Apr 26 2012

Did the New Space Age Begin This Week with Planetary Resources?

The world changed this week.

Planetary Resources (PR) finally announced their intent to create a “gold rush” to the asteroids, for both water and platinum group metals. The water will fuel an interplanetary highway and the precious metals will create prosperity on Earth.

Like the California Gold Rush ~150 years ago, a new asteroid “gold rush” may change the world.
Click

Never before has a technologically sophisticated and well-capitalized private group publicly announced their intention to mine the riches of space!

It appears the world took a giant step, at least symbolically, toward the new international Space Age, and the long-anticipated, 1960s-style Maslow Window.

Regardless of their ultimate success or failure, no group in recent memory has provided a more world-class display of ebullience — an exceptionally positive view of the future — than PR’s leaders this week.

For example, co-founder Peter Diamandis exclaimed that they intend to create “abundance” (also the title of his new book) on Earth, while co-founder Eric Anderson indicated that this “seminal event…is fun!” and that their goals are “so audacious, we may fail.” Technology chief, Chris Lewicki concurred that the innovations required would be “bold, crazy!”

This is the language of ebullience that historically signals the rapid approach of a new golden age in technology, exploration, and prosperity.

For example, two centuries ago during their Maslow Window, not only Lewis and Clark but Thomas Jefferson himself was overwhelmed by the ebullient thrill of discovery and opened up the American northwest. Half a century later, during the mid-19th century Maslow Window, the California Gold Rush drew many ebullient people to the new frontier. Today’s proposal of an asteroid “gold rush” by PR displays an eerily similar historical rhythm and ebullient style with the Apollo Moon program of the 1960s.

Despite continuing economic challenges, early ebullience is evident around the world today — e.g., booming Antarctic tourism, architectural projects such as the Shanghai Tower, the Panama Canal Expansion Project, Spaceport America and the birth of the space tourism industry, the International Space Station (an “international marvel”), international plans for bases on the Moon., and most recently, the stunning deep ocean adventures of James Cameron, also a featured PR investor and team member.

However, the PR crew indicated clearly that initially there are no humans in this vision (except on the ground) and this is definitely not a JFK-like thrust featuring humans to the Moon or Mars. Indeed Lewicki specifically cited Failure is Not an Option — the famous book title by Apollo-era flight controller Gene Kranz — as an outmoded notion for PR because of redundancies provided by robotic convoys.

This is a totally unprecedented type of space program whose fundamental goal is to shower the Earth with precious metals … and eventually provide greater access to space.

It’s easy to attack the boldness of this group, and their presentation did (self-admittedly) have a sophisticated infomercial feel to it — i.e., they are looking for new investors and engineers.

However win or lose, Planetary Resources will stimulate a cascade of other visionary leaders, investors, and even governments to think and act seriously about near-term opportunities in space.

That’s how the new, international Space Age begins.

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May 15 2011

Celebrating 3 Years of 21stCenturyWaves.com at ISDC 2011 in Huntsville

This week we’re celebrating our 3rd exciting year of exploring the future of space, technology, and education at 21stCenturyWaves.com!

I’d like to thank Rachel Nishimura, who is the co-founder of 21stCenturyWaves.com, for making it possible, and all the Contributing Editors who have provided invaluable advice and information over the last 3 years, as well as new colleagues who help this quest continue to grow.

Most of all I’d like to thank the readers of 21stCenturyWaves.com from around the world who’ve visited this site for a glimpse of the future. Please come back often because long-term indicators and current global trends show we’re accelerating toward a 1960’s-style transformative decade — including a new international Space Age — by 2015. And 21stCenturyWaves.com is just getting started.

This week I’m celebrating 3 years of 21stCenturyWaves.com by speaking at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL. In “Economic Booms and Apollo-Style Exploration” we’ll see how rhythmic, twice-per-century 1960s-style decades over the last 200+ years culminated in humans on the Moon and point to a spectacular future…

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

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

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

Here are a couple of Honorable Mentions…

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

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

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May 04 2011

Kanal Istanbul — A View To an Ebullient, Apollo-style Age?

During his ongoing re-election campaign, the prime minister of Turkey is selling a big idea. According to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Wall Street Journal, M. Champion, 4/28/11),

We are today starting to work on one of the biggest projects of the century, which leaves behind the Panama, the Suez and—in Greece—the Corinth canals.

Do ebullient visions of Kanal Istanbul signal the approach of a 1960s-style golden age?
Click

Given that the Suez Canal was the “technological jewel” of the 19th century, and Panama was the greatest macroengineering project of the last 200 years (until Apollo), Mr. Erdogan is using the language of ebullience.

Here at 21stCentuyWaves.com, ebullience is a technical term that indicates a very positive, somewhat irrational emotional state characterized by unusual confidence in the future.

In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; … and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

Mr. Erdogan envisions Kanal Istanbul as reducing shipping traffic and increasing safety and quality of life in the Bosphorus area by creating a channel from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean; indeed, between 1982 and 2003 the Bosphorus experienced more than 600 shipping accidents.

But environmental rationales aside, the project’s main appeal is apparent in the prime minister’s ebullient rhetoric.

We said Turkey deserves to enter 2023 with such a major, crazy and wonderful project, and we took the step for this.

This timeframe suggests Kanal Istanbul would occur near the projected culmination of the 2015 Maslow Window.

History shows that truly ebullient projects — characteristic of the approach to (or early in) Maslow Windows — are usually fuzzy about costs, and Kanal Istanbul is no exception. For example, Mr. Erodgan didn’t address the issue partly because the exact path of the ~50 km-long canal is not decided.

However, William Marcuson, of the American Society of Civil Engineers, estimates a big canal rate of $ 1 B per kilometer, which puts Kanal Istanbul in the $ 50 B range, or about 1/3 of the 1960s Apollo Moon program.

Apollo-level costs convince critics that the canal will never be built. For example, Amada Paul (Today’s Zaman, 5/3/11) suggests that,

This project is probably little more than a three-minute wonder with Erdoğan announcing it without putting any meat on the bones … Once the elections are over it will likely fade away.

The real question is whether Kanal Istanbul will be more like the Grand Korean Waterway or the Panama Canal Expansion Project? In the former case, Lee Myung-bak’s ebullient vision has encountered opposition from the public. But in Panama in 2006, 72% of voters ebulliently approved the $ 5.25 B project — a tab close to the original cost of the Canal!

The Bottom Line
Given Turkey’s ascending geopolitical trajectory (e.g., George Friedman, The Next Decade, 2011) toward regional primacy, it’s probable that Kanal Istanbul will materialize sometime during the 2015 Maslow Window. In any case, the fact that the Kanal is being seriously advocated today is interpreted as more empirical evidence of our approach to another transformative 1960s-style golden age.

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Apr 02 2011

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro

This is a brief introduction to the Maslow Window model that forecasts another transformative, 1960s-style “golden age” to begin by 2015. (Just click on the titles below.) Keep in mind that on the Blogroll, posts are archived according to Category, publishing date, and keywords.

Future updates of this post will be archived as a Page. Click HERE.

What follows is NOT a complete list of relevant posts, merely a few key ones to get you started.

Introduction
A good place to start is The Concept page.

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration: How Soon the 40-Year Moon Hiatus Will End

Joseph Friedlander’s view of Maslow Windows at NextBigFuture.com

Trends and Forecasts
State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

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

Ebullience and Animal Spirits are the Drivers
Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?

The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age

Is Booming Antarctic Tourism a Prelude to Earth Orbit and the Moon?

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

Economic Growth is the Trigger
Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

200 Years of GDP Trends Support a Near-Term, New Space Age

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age

Prosperity: A Technological and a Moral Imperative

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

State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom

Stratfor’s George Friedman Likes Space-Based Solar Power in “The Next Decade”

“The Greatest Era in the History of Mankind”

Sketches of Each Maslow Window
1960s Apollo Maslow Window…
“The Liberal Hour” Supports Maslow Window Model and Points to the Approaching Greatest Boom in History

The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was “Transformative”

Early 20th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Peary & Amundsen Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

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

Mid-19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

Early 19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

Maslow Windows as a “Critical State”
Why Humans Became #1 and How Technology and Sex Lead to Unprecedented Prosperity

Niall Ferguson — On the Edge of Chaos, Immersed in the Long Wave

Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration

Political Waves — Past and Present
How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age

A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama

Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts

Key Space Policy Issues
Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

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

Commercialization of the Moon — How Soon and Who?

