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Right to the moon! Why not, America?

Last week Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich stunned many Americans with his best Ralph Kramden impression.

“One of these days … Right to the moon!”

Only Gingrich wasn’t feigning frustration with his wife like the big-talking, but big hearted, star of the 1950s TV sitcom “The Honeymooners” often did.

No, Gingrich’s moonshot talk wasn’t in jest; he was serious.

Gingrich, campaigning in Florida, a state with clear, deep interest in any space exploration talk, suggested this week that the nation push to establish a colony on the moon and send a manned craft to Mars.

He suggested all could be done by the end of his second term — a bit presumptuous, but such is the nature of the people who tend to run for president.

Yet, even for self-aggrandized political candidates, the idea was, well, pretty lofty.

Gingrich’s high-soaring ideas were at once inspiring and also mocked as being completely ludicrous.

His comments seemed far-fetched to some. Republican challengers mocked him at a GOP debate later in the week.

But in some ways, his comments seemed a little refreshing.

Sure it’s possible he’s just pandering to voters in the state with the most to gain if the U.S. renewed its interest in space.

But his comment also points out something that is woefully missing in America right now — a vision of returning our country to greatness.

Four decades have passed since we last stepped foot on the moon. It’s difficult to imagine that mankind simply put a check in the box for “moon landing” and then moved on to something else.

It’s easy to look back on our nation’s history and think, “When did we stop caring, when did we stop pushing the envelope and when did we stop leading the world?”

Four decades ago, we put men on the moon with technology that would now be laughable by today’s standards.

Then America managed to make space travel routine with the Space Shuttle for 30 years. That program ended last year after President Obama said the program lacked a clear vision.

He’d previously said Americans should send a person to Mars and bring him back to earth by the mid-2030s.

Obama’s space vision wasn’t greatly different than Gingrich’s. Newt simply wanted to push the limits a bit and dream a little sooner.

All of the fluff over Gingrich’s space colonization plans may make for good political fodder, the question is: Why not invest in the space program?

Doing so may be better than blindly throwing money at car manufacturers or banks that chose to take risky investments, as America did at the height of the financial crisis.

Most space and aeronautical jobs traditionally have been American jobs. Gingrich’s space folly may seem comical to some, but it may wind up being among the most realistic jobs programs on the table at the moment.

Even Ralph Kramden knew to let the momentary reaction get fully vented first before calmly thinking through the issues and realizing sometimes our gut reaction isn’t accurate.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.