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One Giant Leap For Newt?

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Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaks at a Space Coast town hall January 25, 2012 at a hotel in Cocoa, Florida. (Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaks at a Space Coast town hall January 25, 2012 at a hotel in Cocoa, Florida. (Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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COCOA, Fla. (CBSMiami/AP) — Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has promised to establish a permanent U.S. base on the moon by 2020 if he’s elected president.

Gingrich, the former House speaker, told an overflow crowd gathered on Florida’s space coast Wednesday that he wants to develop a robust commercial space industry in line with the airline boom of the 1930s.

To cheers and applause in an area that has suffered major job loss since the cancellation of the space shuttle, Gingrich said, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American. We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model of the development of the airlines of 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 the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching.”

He also said that by the end of 2020, the country would have “the first continuous propulsion system in space” capable of allowing people travel to Mars.

The pronouncements appeared to thrill the crowd of roughly 700 people. Florida’s space coast is still suffering from the recent round of federal cuts to the space program.

But how would Gingrich pay for it?

The Republican presidential contender said he wants to offer prizes to help stimulate investment by the private sector.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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