Office of the Press Secretary
July 20, 1994
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF APOLLO 11
The East Room
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. Members of Congress. Veterans of the Apollo program. The friends of the space program in America and, most of all, to those whom we honor here today.
Just a day before he died, President Kennedy compared our space program to a boy who comes upon a wall in an orchard. The wall is tall, it looks insurmountable, but the boy is curious about what lies on the other side. So, he throws his cap over the wall and then he has no choice but to go after it.
Twenty-five years ago today, our nation, represented by these three brave men, made that climb. And, so, today we are gathered to celebrate their voyage and I honestly hope to recommit ourselves to their spirit of discovery. Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were our guides for the wondrous, the unimaginable at that time, the true handiwork of God. They realized the dreams of a nation. They fulfilled an American destiny. They taught us that nothing is impossible if we set our sights high enough.
Today, we're honored to have them and all the other Apollo astronauts who are here with us. For every American who followed your journey especially for those of us who were young on that fateful day 25 years ago, and for the young Americans who still dream dreams of a future in space, we thank you all.
Looking back on that mission, one thing is clear that we ought to remember today. It wasn't easy. The ship to the heavens measured just 13 feet in diameter. The destination was three days and a world away. On the third day as the tiny module descended to the Moon, it came dangerously close to a crash landing -- that happens around here all the time -- (laughter) -- but Neil Armstrong took over the controls from the computer and landed safely. Man had not been rendered obsolete by the mechanical and that hasn't happened yet.
Not long after that when he stepped on the Moon, Mr. Armstrong marked the outer limit of the human experiment with those simple words, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind."
These men and the other astronauts who came before and after have helped us to step into another world right here on Earth. They've shown us that we can harness the technology of space in areas from the economy to the environment to education to information and technology. The products and knowledge that grew out of our space missions has changed our way of life forever and for the better. And in our quest we have relearned a sense of confidence that has always been an essential ingredient of our American Dream.
Today that journey continues. Our commitment to the space program is strong and unwavering. The best way to honor these men and all the others who have helped it so much, is to continue that quest. Many have risked their lives and some have given their lives so that we could go forward.
Today I ask that we remember, especially, the crews of Apollo 1 and the Challenger. On this day of celebration we must never forget the deep debt we owe to those brave Americans. And our thoughts should also be with their families and their loved ones for the sacrifice they have given helped to bring us all to new horizons.
Our space explorations today are important models for cooperation in the new post-Cold War world. The Vice President described that eloquently a moment ago. Sergei's mission was an important first step toward full Russian partnership in what must be our next great mission, the international Space Station.
This permanent orbiting space laboratory, to be built with help from 14 nations, will hasten discoveries in fields from the environment to medicine, to computers. We should also remember that the space station holds great promise for us here at home, as it strengthens our largest export sector, aerospace technology.
All these reasons explain why the House has fully funded already the Space Station. I want to thank many people who are responsible for that bipartisan victory but let me mention especially George Brown, Lou Stokes, Bob Walker and Jerry Lewis. I know the Vice President and Dan Goldin and a lot of other people burned up the phone lines before the House vote.
Let me say that we've fought a lot of battles for the future around here in the last 18 months, and sometimes it seems that the most important ones are decided by the narrowest of margins. The economic plan passed by a vote, the assault weapons ban passed by two votes. Last year the Space Station survived by the vote of a single member of the House of Representatives who changed his mind on the way down the aisle. But this year, thanks to the common endeavors of all of us and thanks to the promise of cooperation with Russia and with other nations, the House of Representatives voted to fund the Space Station by 122 votes, a bipartisan commitment to America's future. (Applause.)
I thank the members of the Senate who are here today who are pushing for passage. I know they won't miss this great opportunity which is coming on them very soon. I thank you Senator Mikulski and all the other members of the Senate who are here for the work that will be done in the Senate.
As we work toward building a better world, we also have to preserve the one we've got here. William Anders of the Apollo 8 was the first to see the entire Earth at a glance. He said it looked like a fragile "little Christmas tree ornament against an infinite backdrop of space, the only color in the whole universe we could see. It seemed so very finite."
Well, because we are so very finite our responsibility to our planet must not be limited. That's why NASA's "Mission to Planet Earth" is also a very important part of our future in space. We have to continue to monitor the global environment from space and to act on what we learn.
Above all, let us never forget that all this work is about renewing our hopes and the hopes of generations to come. About the ability of Americans and the ability of human beings everywhere to conquer the seemingly impossible. I don't think anybody can look at the faces of these young people here with us today, and we ought to take a little while and look at them and welcome them here, without seeing again in their eyes dreams that those of us who are older could not have dreamed.
The explorations we continue in space are clear evidence to them that they will grow up in exciting times without limits. Times that demand their imagination, their vision, their courage. Times that will reward them, too, for believing in themselves and their possibilities.
One of our Young Astronauts, 13 year old Wayne Gusman from New Orleans, sees a future where being an astronaut will be like, and I quote, "driving a car; everyone will do it."
That's a great dream. But that and our other dreams are clearly the natural extensions of the space program which began a generation ago, the direct descendants of the dreams of the three men we are here to honor today. We can get there.
No one who was alive then will ever forget where they were as Michael Collins traveled his solitary vigil around the Moon and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed that tiny craft on the surface. The world was captivated not only by the risk and the daring, although they were risking and daring, they were captivated because the landing meant again that the human experiment in conquering new and uncharted worlds was reborn.
In that sense it was not an end but a beginning. So, to you, gentlemen, we say for your valor, your courage, your pioneering spirit, and for being here today to remind us again that all things are possible, we are deeply in your debt. Thank you very much. (Applause.)