President Pitzer, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Congressman Thomas,
Senator Wiley, and Congressman Miller, Mr. Webb, Mr. Bell, scientists,
distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:
I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor,
and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief.
I am delighted to be here and I'm particularly delighted to be here
on this occasion.
We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress,
in a state noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we
meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear,
in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases,
the greater our ignorance unfolds.
Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world
has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this
Nation's own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of
growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite
that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished
still far outstrip our collective comprehension.
No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense,
if you will, the 50,000 years of man's recorded history in a time span
of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about
the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned
to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under
this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter.
Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity
began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then
less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history,
the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning
of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and
airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and
television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds
in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight
This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create
new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely
the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are
a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state
of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who
waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered
by those who moved forward--and so will space.
William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth
Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with
great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is
that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot
be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in
it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation
which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind
in this race for space.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the
first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention,
and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend
to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a
part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into
space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we
shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner
of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled
with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation
are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership
in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations
to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to
solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become
the world's leading space-faring nation.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be
gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the
progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all
technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force
for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies
a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will
be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that
we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any
more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but
I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires
of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his
writ around this globe of ours.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space
as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best
of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never
come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And
they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly
the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this
decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because
they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the
best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we
are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which
we intend to win, and the others, too.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift
our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important
decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.
In the last 24 hours we have seen facilities now being created for
the greatest and most complex exploration in man's history. We have felt
the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster
rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn,
generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators
on the floor. We have seen the site where five F-1 rocket engines, each
one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered
together to make the advanced Saturn missile, assembled in a new building
to be built at Cape Canaveral as tall as a 48 story structure, as wide
as a city block, and as long as two lengths of this field.
Within these last 19 months at least 45 satellites have circled the
earth. Some 40 of them were made in the United States of America and they
were far more sophisticated and supplied far more knowledge to the people
of the world than those of the Soviet Union.
The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate
instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is
comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this
stadium between the 40-yard lines.
Transit satellites are helping our ships at sea to steer a safer
course. Tiros satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes
and storms, and will do the same for forest fires and icebergs.
We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not
admit them. And they may be less public.
To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned
flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall
make up and move ahead.
The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge
of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping
and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the
home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will
reap the harvest of these gains.
And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy,
has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands
of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in
investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this state, and this
region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost
on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new
frontier of science and space. Houston, your city of Houston, with its
Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and
engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and
engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses
to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory
facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion
from this center in this city.
To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year's
space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater
than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget
now stands at $5,400 million a year--a staggering sum, though somewhat
less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures
will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than
50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United States, for
we have given this program a high national priority--even though I realize
that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not
now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens,
that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station
in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this
football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been
invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than
have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than
the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance,
control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an
unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering
the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about
half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and
do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then
we must be bold.
I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay
cool for a minute. [laughter]
However, I think we're going to do it, and I think that we must pay
what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I
think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the
Sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this
college and university. It will be done during the terms of office of some
of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it
will be done before the end of this decade.
And I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting
a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was
to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said,
"Because it is there."
Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and
the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.
And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous
and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
President John F. Kennedy - September 12, 1962