Newt Gingrich and the Moon Colony

February 4, 2012 · 5 comments in Miscellaneous,Personal & off-the-wall,Politics

Don’t get me wrong. Hell will freeze over before I would ever vote for Newt Gingrich. First, off the man was named for a lizard. Secondly–and more seriously–you can directly track the origins of the current polarization between the two major US political parties on Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House.

And like every candidate in this the most mud-slinging president primary campaign in history, he has been made to look bad in a great many ways. It is hard for me and others to recognize what sometimes happens and that is good ideas come from bad people.

A few weeks back, Gingrich proposed that we build a space colony on the moon and that has been the subject of a great deal of ridicule. Comedians are still having their fun with that one and Tweeters still wonder what Gingrich was smoking.

But wait a minute. Forget who the source is. Think about the idea. We elected the current incumbent because we thought he had a vision for America, because his eloquence fooled us into thinking he could lead better than he has led. And among his early actions was to shut down NASA’s manned space program. Too expensive he said. These are tough times.

So a bunch of our nation’s brightest scientists got laid off and a whole supply chain of human’s got financially hurt in the name of this great frugality.

Years ago, a young visionary president who made great speeches was elected president. In his first, special address to Congress, in his first of three springtimes in office Jack Kennedy said, “Before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

And, as I recall, their was a landslide of comic parody, as well as editorial columns explaining why man could never walk on the moon and besides what would he do once he got there?

The answer, of course, is the reason people should walk on the moon is the same reason why humpback whales jump completely out of the ocean: Because they can.

It seems to me, that what makes us unique from other animals is that our entire history is based on going beyond what we have done. Before we consider the benefits or catastrophes, we simply have to see if we can do it.

Why should man walk on the moon? Because some day, we can build a colony on it? What will we do then? Look around and see what else we can do, where else we can go, we can learn more about the moon, and thus about the earth and our universe and how life got to here and anywhere else that it might exist.

And yes the cost is huge at a time when people are losing their homes. But to me, the cost is an investment, one that will create a great many new jobs that may be more appealing than the manufacturing our current president seems to be focused upon.

What we learn along the way will give the world new technology that is likely to pervade into computing, science, medecine, earth sciences, the classroom and places that we cannot yet imagine.

It seems to me that Newt’s Moon Colony is the only idea I’ve heard from any candidate for president, and what we need more than business managers, speechmakers and ideologues in the White House is someone with vision and leadership capabilities.

No I do not want Newt to be president. But I do think he should be commended–not ridiculed–for this idea which s entirely worthy of consideration and intelligent debate.

Don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 2 trackbacks }

A Day in the Life Of Newt Gingrich, Moon President | GoodOleWoody's Blog
February 5, 2012 at 3:02 am
To The Moon, Alice! « Systems Savvy
February 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm

{ 3 comments }

Mark Harrison February 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

He may also know the difference between a lizard and an amphibian :-)

But, apart from the fact it was totally, and completely wrong, it was a good joke about his name. Who said that smear politics is dead?

Rick Ladd February 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

As promised, Shel, here I am. Let me just start off by saying I agree with everything you say about Newt Gingrich. In my less-than-humble opinion he personifies the “ugliness” in the term “Ugly American”; self-absorbed, chauvinistic, utterly incapable of either honesty, integrity, or empathy; and completely, blithely, and unabashedly certain of his superiority. Other than that, I’m sure he’s a wonderful human being.

Now to your point about his suggestion we establish a permanent base on the Moon. My tenure of over two decades at the company that designed, built, tested, and flew the rocket engines that powered every American Astronaut into orbit (save those who ascended on Russian engines; a very few) makes me especially sensitive to this issue.

Also, because of my relationship with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming, as applicable to the manufacture of those engines, I have had the opportunity to watch some videos of Gingrich lecturing on Deming’s concepts. It was a while ago, but I seem to remember I found him reasonably astute in his analysis and presentation of Deming’s powerful ideas.

Back to the Moon (with Alice, I suppose, as Don suggests). As far back as the late 90s, some of us began to see we were in danger of losing much of the very specialized knowledge and talent it took to develop the engines we were flying and whatever would one day return us to the Moon or take us to the outer solar system and, possibly, beyond. The wave of impending retirement by us Baby Boomers was apparent to anyone who cared to look and we struggled to point that out to our leadership. It was met with rather lukewarm acceptance and very little action, accompanied by much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth.

Suffice it to say, even by the end of the Shuttle program, the issue was not being addressed head-on and, as a result, we are still losing talent at an alarming rate. My former employer is preparing to execute the third round of lay-offs since I accepted an early retirement package . . . in May of 2010. I posted to my blog about it in March of 2011. You can read it at http://wp.me/paiNK-9L if you wish. It’s short and spells out my reasons for agreeing that Newt’s idea about a colony is a good one, which I will also spell out here.

As I said, I spent over two decades at Rocketdyne. The only place I’ve been at longer is on this planet. There are two main reasons I remained there as long as I did. The first – I was never bored. The second – I firmly believe we need to establish a permanent cultural (not merely technological) presence off-planet. My reason is I also firmly believe it’s only a matter of time before we experience an extinction event or an event catastrophic enough to bring an end to our infrastructure and technology and, hence, our civilization. Whether it’s earth-based (an eruption of Yellowstone’s massive caldera) or space-based (another comet or meteor strike similar to the Chicxulub event most scientists believe resulted in the demise of the dinosaurs), it’s not a matter of possibility but of probability.

So . . . now that I’ve used your blog to write my own treatise (sorry), let me finish by saying I agree with your points about investment and innovation. For those who are unaware, our forays into space have brought us numerous products that are improving the lives of everyone. NASA has a great page on spinoffs at http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/. I also believe it is imperative we get off this planet if we wish to survive as a species. It’s only a matter of time. As well, I don’t think Newt is the one to lead us there and, obviously, neither is Obama at this point. Thanks for a great post, Shel.

Don Bradley February 4, 2012 at 11:56 am

Shel,
You’ve expressed this thought very well. A cynical commentator thought Newt was proposing the moonstation because most of the work would be in Florida and, like all good politicians, he was applealing to the bread-and-butter issues for the Foridians to win the Fla primary; even if he would never deliver on the promise. But either way…. I have to agree that this is one idea that Gingrich has had; in reflection, does make sense. Laying off those top scientists was madness. Like in today’s computer business, we have some of the best engineers and programmers idle. Certainly, the richest country in the world can keep them working. And as Ralph Kramden would say,to the moon Alice. What would be learned by science and the jobs created would be wonderful for the country… If all the money that went into those wars and the revenue lost because of the upper class tax cuts… we could certainly do it easily… Hopefully we still can.

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