Gingrich made a public announcement yesterday promising a permanent base on the moon by the end of his second term.
You may agree or disagree with Gingrich on other issues, but if you are a space enthusiast it's hard not to get excited about this bold statement. It's such a bold plan, he might actually face significant resistance from his core constituents.
In my humble opinion, one of NASA's biggest failures of is the failure to plan long term goals in space, and by long term goals I don't mean send another robotic probe to Mars next years and Jupiter the year after that. The key to space conquest is to establish a permanent presence in space, with the eventual goal of building on that presence to extract resources and build useful infrastructure.
ISS is a multi billion dollar toy. The Shuttle was reusable, but it did a job that could have been done more safely and with lower cost with a traditional rocket. Neither of these mega space projects moved us forward in our long term goal to exploit the wealth of our solar system; Building a permanent base on the moon will.
Arthur C. Clarke once commented that the most amazing thing about man landing on the moon is that we didn't go back. The resources of the moon include aluminum, titanium, and oxygen that can be extracted from the regolith. Glass and glass brick can also be created by melting regolith at high temperatures. Hydrogen and Helium 3 are also present in trace amounts in the regolith, and there is strong evidence for substantial deposits of water ice in permanently shadowed craters near them poles. All these resources can be used
to both establish a foothold in space and extend our reach into the outer solar system. The cost of a manned mission to Mars might be mitigated by the availability of some of the resources needed already in space.
You can make a lot of excuses for why NASA never planned a mission like this, but if Gingrich can maintain political support for lofty goals, it would change shape the future of our nation.
Are we destined to become the pioneers of the next phase of human civilization, or a footnote in history of a fading industrial giant?
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