Feb 07 2010

NASA’s “New Paradigm” Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

This week the Obama administration proposed the termination of NASA’s Constellation program that targeted a return to the Moon for U.S. astronauts by 2020. After Shuttle retirement later this year (or next), crew transportation to ISS would be provided by hitching rides on Russian Soyuz launch vehicles, and eventually by developing the manned launch capabilities of American space companiesnot of NASA.

Will the retirement of the Shuttle trigger a golden age for space for the U.S. and the world? Click .

Obama’s NASA boss, Charles Bolden, has already announced several grants to private space companies, including $ 20 M to to Sierra Nevada Corp. for development of its Dream Chaser crew module (launched on an Atlas V); See “For 2010 — A Dream Chaser Come True?” And $ 6.7 M to United Launch Alliance for an emergency sensing system for Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.

Our purpose here is not to debate the attributes of this paradigm shift — Not surprisingly the traditional NASA types and Congressional reps, especially in Florida and Texas (where unemployment will increase), believe the U.S. is abandoning world leadership in space, while the space commercialism folks receiving subsidies think it’s a victory for the future of space. They both are partly right; time will tell just how much, assuming Obama’s NASA plans are approved by Congress.

But a particularly striking aspect of this future NASA trajectory is the way it supports forecasts made here (and previously) based on long waves in the economy, and associated patterns in technology development and geopolitics. See: “Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space — State of the Wave, Friday 9/12/08.”

THE TIMEFRAME
For example, in 1996 I forecasted that 2015 to 2025 would be the next major thrust into space:

The decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s; i.e., it will involve major activities in technology, engineering, and human exploration. There is every reason to believe that the focus will be on large-scale human operations in space and that they will be spectacular.

And in 2006, I identified 2014 as the likely timeframe when NASA would undergo a significant transformation.

Energy cycle timing and NASA’s birth date (1958) allow us to forecast that the new, international space organization will take shape by 2014 …

The transformation of NASA apparently beginning now is scheduled to culminate by 2016 — near the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window — when a non-NASA, commercial crew vehicle may begin regular deliveries of astronauts to ISS.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
In recent statements, Bolden has described a new style of international cooperation where the U.S. treats its international space partners as “equals” and with “respect.”

Roger Handberg (University of Central Florida) recently compared the multi-year gap between retirement of the Shuttle and onset of commercial crew launchers to the 6-year gap starting in 1975.

The full end of the Apollo program in the form of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 left the United States grounded until the space shuttle flew in 1981. However, any anxiety about that gap was minimized by awareness that the shuttle was coming, albeit slowly…

Handberg’s recent take on the looming post-Shuttle gap concludes that,

The United States at least temporarily moves from the position of dominant partner to that of dependent. This status will be uncomfortable but doable as a stopgap … one approach may be for the United States to fully opt into international partnerships led by a consortium of states with the US as one partner among others.

What this means is that the US must become comfortable with such close cooperation, as unilateral decisions with no prior consultation with partners will end … a new political arrangement needs to be developed.

Our model for a “new political arrangement” was proposed in 1992 (Cordell, 1992). Interspace is a global organization with ESA-like management structures featuring “equality” among the major international partners and the opportunity for other nations to participate according to their financial and technical capabilities.

In 1996, I forecasted that as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, “increased parity among space-faring nations might trigger the formation of an international space agency in which the major space powers — USA, ESA, Japan, Russia — share power equally in the planning and management …

THE PARADIGM SHIFT TRIGGER
Probably the fastest way to produce these profound transformations in U.S. space policy — extensive international cooperation, equality among partners, stimulation of the commercial space launch industry — is to remove NASA from the launch vehicle business, which apparently is Obama’s strategy.

THE WILD CARD
Until recently, most of the world expected the United States to lead an international manned assault on the Moon, which apparently is no longer in the cards with the cancellation of Constellation. Although Bolden assures us (FloridaToday.com, 2/2/10) that “We’re not abandoning human spaceflight by any stretch of the imagination.” He’s referring to Earth-to-LEO human spaceflight, not the Moon. Currently NASA has no specific goals or timetables beyond LEO, although Bolden enthuses that, “What’s exciting is that we’re now going to have a national debate about where we need to be going in terms of space exploration.” — something we’ve been doing repeatedly since the 1980s, and now we’ll do it again!

Removal of NASA from its traditional role as the launcher of astronauts to low Earth orbit and beyond is reminiscent of the mid-1950s, about one long wave ago, during the Cold War before the U.S. achieved dominance in manned space exploration during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

And currently it’s possible to imagine at least 2 scenarios:
I) It’s Sputnik All Over Again — Although the U.S. has been grounded before in its space history (e.g., 1975-81), it has never happened during a crucial time in the run-up to a global Maslow Window as it will now. It’s possible this will encourage another Sputnik-style moment within the next few years when competitors of the U.S. decide to make dramatic, coordinated moves in areas like space energy, lunar colonization, and/or human spaceflight to Mars.
Or…
2) A Grand Alliance for Space — The totally new experience of truly close, equal cooperation among international space partners — including the United States — may trigger a “Grand Alliance for Space” as the world moves toward an Interspace/ESA-style global space organization.

Although we always hope and strive for the most productive, global approach to settlement of the solar system (e.g., Option 2), human history does not support such optimism. The events of the Cold War that gave birth to the 1960s space race plus the story of the international race to the South Pole (during the Peary/Panama Maslow Window), suggest that — when the stakes are high — humans may deceive and seek strategic advantage over a perceived competitor.

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Jan 26 2010

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010

The big space news for 2009 was that we didn’t learn the answer to the big question: What is the future of human spaceflight in the U.S.? But this didn’t happen in a vacuum and it was anticipated by 21stCenturyWaves.com last January; see State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009. The U.S. space program exists at the intersection of long-term trends in economics, geopolitics, and domestic politics, and thus the space trends for 2010 are best understood in the context of those for 2009 and previous years.

2009 was a year of monumental change globally and especially — as President Obama promised — in the U.S.. The seismic shifts of 2009 — both positive and negative — will reverberate well into 2010.

For a post-State of the Union update, click HERE.

Here are 10 space trends for 2010:

10. Although 2009 was the Year of Obama, in 2010 it will continue to be hard for him to focus on space.

According to Stratfor, “Obama dominated 2009 as no freshman year president has since Reagan.” Early in the year public confidence in Obama was so high that he was easily able to engineer major bailouts and stimulus bills — including the $ 787 B stimulus package — that were guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8 %. As unemployment approached 10% public confidence in the administration began to decline; e.g., on July 12, the Los Angeles Times announced “The End of Obamania”. During 2009 the president’s job approval rating fell 20 points, from 68% to 48% (Gallup.com), largely due to high unemployment, record government spending, huge deficits, and Obama’s preoccupation with his health care program.

Recently the unthinkable occurred: a Republican (Scott Brown) won a special election in the most Democratic state in the U.S. (Massachusetts), and took the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy that he’d held for decades. And the Washington Post recently reported (1/16/10) that “By 58% to 38%, Americans said they prefer smaller government and fewer services to larger government with more services.” That’s 15% more people favoring small versus large government since Obama’s nomination in June, 2008.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com noted that President Obama’s agenda would be dominated by the great recession and national security, and he would not be able to focus on space. This is still true; e.g., Gallup reports that “67% don’t expect economic recovery to start for 2+ years.” But unlike early 2009, Obama has to contend now with the serious political challenges of Republicans in 2010. All this comes as the U.S. space program is approaching a tipping point, as described below.

9. Economically, 2010 will be a year of uncertainty, but long-term trends continue to show we’re on schedule for a New Global Space Age starting near 2015.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com reported that the timing and severity of the financial Panic of 2008 was consistent with our next Maslow Window — a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — opening by 2015. This is because over the last 200 years, a financial panic/great recession combination typically precedes the Maslow Window by 7 to 10 years (except for the 1960s Apollo Window which had none); e.g., the Panic of 1893/1890s Great Recession and the stunning Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1901-13), and the Panic of 1837/1840s Great Recession and the ebullient Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (~1847-57).

The big question is: How soon will the current great recession subside and allow the economy to return to the “greatest boom ever” that was interrupted by the Panic of 2008?

On July 24 (Wall Street Journal) Princeton economist Alan S. Blinder stated that, “The U.S. economy appears to be hitting bottom.” In its 2010 Annual Forecast (1/4/2010), Stratfor concurs but adds that, “pockets of economic weakness remain within the U.S. and larger problems continue elsewhere in the world.” Financial advisor John Mauldin (1/8/10) cautions against a robust “V” shaped recovery because of worries about continuing unemployment among others. His major concern is “Congress is likely to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire … (and) we could see a massive increase in taxes of $ 500 B … or 4% of GDP.”

Long-term patterns in financial panic/great recession pairs in the decade preceding Maslow Windows over the last 200 years suggest the 2015 Maslow Window is on schedule. Recent opinion polls and election results show frustration with Obama’s economic policies during 2009. Today’s New York Times (1/24/10; R. Zeleny, P. Baker) indicates Obama is aware of the political situation. If the trio of unemployment/spending/deficits is not reduced soon the American people may seek new leadership. Thus both long- and short-term economic and political trends point to a new Space Age by 2015.

8. Geopolitical and national security issues will continue to dominate Obama’s attention in 2010, but their timing and significance are consistent with a rapidly approaching Maslow Window near 2015.

It became fashionable in 2009 to compare Obama with previous presidents, mainly in connection with concerns about Afghanistan, Iraq, and other potential flashpoints. For example, the New York Times (8/23/09, P. Baker) sees a potential parallel between Obama and Lyndon Johnson because Afghanistan could eventually resemble Vietnam. More recently, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations fears that Obama’s foreign policy could become like Jimmy Carter’s (Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb, 2010).

Stratfor (1/4/2010) sees the major geopolitical issues of 2010 as “Russia’s resurgence as a major power … (and) the sharpening crisis in the Middle East,” centered on Iran’s nuclear program and a potential “Israeli strike on Iran — a strike that could quickly spiral into a general melee in the world’s premier energy artery, the Persian Gulf.” The recent Fort Hood massacre and the Christmas Detroit airline bomber show that the threat of terrorism within the U.S. also remains a major concern.

In a recent post I showed that significant military conflicts occur either early in a Maslow Window or just before it; e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. Please see the summary in: How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience. These conflicts played a key role in the major exploration and/or technology activities of their Maslow Window. Given that the Iran crisis could threaten global energy supplies, it is a potential flashpoint nearly at the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis. These events signal growing international tensions that are characteristic of early or pre-Maslow Window times over the last 200 years.

7. The new NASA Administrator — Gen. Charles Bolden — supports true international collaboration in space, but doesn’t know “The Answer” yet.

Director Bolden emphasized the importance of international collaborations in space. Perhaps most important is the idea of treating our partners as “equals” and with “respect.” This is the 21st century trend in international space cooperation. My concept for a global space agency (“Interspace”) features organizational equality among the major players and an opportunity to participate for almost everyone else. In the mid-1990s I forecasted that Interspace would materialize near 2013, driven by global interests in space colonization.

Director Bolden also echoed a familiar theme of Obama: the importance of education. As in the late 1950s, in response to the launch of Sputnik, it is likely that similar calls for beefed up science and math education in the U.S. will ramp up as international activities in space intensify near 2013.

Although Bolden assured his audience that, “This will not be the president who precedes over the end of manned space flight,” he was unable to be more specific because Obama has not publicized his decision on the future U.S. vision for human spaceflight.

While NASA waits on pins and needles, Obama has not articulated his vision for manned space. This is partly due to the economic, geopolitical, and now the political trends that demand his attention. President Obama is in a tough spot. He cannot ignore space because of national prestige and growing international space programs. On the other hand, he must be willing to commit $ 3 B more annually to do the Moon and beyond. The solution, of course, is to join with other global space powers to settle the solar system together before a Sputnik-like event drives us apart. It will be an interesting test of his policy of international engagement in 2010.

