Friday, March 14, 2008

Air Force Predictions for 2063 (1963)

The 1963 book, 2063 A.D., includes the predictions of Brigadier General Irving L. Branch. Branch was a commander at the Air Force Flight Test Center and predicted that by 2063 exploration of the near planets (Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) will have been accomplished with manned vehicles. He also predicted that the moon and Mars will be heavily populated with researchers living in space colonies.

His contribution to the book appears below.
1. What kind of space vehicles do you think man will be using?

In the year 2063, a broad spectrum of space transportation systems will exist. Fusion power will provide the primary energy source for the large space transports of 2063. Single stage, high thrust recoverable boosters using a conventional thermal rocket engine propulsion cycle will provide ascent capability from the surface of earth or other planets, whereas low thrust electric propulsion will give an efficient means of transport in the low acceleration environment of free space between the planets. Both chemical and nuclear propulsion will, however, be used as required to extend the operational domain of man.

2. How far out in space will we have moved?

Thorough exploration of the near planets - Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn - by manned vehicles will have been accomplished by 2063. Preliminary manned exploration of the outer planets and all secondary bodies of the solar system as well as comets will be in process. A major effort will be fully organized to develop a transportation system for manned exploration of our closer stellar neighbors.

3. What sort of colonization will have taken place on other planets?

Population of the moon will have attained 100,000 by 2063. Primary products of the lunar colony will be rocket propellants for planetary exploration. Mars will attain a population of 10,000 by 2063, though rate of growth at that time will far exceed that of the moon. Population centers of the moon and Mars will consist primarily of research and engineering personnel with supporting technicians. Colonies will contain an acceptable mix of both male and female personnel. Development of these extra-terrestrial colonies will occur employing a transport mechanism operating with a steadily reducing crew return rate, i.e., emphasis will be given to encouraging a oneway system of space transport. Scientific and economic information will be readily communicated between the colonies though personnel and cargo will tend to remain fixed upon first delivery to the specified target body of the solar system.

4. Will we have moved closer to a one-world concept in our space efforts?

The one-world concept in our space efforts will not be particularly strengthened because of steady improvements made in propulsive capabilities. Independent scientific exploration and economic development of our solar system by many nations will be possible prior to 2063, due to readily available low cost propulsive systems.

5. What will ballistic missiles be used for?

Ballistic missiles will not be employed as a weapon system by 2063 due to development of other more lethal military systems and due to increased international competition in the scientific exporation and economic development of our solar system.

6. What natural resources will be taxing in outer space?

No extra-terrestrial natural resources will be taxed with direct monetary return to earth though the growing economic systems of the lunar and planetary colonies will maintain independent taxation for maintenance and development of local activities. Monetary benefits to the international bodies on the earth will accrue only through application of scientific information derived from interplanetary and interstellar exploration.

7. What commercial ventures will have derived from this feature?

Space transportation will have comprise the bulk of interplanetary activities though the primary goals of such extra-terrestrial colony will be the extraction of scientific data and transmission of this information.

See also:
General Dynamics Astronautics Time Capsule (1963)
Broken Time Capsule (1963-1997)
Lyndon B. Johnson on 2063 A.D. (1963)
Edmund G. Brown's Californifuture (1963)
James B. Utt on Space Travel (1963)


Scott Haley said...

Manned missions to the stars by 2063? I don't think that the author understood the incredible distances involved.

13 Pieces of Flair said...

It is amazing how far off they were, isn't it? I mean come on! Colonization on Mars within the next 55 years? I think not.

Anonymous said...

A bit overly optimistic, but for the time he made the predictions they probably seemed reasonable.

Think about it, 100 years before 1963 we were fighting the civil war and only 2 years before 1963 men had started orbiting the earth.

So, it was an optimistic time in terms of space exploration

Anonymous said...

His last comment is the most telling -- that space transportation itself will make up the bulk of space industry. You can't have a viable economic system based merely on transportation; you have to be transporting some *thing*, and something valuable at that. Until we find something valuable out there that's worth going to, extracting/refining, and then transporting about the solar system we aren't going to have significant progress is space exploration and colonization.

Anonymous said...

This is a link of a spanish TV programme in wich your blog has been talked about.

Anonymous said...

We may have people stationed on the moon by then. We may have people stationed on Mars by then. But neither will be in such numbers. 100K on the Moon? That's a hell of a lot of people to sustain on a dead world like that.

Anonymous said...

Whether the predictions are "off" or not, seems to me, not to be the question since nobody but newspaper reporters and rubes look at these things as being truly predictive, but they do illustrate our perpsectives at the time and in that way they are very interesting.
Of note, in the very first prediction of space flight, the good General speculates that the use of fusion power will be used..but also speculates on chemical and "nuclear" by which I presume he means "fission" as fusion is also a "nuclear" technology. Interesting from today's standpoint is the quagmire of government funded research as epitomized by the space shuttle/space station (which, no argument IS actually making steps toward progress but not much bang for the buck) and the Tokamak, which it has been speculated was a technology first explored by the Soviets and given to the US as a means by which the Soviets could be assured that the West never get to break-even. In the mean time, alternative fusion approaches are being researched with what limited funding that can be scrounged up and is showing some very interesting and promising results. What I know of it tells me we could be closer than is generally understood by most and perhaps being downplayed for the very good reason that our military technologists are interested in its strategic value and advantage as a military fuel source first. But soon enough, should it prove scalable, it will integrate very well with the present power generation system now in use world wide, produce next to no radiation and indeed be the kind of prolific power source these futuristic plans for space would need. One comment was that the prediction of nuclear power bringing energy so cheap that it wont be metered in fact referred to fusion, not fission. Recall that back in 1963 the most expensive part of computation was memory which in fact today is virtually too cheap to meter or at least let it be a concern for any genuine application of computers...too cheap to meter for sure when it comes to broadband which is an extension of that surplus capacity.

Anonymous said...

It's also notable that when theGeneral is asked about a "one-world concept," he gives an answer that either avoids the question, or simply fails to understand it.

Anonymous said...

>extend the operational domain of man

Thanks, General Branch!
That "operational domain of man" will stick in my head for YEARS now.

For really colonizing Mars, I suspect we'll want to add oxygen, the biological processes won't take too long, depending on their engineered growth rates - but the the ethical situation about displacing existing life will have to be resolved. That will take more than 50 yeas.