Mar 04 2012

Readers’ Favorite Posts — February, 2012

SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to look for my new article in Ad Astra (Spring, 2012): “A New Apollo-Level Space Age.”

This is an updated end-of-February list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below.

Timeframes of the readers’ lists below are: I) Favorites during February, and II) Favorites during the Last 7 days.

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give only the top 5 favorites in each category in order of reader preference.
All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 3/1/2012

I. FEBRUARY — Readers’ Favorites

1) Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” Like “Falling Grains of Sand”? — 2/13/12
2) Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights into the Future — 4/15/10
3) Phobos — The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
4) Long-Term Stock Trends Support Maslow Window Forecasts — 11/3/11
5) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) Foreign Affairs Features the Case for Space — 2/27/12
2) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
3) Long-Term Stock Trends Suppport Maslow Window Forecasts — 11/3/11
4) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
5) Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights into the Future — 4/15/10

No responses yet

Feb 06 2012

Readers’ Favorite Posts — January, 2012

SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to look for my new article in Ad Astra this month: “A New Apollo-Level Space Age.”

This is an updated end-of-January list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below. The lists below include both Daily Wavelet posts and State of the Wave posts.

Timeframes of the readers’ lists below are: I) Favorites during January, and II) Favorites during the Last 7 days.

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give only the top 5 favorites in each category in order of reader preference.
All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 2/1/2012

I. JANUARY — Readers’ Favorites

1) Is Earth Unique? What This “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future — 1/5/12
2) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12
3) The Maslow Window — Summary — 4/2/11
4) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
5) The Maslow Window — Intro — 7/6/11

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12
2) Phobos — The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
3) Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration — 5/1/10
4) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
5) A Major Economic Boom by 2015?…The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10

No responses yet

Jan 01 2012

Happy New Year and The Top 10 for 2011

Happy New Year!

PLEASE NOTE: This year’s “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012″ will be appearing very soon! (See #9 below for 2011 trends.)

Also, be sure to catch Bruce on The Space Show on Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

Here is the Top 10 for 2011:
This is a special updated New Year’s edition of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during 2011.

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give the top favorites in order of reader preference. All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 1/1/2012

THE LAST 365 DAYS (2011) — Readers’ Favorites

1) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
2) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
3) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
4) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
5) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
6) Happy Fourth of July — Independence Day! — …and Readers’ Favorite Posts — June, 2010 — 7/4/10
7) AIAA — Analyst Predicts New Space Age Coming Soon — 6/30/11
8 ) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
9) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2011 — 1/23/11
10) Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

No responses yet

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.

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

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 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

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.

No responses yet

Nov 17 2010

Over the Moondust and Through the Rille is NOT the Way to Phobos

I highly recommend Buzz Aldrin’s recent, compelling book Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon (2009). After describing their monumental Moon landing in 1969, Buzz highlights the challenges (depression, alcohol) he faced upon return to Earth, and how he overcame them. Of particular interest is his re-emergence as a major force in NASA space planning in recent times.

Buzz Aldrin’s United Space Vision features Phobos as the key to Mars system colonization by 2025.
(by C. Wm. House)

The “best scientific mind in space”
That’s what Life magazine once called Buzz, and he proved it again in the 1980s when he re-emerged as one of America’s foremost space visionaries. He initially focused on developing his concept for “cyclers” that travel in repetitive, trolley-like orbits between the Earth and Moon.

In 1982 Buzz attended meetings at the California Space Institute in La Jolla (then led by UCSD chemist Jim Arnold) as well as at General Dynamics in San Diego. Although I joined GD a couple of years later, I assume Buzz’s initial GD adventures involved Ed Bock, who had led a pivotal, 1979 study for NASA on lunar resources for construction in space.

Can Your Lunar Cycler Go to Mars?
A couple of years later Buzz visited legendary, former NASA Administrator Tom Paine in Santa Monica, who counseled him that the Moon …

… will never motivate the American people again. We need something bigger, something beyond the Moon.”

That was of course Mars. And by June, 1985 the Aldrin Mars Cycler was born.

I met Buzz about this time during one of his Friday trips from SAIC down to GD in San Diego. He’d chat with us about how to use cyclers to get to Mars. The stimulating morning meetings were usually followed by even more stimulating lunches at a local Kearny Mesa restaurant.

In July, 1987 the Case for Mars III Conference in Boulder featured Buzz, Tom Paine (the conference general chair), Cornell’s Carl Sagan, and over 400 other scientists and engineers who explored the intriguing potential of going to Mars “together” with the Soviets. CFM III was my second Case for Mars conference and I was involved in the Phobos/Deimos Workshop (chaired by Fred Singer).

We Need a “comprehensive vision, a master plan” for Space
By the 1990s Buzz began advocating an “integrated”, “evolutionary” plan for the human exploration and settlement of space. Although his powerful 2009 book does not mention Phobos, the larger moon of Mars, his current website features a human outpost on Phobos and the use of Mars cyclers as the centerpiece of his long-term strategy for the exploration and colonization of Mars.

Recently I had the pleasure of lunch with Buzz in Westwood, not far from UCLA where I had been a graduate student. He explained his current plans for a “think tank” on space futures as well as his new Phobos/Mars initiative.

The Smart, Safe Road to Mars Goes Through Phobos
Buzz’ exciting “United Space Vision” (USV) is a “comprehensive step-by-step plan for America’s future in space, for mankind’s permanent footprint on Mars.” It features establishment of a manned outpost on Phobos as the key step toward early Mars colonization for many of the same reasons I identified in my recent Space News commentary.

According to Buzz,

To reach Mars, we should use comets, asteroids and Mars’s moon Phobos as intermediate destinations … For these long-duration missions, we need an entirely new spacecraft that I call the Exploration Module, or XM … the XM would contain the radiation shields, artificial gravity and food-production and recycling facilities necessary for a spaceflight of up to three years. Once launched, it would remain in space. The XM would carry attached landers designed for Phobos or Mars and an Orion capsule for astronauts returning to Earth.

Although the Moon is deemphasized in his plan, Buzz envisions missions to comet Wirtanen in 2018, to asteroid Apophis in 2021, and to comet Hartley 3 in 2023 — all prior to the first manned mission to Phobos in 2025. Because the 2015 Maslow Window is likely to close by 2025 or before, I suggested to Buzz that it would be prudent to accelerate the schedule. For example, postponing one (or both) of the comet missions would enhance Mars program viability. On the other hand, Apophis would provide some practice for the very low-g, manned operations that would be required near Phobos.

Are Maslow Windows Fatal?
Although the momumental first manned lunar landing was still 3 years in the future, by 1966 — because of Vietnam — the Apollo Moon program’s days were already numbered. Is it possible to survive closure of a Maslow Window?

This will require: 1) recognition of the Maslow Window challenge, 2) a manned outpost in deep space (i.e., beyond Earth orbit), and 3) program continuity as far beyond 2025 as possible.

One of the important strengths of Buzz’ USV is that it possesses all these attributes, including impressive program milestones culminating in humans actually on the Mars surface itself by 2035. This is the type of bold program that can survive the historically likely crash — in the early-to-mid- 2020s — of the 2015 Maslow Window.

With apologies to Lydia Maria Child (see post title above) — Happy Thanksgiving!

2 responses so far

Oct 24 2010

State of the Wave: Obama on Space — The New Eisenhower or JFK?

In his extremely widely-read blog, Stanford’s Daniel Pipes, head of the Middle East Forum, scoffs at NASA Administrator Bolden’s recent assertion that NASA is pursuing “a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.”

First, it is inordinately patronizing for Americans to make Muslims “feel good” about their medieval contributions to science. This will lead to more resentment than gratitude.
Second, Muslims at present do lag in the sciences and the way to fix this is not condescension from NASA but some deep Muslim introspection …
Third, polls indicate that Obama’s effort to win Muslim public opinion has been a failure, with his popularity in majority-Muslim countries hardly better than George W. Bush’s …
Finally, it’s a perversion of American scientific investment to distort a space agency into a feel-good tool of soft diplomacy

After the firestorm following Bolden’s interview, the White House backed away from his initial claim that improving relations with Muslim countries is NASA’s “foremost responsibility.”

Which space pioneer president best characterizes Obama’s space vision?

However, you still have to wonder how there can be so much — even momentary — uncertainty in high places about the fundamental purpose or vision of NASA. But it does provide an opportunity, after 2 years of President Obama, to compare how U.S. presidents have viewed NASA’s role in the world, and what it might mean for our future in space.

Sputnik: One Small Ball vs. Technological Imperialism
Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) was Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, including the D-Day invasion during World War II, a 5-star General of the Army, and was in his second term as U.S. president in 1957 when the Soviets changed the world by unexpectedly launching Sputnik.

Despite his extraordinary national security credentials and successful presidency, Eisenhower took considerable heat for Sputnik, “the shock of the century.” In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, …The Heavens and the Earth (1985) Walter McDougall explains that Eisenhower publicly downplayed Sputnik’s “extraordinary symbolism” by calling it merely “one small ball” in orbit. But others saw it as world-altering, including Life magazine which coined the Cold War phrase “technological imperialism,”

The public response to Sputnik was “earsplitting” and unequalled since Pearl Harbor. And because Sputnik apparently confirmed the existence of a Soviet ICBM, Lyndon B. Johnson and his Senate colleagues explored Sputnik’s fearful implications in public hearings. In Sputnik — The Shock of the Century (2001) Paul Dickson describes the American collective mood in 1957 as “deep anxiety, often bordering on hysteria.”

Despite the fact that the press believed Sputnik meant Soviet military superiority, Eisenhower knew otherwise, and,

found it hard to understand the national disarray and fear. He was startled that the Awerican people were so psychologically vulnerable …

(Eisenhower) was also blind to the symbolic power of a new technology.

According to NASA Historian Roger Launius, the public view of Eisenhower at the time was: “A smiling incompetent . . . a ‘do-nothing,’ golf-playing president mismanaging events. . . .”

JFK, Camelot, and the Race to Space
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was narrowly elected president of the U.S. in 1960 partly due to anxiety about a “missile gap” with the Soviets that persisted because of lingering public concerns over Sputnik.

As NASA gained momentum, JFK’s primary space-related task was to formulate an American response to the momentous Soviet launch of the first human into space on April 12, 1961.

Kennedy’s science advisors quickly demonstrated their lack of vision:

… a crash program aimed at placing a man into orbit at the earliest possible time cannot be justified solele on scientific or technical grounds.

The Wiesner Report also cautioned JFK that Project Mercury might associate him “with a possible failure or even the death of an astronaut.”

However, the Space Science Board — chaired by Lloyd Berkner — of the National Academy of Sciences saved the day by stimulating JFK’s visionary side.

Man’s exploration of the Moon and planets is potentially the greatest inspirational venture of this century and one in which the whole world can share; inherent here are great and fundamental philosophical and spiritual values which find a response in man’s questing spirit and his intellectual self-realization.

According to McDougall (1985), “Here was language to stoke the visionary, intellectual President!”

After Yuri Gargarin orbited the Earth on April 12, JFK was determined to win the Space Race.

If somebody can just tell me how to catch up … There’s nothing more important … If we can get to the Moon before the Russians, we should

VP Lyndon Johnson explained the national prestige angle, “In the eyes of the world, first in space means first, period; second in space is second in everything.” McDougall speculates that in the end, the tipping point for JFK may have been the “spinal chill attending the thought of leaving the Moon to the Soviets.”

Is Obama the New JFK?
Unlike Eisenhower and JFK, we do not yet have insiders’ accounts describing Obama’s approach to space policy and his concept for NASA. But we do have public reactions of many of his supporters and the details of his policy.

For example, former Democratic senator and 1st American in orbit, John Glenn, has highlighted the key national prestige and functional challenges of not being able to reach the International Space Station.

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 … launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV.

Another Obama supporter and prominent space policy expert, John Logsdon (George Washington Univ), criticized Obama for “blowing off the Moon as a valuable destination, and setting an ambiguous target for a heavy lift vehicle,” at a time when China and others seem to be targeting the Moon. Bipartisan support for similar positions in Congress is reflected in the NASA Authorization bill recently signed by Obama.

Although some have criticized JFK for not providing a long-term roadmap to the stars, it’s clear that JFK’s Cold War space vision was successful in its national prestige, technology, and education goals; it truly demonstrated that the U.S. was #1.

However in the view of many, President Obama’s original space policy is not visionary because it omits essential elements — e.g., a heavy lift launch vehicle — at a critical time. Plus Obama’s Mars plans are poorly defined compared to JFK’s Apollo vision.

Therefore, at the present time, especially regarding the vision and specifics of his civilian space policy, Obama is not the new JFK.

Is Obama the New Eisenhower?
Rather surprisingly, Eisenhower and Obama appear to be ideological brothers, or at least cousins, in their attutudes toward the development of civilian space policy.

Eisenhower believed in limited government and ironically warned about the “military-industrial complex.” However, the new, post-Sputnik space program (McDougall, 1985) was

a technocratic accomplishment, involving the integration of new science and engineering under the aegis of the state … (and) it suggested new dependence on a clique of experts, whom the people’s representatives had no choice but to trust. All told, Sputnik threatened to undercut Eisenhower’s efforts to usher in the missile age without succumbing to centralized mobilization and planning.

At least in the arena of NASA — regardless of how ill-advised and/or impractical given current geopolitical and technological realities — President Obama seemed to be on the same page as Eisenhower with his nod to private versus government development of a new man-rated launch vehicle.

The second parallel with Eisenhower is Obama’s uncertainty about the symbolism (and vision) of NASA. Eisenhower did not initially appreciate the American public’s excitement over this new technology; e.g., McDougall (1985) tells of how Eisenhower “dozed off” during an early meeting on the future of NASA (P. 309).

Obama’s public comment — “Been there, done that…” — in the presence of 2nd man on the Moon Buzz Adrin, regarding his decision to cancel America’s Moon program, and his (previously mentioned) fuzzy plans for Mars, suggest an Eisenhower-style lack of focus.

But in Obama’s defense, it’s been 40 years since the last Moon landing and so it’s easy to underestimate their momentous global impact. And Obama took office during a major economic crisis and a continuing war on terror that distract from manned space.

It wasn’t until I read Pipes’ critique (see top of post) of his use of NASA to buttress the self-image of Muslim nations, that I realized Obama’s lack of clarity about the symbolism and potential future vision of NASA.

Therefore, at the current time, especially regarding his ideological and symbolic approach to civilian space policy, Obama is the new Eisenhower.

The Good News for American Space Policy
It is not obvious why Obama has chosen an Eisenhower-style approach to space policy instead of the more visionary JFK style — but the U.S. Congress has begun to nudge him in that bi-partisan direction.

Forbes magazine (D’Souza, 9/27/10) has explicitly suggested Obama’s space policy is influenced by his “anticolonial” roots. However, the New York Times Magazine (P. Baker, 10/12/10) and former Bush Secretary of State Condi Rice (Washington Post, G. Kessler, 10/15/10) assure us that Obama’s presidential experience over the last 2 years has propelled him in a positive direction.

In any case, if the Eisenhower analogy from one long wave ago holds, it’s possible — as we approach the new international Space Age — that Obama will embrace the next quantum leap toward U.S. and global success in space and on Earth …

Conventional wisdom portrays Eisenhower as skeptical and tight-fisted regarding space, in contrast to his enthusiastic successors. This is part of the picture, to be sure … but it obscures the fact that Eisenhower also secured NASA’s place as a growing technocratic enterprise. Ike founded the civilian agency, nurtured it, gave it the major missions and the tools it needed, and linked it to national prestige. Once the critical judgment had been made that the United States should promote its space program as open, peaceful, and scientific … the future of NASA was assured,

(McDougall, 1985).


One response so far

Sep 08 2010

Bruce’s Commentary is in Space News this Week

My Commentary, “Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China” appears in Space News this week (9/6/10). (See also The Articles.)

This piece follows-up on my decade space forecast of 6 months ago. I suggested that Russia and China may decide to expand their Phobos-Grunt experience (assuming it’s successful) into a joint manned Mars exploration initiative after 2015 focused initially on Phobos.

A few of my friends in the space business have interpreted this as a suggestion that we should bypass the Moon and head to Mars.

Two things: 1) I have always been very excited about the potential for expanding human civilization to Mars, but 2) my Space News piece does not advocate skipping the Moon.

The Moon is so close and has so much scientific, resource, and commercial potential that humans will want to develop it, near-term. But the smart road to Mars colonization does go through Phobos. And as the new International Space Age gains momentum after 2015, we may ebulliently decide to do both.

Thanks to Warren Ferster, Editor in Chief of Space News, for his interest in the Commentary, and also to Todd Windsor, Copy Chief of SN, for the cool look he gave it.

2 responses so far

Apr 19 2010

Obama’s New Space Policy and the Spirit of Apollo

The response to Obama’s new space policy from the Apollo program folks and the Texas Congressional delegation has been quite negative; e.g., from Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11), James Lovell (Apollo 13), and Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17), Obama’s decision to “cancel the Constellation program, its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets, and the Orion spacecraft, is devastating.”

On the other hand, Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) and the space commercialization industry were more positive; e.g., Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX, suggested it was realistic:

I think what this new policy recognizes is that NASA isn’t going to get some huge increase in its budget, as occurred in the Apollo era. So if we are to make great progress and sort of make the next giant leaps for mankind, then it has to be done in an affordable manner, and the only way to do that is by harnessing the power of free enterprise, as we use in all other modes of transport.

Can President Obama take us to Mars? Click .

And it’s possible they’re both right, but on different timescales. For example, at least in the short term, before an American replacement for the Shuttle is created, it may be “devastating” in a variety of ways, but in the longer term — when private launchers can safely deliver U.S. astronauts to the ISS and beyond — it may be financially and strategically profitable.

But rather than speculate further by focusing mainly on short-term thinking, Obama’s new space policy is an excellent opportunity to use the unique approach of, to see how the next 10-15 years could fit into the economic, technology, and geopolitical context of the last 200 years of great explorations and macro-engineering projects.

To illuminate Obama’s policy let’s ask a few questions.

