(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” — President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961.

This is a nice-sounding idea, but it is not fully fleshed out. There are scant details about how Kennedy proposes to actually achieve this, nor is there any evidence of widespread public demand for it. The time frame he outlines — 10 years! — sounds wildly over-optimistic, and arbitrary in any case. Even he admits that it will be expensive, but he doesn’t say exactly how expensive or how we will pay for it.

Nobody is arguing that landing a man on the moon would not be a stirring national achievement. But since when is inspiration a justification for national policy? Far more sensible would be to attempt to get a man a quarter of the way to the moon in 20 years, with a longer-term project to get a full three-quarters of the way there by the year 2000. In point of fact, the technology to get anyone to the moon and back simply does not exist, and there is no proof it will ever exist. Rocket science is incredibly complex, which is why everything else is now described as “it’s not rocket science.”

And what good would it do to get to the moon if America has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost? Arguments about leadership are just talk. Arguments about spinoff benefits such as communications satellites and whatnot are mere speculation.

“In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.” This sounds all well and good in theory, but as a concrete plan of action it is nothing more than grandiose talk, and frankly irresponsible in comparison with the more modest space goals on the table.

So there you have it. The only real difference between the moon landing and combating climate change is that the moon landing was optional. Stopping the runaway climate catastrophe is survival.

More cartoons and blog posts from Tom Toles:

The climate change evidence piles up. So does the denial.

A Green New Deal is the infrastructure plan we need to be thinking about

Here’s the trouble with ‘Here’s the Trouble’-ism

The place where Trump’s words failed us the worst