More than a year earlier, President Kennedy had announced before Congress the dramatic goal of sending an American to the Moon before the end of the decade. We were in a race with the Soviet Union. On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy gave another speech at Rice University, where he laid out a broader vision of national leadership, economic progress and sheer challenge for going to the Moon and exploring space. It was an exhilarating time.
While Kennedy laid out some broader motivations, once we reached the Moon the American human exploration program almost collapsed. It has suffered ever since from a lack of long term purpose beyond maintaining a level of national prestige and technological capability. A long term purpose is not beyond our reach. It is needed to provide necessary focus to our human space efforts. I reach back to the public visions of the future in the 1960s, when we thought we all might have a future beyond Earth.
I envision President Obama at Rice University on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's speech, laying out a renewed vision:
Mark V. Sykes Planetary Science Institute