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January 27, 2012 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Is Newt Gingrich’s plan for a moon mine science fiction? The technology may be in place, but is there any reason to go?
posted by Artw (178 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
We need to get there before %COMMUNIST_COUNTRY does.
posted by hellojed at 2:58 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Reason to go" link is malformed.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:59 PM on January 27, 2012


His statement that the base would be "American" makes it illegal I think. There's an international treaty in place that forbids this.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:59 PM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


How apt.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:00 PM on January 27, 2012


We need to go and establish a whaling colony.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:00 PM on January 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


I think the Floridian vote is the real reason he wants it.
posted by MikeKD at 3:01 PM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Maybe he wants to pick up the trash we left behind.
posted by Trurl at 3:02 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:02 PM on January 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


From "Reason to Go" link:

In other words, the upfront costs of lunar mining would be pretty massive and perhaps only ultimately worth it if nuclear fusion using He-3 pans out, which is still a big if. This isn't even getting into the legal difficulties -- the Outer Space Treaty prohibits countries from establishing territorial sovereignty on the moon and there's not mechanism for land titles -- or the environmental concerns. (Yes, it is possible to pollute the moon.)


Showing how well suited the word "loony" is for this idea.
posted by bearwife at 3:02 PM on January 27, 2012


There's an international treaty in place that forbids this

An international treaty that the US hasn't ratified.

Hands up everyone who thinks Newt Gingrich gives a rat's ass about international law....
posted by Fnarf at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Make up your minds: cut funding to NASA, or fund it up the wazoo so we can suck the Moon dry?
posted by not_on_display at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]




Is Newt Gingrich’s plan for a moon mine science fiction?

How about Newt was standing in front of a group that gets its cash infusion into the area via NASA and was pandering to them?

Where was the 'moon plan' in the other states?

Look, ya wanna play "lets spend money to go to space" go visit Brave New World and claim you need fake wombs to take DNA through space to colonise far away stars.

(The link is almost worth its own FPP)
posted by rough ashlar at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


hellojed: We need to get there before %COMMUNIST_COUNTRY does.
Gingrich proposed doing this without increasing NASA’s budget. Instead, he’d transform the agency’s culture, rely heavily on private industry and leverage American ingenuity. He said he’d use 10 percent of the NASA budget — which would amount to nearly $2 billion a year — to create prizes, incentives for entrepreneurs to achieve spaceflight milestones.
You thought that the Apollo 15 Space Stamp debacle was bad, just wait until we have craft built by the lowest bidder carrying anyone willing to spend a few million to become an astronaut.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, of course it makes sense. The purpose of the moon base is to give the Space Launch System somewhere to go. The purpose of the Space Launch System is to get to the moon base! Do I have to spell it out for you ... ?!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


For podcast fiction fans, StarShipSofa is currently running a rather funny 3-parter by Cory Doctorow* on libertarian space colonization: 1, 2, 3

* Yes, don't freak out.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2012


I think Newt is onto something here. We could ship out all our homeless veterans
and stop having them embarrass us with their presence. But would we also have to
pay their way?
posted by Postroad at 3:09 PM on January 27, 2012


Raise you hand if you think Newt is a highly functioning moron who will say any darn thing that comes into his head that he thinks might get him a vote.
posted by snsranch at 3:10 PM on January 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


One reason to go, if not to stay permanently: you could build a really kick-ass radio telescope on the far side that would be shielded from most, if not all, of the interference and noise from Earth.

I wouldn't want to be the guy who has to go and maintain it every few months, though.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:10 PM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.

Elevator?

Maglev launcher at equator?

How much fuel is involved getting a supertanker full of oil across an ocean?

At some point, we need to disperse a bit, perhaps "hedge" our bets and spread-out - perhaps even use the resources available elsewhere within our system that will not impact our environment directly?

That lovely computer you are using to type on? Wouldn't have been possible without the space race...

I especially hate those who give up on exploration.
posted by jkaczor at 3:10 PM on January 27, 2012 [28 favorites]


is there any reason to go?

Google 'B Ark golgafrincham' and then think about using it to drop some of the more idiotic politicians on the Moon, or Venus, or maybe the Sun.

Raise you hand if you think Newt is a highly functioning moron

Do I get to backhand him when he tries to ascend from obscurity again?
posted by mephron at 3:11 PM on January 27, 2012


Sometimes I think Newt is both Pinky AND The Brain.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2012 [31 favorites]


An international treaty that the US hasn't ratified.

My bad. We have not ratified the Moon Treaty of 1979 but we have ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. It does not bar a mining operation but it does bar claims of sovereignty.

Newt has in the past suggested that the moon base be made the 51st state (which, uh, would require that it have a population of ~550,000 people....)
posted by Fnarf at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2012


I would vote early and often for Newt if he proposed building a space elevator.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


a space elevator

Something that Freeman Dyson described as a magical elastic band stretched out so far and containing so much potential energy that it would constitute a high explosive.

He had some wacky ideas of his own about getting into space, mind.
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on January 27, 2012


I wouldn't want to be the guy who has to go and maintain it every few months, though.

What if you had a few hundred clones of yourself and Kevin Spacey's voice to talk to?
posted by perhapses at 3:17 PM on January 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


Elevator?

Maglev launcher at equator?


Science fantasy.

At some point, we need to disperse a bit, perhaps "hedge" our bets and spread-out - perhaps even use the resources available elsewhere within our system that will not impact our environment directly?

That point occurs after space travel isn't an enormously expensive boondoggle.

We need to solve our problems on earth.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:17 PM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

Yeah, all those guys that worked for NASA in the '50 and '60s were dicks.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:18 PM on January 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


How about a really big bomb?

The Nuclear Orion Home Run Shot, All Fallout Contained

(Dyson again, modified)
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


so much potential energy that it would constitute a high explosive

Well - that is pretty much the same for every mechanism we use for high-density fuel (hydrocarbons), right?

It's not like oil/gas/jet fuel/rocket propellent isn't also highly explosive, right?
posted by jkaczor at 3:19 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody can walk up to those and twang them though.
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on January 27, 2012


Here's the thing; you can be the moon city presidential candidate or the fiscal conservative presidential candidate. At some point, someone in Florida's gotta see through that incongruity, right?
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:20 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't forget about Lunar Pollution as another problem
posted by Blasdelb at 3:20 PM on January 27, 2012


We need to solve our problems on earth

Sure - who you going to kill to reduce the population to something a little more sustainable?

Or steralize so that there is no "next generation"...

So - when we do run-out of cheap, high-density hydrocarbon energy sources, how do you suggest feeding the population, which is based on cheap "on earth" energy sources, which no longer exist?

Now - I agree... expensive... So - don't do it via government - let industry do it.
posted by jkaczor at 3:22 PM on January 27, 2012


Pope Guilty: "We need to solve our problems on earth."

All of them? When does that happen?
posted by octothorpe at 3:23 PM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I feel like this is less of a "Lets go to space" thing, and more of a "This is how the 'free market' fixes things" argument. He's just using space-travel because it's, I dunno...politically attractive?

If he wants space travel with his free market, why can't he do space spending like we've been doing the Defense spending? Which is to award big-ass contracts to private companies to do things. Any prize for these ideas don't come close to paying for the costs to accomplish them.
posted by hellojed at 3:24 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Science fantasy.

So was the computer... the internet, wifi, smartphones, GPS...
posted by jkaczor at 3:24 PM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm easy. Give me back my nuclear thermal rocket and I'm yours. I don't even care where we go, we can just drive all night.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:25 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"NASA has fizzled"? You know, Reason.com can suck my a**. NASA announced confirmation of having discovered another 26 planets this week. What has anybody at Reason.com done this week other than bloviate?
posted by newdaddy at 3:25 PM on January 27, 2012 [32 favorites]


Reason.com: Science Fiction Faces Facts - NASA has fizzled, but Wernher von Braun’s exuberant vision lives on.

Boy, I wouldn't want to live in London right now.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


We need to solve our problems on earth.

Oh yeah. And it's definitely that wasted 0.5% of the annual federal budget that is preventing us from solving the problems of humanity.

unrelatedly: glad to see you're back, dude
posted by elizardbits at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Which is to award big-ass contracts to private companies to do things. Any prize for these ideas don't come close to paying for the costs to accomplish them.

There we go.

Corporations don't want to pay taxes? Go to space!

Corporations who don't want government oversite? Go to space!

Claim a rock as your own! Endless profit, no pesky "legacy" laws!

"Company" mining towns (where one has to buy everything, including their air...)

Bio-engineered "space" employees... (just not quite human-enough to have any "human rights"...)

Well... yeah, I guess we would open a whole new set of problems - yeah, scifi has also pointed towards that - just getting off the rock is not going to change human/corporate greed and behaviour...
posted by jkaczor at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


We need to solve our problems on earth.

Agreed.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2012


You know, as Heinlein pointed out in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anyone with a moon base has the absolutely commanding position in a war. If you get annoyed with someone, lifting rocks out of the lunar gravity well is cheap, and they turn into insanely devastating weapons when dropped from 250,000 miles up. If big enough, they become the equivalent of nukes, but without the radiation -- the biggest conventional explosives imaginable. And it's just rocks, no high tech wizardry required, just enough industrial infrastructure to lift masses out of lunar gravity.

I'm not sure that any country can allow us to have a major presence on the Moon, unless they have one as well, and I suspect any war humans fight will become a struggle for control of the high ground. Hold the Moon, and you hold the Earth. Any human presence on the Moon will likely be the first target hit by warring nations below, and that presence will always be precarious and fragile, no matter how long we're up there.
posted by Malor at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


As long as he's the first permanent resident, i'm all for it!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heinlen's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress offers one possible reason: fallout-free weapons of mass destruction. If I've got my numbers right, a 10 metric ton rock dropped from the moon into earth's gravity well would produce a 0.1 kt explosion on impact. Rock is cheap, linear accelerators are reusable.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2012


Newt has in the past suggested that the moon base be made the 51st state (which, uh, would require that it have a population of ~550,000 people....)
Could you please explain why it would require that?

My guess is that you're referring to the approximate population of the state that currently has the lowest population (Wyoming). But I am not aware of anything that would "require" that new states must have populations at least that large. Is there such a requirement that I'm unaware of?

The closest thing I know of says is a clause in the Constitution that the ratio of representatives to citizens must not exceed one to 30,000, together with the fact that each state must have at least one representative.
posted by Flunkie at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]




Heh - that's what I meant by maglev - linear accelerator - that is still "possible" at an equatorial location.
posted by jkaczor at 3:33 PM on January 27, 2012


jkaczor: did you see this post? Tim Murphy (a physicist at UCSD) has some pretty convincing explanations of why space colonization and space mining are unlikely.

Why not space?

Stranded resources.
posted by russilwvong at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Neil DeGrasse Tyson breaks it down for you

Yes it can be done, no not the way Gingrich says it can be, we should keep trying because that's how we make scientists.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:36 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"NASA has fizzled"? You know, Reason.com can suck my a**

Yeah. When we built Saturn/Apollo, NASA's budget ranged from 2.29% of the entire federal budget (24.3 billion in 2007) in 1963 to 4.41% of the budget in 1996, 32 billion in 2007 dollars.

In 2007, NASA's budget was 15.8 billion, representing 0.58% of the Federal Budget. In the dark years after Apollo, when they were trying to build the Shuttle, NASA saw their buying power, in 2007 dollars, drop to below 12 billion dollars for the years 1974-1982.

NASA didn't fizzle. NASA stopped doing things like Apollo because we stopped paying for them.
posted by eriko at 3:36 PM on January 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


There's a difference between SCIENCE and SCIENCE FICTION.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2012


I love grandiose science plans. But let's get realistic about our sense of the grandiose. If Newt Gingrich stood up and said, "By the end of my second term, we will have cured several types of cancer," I'd be all, rock on, Newt. I'm all for it.

You still wouldn't get my vote, but still. Rock on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:39 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between SCIENCE and SCIENCE FICTION.

I'm picturing Newt forming a think tank made up of Harrison Schmidt, Michio Kaku and Uri Gellar. SCIENCE!
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


How much fuel is involved getting a supertanker full of oil across an ocean?

A lot, lot, less per kilo.

That lovely computer you are using to type on? Wouldn't have been possible without the space race..

That's simply not a fact. The fact that there was a space race does not mean that current computer technology required a space race to be created. At all.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:44 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks russilwvong - I missed that discussion/link when it came around.

Not every ship that sailed the ocean did so without incident... The original large fleets were a significant investment. We can hope that there will be advances in our current technologies - learning to live in self-contained environments and how to handle the chaotic complexity of that is not a bad thing.

(Unwilling to give-up hope for the long-term survival of humanity - the odds of us lasting longer than another 1,000 years are slim, without at least even colonizing our local solar system )
posted by jkaczor at 3:44 PM on January 27, 2012


I would love to see DoD and NASA budgets inverted. However I have a feeling that isn't how Newt intends to pay for this. If space travel could be payed for with ignorant platitudes alone then it may have a shot. Cut Taxes, go to the moon! Free markets at work.
This man is a true Republican through and through and deserves to win Florida's primary.
posted by JackarypQQ at 3:45 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


At some point, we need to disperse a bit, perhaps "hedge" our bets and spread-out - perhaps even use the resources available elsewhere within our system that will not impact our environment directly?

Won't there be a movie about how mining the moon will result in an inbalance in gravity and the Earth will be destroyed!
posted by juiceCake at 3:45 PM on January 27, 2012


So - when we do run-out of cheap, high-density hydrocarbon energy sources, how do you suggest feeding the population, which is based on cheap "on earth" energy sources, which no longer exist?

Alternative energy and food sources on the Earth, as far off as they may be, are still way, way closer to reality than space colonization as the panacea. And that's if you look at things from a purely pragmatic point of view. I really love the idea of space colonization, but as a cure for our human ills it seems more like facing a a crippling disease, and choosing building a time machine to move forward until a cure is found, over trying some very experimental and controversial form of treatment.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:46 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


However I have a feeling that isn't how Newt intends to pay for this.

He basically sees this as an X-prize kind of deal, not really seeing that the X Prize achievements are vastly overblown or that a moon base is vastly more complicated as an enterprise as limitations.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on January 27, 2012


That's simply not a fact. The fact that there was a space race does not mean that current computer technology required a space race to be created. At all.

Um - it may not have been required - but thats what actually got us here.

The march of our technological progress in association with the space race (including the cold war) is incredibly well documented - your statement is simply conjecture. Sure - it is possible - but it is not how things worked-out.
posted by jkaczor at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That lovely computer you are using to type on? Wouldn't have been possible without the space race..

So you're saying we have Peenemünde to thank for the iPad?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:51 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


a moon base is vastly more complicated as an enterprise as limitations

Vastly more complicated with less of a payoff.

My advice to Newt would be to aim a little smaller. Maybe vow to make sure that, during a Gingrich presidency, the private agencies that counting on for docking vehicles to the ISS will actually complete their objective (how far behind are they right now? and do I care enough about my own ego to look up the discussion wherein I predicted this little turn of events?)

Let private industry prove they can care for a goldfish before we buy them a horse.
posted by muddgirl at 3:51 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


We need to solve our problems on earth.

