Photo Credit: National Geographic [Owen Freeman].
He is my friend and our class representative in the space studies program of International Space University, France in 2003. Recently, in 2011, we both had an opportunity to meet up again at the International Astronautical Congress in South Africa. It was a cool reunion and we hold each other in very high esteem.
Mikko Suominen is a highly respected Finnish space analyst. Little wonder, he responded to my re-post of Rick Tumlinson’s Huffington Post blog on my Facebook wall, titled “Big ideas in Small Times,” written about Newt Gingrich’s new comments on space colony.
Mikko was right to emphasize the wave of critiques that followed Newt’s comment in a campaign train at the wake of winning supporters in the state that somewhat could be referred to as the “mecca” of spaceflight in America. The retired U.S. Space Shuttle program took off, and landed in Cape Canaveral, Fla., with the situated Kennedy Space Center of the NASA program well positioned nearby.
For GOP hopefuls, the state of Florida was the best place to hit on an ‘out of the box idea’ on space: ideas that have the potential of bringing back lost jobs and more — a ray of hope that could be ignited. The space professionals and astronauts alike have their schedules shrunk as a result of the last launch of Atlantis STS-135 in July 2011.
It was sound to say most politicians want to be like JFK. Why not? JFK was one of the greatest American presidents, despite the fact that he was short-lived. He was an orator in the class of Marcus Tullius Cicero: friendly, finely educated, and most of all, a leader with both vision and pragmatism. For a Republican seeking the party nomination, to be knitting up a tie with the ideals of a die-hard Democrat, tells about the gargantuan greatness of JFK and the reach of his legacy. It is therefore pertinent to hear a Republican frontrunner of Mitt Romney say Newt isn’t “conservative” enough, solely because he trailed on a Democrat’s idea. Let’s be reminded that President Ronald Reagan was equally a space enthusiast. That isn’t a part of my interest here; the context of the idea proclaimed by Newt is what caught my fancy.
Absolutely! I agree with my friend, again, that Newt is appealing to national pride, and his motivation is just to fish for votes. However, what better way to fish for votes in a tensed-up campaign train, trying to consolidate on his recent South Carolina lead, and competing with a very wealthy Mitt. Mitt’s wealth, analysts have said, will rival one of the five richest presidents of America, if elected, depending on how you rate.
“Just how rich is Mitt Romney? Add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you’re in Romney territory.” — AP, published on Jan. 28, 2012
For Sheldon Adelson, Newt might have been well crowded out — just on the power of money in politics. I like Mitt Romney a lot: I see him as a fine gentleman properly educated — whose legacy as a governor of Massachusetts speaks volumes. He might give Obama a tough run for the White House if he secures his party nomination.
Newt, in the city of Cocoa on Florida Space Coast, laid out a plan of having an American-manned lunar colony in 2020. If elected, this cannot be said to be boastful of Newt, considering the fact that he is not a newcomer to space interest and policy. He has a pretty good pedigree to that effect while serving in the House.
Although in JFK’s situation, you cannot distinctly say he nursed the idea for too long time before getting to execute it. However, when he had the idea he did subject it to a very extensive research with the technocrats and politicians alike, and for the impending necessity to beat the Soviet Union. Hence, with JFK, it took the space crisis and the race to push the Frontier.
For Newt to have come up with this idea in a time of opportunities, an idea to go mine the immense resources on the Moon for humanity here on Earth, or live on there, is worth commendation, irrespective of one’s political inclination. Moreover, the idea during the Apollo times was to get to the Moon and proceed further! After all, if this idea had been pressed on with commitments from all (and we arem by now, a space colonizing world) nobody, not even Newt, would have thought it’s worth a campaign statement.
I have this to say, like it or not, that the Moon, and, the vast space is the future of humanity. Our future lies there, in the Final Frontier. That’s the new challenge and we need the political will to forge ahead to this future. In a nutshell, “what Americans dream, Americans can do,” though this applies to all! But it’s time for America to do it again; the other worlds too, are now setting their goals toward the “lunar far-side.” Doing it again is the best tribute to pay to Neil, Buzz and Mike, and of course, to the space explorers like the Columbia astronauts and others who lost their lives, and to the other living legends.
On aspects of implementation, there is no one way to achieve that. In as much as New Space should push limits and President Obama’s idea has empowered companies like SpaceX, NASA’s guidance will still remain invaluable. X-Prize, a foundation of Peter Diamandis is leading a revolution of modern day incentivized prize competition, and as it regards the Moon, the Google Lunar X-Prize with 26 private teams vying for $30 millionhas promising teams like Synergy Moon LLC, White Label Space and Moon Express in the pack. Hence, going back to the moon is underway. However, I am glad Newt proposed a PPP approach, which means he considered the economies of this new idea, which in a sense, is an age-long idea given a new breath.
The whole seems laughable; is it because it has not been done before? What we need is the political will, good leadership, management of the right technology, and push — the kind that JFK provided. Hence, I do think extensive consultations should be just like in the times of JFK to fashion out the best approach; there’s no need for a rush. 2020 might just be unrealistic considering the present timeline in the U.S. space program.
Newt’s New Frontier: If nothing, romance that could be associated with space was brought back into the consciousness of space professionals.
This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post on 27 February 2012.