"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."—President John F. Kennedy, Joint Session of Congress, May 25, 1961
Was President Kennedy a dreamer, a visionary, or simply politically astute? We may never know, but he had the courage to make that bold proposal 50 years ago Wednesday. The Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin had completed an orbit of the Earth the previous month and electrified the world. The United States had taken only one human, Alan Shepard, above 100 miles altitude and none into orbit. Americans, embarrassed by the successes of our Cold War adversary, were eager to demonstrate that we too were capable of great achievements in space.
A half century has passed since Kennedy challenged our citizenry to do what most thought to be impossible. The subsequent American achievements in space were remarkable: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. Our efforts enhanced international cooperation with Apollo-Soyuz, the space shuttle and the International Space Station. The compelling fascination of our space achievements among young people spurred their interest in education.
By 2005, in keeping with President Kennedy's intent and America's resolve, NASA was developing the Constellation program, focusing on a return to the moon while simultaneously developing the plans and techniques to venture beyond, and eventually to Mars.
The response to Kennedy's bold challenge a half-century ago has led to America's unchallenged leadership in space. We take enormous pride in all that has been accomplished in the past 50 years. And we have the people, the skills and the wherewithal to continue to excel and reach challenging goals in space exploration.
But today, America's leadership in space is slipping. NASA's human spaceflight program is in substantial disarray with no clear-cut mission in the offing. We will have no rockets to carry humans to low-Earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years. Congress has mandated the development of rocket launchers and spacecraft to explore the near-solar system beyond Earth orbit. But NASA has not yet announced a convincing strategy for their use. After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent.
Former Senator Schmitt Proposes Dismantling of NASA and Creation of a New, National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA)
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced to a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American to the Moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of that decade. President Kennedy’s confidence that this Cold War goal could be accomplished rested on the post-Sputnik decision by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to form the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and, in January 1960, to direct NASA to begin the development of what became the Saturn V rocket. This release of a collection of essays on Space Policy and the Constitution commemorates President Kennedy’s decisive challenge 50 years ago to a generation of young Americans and the remarkable success of those young Americans in meeting that challenge.
How notions of leadership have changed since Eisenhower and Kennedy! Immense difficulties now have been imposed on the Nation and NASA by the budgetary actions and inactions of the Bush and Obama Administrations between 2004 and 2012. Space policy gains relevance today comparable to 50 years ago as the dangers created by the absence of a coherent national space policy have been exacerbated by subsequent adverse events. Foremost among these events have been the Obama Administration’s and the Congress’s spending and debt spree, the continued aggressive rise of China, and, with the exception of operations of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, the loss of focus and leadership within NASA headquarters.
By Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt. Preface: (“Is there a path forward for United States’ space policy? When a new President takes office in 2013, he or she should propose to Congress that we start space policy and its administration from scratch. A new agency, the National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA), should be charged with specifically enabling America’s and its partners’ exploration of deep space, inherently stimulating education, technology, and national focus. The existing component parts of NASA should be spread among other agencies with the only exception being activities related to U.S. obligations to its partners in the International Space Station (ISS).” — HHS). The Foreword was written by Michael D. Griffin, noted physicist, aerospace engineer and NASA Administrator (2005-2009): (“Jack makes the case for space as no one else can, and he shows how and why we are on the wrong path— leaving the rest of us with the question: what can we do to obtain the leadership we need instead of the leadership we have?”— MDG).
WASHINGTON -- Fifty years ago, a young president struggling with deepening international issues set a fledgling space agency on a course that would change the history of human exploration. NASA commemorates President John F. Kennedy's historic speech that sent humans safely to the moon with a series of activities and a commitment to continue the journey of discovery and exploration that started with a desperate race into space.
"We are moving into a bright new future that builds on a challenge presented to us 50 years ago," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "It is important that we remember our history but we must always look forward toward a brighter future. Our advantage now is that we have five decades of accomplishment and world leadership in space on which to build. The dreams President Kennedy helped make real for our world, and the dreams we still hold, may appear to be just out of reach but they are not out of our grasp."
On this date in 1961, Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress, with a worldwide television audience, and announced, "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 Earth." This was seen as a bold mandate because America's experience up to this point was Alan Shepard's suborbital Freedom 7 mission, which launched just a few weeks earlier and lasted about 15 minutes.
"Today, we have another young and vibrant president who has outlined an urgent national need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors and create new capabilities that will take us farther into the solar system, and help us learn even more about our place in the universe," Bolden added. "We stand at a moonshot moment once again, where we have a chance to make great leaps forward to new destinations, develop new vehicles and technologies, and new ways of exploring."
To commemorate the address that launched NASA into history, the agency has scheduled several events and historic multimedia perspectives, including:
-- A special concert at 7 p.m. EDT tonight at the John F. Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The one-hour concert
will feature the Space Philharmonic, Administrator Bolden,
astronauts, Kennedy family representatives and special guests. There
are a limited number of tickets available for the public. For more
information, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/jTOKZt
-- Video and other multimedia material from President Kennedy's speech
are available on NASA Television and on the agency's Internet
homepage http://www.nasa.govalong with information about the
agency's future exploration initiatives.
-- A message from the administrator about NASA's next moonshot moment
and moving beyond Earth orbit is available on his blog at: http://bit.ly/fNjTS2
-- An announcement later today that represents an important step in
executing the president's exploration objectives and could pave the
way for extending humanity's reach beyond low-Earth orbit and further
-- NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in
Washington present "NASA | ART," from May 28 to Oct. 9. The exhibit
features more than 70 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures,
and other forms of art illustrating the agency's mission. Admission
is free, and the exhibit is located at the Air and Space Museum's
building at Sixth Street and Independence Ave. SW.