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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Calls for Continuing JFK Vision on 50th Anniversary of "Moon" Speech

Press Release From: Guttman Associates
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

image The following is a key excerpt from Dr. Buzz Aldrin's speech today (May 25) at ceremonies the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston Massachusetts saluting John F. Kennedy's address to Congress a half century ago which propelled America into the exploration of space. The excerpt is succeeded by the full text of Dr. Aldrin's comments:

EXCERPT OF BUZZ ALDRIN CALL FOR U.S TO CONTINUE JFK'S VISION OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP OF MAN'S JOINT VENTURE INTO SPACE

"(It must be noted) that, in addition to his call for the moon program, President Kennedy's May 25, 1961 speech also called for (additional) goals: the 'acceleration of the use of space satellites for world-wide communications'; the 'development of a new satellite system for world-wide weather observation'; and, 'the accelerated development of the Rover nuclear rocket - 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'.

"Three of these four goals - the Moon landing, communications satellites, and weather satellites, have been realized, while the latter goal - the development of a new advanced nuclear rocket to explore the deepest reaches of our solar system, has yet to be accomplished. Therefore, on the 50th anniversary of the event we honor today, this unmet, unfulfilled goal should be the focus of our efforts - and it should be pursued with the same clarity of purpose, national leadership, and commitment, as we demonstrated with Apollo.

"There are those who will rightly caution that there are many other near-term challenges that require our attention - and while true - it is also true that our focus on the challenges of the present should not deter our commitment to larger, future goals which will inevitably have an even more profound impact on humankind than Apollo had on our generation. It is a question of balance, and the need to invest in our future with the same vision and conviction that President Kennedy demonstrated during his challenging era.

"To do less, would be to surrender the future of space to others who will undoubtedly assume this worthy challenge, as we fall behind. History is replete with the lessons of once great nations of exploration and discovery that lost their prominence to other nations who persevered, as they retreated in the face of other immediate challenges of their time.

"The Way Forward:

"As was the case with President Kennedy, courageous leadership is needed to set clear goals, to establish a destination and schedule, and to provide the required commitment to execute them.

"A founding principle should begin with a commitment to continued American leadership in space, definitively leading to the expansion of humankind into the Cosmos.

"The specific goal we should undertake in support of this founding principle should be the establishment of permanent human presence on the surface of Mars by 2035. To reach this goal, we should establish a strategic pathway of progressive missions, develop the spacecraft, outer-orbit capabilities and rockets to achieve it, and ensure that all our space efforts are unified.

"While I would prefer to see a more accelerated pace, this schedule is roughly three times longer than the time required for the first moon landing, and would provide adequate time to develop the needed technologies, systems, and capabilities to do it safely and affordably, as we accomplish other important space policy objectives along the way.

"America can and should be a leader in this undertaking, while at the same time encouraging participation by all nations who would choose to pursue it - in the spirit of mutual trust and respect.

"We should employ a 'flexible path' that utilizes the capabilities we develop for our longer-term goal to accomplish intermediate objectives along the way, such as: expanding our reach beyond low Earth orbit to provide access to our entire Earth-Moon system, as well as to special stable Sun-Earth orbital locations where orbiting science observatories will peer back in time to the very origins of the universe. We will also conduct missions to asteroids, comets and near-Earth Crossing Objects, that may one day pose a threat to Earth - perhaps exploiting their resources to sustain our presence in space, as we seek to understand their origins and the history of our solar system, and develop the ability to counter their potential threat to Earth.

"With regard to returning to the moon, we should not reengage in a second 'Moon Race'. We won that race more than forty-years ago, and there is no compelling reason to forgo our longer-term goal of permanent human presence on Mars by 2035, by diverting the resources needed to accomplish this important goal."

FULL TEXT

Following is the full text of Buzz Aldrin's remarks on the 50th Anniversary of JFK's May 25th 1961 'Moon' speech:

I would like to thank the Kennedy Presidential Library, the Kennedy family and Vice President Biden for the honor of speaking with you today on the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's speech before a joint session of Congress on May 25th, 1961. Although in Office for little more than four months, this bold and courageous call to action led to America's commitment to 'the moon race' - ultimately establishing our leadership in Space, and opening the space frontier for all humankind.

As we reflect back on that very special event, it is important to understand its historical context.

I remember that period well. Just eight years earlier, I was flying F-86 Saber jets in combat missions over Korea. Just three years earlier I was flying F-100's armed with nuclear weapons in the European Theater, as a deterrent to a potential preemptive nuclear attack on our country. The Cold War posed a serious threat to our national security, while the former Soviet Union demonstrated a superior capability in space though an impressive array of firsts - beginning with Sputnik in 1957, and culminating with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space, and concurrently, the first human to orbit the Earth, on April 12, 1961 - just six weeks before President Kennedy's remarkable speech...

NASA would follow Yuri's flight 23 days later with Alan Shepard's suborbital flight, on May 5th, 1961, but it would not be until John Glenn's historic mission on February 20th, 1962 - more than ten months after Yuri's - that we would achieve our first orbital flight - a clear indication of the heavier lift capacities of the Soviet rockets.

Make no mistake - America was behind in space and our young President fully understood the serious implications to our nation with his memorable declaration:

"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."

He also recognized the enormity of this challenge, as well as the commitment required to achieve it, as he commented:

"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."

He further noted: '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'. Yet President Kennedy's courageous leadership was clear and unwavering - stating with absolute eloquence - a clear goal, destination and schedule, while calling for a commitment to marshal the best that our country could muster to pursue the goal.

And, in contrast with the Soviets, he did so with openness as he declared:

'We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world'

His approach afforded an opportunity for the world to understand our goals, witness our commitment, experience our achievements, and to share in our inevitable tragedies.

As an aside, I would note that the importance, and clarity, of these goals cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately, the absence of a comparable defining goal for our space program since that time - along with the requisite commitment to it - has hindered our efforts in space. It is essential that we establish a bi-partisan commitment to an enduring goal that will: inspire our nation, establish the basis for our continued global leadership in space, and provide focus for our space efforts.

When our beloved President would later be taken from us - on that tragic day, November 22nd, 1963 - after just 34 months in Office, our national determination to honor his call was that much greater.

Even in the face of the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, on January 27th, 1967, when we lost Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and my West Point trackmate and friend, Ed White, our resolve was further strengthened.

Just two and a half years later, on July 20th, 1969 - and less than eight years and two months after his call to action, we would honor our President, our fellow astronauts, the hundreds of thousands who worked on Project Apollo, and our country, when Neil and I stepped on to the surface of the Moon at Tranquility Base - fulfilling a dream of mankind throughout human history.

Standing on the shores of a barren, historically magnificent achievement, yet such a desolate, foreboding landscape, we viewed our precious Earth from a new perspective. Everything we knew and loved lay suspended overhead in a small, fragile, bright blue sphere surrounded in the blackness of the infinite reaches of space... It was a transformative experience of far greater importance than - 'winning the space race to the moon'...

As I now reflect upon that magical moment, two remarkable things stand out in my mind that we had not anticipated: FIRST, because our openness engaged people from all over the world, America's success was viewed as a success for all humankind. People from all over the world would declare - 'we did it!'; SECOND, in responding to President Kennedy's call to undertake this Mission to a new world, we rediscovered our own precious planet Earth. We saw it as a very special cradle of life - as we know it - yet we also saw it connected to the vastness of the Universe in which it resides. Questions about the limits of our fragile planet to sustain us, about the possible uniqueness or potential abundance of life in the universe, and the seemingly infinite opportunities that lay beyond the bounds of Earth, continue to inspire our continued quest.

My own personal journey with Apollo began here - just across the Charles River with my graduate studies at MIT where I earned my Doctorate of Science in Astronautics. When NASA determined that it would be necessary to employ a strategy for the lunar mission utilizing three specialized spacecraft: a command module, service module and lunar lander, launched by a Saturn-V rocket, which required Lunar Orbit Rendezvous - I saw an opportunity to contribute to the space program by focusing my Doctorial Thesis on the challenges of manned space rendezvous. Ultimately, NASA saw value in this work and I was admitted to the Astronaut Program - the first Doctor of Science and non-test pilot candidate to be so honored.

As we now reflect upon the success of the Apollo Program, I would call for the recognition of the twenty-four Apollo Astronauts who flew to the moon to receive the recognition they so honorably deserve - designating them as Lunar Ambassadors. And, for those who conducted these lunar missions while also serving in the military, I would recommend elevating their ranks to the equivalent of a two-star general or admiral.

Much has been written about Apollo 11 - the Mission itself, some of the personal challenges I faced following Apollo, and my subsequent rededication to the furtherance of space exploration. So today I would like to briefly touch on the legacy of Apollo, and try to anticipate the way forward in space in the coming decades.

In addition to affirming America as a leader in space, Apollo inspired a new generation to pursue scientific and engineering careers, which in turn led to a technological and scientific foundation providing: an understanding of the sustainability limits of our Earth System; a greatly enhanced quality of life and health for people on Earth; an economic foundation that has sustained our economy and wellbeing for decades; and, a new proving ground to help answer some of our most important and profound scientific questions.

Amidst the competitive nature of the space race - and despite the ongoing Cold War - President Kennedy saw an opportunity for collaboration in space. Indeed, space collaboration has become the new norm. The Russians are now our critical partners in the remarkable International Space Station - built with the collective efforts of 16 nations. Nearly two-thirds of NASA's science missions now involve international participation and we also participate in other space agencies' scientific missions.

I would also note that, in addition to his call for the moon program, President Kennedy's speech also called for three more goals: the 'acceleration of the use of space satellites for world-wide communications'; the 'development of a new satellite system for world-wide weather observation'; and, 'the accelerated development of the Rover nuclear rocket - 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'.

Three of these four goals - the Moon landing, communications satellites, and weather satellites, have been realized, while the latter goal - the development of a new advanced nuclear rocket to explore the deepest reaches of our solar system, has yet to be accomplished. Therefore, on the 50th anniversary of the event we honor today, this unmet, unfulfilled goal should be the focus of our efforts - and it should be pursued with the same clarity of purpose, national leadership, and commitment, as we demonstrated with Apollo.

There are those who will rightly caution that there are many other near-term challenges that require our attention - and while true - it is also true that our focus on the challenges of the present should not deter our commitment to larger, future goals which will inevitably have an even more profound impact on humankind than Apollo had on our generation. It is a question of balance, and the need to invest in our future with the same vision and conviction that President Kennedy demonstrated during his challenging era.

To do less, would be to surrender the future of space to others who will undoubtedly assume this worthy challenge, as we fall behind. History is replete with the lessons of once great nations of exploration and discovery that lost their prominence to other nations who persevered, as they retreated in the face of other immediate challenges of their time.

The Way Forward:

As was the case with President Kennedy, courageous leadership is needed to set clear goals, to establish a destination and schedule, and to provide the required commitment to execute them.

A founding principle should begin with a commitment to continued American leadership in space, definitively leading to the expansion of humankind into the Cosmos.

The specific goal we should undertake in support of this founding principle should be the establishment of permanent human presence on the surface of Mars by 2035. To reach this goal, we should establish a strategic pathway of progressive missions, develop the spacecraft, outer-orbit capabilities and rockets to achieve it, and ensure that all our space efforts are unified.

While I would prefer to see a more accelerated pace, this schedule is roughly three times longer than the time required for the first moon landing, and would provide adequate time to develop the needed technologies, systems, and capabilities to do it safely and affordably, as we accomplish other important space policy objectives along the way.

America can and should be a leader in this undertaking, while at the same time encouraging participation by all nations who would choose to pursue it - in the spirit of mutual trust and respect.

We should employ a 'flexible path' that utilizes the capabilities we develop for our longer-term goal to accomplish intermediate objectives along the way, such as: expanding our reach beyond low Earth orbit to provide access to our entire Earth-Moon system, as well as to special stable Sun-Earth orbital locations where orbiting science observatories will peer back in time to the very origins of the universe. We will also conduct missions to asteroids, comets and near-Earth Crossing Objects, that may one day pose a threat to Earth - perhaps exploiting their resources to sustain our presence in space, as we seek to understand their origins and the history of our solar system, and develop the ability to counter their potential threat to Earth.

With regard to returning to the moon, we should not reengage in a second 'Moon Race'. We won that race more than forty-years ago, and there is no compelling reason to forgo our longer-term goal of permanent human presence on Mars by 2035, by diverting the resources needed to accomplish this important goal.

