Speaking last week to an audience on Florida’s “space coast,” Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich vowed to establish a colony on the Moon by the end of his “second term,” i.e., by the end of 2020. What’s more, Gingrich made clear that he wanted the lunar outpost to be a U.S. project, expressing openness to the possibility of statehood for the Moon colony upon its reaching the necessary minimum population.
For Americans who live on planet Earth, the speech may have seemed to be simply one more piece of evidence that Gingrich’s reputation as an idea man is at best a mixed blessing. Or, as former Republican Senator and 1996 Presidential nominee Bob Dole recently observed about Gingrich’s time in the House of Representatives: “Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall.”
But before succumbing to the temptation to mock Gingrich’s grandiosity—which he expressly embraced in the space coast speech, comparing himself to Lincoln, among others—it is worth asking whether there is anything to Gingrich’s plan. Although the particulars of the Gingrich Moon-colonization plan are flawed, the basic concept is worth discussing.
Before evaluating the legal and policy ramifications of Moon colonization, we might ask whether it is technologically feasible. Promising in 2012 to establish a Moon colony by 2020 looks quite similar to President Kennedy’s 1961 goal of putting a man on the Moon by 1970. Given that we were able to accomplish Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon using 1960s technology, it might seem like a relatively small step to colonize the Moon using modern technology.