Campaign '12

The great Florida space debate, part two

For the second time in less than a week, space became a topic of discussion at a presidential debate Thursday night. At the Republican presidential debate in Jacksonville, Florida, held by CNN, the candidates were given an opportunity to describe their policies regarding human spaceflight in particular, three days after the same topic came up at a debate in Tampa and a day after Newt Gingrich’s space policy speech on the Space Coast.

Mitt Romney was first, asked specifically to respond to Gingrich’s speech. “That’s an enormous expense,” he said of Gingrich’s proposal to create a permanent lunar base by 2020. “I believe in a very vibrant and strong space program,” he added, reiterating his comments in Monday’s debate to bring together various elements of the overall space community, including the military and the private sector, to help draft a plan for NASA’s future. “I’d like to come together and talk about different options and the cost.”

That plan, though, wouldn’t appear to include a lunar base. “I’m not looking for a colony on the Moon. I think the cost of that would be in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions. I’d rather be rebuilding housing here in the US.”

Gingrich, asked how he could achieve that goal while keeping taxes down, launched into another attack on NASA bureaucracy. “You almost have to wonder, what does the Washington office of NASA do? Does it sit around and think space? Does it contemplate that someday we could have a rocket?” The use of prizes and incentives, he said, and “common sense”—specifically citing human-rating the Atlas 5 rocket—could achieve those goals. “I’d like to have an American on the Moon before the Chinese get there.”

Unlike the Tampa debate, the other two leading Republican candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, also got to weigh in. Santorum was skeptical about the benefits of spending money on this in an era of massive budget deficits. “I agree that we need to bring good minds in the private sector” so that they’re more involved in NASA that currently, he said. “To go out there and to promise new programs and big ideas; it’s a great thing to maybe get votes, but its not a responsible thing.”

Paul started out his comments with a zinger. “I don’t think we should go to the Moon. I think we maybe should send some politicians up there.” He said he supported government funding for space only for military applications, and “not just for the fun of it.” He suggested that a stronger economy would allow for more private investment in space activities. “If we had a healthy economy and had more Bill Gateses and more Warren Buffetts, the money would be there.”

The discussion returned to Gingrich and his comments yesterday about how he supported statehood for a sufficiently populous lunar colony. Gingrich didn’t specifically discuss his statehood ideas, instead reiterating his plan. “I actually agree with Dr. Paul: the program I envision would probably end up being 90-percent private sector,” he said, getting NASA “out of the business of trying to run rockets.” He concluded, “I do not want to be the country that. having gotten to the Moon first, turned around and said, ‘It doesn’t really matter. Let the Chinese dominate space. What do we care?’ I think that is a path of national decline.”

Romney then weighed in again, saying he was skeptical that a lunar base could be privately financed. “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the Moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired,’” he said. “The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the Moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea but it’s not a good idea.”

The conversation went on from there about spending priorities in general and budget deficits, leaving space behind, perhaps for the last time in a 2012 presidential debate (this is the last debate in Florida before its primary Tuesday, and it seems unlikely the topic will come up again in a debate either in the primary or the general election.)

That exchange offered little in the way of new insights into the candidates’ space positions. Gingrich reiterated his comments made in Wednesday’s speech. Romney again brought up the idea of civil-military-commercial space cooperation that he mentioned on Monday (although this time without mentioning if other agencies and companies would be asked to pitch in financially), while distancing himself from Gingrich’s comments. And Santorum and Paul got to weigh in briefly on the topic, although neither has much of a shot of capturing the nomination given their current standings in Florida and national polls. It may not have been that enlightening, but this rare flurry of attention to space, which may continue through Friday when Romney speaks in Cape Canaveral, was fun while it lasted.

58 comments to The great Florida space debate, part two

  • SpaceColonizer

    Today was NASA’s day of rememberance, and America took the time to remember that they don’t care.

  • Robert G. Oler

    This should be the end of the notion of the GOP “saving” NASA…RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    And there we go. Thanks to Newt, space exploration in the presidential contest is reduced, by his competitors, to a wacko proposal that is wildly inappropriate and even funny. The media reports that with some glee. Thanks, Newt. Any further mention of human spaceflight in this contest is going to have everyone chuckling over this episode. No one else is ever going to mention it in this campaign. It’s now politically a somewhat toxic topic.

    This is a wonderful example about how “vision” can be misused. No question that Newt Gingrich is a space visionary, but … . It is quite striking that perhaps the most visionary person up there on the stage, Ron Paul, also thought Newt’s lunar colonization proposal was completely crackers.

  • Loved it how CollectSpace’s Robert Perlman summarized all that in one tweet

  • DCSCA

    “That exchange offered little in the way of new insights into the candidates’ space positions.”

    On the contrary, it was a very insightful look into where they rate space as a priority on the national agenda. Regardless of your position on NewSpace or NASA activities, witnessing talk about American space projects reduced to comic punchlines thanks to the moon base grandiosities of Gingrich and the curt, corporate dismissiveness of ‘you’re fired’ by the likes of Romney is a very low moment. The Republican Party and the conservative movement are decidely not on the side of space advocacy beyond the requitements of the DoD.

    Even the punditry made light of bring up Newt’s lunacies’ in post debate chatter. MSNBC’s Michael Wolfe openly chided CNN’s Blitzer for wasting time questioning candidates on ‘such silliness as moon colonies’ – but he’s a Brit and may not fully comprehend the economic impact of space to Florida. Still, it’s clear where space projects rate with this group of politicians in this cycle. They’re dismissed as punchlines, rejected as extravagance by a quarter billionaire or just a waste, period, by the remaining dwarfs. Which leaves America with the space policy announced by President Obama two years ago at KSC. That’s not much of an alternative. Which means it will most likely be external forces- probably competition from the PRC- which will eventually jolt U.S. space policy out of neutral and back into drive.

  • DCSCA

    To the moon, Alice! Bang-zoom!- Ralph Kramden, 1952
    To the moon, China! Ka-Ching!- Newt Gingrich, 2012

  • DCSCA

    “That exchange offered little in the way of new insights into the candidates’ space positions.”

    On the contrary, it was a very insightful look into where they rate space as a priority on the national agenda. Regardless of your position on NewSpace or NASA activities, witnessing talk about American space projects reduced to comic punchlines thanks to the moon base grandiosities of Gingrich and the curt, corporate dismissiveness of ‘you’re fired’ by the likes of Romney is a very low moment. The Republican Party and the conservative movement are decidely not on the side of space advocacy beyond the requitements of the DoD.

    Even the punditry made light of bring up Newt’s ‘lunacies’ in post debate chatter. MSNBC’s Richard Wolfe openly chided CNN’s Blitzer for wasting time questioning candidates on stupid questions and ‘such silliness as moon colonies’ – but he’s a Brit and may not fully comprehend the economic impact of space to Florida. Still, it’s clear where space projects rate with this group of politicians in this cycle. They’re dismissed as punchlines, rejected as extravagance by a quarter billionaire or just a waste, period, by the remaining dwarfs. Which leaves America with the space policy announced by President Obama two years ago at KSC. That’s not much of an alternative. Which means it will most likely be external forces- probably competition from the PRC- which will eventually jolt U.S. space policy out of neutral and back into drive. Sorry for any typos.

  • Dennis Wingo

    After reading some of these comments I wonder why any of you people waste your time commenting on space.

    Reminds me of why I avoid this site.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ January 26th, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    “And there we go. Thanks to Newt, space exploration in the presidential contest is reduced, by his competitors, to a wacko proposal that is wildly inappropriate and even funny.”

    Precisely. And the talking heads peppered youngish punditry only added fuel to the fire. This kind of public ridicule doesn’t help any space advocacy/ ‘Space’ hasn’t been reduced to this kind of lampooning since the days of Bill Dana, Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks clowning it up about ‘astro-nots’. Cronkite is probably rolling over in his grave.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 26th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    “This should be the end of the notion of the GOP “saving” NASA…RGO”

    Yep. There’s a sadistic glee with Romney as he let’s the phrase, ‘You’re fired’ roll off his tongue.

    @SpaceColonizer wrote @ January 26th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    “Today was NASA’s day of rememberance, and America took the time to remember that they don’t care.”

    Well, its clear the GOP doesn’t.

  • Brad

    It’s clear that of all the contenders on stage, only Newt has thought seriously about space policy and only Newt has any serious ideas for reforming NASA. The other candidates statements were more of a knee-jerk negative reaction to Newt than any kind of considerate proposal.

    Sadly that’s typical of the indifferent treatment given space issues from all the political sides in America today. That indifference is why NASA will continue to squander most of it’s budget. More decades to come of muddling through and clinging to institutional white elephants.

