May 21 2011

Exploring Space Futures & Images at ISDC 2011 in the Rocket City

It was a real pleasure being part of the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) Space Business Track chaired by Clifford McMurray.

My presentation (not quite stand alone) is available here:
CLICK Cordell.EconomicBooms.ISDC.2011

Thanks to Cliff for making it a smooth event.

The symbol of the 1960s Apollo Moon program — the magnificent 363 foot tall Saturn V launch vehicle, designed by Wernher von Braun and his team at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville — is on display at Huntsville’s impressive U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Just a few comments on my presentation:Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration.”

1) This approach — long-term, empirical, global — is really different and leads to new ideas about the future of near-term large-scale space initiatives.

2) Standard Chartered Bank’s “Super-Cycles” chart (showing GDP growth per year: 1820 to present) is remarkable in the way it highlights that the growth Super-Cycles ending in 1913 and 1973 both ended abruptly. Both Super-Cycles also culminated in spectacular Maslow Windows (explained below) — that abruptly ended — including the 1960s Apollo Moon program. The new growth Super-Cycle apparently began in 2000 and is consistent with the next Maslow Window opening near 2015. The long business cycle discovered in 1989 is consistent with the timing of Maslow Windows, as are K-Waves and the generational cycles of Strauss and Howe.

3) The Maslow Window economic model connects to human psychology through the Maslow hierarchy: as the economic boom results in widespread affluence, many become ebullient and are catapulted to higher Maslow states where their expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. As ebullience decays — due to a war and/or the slowing boom — the Maslow Window collapses (e.g., during the late 1960s).

4) Maslow Windows can also be thought of as “critical states” attained through self-organization of the complex international economic/technology/geopolitical system. The fact that — over the last 200+ years — great explorations and MEPs display punctuated equilibria is strong prima facie evidence for their being Self Organized Criticality (SOC) phenomena. The size-frequency distribution of wars already points to their being SOC phenomena; a similar study of NASA programs and MEPs is ongoing and is expected to show the same result.

5) Although Maslow Windows appear to be critical states, they do have observable near-critical signatures. For example, 3 of 4 Maslow Windows (over the last 200 years) have financial panics (e.g., Panic of 2008), great recessions, and major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s JFK Boom) in sequence during the decade prior to the opening of the Maslow Window. Non-economic early signatures include dangerous conflicts like the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

6) To be viable, space exploration programs during the next 15-20 years must be “Great Explorations” possibly involving Mars, and they must culminate before 2025. In particular, their viability will be enhanced by early self-sufficiency in deep space. Several recently proposed programs have these characteristics…

Here are a few great space-related Huntsville locations I encountered on this trip. (All images by B. Cordell.)

At the U.S. Space and Rocket Center:
Here’s a Lockheed A-12, the precursor of the SR-71 Blackbird. It’s max speed was 2,210 mph (Mach 2.25) at 75,000 feet. It was retired in 1968.

The Rocket Garden at the USS&RC is spectacular and includes an X-15, V-2, and many others.

At the Von Braun Astronomical Society Observing Site.
Here’s the entry to VBAS in Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville at about 1600 feet above SL. They have 21″ and 16″ telescopes and the Von Braun planetarium.

i just returned from the Saturday evening VBAS planetarium show and observing session with the 16″ and 8″ telescopes. It’s a wonderful, inspirational, historic place. Melissa (VBAS Board Member), Megan (UAH engineering student), and Gert (member of original German rocket team) did a super job. I highly recommend the experience.

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
The Von Braun Research Hall is the highlight of the UAH engineering complex.

Inside the VBRH are 2 historic and inspirational murals. The first is of Von Braun (just left of center) receiving a 1960s-style hero’s welcome.

And the other is of the whole German rocket team that moved to Huntsville in 1949, and proceeded to change the world.

SPECIAL THANKS to the UAH Campus Police who were kind enough to give me access to the interior of the VBRH today, so I could obtain the last 2 images.

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May 15 2011

Celebrating 3 Years of at ISDC 2011 in Huntsville

This week we’re celebrating our 3rd exciting year of exploring the future of space, technology, and education at!

I’d like to thank Rachel Nishimura, who is the co-founder of, for making it possible, and all the Contributing Editors who have provided invaluable advice and information over the last 3 years, as well as new colleagues who help this quest continue to grow.

Most of all I’d like to thank the readers of from around the world who’ve visited this site for a glimpse of the future. Please come back often because long-term indicators and current global trends show we’re accelerating toward a 1960′s-style transformative decade — including a new international Space Age — by 2015. And is just getting started.

This week I’m celebrating 3 years of by speaking at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL. In “Economic Booms and Apollo-Style Exploration” we’ll see how rhythmic, twice-per-century 1960s-style decades over the last 200+ years culminated in humans on the Moon and point to a spectacular future…

The history of the last 200+ years – back to Lewis and Clark — shows that Apollo-style explorations and macro engineering projects emerge only during brief, twice-per-century intervals called “Maslow Windows”. They are exclusively associated with major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy boom) and appear to be fundamentally driven by long-term business and generational cycles. During the booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

For your enjoyment, here are…
The Top 10 Readers’ Favorite Posts During Our 3rd Year:

1) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
2) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
3) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
4) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
5) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
6) A Major Economic Boom By 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10
7) State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 Years — How Soon We’ll Go Again — 7/11/10
8 ) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
9) China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space — 8/21/10
10) Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration — 5/1/10

Here are a couple of Honorable Mentions…

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro — 4/02/11

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Feb 06 2011

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

PLEASE NOTE: This is my abstract for the 2011 International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) in Huntsville, AL at the Von Braun Center in May.

It provides a concise — rare for this blog!! — summary of the fundamental idea behind

For my ISDC 2011 Presentation, including post-meeting comments, Click HERE.

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

Bruce Cordell
formerly General Dynamics Space Systems Division

No one has been to the Moon for almost 40 years. And despite the nearly 500 people from 38 countries who have ventured into Earth orbit since Apollo 17, this remains one of the most extraordinary facts of the Space Age.

At last year’s ISDC in Chicago, Freeman Dyson suggested that scientists who lead unmanned space projects can point to a long string of successes that span the solar system over the last 6 decades. However, Apollo-style initiatives are highly visible, risky endeavors with big price tags and significant geopolitical implications. As a result, even “40 years after Apollo we’re still stuck in LEO!”

The history of the last 200+ years – back to Lewis and Clark — shows that Apollo-style explorations and macro engineering projects emerge only during brief, twice-per-century intervals called “Maslow Windows”. They are exclusively associated with major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy boom) and appear to be fundamentally driven by long-term business and generational cycles. During the booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

Another way to think of Maslow Windows is in a fractal context, in which the international technology/economic/geopolitical system becomes highly interactive and self-organizes toward a critical state every 5-6 decades. This appears to be both a necessary and sufficient condition for globally transformative programs like Apollo.

The Maslow Window concept is useful because it provides: 1) a framework for long-range planning and the development of specific forecast models, 2) a marketing theme – Apollo-style exploration is in the tradition of the great transformative explorations that can be traced back to Lewis and Clark, and 3) a morale boost because program timing is reliably based on multi-century macroeconomic patterns and current global trends.

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Jan 09 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Hickham likes the Moon for all the usual reasons.

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

Why not build a 21st century Moon base …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 06 2010

DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020

Space-related global trends for the next decade are summarized here utilizing a long-term, empirical approach that focuses on patterns — over the last 200 years — in the economy, technology, and society. This unique approach to multi-decade space and technology forecasting was first sketched in Cordell (1996) and Cordell (2006), and further developed with colleagues in subsequent articles and essays, including the last 21+ months here at

The Decade 2010-2020, will feature the opening of potentially the most transformative, 1960s-style decade — in space and on Earth — of the 21st Century. CLICK .
In honor of Robert McCall, the great space artist who passed away on 2/26/2010.

The basic 4-part approach is as follows:
1)  Sketch the economic framework for the decade based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years,
2) Identify recent trends in economics, technology, and geopolitics, that are likely to drive major directions — especially involving great explorations and MEPs — of the decade,
3) Where appropriate, insert specific forecasts from experts with special knowledge of key countries and/or potential events etc. (e.g., China collapse by 2015) that suggest possible scenarios, and
4) Identify Wildcards and evaluate their potential effects on the space-related trends and forecasts.

The success of this technique in providing significant insights into current and past space-related global trends and events – which you are invited to judge for yourself by perusing either the Categories or Readers’ Favorites lists — is encouraging, and has motivated this attempt to sketch major trends for the entire decade.

So, here are 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.

10. Long-term Economic Trends Point to the Opening of Potentially the Most Transformative Decade of the 21st Century
Trends in the economy, technology, and society – over the last 200 years – show that we’re within a few years of potentially the most transformative decade of the 21st century: the 2015 Maslow Window.
Featuring clusters of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WWI), Maslow Windows are extraordinary 1960s-style decades driven by rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms. Powered by widespread affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style engineering projects and explorations seem not only intriguing, but momentarily almost irresistible.

Initially in 1996, I forecasted that “the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s; it will involve major activities in technology, engineering, and human exploration … the focus will be on large-scale human operations in space and they will be spectacular.”

The 5 years immediately preceding a Maslow Window are typically challenging times of recovery from major financial panics and great recessions, like that which began in 2008; only the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window escaped this fate. The Panic of 2008 signaled that we have returned to the more “normal” pattern of pre-Maslow Window decades over the last 200 years.

Indeed, macroeconomic data over the last 200 years shows that we are on a similar GDP trajectory to that of previous Maslow Windows including the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and the especially ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window.

The first 5 years of any Maslow Window — e.g., 2015 to 2020 for the next one — are typically very active as the golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology is launched. For example, the early Apollo Maslow Window (circa 1957 – 1965) featured the Cold War, International Geophysical Year, Sputnik, the formation of NASA, Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Apollo Moon program, and President Kennedy’s ‘to the Moon in this decade’ speech to Congress. See “Fred Kaplan’s “1959 — The Year Everything Changed” Points to the New Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, repetitive geopolitical and economic trends associated with the long economic wave indicate that the 5+ years before and after the opening of any Maslow Window are stunningly dynamic times, as the major economic boom gains momentum and international tensions increase, and as international events associated with great human explorations and macro-engineering projects (MEP) begin to unfold and dominate global headlines.

In general outline, that’s the next 10 years for space.

9. A Significant Military Crisis May Develop Early in the Decade (e.g., Iran) … but like usual, it will be rapidly resolved, and indeed may accelerate the world toward the 2015 Maslow Window.
The year of Obama – 2009, along with the years especially since 2005, have clearly set the stage for the 2015 Maslow Window. Please see, State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010, and State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009.

While preparing for a return to the Moon by 2020 with our international partners (and competitors) and strategizing about the Shuttle 5-year gap, we enjoyed basking in the “greatest global boom ever” (the hallmark of approaching Maslow Windows); see Fortune magazine, July, 2007. However, global prosperity came to a screeching halt as the current great recession began in December, 2007 and the financial Panic of 2008 gained momentum.

These and other factors triggered a continuing major political realignment in the U.S., including: the Year of Obama, concerns about economic sustainability, rebirth of the War on Terror, and a new approach to NASA and the human future in space. Similarities between current and previous macroeconomic, geopolitical, and technology trends over the last 200 years signal our approach to the 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age.

For example, a possible war with a nuclear Iran and its potential effects on world (including China) energy supplies has parallels with the extremely dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis that intensified the U.S.-Soviet Moon race early in the Apollo Maslow Window. And the potential future political effects of a lingering or unsuccessful war in Afghanistan have some warning of parallels with LBJ’s Vietnam, that eventually ended the Apollo Maslow Window.

On the other hand, assuming — by analogy with the 1960s and all previous Maslow Windows — that we are able to control our early 2015 Maslow Window international crises, the spectacular foreign policy and technology success known as the International Space Station highlights a potential direction available to humanity as we contemplate the possibility of global, united human settlement of the solar system.

Current space-related trends associated with the global recession, a possible Sputnik event, the new NASA, a space commercialism boom, political realignments in the U.S. and elsewhere, global economic and demographic challenges, state-of-the-art technology and education, and possible wildcards, support the 2015 Maslow Window and are explored below.

8. The Financial Panic of 2008 Signaled That We Were Within 6 years of a New, Apollo-Style, Global Space Age
The Panic of 2008 and its Great Recession (see #9 above) devastated any lingering ebullience from the great global boom of 2007 and ultimately became a rationale for scaling back U.S. 2020 Moon plans.

Although predicted by a few — see Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts – the Panic of 2008/Great Recession nevertheless highlighted the limitations of current macroeconomic models, especially when unassisted by a long-term, empirical approach like that of

The severity and historical sequence of pre-Maslow Window financial panics and great recessions is documented. For example, the spectacular mid-19th century Maslow Window featured the stunning ebullience of “manifest destiny” in the U.S., Dr. Livingstone’s still-celebrated central Africa explorations, and the “technological jewel” of the 19th century: the Suez Canal. It was preceded by the financial Panic of 1837 that triggered a great recession lasting until 1843. And it was no rose garden. According to Nobel economist Milton Friedman (writing in 1960), “It is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930′s, and its monetary concomitants largely duplicate those of its later mate.”

Likewise, the ultra-ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window was preceded by the Panic of 1893 followed by a great recession. The economy began to recover in 1896 with the election of President McKinley, but unemployment did not drop below 10% until 1899.

The historical record of both 19th and 20th century pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions suggests the current great recession should run no more than 6 years. Even better news is Harvard economist Robert Barro’s study of 59 international, non-war depressions since 1870 that shows they average only 4 years in duration. This data implies that the 2015 Maslow Window will easily open on time. It should be even easier assuming the Obama administration leverages the lessons of economic history and government policy accrued over the last 200 years. But what do current economists say?

Optimists remind us that most recessions are “V-shaped” and recover like tennis balls: a deep recession produces a robust recovery, which we should see in 2010. But many others forecast only a gradual recovery, including some experts at Davos who expect another “global dip” (New York Times; 1/28/10). Despite signs of recovery, the New York Times (2/21/10) warns of an increase in chronic joblessness, and of the perils of a “Japanese decade” (1/3/10). Prominent Keynesians complain that Obama’s stimulus/bailout packages are too small, while others warn of a “Keynesian hangover.” Still others worry about expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, the potential for inflation, record debt, and the general lack of public confidence in the recovery. This situation should remind us of Stanford economist Russ Roberts’ recent column (WSJ, 2/27/10) where he seriously asks if economics is “really a science?” The economy may be far too complex for our imperfect data and limited models to routinely produce reliable forecasts.

However, what is known is that no Maslow Window over the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by a financial panic/great recession in the decade immediately preceding it. In particular, current economic circumstances resemble the great recession of the 1890s more than the post-war boom of the 1950s, and yet the 1890s resulted in perhaps the most ebullient Maslow Window in the history of the United States. That’s a reasonable expectation for 2015.

7. The Cancellation of Constellation will Create New Worlds for Space Commercialization and for NASA
President Obama’s recent budget terminates NASA’s Constellation program that was to launch astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and after this year proposes to launch American astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz launch vehicles until American companies develop man-rated Earth-to-orbit vehicles. Although some Congressional opposition to this plan has materialized (e.g., WSJ, 3/1/10; A. Pasztor), we assume that it will be substantially adopted at least for the short-term.

This will be the first time in 60 years that NASA has no capability or specific plans for its own manned launch vehicle. And NASA Administrator Bolden has emphasized a new style of international cooperation in space where NASA treats its international partners as “equals” and with “respect.”

This new paradigm for NASA supports forecasts made here based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, and suggests that the new global Space Age is not far away. For example, 1) in 1996, I suggested that the next major thrust into space will occur between 2015 and 2025 (see point 10 above) and suggested this might trigger the formation of an organization in which the major space nations share power equally in program planning and management, 2) in 1992 I described an ESA-like concept for a global space organization (“Interspace”) that features “equality” among the major international partners and opportunities for others to participate based on their human, technology, or financial resources (Cordell, 1992), and 3) based on long-wave timing, in 2006 I identified 2014 as the likely timeframe when NASA would undergo a significant transformation (although I did not imagine NASA as being removed from the launch vehicle business).

For the first time the U.S. government will be subsidizing the efforts of private companies to develop a reliable manned launch vehicle to ISS, while not developing their own successor to the Shuttle. Several grants have already been awarded to private space companies.

History shows repeatedly that when you combine adequate capital with technologically sophisticated entrepreneurs that are driven by the profit motive, a mighty force will be unleashed into the marketplace. Although it will take years for them to develop a safe vehicle to send astronauts to ISS, it is highly likely that — thanks to President Obama — the space commercialization boom has finally begun.

But what of the Moon and Mars as near-term destinations for human settlers? Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (WSJ, 2/26/10) praises Obama for removing the U.S. from a puzzling Moon race (which Buzz and Neil Armstrong won for the U.S. 40+ years ago) and refocuses NASA on technology development for deep space human missions like Mars as our “long-term objective.” He then quotes President Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade…” as the type of “bold initiative” offered by Obama.

Unfortunately, unlike JFK’s Moon speech, there is currently no specific plan or timeline to go to Mars and there may not be any for many years to come. Based on long wave timing, we have only until the end of this decade until it becomes very difficult to initiate any major space program. This suggests that under Obama’s plan, a manned Mars initiative might not occur until the next Maslow Window that opens near 2071.

6. Affluence-Induced Ebullience will Drive Space-Related Expenditures to ~ $ 1 T (2007 USD) during 2015 to 2025
I estimate space-related MEP and exploration expenditures during the 2015 Maslow Window will reach between $ 1 T and 3 T (2007 USD), compared to about $ 150 B (2007 USD) for the 1960s Apollo Moon program. This is based on: 1) MEP cost extrapolations during successive Maslow Windows, and 2) ratios between previous primary-to-secondary MEP costs. Two examples of primary MEPs are the Panama Canal and the Apollo/Saturn V infrastructure, and secondary MEPs include, the Titanic and Great Eastern ships, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, and the Large Hadron Collider. All are very expensive, state-of-the-art projects (for their time) that caught the public’s imagination. This is affordable and pro-ebullient (see below) assuming that GDP in 2025 culminates between $ 29 and 35 T (2007 USD) as projected based on GDP trends of the last 200 years.

Such expensive endeavors are only politically feasible because of a powerful psychological phenomenon called “ebullience,” that over the last 200 years occurs exclusively during Maslow Windows separated typically by 55 to 60 years. Triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms, affluence-induced ebullience becomes widespread and catapults many to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. See The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, widespread ebullience typically collapses rapidly in response to public perceptions of financial contractions and/or wars, not necessarily the facts. And since ebullience is not a totally rational condition, it’s onset and collapse are not necessarily rational either. But the important point is that ebullience actually drives Maslow Windows, not just economics.

Currently, we’re still recovering from a great recession and the public is anti-ebullient, as expected. There is no political incentive for Obama to plan Mars missions. But as the recovery begins to revive the economy over the next few years, it’s likely the U.S. will respond much like it did in the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window led by Theodore Roosevelt.

However, even now there are signs of “early ebullience” around the world that remind us of what’s just over the horizon for space and technology development. It’s typical of the approach to a Maslow Window when certain elements of society — e.g., high-end clientele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, — anticipate the ebullience that eventually engulfs society during the height of a Maslow Window. Since we apparently are only ~5 years from the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window, early ebullience is expected.

5.  B-R-I-Cs are the Solid Foundation for a Grand Alliance for Space
The BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, and China are demonstrating multi-decade long wave trends as well as the style of ebullience that points directly toward the 2015 Maslow Window.

China is the biggest economic questionmark of the decade. Some forecasters see it eventually taking over the world economically, while Stratfor believes China will experience a major, Japan-like economic collapse by 2015. Barnett (2/13/10) asserts that China must switch to democracy soon because “democracies simply perform better–not by how they run things but by how they get the hell out of the way of those who really need to run things, aka the private sector.” But Stratfor sees China in a quadruple economic bind, including: giving employment primacy, stagnating Western imports, aging demographics, and internal income tensions. This is important because an economically robust China is often assumed to be a major space competitor of the U.S. during the coming decade. See 10 Reasons China is Good for Space.

According to Harvard’s Richard Pipes, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’.” This is partly due to their success in WW II and their “success in sending the first human into space.” Currently, Russia is not only playing a central role in ISS, it is expanding its domestic space infrastructure (the $ 13.5 B Vostochny Cosmodrome), anticipates a joint Phobos robotic sample-return mission with China in 2011-12, and speaks openly of possible joint manned Mars expeditions with the U.S. and others. However, its continuing leadership in space is complicated by its vulnerability to the global recession and its recent Cold War-like actions. See The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.

India may have the most ebullient space program in the world. It’s first Moon mission (Chandrayaan I) recently discovered water on the Moon, and advanced propulsion will drive their first robotic probe to Mars after 2013. According to the Indian President their manned orbital program will start near 2014, and will “electrify” young people in India. India’s economy has suffered “no crisis” during the global recession — growth dropped from 10% to 6.5% — which suggests not even the sky’s the limit in India as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

Brazil is one of the most ebullient countries in the world and has a growing space program to match. Selection as the first-ever South American site for the Olympics (in 2016) is symbolic of its “arrival on the world stage.” In 2006 Brazil’s first astronaut trained with NASA, flew a Russian Soyuz, and enjoyed a week-long stay on ISS. Then he became an instant celebrity. In 1992 I suggested that Rio de Janeiro would be an ideal headquarters city for a new global space organization (“Interspace”) that we forecasted would form by 2014. Brazil rapidly exited the global recession with a 1.9% GDP surge in 2009 Q2 and expects to grow 5% in 2010. They’re well-positioned to be an ebullient, global player in the 2015 Maslow Window.

Although not a BRIC, the #2 economy in the world is currently suffering from a debt/GDP ratio of more than 2 and is scrambling “to avoid being the next Greece” (WSJ, 3/1/10). The last half century of both Japan’s economic and political history are strongly consistent with the long economic wave. For example, Japan’s “lost decade” from 1991 to 2000 is centered on the trough (1997) of the 56 year energy cycle, and Japan’s historical election in 2009 — giving it a new government — occurred after 54 years (one long wave) of almost continuous rule by the LDP. Japan’s new strategy for growth during the next decade suggests it will retain its position as a major global leader in space, including current projects like ISS as well as major new initiatives such as its planned $ 21 B space-based solar power MEP.

All the major space powers enter the decade with significant economic and demographic challenges. This makes it appear that a Grand Alliance for Space — that would be promoted by a new global space agency like Interspace — would be highly likely, because no country would have the economic flexibility to do otherwise. However, our current economic trajectory is more like that of the late 1890s great recession than the pre-Apollo 1950s, and thus an unparalleled economic boom is probable as the drive toward prosperity gains momentum in the next 3-5 years. Therefore, a 21st century version of the late 1950s International Geophysical Year scenario is still realistic, and the possibility of a Sputnik-style surprise cannot be ruled out.

4. We are the Beneficiaries of 60+ Years of Space Technology Development, and Are Capable of going to Mars, Developing the Moon, and/or Utilizing Space Resources in the Next Decade

It is incorrect to say that we do not have the technology to go to Mars.

We already have the basic technology to go to Mars and ISS can help resolve issues related to long duration human spaceflight before 2020. While advanced propulsion is always preferred on Mars missions, it is not required. Split mission concepts — where return propellants, consumables, and other cargo — are sent first to Mars orbit before the crew leaves Earth improve performance and safety for the crew vehicles. In situ resource utilization is an important technology that is needed to process propellants from water (or other substances) on Phobos and/or Mars. It needs to be developed but is hardly a showstopper. The modern technical literature on human spaceflight to Mars is extensive and goes back 50 years; a good place to start is the Case For Mars volumes that began in the 1980s.

Great explorations always involve significant risk. The risk must be identified, quantified, managed, and then accepted. In essence, you are ready to go exploring when you think you are.

Columbus and his descendants could have waited until the 747 was invented to make the trip to America — it would have been a lot safer and more comfortable — but they chose to go in 1492. There were many unknowns (a pre-mission cost/benefit analysis was difficult) and the crew suffered casualties, but the mission of exploration was a success and the world was changed. In their 1963 EMPIRE study for NASA, German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke and his staff at General Dynamics concluded that “Preliminary schedule analysis strongly indicates that a 1975 (manned) mission…to Mars is in the realm of realistic technological planning…” It was 6 years before the Moon landing, and Krafft Ehricke, Bill Strobl, and the other authors of the document calculated we were nearly ready to go to Mars. Even bolder was the pulsed nuclear propulsion system of Project Orion. Begun in 1958 at General Atomics by Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, the goal was inexpensive, fast, near-term travel throughout the solar system, and every available technological assessment of the system shows that it would have worked. Larger, classified versions would have made good star-ships, but the project lost funding due to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Post-Apollo Mars plans were canceled by President Nixon near the end of the Apollo Maslow Window, and no human has ventured beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972. But the point is that serious plans and capability for manned Mars missions existed in the 1970s. To claim that manned Mars missions cannot be done in the next decade suggests NASA needs to be reminded of this superlative technological legacy and also needs to grow a pair — both of which will happen naturally as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and become globally enthused by its surging ebullience.

3. The U.S. is Approaching Another Sputnik-style Crisis of Confidence in Education
In 1957, only 10 days after the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik — the world’s first artificial satellite — the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! Well they did. And 12 quick years later an American stepped onto the Moon.

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

According to The Space Foundation, “The basic problem is that the U.S. education system is not producing students in quantity and at a level of achievement to be globally competitive.” This is because of “declining interest and achievement in the math, science, and technology subjects that are critical to the space industry.”

Due to a shortage of teachers prepared in science and math, the U.S. K-12 system produces a decline in the capability of our students in these crucial subjects. For example, 29% of 4th graders are rated as proficient in science and 39% were good in math. But by the time they reach 12th grade, students have declined to 23% proficient in math and 18% in science.

International comparisons for U.S. students are also uninspiring. In 2007, U.S. 8th grade math students ranked 9th after several asian countries (e.g., Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan), and 11th behind a similar group in science.

The impending retirement of Boomers fuels concerns about declines over the last 20 years in science and engineering B.S. graduates in the U.S.; even math and computer science graduates have remained only level during that time.

With or even without another Sputnik-style event in the next few years, concerns about the state of U.S. science, math, and engineering education will become more intense during the coming decade, possibly even reminiscent of one long wave ago in the 1950s.

2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — Another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology
There is a political realignment taking place in the U.S. that began with President Obama’s election in 2008 and is continuing. It’s fundamentally about a return to prosperity. And while not always fully aware of it, President Obama is the prime motivator in America’s return to prosperity and leadership in the new Space Age. For details, see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

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 18th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.

One key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window will open near 2015. So the key question becomes: 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.
, or…

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).

A Democratic Party insider on a cable TV news program recently admitted that either Obama will bring back the economy and be reelected, or he won’t and will become a one-term president. It’s that simple.

Obama’s record fall in the polls has been reflected in recent elections including the historical “Massachusetts Massacre” — referring to the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s long-time Senate seat — according to liberal columnist Frank Rich (New York Times, 1/24/10) who worries that Obama’s “populist rhetoric” is not enough. And a February CNN poll reports that anti-incumbent fever is at an all-time high. Only 34% of voters think most members of Congress should be re-elected, and 52% do not think Obama deserves a second term. On August 21 Robert Gibbs said that Obama is “quite comfortable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda might make him a 1-termer. But polls show the political realignment is not all about Obama, it’s about prosperity.

Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age — e.g., triggering a new boom in commercial space, discouraging a questionable Moon race, rekindling Americans’ desire for prosperity — 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, although he is still capable of reversing course and being successful.

But whether Obama is a 1-termer or the new John F. Kennedy, he is still creating the new Space Age according to the trajectory of macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years; in fact, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.

1. Potential Wildcards and the Bottomline for Space
The previous space-related trends –- based on macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years — will strongly influence the human future in space during the 2010-2020 decade. However, other trends that are possible and important, but much harder to evaluate — the Wildcards — may also play a role, as they have in the past. Here are three.

A Major 2020s War:
Without exception, every Maslow Window of the last 200 years has been punctuated by a major war. A classic example is World War I that terminated the utopian ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window just as it was reaching its apex. The Apollo Moon program lost its last 3 planned Moon missions due to Vietnam, and might have been decimated if Vietnam had intensified just a few years earlier. Similar situations may occur in the 2020s, toward the end of the 2015 Maslow Window. If the expected 2020s major war occurs in the late 2020s, the Great Exploration and MEPs should be mature, but if it starts near 2020 or before, it might threaten the great Mars, Moon, or other space spectaculars possible in this decade. The exact timing of this Wildcard is unpredictable.

A Space Impactor Threatens Earth:
Sometime during this decade an Earth-crossing asteroid may be discovered that threatens Earth. Assuming there is time to react, this would trigger international planning — of the type currently advocated by Rusty Schweickart — and development of space systems and coordinated operations to deflect the object. This Wildcard would focus global attention on space, possibly lead to the development of a global space agency, and remind the world of the potential resource and exploration benefits of human settlement of the solar system. In short, it could be a very positive thing.

The Chinese and Russians Announce They Are Going to Mars Together:
Near 2014, in response to the booming global recovery, the Russians and Chinese announce plans for their joint manned mission to Mars during the 2015 Maslow Window. Because they are smart, they will do it the easy, safe, inexpensive way: Set up an initial manned outpost on the martian moon Phobos, because every two years it is easier to reach (energy-wise) than our Moon, and can process expected waters into propellants, as well as coordinate the scientific reconnaissance of Mars (using a huge fleet of small robotic surface rovers) in real-time from Mars orbit, with greater safety. If things go well, in a couple years they launch an unmanned mission carrying a Mars Lander to Phobos so they can send the first humans to the Mars surface whenever it’s convenient. This would be the natural outgrowth of their current collaboration on the anticipated joint China-Russia Phobos mission in 2011. While initially viewed as a Sputnik-like event by the U.S. and others, it might trigger a truly global approach to the human settlement of Mars.

In the powerfully ebullient environment of the 2015 Maslow Window — not seen since the 1960s Moon Race, the early 20th century “Panama-fever” of the Canal, the mid-19th century “manifest destiny” of the U.S., and the seminal exploits of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago — almost anything is possible.

3 responses so far

Jul 05 2009

Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!

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

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

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

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

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

The Maslow Window Model

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

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

The Phobos Connection

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

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

Instant Martians

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

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

According to Buzz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like a lot of fun!

3 responses so far

Mar 09 2009

State of the Wave — The Recession and the Next Race to Space

This summary updates recent posts on the economic crisis and on space trends for 2009, with a focus on economic data and forecasts. The last 200 years support a model of nearly decade-long ebullient Maslow Windows triggered by major economic booms, that are typically preceeded by financial panics and major recessions. But surprisingly, the Maslow Window activities (e.g., the next race to space) are not delayed or dimished by the contractions. Forecasts for the current recession continue to mirror this two-century pattern.

Will the next international race to space start “on schedule” near 2015? Click marsbase.jpg.

Robert J. Barro, a Harvard economics professor and Hoover Institution fellow, has studied data on GDPs, consumption, and stock market directions for the U.S. and 33 other countries as far back as 1870 (WSJ, 3/4/09).

Mr. Barro defines a “depression” as a drop in per capita GDP or consmption by 10% or more. (A major depression is 25% or more.) Since 1870, he finds two such events in the U.S.: 1) the Great Depression from 1929-33 with a decline of 25%, and 2) a fall of 16% during the post-WW I time from 1917-21. Note that the pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions of 1893 and of 2008, although severe events, are not classified as depressions. Barro’s data also supports our observation that post-Window panic/recessions are considerably more severe than pre-Window events.

Barro’s international bottom-line is that “periods experiencing stock market crashes, such as 2008-09 in the U.S., represent a serious threat. The odds are roughly one in five (20%) that the current recession will snowball into a macroeconomic decline of 10% or more that is the hallmark of a depression.” This is consistent with our observation that, over the last 200 years, 4 out of 5 Maslow Windows were preceeded a financial panic and recession, but not a depression. By the way, the only Maslow Window of the last 200 years that was not presaged by a panic/recession was the 1960s Apollo Window, but ironically it was prematurely terminated by the Vietnam War.

Interestingly, for the last two months, participants in the prediction market have been estimating the odds that the US GDP will decline by 10.0% or more from its peak value between 2008 and 2009, as about 20%. (It appears that many participants are also Wall Street Journal subscribers!)

Despite plummeting house prices, increasing unemployment, and the lowest consumer confidence since 1967, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is currently projecting a relatively optimistic scenario. He sees the economy recovering during 2010, if President Obama can revitalize the financial system. This would enable the global economy to re-ignite the “greatest global boom ever” — that was interrupted during summer, 2007 — in plenty of time for the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window.

Bernanke’s optimism is echoed by Strafor: Although “the world begins 2009 in its first synchronized recession since 1974…Stratfor sees the American economy as a strong entity that will bounce back relatively quickly.”

Although the 4th quarter was “dismal,” Fisher Investments is also bullish and does not expect a Great Depression or a “Lost Decade” like in Japan in the 1990s. They see President Obama as “moving toward the center…but very willing to spend enormous sums of money which can be and usually is appropriate at this stage of the economic cycle.” Fisher sees current market prospects more like Keynesian tennis than gravity, “What falls most usually bounces most,” and like Bernanke, they expect a “V”-style recovery within the next year or so.

However, Barro’s study of 59 international, non-war depressions shows they average almost 4 years in duration. This would put our recovery near 2012 — still sufficient for happy days to usher in a full-blown, spectacular Maslow Window in 2015. Barro believes that “if we are lucky, the current downturn will also be moderate, though likely worse than other post-World War II recessions, including 1982.”

One response so far

Dec 14 2008

The Next 'Space President'…Will it be Caroline? exists to test the idea that long waves in the economy have enabled Great Explorations (GEs) and Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) over the last 200 years, and that this model provides a powerful portal into the future; see The Forecasts. Historically, GEs and MEPs come in brief, ebullient pulses — called Maslow Windows — separated by 55 to 60 years during huge economic booms.

Thomas Jefferson’s vision opened up the West in 1804. Click jefferson.jpg.

Interestingly, there is usually an important leader like Theodore Roosevelt (for the Panama Canal) or Thomas Jefferson (for Lewis & Clark) around who plays a key role. During the last Maslow Window — in the 1960s — it was President John F. Kennedy who provided Camelot-style symbolic leadership for the Apollo Moon program. This weblog suggested previously that President Kennedy should be considered both the Thomas Jefferson and the Theodore Roosevelt of his time because of his seminal association with not only the greatest GE of all time, but also the greatest MEP — both in Apollo.

Theodore Roosevelt’s vision opened the Panama Canal in 1914. Click troosevelt.jpg.

Prior to the onset of the financial Panic of 2008 in September, this blog suggested that Barack Obama seemed to possess both the flexibility to be able to recognize the approach of the 2015 Maslow Window, and the charisma to lead the U.S. and the world into it. However, given the depth of the current recession, it appears unlikely that the recovery will occur before his potential second term. Because a major economic boom always powers the affluence and ebullience of a Maslow Window — and the recession may last 4 – 6 years — the next Maslow Window may not open much before 2015 (i.e., the expected date based on the last 200 years).

President Kennedy’s vision opened up the Moon for all humankind in 1969. Click jfk.jpg.

So who else might be the next “Space President”…the next JFK? It will be someone who’s mindful of JFK’s space legacy and who could advocate a large, visionary, international project. And most importantly, this individual would need JFK-like charisma to provide symbolic leadership for the next race to space. Although highly speculative now, we suggest that it might be Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, President Kennedy’s 51-year-old daughter.

Our speculation is motivated by the December 5th Associated Press report indicating the Governor of New York discussed the possibility with Ms. Kennedy of filling Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat when she becomes Secretary of State. Reaction has been very enthusiastic in Democratic quarters suggesting they perceive Caroline as the charismatic embodiment of JFK’s legacy. If she were to be appointed, and demonstrated political success, it would give her a high probability of being able to be elected on her own in 2012. This would give Caroline a total of 8 years in the Senate before she could choose to run for President in 2016 — exactly one 56-year energy cycle after her father was elected; this blog has predicted that the next Space President will be elected in 2016 (or possibly as early as 2012) based long wave timing.

