NASA 50th Anniversary Gala Notes

Editor's note: Interesting how NASA keeps saying that this is not a NASA event, yet the webcast was announced as "NASA's 50th Anniversary gala". Then NASM Director Jack Dailey mentioned the fact that "your" event was being held at the location because of the relationship between "NASA and the Smithsonian". No one from the AIAA has spoken yet. Instead, David Mould, NASA AA for Public Affairs is the master of ceremonies. Leon Harris then took the stage and thanked "the men and women of NASA". Still no mention of AIAA. Now a message from the ISS. All about NASA. No thank you to the AIAA.

Ah, now the AIAA finally speaks 10 minutes into the program.

John Glenn: "NASA - Happy Birthday - no one has said that yet tonight." Many of us pre-date NASA from the NACA days. Speaking of the way that NACA became NASA and how investments in basic R&D helped make America a leader in technology.

Talked about development of space station. Talking about uses of ISS for basic and applied research. In January 2004 President directed a new mission for NASA to go to the Moon and Mars. I thought it was great except for one thing - the money did not follow. Mike Griffin was given an impossible task and he had to cut research. We now have a ISS that is about to be completed - with about $100 billion spent - but we are not using it because we do not have the money.

Spaceflight has 2 purposes - macro- and micro- research and they should go hand in hand Macro research is about exploration, going to different places. Micro research is equally important. We are having to cut our own transport to the ISS after we retire the shuttle. Sounds gloomy but I am an optimist about getting more money so as to restore a balance.

Neil Armstrong: Also talked about history of NACA and NASA. One of the most important roles of government is to motivate its citizen - especially young people so that they can contribute to societal progress. NASA will rank in the top tier of government enterprises in that regard. Our highest hope is that the human race will improve character, intelligence, and wisdom so as to chose among options that it will encounter in the years ahead.

Mike Griffin: We can't spend public funds on this kind of activity. Money comes from our industrial base. Event orchestrated by AIAA. I am recused from dealing with AIAA while I am Administrator so my Deputy Shana Dale made all of the difficult decisions.

I am doing the job I aspired to hold when I was a child. It is a thrill for me to be leading the agency today despite the trials and tribulations it takes. Oh yes, it is John Young's birthday is today. I like to say that John Young befriended me before I was anybody.

NASA is doing well today. We are completing ISS today. When completed it will be an engineering accomplishment beyond anything every achieved by the human race. We just landed something on Mars- and still have two rovers running around on Mars. Dawn is on its way to asteroids. New Horizons is on its way to Pluto, MESSENGER is on its way to Mercury. STEREO is on their way to image the sun. We are being observed by more Earth satellites than I care to count.

There are lessons from today about when we lose that focus. As you walk out of this museum - look at the SR-71. We do not have one of those any more. My tie shows an astronaut flying in a MMU, and an Apollo spacecraft. We do not have them any more either. There is nothing odd about looking at old hardware in museums. What looks easy to us today was not easy the first time it had to be done.

But only in American aerospace can we go to a museum and look at certain artifacts and wish that we could do as well today. That should sober all of us here.

Next week the Chinese will outnumber the number of Americans an Russians in space - separately or together. Good on the Chinese.

I am awaiting congressional approval of a waiver to let me buy seats on Soyuz.

I took over NASA at the best of times and worst of times at NASA. It was the best of times because change can be made. On our 50th anniversary we are not celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first landing on Mars- - but we could have been. In the next 50 years I hope we can understand why this did not happen and then look back and say "isn't it great to have a base on Mars."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 24, 2008 9:00 PM.

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