“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon. And it will be American”
The latest attack on Newt by the conservative media (to be fair to Rubin, she is and has been firmly on the Romney train for a while now) is on Newt’s recent talk about building a space colony on the Moon.
Newt Gingrich is plagued not simply by the blistering rhetoric, the Washington insider-ness, the messy personal life and the ethics problems. He sounds, well, sort of daft these days. His latest brainstorm is for a moon colony by the end of his second term. The bonus here is that if we get 13,000 people (if you ask where that number comes from, it’s akin to asking how the Star Trek transporters work) it can be a new state! (New Gingrich? New Callista?)
They use this to push the meme that Newt is too “grandiose” for the party and for the country. (A Google search for “newt” and “grandiose” produces About 2,220,000 results (0.24 seconds)) I think that is a lame attack. Every person running for President thinks in grandiose terms. Does “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” ring a bell? Didn’t Reagan think “grandiose” thoughts when talking about bringing down the Soviet Union? What about JFK talking about the initial space program? Wasn’t Lincoln just a little “grandiose” when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation?
I’m not saying that Newt is any of those men. It’s common for the conservative media (Commentary is still marginally conservative) to attack Newt saying that he is comparing himself with those other great men of history. I think what Newt is saying, is that if you can’t achieve anything if you don’t have the vision to do something great. This can be for good or ill. Going to the Moon was a historical achievement, which required a lot of vision. Defeating the Soviet Union was a historic achievement, which required grandiose vision. Of course not all things turned out so well. Obama had vision and he shoved Obamacare down our throats. FDR had vision and we are still left to fix the messes they both made.
When it comes to the Moon and Space exploration, I don’t think we are going to have buyers remorse like we did with Obamacare. Setting up a Moon colony will require vision, but it will also require Science. It will require sceince and technology that we don’t have right now. How and what kind of structures will be build? How will be get food, water, air? These questions are essential to any manned mission to Mars. The question is not if we will go to the Moon but when. Gingrich has merely given a promise that he will push for it.
The other common attack is how will Newt pay for it. They erroneously assume (like all good Liberal Big Government types) that the only way to go to the Moon is by more Government spending. Let’s look at what Newt said in the last Florida debate.
Gingrich was then asked whether he, as president, would put more federal money toward the goal of sending astronauts to Mars as soon as possible. The former Speaker of the House said he would use federal money to greater effect — instituting, for example, a series of prizes to encourage space exploration.
“Most of the great breakthroughs in aviation in the ’20s and ’30s were the result of prizes. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize,” Gingrich said. “I would like to see vastly more of the money spent encouraging the private sector into very aggressive experimentation.”
Some of those prizes, he added, might reward getting humans back to the moon, sending them to Mars, building space stations and developing the commercial spaceflight industry.
“There are a whole series of things you can do that could be dynamic that are more than just better government bureaucracy,” Gingrich said. “They’re fundamentally leapfrogging into a world where you’re incentivizing people who are visionaries, and people in the private sector to invest very large amounts of money in finding very romantic and exciting futures.”
Gingrich also implied he would trim NASA’s budget, which currently represents roughly 0.5 percent of the federal budget.
“I’d like to see a leaner NASA,” he said. “I don’t think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there.”
The last part is key. No where does Newt say you have to dramatically increase spending. How do you give out prizes, while trimming the budget? By getting rid of a bloated bureaucracy that’s how. That’s a point Newt has made over and over again. Any person saying Newt will increase Government is lying, either a Liberal who only thinks in Big Government or a Romney supporter that only thinks in Romney talking points (which are known to be false, misleading or outright lies).
Going to the Moon could be the incentive to get kids interested in science and engineering again. I know growing up, I loved (still do) movies about space. It’s what got me into science initially. I think it’s what drove a generation into the sciences. We need more scientists and engineers, not just in this country but the world. We need them more than we need sociologists or psychologists.
Shooting for the Moon is part of the American culture. It’s part of our national character. Why not make sure it’s a part of our children’s generational character. I can’t say it any better than this guy: