January 27, 2012

"Could the United States establish a moon colony and develop a new propulsion system for going to Mars?"

"All within eight years of a Newt Gingrich presidency, as Mr. Gingrich promised this week? The answers seem to be technologically yes, economically iffy and politically very difficult."

Newt's idea for a lunar colony is...
... lunacy.
... intriguing but misguided.
... exactly the kind of thing we need.
  
pollcode.com free polls 

103 comments:

Maguro said...

Um...no.

Lamar63 said...

"lunacy" perfect!

Revenant said...

Could we, yes.

Would it be awesome, yes.

Is there any rational reason to do it, no.

Do we have ANY spare money in the federal budget with which to fund the program: oh hell no.

Chip S. said...

This proves that Gingrich can't possibly be serious about entitlement reform. "If we can colonize the moon we can pay for granny's old age" is as predictable a response to this as a rooster's crow is to tomorrow's sunrise.

shiloh said...

Possible ... next thing you know, we'll elect a Muslim from Kenya, named Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America! :)

Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet!

edutcher said...

I think Stephen Hawking is right and our future is "out there", which is a compelling enough reason.

Problem is, as Mr Romney noted with telling effect last night, the money isn't there right now.

When we get our finances straight, we can talk, but right now, it's just a dream.

shiloh said...

Possible ... next thing you know, we'll elect a Muslim from Kenya, named Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America! :)

Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet!


Or at least where shiloh is standing.

lewsar said...

can we? yes

would it be a good thing to do? yes

are there rational reasons to do it? yes

is there any money to pay for it? absolutely not

and thus does the united states voluntarily relinquish leadership in space: we ain't got no money.

Tim said...

This is "high speed rail" dumb, but a hundred or more times worse: a hundred times more expensive, and hundred times less useful.

Typical Gingrich: bright, shiny idea of the moment.

What we really need is someone who will get to work on bringing our transfer payment and entitlement programs in line with fiscal sustainability and moral hazard.

Moon bases ain't that.

Andy R. said...

The Republican party taking Newt seriously is...

a) lunacy.
b) intriguing but misguided.
c) exactly the kind of thing we need.

Synova said...

No, we don't have enough money.

We don't have enough money in this economy.

We will never have enough money even in a splendid economy.

Do we wait until China gets there first? Hey. I'm not anti-China in this. More power to them. Rivalries can be friendly rivalries, or if we just want to give space over to someone else, that's a choice, too. After all, we don't have enough money.

Or non-governmental organizations could do it. More power to them. Wouldn't be us. We'd give up the right to have a say-so. But since we can't afford it, that's a choice, too.

Our present space treaties are, all of them, entirely moronic bits of gawd awful dog-in-the-manger idiocy written and agreed to while we were unassailably dominant in the world.

David said...

I attended a lecture on this subject a few years ago, and came away stunned at the possibilities.

There are a lot of people who are smarter than Newt who have been looking at this potential. There are theoretical models for extraction of water from the moon, fabrication of building materials there and sending gigantic amounts of solar energy to earth through a laser like beam. There are never any clouds on the moon, so solar energy is massively abundant.

It seems pretty far fetched, but so did many of the things we now regard as commonplace.

The Chinese space program has a goal of sending astronauts back to the moon, and ultimately of permanent colonization by China.

As any soldier will tell you, the force with the highest ground has a terrific advantage.

John Burgess said...

I think it would be awesome!

I think the money would be better spent on fixing the infrastructure that's collapsing around us today.

write_effort said...

Comments with this kind of specificity -- by the end of my second term, it will be a state -- seem so out of touch with the mood of the country. Seriously out of touch. He's a kid who wants attention 'cause he's so smart, and bold, don't forget bold.

Ambrose said...

Fix the roads; cut entitlements; kill the Islamist radicals; call it a day....

David said...

As to cost, a lot depends on finding ways to generate energy, oxygen, water and ultimately to harness raw materials on the moon. There are theories of how all this could be done. How realistic they are remains to be seen.

If everything has to be shipped up by rocket, the costs grow greatly. The real payoff would be transmitting solar energy from the moon to the earth.

You don't just wait 15 years until the fiscal moment is exactly right for this, just as you can't just decide to wait 10 years before you build the next submarine or aircraft carrier. The technology erodes and is forgotten if not constantly being improved, and the skilled people who do the work drift away and are not replaced.

Calypso Facto said...

It'll only be expensive until we find that unobtanium or imulsion.

David said...

"I think the money would be better spent on fixing the infrastructure that's collapsing around us today."

Same thing was said in the 1960's about the moon program and space exploration in general. Yet the American move into space was in direct and indirect ways the catalyst for the information and communications revolution that is sweeping the world now, changing culture and politics and creating great wealth.

David said...

Ambrose said...
Fix the roads; cut entitlements; kill the Islamist radicals; call it a day....


Why not freeze all technology just as it is now? Hey, it's good enough for us. It ought to be just fine for our grandkids.

Phil 3:14 said...

Is this why?

Ambrose said...

David: Why would we want to freeze technology as it is today? Do you think that technology will only advance if government does something like fly to the moon. Here's my take - the video games, and cellphones your grandkids will have will be a lot better than anything the government provides. And they will better still if the government confines itself to the three items I outlined in my earlier post.

Original Mike said...

Exactly the kind of thing we need to let PRIVATE business do. Why does everyone always jump to the assumption that it must be government that needs to do it? Give them development rights and maybe set up an X Prize thing.

Chip S. said...

@Original Mike-exactly right.

Unlike the market for submarines and aircraft carriers, there's an extensive private-sector demand for energy. So energy companies have ample incentive for R&D in this area, as long as they don't think the US government will do it all for them.

David said...

Private business do it?

My model for that is the transcontinental railroads, where the federal government gave the re's the land, created the homestead system and entered into contracts with the re's to carry mail, troops, etc.

Government has a role here.

Ambrose: I think not pushing our present knowledge in space technology forward is the same as abandoning it. Space and moon exploration have always been easy to ridicule and argue against, but the payoff from the investment has been very high over the years.

Synova said...

"Exactly the kind of thing we need to let PRIVATE business do. Why does everyone always jump to the assumption that it must be government that needs to do it? Give them development rights and maybe set up an X Prize thing."

Private industry will.

I'm probably a very very bad libertarian to think that perhaps the US would like to have some legitimate authority to assert at that end. Probably because I have a paranoid notion that "beaming energy to earth" can take a number of... interesting forms. So the most likely thing is that private industry (or China) will get themselves up there and then we (in the form of the nation "America") will suddenly have a panic driven convulsion and do something terribly stupid.

Chip S. said...

@David--Unlike the case of RR rights-of-way, I don't see any eminent domain issues in moon development.

Encouraging the gov't to get involved in anything but treaties establishing a system for enforcing lunar property rights is tantamount to discouraging development.

Chip S. said...

@Synova--You don't think it would be easy to lob a warhead up there in that situation?

Quaestor said...

shiloh wrote:
Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet!

It was stupid forty years ago when first coined, the kind of thing the loud, lonely guy at the end of the bar would say, it's fossil stupidity now.

If you're determined to be a troll, at least be an interesting troll.

wv: filly. Wanna buy one this fall.

garage mahal said...

But build a damn border fence around the colony first! Have we learned nothing?

Sorun said...

We blew our wad trying to nation-build in a couple of Islamic, 8th-century buttfuckistans. Now let's do something smart. Let the Chinese do all the lessons-learned stuff about the moon, if and when they choose, and we'll follow right behind, reaping the rewards at much less cost to us. That would be clever and that gets my vote.

pm317 said...

Yeah, carry water from the moon on the way to Mars!! (heard it from straight from the horse's mouth on Greta).

Synova said...

"@Synova--You don't think it would be easy to lob a warhead up there in that situation?"

I don't think it would be easy, but I think someone might try.

Makes me think of Miles Vorkosigan... he's a character in a book series who somehow always manages to take over whatever he's involved in. One of his, rather, all of his superiors observe this and a few of them comment. His explanation is that he doesn't have a problem following orders, and doesn't have a problem with people having authority over him. He doesn't have a *desire* to be in charge and it's not his fault people keep giving the wrong orders.

It's not a power play.

That's how I feel about space. It's not that I think that we ought to have the power, that the US ought to have the power and authority, Hoo-Rah! It's just that someone is going to have it and I'd sort of rather it was us.

Because having a panic attack and trying to lob a warhead up there after the fact isn't all that unlikely a scenario. Because who ever ends up occupying that space is unlikely to think that an international treaty that says nothing in space can be owned by anyone is worth wiping their butt on, and they've got a right to arrange for defending their territory and someone down *here* is going to mess their pampers.

Unless we simply suppress all space exploration before it starts... which is another option.

Synova said...

We can follow the Chinese to the moon if they let us.

I'm sure they'll let us.

pm317 said...

Fix the economy first!

Original Mike said...

"Government has a role here."

A damn good start would be banning Lisa Jackson from ever setting foot on the moon.

Chip S. said...

Synova, I don't know what it is that you think is so inherently valuable about squatting on the moon.

If it turns out to be a low-cost place to generate energy, then the value of that will be realized by selling energy to the rest of us. I don't care all that much if the energy is being sold to me by Chinese- or American-owned entities.

As for the moon as a military base, I don't see why the Chinese or anyone else would go to the trouble of basing their death-ray machines there when they could just toss some nukes our way from the other side of Earth. It's not like the moon is a balloon from which people can just drop stuff down on us.

Original Mike said...

There is little to no military advantage of a lunar base that I am aware of.

Synova said...

If it's not worth anything, it doesn't matter.

But I live in New Mexico. Can't grow anything on the land so what's it worth? If civilization ended we'd all die.

Original Mike said...

It's really too bad we've put ourself in this sorry fiscal hole. This is one of many examples of lost opportunity because we have no fucking disipline as a society.

traditionalguy said...

Why not claim our place on our Moon?
Our flag is already there.

We don't want the Chinese mooning us.

And the Muslims would take notice since allah is their Moon god.

Original Mike said...

"If it's not worth anything,..."

It's worth everything as an inspirational goal and a stimulus to innovation, but we can't afford it because we've become food-stamp nation.

shiloh said...

Let the record show Quaestor replied to, as he said, an uninteresting troll. Whereas if you were an interesting troll, he'd be all over you like flies on shit! :D

As Spock would say ~ as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates.

Thanx for the inane shout out!

As always, look forward to your continuing to ignore me, like you have done successfully in the past and in this thread. :-P

>

Again, as mentioned in the endless "comment thread", the easiest thing in the world is avoiding a poster at a political blog, except if one is totally obsessed er fixated on someone, like Fen, edutcher, Scott M et al.

Carnifex said...

90 years ago, my mom's aunt and uncle took a vacation. Their first ever, at her aunt's insistence. After nagging her husband for years he broke down, "Get in the car" he told her. They drove from Scranton, Pa to Daytona Beach, Fl without stopping.(my great uncle was hardcore Italian). It took three days with no interstates. They got to Daytona, and parked. My great uncle opened the door, stretched, looked up in the sky. "Same sun as we got in Scranton" he says, "Get back in the car", and they returned to Scranton

True story. My point?

Why would you transmit solar power from the moon to the Earth? We don't get sunlight here? We don't have a way to service the power stations here?

This is a dumb idea, and fails just on the economics of the premise. Go to space for material, go to space for extreme manufacturing, go to space to colonize. Going to space to send power to Earth? FAIL!

Ps. Did you people realize that 2/3's of the surface of the Earth is covered with water? Did you people realize that water is made of H2O? Did you people realize that you can split water into hydrogen and oxygen, burn the hydrogen and oxygen together (for energy) and the waste is water?

We have plenty of sources of energy available, but it's too cheap. The oil companies, and the politicians they purchase prefer we stay on petroleum, and are willing to waste millions (to make billions) on dumb systems like solar, and wind, because it keeps you dummies dependent on them.

Matt said...

Let's be honest. This is something he's putting out there because it will play well in Florida.

Blair said...

The article says it all - it's easily possible to do again, and we already have the technology. Newt said on Greta tonight that he would expect private interests to fund most of the project.

Rockets are expensive, but their costs are in the millions, not the billions. We don't need to do all the R&D we did in the sixties either. The technology that got us to the moon can now be contained within your average iPod shuffle.

So far I don't see much of a downside to Newt's proposal.

Original Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Original Mike said...

"...because it keeps you dummies dependent on them."

Wouldn't that be us dummies? :rolleyes:

Craig said...

Interplanetary travel is the upside from fifty years of Cold War defense spending on ICBMs and Star Wars.

Echo Alpha said...

Tossing nukes around the world takes enough time to allow the other side to toss back, a rail gun time of flight from the moon with basically just rocks is Much quicker unless you stick to parabolic delivery which is unnecessary for rocks. A lot of the solar energy is blocked by our atmosphere and what gets through gets blocked by tree huggers "protecting," some critter. Photocell film on the surface of the moon doesn't get as dusty or rained on as here so even low efficiency collection might pay off over time and the same masers that would deliver the energy here would be very potent weapons in the hands of an enemy.

Craig said...

Conestoga wagons drawn by immense mylar sails. Head 'em up. Move 'em out. Rawhide.

Synova said...

I can see solar energy from space based collectors, but isn't the moon dark for half a month at a time? With good batteries it might be a plan for supplying stations on the moon itself, but wouldn't nuclear be better? (Or anti-matter...)

bagoh20 said...

How about a high speed train to Mars. Then we will find the money.

ed said...

I'd suggest reading Rand Simberg instead of the NYT. Considering how much and how often the NYT pushes utter dreck it is still something of a mystery to me why you'd constantly rely on it.

Link

purplepenquin said...

It's not like the moon is a balloon from which people can just drop stuff down on us

Adam Selene strongly disagrees with you.

ed said...

@ Synova

"I can see solar energy from space based collectors, but isn't the moon dark for half a month at a time? With good batteries it might be a plan for supplying stations on the moon itself, but wouldn't nuclear be better? (Or anti-matter...)"

1. Space based solar collectors wouldn't be on the moon or in lunar orbit. They would be located in geosynchronous Earth orbit with repeater satellites so the energy could be collected 24/7 and then directed to the appropriate satellite power system and then beamed down to Earth probably as microwaves. The microwave collector system would probably be a couple miles on a side. And with the distributed nature of America's power grid you'd have regional or even state oriented power collectors on the ground depending on how much power is being used.

2. Actually the Moon as it is never really rotates. It's rotation is equal to it's orbit so it shows the same face to the sun at all times. The various phases of the moon are really Earth eclipsing the moon.

3. We've only been able to temporarily contain about 30 atoms of antimatter for a few ... picoseconds I think. Imagine the smallest possible amount of time. About that.

4. Why would we colonize the Moon before Earth orbit? Because it takes materials to build space habitats. To lift materials out of Earth's gravity costs about $4,000/lb. To lift it from the Moon, once a colony is in place, would cost vastly less. Especially if you use a mass-driver system.

5. Do we need to be worried about China? Maybe. But frankly I think China's economy is about to self-destruct so probably not.

Bender said...

Interesting that most people just assume that this would be entirely or mostly a government-funded adventure. As if everything always has to be government-centric.

When, in fact, Newt's intriguing and "grandiose" proposal is for 90 percent private funding and operation.

Of course the federal government cannot afford it. The federal government cannot afford anything -- it is broke. But a private venture? Maybe.

The thing is -- we should think big, we should always aspire to things that are greater than ourselves.

Revenant said...

Do we wait until China gets there first?

They're 43 years too late to get there first.

That being said, if China wants to waste enormous sums of money on a project with no strategic or economic value, I say more power to 'em. Never interrupt an enemy when he's making a mistake. :)

Synova said...

The high speed rail is like Solyndra and green power. I suppose there are some ways that it's like going to the moon (or space in general, or Mars) and staying there, but I think there are some fundamental differences.

Firstly, no one really makes the argument that economic realities don't exist when they talk about the Moon. Maybe there are some research benefits and perhaps it might be self-sustaining eventually, but the arguments for the Moon are closer to the arguments for art.

The arguments for high speed rail and Solyndra are magical thinking about economics and what we want very badly to believe is true. Because it *ought* to be so, high speed rail will be cheap and clean and get us where we want to go even better than cars. Because it *ought* to be so, Solyndra will turn those subsidies into permanent jobs and make solar panels that work so well that we can give up using fossil fuel. It's clapping for Tinkerbell. (Hey, wouldn't "Clapping for Tinkerbell" be an awesome title for a book?)

Going to the moon is closer to art. First and foremost it feeds our souls. No one has to buy into some delusion that the economy behaves in a way it doesn't behave because no one is being asked to do so. You either agree that it's worth doing simply for the sake of doing it, or you don't.

Synova said...

"2. Actually the Moon as it is never really rotates. It's rotation is equal to it's orbit so it shows the same face to the sun at all times. The various phases of the moon are really Earth eclipsing the moon."

I'm pretty sure this isn't right.

The same side of the moon faces the Earth at all times, not the sun.

ic said...

No.

We used to have a space agency, now we have a bureaucracy. We used to have a 26 years old man over ruling computer warnings and told Neil Armstrong "It's a go." Now we have 26 years old kids who are to be covered by mommy's insurance.

The more advanced we are, the stupider we are.

Bender said...

As for whether it is technologically possible within 8-10 years?

Probably not. Much of the engineering for the Apollo missions has been forgotten. That is partly because, after Apollo and its mission-oriented purpose, NASA sank into bureaucratic careerism. Rather than seeking to achieve some objective in space, the objective was to have a job and draw a paycheck.

It would take a lot of re-learning and new engineering and new construction methods and new training to even duplicate the Apollo landings. Establishing a base there would take even longer to engineer.

And, yes, even with private financing, we frankly have already spent ourselves into the poor house. We don't have the money for human inter-planetary exploration. But one can dream.

Synova said...

Oh wait... I needed to reread the comment about high speed rail.

Yes, I suppose a high speed rail would get us to Mars. ;-)

John Lynch said...

My problem with space colonies is that there is nothing in space that can't be found more cheaply on Earth.

We'll explore and colonize the Solar system when it is fairly cheap to do so. When technology and the world economy advance enough it will be easy.

Until then, it's a big waste of time and money.

John Lynch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
purplepenquin said...

"In the long run, a single-planet species will not survive."
--Michael Griffin

"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet. Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe."
--Stephen Hawking

"If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, there would be no greater tragedy in the history of life in the universe. Not because we lacked the brain power to protect ourselves but because we lacked the foresight. The dominant species that replaces us in post-apocalyptic Earth just might wonder, as they gaze upon our mounted skeletons in their natural history museums, why large headed Homo sapiens fared no better than the proverbially peabrained dinosaurs."
--Neil deGrasse Tyson

"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in."
--Robert A. Heinlein

John Lynch said...

^^ these arguments don't impress me.

Any extraterrestrial colony is far more likely to be wiped out than life on Earth. The hazards are much, much greater.

Sure, in the long term it would be nice for humans to live on other planets. But in the near term most colonies will probably die.

Also, the chances of humans being around in their current form when some cosmic threat arises is pretty small. We'll evolve into something else, either naturally or by our own hand.

Bruce Hayden said...

Yes, humans could do it, but, no, our government could not, in a reasonable time frame for less than a totally obnoxious cost in money.

All you have to do is look at NASA and its space shuttle - which was supposed to cost in the hundreds of thousands to turn around, and ended up costing hundreds of millions per flight. And, it was so obsolete that two shuttles were lost, with all hands. Once the shuttle got flying, so much was being spent keeping it flying on occasion, that little money was left to pursue other, more realistic, solutions.

Luckily, it is more and more looking like private enterprise is starting to step in to compensate from the government's failure in this area. We may be even seeing space tourists visiting the space station this year.

Revenant said...

The problem with the quotes from Heinlein, Hawking, et al, is that they assume "colonizing other worlds" is a practical solution. That does not appear to be true. We've gotten a good long look at the solar system and there's nothing appealing out there.

If "we're doomed unless we colonize other worlds" is true, that just means... we're doomed. :)

shiloh said...

"that just means... we're doomed."

So have a drink!

Or as JFK said to Salinger during the Cuban Missile Crisis, relax, smoke a Cuban cigar ...

John Lynch said...

For colonizing space, consider that we have trouble living in Antarctica or the Sahara. And we can breathe there!

No one is flocking to the hostile environments here on Earth. Why will space be different?

davis,br said...

Do we need a reason?

...I just want to go, somewhere, "out there".

Just to look. Y'know?

I'm curious. See what we'll find. Maybe stay. Maybe come back and shake my head and think it wasn't worth it.

But if I don't go, I won't know.

Would be a helluva adventure.

...sometimes you just have to.

There may be treasure.

That's lots of perfectly legitimate reasons to go right there.

Somebody help me with the ship?

If you're inclined to say no, that's okay ...maybe your imagination isn't fit for the trip anyways. There's always, say, Yellowstone y'know. That's nice too. Maybe that will satisfy you.

You probably wouldn't have left the Old World for the New World either. And then where would we be.

Spoilsport, much?

Or just homebody?

Every party needs a pooper, that's what we invited you for, party pooper.

...we'll go ...someday ...just because that's what life does.

Duh.

Petrov said...

We've been going downhill ever since we *stopped* going to the moon.

It would be a great jobs program. It encourages development of more STEM professionals (they grow the economy). New technology development in energy, materials, computing, medicine, industrial, etc.

We're not going to learn that paying perfectly capable people to sit at home and watch TV.

Quaestor said...

John Lynch wrote:
No one is flocking to the hostile environments here on Earth. Why will space be different?

You make the fundamental error of assuming that what prevails today will always prevail. Just because the average generously fed, nurtured and entertained American of today is more than slightly chickenshit, and would prefer a life of comfort to an adventure on an alien world, that this is normal and has always been so.

Hmmph! The most generous thing I can say about that notion is that it is somewhat shortsighted. History proves you wrong, John.

As it is now there are Antarctic stations that are staffed year round by people who are undaunted by the long, lonely frozen darkness. These people are risk takers, and each one would likely volunteer as a colonist on the Moon or Mars if given the opportunity. As for the risk of being wiped out, of suffering an unknown fate, before the invention of wireless telegraphy this was a risk taken by anyone who chose to sail out of sight of land. Yet the oceans were crossed by persons who willingly or unwillingly colonized distant and hostile continents.

You might be one of the chickenshit stay-at-homes, afraid to venture too far from your comforts, willing to passively accept a painless extinction rather than take the leap into the dark, but don't count on any support from me. I'd go if they'd have me.

Some people are risk takers, and if Americans are no longer risk takers then another race will fill that role in our stead.

Revenant said...

Do we need a reason? ...I just want to go, somewhere, "out there". Just to look. Y'know?

You can see it just fine from the surface of the Earth. Buy a telescope. :)

Revenant said...

You make the fundamental error of assuming that what prevails today will always prevail.

It isn't a fundamental error, it is an observable fact. Unless you're talking about geological timescales, the planetary environments of the solar system don't change much. History, as you might say, proves that.

Now, if your goal is to live in a hermetically sealed environment in case a meteor or a plague strikes the Earth, I guess you could go do that on Mars... or do it right here on Earth, which would still be orders of magnitude more habitable than Mars even after the catastrophe. :)

You might be one of the chickenshit stay-at-homes

Yeah, yeah, we're all impressed. Look, feel free to keep masturbating to your copy of Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" if you like, but you're still going to die right here on Earth.

Carnifex said...

@ original Mike

Literally, yes. I too buy gas. Figuratively no. I don't pine for olar power to save us, or natural gas, or wind power, or unicorn farts. I know that the answer is as close as our faucets, and that a cabal is actively (yes actively, there was a hydrogen powered car under development 10 years ago, and then they just stopped)

So when someone comes to me crying about the energy crises, I give them the respect they deserve...none.

Carnifex said...

Okay, with the state of the budget and the debt we have now what do we cut to afford going to the moon, let alone space. I would love if we could, but our politicians have spent the money on more needed projects like putting shrimp on treadmills, and cowboy poetry readings.

Obozo changed NASA's mission to outreach to the muslim community because of all the important contributions Islam makes to science. There's,...ah-h...hold on...(mmmm)...okay, they shoot a lot of rockets into Israel, so that... well, its rocketry. And they...er-r...They Shoot!... bullets at Israeli's and that involves ballistics!

See, Obozo is doing the job that Americans won't do.

ricpic said...

At least Newt's dream is positive as opposed to the Left's dream of destruction. Destruction of what, you ask? Destruction of everything you take for granted as the American way of life.

Rusty said...

There is little to no military advantage of a lunar base that I am aware of.



See the ,"High Ground" comment above.
Much easier to roll rocks downhill than to try to lob them uphill. In the case of the moon, gravity is your friend.


We'll explore and colonize the Solar system when it is fairly cheap to do so. When technology and the world economy advance enough it will be easy.


Then we will have failed our mission as human beings. We should go for the same reason we went the first time. For the same reason Robert Goddard developed rockets as we know them. To know. Not for treasure,but for knowledge.
Treasure will come after. Western culture is predicated on the search for knowledge for its own sake.

Bruce Hayden said...

One theoretical reason for building a presence on the Moon is that it takes substantially less energy to get stuff from there into space than from the Earth. A much shallower gravity well, combined with an almost non-existent atmosphere. Could theoretically be done with mass drivers and the like, powered by either nuclear or solar energy.

What we are talking about here are the raw materials needed to construct space habitats. The alternative would likely be bringing stuff in from asteroids, which is a very long process, because we are talking slowly spiraling such in from the asteroid belt. We are probably talking multi-year transits.

Some stuff will most likely have to come in this later way - such as ice and heavier metals such as iron and nickel. But not all, and anything on the Moon that can be mined and fired into space would be available much more quickly.

But, back to my previous problem - the government is unlikely to be able to do such for any sort of reasonable price in the foreseeable future. Maybe private enterprise could, but our government, with its now $16 trillion or so debt and north of a $1 trillion a year deficit, just can't afford to do this sort of thing through government action, given how insanely inefficient it is in making things happen.

roesch/voltaire said...

Good example of Republican priorities: worry about giving statehood to the moon before dealing with statehood for Puerto Rico.

Eric said...

I'm curious. See what we'll find. Maybe stay. Maybe come back and shake my head and think it wasn't worth it.

Great. But why rope the rest of us into paying for it?

Eric said...

Good example of Republican priorities: worry about giving statehood to the moon before dealing with statehood for Puerto Rico.

Why would we worry about "dealing with statehood for Puerto Rico"? They don't want it. Are you suggesting we force them?

Polk was a Democrat, wasn't he?

Original Mike said...

"2. Actually the Moon as it is never really rotates. It's rotation is equal to it's orbit so it shows the same face to the sun at all times. The various phases of the moon are really Earth eclipsing the moon."

OMG.

Pettifogger said...

The US government is too broke to do most of what it already does. Count me with those who say the government should just stay out of the way and hope the private sector gets it done. I hope they do.

Pettifogger said...

Carnifex implies an oil company/politician conspiracy preventing us from getting energy from splitting hydrogen from water. I'm not a technical person, but my understanding that the energy needed to split off the hydrogen exceeds the energy you get from the hydrogen. That's why hydrogen is an energy-storage mechanism, not an energy source--at least at the current state of technology. If it were otherwise, other countries would be using it.

ken in sc said...

Voltaire, Puerto Ricans have repeatedly voted to stay in the same status they are in. They have all the benefits of US citizenship except representation in congress and voting for president. They are protected by the US military, have social security, welfare, food stamps, and access to the US court system. Plus they do not have to pay US income tax.

ken in sc said...

Actually, they are in a better status than people who live in DC.

Don Singleton said...

Unlike what Kennedy did, Newt did not propose the government spend the money to do it. He suggested that most of the investment be by private companies seeking to win prizes.

Synova said...

"At least Newt's dream is positive as opposed to the Left's dream of destruction. Destruction of what, you ask? Destruction of everything you take for granted as the American way of life."

I think that there are two mindsets involved and that, yes, one of them tends toward the left, though by no means are people to the right immune.

One is a positive view of humanity and the other is negative. One is "Look what we can do!" and the other is "Look what we can do!" Except the first is pointing to scientific progress and exploration and expansion as if it's all a good thing, and the other is looking at scientific progress and exploration and expansion as if it's all a bad thing. Humans aren't builders and contributors, they're destroyers and consumers and there ought to be way less of them before they wreck everything.

Is more power good because it allows humans to do more, accomplish more, build more? If you think so, you probably support nuclear power and think that the trade off for oil is worth it. Is more power bad because it lets humans wreck more stuff? Then you probably oppose nuclear and oil and don't mind the fantasy involved in wishful thinking about "green" energy.

Instead of marveling at accomplishments and expecting that whatever humans set their minds to can happen, some people want to view progress as destruction. Generally they call themselves progressives, because reality has a sense of humor, but there you go.

Original Mike said...

"Carnifex implies an oil company/politician conspiracy preventing us from getting energy from splitting hydrogen from water."

In other news, the 100 mpg carburetor gathers dust on the shelf.

Carnifex is an idiot. Or jerking our chains.

Michael McNeil said...

Pettifogger: Carnifex implies an oil company/politician conspiracy preventing us from getting energy from splitting hydrogen from water. I'm not a technical person, but my understanding that the energy needed to split off the hydrogen exceeds the energy you get from the hydrogen.

Right. The energies would be exactly the same, but there are always losses in such processes.

Thus, the humorous, common language reading of the laws of thermodynamics, which apply to this sort of thing — the 1st law: “You can't win” — plus the 2nd law: “You can't even break even!”

That's why hydrogen is an energy-storage mechanism, not an energy source — at least at the current state of technology.

Also right. It might make a certain sense to do what Carnifax suggested, though, if the hydrogen is made (from water or whatever) at, say, a centralized nuclear power plant — while the energy consumed in making it is (in part) recovered via burning the hydrogen in portable engines such as automobiles and rockets.

One is thereby, however, simply shifting the energy-production burden from one place to another, not producing any net new energy (it's the nuclear fuel in the power plant that does that).

It's worth noting, though, that Carnifex's proposal would produce net energy if, rather than afterwards chemically burning the hydrogen that was split off from water, instead deuterium (heavy hydrogen) recovered from water is “burned” via nuclear fusion (which presently is not practical but likely someday will be). This works because fusion releases far more energy than is consumed in breaking the chemical bonds holding water together.

Michael McNeil said...

You can see it just fine from the surface of the Earth. Buy a telescope. :)

Oh, yeah, right. That's why we're spending billions sending spacecraft all over the Solar System — because we can see so well from Earth.

Michael McNeil said...

I can see solar energy from space based collectors, but isn't the moon dark for half a month at a time?

Except at the poles (the Moon has almost no seasonal “tilt” the way the Earth does). At the lunar poles the Sun would be always visible and available for power production; moreover, temperatures would be moderate rather than constantly swinging from extremely hot to extremely cold and back again. Plus there's quite a bit of water available in perpetually shaded polar craters.

With good batteries it might be a plan for supplying stations on the moon itself, but wouldn't nuclear be better?

Probably — if you're not located at a lunar pole, and perhaps even if you are.

