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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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As the Hubble Space Telescope achieves the major milestone of two decades on orbit, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Space Telescope Science Institute, or STScI, in Baltimore are celebrating Hubble’s journey of exploration with a stunning new picture and several online educational activities. There are also opportunities for people to explore galaxies as armchair scientists and send personal greetings to Hubble for posterity.

NASA, ESA, and STScI are releasing a new Hubble photo of a small portion of one of the largest known star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Three light-year-tall towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble’s classic “Pillars of Creation” photo from 1995, but even more striking.

To view the photo, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

NASA’s best-recognized, longest-lived and most prolific space observatory was launched April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology.

Over the years, Hubble has suffered broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror, and the cancellation of a planned shuttle servicing mission. But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers and NASA astronauts allowed the observatory to rebound and thrive. The telescope’s crisp vision continues to challenge scientists and the public with new discoveries and evocative images.

“Hubble is undoubtedly one of the most recognized and successful scientific projects in history,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Last year’s space shuttle servicing mission left the observatory operating at peak capacity, giving it a new beginning for scientific achievements that impact our society.”

Hubble fans worldwide are being invited to take an interactive journey with Hubble by visiting http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/Hubble20/. They can also visit http://www.hubblesite.org to share the ways the telescope has affected them. Follow the “Messages to Hubble” link to send an e-mail, post a Facebook message, or send a cell phone text message. Fan messages will be stored in the Hubble data archive along with the telescope’s science data. For those who use Twitter, you can follow @HubbleTelescope or post tweets using the Twitter hashtag #hst20.

The public also will have an opportunity to become at-home scientists by helping astronomers sort out the thousands of galaxies seen in a Hubble deep field observation. STScI is partnering with the Galaxy Zoo consortium of scientists to launch an Internet-based astronomy project where amateur astronomers can peruse and sort galaxies from Hubble’s deepest view of the universe into their classic shapes: spiral, elliptical, and irregular. Dividing the galaxies into categories will allow astronomers to study how they relate to each other and provide clues that might help scientists understand how they formed.

To visit the Galaxy Zoo page, go to:
http://hubble.galaxyzoo.org

For educators and students, STScI is creating an educational website called “Celebrating Hubble’s 20th Anniversary.” It offers links to facts and trivia about Hubble, a news story that chronicles the observatory’s life and discoveries, and the IMAX “Hubble 3D” educator’s guide. An anniversary poster containing Hubble’s “hall-of-fame” images, including the Eagle Nebula and Saturn, also is being offered with downloadable classroom activity information.

Visit the website at:
http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/hubble_20

To date, Hubble has observed more than 30,000 celestial targets and amassed more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The last astronaut servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was launched.

For Hubble 20th anniversary image files and more information, visit:
http://hubblesite.org/news/2010/13
http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/html/heic1007.html

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