Why we will never have a Moon base

(or That’s No Moon…It’s a Space Station)

Recently, former Speaker Newt Gingrich made some wild promises about establishing a base on the Moon by 2020. For those who don’t know this was nothing but empty pandering to the people of Florida. The idea has made Gingrich a laughing stock in the eyes of the public if not the media.

And now the top 5 reasons why this idea is not hot air, but empty vacuum.

1. We don’t need no stinkin’ badges…
The proposed idea is a violation of American and international law. Since 1967, there have been a number of treaties proposed, many which have been ratified by the U.S., which specifically prohibit the kind of colonization proposed by the former Speaker. It would not prohibit a science-based station, similar to the ones in Antarctica, but a privately funded colony is out of the question.

2. You can’t get there from here…
We do not have a vehicle that could  sustain a lunar colony. The perpetual cuts to the space program and the lack of focus on anything beyond low earth orbit for manned missions means we do not have a rocket with enough capacity to efficiently transport personnel, supplies, equipment and building materials to the Moon. Developing such a vehicle would require at least a decade of development and testing. It would also mean NASA would need a huge influx of cash or it would need to abandon all of its scientific programs.

3. I’d buy that for a dollar…
The Gingrich plan depends upon private capital to invest and sustain a colony. But private industry has zero interest in a lunar colony for one simple reason: there is no money in it. Neither tourism, nor mining, nor industry would pay anything close to a return on investment. Pure research is an expense, not a profit stream. Any CEO who proposed Moon base would be voted out that same day.

4. Have you tried reversing the polarity?…
There is no overwhelming scientific reason to do it. Don’t get me wrong; a Moon base is a cool idea. But it is an idea that must be properly planned and executed to be of any worth to science. We could still learn a lot from the Moon. In the meantime, however, there are many scientific missions which are in jeopardy, such as the James Webb telescope (the successor to Hubble), due to funding issues. We have limited resources and so must choose our goals accordingly.

5. Newt Gingrich doesn’t care about space people…
The money spent on the space program is not burnt in the rockets. It is the salaries of our most valuable scientists and engineers, as well as payments to vendors of high tech components. The very people and companies we need to help pull us out of a faltering economy. If he feels so strongly about America as a space faring nation, why did Gingrich keep cutting NASA’s budget. During his reign as Speaker, funding dropped from US$18.5 billion to US$15.5 billion (adjusted for inflation to 2007 dollars). That’s a drop from a little over 1% of the federal budget to 0.86% by 1998. That is not a stellar record by any measure (pun intended).

The simple facts are this: It’s an election year and he was in Florida, home of the space program. Assuming he’s elected, he knows he can blame Congress when they don’t approve the budget. Or if, in the tiniest of chances, they did, then he goes down in history alongside Kennedy as a great space explorer.

The American people are not that naive, however. They can see that Newt Gingrich is a career politician who will say anything to get elected. One day when we are ready and have put more of our differences behind us, we will step back out in the cosmic ocean. Only then, it will be to stay.

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Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

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