At the sunset of Newt Gingrich's putative presidency, the moon would be the 51st state, colonized by permanent American settlers. Tourists would honeymoon in low-Earth orbit, space factories would manufacture goods in microgravity, and America would have a rocket powerful enough to send us to Mars.
This is all according to a discussion Gingrich hosted Wednesday in Florida, which holds its presidential primary next Tuesday and which lost thousands of jobs as the space shuttle program drew to a close last year. But this is Gingrich talking, so it's safe to say this isn't all politics. A self-professed space nut and fan of science, Gingrich has dreamt of a lunar colony for decades. Even if this dream is inherently irrational:
"The reason you have to have a bold and large vision is you don't arouse the American nation with trivial, bureaucratically rational objectives," Gingrich said.
It's odd for a politician to trump his own ideas as grandiose and not rational. But hey, going back to the moon sure fires up the patriots! So America's space goals are once again a political football — one, incidentally, that seems to rev up Republicans more than it does Democrats. Gingrich has a long list of space dreams, which we'll get to in a minute. But this debate brings to light an interesting volley since the Reagan administration, between Democratic presidents who seem not to really dwell on America's space ambitions and Republican presidents (and would-be presidents) who just love the idea of Americans on the moon.
Dubbing himself a "visionary" for his space plans, the former House speaker and GOP presidential hopeful compared himself to John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and the Wright brothers. But he didn't compare himself to another conservative Republican, George W. Bush, who also wanted the U.S. to go back to the moon as a launch pad for Mars. His new vision was gestated in the wake of the Columbia disaster, and centered on the retirement of the aging shuttles, but it also sought a more ambitious future for the space agency. The Constellation program never really got off the ground, however, and critics found plenty of faults.
But contrast this with Bill Clinton's presidency. While he was in the Oval Office, the U.S. partnered with Russia to build the International Space Station — certainly a major achievement, but it was arguably more impressive for its geopolitics than its science scope. Both countries already had space stations before, and the ISS took way more time and money to build than anyone had anticipated. Otherwise, Clinton apparently didn't have much to say about the space program, even in his autobiography "My Life."
Then, a while after taking office and organizing a blue-ribbon NASA review commission, President Obama harrumphed at the idea of returning to the moon — "we've been there before," he famously said — and charted a bumpy course for a future NASA that will eventually visit an asteroid and someday Mars.
Now Gingrich has set his sights back on our natural satellite, with a much tighter timeline. But there is one catch — he favors private development, not necessarily NASA leadership.
As Charles Houmans notes in Foreign Policy, the space program presents a conundrum for dedicated conservatives. It's the most unassailably awesome achievement in American history, and as such it's fertile ground for jingoists. But it's also plagued by huge federal spending overruns, a risk-averse bureaucracy and — let us not forget — scientists, whose findings do not always comport with the conservative worldview. Gingrich seems able to toe this boundary carefully, coupling his love of science and space with his free-market beliefs.
In a debate earlier this week, he said privately funded prizes spurred Charles Lindbergh and Burt Rutan to reach new milestones, and private incentives could do the same for lunar settlement and Mars exploration.
For his part, his rival Mitt Romney has been a little more vague and a little more NASA-centric, discussing a space agency with more partnerships with universities and commercial enterprises.
Wednesday's talk is just the latest in a long list of Gingrich's space ideas, some of which are wackier than others. In 1981 he sponsored an unsuccessful bill called the National Space and Aeronautics Policy Act, which set forth "provisions for the government of space territories, including constitutional protections, the right to self-government and admission to statehood," the New York Times reported in 1995. He proposed a lunar mirror network that would illuminate highways and dark alleyways. He envisions space factories creating new opportunities for the unemployed.
"If we'd spent as much on space as we've spent on farm programs, we could have taken all the extra farmers and put them on space stations working for a living ... in orbiting factories," he told a science fiction convention in 1986.
But other predictions and desires have borne out. A quarter-century ago he said "space tourism is coming," predicting Hiltons and Marriotts of the solar system. There are no space hotels yet, but space tourism is likely just around the corner.
So does anyone really think a president Gingrich would set up a successful moon base? Not really, especially given this country's economic situation and (depending on whose hyperbole you believe) debt crisis. Gingrich has given no indications of how he'd pay for it, incentives or otherwise, and the details are sparse. And most of the reaction from space observers has been tepid at best.
Space policy expert John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, called it a "fantasy," according to Space.com. "It would be much better to set realistic goals, but that is not Mr. Gingrich's strong suit," he said.
But you can hand Gingrich one thing: At least he's talking about American leadership in space, something that's been sorely lacking of late. Maybe his grandiose visions will start a real conversation.
