In a giant leap for an amphibian he has promised a permanently manned base on the moon by 2020.
Being a politician he’s obviously put a few caveats in – namely, he’s promised it by the end of his second term as President. All he has to do is win the Republic nomination, beat Obama in the election and then successfully defend his presidency 4 years later. So no biggie.
He’s not the first person to make promises – in 2004 George Bush promised a moon base by 2020 (which, coincidently, would place it right at the end of a second Newt Gringrich term), I’ve no idea* how his plans are progressing but he’s probably finding a lot more time to work on it now he’s got that pesky POTUS job out of the way.
There are many valid reasons to build a moon base. It would be a fantastic launch site for future exploration of space, significantly reducing the cost of later missions due to the lower gravity of the moon. And also our best source of Helium-3, which would allow much cleaner, easier fission (and perhaps even fusion) nuclear energy production.
But even if America had the money to invest in this (hint: it doesn’t), there’s a very strong argument that there are many other ways it could be invested that would have much greater benefits for US citizens. Things like better education, job production and wage increases, or perhaps even (dare I say it?) socialised health care.
But, perhaps, we are reading too much into this speech. It was given in Florida (the home of Cape Canaveral and a lot of NASA employees) so he was telling the audience what they wanted to hear. And is it really that bad of a thing for a potential President to be aspirational and look to the future? As long as you don’t overlook the problems at your door – which sadly seems to be a bigger problem for Newt than the future of the US Space programme.
That said, considering all the stories about his sex life doing the rounds, maybe he’s just saying this in the hope that go-go boots, silver jumpsuits and purple wigs come back into fashion...