COCOA, Fla. - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich brought his presidential campaign to Brevard County Wednesday afternoon.
Gingrich first went to the Holiday Inn in Cocoa to host a Space Coast town hall meeting where he talked about his love for space exploration, how to rejuvenate the space program and big dreams of colonizing the moon.
"We will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American," Gingrich said.
Gingrich joked that once the colony on the moon got big enough, they'll be allowed to vote.
The crowd went wild hearing Gingrich's very specific plans to rebuild NASA, spending billions of dollars and creating thousands of jobs.
"We will have commercial near-earth activities that include science, tourism and manufacturing, that are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the development on the model of the airlines in the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and Russians will never come anywhere close to matching," Gingrich said.
He called the current state of NASA an "embarrassment" and criticized how currently NASA relies on Russia, while China makes their own space advances.
"How could we build a bureaucracy this big and get into a period where we rely on Russians, while we watch the Chinese plan to surpass us, and we sit around beaurocratically twittling our thumbs," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said using 10 percent of NASA's budget as "prize money" for commercial companies to invest in, it would change the course of NASA.
Gingrich also talked of bringing near Earth commercial activities for science tourism and manufacturing along with first propulsion system in space to get to Mars-- all by 2020.
Gingrich called his plan "grandiose, but practical" by making turnaround times for launches faster and streamlining NASA to commercial companies.
He said if elected, his plan would start kicking in February or March 2013.
Another memorable moment for Gingrich's speech was when he referred to the moment as a "John F. Kennedy" moment, telling everyone in the room to remember the day they were there and he announced his ambitious brand new plan that changed the course of NASA.
Laid-off workers in Brevard County want to know how Gingrich is going to create jobs.
Owner of Space Shirts Jerry Mulberry started a T-shirt business at Kennedy Space Center just in time for the first shuttle launch in 1981.
"Worked all the way till April of last year, just over 30 years, total time," Mulberry said.
Now he sells T-shirts of all kinds. He's had to expand his business because space isn't selling like it used to, now that there's no more shuttle.
Gingrich said he thinks the future is in commercial space flight. Private companies, like Space-X, investing in space travel -- not the government and not taxpayer dollars.
Mulberry said that could be good for the Space Coast if the commercial companies do more than just launch from Brevard County.
Gingrich will then move to Brevard Community College's Cocoa campus to participate in a space industry roundtable.
Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will be participating separately in a forum at Univision TV network in Miami on Wednesday night.
Romney and Santorum also have stops planned in Brevard County later in the week.
Meanwhile, Romney campaigned in Central Florida Wednesday morning.
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