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Public Papers - 1990 - June

Remarks to Employees of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama


Dick, Admiral Truly, I'm very glad to be here. Let me just say something very personal: I can't tell you how fortunate the country is to have Admiral Truly lead NASA through these very exciting times. I salute him, and I'm very grateful to him. And I'm pleased to be here with the Governor of this State, a man whose unwavering support for the space program is so well-known. I want to thank Jack Lee, the director of this center and my tour guide today. I'm grateful to him. There is no quiz. If there was I would probably fail, because I am mightily impressed with the dedicated NASA workers, men and women, young and old, who are doing such a superb job on the cutting edge of science.

I was sorry we were a little late getting started. These arrangements affect everything. Even I couldn't find a parking place. [Laughter] Reminds me of my days in college. Everybody would gather around to get cooled off watching me strike out.

But nevertheless, I really am pleased to be back in Alabama, back in Huntsville. And I'm very proud of this State, proud of this special facility. The Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America's first satellite, America's first space station, and the world's first Moon rocket; and it was here with Saturn 5 that humankind began its historic journey to the stars.

Because of these traditions, Huntsville has a special importance to America and, indeed, to the entire world. And it has a special importance to me, as well. It was to Huntsville that I journeyed in the fall of 1987 to give a campaign -- for me, at least, a first major address on space. And on that October day 2/2\ years ago, I promised to create a National Space Council, chaired by the Vice President. I pledged to underwrite Mission to Planet Earth, to boost space science, and to launch a dynamic new program of both manned and unmanned exploration of the solar system.

And today I'm pleased to return to Marshall to report that we have made good on these promises. And we've done it the old-fashioned way, done it the American way -- step by step, program by program, all adding up to the most ambitious and far-reaching effort since Marshall and Apollo took America to the Moon.

The Space Council I proposed is not only up and running but under the dynamic leadership of our Vice President. It's leading the way into the 21st century. Mission to Planet Earth, a bold and unprecedented initiative to preserve our precious environmental heritage, has been plucked off the drawing board and placed in the hands of the scientists who will make it happen. And now that the shuttle program has put America back in space, we stand at the dawn of a new era in space science, with wonders like that magnificent Hubble Space Telescope and the fantastic voyage of Galileo to Jupiter.

Exactly 11 months ago, I was at the Air and Space Museum in Washington to commemorate a special anniversary for you who work at the Marshall Space Flight Center: the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11's thunderous journey to the Moon. And standing with Neil Armstrong and dozens of other astronauts, I announced three major space policy objectives: first, to have space station Freedom up before the century is out, and second, for the new century, a permanent lunar base. And we're going back to the Moon, back to the future, and this time back to stay. And the third objective was refined last month in Texas, where I went to announce a new age of exploration with not only a goal but a 30-year timetable. I declared -- permit me to read it again -- before Apollo celebrates the 50th anniversary of its landing on the Moon, the American flag should be planted on Mars.

Being first in space is not just America's dream: it is indeed our destiny. And to see this happen, we're matching rhetoric with resources. Our budget proposes .2 billion for NASA, an increase of nearly 25 percent and the largest increase for any major agency of the United States Government.

Now for the bad news. Unfortunately, not everyone on Capitol Hill shares this commitment to investing in America's future. And last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Space voted to pull the plug on this historic undertaking, completely gutting the seed money we proposed for the Moon-Mars mission.

But you know, space used to be a bipartisan effort, just a plain American effort. And the last time a President visited Marshall, John F. Kennedy compared those who were uncertain about America's leadership in space to those in Queen Isabella's court who counseled, in effect, ``Turn back. Leave the riches and rewards for other nations and braver hearts.''

Some say the space program ought to wait, that we should only go forward once the social problems today are completely solved. But history proves that that attitude is self-defeating. Had Columbus waited until all the problems of his time were solved, the timbers of the Santa Maria would be rotting on the Spanish coast to this very day. And instead, he went forward, he ventured forth, and his travels brought Spain to the zenith of her stature as a nation.

Many an American schoolkid has read the story of Columbus' doubters and shook their heads in disbelief that these naysayers could have been so shortsighted. We must not let the children of the future shake their heads at our behavior. And right now, in the funding wars on Congress, we face a central question -- the question of whether America will continue to be a pioneering nation.

And when John F. Kennedy stood before the Congress in 1961 and spoke about the Moon, he spoke to a nation of pioneers. Now some in Congress appear ready to give up on that pioneering spirit, to turn their sights inward, to concede that America's days as a leader in space have passed. Well I, for one, am not ready to give up. America has always been and will always be a nation of pioneers. I may not be around in the year 2019, but all of you guys will, and a lot of people out here in this marvelous, young, vigorous work force will. And on that special day 30 years from now, I want you to think back to the commitment that we made here today as you look at the TV monitors, maybe right here at Marshall, and watch the first American plant his feet on Mars. It's going to happen. With your work and our support it is going to happen.

During the Apollo era, America's space efforts grew at unprecedented rates. The Government hired the biggest and the best scientific force in history, and colleges and universities swelled with applicants and graduates in science and engineering. And it produced a golden age of American technology and advancement, an age that, today, we can recapture and begin anew.

Wernher von Braun was the giant who, in a sense, put Huntsville on the map. And when someone asked him what it would take to build a rocket to reach the Moon, Von Braun replied simply, ``The will to do it.'' And so, I'm here today at this monument to daring, this monument to imagination that Von Braun built, and call on the American Congress to step forth with the will that the moment requires. Don't postpone greatness. History tells us what happens to nations that forget how to dream. The American people want us in space. So, let us continue the dream for our students, for ourselves, and for all humankind.

Thank you for your dedicated work to this great country of ours. God bless the United States of America. Thank you for this warm, warm welcome. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:26 p.m. on the grounds of the Center. In his remarks, he referred to Richard H. Truly, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Gov. Guy Hunt of Alabama. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Charlotte, NC, where he participated in a Point of Light recognition ceremony at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport for the Duke Power Co.

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