interpreted this as a suggestion that we should bypass the Moon and head to Mars.

Two things: 1) I have always been very excited about the potential for expanding human civilization to Mars, but 2) my Space News piece does not advocate skipping the Moon.

The Moon is so close and has so much scientific, resource, and commercial potential that humans will want to develop it, near-term. But the smart road to Mars colonization does go through Phobos. And as the new International Space Age gains momentum after 2015, we may ebulliently decide to do both.

Thanks to Warren Ferster, Editor in Chief of Space News, for his interest in the Commentary, and also to Todd Windsor, Copy Chief of SN, for the cool look he gave it.

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Aug 29 2010

State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom

Economic news — e.g., unemployment, economic growth, housing — suggests the hoped-for U.S. recovery has stalled. A couple of weeks ago the New York Times (8/15/10; J. Sommer) openly speculated about the possibility of “double-dip” recession.

Is this the growing spirit of the Great Boom of 2015?
Click (AP) .

Are we headed toward a Double-Dip recession?
The Huffington Post (8/16/10) reports that Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics and New York University, indicated that the “Risk of a double dip recession in advanced economies (US, Japan, Eurozone) has now risen to 40%.” And both David Rosenberg (the Gluskin Sheff economist) and Yale’s Robert Shiller (co-author of Animal Spirits) agree that the odds of a double dip recession in the U.S. are “higher than 50-50.” They both blame the problem on “jobs.”

Economists are concerned by the unexpected recent decline in U.S. GDP; for example, Q4 2009: 5.6%; Q1 2010: 3.7%; and Q2 2010: 1.6%. David Rosenberg predicts that the U.S. GDP for Q3 2010 “will be negative … and that the recession never ended.”

… Or a Japan-style “lost decade”?
Others even suggest we may be heading for a Japan-style “lost economic decade.” Michael Darda of MKM Partners (Wall Street Journal, 8/13/10) cautions that “These concerns are not without merit.” But he suggests that,

There are key differences between where we are now and where Japan was … (that) make it less likely that we’ll succumb to a deflationary double-dip recession or a lost decade.

To help reduce uncertainty and revitalize the economy, Darda recommends that we create fiscal policies that are “sustainable, pro-growth,” and that increasing marginal tax rates would negatively affect productivity and government revenues. In general, according to a WSJ editorial (8/17/10),

The way to avoid Japan’s fate is to avoid the same policy mistakes, which means returning to the policies of the 1980s that revived the U.S. after the last Great Recession.

What about the end of American optimism and the “new normal”?
Although we should remind ourselves that we’re immersed in a major political season, some commentators do insist that our economic challenges are indicative of what the future holds for the world and U.S.: “the new normal.” U.S. News & World Report editor in chief Mortimer Zuckerman (WSJ, 8/16/10) asks,

What was thought to be normal in the context of post-World War II recoveries? One is that four quarters into the recovery, real GDP would expand at an annual rate over 6%.

Recall that U.S. GDP for Q2 2010 was just 1.6%.

Zuckerman points out that we’ve spent trillions of dollars on stimulus and bailout packages and yet nothing is working “normally.” Then Zuckerman wisely illuminates the issue by asking this long-term question:

Are we at the end of the post World War II period of growth?

The answer is: Yes, but we are about to enter into a new 1960’s, Camelot-style decade — a Maslow Window — where growth and prosperity will exceed even JFK’s Boom. These transformative, twice-per-century decades feature very rapid, but sustained economic growth and are punctuated by great explorations (e.g., Lewis & Clark), huge technology projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and sadly even major wars (e.g., W W I). The next golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology should arrive by 2015.

What will trigger the Great Boom of 2015?
Every Maslow Window back to Jefferson and Lewis & Clark — including the 1960s Apollo Moon decade — features the rapid ascent of many in society to elevated levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy (expanding their world-views) due to affluence-induced ebullience generated by an exceptional boom. Indeed, according to this theory, without the Boom of 2015 there will be no widespread ebullience and hence no Maslow Window.

Here are a few scenarios that could be a bridge from where we are to the next Boom by 2015:

a) The Milken Institute Ramp-Up Scenario:
According to Ross DeVol (WSJ, 8/25/10) gloom and doom can be economically devastating.

There’s a point at which pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, scaring business away from investing or hiring. The dark tone of today’s discourse is at risk of doing just that.

Milken’s report on …America’s Return to Growth, based on extensive econometric analysis, features “measured optimism” because “A return to modest but sustainable growth is at hand.” They see the U.S. economy aided by rapid growth in Asia, strong investment in equipment and software, and record low interest rates. They reject the “new normal” as a barometer for long-term U.S. growth rates.

According to Milken, the ramp up to the next boom begins with a real plan to reduce the deficit, temporary extensions of the Bush tax cuts, and a more positive attitude toward job-creating businesses.

b) The 2015 Green Boom:
While the Milken ramp-up scenario will begin to restore confidence in the economy and stimulate more businesses to think expansively, TechCast, founded by former George Washington University professor William Halal, is forecasting a huge boom near 2015.

The constant drumbeat of cascading business failures is certainly daunting, but technology forecasts suggest that a green revolution, advanced auto designs, surging e-commerce, and other new business sectors are poised to lead the global economy out of today’s recession, producing a new economic boom at about 2015 … I lead a research team that forecasts the evolution of technology and its massive impacts that are changing the world. We’ve developed an intelligent website ( that pools the knowledge of 100 experts worldwide to forecast breakthroughs in all fields … Our forecasts show that today’s surging interest in green business should take off in four-five years … Entrepreneurs are working on alternative energy sources – wind turbines, biofuels, nuclear plants, and solar cells. This entire “green revolution” is growing 30-50% per year, roughly the same rate of the famous Moore’s Law that drives information technology to double every 2 years … Green technology is roughly a $500 billion market and expected to reach $10 trillion in 2020, larger than autos, health care, and defense.

A boom this size could easily produce the large-scale ebullience that would drive the 2015 Maslow Window, including the development of Space Based Solar Power as the ultimate source for global power.

c) The 2009-2015 Global Infrastructure Boom:
Stanford University, as part of its Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects, sponsored a paper in 2009 by Eric Gerritsen of Global Internet Advisors, on “The Global Infrastructure Boom of 2009-2015: Strategic Economic Consequences for America, China and the Global Economy.”

Gerritsen observes that,

In response to the financial crisis of 2008 governments around the world have pledged to spend trillions of dollars over the next few years on what is loosely called “infrastructure” and what amounts to the biggest global build-out of physical economic assets in the history of man.

This global infrastructure boom will intensively unfold between 2009-2015 and will transform how the world looks, gets educated, moves goods and services, creates wealth, treats the sick, cares for the poor, powers its homes and businesses, and wages war.

The amounts of infrastructure money about to slosh into the world economy defy imagination: The Obama Administration will spend $150 billion of its $787 billion stimulus plan on infrastructure and is expected to add to that; China has pledged $585 billion and stands ready to do more; India is expected to spend $500 billion on infrastructure over from now till 2015; the EU $252 billion; Japan $129 billion; Canada $12 billion; Australia $4.7 billion, Singapore $13.8 billion; Germany $42 billion; and so on.

Gerritsen asserts that, during the next 5 years, the global infrastructure boom will have significant global economic, political, and technology impacts, and that it will likely drive “economic system convergence.” How this will play out for the relative positions of the states involved is anyone’s guess at this point. But it does provide a positive framework for the development of large-scale infrastructure (e.g., space based solar power) in space, as the 2015 Maslow Window swings open.

d) The New International Space Age:
Both long-term (e.g., 200 year long wave timing) and near-term (e.g., the Panic of 2008) indicators point to a new Maslow Window opening near 2015 that will feature the new international Space Age. Please search the last 2+ years of this weblog for the details, but the signals continue to appear.

For example, Putin announced this weekend that Russia will launch its manned space missions from a new space center 3600 miles east of Moscow, starting in 2018. In a display of Maslow-style ebullience and national pride, he called the construction “one of the biggest and ambitious projects of modern Russia” which “gives opportunity to thousands of young professionals to use their talent.” Recently I have suggested that Russia and China may decide to leverage their joint 2011 robotic mission to Phobos into a major bilateral collaboration for manned Mars colonization sometime after 2015. If taken by surprise, this could propagate Sputnik-like shocks though America’s economic, political, military, and educational institutions.

I’ve pointed out previously that, ironically — based on the last 200 years of macroecnomic patterns and global trends — the Panic of 2008 shows we’re within 3 to 5 years of a major economic boom and a new international Space Age. But the Panic/Recession seems to have triggered a political realignment in the U.S. that led to President Obama’s election and is continuing.

As usual over the last 200 years, this transformative event is announcing the approach of the next golden age starting in 2015, and has many interesting parallels with the Panic of 1893 and the ascendance of the ultra-ebullient Theodore Roosevelt during the Peary/Panama Maslow Window. Like a century ago, our current political realignment is motivated by — not political party or social class — but the return to prosperity. It’s always interesting that prosperity becomes Priority #1 as we approach a new Maslow Window.

The U.S. political realignment seems to be continuing based on the estimated 300,000+ attendees — an “enormous and impassioned crowd” — at yesterday’s spiritual rally in Washington, D.C., as suggested by today’s New York Times front page photo (8/29/10).

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