6. 2009 was the year that Global Warming politics showed significant decline in response to Climategate, new science results, and the public’s rejection of this negative vision of the future.

The Climategate scandal showed that most scientists — including those associated with the IPCC who didn’t want to publicly admit it — agree that global warming ended in 1998, that temperatures have declined in recent years, and that global climate models based on CO2 effects cannot account for the current lack of warming, and thus cannot be scientifically used to forecast climate in future decades. The Climategate scientists also speak privately of manipulating temperature data sets to emphasize warming.

The Wall Street Journal (1/23/10) recently recounted the strange story of the “rapidly receding” Himalayan glaciers. In their 2007 report the IPCC insisted that these glaciers would disappear by 2035 — due to global warming. The IPCC was warned in 2006 by a leading glaciologist that the 2035 forecast was bogus, but they chose to ignore it. According to glaciologist Georg Kaser, “This number is not just a little bit wrong … It is so wrong that it is not even worth discussing.”

Based on history of the last 200 years, including the 1960s, Maslow Windows are golden ages of prosperity, exploration, and technology. They are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience when many in society ascend Maslow’s hierarchy and become supportive of great exporations and macro-engineering projects. The public’s growing rejection of global warming politics will continue in 2010 and is consistent with our approach to the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window.

5. The psychology of financial meltdowns and economic booms suggests that our current great recession will be followed by a major economic boom that will trigger the new Space Age.

Behavioral economist George Loewenstein of Yale recently (Discover, Jan/Feb, 2010) explained the factors which produce financial meltdowns as well as economic booms. They include 1) self-destructive behavior, 2) believing that what we want to believe is true, 3) short-term focus on immediate threats, and 4) lazy decision-making (going with the flow). These factors click in when the trend is up or down and thus reenforce behavior during both meltdowns and booms.

According to Keynes, the father of behavioral economics, the trick during a recession is changing people’s negative expectations to overcome their “animal spirits.” According to Keynesians George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, the economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt were ineffective during the Great Depression, “The drop in confidence during the Great Depression was so fundamental that it continued for a decade. Confidence — and the economy itself — were not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.”

Obviously with 67% of Americans not expecting economic recovery to start for 2+ years and consumer confidence low, negative Keynesian animal spirits are currently in full force. When Obama is able to reverse the current trend and elevate consumer confidence, history shows the economy will rapidly respond with a major economic boom.

4. One of the most exciting developments in modern astronomy — the search for Earth-like planets — continues to motivate public interest in human expansion into the cosmos.

According to the online Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, as of January 23, 2010, there are a total of 424 planets known to be orbiting stars other than the Sun. Most of these are hot gas giants resembling Jupiter but much less than 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) from their star, as opposed to 5 AUs for Jupiter.

However, a few recent discoveries have had tantalizing, Earth-like results. In February a European group using the Corot space observatory detected a small planet in orbit around a star in Monoceros about light 500 years away. Subsequent observations confirmed that the planet is almost twice Earth’s diameter and 5 times its mass, indicating it’s composed mostly of rock. However, it is so close to its star that its surface temperature is a toasty 2000 degrees F.

In April, planet hunters reported that Gliese 581, a star only 20 light years away, has a planet with 7 Earth masses that is at the right star distance for liquid water. It is the first extra-solar planet ever discovered that could possibly support life. At only 20 light years distant, if the Gliesians exist and can build rockets, they should have been here by now!

And in March, NASA’s Kepler satellite began scanning 145,000 stars for transiting Earth-like planets. The observatory works. Earlier this month Kepler scientists announced the discovery of 5 new extra-solar planets. Earth-like planets can’t hide for long from Kepler.

Even smaller planets with Earth-like sizes and masses in their Sun-like star’s habitable zone will eventually be discovered, possibly in 2010 or soon thereafter. The closest ones — inhabited or not — will someday become targets for human exploration as human civilization expands into the cosmos.

3. In 2010 NASA will face a tipping point involving the Shuttle, the International Space Station, and international plans for human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

In 2010, the current plan is to complete construction of the ISS and retire the Shuttle. Four of the last 5 Shuttle missions will visit ISS and deliveries will include the U.S. Tranquility node as well as a Russian module.

Last month, Space News (12/14/09) suggested that “the administration will cancel Ares 1 in favor of a different approach to getting astronauts to and from the space station … (like) a commecially developed crew transport service (that) could be available sooner than Ares 1-Orion and at less cost.” Space News concludes that Administration changes must be “accompanied by a long-term commitment to meaningful exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit, with a credible story — with resources to match — for getting there…”

On the other hand, in the same issue (Space News, 12/14/09) Christopher Kraft warns that “The suggestion that commercially developed launch vehicles can replace the Ares 1 rocket is ill advised.” His recommendations include continuing to operate the Shuttle, continue to operate the ISS as long as it’s economically feasible and scientifically productive, continue with the goals of the Constellation program, and develop the capability to send astronauts to Mars.

In 2010 President Obama is facing a major political challenge to his presidency. He must reduce economic distress and show progress toward future prosperity, and at the same time he must run the war in Afghanistan, monitor Iraq, influence Iran and Russia, and neutralize global terrorists. This doesn’t leave much time for space, but he must respond to the tipping point space issues above. Human spaceflight is very supportive of Obama’s interests in motivating youth and improving education, and it is a powerful symbol of American leadership in the world. It is unlikely that US participation in a Moon race with China or others would excite the American public because the US won that prize over 40 years ago. And given the understandable anti-ebullient state of the American public, planning manned missions to Mars is probably out of the question during Obama’s current term. This leaves less expensive human missions to near Earth asteroids and/or Lagrange points as potential U.S. space objectives beyond low Earth orbit, possibly coupled with American leadership in a long-term international effort to expore, commercially develop, and eventually settle the Moon. In this scenario, preparations for human spaceflight to Mars would continue at ISS, with astronaut access provided by a commercially developed space vehicle, while the actual Mars expeditions themselves would be relegated to the late 21st century Maslow Window (starting in 2071).

2. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario I — The JFK model

As the last 200+ years have shown, extraordinary pulses of activity in exploration and engineering are enabled by reliable, long-term business cycles. And all indicators suggest we’re sneaking up on the edge of another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology that will trigger the new Space Age; see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913.

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

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

But the question is: Will Obama reverse current trends and set the country on a trajectory toward near-term prosperity — the hallmark of all Maslow Windows?

If he does Obama will be a 2-term president and will become the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ. And he will continue the brilliant transformative legacy that began with Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark.

1. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario II — The Theodore Roosevelt model

Another potential scenario is remminiscent of the Panic of 1893 that culminated with Theodore Roosevelt’s spectacular Peary/Panama Maslow Window of the early 20th century. The Panic of 1893 has parallels with the recent Panic of 2008 and the great recession that bottomed out in mid-2009. The great 1890s recession lasted nearly 6 years — and let’s hope that’s not one of the parallels.

In the Roosevelt model, Obama becomes a victim of the current great recession and — because of his inability to ignite prosperity — becomes a 1-term president much like Grover Cleveland in the 1890s. In this scenario Obama is replaced by a president who does start the recovery, points the nation toward prosperity, and triggers the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

So which is it? Scenario I — The JFK Model, or Scenario II –the Theodore Roosevelt model?

I. Long-term macroeconomic patterns — especially the Panic of 2008 — suggest the 2010s are more like the Roosevelt Maslow Window than the Kennedy one. In this case, the great recession that favored Obama’s election in 2008 would ultimately prove to be his undoing (like Grover Cleveland), and thus support Scenario II.

II. Recent polls and election results — especially the recent Massachusetts Senatorial shocker — show the public is anxious about Obama’s economic policies because they haven’t reduced unemployment and seem inconsistent with prosperity. These also support Scenario II.

III. But it’s still really all up to Obama. If in 2010 he decides to reverse course, reduce economic distress, and stimulate the recovery, he will experience Scenario I. If not, it will be Scenario II. In a month or two we should be able to discern his economic trajectory.

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Sep 07 2009

Private Funding for the Settlement of Mars Has Begun

Some folks hope to jumpstart human expansion into the cosmos by privately funding bases on other worlds. One serious approach is by Dr. Charles Polk who recently founded The Martian Trust (J. British Interplanetary Soc., Vol. 62, No. 5, pp. 187-197, May, 2009) with the sole intent of financing a self-sustaining outpost on Mars.

The Martian Trust, a new INGO founded by Charles Polk, bills itself as “The Virtual Society Building A Real World.” Click marsoutpost3.jpg.

Polk has a PhD in economics from Caltech and is a former aerospace engineer who worked on Space Shuttle main engines. Frustration with the funding processes of public space programs led to his interest in economics. According to Polk,

The Martian Trust introduces a key principle to space exploration: An endeavor is best accomplished when it is conducted directly between people who can and want to buy it and people who can and want to sell it. I believe that there are tens of millions of people who will want to imagine, design, and finance, a Mars outpost through the processes of The Martian Trust. These people, these millions of patrons, with a hugh trust fund under their direction, will command the interest of industries capable of selling them a Mars outpost.

In case you’re new to this blog, The Martian Trust is a superb example of what we call “early ebullience.” Early because Polk’s visionary concept precedes the 2015 Maslow Window — the next major pulse of ebullient human expansion into the cosmos — by about 6 years, and ebullience because it marvelously symbolises the fundamental force — energized and focused human curiosity — driving near-term space colonization. Inspirational endeavors like The Martian Trust are exactly what we would expect to see as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, an ebullient 1960s-style decade with a Camelot-like zeitgeist.

Currently, space-themed media including movies, TV programs, novels, and games, reach hundreds of millions of consumers but have no direct connection — neither the consumers nor the creators — with a real space program. Polk intends to change this. His international non-governmental organization (INGO), will focus on the Mars outpost goal, “The precise meaning of this goal and how to attain it are left to those who hold stakes in the INGO. Stakes are allotted based on the revenue supplied to a trust fund, which may come from two sources: donations and media businesses.” Polk is basically adopting and expanding the media revenue model of The National Geographic Society.

Even if The Martian Trust cannot ultimately generate the tens of billions of USD needed for an initial Martian outpost, it still might play an important role by financing one or more key systems (e.g., habitation modules) in a much larger international, governmental Mars initiative. This is what Otto Steinbronn and I were envisioning in the INTELSAT-style organization that we called InterMoon (or InterMars, depending on the destination); see P. 291, Figure 3 in “Interspace…”; Space Policy, Nov., 1992.

In winter of 2008, Dr. Polk formed a non-profit corporation in Washington state to initiate the development of The Martian Trust and validate its business model. The Trust’s motto is “The Virtual Society building a Real World.” To avoid any suspicions that The Martian Trust was formed to promote any particular aerospace industry or any specific country’s economic aspirations, Polk chose to base the INGO in New Zealand. Formal establishment of The Martian Trust in New Zealand awaits the concurrence of “high net-worth space exploration and science fiction enthusiasts” who will form the INGO’s cornerstone of patrons.

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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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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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Oct 05 2008

Asteroid Threats — Rusty's Call for A Global Response

Earth’s greatest hits don’t just include “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets; most actually cosiderably predate him, such as the the 6 mile-wide asteroid that took out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and even the 1908 Tunguska impact in Siberia where a 5 megaton explosion leveled 2,000 square miles of forest.

Tunguska-size events — caused by an object one half the length of an American football field — may occur every few centuries or so but when they do, can dramatically impact regional agriculture possibly triggering famine. Our current knowledge of possible future impacts includes Asteroid 99942 Apophis which has a small probability of hitting in 2036 but would produce a 500 megaton explosion — about 10 times larger than the largest H bomb ever tested — and unimaginable destruction. And astronomers estimate that over the next 15 years, several dozen Near Earth Objects (NEOs) will be discovered that could produce local or regional devastation on Earth.

Because, given enough warning time, we are far from helpless against such gobal threats, former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart and the Association of Space Explorers International Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation recently (9/25/08) recommended to the United Nations the establishment of a global organization to “assist the international community in preventing loss of life and property” from space impactors.

After detecting a potentially threatening NEO, questions will arise about what nations are at risk and who should be evacuated, if and how the NEO should be deflected, and who is authorized to make mitigation decisions with accompanying liability and financial responsibility. In all cases, “timely adoption of a decision-making program is essential to enabling effective action.”

Schweickart suggests that within 10 -15 years, an international Mission Authorization and Oversight Group could develop policies and procedures and eventually make recommendations about any looming NEO threats to the United Nations Security Council for action.

Assuming the United Nations proves to be the appropriate entity for this type of responsibility, this global asteroid organization might eventually expand into non-asteroid space functions until it becomes a truly global space agency, similar to our Interspace model (see also TWTW). Another possibility is that by the 2015 Maslow Window, an Interspace-type global organization might become the centerpiece of a Grand Alliance for Space, in which the major international space powers cooperate peacefully and productively in the colonization of space. In this case, Rusty’s global asteroid mitigation group would be a natural outgrowth of the Grand Alliance.

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Jul 21 2008

State of the Wave, Friday 7/18/08

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.

Most of the news from the last 2+ weeks points toward a a developing world scenario that’s potentially reminiscent of pre-Sputnik 1950s times, including increased international capabilities and competition in space. The scenario could become competitive and near 2013 produce a Sputnik-like shock for the U.S., although a Grand Alliance for Space, cooperatively involving all global space powers, is also possible.

If near-term movement toward a global space organization like Interspace is observed, that will signal a Grand Alliance is taking shape. Otherwise a more competitive, Sputnik-style global interaction may become ascendant.

For example, Futron Corporation published their 2008 Space Competitiveness Index in which, “Systemic and competitive forces threaten U.S. space leadership.” acording Futron president Joseph Fuller, Jr.. This comes on top of a recent AP report (7/17/08) that budget problems will preclude a 2013 rollout date for NASA’s new moon rocket; it will slip to 2015.

The eerie, retro pre-Sputnik 1950s feel of today’s State of the Wave is enhanced by the American public’s seeming lack of concern either about the Shuttle’s 5 year gap (starting at 2010) or potential space competitors like China.

Looking into the 2020s, there’s good news and bad news about a potential major war. The University of Maryland’s Peace and Conflict 2008 reports that battle fatalities in major conflicts have dropped since 1946. And the Human Security Report Project documents a recent, significant decline in terrorist events. This must be balanced against the fact that every Maslow Window of the last 200 years has been afflicted by a major war, that’s breached global peace and security and directly or indirectly terminated great explorations.

Impressive activity in Non-Space Macro-Engineering Projects(MEPs) continues to indicate our approach to the 2015 Maslow Window. For example, a recent Airbus Advertising Supplement in Wall Street Journal (7/14/08) states that, “This year will see an acceleration of funding into some seriously fast aircraft programs.” Accordng to Alan Bond of Reaction Engines (a UK company), “The long-term demand for supersonic and hypersonic aircraft will depend on political will,” including China’s interest in establishing fast air routes to North America and Europe.

By the way, the Chicago Tribune last week suggested there might be parallels between President Theodore Roosevelt and John McCain. But their reliability is suspect because they forgot to mention Roosevelt’s huge connection with the Panama Canal — the greatest pre-Apollo MEP of the last 200 years! However, we see more parallels between McCain and Dwight Eisenhower (than with Roosevelt), and — based solely on long-term economic and social trends — see McCain favored this November, and a John F. Kennedy-like candidate (Obama?) favored in 4 or 8 years.

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