Thursday, February 04, 2010

Back 2 Space

Let's see what the tea leaves have to say ...

Since back before the turn of the century (I know, that used to mean about a hundred years ago, but now it's only ten) I've been dabbling with predicting the future, so it's about time for a reality check. How am I doing, anyway?

Well, last January I dared to speculate on what the first year of the Obama administration might look like, and I can now claim to have been correct about two of the most wild leaps of fancy. First, on the financial front, I said: "By year's end financial experts will begin noting with some surprise that the stock markets have actually had a pretty good year. All those who waited too long to get out will suddenly realize they have waited too long to get back in."

Within weeks of this pronouncement the Dow began a plunge of over 1,000 points, and even the most optimistic investors would have been justified in having serious qualms about the rest of the year. Nevertheless, by December 31 the market had not only recovered the loss but ended around 30% higher than at the start of the year. Not bad!

What's that? You'd like to get in on a return of 30%? Sorry, too late. They tell us that the last time the market did that well two years in a row was at the beginning of FDR's first term. But remember, that was coming off the crash of '29 and it was a Depression, while what we had in '08 was merely a [subliminal: worst in our history since the Great Depression] "Recession."

The other limb I went out on was to predict a major shift in the role of NASA, with spacecraft development and operations being farmed out to private corporations. This new policy has just been announced, as reported in Astronomy magazine, following another one of the Obama administration's exhaustive reviews in which they actually tried to find out what was the best thing to do.

Return with us now to those thrilling early years of the airplane, where the likes of Charles Lindberg, Amelia Earhart, and Howard Hughes blazed new trails. Now it's time for the airlines to become spacelines, and for free enterprise to figure out how to finance our move into the wider solar system and beyond. Don't be surprised when the Chinese get to the moon and start mining operations, or some private venture decides to move mineral-rich asteroids into Earth orbit where they can be chopped up and refined into raw materials. We have passed the era of Columbus and Magellan. Now it's time for the East India Company to reap the rewards, and for the colonists to create the societies and interplanetary nations of the future.

Stay tuned for further developments.
[And check out this slide show to get an idea of how many players are already getting into this game: http://news.zdnet.com/2346-9595_22-390897-1.html?tag=content;col1]

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