Thursday, October 04, 2007

50 years after Sputnik, and our space program's link to Rice University

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy announced that the USA would land on the moon within a few short years. He made his announcement in the stadium of my alma mater, Rice University. If you'd like to see and hear the full speech, click here.

The speech still gives me chills: President Kennedy's audacious goal was "unthinkable"--and yet we achieved it. And Rice's role in his speech still gives me great pride. Here's an excerpt:
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. . . . [Space] can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

NASA continues to achieve miracles every time it launches someone or something into space. This is a good day to remember the miracles of the space program. To see what NASA's achieving these days, click here.

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