Sep 25 2009

Planned Your LCROSS Impact Party Yet?

If not, you’ve got only a couple more weeks. NASA says LCROSS — the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite — will be a “smashing success” on October 9! (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, but I promise to avoid impact-related puns from here on…)

Any Lunarians vacationing in the south polar Moon crater Cabeus A are headed for an exciting morning October 9 when a large NASA spacecraft crashes into it. Click cabeus.jpg.

Water on the Moon is big news today. For example, NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), that hitched a ride almost a year ago onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, discovered both water and hydroxl molecules especially in the lunar polar regions (Science, September 24, 2009). According to Jessica Sunshine of the University of Maryland,

“Our analysis unequivocally confirms the presence of these molecules on the Moon’s surface and reveals that the entire surface appears to be hydrated during at least some portion of the lunar day.”

Although water and hydroxyl are present in larger abundances than expected and are a very exciting discovery, the actual water molecule fractions are only about 1000 ppm of lunar soil. Apparently hydrogen ions in the solar wind arriving at the lunar surface interact during the day with oxygen-rich minerals near the lunar surface to produce the observed water.

Regarding the M3 lunar surface water discovery, Carle Pieters of Brown University cautions that,

“When we say ‘water on the Moon,’ we are not talking about lakes, oceans, or even puddles. Water on the Moon means molecules of water and hydroxyl that interact with molecules of rock and dust spacifically in the top millimeters of the Moon’s surface.”

Of course, the lost lunar lakes (or even oceans) would be the most important and cost-effective resource we could find on the Moon — the holy grail for lunar scientists and others interested in studying, developing, and colonizing the Moon. Active international interest in lunar polar waters is consistent with accelerating human expansion into the cosmos as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

To detect these types of major water deposits on the Moon — suggested previously by Clementine (1994) and Lunar Prospector (1999) — NASA has developed LCROSS that will impact a Centaur upper stage at 2.5 km/sec on the Moon and create an ejecta cloud expected to expand 10+ km above the surface.

In a previous post, India and NASA Search for the Lost Lunar Lakes, you may want to check out my interview with Lunar Prospector PI Dr. Alan Binder as well as the challenging comments of two other lunar scientists, Drs. Paul Spudis and Stewart Nozette.

LCROSS is not exactly a subtle technique but it should meet our basic needs. On October 9, after venting any remaining fuel from Centaur, it will will impact the Moon, excavating at least 200 tons of lunar rock and soil. The Shepherding Spacecraft will rapidly descend into the plume making in situ measurements of its composition — searching for lunar water — and transmiting this data back to Earth, just before it creates a second impact plume on the Moon.

Funseekers on Earth — amateur astronomers and students — with 10″ or larger telescopes may be able to see the plume and participate in the discovery! Many public events are planned around the country or you can watch from the comfort of your video room at home on NASA TV. NASA also provides impact timing for those planning their own LCROSS Impact Party. See this link and have a blast!

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Apr 26 2009

Ebullient Congratulations to the Taj Mahal and my Mother!

Congratulations to my mom because this week she achieved the remarkable age of 91 and continues to enjoy life on the west coast of Michigan! Happy Birthday Mom!!

Ebullience in abundance: My mom at the Taj Mahal. Click taj.pdf.

Besides being the most loving, ebullient mother anyone could imagine having, she’s a retired teacher and a world traveler who’s interested in everything. She grew up in India and learned to play tennis at the Kodaikanal School in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu while her dad was a Methodist missionary.

Since that time she’s visited every continent on Earth except Antarctica — although I don’t want to give her any ideas :) — and shared it all with her lucky students. More recently she’s enjoyed visiting China, Australia, and New Zealand.

The first part of mom’s life encompassed “The Aspirin Age” from 1919 to 1945; a counter-ebullient period just after the abrupt fall from the near-utopian Polar/Panama Canal Maslow Window to W. W. I, including the Great Depression and W. W. II. Similar hard times have afflicted the Taj Majal, and we offer our congratulations to this architectural masterpiece for surviving all of them.

Built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj was damaged during the Indian Rebellian of 1857, near the end of the Dr. Livingstone Maslow Window. However, just in time for the ebullient Polar/Panama Canal Maslow Window, British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a massive restoration project, which was completed in 1908, only 10 years before mom was born.

