Over at the Corner, Rand Simberg has some background information on Newt Gingrich’s surprisingly detailed answer to a question about the space program in last night’s debate:
What most people don’t realize, even inside the Beltway, but what Mackin apparently does, is that few people in public life have thought as long or as deeply and seriously about space policy as Newt Gingrich. Thirty years ago, as a young congressman from Georgia, he was on the board of directors of the L-5 Society, a group formed in the late seventies to promote the settlement of space by humanity. Last year, after the announcement of the decision to end the disastrous Constellation program, he and former House colleague and former chairman of the House Science Committee Bob Walker (R., Pa.) (who held a press conference with me on the Hill in February in support of more competition in human-spaceflight procurement) wrote an editorial in support of the new Obama space policy.
Gingrich gave an interesting interview on the subject about five years ago, in which he promoted more encouragement of the private sector and competition, and more use of prizes as incentives. He concluded the interview with this exchange:
TSR: Many argue that the space program, and especially manned flight, has no real purpose. Many of those who make that argument see putting people on other worlds as something akin to a wildly expensive stunt. How do you see a vigorous space effort fitting into overall US economic strategy? By 2040, will humans be living and working on three worlds, plus platforms orbiting in free space? If so, how important will those far-flung activities be to the US economy, and to the general human economy?
Gingrich: For those who see manned space as having no role, they would have thought the Wright Brothers were irrelevant in 1903. The human race has a destiny to spread across the solar system and then across the stars. I prefer that destiny be led by free people.
Agree or not, that is a vision, and one of the reasons that Newt is an unconventional politician (though it’s also probably one of the reasons that he will never be president), and vision is a quality that wasn’t much on display in the other candidates’ answers.
Michael Barone has a good take this morning:
His answer on space policy was intellectually serious and genuinely interesting but probably went over the heads of most viewers.
Sadly, it probably went over the heads of the other candidates as well, who didn’t seem to really know how to respond.