Jan 10 2012

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012

2011 featured continuing economic difficulties and the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and followed most of the trends identified here last January ( “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011“) as well as the expected directions sketched almost two years ago for the coming decade (“DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020“).

2012 will be the “Year of Decision” especially in the U.S. as presidential and other major elections occur that will impact our trajectory toward prosperity, the impending Maslow Window, and the new international Space Age — all expected to begin emerging by mid-decade.

For a brief intro, see my recent Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2012:

10. Phobos-Grunt Symbolized A Key Approach to Mars Exploration:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission was to be the first sample return of Phobos material to Earth — a highly attractive Mars science and colonization strategy that was recommended by us at The Case for Mars III Conference — as well as to deliver the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the Planetary Society’s LIFE capsule. Sadly, Phobos-Grunt became stranded in low Earth orbit shortly after launch on November 9 and its launch window closed on November 21.

In Space News (9/2010) I had indicated that a Phobos-first approach is a “safe, inexpensive, and smart” strategy for Mars colonization and a successful Phobos-Grunt mission might tempt Russia and China to employ it jointly. Last January I concluded that:

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

It’s interesting that less than 2 months after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China announced its development of a “preliminary plan for a human lunar landing,” (see 9 below).

However, interest in Mars remains high, including the successful launch of NASA’s $ 2.5 B Mars Science Laboratory, the continuing success of ESA’s Mars Express, NRC’s identification of Mars Sample Return as highest priority, and continued advocacy for near-term human spaceflight to Phobos (Unified Space Vision) and Mars (The Mars Society).

9. China Ascends in Space and Global Power
On December 29, shortly after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China released a white paper announcing its intention — within the next 5 years — to pursue preliminary planning for a human landing on the Moon. In addition to the continued development of their space station and enhancing their Long March series,

China will launch orbiters for lunar soft landing, roving and surveying to implement the second stage of lunar exploration. In the third stage, China will start to conduct sampling the moon’s surface matters and get those samples back to Earth.

China’s rise as a global power has accelerated. In its “New Military Strategy” report released last February, the Pentagon sees connections between China’s growing military and its aspirations in space and elsewhere,

We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea.

Surprisingly, China’s economy may become its biggest challenge due to aging demographics, a difficult regulatory environment, and bad debt; Strafor predicts China will experience a Japan-like economic collapse by 2015.

China is well positioned to competitively encourage the U.S. to become a dynamic leader in deep space as we approach the next Maslow Window.

8. A Global “Critical State” Continues to Self-Organize and Points to the New International Space Age
Iran’s actions include war games in the Persian Gulf and threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. returns its aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis) to the Gulf. Recently the US Secretary of Defense reiterated that the US would not allow the Straits to be closed by Iran, and that attempts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will “get stopped.”

Iran’s provocations suggest irrationality. For example, most of the oil through the Strait goes to asian markets, not the U.S., although global oil price spikes might be the result of closure. Iran knows the US can use force to keep the Staits open if necessary, and also that covert operations have been utilized to delay their development of nukes. And speaking of irrationality, nuclear North Korea — who apparently shares its rocket technology with Iran — has previously threatened its neighbors and others with attacks. The recent loss of their long-time dictator has heightened tensions there.

So why all the turmoil — now? “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, macro-engineering projects, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic system, achieved through decades of self organized criticality processes. And serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The most recent example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (early in the Apollo Maslow Window;1958-69) which almost led to a major nuclear exchange. The Iran/Korea-style conflicts suggest a world rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state” that is expected to trigger the next transformative Maslow Window — including the new international Apollo-level Space Age — by mid-decade.

7. NASA’s Kepler Discoveries Trigger A Copernican-level Expansion of Worldviews
One of the most important space programs of all time — NASA’s Kepler mission — is currently searching the skies for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, with considerable success. As of today its website lists 33 confirmed new planet discoveries, 2,326 planet candidates, and most importantly, the recent discovery of the first Earth-size planets orbiting a Sun-like star.

In what Berkeley astronomer and planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy calls “a benchmark moment in the history of science” (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), many people and some astronomers are naturally jumping on the Earth-like planet bandwagon. For example, following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society had 2 scientific meetings in 2010 to consider if extraterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend that extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

However, Howard A. Smith (Harvard Center for Astrophysics) recently concluded in American Scientist (July, 2011) that the Rare Earth Hypothesis remains viable:

“Despite the growing catalog of extrasolar planets, data so far do not alter estimates that we are effectively on our own.”

In December, UK astronomer John Gribbin published Alone in the Universe (2011) in which he traces the development of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to now, and concludes that the odds of our development are so low that we are probably alone. He cites, as just one of a large number of unlikely events, the exceptional circumstances of the large impact that produced our Moon and yet did not destroy Earth’s spin or axial tilt.

This is a scientific debate of Copernican proportions that has major implications for the presence of ETs in our Galaxy and elsewhere, the importance of human civilization and space colonization, and theological perspectives. It’s intensity will grow as more Earth-size planets are discovered.

6. Apocalypse Not Now, but the Doomsday Story will “go nuts in 2012”

The UCLA magazine (1/2012) interviews Dr. Ed Krupp (Ph.D., UCLA, 1972), 35-year director of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory and an authority on prehistoric and ancient astronomy. Given his research and professional background, he’s ideally qualified to comment on the end-of-days prophecies for 2012.

According to Dr. Krupp,

The great thing about astronomy is that you actually can predict some things. I can predict that (the doomsday story) is going to go nuts in 2012.

The pop culture fixation that when the Maya cycle of time ends on December 21, 2012 and the winter solstice Sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way – 27,000 light years away, by the way – that global havoc will ensue is “just totally untrue,” Krupp assures us.

Indeed, the Mexico Tourism Board expects more visitors in 2012 focused on the relevant Maya sites.

However, it’s important to realize that many people do not relate to space in terms of business plans, scientific advancements, technology development, national prestige, or even the excitement of discovery, but through the mystical world of astrologers and psychics. And because of the coincidental alignment of Maya end times with the approaching Maslow Window, it’s reasonable to expect that the magnitude of the public’s response – suggested by Dr. Krupp — will be intensified by the by the same “critical state” that is currently rippling into global business, geopolitics, science, and technology.

5. Slow U.S. Recovery Fits a 200-Year Pattern and Points to a JFK-style Boom by Mid-Decade
The financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession are classic precursors of the twice-per-century “critical state” over the last 200 years. While creating great hardship for many, the panic/great recession also signaled that the next JFK-style economic boom – not seen since the 1960s Maslow Window – is due by mid-decade (~2015), and would trigger the next transformative Maslow Window, featuring a new international Space Age.

That’s been the pattern over the last 200+ years, and explains why Apollo occurred during the 1960s and why we’ve been trapped in low Earth orbit for 40 years.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor (Wall Street Journal, 11/1/11) suggested recently that,

With a weak recovery – retarded by new health-care legislation and financial regulations, an exploding debt, and threats of higher taxes – the U.S. is in no position to lead as it has in the past.

Unfortunately this impacts U.S. leadership in space as well as in business, education, and technology.

Although previous pre-Maslow Window panic/great recessions have featured “double-dips” – and such concerns still exist today – the pace of the recovery will be strongly influenced by the elections of 2012 and the wildcards of Trend #1 below.

The eerie parallels between the economic and political trajectory of the 1890s – which led directly to one of the most ebullient booms in U.S. history and a transformative Maslow Window featuring the Panama Canal – and today, suggest that the prospects for prosperity will trump party affiliation or candidate identity for voter approval in 2012.

4. Solar Activity May Decline Significantly

The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus. This is highly unusual and unexpected, but the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation,

according to Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory last June. He was reporting the results of a 300-person meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Sun’s erratic behavior is based on long-term observations of its missing east-west jet stream (discovered by Hill’s group 15 years ago), the Sun’s erratic corona, and the declining strength of sunspot magnetic fields. Indeed, a simple extrapolation of the sunspot data indicates sunspots could completely disappear by 2022 (an earlier, less conservative interpretation of the data suggested 2015).

Hill suggested that one possibility is a nearly spot-free condition like that observed between 1645 and 1715 known as the Maunder Minimum.

Due to increases in solar activity over the last few months, the Solar Physics group of NASA/MSFC updated their forecast this week for the next solar max (in February, 2013) to 96. This is still the smallest solar cycle in more than 80 years but about 50% greater than during the Dalton Minimum (1790-1820).

Both the Maunder and Dalton Minima are associated with significant coolings on Earth (The Little Ice Age; B. Fagan, 2000). and are active areas of research. Likewise, breakthrough research at CERN is illuminating the possible connections between solar activity, cosmic rays, cloud formation, and global climate change on Earth. These studies are important to radio communication, power grids, satellite longevity, human spaceflight, and major climate and economic events.

3. The Commercial Space Age Has Begun:

I wanted to create a spaceship where myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space,

explains Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson (Wall Street Journal, 12/17/11).

I think it just simply goes back to watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space.

In October, Branson christened Spaceport America – “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” – near Las Cruces, NM, and despite delays, predicts his first commercial flight by next Christmas.

Msnbc.com (Leonard David, 1/3/12) predicts that 2012 will be “a pivotal year” for private spaceflight. According to Carissa Christensen, of the Tauri Group in Alexandria, VA, the commercial achievement in human spaceflight by companies like Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Blue Origin made “the end of the Shuttle program (feel) as if we mourned the passing of the mainframe but overlooked the emergence of the PC.”

Author/engineer Homer Hickam (Wall Street Journal, 11/17/11) concludes that:

What’s a government for if it isn’t funding research and development to make new stuff so we can all make new money? Human spaceflight is in that category. If we’re looking for a way to stimulate our economy today and in the future, a new space race—not relying on the Russians—is a good place to start.

2. Is the U.S. approaching a 21st Century “Sputnik Moment”?
The first “Sputnik Moment” occurred in 1957 when – in the context of an intense Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and attempts to work together in the International Geophysical Year – the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, without warning. It was called the “Shock of the Century.” Americans who had provided leadership during W. W. II and promoted international economic growth in the post-War world suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence in their educational system, their ability to compete in technology development and space, and even in their ability to guarantee national security. It seemed that the U.S. trend was down while others were headed up.

Something similar may be occurring today.

For example, the U.S. educational system seems to be in the middle of the pack in international tests of math, science, and reading. On tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries in 2009, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects, and in 2011 SAT scores in reading and writing have set new lows. Many students are looking for inspiration.

NASA seems to be adrift. While visits to asteroids and possible human missions to Mars (in the 2030s) are discussed, there is no plan or financial roadmap.

