Joel Achenbach reported during the last presidential campaign on Newt Gingrich’s vision for a permanent American presence in space:

I come at space from a standpoint of a romantic belief that it really is part of our destiny. And it has been tragic to see what has happened to our space program over the last 30 years,” said Gingrich.

His vision of a moon base is distinctly American, even though space missions in recent decades have often involved international collaboration. Gingrich went so far as to bring up a proposal he made when he was a young congressman to create a “Northwest Ordinance” for space in which, as soon as 13,000 Americans lived on the moon, they could petition to become a state.

“Probably the best speech I’ve heard in this political season so far. Visionary,” said John Weiler, 67, a retired shuttle worker.

As a kid I remember hearing about things like the Kennedy’s bold vision, the Apollo program and the space race. But we haven’t had an energetic space program in my lifetime. We’ve had a government agency filled with very smart people with apparently little vision or ambition. (The smartest people probably work for SpaceX now, actually.) It’s easy to laugh at Gingrich’s vision. So what?

“I would just want you to note: Lincoln standing at Council Bluffs was grandiose. The Wright Brothers standing at Kitty Hawk were grandiose. John F. Kennedy was grandiose. …”

If we started a moon colony this century, it could be the single definitive thing America is remembered for in history a thousand years from now.