Tag Archives: Kennedy

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NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) – How It All Started

When talking about rockets, shuttles, satellites, space telescopes, etc. one would undoubtly stumble upon NASA somewhere in that conversation, and truly, books could be (and have been) written about NASA but let us start at the beginning. They have been so prominent in the 2nd half of the 20th century, that it would be hard to imagine a world without them. The organisation’s Twitter account describes is beautifully:

“NASA’s mission is the pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

This year, 2013, NASA will be celebrating their 55th anniversary which is pretty incredible. NASA actually started out as the National Advisory Committee for Astronautics, NACA (founded in 1916 to be the civilian government organization performing research into aviation) before turning into the National Aeronautics and Space Agency or NASA we know today. Who can remember a PC from back in those days? No one – that’s right, cause PCs weren’t for the mass market yet for over another decade! The pioneers of those days truly were on the cutting edge of what was technologically possible at the time, and it’s hard to imagine that your smartphone now will have multiple times more processing power than the entire Apollo 11 program put together.

Founded under President Eisenhower, it was President Kennedy who made the speech that would go into history as the “moon speech” – you can watch the highlights here. But let us not forget that one of the main reasons for NASA‘s existence was the arms race between the United States and Russia. For it was during Russia’s Sputnik I and II missions – which caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard – in November 1957, that Eisenhower appointed the president of MIT as his special advisor on science and technology. It was feared that the successful launch of these satellites meant that intercontinental ballistic missiles would not be too far off. Less than a year later, NASA was born, and so the space race between the US and the U.S.S.R. started.

For more on NASA, stay tuned!

This speech of JFK, considered to be one of the greatest speakers in history, would go down in history as the ‘moon speech’. Who hasn’t heard the words “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”. Kennedy delivered the speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 – some excerpts below as well as a link to the full transcript and audio files.

“If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.”

“For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

“Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.”

“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.”

“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.”

You can read (or listen to) the full speech here.