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

Precursors Point to the New Space Age

China’s Recent Educational Quantum Leap Triggers a “Sputnik Moment”

The Cold War-style Arms Race in Asia and the New Space Age

Facebook-Aided Arab Uprisings & Their Historical Parallels Signal a Transformative Future

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space

Xunantunich and the Large Hadron Collider Support Maslow Window Forecasts

State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage

Wildcards
Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China

Major Wars Threaten Future Space Initiatives

Asteroid Threats — Rusty’s Call for A Global Response

One More Thought…
In the powerfully ebullient environment of the 2015 Maslow Window — not seen since the 1960s Moon Race, the early 20th century “Panama-fever” (of the Canal) and “Pole-Mania” (of the N & S polar explorers), the mid-19th century “Manifest Destiny” of the U.S., and the seminal exploits of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago — almost anything is possible.

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Feb 06 2011

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

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

It provides a concise — rare for this blog!! — summary of the fundamental idea behind 21stCenturyWaves.com.

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

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

Bruce Cordell
formerly General Dynamics Space Systems Division
http://21stCenturyWaves.com

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 23 2011

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

Dramatic change has swept the space world since January 2010, when “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010” first appeared.

Nevertheless, current directions in space and related areas are well within the envelope of those idenified last year for the decade from 2010 to 2020. But 2011 will be a “Year of Transition.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches a new era in space from Cape Canaveral on December 8.
Click .

Here are 10 space trends for 2011:

10. 2011 is a Key “Year of Transition” as We Accelerate Toward the New Space Age.
Major events of 2010 will ripple though the next 12 months and beyond. These include the Shuttle retirement in 2011, a political realignment that began with Obama and continued in 2010, the beginning of upward momentum in the economy, and major shifts in the international space world.

This is what we should expect as we approach another 1960s-style transformative decade — the 2015 Maslow Window.

In 2011 — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — we’ll accelerate our transition from a multi-decade period of low international self-organization toward an ebullient, fractal “critical state” in the world economic system where almost anything is possible.

Previous Maslow Windows have featured quantum leaps in human exploration (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and technology and management (e.g., Apollo Moon program; the Panama Canal); and they are usually terminated by a major war (e.g., World War I).

This year we can expect the stage to be set for the return to prosperity, continuing political realignments, major educational reform, simmering geopolitical conflicts, and a new vision of the future for NASA and the international space community.

9. The Cancellation of Constellation Puts the Focus on Commercial Space
Last February Obama took heat for planning the cancellation of Constellation, including dumping the Moon and postponing until 2015 a decision on a new heavy lift launch vehicle for deep space manned missions.

Retirement of the Shuttle this year required NASA to buy several trips to the International Space Station — for ~$ 60 million per shot — on the Russian Soyuz between 2013 and 2014. The last of 3 remaining Shuttle missions is STS-135 planned for June or later. Contrary to Obama’s plan, the NASA Authorization Act requires the agency to begin work on the heavy lift launcher in 2011.

By far the most innovative element of Obama’s plan was to let private companies eventually assume responsibility for moving cargo and astronauts to and from ISS. However last March, A. Thomas Young — and virtually all the 1960s NASA family — insisted that Obama’s plan created “a risk too high.”

Despite these concerns, SpaceX’s successful launch, orbit insertion and maneuvers, atmospheric entry, and recovery of the Dragon cargo carrier on December 8 demonstrate that commercial taxi service to ISS may eventually be in the cards.

8. The Economy Shows the Way Space Really Works
Over the last 200+ years, each ebullient cluster of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro engineering projects (MEPs: e.g., the Panama Canal) was triggered by a major economic boom like the 1960s Kennedy Boom; and another is expected by 2015.

Why hasn’t anyone been back to the Moon in 40 years?
Click .

Indeed the lack of a Kennedy-style boom explains why no one has been to the Moon in 40 years. See: “State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again.”

Our current economic trajectory continues to look more like the 1893 to 1913 Panama Maslow Window (featuring the Panic of 1893) rather than the 1949 to 1969 Apollo Maslow Window (with no financial panic) — although both the Peary and Apollo Maslow Windows were exceptionally ebullient and eventful.

The New York Times (1/2/11) gets it:

The question for 2011 is whether growth will ever translate into broad prosperity … Yet growth is not expected to be strong enough to make a real dent in unemployment.

According to 55 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal (12/13/10), the probablity of a double-dip recession in 2011 has dropped to 15%, due to extension of the Bush tax cuts. However, growth for 2011 is only 3% and unemployment drops to 9% by December with job growth of only 100,000 per month.

Three years after the Panic of 1893 — about where we are now in January, 2011 relative to the Panic of 2008 — the second contraction of the 1890s Great double-dip Recession occurred. This may mean we’re either luckier or smarter than folks one century ago.

Or it may mean we’re not out of the woods yet. For example, Vernon Smith, the
2002 economics Nobel winner, and Steven Gjerstad’s empirical study (WSJ, 9/10/10) of all 14 postwar recessions and the Great Depression shows that…

the economy doesn’t recover until housing recovers.

And home prices are deflating; Case-Shiller home prices declined 1.3% month-over-month in October, and all 20 cities showed a sequential decline.

Given this and other unsettling economic news, it’s interesting that CBO director Douglas Elmendorf estimates that unemployment will not fall to around 5 percent until 2014, while Bernanke suggests (1/7/11) that “it could still take four to five years for unemployment to drop to … around 6 percent.” These government projections suggest that growth toward a 2015 boom — the historical trigger of the next Space Age — is realistic.

It’s important to realize that no Maslow Window of the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or significantly diminished in any observable way by a finncial panic or great recession in the decade prior to the Maslow Window.

7. The Wave Election of 2010 Supports Maslow Window Forecasts
When the Republicans won the House in November, it: 1) stalled Obama’s domestic agenda, and called into question his political future, and 2) showed our political trajectory — like our economic trajectory — has major parallels with the Cleveland/T. Roosevelt period (1893-1913), which resulted in one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history.

Immediately after the November wave election, veteran election forecaster Larry Sabato (University of Virginia) rather surprisingly called the 2012 election against Obama.

There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn: President Barack Obama is down for the count, will have an early lame duck presidency, and will be out of the White House in two years.

The political parallels between the elections of 1894 and 2010 are remarkable; see “Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts.” And indeed the polls show that voters were focused on smaller government, lower taxes, and bringing the national debt under control.

Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, recently underlined the challenge,

Debt is the most significant threat to national security.

In their recent study of 21 countries with major deficits over 37 years, three economists (Wall Street Journal, 12/29/10) concluded that,

the typical successful fiscal consolidation consisted, on average, of 85% spending cuts … (and) tax increases play little role in successful efforts to balance budgets …

These sound like economic directions the Republicans are poised to exploit during 2011. However, Obama is very recently perceived by the public as moving toward the center. Given the fact that Gallup reports that only 19% of Americans like the direction of the country, it’s likely that whoever can move the U.S. in the direction of prosperity — and, like the 1890s, trigger the next major boom — will win.

6. Potential Conflicts in Iran and North Korea Threaten Peace, Prosperity, and the new Space Age
Long-term indicators and current global trends suggest that we are within 5 years of perhaps the most transformative decade of the 21st century — when almost anything can happen. Typically at these times over the last 200+ years, conflicts, or even wars, can ignite or appear potentially devastating (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962); see “Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age”.

Unfortunately current tensions in Iran and North Korea are perfect examples, not to mention 97,000 Americans still in Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times (D. McManus; 1/16/11) reports that Israel is convinced that Iran is “at least 4 years away from deploying a nuclear weapon, maybe more.” Recent intelligence signals “a dimished prospect for a military strike in the near term, whether by Israel or the U.S.,” (Wall Street Journal, 1/8/11)

The Wall Street Journal recently asked if Afghanistan will become a “forgotten war” like Korea, which ended in 1953 — about 6 years prior to the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. The Korea conflict has recently threatened to reignite but has been dialed back apparently by China’s influence.

Contrary to several analysts last year, I recently concluded that it is unlikely — for strategic, political, and historical reasons — that Obama will attack Iran. And, although we should be mindful of avoiding another “disastrous 2007 Natonal Intelligence Estimate on Tehran’s weapons program,” as well as “Why we’re always fooled by North Korea,” current trends and historical patterns over the last 200+ years suggest that these potential flashpoints will not expand into wars during 2011 or even within the next decade.

It’s important to keep in mind that no Maslow Window of the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or significantly diminished in any observable way by a war or conflict just prior to or early in the Maslow Window.

5. ETs Surge toward Center Stage
When times are good, people like to have fun. And, over the last 100+ years, one way they’ve done it is to enjoy and encourage scientific speculations about life in space and distant Earthlike worlds.
See: Kepler, Carl Sagan, and the Guzman Prize: Our Century-Long Search for Space Aliens

A radio beam from the Kelvans (Kelinda and Rojan) in the Andromeda Galaxy could theoretically have been detected by Project Cyclops (circa 1971).
Click kelvans.jpg.
© 1968 Paramount Pictures

For example, in 1894 (one year after the Panic of 1893) Percival Lowell founded his observatory in Arizona to study Mars. Years later Lowell became convinced that the canals were a macro engineering project built by intelligent Martians to irrigate the Red Planet. His public loved it and in 1907 — during the spectacular Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window — the Wall Street Journal actually announced “…the proof by astronomical observations…that conscious, intelligent life exists upon the planet Mars.”

Unfortunately, by 1938 (during the Great Depression) the formerly peaceful, canal-building Martians had become dangerous invaders of Earth according to Orson Welles and his crowd. A similar transition in our vision of ETs was seen during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window with Frank Drake’s ebullient SETI searches for radio signals from high-tech civilizations, followed by the ultra-ebullient ~ $ 10 B (nearly 1/2 the cost of Apollo!!) Project Cyclops. It failed to gain public support during the counter-ebullient 1970s.

As we ascend toward another crescendo in human achievement — the 2015 Maslow Window — something similar is happening again. UFOs are being seen in China and around the world, potentially habitable planets are being discovered around nearby stars, and even the Vatican and the Royal Society are openly planning to properly greet intelligent interstellar visitors. One of the most important NASA missions ever flown — the Kepler spacecraft — will accelerate this ebullient trend in 2011.

4. The U.S. is Headed for Another “Sputnik Moment” in Education
Fifty-three years ago the surprise Soviet launch of “one small ball” became the “shock of the century” and instantly transformed U.S. education.

It’s hard to imagine how distraught Americans were about Sputnik in 1957, but as I wrote 2 1/2 years ago in Math and Science Education Perspectives,

Only 10 days after Sputnik the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts!

It’s a key forecast of 21stCenturyWaves.com, that major elements of this Sputnik-related history are likely to repeat.

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

According to Chester Finn (WSJ, 12/8/10) of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, China has delivered

another wake-up call to those who think American schools are globally competitive … On math, reading, and science tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries last year, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects.

And the U.S. was just muddling in the middle of the pack.

This is consistent with last year’s report (9/23/10) by the National Academy of Sciences.

The nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science … 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English. And the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education.

Given their economic, demographic, and political challenges, it’s good that China is rising educationally. It’ll motivate the U.S. and others to consider real education reform, expecially in math and science, in 2011 and beyond. Plus China has become essential — as both a collaborator and competitor — to human expansion into the cosmos; see “10 Reasons Why China is Good for Space

3. BRICs+ Demonstrate International Momentum toward the New Space Age

BRICs and other space powers continue their surge into the cosmos.

In one of the most impressive firsts since the original Space Age, Japan confirmed last June that its amazing, 7-year Hayabusa probe mission actually returned samples from asteroid Itokawa. Although Japan’s ambitious Venus probe Akatsuki failed to achieve orbit last month, JAXA has plans to try again in 5 years when it swings by Venus.

The amazing asteroid Itokawa has twice the porosity of a handful of sand.
Click .

In 2009 former Harvard professor Richard Pipes wrote that, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’…” This is partly due to their victory over Germany in World War II and “the success in sending the first human in space.”

So Russia — like the rest of the world — sees being a great space power as a key part of being an important global power. And they see the approaching new Space Age as an important time to demonstrate again their impressive capabilities in several areas, including manned space (e.g., transportation to ISS), new infrastructure (e.g., the new Vostochny Cosmodrome), and future planning (e.g., asteroid deflection missions).

This has never been clearer than last month (Aviation Week, 12/30/10) when a Russian Proton rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites failed, resulting in 2 executives being fired by Russian President Medvedev, including the deputy head of Roscosmos; Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, received an official reprimand.

China has become a major global player in the worlds of defense and space, and is prominently featured throughout this report. For example, in 2010 China had more successful space launches — 15 — than ever before. And for the first time, it matched the annual launch rate of the United States.

One of China’s launches last October was the Chang’e 2 Moon probe which was successfully inserted into lunar orbit from where it will map the lunar surface. It’s China’s second successful lunar mission in three years.

Last year China dropped hints that its long-term space plans include sophisticated Earth orbital operations including a heavy lift launch vehicle and assembly of a 30 ton space station. These are currently targeted for the early 2020s timeframe — i.e., quite late in the 2015 Maslow Window.

2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age
Whatever the new Space Age will become, President Obama is creating it now. Although at this point, he may have substantially delegated the direction of NASA planning to John Holdren (science czar) and Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator), Obama continues to create the new Space Age by his policies and actions especially in the economic and technology arenas.
See: “How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.”

Obama has wisely directed the U.S. away from a race to the Moon by 2020 — a competition the U.S. already won over 40 years ago. However, his most important, long-term contribution to space may be his stimulation of the commercial launch sector by offering them the job of Earth-to-LEO taxi service.

But even more important is the issue of prosperity. About twice per century we enter an ebullient pulse of major economic growth — a “critical state” — known as a Maslow Window. In addition to enabling great explorations and MEPs, the widespread ebullience has transformative effects across society, as in the 1960s. But the 1960s were only the most recent example.

History shows that as we approach a Maslow Window (such as the one expected in 2015), the leader who can best manifest prosperity and model ebullience wins. In the early 1800s it was Jefferson, in the mid-1840s it was James Polk (of all people), in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt, and in the 1960s John F. Kennedy. It appears that long-term economic circumstances do more to determine our leaders than the reverse.

The Wall Street Journal (1/22/11) predicts Obama will “push new spending,” while the Los Angeles Times (1/23/11) headlines Obama’s “shift to the center…for 2012.” These appear contradictory, and the question remains: Can Obama produce the 1960s-stye prosperity required for wide-spread ebullience that will trigger the transformative 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age?

1. A New Vision of the Human Future in Space?
NASA seems frustrated.

While liberated by Obama from a new Moon race they won over 40 years ago, NASA currently has no real vision for the future. This makes it difficult to synthesize new strategic goals, space infrastructures, and rockets that will be meaningful and attract public support.

This uncertain mode is reminiscent of where we were 20+ years ago when NASA was internally debating the Moon and Mars.

Homer Hickam reflects many in the U.S. and elsewhere when he asked recently, “How About A Moon Base?” (Wall Street Journal, 12/14/10). The Moon has the traditional virtues of closeness and resource-richness, and it has been envisioned as a potential transportation center. It might also be able to support space-based solar power satellites that could make clean, cheap electricity abundant anywhere on Earth.

I looked again recently at the Moon option, and — despite its huge potential as a future commercial and tourist center, plus a scientific bonanza — I find myself agreeing with the 1984 comment of the great, former NASA Administrator Tom Paine that

The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.

He meant that the Moon will be important, but it will never drive human exploration again.
See: “Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?”

That leaves Mars.

And NASA has been thinking about Mars a lot lately; just check out their marvelous, 1000-page volume on Colonizing the Red Planet, edited by Joel S. Levine. One particularly interesting option is the one-way human Mars mission advocated by Paul Davies and Dirk Schulze-Makuch. It speeds up the timeline and is cheaper.

Russian and Chinese interest in Mars continues to grow. For example, Lev Zelyony’s (Russian Space Research Institute) intriguing comments in 2008 included,

We lost the race to the Moon. But we have something of a head start in this race as we have the most experience in long-duration, manned spaceflight.

It’s possible that their joint Phobos-Grunt mission could blossom into a Russia-China Mars colonization initiative.

Two key indicators to watch in 2011 are plans for an international Moon base and a successful Russian/Chinese Phobos-Grunt mission. They’re important because they point in different directions.

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Dec 18 2010

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

Bill Richardson describes current tensions on the Korean peninsula as “a tinderbox.” It’s “particularly complex and sensitive,” according to Jiang Yu of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The popular New Mexico governor asserts “There’s enormous potential for miscalculation.”

All this is 57 years — one long economic wave — after the end of the early 1950s Korean War, a proxy war where the Soviet Union and China lined up with the North Korean Communists against the U.S.-led United Nations forces in the South.

Surely the rekindling of Korean tensions one long wave after the original war is a coincidence… Or is it?
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Actually, over the last 2 1/2 years 21stCenturyWaves.com has highlighted a variety of evidence supporting my initial suggestion in 1996 (Cordell, 1996; Also 2006) that long-term trends in the economy (i.e., the long, 56-year business cycle, discovered in 1989) are the fundamental drivers of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (World War I) that exclusively cluster together every 55-60 years, over at least the last 200+ years.

More recently, two new ideas are explored here: 1) that “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, MEPs, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic/technology system, typically achieved through decades of self organized criticality (SOC) processes, and 2) that serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The classic example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — early in the Apollo Maslow Window (1959-69) — when conflict over Soviet offensive missiles emplaced in Cuba almost led to a major nuclear exchange with the U.S.. Other examples include the Napoleonic Wars (Lewis and Clark Maslow Window), the Mexican war (Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window), and the Spanish-American War (Peary/Panama Maslow Window).