Yeah, well one of those problems is that we don't have people going into the sciences. And if you take the space program as a loss-leader to inspire and create the next generation of engineers, a small portion of who will work for NASA, it's well worth it.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:53 PM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


hellojed: "We need to get there before %COMMUNIST_COUNTRY does."

It would be funny if it weren't so true.
As broad as Gingrich’s third world war may be, it’s not the only conflict he envisions. Is there a Communist regime still in existence, however nominal or vestigal its relation to communism? Gingrich wants to intervene there, too. And Russia and China, he’s argued, are also at war with the United States.

Take Cuba, a dictatorship that gave up any plausible threat to the U.S. when the Soviet Empire collapsed. At the Republican debate on Monday, Gingrich said the U.S. should use “appropriate covert operations” in order “aggressively to overthrow the regime.” This is even after Fidel Castro’s health has rendered him a null factor; and 50 years after a certain climactic covert operation with the same mission created one of the U.S.’s worst Cold War donnybrooks.

Last month, Gingrich said that Russia and China’s online economic espionage represents “the equivalent of acts of war.” That didn’t merit a bombing campaign, but Gingrich thinks the U.S. should consider responding in kind: “[L]ook, there are games we’re not going to tolerate being played. And we either need an armed truce or we’re going to engage as aggressively as you are.” (He’s also warned that “the Chinese James Bond” is “trying to hack into an American defense-industrial company.”)

Then there’s North Korea, whose missile threat Gingrich has warned about for decades. In 2009, ahead of a (failed) long-range missile launch, Gingrich demanded that President Obama should take “whatever preemptive actions are necessary” to blow the missile up. It wasn’t even the first time Gingrich issued that call. Three years earlier, in an op-ed, Gingrich argued that the military “should destroy” that very same missile, the Taepodong-2, “on its site before it is launched. Our ability to preempt the launch is nearly certain.” His preferred means to destroy it: lasers.
posted by symbioid at 3:54 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did they determine which hell Fidel should go to in the end?
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on January 27, 2012


2bucksplus: "We need to go and establish a whaling colony."

Don't fuck w/the space whales, bro.
posted by symbioid at 3:55 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.
"

Yeah - but I'd be okay with sending Newt on a One Way Ticket To Pluto. ;)
posted by symbioid at 3:56 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> As long as he's the first permanent resident, i'm all for it!

I didn't watch the debate, but I read the der speigel article on it and they reported that was exactly Ron Paul's answer to the question. He said "I think we should send some of these politicians to the moon".

It's a pity he's such a loony ol' coot.
posted by bukvich at 3:57 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Could you please explain why it would require that?

Nope. Turns out I'm wrong. Twice in one thread! Is it getting foggy in here?

I heard that somewhere, and repeated it without checking it.

The justification for the Wyoming rule seems to be that less that that would be less than the minimum needed to elect a member of the House, by current rules. But I can't find that requirement written down anywhere. The only requirement I can find on short notice is the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which requires a minimum of 60,000 people -- still an absurd number even if there was a vast mining camp there.

The question arose during the frankly rather dubious admission of Nevada in 1864, eight days before the 1864 election. Nevada didn't have anywhere near 60,000 at the time, but it got railroaded through.

Newt says you'd only need 13,000 to petition for statehood. This is still a laughable number. Even if his dream comes to pass I will estimate the population of the Moon in, say, 2050, at less than 100 people.
posted by Fnarf at 3:58 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah - but I'd be okay with sending Newt on a One Way Ticket To Pluto. ;)

These guys do pick up!
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

Well that's a pity considering that they're probably the same ones who created the entire chain of technology that allowed you to spew that bile.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:00 PM on January 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Newt says you'd only need 13,000 to petition for statehood.
Newt actually said something like "I think the number is 13,000". I find it likely that he was simply misremembering the 30,000 mentioned in the Constitution, which I referred to in my previous comment.
posted by Flunkie at 4:00 PM on January 27, 2012


And Russia and China, he’s argued, are also at war with the United States.

Man, is he still hung up on this? Here's a guy who thought Reagan was too soft on the Soviet Union.
The best examples come from a famous floor statement Gingrich made on March 21, 1986. This was right in the middle of the fight over funding for the Nicaraguan contras; the money had been cut off by Congress in 1985, though Reagan got $100 million for this cause in 1986. Here is Gingrich: “Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.” Why? This was due partly to “his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail”; partly to CIA, State, and Defense, which “have no strategies to defeat the empire.” But of course “the burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan.”
This was, as we all know, before Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated the Soviet Union forever, which you'd think would've impressed Newt to some degree, but no. He's still smarting over this, poor lil marshmallow guy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:01 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


My two favorite takes on this:
@GuyEndoreKaiser: Gingrich claims we'll have a moon base by his 2nd term. Do you know how hard it is to craft a sentence where moon base isn't the crazy part?
And from the Daily Show:
I see what’s going on here -- this isn’t about making new states. Newt Gingrich did that global warming ad with Nancy Pelosi, realized that the Earth is very sick... and now he wants to leave it for a younger planet!
posted by Rhaomi at 4:04 PM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


There are a couple of useful things we could get out of a large space station:
1) A platform for space telescopes. The Hubble space telescope has gotten us tons of great images and really enhanced our knowledge both with quasars and the creation of stars. The Pillars of creation are more then just a pretty picture, they also show stars being formed from cosmic dust, something that was suspected to occur but now we have pictures of it happening. On the moon you could plant a ton of scopes and maintain them much more easily.


2) Staging ground for deeper trips into space. If you want to go to mars, it would be a good starting point. Guys like Neal DeGrasse Tyson are always going on about the need for manned space exploration. I haven't watched that particular video but he's always going on about it. here he is on Maher's show
That said, I personally think that the ISS should be fine for hosting telescopes, and I don't really think manned space exploration is a good use of resources at this point in time anyway. We should be sending out LOTS of probes. I think we can get a lot more science done.

But people Tyson would probably disagree. Just because Newt Gingrich said it doesn't make it a bad idea.

Remember, he was in Florida when he said this. More space stuff, especially manned space stuff, means more jobs for Florida. But it would also means more jobs for people in technical fields. A lot more. It would be a great example of Keynesian stimulus for the economy.

Think Gingrich a vile human being, but that doesn't mean a Moon base, per se is a bad idea. I'd rather see the money spent on more space telescopes and particle colluders, but if there's a choice between moon base and no moon base – I would pick moon base.
"We need to solve our problems on earth."
That's like saying the 3rd world shouldn't be getting OLPCs or those new cheap Indian tablets, they should be working on getting clean water not helping people get online. The reality is, they can do both. And like I said, space programs serve as economic stimulus.
I feel like this is less of a "Lets go to space" thing, and more of a "This is how the 'free market' fixes things" argument. He's just using space-travel because it's, I dunno...politically attractive?
This isn't about the free market. Newt has Zero principles. He's been attacking Romney for being an out of touch capitalist, which ordinarily the republicans idolize. If he's saying he wants an X-prize, he'd still need to fund it directly.
You know, as Heinlein pointed out in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anyone with a moon base has the absolutely commanding position in a war. If you get annoyed with someone, lifting rocks out of the lunar gravity well is cheap, and they turn into insanely devastating weapons when dropped from 250,000 miles up. If big enough, they become the equivalent of nukes...
It may take less energy to get things off the moon, but where do you get the energy? Even if it requires 100x effort to get things launched off the earth, energy is probably at least 10,000x cheaper. And anyway, the U.S. and Russia built enough nukes and ICBMs to annihilate most of the human race from right here on earth, so it's not like we're somehow short on destructive capability.

Also, in terms of fuel. The current rockets we use burn hydrogen. They don't contribute to global warming
posted by delmoi at 4:09 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


He basically sees this as an X-prize kind of deal, not really seeing that the X Prize achievements are vastly overblown or that a moon base is vastly more complicated as an enterprise as limitations.

You're right, I should have read that link first.

He said he’d use 10 percent of the NASA budget — which would amount to nearly $2 billion a year — to create prizes, incentives for entrepreneurs to achieve spaceflight milestones....
Mr. Gingrich suggested offering a $10 billion prize for the first venture to make a trip to Mars. If no one succeeds, taxpayers pay nothing.

So he basically wants to cut the NASA budget by 10 percent each year plus another 10 billion for private sector prizes that will never pan out in the time scale he's giving. A research station on the moon is a wonderful worthy goal for the US and the world to have, and investment in any sort of infrastructure is sorely needed, this just seems like a backhanded way of drumming up support while not accomplishing anything real.
posted by JackarypQQ at 4:09 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Reason to go" link is malformed.

Sounds apt. The reason to go is also malformed.

This is a nutty cargo-cult approach to try to recapture America's flagging greatness by revisiting things that we did during our heyday. It is impressive, though, that with this proposal Newt has managed to appeal to the small government/privatization nutjobs, the American exceptionalism nutjobs, and the 50+ voters who remember how awesome it was to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that there was a space race does not mean that current computer technology required a space race to be created.

A now mostly-dead technology - Hydraulic logic Fluid Logic - was created because no one knew if silicon would work in space due to radiation.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a pity he's such a loony ol' coot.

VS the sane and rational others who are in high office?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:12 PM on January 27, 2012


We can restore America's greatness, right here on Planet Earth. I think we should do this the old fashioned way: by exploding the shit out of a mountain and carving giant faces into it. Only this time - LAZER SHOW.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:15 PM on January 27, 2012


The interesting thing is -- newt says we need to privatize space and provide incentives: That's exactly what Obama has been doing
A now mostly-dead technology - Hydraulic logic Fluid Logic - was created because no one knew if silicon would work in space due to radiation.
Most automatic transmissions use a complex system of valves that basically amount to an analog hydrolic computer. In any event all the major space missions used electronic computers.
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on January 27, 2012


The "Reason to go" link was fixed by mods. Thanks mods!
posted by Artw at 4:18 PM on January 27, 2012


Heh, someone already linked to it but yeah, Neal DeGrasse Tyson thinks his plan is doable on a purely financial level, with the government paying incentives to private industry. He just thinks that it's not politically practical.
posted by delmoi at 4:22 PM on January 27, 2012


I wish the OP was a bit more fleshed out; Newt Gingrich has a long history of ridiculous outer-space fantasy ideas that sound like they were dreamed up by a twelve-year-old hopped up on Tang and Flash Gordon. To wit:

-His cover for for his first book Window of Opportunity (co-written with his 2nd wife and a sci-fi author) had a giant eagle attacking a space shuttle and the moon, and he billed himself as "Chairman of the Congressional Space Caucus".

-His plan for a mirror system in space which "could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways. Ambient light covering entire areas could reduce the current danger of criminals lurking in the darkness. Mirrors could be arranged to light given metropolitan areas only during particular periods, so there would be darkness late at night for sleeping."

-His chapter in To Renew America discussing space sex. Newt Gingrich devoting a whole chapter to space sex. Bleeeccch.

-As noted above, his "privately-funded" moon colony will be operational by his second term, and they can apply for statehood when they hit 13,000 people.
posted by Challahtronix at 4:22 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Or, I mean not politically practical at the moment, without convincing Americans overall it's a good idea)
posted by delmoi at 4:23 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


-His plan for a mirror system in space which "could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways. Ambient light covering entire areas could reduce the current danger of criminals lurking in the darkness. Mirrors could be arranged to light given metropolitan areas only during particular periods, so there would be darkness late at night for sleeping."

It would also destroy amateur astronomy.
posted by delmoi at 4:24 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


A rat done bit my sister Nell, and Gingrich's on the moon...
posted by chortly at 4:24 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


-His cover for for his first book Window of Opportunity (co-written with his 2nd wife and a sci-fi author) had a giant eagle attacking a space shuttle and the moon, and he billed himself as "Chairman of the Congressional Space Caucus".

I think that's Earth. Also, it looks more like the eagle is dancing with the Earth and the space shuttle.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:28 PM on January 27, 2012


If the braintrust at Reason magazine are against it then I think it deserves a lot more serious consideration. Normally I'd say it was crazy talk...
posted by humanfont at 4:31 PM on January 27, 2012


I wish the OP was a bit more fleshed out;

I wish I'd incorporated this!

/kind of crossing my fingers that post doesn't get deleted as doubley.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am surprised Gingrich of all people has not yet realized There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

And he is a guy who should know from harsh mistresses, amirite?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:36 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Elevator?

Maglev launcher at equator?

Science fantasy.


There's no reason why the latter wouldn't be feasible, if we were seriously interested in building one. A launch loop requires no science-fantasy materials (unlike a space elevator), and would have the primary advantages of an elevator (minimal rocket-fuel requirements, non-polluting if powered by a clean plant, human-friendly acceleration, low cost per kg of payload) without the obvious dangers. At 10 billion it wouldn't even be all that expensive to build: just convince everyone that terrorists hate our satellites, and a new launch system becomes just a drop in our 600 billion dollar defense budget!
posted by vorfeed at 4:39 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah. And it's definitely that wasted 0.5% of the annual federal budget that is preventing us from solving the problems of humanity.

I love me some science, but let's compares apples to apples, because these are some really big fucking numbers.

Indeed, NASA has paltry funding right now.

However...

NASA's budget peaked in the period 1964-1966, during the height of construction efforts leading up to the first moon landing under Project Apollo which involved more than 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors. Roughly 4% of the total federal budget was being devoted to the space program.

But OK, those were 1969 dollars -- 4 percent of the budget now is much larger than 4 percent then. Let's fudge and say the moon base will cost 2.77 percent.

What else has 2.77% of the total federal budget right now? Well, under the 2012 proposed Obama budget, that's the entire cost of federal spending on education and job training.

2.74 percent buys you the entire transportation outlay.

1.59 percent buys you the entire housing assistance outlay.

And about 400,000 employees. Hmm. In other words, most of the population of Atlanta.

Devoted to a moon base.

DUDE.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:06 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


We must go once again to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it will challenge our engineers to figure out how to get my massive ego off the ground, let alone into orbit. -Future Gingrich
posted by Slackermagee at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

I take it you don't consider research to be any kind of compelling reason for expensive projects.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:19 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Corporate moon bases? The rich getting richer on the backs of the taxpayer?
Nah, could never happen.


We need to solve our problems on earth

Screw the earth--we can go to the moon and trash that up. On to the new frontier!

Pluuunder!
posted by BlueHorse at 5:41 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw, Iron Sky post didn't last.
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on January 27, 2012


This is a nutty cargo-cult approach to try to recapture America's flagging greatness by revisiting things that we did during our heyday.

That's a great summation of how it looks from the outside.

By the time another US citizen stands on the moon, all the Apollo astronauts who stood on the moon will be dead. There's a fair chance none will live to see another human on the moon, from any country. Space exploration beyond LEO is a fetish from the 1900s, kept on life support by nationalism and egoism. It will be a long time before it is a rational response to genuine needs.
posted by Jehan at 6:17 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if somebody should break it to Newt that America doesn't currently have a human-rated launch vehicle.

(We would be hard-pressed to get to the ISS in nine year, let alone the moon.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:25 PM on January 27, 2012


...but is there any reason to go?

Lots and lots of helium3.

Oh and clones.
posted by pashdown at 6:37 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't fuck w/the space whales, bro.

OK, but thirty pages of space whales? That just blew my mind.
posted by newdaddy at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


...that basically amount to an analog hydrolic computer. In any event all the major space missions used electronic computers.

The Apollo program proved that electronic computers could work in space. With that proven fluidics just can't compete when weight is a major factor.

Fluidic logic was used extensively through the 1990's for some industrial applications, especially in explosion-classified environments where sparks could not be risked. In the 1980's electronics in such areas had to be encased in massive cast steel boxes capable of containing a chemical explosion. Those systems have finally been mostly retired because now it's possible to build an entire control system that runs on so little energy that there is no risk of creating a spark from its power supply.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like how the GOP only likes science only when it comes to weaponry or commercial exploits. God forbid we try to use that bogus moon program money to get people decent medical care.
posted by Renoroc at 7:01 PM on January 27, 2012


The only way to get something like a Lunar colony is by chasing profit, unfortunately there does not seem to be any profit to be had. Therefore: no Lunar colony.

Of course all this would change if we could just discover some MacGuffinite.
posted by Nyrath at 7:02 PM on January 27, 2012


I am really surprised that the obvious reason hasn't popped up yet in the comments.

Newt is pitching his lunar colony as a place where the 0.01% can wait it out while the inevitable wars, plagues, and famines play out when the Earth's climate goes too haywire for us to support 10 billion people on the remaining arable land.

As awful as the movie 2012 was in so many ways, I think it was quite accurate in that the rich pond scum would cough up a billion dollars euros a ticket to ride out the apocalypse in style. Given the existence of a program with economies of scale, I'm sure a billion dollars euros would cover a round-trip ticket to the Moon.
posted by localroger at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, coming back to this now, the thing that gets my goat is the (intentional?) conflation of the manned space program with all of NASA. NASA does a lot of other things.

That, and this new-ish Republican parlor game where they rattle off (or stall in the attempt, as Mr. Perry did in his debate) a list of federal agencies and programs they'd kill wholesale, without having once so much as googled to find out what those agencies actually do (looking at you, Mr. Rand Paul.) "Commerce, Education, DOE, NIST, HUD, NRL, FCC, FDA, Health and Human Services -- give me one good reason why the states couldn't perform those functions, if there's something there that actually needed doing?". I don't know if I'm really quoting anybody here, but the sentiment is widespread now. I hear this, like, every day.
posted by newdaddy at 7:40 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems like we'd want to maybe more thoroughly explore deep-water environments before we build a moonbase. Because 1) stuff lives there; 2) we depend on some of that stuff for our continued survival; and 3) we're on the verge of catastrophically fucking all that shit up and it'd be nice to KNOW about it before it's gone.

The Moon? Feh. Rocks. Maybe some groovy minerals. Staging ground for the ultimate rock-throwing contest. But the OCEAN FLOOR? All sorts of stuff to be found! New life, new energy, stuff we haven't even imagined, co-existing with us for millions of years. In the dark. In the cold. Under unimaginable pressure. What an adventure!

I say look down, not up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


The Republicans get to choose between the guy with lots of ideas and perhaps too much passion or they can go with the bean counter who's gut response to problems is to fire someone. Whom they choose will say a lot about their character. They always go on about America's destiny and its special place in history and American Exceptionalism. Put up or shut up time GOP. Are we exceptional enough to put boots back on the moon? Or are they going to say that America is over and done with. Time to see what the GOP is made of. My guess is they fold and go with Mitt Romney. In the end all their bullshit was just about scamming their way out of paying taxes or getting some big fat defense contract.
posted by humanfont at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2012


Phil Plait: The Gingrich Who Stole The News Cycle
posted by homunculus at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2012


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.


I, on the other hand, love them. But, for what it's worth, I'm not so keen on people who declare their hatred for other people based on reductive dismissal of their enthusiasm and optimism.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think it was quite accurate in that the rich pond scum would cough up a billion dollars euros a ticket to ride out the apocalypse in style.

Let's say you had a billion dollars and the opportunity to buy one ticket that spares you from certain death. You'd use it yourself or hand it to a loved one, who, since you're a billionaire, is likely also living in the lap of luxury. Don't try to pretend otherwise. No one's reaching out to save the freshly scrubbed Peace Corps volunteer just because.

Class warfare sucks. In all directions, up and down.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:51 PM on January 27, 2012


I think, as good conservatives, that we have to be more realistic about space travel. The moon is an empty rock. America's energy independence requires that we create a base on the Sun. The Sun is one of the major energy sources in the solar system, and it is not yet controlled by the arabs or the chinese. So we have a real opportunity to exploit this resource, for the good of our country.

My friends, by my second term, we will have a Sun base. My opponent says that this is a zany idea, that our initial landing craft will be burnt to ashes by the incredible heat of the Sun. But I say the theory of Solar Warming is just a theory, and not a real fact. When our first solarnauts land on the Sun and plant the flag of freedom for America, then we can decide whether or not they've been burnt to cinders.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:06 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


What else has 2.77% of the total federal budget right now? Well, under the 2012 proposed Obama budget, that's the entire cost of federal spending on education and job training.
Ugh. Education is paid for mostly by the states. total funding for education in the U.S was $972 billion in 2007. That year, the federal budget was $2.73 trillion. So spending on education was equal to 35.6% of the federal budget. Far more then the 2.77% figure you quoted. By the way, we actually spend more on public sector education in this country then we do on the military.

And of course the reason we were spending so much on the space program at that point is because we wanted, and needed ICBM research. The "Space Race" was really all about keeping up the Russians in nuke delivery technology. That's why we spent so much on it.
And about 400,000 employees. Hmm. In other words, most of the population of Atlanta.
Well, given there are about ~10% or 30 million people unemployed right now, that's not much (the official unemployment rate way undercounts, by the way. It's only people currently looking for work, not people who have given up looking because they can't find a job - the current rate is 8.5% = 25.5 million). We have over a million people in the army, why not dedicate that many people to advancing the human race? It would require training that many people in science and engineering, as we did in the 1960s. Which in turn helped fuel the technological boom in the latter half of the decade.

Newt's plan is infused with free market theology. His X-prize plan wouldn't work because no company is going to put up the capital and make the investment with such an enormous speculative payout.
posted by delmoi at 9:38 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh good, a new space prison movie! We should try and sell Next on this concept, as it's titally a monetary and energy expendature that makes sense.

(also all the prisoners should have number based puns as nicknames, Harry 20 style)
posted by Artw at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with BOP, let's look to the oceans first.
posted by arcticseal at 10:30 PM on January 27, 2012


I can't help but think of this.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:18 PM on January 27, 2012


I can't help but think of this.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 PM on January 27, 2012


I can help but think of this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:44 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the moon is where we should send John Galt.
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 AM on January 28, 2012


My friends, by my second term, we will have a Sun base. My opponent says that this is a zany idea, that our initial landing craft will be burnt to ashes by the incredible heat of the Sun. But I say the theory of Solar Warming is just a theory, and not a real fact. When our first solarnauts land on the Sun and plant the flag of freedom for America, then we can decide whether or not they've been burnt to cinders.

Seems simple enough to just go at night.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:51 AM on January 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


NASA has fizzled

... fizzled? but what about that GIANT MARTIAN NUCLEAR ROBOT WITH A FRICKIN LASER ON ITS HEAD?
posted by Tom-B at 5:26 AM on January 28, 2012


Ugh. Education is paid for mostly by the states.

What's your point in bringing this up? That federal spending in this area is superfluous?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:10 AM on January 28, 2012




Ugh. Education is paid for mostly by the states.

What's your point in bringing this up? That federal spending in this area is superfluous?


The argument was being made that all of NASA's budget would essentially pay for the entire education system because it's about on par with the Federal contribution, which is a small percentage of the cost of education. It's like arguing that NASA get's infinite amounts of money by dividing NASA's budged by the federal funds to go to something that doesn't receive federal funding.

It's sloppy reasoning at best or dishonest at worst.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]




We need to solve our problems on earth
Yes, but we need to decide if humanity's destiny is to sit here on earth forever or actually, go and do cool stuff.
The question I have about "our problems" is when do they stop? Utopia?

The Moon? Feh. Rocks. Maybe some groovy minerals.
No, the biggest thing about the moon is to live there you have to build a self-contained system that allows humans to live without injecting resources from the outside. Is this not one of the best ways to understand ecology and to build social systems that are self-sustaining? Aren't these the "problems" that humanity faces down here?
posted by niccolo at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem with that reasoning, niccolo, is that you could build the same enclosed ecology in an abandoned factory in Detroit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:57 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


FiveThirtyEight channels Dr. Seuss:
You can find pretty much every species of poll in Florida right now.

There are traditional polls and automated polls, Internet polls and partisan polls, academic polls and commercial polls.

There are polls where voters checked a box. There are polls that were reported on Fox.

There are polls that called the voter’s house. There are polls where voters clicked a mouse.

Though the numbers were here and there, the outcome was the same everywhere.

Unless there is a major glitch, Mitt Romney will beat Newt Gingrich.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2012


One inhospitable environment at a time!
posted by Artw at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2012


BitterOldPunk, Someone talks about the deep ocean mining . "I say look down, not up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:49 PM on January 27 [11 favorites +] [!] " I know that it does not cover all of its potential but it's a start.
posted by RuvaBlue at 8:45 PM on January 28, 2012


Yes, but we need to decide if humanity's destiny is to sit here on earth forever or actually, go and do cool stuff.

Thank you for proving my point.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:17 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokoRyu: So you're saying we have Peenemünde to thank for the iPad?

Well, given the NYT pieces this week validating Mike Daisey's critiques of the labor conditions at Foxconn, ballpark, give or take, sure, that's about right. Hyperbolically and all but yeah.
posted by mwhybark at 11:11 PM on January 28, 2012


all depends on if China will go rogue in the next hundred years or not!
posted by freddymetz at 12:46 AM on January 29, 2012


At some point, we need to disperse a bit, perhaps "hedge" our bets and spread-out - perhaps even use the resources available elsewhere within our system that will not impact our environment directly?

How about we spread out to Antarctica first? It has much better prospects for supporting human life than anywhere off Earth in this solar system.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:57 AM on January 29, 2012


I hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi.

I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.


I hereby declare that anything you expend resources on that does not immediately materially or socially improve the existence of humanity is a waste and you are a bad person for doing so.
posted by Snyder at 3:47 AM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


How about we spread out to Antarctica first? It has much better prospects for supporting human life than anywhere off Earth in this solar system.

Then we're agreed. As soon as someone finds me a facility on earth were I can have vast swaths of hard vacuum and zero gravity on the cheap I'll start construction on my factory.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:35 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hereby declare that anything you expend resources on that does not immediately materially or socially improve the existence of humanity is a waste and you are a bad person for doing so.

Yeah, no, that's not even vaguely my point.

I hate space. More accurately, I hate the fucking nerds who want to go to space, and more accurately than that, I hate the fucking nerds who want to go to space not because there's something there to see or experiment or get, but because it's space and space is awesome and where's my jetpacks and L5 colonies and why can't I live on the mooooon that would be awesome because I've always wanted to live in a tiny structure that is constantly on the verge of failing and killing everyone invooooollllved

That guy upthread talking about "humanity's destiny" is a perfect fucking example of the kind of person I'm talking about. "Humanity's destiny"? Maybe humanity's destiny is to fucking feed itself. Maybe humanity's destiny is to rule itself. As a species we're in chains and starving, and fuck it, let's buy some model rockets.

It's bullshit romanticism, which would only be annoying, but it's bullshit romanticism that wants to spend billions and billions of dollars on itself and damned be to the reality of it, which is that space travel technology is ludicrously primitive and monstrously expensive, and there's no particular reason to believe that any time soon it's going to be otherwise. Space travel is the domain of governments and the obscenely wealthy. Nobody reading this thread is going into space. Nobody reading this thread will set foot on the moon. Even though you have every privilege of the first world, you are not going to the moon, because it's fucking expensive and there's no money in it and there's no compelling reason for you to be there.

Really what I hate is romanticism. And what I really, really hate is pissing away billions of dollars on pointless dreams.

And nerds- the anger you feel when you read that? It's the same way those dumbasses who are against flag burning get pissed off when somebody burns a flag. It's the same rage at the disrespect for a stupid dream. You've come to identify space and space travel and space colonization and all that with progress and the future and shit, and you need to understand that if our future does lie in space, it doesn't lie in space within our lifetimes, or our children's. I'm not saying that we probably won't keep sending astronauts and probes up, but space the way nerds think of it is a fantasy, and always was, and most likely always will be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:44 AM on January 29, 2012


Then we're agreed. As soon as someone finds me a facility on earth were I can have vast swaths of hard vacuum and zero gravity on the cheap I'll start construction on my factory.

Why, do you have a cheap way to exploit them elsewhere?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:06 AM on January 29, 2012


but because it's space and space is awesome and where's my jetpacks and L5 colonies and why can't I live on the mooooon that would be awesome because I've always wanted to live in a tiny structure that is constantly on the verge of failing and killing everyone invooooollllved

I want America to go into space, because it's a helluva lot better than spending half a trillion dollars on the military every goddamn year. I want to see the country attempt something hard and seemingly impossible and then turn around and do it.

The Space Race was great because rather than lobbing missiles at each other, it was two countries trying to prove who was smartest and most capable lobbing men into space and eventually realizing they could work together on that task. That alone was worth billions of dollars.

It's ok if the space program is just another WPA because it's important to have a national goal that isn't about killing people. If government money is paying for jobs, I want a good chunk of it spent on science and infrastructure. Do we really need 11 aircraft carriers when most countries only have one? Maybe we could by with 5 or 6? yes, of course, defense is important, but it shouldn't put everything else on the back burner. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is embedded into American's genetic code. We've been at war for a decade, let's go have some fun and remind the world, and more importantly ourselves, we're not just 800 pound gorillas with lots of guns.

What about healthcare and feeding people? I'm all for it, the US absolutely, positively needs universal health care and stronger safety net. Jobs would be nice too. A space program's need for highly skilled people is plus in the jobs category.

And if America doesn't want to or can't do a manned space program right now, alright then. But I hope someone does, 'cause it's going to be amazing, despite the expense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:02 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's a helluva lot better than spending half a trillion dollars on the military every goddamn year.

This. Is it ok to romanticize war? Military?

It is not about flying jetpacks - you do understand that there are actually resources out there, right?

There is nothing romantic about space.

Nobody reading this thread is going into space.

Yep - never said I wanted to go myself - even if I could afford a private trip, personally I think it would be a waste of money - because it is a "joy-ride" which accomplishes nothing.

Establishing a permanent settlement - orbital or moon - that is a completely different thing. If you cannot understand that, I feel sorry for you.

Why the hate? Just because of romance? I hope you do not have a significant other in your life. I can understand worrying about the waste by governments (but what would you rather have them spend it on... military?) - but, if corporations want to do it - why would you care?
posted by jkaczor at 7:23 AM on January 29, 2012


There is nothing romantic about space.

Mike Mullane's book "Riding Rockets" is great for both popping that romantic balloon and then blowing it up even larger.

On the former point, he mention having his first bowel movement in space, where he stripped naked. He was following a more experienced astronauts advice, who noted "It's easier to clean feces off your skin than it is off your clothing."

But being on the shuttle as it orbited the earth upside downa nd being able to wedge his body into the space above the cockpit windows of the upside shuttle, so that his field of vision was filled with a view of the vast beauty of earth? Yeah, that was romance and gloriously so.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on January 29, 2012


As a species we're in chains and starving, and fuck it, let's buy some model rockets.

Really, Pope, the "wasting your time and money while kids starve in Africa" argument? I expect better.

space travel technology is ludicrously primitive and monstrously expensive, and there's no particular reason to believe that any time soon it's going to be otherwise.

Without R&D, how will this ever change?

Space travel is the domain of governments and the obscenely wealthy. Nobody reading this thread is going into space. Nobody reading this thread will set foot on the moon. Even though you have every privilege of the first world, you are not going to the moon, because it's fucking expensive and there's no money in it and there's no compelling reason for you to be there.

Weren't you arguing against spending billions of dollars on a flight of fancy? Yet now, you say that those who are not wealthy enough to do that aren't going to participate that dream. So, I guess you haven't been arguing with them--but if you're arguing with the privileged few who have actually sent rockets into space (SpaceX for instance), those fellows certainly don't fit the stereotype you've illustrated. They've already got payloads into the ionisphere.

Really what I hate is romanticism. And what I really, really hate is pissing away billions of dollars on pointless dreams.

If you think it's pointless because it's impractical--because we're unlikely to see it achieved--then your argument rests on defining some cost/benefit threshold beyond which a dream is pointless. You're free to define such a thing, of course, and if you want to do that and avoid pursuing anything that doesn't meet the test, that's perfectly sensible. If you define it in a way that others can understand, maybe come back and argue for why your threshold is the correct way to decide if a dream is worth pursuing.

I ask you to accept that other people have different ideas of what's an acceptable cost for a project, and hating them for such a difference of opinion, founded on assumptions no more arbitrary than your own, is petty of you.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:39 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no, that's not even vaguely my point.

So it's not that a space program isn't strictly utilitarian, it's that you don't approve of it's goal for aesthetic purposes?

LogicalDash is right. You can make an argument based on a cost/benefit analysis, but just saying "I hate space," and presenting that like it's more of an argument as to why your personally approved nonessential expenditures are acceptable and space travel isn't is petty as hell and not at all convincing.
posted by Snyder at 1:59 PM on January 29, 2012


Unwilling to give-up hope for the long-term survival of humanity - the odds of us lasting longer than another 1,000 years are slim, without at least even colonizing our local solar system

Humanity will end someday. I do not understand this delusion that it is unique amongst every species and will not go extinct. All species become extinct.

Entropy is the unremitting fact of the universe.

The Pillars of creation are more then just a pretty picture, they also show stars being formed from cosmic dust, something that was suspected to occur but now we have pictures of it happening.

A perfect example of how we would be fools to think that we will live forever. The Pillars of Creation were actually destroyed thousands of years ago. Turns out that a massive supernova wiped them out. Read the wikipedia article. We just can't see it yet because the supernova is between us and the nebula. Light from the supernova reached us after we first detected the Pillars of Creation, but there is little doubt that the nebula was scattered by relativistic shockwaves from the supernova. Humanity is as transient as the rest of creation.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:04 PM on January 29, 2012


Humanity will end someday.

Perhaps, but we'd like to put that appointment for as long as possible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:09 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Humanity will end someday. I do not understand this delusion that it is unique amongst every species and will not go extinct. All species become extinct.

I'd like to add to this, that I've never understood why space exploration is posited as a means of extending the shelf life of the human race. For one thing, we've been managing to extend our shelf life right here on Earth through scientific advancement, and could extend it even more, in particular when it comes to manifesting alternative energy sources and food management. Clean, renewable energy and managed food is a lot, lot closer to us than a) finding a pre-terraformed planet and b) being able to travel to it. But even assuming we did find such a planet, and could travel to it, then what? We go there, and continue consuming as we always have? I dunno, I think PG has a point about the romanticism aspect of the space exploration solution - as a means of extending the existence of humanity, it runs counter to practical sense; a great deal of the attraction is the cool factor. If we're really interested in extending the existence of humanity, we're not only far, far closer to making great strides in that area here on Earth, we're also already doing it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:29 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The current rockets we use burn hydrogen. They don't contribute to global warming

That may be so, but the entire operation built on planet earth to launch the stuff sure does.

Humanity will end someday.

Perhaps, but we'd like to put that appointment for as long as possible.


I seriously doubt it is doable. Every other planet in the solar system will have to be fed from here. Interstellar travel is far-fetched.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:31 PM on January 29, 2012


...I've never understood why space exploration is posited as a means of extending the shelf life of the human race.

I believe the thought is that if something happens to Earth, humanity will survive if we're capable of creating self sustaining off world colonies.

Every other planet in the solar system will have to be fed from here.

That's an interesting point of view. We should test it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:38 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure, let's try and feed a significant population in Antarctica from Antarctica and then we can move on to the much harder questions.

Perhaps, but we'd like to put that appointment for as long as possible.

Here's the thing, in the meantime it's more practical to postpone the problem by handling Earth based problems first.

There is nowhere in the solar system that is a better place to live than the Sahara desert, so why don't we put our research money towards making the Sahara a nice place to live?

I don't agree with the nerd bashing tone of what PG is saying but the essential point, that this is all just pointless romanticism, is spot on. There just aren't any practical benefits to trying to live on the Moon or Mars right now.

If we ever find some place worth going with telescopes or probes, we should figure out how to go there, but that isn't where we are right now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:46 PM on January 29, 2012


To be clear, rockets burning liquid hydrogen do most certainly contribute to global warming, because the hydrogen is derived from natural gas. I do work in one of the plants that supplies supplied the space shuttle and have firsthand knowledge of this.
posted by localroger at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2012


but the essential point, that this is all just pointless romanticism, is spot on.

Nah, for me it's an interesting problem, keeping humans alive in a hostile environment. It's far from romantic.

I see nothing wrong with trying to make life better in the Sahara, the South Pole or even underwater. Doesn't mean we shouldn't experiment with living in space or on the moon, though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see nothing wrong with trying to make life better in the Sahara, the South Pole or even underwater. Doesn't mean we shouldn't experiment with living in space or on the moon, though.

My point is if we have no chance of figuring out the space or moon thing if we can't do Antarctica. Doing one is the logical step towards the other.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:28 PM on January 29, 2012




Right, and one of the things you have to work on there is that the stations have to have food and supplies shipped in since they can't support themselves. That is fine when you are a boatride away, not so much when you are a billion dollar spaceflight away.

After you master it in Antarctica you have to figure out how to do it somewhere else with conditions that are vastly less welcoming, but first we will have a ton of space in Antarctica and the Sahara to expand into.

We are talking centuries worth of progress, so I can't blame folks for considering more immediate problems first.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:33 PM on January 29, 2012


but first we will have a ton of space in Antarctica and the Sahara to expand into

Yes and no.

If we populate every square inch of this planet and consume all of it's resources (including limited high-energy hydrocarbons) before we establish self-sustaining off-world colonies, we will simply no longer have the resources and ability to climb out of our gravity well.

We are currently worried about the climate-effects of sustaining a population of less than 10 billion - if we need to expand to Antartica and the Sahara, what will those effects be then?

Have you been tracking whats happening with oceans and the world-wide fisheries - the dragnet-style of fishing is killing vast tracts of sea life - and we aren't even living "there" yet.

While living within the ocean is a great idea - the link up-thread pointed to underwater mining... Great, now we are going to FURTHER muck-up another ecosystem we are dependant on...
posted by jkaczor at 8:32 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we populate every square inch of this planet and consume all of it's resources (including limited high-energy hydrocarbons) before we establish self-sustaining off-world colonies, we will simply no longer have the resources and ability to climb out of our gravity well.

Or! How about, we start putting our Space Colony money towards clean energy and better resource management here on Earth? We could even do that while working out how to live in Antarctica, the Sahara or the ocean floor - all of which, by the by, are a lot less hostile environments and would not require the additional costs of building spaceships capable of travel lasting decades if not centuries while keeping scores of people alive. I mean, if the survival of the species is the goal, anyway, it seems we have a number of options here at home to explore first.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:42 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


All resources are finite, yeah, but we aren't close to using up the Earth. The technology to drill and mine deeper on Earth can be researched instead of figuring out how to drill on Mars. It will remain cheaper to do that for a long while.

I mean, yes, everyone here is aware of environmental challenges. That doesn't imply the only solution is to go to another place where the environment is in every way worse for human life. If we can develop the technology to live sustainably on Mars, we have already developoed the technology to do it on Earth.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:42 PM on January 29, 2012


clean energy and better resource management here on Earth?

Sure - so, who gets to tell the bulk of the world's population that they cannot have the standard of living that the entire Western world has had for the last 70 years? Going to enforce that limitation of economic and cultural growth? How?

Who will control and enforce birthrates - worldwide?

We aren't close to using up the Earth - if you do not believe in "peak oil", sure.

Honestly - do you think that humanity will actually put a high priority on clean energy, reduced population and economic growth - globally? That there will not be wasteful wars over diminishing resources?

Why only one thing or the other? Why not both? I can understand the angst over public funding - but, frankly I am not discussing a single politicians ambitions here. If a corporation or private entity wants to do it and it is profitable enough for them to continue, why not let them?
posted by jkaczor at 9:50 PM on January 29, 2012


Sure - so, who gets to tell the bulk of the world's population that they cannot have the standard of living that the entire Western world has had for the last 70 years? Going to enforce that limitation of economic and cultural growth? How?

Who's going to tell them that only the wealthiest 0.01% of the population are boarding the mothership for Planet Paradise? I'd personally rather tell them they won't be able to leave the lights on all night anymore.

Who will control and enforce birthrates - worldwide?

I don't think that's a necessary measure for a government agency to take, so, problem solved.

Honestly - do you think that humanity will actually put a high priority on clean energy, reduced population and economic growth - globally? That there will not be wasteful wars over diminishing resources?

Again, if you think switching to clean nuclear and hybrid cars is going to cause more conflict than "so long, suckers, enjoy your dying planet," then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:03 PM on January 29, 2012


In short, jkaczor, the point you seem to be missing here is, for as challenging as clean energy and resource management certainly are, they are nowhere near as impossible as living in outer space.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:04 PM on January 29, 2012


Honestly - do you think that humanity will actually put a high priority on clean energy, reduced population and economic growth - globally?

I agree it's tough to solve these problems and solutions may seem a bit pie in the sky, but I just can't settle the for the more practical and boring space colonization idea instead. Think of all the schoolchildren we could inspire to take up careers in science by improving the environment around them!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:25 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think of all the schoolchildren we could inspire to take up careers in science by improving the environment around them!

That has been part of the curriculum here in Canada for the last 10-15 years - according to current statistics it has been great at creating people who are vastly concerned - yet do not go into science and end-up under-educated on the subject as a whole.

hybrid cars

You realize that for some of us (quite a few - in Northern countries worldwide) - who live in places that at times seem to resemble Antartica close, hybrids are not actually effective for at least half the year?

Nuclear is clean? Sort of, if you ignore the outputs - and sure it is safe - in geologically stable, non-disaster-prone areas. (Well - excepting the "human" factor as well).

I don't think that's a necessary measure for a government agency to take, so, problem solved.

Really? Even today it has to be mandated by government in some countries - and it is a problem. Small family sizes generally have been correlated to Western-style success... If you want the same worldwide, you are going to have to vastly increase the standard of living (good thing, sure) to levels that I doubt we can sustain.

Is everybody ready to give up their house in the suburbs, with the "lawn" and move into high-density housing because it is more efficient?

My god - it doesn't have to be one way or another - the naysayers in this thread are as bad with their visions of the future as the expansionists...

I hope we are both wrong, but based on history and the present, frankly I doubt the ability for humanity to "pull together" and form some sort of utopian "eco-friendly" super society that doesn't fight over what is here, that is altruistic and self-sacrificing. Personally - I want more for my kids - not less. That is a hard instinct to change.
posted by jkaczor at 3:25 AM on January 30, 2012


Is everybody ready to give up their house in the suburbs, with the "lawn" and move into high-density housing because it is more efficient?

If the choice is that or moving to a place where going outside is a death sentence, yes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:23 AM on January 30, 2012


If a corporation or private entity wants to do it and it is profitable enough for them to continue, why not let them?

Because no one is seriously working on space exploration without a government paycheck coming or expected.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:11 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? Even today it has to be mandated by government in some countries - and it is a problem. Small family sizes generally have been correlated to Western-style success... If you want the same worldwide, you are going to have to vastly increase the standard of living (good thing, sure) to levels that I doubt we can sustain.

World population is expected to peak and decline this century. Percentage year over year peaked over 35 years ago and number of births over deaths peaked in the 1980s.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:18 AM on January 30, 2012


Is Newt Gingrich’s plan for a moon mine science fiction? The technology may be in place, but is there any reason to go?

His plan for being President is Science Fiction.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


His plan to do a moon base in 8 years is completely made up, so he's more in the juvenile SciFi/Fantasy vein, with a dash of bad opera.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:43 PM on January 30, 2012


There is nowhere in the solar system that is a better place to live than the Sahara desert, so why don't we put our research money towards making the Sahara a nice place to live?

First, define "nice" and keep in mind, people already live in the Sahara.

We are talking centuries worth of progress, so I can't blame folks for considering more immediate problems first.

Curious, why do you think it'll take centuries of progress?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:00 PM on January 30, 2012




I wonder where that money would have went.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 PM on January 30, 2012


Also, just finished reading Apollo over the weekend. NASA was planing to go to the moon way before Kennedy made his famous speech. The reactions to the speech by NASA managers and administrators varied from surprise to shock to 'hell yeah'.

It's interesting that a lot of the initial engineers and designers of NASA were inspired to go to the moon because of science fiction books and magazines. Ah, romance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 PM on January 30, 2012


I especially hate nerds who want to go into space for no good reason other than they grew up on spacefaring scifi and don't understand how fucking much fuel is involved in getting even a single kilo into space.

Well, yeah. Not to be a pedant, but actually fuel isn't really a major contributor to the cost of space travel. Not that it's cheap, but the amount of R&D that needs to be amortised per launch and the cost of the spacecraft itself is way, way more.

I more or less agree with the rest of what you said though, at least as far as manned spaceflight goes.

I've got this friend, raised on scifi like me but not scientifically educated past the high-school level (unlike me) who insists that one day we're going to have faster than light travel. When it comes down to it, his reasoning for that is that he was so immersed as a child in fantasy worlds where FTL was ubiquitous that he feels entitled to a future that contains it.
posted by atrazine at 11:43 AM on January 31, 2012


We are talking centuries worth of progress, so I can't blame folks for considering more immediate problems first.

Curious, why do you think it'll take centuries of progress?

Because there are countless technological problems to overcome. Even the more ambitious plans envision a Mars colony being dependent on Earth for centuries, which isn't much help if Earth is stripped of all resources or hit by an asteroid or whatever.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:30 PM on January 31, 2012


@pope guilty

maybe you just hate nerds
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:31 PM on February 8, 2012


also what does it mean for humanity to "rule" itself
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:36 PM on February 8, 2012




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