No moon base by 2020 made simple

January 30, 2012  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

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.