I've always been a big supporter of the space program. While dreaming of the future is a prerequisite for a writer of Science Fiction, I have also held very practical views on exploring and colonizing outer space. I feel it is mankind's ultimate purpose and destiny to travel to the stars, and the first step toward doing that is to get some colonies set up in our own metaphorical back yard. By that, I mean setting up shop on the celestial bodies in our own solar system.
Newt Gingrich said something unexpected last week. Now, I'm no fan of Newt, but he said we should establish a colony on the moon, and I feel that has merit. Of course, he was just pandering to voters in Florida (where NASA is located, duh!), but where he might say it as a cheap political maneuver, I actually believe in doing it. The United States needs to go back to our nearest celestial neighbor in a big way. It's time we picked up where Apollo 17 left off, and actually do everything our forefathers were dreaming of during the 1960's and before. It's time to build our moonbase.
A lot of people don't care about space these days, and even more would argue that this "isn't the right time." But when the hell is? The simple answer is it will never be the right time if you take that attitude. We're never going to "fix things" on Earth, and there's always going to be some crisis or war or stock market crash that's going to scare people away from "wasting" resources on such a venture. If we'd taken this attitude in the 60's (like Walter Mondale wanted), we'd never have gone into space at all, and the frontiers of science and technology would be far suppressed. Much of the fantastic tech we use today was subsidized and perfected by the space program—but if you prefer your slide rule and think the Commodore 64 was the best computer ever made, I'm sure you'd love the alternate reality without a space program.
I also firmly believe that our landing on the moon gave us a real shot in the arm toward winning the Cold War. We proved our superiority over the totalitarian Communist Russians, and that bit of psychological warfare did a lot to shape the future. If the Commies had landed, it would have told the world that collectivist authoritarianism is superior and can "get things done," and that could have given the Reds enough pride in their own accomplishment to advance even farther. I truly believe that without Neil Armstrong's historic step, the USSR would still be a dominant power today.
So, now, almost 42 years later, we have a new batch of authoritarians plotting a space race. The Communist Chinese have been saying for some time now that they intend to set up a lunar colony. This is not something those of us in the free world should take lightly, nor should we ignore the worth of setting up our own moonbase.
We are at a point in human history where building a base is perfectly viable. We have the technology, and the resources. All we really need is the national will to do it. The longer we wait to get back to colonizing space, the harder it will be, as more Earthly problems crop up. There is no telling what the future may hold, and all it would take is a few extremists to drop a few bombs and we'll be back to pre-industrial technology, or worse.
In case of terrestrial catastrophe, we need someplace to store the collective knowledge of the present era; a safe haven that will assure that everything we have written, everything we have uncovered, will not be obliterated by our own follies. There are countless stories throughout history that have been lost. What secrets could we have known, if the Library of Alexandria hadn't been burned by an illiterate despot? How many lost writings are we still uncovering in the deserts, and how many will never be found? This is something that should not come to pass again, but it likely will if we don't establish a secure storehouse off-world.
It is high time mankind build a base on the moon, and pretty soon somebody is going to do it. The question is, who do you want in charge of the base? Do you want it run by a fascist regime that views its people as little more than farm animals, a government that has murdered millions of innocents, and has no respect for civil rights or individual freedom? Or do you want a free democratic republic in the driver's seat, assuring that the people who go into space will be bringing the tenets of liberty and justice with them?
I say let it be free men and women who colonize space, and let it be now!