But first, my own thoughts:
Fifty years ago, in May, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, before a Joint Session of Congress,
“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
Then, four months later, Kennedy added,
“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.” and, “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.”
In November, in a Cabinet Room meeting with NASA Administrator James Webb, President Kennedy said,
“This is important for political reasons, international political reasons… Because otherwise we shouldn’t be spending this kind of money, because I’m not that interested in space. I think it’s good, I think we ought to know about it, we’re ready to spend reasonable amounts of money. But…we’ve spent fantastic expenditures, we’ve wrecked our budget on all these other domestic programs, and the only justification for it, in my opinion, to do it in the pell-mell fashion is because we hope to beat them [the Soviets] and demonstrate that starting behind, as we did by a couple of years, by God, we passed them. I think it would be a helluva thing for us.”
And so it was.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 8, 2011
Statement by the President on the Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis
Today, Americans across the country watched with pride as four of our fellow citizens blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and America reached for the heavens once more.
Behind Atlantis and her crew of brave astronauts stand thousands of dedicated workers who have poured their hearts and souls into America’s Space Shuttle program over the past three decades. To them and all of NASA’s incredible workforce, I want to express my sincere gratitude. You helped our country lead the space age, and you continue to inspire us each day.
Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth. And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it.
Congratulations to Atlantis, her astronauts, and the people of America’s space program on a picture-perfect launch, and good luck on the rest of your mission to the International Space Station, and for a safe return home. I know the American people share my pride at what we have accomplished as a nation, and my excitement about the next chapter of our preeminence in space.
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