I. Did Obama make an Apollo-style promise last week like that of John F. Kennedy in May, 1961?
JFK indicated that the U.S. would send a man to the Moon and return him safely “before this decade is out.”
According to U.S. News & World Report (1969), although initial cost estimates for Apollo were as high as $ 40 B — about twice the eventual cost — “Congress raised hardly any questions … (despite) disturbing domestic problems … Initial funds were appropriated swiftly to send Project Apollo on its way.”

Although President Obama has recommended that we go to Mars someday, in his policy speech he made no specific program recommendation or rationale, gave no firm timeline, and has not asked for a budget that could support a Mars initiative.

So Obama did not make a Kennedy-like commitment. But part of the reason is that Obama does not live in the economic and political world that JFK inhabited. Kennedy took office in 1961 as the greatest economic boom in history was gaining momentum, while Obama was elected during the Panic of 2008 and has governed during a “great recession.” The history of major exploration and technology programs over the last 200 years — since Lewis and Clark — shows clearly that Apollo-type projects do not flourish except during ebullient economic booms. Plus, Obama’s job approval rating ( fell from its high of 69 on 1/22/09 to 45 on 4/11/10, while JFK enjoyed his highest approval rating (83, on 3/8/62) while beginning his 2nd year; JFK’s lowest was 56 (9/12/63). Therefore, although Obama has a large majority in Congress, he does not currently possess the approval across the U.S. nor the political capital that JFK did.

II. Was the Constellation Moon Program canceled by Obama due to weak program goals?
Paul Spudis, an experienced planetary scientist and an astute leader of the return-to-the-Moon forces, remarked recently (4/16/10) that,

… one startling part of the speech was that we are abandoning the Moon as a goal …

But stop for a moment to consider exactly what President Obama said. Lunar return critics give many reasons to NOT go to the Moon: they think that it’s scientifically uninteresting, it doesn’t contain what we need, it will turn into a money sink (preventing voyages to many other destinations in space – perhaps number one on their list), that there are more pressing needs here on Earth, and I’m sure others that I haven’t yet heard. But this new space policy rationale is unique and carries with it different and significant implications for our nation’s exploration of space.

We have now added a new requirement for U.S. space missions – we must go to a place never before visited by humans.

According to Spudis, the real reason for returning to the Moon by 2020 was to begin the colonization of space by using lunar and other resources. In Spudis’ words, “the Vision for Space Exploration was strategic direction outlining a sustainable lunar return, whereby we would bootstrap our way ‘beyond’ by learning how to use the resources of the Moon and other bodies.”

Although it could have been just personalities or party politics, I began to suspect that the Moon wasn’t in our future when Mike Griffin wasn’t invited back. This was consistent with my initial impression that Obama would need to focus on repairing the economy and protecting national security, rather than charting grand visions in space. There was initially the well-advertised hope by Obama et al. that the $ 800+ B Stimulus Package would rapidly pave the way back to prosperity, and maybe that was the reason Obama didn’t favor the Moon … yet. But a year later, some of his major supporters in the economics community including Robert Shiller, “Don’t bet the farm on the housing recovery” (NY Times, 4/11/10), and Robert Reich, “The jobs picture still looks bleak” (WSJ, 4/12/10), are publicly hinting that problems will linger for a long time — as is the Federal Reserve (NY Times, 3/16/10) who left its benchmark interest rate near zero, and indicated it would likely stay there for “an extended period.”

So the real reason Constellation and the Moon were canceled by Obama is probably because he perceives no reason to continue it. In counter-ebullient times like now, the American public doesn’t have a burning desire to colonize the Moon or to pay for it. And Obama’s lack of success — so far — in creating a V-shaped, job-filled recovery indicates this situation will continue for “an extended period.”

However, Obama may be unaware that all ebullient economic booms (i.e., Maslow Windows) over the last 200+ years — except the post-WW II 1960s boom — were immediately preceded by a financial panic/great recession pair. And in fact, the Panic of 2008 signaled that we were within about 6 years of the new international Space Age.

III. Which is most important to Obama: Humans to Mars, prosperity, or the Superstar Effect?
Boris Spassky, a chess grandmaster, once said of playing Bobby Fischer — perhaps the greatest chess superstar of all time — that “When you play Bobby, it is not a question of whether you win or lose. It is a question of whether you survive.” Against Fischer even grandmasters often experienced “Fischer-fear” including “flu-like symptoms, migranes, and spiking blood pressure,” (WSJ, J. Lehrer, 4/3/10). The negative aspects of the Superstar Effect are observed in many competitive endeavors, including golf with Tiger Woods, among new associates at law firms, and probably even internationally with the United States space program.

Removing NASA from the launch business, as Obama proposes, will force the U.S. to have more respect for its space partners, and dislodge it, at least temporarily, from its long-held position as the world’s Space Superstar. For many reasons, I’ve long been in favor of promoting major international participation in human settlement of the solar system. And in 1992, with Otto Steinbronn of General Dynamics, proposed “Interspace,” an ESA-style global space organization that would feature equality among its key members (e.g., Europe, Russia, U.S., Japan, China). Movement in this direction would be a positive outcome of a temporary reduction of the Space Superstar Effect.

Obama apparently moved the manned exploration of Mars into the mid-2030s not because of the need to develop advanced propulsion systems (they are not essential, and could be developed sooner), but because there is no public demand for Mars now. And yet the Red Planet remains the next profoundly alluring space goal for humankind. Although leaving much to be desired as a comprehensive space strategy, Obama’s Mars policy is an astute psychological move consistent with the last 200+ years of great human explorations. The sequence of great explorations since Lewis and Clark has been guided by 2 criteria: 1) physical accessibility, and 2) mysterious newness; the sequence is: American Northwest (Lewis & Clark), Equatorial Africa (Dr. Livingstone), N and S poles (Peary and Amundsen), and the Moon (Apollo). In each case, physical accessibility became increasingly challenging (especially with the Moon!), and each target was enticingly new. Although we haven’t really begun to explore, develop, or colonize the Moon yet, Obama’s advisors may have sensed that humans to Mars definitely resonates with the American psyche. As Spudis emphasizes above, the Moon seems “been there, done that” to Obama, while Mars is NEW.

However, there is a problem with Obama’s suggestion of manned Mars in the mid-2030s. Great human explorations and MEPs — including space exploration — do not work like that. The extraordinary ebullience required for these projects is usually only momentary because of economic and military events. An unfortunate example was cancellation of the last 3 Apollo Moon missions due to Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Indeed, the lesson of the last 200 years is that the new Space Age is likely to begin near 2015 and extend through 2025, but not into the 2030s. Our best hope would be a robust, international Mars plan specifically focused on circumventing unfavorable long wave influences through the 2020s. The history of the International Space Station offers some hope in this regard.

And finally: Prosperity. Without it, no one will want to go to Mars (although they could). Over the last 200 years, the spectacular, rhythmic, twice-per-century Maslow Windows — including the 1960s — are always times of exceptional prosperity and widespread affluence. Regardless of financial realities, it’s the feeling of ebullience (what Keynes called “animal spirits”) that fundamentally drives public acceptance of great explorations and MEPs.

The real political question for Obama is: Can he put America back on the road to prosperity — the hallmark of all Maslow Windows — before he loses more political support? International economic and geopolitical forces will converge in the next 3 – 5 years and demand success. Although Obama’s political fate is still largely in his own hands, the economic and political parallels with the 1890s are intriguing.

For more perspective, please see: How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

2 responses so far

Dec 25 2008

10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone ("…I presume?") Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

The inspirational mid-19th Century Great Exploration of Dr. David Livingstone opened central Africa to the world and has surprising parallels with the 1960s Apollo Moon program, as well as many lessons for future human exploration and settlement of space. The top 10 lessons of Dr. David Livingstone include:

10. Generally considered the greatest and most famous of all explorers in Africa, Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a medical doctor and Christian missionary born in Scotland. His was perhaps the most unusual Great Exploration of the last 200 years because Livingstone did not go for fame, monetary gain, or national prestige. His goals were altruistic: to end the slavery trade, to be a successful missionary, and to open up central Africa commercially to the world.
Dr. Livingstone’s monumental explorations in central Africa indicate the power of a Great Exploration during a Maslow Window to stir the world. However, as great as Livingstone and all the other Great Explorations of the last 200 years are, they only hint at the extraordinary, unprecendented space activities we’re likely to experience during the next Maslow Window, starting near 2015.

Dr. Livingstone thought Victoria Falls was the “most wonderful sight” he had seen in Africa. Click victoria.jpg.

9. Dr. Livingstone’s world-wide fame as a great explorer and humanitarian lives on today even in popular culture (as well as history) over 130 years after his death, and indicates the dimension of his legend. For example, a) Dr. Livingstone appears on the album cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, b) In TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, the fish in the background of Capt. Picard’s ready room is named Livingstone after the explorer, c) a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System is called “Stanley and the Search for Dr. Livingstone,” d) in the 1981 movie Cannonball Run, Burt Reynolds mentions Dr. Livingstone by name, and many others.
Dr. Livingstone’s lasting fame has not been dimished by time, distance, his multi-year disappearance, or his fundamentally altruistic motivations. Indeed, this suggests that pure exploration, for exploration’s sake, is among the most attractive rationales to the global public, and may have implications for future human explorers on the Moon, near-Earth objects, and/or Mars.

8. The financial Panic of 1837 was a major contraction where 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs; it lasted 6 years until 1843. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrting in 1960, the Panic of 1837 “is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s.” Nevertheless, the mid-19th Century Livingstone Maslow Window (roughly 1847 to 1857) opened on time and featured Africa’s most famous explorer (Livingstone), the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century (the Suez Canal), as well as stunning secondary MEPs (including the Great Eastern ship); this Maslow Window’s global ebullience is perhaps best captured by the Gold Rush in the American West (1848 – 1855).
Over the last 200 years, pre-Maslow Window bank panics have not perceptibly affected any Maslow Windows, and may, in fact, have stimulated them somewhat. There were two 19th Century panics (1837 and 1893) both about one decade prior to their Maslow Windows, none in 1949 (post W.W. II) one decade before the Apollo Maslow Window, and one currently in 2008 (8 years before our expected Window). Interestingly, the New York Times (11/30/08) recently suggested that a “deep recession” may have occurred near 1776, 10 – 15 years before the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window. In any case, during the last 200 years, no financial panic has ever delayed or diminished any Great Explorations or MEPs associated with a Maslow Window. With a new U.S. presidential administration highly motivated to ameliorate the current panic, there’s every reason to expect this 200+ year pattern to continue.

7. Although not as formally organized as the elaborate Apollo astronaut training in the 1960s, Dr. Livingstone’s early field experiences over nearly a decade were excellent “training” for his future transcontinental adventures. Initially influenced to go to central Africa in 1840 by a South African missionary, he was funded by his church as he moved from village to village spreading his faith, learning the languages and customs of local peoples, curing the sick, and expanding the infrastructure. Livingstone began to explore new lands and by 1849 The Royal Geographical Society had already awarded him a monetary prize and a gold medal for his discovery of Lake Ngami in the Kalahari Desert.
There is no substitute for significant training and appropriate experience in an environment as similar to one’s future exploration arena as possible. This goes for Livingstone in Africa and future astronauts on the Moon and Mars.

6. Between 1852 and 1856 — at the height of his Maslow Window — Dr. Livingstone made his stunning exploratory 4,300 mile transcontinental journey across central Africa including his amazing discovery of Victoria Falls (which he named after Queen Victoria I). It was the “most wonderful sight I have seen in Africa,” wrote an awestruck Livingstone after he carefully and dangerously measured its height as 360 feet. As he began to explore the Zambezi River area, Livingstone became convinced that opening up legitimate trade routes along this river would remove economic rationales for the slave trade. He returned to London as a national hero, went on a lecture tour, wrote his famous book, and energetically sold his exploration, commercial, and social justice agenda to an eager public. “Livingstone’s fame was so great that (during the) ‘Farewell Livingstone Festival’ on February 13, 1858, just before the explorer’s departure for a second Zambezi expedition, 350 of England’s most prominent citizens” attended, according to Dugard (2003).
Great explorers always have maximum societal impact during their Maslow Windows. Livingstone illustrates the pattern of the last 200 years that has included such timely luminaries as Lewis & Clark, Peary, Amundsen, Neil Armstrong, and others. They all point to the anticipated 2015 Maslow Window as another pivotal opportunity for human expansion.

5. In 1858 Dr. Livingstone triumphantly returned to Africa as the official head of the government-supported “Zambezi Expedition.” However, the British government recalled the failed endeavor in 1863. Although Livingstone had perfected the “small” expedition style of moving through central Africa, he was unaccustomed to managing the much larger Zambezi exploration entourage that he found himself leading. Plus, he became ill for the first time in 1862 partly due to the accidental loss of vital anti-malarial medicine into the Zambezi River. Then, tragically his wife died while traveling with the expedition. “I cannot tell you how greatly I feel the loss,” Livingstone wrote in 1862, “it feels as if heart and strength were taken out of me — my horizon is all dark,” (Dugard, 2003). As if that were not enough, a crucial portion of the Zambezi River — which Livingstone had not previously explored — was simply commercially unnavigable. This triggered the collapse of Livingstone’s anti-slavery strategy as his worst-case scenario materialized.
Dr. Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition reminds us that accidents, unexpected events, and even loss of life are sometimes a challenging part of a Great Exploration, and explorers must be trained to expect the unexpected. For example, when an oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13 on the way to the Moon, the astronauts lost their normal source of electricity and water, but due to superb planning, determination, and creativity, everyone survived. Livingstone-style tenacity and Apollo-style independence from Earth will be absolutely required on interplanetary spaceflights.

4. British newspapers branded Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition a “failure” although considerable science (e.g. botany, medicine, ethnography) and many geographic discoveries (e.g., discovered Lakes Ngami, Malawi, and Bangweulu, plus Victoria Falls) had been accomplished. However, the Zambezi River was unfit for commercial navigation and Livingstone’s expedition was victimized by intertribal war and slave raids. In effect, “the journey was a highly publicized bust,” (Dugard, 2003). At this low point even the great Livingstone had difficulty finding financial support to continue his African explorations.
After Dr. Livingstone’s stunning African successes, the professional and personal toll experienced by the greatest explorer of his day on the downside of his Maslow Window in 1864 is reminiscent of the Apollo program. After the stunning 1st human landing on the Moon in 1969, public support waned (except for Apollo 13) until the last 3 Apollo Moon missions (18-20) were finally canceled by President Nixon. The bottomline is: As the momentary ebullience of a Maslow Window declines, public support for Great Explorations and associated MEPs rapidly erodes.

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Click stanley_and_livingstone.jpg.

3. Amazingly, even after the Zambezi setback, Dr. Livingstone’s celebrity was so great that he was able to attract private funding to return to Africa. But by 1871 — during his search for the “source of the Nile” — Livingstone had actually lost contact with the outside world for several years. However, international interest in Livingstone was so high that a New York newspaper sent Henry M. Stanley and an expedition of 170 men to find him. Stanley wasn’t entirely sure that Livingstone wanted to be found and it took him 8 months to do so. Then, in Ujiji village on the north shore of Lake Tanganyika, one of the all-time famous greetings took place, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
The Livingstone/Stanley story is impressive testimony of the enduring power of Dr. Livingstone’s global fame as an explorer, scientist, and humanitarian. It’s important to remember that Livingstone wasn’t an American and yet an American newspaper — reflecting their vicarious obsession with Livingstone’s adventures — sent Stanley to locate him. Few people could physically accompany Livingstone on his African explorations, but many were riveted vicariously to his adventures. The same was true of the polar explorers and the crews of Apollo, and will be for future lunar and interplanetary explorers.

2. On Christmas, 1871 Dr. Livingstone’s fever had dropped so he and Stanley decided to have a Christmas feast just like at home. Stanley had “used some very powerful arguments in favor of my going home,” but even Livingstone’s daughter Agnes admitted that, “Much as I wish you to come home, I had rather you finished your work to your satisfaction rather than return merely to gratify me.” Livingstone regarded her with pride as a “chip of the old block.” Dr. Livingstone eventually declined Stanley’s invitation to return to civilization. Fully reprovisioned, he continued his fruitless search for the source of the Nile; Livingstone died in 1873. At considerable risk to themselves, Livingstone’s African crew carried his body for 5 months to the East Africa coast where it was shipped to his burial place in Westminster Abbey, London. Also in 1873, the Vienna stock market crash in Austria began the Long Depression which spread to the United States that fall, and lasted for 6+ years.
The Panic of 1873 is a member of a class of financial panics that occur 16 – 18 years after the economic peak of a Maslow Window; they include the panics of 1819, 1873, 1929, and 1987. (The Panic of 2008 is a class of panics that preceed a Maslow Window.) The last 200 years show that any lingering ebullience and interest in Great Explorations/MEPs associated with the last Maslow Window collapse as the panic deepens.

1. Despite his failed anti-slavery Zambezi strategy and his inability to find the source of the Nile, Dr. Livingstone is widely regarded as the greatest and most famous explorer of Africa. His legacy was polished by Henry Stanley and later positive events that are traceable to Livingstone’s efforts as an explorer, educator, and missionary. For example, the curse of African slavery was finally eradicated due to the inspiration and writings of Livingstone; a month after Livingstone died, England threatened a naval blockade of Zanzibar which forced the Sultan to close its slave market forever.

While a period of european colonization did occur after his explorations, Dr. Livingstone’s name was not stricken from African streets, buildings, and towns, after independence. In fact, many Africans educated in schools established by Livingstone’s followers were leaders in national independence movements in central, eastern, and southern Africa. “Contrary to many western beliefs, Livingstone is greatly respected and admired by a large number of Africans — a sure testimony to the man who spent the majority of his life among them,” (Mackenzie, 1993).

While traveling nearly 30,000 miles over 1/3 of Africa he displayed the best of human values — sacrifice, service, curiosity — and pioneered the opening of central Africa to commerce and science.
Livingstone teaches us that exploration is a profoundly exciting activity with unlimited potential for both scientific and self-discovery. As a result of exploring the most unknown parts of the world he inspired people to care about his beliefs, even after his death. When future explorers seek to expand human civilization into the cosmos and financial and other challenges arise…
…We should — in the spirit of Dr. Livingstone — simply ask: “How much is a new planet worth?”

No responses yet

Dec 14 2008

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

No responses yet

Next »