The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Newt Gingrich's moonbase plan.

Newt Gingrich has pledged to build an American lunar base – or moonbase, as it is more popularly known – by 2020, if he is elected. This is both an ambitious plan and a necessary one, if Americans are to maintain a lead in space, technology and, potentially, energy production.
There are problems with this plan, however. One issue is that America, on the retirement of the shuttle, has no launch vehicle of its own, at least for several years and is reliant on hitching a ride on Russian spacecraft, for now, and, in future, on private ones under development. America is not really a space faring nation at this time. Another issue is that it takes much time to research and develop new spacecraft and new missions, of any real scale. Though under George Bush, NASA spent 9 billion dollars looking a lunar visit. There is no doubt more work pertaining to a moonbase, yet to be done. A spacecraft capable of lunar trips would have to be designed and built. That is a lot to get done in just eight years.

There are other issues too. The Russians and the Chinese both have been speaking of putting together moonbases of their own – the Russians wish to do so, in cooperation with the US. So, there is a certain urgency if America is to get there first. If Newt Gingrich is not elected President, it is unlikely that America will win that particular race. After all, President Obama, with his typical lack of vision, cancelled Bush’s Constellation programme which had planned to take man back to the moon. Obama, it seems, doesn’t see the value in such things. So if Obama is elected again, America’s space plans will have to be decidedly more prosaic for the time being. (Though oddly, Obama did suggest that America forget the moon and go to an asteroid and Mars instead...a much greater ambition, requiring much greater funding. I think, perhaps, he doesn’t fully understand the details of this, since funding concerns was one of the reasons he cancelled the Constellation programme).

Many people have reacted to Newt Gingrich’s proposed moonbase, as if he is off his trolley. He has been buried in scorn from many quarters. Yet, there is nothing impossible about his dream – except perhaps the timescale. Were America to actually fund this proposal, it would happen, in due course. A moonbase is well within our technical capabilities. Indeed, Newt Gingrich is to be admired for having such a vision for America. Without visionary politicians, the future of the world will look rather dull. It is those with vision, who craft a future worth seeing. So I applaud his guts in stating what seems to most, such a visionary near future. I found even more telling about the scale of his vision, when he remarked that once 13,000 Americans were living on the moon, that they could apply to become another state of the USA! How about that for ambitious?
There is something here, that has not been brought up in the discussions about Gingrich’s lunar dream. It is essential, for the long term survival of man, that there be a second location for humanity, other than Earth. It is inevitable that the Earth will face a large scale catastrophe again, as it has in the past. The history of Earth, is a history of extinction...mass extinctions. Indeed, Mankind is precipitating His own mass extinction through carelessness, as I write. One day, Mankind may face extinction on Earth, through a natural catastrophe or a man-made disaster. It is imperative that humanity has a “back up”. Were there a lunar civilization which had got to the point of being self-sustaining, then Mankind would survive an earthly extinction event.

So, though I doubt he is considering the issue, Newt Gingrich’s vision for a permanent lunar base, is one that could not be more important. A lunar base would almost guarantee the long term survival of the human race, by giving us a second chance in the event of mass catastrophe. To be viable as a backup for humanity the lunar base would have to be quite large, with a minimum population of 150 of mixed sexes. This is the smallest number likely to allow long term breeding of the population without too much inbreeding. (If I recall correctly from past reading).

Thus, Newt Gingrich’s view of a new state, with 13,000 Americans resident, would be sufficient to provide a genetic backup to the majority of Mankind, being large enough to store a wide range of genetic variants. It would allow humanity to survive the unforeseen disasters that lie ahead of us.

What if America is led by a man without a vision for space or humanity, like President Obama or his ilk? Then we can expect that China or perhaps Russia will create such a moonbase first. Indeed, without the necessary vision, perhaps America will forego such a base. My reaction to this is perhaps not what you might expect. I would rather that there were a Chinese moonbase, than no moonbase at all. At least, in the event of catastrophe a subset of Mankind would survive, rather than none at all. Thus, it is an advance for humanity, even if only China establishes a moonbase.

It is my hope that a new space race of a kind will ignite, with America vying to get to the moon and form a base, before the Chinese (with the US perhaps working with the Russians) and vice versa. If such a sense of competition is established, it would provoke the competing nations into making the necessary commitment of resources to the task, such that it will actually happen.
One thing that politicians balk at is the cost of a moonbase. I have seen a low estimate of 35 billion dollars to establish the base and 7.35 billion dollars to run it annually. I have also seen one estimate of 700 billion dollars. Whichever it is, I am struck by the strangeness of the thought processes of those who hesitate before such costs – because of one thing: they have no reluctance to commit to spending multi-TRILLIONS of dollars in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – but stall at spending much less on space colonization. It seems that, in America, money is always available to kill people, but not to save the long term future of Mankind.

It is time for Man to take the long term view. We need space colonies if we are to survive as a race. There is no alternative to this. There can be no indefinite survival on Earth, alone. So let us go out into space, and colonize as many worlds as we can in our solar system, and many others.
I am an outsider to American politics. I don’t know that much about Newt Gingrich. Yet, it would be interesting to see him actually become President and strive to put American’s on the moon – permanently. That would certainly make 2020 a year to remember...for all Mankind.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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