In one of the more interesting quirks of the all-important Florida primary, Newt Gingrich has been antagonizing to revitalize the space program on a truly massive scale, promising to build a permanent moon colony by 2020. It’s reminiscent of former President Bush’s grand visions of expanded space exploration, including his 2004 State of the Union pledge to send a manned mission to Mars.
Personally, I love it. Snarkologist can explain this better than I, but America’s space program has historically been one of our most vital sources of technological innovation. The space program is as solid an investment as the government can make and I have no doubt that the solutions to technical challenges posed by creating reusable lunar landers, permanent housing solutions for the moon, and everything else that would go into a project of this ambition would yield incredible advances across society. Further, it seems that Gingrich’s ambition in this area is real, not just a cynical way of attracting Floridian votes at a time when NASA in in limbo. So kudos to him.
That said, it seems highly ironic that this proposal should come from a man who, along with all other Republicans, has constantly derided the Obama Administration for its deficit spending. Any serious attempt at a moon colony would surely require massive public investment wholly incompatible with the austerity demanded by the current Republican consensus. Furthermore, it is dismaying that Gingrich – and the Republicans to whom he is appealing – fail to realize that many of the same principles which make investment in space exploration a worthy policy goal also animate the virtue of other forms of government investment that Republicans deride as economically unsound and philosophically unpalatable.