Newt Gingrich’s moon will be the 51st state, vote for me.
All families will have a plate of cookies, vote for me.
Everyone will be happy, vote for me.
Raincoats should be free, vote for me.
Everyone should have an electric car, vote for me.
I will light up the dark side of the moon, vote for me.
I like you, vote for me.
Bad people are bad, vote for me.
Good people are nice, vote for me.
I have gray hair, vote for me.
I look like some bodies grandpa, vote for me.
Bla, bla….. bla!
Politics and politicians do not belong on POPSCI!
Science sees no further than what it can sense.
Religion sees beyond the senses.
I hate the apathy towards space from Obabam and Mit. Space is the most important area to develop for the sake of our long term future. In 400 years when they look back they wont be discussing the credit crunch and the Arab spring will be a minor foot note. But the president who first took space seriously will be remembered for eternity.
Thank's popsci, Newt you now have my support.
And the colonizers will kindly ask the Russians for transport to the 51th state, I guess.
I say kudos to Speaker Gingrich for continuing to dream, regardless of whether any of this happens or not. If we end up with the resources, technology, and the public support for it, why shouldn't we colonize the moon?
Grandiose campaign promises in a state with a space industry facing a down time. He doesn't have to be realistic, just fishing for votes.
sigh, oh Newt...so blind to his own (MANY) hypocrisies
You just have to love a candidate that runs as a fiscal conservative but is proposing ideas that are monstrously expensive, with questionable profit potential. While I personally would love to take a trip to space for some 'bonin on the moon' with my ladyfriend, we can all agree that there are much higher priorities for our country right now.
If he wants to wildly spout out expensive ideas like that, how about discussing upgrading American freight lines to high speed rail?
Unfortunately, the Newt will not get a fair hearing here at PopSci... or anywhere else right now for that matter.
It is an election year and this guy is a politician. More importantly, he is a member of the GOP, which has the love an adoration of roughly 2/5ths of the US population and the abject, unbridled hate of another 2/5ths. Adding to this the fact that PopSci is the result of what could be called a marriage between mainscream science and the mainscream media, and you just can't come here an expect an honest brokerage because neither science or the media offer that in their catalogues anymore.
I really have no wish at all to either endorse or denounce this man but I will say, strictly on behalf of my affection for manned space exploration, that he is so far the ONLY candidate to come out and endorse America's return to space, the moon and/or Mars in my lifetime. Those of us old enough to recall men walking on the moon LIVE on our TV sets, are now also old enough to see the end of days getting closer... so that means something.
No Fu#*in way is Newt Gingrich, going to make the moon the 51st State its not part of America and shall never be! You flippen Egostistical 'fat' retarded American butt of a Polititan! THIS KIND OF EGO KAK TALK BY THE AMERICANS JUST GETS ME INFURIATED! SERIOUSLY SLAP HIM IN THE FACE TILL HIS EYEBALLS COME OUT! The Moon belongs to THE WORLD! NOT flippen America! Seriously, were'd this jerk come from?
I really don't think old Newt meant that 51st state thing to be taken literally. Also, the moon doesn't belong to America, this is true. But it really doesn't belong to anyone else, either. There ave been claims staked on it both by private individuals, companies and the UN... but none of it means anything. The whole thing is that you have to get there, first, and stay there, second, in order to even claim a single square foot of the dirt for anyone.
Politics is the single most divisive and destructive human concept in history. Unfortunately, some have claimed it as their own, as well.
"Hey China, can we borrow a few more trillion dollars so we can get back to the moon and claim it before you do?"
@REDOUBT Whatever he said, he said it and he said it out loud during his campaign. If he didn't mean it, the heck. These Poli's are too old for their 'job' and whatever they say is dangerous, just putting something like this out there infont of Billions of people is dangerous. The look and expression on his face in that Picture tells me quite well what person he is, I didn't learn Psychology for nothing before switching to Engineering. Weird study change eh? :)
If it walks like a Newt and talks like a Newt it's a Newt.
That being said, Newt said way back during the Clintons administration over 15 years ago that we should privatize the space program, 15 years later we are about to do just that. I don't agree with a lot of what Newt say's but he hit the nail on the head on this one, we should be on the moon by 2020 and we should be on Mars by 2025. We have been dancing around with the Russians in low earth orbit for the last 40 years, it's time to move on before China grabs all the good spots on the moon.
Newt is an historian and historians knows that the past is littered with big projects started by governments or their militaries, they are expensive projects where the taxpayers get the bill. When the private sectors take them over they become cost effective, competitive, and doable on a much more massive level where the customer gets the bill.
The moon is for all of humanity but just like the Antarctica and the North Pole today where the Russians and several other countries are claiming big parcels of its territory for themselves, they will do the same on the moon. Some country is going to start a land grab that claims large areas of the moon for themselves simply because procession is 9/10 of the law....
Psychology to Engineering? Prolly a good career move for you. It pays pretty well and if you have anger issues, you'll be in less danger of losing an expensive certification someday.
I don't trust any politics or politicians... and have even less use for those who carry banners and shout slogans for them. Newt is like all the rest of them. He sees a nation in economic distress that has lost a lot of self esteem. Re-energizing America's space effort... either through NASA or private enterprise, will go a long way to make people feel better about themselves and their country... even if a gallon of gas sets them back an hour's wages, lol.
I wonder how people would have reacted to this story if it was Obama's grandiose pie in the sky idea. I am about as liberal as they come, but that doesn't change my perspective on republican moon shots or Newts space bona fides. Gingrich has shown a consistent interest in developing space since the 80's, so I believe he's honest when he speaks on the topic. More importantly there is nothing impossible about his idea. We are in a better position to get to the moon today then we were in 1961, and they made it to the moon in only eight years! Kennedy was rightly praised for setting impossible goals in difficult times. These kinds of tasks unify nations, and have unimagined dividends years latter. If it's bold and courageous when a democrat talks about going to the moon, or when a different democrat talks about hope and change, change that I still believe in, then its just as courageous when a republican chooses do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
jesus fucking christ....whats next? as president i'll piss skittles and crap gold bricks!! its ok to dream big but making bullshit claims like this just really piss me off. we could have a fully operation moon base by 2050, if the budget gets balanced and the economy is on track. talking to ppl proud of their space ties like that is just a slap in their face.
All there is to this plan is taking the NASA budget and using it as a prize to encourage private industry to go colonize the Moon.
It's the same thing as Obama's plan for private-funded lifting capacity, basically, except that there is no obvious profit to be made in the longer term from setting up a colony on the Moon.
So who is going to spend eight years (the deadline from Newt's election victory) in incredibly difficult and groundbreaking research and development and testing, just for the hope that maybe you win a two billion dollar prize taken out of the NASA budget?
Then what happens? All the people who go to colonize the Moon pay for their own ticket, at millions of dollars apiece, to live in a bubble on a dusty rock and watch TV? How is that going to work?
At least with lifting capacity, it is not that hard to do and you get a lot of ongoing work from corporations and governments who want stuff in orbit. No-one is going to compete for a prize to create and run the Moon's first trailer park.
With the National USA Federal Lotto System being establish by Newt, all the proceeds will be to build the USA space cable system to the moon. Newts cable system with bring two opportunities to USA. The first the moon is slowly spiraling away from the Earth and we can use part of the Energy pulling on the cable to power USA. Second, we can attach the Newt Space elevator to the cable and then establish our USA Newt Space Station.
Vote Newt when you believe fantasies do come true!
Science sees no further than what it can sense.
Religion sees beyond the senses.
If Newt thinks that there will be 13000 people on the moon by 2020 he is crazy. Although the story implies that he thinks that, if you watch the speech you will find that this is not Newts time table.
He is murky about it's capabilities but if Newts idea of a permanent lunar colony is something like a space station parked on the moon then it's so feasible that it's almost hard to call it grandiose.
Comparing it to a space elevator is naive and an example of the logical fallacy of reductio ad absurdum.
The man's undeniably crazy, but I'm starting to wonder if that's really such a bad thing.
OH yes, and I'm sure every country on Earth will be happy to pay massive taxes to Americans in order to 'do stuff' on the moon. I smell another BIG war if this sort of attitude persists in the future...
WHAT THE F^CK IS THIS!!!! We don't have the money as a country to do everything we want in space and that's why it should be a Private Company in the USA not Government I mean really look at Education, Housing Market and Healthcare!!!! Newt is corrupt and this stuff shouldn't be on POPSCI but since it is Ron Paul 2012, if you don't like him you don't understand him or our Troops..........
Science, Technology, & Engineering should be number one priority in U.S. In fact, it should be a number one priority of humans on this planet.
Remember, Newt is a historian. And any decent historian knows 1 thing first and foremost: Exactly what means people have used in the past to come to power over other people. That's basically what the study of history it. How did so and so become King or Pope or President? How did that obscure guy become powerful? THAT is what he knows. And he knows how to therefore pander to the masses where ever he goes. He knows how to get people to drink his kool-aid long enough to get him more power and more money. Promising a new Interstate highway in South Carolina, a new VA hospital in northern New Hampshire, a moonbase and a widening the port of Jacksonville in Florida. Gimme a break. I don't even vote GOP, so I don't really care who wins, but anyone who believes this windbag should be checked out for faulty wiring of the brain.
We're fooling ourselves if we think that space (beyond earth orbit) is a top priority when we have so many problems here to deal with on a basic level. We're lazy as a people. We have gotten ourselves into a mountain of debt. We waste far more resources every year than it would take to build a Mars base. 41% to 44% of U.S. adults are in the lowest level on the literacy scale and are living in poverty. Our graduating high school students have a 32% proficiency rate in math. The list goes on. Why are we trying to shoot 3-pointers when we have a hard time even making layups consistently?
I love to dream about space and what could be just as much as the next guy. But the dreamers of the world never got us anywhere unless they could also work hard to accomplish feasible steps along the way. The weakest link on the chain will snap if too much is lifted. We cannot carry more than we are able.
Fair play to Newt for dreaming big. And I suppose he is the only republican candidate to broach the subject. But to the contrary of what some people have posted here, Obama also did have a big dream about space exploration. But of course it's never going to happen because we still have lingering tea party anti-tax hysteria and nobody is willing to fund moon travel. The idea that Newt could even get enough money allocated just to do research on the idea in these time is almost a joke.
The idea that the private sector should take care of these things now is worth a thought. But imagine if we left it up to the private sector to send the first man to the moon. I'm sure we'd still be waiting for another decade before the profit margins made it "Worthwhile." The U.S. is sure to be surpassed by China in space technology (as it has already been surpassed in Green Technology) for just these reasons. Welcome to the New America.
An excerpt from a recent article about Obama's first term:
In 2008, he promised a "bold space program." In 2009, pressure from deficit hawks torpedoed his plans. “Especially in light of our new fiscal context, it is not possible to achieve the inspiring space program goals discussed during the campaign," read a West Wing memo.
NASA's budget is .6% percent of the national budget. If you added up all the money NASA has spent since it's inception in the 50's it would be less then the military budget in one year. If we could solve all our problems on earth with that .6% then we already would have.
Building a moon station, would inspire a whole new generation of scientists and engineers. It might improve our reputation on the world stage. It would no doubt advance the field of planetary astronomy and geology. It would eventually create spin-off technology's that we can't possibly anticipate. It would create jobs, and yes it might one day form the basis of a lunar colony that seems laughable from the perspective of the early 21st century.
Most of these things can be achieved quicker and cheaper in other ways, but the combined effect seems to justify the expense to me.
As Alaska and Rhode Island prove, statehood is a condition of population more than area in the US lexicon (of course, states like California buck the trend).
Thus, claiming the moon as a state of the US is not a claim to realisate, but a citizenship of the people who are there. If we have 50,000 people working there, are they Earthlings or Lunarlings? Newt would like to make sure that first and foremost, as humans, they have the right to petition to be Americans, with statehood, representation, and rights.
The moon does not belong to the world. That a tick on my dog claiming to own me because he might someday get to my head. If we have people on the moon, however, whereever they are and what ever they do will be owned by men - and those men will have obligations (familiar, corporate, and governmental).
Newt, however, is a student of history - and no one cares about the future more than those who study the past. The historian is the one who is getting those messages from the past sent forward by futurist gone by. That is why the historian is also a futurist sending forward to the historians to come.
Let's go build a mountain of rock with clean angels! Let's build a wall across the world!! Let's wrap some guys in aluminium foil, strap them to a missle, and blow them into space and try and hit the moon, have them land, launch again, and return to Earth alive!!!
A Newt presidency would be grand, because his goals would always be in his best interest (as all administrations have been). The difference is, Newt sees his best interest not in the results today or how he is thought of tomorrow - his best interest is in how he will be spoken of in 100, 500, or 3,000 years.
Anyone remember a little thing called the American Revolution?
If you’re easily fooled and like to believe in fantasies, vote Newt. He is your man! He will tell you all he can, because he is the political man! Go Newt! Once in power, who knows what the hell he'll do, but too late for you; you got your man!
Keeping NASA alive is a good thing. Developing our ability to be in space, the moon, mars and beyond is a good thing.
But to all the peoples with ears, eyes and common sense have heard, seen and have the mind the USA economy and our government budget has monolithic problems, would see Newt has priority problems and his stating of making the moon a 51st state is only to gain popularity votes.
I want a politician that does not play games and just focuses with solutions to what is going on now.
Newt does not belong in POPSCI and all baloney.
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
I like Newt. But the US is $16 trillion in debt. And a trillion dollar moon base would be of no value, other than providing make-work jobs for Florida NASA employees.
The US already went to the moon. All we discovered is that its surface is covered in fine dust and rocks. Maybe after the US pays off our $16 trillion in debt, and we balance our budget, then we can think about exploring space.
There's no hurry, the moon and outer space have been there for billions of years, and they are not going anywhere.