Oct 30 2010

The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space age

When I was with General Dynamics, Space Systems Division in San Diego studying manned Mars missions for NASA — e.g., see “The Challenge of Mars” — I often thought about the option of becoming a permanent Mars resident, and knew it would appeal to many people.

Where would you rather live: the Ocean World or the Red Planet? Mars is growing in popularity.

Professors Dirk Schulze-Makuch (Washington State Univ) and Paul Davies (Arizona State Univ) have recently advocated one-way manned Mars missions on cost and political grounds as a way to jumpstart the colonization of Mars (Journal of Cosmology, Oct-Nov, 2010). This is an admirable goal, but before I get into the details of their vision, I want to explore its real significance.

Mars Colonization Ascends into Pop Culture
I first became aware of their article through the Chronicle of Higher Education (10/22/10; D. Troop), which was a big surprise. The Chronicle is more likely to feature trends in education than the latest thinking in astronautics, which confirmed my suspicion that Mars colonization is again becoming a hot topic, just like it was one long wave ago in the 1960s; in fact it is becoming part of popular culture.

A New International Space Age by 2015
This, of course, is what we would expect as we approach another 1960s-style transformative decade — the 2015 Maslow Window. It is one of several key indicators that point to a new international Space Age igniting by 2015, including: 1) the financial Panic of 2008 and its great recession, 2) a great economic boom by 2015 and political realignments, 3) macroeconomic trends over the last 200 years, 4) expanding interest in extraterrestrials, new Earth-like planets, and UFOs, 5) birth of the space tourist industry, 6) surging international plans for lunar science and development and interest in human Mars exploration, and many others.

In the next 3 to 5 years — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — we will rapidly transtition from a multi-decade period of low self organized criticality (SOC) to an ebullient, fractal (high SOC) international environment (i.e., a Maslow Window) where almost anything is possible. Previous Maslow Windows have featured quantum leaps in human exploration (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and technology and management (e.g., Apollo Moon program), and are usually terminated by a major war (e.g., World War I).

True Space Colonization, Not Suicide Missions
One-way Mars missions — not to be confused with suicide missions — could be viewed as a subconscious longing to escape the current financial, environmental, geopolitical and other stresses of Earth. But they are much more than that as the authors show by emphasizing familiar themes of survival of the human race (from asteroid as well as Earth-based threats) and the human spirit to expand and explore the unknown. “A permanent human presence on Mars would open the way to comparative planetology on a scale unimagined by any former generation.”

Although the initial colonists would have estimated life spans on Mars of only about 20 years, in several decades (after numerous followon missions), the total Mars colony population might reach 150 and form a viable gene pool. The authors compare the risks of initial Mars colonists to “the first white settlers of the North American continent who left Europe with little expectation of return.”

Near-Term Mars Strategy Bypasses the Moon
Schulze-Makuch and Davies are focused on Mars colonization, not the buildup of near-Earth space infrastructure. A Moon base is not required, although a “split-mission” strategy is employed to build up necessities on Mars (e.g. energy sources, agriculture tool kits, rovers) prior to the arrival of the colonists.

No advanced propulsion is needed and the moons of Mars — Phobos and Deimos — are not involved, although the cost, safety, and scientific advantages of an early Phobos outpost for Mars colonization have been recognized for over 20 years.

Mars Colonizaton Requires a New Culture
Perhaps their most interesting insight is that a human colony on Mars

would require not only major international cooperation, but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays been replaced with a culture of safety and political correctness.

In addition to Amundsen, they could have also mentioned the exploration spirit of Lewis and Clark, Dr. Livingstone, and the Apollo crews — that captured international admiration during the extraordinary Maslow Windows of the last 200 years.

It takes a Maslow Window to colonize Mars. And Schulze-Makuch and Davies will get their wish sooner than they think … starting by 2015.

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Jul 11 2010

State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again

As we search for clues to our economic future by looking for parallels between our current great recession and the past (e.g., the 1930s), it’s logical to also seek historical parallels relating other great events that are strongly dependent on economic conditions. For example, the manned space program, and specifically, human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

Viewed in this context, President Obama’s recent cancellation of Constellation — America’s program to return to the Moon by 2020 — is not a big surprise. It’s just a speed bump on the road to a near-term Moon base, including international commercial and scientific development of Earth-Moon space.

This glimpse of the future is not based on hope or optimism, but on long-term trends in the economy, technology, and geopolitics which point to a near-term re-ignition of President Kennedy’s nearly 50-year old vision of human exploration of the Moon and planets.

The 1960s Apollo Moon program was the greatest combined exploration and technology event in the history of the world, because it was off-world!
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If we could understand what fundamentally drove Apollo, we might glimpse our future in space. And yet, as we discovered again last July during celebrations of the Moon landing’s 40th anniversary, we still can’t agree on why Apollo moonwalking ended in 1972. For example, Right Stuff author Tom Wolfe believes “the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers,” such as Saturn V developer Wernher von Braun, to explain the real meaning of Apollo to the public. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Heavens and the Earth (1985), Walter McDougall explains that

the bold lunar goal … encouraged Congress and the nation to believe that Apollo was the space program … Once the space race was over and won, Americans could turn back to their selfish pursuits.

Formerly with CNN, Miles O’Brien dismisses the most obvious manned space challenge — cost.

If you don’t want to mention the cost of the wars, if you would rather not get into Wall Street or Detroit bailouts, or if you don’t want to tell them the money we spend on the space program is about the same as our annual expenditure on coffee — why not mention India?…Calcutta can afford it — and Cleveland can’t?

This is an important clue. Apollo cost about $ 150 B (in 2007 USD). Imagine the Apollo-level manned space programs we could have funded with only a fraction of Obama’s initial $ 800+ B stimulus package. But although the money magically appeared, Americans did not spontaneously demand Moonbases or manned Mars missions. So the availability of money, by itself, does not fundamentally drive big space programs.

Wolfe alludes to powerful. but short-lived forces permeating Apollo: “

Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all.

This included the quintessential media figure of the time, Walter Cronkite, who predicted that after Apollo 11, “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk.”

And O’Brien concludes that.

Truth is, we have done nothing to equal (much less top) the accomplishments of Apollo. And even worse, we haven’t tried. We did someting truly great, but then walked away from it.

This emotional component — and its rapid demise in the late 1960s — explains why money is not enough. The people also have to feel good.

This is reminiscent of a Keynesian concept called “animal spirits,” used to explain why investors become either irrationally exhuberant or unnecessarily discouraged by business conditions during a boom or a bust. However, public support for Apollo was not primarily driven by the promise of profits from space, nor in the end, even by beating the Soviets to the Moon.

Instead the unprecedented, widespread affluence from the Kennedy boom momentarily catapulted many average citizens to elevated levels of Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews made the Apollo program seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible — as reflected in 1960s opinion polls.

Indeed, the strong connection between manned planetary exploration and Maslow-related values was emphasized in 1961 by the National Academy of Science’s Space Science Board, chaired by Lloyd Berkner, in their influential report to President Kennedy.

Man’s exploration of the Moon and planets (is) potentially the greatest inspirational venture of this century and one in which the whole world can share; inherent here are great and fundamental philosophical and spiritual values which find a response in man’s questing spirit and his intellectual self-realization.

But the Maslow effect was short-lived. As early as 1966, growing distress over Vietnam and budget issues began to erode affluence-induced “ebullience,” and this 1960s Apollo “Maslow Window” rapidly closed, as evidenced by Nixon’s cancellation of the last three Apollo Moon missions.

As recently as Memorial Day weekend in Chicago at the International Space Development Conference 2010, distinguished physicist and space scientist Freeman Dyson lamented that “we have been stuck in LEO for 40 years.” In the context of Apollo, this is consistent with the absence — since the 1960s — of a post-World War II-style long boom culminating in widespread, Camelot-style ebullience.

We almost got one started in 2007 when Fortune magazine (7/12/07) celebrated the “greatest economic boom ever.” But it was interrupted by the financial Panic of 2008 and our subsequent great recession. Will 2007’s great boom be revived? And how soon?

Intriguing parallels with Apollo go back at least 200 years to Lewis and Clark, but the last century is particularly revealing. For example, the financial Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession may have more parallels with our current circumstances than the Apollo-related decades from 1950-70. The 1890s featured a double-dip recession and unemployment above 10%, as well as a political realignment that led to a stunning 1960s-style economic boom after 1899. The resulting early 20th century Maslow Window featured extraordinary ebullience, including “Panama fever” as the new canal split the continent and transformed America into a global power, “pole mania” as heroic international teams risked death to be the first to the poles, the civilization-altering Wright brothers’ first flights, and perhaps the most ebullient U.S. president ever: Theodore Roosevelt.

The trajectory of future history is not confined to a choice between the 1890-1913 Panic/recession model or the 1950-1973 Apollo example. But significantly, they both point to a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology that’s just around the corner.

Based on the historical pattern of rhythmic, twice-per-century Maslow Windows — over the last 200 years — including the Panic/Great Recession pairs (like the Panic of 2008) that typically occur a few years before the Windows, we can expect the new international Space Age to start gaining momentum by 2015.

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Apr 15 2010

Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights Into the Future

Today Mark McKinnon, a former media advisor to both President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, highlighted a few compelling parallels between the personal characters and presidential challenges of Presidents Harry Truman and Bush (Daily Beast, 4/14/10).

Why are Truman and Bush so similar? Is it our imagination or something deeper?
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McKinnon echoes themes that Contributing Editor Ann Hovey and I independently sketched almost 2 years ago in connection with the fact that the presidencies of Truman and Bush are separated by one long wave (about 56 years); see McCain and the Republican Panic.

Over the last 200 years, long waves in the economy appear to fundamentally trigger spectacular Maslow Windows; i.e., rhythmic, twice-per-century golden ages (e.g., the Camelot-style 1960s) when great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., the Apollo Moon program), and sadly, major wars (e.g., World War I) cluster together exclusively.

So it’s reasonable to expect that a wide variety of political, economic, cultural, and even military trends, events, and personalities might display key parallels from similar times during one long wave to another.

While McKinnon appears to be interested in “Bush’s resurrection,” our focus is on using Truman and Bush as another interesting historical test of this long wave model.

For example, in June, 2008 we wrote:

Truman’s and “Dubya” Bush’s first terms tantalizingly are 56 years apart (1945 and 2001), which suggests the economic, political, and military framework of each administration should have had similarities, although Bush did not have an analog for W.W. II. In fact, each president governed during times of unpopular conflicts – Truman in Korea, and Bush in Iraq. The Truman years saw the birth of the Cold War. Today, Russian President Putin is seen by some as launching the same cold war tensions. After WWII, the Truman era featured a wave of anti-communism and international tensions. Bush’s administration, in response to international terrorist attacks, introduced the Patriot Act. Thus both presidents governed in an environment of controversy where national security and civil liberties seemed to compete.

In terms of their public persona, both Truman and Bush were/are perceived by many as being “rough around the edges,” and as somewhat unenlightened. Their public approval ratings plummeted during their terms of office with record lows (20s – 30s), although both presidents presided over significant economic gowth.

McKinnon sees similar parallels:

They both gave hell and got hell.
As presidents, George W. Bush and Harry S. Truman had a lot in common.
Both were skeptical of elites and the media, driven by their faith, had troubled presidencies, made momentous and difficult decisions, took the nation into war, were unpopular in their time and weren’t concerned about it. They deeply believed if they did the right thing, history would sort things out in the end.

But consider the following observations about Truman from noted historians and how they easily they could be applied to Bush (all citations are from David McCullough’s Truman, except where otherwise noted):
He presented himself as a common-sense country boy…
…reputation of an intellectual lightweight…
Truman was often called a simple man, which he was not.
He made no pretense at being superior in any regard. He did not seem to need the limelight, flattery, or a following …

His whole life Truman had been moved primarily by faith… “I have a deep and abiding faith in the destiny of free men.”
In just three months in office, Harry Truman had been faced with a greater surge of history, with larger, more difficult, more far-reaching decisions than any president before him.
…unparalleled power and responsibility had been thrust upon him at one of history’s greatest turning points…
[On the Korean War] The war Truman had never wanted or expected, but knew to be of utmost importance to the future of the world—the most important decision of his presidency, he believed—had come to overshadow his whole second term.
The decision to go into Korea, he said, was the most important of his time in office… His intent in Korea, he now said, was to prevent World War III …

[Mid-term elections] The opposing party swept the election, carrying both houses of Congress for the first time since before the Depression…
“The shrill pitch of abuse heaped upon the president continues to echo,” wrote Time.

Finally, regarding America’s role in the world, Truman and Bush sound eerily similar.
President Truman in 1948:
“The only expansion we are interested in is the expansion of human freedom and the wider enjoyment of the good things of the earth in all countries… The only prize we covet is the respect and good will of our fellow members of the family of nations.”
President Bush in 2002:
“Our nation’s cause has always been larger than our nation’s defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace—a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent. Building this just peace is America’s opportunity, and America’s duty …

Truman and Bush. The similarities are striking … With his ability to “take it,” his inner iron, his bedrock faith in the democratic process, his trust in the American people, and his belief that history was the final, all-important judge of performance, he was truly exceptional. He never had a doubt about who he was, and that too was part of his strength…

Noted historian Doug Brinkley perhaps best sums up the pair: Both Truman and Bush were avatars of direct action. Neither cared much about public opinion polls or pulse-reading. At their best, they were decisive mavericks. At their worst, too-fast-of-draws.

A coincidence? Within the context of many such parallels over the last 200 years, probably not. The long wave creates a framework that enables certain types of events and personalities to ascend at favored times. However, we should keep in mind that due, for example, to advances in technology and its ripples through the global economy, history appears to be more a spiral than a cycle.

Parallels between Truman, Bush, and their times, provide insights into how it all works. And, in combination with a wealth of macroeconomic evidence and historical trends over the last 200 years, they support our forecast that the next golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology should arrive by 2015.

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Apr 02 2010

Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age

Recently the Wall Street Journal (3/31/10) expressed concern about the “fading hope” of sanctions on Iran,

We are left with a stark alternative: Either Iran gets a nuclear weapon and we manage the risk, or someone acts to eliminate the threat,

according to Ms. Danielle Pletka, VP for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

And earlier this week Ronan Bergman, senior military and intelligence for an Israeli daily (Yedioth Ahronoth) and author of The Secret War With Iran (2008), pointed out that the three most likely scenarios for starting the next Middle East war “all involve Iran” (WSJ, 3/29/10). Despite the fact that a preemptive airstrike by Israel on Iranian nuclear installations is “somewhat less likely” now, due to Israel’s evolving perception of sanctions on Iran.

These issues need to considered in the context of the current “major flap in U.S.-Israel relations.” According to a recent interview in ForeignAffairs.com with Ehud Yaari, who is Lafer International Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Commentator for Channel 2 news in Israel, and the the co-author (with the late Ze’ev Schiff) of Israel’s Lebanon War and Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising — Israel’s Third Front,, regarding the Israeli prime minister’s recent visit to the U.S.,

The general sense in Israel right now is that the prime minister was sorely humiliated by President Obama. There is quite a degree of amazement the way he was treated. I think it’s fair to say that neither the prime minister nor his defense minister, Ehud Barak, were aware of the kind of reception that they were greeted with at the White House.

Because of its importance to world energy supplies and the global economy, a Middle East war in the next few years would significantly reduce global security, as well as possibily threaten the new international space age expected to begin by 2015.

This is a different military threat than the one I focused on in July, 2008:

In addition to the expansive joy of Great Explorations from Lewis & Clark to Apollo, and stunning Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal, the last 200 years also teach us one sobering fact: Each Maslow Window is also associated with a tragic, major war (e.g. W. W. I).

And sadly, the 2020s are unlikely to be an exception.

Instead of the major wars (e.g., WW I) that occur near the end (or after) a typical Maslow Window, the near-term conflicts referred to here are a feature of early Maslow Window times or the years just before them; e.g., from 2010 to 2016.

And all Maslow Windows are aflicted by them.

Neither the early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts (that threaten Maslow Windows) nor the late-Window major wars (that terminate Maslow Windows) over the last 200 years, can be scientifically predicted with much reliability. But they are historically associated with long wave trends, including the upswing toward the major economic boom that triggers the widespread affluence-induced ebullience of Maslow Windows, as well as the long wave’s decline after the boom has peaked and an economic downturn is looming.

The early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts and the long economic waves they are associated with over the last 200+ years may be thought of in the context of a complex adaptive system model where self organized criticality produces typical events — e.g., early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts, financial panics, great recessions — just prior to the major economic boom of the Maslow Window itself. Niall Ferguson has described a similar model for the onset of World War I and other major geopolitcal events of the last 200 years.

In any case, the patterns associated with early/pre-Maslow Window years are clear. For example:

The Lewis & Clark/Jefferson Maslow Window:
If Napolean hadn’t been distracted from his interest in a North American empire by the need to fund his European war machine, Jefferson might not have gotten such a good price for the Lousiana Purchase, which led to the opening up of the American Northwest during the first Great Exploration of the last 200 years. (See: 10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space)

The Dr. Livingstone/Suez/Polk Maslow Window:
One long wave later, the Mexican War played a major role in the early mid-19th century Maslow Window due to the ebullient, expansionist belief by the U.S. population in Manifest Destiny. (See: How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience)

The Peary/Panama/Roosevelt Maslow Window:
Just prior to perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history, the Spanish-American War (1898) taught the future president and “Rough Rider” Theodore Roosevelt the potential strategic value of a Panama Canal — the greatest MEP of the last 200 years until Apollo. TR waited in Cuba for a key U.S. battleship from the Pacific which finally arrived, after a long trip around the southern tip of South America, 2 months after the war began. (See: 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space)

The 1960s Apollo/JFK Maslow Window:
One long wave later, early in the most recent Maslow Window, Cuba again eerily rose to center stage as the world came very close to World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962); this Crisis intensified the competition and global symbolism of the U.S.-Soviet race to the Moon, eventually won by the U.S. in 1969. (See: The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte)

That’s the Bad News, and early/pre- Maslow Window international tensions — characteristic, as we’ve seen, of the last 200+ years — appear to be building again now in the Middle East as well as potentially elsewhere. (See, for example, Krepinevich (2009), 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century.)

