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The Rise of the Heinlein Republican

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With his surge in the polls I’ve been trying to get a handle on the philosophy of Newt Gingrich, and after finally seeing signs which should have been obvious all along and confirming them with a bit of research, I realized what I should have caught on to long ago, that Newt Gingrich is a Robert Heinlein Republican.

Like many in my generation I grew up reading Robert Heinlein’s Science Fiction novels almost religiously. Heinlein’s dystopian vision of the future and his romantic obsession with man as superman was enormously appealing to a teenager growing up in the space age. The Heinlein man could perfect himself and conquer the universe singlehanded by sheer determination and willpower. Heinlein’s theme was the triumph of the individual over time in Methuselah’s Children, over space in The Man Who Sold the Moon, over conventional morality in Stranger in a Strange Land and over the governments of lesser men in Farnham’s Freehold. Heinlein’s political philosophy of Rational Anarchism is summed up by the Professor Bernardo de la Paz in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

“In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do.”

Heinlein’s muscular, militaristic individualism carried with it a deliberate intention from the very first to influence politics. After World War II Heinlein experimented with direct involvement in politics, served in elective party office in California and ultimately campaigned for Goldwater in 1964 and may have ghostwritten ads and speeches for his presidential campaign. In this period Heinlein had a friendship and rivalry with fellow writer L. Ron Hubbard. They supposedly had a long standing bet to see who could start a religion which would change society. Hubbard’s answer to this challenge was the creation of Scientology. Heinlein’s answer came through his writing and the ideas expressed in some of his bestselling novels of the late 1960s and its ultimate product seems to be Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich has admitted to being a Heinlein fan and his own fiction has a clear Heinlein influence. Gingrich is also friends with and has collaborated with Science Fiction author and former Reagan era technology adviser Jerry Pournelle, who sees himself as the heir to Heinlein’s ideas and literary tradition. Pournelle was a protege of influential neolibertarian thinker Russell Kirk, and has written extensively on politics from a neolibertarian perspective. Neolibertarianism is a branch of libertarianism which fits the Heinlein model quite closely. It at least partially deemphasizes the principle of non-coercion and places a strong emphasis on individual liberty, disdaining bureaucratic government and elevating the military to a near iconic status. The world envisioned in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is very much the world of the neolibertarian movement.

Gingrich has clearly taken the Heinlein ideology to heart on many levels. His serial infidelity and request that his wife engage in an open relationship are pure Heinlein. Heinlein was an avowed libertine who practiced open marriage and advocated total sexual liberation and rejection of conventional morality as a recurrent theme in much of his writing. Gingrich’s obsession with colonizing the moon is also straight out of Heinlein’s work. Some of Heinlein’s most influential writing centers around the colonization and development of the moon in books like The Man Who Sold the Moon and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Gingrich’s hostility towards bureaucracy, flaunting of the conventional political process and love of innovation for its own sake are pure Heinlein.  His egotism and obsessive character are also straight out of Heinlein.  Gingrich himself has much in common with megalomaniacal developer Delos D. Harriman in The Man Who Sold the Moon, though Gingrich seems not to understand that the self-destructive Harriman was intended more as an anti-hero than a role model.

Many observers of the libertarian end of the political spectrum see Heinlein’s vision and the ideas of the neolibertarians as the “ugly” side of libertarianism.  Disconnected from social morality and focused on the responsibility of the individual to himself and not to society, it can lead to views which verge on being an oxymoronic kind of libertarian fascism.  Ironically, this aggressive subset of the generally much more innocuous libertarian movement seems to have much greater political marketability.  

To a generation of middle-aged voters who grew up on Heinlein and the writers he influenced, the Gingrich message and the Gingrich style have a real resonance.  You can see this in how Gingrich has successfully positioned himself as the defiant individualist in his challenging of the media establishment and how easily voters have been convinced to dismiss his unconventional personal life.  The fully realized individual is above conventional morality and is not accountable to anyone but himself.  The more Gingrich defies those who would judge him the more he proves that he is the kind of individualistic superman which Heinlein’s writing has convinced us that we all ought to be.  We identify with Gingrich and live vicariously through him, more like a literary character than a real human being.

In embracing the Heinleinian model of an anti-statesman Gingrich seems to have actually struck a thread with a public which is very unhappy with the conventional political establishment.  Even though he himself was part of that establishment for many years, he has thrown himself into the role of the outcast returning in triumph to exact vengeance on his detractors, a mythic archetype which is widespread in legend and literature and manifests in Heinlein’s work repeatedly.  Gingrich is the hero returned from exile.  He is Valentine Michael Smith and Thorby Baslim and Lazarus Long rolled into one unlikely package.  The unanswered question is whether Gingrich has the shortcomings of a mortal man or the inevitable victorious destiny of a literary character.


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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Igor

    96-CLOX is wrong.

    “Moving humanity to the moon, … is just a matter of engineering.”

    No, it’s a matter of chemical rockets, which are tremendously expensive. The engineering has already been done, because it was pretty cheap, but rockets are intrinsically expensive.

    ” Dig down 500 feet, and there is another area the size of Africa.”

    At the tremendous expense of rocketing digging equipment to the moon.

  • CLOX

    Why did people go to Oklahoma? Today, your life is engineered: food, home, medicine, water, communications, politics, matchmaking, entertainment… everything. Moving humanity to the moon, asteroids, Ort cloud, and throughout the galaxy within 100,000 years is just a matter of engineering. We can do this: abrogate the space treaty, claim the moon, open to homesteading and mining, begin the land rush. The surface of the eight contenent is the size of Africa. Dig down 500 feet, and there is another area the size of Africa. The population potential of the moon is huge. Add CHON and stir. “The good thing about space travel is it gave us somewhere else to go.” We can do this for a tenth of the defense budget.

    • Robert Eckert

      People were marched to Oklahoma at gunpoint.

  • CLOX

    Introducing Professor Bernardo de la Paz.

    Met him in 1978 and he comfirmed then that he was the basis for the character.

  • Cannonshop

    But that whole scenario, Glenn, is crap-the reason Mutually Assured Destruction WORKED was that the russians didn’t want to die anymore than we did. Not even the really HARD core Communists-because Communism is Atheistic-at least the soviet brand was, and this is all the life you get. Ending it prematurely to claim dominion on a dead rock you can’t leave is anathema to that way of thinking.

    As for the China thing…The problem is, the U.S. sacrificed tomorrow to pay for the comforts of yesterday-and we’re still doing it. Bankrupt nations don’t explore, they get taken over or left behind. I’d LOVE it if we-as-americans could get our collective head out of our asses and put something toward the future, but we can’t even graduate kids who can read at-grade-level, and the aversion to risk has gotten so ingrained that we’ll still be studying the problem long after someone else (Probably China) has already confronted and solved it.

  • Cannonshop

    #90- Um…for more than just hauling some daredevils and a tiny sample case? YES, Glenn, yes it does.

    #91 Considering that said massive, overwhelming first strike is likely to consign humanity the fate of “on the Beach”?

    The retaliatory strike’s more mercy than they deserve-it’s the flaw of “First Strike Strategies”, Glenn-using the weapons in overwhelming numbers, even if the other side doesn’t reply, gives the same result in the long term-your population (both sides, all sides, really) ends up burned, bleeding and dying-and that’s assuming that only 1/3rd of the old Soviet Stockpiles remaining actually manage to detonate.

    Nuclear war is a grenade-fight in a phone-booth-even if hte other guy doesn’t pull the pin, you’re both going to die anyway.

    So your dilemna is a false dilemna-“How do you react when you’re trapped in a suicide pact situation with someone who REALLY wants to go?”

    If you can’t win, nobody’s going to survive anyway, and you can’t get out of the game (No Third Option), you play the damn game. Push the button. You push the button, because it’s over anyway, for everyone, and maybe you can make it hurt less for a few billion people who’d otherwise get to look forward to slow, agonizing death by radiation sickness.

  • Deano

    Two words on why a moonbase will be required: Helium 3

  • Glenn Contrarian

    But I agree that it’s increasingly likely that the first language spoken on Mars will be Mandarin. I’m still patriotic enough that I strongly want us to get there first…but the species is more important than the nation. Does that mean ‘better red than dead’? I’m not sure…but that brings up an interesting choice: you’re the president – and if Russia were to somehow launch its nukes in a massive, overwhelming first strike, you’d know that America was mere minutes away from becoming a continent-wide parking lot. Now if you launch a retaliatory strike, the scientists tell you that mankind will likely perish (just like in the novel On the Beach), so your choice is now this: either launch a retaliatory strike and quite possibly condemn humankind to go the way of the dodo and the thylacine, or not launch at all and simply consign America and the Constitution to the dustbin of history…but at least humankind would surely survive. What do you do?

    And stick strictly with that choice, please – no Clintonian ‘third way’ maneuvering! America’s about to be destroyed anyway, so do you risk humanity’s existence by launching a retaliatory strike, or not?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    The delta-V to lift a ship from the moon is significantly less than the delta-V necessary to go straight from Earth to another target in the solar system

    Very true! BUT you’re forgetting that the delta-V for a spaceship to go outward bound from a LaGrange point is FAR less than the delta-V necessary to haul people, parts, food, and fuel from Earth to the moon, and then from the moon to space. Furthermore, the case can be made that with the progress robotics is making today, in the not too-distant future, construction of a spaceship in orbit (or at a LaGrange point) will require much less direct human involvement than before – and certainly less than if the spaceship is being built within a gravity well, which reminds me – why should a spaceship be built within a gravity well when the spaceship is not designed to ever have to be within a gravity well after it launches? Seems to me it would save beaucoup bucks to build it in space…

    …and if you’ll think about it, Cannonshop, does the construction of a spaceship require more titanium than, say, what would be found in two or three retired SR-71’s?

  • @83

    Realize, then, you’ve been conditioned to think in a certain way, and this come with a set of limitations.

    Don’t you think you’re a big enough boy now to start thinking for yourself and break this programmed mold?

  • Zingzing

    ah, the space program as glorified mining crew. have you not watched alien?

  • Cannonshop

    (86 continued) Kind of a customs-house and shipyard, not a city, ya dig? Control the moon, you control the orbitals going in and coming out, and unlike wholly man-made free-floating structures, it can actually PRODUCE things without first drawing all raw material from Earth, at a distance close enough that it’s a bit more feasable a destination than, say, the deeper Lagrange points or Vesta. The moon’s the step outward to the rest, without it, you’re dumping resources off the Earth without a return OR mitigating factors.

  • Cannonshop

    #72 Nope. But the moon represents a more achievable short-term goal than, say, Mars or another star, and the materials we KNOW are present are things you’d need in large supplies and can’t find in large supplies on Earth (at least, not in large concentrations outside of certain hellhole dictatorships, anyway.) The delta-V to lift a ship from the moon is significantly less than the delta-V necessary to go straight from Earth to another target in the solar system, as well, and the techniques needed to survive on the Moon will work in reducing atmosphere environments like Mars a lot better than techniques developed in Antarctica will.

    Processing Titanium is pretty nasty environmentally-the moon has no biosphere to pollute. It has gravity (better than the ISS or the old Soviet stations had) so your health effects for long-term habitation are mitigated over the same period of time, there’s a LOT of raw material present, meaning you don’t have to ship as much from the bottom of the gravity well on Earth, and the G-well at the moon is shallow, which works rather well for developing cheaper boost techniques (as well as developing alternate means of generating thrust without, say, roasting the chickens in the barnyard or dropping stuff on that new subdivision…)

    in short, the Moon represents a ball of resources and an industrial site, not a permanent home for people, animals, and pets.

  • Cannonshop

    #84 Yeah, China’s really making strides and taking the whole thing a bit more seriously, I expect the first words from the next landing on another world will have to be translated from Mandarin.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    There will be a vigorous space program, Cannonshop – stick around another thirty years – maybe only twenty – and you’ll see it.

  • Cannonshop

    #80 Roger, I have far greater faith in the divisiveness and greed of humans than in any fantasies of world cooperation and peace. (I also was NOT referring to nuclear self-annihilation, though that’s still a distinct possibility, Nature’s pretty much got that one sewn up without any human help whatsoever. The Universe is a big place, it doesn’t care about us…not one way, or the other.)

    #80 as for being “ready for nuclear confrontation”, I grew up in the cold war, in areas lousy with both hippies, and survivalists. Prepping for the end of the world was pretty much what EVERYONE was doing-with full understanding that if it were to come, life would be hellish and short and rebuilding impossible. Blind, bleeding, rotting and dying and all that.

    otoh, playing with charcoal forges, making rope out of vegetable fibres, learning how to build a solar still and how to filter drinking water, learning how to fish with a forked stick, learning traps and tracking and all that stuff is just good clean fun, most of which is useful for fun outdoorsy stuff.

    The ONLY way to survive the end of the world, is to not be there when it arrives.

    #81 which is why there will never BE a vigorous space programme, Glenn-“earth care” is easier to sell and keeps everyone under the same thumb, as long as nothing happens from outside, it can be sold indefinitely and even generate a market much like the sale of Indulgences in the Middle Ages through “Carbon Credit Trading” and other hogwash. These things don’t address actual environmental damage, they just work to enrich a few opportunists with political ties-based ON those political ties. (this is, incidentally, an arrangement that neither promotes environmental sustainability, nor progress-but it sure helps pay into the right slush funds!)

    It’s kind of like roadbuilding corruption-in some places, that means contractors building lots of roads that don’t really go anywhere quickly (smothering pavement over the most lucrative distance possible), in other places (Like Washington State) it means approve the road, then study it until the cost of the studies exceeds the million-dollars-per-mile cost of the road itself, after which you reset the approval process and start over again. no road gets built that way, but the money’s still spent, and the right pols get their payoffs.

    I much prefer the crooked paving contractor who builds an actual ROAD, to the crooked department-crony who reiterates ten-year-old studies endlessly and builds NO road.

    Mind you, I revile both, but people can drive on things paved with asphalt, but can’t on things paved in promises. SOME use is endlessly better than NO use. same for any publicly funded space programme-if it isn’t about getting OUT there with PEOPLE, then it’s probably more akin to studying the problem to death without action-at significant costs, while learning very little about how to solve key problems that would justify the millions spent on the research.

  • I’ll steal a line from Matrix about the present state of humankind as approximating that of a virus.

    I certainly wouldn’t endorse spreading our brand of disease and polluting the entire universe before prior to finding a cure.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    As with what Irene was saying, yes, have a viable space program with our eyes on the stars…but do not forget that humanity’s still stuck on Earth for generations to come, and we’d be fools to not put the greater emphasis on what we have now. A bird in the hand, and so forth.

  • @ 60

    So Cannon is prepared for nuclear confrontation and thinks of colonizing the universe rather than putting all his energies to make planet Earth a better place.

    He has greater faith in our technological know-how to deliver us from the inferno than in human determination to live in lasting peace.


  • Igor, I came back to deflect the ire of Cannonshop away from you and to me, where I think it was intended. (I’ll add to the list of priorities for development: apartment, underground abode, ocean, and after that, Cannonshop’s location of choice, “the MOON,” and after that, MARS. Then everyone will be happy.)

    As long as no one, such as a suspected caricature like the evanescent Cher on the other thread, suggests that anyone should be excluded from this Brave New World because they don’t believe in God, or do believe in God, or believe in the wrong God, then there will be no more maniacal Spiritual Warhorsey outbursts from me. Just pleasant ones, and maybe not in the Politics section, unless…d.c, al coda to the beginning of this paragraph.

  • Igor (71) I think Cannonshop may have been referring there to my comment #55 “we’re not that primitive people anymore” in response to his reference to “savages descending from a 60-80 percent die-out.” I meant “not primitive” in the sense of not savage, not totally incapable of exhibiting anything but animal behavior.

    A 60-80 percent die-out wouldn’t wipe out knowledge gained from a focus, now before that happens, and definitely before we’ll have time to relocate to Mars, on relearning skills that allow people to live off the land, or an apartment in the sky, or underground, or in the ocean, with training on local hydroponics food- and medicinal-growing set-ups, solar power harnessing, whatever, precisely the sort of techniques you’d need to be developing or rediscovering in order to start from scratch somewhere else in the Universe. Teach that old-new knowledge-base globally; develop and try out those techniques on Earth first, on a very large scale, then take them to Mars.

    Sure, if there are inhabitable planets out there, investigate them as alternatives, but it sounds like you’ve already given up on the human race and our original home. It isn’t time to do that yet. At least I don’t think so.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    If you think IPU’s are an imminent threat, check out what I’ve been typing (before I saw yours) on this thread.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing –

    Like I said, nuclear war will happen – that’s a given. But a general exchange like we were so terrified about (and rightfully so) during the Cold War? No, I don’t see that happening anything within the near future…unless, that is, a right-wing nutcase takes over in Russia. I mean, Putin’s certainly a right-winger, but he’s no nutcase.

  • Cannonshop,

    @70 – You forgot to mention the IPU (PBHHH).

  • zingzing

    “Unlike zing, I’m not too worried about nuclear war – we’ll certainly have wars with nukes, but I don’t think we’ll approach the point of MAD anytime in the near future…”

    compared to the sun exploding or a once-every-one-hundred-million-years chunk of spacerock hitting us? with israel openly talking about striking iran? the cold war is over, but the threat of nukes, although diminished, is still there.

    i guess on a scale from most to least worried, it’s agw-nukes——————————————–neo———————————————————————————————-sun go boom

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Actually, tracking the NEO’s is the single most important thing we can do in the short term – because we can’t even try to stop them if we don’t know they’re coming. Furthermore, we DO have a limited ability to deflect if we have at least a year’s warning (you’d be surprised what people can do when they find out an extinction event is just around the corner)…but we can’t have such warning without the NEO tracking.

    You and I certainly agree that we need such a defense…but a moon base cannot ever – ever! – be a substitute home or a second home for humanity. That’s why a moon base there is largely a waste of time and resources.

    Unlike zing, I’m not too worried about nuclear war – we’ll certainly have wars with nukes, but I don’t think we’ll approach the point of MAD anytime in the near future…but we certainly could. AGW is a far more imminent threat – ah, but I forgot! Any scientists who dare to say something that might cost Big Oil a fraction of a penny on the dollar, well, they’re just tools of the left wing and are all part of a great deception by Big Science of the whole world’s population….

  • zingzing

    cannonshop: “#61 because I look at it from a position of Species survival. Assuming EVERYTHING goes well, based on observations, the earth’s still a limited-life-span prospect. The sun is NOT a perpetual motion machine, entropy’s going to wear it out even if nothing hits us.”

    well, we’ve got at least a couple billion years to figure out the sun, and we’re not going to last that long around here, so i wouldn’t worry about that. i’d worry more about us nuking ourselves into history or the environment collapsing for one reason or another. get on that anti-nuke and global warming kick, cannon.

    as far as large objects falling from the sky and killing off a majority of life on the planet, we’ve probably got tens of millions of years on that front, although i guess you never know. you can worry about it if you’d like, but i’m not going to get all in a tizzy over that one. not much you can do about it anyway.

    so let’s say we go and set up a moon colony now. great. we’ve got that. obviously the moon isn’t the final destination. so only then should we try to figure out what the next step is? i mean, without all this “picture taking,” we’d be totally ignorant of the possibilities and challenges ahead. if we stop all that now and concentrate on setting up some rinky-dink moon base, it could be decades before we can take the next step.

    at least tell me that you’re not 100% “moon or bust!” to the total detriment of further exploration of the rest of space…

  • Igor

    70-Cannon, good comment. But I’m mystified by the paragraph addressed specifically to me. Huh? “More advanced”? Who? What? Where?

  • Cannonshop

    #61 because I look at it from a position of Species survival. Assuming EVERYTHING goes well, based on observations, the earth’s still a limited-life-span prospect. The sun is NOT a perpetual motion machine, entropy’s going to wear it out even if nothing hits us.

    Glenn…TRACKING NEO’s is nice, but we don’t have the ability to do jack shit in the event that one of those objects wobbles and plows the planet at 500 Kilometers/second. Don’t let hollywood fool you-we don’t have the technical capability to deflect, much less destroy, a Chixilub impactor.