  • I wouldn’t vote for Newt unless the alternative was Adolf Hitler, but I will give him all the credit in the world for bringing space into this campaign.

    If he hadn’t brought it time and again on the campaign trail, and if he hadn’t delivered his space policy speech on Wednesday, it wouldn’t have come up last night and we’d have no clue where the other candidates stood except for worthless position papers.

    Hopefully this proves once and for all that most politicians see no value in space exploration other than delivering pork to their districts. We can dream all we want about lunar colonies, Mars expeditions and human spaceflight into the solar system. But most politicians have no vision and because the American public couldn’t care less no one will hold their feet to the fire.

    This is all the more reason why we must grow commercial space. There are visionaires, and they’re in the private sector. Elon Musk. Robert Bigelow. David Masten. Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson. Paul Rutan and Burt Allen. Those are the people who will take us to the final frontier, not anyone with “Congressman” or “Senator” in front of their names.

    Thank you, Newt.

  • Marcel F. Williams

    The irony is that NASA has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars for a LEO oriented space program (space shuttle and ISS). Now suddenly it’s taboo to spend the same amount of money for a Moon base program?

    But we’re already spending money for a Moon base since were currently funding the SLS/MPCV program. And there is no way the SLS is going to be used for any asteroid adventure since it would require major breakthroughs in radiation shielding technology.

    A Moon base and a lunar colony are not the same thing. And Mr. Know it all Newt should have been smart enough to point that out. But a Moon base can eventually leed to a lunar colony once private companies start investing their own dollars on the lunar surface– probably starting with tourism.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 5:56 am

    “I wouldn’t vote for Newt unless the alternative was Adolf Hitler, but I will give him all the credit in the world for bringing space into this campaign.”

    Then you’d best do a credit check.

    At least Germany funded Von Braun’s rocket program. A quick scan of the morning cable shows indicates the buffoon Gingrich has made any talk of space a laughing stock on every channel. Even Jon Stewart lampooned it: “Moonlandia…” good grief. And worse, the businessman in the race, Sir Willard of Romney, who could be president, made it curt and corporately clear in a globally televised debate that any business exec who came to him with talk of commercial investment in space ‘moon bases’ would be fired. Thanks, Newton Leroy, for making space a punchline for a new generation. The last people to do that were Bill Dana, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Tom Lehrer.

    @ Brad wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 5:36 am

    Except that’s not how Newt was received. Good message, bad messenger. Gingrich has done more damage than he realizes to space advocacy- at least in this election cycle. Every time it comes up- idf it ever does again- it’ll be as a punch line, not as a matter of any serious discussion. What Newt did was marry America to President Obama’s space policy– because its the only alternative. The GOP has made it clear space is DOA as a priority.

    @Dennis Wingo wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 4:10 am

    “After reading some of these comments I wonder why any of you people waste your time commenting on space. Reminds me of why I avoid this site. ”

    Sour grapes. Getting Gingriched can do that to you.

  • GeeSpace

    What’s better for space development? Waiting for better economic conditions (no deficits and no debt) and then taking small baby steps into space or to propose a bold program of space exploration and development beyond LEO.

    If you waiting for better economic times with no defocot or debt, you wait will probably be 10-15 years or more

    Gingrich is not “funny” with his space program proposal. The person who is funny is space expert Mitt Romney when he stated “I’m not looking for a colony on the Moon. I think the cost of that would be in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions. I’d rather be rebuilding housing here in the US.” I just wonder how he got thoses figures; perhaps from the old NASA 90 Day Study from the 1990′s

  • chance

    “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the Moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired,’” he said. “The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the Moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea but it’s not a good idea.”

    Wait, what? Okay, maybe it’s the worst idea ever,but why? What was this hypothetical executive’s business case? What ROI did he promise? Why weren’t you willing to take the risk? What are the risks of not going forward? Maybe the debate simply isn’t the place to answer those type questions, but in print the dismissive “you’re fired” sounds more like RIM circa 2007 blowing off the iPhone than Apple getting ready to put out a gamechanger. As a social liberal it’s pretty unlikely I was going to vote for Romney in the general election anyway, but I think I’m starting to understand the lack of enthusiasm for this guy even within his own party. Just my opinion.

  • gregori

    @ Stephen C Smith

    Paul Rutan and Burt Allen? Maybe they went through telepods in The Fly :D

    In all seriousness, promising moon colonies went down exactly as I expected weeks ago. Its a liability, especially in light of the economy and the size of the deficit. The public are not aerospace engineers and don’t all live in Florida, so this will look like utter lunacy to them. Appearances trump facts in politics, which is why there is such a massive PR industry.

    I happen to think Gringrich is right about several things, like the need to leverage vehicles we already have such as the Atlas V, and to fly more often to build experience and incrementally improve.

  • amightywind

    A GOP President, whoever it is, will be under pressure by the same NASA advocates that squelched Obama’s mad plans. This time the pressure will come from within his own party. Neither newt nor Romney will be particularly strong within the party so they will be susceptible to such pressure. So I disagree with the assumption that NASA will not improve with a GOP President.

  • Peter Ray

    As a Canadian looking in from up North, the problem I see south of the border is a lack of real vision. Vision is is what makes great leaders – and countries. Politics can really slow progress down, but hey! – that’s democracy. The idea of a moon base/colony is not that far-fetched. Russia is ready to propose a lunar base and even wants to have the U.S and other partners join in “a la” International Space Station. Because of enormous expenditures and limited budgets, the future in space is global co-operation and that includes the private sector as well – not just near-Earth commercial space business like tourism. JFK got you Americans to the moon and I wonder if people laughed at him when he issued the challenge. There are dreamers and there are visionaries. But you can’t keep looking inwards. Who hasn’t grown up without hearing the expression; “Reach for the stars!.” And what about another famous phrase: “I have a Dream”.

  • chance

    “The public are not aerospace engineers and don’t all live in Florida, so this will look like utter lunacy to them. ”

    Heh, I see what you did there… :D

  • @Marcel Williams
    “But we’re already spending money for a Moon base since were currently funding the SLS/MPCV program.”
    The irony of that is just because we are currently spending more money than we need to get a Moon base via SLS, that does not mean we should continue doing it in such a resource and time wasteful manner. If people like you really gave a damn about making this country the leader in spaceflight instead of your obsession with seeing a cool big rocket launch, we might get something significant done without raising the amount of money in the NASA budget. We have a choice: a big expensive time and resource consuming SLS or true progress in regard to the Moon and elsewhere using budgets we are actually likely to get.

  • gregori

    A GOP President, whoever it is, will be under pressure by the same NASA advocates that squelched Obama’s mad plans. This time the pressure will come from within his own party. Neither newt nor Romney will be particularly strong within the party so they will be susceptible to such pressure. So I disagree with the assumption that NASA will not improve with a GOP President.”

    They will be undoubtedly under pressure from the same NASA “advocates” who will demand that they do great things, micromanage the details on how to achieve it so that it is unaffordable, then not fund it enough to achieve those goals. Same old sh_t.

    It won’t be an improvement. The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  • amightywind

    the future in space is global co-operation

    I don’t know. We basically have a UN outpost in the ISS, and how is that working, other than bolstering Vladimir Putin and the rest of our nitwit partners (present company excluded of course) way beyond their wit and merit? US collaboration should be limited to friendly democracies: Japan, Canada, EU. The US needs to reestablish a substantial, homegrown launch capability as a high priority. Then we can talk about collaboration from a position of strength.

  • MrEarl

    Thanks Doug, for so succinctly explaining the mess the proponents of space exploration find themselves since Newt started his moon base debacle. Indeed, Cronkite is probably spinning in his grave.
    Context is everything. Newt proposes building a moon base with only the thinnest of details on how something like that is going to be paid for, in an economy with over 13 million people out of work and many more “under employed”. He also leaves out a very important point; Why? The prospect of beating the Russians to the moon fueled the Space Race; the promise of cheaper transport to LEO lead to the Space Shuttle. He has to explain why and how expanding our presence to the moon deserves a portion of increasingly precious resources. Most people on the space advocacy sites have their own reasons for expanding human presence into space but it’s not a topic the public in general thinks much about if at all.
    So Newt gives us the nebulous funding for this moon base as being “prizes and incentives”. What company is going to jump at that prospect? It’s not like cooperate America is on the edge of space exploitation and only needs a little push to make it happen. Romney is right about one thing; any corporate officer proposing to spend even tens of billions of dollars on a moon base with no chance of making a profit anytime in the future should be fired! If there’s a $50 billion prize to put a base on the moon that’s going to cost almost as much, where’s the incentive knowing that if they come in second or third that company just lost a s-load of money?
    Thanks Newt for turning something that a lot of us feel strongly about into a punchline.

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Maybe I will regret this but we are in agreement, mostly.

