I’m torn. Newt Gingrich keeps going on about ramping up space exploration. His lunar colony claims notwithstanding, this (if he actually were to follow through) would be an enormous step in the right direction. So, if he wins the Republican slot… I may have to vote for him! Please help. I need an opinion from an informed mind.
For my view on this (and the view of others), first see this post.
I’m but a humble biologist, and I happen to not like Newt Gingrich very much. But when we get past all that, I still think there’s ample reasons to not like this scheme.
The most cynical reaction would be to say that Newt Gingrich was just saying this to pander to space-proud Florida voters ahead of their primary. But he’s talked about a moon base during debates, so let’s let him off the hook there.
Then one really has to look at his idea standing on its own. Listen, everyone who’s amazed and curious and scientifically inclined in even one fingernail would LOVE to go the moon, and have a base there. And I think it would be a great thing to dedicate our nation’s scientific energy toward. But not how he drew it up.
By 2020? Notgonnahappen. We have the engineers to get this done by 2020. We are smart enough. But I’ll let Phil Plait tell you why there’s so many other reasons we couldn’t meet that goal if we tried.
He wants to take money from NASA to give to entrepreneurs. Great idea, but what fledgling private space company can justify the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars it would cost to get this done? How would they make their money back? Part of why NASA exists is to do risky research with money that doesn’t need to be turned into a profit. Private space flight will be part of our future, but not like this, and not yet.
If we asked NASA to do it, it would take 1/4 of their budget every year to get it done, and that’s just for four people, and doesn’t include a rocket. What happens to all those other projects that NASA is working on? Cancelled. Mars rovers, climate science, solar observation, James Webb telescope … all on the chopping block.
A moon mission would inspire our nation to lead in science for the 21st century. And we should make it part of our plans for the future. But not by depending solely on entrepreneurs, not by taking funding from NASA, and not by setting dates that can’t be met. You can’t just pretend to be John F. Kennedy.
I’ll be clear: A lunar colony is an awesome idea, and Newt shouldn’t be made fun of for it. But he’s completely wrong in terms of how and when it could happen.
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