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Why Gingrich Wants to Go to Space and Says GOP Turmoil Is Healthy

ABC News/Yahoo! News(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich was famously ridiculed during his 2012 presidential campaign for declaring that he would work toward establishing a colony on the moon if he were elected president.

But the former Republican presidential candidate and speaker of the House is still dreaming about space exploration and told ABC News and Yahoo! News he would like to travel to space, “if I get the chance.”

“This is a good example of what's wrong with the current political system,” Gingrich said. “I gave a serious speech in Florida at the Space Coast outlining a very bold strategy. ...I got savaged by two of my competitors, Romney and Santorum, who deliberately distorted the speech. I got ridiculed by Saturday Night Live.”

Gingrich, who now hosts a show on CNN, writes in his newest book Breakout that Washington is a city full of “prison guards of the past,” who are slowing the pace of innovation in fields like space exploration.

He specifically calls for redirecting government funding from NASA to the private sector, where he believes projects can be more efficiently funded and implemented.

“The one period of glory in NASA was the first nine years when they weren't a bureaucracy yet...and they haven't gotten back to that excitement, that adventurism, and won't,” he said.  “So, I would take most of the NASA budget, and I would turn it into prizes for private sector.”

As for the future of the GOP, Gingrich said the current turmoil within the party will ultimately make it stronger.

“I like the turmoil,” he said. “You're going to see a lot of tension and a lot of primary fights, but I don't think that's not healthy.  I think that's in fact a sign of a very vibrant movement.”

Asked to weigh in on Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, Gingrich dismissed the notion that Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s loss to Democrat Terry McAullife is a repudiation of the Tea Party.

“It may say more about the candidate than the movement,” Gingrich said in this interview recorded before the election.  “I think it is a sign of the power of the Clinton machine that you take someone with McAuliffe's background and McAuliffe’s record, and get him to Richmond as governor.”

In charting a path forward, Gingrich advises that the GOP “look for the pioneers of the future.”

“Whether you're talking about Chris Christie, or you're talking about Rick Perry, or Scott Walker or John Kasich, there's more interesting evolution at the state level than there is in Washington,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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