Newt Gingrich, The Futuristic Historian

As I delved further into researching the Congressional Space Caucus of the 1980s, I found myself reading more and more about the early Congressional career of Newt Gingrich. This was to be expected as he was the primary founder of the caucus, yet I did not anticipate how relevant Gingrich’s historical interest in space would be during the current GOP Presidential race. I was intrigued at how consistent Gingrich remained over the last three decades in terms of calling for a big, bold, potentially impossible United States space program. His 1984 neo-Conservative manifesto of sorts entitled Window of Opportunity was an essential source in my understanding of his vision when forming the Space Caucus in November 1981. In the book, he argues that if the country had pursued space in the rigorous and progressive way that it should have following the conclusion of the Apollo program, we could have boasted a force of “eight to twelve space shuttles, two manned space stations, and a permanently operating lunar base.” Goals such as these seemed as outrageous in 1984 as they do today, yet Gingrich has remained dedicated to this vision. While speaking to supporters in Florida, he laid out his plan for a permanent lunar colony that would be constructed before the end of his first term as President.

I found that these “big ideas” were what the Space Caucus was built upon. Gingrich, fellow co-chair Daniel Akaka, and the other early Caucus members were convinced that in order to be a successful nation, we needed to move into space more rapidly and with more innovation than we had in the 1970s. Their goal was to inform members of Congress about the seemingly infinite possibilities that space as a frontier had to offer. This consciousness-raising effort was accomplished through working relationships with the House Science and Technology Committee as well as NASA. The Caucus became an important presence in the House of Representatives and they played an essential role in not only legislative landmarks in facilitating commercial space launches, but also the creation of what is today the International Space Station.

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