Caroline is a graduate of Harvard and received her law degree from Columbia. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and has run the Office of Strategic Partnerships in NYC’s Dept of Education. She and her family live in Manhattan; her son John is named after President Kennedy. She has devoted most of her efforts toward the arts and humanities, and education. So the question becomes, what would it take for her to recognize that the many benefits from the space program could be a bridge between her past issues and interests and moving to a national platform, supporting the country in a broader context? Indeed, the contribution of the space program to today’s issues of education, energy, medicine and the environment is considerable. In particular, the space program has been a catalyst attracting students to science and math and engineering. These professionals contribute not only to our national space ventures, but provide a skill base for solutions to the energy crisis, as well as applying their skills to biomedicine or understanding climate change and global warming – leaving the world a better place for future generations.

Partly due to her highly publicized White House childhood, Caroline is closely associated with President Kennedy. As the sole survivor of her immediate family, she has been willing to participate in activities that recognize the contributions of her dad. For example, in 1967 she christened the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. In 1990, she was co-founder of the Profiles in Courage Award (named after her father’s book); it was given in 2002 to representatives of many key groups who saved lives during the 9/11 attacks. On January 27, 2008, Caroline’s Sunday New York Times op-ed piece endorsing Obama appeared; it was entitled, “A President Like My Father.” So stepping up to her father’s leadership and legacy in space – seen by many as one of the most significant accomplishments of the United States in the 20th century and one that clearly elevated the stature of the US in the world — could easily be a concept she might embrace.

In 2016, Will Caroline Kennedy expand on her father’s spectacular legacy in space? Click caroline.jpg.

We also note that Caroline would be 59 if elected President in 2016, compared to her father’s 43; both would have spent 8 years in the Senate. It is not obvious to us that her age relative to JFK’s at inauguration would negatively affect public perceptions of her charisma. In fact, we suspect her more mature style of charisma and close association with her father’s legacy would be sufficient to make her the next JFK-like Space President; The One who will lead the U.S. and the world into the globally transformative space initiatives expected during the next Maslow Window.

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Oct 08 2008

The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sep 14 2008

Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space — State of the Wave, Friday 9/12/08

Bruce’s presentation last Thursday to the AIAA Space 2008 Conference in San Diego is now online here.

“Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space: The New Race to Space,” has 3 purposes: 1) to briefly introduce the macroeconomic and historical data of the last 200 years for Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and major wars, and to explain how they provide a framework for 21st Century space and technology forecasts, 2) to explore the basic forecasts themselves for the next 20 years and summarize global events and trends supporting them, and 3) to feature space policy-related implications of the forecasts. The bottomline is that long waves in the economy provide a framework in which major exploring, impressive building, and tragic warrior behavior are especially enabled roughly every 56 years.

The 56 year energy cycle (discovered by Stewart, 1989) provides a remarkable indicator of macroeconomic activity; the energy peaks (e.g., in 1969) correspond directly to peaks in major decade-long economic booms. Indeed, the energy cycle and the better-known Kondratieff waves are directly correlated. And Alexander (2002) has shown that the popular Strauss and Howe (1991) generational cycles are also correlated with (and apparently influenced by) K Waves.

Historical data from the last 200 years clearly show that Great Explorations, massive MEPs, and major wars, cluster near the 56 year energy cycle peaks in 1801, 1857, 1913, and 1969 (and soon 2025). (See the presentation charts and The Articles.)

The close association of Great Explorations, MEPs, and major wars with the 56 year energy/economics cycle suggests the following “Maslow Window” model: Rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms create widespread affluence. As societal “Maslow pressures” are reduced, many people ascend the Maslow Heirarchy into an affluence-induced ebullient state and momentarily find exploring and building to be almost irresistible. While others also reach ebullience — but do not ascend the Maslow Heirarchy — and tragically trigger major wars. This unusual confluence of affluence and ebullience creates what we call a “Maslow Window” — a spectacular decade that rapidly declines just after the energy peak. The impressive economic, political, strategic, and scientific parallels between Lewis and Clark and Apollo are, for example, easily explained by this model, as are many other such parallels over the last 200 years.

Projecting the last 200 years into the next 20 suggests that the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog — in the economy, technology, exploration, politics — of the 1960s, complete with a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

Many signs of the times (documented in this weblog) — most good and some bad — support the idea that society is approaching the 2015 Maslow Window, including: the greatest global economic boom ever (July, 2007; momentarily postponed by our current turmoil), energetic international space programs, return of Cold War-like tensions in Europe, birth of the space tourism industry, a global explosion of non-space MEPs (e.g., the $ 5 B Panama Canal expansion), the emergent exploration-loving Millennial generation, and many others.

Policy-related implications of this Maslow Window model abound and include: 1) public ebullience and support for major Maslow programs (e.g., manned Mars) will fade abruptly near the next 56 year energy peak (2025), 2) timing of the expected 2020s major war is a major wildcard, 3) planned human Moon and Mars initiatives should strive for self-sufficiency in space so at least some deep space (i.e., beyond LEO/GEO) operations can continue after Maslow Window closure near 2025, 4) current U.S. Moon base plans and Maslow Window timing appear to preclude American spaceflight to Mars during this Window (next Window opens in 2071), 5) the next rapidly approaching Maslow Window (opening in 2013-15) requires action now, not paralysis by analysis, … and many others.

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