May 07 2012

Sputnik-like Concerns About U.S. Education Linked to Economic Growth

Serious concerns about the quality of the U.S. education system continue to grow. Recently (Wall Street Journal, 5/1/12), former Secretary of State George Shultz and his colleague at the Hoover Institution, Eric Hanushek, have emphasized the need for K-12 reforms in the context of economic growth, income disparity, and global competitiveness.

Annual growth of GDP per capita from 1960 to 2000, is directly correlated with international math test scores.
Click

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries’ PISA rankings for 2009 the U.S. ranked only 31st in math — comparable to Portugal or Italy — while 16 other countries dwarfed the U.S. with twice as many “high achievers” per capita in math. Even the state of California — once a national leader in K-12 education — is now ranked behind 40 other states in math achievement, at about the level of Greece.

This kind of performance will condemn the U.S. to a “low-growth path,” and is consistent with record low SAT scores in reading and writing, China’s ascent to world leadership in math and science scores, and even the World Economic Forum ranking the U.S. 48th in quality of math and science education.
For example, click: State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011. (see #4).

These concerns are reminiscent of Sputnik-era anxieties about U.S. education and technology that triggered the first Space Age, and are harbingers of the approaching new Space Age, as I wrote in 2010:

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

Shultz and Hanushek suggest that if the U.S. adoped K-12 reforms that made it competitive with Canada — i.e., increasing its PISA scores by 40 points —

The improvement in GDP over the next 80 years would exceed a present value of $70 trillion. That’s equivalent to an average 20% boost in income for every U.S. worker each year over his or her entire career.

In their recent front-page Sputnik-style headline, the Wall Street Journal (4/26/12; D. Wessel, S. Banchero) suggests that an “Education Slowdown Threatens U.S.” Since Lewis and Clark, nearly each successive generation in America has had considerably more education than their parents — until now.

For example, when Babyboomers born in 1955 reached 30, they had almost 2 years more education than their parents, compared with the 30-year-olds born in 1980 who had only 8 months more. This has key implications for increased unemployment and lower wages which typically afflict less educated workers, as well as a lower general standard of living in the U.S.

Thirty years ago the U.S. led the world in young people (25-34) with at least 2 years of college. Since 2009, the U.S. has been superseded by 14 other developed countries. By the way, The Space Report 2012 indicates that China is currently the leader in production of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) university bachelor degrees, having doubled their production between 2002 and 2006.

Part of the reason for the decline in college education in the U.S. is rising tuition costs and large student debt, but the New York Times Sunday page one story (5/6/12; S. Greenhouse) also blames it on:

the worst job market in decades.

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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.

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Jan 23 2011

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

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

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

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

Here are 10 space trends for 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the economy doesn’t recover until housing recovers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debt is the most significant threat to national security.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.

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

That leaves Mars.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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

.

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Sep 26 2010

Californians Reveal the Secret of the Future

The secret of the future is, of course, education. And if you’re interested in the economy or technology, it’s science education.

Innovation in technology — a major driver of U.S. economic competitiveness –doesn’t grow on trees, it begins with world-class math and science instruction in K-12 classrooms.
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This week (9/23/10) the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering concluded again that

A primary driver of the future economy and concomitant creation of jobs will be innovation, largely derived from advances in science and engineering. While only four percent of the nation’s work force is composed of scientists and engineers, this group disproportionately creates jobs for the other 96 percent … So where does America stand relative to its position of five years ago … our nation’s outlook has worsened. While progress has been made in certain areas … the latitude to fix the problems being confronted has been severely diminished by the growth of the national debt over this period from $8 trillion to $13 trillion … Further, in spite of sometimes heroic efforts and occasional very bright spots, our overall public school system—or more accurately 14,000 systems—has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in mathematics and science.

Of course, growing public concerns about the quality and international competitiveness of math and science education in the U.S. are not new. From 21stCenturywaves.com of 6/20/09,

Growing public calls for improvement of U.S. education are reminiscent of those one long wave ago during the 1950s when the Cold War and Sputnik were the global focus. For example, in Math and Science Education Perspectives, I reminded readers that only 10 days after the surprise launch of Sputnik “the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige.” And 70% of Gallup poll respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts!

In this context, Californians recently revealed their vision for the future of science education. In April, The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning in Santa Cruz conducted phone interviews with 1004 adults and followed them up with focus groups in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed believe that science education in the schools is essential to keep America and California at the forefront of technology and innovation. But 56% believe California has fallen behind and is “near the bottom in education”.

Californians believe that science instruction should start early. Seven in 10 believe science teaching should start in elementary school; 6 in 10 think 3rd grade is about right. And two-thirds believe that in high school all students should study biology, chemistry, and physics.

Many Californians are unsure about the quality of teacher preparation in the area of science instruction. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed either do not know or do not believe that the background and training of K-12 science teachers is adequate.

One Sacramento focus group member summed it up this way:

Placing more emphasis on science in K-12 opens the doors to understanding the physical universe, logic, critical thinking, and rational behavior, as children mature and grow into adulthood and become citizens within our society.

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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.

3 responses so far

Mar 06 2010

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

Space-related global trends for the next decade are summarized here utilizing a long-term, empirical approach that focuses on patterns — over the last 200 years — in the economy, technology, and society. This unique approach to multi-decade space and technology forecasting was first sketched in Cordell (1996) and Cordell (2006), and further developed with colleagues in subsequent articles and essays, including the last 21+ months here at 21stCenturyWaves.com.

The Decade 2010-2020, will feature the opening of potentially the most transformative, 1960s-style decade — in space and on Earth — of the 21st Century. CLICK .
In honor of Robert McCall, the great space artist who passed away on 2/26/2010.

The basic 4-part approach is as follows:
1)  Sketch the economic framework for the decade based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years,
2) Identify recent trends in economics, technology, and geopolitics, that are likely to drive major directions — especially involving great explorations and MEPs — of the decade,
3) Where appropriate, insert specific forecasts from experts with special knowledge of key countries and/or potential events etc. (e.g., China collapse by 2015) that suggest possible scenarios, and
4) Identify Wildcards and evaluate their potential effects on the space-related trends and forecasts.

The success of this technique in providing significant insights into current and past space-related global trends and events – which you are invited to judge for yourself by perusing either the Categories or Readers’ Favorites lists — is encouraging, and has motivated this attempt to sketch major trends for the entire decade.

So, here are 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.

10. Long-term Economic Trends Point to the Opening of Potentially the Most Transformative Decade of the 21st Century
Trends in the economy, technology, and society – over the last 200 years – show that we’re within a few years of potentially the most transformative decade of the 21st century: the 2015 Maslow Window.
Featuring clusters of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WWI), Maslow Windows are extraordinary 1960s-style decades driven by rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms. Powered by widespread affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style engineering projects and explorations seem not only intriguing, but momentarily almost irresistible.

Initially in 1996, I forecasted that “the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s; it will involve major activities in technology, engineering, and human exploration … the focus will be on large-scale human operations in space and they will be spectacular.”

The 5 years immediately preceding a Maslow Window are typically challenging times of recovery from major financial panics and great recessions, like that which began in 2008; only the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window escaped this fate. The Panic of 2008 signaled that we have returned to the more “normal” pattern of pre-Maslow Window decades over the last 200 years.

Indeed, macroeconomic data over the last 200 years shows that we are on a similar GDP trajectory to that of previous Maslow Windows including the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and the especially ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window.

The first 5 years of any Maslow Window — e.g., 2015 to 2020 for the next one — are typically very active as the golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology is launched. For example, the early Apollo Maslow Window (circa 1957 – 1965) featured the Cold War, International Geophysical Year, Sputnik, the formation of NASA, Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Apollo Moon program, and President Kennedy’s ‘to the Moon in this decade’ speech to Congress. See “Fred Kaplan’s “1959 — The Year Everything Changed” Points to the New Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, repetitive geopolitical and economic trends associated with the long economic wave indicate that the 5+ years before and after the opening of any Maslow Window are stunningly dynamic times, as the major economic boom gains momentum and international tensions increase, and as international events associated with great human explorations and macro-engineering projects (MEP) begin to unfold and dominate global headlines.

In general outline, that’s the next 10 years for space.

9. A Significant Military Crisis May Develop Early in the Decade (e.g., Iran) … but like usual, it will be rapidly resolved, and indeed may accelerate the world toward the 2015 Maslow Window.
The year of Obama – 2009, along with the years especially since 2005, have clearly set the stage for the 2015 Maslow Window. Please see, State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010, and State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009.

While preparing for a return to the Moon by 2020 with our international partners (and competitors) and strategizing about the Shuttle 5-year gap, we enjoyed basking in the “greatest global boom ever” (the hallmark of approaching Maslow Windows); see Fortune magazine, July, 2007. However, global prosperity came to a screeching halt as the current great recession began in December, 2007 and the financial Panic of 2008 gained momentum.

These and other factors triggered a continuing major political realignment in the U.S., including: the Year of Obama, concerns about economic sustainability, rebirth of the War on Terror, and a new approach to NASA and the human future in space. Similarities between current and previous macroeconomic, geopolitical, and technology trends over the last 200 years signal our approach to the 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age.

For example, a possible war with a nuclear Iran and its potential effects on world (including China) energy supplies has parallels with the extremely dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis that intensified the U.S.-Soviet Moon race early in the Apollo Maslow Window. And the potential future political effects of a lingering or unsuccessful war in Afghanistan have some warning of parallels with LBJ’s Vietnam, that eventually ended the Apollo Maslow Window.

On the other hand, assuming — by analogy with the 1960s and all previous Maslow Windows — that we are able to control our early 2015 Maslow Window international crises, the spectacular foreign policy and technology success known as the International Space Station highlights a potential direction available to humanity as we contemplate the possibility of global, united human settlement of the solar system.

Current space-related trends associated with the global recession, a possible Sputnik event, the new NASA, a space commercialism boom, political realignments in the U.S. and elsewhere, global economic and demographic challenges, state-of-the-art technology and education, and possible wildcards, support the 2015 Maslow Window and are explored below.

8. The Financial Panic of 2008 Signaled That We Were Within 6 years of a New, Apollo-Style, Global Space Age
The Panic of 2008 and its Great Recession (see #9 above) devastated any lingering ebullience from the great global boom of 2007 and ultimately became a rationale for scaling back U.S. 2020 Moon plans.

Although predicted by a few — see Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts – the Panic of 2008/Great Recession nevertheless highlighted the limitations of current macroeconomic models, especially when unassisted by a long-term, empirical approach like that of 21stCenturyWaves.com.