The U.S. is experiencing a slow economic recovery and uncertain future in response to the financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession. There is the perception of a lack of leadership in Washington.

President Obama’s proposed “historic shift” in military strategy involves major cuts in the Army and would limit U.S. ability to endure long-term conflicts and project power around the world (Wall Street Journal, 1/6/12).

There seems to be an unusual number of tipping points or wildcards (See Trend #1 below) that could have a major impact on the U.S. in 2012 and beyond.

Highlighting our “Sputnik Moment,” Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison H. Schmitt summarized it recently this way:

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defense”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon…

Over the last 200+ years, at this stage of the recovery from a financial panic/great recession just prior to the next “critical state” and Maslow Window, a political realignment (such as the one that began in 2008 and is continuing) has typically put the U.S. back on the road to prosperity and geopolitical ascent.

1. Several Wildcards Could Dramatically Influence U.S. and Global Trends in 2012 and Beyond
There is a perception today of an unusual number of wildcards that have the potential to dramatically influence current economic, geopolitical, and political realities. This is typical of the unusually dynamic and highly interactive environment seen during previous “critical states.”

For example, during a brief period of President Kennedy’s administration in the early 1960s, the tipping points included: the first human in space (Gargarin), the first American in space (Shepard), the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the Peace Corps, JFK’s “To the Moon” speech, and JFK’s offer to the Soviets to go to the Moon jointly.

Here are just a few well-known wildcards – and potential tipping points — that face the U.S. and the world in 2012:

a. A major recession in the Eurozone could trigger a global depression.
b. The threat of nuclear weapons could trigger a war with Iran.
c. The threat of oil flow disruptions in the Gulf might trigger a price spike and a recession.
d. The constitutionality of Obamacare will be decided in the Supreme Court.
e. As we approach solar max in early 2013, a major solar flare produces blackouts and other EMP-related effects on Earth, resulting in economic stress.

After a list like this it’s comforting to contemplate the good news: Over the last 200+ years – that included the Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions, the Civil War, and two world wars — no Critical State/Maslow Window renaissance has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way.

5 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

Apr 25 2010

Obama’s New Space Policy — An Encore!

My initial post on Obama’s new policy is visible here: Obama’s New Space Policy and the Spirit of Apollo

Frank Sowa’s insightful comments on my post are copied below for you, along with a few more of mine (in bold). Frank is CEO of The Xavier Group, Ltd. near Pittsburgh, PA. Along with first-American-to-orbit John Glenn, Frank is a graduate of Muskingum College in Ohio, and his interest in space was nurtured as a teen by his NASA engineer father who invented the J2H engine ablation system for the Saturn V Booster rockets. In the 1980s, Frank worked with Deke Slayton, one of the original NASA Mercury 7 astronauts, on the SSI commercial space payload concepts, and more recently with well-known futurist Marvin Cetron on DARPA, DoD, and other projects.

Here are Frank’s thoughts and a few more of mine (in bold):

Obama’s new space policy is not a ‘good one.’ While I somewhat disagree with Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan — that is I do not believe “it is devastating.” I do believe it will have negative effects on the future viability of NASA as even “a premier space agency.” It certainly will lose its “superstar” status — probably within four years. In terms of policy, I think Obama sought a pragmatic middle ground that “saved” NASA as a “sustainable” agency with a “sustainable” future budget. The policy’s effects will limit NASA bureaucracy, and will support the political and media pundits who are chastising the US spending policies and deficits …

BC: Frank’s point about the “sustainability” of NASA relates to our great recession. Although many economists claim we are in for a slow recovery, I think it will probably be accelerated by U.S. political pressures that will be expressed later this year and in 2012. Not incidentally, that’s the pattern that occurred after the Panic of 1893 during the 1890s great recession. Their rapid turnaround led to possibly the most ebullient decade in U.S. history — the Peary/Panama/T.Roosevelt Maslow Window (1901-13) — and has implications for our prospects today.

Politicizing the decisions about the future of NASA, is much like politicizing the futures of the intelligence communities last year, and the cave-in to special interests on healthcare this year. They reflect on Obama and his administration poorly, but they DO get the job done, create incremental progress, and achieve some form of politically expedient compromise. The public sees little value in STEM, technological innovation, science, science literacy, etc. — much less space. That should be expected.

BC: The casual attitudes of some in the public today toward science and technology remind me of the mid-1950s before Sputnik. After the “shock of the century” the revitalization of science in the U.S. was immediate, including more money for all levels of education and the formation of NASA in 1958. Whether due to increasing cooperation in space with our international partners, or because of Apollo-like competition with others, it’s likely we’ll see a similar transition in the next 3 – 4 years.

Since Reagan, we’ve chosen as a nation to “refine and benchmark”, to “socially-engineer”, and to focus on brain-dead opinion polling rather than “exploring the unknown”, “seeking where no man had ventured before,” “truly exploring for the future of mankind.” We’ve dumbed-down our educational support systems by “trying to fix education” through a worn-out secular bureaucracy that performs best by never changing its precepts, challenging the given or status-quo, shaking things up instead of conforming, and championing new “out-of-the-box” thinking. We’ve bought into “supply-side” (voodoo) economics driven by finance, services, and consumption — as opposed to production, innovating to solve problems and meet demands, and using technology and the scientific method as the underpinnings of good growth. We’ve skewed capitalism to support me-ism and greed at the expense of people while peddling propaganda to say we were seeking an all-inclusive, kinder-gentler, less-violent society.

BC: Frank makes several strong points here, and these are typical of the negative long wave-related influences on society in the decades between Maslow Windows over the last 200 years (i.e., since Lewis and Clark). Another way to think of it is that since Reagan — in the context of great explorations and MEPs — the U.S. has experienced weak self organized criticality, and is only now moving toward a more fractal, self organized critical state characteristic of previous Maslow Windows (e.g., the 1960s), and expected again near 2015.

What does this mean to the new space policy?

It means we should no longer look to NASA as the driver of the US Space Program. NASA will continue to serve a policy role, and provide refinements on research to help facilitate private-sector and/or international options. It further means that all of NASA’s work and technologies since the 1950’s will be further divided between defense (national security) and civilian (sold to private sector contractors and interests), in sum — I believe NASA’s future will serve primarily as a policy-clearinghouse driven by legal eagles and acting much more in regulating US space like the FAA than exploring space as it had. This is sad and devastating to NASA’s Federal Labs, as well as to future governmental STEM employment that has much meaning. This won’t occur right away, but unless public opinion changes radically — it will be the normal view of and within NASA by 2030 …

BC: As Frank points out, if NASA’s trajectory remains as in Obama’s model, NASA will be dramatically changed. But big change for NASA at this time is not a surprise. Almost one long wave ago in 1958, NASA was formed from NACA to emphasize manned spaceflight (ultimately to the Moon). And today as we approach a new international space age, NASA should be expected to change again — most likely in the direction of more ISS-style international cooperation with a focus on human spaceflight into deep space (e.g., near-Earth asteroids, Moon, Phobos, Mars).

The US role in space if it accepts this tectonic shift in NASA’s role, and if the private-sector contractors that are domestically based are willing and able to take on the role of growing a domestic space program seeking and meeting long-term gains. The new US space program will be radically altered but may be bright. Will the private-sector live up to and take on this domestic challenge? It depends on how much we’ve dumbed down our society chasing short-term futures and “bling” at the expense of growing great through exploration. The odds are currently against a good outcome, but the same could have been said in the 60’s after JFK’s challenge. The scientists and engineers who want something good to be achieved will have to take on the responsibilities, as they did in the 60’s Space Race, to achieve beyond expectations. For those — “failure is not an option.”

BC: Frank is wise to see JFK’s Apollo Moon program as a positive analog, because 2015 is the portal to a similarly transformative decade in space and on Earth. Although it concerns me to hear canonical figures like Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan insist that it will take a decade before private industry can safely deliver astronauts to ISS and beyond, it’s likely that Obama will ultimately be remembered as the “father of commercial space”. In any case, the return of prosperity and the convergence of geopolitical forces within a few years will probably drive NASA back into the launch vehicle business sooner than most people expect.

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Sep 02 2009

The Carnival of Space #118 and A New NASA?

21stCenturyWaves.com is again happily participating in the Carnival of Space #118.

This week the Carnival is at Cumbrian Sky. Thanks to Stuart Atkinson of Cumbrian Sky for his kind comments about 21stCenturyWaves.com.

Commercial Space, a Canadian blog, probes the fun topic of “NASA as the next General Motors…”

But his bottomline is really:

What will happen to NASA?

That’s easy to predict. NASA employees and their subcontractors will either develop new skills, associations and capabilities to survive or the organization will become irrelevant and either slowly die or be changed into something else useful but in a different (perhaps less inspiring) way.

This is important stuff.

NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was formed just after the Peary/Panama Maslow Window slammed shut, as an emergency measure during World War I. NACA’s assets were incorporated into the new NASA in 1957 as an emergency response to the surprise launch of Sputnik. In 2013, NASA will be 56 years old — one long wave in age — and it’s likely there will be another major transition in that timeframe.

The “new” NASA might be a product of an international Sputnik-like shock near 2013, involving a consortium of non-US countries which trigger another race to space (like Apollo). They might announce, for example, their plans to commercially develop the Moon, create solar power satelites, and/or colonize space. The post-2013, Sputnik-style NASA would be highly competitive, focused on deep space, and involve relatively few international partners. On the other hand, we might be fortunate enough to create a “Grand Alliance for Space” including all key global space powers. It would have dramatic, unprecedented goals in space and might resemble “Interspace.”

In any case, as Commercial Space suggests, NASA is likely to change dramatically in the next few years.

Next Big Future offers highlights of ambitious Russian hopes for manned missions to Mars — featuring joint missions with the United States. The Russians advocate a Mars-first strategy, leaving the Moon temporarily to the more space-challenged. Their “Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex” (IEC) includes a nuclear-powered space tug and a full interplanetary infrastructure.

The Russians see IEC as more of a prospectus than a realistic engineering plan, hoping to share the financial, technology, and human requirements with several international partners.

Perhaps the largest fantasy element is the timescale: Their manned space initiative would span 3 decades. Multi-decade space plans are unrealistic unless they take into account the history of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (as well as major wars) over the last 200 years. Unless a major program is carefully coordinated with the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window it’s likely to lose momentum rapidly and fail.

Consistent with the conclusions above by Commercial Space, the Russian proposals — if taken seriously — would require major, near-term changes in NASA.

