There’s been remarkable video bouncing around the internet this week, and it’s surprising because this video has no adorable goats or cars flipping over or even a dude getting whacked in the junk by some flying something. It’s just a person in front of a bookshelf talking to another person in front of a wall. It’s what was said in this video that’s interesting, and who said it. I suppose the quickest summary of what went down is that a sitting United States Representative asked a Forest Service official if they could, somehow, change the orbit of the moon.
As far as I’m aware, this is the first time the Forest Service (or the Bureau of Land Management, which was also addressed here) has ever been requested to alter the orbital properties of any celestial object in any sort of remotely-official capacity, and this alone seems like a sort of transportation milestone, which makes it worth covering.
Here’s the clip in question:
...and a transcript, if that helps:
“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they have found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun, and we know there’s been significant solar flare activity. And so is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”
First, I’d like to applaud Rep. Gohmert for having the guts to finally hold the Forest Service’s feet to the fire when it comes to their inaction in the realm of large-scale space engineering projects.
Far too often government officials will just immediately assume everything that happens off-planet is NASA’s responsibility, while the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service get off scott-free just because there’s no land or trees out there in space.
Enough already. Time to step up, Ranger Lazyass, and figure out how to move the fucking moon.
I know it’s been suggested that Rep. Gohmert may not have been genuine in his request. Sure, at face value, this seems like the sort of question only a drooling simpleton would ask, and I suppose there’s always the possibility that’s not the case here, and that Gohmert may have only asked the question in a cynical and disingenuous way, and to lend credence to a debunked theory that orbital mechanics are responsible for climate change, instead of what the vast majority scientific evidence says.
I’m going to choose to believe that the Representative was genuine in his question, and is hoping the Forest Service can alter the Moon’s orbit.
Changing the orbit of the moon will not be easy, and while various methods have been discussed and theorized, there’s not really a solid consensus on the best way to make it happen. Most ideas revolve around mounting rocket motors to the moon or exploding nukes on the moon, neither of which the Forest Service has much access to.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with a short list of Forest Service-friendly options for Lunar orbit alteration that I think the agency should put some research and development into:
This option works well with the Forest Service’s core mission: America’s Trees. There are about 228 billion trees in America, and with trees having a median mass of 11,000 pounds, that comes to 2.508e+15 pounds, or 1.245 trillion tons. That’s a lot of trees.
If — perhaps with the assistance of NASA or some SpaceX contracts — we could get the entire American mass of trees into space, via many, many launches, we could try to position them in an orbit around the moon where the gravitational pull of the cluster of lumber would be enough to effectively alter the orbital path of the Moon.
It wouldn’t have to change things all that much to cause an orbital change, but this process is quite slow and would take, oh, maybe a few millennia to see any results.
Still, it’s very much in the Forest Service’s Wheelhouse!
Ever heard the quote from Archimedes that goes like:
Well, what if we put that to the test? The Forest Service can harvest America’s 228 billion trees for lumber to make a staggeringly colossal lever, and they could stand, I suppose, on whatever Forest Service-owned building is most convenient, and we could, you know, try to move the Moon.
I mean, Archimedes said it was possible, and when was he ever wrong? Dude invented a Death Ray!
Okay, this is another gravitational gambit, where we can have a focused point of mass, forming a sort of gravity well, that should affect the Moon’s orbit. This time, all Trees in America will be located to, say, one patch around the very center of the contiguous United States, near Lebanon, Kansas.
I’m not sure how much area would be needed, and from space America will look like a weird naked pig with a huge green zit, but it’s worth a shot, right?
The Forest Service has all those trucks, right? Well how about this: we line all those green trucks up, link them together with a carbon nanotube line about 240,000 miles long, and connect the other end to an anchor point on the lunar surface.
I don’t think we’ll need to run wires for trailer lights or anything since we won’t be taking the Moon on public roads, so that’s one thing off our plate.
Once connected, all the Forest Service trucks will attempt to move the Moon just a bit, just enough to stop whatever problems Rep. Gohmert thinks is happening. This may be slow, too, and we’ll have to really be careful when we disconnect that tether, but this seems worth a shot, right?
It’s also possible that none of these ideas will work and that the Forest Service shouldn’t even be asked to move anything orbiting the sun and that Rep. Gohmert is both an idiot and disingenuous, but, dammit, at least I’m trying.
Forest Service, I’m available to consult if you need me.