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‘We choose to go to the moon…’ again: NASA celebrates 60 years of JFK speech

As NASA prepares once again to embark on “the most perilous, dangerous, and greatest adventure” mankind has ever embarked on, space agency leaders have returned to the place where, 60 years ago, on that day, President John F. Kennedy affirmed that “We decided to go to the moon.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined other program leaders at Rice University in Houston on Monday (September 12) to mark the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech. (will open in a new tab)who rallied the nation to land astronauts on the moon. Kennedy first set the goal during an address to Congress in May 1961, and with a speech at Rice, it led to six Apollo landing missions between 1969 and 1972.

“There are defining days in American history. Days when minds change, hearts fill and imaginations fly. Days when visions changed the trajectory of American history, that is, our history, and one of those days happened 60 years ago,” Nelson said. , addressing an audience of invited guests, NASA alumni, and thousands of Houston students at Rice Stadium. “On that day, 60 years ago, the seven famous words you heard reverberated through this stadium and across the country: We choose to go to the moon.”

“Space program [was] moved to the forefront of culture and consciousness. It inspired a historic effort that we are now stewards of,” he said.

Related: NASA’s Apollo Lunar Missions in Photos

Elected officials, NASA alumni, and students from Houston attended the celebration of the 60th birthday of the President of the United States. John F. Kennedy "We choose to go" performing at Rice Stadium, September 12, 2022

Elected officials, NASA alumni, and students from Houston attended the celebration of the 60th birthday of the President of the United States. John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go” speech at Rice Stadium, September 12, 2022 (Image credit: NASA TV)

Looking back, Nelson also drew parallels to the challenges NASA is now facing as it nears the launch of the Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed test flight that is meant to clear the way for sending a new generation of astronauts to circle the moon and land. on it. lunar south pole (will open in a new tab).

“Now the generation of Artemis is about to leave a noticeable mark,” Nelson said. “This generation – all of you, students from all over America, students from all over the world – this generation will choose to go to Mars, and that journey begins right now with humanity returning to the Moon.”

“Obviously we were all hoping that Artemis 1 would be on its way. (will open in a new tab) to the moon,” he said. “But the NASA team works around the clock, and their determination and perseverance are unmatched. I have complete faith in this team and mission. We’ll launch when we’re ready, but mark my words: we’re going.”

Along with Nelson, NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Veech, astronauts Shannon Walker and Jean-Loup Chrétien, Rice University President Reggie DeRoches, and Houston Youth Poet Laureate Avalon Hogans attended the award ceremony. David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute, acted as master of ceremonies.

Related: NASA legacy of President John F. Kennedy

“Today is a day to reflect on how far we have come and to reaffirm our commitment to space exploration for the benefit of all,” said Kjell Lindgren, who, along with his Expedition 67 comrades, joined in the celebration via a video sent from the spaceport. International space station. “The Apollo program has been an impressive example of what we can do when we channel our talents and resources towards a challenging goal. We are proud to continue this bold tradition today.”

Members of Congress Eddie Bernice Johnson, Brian Babin, Al Green, Sylvia Garcia, and Lizzie Fletcher, as well as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also attended and spoke at the event. Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz delivered recorded speeches via video link.

Leading up to and during Monday’s event, NASA and a number of its industry partners organized exhibits at Rice to showcase the state of space exploration six decades after JFK’s speech. Companies participating included Ad Astra Rocket, Axiom Space, Boeing, Collins Aerospace, Intuitive Machines and Jacobs.

NASA artwork commemorating President John F. Kennedy's 60th birthday. "We choose to go" A speech he gave at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962.

A NASA artwork commemorating the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Walk” speech at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962. (Image credit: NASA)

In addition to stimulating the space race with the former Soviet Union, John F. Kennedy’s speech prompted Rice University to form a dedicated department of space sciences, a first in any academic institution.

“With the seven words ‘we choose to go to the moon’, President Kennedy changed the course of human history and cemented Rice University’s place in the history of the American space program,” DeRoches said. “By the time Apollo 11 landed, several dozen graduate students and countless undergraduate students helped create the instruments that made a historic breakthrough and remain on the lunar surface today.”

The Rice University football team, the Owls, celebrated the anniversary with a special kit at the first home game on Saturday. Designed in collaboration with NASA and Adidas, the uniform featured excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go” speech on the shoulder, as well as Rice’s special space logo that represented the flight path from Earth to space. (Rice won the game by defeating McNeese State 52-10.)

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