In a debate of possible Republican candidates for presidency, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrinch tore into NASA.

The debate was the first for the 2012 Presidential Election and featured seven Republican candidates, some unofficial and some official. Gingrinch, who has formerly made a bid for Presidency, was asked a question about the role government should play in future space exploration. Gingrich made it clear he wasn't a fan of the space agency.

Well, sadly - and I say this sadly, because I'm a big fan of going into space and I actually worked to get the shuttle program to survive at one point - NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy can't innovate, Gingrich said.

If you take all the money we've spent at NASA since we landed on the moon and you had applied that money for incentives to the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles. And instead what we've had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and failure after failure.

Gingrich went onto say NASA has stood in the way of scientific opportunities. He said NASA should be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.

Interestingly enough, NASA is doing just that when it launches the next generation of space exploration in a few years. After the space shuttle program ends in July, NASA will use Russian Soyuz spacecraft for future years until it facilitates a program with private sector partners for space exploration. The agency has a goal of getting a manned spacecraft to Mars by the 2030s and to an asteroid by the 2020s.

NASA has already invested millions into companies like Space Exploration Technologies, which have created their own space shuttles and have plans to launch private sector space missions.

Two other Republican candidates, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also suggested NASA may be better off under the private sector.

Interestingly enough, as much as Gingrich may not be a fan of NASA, he wrote in editorial that Republicans should approve President Obama's budget for the agency in 2011.

Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna