Jun 26 2010

John Glenn Shuttles Toward an Eclipse of the Moon

The first American to orbit the Earth (in 1962) and the oldest human to travel into space (age 77 in 1998) recently articulated a position on U.S. manned space policy. From the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, former Senator Glenn recommended we continue flying the Shuttle while we develop a heavy lift launch vehicle, and skip the Moon.

Total eclipses of the Moon are usually dark, often surprising, and sometimes downright spooky. Click

Let’s explore Glenn’s intriguing perspective.

Apollo as a recent echo of Lewis and Clark
Glenn notes that America’s early world leadership grew from exploration, research, and education.

Geographic exploration did not have the sole purpose of just remaining alive during travel to new and distant places. Travel was followed by a period of learning about, and how to use, the newly found destination to our advantage. Space travel should be no exception.

Glenn sees space exploration as the most recent manifestation of great human explorations over the last 200 years — all the way back to Lewis and Clark. This powerful perspective is the key to the secret of the past and future of human spaceflight.

The Greatest International Space Project of All Time Was Almost Canceled Twice — And Almost Nobody Squawked

The International Space Station is widely considered to be the greatest international space program of all time although the U.S. House of Representatives came within one vote of canceling it in 1993. ISS never really gained support until it became a truly international project with 15 nations as partners.

Glenn calls it a “highly successful cooperative international project, probably the most successful ever … It is the most unique laboratory ever conceived and can now start research never before possible.”

But even so, our stunning $ 100 B “National Laboratory” was scheduled for termination in 2015, only 5 years after its completion, until President Obama extended it to 2020. Yet strangely there was no public outcry. ISS has suffered from poor long wave timing but now appears to be riding the accelerating wave of globalization into the future.

Whatever became of the “greatest spacefaring nation”?
Glenn’s major concern is the multi-year gap between Shuttle retirement in 2010 or 11 and its replacement.

The originally planned gap of two or three years of our having no U.S. manned launch capability will realistically be closer to eight or ten years — or more … U.S. astronauts will…train for final launch preparation on Russian spacecraft, launch, and return to a grassland landing area at the end of the mission … launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV.

Glenn believes the Shuttle is safer than ever and is only 1/3 of the way through its original design lifetime. And he is unequivocal about America’s need for a heavy lift launch vehicle to enable future human adventures on the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere.

A heavy-lift space work horse to someday replace the Shuttle is a necessity for our space future. The flexibility that gives to our manned and unmanned programs will be key to continued world leadership as other nations develop their manned space capabilities.

Glenn’s traditional approach to our future in space is what you might expect from a major icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. While acknowledging crucial Russian cooperation throughout ISS, Glenn recognizes current space-related national prestige factors and geopolitical realities. But his insistence on a Saturn V-class (100+ ton to LEO) heavy lift vehicle for human expansion into the cosmos is questioned by some on cost, schedule, and private enterprise rationales.

“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, He would have given man a moon.”
…according to space visionary Krafft Ehricke (1917-1984). But Glenn feels that “To establish a lunar base is extremely expensive and can wait, at least for now.”

According to Glenn,

The principal rationale for establishing a base on the Moon, aside from international prestige, was to gain experience in extraterrestrial living in preparation for future space destinations. Those deeper space travels are far enough in the future that I agree with postponing a lunar base.

It’s puzzling that, according to Glenn, national prestige is enough to drive development of a traditional heavy lift vehicle but not the first human base on another world, especially one so closely linked to Earth with such important science and commercial potential.

For example, in 2007 the National Research Council was pretty excited about The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon — especially its “unique … microenvironment at their poles” (e.g., water deposits), and the bombardment history of the inner solar system that is “uniquely revealed on the Moon.” Not to mention astronomy from the airless, stable lunar farside.

And commercial opportunities include the development of lunar resources (e.g., water, oxygen), lunar communications and logistics, the lunar power system, and tourism (initially featuring lunar telepresence for theme parks and schools). This would be facilitated by an international organization like Interspace.

As the only scientist to walk on the Moon (Apollo 17), Harrison H. Schmitt, points out,

The investment of money and intellectual capital in going back to the Moon, permanently, brings with it, not merely geopolitical high ground and prestige of physically being there, but constitutes a deliberate pathway to economic development … history ties the expansion of democracy to a people’s access to energy…

It’s likely that our road to the Moon will interact strongly with humanity’s growing need for energy from space, especially from space-based solar power satellites. For example, the U.S. miliary has hinted at their interest in this technology. And Japan has announced a $ 21 B, 15 company space-based solar power initiative. Many countries — including China, India, and the U.S. — are facing enormous energy infrastructure costs in the next couple of decades, and will welcome this clean-energy option, particularly as it drives down launch costs.

Well, who actually won the space race?
Frustration with our current space launch gap has caused some to wonder who won after all. For example, Bill Ketchum, a long-time space vehicle engineer, program manager, and space enthusiast formerly with General Dynamics, recently (6/22/10) commented in an email,

While I agree with John Glenn, he ignores the fact that while the Russians have had an uninterrupted human space launch capability for the past 49 years, America has had several long periods with no capability: 7 years between Apollo and Shuttle, 2 years after Challenger, and 2 years after Columbia. The Russians have had their problems but never stopped flying. They continue to use the same rocket and spacecraft that they developed 50 years ago. While this seems outdated, it has served them well. America, on the other hand, has developed, flown, and then abandoned 4 systems: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and now the Shuttle. And now America will depend on the Russians to get our astronauts into space, at $50-100 million per astronaut, until America comes up with a replacement for the Shuttle (commercial operators such as Space-X ?).

So who has really won the space race ?

Although the U.S. clearly won the race to the Moon 40+ years ago, Bill’s point about the current situation is well taken.

Reminds me of Freeman Dyson’s recent speech in Chicago about Russia’s long-term approach to major space activities versus America’s Apollo-style, decade-long spurts. America has unwittingly allowed itself to be more fundamentally controlled by the previously unknown effects of long waves in the economy.


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Mar 23 2010

“The Greatest International Space Project of All Time”

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

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

It’s simply the greatest of all time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 13 2009

Are We Entering the “Superproject Void”?

The New York Times (11/29/09) thinks we are.  According to Louis Uchitelle,

Generation after generation, giant public works projects have altered the American landscape. The Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad come to mind. So do massive urban sewer and sanitation systems, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the Hoover Dam, the Interstate System, the subway networks in San Francisco and Washington, the Big Dig in Boston … and the list abruptly stops.

For the first time in memory, the nation has no outsize public works project under way.

Actually, the Times’ Superproject data is supportive of  21stCenturyWaves.com’s  Maslow Window model and its relation to Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) over the last 200 years — including the early 19th century, near-MEP Erie Canal mentioned by the Times — as well as current MEPs and those anticipated during the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window appears in public works spending data for the last 60 years.
The signature of the long economic wave is visible in the Times‘ graphic of public works spending as a percentage of GDP from the late 1940s to the present; Click HERE.

The rapid rise in spending during the 1960s was enabled by  the major economic boom that triggered the 1960s Maslow Window;  it slammed shut just before 1970 and was followed by a precipitous decline across the 1970s and beyond. Both mirrored the trends of the long wave at those times.  As Uchitelle points out, “the strongest periods of economic growth in America have generally coincided with big outlays for new public works and the transformations they bring once completed.”

The  post-WW II spending boom of the 1950s and late 1940s has not been replicated in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Instead, the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession appears to be following the pattern of the Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession, which, after 1899,  rapidly rebounded into one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history:  the 1903-1913 Maslow Window.  It featured Theodore Roosevelt’s transformative Panama Canal and the spectacular international races to both the north and south poles.

2.  Over the last 200 years, MEPs tend to cluster in rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses.
In The Way MEPs Really Work,”  I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), a well-known professor of engineering and later history, and a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology  According to Ferguson,

MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive (at least $ 1 B,  in 2007 USD) and usually large in size; and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often they are aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and are highly inspiring.

This is a demanding definition that excludes many extraordinary projects like trans-continental railroads or large highway systems because, while expensive and significant, they do not stretch technology.

The rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of MEPs are visible in Cordell (1996).  Their association with Maslow Windows and regular timing suggests that the next flurry of Superprojects and MEPs will begin near 2015.  So, any “Superproject void” should be short-lived.

3. The Erie Canal was considered by Thomas Jefferson to be “a little short of madness.”

ErieCourtesy of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Uchitelle correctly identifies the Erie Canal as the key Superproject of early America, although I have been unable to convince myself that it is a true Ferguson-style MEP in the context of other MEPs of the last 200 years (e.g., the Panama Canal or Apollo Saturn V).

The Erie Canal is considered to be the greatest engineering marvel of its day and was often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World.  Construction began in 1817 and it opened in 1825; the canal featured 18 aqueducts and 83 locks to accommodate the 568 foot rise from Albany to Buffalo.  It led to a population boom in western New York state, caused a drop in transportation costs by more than 90%, and opened up the western Great Lakes area to new settlers. In essence, the canal was a response to the pressures for westward expansion that had been ignited by the Great Exploration of Lewis and Clark earlier in the Maslow Window.

Jefferson’s “madness” quote referred to the canal’s cost: $ 7 M, courtesy of the New York state legislature; that’s about $ 0.1 B in 2007 USD, which is a little low for a true primary MEP. More impressive is its cost expressed as a fraction of GDP: 0.1 %.  That’s large and puts it in the same class as the Panama Canal (Apollo was 0.2 % of GDP); this is the best case for Erie being a Ferguson-style MEP.   However, despite the Erie Canal’s “engineering marvel” reputation, the project leaders were ebullient amateurs, not professional engineers because there were none in the U.S. at that time.  And its key technology advancements were limited to new, efficient techniques for removing tree stumps so the canal could be kept on schedule and within budget. 

The Erie Canal is definitely a Times-style Superproject, but not quite a Ferguson-style MEP.  I view it as transitional between the smaller, but still important, engineering projects of the late 18th century, and the more modern, true MEPs beginning in the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone-Suez Canal Maslow Window.

4. Construction of the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge from 1932-37 did not end the Great Depression.
Uchitelle’s interest in the history of American superprojects relates to our recovery from the current great recession. 

President Obama has earmarked just $80 billion — a tenth of his stimulus package — for megaprojects, and put off most of that down payment until next year. His focus instead has been on spending hundreds of billions to quickly and visibly repair existing public works, especially highways, and also levees, dams and locks, particularly in the New Orleans area. That’s not a bad thing — those repairs are certainly needed — but it doesn’t create permanent wealth.

By the standards of the past, however, they are not the spectacular feats of engineering and ingenuity that greatly enhance the economy. The Erie Canal was just such a feat …

“Last year at this time we were debating whether we should be concentrating our spending on big projects that, in the long run, add to economic growth,” said John J. Wallis, an economic historian at the University of Maryland. “That debate never got resolved, and the stimulus bill we enacted in February ended up focused instead on quick spending.”

This is consistent with Harvard economics professor Robert Barro who finds that stimulus spending doesn’t work to stimulate the economy; “The available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise GDP by less than the increase in government spending,” (Wall Street Journal, 10/1/09)

The Golden Gate Bridge is a spectacular Northern California landmark that was built between 1932 and 1937 during the Great Depression  for $ 35 M; that’s about $ 530 M in 2007 USD.  As a fraction of GDP it’s 0.01%, much smaller than the Erie or Panama Canals, but still a sizeable amount of cash.

It’s significant that GGB was financed privately (without any significant expenditures of state or federal money), so it could have stimulated the economy, but in 1938 — almost a decade after the Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression and 6 years after Franklin Roosevelt was elected — U.S. unemployment was still about 14%.  Well-known Keynesian economists George Akerloff and Robert Schiller believe that FDR and Hoover were ineffective. In fact, “Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy,” (Animal Spirits; 2009).

5. Current MEPs, the Panic/Recession of 2008+, and our current recovery suggest that any “Superproject void” will be brief. 
Indeed, the 2015 Maslow Window — a Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — should not be late, based on the last 200 years of financial panics and great recessions (e.g., the 1890s great recession) that commonly occur in the decade just prior to Maslow Windows.  Plus pre-Maslow Window secondary MEPs — like the Large Hadron Collider and the International Space Station — point to the on-time opening of the 2015 Maslow Window.


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Jul 11 2009

Young People, Long Waves, and a Glimpse of Their Coming Space Age

Thanks to Aron Sora, a recent high school graduate who blogs at habitationintention.blogspot.com for his intriguing comment about his and other young people’s future:

I’m going to graduate from college in 2013, just in time for the Maslow window. I want to be an active participant in the next window … I just feel really lucky about my birth date since it will lead to me having a undergrad degree two years before the window or a doctoral degree about mid-way.

The next Maslow Window should open near 2015, and trigger a New Space Age for young people! Click mars_base.jpg.

1) Let me reiterate that there is every reason to believe that the 2015 Maslow Window will open approximately on time, based on the last 200 years of Maslow Window timings and current data. I’ll give a brief summary here with more to come soon.

U.S. unemployment recently reached 9.5% and the prediction market Intrade projects, at the 80% level (up from 50% in April), that it will surpass 10% by December, 2009. Although “casting doubt on prospects for the U.S. economy to soon rebound,” (Wall Street Journal, 7/3/09), this is still a long way from the devastating unemployment rates during the Great Depression (25% in 1933 to 17% in 1939).

Although Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, is “expecting the recovery to be a slow one,” (WSJ, 7/3/09), another Harvard economist — Robert Barro — who has examined data on recessions back to 1870 for the U.S. and 33 other countries, says there is only a 20% chance that our current crisis will result in a GDP decline of 10% or more (a major depression has 25% decline).

Akerloff and Shiller (2009) see current parallels with the Panic of 1893 and its major recession; e.g., “U.S. unemployment rose to 12.3% in 1894, peaked at 12.4% in 1897, and did not fall below 10% untill 1899.” However, the 1890s recession was followed by a time of “sustained prosperity” (Fischer, 1996) that we know of as the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1903-1913), one of the most ebullient decades in the history of the United States.

The fact that — over the last 200+ years — no Maslow Window has ever been delayed or in any observable way diminshed by a financial panic or recession, plus the special parallels with the “1893 to 1913 Panic – Recession – Maslow Window” experience , suggest the 2015 Maslow Window will open on time. (More to come in future posts.)

2) 1930 was a good birth year for future Apollo astronauts. What about the first Mars explorers?

It’s true. The entire Apollo 11 crew — Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins — was born in 1930, as were many others. An incomplete list includes Tom Stafford (Apollo 10), Pete Conrad (Apollo 12), Ed Mitchell (Apollo 14), Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), and John Young (Apollo 16), etc.

The irony is that they had to be born during the Great Depression to be chronologically positioned for the long wave as it ascended into the unparalleled economic boom of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. These and most other Apollo astronauts were born about 40 years before they went to the Moon (1969-72).

Using this model, and assuming the 2015 Maslow Window will culminate near 2025, the Apollo astronaut analogs — possibly the first Mars explorers — were born near 1985; they’re called “Millennials.” They graduated from high school near 2002 and college near 2006; some will get PhDs soon.

Like their Apollo analogs, the Millennials are positioned for their approaching Maslow Window (near 2015) but have less in common with them than you might expect. For example,
a) the Millennials have not experienced a major international war as destructive as WW II or Vietnam, and
b) the Millennials are affected by the Panic of 2008 and the current major recession in the decade before their Maslow Window, which did not occur prior to the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Thus it’s interesting that the Millennials’ general life experience, as we approach their Maslow Window during a major recession, may have some key elements more in common with the polar explorers of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window than with the Apollo explorers of the 1960s. Remember also that although pre-Maslow Window financial panic/recessions are the rule over the last 200 years, they are not required to produce a Maslow Window as shown by the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

3) When’s the best time to be born?

Many good things and bad things happen near peaks of the energy cycle, about a decade after the Maslow Window begins. The exact timing varies with the specific Maslow Window over the last 200 years but, in general, Maslow Windows are usually terminated by a rapid decline in the economy and/or a major war.

The biggest challenges will be experienced by young people who leave school and come into the world looking for their first real economic opportunity (i.e., job) near the culmination of the Maslow Window. That often occurs around the age of 20. So based on this Maslow Window model, a good rule of thumb is: Think twice about being born about 20 years before an energy cycle peak.

At the most vulnerable time in your professional life, you will be impacted by the abrupt end of a major economic boom and you may be caught up in a major war. Although many are able to “turn lemons into lemonade” you should be aware that these twice-per-century challenges can be formidable. Perhaps the worst aspect is that you’ll be too young to personally participate in the great explorations or MEPs of your Window. And after 10 years of watching them, when you finally are old enough to join the fun, it will all end. We’re talking here about people born between about 2000 and 2010 (they may not be reading this yet!), between 1945 and 1955, and between about 1888 and 1898 (also probably not reading this).

It’s much better to be 20 years or older as the Maslow Window begins. As you emerge into the economic world the long boom will be fully warmed up. Almost anything you do will be profitable. And the ebullience of the Maslow Window will make you feel like it will never end. Of course it always does in about 10 years, but by then you’ll be better established in your career and less vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — of the economy and the world. Remember the Apollo astronauts were about 30 as their Maslow Window opened, and as more mature people go into space, even being 40+ might be OK; e.g., in 1971 Alan Shepard became the oldest person to walk on the Moon at 47, and in 1998 John Glenn became the oldest human to fly into space at 77. To optimally participate and prosper from the last 3 Maslow Windows (including the 2015 Window), it was best to be born between about 1975 – 2000, 1920 – 1945, and 1863 – 1888.

Although these rules of thumb are broadly consistent with the last 200 years of macroeconomic data and historical trends, they are only approximate and are subject to many exceptions. For example, if you were born during “sub-optimal times,” having supportive parents or being a resourceful person can make up for many challenges associated with the long wave.

But if you’re secretly holding out hope that the lessons of the last 200+ years regarding Maslow Windows and long waves will magically melt away, don’t bet on it. For example, the stunning MEP trio of the Panama Canal, Apollo program, and the International Space Station illustrate the power of the long wave. Amazingly, neither Ferdinand de Lesseps nor President Ronald Reagan — both brilliant leaders about 100 years apart — could make their MEPs materialize during unfavorable portions of the long wave. While Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John Kennedy became heroes for successfully initiating the Panama Canal and Apollo program during their respective Maslow Windows. And even the Clinton/Bush ISS has recently become known as an “international marvel” as we approach another Maslow Window. The moral of the last 200+ years regarding great explorations and macro-engineering projects is: “great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

In any case, if you’re thinking about having kids this year, and plan to be supportive parents … go ahead!! The economic recovery should begin next year and, although it may be followed by a few years of sluggish growth, we should return to the rapid growth levels of 2007 relatively soon. The long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window will open on time. And remember, history shows that whether you do experience a financial panic/recession just before your Maslow Window (e.g., 1903-1913; or 2015-2025) or whether you don’t (e.g., 1959-1969), your Maslow Window will be spectacular.

As for Mr. Sora, who just graduated from high school and was born in 1991, he is a Millennial and is well chronologically positioned to be about 24 when the next Maslow Window begins. Nice birthdate Aron, work hard and enjoy your Maslow Window!

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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!

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Jun 28 2009

Does President Obama Need Space?

Like virtually all other presidents in U.S. history, President Obama ultimately wants a second term; and to get that, he needs to succeed in his first. So the question becomes: Can space contribute to the success of Obama’s first term?

Does President Obama need space to advance his economic and foreign policy objectives? Click obama-nasa.jpg.

In January I suggested that at least in 2009, space would not be a major focus for Obama. But in a recent op-ed piece in Space News (4/6/09), retired Air Force major general James B. Armor takes a longer view and boldly asserts that “Space is an important ingredient toward addressing every administration agenda and national goal.” He convincingly cites several arenas — including fixing the economy, buttressing national security, education reform, energy independence — that illustrate his point.

I will elaborate on General Armor’s discussion and inject, where appropriate, the lessons of macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years.

1) Fixing the Economy: Gen. Armor is right that investing in high-tech jobs in space-related industries would have a higher pay-off than many other alternatives. However, the global recession requires Obama to first deal with the issue of confidence in the economy.

As a Keynesian, Obama’s solution includes multi-trillion US$ stimulus/bailout packages, government control of large industries (e.g., auto), and record high deficits. In the language of Keynes, Obama must reverse the current negative “animal spirits” that afflict actors in the economy. Instead of Obama’s hoped-for outcome, some express doubts; for example the Brookings Institution, where “William Gale and Alan Auerbach share increasing public concerns about the deficit…as bad as the $1.7 trillion deficit looks for this year, the medium term and long-term numbers are of much greater concern. Our fiscal house of cards has dire implications for the American economy.”

Unusually intense Keynesian-style animal spirits — called “ebullience” — is a hallmark of twice-per-century Maslow Windows over the last 200 years, including the 1960s Apollo decade and the early 20th Century Peary/Panama Window. However, the lesson of the last 200 years seems to be that ebullience is a result (not a cause) of major economic booms. Akerlof and Shiller (2009) see parallels between now and the panic/recession of the 1890s, but they do not mention the most ebullient decade of the last 200 years — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — which followed immediately. For those who see current parallels with the 1930s Great Depression, the current long wave trend is up toward the 2015 Maslow Window, as opposed to down during the 1930s, which should help Obama’s chances to ameliorate the crisis.

If Obama succeeds and receives a second term, he will be president during the major economic boom that is expected to open the 2015 Maslow Window, based on the last 200 years of economic and historical trends. If so, he will follow in the monumental footsteps of Presidents John Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson as he initiates the unprecedented great explorations and macro-engineering projects of this time.

Referring to the Great Depression, Akerloff and Shiller (2009) note that, “Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.” If our economy has not fully recovered by 2015, it’s possible that surging international pressure to build Moon bases and send people to Mars may have a WW II-style transformative effect on the economy.

2) Strengthening National Security: North Korea has recently tested a long-range missile and an underground nuclear device. While it’s doubtful North Korea can weaponize its nukes or control the trajectory of its long-range missiles, the U.S. has taken reasonable defensive measures against a possible missile launch toward Hawaii on July 4. North Korea has also repudiated the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War.

Some have suggested that North Korea is Obama’s Cuban Missile Crisis (of JFK in 1962). In any case, 1953 is exactly one long wave ago and we should expect analogous international pressure points to develop. For example, Iran and North Korea are allies and share missile technology. Protests against the disputed Iranian election have driven a wedge between Obama and Iranian leaders.

In addition, as Obama deals with a resurgent Russia, pursues the war in Afghanistan, monitors progress in Iraq, and continues to defend the U.S. against a 9/11-style attack, Obama will depend on space technology. According to Gen. Armor, “Re-establishing U.S. space leadership in collaborative international projects in all space sectors — civil, military, intelligence — can be a keystone to re-energizing U.S. foreign policy.” As we approach the spectacular and very dynamic 2015 Maslow Window, this will be increasingly evident.

3) Avoiding a Replay of Sputnik: The U.S. should build on the spectacular foreign policy success of the International Space Station by providing international leadership so that global resources, that might otherwise fuel international conflicts at hotspots on Earth, are channeled into a constructive “Grand Alliance for Space.”

About one long wave ago as another international cooperative space effort was taking shape (the International Geophysical Year) during the first Cold War, one result was the surprise launch of the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) that triggered the first race to space and an American on the Moon in 1969.

Based on trends over the last 200 years, in the next few years we are likely to see NASA participate in — or even become part of — a truly global space agency (e.g., Interspace) with a deep space (i.e., beyond Earth orbit) focus.

As Gen. Armor points out, the development of space-related technologies will support Obama’s foreign policy objectives and stimulate global economic growth. And the release of raw human exploration passions will re-energize education reform. “Space has a proven record of inspiring the young … A robust space program will create jobs and motivate K-12 science and math education, as well as focus academia and business as sponsors of scholarships and internships.”

4. Elevating the Human Spirit: Mindful that a new Augustine report on space is being compiled at the request of Obama, I’d like to feature my favorite quote from the original. After describing several rationales for human expansion into the cosmos, Augustine et al. (1990) state that “perhaps the most important space benefit of all is intangible — the uplifting of spirits and human pride in response to truly great accomplishments — whether they be the sight of a single human orbiting freely around the Earth at 18,000 miles per hour, or a picture of Uranus’ moon Miranda transmitted 1.7 billion miles through space, and taking some 2-1/2 hours merely to arrive at our listening stations even when traveling literally at the speed of light. Such accomplishments have served to unite our nation, hold our attention, and inspire us all, particularly our youth, as few other events have done in the history of our nation or even the world.”

Indeed, with the advantage of a powerful, long-term perspective encompassing the last 200 years, it’s clear that large international audiences have been literally enthralled and had their spirits elevated by the twice-per-century pulses of great explorations and macro-engineering projects during Maslow Windows that were unprecedented for their time. The great explorations included Apollo Moon, the polar expeditions, Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume.”) in Africa, and Lewis and Clark; and the MEPs included Apollo infrastructure, the Panama and Suez Canals, and currently ISS.

Commenting on the spiritual importance of exploration, Gen. Armor states that “as a frontier culture, we must be actively engaged in conquering outer space. America will simply not be America is it is not.” And the spiritual and legacy benefits are not limited to America. “The space frontier must be part of any great nation’s legacy. Other countries that aspire to greatness — China, India, Russia and a growing number of new spacefaring states — inherently understand this and emulate us.”

The benefits of these intangible rationales will have a profound impact on our global culture. Leadership means “new missions and activities that continually set legal precedents to ensure that democracy, rule of law and market economy conventions prevail in outer space.” These powerful ideas that conquered the world, offer a positive vision of our space future — for the United States and the world — that is worth aspiring to and energetically working for.

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Jun 21 2009

Panama Canal Named "Best Construction Project in the World"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 18 2009

10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

The monumental Panama Canal was — prior to Apollo — the greatest Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) of the last 200 years. The Canal brought people together by splitting the continent, and in terms of cost, management, technology, and global significance, it has strong parallels with Apollo and the International Space Station (ISS), and offers us insight into our spectacular future.

The secrets of the Panama Canal reverberate through the last 100 years and — together with Apollo and the International Space Station — illuminate future Macro-Engineering Projects in space. Click panama.jpg.

Here are 10 Lessons the Panama Canal teaches us about the human future in space.

10. “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time,” according to ultra-historian David McCullough (1977), “…the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years…It is a work of civilization.”

In Cordell (2006) I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), who was a well-known professor of engineering, a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology, and a da Vinci Medalist (SHoT’s highest honor) in 1977. According to Ferguson, MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive and usually large in size; and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often they are aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and are highly inspiring.

This is a demanding definition that excludes many extraordinary projects like trans-continental railroads or large highway systems because, while expensive and significant, they do not stretch technology.

The Canal’s grandeur versus Apollo’s and ISS’ off-world technology, are tantalizingly suggestive of the unprecedented MEPs and great explorations that await us in the 2015 Maslow Window, as humanity’s expansion into the cosmos accelerates.

9. “The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity,” (McCullough, 1977). The enormous sacrifice in human life — called a “great war” by President Theodore Roosevelt — was in excess of 27,000, including an estimated 22,000 during the French period (1881-1889) and 5,600 deaths during the American period between 1904-1914.

The threat of tropical diseases, land slides, railroad accidents, and premature dynamite explosions contributed to the extraordinary psychological stress for the workers. And while yellow fever crippled the French effort to build the Canal, the successful medical research of Drs. Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed aided the American project tremendously.

The modern and future world is indebted beyond words to the people who risked (and often lost) their lives working on the construction of the Panama Canal. They provide a profound inspiration to those currently engaged in the human expansion into the cosmos.

8. As of the early 20th century, the Panama Canal had the highest price tag of any construction project in U.S. history; indeed, it was the largest commitment ever of resources in peacetime for any nation. It cost the U.S. about $ 375 M — $ 8.3 B in 2008 dollars — over 10 years (i.e., the Peary/Panama Maslow Window). The Canal consumed only 0.10% of U.S. GDP during that time.

Although the Panama Canal was for transportation while Apollo was the first combined MEP and Great Exploration, and it was off-world, it’s still interesting to compare their costs. In today’s dollars Apollo cost close to $ 150 B, so Apollo was almost 20x as expensive as the Canal. However, a more meaningful comparison is as fraction of GDP. During the years of their programs, Apollo averaged about 0.25% of GDP compared to 0.10% for the Canal.

Comparison of Panama and Apollo suggest that MEPs during the 2015 Maslow Window will dwarf Apollo. For example,

A. INCREASING PUBLIC INTEREST IN MEPS: If this trend of an increase in GDP fraction allocated to MEPs continues (i.e., increase by 2-3x over Apollo), then coming MEPs would dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (This would imply that public support for MEPs in 2015+ would have increased over Apollo by as much as it did between Panama and Apollo.)

B. BOOMING ECONOMIC GROWTH: Given the projected growth based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic data — i.e., by 2025, increase of GDP by 7x over 1969; as of 2008, GNP has increased 3.1x over 1969 –, it is reasonable to expect MEPs in the 2015 Maslow Window to dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (PLEASE NOTE: As they have over the last 200+ years, rhythmic twice-per-century major economic booms trigger the Maslow Window ebullience effects on society, which fundamentally drive public support for MEPs and Great Explorations.)

Socio-economic insights from the Panama/Apollo MEP experiences and macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, suggest near-future MEPs
(e.g., including planetary bases, space solar power sats, interplanetary transportation systems) during the 2015 Maslow Window will significantly dwarf Apollo by factors of from 7x to 20x — i.e., in the $ 1 T to $ 3 T ballpark (current USD).

7. Both the Panama Canal and Apollo Moon program were fundamentally about designing, constructing, and using major transportation systems in hostile environments, and their management and technology challenges have impressive parallels and lessons for the future.

The Panama Canal’s design and technology challenges centered around the location and type of canal, and construction operations. No one had ever built an enormous structure in a tropical environment that included mysterious, lethal diseases (e.g., yellow fever) and other natural hazards (e.g., climate, snakes). This led to large loss of life and contributed to eventual failure during the French period (see 9 above). However, by November, 1905 yellow fever had been eradicated in the Canal Zone by the Americans.

In the early 1880s, the French under de Lesseps decided to construct a sea-level canal based on their successful experience at Suez — the technological jewel of the 19th century. Although the American chief engineer, John Stevens, initially agreed with the French, soon after his arrival in Panama he insisted on a system of locks (e.g., Parker, 2007).

McCullough (1977) speculates that if de Lesseps had changed his plan from sea-level to locks in 1886, the French might have succeeded — and this invites an intriguing parallel with Apollo. Although locks increased the Canal’s complexity and risk, they also reduced its cost and accelerated its schedule. This is similar to NASA’s decision to use rendezvous in lunar orbit to deliver astronauts to the Moon; this likewise increased (operational) complexity and risk, but obviated the need to develop an even bigger, more expensive launch vehicle than the Saturn V (i.e., Nova).

During the American period management challenges included supervising 34,000 construction workers and dealing with the continual threats to their lives (e.g., from accidents), as well as the unparalleled engineering, financial, political, and schedule issues of construction. The Panama Canal construction was motivated and begun by President T. Roosevelt, who made the first trip of any sitting U.S. President outside the U.S., a trip to the Canal. However, President William Howard Taft provided the most active, hands-on participation over the longest period (4 years as president) for the Canal, and President Woodrow Wilson officiated at its opening in 1914. Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt is considered “the real builder” of the Panama Canal.

The Apollo Program’s design and technology challenges centered around space transportation and operations, and crew systems. They included: 1) delivering Max Faget’s Mercury capsule to Earth orbit using modified ICBMs (e.g. Atlas for John Glenn in 1962) and returning it using heat shields, 2) testing Buzz Aldrin’s orbital rendezvous techniques in Earth orbit in preparation for John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission mode, and 3) using Wernher von Braun’s monumental Saturn V launch vehicle to send astronauts and hardware to the Moon.

During Apollo, NASA hired 400,000 people from about 20,000 companies and universities. NASA management was subject to two major influences that did not exist for Panama leaders: 1) the urgency of an actual race to the Moon with another superpower, and 2) the immediacy of live television news broadcasts that emphasized the national prestige and symbolic elements of Apollo. The Apollo Moon program was announced by President Kennedy in 1961 and is most closely associated with him. However, Apollo developed substantially under President Johnson, and the lunar landings (1969-72) were accomplished during President Nixon’s administration.

Even being situated within the major economic boom of a Maslow Window and having great leadership is no substitute for the required technologies, systems, and engineering designs. This preparation for the 2015 Maslow Window is currently ongoing by ISS, private entrepreneurs, national laboratories, and elsewhere. It’s highly likely that the management challenges of the 2015 Maslow Window will include close interaction with international partners in all phases of future MEPs.

6. Like Apollo, the Panama Canal vastly elevated American national prestige and was a direct result of international politics and conflicts.

In 1897, the U.S. acquired Hawaii as a US territory, and later as a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S.. Since the Philippines had previously declared their independence from Spain, these events emphasized the growing need for both a Pacific naval presence as well as an Atlantic one for the U.S. (Rohatyn, 2009).

“Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War. To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders”, vectored toward Cuban battle himself. Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages.

Likewise, one long wave later, new President John F. Kennedy found himself embroiled in Cuban adventures early in the Apollo Maslow Window. The first was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (4/17/61), followed shortly by JFK’s inspirational May 17, 1961 speech announcing our goal to “land a man on the Moon, before this decade is out…” Even more threatening was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 which almost triggered W.W. III. Both served to increase Soviet-U.S. tensions and intensify the competition and global political significance of the Space Race.

Many large, medium, and small space powers sense the international prestige associated with human space exploration of the Moon and planets, and intend to leverage the lessons of America’s history in this pursuit. New Maslow Windows have historically been times of increased international tensions and conflicts (e.g., the 1960s Cold War, the Spanish-American War), and it is likely such conflicts will arise again as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, possibly in connection with space. For example, Cuba has been a focal point during the last two Maslow Windows, and Stratfor suggests it may be again.

5. “To a visitor from Mars it must have seemed that the Western world in 1914 was on the brink of Utopia,” according to historians J. Harrison and R. Sullivan (1966). This pre-WW I zeitgeist was responsible for the Panama Canal, the North and South Pole expeditions, the Titanic, the ascent of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the ebullience of “Panama Fever” and “Pole mania.”

Historical accounts suggest that Teddy “Speak softly but carry a big stick!” Roosevelt may well have been the most ebullient U.S. President in the history of the country, and that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window may have been the most ebullient period in U.S. history.

In addition to his Canal initiative, T.R. was a major supporter of Adm. Robert Peary’s ebullient expeditions to the North Pole. Indeed, Roosevelt has the distinction of being the first and only President to have played major roles in both the major MEP and Great Exploration of his Maslow Window; by the 1960s, the MEP and GE had become integrated into a single project: President Kennedy’s Apollo program.

TR became the 26th President of the U.S. in 1901 while still 42 — currently the youngest person, including John F. Kennedy, to hold the presidency — and left the office in 1909, about five years before the Panama Canal opened, yet he is still known as the one who built the Canal.

The story of TR and the Panama Canal show the power of the long wave in history and for the future. Like JFK, TR appeared at the perfect time — as his Maslow Window was opening — when his ebullient personality and great leadership qualities could most benefit the U.S. and the world. According to Roosevelt himself, what was crucial for the Canal was that “somebody (namely himself) was prepared to act with decision,” (Parker, 2007). However, the last 200 years teach us that, Great leaders help, but the economy rules!

4. The Great Victorian Depression began with the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market on May 9, 1873 (the Panic of 1873) and rapidly spread to America. Also known as “The Long Depression” it continued until the late 1890s, and is considered by some to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is in this financial context that the French under de Lesseps began work on the Panama Canal in 1881. By 1889 de Lesseps called it quits, their effort a victim of disease, inadequate technology, poor canal design, and not surprisingly, lack of money.

In 1873 the New York Stock Market closed for 10 days attempting to achieve stability, while almost 1/4 of all railroads went belly-up, businesses failed, unemployment reached an estimated 14% (in 1876), and credit crashed.

The power of the long wave is demonstrated by the MEP-related experiences of Kennedy, Roosevelt, and De Lesseps. Kennedy and Roosevelt initiated their MEPs during major economic booms in the decades prior to their long wave peaks (their Maslow Windows) and were successful. De Lesseps initiated his during a descending portion of the long wave and failed. Since TR succeeded in his Panama Canal effort while de Lesseps failed in the same endeavor, is it possible that we are seeing the effects of markedly superior leadership rather than the power of the long wave? For example, could TR have successfully initiated the Canal in 1935? Or could JFK have launched Apollo in 1985 and been successful? In fact, history illuminated this question in the 1980s (see next point).

3. The Panama Canal and the International Space Station are intriguing examples of MEPs that began at unfavorable times during the long wave and were soon discontinued, only to re-emerge later and achieve success. The goal here is to achieve insight into the relative importance of long wave timing versus great leadership, and any other factors that may be important.

For example, President Ronald Reagan first proposed Space Station Freedom in 1984 with an estimated cost of $ 8 B. As congressional support for SSF dwindled, the end of the Cold War led to SSF being included in the International Space Station plan in 1993 with an estimated cost of $ 17.4 B. ISS orbital assembly started in 1998 and will be completed in 2010 for an estimated $ 100 B, including development, assembly, and operations.

Although both the Canal and ISS went through 8-9 year initial phases that did not achieve success, both later re-emerged under “new management” and were successful. Let’s consider the long wave timing of the “initial” phases of the Canal and ISS.

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

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

But a historically interesting question was also answered. Not even President Reagan — usually considered to be at least comparable in leadership and charisma to JFK and even TR — could make his MEP materialize in the decade after he proposed it, during a downward portion of the long wave. This suggests that any leadership and/or strategic deficiencies de Lesseps may have exhibited were not the deciding factor in his lack of success — because Reagan’s Station experience suggests that the long wave trumps great leadership.

The “final” phases of both projects are also interesting, because both were successful. I have already noted that, due to perfect long wave timing and his great leadership, TR’s Canal project should have been — and was — a success. However, the ISS final phase began under President Bill Clinton (in 1993) 22 years before the 2015 Maslow Window and 4 years before the long wave trough — the identical long wave circumstances of de Lesseps’ initial Canal project; the one that failed! (Is this a coincidence??)

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

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

Although it has not yet had the global psychological impact of either Apollo or the Canal, ISS is regarded by its participants as an “international marvel.” And well it should be: It’s second only to Apollo as the most expensive human project in modern history, it was made by 16 countries (almost “everybody” but China), there are 1 million pounds of hardware in orbit, and over 100 elements and modules were assembled in space.

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

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

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

2. In some ways, the Canal was the ultimate MEP of the last 200 years. Like the Apollo program (see point 6), it was an engineering marvel that required the coordination of huge numbers of people. In terms of ROI, the economic benefits of the Canal for seafaring commerce and strategic uses have been very significant over the last two long waves.

However, to increase the Canal’s capacity and deal with future competition — which now includes the Suez Canal — the Third Set of Locks Project was approved by Panamanians in a 2006 vote by an ebullient majority of 76.8%.

This Panama Canal expansion project will cost $ 5.25 B — about 75% of the original Canal cost — and will receive $ 2.5 B in international funding. Construction will generate thousands of jobs for Panamanians and should be complete by 2014, just in time for the 2015 Maslow Window. Major risks to the plan include finances and whether the traffic model of the business plan is realistic.

Panama recently elected a new president who’s committed to the Canal Expansion Project and continuing economic growth during the world recession. U.S.-educated, conservative Ricardo Martinelli — owner of Panama’s largest supermarket chain — was elected in a landslide with 61% of the vote. President-elect Martinelli’s landslide election is new evidence that “early ebullience” in Panama is continuing to accelerate as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The Panama Canal is an immensely important MEP of the early 20th Century Maslow Window that — by itself and in comparison to Apollo and the International Space Station — continues to inform us of the relative importance of the long wave, great leadership, and globalization to the probable success of potential MEPs and Great Explorations during the next 20 years.

The Lessons include:

A. If an MEP starts during a Maslow Window (with wide-spread ebullience) and features a great leader, it will succeed. Examples include the Panama Canal with Teddy Roosevelt, and Apollo with John F. Kennedy.

B. If an MEP starts during the down going portion of the long wave (during a time of counter-ebullience), even with a great leader, it will probably fail. Examples include de Lesseps Panama Canal project, and Reagan’s Space Station.

A reasonable rule of thumb is: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

However, If the conditions of Point B exist, but globalization is a significant factor, the program may survive and eventually even prosper as it approaches the next Maslow Window. The only example is ISS starting in 1993 under President Clinton.

By our definition, ISS is not yet officially an MEP because, although it is recognized by its participants as an “international marvel,” opinion polls indicate the U.S. public has embraced ISS only minimally.

This gives us empirically-based hope that — despite the evidence of the last 200 years — post-Maslow downturns in the long wave will not inevitably terminate spectacular Maslow Windows. And more specifically, that globalization has a significant role to play in mitigating counter-ebullient portions of the long wave for future multi-decade or multi-century space initiatives.

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Apr 19 2009

Images of the First Space Age Point to the Future

Continuing last week’s mini-tour of Space Age sites associated with the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, one has to be especially impressed with the spectacular space icons of southern New Mexico and Arizona, and how they point to the approaching, new Space Age near 2015.

The elegant McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory models Camelot-style scientific ebullience. Click mcmath1.jpg.

Alamogordo, NM — just up the road from the White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base (currently with 2 squadrons of F-22 Raptors) and at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, home of the National Solar and Apache Point observatories — is the site of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

Boom-town Alamogordo, NM hosts a superb space museum. Click sonmmuseum.jpg.

The Space Museum commemorates everything from Goddard’s early rocket experiments near Roswell to a mockup of the International Space Station. Also included is the International Space Hall of Fame, which honors individuals who’ve made key contributions to the exploration of space. To emerge from this place not excited about the past, present, and future of humans in space…you’d have to be from another planet!

The John P. Stapp Air and Space Park honors the Space Hall of Fame inductee and amazing aeromedical pioneer of the 1950s. Click stapppark.jpg.

As one of the initial superheroes of the 1st Space Age, John Paul Stapp, M.D., Ph.D. is probably not as famous as he should be today. In 1954 he set a world land speed record of 632 mph and then stopped in 1.4 seconds — pulling just over 20 g’s in the process.

In 1954, The Sonic Wind No. 1 rocket sled propelled Dr. Stapp to 632 mph. Click sonicwind.jpg.

Dr. Stapp was initially concerned about the relation of g forces to pilot injuries during plane crashes and later applied his knowledge to car crashes. For his almost unbelievable rocket sled runs he became known as “The Fastest Man on Earth”, made the cover of Time magazine, and subjected himself to a record-setting 46.2 g’s!

Dr. Stapp shows that pulling 20+ g’s is not as easy as it sounds…! Click stappstop.jpg.

Dr. Stapp, who retired as a Colonel in the USAF, also proved that for all the cracked ribs, mild hemorraging, and broken wrists that he experienced, it didn’t affect his longevity one bit. Amazingly, he passed away in his Alamogordo home in 1999, at the age of 89.

About one long wave ago (~ 56 years) Dr. Stapp’s experiments paved the way for high-performance air- and spacecraft of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. Today’s analogous technology development phase for the 2015 Maslow Window is continuing in the International Space Station, among space entrepreneurs (e.g., Virgin Galactic), at national space agencies, and elsewhere.

For example, the current headquarters of Spaceport America is in Las Cruces. According to their website, construction of a road to the Spaceport site, about 45 miles north of Las Cruces, should be completed soon.

The remains of this V-2 were recovered at White Sands after testing. Click v2.jpg.

The first Space Age began shortly after W. W. II with test launches of the German V-2 rocket at the White Sands Missile Range, also known as the “Birthplace of the Race to Space.” Some may remember the historic first, and so far only, landing of a Shuttle at White Sands by Gordon Fullerton and Jack Lousma (STS-3) in 1982. The local pop culture space connections also include famous rumors of a UFO landing at Holloman AFB in 1971 (or before) as dramatized by Rod Serling in the 1974 documentary video “UFOs: Past, Present, and Future.”

The XQ-2 Drone beckons to the Tombaugh IMAX Dome Theater and Planetarium. Click xq-2.jpg.

The Tombaugh Theater and Planetarium sits between the Space History Museum and the new Alamogordo campus of the New Mexico State University. As a teenager I met Professor Tombaugh and was invited to his home in Las Cruces during a family vacation (we lived in Michigan) for a peek through his 16″ telescope. The issue of the Journal of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers that he autographed for me is understandably still one of my prized possessions.

On the campus of New Mexico State University, the Tombaugh Observatory honors the former NMSU professor and discoverer of Pluto. Click tombaugh.jpg.

Professor Tombaugh was probably most famous as the discoverer of Pluto, but was also a long-time observer of Mars and played an important role developing scientific rationales for human missions to Mars (e.g., see the 1963 Exploration of Mars, Vol. 15, Adv. Astronaut. Scis., Ed. by G.W. Morganthaler) during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. Starting in 1949, Tombaugh was comfortable going public about his many observations of UFOs. He supported the Extraterrestrial hypothesis and was an early voice calling for a serious scientific investigation of UFOs, much like the University of Arizona’s Dr. James McDonald later did, and more recently Stanford’s Peter Sturrock.

The House that Gerard Kuiper Built — The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Click ualunarlab.jpg

Dr. Gerard Kuiper, known as “the Father of Modern Planetary Science,” established the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in 1960 to give NASA more scientific information about the Moon and planets. For NASA, the idea was to support the Apollo program and eventually human missions to the planets during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

“…A source of pride to the nation.” President John F. Kennedy, 1960. Click solart.jpg.

To the Camelot-style icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, President John F. Kennedy, “The great new solar telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona is a source of pride to the nation. The largest instrument for solar research in the world, it presents American astronomers with a unique tool for investigating the nearest of all the stars, our Sun. The project is of exceptional interest to all our citizens…Bold in concept and magnificent in execution, the instrument is the crowning achievement…” Writing in 1960, JFK’s ebullient tone is unmistakable, as it will be near 2015 when the next Space President describes the scientific challenges of the next Space Age.

Every clear day, the secrets of the Sun are revealed in the observers room. Click solarobs.jpg.

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Mar 28 2009

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

The recent completion of the solar arrays on the International Space Station (ISS) and having just marked its 10th anniversary in space, invite us to celebrate and contemplate the station’s birth way back in the 1980s.

It was in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan proposed a manned space station in low Earth orbit; named Space Station Freedom (SSF), it became the progenitor of the current ISS. Called “the next logical step” into space, Freedom was to be ambitiously multifunctional: a satellite servicing facility, spacecraft assembly center, astronomical observatory, a lab to study microgravity’s effects on astronauts, a commercial/industrial manufacturing facility. Reagan’s inspirational rhetoric soared almost as high as the station, “We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain.”

Cost estimates for Space Station Freedom were $ 12.2 B in 1987 and it was to be permanently manned by April, 1997. Click ssf1987.jpg.

The day after Christmas (2008) we decided to visit Reagan’s Presidential Library in Simi Valley because — although we both admired the “Father of the Space Station” — neither of us had ever been there. We were impressed by the beautiful setting, the story of Reagan’s humble beginnings in Illinois, his movie career (including the “win one for the Gipper” video!), his ascent to the California governorship and the Presidency, and most of all, his actual Air Force 1 (a 747) that you see Contributing Editor Carol Lane smiling in front of.

Carol enjoyed this view of President Reagan’s Air Force 1, but still felt that something was missing. Click af1.jpg.

But one thing was missing, and this led to the 1st Shocking Truth about President Reagan (or at least about his library): There was NO mention of the space station!! After looking everywhere we finally gave up. It’s 3 months later now and we’re still surprised.

Of course, compared to “winning the Cold War” — which led in 1993 to the transformation of SSF into today’s ISS — and dismantling the Berlin Wall (a large piece of which is on display in the west courtyard), we know that a project (like SSF) that never came to fruition during Reagan’s 2 terms — and in fact was almost voted out of existence by Congress — would be considered small potatoes. But we still expected something!!!

More recently, as we enjoyed the mountain drive on the way to Indian Wells for a couple days at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, we began to come to psychological terms with this (to us) stunning omission in Reagan’s Library. We remembered how President John F. Kennedy played the key leadership role in the first race to space. His charisma, timing, and courage contributed to the first man on the Moon in 1969. But we also were reminded that patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society over the last 200 years suggest that the fundamental driver behind the Apollo Moon program was the unparalleled economic boom of the 1960s.

Indeed the captivating question about which was most important to Apollo — President Kennedy or the 1960s economic boom — lingered. It all boiled down to this: Could President Kennedy have successfully kicked-off Apollo at any other time than when he did it — the early 1960s? For example, could JFK, the charismatic leader of “Camelot“, have successfully motivated a large space program in the 1980s?

This led us to the 2nd Shocking Truth about President Reagan: Not even the “Great Communicator” himself, arguably at least as charismatic as JFK, could make the space station program happen during the decade after he proposed it.

Were the 1980s just not conducive to Apollo-level Great Explorations or MEPs? Or was there something “wrong” with the Space Station project itself?

Why did the space station experience endless concept redesigns, political turbulence, a hefty $ 100 B price tag, and an unbelievable delay in its completion date from Reagan’s 1994 initial target to the actual date in 2011? …Only 17 years late!!

Of course, ISS is not a Great Exploration in the sense of Apollo or Lewis and Clark, it’s a “national laboratory” circling the Earth every 90 minutes. And it is, after all, the most expensive man-made project in history, by some accounts totaling $100 billion in costs. It involves 16 countries and there is approximately 1,000,000 pounds of hardware in space. The International Space Station comprises 100 elements that were built all over the world and integrated into one structure only in space. In total, the ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that guarantee it’s an MEP historically comparable to the Saturn V or the Panama Canal.

On June 12, 2008, while explaining why the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) ultimately failed to generate public support, we proposed 4 “rules” for success for MacroEngineering Projects. Although the SSC violated all four, the space station only violated two of them:

Rule 1: Never initiate a $ multi-B MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56 year energy/economic cycle (it peaked in 1969)…
Rule 3: Large MEPs like SSF or SSC that are proposed between Maslow Windows (i.e., “trough” projects) must be associated with a strategic conflict (e.g. the A-Bomb project during WW II) for them to be viable….

The two other rules were less a factor for the space station:

Rule 2: Never propose a big MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56-year energy/economic cycle when another spectacular MEP has already been approved. Although President Reagan announced Space Station Freedom in 1984 after he had proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) in 1983, they were not really competitive because SDI was a “survival” program — not typically dependent on long waves in the economy — while SSF was a genuine “Maslow Program.”
Rule 4: MEPs proposed at any time must be impressive and inspirational to achieve public approval. Unlike the pyramids, European cathedrals, and the Panama Canal, most of SSC was buried underground and invisible, while SSF/ISS is highly visible directly in space and indirectly visible through the large number of Shuttle launches since 1998 needed to construct it.

Thus it appears likely that the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was fundamentally driven not by President Kennedy, or even by the specific Great Exploration and MEP involved — but by the huge economic boom that triggered wide-spread ebullience and momentarily elevated Maslow heirarchy levels.

A similar confluence of societal affluence and ebullience is expected near 2015.

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