I can't believe I'm defending Newt Gingrich, sort of, but I am.
Newt has proposed having an American base on the Moon by 2021. All over the media people are mocking the idea as ridiculous. The idea is doable. The way Newt wants to do it is stupid, but the idea isn't. The Crux has goes into details in this article.
The one thing Newt isn't willing to commit to, and the reality based community knows is unlikely to happen, is putting forth a budget for the plan. Newt's plan without a budget is just completely gutting NASA to build an unsustainable Moon base that would be abandoned in 2022.
For a real Moon Base it would take the kind of money the US spent on air conditioning in Iraq during the war. The money is now there, we are out of Iraq, but getting the government to shift it to something useful is the hard part.
Just for the hell of it, let's say the government were to shift the $20 billion a year we used to spend on AC in Iraq towards setting up a Moon Base.
An important part of setting up a Moon Base is the ability to get there. The canceled Constellation program had this ability but lack of funding killed it when it was halfway. $8 billion was spent building the components and a lot of the project has been salvaged for continued research. Let's shoot for the Moon and give NASA $8 billion dollars a year more dedicated towards the launch hardware. By 2016 we could have a Ares V heavy lift launcher up and running carrying 188 metric tons to orbit.
Part of the Constellation Program is now unnecessary, the Ares I a vehicle designed to get humans into orbit. Newt spoke the truth when he said:
We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model of the development of the airlines in the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching.
This will happen no matter who is in the White House. Three companies plan on having human rated rockets flying by 2016. With an additional $2 Billion from my fantasy budget given out in contracts to do more Near Earth Orbital work, these companies could pursue a robust launch schedule.
I've used up half my fantasy budget now. The rest can be used on ground operations. Space Operations need power. $2 Billion dollars a year could be spent on Solar Energy Research. This would be about the same amount as the private US Solar Energy Industries makes in exports. With that kind of money the US would become the leader in Solar Energy systems and Solar panels would be at least one quarter the weight and cost they are now.
This would also free the US from our reliance on foreign oil as the amount of energy we would get from Solar Energy would be huge.
Any Moon Base would also need to be self-sustaining so I'll give another $2 Billion towards research in self-sustaining technologies. Advanced recycling, energy efficiency, low energy material processing. All these technologies could be used on Earth as well giving our economy a boost.
Finally, to have a robust space program you need a very well educated workforce. I'd give the remaining $6 Billion out in Pell Grants, giving students a third more money towards college. So cost wouldn't be the major factor in pursuing a degree.
Given this extra budget, by 2020 when it comes time to build the Lunar Base we would have a robust Near Earth Orbit infrastructure, the technology for a sustainable Moon Base and an educated workforce. The $5 Billion per year it would take to keep the base operational in its first couple of decades would come from the $8 Billion a year I used to build the original hardware.
All it takes is the same amount of commitment that we had towards keeping our troops cool so they could go out and kill brown people.
So to the people who laugh at Newt Gingrich's idea of a Moon Base, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, don't laugh at the idea as being impossible because it isn't. All it takes is a level of commitment and an approach that helps all the people of this country. So you should laugh at Gingrich as commitment and helping the people of this country are not things he has ever shown he was willing or able to do.”
By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE