On Wednesday, a little over three months after he briefly, if somewhat bizarrely, catapulted space policy to the front lines of the Republican presidential campaign, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich formally suspended his campaign for the White House. In a speech lasting over 20 minutes in a Washington, DC-area hotel, Gingrich suggested he is still interested, and may in some way still be involved, in shaping the space policy debate.
“I am cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space,” he said about 15 minutes into the speech, a line that appeared to generate a few laughs in the room. “My wife has pointed out to me approximately 219 times, give or take three, that ‘moon colony’ was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought, frankly, in my role as providing material for Saturday Night Live that it was helpful, but the underlying key point is real. The fact is, if we’re going to be the leading country in the world, we have to be the leading country in space. The fact is, our bureaucratic red-tape-ridden system doesn’t work.”
“What I called for is beginning to happen,” he argued. He cited last week’s announcement of Planetary Resources, the company that seeks to mine asteroids, as well as Space Adventures’ circumlunar mission project and Virgin Galactic (which he called a “low Earth orbit project”; it’s actually, for now, suborbital), as well as the upcoming SpaceX cargo demonstration mission to the ISS. “Next week, NASA, building on something George W. Bush started and Obama has expanded on, NASA will actually be launching a private-sector rocket that Elon Musk has invested a great deal in.”
“This is not a trivial area,” he said, saying it was a fundamental question of whether America can still do big things that can inspire the nation’s youth. “I’m going to argue for a romantic American future of doing things that matter.”
“I think, in the Reagan tradition, there’s a shining future ahead,” he said near the close of the speech, one that includes those now-infamous lunar colonies, particularly for his two grandchildren who joined him on the stage. “I am not totally certain that I will get to the Moon colony. I am certain Maggie and Robert will have that opportunity if they want to take it.”