Newt Gingrich Envisions the “Breakout” of American Space Program

Newt Gingrich Envisions the “Breakout” of American Space Program

Here, in the early part of the 21st Century, the United States does not have a manned space program. Instead, the U.S. is reduced to buying seats on Russian spacecraft that were designed decades ago. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fixes the blame on NASA in his new book “Breakout: Prisoners of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past,and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate.” While the space agency maintains a robust unmanned program, the “bureaucratization of space,” has stymied America’s progress.

Gingrich does credit NASA for robotic missions to Mars that have gotten closer to finding signs of life. But free-market incentives are needed . Gingrich, says, to rejuvenate the manned space program. That means returning to the moon and eventually sending people to Mars. During his presidential campaign, the Georgia Republican expressed support for building a colony on the moon.

“The modern NASA is so risk-averse and so heavily burdened with safety processes, management, political meddling and institutional inertia that it takes decades for the new programs to get off the ground,” Gingrich laments in his book. But there is a way out, he suggests. A prize system could be set up to entice private companies into space. Gingrich proposes that Congress set aside about 10 percent of NASA’s budget for these inducements. ┬áThe advantage here would be that taxpayers do not foot the bill before any tangible results are realized.

The ideas are fully unpackaged in “Breakout.”

My own feeling is that NASA does the best with what it has and that the blame is mostly on American “leadership,” not NASA per se. But as always, Newt’s ideas are worth careful attention and consideration.

With the end of the Space Shuttle program, the U.S. could lose its lead in space. Especially, if it remains overly reliant on the most unworkable elements of the NASA bureaucracy Gingrich describes. As government agencies go, NASA does have some real achievements. The Hubble Space Telescope and the ongoing missions to Mars come to mind. But to spend the amount of money that has been spent without producing a robust manned program is a bad place to be in at a time when Russia, China and international competitors are moving forward in space.

Author: Kevin Mooney

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