Friday, January 27, 2012

What's the matter with a Moon base?

Right now we have a lot of unused resources here in the United States. We have bright scientists unable to find work, brilliant engineers idled because there are no massive engineering projects requiring their skills, thousands of skilled machinists idled, and so on and so forth. This is in addition to the millions of Americans whose skills are more rudimentary. If we did a WPA-type project, the Americans without skills could be put to work picking up trash by the roads, doing trail maintenance in the national parks, and otherwise doing things that haven't been done for decades as funding dried up for anything other than corporate welfare. But what about the smart people? It would seem to me to be an utter waste of talent to put someone with a degree in biochemistry in charge of digging outhouses at a WPA camp.

So Newt Gingrich, in my opinion, actually hit upon a viable economic stimulus project with his "to the moon!" rhetoric the other day. Remember, even the ugliest dirtiest pig can sometimes turn up a truffle. This wouldn't be astoundingly expensive like back in the Apollo days because we aren't developing the technology from scratch. Rockets are increasingly a mature technology -- we know how to build'em, they're not all that expensive to build anymore, though of course still not cheap. And the same applies to space capsules and the various environmental systems needed to keep them operational. There would still be a large amount of original science to do regarding how to utilize the Moon's resources to build an actual base (as vs crash a bunch of modules into one location like we did with the International Space Station), not to mention that we'd have to go ahead and man-rate some large rocket in the first place to get our guys into space (we have rockets bigger than Soyuz that could boost people into space but none of them are man-rated, they all have too much vibration and too much acceleration for squishy biologicals to tolerate, but that could be fixed at some expense to payload), but we have hundreds of thousands of unemployed scientists in this country right now. We don't lack for the talent to solve these kinds of problems.

Which is why I am baffled at why so many so-called "leftists" are laughing at Newt proposing a stimulus program that would dwarf Obama's. Granted, he did it in the context of *also* saying he was going to balance the budget -- i.e., it's simply mathematically impossible for him to do both, and we *should* point and laugh at *that* -- but the idea of a huge moon program? Dude. It's just an infrastructure project, just like the ones Obama touts and that leftists say should have been bigger. Well, Gingrich's program *would* be bigger. The only way to dismiss Gingrich's program as "silliness" is if you dismiss Obama's program as "silliness"... which is just plain silliness.

-- Badtux the Space Penguin


  1. Why do I ridicule it? For one thing, because Noot said it. He has no more desire to build a Moon colony than he does to have sex with Wife #1 or #2. It's just a ploy to polish his self-created reputation as being the Smartest Guy in the Room. Knut is bipolar. Read up on his mother's history of mental illness. He inherited the trait. The Esquire interview of Wife #2 from September 2010 had a lot to say about his manic side. Grandiose ideas and flightiness are part of mania. Gnewt is mentally ill.

    Another reason I laugh at the idea is that it ignores the realities of Peak Oil, Peak Finance and Climate Change. There's not enough spare energy left to be making complex things that will be hurtled off the planet. Dealing with Peak Everything (including Peak Humanity) would be a way to generate jobs AND employ smart people. Massive reforestation, bio-engineering plants to produce useful substances like oil, cleaning up pollution like the plastic gyres in every ocean... Lots of productive things to occupy the minds of brilliant people and the hands of those with high-school smarts.

    The 7 billion people on this planet are about to go through the Malthusian bottleneck, Tux. How we get from 7B to 2, or maybe 1+ billion, will be the issue of the next century. If our species plays it wrong, we may wind up with nothing but a few bands of hunter-gatherers like the Australian Aborigines. Newticles' latest silly idea -- who buys into his shit, anyway? -- is a waste of bandwidth.

  2. I've always felt that the only reason the Apollo program went forward was because of JFK's death (and the manner thereof).

  3. And there's a ton of infrastructure you could use the funds for right here; they're just primarily in places and will be used by ordinary schmuck American yayhoos and not Air Force/Navy-trained astronauts, so the entire notion is less than sexytime for the Newtster, who, like most Republicans, sees tax monies spent on military or quasi-military projects as "not-taxes" and tax monies spent on domestic projects as "taxes".

    Add to that the logistical difficulty of sustaining the place; it's not that you couldn't build it. It's that it's take billions a month to keep it going, and why? We pretty much have all the geologic information from the Moon we need, and that's the only real reason for being there. The place is a "dead world".

    To me this proposal is classic Newt; outwardly goofy, with just enough appeal to make a second look worthwhile...and then, the downsides make the second look clear evidence that the idea really IS goofy. It's like the kids-as-janitors thing only with a multibillion dollar price tag...

  4. Bukko, yes, Newt said it. But that doesn't make it a ridiculous idea.

    Peak oil has nothing to do with with hurling things into space. The principle input of things hurled into space is electricity, which largely comes from gas, coal, and nuclear power, not oil.

    FDChief, tell me how building highways is going to employ scientists. Yes, we need to rebuild our bridges and highways and, for that matter, our railroads (which are much easier to electrify to deal with peak oil, since "diesel" locomotives are already electric -- they're just hauling along their diesel generators with them). We need to put in a 1st world Internet infrastructure instead of the obsolete slow speed Internet infrastructure we currently have. And so forth and so on. All of that needs to be done but once that's all underway we *still* have these unemployed scientists and aerospace engineers and machinists. You're saying we should put all this expensive talent to work pulling wires through conduits and shoveling gravel into ditches? They'll do it if they have to, but it's a waste.

    Regarding *sustaining* a moon base, granted, that's unlikely to happen. For that matter, given the dire state of our aerospace infrastructure, which has largely collapsed since Bush1 gutted it at the end of the Cold War, it would probably take eight years just to rebuilt sufficient aerospace infrastructure to get a man into *space* again, much less to the moon. There are a lot of young scientists and engineers who have the theoretical knowledge to do this stuff, but they don't have the practical knowledge because nobody's been doing sufficient aerospace projects to employ more than a handful. So they basically have to rebuild from scratch. Still, isn't that a better use of their time than putting them to work with a pickaxe in a national forest? We have tons of ignorant crackers that need jobs who could be put to work with the pickaxe. The notion that we should put an aerospace engineer there, when there's things we could put him to work doing far better fitting his talents, seems rather a waste.

    -Badtux the Stimulus Penguin

  5. I'm all for sending people into space as long as it is for something interesting. More low earth orbit missions - forget it. A mission to an asteroid or Mars would be great. Oh, and another caveat, it would have to be done with new money. If we have to steal from robotic missions to do it then no dice.

  6. Damn it, I had a post started on this subject.

    Oh, well.

  7. The guy over at Bad Astronomy had some very good input on why this moon base idea is bad and what it would do to the rest of NASA.

  8. BCFD -- yes, as I mentioned, Newt can't add. Laughing at the reptilian one's math is quite valid, his particular plan to get to the moon relies on magic sparkle unicorns and vigorous wand-waving by the magical Free Market Fairy. But the impression I got was that it wasn't Newt's math fail that leftists were laughing at -- it was the very *idea* of a moonbase that was sending leftists into paroxysms of hilarity. And as I point out, the idea isn't *that* far-fetched -- we have the technology, we have the slack resources in our economy, what we lack is a political system capable of applying economic power in a productive manner -- instead, all it seems capable of doing now is sucking resources from the general population in order to enrich the 1%.

    - Badtux the Spacey Penguin

  9. We've had 40 years of nothing but LEO operations for manned space flight, made memorable only by the loss of two space shuttles, and the professed policy of the US government during all that time has been that we will do nothing more. Hardly surprising that most people alive have grown up with the idea that space is a dead end. We've got the internet and blogging and online games and file sharing and all that porn, so our entertainment requirements have been met. Reviving the space program for the sole reason that it used to be seems about as sensible as reviving Tsarist Russia just because the commies are gone now.

    Not my own thoughts exactly (I used to be an aero engineer) but I think that's how people younger than I view matters.


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