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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Newt Gingrich promises moon base by the end of his second term” was written by Stuart Millar, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th January 2012 23.36 UTC

There are two givens in any election campaign: 1) the candidates will make grand promises that they can never keep and 2) they will pander to their audience at every opportunity.

But on Wednesday, Newt “grandiose is my middle name” [it isn’t] Gingrich took those truisms on to a whole new, extraplanetary level. Speaking to an audience on Florida’s Space Coast ahead of the state’s primary next week, the big-thinking Republican hopeful turned his science fiction fantasies into a hard and fast campaign promise.

“By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Talking Points Memo Gingrich went on to say that the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and to create a “robust industry” modelled on the airline business in the 20th century.

And from there, how could a president ever top that? Well, that would be a mission to Mars obviously, said Gingrich – or Newt Lightyear as my colleague Richard Adams has now dubbed him.

Some reporters in the room undoubtedly would have known that they were witnesses to a historic moment: Gingrich finally losing his mind. But that’s not how Newt saw things, according to Andrew Kaczynski from Buzzfeed Politics.

Of course, Newt has aired his space musings in public before. In December, he defended his policy in favour of lunar mining during one of the live televised debates. Then of course there are his repeated warnings over the dangers to America from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear warhead detonating in space.

By all accounts, Gingrich’s promise drew huge applause on the Space Coast. On Twitter, a far more forbidding place at the best of times, the response was more sceptical. Philip Klein, of the Washington Examiner, was typical.

But then, if Newt can win the Republican nomination, beat Obama in November and then go on to secure a second term, anything is possible.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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