With both NASA and a number of commercial companies aiming for a return to the #moon, the one man on the planet who must be feeling the most vindication is former Speaker of the House and one-time presidential candidate #Newt Gingrich. In a fit of exuberance, Gingrich recently told the Washington Post, “Done properly we can be on the moon in #President Trump’s first term and orbiting Mars by the end of his second term.”
Gingrich famously called for the establishment of a moon base by 2020 when he ran for president in 2012. The idea was ridiculed by the eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney and was even spoofed in an episode of Saturday Night Live. While Gingrich’s candidacy sunk out of sight, the idea of going back to the moon never quite died. During the second Obama term, a couple of studies, one by MIT and the other by a think tank named Next-Gen Space, concluded that a return to the moon would be very useful, especially in support of the Journey to Mars program.
President Donald Trump, for whom Gingrich is an unofficial advisor, seems to agree. Even though the Trump administration has yet to announce a space policy and nominate a NASA administrator, the word is that the new president is very keen on a return to the moon during his term in office.
The model for a Trump-era return to the moon, for which considerable bi-partisan support exists in Congress, will likely not be exactly the one Gingrich envisions. He has suggested a series of prize competitions and commercialized programs similar to the commercial crew program with NASA relegated to signing checks and offering sage advice. The real life return to the moon is more likely to be a hybrid program, with some NASA elements, using the Orion and the Space Launch System, and commercial participation, with the rest of the architecture such as landers and surface habitats provided.
Still, when the first person sets foot on the lunar surface, few people will feel more satisfaction than Newt Gingrich, the futurist-politician, who will have a hand in using the moon to make American great again. No one is laughing at him now.