(Or anti-matter...)

Even if we could make substantial amounts of antimatter, bringing that antimatter to the surface of any planet is probably a mistake (one misstep in handling, and gigantic earth-shaking Kaboom!). Do your antimatter work on some asteroid, I say.

Michael McNeil said...

Synova: I live in New Mexico. Can't grow anything on the land so what's it worth? If civilization ended we'd all die.

Good point. Tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans are already almost as dependent on technology for survival as they would be living in a lunar colony.

Synova said...

"Even if we could make substantial amounts of antimatter, bringing that antimatter to the surface of any planet is probably a mistake (one misstep in handling, and gigantic earth-shaking Kaboom!). Do your antimatter work on some asteroid, I say."

Years and years ago I went to a talk by a guy who, with another fellow, had a patent on anti-matter containment that said we'd certainly produced it on the planet, and transported it on the planet... just not a lot.

Though I think that the point of it is, you don't need a lot.

It might be a case of "more trouble than it's worth" but we truly can do amazing things.

Rusty said...

In other news, the 100 mpg carburetor gathers dust on the shelf.



Believe me you would not want to ride in the car that uses an internal combustion engine and a carburetor that gets 100 miles to the gallon.

David said...

Chip S. said...
@David--Unlike the case of RR rights-of-way, I don't see any eminent domain issues in moon development.


Chip, the federal government already owned the land. They did not have to acquire it by eminent domain.

John Lynch said...

Qaestor-

I lived in the Arctic for a year. Have you?

There's a reason almost no one lives there.

It's easy to talk about living in a hostile environment when you'll never be able to go there. Try living in one.

And yes, I prefer my nice, well insulated house. It sucked being cold all the time. It sucked not seeing the sun. And it sucked not being able to walk in a straight line between buildings because of the wind.

There's nothing terribly romantic about living in prefab houses with no windows.

MikeR said...

As I've said before, it's too bad that most Americans no longer have a vision of space. There will be a colony on the moon. I just don't know what language they'll speak on it.

Whoever it is will own the future of humanity.

MikeR said...

"No one is flocking to the hostile environments here on Earth. Why will space be different?" I don't understand this point, John Lynch. We don't need people to flock there. The point of establishing a colony is to be able to do some things there you can't do here - same as the Antarctic colony.

As for volunteers, it is pretty well-known that you can get numerous volunteers for pretty much any insanely dangerous project. The original Antarctic expeditions are the most famous example, where they had to turn away "virtually every young man in England". More recently,
http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html#3
"(2006) The Lunar Society once began a registry for potential Lunar Colonists. Colonists could return only at the necessity and convenience of the Lunar Company, and life-threatening medical conditions were explicitly not sufficient grounds. Colonists had to be married, of child-bearing age, and go in couples. Each couple had to provide $100,000 to the Company. We gave the project up after we were overwhelmed with volunteers."

Revenant said...

before dealing with statehood for Puerto Rico.

We have dealt with statehood for Puerto Rice. We've decided not to give it to them. :)

There. Next question?

Revenant said...

Tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans are already almost as dependent on technology for survival as they would be living in a lunar colony.

Strike the "of millions" and the above sentence will be accurate.

John Lynch said...

Again, not many people volunteer to go to Antarctica. There are all manner of strange people who end up there (see Werner Herzog's documentary) but the romance is long gone.

The same thing will happen to space travel. Once people realize that it's work there will be a lot less interest. The Arctic is beautiful and remote but most of the people there smoke and drink.

People live in extreme and hostile environments only when they have no choice (e.g. the Tuaregs of the Sahara) or when there is some reason important enough to be there. In the Arctic it's natural resource extraction and the Antarctic it's scientific research. I was in the Arctic because the US military sent me there for its own reasons. I assure you that out of a random group of people very few wanted to be there.

Of the two, Antarctica is the closest analogy to space. There aren't any resources in space worth the cost.

There isn't anyone in the Antarctic just to be there. Someone is footing the bill for every person down there, including the equipment operators. The same is true of space. Any number of people can volunteer to go into space but no one can pay for it. Living on the moon isn't the same as climbing Everest. We already did the whole "because it's there" thing.

Finally, the Antarctic settlements are nowhere close to self-sufficient. Without outside support they'd be abandoned within a year. And that's with breathable air. The space station is another good example- it takes billions of dollars to put a very small number of people into space and requires continuous support.

There's a naivete about the difficulties involved in living off planet. The universe is extremely hostile. It isn't the New World out there. It's more like Cthulu. There's hydrogen atoms and radiation and very little else.

We'll figure out but it is far more difficult than most people realize.