Fly me to the moon!

Florida is the next big prize— at stake 50 delegates in the winner-take-all primary and the reputation that their campaign holds sway in the swing state. As in the previous two debates, the spotlight seemed to shine brighter on the two candidates in the center (of the stage, not necessarily the political spectrum)— Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The science debate in Jacksonville, Florida focused on Gingrich’s promise of a lunar colony by 2020, if he were president. Not a surprising question to ponder in the space coast. If I got wooed by someone in tonight’s debate, it was Mitt Romney right around this point. Asked about the future of manned spaceflight and NASA, Romney sensibly stated that he would convene with the interested parties, namely astronomy and physics academics, industry, and military, and then make an informed decision. Gingrich went with his tired playbook response of demonizing a government entity (in this case the bloated NASA bureaucracy) followed by the assertion that the solution exists in the private sector. His simplistic response to how he would deliver his lunar colony while simultaneously lowering taxes:

“Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize.”

So converting the 1927 Orteig Prize to current day dollars, if the federal government offered a $3.8 million prize for a “fly to the moon contest”, some brave soul would cobble together a shuttle and stake a tent at the moon? Shuttle missions like the Atlantis cost $450 million, excluding the cost of building the shuttle itself, which runs upwards of a billion dollars. And this to get to a low orbit space station, a few hundred miles away from Earth for 12 days. Romney was right on to squash Gingrich’s fantasy that the private sector would spend untold sums of money to build lunar colonies.

I spent 25 years in business. 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 went on to call Gingrich out on his pandering, selling lunar colonies in Florida, interstate highways in South Carolina and Canadian power lines in New Hampshire.

I would love to hear Mitt Romney elaborate on his views of the role of government in spurring scientific innovation. Pharmaceutical companies fund research that lead to new therapies. Medical device companies fund research that lead to the development of a medical device. Basic science research still comes largely out of federal dollars. The breakthroughs in basic science research can be tremendous. Think discovery of the role of DNA in our genetic code. But the benefits of these breakthroughs come years down the road. The private sector is not positioned to make investments that yield no short-term capital gains. Weighing in on the issue, Ron Paul chimed in:

I don’t think we should go to the moon. I think we maybe should send some politicians up there.

Amen! Let’s start with Newt Gingrich.

Image Source credits: Yahoo Politics and Wikipedia

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  • Legalese

    The purpose of this blog is to share interesting bits from around the web and beyond. All opinions expressed on this site are my own, unless credited to someone else. The images and artwork have also been created by me, unless credited to the sources. Oh! And please don't hold me liable for your actions resulting from any information on this site. As with everything else on the internet, read with the requisite amount of skepticism.
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