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That’s Not Newt’s Lunacy, Folks!

This is really getting on my nerves. Newt Gingrich proposes returning to the Gilded Age for child labor laws, financial regulation and environmental controls. He wants to go back at least to the 1950s for gay rights, reproductive rights, racial discrimination law, civil rights in general. People barely raise an eyebrow.

What’s the one thing he’s really being mocked for, the one idea that everyone’s cracking up over because it’s so crazy and stupid and out there?

He wants to bring space exploration and exploitation into the 21st century. He wants a permanent Moon base, built and maintained by the United States of America, the only country that’s been there so far.

Out of the whirling maelstrom of bad ideas that Newt Gingrich spews forth, the media has zeroed in on the only one that has a worthwhile core.

Why the hell don’t we have a permanent Moon base already? It’s been fifty fucking years since JFK set the challenge to safely land a manned mission there and bring it back, within the decade, and we did that with time to spare. We’ve had five damn decades of progress since then, developing new materials like carbon-fiber composites and aerogels and nanostructures, new sensors and power supplies and adaptive motors,  computer hardware and software developments jaw-droppingly more powerful and flexible. We’ve had half a shitting century of actual research and experience of space travel, of dealing with hard vacuum and hard radiation, extreme temperatures and accelerations, learning the failure modes of alloys, the subtleties of celestial navigation, the tricks and traps of building and maintaining structures in harsh and exotic conditions.

We’re roughly as far past the Apollo moon mission capsules, in calendar time, as they were past the Wright brothers’ wood-and-canvas prototype airplane. In terms of the accelerating technology curve, our technology would be indistinguishable from magic to Wilbur and Orville. Hell, it’s damn near that for those people who were adults when Armstrong made that one small step, just ask them! We carry phones that might as well be sorcerer’s periapts and think nothing of it, flying over the widest oceans is a matter of course, we treat all manner of medical conditions in outpatient clinics that would have killed our grandparents even with the best of available care.

Watching the Moon landing on television is literally one of my earliest memories. I grew up knowing humanity had visited another world; I cannot count the number of times I looked up at that serene silver face and felt the joy of that thought. I rejoiced in the robot missions too, seeing the sere sands of Mars, the titanic storms of Jupiter, the endless complexity of Saturn’s rings; I still sometimes think of Pioneer and Voyager on their endless outward journey beyond our solar system. The space program has enriched my life enormously.

Had you told me in the 1970s or 1980s that in the second decade of the twenty-first century people would be laughing at the ridiculousness of the very notion that America could build a permanent base on the Moon, I’d very likely have laughed in your face. I certainly wouldn’t have believed it.

Newt Gingrich is a megalomaniac, and a fool in many respects, and beyond question a cad who I would hate to see as President, but doesn’t it make you sad to think that that awful man is one of the few left with the faith in America to believe that we could do something like that, 50 years beyond Apollo?

How have we become so shrunken a people?

~ by BT Murtagh on January 27, 2012.

current events, History, Politics, Science, Technology, United States

7 Responses to “That’s Not Newt’s Lunacy, Folks!”

  1. Give them bread and circuses.

  2. You asked, “Why the hell don’t we have a permanent Moon Base already? ”

    Are ye daft, Man? Do you have any idea what such a project would cost? And what would be the profit gained by building and maintaining a permanent moon base? Won’t happen, Man… not in MY lifetime, nor in Newt’s, that’s for sure.

    Now, a manned flight to Mars, perhaps?

    Oh Yeah!

    • Well for starters it would make a manned flight to Mars easier!

      It would also provide the possibility of some ROI, by allowing some very dirty industrial processes outside a biosphere for example. I doubt it could be made to pay for itself but some defrayment is plausible. A trip to Mars, not so much; visits are almost pure cost.

      All that said, though, if the mocking were of the expense I could relate. There is a lot of Earthly infrastructure I’d put ahead of such a project myself. What irks me is that even intelligent people I respect (Rachel Maddow comes to mind) are acting like the possibility were beyond our capabilities, not just inappropriate to our present priorities; out of our reach, rather than merely our grasp.

  3. This has me wondering if Newt’s motive was to sound pro-science without his supporters accusing him of being anti-Christian or anti-America. Establishing a moon base under the American flag would be the work of a patriot, and wouldn’t involve the nasty business of evolution being in conflict with fundamentalist Christianity, or acknowledging the evidence of climate change. This is speculation on my part, but I can’t quite buy the idea that Newt is truly a pro-space exploration guy. I could be wrong about that, but he doesn’t strike me as the type.

  4. Look at the physics behind rocket propulsion. For a given mass sent to the moon you need a boatload of fuel. Moore’s law does not apply.

  5. The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits her astromen. http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/41983/detail/

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