Again, congratulations to the Taj and Happy Birthday to You, mom!

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Mar 07 2009

India and NASA Search for the Lost Lunar Lakes

The search for the lost lunar lakes continues into the 21st Century! This adventure, worthy of Indiana Jones, will strongly influence human expansion into the cosmos. If they are found, the lakes will be the key to lunar development and human settlement of the inner solar system during the 2015 Maslow Window. If not, hydrogen may have to be imported to support future lunar science, industry, and tourism.

Our latest search for the lost lunar lakes began in 2008 at the ISRO Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota off the coast of Andhra Pradesh in India. Click chandrayaanliftoff.jpg.

Today, the search for the lost lunar lakes involves a beautiful international collaboration between India, NASA, and others. The Chandrayaan-1 — India’s first mission to the Moon — was launched by the ISRO on October 22, 2008 using its 4-stage PSLV rocket. The vehicle achieved lunar orbit on November 8. A week later India became only the 4th entity reach the Moon’s surface (after former Soviet Union, U.S., and European Space Agency) when its Moon Impact Probe hit near the Moon’s south pole. The MIP’s impact released debris from near the crater Shackleton that may provide clues to the presence of lunar water ice. You may remember that Shackleton is a famous name associated with the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration during the early 20th Century Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window.

Happily hitching a ride on Chandrayaan-1 is NASA’s Mini-SAR, a synthetic aperature radar expected to help search “the inside of (polar) craters for water ice” (Space News, 1/26/09). According to planetary scientist Benjamin Bussey of the Mini-SAR program office at Johns Hopkins University, this is “the only way to explore such areas.”

The birth of the first Space Age stimulated serious interest in the lost lunar lakes when 3 Caltech scientists proposed in 1961 that water and other volatiles could be trapped in eternally shadowed crater floors near the Moon’s poles (K. Watson, B.C. Murray, H. Brown, J. Geophys. Res. 66, 3033 (1961)), because of the Moon’s low axial tilt (only 1.5 deg vs. Earth’s 23.5 deg). Their model indicated that lunar polar cold traps would have temperatures below 100 degrees K (- 173 deg C) and could retain ices for billions of years.

Ten years after the Apollo Moon landings, UC San Diego chemist James Arnold commented that like the lunar lakes, “an important paper by Watson, Murray, and Brown (1961) seems to have been lost.” The desiccated character of the returned Moon rocks showed that any water on the Moon probably came from elsewhere, so Arnold suggested water-rich meteors and icy comets.

In 2007, the National Research Council identified the lunar (and Mercurian) polar microenvironments as “unique in the solar system” because of their potential for illuminating “the volatile flux over the latter part of solar system history.” The NRC recognizes that “cold trapping of hydrogen-bearing volatiles does occur,” but their identity (e.g., water vs. hdrogen) and sources (e.g., comets vs. lunar outgassing) are currently unknown. However they see strong links between “lunar resource utilization, science, and human exploration.”

The first really successful searcher for the lost lunar lakes was Dr. Alan Binder, who led Lunar Prospector science in 1998. According to the NRC, LP detected a “distinct neutron albedo deficit over the poles.” This implies significant concentrations of hydrogen, possibly in the form of patchy ice, but most likely not at the immediate surface.

In an email to me on March 4, Alan commented that the LP discovered “an enhancement of up to 1700 ppm of hydrogen in the permanently shadowed craters of the north and south poles over the 50 to 100 ppm in the lower latitudes.” At this point, “the theoretical arguments favor … water ice crystal, at a very low mixing ratio of around just 1%, (but) we have no proof that the hydrogen is … not just enhanced deposits of solar wind hydrogen.”

Because of the low mixing ratio of 1%, Dr. Binder believes that “a spacecraft radar/radio experiment will not detect the ‘water ice’,” so he points to the upcoming LCROSS repeat of his LP impact experiment. According to NASA, this year LCROSS will target a shadowed lunar polar crater with two large impactors; the resulting debris cloud will be analyzed for the presence of lunar water, hydrocarbons, and hydrated minerals. Launch is scheduled for April 24.

The search for the lost lunar lakes intensifies!

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Dec 21 2008

The Future of Human Spaceflight … The MIT View

The Space, Policy, and Society Research Group at MIT recently released their whitepaper on “The Future of Human Spaceflight.” It’s good, but I have to admit that initially I was a little worried. It brought to mind the brilliant technologist, MIT icon, and 1960s presidential science advisor Jerome Wiesner. According to Walter McDougall (1985), Wiesner “denounced Project Mercury” (Apollo’s first step into space) and suggested it could result in a international public relations debacle or even astronaut death. If Wiesner had been making the decisions it’s likely no American would have landed on the Moon, but President John F. Kennedy’s leadership and vision changed the course of history.

Sometimes leadership in technology or science does not translate into a broader vision for the future of humanity, but happily that is not the case here. This MIT Report is basically a call to re-examine, update, and expand Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration in the context of a new U.S. president and a world rapidly evolving toward the 2015 Maslow Window…a 1960s-style golden age for exploration and technology.

MIT recommends that the International Space Station should be used by the U.S. and its international partners through 2020 to support human spaceflight to Mars. Click iss.jpg.

Their recommendations include:

1) The Shuttle should be retired as planned in 2010 as soon as ISS missions are completed. The Report cites “political concerns about relying on Russia” to launch American astronauts to the Station and notes that Russia’s performed well so far on its ISS launch commitments. They don’t comment on how the increasing Cold War-style tensions in Europe will influence U.S. leaders on this issue.

2) The International Space Station — our $ 100 B “National Laboratory” — should be utilized through 2020 and not retired in 2016 (the current plan). Extra time is need to obtain data on effective medical countermeasures for long-term human spaceflights to Mars, and to develop other space technologies with our international partners.

3) The Bush Vision of Moon exploration should be clarified and expanded so that it is “more, and not less ambitious.” The concerns include scale and timing of lunar base development, appropriate Congressional support for human spaceflight, and ensuring the Constellation transportation architecture’s capability to support interplanetary goals. Unlike the Planetary Society vision, the MIT Report does not advocate deemphasizing lunar surface infrastructure in favor of a Mars program thrust, but it does recommend the Moon vs. Mars issue be specifically examined. This is important because current Bush Vision timelines and long-term trends appear to relegate human Mars missions to the 2nd half of the 21st Century.

4) International partnerships should be expanded because they are the optimal way to focus U.S. and global assets on an ambitious, long-term program of human exploration of the solar system. The MIT Report makes several specific suggestions, including expanding the U.S.’s space activities with Russia, China, and India, and most importantly, expanding the meaning of “U.S. leadership” to include “foresight in building new relationships and collaborations.” This is consistent with movement toward the development of a globally coordinated, multi-decade program of human expansion into the cosmos.

Having just shared its important, insightful recommendations, it’s also true that the MIT Report begins on a shaky note by dilly-dallying in seemingly endless Wiesner-style issues such as: a) “Why fly people into space?”; the responses to that one have been cataloged for over 20 years, b) Science is not the primary objective of human spaceflight; yes that’s true, c) Flying a machine in space is less expensive and safer than people; uh-huh, right again,…

And d) my personal favorite: “No historical evidence, no social science evidence, and no genetic evidence prove that human beings have an innate, universal compulsion to explore.”

Okay. Who said there is? Unfortunately, use of the word “prove” makes the statement almost useless. What can anyone actually “prove” about the motivations of humans or groups of humans, especially in the past? (Incidentally, do you know why your spouse behaves the way he or she does? Can you “prove” it?)

What’s important is observations of the types of human behavior that appear repeatedly over significant intervals. That’s what this weblog is about: 1) to recognize the historical fact that — over the last 200 years –Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and large wars cluster together about every 55 to 60 years, near the peaks in major, twice-per-century economic booms, 2) to develop a model that explains these seemingly diverse exploration and technology events as being fundamentally driven by long-term swings in the economy, and 3) to check the model’s forecasts for the next 15 – 20 years for technology, space, and society by using current events and trends from around the world.

Over the last decade+, this model has experienced considerable success explaining and forecasting events associated with our approaching Maslow Window. It appears that if you know the “Why” of going into space, you also know the “When”; either one points to the other. The predictive power of this model is based on the presence of long waves in the economy that are well-documented over at least the last 200 years.

Ironically, one of the pioneers in the study of long waves was the famous MIT professor (e.g., inventor of random access memory), 1989 National Medal of Technology winner, and National Academy of Engineering member Jay Forrester. In his System Dynamics model — the most sophisticated simulation of the U.S. economy of its time — a “surprise discovery” appeared directly from the model: The existence of a long economic wave with a 50+ year period. Recent work that supports MIT Professor Forrester’s key insights into long waves includes a 2005 NATO Advanced Research Workshop in Portugal on long waves and global security, Brian J. L. Berry’s volumes, Hugh Stewart’s 1989 book on 56 year energy cycles, the correlation of Strauss & Howe generational cycles with long waves, and even the simple observations of historical events, macroeconomic data, and current trends of this weblog.

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Nov 23 2008

National Intelligence Council Report Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

Last week the National Intelligence Council (NIC) released its most recent unclassified global briefing, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World that closely parallels forecasts of this weblog. 21stCenturyWaves.com forecasts are based on patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, exploration, and society over the last 200 years, that include spectacular pulses of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) known as Maslow Windows.

NIC provides long-term strategic thinking for the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to the Director of National Intelligence. It has a Deputy National Intelligence Officer for each of 12 areas and subject matters, including East Asia, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Economics and Global Issues, and Military Issues, etc., and consults with experts in academia and the private sector.

Global Trends 2025′s preliminary assessments for the next 15 years include:

1) We should expect “unprecedented economic growth.” This NIC assessment is completely consistent with this weblog’s economic forecasts that include rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms; the next one should culminate around 2025. This “unprecedented economic growth” is essential for the affluence and ebullience that’s driven the spectacular Great Explorations and MEPs of Maslow Windows over the last 200 years.

2) “The whole international system — as constructed following WW II — will be revolutionized.” There will be “new players — Brazil, Russia, India, China — …at the international high table…bringing new stakes and rules…” This NIC expectation is consistent with the history of exploration over the last 200 years and supports our forecast that NASA will become more globally oriented. More specifically it supports our 1992 concept for a truly global space organization (like Interspace) that could take shape in 4-6 years to optimally focus global assets on human exploration of the solar system.

3) “The potential for conflict will increase…and the unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East …will continue…” Sadly, the last 200 years show that every Maslow Window of the last 200 years is terminated by a major war; this NIC assessment is consistent with our forecast of another major war in the mid-2020s. If this war comes early (e.g., 2020), in addition to widespread death and destruction, we could lose many or most of the Great Explorations and MEPs anticipated for the next Maslow Window. The timing of the major 2020s war remains a total wildcard of crucial importance.

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Nov 22 2008

The Moon is Not Enough…!

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

The World is not enough… Click apollo08_earthrise.jpg.

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

The Moon is not enough… Click full_moon_small.jpg.

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

Is Mars enough? Click mars.jpg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nov 08 2008

"A United, Global Effort for Long-Term Human Space Exploration?" — Why Not?

Back in the U.S. fresh from the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, Jerry Grey, a President Emeritus of the International Astronautical Federation himself and current Editor-at-Large of Aerospace America, suggests that what we need now is “a united, global effort for long-term human space exploration using the burgeoning capabilities of all nations to the best possible advantage of our home planet,” (Aerospace America, October, 2008).

This is certainly the right answer and I couldn’t agree more!

Based on the history of NASA and long wave timing, I suggested in 1996 and again in 2006, that around 2013 NASA was likely to morph into (or become part of) an international organization focused on human exploration of the Moon and planets. In fact as I’ve highlighted in this weblog, in 1992 Otto Steinbronn and I (both then with General Dynamics) proposed a specific model — called Interspace — for a truly global space agency. Interspace features both ESA-style and Intelsat-style management structures.

An international Moon Base is definitely in the cards. Click internatmoon.jpg.

As evidence that we (globally) are ready for a “One World” approach to space, Grey cites the 10th anniversary of the “international marvel” known as the International Space Station. ISS partners and participants include the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom).

According to Grey, NASA’s efforts to organize the International Lunar Network (ILN) is “another bellwether of global cooperation” in space. In July 2008, representatives of nine countries — including Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the U.S. — held a meeting at NASA Ames Research Center and agreed to a cooperative approach for lunar exploration.

More evidence supporting a unified, international approach to space is provided by the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency founded in 1993 and headquartered in Beijing. APRSA promotes the peaceful use of space technology in the Asia-Pacific region especially for Earth observation, communication satellites, space environment utilization, and space education. In addition to China, a partial list of its participants includes Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Turkey.

Grey laments the fact that “there is as yet no truly unified drive to pursue a multidecade (or better, multicentury) partnership” for human exploration of the solar system. Part of the challenge is that historically speaking, Maslow Windows – ebullient times of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects — have peaked only during brief intervals separated by 55 to 60 years.

Optimal use of global assets for the exploration of the Universe will require the “kind of leadership exhibited in 1975 by…Roy Gibson” when the European Space Agency was created. With Gibson-style leadership and if we can leverage such experiences as ESA, ISS, ILN, and APRSA, we’ll be able to develop a unified, global, multidecade, Interspace-style approach to space. This will enable us to: 1) optimally open up the planetary worlds to all humankind, 2) coordinate our defense of Earth against space impactors (e.g. asteroids), and 3) develop multidecade plans that are specifically designed to facilitate continuous human expansion into the cosmos even outside Maslow Windows.

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Aug 23 2008

India Takes Aim for the Moon!

India continues to position itself to be among the elites in the space world; See “India Accelerates into the Cosmos.” “This year we hope to send an Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan, to the Moon,” announced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15, who called it “an important milestone” for India (Press Trust of India). If successful, India will join an elite club of countries (5 so far; China recently joined) who have orbited a spacecraft around the Moon.

The Indian Space Research Organization, based in Bangalore, plans a two year orbital mission for this robotic spacecraft and has integrated 11 scientific sensors into Chandrayaan-I, includng 5 from outside India (e.g. Europe, U.S.), to study lunar surface chemistry and possibly locate lunar polar ice deposits. Any subsurface lunar lakes will be of inestimable importance to future Moonbases, especially those planned for the Moon’s strategic polar areas that feature continuous sunlight. The follow-on mission will include a surface rover to collect Moon rocks and is under development with Russia.

These types of ebullient plans for deep space (at the Moon!) bespeak the approach of the spectacular 2015 Maslow WIndow, but for India, come at a time when the engine of its impressive economic growth (8+% annually) is slowing down. The Wall Street Journal (8/20/08) reports that after a decade of 40+% annual growth rates, India’s information-technology industry is decelerating rapidly partly due to reduced demand in the U.S. and its own increasng labor expenses.

In the current environment some have questioned the spending on India’s space program — a typical pre-Maslow Window concern; such questions usually recede during Maslow Windows due to societal ebullience as the population ascends Maslow’s heirarchy. Indian visionaries such as former Indian science minister M.G.K. Menon respond that the Moon program “will excite the younger generation” and incease national prestige and confidence. The Prime Minister wants to “…see a modern India, imbued by a scientific temper, where the benefits of modern knowledge flow to all sections of society.”

Indeed, international recognition of India’s high-tech prowess and its close relationship with the United States are evidenced by the pending nuclear deal where the U.S. will supply India with nuclear fuel and technology for civilian power purposes (WSJ, 8/20/08). Like France, which produces almost 90% of its electricity from nuclear plants, India wants a nuclear solution to its surging (9% annual) demand for electricity — resulting in 15+ hours per day of power cuts in some rural areas. The 45 nation Nuclear Suppliers Group is expected to approve the deal which is supported by Germany and Japan, and incidentally, also by both McCain and Obama.

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Aug 19 2008

State of the Wave, Friday 8/15/08

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

It’s easy this week, although not very pleasant, to summarize the Wave: the Russian invasion of Georgia has thrown the 2010+ future of the American space program into real uncertainty. (See Russian Invasion and the Shuttle 5-Yr Gap)

Using Russian systems as an add-on launch capability was one thing, but becoming dependent on the Russian Soyuz for American access to the Space Station is proving to be a deeply flawed strategy. Will there be a U.S. commercial alternative that can substitute for the Shuttle after 2010?

