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Newt Gingrich Has A Space Posse – And A Space Plan (Update)

By Keith Cowing
August 26, 2019
Filed under
Newt Gingrich Has A Space Posse – And A Space Plan (Update)

GINGRICH: We Need A Competition To Get America To The Moon – And Mars, Daily Caller
“We are not suggesting the traditional approach be changed in any way. The NASA bureaucracy should continue working with its traditional contractors to try to establish a permanent settlement on the moon and then on Mars. However, we are suggesting that by having a modest $2 billion prize (about the cost of one launch with the Space Launch System) it might be possible to have entrepreneurs, like Musk (whose Falcon rockets at SpaceX are the most successful reusable rockets in history) and Jeff Bezos (who already puts $1 billion a year of his own money into Blue Origin developing reusable rockets) step up to the plate and get the job done much faster and cheaper than traditional bureaucracy.”
Keith’s 26 August update: NASA is fighting an uphill battle right now to get the $1.6 billion supplemental appropriation just to make the whole Moon 2024 thing start. That is still an uncertain eventuality. It is going to be even more difficult to get the many tens of billions more to actually make this entire program happen. Trying a Plan B – one reliant upon prizes – would only serve to undermine the program of record – the one that is kept in place by the Alabama and Texas delegations. To be certain, the use of prizes has clear, inherent merit and deserves to be tried. But right now NASA and Congress have erected a status quo that would be threatened by prizes. As we have seen that status quo fights back whenever it is threatened. Until and unless someone find the right Jedi mind trick to get Texas and Alabama to change their ways the notion of prizes will remain a notion.
The Moon-Mars Development Prize Competition, Gingrich 360
“A number of us have been working on prizes for lunar development (for an illustrated outline of possibilities that currently exist or are in development go to Gingrich 360 for a paper inspired by Gen.l Kwast and his team). We believe that a prize open to American companies and American teams would attract a lot of talent and private investment. We also believe that such competitive innovation and entrepreneurship will create new assets and capabilities for the emerging Space Force.”
Keith’s 21 August note: Its hard to argue with most of what Newt and his gang say. One major problem: none of this will happen – at least not as they imagine – under the current administration since it would upset a serious portion of congressional power centers that are heavily invested in the SLS/Orion/Gateway architecture. We have already seen how the mere suggestion of commercial alternatives for EM-1 was stomped out by Sen. Shelby within hours. Just last week we saw the Human Lunar Lander program handed to the same center in Alabama that has given us the chronically delayed and grossly over-cost SLS program.
However, some of what Newt’s posse has suggested may well happen anyway – without any prodding from government prizes. Let’s wait and see what SpaceX and Blue Origin do – with their own money – for their own reasons. Its called disruptive innovation and it is happening in plain sight in Boca Chica. When SpaceX’s Starship reaches orbit things will change forever.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.