Gingrich told me he was “shocked that night” by Romney and Santorum. “If I had been clever, I would have said to Romney, ‘You would have fired Christopher Columbus and John F. Kennedy because they were proposing daring and large things. They were proposing to go out and discover entire new worlds, and they did.’”
He believes that human settlements on the moon, or on Mars, are inevitable. “I can tell you flatly that there will be a human colony on the moon,” he said. “It may be Chinese, but there will be a colony on the moon. Anyone who watches the Chinese space program and doesn’t think we’re facing a competitor is foolish.”
Gingrich would make a lousy NASA chief, and I wouldn’t trust him with private money, either. But I would hire him as the space program’s resident philosopher and noodge.
The U.S. space program has never been as aimless as it is now. NASA still eats taxpayer dollars, but for what isn’t entirely clear. Every year that goes by without a grand vision for space exploration — enunciated by leaders who believe that America, the place where just about everything worth inventing gets invented, is uniquely qualified to push at the outer edge of knowledge — is a year in which thousands of engineers and physicists decide to do something else with their time, and a year in which thousands of students otherwise inclined to study science fail to discern its romantic and heroic possibilities.