We are constantly presented with forecasts, be they economic or otherwise. While it is pleasant to speculate on the future, we often overestimate the usefulness of forecasts which are mostly stabs in the dark even if cloaked in the appearance of science.
Recently a friend showed me an interesting document that I think shows how far off a forecast can be. It is titled The Soviet Space Challenge and was published by the US Department of Defense. It includes a preface by then Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger dated November 1987.
Students of history will recall that the Berlin Wall was pulled down in 1989, and the Soviet Union formerly ceased to exist in December 1991. I have copied a chart from the publication titled “Soviet vs. US Weight to Orbit” which shows an explosion (red line) in Soviet space capability from 1985 to 2005. The text states (p.20):
Clearly, the Soviets understand the long-term strategic importance of space. Their current and planned space programs and their developing capabilities are structured for maximum future exploitation of space operations. The chart on page 19 [below] clearly illustrates that between now and the year 2005 the Soviets will deploy a tremendous weight-to-orbit capability. Their identifiable launch requirements, we estimate, will be two to three times our own, while their projected launch capacity between 1990 and 2005 is nearly double any requirement that we can presently identify. This raises the possibility that the Soviets are already considering the lift requirements necessary to expand rapidly their large-scale military presence in space.
The lesson? Take forecasts and projections with a grain of salt. Be flexible so as to adapt to changing circumstances. Be prepared for events to unfold in ways not expected, anticipated or even considered improbable.