Newt Gingrich Gives Tepid Support for Romney Space Policy

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Former House Speaker and former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has given a tepid endorsement of Mitt Romney's newly published white paper on space policy. Gingrich believes that the policy does not go far enough.

Gingrich: Romney space policy not "robust" enough

According to NBC News, Gingrich criticized the Romney space policy paper as not being "robust" enough. Gingrich did not elaborate directly, though he did suggest that Romney's space policy was "better" than Obama's. Gingrich ruminated about a meeting he has with Sir Richard Branson, the entrepreneur who is developing a space tourism company called Virgin Galactic. Gingrich wrote in an email about "a dynamic private secure entrepreneurial model that works with innovators and risk-takers to put people into space inexpensively (compared to government rates) is a big example of the future" that Branson favors.

Gingrich previously supported Obama's space policy

Gingrich once warmly supported President Obama's space policy, which relies on direct subsidies to commercial space companies to build the next generation of spacecraft. He co-wrote an oped with an old congressional ally, former Rep. Robert Walker, in the Washington Times in 2010 in which he praised the commercial aspects on the Obama space policy without mentioning the fact that the president had cancelled the Constellation space exploration program or that the commercial space policy relied on government subsidies.

Gingrich proposed a moon base

Gingrich's last foray into space policy took place during the Republican primaries when he proposed the establishment of a permanent lunar base by the end of the current decade. He did not provide specifics, but suggested that it would not require an increase in NASA funding. He hinted that such a base would be established by a government-backed commercial initiative rather than a NASA-centric program.

The current nominee, Romney, successfully ridiculed Gingrich's moon base proposal, even going so far as to suggest that he would "fire" anyone who would propose spending several hundred billion dollars to build it.

Romney's space policy

Romney's space policy paper, an eight-page document, is more a statement of principles than it is a series of specific initiatives. It contains a critique of Obama's space policy. It lists a series of rationales (economic, national security, technology innovation, and "America's standing in the world") for having a space program. It promises to support a series of clear and focused goals for space exploration as well as commercial space development. The document implies that the Romney approach would be different than Obama's without entirely spelling out how. It suggests that more money for NASA would not be needed.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

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