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May 31 2009

10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space

As we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical use of the telescope, we’re also reminded of his serious troubles with the Vatican regarding the theological implications of his observations.

Given the international focus on Galileo’s example, plus the fact that 94% of Americans believe in God or a Higher Power — see Gallup, 5/8/08 — and that such powerful symbols and belief systems operate on at least the subconscious level to influence our perceptions of physical reality —

It’s of particular interest now — in the spirit of Galileo — to consider 10 spiritual connections of the human exploration of space.

One of the most important photographs ever taken — Apollo 8’s Earth-rise from lunar orbit — continues to subconsciously encourage the spirit of human space exploration. Click apollo08_earthrise.jpg.

10. Galileo and the Spirit of Science: This is a special week in the often-turbulent 400 year history of Galileo-Vatican relations: The Niels Stensen Foundation, a Jesuit-run cultural center in Florence, Italy has assembled world-class experts this week (May 26-30, 2009) to re-examine the historical, philosophical, and theological aspects of the Galileo affair.

“For the first time after 400 years, members of the Vatican Observatory, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Sciences Academy and many other Institutions, that were historically involved in the Galileo affair, are among the experts invited… (to show) how ‘recent scientific and historical research’ might alleviate the ‘tension and conflict’ still clouding the relationship between the church and science.”

Four hundred years ago Galileo actually set us on our course to space exploration and colonization via his telescopic observations of the Moon, Sun, and planets, and his famous experiments with falling bodies that were spectacularly verified in the vacuum of the Moon’s surface during Apollo 15 (see Video).

In particular, Galileo became the “Father of Modern Science” through his spirit of honest intellectual inquiry, and especially because of his insistence on the primacy of observation in the scientific process. He risked his life for these principles –courageously defying powerful authority figures in favor of observations and experimentation. As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and contemplate human expansion into the cosmos and related science issues of global importance, we would do well to emulate Galileo’s example.

9. The Overview Effect: Frank White’s profound 1987 book has become the unofficial philosophy of human space exploration.

White believes that as we move into space we are creating “a series of new civilizations that are the next logical steps in the evolution of human society and human consciousness.” And in addition to our own expansion, we are “performing a vital function for the universe as a whole.”

All astronauts are profoundly affected by their trips into space but their destination also has a large impact, in fact Gene Cernan (Apollo 17) thinks there are two different space programs: Earth orbit and beyond. In Earth orbit, astronauts feel small compared to the stunningly beautiful Earth and are impressed by the lack of visible political boundaries and the interconnectedness of Earth’s systems. According to White, “The lunar astronaut sees the Earth as small and feels the awesome grandeur of the entire universe.” Michael Collins (Apollo 11) felt that “100,000 miles out” is a perspective that world leaders should experience. Gene Cernan (Apollo 17) had a religious experience while standing on the Moon; what he saw was “too much logic, too much purpose — it was just too beautiful to have happened by accident…”

White believes that the lunar astronaut “begins to sense that an underlying purpose may lie behind it all.” Comparing the symbolism of the famous Earth-rise picture taken from Moon orbit on Apollo 8 (December 1968) to the cross, White suggests that “To millions of Christians all over the planet, the cross is a sign of unity in spite of deep divisions of race, language, and political beliefs. Because symbols work at a subconscious level…it makes sense that this new symbol (lunar Earth-rise) might be having a quiet, though dramatic effect too.”

8. The Noetic Sciences of Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell: MIT Doctor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and former U.S. Navy test pilot, Mitchell was the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 14 mission to Fra Mauro along with Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Famous for his interests in consciousness and paranormal phenomena, Mitchell conducted private ESP experiments with friends on Earth while returning from the Moon.

Mitchell also had a religious experience while returning from the Moon, “The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes…The knowledge came to me directly.”

In 1973, he co-founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (Petaluma, CA) to generate interest and conduct research into extended human capacities (e.g., creativity, meditation), integral health and healing (e.g., mind-body medicine, placebo effects), and emerging worldviews (e.g., spiritual awareness, science of wisdom).

Mitchell’s synthesis of science and spirituality in the Institute of Noetic Sciences provides an impressive example of how personal experiences in space can powerfully expand consciousness. This trend should accelerate as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and more space travelers — government as well as private — experience the cosmos first-hand.

7. New Earths and the Gaia Hypothesis: Planet Earth is the most complex, awe-inspiring system known in the Universe today. From its mysterious magnetic field – core connection, to its earthquake- and volcano-riddled drifting continents and oceans and its chaotic atmospheric and climate processes, as well as its finely-tuned cosmic connections (e.g. Sun, Moon, Jupiter), not to mention its stunning biosphere and the presence of the highest form of life known in the entire Universe: humans the Earth really stands out in the cosmos!

Because of Earth’s proximity, complexity, habitability, durability, and cyclic regularity, the Earth itself has always inspired wonder and even worship, and for some this continues today.

During the ebullient 1960s Maslow Window, a British scientist — James Lovelock –working with NASA on techniques to detect life on Mars, proposed the Gaia Hypothesis, named after the Greek goddess of the Earth. Lovelock sketched Gaia as “a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.” This controversial idea has been criticized by a variety of scientists including Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. For example, the “Strong Gaia” form of the model — where living systems make the environment more stable, for the purpose of enabling the flourishing of all life — has been criticized as being untestable and therefore unscientific. This speculative form of Gaia is adopted by some as a spiritual doctrine.

