Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Other Things

The Other Things

Unless you've been far far away from the media this week, surely you're aware that this week marked the anniversary of the landing of man on the moon 40 years ago.  Over and over again, the TV has  been playing various sound bytes from John F. Kennedy's September 12, 1962 speech where he says "We choose to go to the moon in this decade".   In case you missed it here's a short clip:

Each time I listened to that speech this week, I noticed that he says  "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things...".   Generally the sound bite is like the one I linked to, trimmed enough as to remove all clues as to what "the other things" were.

Inquiring minds want to know.   So I dug to find the rest of the speech.

Here's a longer clip from that same speech that gives enough context to let you find what "the other things" were.

So, "the other things" were the hard science to make possible going to the moon and going on from there to explore space.   If he'd had some west coast speech writers he might have said "to boldly go where no man has gone before".  What I like about the speech is he was clearly pushing spending money for scientific research.  I often hear politicians suggesting that it would be good to fund things like curing AIDS or cancer, but nothing I can recall from recent speeches has said we, as a nation, need more scientists.

Here's a far longer video of that same speech: (17 minute, 42 second version)

I was surprised to learn that the speech was not the speech where he first set the goal of the US getting to the moon in the 1960's.   In fact, the speech was in Houston and by September, 1962, there had apparently already been major strides in shaping the space program.  Houston evidently had already been picked for Mission Control and he describes Cape Canaveral's planned Vertical Assembly Building and the Saturn rocket engines.

Looking into that, I learned that the Saturn and a lunar landing program (with a target of the late 1960's) were already in the works in the Eisenhower administration.

As I was digging for that "We choose to go to the moon" speech, I came across this May 25, 1961 speech by Kennedy to Congress.

4-page transcript of 1961 "let's go to the moon" speech


First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

But wait, there's more!

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

Rover nuclear rocket??  I had to look that one up.   The expectation was you'd need such a thing to go to Mars.

So that program died about 1972 when it was clear there was no plan to try for Mars as a follow-on to reaching the moon.

But back to Kennedy's 1961 speech to Congress.   It also proposed 2 more items.   Item 3 was development of communications satellites.  Item 4 was development of weather satellites.   Hey!  No mention of GPS?

All that space program stuff was in section IX of the speech.   The other sections are interesting reading too.   The economy was recovering from another recession and the cold war was quite a bit more war-like than in later years when diplomacy requires that we say only nice things about the other countries.

The great battleground for the defense and expansion of freedom today is the whole southern half of the globe--Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East--the lands of the rising peoples. Their revolution is the greatest in human history. They seek an end to injustice, tyranny, and exploitation. More than an end, they seek a beginning.

And theirs is a revolution which we would support regardless of the Cold War, and regardless of which political or economic route they should choose to freedom.

For the adversaries of freedom did not create the revolution; nor did they create the conditions which compel it. But they are seeking to ride the crest of its wave--to capture it for themselves.

Yet their aggression is more often concealed than open. They have fired no missiles; and their troops are seldom seen. They send arms, agitators, aid, technicians and propaganda to every troubled area. But where fighting is required, it is usually done by others--by guerrillas striking at night, by assassins striking alone--assassins who have taken the lives of four thousand civil officers in the last twelve months in Vietnam alone--by subversives and saboteurs and insurrectionists, who in some cases control whole areas inside of independent nations.

The talk of revolution reminds me of that routine by Hispanic comedian George Lopez who says that not only will the revolution be televised, but that it will be closed-captioned in Spanish.

Kennedy's speech was not the sort of words you'd pick to bill and coo with, say, a country you were depending upon to snap up tons of IOU's as if that paper was going to be worth something some day.   Maybe one day we'll have a national going-out-of-business sale.  How much of the national debt could we barter away in exchange for Michigan, including full rights to the factories of a couple of once-major auto manufacturers?  Probably not enough.

In closure, here's a brief collection of great presidential speeches.  Think history will be kind to them all? (36 seconds)