15:39 GMT17 April 2021
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    The former speaker of the US House of Representatives, who had already promised during his 2012 presidential run to get a lunar colony up and running by 2020 if elected, is reportedly trying to propose a $2 billion competition to set up a crewed outpost on Earth's nearest neighbour.

    The proposal, backed by proponents ranging from an Air Force lieutenant general to the former publicist for pop stars Michael Jackson and Prince, includes “a $2 billion sweepstakes pitting billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other space pioneers against each other to see who can establish and run the first lunar base, according to a summary of the plan,” Politico reported.

    "Backers of the novel approach have briefed administration officials serving on the National Space Council, several members of the group confirmed, though they declined to provide specifics of the internal conversations," the outlet added.

    SpaceX and Blue Origin, run by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos respectively – are expected to be the front runners to achieve the $2 billion if the contest becomes a  reality, as both of them are already developing hardware to help establish off-Earth outposts: SpaceX is building a 100-passenger spaceship called Starship and the huge rocket Super Heavy, which could start flying missions as early as 2021; and Blue Origin recently unveiled its Blue Moon lunar lander, which will launch atop the company's big New Glenn rocket.

    Musk has even approved Gingrich’s plan, saying that “this is a great idea," via Twitter on Monday.

    NASA has also already set plans to set up a crewed moon outpost in the agency's Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts near the lunar south pole by 2024 and establish a long-term, sustainable presence on and around the Moon shortly thereafter.


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