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John F. Kennedy: We choose to go to the Moon...

President John F. Kennedy

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO THE CONGRESS ON URGENT NATIONAL NEEDS
President John F. Kennedy,
May 25, 1961

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, my co-partners in Government, gentlemen and ladies:

The Constitution imposes upon me the obligation to "from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union." While this has traditionally been interpreted as an annual affair, this tradition has been broken in extraordinary times.

These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom's cause. No role in history could be more difficult or more important. We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves-that is our only commitment to others. No friend, no neutral and no adversary should think otherwise. We are not against any man-or any nation-or any system-except as it is hostile to freedom. Nor am I here to present a new military doctrine, bearing any one name or aimed at any one area. I am here to promote the freedom doctrine.

Obama Sees Manned Mission to Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- President Barack Obama boldly predicted Thursday his new plans for space exploration would lead American astronauts on historic, almost fantastic journeys to an asteroid and then to Mars -- and in his lifetime -- relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built.

"I expect to be around to see it," he said of pioneering U.S. trips starting with a landing on an asteroid -- a colossal feat in itself -- before the long-dreamed-of expedition to Mars. He spoke near the historic Kennedy Space Center launch pads that sent the first men to the moon, a blunt rejoinder to critics, including several former astronauts, who contend his planned changes will instead deal a staggering blow to the nation's manned space program.

"We want to leap into the future," not continue on the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America's space adventures would soar on despite the impending termination of space shuttle flights.

His prediction was reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1961, "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." That goal was fulfilled in 1969.

Obama did not predict a Mars landing soon. But he said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft "designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space."

"We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."

The biggest criticisms of Obama's plans have been that they have lacked details and goals. Thursday's speech was an attempt to answer, especially since an asteroid is the next step away from Earth's reach.

Asteroids zip by Earth fairly often and have occasionally smacked the planet with disastrous results. For example, asteroids have been blamed for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Landing on an asteroid would give scientists a better idea of how to handle a future killer asteroid that could wipe out much of life on Earth. Also, it would be a feat sure to win great attention -- and there is far less gravity than the moon, meaning it would be easier and cheaper to leave.

"I think he said all the right things" in declaring a commitment to space exploration, said George Washington University space scholar John Logsdon, who has served on several NASA advisory boards. "I don't know what more you could have asked for."

But several Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, assailed Obama's plan and speech, calling his plans "job-killing."

"The president's new plans for NASA are flat-out irresponsible," Vitter said. "He has evidently decided ... that it's time for us to simply walk away from manned space exploration for the foreseeable future, with no clear timeline for returning or for achieving any of our goals for deep space exploration."

Obama said he was "100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future." He outlined plans for federal spending to bring more private companies into space exploration following the soon-to-end space shuttle program.

He acknowledged criticism for his drastic changes to the space agency's direction. But, he said, "The bottom line is: Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, the human exploration of space, than I am. But we've got to do it in a smart way; we can't keep doing the same old things as before."

Obama said the space program is not a luxury but a necessity for the United States.

He noted that the Kennedy Space Center has inspired the nation and the world for half a century. He said NASA represents what it means to be American -- "reaching for new heights and reaching for what's possible" -- and is not close to its final days.

Obama sought to explain why he aborted President George W. Bush's return-to-the moon plan in favor of a complicated system of public-and-private flights that would go elsewhere in space, with details still to be worked out.

"We've been there before," Obama said of the nation's moon landings decades ago. "There's a lot more of space to explore."

He said his administration would support continued manned exploration of space "not just with dollars, but with clear aims and a larger purpose."

The Obama space plan relies on private companies to fly to the space station, giving them almost $6 billion to build their own rockets and ships. It also extends the space station's life by five years and puts billions into research to eventually develop new government rocket ships for future missions to a nearby asteroid, to the moon, to Martian moons or other points in space. Those stops would be stepping stones on an eventual mission to Mars itself.

Addressing concerns of job losses to space program workers, particularly in Florida, Obama said that "despite some reports to the contrary," his plan would add more than 2,500 jobs to the Cape Canaveral region over the next two years than would the plan worked out by his predecessor.

"We'll modernize the Kennedy Space Center, creating jobs as we upgrade launch facilities. And there is potential for even more job creation as companies in Florida and across America compete to be part of a new space transportation industry.

"This holds the promise of generating more than 10,000 jobs nationwide over the next few years. Many of these jobs will be created in Florida, an area primed to lead in this competition," he said.

Among his most vocal critics has been Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Obama did not mention Armstrong, who did not attend the speech, but he did praise Buzz Aldrin, one of Armstrong's Apollo 11 crewmates.

Aldrin did attend the speech -- flying in with Obama on Air Force One.

Obama also said his administration would rescue a small part of the moon program: its Orion crew capsule.

But instead of taking four astronauts to the moon, the not-yet-built Orion will be slimmed down and used as an emergency escape pod for the space station.

Obama spoke in the vast launch complex's Operations and Checkout building -- the place where Orion is scheduled to be eventually prepared for launch.

The president said, "This Orion effort will be part of the technological foundation for advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep space missions. In fact, Orion will be readied for flight right here in this room."

White House science adviser John Holdren summed up Obama's program as "a faster pace in space, more missions to more destinations sooner at lower cost."

IX. Space

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides-time for a great new American enterprise-time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

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. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior.

We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations -- explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon-if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications. ?Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars-of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau-will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.

Let it be clear-and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make-let if be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action-a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal '62 -- an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.

Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.

I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.

New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further-unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.

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