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Gingrich calls for permanent lunar colony in 'grandiose' space speech

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called for the creation of a permanent lunar colony that could become the nation's 51st state and a re-dedication to sending a man to Mars during a sprawling campaign speech Wednesday in Florida.

"I am sick of being told we have to be timid and I'm sick of being told we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old," Gingrich told a cheering crowd.

Gingrich said that his vision was on par with President Lincoln's call for a transcontinental railroad, the Wright brothers' push for manned flight, and President Kennedy's vision to send a man to the moon. Later, he described the rally as "the second great launch of the adventure John F. Kennedy started."

And in what Gingrich himself described as "the weirdest thing I've ever done," the former House Speaker called for a "Northwest ordinance for space."

"By the end of my second term, we will have a permanent colony on the moon and it will be American," Gingrich said.

Gingrich also described a future where space travel would become more common, building space ports that operated like modern airports for commercial and industrial travel. He also said that if the lunar colony he hoped to build reached 13,000 Americans, he believed it should be considered for statehood.

"We will have commercial near-earth activities … precisely on the model of the airlines in the 1930s," Gingrich said.

Gingrich defended his plan as in the tradition of great American ideas, mocking Mitt Romney for dismissing his "grandiose thoughts" in a press release last week.

"I accept the charge that I am American and Americans are instinctively grandiose because we believe in a bigger future," Gingrich said.

The former Speaker described a series of government incentives and prizes that would create an industrial atmosphere.

"You put up a bunch of interesting prizes you're going to have so many people showing up wanting to fly it's going to be unbelievable," Gingrich said. "We had enormous breakthroughs in the '20s and '30s costing the government very little money because smart people were working on it."

Gingrich said that would create an environment where Americans were finding "lean and aggressive" solutions to seemingly monumental problems.

"I want us to have so much constant energetic constant energy that people are learning again," Gingrich said.

"Does that mean I'm a visionary? You betcha," he added.