Not since the glory days of black and white comedic sitcoms like the Honeymooners, have we seen such dedication to the idea of sending an American to the moon.
Physical similarities aside, Newt Gingrich and Jackie Gleason share this common dream. Gingrich promises, if elected, to establish a permanently manned American moon base before the end of his second term in 2020.
Keep in mind Gingrich spoke about this while campaigning in Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center, one of the areas most dependent on NASA budgets. All that aside, it is an exciting prospect.
The idea goes directly against President Barack Obama’s plans for NASA as announced in 2010, where Obama declared manned missions to the moon off the table. Instead, Obama proposed putting the majority of the ex-moon program’s budget into the development of more advanced rocketry. The plan being that better rockets now will aid American plans for asteroid and Mars missions far into the future.
I have to admit, I was hit hard when the last shuttle landed effectively ending North America’s presence in space. North Americans will have to hitch a ride with our friends in Russia or China. Yes, I am Canadian not American, but that has never stopped me from day-dreaming of a time when I can take a long-overdue vacation in low gravity; even if only as a retirement present to myself.
I will, for now, leave the viability aspects of Gingrich’s promises alone. All politics aside, I can’t help but get a little caught up in the idea of a permanent base on the Moon. Images from the ’50s and ’60s flash through my mind. Images of bubble suited astronauts and yes, Flash Gordon style ray guns. These images made even more idealized by the fact that I wasn’t born until the 70s.
Gingrich is not the first to try to tap into America’s love of space exploration. Every president since John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) has attempted to recapture the passion kindled by the original NASA Mission to the moon. None have succeeded.
Personally, I believe the Cold War had much to do with the commitment of the North American governments and people to the original space program. A lot of time and money went into the propaganda and anti-propaganda of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his like. The fear of Communism, the Cuban missile crisis, North American involvement in wars in Asia, all of these things played a part. A lot can be overlooked with the full moon shining in your eyes.
The moon mission was a much needed and wonderfully fantastic diversion.
John Kennedy said in 1961, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
The culmination of this goal in Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landing on the moon had a massive effect on every generation to witness it.
As a member of Generation X, I want to ask for my generation and every generation since, Where is our moon mission?
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.