    We’ll basically get the chance to see it, panic a lot, have some last-second religious conversions, then everyone gets to find out whether god is god, yaweh, Allah, Odin, or the flying spaghetti monster.

    NASA has enough trouble tracking the junk already IN orbit. Search area alone for incoming from out of town is many scales BEYOND vast, and even the really broad-scale systems we have only take a narrow slice at a time-and they’re always saddled with demands from academics, astrophysicists, Astronomers, etc. etc. for observation hours. The odds are seriously stacked against successful early detection, and even WITH detection, we don’t have the ability to do jack-squat about it-see, we don’t have that heavy-lift capability Glenn, and a probe the size of a suitcase isn’t going to be much good against a five mile wide rock (which is a speck of dust in the cosmic, even solar-systemy cosmic, scale.)

    The targeting problem is similar to trying to play three-dimensional billiards-in a hurricane, with spitballs against billiard balls the size of a family car (and relative mass to match)…while wearing goggles with a narrow slit to look out of.

    In bad, shifting, and inconstant strobe light.

    in the future, it might be possible-to a limit, but that sort of thing gets a lot MORE possible when you work from more than one point, and the technologies you need to do it get a lot easier if they’ve got economies of scale feeding into them-which you won’t get as long as your only living space is a single island in the vast sea.

    People tend to be a lot less likely to STAY on that single island, if they actually start building boats-even starting with what amounts to cheap logs, than if they just keep putting messages in bottles and wading into the surf a few feet.

    Irene: as long as people are confined to one location, they won’t EVER fix the damage. Resources will continue to be poured into keeping the masses placated, even if it means suicide in the long term. History bears me out on this, as does the rising demand on mineral resources and real-estate in a zero-sum environment where the population (esp. in the third world) is expanding geometrically.

    We’re going to reach a point, probably in the very near future, where even WITH the technology and the will, there won’t be the resources.

    As for the comment about how we’re “More Advanced”-bullshit. FEWER people, both quantitatively, and as a percentage, know how the technology that keeps them alive works, we’re so dependent now that a minor interruption is all that it takes to seriously cripple us. A major interruption’s going to be just enough to kill THIS civilization, and the next one’s unlikely to share your values. The machines are higher tech, but the population? Being able to code, is not the same as knowing how to design and manufacture a microchip-and that’s a good bit more than knowing how to design and manufacture the tools to build an internal combustion engine-which is remarkably OLD technology, or to process oil out of flaxseeds from scratch, smelt iron from ore and alloy it, or any of the other keys to modern living. The number of people who know how to build the tools to draw wire is miniscule compared to the number of people who want things that require wire.

  • And I’m being told I’m idealistic? We can’t get the earthlings to live in peace while everyone’s living vicariously via intergalactic travels.

  • zingzing

    “If humans (or whatever we evolve into) want to survive as a species, we will eventually have to get the hell out of here.”

    space pirates… roving cosmic seas on solar waves, searching the void for intergalactic booty and plunder (they are most certainly not the same thing). yar, i was born in the wrong century.

  • The USA, and presumably the world, doesn’t necessarily need to stress out about energy resources such as oil.

    According to a source I was just reading, “Solar cell production capacity is growing at 30 percent per year at the same time that price is falling at 6 percent per annum.

    At this rate, America is less than 20 years away from meeting 100 percent of its energy needs with solar”.

  • No you don’t. Just change your language. Try to have a conversation even with the people whose views you despise.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    #’s 63 and 64 are why you’ll always be better in discussions than I – you’re able to keep a clear head and present your case clearly without offending anyone. Me, I’m too much of a sanctimonious hothead and I know it. But hopefully I can learn a little bit from you.

  • We need to break free of that dependency, not of the Earth itself. That’s just one reason, and it concerns only why the US can’t afford such a focus now.

    Irene, this is really just a rehash of one of the oldest and lamest arguments against space exploration.

    It’s like saying that an unemployed man shouldn’t spend some of his dole money on gas to travel to a job interview 50 miles away because his family needs food.

  • Cannon’s actually right that the ultimate goal of space exploration should be to leave Earth. Even if we do learn to modify and adapt to our environment here, the place can’t sustain us indefinitely. If humans (or whatever we evolve into) want to survive as a species, we will eventually have to get the hell out of here.

    But he’s wrong, and Obama is right, about what the immediate priorities of NASA should be. The agency has proved time and again that what it does best is the visionary and new, not rehashing and revisiting old missions and old tech.

    NASA has an extremely restrictive budget, and will have for the foreseeable future, so we have to think about where its limited pennies are best spent – that is to say, on exploration – and leave other goals to the private and academic sectors.

    We can always go back to the Moon later if we want to. And no, Cannon, just because we don’t currently have a Saturn-class vehicle (not that I can for the life of me see why we’d need one just to go to the Moon) doesn’t mean the capacity and knowledge for building one has been lost, any more than an ex-Marine who’s joined a pacifist commune suddenly doesn’t know how to field-strip and reassemble an M-16.

  • Dr. D: I’m not sure if Ron Paul says that. Let me check, and get back to #60. Seriously, the US is deeply in debt, and much of our resource-sapping foreign policy is driven by our energy-dependence on not-entirely friendly entities, and the need we feel to be able to bully them for resources. We need to break free of that dependency, not of the Earth itself. That’s just one reason, and it concerns only why the US can’t afford such a focus now.

    Not abandoning the space program altogether has some weight, too, I concede. There is aeronautical know-how that was developed in the race to the moon (as Canonshop mentioned) that we shouldn’t let slip away. (Nice to have found a bit of common ground with Igor and Glenn.) Well I think I can say goodbye now without having left anyone too deeply offended.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop you seem to think the the point of space exploration is to flee the earth… the plain old pursuit of knowledge (“pretty pictures,” you say,) seems to mean nothing if it doesn’t directly help the first point. why is that?

  • There’s not enough money, talent, national (or worldwide) focus to “remodel” this planet and to start looking for a new one at the same time.

    Says who?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And a belated shout-out to Dave, whose article really is good….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    #35 – Well said, Irene!

  • Igor

    #35-Irene Hurrah!

    We’re on the look-out for a new planet already, without fully appreciating the perfectly good one we have now.

  • Igor

    Manned space flight is pretty stupid, it costs immense amounts and produces little information. The ROI is tiny. Unmanned space flights are cheaper and more productive, and allow larger margin for error.

  • Cannonshop: But we’re not that primitive culture anymore. All I’m advocating is that we make “the sexiest” projects for this generation’s best and brightest be related to guaranteeing the sustainability of the planet we have now, for at least the couple of generations it will take to terraform Mars.

    Then, with that knowledge, start exploring new planets to colonize responsibly.

    OK, I’ll get back to my munching my granola now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Cannonshop –

    It’s nice to know that the past twenty years or so is the very first period in all Earth’s billions of years that its inhabitants can actually defend themselves against some spaceborne threats.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Do you not know that NASA really is trying to determine all major spaceborne objects that can strike the Earth? Yes, they are. And they’re also studying how to deflect or destroy such objects. You and I and they all agree that such is the Number One threat against humanity. Second is global nuclear war. Third is virulent human-to-human transmission of H5N1. Fourth (in the short term) is runaway global warming – but if we don’t take real steps to mitigate the problem, global warming will become the third most-serious threat…but unlike a general thermonuclear exchange, global warming will continue and bring a great deal of chaos and tragedy to the planet.

    That’s the list of major threats that we face…but we would be fools to not strive to reach for the heavens, to grow, to prosper, to spread. I think you can agree with me on that much, at least.

    And even if we put all of our collective efforts into building a great moon base, no matter what we do, it would always, always require major logistical support from Earth. Heinlein postulated that with enough hydroponics and other advances, a moon colony could support itself. But in real life, that’s a pipe dream. Ain’t gonna happen (again, unless there’s some real leaps-and-bounds progress in robotics).

    Mars, on the other hand, CAN eventually become self-supporting with terraforming. Mars CAN become a second home for humanity in the centuries to come. The moon can’t, not on any scale that would allow a colony to grow, prosper, and spread. It simply does not have the wealth of organic raw materials that we have here…unless you think that the moon base would not need things like plastic and rubber and other oil-based necessities. The moon’s nice to think about, Cannonshop, but in the REAL world…no. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Mars can. We’re not ready to make the leap just quite yet, but it’s better to make a leap to a place that can – with incredible effort stretching at least two centuries – be made into a second home for humanity, than it is to put all one’s effort into a place that can never be a second home for humanity.

  • Cannonshop

    Studying primitive techniques (esp. hands-on) teaches a real good lesson on why going back to them is bad for the environment, Irene. Advanced societies CAN clean up, less advanced generally don’t have that option without outside assistance. Once you get out of the gravity well, you can shed a lot of the need to rely on less-advanced but mineral-rich providers, which means you don’t muck the damn environment up at home, digging for rare earths you need for “Cleaner” energy sources to nearly the same degree you do, when you have to rely on third-world hellholes and despotic tyrannies for those materials.

  • Cannonshop

    Zing, Lewis and Clark’s mission was with the express intent that people would GO to the places they mapped. There is no such intent with the current Space Programme, and a significant portion of astrophysicists seem to be of the opinion that there should not ever BE a serious intent to go there.

    Unfortunately, THOSE are the guys who’re getting listened to-because unmanned is cheaper, and doesn’t carry the emotional impact when something fails, than manned.

    The whole reason to have a “Program” instead of just handing everything over to the private companies, is the development of techniques for the next step-i.e. developing the methods and techniques to overcome Glenn’s Logistical Tail point-which unmanned doesn’t do, and based on priorities and necessities tied to unmanned vs. manned operations, it CAN’T do.

    Now, Irene…(48)
    Um, if the meteor pastes mars, instead of Earth, well…it’s expendable. Unlike the rock hitting earth WITHOUT a plan B, which is NON-expendable when you don’t have anyone, anywhere, left who has the technical and gene-pool capability of rebuilding.

    Let me ask you-if the unthinkable happened, but wasn’t total extinction-let’s just blow everyone surface-side back to the stone age (not too hard, less than a percent of people know how Modern Tech actually WORKS, and only a handfull are semiliterate in it enough to do more than parts-swapping repairs under ideal conditions…) Do you really think the savages decended from, say, a 60 to 80 percent die-off are going to give two shits in a windstorm about protecting the environment?

    It’s only a prosperous, WEALTHY, and Technological society that can afford to sweat over Carbon footprints and CFC’s, Irene. Knock down the U.S. electrical grid for six months, and you don’t have enough of a civilization left, to care about dumping Toluene in the rivers or whether there’s radioactivity in that coal, nor to care whether cutting firewood strip-mine style is bad for the Earth.

  • Zingzing

    Or maybe Lewis and Clark were just drawing things.

  • Zingzing

    this is a pretty interesting conversation except for cannonshop’s dense “pretty pictures” line. I wish he could admit the space program is doing more than just that. His argument wouldn’t completely crumble if he did.

  • And what if the meteor Cannonshop’s worried about crashes into Mars (instead of Earth), after a mad race against the Ragheads (instead of the Ruskies) to get there? What if a generation or two of disdain for things green had allowed the earth to become ever less inhabitable in the meantime?

  • Cannonshop

    #46 The problem with your robotics scenario, Glenn, is that it never gets PAST the pretty-pictures stage. Robots are cheaper than people, and don’t require logistical tails, so the logistical tail never gets built-as we’ve seen with six or seven Mars missions for the price of one Manned mission. they’ve taken lots of pretty pictures, but the ability to do the Logistics for the ‘commitment’ phase has atrophied. We don’t even have a heavy-lift booster now, so anything more serious than a suitcase-sized R/C car is pretty much too much to send.

    To do it, you need the ability to use economies of scale-which you can’t get with light/medium boost vehicles, and as for Elevators-that’s pretty much something isolated to us science-fiction fans and a few theorists who can’t get any money for it since it won’t grow your penis, make your boobies bigger, burn the fat off your thighs, keep your hair growing, hide the signs of aging, or be sold as “green”.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    GT –

    Lewis and Clark was a voyage of discovery into the unknown. While we would learn much building a moon base, it would not be a voyage of discovery, but a long-term commitment – you’re comparing apples and oranges.

    And you’ve yet to address exactly how we’d go about providing the logistical supply. Yes, it could be done…but would there be enough left over for us to go to, say, Mars? Furthermore – as I pointed out before – there’s the problem that human bodies have with long-term exposure to low-G – and we’d have to worry about shielding as well. The only way we’d be able to have a viable moon base – as I stated above – is to have all of it run by robotics with little or no human intervention at all.

    Then and only then (assuming we’ve already got a working space elevator) can we have a viable moon base, and not before.

  • No, this is more like putting on an addition. Get a nice place ready on the floor of Long Island Sound, then empty NYC into it.

    There’s plenty of room.

  • Cannonshop

    #42 Irene, you ever remodel a house? It’s a lot easier to do the work, if you:
    1, Live offsite while you’re doing it.
    2, can bring in material from outside.

    Order of priorities: Get out of the House, and move your stuff out of it before you start tearing out the sheetrock and replacing the windows. Can’t do that if you can’t leave the house. Your remodel ends up being rearranging the furnishings.

  • Cannonshop

    At this point, the ISS basically sits there and generates “Prestige”-yeah, there are some experiments, but how many have led to new processes that can be applied? (answer: not many)

    What you’re missing off the Lewis&Clark example, is thus: What if, after sending the expedition, the government decided that the west wasn’t worth it-and actively worked to bar private entities from entering it, or closed it only to “Pure Science”??

