I took this picture a couple of nights ago from my backyard in Stafford, VA using my Canon7D with my Canon 100-400mm lens. I'm impressed by the impact marks on the surface of the moon.
Former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is being ridiculed for his new campaign promise to build a colony on the moon by the end of what would be his second term in 2020.
Laugh all you want, Californians. But know this: Newt's lunar colony would almost certainly be cheaper than just the state's current high-speed rail plan.
In today's dollars, the Apollo program that took us to the moon in the late '60s and early '70s would cost about $100 billion -- the same as the most recent estimates of the LA to San Francisco "Phase 1" of the high-speed rail project. But estimates of a lunar mission now suggest that the real costs would be about half that. So let's say $50 billion. That is not unreasonable, since a round trip manned mission to Mars has been pegged at $80 billion, and Mars is a 214-day trip. The moon can be reached in less than a day.
Of course, the Gingrich lunar colony is relevant to the high-speed rail discussion for reasons other than cost. Both are futuristic sounding ideas that really aren't very bold. Astrophysicists see little value in building a moon colony. Why go to the trouble when the moon is easily reachable? Mars is a better place for a colony.
The same logic exposes the problem of high-speed rail. Why spend so much to get a train that goes from LA to San Francisco in two-and-a-half hours at a relatively high price? There are already ways to get between those two places, just as fast and just as cheap. High-speed rail might make a difference in creating faster, quicker ways to get between San Francisco and the Sacramento area, or between downtown LA and San Diego or the Inland Empire.
Gingrich and the high-speed rail authority should rethink their less-than-grand plans.