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Article Title

We Put A Newt on the Moon

by Josh Zeisel

If you’ve been following what I’ve written on The Inclusive (and I hope it’s a lot of you, but Mr. Anton doesn’t like to give us our stats due to the fear of a hostile takeover or something) you know that I’m a very big advocate of space exploration and developing the technology that goes along with it. I think spending taxpayer money on programs like these is the best way to spend said money (besides rebuilding infrastructure and schools, etc.) Let’s just say it’s better than funding wars and subsidies for those businesses that can stand lower profit margins for the sake of advancing their technology and creating more jobs or at least pay their employees more (GE has about a 50% margin and Apple about 45%. Data from Forbes.). I think history has shown us that funding NASA and its programs has provided the rest of us with great commercially viable technology through the years.

If you’ve been following the 2012 Presidential election, you probably know that Republican candidate Newt Gingrich stated that he wants to build a base on the moon which will eventually be able to apply for statehood in the Union back here on Earth. What a great goal, right? I would probably vote for Gingrich because of ideas like this, but most of his other ideas aren’t worth spending my lone vote on. There is also one inherently wrong thing associated with his statement. Countries on the mother planet aren’t allowed to claim land on the moon as part of their sovereign nation. It says so in an edict created in 1967 called, “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.” It’s in the title, Newt!

Why didn’t Newt know about Space Law?! Probably because he and politicians like him do not actually read the things they sign. So how can we trust someone who has degrees in history and probably doesn’t know the first thing about combustion or orbital mechanics? The answer solely is that we can because we would hope that he puts the right people in the right spots to guide the process. Not everyone can know or do everything. Yet, we cannot trust the PhD in history who has a keen interest in politics when he doesn’t do his homework about the laws that directly affect his “breakthrough” ideas. This leads me to believe that he does not have the right people in the right spots guiding the process.

I do, however, think Newt’s underlying idea is good. It’s exciting to think that people will be living on a celestial body other than the one that we originated from. This, however, will probably not be done in only 8 years. Gingrich has to realize that his successor, if he gets elected for two terms, will have to be taking over such an endeavor. This is another concern as usually two Presidents do not have the same objectives. Obama cancelled the Constellation program, the very NASA program that was going to propel humanity back to the moon that Bush started. He cited high costs and the desire for the commercial market to take on the project. Gingrich thinks we can go back to the moon using present rocket technology, something else he is wrong about since those rockets do not go fast enough to propel humans and the necessary equipment to the moon. He wants to make multiple trips up to space to first put the cargo in orbit and then send humans to collect the cargo and proceed on their way to the moon.

It’s a reasonable idea, but why can’t we do better? Kennedy’s goals required the design of new technology. Why stick with the status quo when technology is advancing at a rate that is thousands of times faster than anything history has shown? (it probably took people generations to move from fire to the wheel). The one thing that is common throughout history, however, is that people advance. We advance socially, technologically, and politically.

It’s hard for a guy like me who has spent 8 years in school studying engineering, earning my Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from The City College of New York, to take politicians seriously about science when a good handful of them don’t believe in evolution or even give time to try to understand it. Like with most things, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. They have the right to think what they like. No one has proven the existence of God (except for me and the guys at CERN). With all kidding aside, I don’t know if God exists. I don’t think he does, but I’m not going to tell a person with faith that he doesn’t and I’m 100% right. It’s none of my business to try to change what a person believes.

The point of all this is that the people in charge should do their homework. Study the facts, argue if they must, but at least be educated. They don’t tell you this in engineering school, but engineering school isn’t about learning how to solve a differential equation or analyze a structural member in a truss, but it is about learning how to teach yourself and solving problems that, at first, you have no clue how to solve. I’d like to think that an underlying effort in all areas of study is to show their students how to educate themselves without the assistance of a teacher. I get the sense that other majors don’t stress these points enough, but I’ll have to look into it before I make any rash statements.

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Josh Zeisel is a professional mechanical engineer and graduate of Boston University. His favorite meal is a chicken parm sub and an orange soda. On clear sunny days you might look up and find him flying something. Strike up a conversation with Josh at josh.zeisel[at]