This model suggests the current Korean tensions — including their potential for nuclear war involving N and S Korea and possibly other nearby states (e.g., Japan) — are a harbinger of the next Maslow Window expected by 2015. Plus the seemingly irrational provocations by North Korea resulting in a “tinderbox”, “complex,” and “sensitive” situation, are actually the types of interactions we’d expect as we approach a critical Maslow state.

While it’s tempting to dismiss this model as just another scary fantasy, please be reminded that medium-size wars have already been identified as SOC phenomena by National Aademy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte and his colleagues as early as 1998.

The results we have shown indicate that world order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries; and wars, like forest fires, are SOC processes.

Plus historian Niall Ferguson suggested recently that WW I was a product of self organized criticality.

But there’s more.

Iran is believed to be developing nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to deliver them to places like Israel and beyond. Some observers have suggested that Israel might preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. And WikiLeak cables indicate that even Saudi Arabia has encouraged the U.S. to attack Iran.

Iran’s growing nuclear capability is interpreted here as a precursor to the strong SOC conditions that will trigger the 2015 Maslow Window. And along with spiking Korean tensions, it underlines the gravity of our current, increasingly fractal, geopolitical situation.

And, or course, there’s even more: the Venezuela Missile Crisis.

The highly-regarded German daily, Die Welt. reported last month (11/25/10) that Iran — who apparently shares missile technology with North Korea — has plans to place medium-range ballistic missiles in Venezuela.

If this story is confirmed, it would constitute a true Cuban Missile Crisis-style threat, that would require a strategic response from the United States.

However, things have changed since the 1960s. Popular Mechanics (December, 2010) recently described a chilling scenario in which China is able to neutralize U.S. aircraft carriers — the basis for U.S. force projection in the Pacific and elsewhere — utilizing a new Chinese antiship ballistic missile. China’s carrier killer could conceivably preclude American naval support of Taiwan, South Korea, and other U.S. allies in the region.

Some have speculated that the recent mystery launch of an unidentified missile (it didn’t appear to be an airplane) off the Southern California coast was intended to demonstrate China’s growing antiship capabilities.

That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that even the Cuban Missile Crisis was rapidly resolved and did not delay — and indeed probably intensified — the 1960s space race to the Moon. The same is true of all other pre- or early Maslow Window conflicts over the last 200+ years.

Growing international interests in lunar development, space commercialization (including space toruism), and even Mars colonization, might stimulate the development of a Grand Alliance for Space. With a little luck, it could reduce the intensity of current conflicts that show evidence of increasing, long wave-related SOC in the world system.

NOTE: Please check out the following Comment for more on why a major war or nuclear conflict is unlikely in the next 10-15 years.

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Nov 25 2010

Images Celebrate Gold, John Sutter, and the Ebullient Mid-19th Century Maslow Window

Since I planned to be in Sacramento last weekend, I decided to enjoy some of the key historical sites — e.g., of the extraordinary California Gold Rush — associated with the ebullient mid-19th century Maslow Window.

Typical of America’s exceptional mid-19th Century ebullience was the California Gold Rush (1848-1855); gold was first discovered here at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, CA by James Marshall.
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(All images by Bruce Cordell, 2010)

Maslow Windows over the last 200 years are usually preceded by a financial panic and major recession (much like the Panic of 2008 and our current global recession), and the Dr. Livingstone/James Polk Maslow Window (~1847-60) was no exception.

The Panic of 1837 was a monster — in 1960 Nobel winner Milton Friedman compared it to the 1930s Great Depression — but in 6 long years it finally gave way to an early-1840s recovery and boom that triggered the ebullience of “Manifest Destiny.” This Panic/Great Recession/Boom/Maslow Window sequence repeated one long wave later starting with the Panic of 1893 and culminating with perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history: the Peary/Panama/T.Roosevelt Maslow Window.

For more background on Mainfest Destiny please see, “How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience,” and on the CA Gold Rush see #1 of “10 Lessons Lewis and Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

I’ve written about this period a lot lately because it appears that we began reliving major elements of the 1893-to-1913 chronology two long waves later starting with the Panic of 2008. If this trend continues, as it has repeatedly over the last 200+ years, we should expect a new 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology triggered by a major economic boom, to emerge by 2015.

Shortly after the discovery of gold there, Sutter’s Mill was closed. The flood of 1862 destroyed the structure and the current replica (shown here from the river side) was constructed on the original site in 1967 — fittingly during the ebullient Apollo Maslow Window.

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The image below is not a cannon. It was used during “hydraulicking” to dislodge sediment and gold from rock walls. The jets of water were environmentally destructive. A realistic depiction of this technique is seen in Clint Eastwood’s popular 1985 movie “Pale Rider”.

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The Gold Discovery Museum of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma has a number of captivating exhibits.

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I was originally headed up 80 to Tahoe to take a peek at the Donner Museum and the famous snow monument, but ran into an electronic sign announcing the need for chains at the summit. Since Hertz had rented me a red Mustang convertable (not my choice!), I was unequipped for the trip so I headed first to Coloma and then back to Sacramento to see Sutter’s Fort.

Proof of the macho Sierra storm was provided by this car’s snowy roof (and many others). It was fleeing westward down the hill Sunday afternoon on highway 50 just west of Placerville.

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The famous, ebullient John Sutter who owned Sutter’s Mill also founded Sutter’s Fort in 1839 (he called it “New Helvetia”) that eventually grew into Sacramento. This interior view was taken looking southeast. I was in front of the Blacksmith Shop (doors on the right) in the West Yard looking toward the fort’s main entrance (near the left edge). Sutter would have been fascinated by the modern Sutter Medical Center in the distance.

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Here’s the Blacksmith Shop. State-of-the-art for its time. In terms of the craftsmen and technologists required to support early 19th century frontier life, the fort was essentially self-contained. It was the first non-native American outpost in the Central Valley. Except for the more benign environment and the native inhabitants, Sutter’s Fort was the 19th century analog to a first lunar base.

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Cannons stationed in the second-floor bastion at the southeast corner made sure that anyone not invited to the party wouldn’t crash it.

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Sutter founded his fort only 2 years after the Panic of 1837 (see above). Relative to the long wave, that’s what we call — bad timing. And although he was the quintessential entrepreneur, Sutter was increasingly plagued by debt. Here we see the Central Building — the only original structure still standing in the rebuilt fort — including the 2nd floor offices of the doctor, clerk, and Sutter himself. It would have provided the last line of defense if necessary.

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It’s clear that everyone at Sutter’s Fort feasted well. This view — from the Clerk’s 2nd floor office — shows the northeast corner of the East Yard. Here are the Bakery and Bakery Storeage areas, and the outdoor Beehive Oven.

This must have been of great interest to the last survivors of the Donner party who were brought here in April, 1848, as the mid-19th century Maslow Window was gaining steam. Sutter’s Fort was near the end of the famed California Trail and welcomed many an ebullient pilgrim who came seeking their fortune in gold, agirculture, etc.

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In this image (pardon the screen) we are peering into Sutter’s 2nd floor business office in the Central Building. This is where Sutter planned his new enterprises, worked with his Clerk to monitor operations and finances, and sadly, watched his fortune dissolve.

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Sutter’s empire was short-lived. According to William Dillinger (The Gold Discovery, 2006), within only a decade of its founding, and …

After the gold discovery, Sutter’s heavily mortgaged fort and lands were overrun by gold-seekers and squatters until he was finally driven to take refuge at his “Hock Farm” on the Feather River.

In the Museum there is a revealing quote from Sutter to the effect that he would have become very rich if the gold discovery had happened only a couple of years later (~1850), but the ensuing chaos caused him to lose almost everything. In effect, if the normal major mid-19th century economic boom had not been temporarily subverted by gold fever, his under-capitalized (i.e., debt-ridden) businesses would have flourished — if his timing had been better.

Sutter’s experience reminds us that the long wave is very formidable — especially when you are unaware of it. Or if you don’t plan for it. This key lesson — gleaned from transformative Maslow Windows over the last 200+ years — still applies in the 21st century to those who aspire to grow with human expansion into the cosmos, when it re-ignites by 2015.

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Oct 30 2010

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

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

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Where would you rather live: the Ocean World or the Red Planet? Mars is growing in popularity.
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Professors Dirk Schulze-Makuch (Washington State Univ) and Paul Davies (Arizona State Univ) have recently advocated one-way manned Mars missions on cost and political grounds as a way to jumpstart the colonization of Mars (Journal of Cosmology, Oct-Nov, 2010). This is an admirable goal, but before I get into the details of their vision, I want to explore its real significance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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