Concord, New Hampshire (CNN)When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed the idea of forming colonies on the moon during his 2012 presidential bid, he got a lot of laughs.
Jeb Bush: Newt Gingrich's moon colony idea was 'cool'
But not from Jeb Bush.
The former Florida governor said Wednesday that he actually liked the idea.
Recalling the skeptical responses to Gingrich's pitch, Bush said he remembered thinking, "Really? I think it's pretty cool."
Bush, speaking before an aircraft at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire, called for ramping up the United States' space program and blasted President Barack Obama for cutting back.
"We now access space by the Russians. I don't think that's a smart idea. This is the same country that's running circles around us in all parts of the world," he said.
Bush, who admitted he's biased about the space program because he's from Florida, called for "more aspirational" goals and gave one woman a fist bump when she told him she's from the space coast in his home state.
Those bigger goals, he added, could be feasible if the government paired up with the private sector, praising entrepreneurs like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
"I mean what's wrong with having big aspirational goals? It's not in the absence of taking care of the hungry or the poor. We're a big country. We're a generous country. The benefits of this are far more than people realize," Bush said.
He acknowledged that there are risks and the industry can be dangerous, trying to cite the 2002 Columbia space shuttle disaster.
"I'll never forget that, when I went as governor of the state of Florida on the tarmac for a tribute to the astronauts that died in, I think it was 2005, was it? No ... the ... um ... yeah, no the other one, 2002," he said, as he and an audience member tried to remember the name of the shuttle. "In the 2000s, it was horrible. It's a recognition that this is a dangerous endeavor, but it's worth us, for all sorts of reasons, to be engaged."
Reporters later asked Bush who he would send to the moon to govern the new colonies, asking whether if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or businessman Donald Trump -- two of his biggest rivals -- come to mind.
"There's lots of people that could be effective leaders of the moon," he said with sarcasm. "Let me think about it, I'll get back to you on that in the next millennium."