NASA’s interest in the Earth has been to study geological, geophysical, atmospheric, and space processes and to try to understand how they interact to produce Earth’s complex environment, including its changes (e.g., climate studies). More recently NASA has also focused on the discovery of planets orbiting nearby stars, with special interest in finding Earth-like worlds. The PlanetQuest site at JPL indicates that presently we know of 347 exosolar planets orbiting 293 stars, with a total of 0 known Earth-like planets; Kepler was recently launched to search for new Earths.

An even more robust scientific mission — the Terrestrial Planet Finder concept — is currently under study. In 2001, the National Research Council explained the motivation for and the high priority of finding Earth-like planets: “The discovery of life on another planet is potentially one of the most important scientific advances of this century, let alone this decade, and it would have enormous philosophical implications.” As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, the detection and exploration of Earth-like planets and the search for extraterrestrial life — the two fundamental drivers of human expansion into the cosmos — will become even more riveting as raw human exploration passions, in the spirit of Apollo, begin to engulf the global public.

6. Astronauts as the Prophets of Space: According to comparative sociologist Fred L. Polak (The Image of the Future, 1961), writing during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, the Jewish prophets are the “Founding Fathers of Utopia” and bring renewed faith. They can foresee the future and respond to the challenge of the times.

Likewise, astronauts serve as uniquely credible messengers from space to the people. According to White, “Astronauts fit into the mythical subconscious archetypes of the gods and heroes of old…who perform feats of daring no one else is able or willing to do.” Because space is a unique, holistic experience, it cannot be totally expressed by words alone. Thus only astronauts can really communicate the space “truth” to others. Their implicit promise is of a utopian civilization among the stars.

5. Space as the Promised Land: In Genesis, God promises to give Canaan (The Promised Land) to the descendants of Abraham. As long as the Israelites keep the Covenant they can remain in peace and security.

According to former NASA historian Roger Launius (2005), the Apollo program has similar elements, including “articles of faith and a theology of salvation that allowed humanity to reach beyond Earth and populate the cosmos … The promise of a utopian Zion on a new world, coupled with immortality for the species resonates through every fiber of the space exploration community.”

Shortly after I joined General Dynamics in San Diego, Bill Strobl — who worked on EMPIRE in the early 1960s with Krafft Ehricke for NASA in Huntsville, and in the 1980s directed the GD Advanced Launch System (ALS) program — assured me that Wernher von Braun and the German rocket scientists fully intended to “open the planetary worlds to mankind,” and that even their routine mutual interactions consistently reflected that lofty purpose.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark: According to biblical accounts, the Ark of the Covenant was a sacred container built at God’s direction to hold two tablets with the 10 Commandments (the Covenant). The Jews, and later the Gentiles, are promised the blessings of God as long as they honor the Covenant. The Ark’s is a powerful tool, as was demonstrated during the parting of the Jordan River and during the battle of Jericho.

The Space “covenant” is the promise of spectacular discovery and adventure in space, including the specific, powerful benefits flowing from new science and technology and the expectation of space colonization itself. In space exploration we control our own fate, although if we ignore space we cease to receive many of its key benefits. While space and God are certainly not synonymous, numerous biblical references to the sky or nonterrestrial topics (e.g., the “Kingdom of Heaven“; “My kingdom is not of this world.”) have created at least subconscious connections in many minds.

The Ark of the Covenant was the focus of the monumentally popular 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with Harrison Ford. This is an example of how knowledge of the Covenant and other prominent biblical themes is not limited to scholars or church members, but is now an integral aspect of popular culture. Thus it is clear why subconscious (and conscious) links between biblical concepts and space are sociologically powerful.

3. Messianic Expectations: Both Christians and Jews expect their Messiah to appear at some unpredictable time in the future and to establish his Kingdom on Earth. For example, traditional Judaism expects the Messiah’s activities on Earth to include an end to wickedness, sin and heresy, and a reward to the righteous.

Perhaps the most obvious space parallel is contact with intelligent extraterrestrial beings. ETs that visit Earth will be much more technologically advanced than we are, and their technologies will seem like magic. Most people believe they exist and that it’s only a matter of time until they arrive (or return) and dramatically change the course of human history.

ETs have been envisioned in a variety of ways. Astronomer Carl Sagan was particularly enthusiastic about the spectacular benefits that ET visits might bring, especially in the technology and science arenas; e.g., see his novel and movie “Contact.” On the other hand, UFO abduction accounts as recounted by Jacobs and others suggest a darker side; this view has reached popular culture through movies like “Fire in the Sky” (1993). “The Mothman Prophesies” (2002) and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008) — a movie and sequel apparently influenced by the long wave — also portray ETs as threatening.

Much more popular was Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial“; released in 1982, it became the most successful movie ever up to that time. Although this ET didn’t share much about technology, he did become “the subject of analogies for Jesus.”

Indeed, as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, when Moonbases, international competition in space, and the possibility of alien life, begin to take center stage again, the public may insist that all information about UFOs be revealed by government sources. As the 2015 economic boom elevates the public to higher Maslow hierarchy levels, the desire to explore and know the truth increases.

2. The Apocalyptic Writings: Throughout the Old and New Testaments, predictions are made of extreme disasters on Earth. For example, in Isaiah it is forecast that the Earth will be reduced to a desert (13:9); “What will you do…when from far off, destruction comes (10:3).

Revelation alludes to stunning celestial and terrestrial effects: “The stars of the sky fell onto the Earth…the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up… (6:13); plus “There was a violent earthquake…the Sun went black…the Moon turned red as blood (6: 12-17).

From a 21st Century perspective, a few astrophysical effects suggest themselves. For example, former Livermore nuclear physicist Dr. John Hardy (1993) suggests that a large cosmic dust cloud colliding with the Solar System (including the Earth) and blocking sunlight could produce the solar and lunar effects. “Falling stars” suggest the cloud has a supply of meteors, and the large earthquake implies “a large asteroid. A massive system is required, if the crust of the Earth is to be disturbed.”

It’s interesting that last year scientists reported archeological evidence that the impact of a half mile-wide asteroid caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded in Genesis 19.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, public attention is again — as it was one long wave ago in the 1950s just before Sputnik was launched and NASA was born — being attracted plans for large-scale human operations in space, including how to mitigate a potential atomic weapon-style disaster associated with an impact of a football field-size asteroid or comet. Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart has formed the B612 Foundation and is working with the United Nations and individual countries to draw international attention to the space impact threat as well as to begin discussions on how to globally coordinate planetary defense.

1. Ray Bradbury and the Eucharist: Celebrated novelist Ray Bradbury is explicit about space as a religious experience, “Too many of us have lost the passion and emotion of the remarkable things we’ve done in space. Let us not tear up the future, but rather again heed the creative metaphors that render space travel a religious experience…”

According to Launius (2005), Bradbury regards a space launch as a personally transformative experience. “Like the Eucharist, the ritual of the launch offers a recommitment to the endeavor and a symbolic cleansing of the communicant’s soul. The experience … is both thrilling and sanctifying.”

Equally importantly, Launius (2005) reminds us that “Apollo’s history has also been depicted as a missed opportunity for the next step in human evolution.” Indeed, Apollo can be thought of as an analog for Bradbury’s concept of the personally transformative space launch, where Apollo represents the transformative “launch” of humanity into space — which has faltered since then.

It’s intriguing that macroeconomic data and historical trends — over the last 200 years — point to the decade between 2015 and 2025 as the resurrection of the 1960s. Indeed, there is every reason to expect that the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window will feature unprecedented space and technology spectaculars with a Camelot-like zeitgeist.

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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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Mar 07 2009

India and NASA Search for the Lost Lunar Lakes

The search for the lost lunar lakes continues into the 21st Century! This adventure, worthy of Indiana Jones, will strongly influence human expansion into the cosmos. If they are found, the lakes will be the key to lunar development and human settlement of the inner solar system during the 2015 Maslow Window. If not, hydrogen may have to be imported to support future lunar science, industry, and tourism.

Our latest search for the lost lunar lakes began in 2008 at the ISRO Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota off the coast of Andhra Pradesh in India. Click chandrayaanliftoff.jpg.

Today, the search for the lost lunar lakes involves a beautiful international collaboration between India, NASA, and others. The Chandrayaan-1 — India’s first mission to the Moon — was launched by the ISRO on October 22, 2008 using its 4-stage PSLV rocket. The vehicle achieved lunar orbit on November 8. A week later India became only the 4th entity reach the Moon’s surface (after former Soviet Union, U.S., and European Space Agency) when its Moon Impact Probe hit near the Moon’s south pole. The MIP’s impact released debris from near the crater Shackleton that may provide clues to the presence of lunar water ice. You may remember that Shackleton is a famous name associated with the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration during the early 20th Century Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window.

Happily hitching a ride on Chandrayaan-1 is NASA’s Mini-SAR, a synthetic aperature radar expected to help search “the inside of (polar) craters for water ice” (Space News, 1/26/09). According to planetary scientist Benjamin Bussey of the Mini-SAR program office at Johns Hopkins University, this is “the only way to explore such areas.”

The birth of the first Space Age stimulated serious interest in the lost lunar lakes when 3 Caltech scientists proposed in 1961 that water and other volatiles could be trapped in eternally shadowed crater floors near the Moon’s poles (K. Watson, B.C. Murray, H. Brown, J. Geophys. Res. 66, 3033 (1961)), because of the Moon’s low axial tilt (only 1.5 deg vs. Earth’s 23.5 deg). Their model indicated that lunar polar cold traps would have temperatures below 100 degrees K (- 173 deg C) and could retain ices for billions of years.

Ten years after the Apollo Moon landings, UC San Diego chemist James Arnold commented that like the lunar lakes, “an important paper by Watson, Murray, and Brown (1961) seems to have been lost.” The desiccated character of the returned Moon rocks showed that any water on the Moon probably came from elsewhere, so Arnold suggested water-rich meteors and icy comets.

In 2007, the National Research Council identified the lunar (and Mercurian) polar microenvironments as “unique in the solar system” because of their potential for illuminating “the volatile flux over the latter part of solar system history.” The NRC recognizes that “cold trapping of hydrogen-bearing volatiles does occur,” but their identity (e.g., water vs. hdrogen) and sources (e.g., comets vs. lunar outgassing) are currently unknown. However they see strong links between “lunar resource utilization, science, and human exploration.”

The first really successful searcher for the lost lunar lakes was Dr. Alan Binder, who led Lunar Prospector science in 1998. According to the NRC, LP detected a “distinct neutron albedo deficit over the poles.” This implies significant concentrations of hydrogen, possibly in the form of patchy ice, but most likely not at the immediate surface.

In an email to me on March 4, Alan commented that the LP discovered “an enhancement of up to 1700 ppm of hydrogen in the permanently shadowed craters of the north and south poles over the 50 to 100 ppm in the lower latitudes.” At this point, “the theoretical arguments favor … water ice crystal, at a very low mixing ratio of around just 1%, (but) we have no proof that the hydrogen is … not just enhanced deposits of solar wind hydrogen.”

Because of the low mixing ratio of 1%, Dr. Binder believes that “a spacecraft radar/radio experiment will not detect the ‘water ice’,” so he points to the upcoming LCROSS repeat of his LP impact experiment. According to NASA, this year LCROSS will target a shadowed lunar polar crater with two large impactors; the resulting debris cloud will be analyzed for the presence of lunar water, hydrocarbons, and hydrated minerals. Launch is scheduled for April 24.

The search for the lost lunar lakes intensifies!

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Nov 23 2008

National Intelligence Council Report Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

Last week the National Intelligence Council (NIC) released its most recent unclassified global briefing, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World that closely parallels forecasts of this weblog. 21stCenturyWaves.com forecasts are based on patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, exploration, and society over the last 200 years, that include spectacular pulses of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) known as Maslow Windows.

NIC provides long-term strategic thinking for the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to the Director of National Intelligence. It has a Deputy National Intelligence Officer for each of 12 areas and subject matters, including East Asia, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Economics and Global Issues, and Military Issues, etc., and consults with experts in academia and the private sector.

Global Trends 2025’s preliminary assessments for the next 15 years include:

1) We should expect “unprecedented economic growth.” This NIC assessment is completely consistent with this weblog’s economic forecasts that include rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms; the next one should culminate around 2025. This “unprecedented economic growth” is essential for the affluence and ebullience that’s driven the spectacular Great Explorations and MEPs of Maslow Windows over the last 200 years.

2) “The whole international system — as constructed following WW II — will be revolutionized.” There will be “new players — Brazil, Russia, India, China — …at the international high table…bringing new stakes and rules…” This NIC expectation is consistent with the history of exploration over the last 200 years and supports our forecast that NASA will become more globally oriented. More specifically it supports our 1992 concept for a truly global space organization (like Interspace) that could take shape in 4-6 years to optimally focus global assets on human exploration of the solar system.

3) “The potential for conflict will increase…and the unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East …will continue…” Sadly, the last 200 years show that every Maslow Window of the last 200 years is terminated by a major war; this NIC assessment is consistent with our forecast of another major war in the mid-2020s. If this war comes early (e.g., 2020), in addition to widespread death and destruction, we could lose many or most of the Great Explorations and MEPs anticipated for the next Maslow Window. The timing of the major 2020s war remains a total wildcard of crucial importance.

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Nov 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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Nov 02 2008

Jacques Piccard — Ocean's Most Daring Explorer Dies

The Apollo Maslow Window — aproximately 1959 to 1970 — was a remarkably ebullient time of Great Explorations like Apollo that were accomplished by great explorers. But not all of them went up into space, a few went down — way down.

Perhaps the most daring of them all was oceanographer Jacques Piccard who died yesterday (New York Times, 11/2/08) at 86 in his Lake Geneva, Switzerland home. On January 23, 1960 Piccard and a Navy officer (Lt. Don Walsh) took the Trieste straight down 35,813 feet into the ocean’s deepest spot — the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench — near Guam in the western Pacific. By the way, the summit of Mount Everest is “only” 29,035 feet above sea level, and commercial jets typically cruise between 30,000 and 35,000 feet, just for some perspective.

In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh took the Trieste 35,813 feet down into the Challenger Deep; the only time it’s ever been done. Click triestepiccard.jpg.

According to Mr. Piccard, “By far the most interesting find was the fish that came floating by our porthole. We were astounded to find higher marine life forms down there at all.” The Challenger Deep has a pressure of 17,000 psi; almost 1200 atmospheres.

As a young boy during this time I had been amazed by the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the birth of NASA and the space program shortly after, but when I heard about Piccard and the Trieste, it blew me away. Although going into space had its own dangers, somehow the idea of going 7 miles into the ocean scared me to death. The daring of Piccard and Walsh still gives me chills; it was the only human mission to the Challenger Deep ever made.

Piccard studied economics, history, and physics in college, and then taught economics at the University of Geneva while helping his physicist, aeronaut, hydronaut father develop the bathyscaphe for deep sea missions. The U.S. Navy was so impressed with the Trieste that in 1958 they bought it and hired Piccard as their consultant.

Just 2 days before the launch of Apollo 11 to the Moon in 1969, the “Ben Franklin”, also known as the Grumman/Piccard PX-15 mesoscaphe, was launched into the Gulf Stream off the coast of Palm Beach, FL. It had a crew of 6 headed by Piccard and, at a depth of 1000 feet, drifted northward 1,444 miles during more than 4 weeks. Before the mission, Wernher von Braun — father of the American space program and developer of the Saturn V launch vehicle — visited the Franklin in Palm Beach. He asked NASA scientist Chet May to go on the Franklin as a NASA observer, to study the effects of long-term isolation on the crew for possible insights into long duration space missions.

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