- Politico reported Monday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has drafted a plan to offer a $2 billion prize to private companies for being the first to establish a moon base.
- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk lauded the plan on Twitter, calling it a "great idea."
- President Trump has questioned NASA’s ability to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024.
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Elon Musk on Monday evening tweeted his approval for a plan spearheaded by Newt Gingrich to offer a $2 billion reward to the first private company to land and settle on the moon.
Gingrich’s proposal, which was first reported by Politico on Monday, was cooked up by the Republican and a varied cast of characters, ranging from NASA advisors to a former publicist for Michael Jackson and Prince. The idea is to reduce public spending on space exploration by incentivising private companies with the cash prize.
"In the past, putting permanent housing on the moon has been estimated to cost between $50 billion and $500 billion. But several private companies have developed moon programs on their own dime," the plan claims, according to Politico. "So we are now in a position to buy transportation and housing from private American companies. At an unbelievable drop in cost."
The cash pot would be split into $1 billion for the first company to land a "roomy, comfortable human base" on the moon, and $1 billion to the company that could successfully set up and run the base — although one of the plan’s architects told Ars Technica that the pot could be expanded to $5 billion.
"This is a great idea," Musk tweeted in response to Ars Technica’s reporting on the idea. Gingrich’s plan made specific mention of Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.
President Trump is yet to give his opinion, according to Politico, although he has expressed frustration with NASA, whose aim is to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in June that the project, codenamed Artemis, would cost somewhere between $20 billion and $30 billion.
Trump has questioned NASA’s ability to meet this deadline, and in June tweeted that NASA should not set its sights on the moon but rather on Mars (that said, Trump confusingly described the moon as a part of Mars).
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