During campaign stops this week, Jeb Bush proclaimed his zeal for space exploration, defending Newt Gingrich's widely mocked plan to colonize the moon. While it's fun to see an American presidential candidate come out in favour of space, don't get too excited.
According to The New York Times' Matt Flegenheimer, Bush was asked at a town hall meeting about Gingrich's plan for a moon colony:
Campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Mr. Bush professed a soft spot for the idea. "People started laughing," he told voters at a town hall-style event, recalling Mr. Gingrich's remarks. "And I'm thinking, 'Really?' I think it's pretty cool."
"It's not in the absence of taking care of the hungry or the poor," he said. "We're a big country, we're a generous country, and the benefits of this are far more than people realise."
That doesn't mean Bush is promising not to protect NASA's budget (or address the hungry and the poor, for that matter). Flegenheimer also mentions that Bush pointed to "dreamers in the private sector," including Elon Musk, who could make a moon colony happen.
Bush's support for a moon colony might seem out of touch with NASA's current focus on the Red Planet, but on the other hand, there's been an increased interest in the moon from researchers over the past few years. Just this week, we wrote about an idea from MIT and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that proposed the moon as a logical weigh station on the way to Mars.
Either way, it's going to be interesting to see whether NASA and the role of space emerges as an issue in this coming year of campaigning for the American presidency. Maybe Trump will propose a lunar moat to keep a more literal kind of illegal alien out of America's hypothetical colony.