Jul 20 2009

Tom Wolfe's "Giant Leap to Nowhere"

Today Tom Wolfe (New York Times, 7/19/09) added his name to the growing list of commentators who are frustrated and puzzled by the Apollo Moon program’s abrupt end almost 40 years ago, and even more so by the fact that no human has traveled beyond Earth orbit since 1972!

Tom Wolfe asks today if we’ve lost the “right stuff.” Click mercury7.jpg.

1972 was a LONG time ago. If you’re over 40 years old, think about where you were then and what you were doing. (Those under 40 are excused from this exercise.)

Most of my reply to Wolfe’s op-ed has already been published at “The Secret of Why Apollo Was a ‘Giant Step, Full Stop’” so I won’t repeat it here. But because Wolfe did write The Right Stuff (1979), the celebrated story of the Mercury 7 astronauts (made into a movie in 1983), his take is interesting.

Although it was a small step for Neil and a giant leap for mankind, the first Moon landing was “a real knee in the groin for NASA,” according to Wolfe.

The American space program, the greatest, grandest, most Promethean — O.K. if I use “godlike”? — quest in the history of the world died in infancy … the moment the foot of Apollo 11’s Commander Armstrong touched the surface of the Moon.

How did this uber downer happen?

Maybe because he’s a writer, Wolfe thinks “the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers.” By the mid-1970s the only philosopher who could explain the real importance of Apollo was the developer of the Saturn V, Wernher von Braun, who was dying of cancer. But according to Wolfe, Von Braun’s “heavy German accent” and former WW II nazi connections limited his use.

In fact, based on the last 200 years of Great Explorations and MEPs, the moral of the story appears to be: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules“. It is very unlikely Von Braun himself or even an army of Von Brauns could have changed the course of 1970s macroeconomic history or the related decay of Apollo ebullience that began as early as 1966. As they have for every Maslow Window of the last 200 years, these fundamental factors initially enabled and eventually terminated the Apollo program and have kept humanity trapped in Earth orbit since 1972.

Wolfe alludes to the short-lived effect of ebullience without using the term, “Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all. But then, on the morning after” they began to wonder about it’s real meaning. This effect is graphically portrayed in the riveting 1960s political history, The Liberal Hour.

According to Wolfe, the answer is Mars. “For 40 years, everybody at NASA has known that the only logical next step is a manned Mars mission…” However, current plans — the U.S. returning to the Moon by 2020 — ignore historical trends of the last 200 years which point to closure of our next Maslow Window by 2025 or before, leaving little time for Mars. Unless we change the plan, such as Buzz Aldrin has proposed lately, our next shot at Mars may be delayed until 2070.

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Jul 11 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) When’s the best time to be born?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apr 10 2009

Space Daily, Gila Bend, and the Next Space Age

Space Daily recently (4/7/09) published an intriguing editorial on the next Space Age that was inspired by the recent 25th National Space Symposium of the same theme. It’s hard to resist focusing on a few key Space Age-related issues here, because this weblog was founded to provide a long-range perspective on the human future in space.

I’m more than suitably inspired for this task having just checked in to none other than the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend — basically across the street from the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range in the southwest desert of Arizona — as I spend a few days visiting friends and space sites in AZ and NM.

The Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend is a genuine icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window that tantalizingly points to the next Space Age. Click spaceage.jpg.

More than just a fun, out-of-the-way place sporting pictures of the Shuttle in every room and the Space Age Restaurant, the Space Age Lodge is a genuine 1960s icon. The Lodge was initially built in 1964 — at the apex of the Apollo Maslow Window — by Al Stovall, who not only had his own copper mine and his own plastic factory, he was also a major supplier of manganese to the U.S. military during WW II. After Sputnik in 1957, Mr. Stovall became very interested in NASA and eventually displayed his large collection of personally autographed photos of nearly every astronaut of the 1960s. After getting my masters from UCLA, I stumbled onto this place enroute to starting a PhD program at the University of Arizona under Gerard Kuiper. When I saw all the autographed astronaut photos on the lobby walls I thought I’d been out in the sun too long!

Unfortunately you can’t see them anymore. When Al passed away in 1973 (apparently shortly after my visit) his autographed photos were returned to family. But the spirit of Al Stovall and the First Space Age are still captured here by the current owners.

Space Daily recognizes the close connection of technology, finance, and the first Space Age. “It seems that such historic periods (the first Space Age) end as a result of two converging events: the “new” technology of the time reaches a mature, established, stable state; and new, societal-changing technologies become widely adapted…(As) the space industry was showing its age…The public seemed to lose interest, government enthusiasm seemed to wane and the industry began consolidating.”

Macroeconomic patterns and historical trends of the last 200 years show that the 1960s Space Age was similar to earlier major pulses of Great non-space Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects that have clustered together every 55 to 60 years. This can be seen in 200 Years and is described in Cordell (2006) and throughout this weblog. These spectacular decade-long “Maslow Windows” are fundamentally driven by major, twice-per-century economic booms, when widespread affluence-induced ebullience thrusts many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s heirarchy. For a few fleeting moments, the unprecedented exploration and technology projects seem irresistible, in the style of Keynesian “animal spirits.”

Space Daily expresses concern about our current financial crisis and recession and asks the question, “Will there be another Space Age?”

They seem unaware that — over the last 200 years — financial panics and major recessions are a common feature of the decade just preceeding every Maslow Window except one (the post-WWII Apollo Maslow Window). Space Daily concludes that “only after the new global economy has matured and stabilized will a new ‘Integrated Space Age’ be realized.”

They’re correct. And every indicator suggests this process will culminate with the opening of the next Maslow Window near 2015.

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Jan 01 2009

Russia, Comic Relief, and the Future of the United States

After a financial year like 2008 we need some comic relief to start the new year, and Monday’s Wall Street Journal (12/29/08; Andrew Osborn) serves up just what the doctor ordered in the form of a Russian professor who predicts the collapse and breakup of the United States in 2010.

Igor Panarin — a former KGB agent currently with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats — believes that “an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S.” Mr. Panarin’s Khruschev-style vision forecasts America doing the splits into 4 major regions: California Republic, Texas Republic, Atlantic America, and Central North American Replublic. Although “there’s a 45-55% chance right now that disintegration will occur” in June, 2010, Mr Panarin claims not to rejoice at the prospect because “it’s not the best scenario — for Russia.”

Igor Panarin’s vision of the future United States. Click panarin.gif.

However, Panarin’s model is not supported by long-term trends. Indeed, based on macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, it appears that long waves in the economy — a concept invented by the Russian economist Kondratieff in the 1920s — provide the fundamental force enabling Great Explorations, Macro-Economic Projects (MEPs), and even major wars. Indeed, all three types of events cluster near ebullient peaks in major twice-per-century economic booms called Maslow Windows; the next spectacular Maslow Window is expected to open near 2015. The current Panic of 2008 is a member of a class of Pre-Window Panics that occur about a decade before their Windows; panic onset years (Maslow Window opening years) are: 1837 (1847), 1893 (1903), none in 1949 (1959), and 2007 (2015, expected). Historical records also suggest a possible financial panic near the American Revolution that would fit this pattern; i.e., the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window opened near 1801.

Thus the surprising lesson of the last 200 years is that financial panics are a common feature of the economic landscape just prior to each Maslow Window. And yet no Maslow Window has ever been delayed by a panic or in any observable way diminished by one.

While the long-term trends are favorable, “the last months of 2008 will go down as one of the most severe economic reversals to date,” according to Zachary Karabell in the Wall Street Journal (12/26/08). He counsels that while we “may be in for a long slide,” it’s best to be “creative and unideological about solutions, and open to the possibility that as quickly as things turned sour they can reverse.”

Economic uncertainty in the U.S. is fueling increasing Russian fascination with Mr. Panarin, as is the fact that his catastrophic vision fits nicely with Putin’s plans for a globally resurgent Russia. Fun fantasies of a fragmented U.S. may also serve as a domestic distraction from the economic “perfect storm” and “political crisis” that may be brewing in Russia, according to Leon Aron (Wall Street Journal, 12/31/08).

And incidentally, Panarin also predicts that Alaska will escape from the U.S. and be “subsumed” into Russia. Do you suppose he’s ever met Governor Sarah Palin?

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Dec 21 2008

The Future of Human Spaceflight … The MIT View

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

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

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

Their recommendations include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 14 2008

The Next 'Space President'…Will it be Caroline?

21stCenturyWaves.com exists to test the idea that long waves in the economy have enabled Great Explorations (GEs) and Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) over the last 200 years, and that this model provides a powerful portal into the future; see The Forecasts. Historically, GEs and MEPs come in brief, ebullient pulses — called Maslow Windows — separated by 55 to 60 years during huge economic booms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nov 14 2008

What's Even More Exciting Than Humans to Mars?

There is little doubt that proper use of modern marketing techniques would help NASA sell human spaceflight. Bob Scaringe, president of AVG Communications (Marietta, GA) quotes a 2007 poll (AIAA 2008-7872) indicating that, on the average, responders believed NASA received 24% of the federal budget, when in reality it got only 0.6%. This may be influencing the relatively large fraction (51%) of Americans who think we should cut NASA’s budget and the relatively small fraction (<10%) who actively support space exploration. Should it be Mars?… Click mars_base.jpg.

What’s most interesting is Scaringe’s point that a truly compelling long-range goal will be needed to sustain the space program, and that Mars isn’t enough. He proposes targeting the estimated 10 Earth-like planets within 30 light years of Earth. “We should make interstellar travel a long-term aim…over the next 200 to 500 years.” This program would be “responsive to short-term ROI needs on Earth as well as…the long-term survival of the species.”

…Or the stars? Click galaxy.jpg.

This is multigenerational, Star Trek-style planning in the most inspirational sense of the word!

Scaringe, a marketing consultant, suggests that the decade-long 1960s Apollo program provides evidence that a new Kennedy-like president might be able to inspire the world to seriously consider our multigenerational Galactic aspirations — which paradoxically is sadly reminiscent of the political, economic, and military realities that have afflicted us in the past.

In fact, the Apollo experience suggests that more will be required than just mega-leadership. For example, the last 200 years show that Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (including Apollo) occur in short-lived, twice-per-century pulses (i.e., Maslow Windows), that are triggered by the momentary ebullience of major rhythmic economic booms, and terminated by major wars (e.g. W. W. I).

However, imagine the power of combining a multigenerational (or multicentury) vision for space such as Scaringe suggests with a realistic, multicentury understanding of long waves in the economy — going back 200 years — and how they influence technology development, global security, and human exploration.

This scientific and inspirational approach will eventually achieve humanity’s ultimate destiny: Interstellar colonization.

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Nov 10 2008

State of the Wave, Politics Focus — Sunday 11/9/08

In a historic election, American voters have chosen Barack Obama as their President-Elect. So it’s of interest now to evaluate how our long wave forecast model held up and what this selection means for the human future in space, and especially the onset of the 2015 Maslow Window.

As stated previously, this weblog’s major interest was not to express personal preferences for any candidate, but to reasonably project the direction of the U.S. and global space programs and related activities.

Will President Obama lead the U.S. and the world into the next race to space, and open up the planetary worlds to all humankind? Click marsfuture.jpg.

21stCenturyWaves.com has shown that ebullient Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects are associated with rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms, such as in the 1960s. The continuing global financial turmoil motivates our interest in this election, because without the return of the long global boom interrupted in 2007, there will be no Maslow Window and no 1960s-style space spectaculars.

The following points illustrate our forecast model’s robust character.

“There was only one issue — the economy,” according to close McCain advisor Sen. Lindsey Graham (Wall Street Journal, 11/7/08). With the economy as the presidential campaign’s focus, long-term economic influences initially made it reasonable to favor McCain over Obama; see Kennedy and Eisenhower.

However, three “wildcards” intervened:

1) During the Summer Olympics, the Russians attacked Georgia. This seemed to favor McCain given his war hero experiences.
2) The Panic of 2008 occurred and the Republicans took the blame. The Wall Street Journal headline (11/5/08) said it all, “As Economic Crisis Peaked, Tide Turned Against McCain.”
3) McCain was not an effective campaigner. For example, Wildcard 2 forced Sen. McCain to support Bush tax cuts that he’d previously voted against. Plus, McCain couldn’t seem to decide if Sen. Obama had lied about his relationship with Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers, or was “a decent person…that you do not have to be scared of,” (WSJ, 11/7/08).

As it turned out, Wildcards 2 and 3, trumped 1. But were these truly “wildcards”, or could they have been forecasted?

Although the exact timing of Wildcard 1 was not forecasted, this style of Russian aggression was not unexpected given the return of Cold War-like tensions in Europe — something that was likely in this timeframe based on long wave forecasts. Unfortunately, it can be expected to intensify.

Likewise for Wildcard 2 — although exact timings in market-related events are also difficult — a financial panic was also in the cards, based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic trends. Indeed, two of the last three Maslow Window openings featured major financial panics early in the decade just preceeding them: 1837 and 1893; only 1949 avoided one, see discussion HERE. With the Panic of 2008, the record is now 3 of the last 4 decades just prior to Maslow Windows were so afflicted.

Wildcard 3 was not predictable based on long wave trends, but Sen. McCain’s conflicted campaign style was obvious (New York Times Magazine, 10/26/08)

What of the future? The following points will be influential:

1. The Russians can be expected to continue to misbehave. Putin has already begun trying to intimidate Obama in the style of Biden’s campaign warning (10/19/08): “Mark my words,” the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy… Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

2. The U.S. remains a “center – right” country politically, “and if Obama loses track of that, he’ll be a weak-ass Jimmy Carter in office, especially with all those Clinton-clones hanging around,” according to vehement Obama supporter and Democratic political strategist Thomas Barnett. Also, a revealing Rasmussen survey conducted October 2 found that 59% of all surveyed and 44% of Obama voters agreed with this: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” (Wall Street Journal, 11/10/08).

3. The long-term trend of the economy is up, based on 200 years of macroeconomic data. This suggests that the current recession will be less like the Great Depression and more like the pre-Maslow Window panics in the 19th Century; both led to spectacular, on-time Maslow Windows.

4. Obama is flexible in his approach to problems and Obama’s key political asset is his Kennedy-like charisma. We’ve indicated before that Obama’s Kennedy-like persona suggests he could be the next Space President, but his long wave timing seemed a little premature. His main problem now is the duration of the current recession. The Los Angeles Times (11/9/08) reports that Obama backs public works projects in the style of Franklin Roosevelt as a way to combat a prolonged downturn.

If Obama can turn the recession around in his first term then he still has a chance to be The One to lead the world into the 2015 Maslow Window. Otherwise, he’ll be forced to leave it to his successor.

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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 28 2008

State of the Wave, Geopolitical & Economic Focus — Monday 10/27/08

A key question is: Given the current financial panic, is it likely the United States will play a leadership role in space colonization and exploration between 2015 and 2025? The question can be split into two more fundamental ones: 1) will the U.S. remain a global superpower in the normal sense of the word, and 2) will the U.S. aggressively pursue large-scale, unprecedented space activities of the type expected during the next Maslow Window?

Is America’s global leadership declining? Click buzzaldrin.jpg.

Doubters abound regarding the U.S.’s future superpower status. For example, Germany’s finance minister, Russia’s prime minister, and Iran’s president have predicted U.S. “hegemony” is ending. And the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and Guardian columnist John Gray, all foresee a diminished America.

In this blog, I’ve featured rational arguments that suggest the U.S.’ superpower status will be uninterrupted, because:
1) The U.S. is not only the weathliest and most powerful country now, but in all of history; see Professor Madden.
2) The U.S. has weathered major challenges for over 200 years and continued to flourish; see Lewis & Clark.
3) The analog between Britain’s decline and the U.S. is very weak; see Zakaria.
4) America’s bright future is enhanced by its world-class universities and robust demographics; see Zakaria.

Bret Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal (10/14/08) asserts that “America will remain the Superpower,” because — referring to America’s opponents and critics — “When the tide laps at Gulliver’s waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under.” This is seen in a variety of economic stressors where the U.S. is favored vs. other countries, including inflation, ability to finance a bailout, government debt to GDP ratio, amount of foreign direct investment, and others.

The New York Times (10/12/08, David Leonhardt) anonymously quotes a senior Chinese economist who says that people in his home country do not doubt America’s prospects, “They know its ability to turn around problems is really unmatched, historically.”

Stephens concludes that no matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, “the United States will eventually regain its economic footing and maintain its place” as the Superpower.

In space, will the U.S. be a Gulliver or a Lilliputian? Click iss.jpg?

Assuming the U.S. remains the Superpower, will the financial panic reduce the U.S. — in the space arena — to a Lilliputian or will it remain a Gulliver? Several points are relevant:

1) George Friedman (Stratfor, 10/16/08) notes that the current panic is less like a systemic collapse (i.e., the Great Depression with 50% GDP decline over 3 years) and more like an “inflection point” related to business cycles. For example, in the Savings and Loan crisis of 1989 government bailout was 6.5% of GDP, while currently government intervention is about 5%. Friedman concludes that a recession is coming but it “would not break the framework of the postwar economy.”

2) The timing of the current panic relative to the anticipated opening of the next Maslow Window (2015) is a concern. For example, economists believe the credit crunch could last “well into 2009,” (San Diego Union-Tribune, Dean Calbreath, 10/19/08). Until credit problems are resolved, “the current recession could be much deeper and longer than otherwise.” A worst-case scenario would be the decade-long Great Depression. This suggests the next Maslow Window could start near 2018, about 3 years “late”. On the other hand, two major 19th Century panics began within a decade of their Maslow Windows and did not delay their openings or diminish in the least their spectacular Great Explorations and MEPs. I’ve noted before that two factors — renewed Cold War-like tensions, and strong international interest in Moon bases — suggest the Maslow Window might open earlier than 2015. These geopolitical effects might even counter an unusually long recession, similar to how the war economy of W.W. II ended the Great Depression.

3) There was no financial panic in 1949, one decade before the onset of the Apollo Maslow Window, which featured the Cold War’s race to space and footprints on the Moon in 1969. Does that imply that the current panic (7 years before the 2015 Window) will interfere with realistic prospects for international space spectaculars between 2015 and 2025? It appears that the 1949 NON-panic was due to the post-war boom (for which the Boomer generation is named!) and financial reforms passed during the Great Depression. I concluded earlier that a good analog for our current situation is the Panic of 1893 which lasted through that decade but ultimately gave birth to the most spectacular Maslow Window of the last 200 years (until Apollo).

However, there is still considerable uncertainty about how our current panic will end. Arthur Laffer (Wall Street Journal, 10/27/08) believes that “this administration and Congress will be remembered like Herbert Hoover,” and that “the age of prosperity is over” because even more government bailouts are in our future. And The Economist (10/16/08) concurs: “Even if it staves off disaster, the bail-out will cause huge problems. It creates moral hazard: such a visible safety net encourages risky behavior. it may also politicize lending.”

On the other hand, it’s possible that international events will play a stimulating role. We may unify globally and have a Grand Alliance for Space, or someone might decide that a Sputnik-style surprise conveys irresistible geopolitical advantages. Either way it will get our attention.

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