Last night’s GOP debate featured an argument over an unusual topic: Newt Gingrich’s recent call for colonizing the moon. Lunar colonies, another one of Newt’s “big ideas,” were decried as a silly waste of money by Mitt Romney, who said that he would fire any subordinate who approached him with such a suggestion. Are lunar settlements a good idea?
Some scholars think so. As one paper by the University of Hawaii’s G. Jeffrey Taylor proclaims, “the central goal of human space exploration is (or ought to be) the development and settlement of space.” Such a development, Taylor argues, would not only reap numerous scientific and commercial benefits; it would help defend Earth from space hazards. And since there’s a lot we don’t know about the moon, a sustained human presence there would probably be necessary in order to carry out long-term research projects. Scientific progress, Taylor argues, would “benefit greatly” from the development of lunar settlements. If it turns out that this idea, unlike most of what passes through Newt’s brain, isn’t total nonsense, let’s offer him a deal: We’ll build the settlement—as long as he agrees to be its first inhabitant.