If you have not gone to Newt Gingrich’s alternate history Facebook page, “What If, History that Good Have Been,” you ought to. The page consists of short videos by the former speaker, writer, and history teacher in which he describes counterfactuals, what if a historical event went differently than it did in real life. The one that interested me the most, for reasons you’ll find obvious if you have been following my work, is “What if Nixon had Continued Kennedy’s Space Program?”

How Nixon took all the fun out of space exploration

Gingrich does not get into the alternate history that had President Nixon continuing the Apollo program, sending people to Mars, and building space stations and lunar bases in the 1970s.

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That scenario is covered in such works as Stephen Baxter’s “Mars” and my own “Children of Apollo” trilogy. However, the former speaker makes the interesting point that Nixon, by deciding to end the Apollo program and build the space shuttle, made #space exploration less exciting and more boring.

People who were not around in the 1960s cannot imagine what the space program was like. Every space mission was a media event, an episode of the most significant reality show ever produced, long before the concept caught on decades later. The then three major networks would go wall to wall whenever people flew into space, whether it was a Gemini mission that tested the techniques of space travel or an Apollo mission to the moon. Indeed, if Apollo 11 had been considered a TV show, it would have had the most significant ratings in history, with a billion people following in on television and radio on a planet that contained 3.5 billion inhabitants.

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The other side of the coin was that by the later Apollo missions, people had started to complain when coverage of people working on the moon interrupted their game shows and soap operas. Remember, Apollo happened in an era before cable news networks, before the Science Channel, before NASA Select. Like any great show that had gone on for too long, “Apollo the Series” was canceled, just like the original “Star Trek.”

Could Trump revive space as something interesting?

Gingrich ends his talk by suggesting that President Trump could make space exploration great again with his push back to the moon. The former speaker had proposed just such a thing when he ran for president in 2012. If “Moon: The Next Generation” becomes a new reality series, playing on a variety of platforms with marketing tie-ins and all the other accouterments it might become the next big hit. It’ll also be great for the economy, science, technology, education, and American leadership In the world.

#Newt Gingrich #Donald Trump