Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gingrich shoots for the Moon while campaigning in Florida

Yes, really.

WESH-TV on YouTube has a better video, but it doesn't embed. Too bad, as it shows Gingrich using the idea of reviving the space program as a major selling point of his campaign in Florida, especially along the Space Coast. I don't know if it has helped him with Republican voters, but it certainly is getting him more attention.

Here's Reuters' article on the topic, which is currently headlining its science page.

Gingrich calls for moon base, space contests
By Irene Klotz
COCOA, Florida | Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:25pm EST
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich called on Wednesday for a base on the moon and an expanded federal purse for prize money to stimulate private-sector space projects.

"We want Americans to think boldly about the future," Gingrich said during a campaign rally in Florida, where he outlined a space policy initiative that would cut NASA's bureaucracy and expand on private-sector space programs championed by President Barack Obama.

"By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American," Gingrich said.

"We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism and manufacturing, 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," he said.
Gingrich is explicitly trying to one-up our rivals in manned space exploration, especially the Chinese, who are planning on building a space station by the end of the decade and landing on the Moon after that. They can certainly do both, but a Moon base will still be beyond their capabilities.

Gingrich is also playing to a local constituency, the aerospace workers and companies in Florida. On the one hand, this is typical campaigning to an interest group that is traditionally Republican (I should know; my father worked in aerospace in Southern California for 40 years, and he and his co-workers were overwhelmingly Republican for most of that time). On the other, I think Gingrich is sincere in his interest. Whether this works for him will take until next Tuesday to determine.

The article continues.
Gingrich said he wanted to spend 10 percent of NASA's $18 billion budget on prize money for competitions that spur innovation and technological breakthroughs in space.

"I'm prepared to invest the prestige of the presidency in communicating and building a nationwide movement in favor of space," Gingrich said at a meeting of aerospace executives and community leaders after the rally.

"If we do it right, it'll be wild and it will be just the most fun you've ever seen," he said.
Remember what I wrote about different political philosophies giving rise to different means to the same ends?
[In 2001] People responded to their president's suggestion by whipping out their credit cards and spending. Within a month or two, the recession was over. Honestly, it was exactly what a party with a free enterprise philosophy should advocate, and it worked. It also showed that Bush was far more afraid of a recession deepening than he was letting on at the time.

By 2009, just about everyone's credit card was tapped out, so that strategy wouldn't work. However, the government sill had credit and other incentives available, and the party in power believed in goverment intervention. So instead of just urging people to spend, it instituted Cash for Clunkers. That worked, not only in stimulating car sales, but increasing real retail sales as a whole. That it also removed a bunch of gas guzzlers from the roads was a bonus. Both instances show that increasing demand works.
Despite what I wrote about major U.S. political parties having core interests instead of core ideologies, the GOP still prefers market-oriented solutions more than the Democrats do, and Gingrich's suggestions are perfectly consistent with this preference.

As for whether Gingrich's idea are achievable, I'll let answer.
Gingrich's chief rival for the Republican nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has occasionally called attention to the "grandiosity" of Gingrich's ideas about space and other subjects.

Gingrich said he doesn't view "grandiose" as an insult.

"I accept the charge that I am an American, and Americans are instinctively grandiose, because we believe in a bigger future."

But Gingrich's big plans may indeed be grandiose in the more traditional, pejorative sense, some experts say.

"When we are not expecting a U.S. crewed launch to the ISS until 2016-2017 and are just getting started on a lunar-class launch vehicle, establishing a lunar outpost by 2020 is a fantasy," space policy expert John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, told via email. "It would be much better to set realistic goals, but that is not Mr. Gingrich's strong suit."

Seriously, Gingrich's grandiose plans for space exploration are the only thing I like about him. They prove that, unlike much, even most of the rest of his party, he hasn't given up on science. I applaud him for that. However, his ideas about space are not enough to get me to vote for him. It would be like voting for Ron Paul because of his anti-war and pro-legalization positions, while the rest of what he advocates is just unacceptable.

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