I've been looking for an article or video clip that would, in a sensible and nonpartisan way, examine Newt Gingrich's proposal for a permanent moon base which would evolve into a lunar colony. The clip above of Neile deGrasse Tyson does a pretty good job.
There's also an interview with Warren Ellis which (no surprise) does get a little hard on Mr. Gingrich. But I include it because Ellis goes into the nuts-and-bolts about the difficulties, and mentions the Outer Space Treaty, which makes Luna becoming the 51st state unlikely. You can find it here.
Here's the short take on a moon colony:
Could we do it? Yes, if we really wanted to.
Is it likely to happen anytime soon? No, because there's not the enthusiasm for it.
I don't want to bash Mr. Gingrich here, and I don't want to go into the politics of the proposal. What interests is the fact that I didn't feel even a twinge of enthusiasm for the idea. That caught me by surprise. So I examined the idea and realized that it was because the vision being offered up for our consideration was straight out of Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Heinlein's book was published in 1966. Only four years short of half a century ago.
Now, Heinlein put a great deal of his career into plotting a plausible path for humanity's emergence into outer space. But he never meant it to be the last word. And there's been a lot of technological and scientific growth since then. Yet when a space enthusiast, running for president, reaches for a workable vision to inspire the electorate, he has to go four and a half decades into the past for it.
This is a massive failure of imagination on the part of science fiction.
I understand how this came about. After Heinlein's book appeared, NASA was roaring into the future by itself and it only made sense to let them do it, while writing fiction set after the deed was already done. Even Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books, which demonstrate, step by step how to terraform that planet, assume the hard work of moving large numbers of people into interplanetary space has already been accomplished.
But now that the space program has lagged and only a few diehard holdouts -- most of them specifically fans of Heinlein -- believe in the dream anymore, that gap has become more and more obvious.
Somebody really ought to do something about that.
And since you ask . . .
Why not me? Because that's not where my talents lie. But, for what little it's worth, here's my own admittedly sketchy and not at all inspiring synopsis of how it could be done.
1. Start with John Barnes's idea of sending hundreds of cheap probes everywhere in the Solar System. "Build a big enough database," he said, "and it will tell you what to do.
2. Send robots first to construct whatever colonies the database tells you to build.
3. Learn enough about ecosystems to have self-contained farms producing food and oxygen before the human being arrives.
4. (And this is implicit in the previous three items.) Accept that the first permanent Moonbase or Marsbase of Whereverbase is probably not going to happen in our lifetimes.
That last doesn't have to be true. But it will be unless somebody comes up with a viable and inspiring alternative.
And speaking of limericks . . .
The Blue Ribbon And Not At All Nepotistic Jury of Family will be announcing the winner of the low-rent SF and/or Isaac Asimov limerick contest on Wednesday. Brilliant writers of light poetics have only today and tomorrow in which to pull off a last minute upset.