Space Archives

No moon base by 2020 made simple

By Michael Fumento

Reaction to Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's proposal that, "By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the Moon [with] commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing," has tended either to be whether it's a good idea or whether it's feasible. It's not feasible; it's impossible. But even those saying that tend to make the issue more complex than it is. Here's a simple explanation to focuses on merely one aspect: Transportation.

Since the Space Shuttle program ended, the U.S. has had no capacity even to send people into space. Yet even the Shuttle could only carry a crew of seven and only into orbit. (In this context, it's important to note that Gingrich mentioned putting 13,000 people on the moon.)

That's a far cry from going to the moon, landing on the moon, taking off from the moon, and returning to earth. Safely. The Shuttle was extremely dangerous. Essentially every aspect of a moon transportation vehicle would have to be new. Could such a vehicle be deployed in eight years?

Consider, design concept to development times of:

  • The Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Eight years, but it did absolutely nothing its predecessors couldn't already do; it was simply a design improvement, or the equivalent of a better Space Shuttle.
  • The F-22 Raptor fighter: 21 years from design concept to deployment.
  • The F-35 Lightning II: 21 years IF it's deployed by 2017 as now appears to be the schedule.

Point made.

January 30, 2012 05:20 PM  ·  Permalink