Thursday, July 21, 2011
The Definition of Irony
July 20, 1969 - July 21, 2011
"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 the race for space." JFK 9-12-62
Americans landed on the moon, despite rumors to the contrary, 42 years, nearly to the day prior to the untimely death of America's manned space program.
As an avid Star Trek fan, one can appreciate that we currently support an International Space Station and that all future missions will be in the spirit of international cooperation. Yet the spirit which launched NASA, from the days of John F. Kennedy, "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...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."
"The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds."
"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 in 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 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."
"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."
What has changed? Are we no longer the nation we once were? No longer with the drive to be first among nations. Are these words spoken by President Kennedy simply to be relegated to history? I cannot help but be struck by how ironic his words sound today.
Let us hope that NASA remains to fulfill it's mission: To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.