Gingrich, to whom the question was directed, responded:And, after the other candidates had some trouble either answering or apparently understanding the question, Gingrich added:
Well, sadly—and I say this sadly because I’m a big fan of going into space, and I actually worked to get the shuttle program to survive at one point—NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy can’t innovate. If you take all the money we spent at NASA since we landed on the Moon, and you apply that money for incentives for the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the Moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles, and instead, what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and failure after failure. I think it’s a tragedy, because younger Americans ought to have the excitement of thinking that they, too, could be part of reaching out to a new frontier.
You know, you had asked earlier, John [King, the moderator], about this idea of limits because we’re a developed country. We’re not a developed country. The scientific future is going to open up and we’re at the beginning of a whole new cycle of extraordinary oppounities, and unfortunately NASA is standing in the way of it, when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.
I didn’t say end the space program. We built the transconinental railroads without a national department of railroads. I said you can get into space faster, better, more effectively, more creatively, if you decentralized it, got out of Washington, and cut out the bureaucracy. It’s not about getting rid of the space program, it’s about getting to a real space program that works.As the NRO piece points out, this is one area where Obama and Gingrich would actually seem to agree on-namely, that government ultimately isn't the solution for getting humans into space. It's just too bad that Obama seems to think that it's the solution for almost everything else.