Jun 18 2015

Bruce Returns to The Space Show Friday June 19

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It’s a pleasure to announce that I’m returning to The Space Show, hosted by Dr. David Livingston on Friday, June 19, 2015 at 9:30 am PDT.

On Friday we’ll explore the increasingly compelling evidence that we’re rapidly approaching a new, international renaissance in space. Long-term trends, as well as current directions in international space activities, macroeconomics, and geopolitics, point toward a new, international, Apollo-level space age that’s right around the corner.

We’re currently experiencing the often disorienting economic and global challenges of a 1960s-style “critical state” that previously stimulated President John F. Kennedy to give birth to the 1st human spaceflight to the Moon. All indicators suggest another transformative JFK-style decade with unprecedented activities in space and on Earth is in our near-term future.

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Dec 06 2014

Bruce returns to The Space Show, Sunday 12/7

Happy to announce that I’m returning to The Space Show, hosted by Dr. David Livingston on Sunday, December 7, 2014 from Noon to 1:30 pm PST.

We’ll be exploring the status and future of Human Spaceflight in the world, the U.S., and at the University of Southern California, where I teach a graduate astronautical engineering course of the same name.

Ironically, our slow but accelerating recovery and global challenges indicate that our multi-century “ducks” — technology, economic, geopolitical — are nearly in a row, signaling the rapid approach of a new 1960s-style “critical state,” like that which triggered the Apollo Moon program and changed the world during the first Space Age.

Activated by the Maslow Effect, global trends and stunning milestones suggest we can expect even bigger and better things soon…

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Aug 04 2014

Time’s “Cold War II” Cover Suggests a New 1960s-style “Critical State”

The Cold War of the 1960s between Russia (i.e. the Soviet Union) and the U.S. was a time of major geopolitical stress (e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost led to a nuclear war) and rapid economic expansion in the West (e.g., the JFK Boom, which resulted in the greatest prosperity up to that time) — that triggered the Moon Race and the first Space Age.

According to Time magazine’s August 4, 2014 cover, “Cold War II — The West is Losing Putin’s Dangerous Game.”

Although this is hardly a new idea — e.g., 6 years ago there were serious concerns about a new Cold War — the fact that a publication like Time is featuring it now means that nearly everyone is finally getting it.

Recently on CNN Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein confirmed her belief that current U.S.-Russia relations are “at Cold War levels.” And at a July meeting in Aspen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey compared Putin’s actions in Ukraine to Stalin’s invasion of Poland in 1939, just before World War II.

Also interesting is the Wall Street Journal’s recent (7/14/14) front page recognition of “An arc of instability unseen since the ’70s,”

A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe, from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South China Sea … reflecting a world in which U.S. global power seems increasingly tenuous. The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say…

As I indicated earlier this year in “10 Space Trends for 2014,” and this summer at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles (ISDC, 2014), the key point is that geopolitical stress is surging to levels not seen for decades.

This signals that a 1960s-style “critical state” is imminent.

As the complex international system self-organizes over decades, it produces twice-per-century “critical states” (AKA “Maslow Windows”) where almost anything — good or bad — can happen. The last one was in the 1960s, and although it began with a bumpy road (the Cuban Missile Crisis), it also produced unprecedented economic and technology booms, the Peace Corps, and the first humans on the Moon, on its way to becoming a transformative influence on U.S. and global culture.

As noted historian Margaret MacMillan likes to say, “History … never repeats itself but it rhymes.” And the growing parallels between the role of Cuba during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and six years ago are intriguing (see: “The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte“), especially considering the recent swing of Putin through Latin America.

The Wall Street Journal (7/28/14) reports that in addition to an oil exploration deal, “the Kremlin and the Castros are chummy again, and Moscow is offering military aid.”

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Jun 04 2014

New USC astronautics course “Human Spaceflight” for Fall 2014

Happy to announce that I’m teaching a new graduate course for the Department of Astronautical Engineering at USC this Fall on “Human Spaceflight.”

University of Southern California
New for FALL 2014ASTE 599, Human Spaceflight
Instructor: Dr. Bruce Cordell

Human spaceflight has become a dynamic international and commercial activity that promises to exceed even the 50-year old transformational space vision of President John F. Kennedy, which led to the first humans on the Moon in 1969. Engineers, scientists, and managers need to stay abreast of this arena as global needs and aspirations surge to new heights.

For example, the International Space Station has won approval from the White House and the International Partners (Russia, Japan, ESA, Canada) to extend operations to 2024. In 2012, the Dragon spacecraft (SpaceX) made history when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to ISS; Dragon is also designed to deliver crew.

In 2014, China became the first country in the 21st century to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. Human missions to its space station (Tiangong-1) since 2011 are well-known as are its plans to expand this human orbital infrastructure to the Moon. NASA continues with development of the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift vehicle that could support human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars, as could SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

At USC in Fall Semester 2014, ASTE 599 Human Spaceflight will explore a variety of attractive systems and technologies used in current and future human space missions. This includes environmental control and life support, human factors and space environments, and crew accommodations. For missions to Earth orbit and beyond we’ll examine orbit selection and astrodynamics, as well as mission operations and safety, and communications. Applications will include launch vehicles and transfer vehicles, space stations, and surface bases.

For off-campus enrollment options: http://gapp.usc.edu/graduate-programs/den/getting-started/enrollment-options

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May 26 2014

Bruce’s ISDC 2014 Presentation — The New Apollo-level Space Age

It was a pleasure to be an invited speaker at the recent meeting of the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2014) of the National Space Society on May 15 in Los Angeles.

The Conference theme was A Space Renaissance, and my presentation — “The New Apollo-level Space Age” — was definitely in that spirit!

For the ppt version CLICK: ISDC.2014.Cordell.

The key points include:

1. A variety of long-term and current global indicators point to a new, international, Apollo-level Space Age (i.e., a Maslow Window) that is just around the corner.

2. Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and the largest Macro Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) cluster together about twice-per-century during transformative JFK-style booms; the most recent was in the 1960s featuring Apollo.

3. During the booms, widespread real income gains result in momentary “ebullience” as many ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy; their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style initiatives seem almost irresistible.

4. An approaching “critical state” suggests the Maslow Window is imminent because of macroeconomic precursors, including the financial Panic of 2008, and increasing geopolitical stress points (e.g., Iran, North Korea) that could develop parallels with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

5. China’s recent soft-landing of a spacecraft on the Moon — the first in the 21st century — suggests we are within 1-3 years of a JFK-style economic boom that traditionally launches the unprecedented activities of the new technology and space renaissance.

For more information, CLICK: “The Maslow Window – Intro”

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Mar 10 2014

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2014 – Getting Our Ducks in a Row for the New Space Age

2014 will be a “Year of Decision” in the U.S as a mid-term election will influence how rapidly the anticipated new Apollo-level international Space Age will arrive. Specifically, U.S. voters will decide if the status quo will continue for two more years or if a new balance of power will set the stage for a transformative, 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

The new face of space? Supermodel Kate Upton suggests how exciting zero-g can be!

For a brief intro to how space exploration is likely to go ballistic in the near-term, see my 2012 Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Ironically, our weak recovery and global turmoil indicate that our multi-century “ducks — economic, geopolitical, technology — are nearly in a row”, signaling the rapid approach of a 1960s-style “critical state” as described here last year in “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2013“, as well as four years ago for the coming decade, “DecaState of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.”

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2014:

10. China Triumphantly Joins the Moon Landing Club
In December China became first in the 21st Century to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon! No one had achieved this since 1976 when the Russians last did it; indeed Russia was first to accomplish an unmanned soft landing on the Moon in 1966. The first manned landing on the Moon was by the U.S. in 1969, followed by 5 more U.S. manned lunar landings (3 with manned rovers) through December, 1972.

This nearly 4-decade long hiatus of manned and robotic exploration on the lunar surface is apparently due to the Maslow Effect, involving multi-decade self organization of the international economic system into twice-per-century, transformative, “critical states”; the most recent one in the 1960s triggered the race to the Moon and changed the world during the first space age.

The end of the Moon hiatus is signaling the approaching new Space Age.

China’s new rover on the Moon is farther away than the Senkaku Islands, but is its geopolitical meaning the same?

China’s spectacular achievement is not just of scientific significance, as most recently pointed out to me by planetary scientist Paul Spudis in a comment on my December post:

The real geopolitical threat is not necessarily from a base on the Moon but rather from China’s clear acquisition of the ability to routinely and freely move throughout cislunar space … (where) all of our national security space assets and economic space assets reside. … They have already shown their proclivity for anti-satellite activities.

Lignet.com concurs with the above point but also sees the possibility of an “asian space race” in both the civilian and military arenas. For example, if the U.S. abstains from the Moon …

The absence of a pre-eminent power on the Moon could turn into a Wild-West style land rush for the lunar surface.

By analogy with the 1960s, also a time of increasing geopolitical tension, will China “spur the U.S. into action?” asks Forbes columnist Alex Berezow.

China is now envisioning the very same sort of ambitious megaprojects that the U.S. once dreamt of more than 50 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy urged America to commit itself to achieving the goal of landing a man on the Moon..

China reminds Americans of the days of JFK when we thought we could do anything. It’s called “ebullience” and is coming soon to a country near you, as the new Maslow Window approaches this decade.