    I don’t think it is Gingrich responsibility but rather that of those who advise him since they know he is a space cadet. I wonder if those who think he is the next HSF messiah ever supported the current WH. Because I see similar policy with just inflated prizes to make them grandiose. Now of course what is the political affiliation of even those promoting commercial space? Can’t support a democratic president. Of course not.

    Grandiose is one of the things that sent Constellation to the ditch, or was it steroids?

    What might happen is that NASA will be in the spotlight showing its inability to field any system in 40 years and no Shuttle. Then comes the question how much? $20B/yr. Really? Yep. Including $10B for HSF. But we don’t have our own vehicle except for the ISS. How much is ISS? $3B/yr plus say $1B/yr for Soyuz. I see. Then just cut $5b. Here went 25% cuts. Nice, very nice. Keep going.

    Lunar base? Grandiose prize?

    I think we need Steve Jobs to lead this fight not politicians. Oh wait…

  • MrEarl

    Sorry CS, I’ll try not to take positions you can agree with any more and spoil your standing on this blog. ;-)

  • MrEarl

    You know it’s bad when Gizmoto knows the facts and calls you out, Newt. :-)

    http://gizmodo.com/5879917/newt-gingrichs-fantasy-moon-base-is-illegal

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 5:56 am
    “If he hadn’t brought it time and again on the campaign trail, and if he hadn’t delivered his space policy speech on Wednesday, it wouldn’t have come up last night and we’d have no clue where the other candidates stood except for worthless position papers.”

    I have to disagree. If he hadn’t brought up space exploration as being a matter of colonies on the Moon by 2020, someone might have brought it up later for serious consideration. We still have no clue where the other candidates stand on space exploration, but we do have a pretty good idea about how they feel about colonies on the Moon by 2020. Newt Gingrich did a disservice to the space exploration enterprise last night. He did it for precisely one reason. To make himself look bold. I find that sad, and even selfish. He ends up looking bold (if not idiotic), and space exploration ends up getting laughed at.

    Gingrich could have just talked about reorganization of NASA, and made a case for commercial incentives and prizes. He did, but no one is paying attention to those important things now. Why? Because he frosted them with an unaffordable, grandiose plan for human colonization of the Moon that came across as his bottom line.

  • @MrEarl:

    Context is everything. Newt proposes building a moon base with only the thinnest of details on how something like that is going to be paid for, in an economy with over 13 million people out of work and many more “under employed”.

    Newt is at fault for not immediately hammering his opponents for misleading the public on the cost issue. But you, Earl, given your activity here and likely elsewhere, have no excuse. You have plenty of evidence to the first order that the US can establish a permanent lunar base by 2020 on less than half the budget for civil space, let alone for a single cent more than what America spends today.

    He also leaves out a very important point; Why?

    To secure for Americans wealth beyond your wildest dreams. This should be blatantly obvious to you by now.

    Thanks Newt for turning something that a lot of us feel strongly about into a punchline.

    Thank your friendly professional space advocate, or yourself for that matter. Newt is one man, and a presidential campaign isn’t even remotely a useful vehicle for keeping media and the public continuously informed of the value of space and progress in exploiting it.

  • Vladislaw

    “Then we can talk about collaboration from a position of strength.”

    We have the largest economy and the biggest checkbook, we will be paying the bulk of it…. get used to it.

  • We still have no clue where the other candidates stand on space exploration, but we do have a pretty good idea about how they feel about colonies on the Moon by 2020.

    Newt didn’t propose colonies on the moon by 2020. A lot of the problem is that (as usual) what he said is being misreported.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Gingrich could have just talked about reorganization of NASA, and made a case for commercial incentives and prizes. He did, but no one is paying attention to those important things now. Why>>

    actually no, he could not have done that.

    Reorg of NASA is not a popular subject among the groups that are part of NASA…they like their NASA and to talk about reorg and commercial operations and prizes which are not NASA work…is not very popular anywhere in the space business.

    Newt to be different from what Obama wants to do had to put the entire notion into some larger context. The problem is that any larger context is well laugh material. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    You [MrEarl] have plenty of evidence to the first order that the US can establish a permanent lunar base by 2020 on less than half the budget for civil space, let alone for a single cent more than what America spends today.

    What is the information that MrEarl is hiding? Can you point us to the info?

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 6:50 am

    And there is no way the SLS is going to be used for any asteroid adventure since it would require major breakthroughs in radiation shielding technology.

    You continue to anthropromorphize a collection of large metal tanks. The SLS doesn’t care what it’s carrying or where the payload is going, it just pushes mass to space. Heck, the only part of the SLS that even makes it past LEO is just the upper stage, and it too could care less what it’s carrying too.

    If the SLS happens to be around when an asteroid mission is funded, there is no reason it won’t be considered for getting the mission payload there. If it didn’t cost so freakin much, I wouldn’t mind using to put some big stuff into space. But it does cost so freakin much, and if it is not cancelled soon it will retard any hope we may all have of doing exploration beyond LEO.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rand Simberg wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
    “Newt didn’t propose colonies on the moon by 2020. A lot of the problem is that (as usual) what he said is being misreported.”

    Correct. He proposed a permanent lunar base, which is interpreted as continual presence there. To many, that’s the leading edge of colonization. Have we colonized LEO with ISS?

    Exactly right about misreporting. MSNBC put it right in their headline.
    http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/25/10237875-gingrich-promises-us-moon-colony-by-2020.

    So do we know that Mitt Romney doesn’t want to colonize the Moon? Not really clear. But he doesn’t want to start doing it in 2020, that’s for sure.

  • DCSCA

    @gregori wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 9:19 am

    “I happen to think Gringrich is right about several things”

    A broken clock is right twice a day but that doesn’t make it a reliable time piece. He’s the wrong messenger for space advocacy messaging.

  • Googaw

    The reaction to the lunar colony idea demonstrates how out of touch space activists are with political and economic reality. There are plenty of economically practical uses of space Gingrich could have promised prizes for. Instead he chose to pursue the economic fantasies of space activists.

    Space activists, it’s time to do something else. Time to look for other sources of inspiration in space.

    Real commerce, for example. Space industry does quite a few actually useful things, but you’d never know it from the grandiose (indeed the right word) economic fantasies of space activists. Commerce and the military pursue eminently practical, useful, non-grandiose goals in space like communications, GPS, intelligence, and science. NASA, Gingrich, and space activists: get your head out of the sci-fi books and try observing the real world.

  • common sense

    I see a lot of debate about the carriage (lunar base) before the horse (LV/CV) yet again. And the only person who apparently saw the same thing I did (did you people?) is NASAWatch. So here it is for you all.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2012/01/gingrich-talks.html

    “At the second event with Gingrich (invitation-only) a panel of local industry and political representatives spoke for several minutes each. With the exception of SpaceX, these panelists all blew their chance to make clear points to Gingrich, the online audience, and the national media. A number of these folks resorted to self-promotion and, in some cases, were simply babbling. Gingrich asked launch industry representatives a simple question i.e. what it would take (time etc.) to man-rate an Atlas V. No one could answer. You’d think that the space communnity would have thought ahead as to how they could make the best of this one time opportunity. FAIL.

    However I suspect some knew the answer, more or less. But would they say in public 2/3 years? Because if they did and Gingrich became president they would have to stand by their words, or you would hope they would.

    Lunar base? “You’ve got to be kidding”.

  • MrEarl

    Don’t apologize too much Doug. Gingrich has proposed a lunar colony and eventually a 51st state! Only your timeline is a bit off. Gingrich advocates this because he wants, “To secure for Americans wealth beyond your wildest dreams. This should be blatantly obvious to you by now.” Indeed, I was hoping to keep the riches all to myself!
    Looks like both Rand and Prez are going to bat for the Gingrich team! Politics do make strange bedfellows. ;-)

  • gregori

    @DCSCA

    I would take right twice a day, over right none of the time…..which you veer towards quite a lot on space policy and so called “Ages of Austerity”

  • DCSCA

    gregori wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Apparently you enjoy laughter twice a day, too- which is pretty much how Newt’s proposal is being sliced and diced across the media landscape. Meanwhile, tick-tock, tick-tock. Better for him to have people think he was delusional and grandiose than to have opened his mouth and removed all doubt. The damage he did to space advocasy is an un’mitt’igated disaster.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    What is the information that MrEarl is hiding? Can you point us to the info?

    FLO and LUNOX. The down-luna component costs for the more expensive option ran $21 billion in present dollars. Last I checked, NASA can expect north of $120 million through 2020.

  • @Lassiter:

    But [Romney] doesn’t want to start [colonizing the Moon] in 2020, that’s for sure.

    He never said that.

  • @Googaw:

    The reaction to the lunar colony idea demonstrates how out of touch space activists are with political and economic reality.

