“Al Gore Invented The Internet.”
So when Newt Gingrich promises the moon (literally), shouldn’t we get a little skeptical?
It’s not a secret why Newt promises the moon in Florida. A significant chunk of NASA is housed there, as well as multiple industries tied to the expensive promotion of spaceflight. And as Floridians face a manufacturing crunch from budget cuts in Washington, Newt is promising a moon base in shorter time than President Kennedy promised a man on the moon before the end of the decade. If you remember July 20th, 1969, we sure cut that close. We also lost the president, fought a Cold War, and started Vietnam to get the will to get there.
For pundits and politicos, it’s pretty easy to see that Newt’s list of successes isn’t vetted by the voting public in these early primary states. The most obvious vote-getter is knowing that Florida votes always go space. It’s not rocket science to understand the metrics of manufacturing and jobs that Florida lives off of. No one dares connect NASA money on the conservative stump, unless they’re in Florida. Newt’s smart, but only if the public remains dumb enough to buy the shtick.
And against every principle of a fiscal conservative today, Newt is actually gathering votes after promoting a federal expenditure that once occupied 4% of our federal budget. That alone should worry people who are left with no one else. I’d suggest Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have an outside shot, but resettling with Mitt would burn the GOP on re-entry as it were.
When Newt promises a permanent moon base, he doesn’t expect you to figure out how much that will cost, how difficult it is in practice, and how big government needs to be in order to accomplish it. He only expects you to buy his dream sequence, and stop asking questions. More on this later as Newt will invariably pivot to China fear to cover his promises.
To go to the moon, in Newt’s mind, is as fantastic and farcical as my own fictional thoughts (I say at least 20 years at best). The long-term capability and goals of putting anything in high-Earth orbit will require the cooperation of all three first-world powers. China, the U.S., and the EU will have to pony up serious cash just to put human payload near the moon again, and would have to launch random components constantly for an entire decade in order to prepare an infrastructure capable of habitation on the ashy satellite.
Meaning, we’d have to get stuff up there first, assemble it, and then hold our breath when we flip the switch on the wum-wum oxygen machine. And that’s after we check to see if a solar flare roasts us, a seal rupture jettisons our corpses into space, or a micrometeorite compromises the hull in our sleep.
Past the goldmine of sci-fi writing, space exploration is a serious endeavor we should pursue. The difference, however, is acknowledgement of facts pertaining to such a large and infinite dream.
Citizens would have to pay. We would have to accept the burden of not only current debt, but future debt. Yes, the debt-limit debate would be out the window under Newt.
There’s a consequence for large expeditures, subsidies, and hypocrisy for a U.S. economy that already hit 100% debt-to-GDP. If you actually read what Newt promises, you can see why people are worried about his volatility, and his pie-in-the-sky promises.
Launch costs already push past thousands of dollars per pound, and the only way we’re going up there on the cheap is going to require far more than just “prizes” for discovery. And when it sounds too good to be true, you should wonder as well about the candidate promising them. You should also wonder what his conservative bona-fides are as well. The judgment of a candidate who claims he can do all of these things (let alone that we’d have to re-elect him) should concern Florida, because they should know why Newt promises Florida all this space cash. The same conservatives should also ask why we should spend money on South Carolina’s port, which was Newt’s crowning talking point going into SC last week.
Might as well wait for Newt to promise Nevada that there will also be permanent casinos on the Moon shortly thereafter, “to spur the economic growth of a new settlement of capitalism”.
And I’m only half-joking there. I bet Trump’s already signed an NDA for future development of space casino resorts.
And just to cover all bases, if the alternative spin of SpaceNewt is to “threaten China”, we’re in for a losing cause. We don’t carry the will in Congress to spend, and despite what claims are made about China’s military capability, their Beidou GPS system is still in trial-phase, and their 2020 aircraft carrier is a retrofitted Russkie boat
And if we’re that pre-emptive on burgeoning economies and space exploration, a Newt Administration would just end up spending even more money chasing war-mongering windmills. And there’s a distinct possibility of rekindling a pseudo Cold War: a pipedream for neoconservative elitists.
All we need is fear.
So tomorrow, another debate looms, and more questions from a timid press will bore us as much as SOTU last night. Full disclosure: The State of the Union address last night put me down for the night. It’s more potent than any prescribed medication. Do not operate heavy machinery. And Congress still has to do something about our payroll taxes, our still-high unemployment numbers, and just about everything else under the sun that will breach our debt-limit.
And Newt promises the Moon…
Congress can’t provide the funding necessary to shoot the Moon, let alone take a picture of it. If it were able to fund Newt’s haphazard dreams, we wouldn’t have cut the NASA budget so dramatically, killed the space shuttle program, and remain in limbo for our next reusable spacecraft project. Congress would’ve supported continuous funding no matter the partisan platform.
Past a buyer’s remorse moment, when folks realize that South Carolina isn’t exactly the best Yelp review for president, there’s little standing in the way of promises galore from here on out. To do what we want in NewtWorld will require more than just taxing millionaires. It will require vast amounts of spending and debt we don’t have room for. Without a strong level of growth prior to our expansion and expenditures, we shouldn’t start spending on programs without an upper end. I mean, isn’t that what all conservatives advocate on the local level? Spending within means?
Do as I say, not as I do.
Apollo was axed not for advancements in science and technology, but the Senators who killed it. They knew the polls were slipping, and each time the Saturn V lit, money was launched into the air that they’d have to justify somehow. Apollo was going to burden them, and short-sighted politicians did the rest.
If we’re serious about space, let’s be serious about the risks, costs and sacrifice necessary to accomplish a goal to put a permanent outpost on the Moon. Let’s be serious about the capital investment required, and for a reality-check, remind ourselves that China’s still looking ahead to Phase III of their lunar exploration timeline: collecting soil samples.
It’s not going to be a prize of a few million dollars to get us there, or space tourism flight fee structures. The Moon requires the same effort that Project Apollo handled over a span of 13 years, not including the precursor programs of Mercury and Gemini before it. It would require hundreds of millions of dollars a year of R&D, likely for a solid decade, and then a further commitment across Administrations and Congresses, possibly even the ESA and CSNA contributing work to share the burden of cost.
I am in support of a space program that will send us to the moon. By 2020, we’d easily have capability for a robot- like Wall-E to traipse about the lunar regolith. By 2030-2035, we could be closer to a science outpost along the lines of Antarctica.
By 2050, maybe a casino.
And Trump can be the first to declare bankruptcy on the Moon as well, eh?