9. NASA’s Mars Fleet and Kepler Continue to Dazzle Fans of Earth-like Planets
Mars is awash in evidence suggesting the Red Planet had a large, ancient ocean of liquid water. “Oceanus Borealis” would have covered 1/3 of the Mars surface in its northern lowlands. This increases the odds of martian life as well as offering a key resource to future Mars astronauts.

Using new high resolution images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) a Caltech team recently found ridge-like features called “inverted channels” that are believed to be the eroded remains of coarse, heavy material deposited in deltas when rivers poured into the Mars ocean. Recently, a University of Texas geologist suggested large boulders seen in MRO images of Arcadia Planitia (the ocean’s presumed location) are the result of catastrophic underwater landslides.

Sedimentary deposits imaged by Curiosity in Yellowknife Bay of Gale Crater on Mars suggest that an ancient water lake lasted tens of millions of years as recently as 3.7 billion years ago.

The car-sized Curiosity Rover touring Gale Crater has discovered lake and stream deposits that could have supported simple life. Last March NASA announced evidence of pH-neutral water in Gale Crater, which increases the odds for ancient martian life. And future Mars explorers welcomed the news that Curiosity found 2% of the martian soil was water.

One of the most important NASA science missions of all time, Kepler is the first spacecraft specifically designed to detect habitable planets, which traditionally equates with having liquid water on its surface. Currently its website lists 961 confirmed finds, including Kepler – 69c, about 2700 light years from Earth, which was the first super-Earth (1.5 Earth masses) discovered around a Sun-like star that’s in its habitable zone and might have water.

Although a reaction wheel failed last August which limits Kepler’s pointing capability, scientists are still confident they can do a reduced schedule of planet hunting.

Recent in situ radiation measurements by Curiosity en route to Mars and on its surface suggest to some that human Mars missions would represent a large fraction of the lifetime exposure allowed by NASA for an astronaut. However, the actual increase in cancer risk is only a few percent which, compared to other Mars mission risks, is very manageable. Although NASA has no current plans to send humans to Mars, Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society states that,

We are much closer to being able to send humans to Mars today than we were being able to send men to the Moon in 1961, and we were there eight years later.

However, Apollo-level space initiatives do not happen in a vacuum or by accident, and Zubrin’s insightful assertion will only be true if the 1960s (the Apollo Maslow Window) is analogous — economically, geopolitically, technologically — to the next 10-15 years. And the message of current and long-term global trends is yes: the opening of the new Maslow Window/Critical State is likely to occur very soon.

8. No New Flagship Missions for NASA: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
According to The Huntsville (AL) Times, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden indicated to the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee in early December that,

We have to stop thinking about flagship missions … The budget doesn’t support that.

Bolden also reportedly indicated that Congress could “force” one (e.g., Space Launch System) onto NASA, but “that may be the only way to get one in the future.”

Does that mean we should forget about starting major Apollo-level space initiatives now that could culminate in the 2020s, like human spaceflight to Mars, international development of the Moon, and/or large-scale space-based solar power systems?

Under normal circumstances, the answer is yes. But with the near-term approach of a new 1960s-style critical state, these are not normal circumstances!

As in the late 1950s when NASA originated, dramatic transformations will occur to enable new, unprecedented macro engineering projects in space and on Earth. In 1989 Yale professor Garry Brewer characterized JFK’s NASA in the context of a complex system as a “perfect place”:

(NASA) came close to being the best organization human beings could create to accomplish selected goals. If not the best or perfect, they were nearly so … close enough. Ironically, this very success ensured their eventual demise.

Like the critical state itself, NASA’s residence in the “perfect place” was relatively brief. To get back there, or close to it, and to do great things again, one of the pieces of the puzzle that NASA will naturally require was mentioned by Bolden: an increased budget. And, interestingly, the complementary geopolitical and technology trends are visible all around us.

7. Geopolitical Tensions Point to the Approaching 1960s-style “Critical State”
Over the last 2 centuries, great human explorations (e.g., Apollo) and huge macro engineering projects (e.g., the Panama Canal) have clustered together in decade-long, twice-per-century Maslow Windows. The Windows are apparently triggered by critical states in the international economic system that self organize over decades.

Invariably Maslow Windows start off with a bang: early in the Window (or just before it) there is either a war or an international crisis with war potential. A famous example is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 involving Russia and the U.S. who together nearly ignited a nuclear war before it was rapidly resolved. Ironically, the CMC actually intensified the Space Race to the Moon between the two countries.

In 1998 National Academy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte (then at Cornell) and a colleague published their discovery that the frequency/intensity (measured in deaths) statistics of wars over the last 5 centuries displayed the clear signature (i.e., called “fractal”) of a complex system subject to self-organized critical states. In their summary:

World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.

In other words, surging geopolitical tensions are harbingers of the approaching new critical state.

Last spring when the U.S. scrambled a stealth bomber to Korea in response to provocations by North Korea, it appeared that the crisis had parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis of the previous Maslow Window.

Last fall the rapidly evolving Syrian crisis had all the earmarks of an early Maslow Window crisis suggesting the arrival of the 1960s-style critical state was just around the corner. Click: “Syria reveals that the 1960s-style “Critical State” is Imminent

Perhaps of greatest concern, the current high-stakes crisis surrounding Iran and its nuclear program continues to intensify. Reaction to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was immediate. Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz called it a “cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions” and Israeli PM Netanyahu said it was a “historic mistake.” Even NY Senator Chuck Schumer was “disappointed” because the deal was not “proportional”; “Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions.”

A January, 2014 poll revealed that nearly 2/3 of Israelis believe Obama will let Iran go nuclear. More recently Stratfor.com reported that the Iranian Supreme Leader essentially agreed with the Israelis when he remarked, “Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will go nowhere.”

All of this is in the context of an UN report last October that Iran may need as little as one month to produce enough uranium for a nuclear bomb, which might motivate Israel to consider a strike before that occurs.

As global tensions escalate toward unprecedented levels reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s reasonable to see the imminent approach of a new, 1960s-style critical state. The Iran crisis is particularly dangerous, however even with all the bad news, multicentury historical patterns suggest we are not approaching a WW I analog. Instead the geopolitical chaos reminds us we can expect major space and technology initiatives to develop sooner than you think.

6. New, Game-Changing Technologies Are Setting the Stage for the New Space Age
In my December interview on The Space Show hosted by Dr. David Livingston, one of our live callers asked a compelling question: If we believe for a moment that a new, near-term Space Age is in the cards, shouldn’t we see more government and private technology development to support it?

The answer, of course, is yes. And we do.

During the early 1960s the X-15 was a rocket-powered aircraft that became the world’s first spaceplane. It set speed records (4520 mph, Mach 6.72), flew into space officially (above 100 km) twice, and its pilots included Neil Armstrong (1st on the Moon in 1969) for whom NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is being renamed.

In 1961 the X-15 was glamorized by Hollywood in a full-length theatrical movie of the same name that used real flight footage. Stars included Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore.

Today we’re not so lucky because the Air Force X-37b is a Mach 25 spaceplane whose technology development missions are secret. It’s public knowledge that it’s unmanned and reusable, essentially an advanced, miniature version of the Shuttle. It launches on a Atlas V in Florida and lands like an airplane at Vandenberg AFB in California although that may change soon.

The X-37b is famous for its long missions. Its current orbital mission began on December 12, 2013, and it’s still in orbit! Boeing advertises that the X-37b has advanced silica tiles, totally automated de-orbit and landing operations, and electromechanical actuators for all flight control surfaces.

DARPA is planning to build an Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) that will begin flight testing in 2017. It will place 3000-5000 lb payloads in LEO for under $ 5M per launch, and is envisioned as a true hypersonic and space access vehicle that could contribute eventually to a broad range of advanced military, commercial, and NASA missions.

Although initial U.S. work on hypersonic missile weapon systems dates back to the 1960s, it is accelerating today according to Lignet.com. The “boost-glide” concept involves a boost by a ballistic missile followed by a very rapid glide path to target — up to ~Mach 20 — culminating in a flat, low trajectory that could evade defensive systems.

U.S. hypersonic vehicles could become operational in 10 years (during the next Maslow Window) and are potentially destabilizing. Russia and China are reportedly pursuing similar systems. China recently confirmed a test of its hypersonic strike vehicle, the WU-14.

One captivating, and much less secret technology is 3-D printing which NASA and the European Space Agency believe could build a lunar base. 3-D printing has been identified as potentially having a very broad and profound influence on global business during the next decade.

The European Space Agency believes that 3D printing could facilitate the development of a Moon base leaving astronauts to just manage the process.

An attractive idea is to mix lunar material with magnesium oxide to make a “paper” the 3-D printer can use. Engineers believe that a next gen 3-D printer could create an entire lunar building in only a week.

A variety of game-changing technologies are being developed with an eye toward facilitating human operations in space and on other worlds in the coming decade. This is consistent with the broad awareness that we are nearly ready to take a giant step in that direction.

5. Observation-based Models of the Sun and Climate Point to A Positive, Expansive View of the Future
Both the scientific community and the public are moving toward an observation-based view of climatic change as our scientific understanding expands.

For example, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in January asked a scientific sample of U.S. adults to prioritize 13 key domestic and foreign policy issues in terms of their importance to the national agenda. The number one issue was job creation (91%), followed by issues including trimming the federal budget and Iran’s nuclear program. Addressing climate change was dead last on the list (advocated by 27%).

The unfortunate irony, of course, was Secretary Kerry’s recent speech on climate change where he referred to those who disagree with him as “shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues.” Two atmospheric science professors (both fellows of the American Meteorological Society) from the University of Alabama in Huntsville — Richard McNider and John Christy — replied in the Wall Street Journal. The basic problem is predictions from complex climate models since the 1980s have not been able to match observational temperature data from satellites and balloons of the deep atmosphere (surface up to 75,000 feet); see their figure.

In fact according to McNider and Christy, NASA and NOAA satellites since 1978 have measured a warming of the deep atmosphere of only 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, per 100 years, while the models (which cannot model the physical effects of clouds, etc.) forecast much larger values.

The “science is settled” crowd — which sadly includes some who hold scientific positions — is willing to ignore significant observational data which does not support their naive and/or politically-motivated beliefs. McNider and Christy see a parallel with the 18th century British sailors who died of scurvy when many sea captains and doctors knew the cure, and yet this information was officially withheld for over 50 years because it didn’t fit the “consensus science” of their time. In the 21st century, climate science that is not observation-based could potentially reduce economic growth, distort government policy, and promote continued fear-mongering, even of young children in school.

A rather remarkable European physicist at the Technical University of Denmark (Copenhagen), Henrik Svensmark, has stated openly that,

In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth — quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable.

Svensmark and his colleagues have authored an ascending theory linking variable activity on the Sun with warmings and coolings on Earth. Currently the CLOUD Experiment at the European facility CERN — conducted by an international team of scientists — continues to generate experimental data supporting the idea that some low clouds (which cause global coolings) are nucleated by the effects of galactic cosmic rays, which are naturally modulated by solar activity.

Over the last two centuries, critical states in the international economic system have led to transformative, twice-per-century Maslow Windows that have featured 1960s-style golden ages of prosperity, exploration, and technology. Evidence — some cited here — suggests the public and many scientists are recovering from fear-mongering of the past and are moving toward a more positive, observation-based view of the human future, facilitating the likelihood of near-term prosperity.

4. SpaceX Shakes the Commercial Satellite Industry To Its Roots
SpaceX, “The World’s Fastest Growing Launch Services Provider” of Hawthorne, CA launched its first satellite into geostationary transfer orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket on December 3.

The SES-8 telecommunications satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA will use its internal systems to circularize its orbit at nearly 36,000 km above the equator so it can provide direct-to-home tv broadcasts to India and Southeast Asia.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 3 launches it first commercial satellite to geo transfer orbit.

According to Space News, the launch solidifies SpaceX’s market credibility that “it will now use to attack the global commercial market.” In the next year or so, SpaceX will compete with Arianespace for at least 15 small geostationary orbit satellites.

Since achieving its first delivery of payloads using its Dragon spacecraft to ISS in May, 2012 it has made several cargo flights to ISS. SpaceX is modifying Dragon to carry crew to the ISS and is developing the Falcon Heavy, which they expect will become “the world’s most powerful rocket.”

On the other hand, someone still waiting to make private space headlines is Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic; Aerospace America (Feb, 2014) calls it “Prove-it time for space tourism.” Last month Branson indicated that Virgin Galactic will make its first commercial flight this year, although he has indicated the same in previous years. Beginning commercial operations this year will involve a “tough schedule.”

In January SpaceShipTwo successfully completed its third test flight, this time up to 71,000 feet and a max speed of Mach 1.4. However, Branson intends to take his customers much higher than that — into space officially at 62 miles — and reports indicate subsequent engine tests in the Mojave Desert.

Branson reportedly has 650 customers signed up who have already paid deposits of $ 80 M, and he has repeatedly pledged to personally be on the first commercial flight.

What’s even more interesting is that Steven Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic finds that university students are excited about commercial space (Space News, 12/9/13).

What inspired me was the Apollo program. But now we have new generation of young people who are saying it was SpaceShipOne.

Given today’s economic uncertainty and geopolitical tensions, many young people today are looking for a reason to get excited about space, their studies, and the future in general. Imagine what they will be like when the Maslow Window arrives and someone somewhere — maybe SpaceX+… — is leaving for Mars!

3. The Panama Canal Expansion Project Radiates an “Ebullient Spirit” Characteristic of the Approaching New International Space Age
Prior to the First Space Age of the 1960s, Maslow Windows always featured at least one monumental, non-space macro engineering project (MEP) and usually a few secondary ones. During the early 20th Century Roosevelt Maslow Window, the Panama Canal was the big one and secondary MEPs included the celebrated Titanic ship.

According to historian David McCullough, Panama Canal “was one of the supreme human achievements of all time.” It was the most expensive construction project in U.S. history — ~$ 8.5 B in 2012 USD or about 5% of the 1960s Apollo program — and consumed about 0.1% of U.S. GDP compared to 0.25% for the Apollo program.

For more, click: “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.”

The Panama Canal Expansion Project was initially estimated to cost $ 5.25 B, about 2/3 as much as the original Canal! In 2006 in an ebullient vote, the people of Panama approved this project by 76.2%. According to the Panama Canal Authority, the Third Set of Locks project will respond to sustained increases in international trade by allowing more and larger ships through the Canal.

Because of disputes and cost overruns the Panama Canal Expansion final cost may eventually approach that of the original Canal and completion could be delayed for years, possibly even until 2020.

According to the Wall Street Journal (2/18/14),

There are many cities, countries, and port authorities who are spending billions of dollars in anticipation of the traffic that will come from the newly expanded canal.

Yet ironically, even with all its current concerns, the PC Expansion Project is a spectacular, expensive, exciting, complicated, international project that countries and companies all over the world are eagerly awaiting. It remains a shining example of “early ebullience” — much like the original Canal was a century ago — that points to the near-term arrival of a new golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

This is important because — over the last 200+ years — large macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) and great explorations (e.g., discovery of the N and S poles) appear to be triggered by large economic booms, but are fundamentally driven by “ebullience” (e.g., “Panama fever”, “pole mania”) — a somewhat irrational, but highly positive view of the future.

For example, In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama fever and (north & south) pole mania; in the mid-19th century it was manifest destiny of James Polk and the central Africa adventures of Dr. Livingstone, I presume; and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

In the powerfully ebullient environment of the coming Maslow Window almost anything can happen. The only remaining question is: Where’s the Boom?

2. It Takes a Maslow Window To Go To Mars, but It Takes a Boom to Make a Maslow Window
Everybody agrees that any new major space initiative like sending people to Mars needs more budget than NASA has now. And NASA is fairly criticized for developing its Space Launch System (SLS) ahead of requirements for a specific, major exploration path.

The Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has recently encouraged Congress to develop “a long-term, committed and stable strategic plan for the U.S. space program.”

As an AIAA member myself, I appreciate her leadership on this hugely important issue…but let’s get serious for a second. The U.S. Congress: Long-term? Committed? Stable? Wow…

Even charismatic JFK during “Camelot” in the early 1960s didn’t attempt that, and his ducks — economic, geopolitical, technology — were all in a row!

Ducks matter! Only 15 years later in the mid-1980s the equally charismatic Ronald Reagan couldn’t sell a space station to Congress or the public within a decade of his proposal — and it cost a lot less than Apollo! That’s because his ducks — mainly economic ones (e.g., “Black Monday”, 1987) — were not lined up.

JFK inherited the post-W.W. II Boom and then made it even better through his economic policies. Here’s what a Maslow Window looks like: rapid economic growth (>4 %), unemployment approaches zero, and the poverty rate falls like a stone, until the Maslow Window ended around 1970.

And what happened to post-Apollo plans for humans to Mars? As widespread ebullience sagged in the late 1960s, due to geopolitical (Vietnam) and economic (slowing economy) ducks becoming seriously misaligned, serious consideration of human spaceflight to Mars disappeared, until recently — as we approach the new Maslow Window.

In our current counter-ebullient country, where polls indicate 80% think the American dream is over because it’s much harder now than in previous generations to get ahead, will prosperity in the form of a JFK-style boom actually return?

In fact, over the last 200 years that’s the way it usually happens. For example, following the financial Panic of 1893 the U.S. was afflicted with a serious double-dip great recession that’s has parallels with the Panic/Great Recession of 2008-10+. Recovery took off like a rocket in 1899 when growth went ballistic with a JFK-style boom that resulted in one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history.

In fact, the current slow economic recovery is part of a 200-year pattern that, over the last 2 centuries, has always culminated in a transformational Maslow Window. Can you imagine the pent up consumer demand that will explode when the economy turns around, negative animal spirits are reversed, and an expansion reminiscent of the 1960s begins?

Last year in this space I suggested that the trigger for the next Maslow Window — a JFK-style economic boom — would be associated with: 1) the U.S. oil boom, 2) the tech-led boom, and 3) the green-plus boom.

All three trends and others have remained in play and are strengthening the prospects for prosperity. In particular, the International Energy Agency says the U.S. will overtake Russia this year as the top oil producer in the world. According to WSJ (1/31/14), “The shale boom is greasing the wheels of the U.S. economy,” although 4th quarter GDP for 2013 was recently revised down from 3.2% to 2.4%.

For details I’d recommend Jack Plunkett’s book, The Next Boom, which addresses America’s favorable demographics, the next billion new consumers emerging soon globally, and how trends from energy to health care and new technologies suggest we’re “on the verge of a period of major economic growth.”

Also, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler — in Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think — show how innovations in energy, education, health care, freedom, and a variety of high technologies will provide us with “the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet.”

President Kennedy provided us with a powerful economic model that stimulated economic growth and prosperity at the highest level up to that time, and triggered the widespread ebullience that drove the transformative 1960s Maslow Window, including the world-altering Apollo program.

In today’s world, it might surprise some to hear that JFK’s highest priority was to lower tax rates, including personal and corporate, and to control government spending, which through “free market processes” would create new jobs, higher income, and more tax revenues. Given JFK’s extraordinary success, should we give it a try again?

1. “History, said Mark Twain, never repeats itself but it rhymes.” Noted Historian Margaret MacMillan
A professor of international history at Oxford University, Margaret MacMillan is also an acclaimed author, including her recent The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, which collects her wisdom on the origins of World War I.

The difficulty of this task, now in its 96th year (since the end of The Great War), is exacerbated by the fact that it appears to be the result of a complex system in its critical state — such as that which apparently existed near the end of the early 20th Century Maslow Window — where a minor event can have large, unexpected system-wide effects.

Will a new JFK-style U.S. President be elected in 2016?

However, the following brief list of key space-related events to watch for (with brief comments) adopts Professor MacMillan’s guideline above that the best view we can have of the future is a rhyme of the past, not a repetition.

It’s based on long-term cycles, historical patterns, and current global trends, which are interpreted here in the context of the 1960s-style critical states that great human explorations, the international economic system, and wars have exhibited over the last two centuries.

Key space-related events converge on the expectation that a new 1960s-style critical state is imminent and a new Maslow Window is expected to open by 2017:

1. The appearance of the financial Panic of 2008 is a clear, multicentury, near-term harbinger of the coming JFK-style boom.

2. Over the last 2 centuries, Maslow Windows are always triggered by a JFK-level economic boom. Current U.S. growth remains sluggish suggesting the boom may be 1-3 years away, but it is coming. For example, in 2013 the Wall Street Journal (2/10) observed,

America’s success isn’t preordained. But the technological innovations circa 2012 are profound. They will engender sweeping changes to our society and our economy. All the forces are in place. It’s just a matter of when.

3. The current Iran crisis and that of North Korea — each potentially nuclear — have the potential to rise to the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and indicate the critical state is imminent.

4. The landing of China’s rover on the Moon ends the nearly 4-decade hiatus of robotic and/or human exploration directly on the lunar surface. This major milestone has the potential to trigger events which could lead to a future Sputnik moment for the U.S.

5. The general lack of direction for NASA’s human exploration program coupled with economic uncertainty, geopolitical stress, and unsettling performance of K-12 education, suggest the U.S. would be psychologically vulnerable to a Sputnik moment within the next few years.

6. The 2014 midterm election in the U.S. may play a pivotal albeit indirect role in NASA’s exploration plans by either creating a realignment of power that will ignite growth and trigger the new Maslow Window, or continue the status quo which might delay a move toward prosperity for 1-3 years.

7. Will the new JFK-style “Space President” be elected in 2016? This would be a MacMillan-style “rhyme” of JFK’s election in 1960 just prior to the opening of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

It’s intriguing to imagine potential candidates.

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Dec 31 2013

Happy New Year 2014! …and the Top 10 for 2013

Happy New Year!

PLEASE NOTE: This coming year’s “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2014” will be appearing very soon!
For 2013’s Trends, click: State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2013
Also, you can listen to my most recent appearance (12/6/13) on “The Space Show,” click: http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2137

Here are the Top 10 Posts for 2013:
This is a special updated New Year’s edition of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during 2013. All posts are clickable and include their publishing dates.

Updated 12/31/2013

THE LAST 365 DAYS (2013) — Readers’ Favorites

1) Is Earth Unique? What This “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future — 1/5/12
2) Are We Entering a Cuban Missile Crisis-like Phase of the Approaching 1960s-style “Critical State”? — 4/27/13
3) A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10
4) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
5) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
6) AIAA — Analyst Predicts New Space Age Coming Soon — 7/6/11
7) The Meaning of China’s New Moon — 12/23/13
8 ) The Physics of Finance As We Approach the 1960s-style Critical State — 8/1/13
9) 10 Lessons JFK and Apollo Teach Us About Ebullience and the Coming Boom — 6/26/11
10) 10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space — 5/31/09

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Dec 29 2013

Did ESA’s Mars Express Broadcast the Carpenters’ “Close to You” This AM to Phobos?

Well if they didn’t, they should have!

Now we know what the Carpenters really meant when they sang their mega-hit, “Close to You”…

Lyrics from “Close to You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; recorded by the Carpenters, 1970…

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

Only a short time ago (11:09 pm, 12/28/13 California time) the Mars Express spacecraft made the closest approach ever to Phobos — only 28 miles (45 km) above its fascinating surface!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ESA and the Mars Express team!!

It’s too fast and close to take images but the trajectory data — currently being received by the 70 m NASA tracking station in Madrid — will be used to better constrain the structure of Phobos’ very porous interior!

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust …

Phobos is truly a “dream come true” especially every 2 years when a launch window opens that makes Phobos (and Deimos) more accessible energy-wise than a trip to the lunar surface!

For those of us who crave the human exploration of Mars, Phobos is indeed the key to the cosmos!

Just so you know what Mars Express must have been feeling this morning, here’s an encore performance of “Close To You”; CLICK Here.

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Dec 24 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Yesterday from Chicago Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell reenacted his famous 1968 Christmas Eve television broadcast from orbit around the Moon during which the crew read the first 10 verses of Genesis.

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave Earth orbit, travel to the Moon and orbit it, and return safely to Earth.

Captain Lovell is an extraordinary space traveler: He is the first of only 3 people to fly to the Moon twice (although he did not make a landing), and is famous as commander of the Apollo 13 mission.

For the full text of their broadcast, Click: Celebrating Christmas at the Moon!

Lovell closed yesterday with the same message the astronauts did in 1968.

From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

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Dec 23 2013

The Meaning of China’s New Moon

Could the 21st Century shape up to be China’s on the Moon … and even — if the U.S. allows it — here on Earth?

On December 14 China took “one giant step,” to quote Neil Armstrong (44 years earlier) in that direction by soft-landing Chang’e 3 and successfully deploying the “Jade Rabbit” rover on the Moon’s surface.

This is a great achievement that could lead to Chinese astronauts on the Moon by the 2020s, and clearly signals our rapid approach to the next 1960s-style Maslow Window and the new International Space Age.

China’s new rover on the Moon is farther away than the Senkaku Islands, but is its geopolitical meaning the same?

For historical perspective, Russia achieved the first soft landing on the Moon in January 1966 (Luna 9). And the first manned landing on the Moon was by the U.S. in July 1969 (Apollo 11) followed by 5 more (3 w rovers), with the last coming in December 1972.

Significantly, the most recent soft landing on the Moon was by Russia in August 1976. Thus China’s Moon triumph is the most recent gentle landing on the Moon in 37 years!

This 4-decade hiatus in human and robotic exploration on the lunar surface is apparently due to the Maslow Effect, involving multi-decade self organization of the international economic system into twice-per-century, transformative “critical states”.

Thus China becomes only the 3rd country in history to join the international Moon Club, as well as the 1st and only nation to do it (so far) in the 21st Century!

So…will China win the 21st Century Moon by default?

Many have noticed China’s success. For example, NASA planetary scientist and long-time major advocate of human missions to Mars, Chris McKay is now supporting a U.S. lunar base, mainly because without it we’ll be less able to influence future international plans for the Moon. Lunar and Planetary Institute scientist Paul Spudis agrees that the Chang’e-3 mission is about expanding China’s future options on the Moon, in this case by flight-testing a “new and potentially powerful lunar surface payload delivery system.”

Former NASA boss Mike Griffin believes that ISS-style international cooperation with China in a Moon base initiative is currently possible as long as the U.S. is “clearly ahead,” but this window will rapidly close as China’s space capabilities expand. Likewise, long-time NASA backer Rep. Frank Wolf (R), currently serving his 17th term in Congress, is retiring and has written President Obama asking for action regarding a “U.S.-led return to the Moon” in the next decade.

Unfortunately, the response of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is to say No to new “flagship missions” for NASA, “The budget doesn’t support that.”

Bolden’s absolutely right about the budget, but he neglects to focus on the connection between the budget and the current sluggish economy, and ultimately that’s the responsibility of his boss, President Obama.

And because Apollo-level initiatives since Lewis and Clark only occur during JFK-style economic booms, the question really is: How do we stimulate significant growth in the economy?

The formula’s been known for some time. President Kennedy used it with considerable success in the early 1960s to create the greatest boom in modern history and to support Apollo. Because of its importance, we’ll examine JFK’s stimulus program in the near future.

One more point about China’s new Moon: early leaks from China suggested a long-term program culminating in a Star Wars-style “death star” base on the Moon with significant offensive military potential.

Such hoopla is undoubtedly for internal consumption (in China), but military Moon bases are not without merit. For example, in 1984 Edward Teller extolled the virtues of a lunar base for continuous, secure surveillance of Earth. And George Friedman presents a dazzling future space war scenario featuring military bases on the Moon’s farside.
You can read more here; CLICK: The Geopolitics of a Moon Base

Did the folks in Beijing just remember to renew their subscription to Stratfor?

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