The Republican U.S. presidential contenders faced off in a Jan. 23 debate in Florida, so it was no surprise that space was a topic. Front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich shared their visions for the nation’s space program in response to questions, and both said exploration should be a priority and commercial space has a key role to play, Florida Today reported.

“Well, I happen to believe our space program is important not only for science, but also for commercial development and for military development,” Romney said. “And I believe the right mission for — for NASA should be determined by a president together with a collection of people from those different areas, from NASA, from the Air Force space program, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises, bring them together, discuss a wide range of options for NASA, and then — and then have NASA not just funded by the federal government, but also by commercial enterprises. Have some of the research done in our universities.”

Gingrich emphasized incentives for commercial space firms. “I would like to see vastly more of the money spent encouraging the private sector into very aggressive experimentation,” he said. “And I’d like a leaner NASA. I don’t think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there. But if we had a series of goals that we were prepared to offer prizes for, there’s every reason to believe you have a lot of folks in this country and around the world who would put up an amazing amount of money and would make the space coast literally hum with activity because they’d be drawn to achieve these prizes.”

READ IT AT: [Florida Today]