Astronaut Neil Armstrong 49 years ago declared his "small step" onto the moon as a "giant leap for mankind," but the United States' space bureaucracy has kept that from happening, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in an opinion piece marking the anniversary of mankind's first moon walk.
However, he wrote for Fox News on Friday, President Donald Trump's call to once again expand and grow the nation's space program could change all that.
"In 1969, it was reasonable to expect that our space program would continue to move at the pace of the Apollo program," Gingrich wrote for Fox News on Friday. "It was therefore reasonable to think that by 2018 we would have four to five colonies on the moon, space-based outposts in various lunar and cislunar orbits, mining operations on several asteroids, and a preliminary habitat on Mars."
In addition, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote his epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968, said Gingrich, it was reasonable for people to think the scenes he wrote would have come true by then, but they haven't.
"Instead of building a robust space program, we built a robust space bureaucracy," he said. "After nearly 50 years wandering in a mostly Earth-bound wilderness of red tape – and spending roughly $555 billion on risk-averse, underwhelming, mostly unmanned space observation projects – we have not truly taken Armstrong's giant leap."
He noted that in his Facebook series, "What If? History That Could've Been" he outlined what would have happened had President RIchard Nixon continued to build on the space program under the era of President John F. Kennedy.
"President Nixon's decision to slow down and moderate President Kennedy's space program amounted to one of the biggest hits to scientific advancement in our country's history," said Gingrich. "It set us down the path of high costs and large bureaucracy that now dominates NASA."
Trump, however, has signed to re-establish the National Space Council after 25 years, declaring that "America will think big once again," said Gingrich. He added that chairing the Space Council may be the assignment that makes Vice President Mike Pence the happiest, as space has always fascinated him and he has driven to Florida in the past to watch rocket launches.
"The Trump-Pence approach is even broader than the JFK approach," said Gingrich. "Kennedy was using space to influence the Cold War on Earth. Trump and Pence want Americans to go into space permanently."
Trump, as an entrepreneurial president, can turn to leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Eren and Fatih Ozmen, to help grow the program through less expensive assets.
"The new approaches of Bezos's Blue Origin and Musk's SpaceX will lower costs by at least 40 percent, and the next generation of reusables with new materials technology may take that reduction even further," said Gingrich. "Equally important, these entrepreneurs are the forerunners of new systems that will have daily launches – instead of monthly launches."
Technology such as 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and microminiaturization could also lead Americans to the moon and beyond, said Gingrich.
"If the Trump-Pence challenge prevails, Americans will be living beyond Earth and looking toward the stars for the rest of our existence," said Gingrich.
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