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Newt’s ‘Zany’ Space Policy

Some questions for Mitt Romney.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

December 24, 2011 - 12:00 am
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There are (at least) two problems with this. First, as already noted, Gingrich is no longer advocating orbiting mirrors (an idea by the space visionary Krafft Ehricke going back at least to the seventies). But the other problem is that it is another flip flop for Romney, who seemed quite supportive of lunar activities in his previous run for the presidency, when he offered some remarks at the Kennedy Space Center after a tour of the Shuttle:

…clearly, as I’ve said before, I support the NASA program, the president’s vision program, which consists of a manned space mission back to the moon, as well as an ongoing mission to Mars….

The “president’s vision program” actually consisted of more than a “manned space mission back to the moon.” Though it was being disastrously implemented by NASA at the time, it was actually a program to establish a human lunar base there, one of whose purposes was to “mine minerals” (specifically, water with which to make rocket propellant and help with life support to reduce the costs of space operations). In other words, pretty much what he has been ridiculing Newt for supporting for the past week and a half.

There are implications in Romney’s wording when he assembles the straw men to describe Newt’s positions. When he says “I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to [build a lunar colony],” (emphasis mine) it implies that he knows what kind of money it is, how much it will cost, and what the value will be. When he says, “not at a stage like this,” he implies that there is some stage at which he might support a lunar “colony,” just not one “like this.” In fact, it would be reasonable to infer from his attacks on Newt’s space policy that he has one of his own, and yet he has never said anything in the campaign about it other than the attacks.

So, Governor, if you want to talk space policy, let’s talk space policy. How about answering some serious questions, instead of pretending that it’s an unserious subject, of no value except to mock your opponent?

In 2008, you said that you supported President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, a fundamental part of which was a manned lunar base. Now you criticize Newt Gingrich for the same thing, and imply that it is a frivolity. What happened in the interim to make you change your opinion?

How much do you think that a “lunar colony” would cost? How do you think that Speaker Gingrich would propose to bring one about?  Do you think that he would agree with your characterization of his plans? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, on what basis are you criticizing him?

If we are not going to settle the moon and other locations in the solar system, what in your mind is the purpose of having a human spaceflight program? Why are we doing it?

In 2009, when President Obama came out with a new space policy that emphasized competitive commercial services for crew delivery to orbit, and the development of new technologies that would make human spaceflight beyond earth orbit much more affordable, Newt Gingich was one of the few Republicans to come out in support of it (Bob Walker and Dana Rohrabacher were others). Do you agree with Speaker Gingrich that this is a more promising and cost-effective direction for the program, or do you support the Congress in its demand that NASA spend billions on a giant rocket that won’t fly for many years, and for which no payloads are defined or funded? Or do you have some other proposal?

What would a Romney space policy look like? Given that you’ve elevated the topic in the campaign, I think that those of us to whom space is important deserve to know.

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Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.
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