This is not to suggest that there are not other valuable activities that we might pursue - as a leader and collaborator with our international partners and the private sector - should there be a strong payback interest in the moon. Certainly, many of the capabilities we will develop in pursuit of our longer-term goal of settling Mars could significantly contribute to this collaboration.

I am currently working with a small group of engineers and scientists who recently convened a workshop on these progressive concepts at NASA Ames. This initiative would establish partnerships between international space agencies, and the emerging commercial space sector, leading to the development of an International Lunar Research Park in Hawaii to conduct terrestrial-based, telerobotic demonstrations to validate the use of robots to emplace infrastructure for future human exploration missions to the moon and Mars. The State of Hawaii is currently moving ahead with plans to develop this International Lunar Research Park at this time.

In the middle-term, we should explore the moons of Mars, which would serve as natural 'space stations' in orbit around Mars, affording astronauts an ability to robotically control the development of surface infrastructure to sustain future human exploration and the settlement of Mars, while also conducting a wide-range of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, without the long time-delay inherent in operating robots from Earth. These steps will provide a scientifically valuable pathway leading to permanent human presence on Mars by 2035.

Next Steps:

By establishing a clear goal, a destination and schedule, and defined a flexible path, we can apply the development of our capabilities and knowledge to guide the work we will undertake in the coming decades.

In the very near-term, we should continue to help the emerging commercial launch vehicle companies mature their capabilities, so they can assume the role of providing access to low Earth orbit, and to maintain the International Space Station. It is appropriate that we look to commercial providers for 'routine' access to space, as NASA initiates the development of its unique future mission requirements, which are in excess of the commercial marketplace needs. We should encourage these providers to develop reusable, affordable, and sustainable systems with the lowest possible life-cycle costs to ensure that NASA's costs to purchase these services will not impede our ability to invest in longer-term space exploration goals. For example, we should encourage the use of winged Earth-to-orbit reusable vehicles, which would return to runways near their launch site, so they can be efficiently serviced for subsequent launch and return.

While I strongly support the transition to the commercial sector for these launch services, I share the concern that 'the gap' created by the termination of the Space Shuttle Program - before these new systems become fully operational - poses a risk to our investment in the International Space Station, and to our continued leadership in space. We must work closely with the commercial launch providers, and our international partners, to ensure the continued operation of International Space Station - a critical asset that is essential to our long-term exploration of space.

In cooperation with our current international partners, we should open participation in the International Space Station to other nations who wish to collaborate in this work - paving the way for their involvement in the international exploration of space.

In the coming decade we should exploit the International Space Station's unique capabilities to validate needed technologies, and to conduct Space Life Sciences research required for humans to safely explore and develop space.

At the same time, we should invest in the critical technologies, and begin the development of future systems and capabilities, that will be required to establish permanent presence in space beyond low Earth orbit - many of which would be tested at the space station.

In the intermediate term, as NASA begins the development of more capable, advanced space transportation systems for deep space missions, we should remember the difficult lessons from both Apollo and the Space Shuttle, and not replicate, or reuse, systems that have proven to be too costly to maintain in the past. As we did for Apollo, we should develop effective architectures and specialized spacecraft that are optimized to meet their operational requirements. It is also vitally important that we pursue new, cost-effective, systems to make our future missions affordable and sustainable in the longer-term.

We should employ innovative approaches - such as the 'Mars Cycler' special orbiting space station - a concept I conceived several decades ago, that would cycle between the orbits of Earth and Mars, providing a reusable fuel-efficient system to transport significant numbers of future explorers and colonists to the Mars surface, and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, and lead to the permanent settlement of Mars in 2035.

In undertaking this great challenge, we will learn about the undiscovered mysteries of our once twin planet, and from that knowledge gain an important understanding about the eventual fate of our planet Earth, as we begin a new Journey of discovery to realize a future destiny for humankind.

Through our efforts, we will honor President John F. Kennedy's bold leadership - as we embrace a future that will sustain us on Earth, while expanding human presence to Mars, and beyond, into a limitless future in space - a future that will be possible only with the courageous and determined leadership he so exemplified, 50 years ago today.

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