The severity and historical sequence of pre-Maslow Window financial panics and great recessions is documented. For example, the spectacular mid-19th century Maslow Window featured the stunning ebullience of “manifest destiny” in the U.S., Dr. Livingstone’s still-celebrated central Africa explorations, and the “technological jewel” of the 19th century: the Suez Canal. It was preceded by the financial Panic of 1837 that triggered a great recession lasting until 1843. And it was no rose garden. According to Nobel economist Milton Friedman (writing in 1960), “It is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930′s, and its monetary concomitants largely duplicate those of its later mate.”

Likewise, the ultra-ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window was preceded by the Panic of 1893 followed by a great recession. The economy began to recover in 1896 with the election of President McKinley, but unemployment did not drop below 10% until 1899.

The historical record of both 19th and 20th century pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions suggests the current great recession should run no more than 6 years. Even better news is Harvard economist Robert Barro’s study of 59 international, non-war depressions since 1870 that shows they average only 4 years in duration. This data implies that the 2015 Maslow Window will easily open on time. It should be even easier assuming the Obama administration leverages the lessons of economic history and government policy accrued over the last 200 years. But what do current economists say?

Optimists remind us that most recessions are “V-shaped” and recover like tennis balls: a deep recession produces a robust recovery, which we should see in 2010. But many others forecast only a gradual recovery, including some experts at Davos who expect another “global dip” (New York Times; 1/28/10). Despite signs of recovery, the New York Times (2/21/10) warns of an increase in chronic joblessness, and of the perils of a “Japanese decade” (1/3/10). Prominent Keynesians complain that Obama’s stimulus/bailout packages are too small, while others warn of a “Keynesian hangover.” Still others worry about expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, the potential for inflation, record debt, and the general lack of public confidence in the recovery. This situation should remind us of Stanford economist Russ Roberts’ recent column (WSJ, 2/27/10) where he seriously asks if economics is “really a science?” The economy may be far too complex for our imperfect data and limited models to routinely produce reliable forecasts.

However, what is known is that no Maslow Window over the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by a financial panic/great recession in the decade immediately preceding it. In particular, current economic circumstances resemble the great recession of the 1890s more than the post-war boom of the 1950s, and yet the 1890s resulted in perhaps the most ebullient Maslow Window in the history of the United States. That’s a reasonable expectation for 2015.

7. The Cancellation of Constellation will Create New Worlds for Space Commercialization and for NASA
President Obama’s recent budget terminates NASA’s Constellation program that was to launch astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and after this year proposes to launch American astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz launch vehicles until American companies develop man-rated Earth-to-orbit vehicles. Although some Congressional opposition to this plan has materialized (e.g., WSJ, 3/1/10; A. Pasztor), we assume that it will be substantially adopted at least for the short-term.

This will be the first time in 60 years that NASA has no capability or specific plans for its own manned launch vehicle. And NASA Administrator Bolden has emphasized a new style of international cooperation in space where NASA treats its international partners as “equals” and with “respect.”

This new paradigm for NASA supports forecasts made here based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, and suggests that the new global Space Age is not far away. For example, 1) in 1996, I suggested that the next major thrust into space will occur between 2015 and 2025 (see point 10 above) and suggested this might trigger the formation of an organization in which the major space nations share power equally in program planning and management, 2) in 1992 I described an ESA-like concept for a global space organization (“Interspace”) that features “equality” among the major international partners and opportunities for others to participate based on their human, technology, or financial resources (Cordell, 1992), and 3) based on long-wave timing, in 2006 I identified 2014 as the likely timeframe when NASA would undergo a significant transformation (although I did not imagine NASA as being removed from the launch vehicle business).

For the first time the U.S. government will be subsidizing the efforts of private companies to develop a reliable manned launch vehicle to ISS, while not developing their own successor to the Shuttle. Several grants have already been awarded to private space companies.

History shows repeatedly that when you combine adequate capital with technologically sophisticated entrepreneurs that are driven by the profit motive, a mighty force will be unleashed into the marketplace. Although it will take years for them to develop a safe vehicle to send astronauts to ISS, it is highly likely that — thanks to President Obama — the space commercialization boom has finally begun.

But what of the Moon and Mars as near-term destinations for human settlers? Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (WSJ, 2/26/10) praises Obama for removing the U.S. from a puzzling Moon race (which Buzz and Neil Armstrong won for the U.S. 40+ years ago) and refocuses NASA on technology development for deep space human missions like Mars as our “long-term objective.” He then quotes President Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade…” as the type of “bold initiative” offered by Obama.

Unfortunately, unlike JFK’s Moon speech, there is currently no specific plan or timeline to go to Mars and there may not be any for many years to come. Based on long wave timing, we have only until the end of this decade until it becomes very difficult to initiate any major space program. This suggests that under Obama’s plan, a manned Mars initiative might not occur until the next Maslow Window that opens near 2071.

6. Affluence-Induced Ebullience will Drive Space-Related Expenditures to ~ $ 1 T (2007 USD) during 2015 to 2025
I estimate space-related MEP and exploration expenditures during the 2015 Maslow Window will reach between $ 1 T and 3 T (2007 USD), compared to about $ 150 B (2007 USD) for the 1960s Apollo Moon program. This is based on: 1) MEP cost extrapolations during successive Maslow Windows, and 2) ratios between previous primary-to-secondary MEP costs. Two examples of primary MEPs are the Panama Canal and the Apollo/Saturn V infrastructure, and secondary MEPs include, the Titanic and Great Eastern ships, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, and the Large Hadron Collider. All are very expensive, state-of-the-art projects (for their time) that caught the public’s imagination. This is affordable and pro-ebullient (see below) assuming that GDP in 2025 culminates between $ 29 and 35 T (2007 USD) as projected based on GDP trends of the last 200 years.

