(Updated at 11:45 pm with full quotes and video.)
At Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, space made a cameo appearance in an exchange between two of the frontrunners, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. When Romney was asked by the moderator to describe how his positions differed from those of Gingrich, Romney brought up, as a rather unexpected example, that Gingrich supported the development of big lunar colonies, whereas Romney did not. “We could start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the Moon,” Romney said. “I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that.” The line was greeted with laughter from the debate audience.
Gingrich, in his response, brought up space. “I’m proud of trying to find things that give young people a reason to study science and math and technology, and telling them that some day in their lifetime that they can dream of going to the Moon, they can dream of going to Mars,” he said. “I grew up in a generation where the space program was real, where it was important, where, frankly, it is tragic that NASA has been so bureaucratized.” He then cited Iowa State University, just up the road from the debate in Ames, as an example of a place doing “brilliant things” that attract students. “I’m happy to defend the idea that America should be in space and should be there in an aggressive, entrepreneurial way.”
The portion of the debate that included that exchange is below: