VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Hutchison Commemorates 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

July 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. A link to the video and a full transcript of Sen. Hutchison’s floor speech are below.


Thank you, Madam President.

Madam President, Today I rise to speak as if in Morning Business. I want to commemorate a great milestone that is going to happen tomorrow, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

Forty years ago today on a hot Sunday afternoon in Texas, three astronaut families and close friends in the Houston suburb of El Lago were gathered around television sets in the privacy of their homes watching grainy broadcasts and listening to the sound from a small loudspeaker wired from mission control conveying astronaut Charlie Duke's conversation with the Apollo 11 astronauts during the final moments leading to the first landing on the moon.

It was an intensely personal experience for all of them. And yet, one shared by the world. Everyone was glued to their televisions at that moment, waiting for the word wherever they were.

It was 3:18 p.m. Houston time when Neil Armstrong announced " Houston , tranquility base here; the Eagle has landed.” A baseball game in Yankee stadium in New York was stopped and the announcement made that had put men on the moon. The audience erupted in applause and it burst into singing "the Star-Spangled Banner.”

In a college dormitory, in living rooms across the world, people gathered to watch this broadcast. The giant leap for mankind that Neil Armstrong made and Buzz Aldrin following him on the surface of the moon, attracted and compelled millions of people throughout the world.

The Apollo 11 landing is forever etched in the minds of those who watched it or heard it. They are bound together in the history of mankind as a stunning milestone in the advancement of humanity. The Apollo Program gave us the very first view through the eyes of human beings captured and transmitted by their cameras of the Earth – our own space ship against the infinite backdrop of space. It gave us great advancements in technology, new industries, capabilities benefiting everyone on earth, especially in medical science and quality of life.

And most importantly, it gave us a new vision of ourselves as a nation. It gave us a sense of our ability to accomplish things that once seemed utterly impossible, and probably were not even thought about. But yet, they had just happened.

The anniversary we celebrate today comes at a time when we need to be reminded that we can overcome challenges and achieve great things when we are committed and dedicated and prepared to step up to the plate.

We face enormous challenges as a nation and as part of the global community right now. Finding solutions to our current economic crisis, ensuring our national security, finding solutions to domestic issues we face in health care, unemployment, energy, and the environment.

What many may not recall is that in May of 1961, President Kennedy spoke that night to Congress on urgent national needs. He spoke of issues strikingly similar to those we face today. He began with a focus on the great battleground for the defense of freedom being in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East . And enemies of freedom whose aggression is more often concealed than open. This is 1961, and the President is talking about issues that relate to us today. Yet he said as he turned to the economy, he described the need to turn recession into recovery and meeting the task of abating unemployment and achieving a full use of our resources.

He spoke of shoring up our international allegiances and providing aid to the developing countries seeking to establish themselves as democratic states. He spoke of reshaping our military to better meet unconventional threats and flexibility in response and the need to ensure effective and accurate intelligence.

This sounds so familiar because we're talking about a moon landing, but we're facing all of these domestic, international, and security issues at the same time, yet we don't lose that zeal to command something that is beyond the parameters that we have known.

President Kennedy spoke of the need to expand efforts in civil defense – what we might now call homeland security – to ensure safety of citizens at home, and [he] spoke of renewed calls for firearms control and reductions in nuclear arsenals across the globe. Finally he focused his concluding remarks on the challenge of space exploration, saying "Now is the time for a great new American enterprise, time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth." He went on to use those words that are perhaps the most familiar from that speech: “I believe 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.”

President Kennedy made that commitment for leadership in space and set the highest possible goal for establishment of that leadership with the Apollo program. At a time when the nation faced challenges not unlike those we face today, I believe he did so because he saw that space exploration was something that could elevate the entire national spirit and enhance its broader economy and national security.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the lunar landing we honor the vision, the courage, and accomplishments of all the men and women of Apollo – whether astronauts, engineers, flight directors, assembly workers, and their families – and we thank them for two generations of excellence and leadership in science and technology.

How do we best honor that legacy 40 years ago? We can do it by continuing our nation's commitment to space exploration to sustain the leadership role they won for us in those early pioneering days. We must recognize as President Kennedy did, that space exploration was an important and urgent national need – not an activity to be shortchanged or sacrificed in the face of other pressing economic and security concerns.

We must make the investments needed to ensure that the has the ability to launch humans into space. Today, we are looking at just a few more missions of our space shuttles and then we're looking at up to five years in which will not be able to put men and women in space at all. Five years! As Charles Krauthammer said in an article today, five years in which we are going to beg or even for space on their space ships to be able to put men and women in space. Madam President, 40 years ago did something that changed our country and the world. It gave us new technologies. It gave us the dominance of space for our national security purposes. It gave us the ability to have satellite-guided missiles that can now go into a window from miles away and stop the collateral damage and the death of innocent humans when we are in a war situation.

It has given us so much, and 40 years later we are sitting here with a space program that is saying we are going to have five years in which we can't put men and women into space with our own vehicles. That is not what we should be celebrating on this 40th anniversary. We should be celebrating a renewal of the commitment to space exploration. We should be celebrated we are going to finish out an international space station in which many of our international partners have invested billions as we have and that we are committed to putting people in that space station that is now designated as a national laboratory, our part is; to have the scientific exploration capabilities to be able to take the next step in medical research that can't be done on earth because we have that national lab. The idea that we would make that investment and then not be able to put people there for five years is unthinkable. That’s what it is, unthinkable.

So I want to remember the words of President Kennedy and I have to say that I want to remember another speech that Present Kennedy made and it was at Rice University . He was talking about why we are committed to putting people on the moon. Why are we committed to things that are so visionary for the future? And he said, why would we put people into space? Why would rice plate play against Texas ? Not because it is easy but because it is hard. That very next year, Rice tied the University of Texas in football. It wasn't the same league as putting men on moon, it was not, but he had the vision and he also had the humor to convey it. He knew what made our country the best country in the world. That was the vision of doing things that would be seemingly impossible and having the capacity and commitment to do it.

That’s what President Kennedy led us to do 40 years ago, and today, we must renew that commitment. That is the only way we can show we are worthy of all that has gone on before us that led to Neil Armstrong’s famous words, "one small step for man, one giant lead for mankind." Madam President, I hope that with all of the remembrances we are making that the real effort that will be made is what Charlie Bolden said when he was in our committee just last week. We said, actually, the chairman of the committee said, “NASA's deteriorating. Tell me why we should support it.” And Charlie Bolden, the new administrator of NASA said, I’m committed to doing it and doing it right. We have got to have the commitment of congress to make it happen. He knows what's right. He’s a former astronaut. And he's an engineer. And he's a great Texan who is the visionary and the person who can implement that vision. We are going to support him in every way. I hope all of my colleagues in Congress will do the same thing on the eve of the anniversary of one of the great achievements of and all mankind.

Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.