Such expensive endeavors are only politically feasible because of a powerful psychological phenomenon called “ebullience,” that over the last 200 years occurs exclusively during Maslow Windows separated typically by 55 to 60 years. Triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms, affluence-induced ebullience becomes widespread and catapults many to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. See The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, widespread ebullience typically collapses rapidly in response to public perceptions of financial contractions and/or wars, not necessarily the facts. And since ebullience is not a totally rational condition, it’s onset and collapse are not necessarily rational either. But the important point is that ebullience actually drives Maslow Windows, not just economics.

Currently, we’re still recovering from a great recession and the public is anti-ebullient, as expected. There is no political incentive for Obama to plan Mars missions. But as the recovery begins to revive the economy over the next few years, it’s likely the U.S. will respond much like it did in the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window led by Theodore Roosevelt.

However, even now there are signs of “early ebullience” around the world that remind us of what’s just over the horizon for space and technology development. It’s typical of the approach to a Maslow Window when certain elements of society — e.g., high-end clientele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, — anticipate the ebullience that eventually engulfs society during the height of a Maslow Window. Since we apparently are only ~5 years from the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window, early ebullience is expected.

5.  B-R-I-Cs are the Solid Foundation for a Grand Alliance for Space
The BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, and China are demonstrating multi-decade long wave trends as well as the style of ebullience that points directly toward the 2015 Maslow Window.

China is the biggest economic questionmark of the decade. Some forecasters see it eventually taking over the world economically, while Stratfor believes China will experience a major, Japan-like economic collapse by 2015. Barnett (2/13/10) asserts that China must switch to democracy soon because “democracies simply perform better–not by how they run things but by how they get the hell out of the way of those who really need to run things, aka the private sector.” But Stratfor sees China in a quadruple economic bind, including: giving employment primacy, stagnating Western imports, aging demographics, and internal income tensions. This is important because an economically robust China is often assumed to be a major space competitor of the U.S. during the coming decade. See 10 Reasons China is Good for Space.

According to Harvard’s Richard Pipes, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’.” This is partly due to their success in WW II and their “success in sending the first human into space.” Currently, Russia is not only playing a central role in ISS, it is expanding its domestic space infrastructure (the $ 13.5 B Vostochny Cosmodrome), anticipates a joint Phobos robotic sample-return mission with China in 2011-12, and speaks openly of possible joint manned Mars expeditions with the U.S. and others. However, its continuing leadership in space is complicated by its vulnerability to the global recession and its recent Cold War-like actions. See The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.

India may have the most ebullient space program in the world. It’s first Moon mission (Chandrayaan I) recently discovered water on the Moon, and advanced propulsion will drive their first robotic probe to Mars after 2013. According to the Indian President their manned orbital program will start near 2014, and will “electrify” young people in India. India’s economy has suffered “no crisis” during the global recession — growth dropped from 10% to 6.5% — which suggests not even the sky’s the limit in India as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

Brazil is one of the most ebullient countries in the world and has a growing space program to match. Selection as the first-ever South American site for the Olympics (in 2016) is symbolic of its “arrival on the world stage.” In 2006 Brazil’s first astronaut trained with NASA, flew a Russian Soyuz, and enjoyed a week-long stay on ISS. Then he became an instant celebrity. In 1992 I suggested that Rio de Janeiro would be an ideal headquarters city for a new global space organization (“Interspace”) that we forecasted would form by 2014. Brazil rapidly exited the global recession with a 1.9% GDP surge in 2009 Q2 and expects to grow 5% in 2010. They’re well-positioned to be an ebullient, global player in the 2015 Maslow Window.

Although not a BRIC, the #2 economy in the world is currently suffering from a debt/GDP ratio of more than 2 and is scrambling “to avoid being the next Greece” (WSJ, 3/1/10). The last half century of both Japan’s economic and political history are strongly consistent with the long economic wave. For example, Japan’s “lost decade” from 1991 to 2000 is centered on the trough (1997) of the 56 year energy cycle, and Japan’s historical election in 2009 — giving it a new government — occurred after 54 years (one long wave) of almost continuous rule by the LDP. Japan’s new strategy for growth during the next decade suggests it will retain its position as a major global leader in space, including current projects like ISS as well as major new initiatives such as its planned $ 21 B space-based solar power MEP.

All the major space powers enter the decade with significant economic and demographic challenges. This makes it appear that a Grand Alliance for Space — that would be promoted by a new global space agency like Interspace — would be highly likely, because no country would have the economic flexibility to do otherwise. However, our current economic trajectory is more like that of the late 1890s great recession than the pre-Apollo 1950s, and thus an unparalleled economic boom is probable as the drive toward prosperity gains momentum in the next 3-5 years. Therefore, a 21st century version of the late 1950s International Geophysical Year scenario is still realistic, and the possibility of a Sputnik-style surprise cannot be ruled out.

4. We are the Beneficiaries of 60+ Years of Space Technology Development, and Are Capable of going to Mars, Developing the Moon, and/or Utilizing Space Resources in the Next Decade

It is incorrect to say that we do not have the technology to go to Mars.

We already have the basic technology to go to Mars and ISS can help resolve issues related to long duration human spaceflight before 2020. While advanced propulsion is always preferred on Mars missions, it is not required. Split mission concepts — where return propellants, consumables, and other cargo — are sent first to Mars orbit before the crew leaves Earth improve performance and safety for the crew vehicles. In situ resource utilization is an important technology that is needed to process propellants from water (or other substances) on Phobos and/or Mars. It needs to be developed but is hardly a showstopper. The modern technical literature on human spaceflight to Mars is extensive and goes back 50 years; a good place to start is the Case For Mars volumes that began in the 1980s.

Great explorations always involve significant risk. The risk must be identified, quantified, managed, and then accepted. In essence, you are ready to go exploring when you think you are.

Columbus and his descendants could have waited until the 747 was invented to make the trip to America — it would have been a lot safer and more comfortable — but they chose to go in 1492. There were many unknowns (a pre-mission cost/benefit analysis was difficult) and the crew suffered casualties, but the mission of exploration was a success and the world was changed. In their 1963 EMPIRE study for NASA, German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke and his staff at General Dynamics concluded that “Preliminary schedule analysis strongly indicates that a 1975 (manned) mission…to Mars is in the realm of realistic technological planning…” It was 6 years before the Moon landing, and Krafft Ehricke, Bill Strobl, and the other authors of the document calculated we were nearly ready to go to Mars. Even bolder was the pulsed nuclear propulsion system of Project Orion. Begun in 1958 at General Atomics by Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, the goal was inexpensive, fast, near-term travel throughout the solar system, and every available technological assessment of the system shows that it would have worked. Larger, classified versions would have made good star-ships, but the project lost funding due to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Post-Apollo Mars plans were canceled by President Nixon near the end of the Apollo Maslow Window, and no human has ventured beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972. But the point is that serious plans and capability for manned Mars missions existed in the 1970s. To claim that manned Mars missions cannot be done in the next decade suggests NASA needs to be reminded of this superlative technological legacy and also needs to grow a pair — both of which will happen naturally as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and become globally enthused by its surging ebullience.

3. The U.S. is Approaching Another Sputnik-style Crisis of Confidence in Education
In 1957, only 10 days after the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik — the world’s first artificial satellite — the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! Well they did. And 12 quick years later an American stepped onto the Moon.

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

According to The Space Foundation, “The basic problem is that the U.S. education system is not producing students in quantity and at a level of achievement to be globally competitive.” This is because of “declining interest and achievement in the math, science, and technology subjects that are critical to the space industry.”

Due to a shortage of teachers prepared in science and math, the U.S. K-12 system produces a decline in the capability of our students in these crucial subjects. For example, 29% of 4th graders are rated as proficient in science and 39% were good in math. But by the time they reach 12th grade, students have declined to 23% proficient in math and 18% in science.

International comparisons for U.S. students are also uninspiring. In 2007, U.S. 8th grade math students ranked 9th after several asian countries (e.g., Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan), and 11th behind a similar group in science.

The impending retirement of Boomers fuels concerns about declines over the last 20 years in science and engineering B.S. graduates in the U.S.; even math and computer science graduates have remained only level during that time.

With or even without another Sputnik-style event in the next few years, concerns about the state of U.S. science, math, and engineering education will become more intense during the coming decade, possibly even reminiscent of one long wave ago in the 1950s.

2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — Another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology
There is a political realignment taking place in the U.S. that began with President Obama’s election in 2008 and is continuing. It’s fundamentally about a return to prosperity. And while not always fully aware of it, President Obama is the prime motivator in America’s return to prosperity and leadership in the new Space Age. For details, see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913. But before that the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window produced the “technological jewel of the 18th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.

One key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window will open near 2015. So the key question becomes: How will Obama create the exceptional prosperity that is the hallmark of such Camelot-like times?

There are basically 2 options:

OPTION I: Obama becomes a 2-term President: He becomes the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ.
Historical/Economic Model: The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.
, or…

OPTION II: Obama becomes a 1-term president: He becomes the new Grover Cleveland (and possibly LBJ), and leads to a pro-prosperity Republican presidency.
Historical/Economic Model: The Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-13).

A Democratic Party insider on a cable TV news program recently admitted that either Obama will bring back the economy and be reelected, or he won’t and will become a one-term president. It’s that simple.

Obama’s record fall in the polls has been reflected in recent elections including the historical “Massachusetts Massacre” — referring to the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s long-time Senate seat — according to liberal columnist Frank Rich (New York Times, 1/24/10) who worries that Obama’s “populist rhetoric” is not enough. And a February CNN poll reports that anti-incumbent fever is at an all-time high. Only 34% of voters think most members of Congress should be re-elected, and 52% do not think Obama deserves a second term. On August 21 Robert Gibbs said that Obama is “quite comfortable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda might make him a 1-termer. But polls show the political realignment is not all about Obama, it’s about prosperity.

Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age — e.g., triggering a new boom in commercial space, discouraging a questionable Moon race, rekindling Americans’ desire for prosperity — within the next 3-5 years, his presidential prospects remain uncertain.

Obama’s long wave timing and election circumstances (i.e., panic/recession) have more parallels with the 1893-1913 Peary/Panama Maslow Window — in which a 1-term Democrat (Grover Cleveland) was replaced by a pro-prosperity Republican — than with the 1949-1969 Apollo Maslow Window of John F. Kennedy. And Obama’s continuing challenges with high unemployment, record deficits, huge budgets, and Afghanistan, pose real dangers for him, although he is still capable of reversing course and being successful.

But whether Obama is a 1-termer or the new John F. Kennedy, he is still creating the new Space Age according to the trajectory of macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years; in fact, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.

1. Potential Wildcards and the Bottomline for Space
The previous space-related trends –- based on macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years — will strongly influence the human future in space during the 2010-2020 decade. However, other trends that are possible and important, but much harder to evaluate — the Wildcards — may also play a role, as they have in the past. Here are three.

A Major 2020s War:
Without exception, every Maslow Window of the last 200 years has been punctuated by a major war. A classic example is World War I that terminated the utopian ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window just as it was reaching its apex. The Apollo Moon program lost its last 3 planned Moon missions due to Vietnam, and might have been decimated if Vietnam had intensified just a few years earlier. Similar situations may occur in the 2020s, toward the end of the 2015 Maslow Window. If the expected 2020s major war occurs in the late 2020s, the Great Exploration and MEPs should be mature, but if it starts near 2020 or before, it might threaten the great Mars, Moon, or other space spectaculars possible in this decade. The exact timing of this Wildcard is unpredictable.

A Space Impactor Threatens Earth:
Sometime during this decade an Earth-crossing asteroid may be discovered that threatens Earth. Assuming there is time to react, this would trigger international planning — of the type currently advocated by Rusty Schweickart — and development of space systems and coordinated operations to deflect the object. This Wildcard would focus global attention on space, possibly lead to the development of a global space agency, and remind the world of the potential resource and exploration benefits of human settlement of the solar system. In short, it could be a very positive thing.

The Chinese and Russians Announce They Are Going to Mars Together:
Near 2014, in response to the booming global recovery, the Russians and Chinese announce plans for their joint manned mission to Mars during the 2015 Maslow Window. Because they are smart, they will do it the easy, safe, inexpensive way: Set up an initial manned outpost on the martian moon Phobos, because every two years it is easier to reach (energy-wise) than our Moon, and can process expected waters into propellants, as well as coordinate the scientific reconnaissance of Mars (using a huge fleet of small robotic surface rovers) in real-time from Mars orbit, with greater safety. If things go well, in a couple years they launch an unmanned mission carrying a Mars Lander to Phobos so they can send the first humans to the Mars surface whenever it’s convenient. This would be the natural outgrowth of their current collaboration on the anticipated joint China-Russia Phobos mission in 2011. While initially viewed as a Sputnik-like event by the U.S. and others, it might trigger a truly global approach to the human settlement of Mars.

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, 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.

3 responses so far

Feb 07 2010

NASA’s “New Paradigm” Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One response so far

Jan 31 2010

Does Obama’s New Space Policy Indicate He is JFK, Richard Nixon, or (god forbid) Grover Cleveland?

This is an elaboration of my recent post: “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2010,” which appeared before Obama’s state of the union address. Reports that NASA’s Moon program will be discontinued raise questions about U.S. leadership in space. And much of the current chatter in blogs and news reports ignores long-term trends in the economy, geopolitics, and politics — that have governed large-scale technology and exploration projects for the last 200+ years — and thus presents a somewhat confused picture.

When will an American astronaut see this view — Earthrise from lunar orbit — again? Click

Florida Today reports today (1/30/10) that the adminstration will kill the Constellation program designed to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020, but still provide funds for development of a new Saturn V class launch vehicle, favored by the Augustine committee. According to Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida,

My concern is that if all that $6 billion goes just to commercial rockets, then that’s going to push the development of (a new NASA heavy-lift) rocket well into the next decade, and that just means we get behind China and Russia. I think they will announce on Monday (a research-and-development) program to develop the new (heavy-lift) rocket. I just hope that it is not a puny R-and-D development that will push us off well into the next decade before we have the new rocket.

Pushing the heavy lifter “well into the next decade” would not only help China and Russia get ahead in space, it would also push our luck with Maslow Window timing; i.e., the 2015 Window should extend to 2025 but is subject to wildcards. For example, imagine what would have happened if the Vietnam War had intensified a year or two earlier than 1968. We might have lost all of Apollo instead of just the last 3 missions (Apollo 18, 19, and 20).

NASA will reveal the details of its proposed budget Monday.

Is President Obama really “worse” than Richard Nixon?

On January 27, former NASA boss Mike Griffin asserted that President Nixon’s termination of the Apollo Moon program was “one of the most significant, yet strategically bankrupt, decisions in human history.” But that President Obama’s anticipated ending of human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit is “even worse.” Despite the tens of thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians who lost their jobs in 1972 due to Nixon, at least he “left us with the Space Shuttle,” According to Griffin, Obama’s action would leave “NASA and the nation with no program, no plan, and no commitment to any human spaceflight program beyond that of today.”

Griffin believes that the nearly complete International Space Station will be held …

… hostage to the hope that presently nonexistent commercial spaceflight capability can be brought into being in a timely way. The president has chosen to recommend that the nation abandon its leadership on the space frontier.

While it’s tempting to assign Obama an even lower place in the space history hierarchy than Nixon, it’s not entirely justified and may be premature. We need to consider the long-term economic and political context. For example, Obama was elected during the Panic of 2008 and has had to contend with the current great recession. This anti-ebullient time plus Obama’s growing political difficulties make it difficult for him to support visionary space programs. And history shows this is not the time anyway. When prosperity and affluence-induced ebullience return, the next Maslow Window will appear to open almost automatically.

Is Obama the next John F. Kennedy?

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, we’ve been asking this question since before the election, and still believe it’s possible but is not without speedbumps. For example, in his National Review Online (1/29/20) column — “Obama is No JFK” — Jeffrey H. Anderson states that,

at a time when the president claims his focus is on jobs, scrapping these (Moon-related) programs — on which we’ve already spent nearly $10 billion — would cut public spending in one area that actually creates jobs.

You know those great pictures of Earth from outer space … No (astronaut) has seen that view since the Apollo program ended 38 years ago … Now, unless Congress rejects the president’s recommendations, the next people to see that view will likely be the Chinese.

Whether it’s tax cuts or defense spending; or whether it’s the courage, ambition, and sense of wonder that combine to lead great souls to great feats of exploration and discovery; one can surely say this much about Barack Obama: Mr. President, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Again, these comments cry out for context. President Kennedy was fortunate to lead the nation during the greatest economic boom up to then. Plus the surprise launch of Sputnik (1957) by the Soviets mobilized the country into founding NASA (1958), revitalizing support for education, and providing a slam dunk in Congress for anything JFK wanted in space. Obama and the nation are experiencing a 180 from JFK’s 1960s-style Camelot. But a world-altering Sputnik-like event — especially within the next few years — cannot be ruled out.

Could Obama become another Grover Cleveland?

I include the Cleveland link above for all of us history-challenged Americans (and others) who may not have read the 24th (and 22nd, by the way) U.S. president’s biography lately. To make a long story short, Cleveland was basically a principled guy who got caught up in the vicissitudes of the financial Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession. His economic policies were ineffective, the people lost faith in him, and he was replaced by William McKinley 4 years later.

The point is that the Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession have real parallels with the Panic of 2008 and our current financial difficulties. In fact, our current economic trajectory seems to have more in common with the 1890s than with the (post-World War II boom) 1950s just prior to the Apollo Maslow Window.

If Obama cannot reverse his record 20 point approval rating collapse in 2010, he could become the next Grover Cleveland. Polls reveal the public’s growing concern with unemployment, government spending, and deficits, and show the economic challenges facing the president. The public wants to see light at the end of the financial tunnel; i.e., signs that the current recession will soon begin its transformation into the next major economic boom.

All this is consistent with the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window being a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology, as they all have been over the last 200+ years.

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Jan 03 2010

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

I had a very Merry Christmas season this year – specifically,  about 500 powerful pages by Robert Merry.   His new book is  A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent (2009). 

Many agree it’s enthralling.  The New York Times (Sean Wilentz, 11/22/09) calls it “one of the most astute and informative historical accounts yet written about national politics, and especially Waahington politics, during the decisive 1840s.”  The Wall Street Journal (Aram Bakshian, Jr; 11/6/09) says it’s an “authoritative biography …(that) provides a compelling, perceptive portrait of one of the oddest men (James Polk) ever to occupy the White House…”

Against all odds, this smaller-than-life man achieved the impossible and ebulliently changed the world in only 4 short years; President James K. Polk in 1845. 

Click 

In his unlikely, self-imposed one-term presidency, Polk accomplished the nearly impossible — he “engineered the triumph of Manifest Destiny” (NY Times) — including the annexation of Texas (1845), and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory (1846) and essentially the rest of the U.S. West including California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona — all by 1848.

This is an extraordinary story that occurred in ebullient times that we call a ”Maslow Window”  – see  ”Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!” –  less than half a century after Lewis and Clark  explored the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific, and still a few decades before the U.S. became the leading economic power on Earth.  Probably for this reason, neither the Great Exploration of this Window — see 10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space –  nor the primary Macro-Engineering Project (MEP)  – the Suez Canal –  were closely related to the U.S.  (although Stanley was dispatched by a New York newspaper to find Livingstone in Africa). 

However, the affluence-induced ebullience  — see The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age–  that triggered these epochal events abroad was also strongly present in the U.S. as evidenced in Merry’s book.  Here are a few examples:

1. New Technology Was “Exploding” in America.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1844, “American is the country of the Future.  It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”  

Merry explains that a key reason the “impulse of exuberant expansionism” continued to surge was because,  ”Just as America was encompassing ever greater distances, technology –  steam power and Morse’s telegraph — was obliterating the sluggishness of distance.”

2. The Financial Panic of 1837 and Great Recession Recovered by 1843 to a most “Prosperous State of Affairs.”

The financial Panic of 1837 was a major contraction where 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs; the resulting Great Recession lasted 6 years until 1843.  According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman writing in 1960, the Panic of 1837 “is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Merry notes that,

Within nine weeks of Van Buren’s innauguration, economic collapse swept the country. It began when New York banks suspended specie payments, causing widespread alarm and setting in motion a deflationary period as credit dried up … The Panic of 1837 ushered in “a cycle of recession, recovery, and depression” that would dominate American politics for the next seven years … Van Buren lost much of his popularity … Polk remained a stalwart floor leader for Van Buren’s agenda, but the tide had turned against his party.

Polk left the House and won the Tennessee governorship in 1839, but lost it in 1841 and 1843. “At forty-seven, he knew he looked washed up…”  But due to his pro-Texas annexation position which mirrored the expansionist electorate, Polk, against all odds, became the Democratic candidate for president and was elected in 1844.

As Polk assumed the presidency in 1845, the dynamic duo of prosperity and ebullience was everywhere.  According to Merry,

The national economy had been expanding at an average annual rate of 3.9%.  Not even the Panic of 1837, for all its destructive force, could forestall for long this creation of wealth.  And throughout the land could be seen a confidence that fueled national success. “We are now reaching the very height, perhaps, to which we can expect to ascend,” declared the Democratic Wilmington Gazette of Delaware.

Despite the Panic of 1837 and its Great Recession, the mid-19th Century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (roughly 1847 to 1860) opened on time and featured Africa’s most famous explorer (Dr. Livingstone), the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century (the Suez Canal), as well as impressive secondary MEPs (including the Great Eastern ship).   In addition to the stunning culmination of American Manifest Destiny in 1848,  this Maslow Window’s ebullience is also  exemplified by the famous Gold Rush of the American West (1848 – 1855).

Over the last 200 years, financial panics and great recessions have usually preceded Maslow Windows; see ”Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts.”  Two 19th Century panics (1837 and 1893) , were both about one decade prior to their Maslow Windows;  none in 1949 (during the post W.W. II boom) one decade before the Apollo Maslow Window;  and one in 2008 (7 years before our expected 2015 Maslow Window). The New York Times (11/30/08) also describes a “deep recession” that appearently occurred somewhat after 1776, about 10+  years before the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window.

In fact, during the last 200+ years, no financial panic/great recession pair has ever delayed or diminished, in any observable way, any Great Explorations or MEPs associated with a Maslow Window. And there’s every reason to expect this 200+ year pattern will continue.

3.  The Controversial Mexican War Played a Major Role in U.S. Expansion.

Wars that occur early in the Maslow Windows of the last 200 years are complex, destructive events  — far beyond the scope of our discussion here — but according to historical accounts, usually play an important role in the ensuing events of the Maslow Windows.  It appears that ebullience — also known as “animal spirits” and “irrational exuberance” in an economic context; see ”Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?“ – played a central role.

A few of the interesting parallels are sketched here:

Despite the (then) unresolved issues of slavery and the legality of the war, the Mexican War was vigorously and successfully executed by Polk with the support of the American people. Their ebullient expansionist belief in Manifest Destiny transformed the world.  According to Merry, the U.S. was “a vibrant, expanding, exuberant experiment in democracy whose burgeoning population thrilled to the notion that it was engaging in something big and historically momentous.”  This is the language of societal ebullience.

One Maslow Window earlier, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe played a major role enabling the Lewis and Clark expedition and in launching U.S. westward expansion.  Napoleon’s need to fund his war machine encouraged the sale of Louisiana to Jefferson;  see “10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Likewise, the Spanish-American War of 1898 — as the Great 1890s Recession was ending and as the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window began – played an intriguing role in Maslow Window events.  “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War.  To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders,” vectored toward Cuban battle himself.  Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages;   see “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Early in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, Cuba again was the focus of an even bigger crisis for America and President John F. Kennedy: the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Because of Soviet emplacement of offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba the world came closer to a major nuclear exchange than ever before or since.  Although this crisis did not ignite the Space Age — the surprise 1957 launch of Sputnik did that — it intensified the Moon race and showed that the global stakes were high; see ”The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.”

The “early Maslow Window wars” are continuing into the present – Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror – as we recover from our Panic of 2008/Great Recession combination (analogous to the Panic of 1893/Great 1890s Recession and Panic of 1837/Great Recession), and as we ebulliently head toward the much anticipated, spectacular 2015 Maslow Window.  

4. Manifest Destiny Was Fueled by an “Exuberance of Spirit” Across the U.S.

There are many visionary quotes in Merry’s book that clearly indicate the extraordinary level of ebullience permeating mid-1840s America, but one of the most striking is from an obscure Democratic congressman from Ohio (then a western state) named John D. Cummins, who referred to the disputed Oregon Territory as nothing less than,

“the master key of the commerce of the universe.”  Get that territory into U.S. jurisdiction, he argued, and soon it would fill up with “an industrious, thriving, American population” and “flourishing towns and embryo cities” facing west upon the Pacific within four thousand miles of vast Asian markets.  Now contemplate, he added, ribbons of railroad track across America, connecting New York, Boston, and Philadelphia to those burgeoning West Coast cities and ports that would spring up once Oregon was in American hands. 

Cumins continued, think about how the “inevitable external laws of trade” would render American the necessary passageway for “the whole eastern commerce of Europe.” … “The commerce of the world would thus be revolutionized.”

Cummins bold vision was easily dismissed as hopelessly fanciful in a world utterly dominated by Great Britain. And yet it crystallized a fundamental element of the era’s politics — the widely shared conviction that America was a nation of destiny, that one day it would supplant Britain as the world’s dominant power, that Oregon represented merely an interim step toward realization of that vision.

Merry’s bottom line regarding Polk and American ebullience of the 1840s  is simple but powerful:

his legacy comes down to … the map outline of the continental United States, which is very close to what Polk bequeathed to his nation … To look at that map, and to take in the western and southwestern expanse included in it, is to see the magnitude of Polk’s presidential accomplishments … It didn’t come easily or cheaply …It unleashed civic forces that hadn’t been foreseen and couldn’t be controlled … But in the end he succeeded and fulfilled the vision and dream of his constituency.  In a democratic system that is the ultimate measure of political success.

The expansionist effects of ebullience apparently drove not only the Manifest Destiny of 1840s America, but also Jefferson’s seminal Lewis and Clark expedition, and the early 20th century’s international races to the north and south poles as well as the greatest MEP of the last 200 years (until Apollo): the Panama Canal.  In the 1960s the expansionist effects of ebullience finally drove us offworld to the Moon. 

As we approach another ebullient golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — the 2015 Maslow Window — it’s very likely the impossible will be accomplished again and the world will be changed.

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