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“Space Matters” Session Recap: “We Choose to Go to the Moon”

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

The “Space Matters” series invites speakers from different backgrounds in the space community to discuss trending topics. The most recent session was held September 16, 2022. The session, introduced by Symposium 365 Senior Vice President Thomas Dorame, served to:

  • Share candid discussions with space policy experts
  • Discuss emerging issues and trends across the space community
  • Maintain a routine high-level space policy conversation

This “Space Matters” session discussed space programs in the U.S. on the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech. Though Kennedy was not a space enthusiast, noted the Honorable Bob Walker, Founder and CEO of Moonwalker Associates, he recognized the need to spur our nation’s advancements in space.

“Kennedy recognized the importance of space to drive national leadership and new technologies,” Walker said.

Where We’ve Been…And Where We’re Going

The commitment of the U.S. to space exploration has shaped life as we know it. Carissa Christensen, CEO and Founder of Bryce Tech, observed that while Kennedy’s speech is often noted for its “geopolitical impact,” it has impacted our day-to-day lives much more than many might imagine.

“There is a human imperative to explore,” she said. “Humans seek to discover, learn, innovate, and I think space exploration captures that for many people.”

Space activity has led to numerous technological breakthroughs that are now part of our daily lives, including computers, telecommunications and advanced materials. Many issues in space must be combatted that we simply cannot understand in a terrestrial context. Because of this, we have created and established a need for what Christensen called an “interdisciplinary team” that can learn about the hostile environment that is space.

Not only has space created a need to develop new technologies, it has changed education as we know it. STEAM education is a new norm, and many young people desire to pursue future careers in these fields.

Kennedy Advocated For Space

The Honorable James Bridenstine, Senior Advisor for Acorn Growth Companies, and former NASA Administrator and Member of Congress shared that even before his famous speech, President Kennedy sought to encourage space exploration.

“There was an earlier speech before a joint session of Congress where President Kennedy laid out the vision initially,” Bridenstine said. “This was not a State of the Union address; this was him in an attempt to rally America to go to the Moon.”

This address took place just days after Alan Shepard’s first flight on May 5, 1961.

According to Bridenstine, President Kennedy desired to establish a goal that gave enough time for Americans to capture the lead in the Space Race. This was not due to a particular interest in space but rather to show the world America’s economic and technological capabilities. These were especially important points given the tensions of the Cold War the U.S. had with the Soviet Union.

While Alan Shepard’s flight did not reach orbit, Kennedy assured Congress that the U.S. would go to the Moon within the decade. The nation rallied to get man to the Moon. The same way space captivated Americans back then, it does so to this day, and we can see that in the Artemis Project.

The Ecosystem of Space

Patricia Cooper, President and Founder of Constellation Advisory, noted how Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech and earlier address acted as a catalyst for the space ecosystem we know today. Beyond space exploration, we now have an entire space industry full of innovators and technologies that we otherwise would never have known.

Cooper shared a moment of the speech that most stood out to her: “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.”

According to Cooper, the satellite industry was considered risky until the moonwalk. At the time, only 45 satellites were orbiting Earth. Today there are 5,000. Satellite-enabled technology has greatly benefitted life on Earth.

We Do This Not Because It’s Easy

Walker shared a moment of the speech that sent shockwaves of inspiration throughout the nation: “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.”

Space Shuttle ChallengerWalker and Bridenstine shared moments of great difficulty faced by the space industry over the years. The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, Apollo 1 fire and the loss of the Space Shuttle Colombia were great sacrifices made to advance space. These missions serve as reminders of how important it is to get things right.

“Things that are going to be transformational and important to our country, things that are important to who we are as a nation, are not always easy,” Bridenstine said.

He mentioned that in this loss, not only have we lost the treasure of human life, but billions of dollars and thousands of hours of work. Despite these adversities, the contribution to human life on Earth, thanks to space exploration, is priceless.

Don’t Miss Important Conversations About Space With Symposium 365 Events

This is just one example of the rich discussion that “Space Matters” panelists bring to the table.

Symposium 365 provides ongoing education and conversation about important events, people and projects in the space community. In addition to the “Space Matters” series, Symposium 365 produces valuable programs, including “State of Space” and “Start Here for Space.” Explore and register for upcoming events here.