But the Good News is that — although each early/pre-Maslow Window conflict was a time of war and/or even potentially global doom (i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis) — over the last 200 years, all have amazingly accelerated the world toward the stunning Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects of each ebullient Maslow Window, and have served as global quantum leaps as they transformed the world.

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Mar 23 2010

“The Greatest International Space Project of All Time”

The European Space Agency’s online newsletter today notes that:

The International Space Station has won two prizes as the greatest international space project of all time. Aviation Week’s Laureate Award and the Collier Trophy are two of the most prestigious awards in the aerospace realm.

It’s simply the greatest of all time.

On 17 March, Aviation Week magazine announced the winners of the 53rd Annual Laureate Awards, which recognise the extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams in aerospace, aviation and defence.

Aviation Week has honoured the International Space Station (ISS) programme managers: Pierre Jean, Canadian Space Agency; Bernardo Patti, ESA; Yoshiyuki Hasegawa, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; Alexey Krasnov, Roscosmos; and Michael Suffredini, NASA.

The award is for “completing the project in 2009 with the addition of the last major modules (European-built Node-3 and Cupola) and the expansion of the crew to six. The ISS is arguably the signature engineering achievement of the last 60 years.

The last 60 years encompass the Apollo Moon program. If we limit it to international space projects I would agree, but if it refers to all space projects I’d still hold out for the Saturn V infrastructure, that delivered astronauts to the Moon in 1969, as the greatest. But forgive my quibbling: ISS is an extraordinary engineering achievement and points the way toward the unprecedented global space spectaculars expected during the 2015 Maslow Window.

The ISS has been also recognised by the National Aeronautic Association with the Robert J. Collier Trophy “for the design, development, and assembly of the world’s largest spacecraft, an orbiting laboratory that promises new discoveries for mankind and sets new standards for international cooperation in space.

By working together, partner agencies demonstrated that the station is as much an achievement in foreign relations as it is in aerospace engineering.

ISS’ importance as an engineering “miracle” is only equaled as a symbol of unparalleled international cooperation in space. It heralds a stunningly expansive and prosperous human future that could feature coordinated, global, human settlement of the solar system. (See: “A United, Global Effort for Long-Term Human Space Exploration?” — Why Not?)

Despite our justified superlatives about ISS’ extraordinary past and shining future, one question still lingers: Why has ISS — “the greatest international space project of all time” — not caught on with the American public … like Apollo did?

There has been no Apollo-style “Camelot” excitement associated with it. And history buffs know there has been no “Panama fever” as there was for the Canal, no “pole mania” like that for the intrepid discoverers of the north and south poles, nor anything like the mid-19th century “Manifest Destiny” feeling for the U.S.. (In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives came within one vote of canceling Space Station Freedom in 1993.)

So why no widespread American excitement for a program that truly deserves it?

This question involves an intriguing case study in the history of major technology projects and geopolitics. But in brief, ISS — plus two other spectacular MEPs, the Panama Canal and Apollo — illuminate the power of the long economic wave to enable — or to inhibit — great explorations and macro-engineering projects over the last 200 years.

Why did the Great Leaders de Lesseps and Reagan Both Fail?
By the time he began plans for the Panama Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps’ credentials as a great leader were already secure. He had created the “technological jewel” of the 19th century: The Suez Canal. He brought the same extraordinary ability to obtain and marshal resources, focus technology on an engineering challenge, and provide inspirational MEP leadership with him to Panama. It should have worked. But it didn’t. (See: 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.)

Likewise, President Ronald Reagan had it all. One of the most charismatic leaders in U.S. history, in 1984 he recognized a manned Earth orbit space station as “the next logical step” into space, and his judgment continues to be validated by the success of its descendant: the International Space Station. But not even Reagan could make Space Station Freedom materialize within a decade of his proposal. And surprisingly there is no mention of it in his official presidential library in Simi Valley, CA. Why didn’t it work for the president credited with winning the Cold War and who, while in Berlin in 1987, successfully issued the challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (See: The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station.)

Why did the Great Leaders Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy Both Succeed?
In 1907, perhaps the most ebullient president in U.S. history — Theodore Roosevelt — decided that construction of the Panama Canal was essential for the U.S. to become a true global power. It was completed in 1914. (In the same period TR also supported Adm. Peary’s discovery of the north pole, and became the first and only president ever to personally support both his era’s Great Exploration and its primary Macro-Engineering Project; by JFK’s time Apollo had, for the first time, unified the Great Exploration and MEP into one superproject: the Apollo program.)

Likewise, in 1962 President John F. Kennedy publicly announced that …

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win …

And only 7 years later Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed at Tranquility Base.

What Was the Difference Between Success and Failure?
Given the famous leaders involved, it is unlikely that inadequate leadership or determination led to failure. In reality, neither de Lesseps nor Reagan actually failed; I have suggested previously that they were just somewhat ahead of their time. They initiated major plans and activities for MEPs during a downward portion of the long wave — a counter-ebullient time historically known to be antithetical to spectacular macro-projects. (See: The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age)

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

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

On the other hand, JFK’s Apollo program began during the greatest economic boom in history (up to that time) and TR’s Panama Canal likewise benefited from the stratospheric economic rebound from the Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession (a situation with parallels to today). Both projects were sensational successes, and due to perfect long wave timing and great leadership, they should have been.

However, the ISS recent phase began under President Bill Clinton (in 1993) 22 years before the 2015 Maslow Window and 4 years before the long wave trough — the identical long wave circumstances of de Lesseps’ initial Canal project; the one that failed!

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 31 2009

Why Do Some People Have Negative Feelings About the Future?

Musician/producer Brian Eno asks this compelling question in This Will Change Everything (Ed. J. Brockman, 2010) about our future,

What if we come to feel as though there were no “long term” — or not one to look forward to?  What if … we started to feel that we’re on an overcrowded lifeboat in hostile waters, fighting to stay on board, prepared to kill for the last scraps of food and water? … Suppose that people start to anticipate the future world … (as) the nightmare of desperation, fear, and suspicion described in Cormac McCarthy’s post-cataclysm novel The Road.  What happens then?

No doubt many people have  felt that way recently because of the financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession that we appear to be recovering from.  But I think Eno’s question looks beyond current problems, and there’s plenty of reason to take him seriously.  For example, historian Eric Hobsbawm refers to the interval after the collapse of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window in 1914 (due to WW I) until the end of the Cold War in 1991 as “the age of extremes.”  Writing in 1994:

For those who had grown up before 1914 the contrast was so dramatic that many of them … refused to see any continuity with the past. … The First World War involved all major powers … troops from the world overseas were, often for the first time, sent to fight and work outside their own regions.

Commenting on the “world economic breakdown” between World War I and II,  Hobsbawm asserts that,

Indeed, the proud U.S.A. itself, so far from being a safe haven from the convulsions of less fortunate continents, became the epicenter of  this, the largest global earthquake ever to be measured on the economic historian’s Richter Scale — the Great Inter-war Depression. In a sentence:  between the wars the capitalist world economy appeared to collapse.  Nobody quite knew how it might recover.

This feeling is echoed in an interesting book of essays by 22 authors and historians  published in 1949 on the “essential events of American Life in the chaotic years between the two World Wars.”  It’s title: The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941.

Eno speculates that our dark future might look like this: 

Humans fragment into tighter, more selfish bands.  Big institutions, because they operate on long timescales and require structures of social trust, don’t cohere; there isn’t time for them.  Long-term projects are abandoned; their payoffs are too remote … Resources that are already scarce will be rapidly exhausted … Survivalism rules. Might makes right.

 Although no one can predict the far future with certainty, there are 2 key points which do not support Eno’s future-world nightmare.

1. Hobsbawm himself provides clues to the answer by his comments on the peace and prosperity of the pre-1914 world (the Peary/Panama Maslow Window), and his description of  “a spectacular, record-breaking global boom from about 1850 to the early 1870s …”  which, as we see now, is the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window.

The last 200 years reveal rhythmic, twice-per-century clusters of Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and CLark), MEPs (e.g., Panama Canal), and, sadly, major wars (e.g., WW I) that are fundamentally linked with major economic booms. The booms trigger widespread ebullience that catapults many in society to higher  levels in Maslow’s hierarchy; their expanded world views make exceptional explorations and massive building projects seem momentarily almost irresistible. The last Maslow Window — featuring the Apollo Moon program — was in the 1960s.  All signs — including  ironically the Panic of 2008 — suggest the next Maslow Window should open on schedule by 2015, thus countering the likelihood of an indefinitely lingering, Eno-style dark age.

2. Equally importantly, the Maslow Window concept offers us the prospect of eventually being able to moderate global economic crises and conflicts that occur between Maslow Windows.  The first step in this planning process is recognition of the global effects of long economic waves on technology booms, international conflicts, and human expansion into the cosmos. 

And imagine what this will do for our morale!

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Sep 24 2009

How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age

Fear not. The Augustine Commission and Congress notwithstanding, President Obama is setting the stage for the next Space Age. And below I examine 2 specific, well-constrained scenarios, and their dynamics, showing how this is likely to occur.

Norman Augustine, former Lockheed Martin CEO, states we need $ 3 billion more per year to have a viable Moon program. Click augustine.jpg.

It is true that chair Norman Augustine — who’s becoming known as “the 3 billion dollar man” — insists, “The current program that’s being pursued is not executable,” because a return to the Moon requires $ 3 B more annually. It’s also true that in response to an Arizona Congressman (who’s married to an astronaut) who accused Augustine of presenting “a set of alternatives that look almost like cartoons,” Augustine retorted, “I respect your feelings, but I must question your facts.”

But this is all just the usual short-term political stuff.

In reality — as the last 200+ years have shown — extraordinary pulses of activity in exploration and engineering are enabled by reliable, long-term business cycles. And all indicators suggest we’re sneaking up on the edge of another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology(GAPET).

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913. But before that the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window produced the “technological jewel of the 19th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.

Our most recent Maslow Window — the stunning 1960s Apollo Moon decade — was unique in the last 200+ years in that it wasn’t immediately preceded by a financial panic or great recession. But the approaching Maslow Window, expected to open near 2015, resumed the much more “normal” sequence of the last 200+ years when the Panic of 2008 heralded its impending arrival.

So one key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window — the next Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — will open near 2015.

And President Obama is playing a key role in triggering GAPET, although there is understandably a lot of confusion about that, especially among those unaware of the long-term forces that govern the ebullient, large-scale human affairs of Maslow Windows.

For example, shortly after the Panic of 2008, Reagan economist Arthur (“Laffer Curve”) Laffer complained that President George W. Bush “will be remembered like Herbert Hoover…(and that) the age of prosperity is over,” (WSJ, 10/27/08). And others — including Obama — have compared Obama to Franklin D. Roosevelt who was president during the Great Depression. Surprisingly, Keynesian economists George Akerloff (a Nobel-winner) and Robert Shiller don’t think FDR (or Hoover) went far enough:

“Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.”

In reality, 21stCenturyWaves.com has identified the Great Depression as an example of panic/recessions that occur 16-18 years after a Maslow Window (another is the Great Victorian Depression of 1873); they tend to be very long and severe as the long wave descends. Conversely, the Panic of 2008 is typical of upswings in the long wave that precede, by less than a decade, the transformative GAPET of Maslow Windows. While still an economic crisis characterized by major suffering, the Panic of 2008 had only a small chance (e.g., WSJ, 9/1/09; Allan Meltzer) of ever evolving into a true 1930s-style Depression (e.g., 25% unemployment).

Given the high likelihood of our next Maslow Window materializing near 2015, the key question is: How will Obama create the exceptional prosperity that is the hallmark of such Camelot-like times?

There are basically 2 options:

OPTION I: Obama becomes a 2-term President: He becomes the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ.
Historical/Economic Model: The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Three ways Obama could trigger prosperity are:

a) The recession will end naturally and prosperity will follow.
Post-War recessions have averaged 11.3 months in length (with the longest 16 months) and the current one is 22 months old. Most economists think the economy hit bottom recently and is currently recovering.

b) Obama will “reset” his presidency resulting in prosperity.
Ted Van Dyk, a long-time Democrat and formerly Vice President Hubert Humphery’s assistant in the LBJ Whitehouse, advises Obama to cut back his proposals and expectations (WSJ, 7/17/09):

“You made promises about jobs that would be ‘created and saved’ by the stimulus package. Those promises have not held up. You continue to engage in hyperbole by claiming that your health-care and energy plans will save tax dollars. Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates otherwise.”

c) The Keynesians are right and major government spending and deficits result in prosperity.
For example, according to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the idea of slowing major stimulus spending would be an “error of historical proportions,” (WSJ, 9/22/09; B. Stephens). And George Akerloff and Robert Shiller (WSJ, 4/24/09) believe that,

An understanding of animal spirits — the human psychology and culture at the heart of economic activity — confirms the need for restoring the role of regulators as guiding hands in a healthy, productive free-enterprise system. History — including recent history — shows that without regulation, animal spirits will drive economic activity to extremes.

Importantly, an especially intense version of animal spirits (called “ebullience” here) is apparently responsible for the extraordinary exploration and engineering activities during Maslow Windows.

Bottom Line for Option I:
It appears that combinations of b and c are unlikely, but various combinations of a and b or a and c could occur.

In either case, Obama becomes the new JFK. He continues the brilliant, transformative lagacy of Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal, that began with Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

OPTION II: Obama becomes a 1-term president: He becomes the new Grover Cleveland (and possibly LBJ), and leads to a pro-prosperity Republican presidency.
Historical/Economic Model: The Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-13).

The New York Times (9/6/09; Richard Stevenson) observed that,

Nearly eight months after the inauguration, the economy … has stabilized sufficiently that the nation is no longer gripped by the sense of urgency that allowed Mr. Obama, almost without challenge, to carry out an audacious act of industrial engineering: reshaping the automobile industry from the Oval Office in a matter of weeks … On health care, he is getting no such philosophical pass … The most relevant political framework instead appears to be a more problematic one inherited from his predecesser: a general loss of faith in government.

On August 21, the Wall Street Journal (8/25/09; William McGurn) reported that,

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said his boss was “quite comforrtable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda may well mean “he only lives in this house” for one term.

Indeed, if unemployment remains high into 2012, reelection will be a challenge for Obama.

Three things that could hinder Obama’s reelection are:

a) The Stimulus has not worked.
The Wall Street Journal (9/17/09; Cogan,Taylor,Wieland) reports that,

The data show government transfers and rebates have not increased consumption at all … and that the resilience of the private sector following the fall 2008 panic — not the fiscal stimulus program — deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the impressive growth improvement from the first to the second quarter.

And as unempoyment heads toward 10%, Obama’s promise that rapid passage of the stimulus package would keep unemployment below 8% has not been realized.

b) Obama’s economic policy may be fundamentally flawed.

Published economic research by the current head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors — Christina Romer — raises doubts about Obama’s policy of major government spending to end the recession. The Wall Street Journal (8/21/09; Alan Reynolds) quotes Professor Romer’s 1999 study (J. Econ. Perspect.) that between the pre-WW I era and the era of big government (post-WW II), “recessions have become only slightly less severe…and recessions have not become noticeably shorter,” in fact post-WW II recessions are one month longer. WSJ concludes that, based on economic history since 1887, “bigger government appears to produce only bigger and longer recessions.”

If this is true, Obama’s large stimulus/bailout packages and large federal budgets will not stimulate the economy in his first term.

According to William Gale of Brookings,

The budget outlook at every horizon is troubling: the fiscal-year 2009 budget is enormous; the ten-year projection is clearly unsustainable; and the long-term outlook is dire and increasingly urgent.

Add to this White House projections of a 10-year record federal deficit of $ 9 T, and by next decade’s end the national debt will be 75% of GDP, and it’s easy to see why Obama’s job approval ratings have settled into the low 50s.

c) Afghanistan turns into Vietnam.

The New York Times (8/23/09; Peter Baker) has focused on the dangers a protracted conflict in Afghanistan could have on Obama, “The LBJ model — a president who aspired to reshape America at home while fighting a losing war abroad — is one that haunts Mr. Obama’s White House as it seeks to salvage Afghanistan while enacting an expansive domestic program.”

And despite considerable personal popularity around the world, “All that good will so far has translated into limited tangible plicy benefits for Mr. Obama … foreign leaders have not gone out of their way to give him what he has sought,” (NYT, 9/20/09; Peter Baker)

An interesting bottomline emerges:

Re: Prospects for the New Space Age Near 2015:
Based on patterns in macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring a Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.

Re: Mr. Obama’s Prospects:
Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age within the next 3-5 years, his presidential prospects remain uncertain.

Obama’s long wave timing and election circumstances (i.e., panic/recession) have more parallels with the 1893-1913 Peary/Panama Maslow Window — in which a 1-term Democrat (Grover Cleveland) was replaced by a pro-prosperity Republican — than with the 1949-1969 Apollo Maslow Window of John F. Kennedy. And Obama’s continuing challenges with high unemployment, record deficits, huge budgets, and Afghanistan, pose real dangers for him.

As the New York Times noted and as evidenced by Obama’s descending poll numbers, many Americans are again expressing skepticism about big government and the economy. Obama will have to create prosperity — the cornerstone of the 2015 Maslow Window — and given Obama’s popularity and flexibility, he’s quite capable of doing it.

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Aug 23 2009

Kepler, Carl Sagan, and the Guzman Prize — Our Century-Long Search for Space Aliens

Special thanks to Dr. Sean for vectoring me toward this week’s Newsweek.

Newsweek this week (8/24 & 31/09) features “In Search of Aliens” on its cover and uses NASA’s new $ 600 M Kepler spacecraft as our most recent attempt. On March 6 Kepler became the first spacecraft ever launched whose mission is to directly detect Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.

This is huge.

Kepler’s mission is among the most important in the history of space science. Click kepler.gif.

Although early science results already exist — the HAT-P-7 light curves — Kepler’s monumental significance is not yet fully appreciated by the global community. However, it will grow in global esteem as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window because Kepler feeds directly into 2 of the basic rationales driving near-term space colonization: 1) detection and international exploration of Earth-like planets, and 2) discovery of extraterrestrial life, especially intelligent space aliens. And it motivates the third: Human settlement of the solar system and beyond.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, the way we currently search for extrasolar Earthlike planets (including their possible residents!) is with Kepler. But by 2015 we’ll have an even more sophisticated and powerful tool: the Terrestrial Planet Finder!

Of course, our search for space aliens didn’t start with Kepler, it goes back at least to the late 19th century discovery of canali on Mars by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. And as we scan the last century it becomes apparent that the public’s interest in space aliens has been modulated by the long wave. During times of economic upswings (especially during Maslow Windows) there is great interest in detecting and communicating with space aliens, but as the long wave plummets toward its trough between Maslow Windows, the public becomes more negative toward them.

During the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, astronomer Frank Drake launched ebullient radio searches for messages from space aliens, and popularized the “Drake Equation” — familiar to every introductory astronomy student — that attempted to estimate N: the number of high-tech civilizations in our Galaxy.

Interest in Drake’s seminal work encouraged the development of extraordinary NASA concepts for advanced searches (Project Cyclops). Bernard Oliver’s favorite featured a phased array of one thousand, 100 – meter radio attennas covering an area 10 km in diameter! Now that’s 1960s ebullience! It’s scope was exceeded only by its pricetag: $ 6 to 10 B.

Toward the end of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, a directed beam from the Kelvans, Kelinda and Rojan, in the Andromeda Galaxy could have theoretically been detected by Cyclops. Click kelvans.jpg.
© 1968 Paramount Pictures

Of course Project Cyclops was never built because it broke a fundamental rule for Macro-Engineering Projects: Never propose a multi-billion dollar MEP toward the end of a Maslow Window. The last 3 Apollo missions had already been canceled, and as the Apollo program wound down, there was little political or public interest in another MEP — no matter how exciting — that cost 1/2 of Apollo.

One of the most ebullient scientists of the late 20th century and maybe the best science popularizer of all time, Carl Sagan was not one to avoid the infectious ebullience of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. In 1963 he wrote a scientific paper (Planetary and Space Science Vol. 11, May, 1963, pp. 485-498) asserting that space aliens could come here (and probably had already done so) in real interstellar spaceships and would be aided by relativisitic time dilation!

Although Cyclops became an early casualty of the collapsing Apollo Maslow Window, a much smaller version was eventually funded by NASA. Unfortunately, it was canceled by Congress in 1993 — a victim of the “Giggle Factor” as constituents began to ridicule the public-funded search for space aliens. This was only a few years before the long wave trough — an anti-ebullient time for sure.

During perhaps the most ebullient decade in US history — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-1913) — space alien fans had a field day. Lowell Observatory was founded to study Mars and its presumably modern, canal-based civilization. The Guzman Prize was offered to anyone who could prove contact with space aliens; But they couldn’t be from Mars because that was considered too easy! But that’s hardly surprising because the Wall Street Journal published an article in 1907 on “the proof by astronomical observations . . . that conscious, intelligent human life exists upon the planet Mars.” And some ebullient folks even suggested we should light huge fires at night to signal the Martians directly.

By contrast, during the Great Depression in 1938 — almost exactly one 56 year long wave before Congress canceled SETI — Orson Welles did his famous radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds, in which the Martians invaded New Jersey. It reportedly resulted in panic and mass hysteria.

Near long wave troughs we ridicule search attempts for space aliens (and cancel funding) or imagine the aliens actually attacking us; either way we’re pretty negative toward them. But as we approach Maslow Windows, such as the one in 2015, interest in space aliens picks up.

Just ask Newsweek.

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Jul 17 2009

The Secret of Why Apollo Was a "Giant Step, Full Stop"

It’s understandable that there’s concern now about why Apollo didn’t continue. Indeed, 40 years ago humans first landed on the Moon. But after five more reps, it — i.e., human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit — was all over. What happened?

According to Miles O’Brien, “We did something truly great, but then walked away from it.” Click ap11.jpg.

Thomas Mallon, in his New York Times (7/12/09) review of two new books on Apollo, displays a frustrated reaction to the lack of post-Apollo action. For example, “Walter Cronkite’s prediction, that after Apollo 11 ‘everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk,’ wound up playing out backward…Apollo is the footnote, an oddball offshot…”

Miles O’Brien (Space News, 1/22/09) agrees, “Truth is, we have done nothing to equal (much less top) the accomplishments of Apollo. And even worse, we haven’t tried. We did someting truly great, but then walked away from it.”

Mallon suggests maybe too much science was the problem. “With less geology and more ontology, they might have kept the public fired up for further space exploration.” And Commander of the first Apollo mission to circle the Moon (Apollo 8), Frank Borman, concurs, “Whether we found a rock there or not was of no importance.” Neither Mallon nor Borman are scientists so they are forgiven, but isn’t the origin of the Moon and early history of Earth one exciting reason for Apollo? Is it that easy, too much science did it to Apollo?

O’Brien rejects everyone’s favorite excuse for not going to Mars! For those who want to spend the money on Earth fixing our problems here first, he has some advice, “If you don’t want to mention the cost of the wars, if you would rather not get into Wall Street or Detroit bailouts, or if you don’t want to tell them the money we spend on the space program is about the same as our annual expenditure on coffee — why not mention India?…Calcutta can afford it — and Cleveland can’t?” He’s absolutely right…it’s clearly not about our ability to pay.

O’Brien laments that, “I have heard people say the accomplishments of Apollo cannot be replicated — that the historical dominoes lined up perfectly for all the events to fall into place with such precision and success…’It won’t happen again,’ they say wistfully,” (italics mine).

In the early 1990s I began wondering about exploration. Not just space, but all human exploration, particularly the type that fired up the planet’s population. Surprisingly, these “Great Explorations” — like Lewis & Clark and the early 20th century polar expeditions — are not random or flukes. Over the last 200+ years, they are typically separated by 55 to 60 years (see 200 Years; Cordell, 1996). The same is true of spectacular macro-engineering projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal and the Apollo space infrastructure.

The “dominoes” do seem to be lined up somehow, and if you extrapolate forward from Apollo 11, it’s easy to calculate that the next pulse of Great Explorations/MEPs should culminate near 2025. But why the pattern?

Marveling about Apollo during the 1960s, O’Brien concludes that, “Those were audacious times — hard to imagine it all happening today…” (italics mine). In his pursuit of The Secret, O’Brien is starting to get warm…

About this time I stumbled across one of the more obscure, but fascinating books you’ve never heard of by economist Hugh Stewart (1989), Recollecting the Future: A View of Business, Technology, and Innovation in the next 30 Years, in which he describes the well-documented 56 year energy cycle and how it relates to society. Stewart’s energy cycle is correlated with long business cycles like the Kondratieff Wave discovered in the 1920s; e.g., peaks in the energy cycle are preceded by major economic booms.

By this time, I’d begun to think of 56 years — the typical time between Great Exploration/MEP pulses — as a magic number, and when I realized that 1969 — the year the Apollo program culminated — was an energy peak, I suspected the pulses might be fundamentally driven by long waves in the economy (see Cordell, 2006).

So what do O’Brien’s “audacious times” have to do with The Secret of why Apollo died? The greatest economic boom of its time produced a generally ebullient feeling in society, known as Camelot; if you can’t remember the 1960s, you’ve never experienced this. Momentarily liberated from typical money issues, many individuals responded to their ebullience by ascending Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews made Great Explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. “Ebullience” and “audacious times” are similar to the “animal spirits” that drive business cycles according to economist John Maynard Keynes of the 1930s.

In actuality, these “Maslow Windows” do not collapse directly because of an economic downturn; they are terminated by the decay of ebullience. This supports O’Brien’s previous point about our being able to afford space almost anytime we want to. In this model, it’s not lack of money that precludes us from going to Mars right now, it’s our lack of ebullience — over the last 200 years, exclusively the hallmark of a Maslow Window.

History of the last 200+ years also shows that financial panics and major recessions (like the current one) are a typical feature of the decade just before the opening of a Maslow Window. An interesting analog for now is the Panic of 1893 and 1890s major recession that were closely followed by one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-1913).

Mallon marvels that “the speed with which the Apollo program was realized is unimaginable to anyone young enough only to have seen the manned space program shuttle only through its later elephantine circles.” President Kennedy had to complete the Apollo program “before this decade is out” because the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window started closing by 1966. This will also be a challenge for the unprecedented Great Explorations and MEPs that will materialize between 2015 and 2025 — our next Maslow Window.

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Jun 21 2009

Panama Canal Named "Best Construction Project in the World"

One of the greatest engineering marvels in human history — and one that points directly toward the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window — the Panama Canal continues to win awards for its Expansion Program. And the Canal Authority continues to modernize the current canal and to internationally market the canal’s future.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is a remarkable example of “early ebullience” that signals our rapid approach to the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window. Click panamaecp.jpg.

An interesting measure of the Canal’s ability to attract major attention from an international audience — one of the key characteristics of a modern Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) — is the response to my recent post, “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.” Published just under 5 weeks ago on May 18, it has surged to #3 on the All-Time Readers’ Favorite List; up from #4 as recently as June 16, and it continues to climb.

The Canal itself is a magnificent story and, in combination with the International Space Station and the Apollo Moon program, provides surprising insights into the future, such as: the probable costs of future space programs, the types of future MEPs most likely to succeed, and the key role of the long wave in major programs. I think the unusual, future-oriented approach of the post appeals to many, but I’m sure that most of the international web surfers who visit are attracted by the extraordinary nature of the Panama Canal itself.

For example, at the 2009 International Logistics and Material Handling Exhibition (SIL 2009) in Barcelona, Spain, the Panama Canal Expansion Program (CEP) was given the esteemed Samoter award for “Best Construction Project in the World.” The Canal Expansion Program was also named the “Best International Project” by judges for their management of the “largest infrastructure initiative in Latin America.” To date, the Panama CEP has won a total of 11 international awards.

The Panama Canal Authority continues to modernize its operations. Recently US$ 320 M were invested in a new lighting system for increased safety, a new track and turntable system that cuts transit times, and several new tugboats. The Canal Authority has also recently signed MOUs with U.S. east coast port authorities of Philadelphia (6/12/09) and Maryland (6/2/09) to promote trade and economic growth and the “All-Water Route” connecting Asia to the U.S. east coast via the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program continues to be perhaps the most visible example of “early ebullience” in the world today. And despite the global recession, the CEP remains a sparkling bridge to more properous times in the near future. With its completion scheduled for 2014, the Canal will signal the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and stimulate economic growth throughout the world — enabling human expansion into the cosmos.

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