Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV
Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.--50 years ago today, President Kennedy gave a now famous speech at Rice University highlighting his challenge for our nation to go to the Moon and back. Within that turbulent decade, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon's surface, in the Sea of Tranquility. We honor the legacy of President Kennedy, Armstrong, and all those who worked to achieve the triumph of the Moon landing as we continue to pursue the frontiers of science and technology. President Kennedy's challenge was motivated by the need for the United States to be the world leader in science and technology. Although the global environment has changed much since the Cold War, the need for our country to remain a leader in science and technology has never been greater.
There are many ways to explore - whether it is by probing the depths of the oceans, peering into the eternity of the cosmos, or unraveling the marvels of the human body - exploration pushes the boundaries of human understanding and knowledge.
Today we are here to talk about the exploration of space. As President Kennedy said of space, "Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind." Whether we explore with humans or robots, we face challenges that push us to the limits of our science, engineering, and ingenuity.
We saw that ingenuity proven when we landed a rover the size of a small car on the surface of Mars just over a month ago. The Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet after a so-called "seven minutes of terror" culminating in a graceful lowering to the surface by a "sky crane." This spectacle was watched by at least 4.7 million people around the world, inspiring numbers of students in their science and math studies so that they will go on to lead our next incredible journeys of exploration.
There are many ways to explore space - and we have a variety of destinations between the Earth and Mars to consider. What is most important is that we continue exploring, continue probing the frontiers of science and technology, and continue inspiring and educating our next generation.