    No, it shows how willing some people are to abandon a mountain of gold bars just down the road for the penny right in front of them.

  • Doug Lassiter

    @Lassiter: “But [Romney] doesn’t want to start [colonizing the Moon] in 2020, that’s for sure.”

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 7:16 pm
    “He never said that.”

    What part of “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired…’” do you not understand? Then again, he just likes to be able to fire people, so I guess that doesn’t really mean he doesn’t like lunar colonies.

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 27th, 2012 at 7:18 pm
    ” … it shows how willing some people are to abandon a mountain of gold bars just down the road for the penny right in front of them.”

    The only “mountain of gold” here is what Newt Gingrich sees in all this as the popular perception of him as a bold thinker. I’m puzzled, though. Why isn’t he proposing colonies on Pluto? I mean, if you want to be bold …

  • @Lassiter:

    What part of “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired…’” do you not understand?

    What part of any of that reads “Romney doesn’t what to start colonizing the moon by 2020?”

    The only “mountain of gold” here is what Newt Gingrich sees in all this as the popular perception of him as a bold thinker.

    Well that’s just a stupid thing to say. There’s five orders of magnitude more mass up there than in the whole of Earth and 13 orders more power than consumed by the world’s population.

    I’m puzzled, though. Why isn’t he proposing colonies on Pluto? I mean, if you want to be bold …

    Because that’s a stupid idea.

  • Googaw

    “There’s five orders of magnitude more mass up there than in the whole of Earth and 13 orders more power than consumed by the world’s population.”

    And there’s even more mass and power in neighboring star systems, and in the rest of the galaxy. Indeed, there are many more orders of magnitude more mass in the earth below our feet than what we’ve so far explored much less mined. And all this is relevant to practical business economics how?

    As Trump or Romney might say, “you’re fired.”

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 27th, 2
    “There’s five orders of magnitude more mass up there than in the whole of Earth and 13 orders more power than consumed by the world’s population.”

    I’m sorry, what were you saying is just a stupid thing to say? Oh, but you’re including Pluto in your mass total, aren’t you? Yeah, kind of cold and kind of far, but there’s more mass there than in the Moon, and I’m guessing there’s a LOT more water ice. I’m telling ya … let’s be REALLY bold and grandiose. None of this minor league stuff like statehood for the Moon. The press would eat it up!

    I do think that Romney’s plan for human space flight is largely undeveloped. This debate and the ensuing arguments would have given Romney a chance to tell us what it is if he had one. He didn’t. He only told us what plan for human space flight he didn’t like. That’s not telling us much. That is, the opportunity to really make some discourse among the GOP candidates about the purpose of human space flight in this nation was entirely missed. Gingrich sort of set them up for that discourse, but they jumped on him instead of jumping on the topic. So don’t tell me how glad we should be that Newt Gingrich brought human space flight into this campaign. He offered it as a discussion topic, couched as a bold and grandiose plan, but no one took it. The only thing that’s being talked about with regard to human space flight now is Newt’s craziness.

    What the other candidates could do at this point is to smile and say, “You know, Mr. Gingrich has what sounds to many like some pretty screwy ideas for human space flight. Let me tell you how it should really be.” They could score points real fast with the voting public by coming out with some less grandiose and even marginally more believable goals.

  • Vladislaw

    “FLO and LUNOX. The down-luna component costs for the more expensive option ran $21 billion in present dollars. Last I checked, NASA can expect north of $120 million through 2020.”

    I do not understand your math. Are you suggesting NASA has more than roughly 5 billion a year for human spaceflight hardware developement?

    There is no way the entire NASA budget could or would be put towards human spaceflight hardware. The budget is roughly half and half with about 2.5 – 3 billion going to the ISS until at least 2020. That only leaves about 5 billion. Even then some of that is directed towards other budget items. I just do not see where NASA has 120 billion through 2020 to build rockets or lunar bases.

  • Vladislaw

    “I do think that Romney’s plan for human space flight is largely undeveloped.”

    I would say that is true for pretty much every candidate for the President prior to their first visit to florida, then suddenly they have plans for space in one form or another, after florida you never hear about it again.

  • @Googaw:

    And there’s even more mass and power in neighboring star systems, and in the rest of the galaxy. Indeed, there are many more orders of magnitude more mass in the earth below our feet than what we’ve so far explored much less mined. And all this is relevant to practical business economics how?

    Beats me, it’s your non-sequitur.

  • @Lassiter:

    I’m sorry, what were you saying is just a stupid thing to say?

    No, what you were saying is a stupid thing to say.

    Oh, but you’re including Pluto in your mass total, aren’t you?

    Don’t believe so. Matter of fact, I’m including nothing more outward than Saturn.

    I do think that Romney’s plan for human space flight is largely undeveloped.

    I’d be more impressed by your observation if Romney hadn’t explicitly said he had no plan and no intentions of devising one during the campaign.

  • @Vladislaw:

    I do not understand your math. Are you suggesting NASA has more than roughly 5 billion a year for human spaceflight hardware developement?

    I don’t understand your math. $21 billion over 8 years is $2.6 billion a year.

    There is no way the entire NASA budget could or would be put towards human spaceflight hardware.

    Doesn’t need to be.

  • Vladislaw

    Prez Cannady wrote:

    “I don’t understand your math. $21 billion over 8 years is $2.6 billion a year. “

    You wrote NASA was going to get 120 billion over 8 years, the implication being that was the amount available when the bulk of that is already allocated for other uses.

  • @Vladislaw:

    You wrote NASA was going to get 120 billion over 8 years

    I wrote “[t]he down-luna component costs for the more expensive option ran $21 billion in present dollars. Last I checked, NASA can expect north of $120 million (sic) through 2020.” And you were generous enough to read “$120 million” as a typo. $120 billion, of course, is NASA’s bottom line through 2020.

    …the implication being that was the amount available when the bulk of that is already allocated for other uses.

    The implication being that $21 billion < $120 billion, and that NASA's budget is always subject to reprogramming.

  • Vladislaw

    For someone always talking about facing reality you need a dose. You are not talking about tweaking a Federal agency’s budget a few %. This is almost 20% of NASA’s budget for a decade that will be useless unless a lot of other stuff gets funded and actually gets built and flies. At a time of shrinking budgets and everyone trying to protect their fiefdom. 21 billion seems a little high for down capability.

  • well

    Newt could have defended the idea of discussing space policy as an adult topic a little better. Why is it shameful to discuss proposals for using the $18 billion we are already spending? It’s, you know, tax dollars being spent. Should be a legit topic.

    Instead we expect candidates to jut out their jaws, say a few buzz lightyear-esque lines, and then move on without discussing anything too nerdy.

  • @Vladislaw:

    For someone always talking about facing reality you need a dose.

    Says the brown-nosing back-bencher from the hobby leagues.

    You are not talking about tweaking a Federal agency’s budget a few %. This is almost 20% of NASA’s budget for a decade.

    And? A quarter of NASA’s budget is gets tweaked year after year. All I’m proposing is directing that highly fluctuating slush fund that has dubious political support for a useful end. Of course, you can always return to your oh-so-successful strategy of flipping the bird at Congress.

    ..that will be useless unless a lot of other stuff gets funded and actually gets built and flies.

    You know something, I’m starting to think your side is a bit schizo. First you want to kill SLS so you can do things in parallel. When I find you another $5 billion that’s easier to grab, you whine about how we’re not doing things in stages. If you really feel like down-luna engineering should wait until lifters and spacecraft are available, then stop whining. You’re going to get a a range of options–the first should be available starting this year.

    At a time of shrinking budgets and everyone trying to protect their fiefdom.

    Some fiefs are weaker than others. Considerably so. Yet for some reason, you think going after the one program with the most political support is a viable strategy.

    21 billion seems a little high for down capability.

    It may be. All spacecraft in the LUNOX proposal were expendable (Phoenix would be replenished for ascent only). I offered $21 billion as the ceiling, not an average or a floor, for the 1990s studies.

  • @Newt:

    Newt could have defended the idea of discussing space policy as an adult topic a little better.

    So we assume. DCSCA can name drop Atlas 5, too.

    Why is it shameful to discuss proposals for using the $18 billion we are already spending?

    It’s not, but did it ever occur to you that no one has more than a half-baked idea of how to spend that $18 billion in the first place? That goes for Newt, Mitt, Griffin, Garver, and everyone else here. A government agency with a budget on the order of tens of billions isn’t the equivalent of a company with similar sized revenues. It didn’t organically grow into its mass, building or acquiring operations that add to the total revenue stream. A government agency’s customers are limited to the 535 members of Congress, who at times may find more value in an agency’s ability to run up head count or spend money in certain districts than its ability to provide a product or service.

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