Thursday was the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president, a milestone marked by a ceremony at the US Capitol whose guests included NASA administrator Charles Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver. In remarks at the event, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid discussed JFK’s legacy in space exploration. “[T]hroughout the brief time he was our nation’s leader, he insisted that our nation lead the sprint to conquer space – and that we finish that race first,” Reid said of JFK. And what did the nation get from that race to the Moon in the 1960s, besides the feeling that “we were leaders”? Lots of spinoffs, apparently, from Reid’s speech:
> Solar energy is a reality in states like Nevada and across the country because of the science that started in space. > > The water we drink is cleaner. Our oceans are healthier. We diagnose cancer sooner. All because of the discoveries our space program has made possible. > > Our wounded warriors wear better and stronger artificial limbs. Citizens of the world are safer from land mines. Firefighters can better track forest fires, and are safer when they fight them. Airplanes fly smarter, and even golf balls fly farther. All because when many others pulled back and doubted, President Kennedy kept pushing forward – forward with faith.
It was up to Bolden, in a blog post about the ceremony, to use the past as inspiration for future exploration. “I think NASA still carries forth the spirit of President Kennedy’s directive. Today, among many initiatives, we’re at the starting gate as we strive to reach an asteroid with humans, and also the moons of Mars and Mars itself,” he wrote. “Today’s event was a stirring reminder of what we can achieve when we set our sights on a goal that may be just out of reach today but not out of sight if we work hard for it.”