Because the Russia/Georgia crisis has implications far beyond the space program, and the U.S. feels a need to punish Russia, the prospects for U.S. human spaceflight after 2010 appear dim, even if Georgia does join NATO in the near future.

As we approach a time of ebullient global space activity, many space-related groups are very energetic. For example, a space elevator conference was recently held at Microsoft in Washington. Their hopes center on major technology advances in power beaming and ultra-strong materials, but their technology literally offers the relatively near-term promise of a frontier society in space. Likewise India announced recently that they have decided to launch their own spacecraft to the Moon, in addition to participating in the multinational agreement signed recently with the U.S. as part of the International Lunar Network.

Based on long-term trends over the last 200 years, the major economic boom expected to usher in the next Maslow Window is right on schedule for a 2013-15 take-off. However, short-term, the Wall Street Journal (8/15/08) highlights a 4-year unemployment peak in July of 5.7%, an uptick in U.S. inflation (July’s 17 year high of 5.6 % from the year before), plus sluggish GDP trends in Europe. But China, India, and other developing economies continue to expand strongly, and the dollar’s increasing strength could cool inflation somewhat.

To provide historical perspective, it’s interesting to identify analogs of major recessions that gave way to the major economic booms that drove previous Maslow Windows. One such example is the Panic of 1837. The Panic began 20 years before its 56 year cycle energy peak (in 1857) while our current economic “recession” began in late 2007, about 18 years before our peak (coming in 2025). Thus its wave timing (very similar to now) and its severity (considerably worse than now) make it very relevant to our future.

The Panic featured closure of 40% of all U.S. banks, record high unemployment, and economic turmoil until 1843; it is considered second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nevertheless, the mid-19th Century Maslow Window (1847-57), powered by a major economic boom, opened right on schedule and featured ebullient behavior like Stanley’s African search for Dr. Livingstone engaged in his Great Exploration (“Dr. Livingstone I presume?”) and the California Gold Rush (1848-55). This Maslow Window also featured the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century — the Suez Canal — plus several other secondary MEPs, and tragically, the worst war in U.S. history: the Civil War. More on this Panic soon.

The current picture — sadly including Russian misbehavior and flickering of a renewed Cold War — is very consistent with our expectations 5 to 7 years out from our next Maslow Window.

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Aug 05 2008

State of the Wave, Friday 8/1/08

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

Space-related highlights from the last 2+ weeks feature dynamic international activity, growing public interest in space-related topics, and both the economy and NASA limping along as we approach the 2013-2015 Maslow Window. Both are expected to fully recover soon.

For example, China announced plans to make it’s space technology industry world-class by 2015. Doubling the number of space technology centers around the country will beef up its commercial satellite and launch businesses and support its growing manned space program.

The importance of the recent multinational lunar exploration agreement (International Lunar Network; ILN) between the U.S. and 8 other countries (India, Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea) cannot be overstated. Clearly we’re forming the international teams that NASA will share unmanned and probably manned exploration of the Moon with. With proper maintenance the ISS could probably continue ops for decades, and as of last month, the International Partners are now openly contemplating ISS operations beyond 2015. Although China is not on either team (ILN or ISS), that could change further downstream.

Exciting rumors are circulating and building a lot of suspense about a new discovery by the Phoenix Mars Lander relating to the habitability of Mars. That announcement may come tomorrow. Equally exciting for NASA but also disturbing, Apollo Moonwalker Ed Mitchell publicly reiterated his “inside” information that UFOs are real and the U.S. government has been aware of space aliens for several decades. He appeared recently on Larry King Live. Both examples suggest public interest in space-related topics continues to grow as we approach the next Maslow Window.

The economic triple threat — inflation, slow growth, troubled credit markets — continues to plague the financial system, although several Washington politicians have talked recently about ways to increase oil supplies. Long term, we think the odds are very good for a return to a strong global economic boom of the type that was interrupted in summer, 2007. More on that soon. Despite the above accomplishments, NASA is pictured by some as “limping along” because it is not yet “tied to an overriding national priority.”

No surprise. This is what we’d expect for a NASA still 5 – 7 years from its next Maslow Window.

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