We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It Is NOT a Dumb Idea

NASA's Proposed Moon Base
As part of his campaign in Florida, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has expressed his enthusiastic support for a moon base. (See Politico.Com's commentary here). The space industry is important in Florida, and so the state has a natural constituency for the idea of putting a colony on the moon. In other quarters, however, Newt has reaped little but derision for the proposal. One of his opponents, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) responded to the idea saying that he didn't think it was a good one but that he'd like to send "some politicians up there." Chuckle, chuckle. The pundits are having a field day with the whole thing, too.

But, hold on a minute. Is it really such a dumb idea? No, I don't think so—not at all. Over the last 50 years, one of the things we've learned is that the exploration of space benefits those of us here on Earth in a variety of ways, beginning with a host of inventions and new technologies. It is good for "pure research," which benefits us all. Nobody today laughs at the fact that we've cooperated with other nations in building the International Space Station (ISS), an proposal that once was seen as a crackpot idea and waste of money. Apart from the technologies and research that a moon base would require, there is the possibility of new sources of minerals. Colonizing the moon, furthermore, is a first step to eventually putting a human colony on Mars and thus getting life from our planet onto at least one other as an insurance policy against a major meteor strike on Earth in the future.  In fact, NASA currently has plans for establishing a moon base, although those plans are "under review" apparently.

Yes, the idea will continue to be ridiculed and clucked over as terribly wasteful and hopelessly idealistic—and silly.  It is none of those things.  It is, in fact, a logical next step in our progression from Sputnik to the Stars.  "Back in the day," the idea that humans could make a flying machine was widely ridiculed and some scientists even argued that it was impossible for us to do so.  A century later, we chuckle, chuckle at the way "they" used to think "back then."  In a hundred years, no doubt, a resident of the lunar city of Armstrong Base will pause for a similar chuckle, chuckle over the election of 2012 and the way we laughed at Newt.