Moon Base Newt

Wait until you hear about Newt Gingrich's new out of this world idea.

Let’s say you’re running for President of the United States at a time when the economy is weak, the Federal Budget is a mess, and our infrastructure is badly in need of repair. Let’s also say your running in a party that believes in small government and getting the budget deficits under control. What do you do. Why, of course, you propose a massive Federal program to build permanent bases on the Moon by 2020:

COCOA, Fla.–Appealing to residents of the state’s economically struggling “Space Coast,” Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich promised to have a permanent U.S. base on the moon by the end of his second term as president.

To cheers and applause in an area that has suffered major job losses since the cancellation of the space shuttle, Gingrich said, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.

“We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model of the development of the airlines of the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching.”

He also said that by the end of 2020, the country would have “the first continuous propulsion system in space” capable of allowing people travel to Mars. “I am sick of being told we have to be timid, and I am sick of being told we have to be limited in technologies that are 50 years old,” the former House speaker told the crowd at a “space roundtable” he hosted at a Holiday Inn.

Responding to rival Mitt Romney’s criticism of his proposal for a lunar settlement, Gingrich said, “When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state. And here’s the difference between romantics and so-called practical people. I wanted every young American to say to themselves, ‘I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be a part of building a bigger, better future.’ “

As to that last point about statehood for the Moon (or would that be planetoid-hood?), Gingrich may not be aware that the United States has been a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty since 1967 under which the Moon and other outer space “property” is defined as a “common heritage for all mankind,” barring any single nation from claiming dominion over it. But there’s so much more to it than that. This is Newt Gingrich after all, the guy who once talked about the physical benefits of honeymoon’s in zero gravity and talked about space as a tourist destination. It all seems very wacky and, in a nation where Congress spends months in tight battles over how to cut the budget to pay for some new program, pretty much an impossibility under current conditions.

But that doesn’t matter to Gingrich, who has his feet firmly planted in the ground of “national greatness” (i.e., big government) conservatism, where the idea of massive national projects like a manned space program, or failing that a war, is the necessary for America to achieve its destiny. Gabriel Malor puts it best with regard to that part of Gingrich’s philosophy:

The idea that we must have some culturally significant and symbolic government project to spur the next generation to new heights of blah blah blah is utter crap. The moon race and the space agency incidentally aided other industries. And it eventually gave us Tang and that weird freeze-dried astronaut icecream stuff. Which is very cool and all, but I suggest to you that neither represents a GREAT WORK in the history of mankind that we would be worse off for not having.

(…)

We’ve been to the Moon. There’s nothing there. There was nothing there then and there’s still nothing there except the garbage we left behind the first times we were there.

We’ve scoped and prodded and had our little mouse droids running all over Mars. There’s nothing there either. Nothing that would justify spending taxpayer money, anyway, chasing a dream so that Newt Gingrich can call himself “visionary.”

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make for good politics, though:

Communities along Florida’s Space Coast, built on the optimism and industry of the space program, are in economic peril. The area’s 12 percent unemployment rate—2½ points higher than the national average—is expected to rise to 15 percent over the next year, mostly as a result of the space industry contraction. Meanwhile, as America dithers, Russia, China, India, and other countries are expanding their shares of the space market.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Newt is bringing this up in Florida. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an incredibly silly and impractical idea, of course, but at least we know he’s a panderer and not some guy who thinks Luna is going to be the 51st state.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Science & Technology, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Fiona says:

    This is the Newt we know and love–the one with grandiose, expensive, completely unworkable ideas. Colonizing the moon may play well along the Space Coast of Florida but just think of the fun the Obama team will have with this stuff come the general election should Newt manage to get the nomination.

    Newt in fantasy land. . . I hope someone brings up this idea at the debate tonight. That should make for some classic Newt theater.

    Nancy Pelosi is right. He’ll never be president.

  2. “Lunatic?”

  3. Andy Gaboury says:

    I think Newt Gingrich takes things way too far on the statehood for the moon thing and the inherent nationalism but I believe it is a bad idea to pooh-pooh big ideas. The space program did a heck of a lot more for science and technology than tang and astronaut ice cream. From microchips to velcro to water filters, the space program has been a hotbed for scientific innovation. This is not to say we need a Moon Colony but I certainly think that re-engaging that kind pf program is a good idea. If the future is all science, engineering and math then why not utilize resources to fund programs that will inspire the next generation to shoot for the stars. I think international collaboration for future manned space exploration is a valuable and necessary component of advancing human society and imaginations.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    Full disclosure…I was at the press location for the very first Shuttle launch STS-1, and for the first Shuttle landing at the Cape. My older brother worked at the Cape, in the VAB, for the entire duration of the Shuttle Program. My parents and another brother live on the Space Coast.
    And I still think Newt’s must be smoking some really good weed to come up with this brainstorm. I’m all for a “National Project”…Build-Baby-Build…but this ain’t it.

  5. ed says:
  6. mattb says:

    And just remember… as late as 2007, Newt was on record stating that a Freddie Mac/GSE model is an excellent model for space exploration:

    I think a GSE for space exploration ought to be seriously considered – I’m convinced that if NASA were a GSE, we probably would be on Mars today.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080909224217/http://www.freddiemac.com/corporate/about/policy/policytalk_gingrich_42407.html

    Snark aside, it’s actually a good approach, but it’s one that will set the average red meat conservative’s head spinning.

  7. @Andy Gaboury:

    There was an opportunity cost, though. Monies which went to NASA did not go to State Universities.

    Thinking of it that way, with so few practical opportunities in space, are they (rather than say energy) where the dollar should go?

    The opportunity costs are real, and the GOP choice seems (as noted above) in a National Greatness vision rather than sensible allocation or resources.

  8. @mattb:

    I’m afraid a GSE needs a return. A ROI. Space (far space) thus far provides none. There are no spices, gold, nor Indian maidens.

    Near space is great for satellites, ones we all use every day. And we seem to be privatizing that orbital shell, which seems fine.

  9. (I”m pro “small science” with many, many, grants $1B to large contractors.)

  10. Andy Gaboury says:

    @john personna: You’re assuming a zero sum game. This is not about robbing Peter to pay Paul but rather to understand that priorities are important. If we took a tiny fraction of the money that goes to agricultural subsidies or raised taxes from capital gains or billionaires then we wouldn’t have to act as if we must choose between public education and scientific research.
    Also specifically about energy and medical research, I’m pretty sure that investment in science in general is a pretty good way to increase our innovation across the board.

  11. @Andy Gaboury:

    I’m assuming a fixed research budget, yes.

    But really, remember that research is always cheap compared to production. Solar research was always tiny. It was those partnerships with manufacturers that ran up costs and got the administration in trouble.

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) had a budget of $328 million in 2009. That same year NASA had a budget of $17.6 billion. (source Wikipedia)

    What the hell, eh? It’s not like our domestic energy problem is 1/55th our “space problem.”

  12. (I didn’t really finish the thought that NASA pays for a lot of “production,” that does little. The research was more valuable than the actual Space Station, and I mean that in scientific returns. That which was actually discovered on the thing was minimal.)

  13. Rob in CT says:

    The bang-for-the-buck is in unmanned missions. I get the warm fuzzies for NASA too, but come on.

    But then Dubya had a moon mission thing in his second term. It didn’t make any sense to me then and it doesn’t make any to me now.

    I think it’s just a play for voter nostalgia.

  14. Just to run on with this thought, note that Republicans would zero out the NREL while expanding the NASA.

    Is it psycho, or do they want to keep the efforts from being practical?

  15. @Rob in CT:

    I agree that the probes/robots seem to discover things at reasonable costs.

    And remember GWB went Mars-Mad not Lunatic! That was even more bizarre.

  16. Franklin says:

    I have no problem with funding for ambitious space programs (I’d gladly trade it for any number of things in the current federal budget). But Newt is pandering and also pretending he’s a grandiose thinker again. Not impressed.

  17. Rob in CT says:

    This is the same party that gleefully got rid of that awful Pelosi woman’s CFL lighting in the capitol, right?

    The same party that gleefully took solar panels off the White House because that stupid Jimmy Carter fella had put them on.

    Modern Conservatism: against whatever liberals are for (updated daily). Actual interest in conserving? Very little.

  18. mattb says:

    @john personna:
    Good point. The only things I could think of is the related IP generated by research and the mineral rights. But neither of those really make sense (though the transport costs alone probably would negate any value).

  19. @Rob in CT:

    The same party that gleefully took solar panels off the White House because that stupid Jimmy Carter fella had put them on.

    Those panels have had an interesting life since. Oh, the places you’ll see? The tale of the travelling panels? link.

  20. anjin-san says:

    Newt Gingrich promised to have a permanent U.S. base on the moon by the end of his second term as president.

    Well, he also said that business would start hiring again his first day in office. There is just no limit to his wonderfulness. Of course he forgot to mention that we are already in a job recovery.

  21. @john personna:

    Oh, this comment got tweaked … the effect of using greater and less than signs. IMO a broken parser at OTB. Those characters surrounded by spaces should be retained. Anyway, it should look like this:

    I”m pro “small science” with many, many, grants less than $100K to college professors and fewer greater than $1B to large contractors.

  22. Speaking of small science, and remote monitoring, look what this guy did for only a point and shoot camera and a $75 airframe.

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    The money would be better spent trying to keep the rock we live on habitable.

  24. Rick DeMent says:

    Newt is riding the lunar pander.

  25. rodney dill says:

    @john personna:

    I’m afraid a GSE needs a return. A ROI. Space (far space) thus far provides none. There are no spices, gold, nor Indian maidens.

    Near space is great for satellites, ones we all use every day. And we seem to be privatizing that orbital shell, which seems fine.

    The benefits of the space program far exceed the use of satellites. It’s easy to find examples just by surfacing the web. It’s hard to find a comprehensive list, but NASA has a good archive of Spinoffs.

    http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/back_issues_archives.html

    I do agree that some form of ROI is necessary to justify Far space exploration (Mars or Asteroid belt or beyond.)

  26. @rodney dill:

    Spin-offs do not support the idea that you need a NASA. They support the idea that you need government R&D.

    Do you really support that in the general form, and then do you make the argument that NASA is the most efficient possible vehicle for government research? Hasn’t DARPA kicked ass as well, for less?

    Related: Toronto Teens Send Lego Minifig to Space

  27. (Maybe I’m treating you too much as a generic rightist, Rodney, but I sort of expect that you are against government R&D in general, but make an exception for NASA? Where would you set NREL funding?)

  28. rodney dill says:

    @john personna:

    Spin-offs do not support the idea that you need a NASA. They support the idea that you need government R&D.

    True, but it is harder to create solutions to problems (at least from an engineering perspective) when you have open ended problems, and don’t have an end goal in mind. I have no problem with NREL funding, but I’m certainly not informed enough in that area to set a desired funding level for myself. I probably would want it higher than funding for NEA (The National Endowment of Arts). (Maybe it already is, that is just an off the cuff remark)

    Once you get a technology to a level where funding further development becomes more directly associated with a market/business/capital venture, then maybe less government involvement is needed and more private sector funding should be involved. I don’t believe NASA nor the government necessarily continues to fund the further development of these spinoffs for private sector businesses/uses. In some cases they probably do. I certainly didn’t go through all the archives at this point, though I was please that I finally found a fairly complete list for my own reference. (I just found that archive today.)

  29. rodney dill says:

    @john personna: I’ll check out DARPA. I suspect they would end up working on and solving a different set of technical problems, though no doubt there would be areas of overlap.

  30. @rodney dill:

    Of course we have practical goals at NREL (to reduce energy costs in the US) and at NIH (to reduce health care costs in the US), etc.

    Those are actually more practical goals that the artificial ones like “a man on the moon,” for all the glamour of the latter.

    My argument for reduced NASA spending, and increased other, is in fact that we have plenty of concrete and real goals to go around. Agriculture? I bet you can think of some goals there.

  31. @rodney dill:

    I’m sure you know that we have this discussion on a DARPA creation.

  32. Andre Kenji says:

    In fact, there is a use for colonies in the Moon: Mining. I´m not a fan of space projects inspired by science fiction movies, but this could be at least interesting.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    JP – cool link about those solar panels.

    From the article:

    A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people

    Jimmy Carter, 1979. What a fool that guy was, eh?

    I was too young to remember his Presidency. In my household growing up, he was alternatively described as a fool and a demon (apparently personally responsible for the top marginal income tax rate bracket). Pictures of Reagan on the mantle, etc. You know the drill.

    Now, I find myself looking back to the years immediately following my birth and wondering about the silly old peanut farmer President.

  34. rodney dill says:

    @john personna:

    Those are actually more practical goals that the artificial ones like “a man on the moon,” for all the glamour of the latter.

    I’m not really defending the practicality of the “Man on the Moon” goal, just the practicality and applicability of the spinoff technologies, that otherwise may not have even been conceived. I’m also not necessarily not arguing against you, I just responded that there are for more applications of NASA related technology than satellites. I certainly don’t think a massive increase in NASA funding is warranted at this time, but I’ll keep an open mind.

    Agriculture? I bet you can think of some goals there.

    I’m not sure I can think of goals here that would yield the same technology developments, (i.e. I’m not really interested in trying either) as the Space Program, or even DARPA. NREL seems a more natural fit for technology development.

    I’m sure you know that we have this discussion on a DARPA creation.

    Aw… You burst my bubble. I thought it was Al Gore. 😉

  35. Tlaloc says:

    The idea that we must have some culturally significant and symbolic government project to spur the next generation to new heights of blah blah blah is utter crap. The moon race and the space agency incidentally aided other industries. And it eventually gave us Tang and that weird freeze-dried astronaut icecream stuff. Which is very cool and all, but I suggest to you that neither represents a GREAT WORK in the history of mankind that we would be worse off for not having.

    He’s a complete idiot. If the Apollo missions don’t qualify as a great work of humanity nothing does. What those astronauts (and all the support staff, scientists, and yes even politicians) made happen was probably the single greatest triumph of history to date. Using technology we wouldn’t deign to run a window-shield wiper they sent people 380,000 km in a tin can and got them back safely.

    As for a permanent moon base:
    It’d be incredibly hard and there’s a good chance of failure. We’d have to accept that. But there’s a real chance we could do it if we committed. And the payoff in terms of technology spin offs, as with Apollo, would be fantastic. Building a self sustaining environment on the moon (and it would have to be almost entirely self sustaining given the cost of moving goods to the moon) would hugely advance our environmental technology.

    On the other hand doesn’t this run entirely contrary to the GOP view that government is good for nothing (except killing brown people) and that taxes are an abomination? Does Newt think he can run such a project on charity?

  36. @rodney dill:

    OK, to keep the discussion going. Consider agriculture. I think one of the reasons conservatives like space is because it doesn’t compete with anyone. The lack of ROI becomes a benefit. In agriculture, huge monies are spent by DuPont and Monsanto, with the goal of extracting as much profit as possible from each farm. An agriculture program which sought to reduce costs for farmers, to improve the health of farms and food, might actually be contrary to DuPont and Monsanto goals. So … keep our eyes on the moon?

    (Al Gore’s bill did fund roll-out to you and me.)

  37. (Remember, SuperSoaker guy was a NASA scientist until he was downsized. He’s now created far more economic gains, and far more exports, than he did there.)

  38. grumpy realist says:

    If Newt were honestly interested in a Moon/Mars base, he’d come out pushing for developing a Space Elevator to get the cost-to-orbit down.

    Since he hasn’t, I’m putting all of this down to Newt running his mouth off again.

  39. roger says:

    – Moonbase Alpha in 8 years. (Space 2020!)

    – Talking about a second term as president when he still hasn’t secured the first term.

    – Granting the Moon statehood.

    If you’re going to dream, may as well dream big!

    We choose to go to the moon. Not because it is easy or hard but because well, he needs the primary votes.

  40. Stan says:

    @Andy Gaboury: I thought mankind got velcro from T’Pol.

  41. MBunge says:

    Christopher Columbus – “You see, my Queen, if you could just see your way through to funding my expedition…”

    Isabella – “Idiot! Like I don’t have better uses for that money here in Spain!”

    Mike

  42. john personna says:

    @MBunge:

    We’ve done the equivalent of Columbus’ trips. That’s my point. We found rocks.

  43. Steve Verdon says:

    Love the Space 1999 image, remember watching that show as a kid.

  44. Steve,

    I was wondering when someone would pick up on that.

  45. MBunge says:

    @john personna: “We’ve done the equivalent of Columbus’ trips. That’s my point. We found rocks.”

    Sigh. Columbus spent the better part of 3 months in the New World on his first voyage and didn’t exactly return with a king’s ransom. The larger point is that unless you think Humanity is never going to get off this little mudball, the sooner we make it into space the better. If you do think Man is never going to get beyond the Earth…well, you better rethink the long-term implications of that. Hint – they ain’t great.

    The even larger point is that this sort of stuff is one of the main reasons I prefer Gingrich to Romney. Not because a moon base isn’t a silly or impractical idea, which it may be. It’s because it has nothing to do with either hating Democrats or protecting the rich and powerful. Do people like Tom DeLay or Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney give a shit about anything except that?

    It’s fair to blame Newt Gingrich for a lot of the degenerate, devolved, know-nothing state of today’s conservatism and GOP. It is just as true that Newt predates all that and is occasionally capable of thinking and even feeling outside the ideological echo chamber he helped created.

    Mike

  46. Rob in CT says:

    @MBunge:

    The age of exploration was well underway: other nations were going after the same thing (which was, remember, a way of cutting out the middle men in the ME – getting goods from the Far East directly). There was a tangible goal, and competition. Granted, European explorers ended up pulling off not only the original goal but also the discovery of the “New World” and… well, you know the rest.

    This is a lot more vague. Yes, the Chinese are working up a space program. That’s nice. I don’t want ours to end. But a moon base (around 2020, the end of Newt’s second term)? Do you really think that’s a good idea?

  47. Rob in CT says:

    Hmm, crosspost.

    Yes, Columbus didn’t strike it rich right away. He had to come back, start enslaving people, etc. before the benefits really started to kick in (and, IIRC, didn’t he die poor, disgraced or both?). Cortes & Pizzaro were the guys who carved out Spain’s New World empire.

    Um… what does this have to do with the moon? The analogy just doesn’t work, sorry.

    I too hope humanity gets off this mudball someday. I hope we’re a big part of that. Right now, though, this idea – this idea right here – seems dumb.

  48. anjin-san says:

    It is just as true that Newt predates all that and is occasionally capable of thinking and even feeling outside the ideological echo chamber he helped created.

    The idea of a moon base has been around longer than most of us have been alive. Not sure I am ready to give Newt credit for being a visionary here. This is about pandering to Florida voters. Nothing else.

  49. sam says:

    “When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state.”

    Maybe he’s been reading Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress — Wait a minute…

  50. Brett says:

    @Gabriel Malor

    We’ve been to the Moon. There’s nothing there. There was nothing there then and there’s still nothing there except the garbage we left behind the first times we were there.

    Actually, we’re still learning a good deal from the 800+ lbs of moon rocks brought back. By the way, that’s far, far more than all the unmanned probes combined have brought back.

    We’ve scoped and prodded and had our little mouse droids running all over Mars. There’s nothing there either.

    We’ve explored a tiny fraction of Mars’ surface from the ground, and there may be life there underground in certain areas. Think of the philosophical and scientific implications. On top of that, our robots are still not even remotely as capable as a human expedition a la Mars Direct would be. You could more research with a single human mission to Mars for a couple of months than with 20 Mars Pathfinders.

    That said, colonization beyond Earth Orbit isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. The colonization of the Americas and trans-oceanic trade had some huge rewards that more than offset the appalling dangers for most migrants (such as 1000% returns on tobacco farming in the Virginia Colony). Trans-orbital space has nothing like that yet, and NASA’s not going to be the agency to do that (they’re too politicized over even short term periods).

  51. @MBunge:

    If we keep looking we’ll find Zsa Zsa Gabor and the girls?

    No. We know what the moon has, is made of, and the economics are all off.

    The only reason to mine the moon is to build on the moon. And the only reason to build on the moon is to mine it. As evocative as the old movies and Space 1999 (and miniskirts in general) are, it doesn’t work to break out of that catch-22.

  52. @Brett:

    Actually, we’re still learning a good deal from the 800+ lbs of moon rocks brought back.

    Right, but with no value beyond their human-space history. We know know the same rocks are scattered across Arizona (and elsewhere, just easier to find there) as meteorites.

  53. @MBunge:

    To return to one issue:

    Humanity is never going to get off this little mudball, the sooner we make it into space the better.

    Every year it gets cheaper, through better tech. Why exactly is this year, with a monster deficit and debt, the time to do it?

    Seriously MBunge, you are one of the debt reduction, guys, right? You are a spending reduction guy, right?

    WTF, man. I know “the crazy party” is the crazy party, but why demonstrate it to us now, in the wind-up to a campaign year?

    I guess just as there is a “but, but … Obama!” the is a “but, but … NASA!”

  54. Brett says:

    The Arizona rocks have been hit by contamination and weather, whereas the ones we brought back are pristine and new.

    Besides, assigning “no value” to it seems very premature. A lot of scientific investigations over the centuries could have been deemed “of no value” at the time, even when they brought about some interesting changes in scientific thought later on.

  55. @Brett:

    So tell me the value difference?

    It’s not like we found life. If it is just weathering difference, those don’t distract from the story of the rock’s type and formative environment.

    BTW, what are YOUR views on the deficit?

  56. (This really does seem to come down to “but, but .. NASA!” It’s an emotional appeal and not one that can be defended with logic about how this year, 2012 is the year we should spend big on manned space.)

  57. Brett says:

    @john personna

    BTW, what are YOUR views on the deficit?

    My views are that it’s basically irrelevant to the space program, since the year-to-year amount spent on it is so small in comparison to the overall budget that reductions in it don’t save us anything while costing us a lot in terms of scientific research and prestige. Hell, we could spend the $4 billion a year on a Mars Direct program for ten years, and the whole thing would be a rounding error in the budget in terms of size.

    As for the “emotional” appeal, let me ask you something. Many scientists throughout history, from Galileo on down, could have had somebody come up to them and ask them why they weren’t trying to grow crops or build houses instead of fiddling around with those funny equations and goofy experiments. How much better off do you think we would be if they had listened?

    Like I said, the truth is that the space program enriches us, scientifically at the very least, and quite often in ways that we don’t expect (such as the “Earth rise” photograph and the environmental movement). At the very least, it reminds us that there’s a giant universe out there, and it affects us directly.

  58. Jenos Idanian says:

    Two quotes come to mind:

    “Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Cosmonaut Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

    “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?” Poet Robert Browning.

  59. Tlaloc says:

    So tell me the value difference?

    Well a pretty obvious one is that if the moon rocks have O and possibly H, in the form of silicates for instance (for the O), then that makes a moon base a hell of a lot more possible. Transporting water to the moon is impractical on the scale necessary to start a stable ecology (and make up for inevitable losses to space). Having the raw materials to produce it on site is a lot better.

    Also as for your argument that the only reason for a moon base is to mine the moon, that’s also wrong. If an advanced moon base were produced it would be the logical site from which to launch future space missions, as a huge amount of energy is wasted simply getting to earth orbit. Furthermore I’d wager that there are any number of low g manufacturing techniques to be discovered. The lack of any significant atmosphere makes the moon an ideal place to locate telescopes that are too large for orbit. similarly, and because the same face is always pointed towards the earth, the moon makes sense as a place to put earth monitoring sensors that are unsuitable for satellites.

  60. Tlaloc says:

    If you were really going to do it you’d start by seeding the moon with robots that would put in place a lot of the basic infrastructure before you ever put another person back on the surface. The cost would be enormous and the time frame is such that it would have to be a national priority for way more than one president’s tenure. I really suspect our politics is far too schizophrenic and nihilistic to even get started on such a project.

    Which is a pity.

  61. Doubter4444 says:

    I’m not a fan of the “what if the other side said it” kind of argument, but could you imagine if Obama said he wanted to try this? If he said that he wanted to go back to the moon, much less said he wanted to put a colony on there?

    All the reasoned arguments of national greatness and grand gestures would be out the window!

  62. @Brett:

    But that doesn’t work for all the programs conservatives have attacked of which cost less than NASA. NPR?

    And then there’s this:

    Scientists are regarding it as yet another attack on science by a political party that has, in the words of GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, become “the antiscience party.”

    A 2012 spending bill expected to be approved this week slashes the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) budget by a whopping 32 percent. The cuts “will have real consequences on OSTP’s operations,” said spokesperson Rick Weiss.

    “But, but .. NASA!” indeed.

  63. @Tlaloc:

    The water thing is the circular argument again. Research on a moon base to justify a moon base.

    You know we’ve been hunting for “zero-G manufacturing” that beats the economic costs since Skylab. Basically, 1G manufacturing works too well to make that necessary. An amazing array of 1G materials have spread into use in that time. There are advanced composites, ceramics, that wonderful Gorilla Glass, etc.

  64. Or this:

    There is no more telling illustration than the National Institutes of Health, the center of U.S. medical research and the largest such institution in world. House Republicans want to cut NIH funding for the current year by more than $1 billion, to $29.5 billion. Obama proposes a small increase in NIH funding.

  65. Alex Tabarrok is far more libertarian than I, but I think he’s written a pretty good related essay at The Atlantic: The Innovation Nation vs. the Warfare-Welfare State

  66. Rob in CT says:

    I have no problem with the government funding research. In fact, that’s one area of the budget I’d really want to increase, finding my cuts elsewhere (the big boys: Medicare/Medicaid, SS, Defense).

    Yes, there would be research done in a mission to build a moon base, much like Apollo required research, and that’s good. But I just don’t see the bang for the buck, right now. I’d rather we fund basic research on a variety of things and wait a bit. If/when we get our fiscal house in order and find ourselves in a better economic position, with better tech to boot, perhaps we can revisit the moon base thing (or Mars, which I’d find more interesting personally).

    So: yes, yes, reseach! No moonbattery, though. 😉

  67. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    Yeah, I’m basically down with that argument.

    I’m sure Tabarrock and I differ on the value of the “welfare state” side of things, but fundamentally (heh, in a thread about Newt I say fundamentally), the welfare state is about addressing issues after the fact. Research funding that provides innovation and spurs economic growth could help out on the front end, which I think we’d all rather see.

    Regarding his discussion on regulation, well, it’s hard to say without specifics. I’d say the obvious solution to the problem he lays out with regs is increased standardization. Fewer regs, and fewer agencies overseeing them, but not necessarily looser regulations. I suspect he probably favors removing the federal layer (he is a libertarian, right?), but he doesn’t spell it out. I’m not sure how I feel about that. For instance, if the reg in question is about air quality: air moves and doesn’t give a damn about state lines. Water too. The alternative is greater centralization (leave the federal layer, and hand over more too it), which a libertarian would hate and makes even me uneasy.

    I bang on about this because I see the consequences in my work. Ignore something, sweep it under the proverbial rug, and 30 years later it’s probably still there and now it’s an expensive problem. And from what I can see, the Right is all about rug-sweepin’ when it comes to environmental regulation. We’ve tried that. The result was terrible air quality, polluted rivers (and acquifers), etc. It took decades to improve to where we are now (and we still have problems now!).

    I certainly understand the frustration of someone who wants to build something useful and finds themselves trying to meet the demands of three layers of government (multiple agencies per layer). I just don’t know how to alleviate that w/o opening the door to more pollution.

  68. Vast Variety says:

    They could name their state Capital Tycho City.

    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Tycho_City

  69. @Vast Variety:

    That leads the whole question … doesn’t Newt know how this plays out? Lunar independence and then domination of earth, too vulnerable deep in its gravity well.

  70. Alpha2012 says: