Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has long had an interest in prizes for motivating advances in spaceflight, among other areas, and that interest is apparently still strong. In an interview with Human Events he had this to say about a Mars prize:
I had a very senior member of the Air Force say to me, if we had a $5 billion tax-free prize for the first team to get to Mars — think of it as the 21st Century America’s Cup, ’cause, you know, there are millionaires and billionaires out there who spend an amazing amount of money on yachts in order to compete for the America’s Cup.
If we had a 21st Century America’s Cup in space, this particular expert in the Air Force said to me, they thought we’d get there in about five years and save about $220 billion dollars in federal spending over the next generation. So, you look at that sort of thing, and I don’t want to try to fix NASA, I want to try to create a competitive, prize-based system.
Unfortunately, Gingrich doesn’t disclose who this “very senior member” of the Air Force is, and how this person made that rather optimistic determination.
Gingrich’s interview is timed with the publication of his new book, Real Change. One chapter of that book is titled, “NASA versus the Culture of Competitive Entrepreneurship”.