In January of 2004, word leaked that President Bush planned to propose building a permanent base on the moon in his upcoming State of the Union address, to be used as a stepping stone to a manned mission to Mars by 2020. The idea was so poorly received and regarded so incredibly tone-deaf at a time when we were now embroiled in two costly wars… one that was clearly dawning on people was unnecessary and launched under false pretenses… that the subject was quickly/quietly yanked from his upcoming speech.
Last week, while pandering to an all-NASA audience in Florida, Newt Gingrich pledged that “by the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.” (Newt at his most pompous, already assuming a second-term before winning even his second primary; and the statement “it will be American” suggests Newt has a problem with the “international” space station.) When asked about such a grand plan during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, fill-in host Jake Tapper asked Gingrich if such “grandiose ideas open [him] up to criticism?” Newt’s response was to compare his ambitious proposal to President Kennedy’s 1961 clarion call to “land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Difference is that in 1961, Americans were urging the government to “beat the Russians” at a time when the Soviet Union was seen as a growing military threat. And with a strong economy and 71% top tax rate on millionaires, such a pursuit made much more sense. Proposing something so incredibly expensive and (arguably) unnecessary at a time when so-called “fiscal Conservatives” are demanding we cut the size of government to reduce the Deficit, cut public education and teachers unions (read: teacher pay) while insisting that if we just give a few more tax cuts to millionaires & billionaires, the economy will really start growing, shows us just how “serious” Conservatives truly are about reducing the Deficit. “Deficit reduction” is a great sound-bite, but once they’re in office, ideas like “moon bases” and “manned missions to Mars” are back on the schedule.
In January of 2001 as the Bush team retook the White House, Right-wing columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, “The adults are back in charge!” That quote has always bugged the crap out of me. NOTHING I’ve seen… before or since… suggests to me the GOP is the Party of “adults”. They are a bunch of paranoid children that throw temper-tantrums if they don’t get their way (Google “government shutdown”). They toss out grand ideas like “moon-bases” while the rest of the country is struggling, in a clear attempt to deflect criticism from their incompetence, thinking they can distract voters they clearly having nothing but contempt for with their latest shinny bobble. Proposing a moonbase today is like someone bugging you about which ride you want to go on next moments after throwing up on the roller-coaster.
But the science-geek in me laments that such noble pursuits are now too impracticable to even be considered. The country is broke, and regular readers of this blog already know how we got here. It is endlessly frustrating that the same irresponsible idiots that got us into this position are the same irresponsible idiots proposing we pursue these flights of fancy without regard for the impracticality. Sorry Newt, we can’t build your “51st state” on the moon because you and your Party broke the country. It’s like Mom always said: “This is why we can’t have nice things”.
Forget the cost though for a moment. There are also serious technical limitations that Newt’s child-like enthusiasm doesn’t comprehend. (why does Rumsfeld’s
I certainly hope that someday, a serious president or presidential candidate can propose such a grand pursuit and not come off as a clueless starry-eyed crank. But right now… thanks to those very same clueless starry-eyed cranks… the very idea of “bases on the surface of the moon” are the nonsensical rantings of someone out of touch with reality. When Marie Antoniette was told the people were starving because they had no bread, she suggested they “eat cake” only because in her divorced-from-reality world, she just did not understand that people without bread can’t afford an extravagance like cake.
…or bases on the moon. Pity.
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