Now they tell us.
Jeffrey Goldberg, Let the Shuttle’s Demise Awaken Gingrich’s Space Dreams (h/t Byron York):
The morning of April 17, on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport: The Delta (DAL) shuttle to LaGuardia appeared to be No. 287 in line for takeoff. The plane was full, mainly with purposeful-looking middle-aged men in quality suits, fully absorbed in whatever it is that absorbs them.
Suddenly, a commotion: All at once, the passengers contorted themselves to get a view out of the starboard windows. And there it was. The actual shuttle, the space shuttle Discovery, piggybacking a ride atop a Boeing 747, on the way to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where it would be retired. A ripple of excitement — boyish, unvarnished excitement — moved through the cabin….
Only then did the obvious thought cross my mind: Newt is right.
This isn’t a thought that has often crossed my mind, especially over the past several months, but on the matter of space exploration and the role it has played in teaching Americans that they are capable of performing exceptional acts of creativity and bravery, Newt Gingrich is exactly right.
So I called him and told him so. He is, from what I’m told, still busy running for president. But he seemed happy to talk about space and the terrible mistake the Obama administration made by canceling the Constellation program, which was meant to get Americans back to the moon.
Gingrich was particularly keen to talk about his Republican rivals, who had savaged him during a debate in Florida for proposing that the U.S. — mainly with private funding –establish a colony on the moon.
This is what Mitt Romney said at the time: “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say,‘You’re fired.’ The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea.”
The small-minded Rick Santorum piled on, saying, “Let’s just be honest, we run a $1.2 trillion deficit right now … and to go out there and promise new programs and big ideas, that’s a great thing to maybe get votes, but it’s not a responsible thing.” …
The famous astronaut Bob Dylan once wrote what may become NASA’s epitaph: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” …
I told Gingrich about the reaction of a plane full of middle-aged professionals to the sight of the space shuttle over Washington, and asked him what he thought it meant.
“Everyone dreams,” he said. “It’s all about the dream. It’s an individual dream, but it’s a national dream as well. And it’s the species reaching beyond itself.”
Of course, it wasn’t just other candidates who mocked the idea of continued space exploration and used it against Newt: