One of the parlor games being played around official Washington has been asking the question who will be President #Donald Trump’s NASA administrator. The question has some pertinence, considering the increased importance that the #Space agency is likely to play in the incoming president’s plan to “make America great again.” Will the new space agency chief be a visionary such as Jim Bridenstine, a former astronaut such as Eileen Collins, or a more institutional figure such as Scott Pace or even former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin?
Add to the mix, at least according to the National Review, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
On the one hand, Gingrich has much to recommend him. He has spent decades thinking and advocating for new approaches to space exploration. He famously advocated building a moon base when he was a presidential candidate in 2012, only to see the idea ridiculed to death along with his candidacy. The idea was even lampooned on Saturday Night Live, even though a return to the moon was uncontroversial government policy during President George W. Bush’s Constellation program.
Fast forward four years and a return to the moon has achieved some respectability. The incoming Trump administration has pretty much decided that NASA needs to return astronauts to the moon with a commercial partnership, not coincidentally the same thing Gingrich advocated in 2012. Setting the former speaker to the task of making it happen would be delicious poetic justice.
On the other hand, Gingrich has not had any experience running things aside from the House during his four-year tenure as speaker. NASA, with its collection of aerospace contractors and government engineers and astronauts, is a vast empire that needs someone to bend it to his will. Gingrich’s tenure as speaker was, charitably speaking, chaotic and undisciplined.
Gingrich also incautiously co-wrote an op-ed commending President Barack Obama’s space policy, now widely regarded as a disaster.
Besides, it looks like Gingrich has ruled out any other high public office, including that of a cabinet secretary. He would like to be the arbiter of vision or chief planner or something like that.
Even so, if people return to the moon soon enough, establishing a base and carrying out scientific exploration and commercial activities, no one on the planet will feel more vindicated that Gingrich.