US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigned in Florida on Wednesday, and made some audacious claims if he would become President of the United States: “By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the Moon and it will be American,” Gingrich said.
He also said that near-Earth space would be busy with launches by that same time frame – with “five or eight” launches a day, for space tourism and manufacturing, and that a new propulsion system would allow astronauts to get to Mars quickly and efficiently. The Space Coast crowd was captivated.
But how Gingrich would convince a future Congress to go along with what certainly would be an expensive proposition? President Obama couldn’t even convince Congress to give NASA an extra $6 billion over five years, and instead NASA’s budget has remained flat, without the big boost in technology development and science the current President was hoping for.
At a later space industry round-table discussion with Gingrich, one person commented that there are “no true space advocates in Congress, just members protecting their NASA centers and space pork.” Gingrich replied: “A good president doesn’t negotiate with Congress. He negotiates with the people, then the people negotiate with Congress.”
Even though Gingrich appears to support NASA, during the earlier rally, he also possibly indicated that he might cut NASA’s budget, saying he thinks NASA should become “lean and aggressive,” and less bureaucratic.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives said he would support tax-free prizes, devoting 10% of NASA’s budget for entrepreneurial prizes of the kind that spurred Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic (even though the current Congress nixed a recent similar proposal for NASA’s Office of Technology), and definitely outlined a nationalistic, US-only vision for space exploration, saying “we clearly have the capacity that Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to us,” and “I accept the charge that I am an American, and Americans are instinctively grandiose, because we believe in a bigger future.”
Gingrich’s biggest Republican opponent at the moment is Mitt Romney, and Romney has ridiculed Gingrich for his Moon base plans. Gingrich even referenced a previous idea he had as “weird.”
“At one point early in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance in Space,” Gingrich said, where once there were “13,000 Americans living on the moon, they could petition to become a state.”
Reports from Florida say that Romney will unveil his plans for NASA later this week. The Republican Primary in Florida is on January 31.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.