    As to the Oceans question: still doesn’t address the fundamental reason to HAVE a space programme-our eggs are in a single basket, it’s fragile and earth has both been hit with extinction-level events, and exists in a solar system FULL of potential ELE’s-one rock and we’re all gone, maybe the cockroaches take over. the news stories about “near misses” tend to include one intriguing fact: we detected them too late, often during and/or after the pass. We don’t have the ability to survive a random boulder, we don’t have the ability to detect one on-time, and we don’t have the ability to deflect one if we COULD detect it in time.

    We’re relying on the laws of chance to remain “Non Extinct”, and eventually those numbers won’t be in our collective favour. The Nation that is able to establish off-earth, self-sufficient colonies will be the version of humanity that doesn’t go extinct in the long run, the ones that stay at home, will be the ones that go extinct, the way of the dinosaurs, etc.

    If Ice-cream-sundae comes on a Tuesday, the nation/culture that IS NOT bound to Earth will survive, the ones that are, will perish, and with them will perish their pretty pictures of a solar system they had no interest in visiting, and all that radiotelescope data and hubble speculations.

  • 36 Dr. Dreadful — Urgency. There’s not enough money, talent, national (or worldwide) focus to “remodel” this planet and to start looking for a new one at the same time.

  • Zingzing

    And the iss has many functions, some of which could be performed on the moon with far more expense and difficulty, but many that are unique. Not really sure what you’re asking, if anything. Wait… Does it just take pictures, or is cannonshop a bit wrong about that?

  • Zingzing

    Ok, gt, so Lewis and Clark went into the relative unknown, mapped it out, studied the rocks (and plants and animals, but those don’t come into play here…) and tried to figure out how to best exploit the area. We don’t need to send men to the moon to do that these days. What do you think a man will find that a machine will not? Why send a man? Can you justify it at this point? It would be like sending a man on another Lewis and Clark expedition, but he’s carrying around an iPhone with maps and Wikipedia. Where’s the joy of discovery in that? (and that was your point, I think. Think bigger, gt.)

  • Travel to the SS has resulted in many more deaths than all of our moon shots and test flights preparing fo them.

    No it hasn’t.

    Three astronauts died during the manned lunar program, in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire.

    The International Space Station had not been built at the time of the Challenger disaster in 1986 that killed seven astronauts.

    STS-107, the mission that ended with the destruction of Columbia and the deaths of a further seven astronauts, did not visit the ISS.

  • GT

    So what is the use of the Space Station?
    Travel to the SS has resulted in many more deaths than all of our moon shots and test flights preparing fo them.
    BTW I did much of the mechanical design of several of the ORUs (orbital replacement units) on the Space Station back in the ’90s.

    If you think that all the L&C epedition did was mapping you need to do some research.

  • Neither Lazarus Long nor Adam Selene would have sponsored a bill such as HR4079.

  • All great points, Irene, but what’s the reason why we shouldn’t pursue both endeavours at once?

  • I’m about to agree with one sentence of Glenn’s. “There’s a graveyard of planes out in the southern California desert with lots of titanium just waited to be smelted and used all over again.” Has the throw-away mentality that’s developed with the availablity of disposable this and obsolete-after-three-years that affected the way we look at Earth? We’re on the look-out for a new planet already, without fully appreciating the perfectly good one we have now.

    There are two kinds of new frontiers, the outer limits, Mars and beyond, and then backwards, deeper and deeper into where we stand right now. We haven’t even scratched the surface of developing sustainable and affordable…anything, really. Food production, including hydroponics, safe and ecologically sound ways of harnessing wind and solar and hydro power for energy, waste disposal, efficient land use for dwellings (up to the skies, or underground, where the temperature is constant), natural ways for maintaining health, humane ways of caring for the most vulnerable members of our species and even our livestock. Could we work to feel more secure when the planet hiccups a tsunami or an earthquake, or belches out an epidemic?

    What about the oceans? We’ve literally just skimmed the surface of the possibilities for making the Sea a long-term home and food source for billions of people. There are cramped submarines already. Developing a model where the visionary Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, (and a thousand guests) would be comfortable for years is a more attainable goal than sending just three people to Mars and bringing them back alive.

    Just as much of the ingenuity and determination it took to get to the moon will be required to develop generally available modes of living that will allow humanity to thrive here on our home planet.
    It’s a wonderful vision, really.

    Then, perhaps in less than a generation, we can go full speed ahead to plan our next vacation into the amazing vastness of the Universe.

  • Zingzing

    GT, unless you think the moon needs to be mapped, I think you can come up with a better comparison.

  • Zingzing

    Cannonshop, your #28 is rather overblown. Doc tackled the first paragraph well enough… I don’t know what you think we’re doing on mars, but it’s not simply taking pictures… The thing’s a mobile lab and it’s working in conjunction with satellites to study the atmosphere, while also gathering data from the ground. We’ve learned more about mars in the past decade than in the last 200 decades combined.

    To the second and third paragraphs… Just because we aren’t doing something at the current moment doesn’t mean we can’t. Why do you think the technology from the Apollo missions is “GONE”? And why is that we were putting man into orbit and now “this America can’t”? Surely we can, if we put the time and money towards it. The only reason we “can’t” is budgeting. I think you’re having your cake and eating it to in this instance. It’s all “budget cuts! Budget cuts!!” until a budget is cut. I hate it that NASA got the program hacked as well, but NASA is still doing other incredible, meaningful work. That you want to say it’s just picture taking doesn’t change the facts. I find your dismissal of the work on mars and deeper into interstellar space rather sad. It’s like you’re stuck in the 60s or 70s.

    No man has been on the moon since the early 70s, if I’m correct. Haven’t really needed to. Probably never needed to in the first place, but it was a source of national pride. Somehow the scientific community didn’t prioritize going back there for the last 40 years. Maybe they had better uses for their resources.

  • GT

    #31 “In other words, we’ve no real practical reason to go back to the moon.”

    Suppose we had adopted that same attitude following the Lewis and Clark expedition. After all, at that time, we had plenty of what we needed without dealing with the “hostile conditions” of the west.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    To back up what Doc said, for the price that it would have taken to get a man on Mars (much less getting him back alive), we’ve gotten several probes there and elsewhere – and do you really, truly think they’re “just taking pictures”? Come now!

    Just because the moon is ‘only’ a quarter million miles away does NOT make it a good idea to go there. We’ve been there already, and there’s not a whole lot of reason to go back. You mentioned titanium – heck, if that’s all we’re worried about, there’s a graveyard of planes out in the southern California desert with lots of titanium just waiting to be smelted and used all over again.

    In other words, we’ve no real practical reason to go back to the moon. There’s not enough of a benefit in going there again to justify the expense of doing so, much less setting up a whole doggone base and giving it the logistical support it would require!

    Why people here are going nuts because Obama thinks its a better idea to go to Mars instead of the moon again, I don’t know. Oh, wait – I DO know! It’s because it’s Obama, and whatever Obama thinks is a good idea, it must therefore be a bad idea bordering on treason – just ask Warren Beatty!

  • because there’s no point in sending machines if you’re not going to send a man-the same “virtues” automated probes have, are the reasons not to use them-you don’t learn the things you’re actually trying to learn, you’re just getting pretty pictures of places nobody will ever see in person.

    I find that a staggeringly ignorant statement coming from someone who works in the aerospace industry.

  • Cannonshop

    and to be perfectly blunt-the Moon is a close destination-if you can’t make it to the Moon, you can’t even START to make it to Mars.

  • Cannonshop

    #26 because there’s no point in sending machines if you’re not going to send a man-the same “virtues” automated probes have, are the reasons not to use them-you don’t learn the things you’re actually trying to learn, you’re just getting pretty pictures of places nobody will ever see in person.

    The tech from the Apollo missions-the boosters, equipment-we don’t have the capability to build those anymore. We don’t even have the ability to REPLICATE THE CAPABILITIES of the Saturn V anymore-the techniques are lost, gone, and we’ve spent so MUCH on “better things” that we don’t have the money to start from scratch anymore, nor the knowledge and lessons-learned to work from. It’s GONE.

    The old argument about “if we can put a man on the moon why can’t we…” is now perfectly ridiculous-we can’t. We USED TO BE ABLE TO, but we can’t. WE can’t even put a man into ORBIT anymore-we have to hitch a ride with former soviets on soyuz systems designed back when NEW cars sported fins and lots of chrome, burned nickel-per-gallon leaded gas, and spreadsheets were done by hand on blackboards. THAT america, from THAT era could put a man on the moon. THIS one, can’t.

  • GT

    #21 “The moon can help us in NONE of this…and that’s why I don’t think much of Gingrich promising us the moon.”

    1.”…(3) developing rockets with much higher thrust-to-mass ratios than the chemical rockets we now use…”

    2.”…And then there’s the effect that 1/6 earth gravity would have…(on launch thrust requirements).

    3.”Yes, the moon has lots of raw materials…”

    Your own statements make a case for a moon base.

  • zingzing

    “Just no way around it-if you can’t survive on the moon, you won’t survive a 50 or more year sublight journey to the nearest star, much less the trip to the nearest likely viable star.”

    i suppose that’s somewhat true, although surviving on the moon doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to recreate (or need to recreate) the same conditions somewhere else. a different location would create a different set of issues, which, of course, should not be gone into blind.

    surviving on the moon is a good idea, but it’s kinda like being able to run and catch and then declaring you are now able to play wide receiver in the nfl, or are a perfectly good dog. and it really doesn’t prove or disprove our ability to survive elsewhere.

    i’m certainly not against any such thing. who really is? but i think the money is better spent elsewhere at the moment, at least until the tech catches up (that’s probably where we should be concentrating as far as the manned program goes… they have a nasty tendency to blow up, and we aren’t very good at landing them and our fuel sucks…).

    we can learn so much more, in many different areas, through things like the mars rover. (which is studying all sorts of things, including the atmosphere, and it’s done it 24/7 for what… 6 years now?) we ARE exploring mars. we’re just not sending men to do the work that a machine can do at this point. why would we?

  • Cannonshop

    #24 Unless they can repeal the Lightspeed Limit, the survival methods needed to make a moon-base viable are required if you’re going after habitable (outside the solar system) planets.

    Just no way around it-if you can’t survive on the moon, you won’t survive a 50 or more year sublight journey to the nearest star, much less the trip to the nearest likely viable star.

    You’re not going to develop that by staring at pretty pictures in the university, and a surface-of-the-earth location isn’t going to provide the necessary techniques either.

    Plus, there is the little problem of the Gravity wells Glenn keeps on about-you can’t reach orbit, forget the Stars.

  • Zingzing

    Cannonshop, you have to figure out how to feasibly do those things before you go do them. And if you’re looking for a habitable planet, you have to find where that planet is and figure out how to get there. We’ve found some such planets, but they are lightyears away. I guess you could try to terraform mars, But that’s a long and exceedingly dangerous undertaking given our current technology, and we’re only beginning to learn some of the facts on the (Martian) ground. You seem to think that manned programs are up to this task, but the science and data aren’t there yet. we don’t even know how to land something as large as a manned spacecraft on mars. We need to study the atmosphere more before we’ll figure that out. Studying makes these things possible… Sending manned spacecrafts out into the wilderness is kinda stupid before we know how to do it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Yes, the moon has lots of raw materials, but it’s still a gravity well. It’s the logistics of maintaining a moon base that make it a practical impossibility…and the same logistical support that would support a moon base would go a long way towards support a Mars base. And then there’s the effect that 1/6 earth gravity would have on the bodies there rather than on Mars. The only way I could see us having a sustainable moon base is if our robotics ability were great enough to not only build shelters and mine materials but also have a self-repair capability…because such a location is not conducive to long-term human habitation.

  • Cannonshop

    #21 Materials, Glenn. Currently we import Ti from two places: totalitarian hellholes in Africa, and totalitarian hellholes in E.Europe/Russia.

    The Apollo missions brought back a LOT of Ti.

    (Titanium). thrust-to-weight ratios mean something even moving interplanetary where you can navigate with a stopwatch, slide-rule, good notebook and timetable/chart using a can of krylon for your propellant.

    It’s also an isolated area where you can do high-energy physics applications without risking large numbers of innocent lives and/or a planet-sized biosphere, and it works as a testing ground for survival gear…and it’s nearby. It’s INFRASTRUCTURE and raw materials.

    Of course, we’d have to get rid of that idiotic 1967 Moon treaty first…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I agree wholeheartedly that we need to get our eggs out of the one fragile basket they’re in. I’m a big proponent of a very healthy space program. BUT a moon base ain’t the way to do it.

    Why? Because all the moon is, when it comes to leaving the nest that is Earth, is just another gravity well that’s in the way. Humankind can’t grow there, we can’t prosper there. What we need to do – and what NASA is working towards – is (1) developing the technology for a ‘space elevator’ made from buckyball rope, (2) once that is done, putting way stations at our LaGrange points, (3) developing rockets with much higher thrust-to-mass ratios than the chemical rockets we now use, and (4) it’s on to a planet that we might be able to someday, maybe, just maybe terraform – Mars.

    The moon can help us in NONE of this…and that’s why I don’t think much of Gingrich promising us the moon.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    For those here who haven’t read Heinlein, he was a Naval officer turned author, and he is probably one of the three most-influential science-fiction author ever along with Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. Heinlein was a Freemason (had to be – one of his stories is too close to Masonic thought), was quite libertarian in his views, tended to be uber-patriotic, but also deeply believed in what became in later years the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. I might be far to the left of the political spectrum, but I was greatly influenced by his books which – in retrospect – were written for teenagers and young adults. But for any adults interested in his books, I recommend Time Enough for Love or Stranger in a Strange Land.

  • Cannonshop

    #15 Zing, you’re not asking “Why”. The purpose of exploration is to GO, to get our eggs out of the one fragile basket before the next dinosaur killer hits.

    All the pretty pictures in the world (or the Universe) are just navel-gazing without the why.

    the entire PURPOSE of a “Space Programme” is to get people OUT THERE, and it’s been abandoned to navel-gaze and be a weather service.

  • Ken

    I haven’t read any Heinlein, but now I want Newt to win more than ever!

  • zingzing

    well, “see,” “touch,” and manipulate matter. that was kind of the point. we are able to do things without having an actual human presence at the point of manipulation.

  • GT

    “… think of what we now know about the tiniest blocks of matter we can’t even really see, much less touch.”

    Current nano technology allows us to see “touch” and even manipulate matter at the atomic level.

  • Zingzing

    You’re really discounting what we can accomplish without actually touching a thing… think of what we now know about the tiniest blocks of matter we can’t even really see, much less touch.

    I’d love to see a station on the moon, but that’s one of the least interesting parts of space in the end. Beyond that, the sheer scale of space… On a good day, Jupiter is almost 400 million miles away from earth, and you can’t land on gas really.

    And do you really think all we have is “pretty pictures”?

  • Cannonshop

    #11 Zing, with all due respect, why bother “Studying” something you’re never going to visit/use/touch? Pretty Pictures have a limited span of interest. We were taking pretty pics before the Mercury programme launched, the Soviets even put a robot on it in the sixties-that roved.

    there’s no “Moon Men”, nothing’s likely to fall off and hit us, minus actually going for purposes other than stunts, for all the use ‘studying it’ from afar does, we might as well remain ignorant-which, by the way, we’re already doing, thanks to the castration and marginalization of the manned programme at the hands of the “Study but don’t touch it” crowd.

    Pretty Pictures and untested theories are worthless without the desire, and means, to do something with them. There are cheaper ways to do performance art.

  • Igor

    Good article, Dave. Cogent, readable and interesting. I vaguely remember reading Heinlein when I was 18, but don’t remember any specific impressions.

  • Zingzing

    It’s human frailty, not human intellect, that has curtailed our manned space adventures. You can’t help that.

  • Zingzing

    Cannonshop, you do realize that science has developed to the point where we don’t need men on the moon in order to study it, right? We have satellites and probes, etc., that are doing that on the moon and mars and various planets and their moons and we’ve reached beyond the edge of the know solar system and are gazing millions and billions of years into stellar time and space using technologies that would have been mostly unthinkable forty years ago. Going to the moon is the scientific equivalent of going to the shop on the corner.

  • Besides, Newt is a futuristic thinker.

  • Cannonshop

    #6 John, remember, Newt WRITES science-fiction. Just because you find his politics repellent, doesn’t make him a one-dimensional cardboard cutout made of money and image-buffers.

    but as for Newt’s desire to go back to the moon?

    Watch your copy of the Apollo launches, and realize: we’ve lost the intellectual, material, and financial capital to ever do that again-it was squandered on lots of nothing over the last forty years.

  • jamminsue

    Thanks, Dave, for again writing in your lovely prose, some thoughtful ideas. I also am a fan of Heinlein, but not a libertarian. I lean more to the side of honor, respect and free will. I also like his firm writing on tolerance on sexuality. As others have said, and you agree, he certainly would not support Gingrich. I can see how you think Gingrich has read Heinlein. Which shows how once a text leaves the writer; it takes on a live of its own.

  • Zingzing

    I haven’t read any of heinlein’s books, but I have seen Paul verhoeven’s film version of starship troopers, which must be a parody. Verhoeven’s a sneaky bastard. How he got heinlein’s estate to sign off on that is beyond me. I highly suggest that if you’re interested in entertaining, possibly profound trash, you watch a verhoeven flick. His run from 1987 to 1997 is all fucked up gold. A misunderstood genius, I believe.

    Also, very good article, Dave.

  • John Lake

    Rather romantic to think Gingrich’s desire to colonize the moon stems from the Heinlein influence. I thought until your article that there might be some “big bucks” involved.
    Perhaps the new breed government could come up with something with his 1940 “The Roads Must Roll” in mind. That was a unique venture into science fiction, the like of which hasn’t been seen again.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Maybe Gary Johnson, but not Ron Paul. I don’t think Heinlein would support someone who completely rejects evolution.

  • Glenn. I never said Heinlein would support Gingrich, just that Gingrich is influenced by Heinlein. Not the same thing at all.

    If Heinlein were alive today and politically active I doubt he’d endorse Gingrich. But he certainly wouldn’t support Obama either.

    The closest candidate to Heinlein’s actual positions is probably Gary Johnson, or maybe Ron Paul.


  • You’re showing a philosophical side of you, Dave, I was unaware of before. Good job.

    It should infuse your writings more often.

  • Glenn Contrarian


    Dave, how dare you! Robert A. Heinlein and Newt Gingrich in the same article is bad enough, but to compare the two???? That’s like comparing Babe Ruth to a somewhat talented Little League player!

    Initial outrage aside, you know that as libertarian as Heinlein surely was, I’m still a fan of his – to this day I still quote and to some extent even live by many of his proverbs from Lazarus Long! But I strongly feel he would have rejected Newt Gingrich out of hand. Why? I think I can boil it down to one word: HONOR. The western ideal of honor – romantic and otherwise – permeates his works…and honor is something that Gingrich doesn’t have. Whether or not ne would have agreed with the individual mandate, Heinlein would not have respected someone who stood so strongly for the individual mandate and then flip-flopped a full 180 against it. Same thing goes for cap-and-trade. And Heinlein would have been flatly disgusted with Gingrich for how he treated his first wife when she needed him most, and the more so he would have vilified Gingrich for his attacks on Clinton for his imaginative use of cigars!

    Furthermore, I think Heinlein would reject the idea of a moon base today for the simple reasons that (1) it would bring less of a benefit than our current (if underfunded) efforts towards Mars and beyond (and eventually to Titan and Europa), and (2) we now know how long-term low gravity affects humans, and a moon base would be hideously expensive to support (unless we have an honest-to-goodness space elevator made of buckyball rope, I think you’d agree).

    No, I really think Heinlein would have supported Obama. Not because of what he would have seen as Obama’s big government or financial irresponsibility or foreign policy, but because Obama – unlike any of the current GOP candidates – has zero problem with accepting scientific fact such as anthropological global warming and evolution and stem-cell research.

    Heinlein – like Goldwater – would not recognize the Republican party of today…and they would reject Gingrich out of hand just as Bob Dole (for whom I have real respect) did yesterday.

  • I grok this article. Really well done