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Managing our (space) decline

Managing our (space) decline

Did you witness the pile on Newt last night about his vision for new space exploration and the reinvigoration of the space industry?

While some of Newt’s space ideas (they’re just ideas, not proposals) are grandiose in the way we always have dreamed of space, his proposals for private industry incentives and the desire not to cede space to China and Russia regularly are mocked and lambasted as crazy, or in Mitt’s word, “zany.”

Dan McLaughlin has an ironic tweet making the point about the hypocrisy of the punditry:

Here a quote from one of the links, The Lunacy of Our Retreat from Space:

But look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints — untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke. A vigorous young president once summoned us to this new frontier, calling the voyage “the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

And so we did it. We came. We saw. Then we retreated.

How could we?

Before you click on the link, which of Newt’s harshest critics do you think said that?

Managing our decline, or inspiring the nation.  Just one of the choices for Florida voters next Tuesday.

If the polls are correct, Florida will choose managed decline.


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I wish he would have mentioned Gingrich. But a good article nonetheless.

The one thing that can turn this around is if Hannity, Rush, Levin, Palin et al get out and endorse Newt. If they stay on the sidelines , I have to agree that Fl will choose managed decline.

Our space program was once the source of national pride, now its an embarrassment. Was Jefferson “grandiose” for buying the Louisiana territories, for spending huge sums of money for funding the Lewis and Clark expedition? One of the few legitimate roles for the government is to acquire new territories, and that means a federal initiatives. Jefferson’s actions set us up for over a 100 years of uninterrupted growth. Gingrich is right, when the history books are written 100 hers from now, we should be remembered as Giants. a time future generations should remember to live up to.

The moon is perhaps the most strategic celestial asset we could ever hope to have given its proximity to earth, its low gravity and and thin atmosphere makes it ideal for use as giant space station / ship yard. Its huge deposits of valuable metals and virtually unlimited supply of Helium 3 could power the whole world for thousands of years. It could be our launchpad to the rest of the solar system. Whoever controls the moon will end up controlling Earth’s orbit. Whoever controls the moon, will end top controlling the solar system and vast bounties of wealth. That means the jewels of this system: Mars, Europa, Ganymede, IO, Callisto and Titan: 3 of which will eventually join Earth as Capitals of the Human Race. the question really is, should these worlds that future generations inhabit, be Americans or Chinese?

    DINORightMarie in reply to imfine. | January 27, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I would also remind everyone of “Seward’s Folly.” Alaska is a great 49th state with resources untapped, due to lack of vision and enviro-wackos, not to mention crony capitalism.

    People who think big, who have vision, are often ridiculed.

    Today, the Alinsky model – the politics of personal destruction – is used to choke out great candidates with vision. (“Rule 5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” –Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals)

    Free enterprise. Private sector driving innovation, development (think Virgin Galactic!). Prioritizing funds and cutting waste. Why is that bad? Minimum government spending, encouraging the private sector to reach new heights. Why not?

    Because of Romney’s ridicule narrative of “zany,” that’s why.

Looking up is fine…good…even necessary.

Big, aspirational national goals are swell.

But as Steyn and many others have pointed out, if ObamaCare is not KILLED, there isn’t enough money…anywhere…to keep us alive.

There won’t be an America as we understand it in 20 years.

We have some very, very, mundane…in the dirt…things that have to be reformed, or we don’t get to think about anything except survival.

    abenson229 in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Agreed, but this is another reason to choose Newt over Mitt. Romney has said specifically that he won’t try to repeal Obamacare, and for a change I actually believe he means what he says.

I liked Santorum’s response on this topic:

The idea that anybody is going out and talking brand new, very expensive schemes to spend more money at a time when we do not have our fiscal house in order, in my opinion, is playing crass politics.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Now is not the time for grandiosity in space.

    GrumpyOne in reply to MerryCarol. | January 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Mary, you’re spot on.

    Personally I like Romney’s response of, “Your fired!” if someone would propose such to him in the business world.

    I don’t think that Romney is half the panderer that Newt is…

      MerryCarol in reply to GrumpyOne. | January 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Holy Space Balls! You mean there’s actually someone on this blog that supports me?

      Grumpy — You are my Best Friend Forever


Louis R. Lombardi | January 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

Imagine if after Columbus crossed the Ocean Sea,Eurpoe abandoned the New World. What would our lives be like?

Nuke the Moon!

Louis, it happened to the English. Remember the Roanoke colony.

There’s nothing wrong in colonizing space. There’s nothing wrong in going back to the Moon, in going to Mars, and in going into deep space. Indeed, we ought to be doing those things.

But that doesn’t mean we need a huge, bloated, make-work, inefficient, spendthrift, politicized NASA leading the way.

NASA’s latest great idea was Ares/Constellation, a complete boondoggle and pork-barrel. No thanks, I don’t want taxpayer dollars spent on stupid stuff like that.

Colonizing space and the moon is something that we just might do better at if we left government out (or at least in a secondary role) for a while. The pilgrims and explorers in the early 1600s came to English North America not as employees of the Crown but rather with charters and with private investment.

Let’s see what the good folks at SpaceX, etc can do.

    1. This. This. This.

    2. If I had time to deepen my understanding of the practicalities and politics of space, I would start at Rand Simberg’s Transterrestrial Musings. Simberg also posts at PJ Media.

    Louis R. Lombardi in reply to stevewhitemd. | January 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    That was their Apollo XIII moment. What did they do? They ploughed ahead. We on the other hand, retrench. Think of the wealth and ultimately, growth of the world because of the development of the new world. What growth would we see if a similar tack was taken.

    On a side note, most of the inital exploration of the Americas was at the behest of the crown. Government started and then private enterprise stepped in.

We will be back. Not because of government funding, but because everything is out there, and we will eventually find something that makes enough money to fund itself.

It may not be in our lifetimes, and it may not be people from our country that does it, but the perennial drive to strike it rich will continually prod people to see what is there they can make a buck off of. Eventually, they will find it.

I guess I must be stupid, because the benefits of creating an insanely expensive settlement on a barren, airless, atmosphereless, brutally frigid rock floating in space is utterly lost on me.

Have I mentioned how truly boned we are?

    Cowboy Curtis in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | January 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Now, I’m all for our weaponizing space, but is there anything the moon offers in that regard that satellites don’t?

      G Joubert in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | January 27, 2012 at 11:22 am

      Probably not much, but nor can we cede the moon to the ChiComs.

        Cowboy Curtis in reply to G Joubert. | January 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

        Then why not just declare it off limits and promise to knock out any attempted settlements? Or hell, we’re the only ones that have been there, why not just declare it our territory by right and that any attempted settlement will be considered an act of war?

        Satellites are mobile, the moon (aside from its unchangeable and to-the-millisecond predictable orbit) is not. A moon base would have far more to fear from satellites than the other way around.

        Beyond that, I have very serious doubts, regardless of how tentatively they’ve dabbled in space, that the ChiComs have the technology or economy to create such a base, much less sustain it.

      Brian Epps in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | January 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Do the words kinetic energy weapon mean anything to you?

      Basically, you could quite literally throw rocks. The result of a ten metric ton rock falling all the way down the well would make one hell of a bang with no radiation to worry about. Who do you trust to hold the whole planet hostage?

      GrumpyOne in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | January 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Yes, a fixed target…

Professor, are you saying that you are in favor of “private industry incentives” to reinvigorate the space industry?

That sounds like more government-picking-and-choosing-the-winners-and-losers to me.

I’m more in line with Ron Paul on this: The government’s role should be support of national defense space programs only.

    Brian Epps in reply to MerryCarol. | January 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Anything useful can be a weapon.

    Who holds the orbit, holds the planet.

    Brian Epps in reply to MerryCarol. | January 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

    And it is no more government picking winners and losers that the sooner settlement land giveaway in OK. The prize is there for the winner to pick himself.

    GrumpyOne in reply to MerryCarol. | January 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm


    Ron Paul certainly had his moments last night and yes, I too favor the space program to be administered by the military. Why should we do differently than our enemies, er, ah “competitors” as some say…

Oh it was a frivolous comment by Newt alright. It makes him seem like Mr Moonbeam. Particularly since he had no specifics. That’s not something that will endear lots of voters to him in a primary.

He’s such a confounding guy. He looks absolutely like the guy with all the ideas but then he throws out clunkers like this space colony idea.

It just gives the Manchurian Candidate (Romney) an even greater appearance of gravitas. Which is hard to do since Romney makes watching paint dry a reasonable alternative to hearing him speak.

    Brian Epps in reply to PhillyGuy. | January 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    specifics on something like this can take a long time. Here is the rough outline from the guy who sold Newt on the idea. A guy who was the founding president of Pepperdine Research Institute. A guy who has worked decades in the space industry and wants NASA demolished and replaced with a licensing bureau. The man who coined the Iron Rule of Bureaucracy. A best-selling author and the guy who’s already written arguments demolished my own skepticism.
    Dr Jerry Pournelle:

    I can solve the space access problem with a few sentences.

    Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States:

    The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay to the first American owned company (if corporate at least 60% of the shares must be held by American citizens) the following sums for the following accomplishments. No monies shall be paid until the goals specified are accomplished and certified by suitable experts from the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Science:

    1. The sum of $2 billion to be paid for construction of 3 operational spacecraft which have achieved low earth orbit, returned to earth, and flown to orbit again three times in a period of three weeks.

    2. The sum of $5 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a space station which has been continuously in orbit with at least 5 Americans aboard for a period of not less than three years and one day. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the station be unoccupied.

    3. The sum of $12 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a Lunar base in which no fewer than 31 Americans have continuously resided for a period of not less than four years and one day.

    4. The sum of $10 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a solar power satellite system which delivers at least 800 megaWatts of electric power to a receiving station or stations in the United States for a period of at least two years and one day.

    5. The payments made shall be exempt from all US taxes.

    That would do it. Not one cent to be paid until the goals are accomplished. Not a bit of risk, and if it can’t be done for those sums, well, no harm done to the treasury.

    I had Newt Gingrich persuaded to do this before he found he couldn’t keep the office of Speaker. I haven’t had any audiences with his successors.

    Henry Vanderbilt points out that having a prize, say $1 billion, for the second firm to achieve point (1) above will get more into the competition, and produce better results. I agree.

    This is just the rough outline. LASFS and other collections of real engineers and scientists who read sci-fi (not the nerdy fans, the dirty hands) have been hashing this over for decades. It is just a plain fact that every time a prize-based incentive has been tried it produces a net technological, economic, and scientific positive in that order. Every. Single. Time. Even when the prize is never won!

In military and health care and space, government corruption makes it so we have to make pigs fly.

There is intellectual property value to USA doing it first and best, maintaining the brand. Pride in a free enterprise America is denounced as jingoistic by the left, but feeling like part of a team that is competing for freedom and greatness is the American way … or it used to be.

We send these little rovers up, but the porkers insist on hitching a ride, and bog down the missions with cost overruns.

Lots of Newt-bashing here.

One of this country’s guiding principles used to be “manifest destiny” to open frontiers. Space is the new frontier.

Somehow, it’s OK for the Chicoms, the Russians, whoever, to have a space program. But we’re stupid and short-sighted.

Anyway, Newt did say 90% private industry. He’s right about the “prize money.”

His ideas are visionary. It’ll take time for people to throw off the media mockery.

Romney says, shut up, you spendthrift jerk, with your stupid visions–we can’t afford it. Romney sounded a lot like Obama there.

Palinistas, listen up! Here is video of Newt defending Sarah just after she got the VP nod. Recall, this was about the time the elite media and the establishment from both parties decided to undermine her. So, his stance was not the common one. I also do not recall Romney defending Palin, especially with the same vigor as Newt does during an NBC video. The video is especially worthwhile, because the NBC idiot walks away with his guts in his hands.

Without a vision, the people perish.

It’s not a perfect translation, but I think the concept holds. I’m old enough to remember before we’d actually made it to the moon. Everyone complained about how many poor people we could feed for the price of sending men into space. Well, we haven’t done much new in space in a LONG time, and we still have poor people. More poor people all the time as a matter of fact. But a lot of what we enjoy, including the computers and/or smartphones we use to read this webpage, might not exist if it hadn’t been for the space program. Who knows what we are missing by setting our sights so fixedly on the ground?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to OCBill. | January 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    The space program is both the beneficiary and victim of its own technological successes. The Apollo missions were loved because we went to the moon, obviously, but becuase it involved manned missions. Same with the space shuttle program, Skylab, the ISS, etc. However, going further than the moon into space brings along a whole new level of difficulties for manned missions – namely, providing a life sustaining environment and dealing with incredible radiation, and the best bang for our space buck is with unmanned missions, of which there have been several, made possible by grand advances in remote sensory technology (unmanned probes). Though beloved by space nuts (like me), these unmanned missions are not exciting to the average American, and most folks couldn’t name even one (Explorer, Viking, Pioneer, Pathfinder, etc.).

    Unmanned space missions are a tough sell in a bad economy. Manned missions can spark the collective imagination again, but the manned aspect cannot be the only reason to do it. Beginning the process of learning how to sustain human life off-world excites the hell out of me, but I know I’m in the minority among Americans on that. That any and all space programs are ripe with secondary technological gains is indisputable, but getting them funded with our budget woes isn’t likely to happen. Bringing in the private sector is already the standard practice, nothing new. Subassemblies and subprogramming in the private sector are already the norm in our space program. Approached correctly and creatively, we can have our cake and eat it too. Of course, it will require at least one highly placed ideas person to shepherd such an effort. Know of any candidates?

    WarEagle82 in reply to OCBill. | January 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    If the government tries to force a “vision” on the free citizens of this republic we are likely to realize it is more of a nightware.

    The government’s vision should be the restoration of limited government and extrication of onerous, burdensome regulations from the nation.

    Once you REMOVE government from the equation, a free and unfettered people can develop their own visions. And if one of these is going to the Moon and beyond they will do it.

    I am SICK AND TIRED of the government attempting to be in charge of everything! That is not the federal government’s constitutional defined role. And true conservatives know that.

I’m a big fan of Bill Whittle and I love stories about private citizens and companies who have a passion for space and all the little space races. They’re inspiring. Newt’s right about that.

But I didn’t lay on the floor of my grandparents living room, as the entire family gathered around to watch the first man walk on the moon, in awe of Acme Space Inc. It was the United States of America that put the first man on the moon and brought him back to Earth safely. Even back then, even though I was only 10 years old and knew nothing, I understood the real triumph wasn’t getting a man to the moon, it was getting him there and back.

When man goes to Mars I want the American flag to be there.

    Brian Epps in reply to Jaynie59. | January 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    So you want to stick it out with an agency that has to take five years to do a study to decide what they need to do a ten year study on to discuss preliminary planning stages on the concept of deciding whether to start collecting ideas about a possible design? That is NASA. It is beyond reform. It has to be scrapped and replaced.

Henry Hawkins | January 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm


I love the idea of a lunar colony. Imagine what you could do with massive telescopes on the moon, much larger than the Hubble.

Oh well. In the end, we’ll all submit to Romney and do as we’re told.

We need to come down to reality on this moon mission BS. Technologically, we can get to and from the moon, but we do not have the where-with-all to live there in the harshness that is represented by unbearablely severe heat and cold, an atmosphere devoid of oxygen and a world without gravity. We don’t live on earth where we have extremes like this, so why would we go there to suffer?

All of the dreamers and Newt have forgotten that NASA has long ago lost its ability to go where no man has gone, simply because government bureauacry has assumed control of the agency, employing for example, psuedo-scientists like James Hansen to cook the climate books.

Lets face it folks, Newt was pandering to the space coast crowd and we conservatives (or at least this one) will not abide such politics fo very long. Newt had a bad night when he needed a good one.

    GrumpyOne in reply to gad-fly. | January 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm


    I think that you’ve nailed it pretty well. The only thing that I might take exception to is the strategic position of a base on the moon should other nations threaten.

    Maybe we should have claimed the moon back when we first arrived…

    Cowboy Curtis in reply to gad-fly. | January 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    And the thing is, that part of the state is pretty dang conservative as it is (2006 fluke aside). Seriously, go over to Coco Beach and Melbourne and take a look around- its all country boys with surfboards and retired military. It ain’t exactly Romney Central. He was probably going to carry the Brevard County area without tossing out this egregious eye-roller.

    If he had presented it as military policy with military aims, that might be one thing. I don’t know that I’d swallow it, but I’d give it a hearing. Instead, it was all national greatness and Boomer space race nostalgia. You know what’s an awesome component of national greatness? Not further bankrupting yourself in pursuit of national greatness.

So, Newt’s a fool. And an idiot. And a moron.

And yet, here’s everyone talking about Newt’s space ideas.

At least he has a vision. If we stop spending big money on Marxist programs and scaled back bureaucracy and unionized public sector employees, we’d have a fair amount of cash to do things and be great again.

People used to tell each other, “Reach for the stars!” Say that today, get trashed for spending money.

Bottom line: “conservatives” attacking Newt for his space vision sound like Democrats and Obama: Unnecessary, pie in the sky, America can’t afford it–we’re in decline, people, and in our misery we won’t pay to reach for the stars.

Excellent idea. I think Liberals should be first on the shuttle to colonize the moon.

What better way to save the earth than by completely removing their carbon footprint from the planet.

huskers-for-palin | January 28, 2012 at 12:33 am

Lots of rare metals on the mine which could be mined. There is also a substance on the moon called Helium 3 which could be used for fusion reactors.

This could be a joint venture with various corporations and countries to share in the costs and profits. Much better than fighting any day.

My initial reaction was, I hate to admit, along the lines of “Is Newt for real?” but then I heard him explain the thought behind his idea and I loved the explanation he gave.

I’ve seen a few mentions of the moon rock being a possible large-scale source for 3H, (aka Tritium, aka hydrogen-3).
According to the Wikipedia article on the substance, “…the cost is approximately US $30,000 per gram…”. Lets assume the article is accurate and use its figure as the basis for a quick calculation.

1lb = 16oz = 453.59237g.

At $30,000/g: 453.59237g = $13,607,771.10/lb!

Now, I bet that kind of return will stoke some entrepreneurial spirit!