A lot of folks have laughed at presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s idea for colonizing the moon. But some experts are saying that might not be a bad idea.
If another country colonized the moon first, the U.S. would panic just as it did when the Soviet Union’s Sputnik began chirping its way around the earth in 1959 as the first satellite. That launched the U.S. space program and led to the Apollo missions to the moon and more than 20 years of space shuttle flights.
Those who scoff at Gingrich’s idea say it probably would be impossible, likely would bankrupt the country and would have no benefit for America. But those who agree with Gingrich say the scoffers are overlooking some other points of view.
These space fans say colonizing the moon could be done for some $40 billion — less than half of the anticipated cost of the California High-Speed Rail project — not $400 billion. And, they say, most of that money would be private. Gingrich rival Mitt Romney allowed as how he wouldn’t lend anybody money for such a venture, but there are those who would. Private money already is paying for development of space planes, and versions of these planes which could travel round trip to the moon are on the drawing boards — some of which are in California.
They also say there would be a benefit in national security. A base on the moon would allow for unlimited observation of Earth and the solar system. Peering at Earth from the moon would enable astronomers to get mostly unfettered data about what our enemies might be up to. We get that kind of information now from satellites, but satellites are vulnerable. We also could get a better look at anything, such as an asteroid, that might be coming at Earth.
I personally don’t know whether these opinions are based on any practical reality, but maybe they — and Gingrich’s idea — aren’t so crazy after all. A lot of smart folks couldn’t see why having a satellite that could orbit the earth was important, but they were proved wrong.