|The rise and fall of America's space program
Fifty years ago today, NASA announced its decision to build the Manned Spacecraft Center, now known as the Johnson Space Center, in Houston. Construction was well underway when President John F. Kennedy, in a 1962 address at Rice University, proposed putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade — a goal realized on July 20, 1969, as Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong left a dusty trail of footprints on the lunar surface.
Fast-forward to today, and the country's space ambitions have faded. President Barack Obama has called on NASA to develop "game-changing" technologies, but for now, at least, the dream of American manned spaceflight is grounded.
How did this happen? The Baker Institute Space Policy Program explains at two events this fall that analyze the rise and decline of America's space program. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:00 pm, George Washington University (GWU) professor emeritus John M. Logsdon examines "John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon" — a look at the heady early days of the Apollo program, and how the Kennedy administration charted the course for U.S. space policy.
Logsdon, founder of GWU's Space Policy Institute, will trace the evolution of Kennedy's thinking and policies on space travel, including his hope of collaborating, rather than competing, with the Soviet Union — a possibility that was abandoned after the president's assassination.
On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Mark Albrecht, a leading figure in the American space program for more than 20 years, discusses "Falling Back to Earth," his book about the decline of the aerospace industry. Albrecht argues that the end of the Cold War space race sped the demise of the aerospace enterprises that fueled it, and effectively ended large-scale government science initiatives. As executive secretary of the National Space Council, Albrecht was a principal space adviser to President George H.W. Bush; he was also president of Lockheed Martin's International Launch Services company, among other aerospace leadership positions. Full event details will be available soon.
"With the uncertainties facing human space flight today, I think it is of value to go back and look at the decisions that were made by John F. Kennedy that started this great adventure of human spaceflight," says George Abbey, the institute's Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy and former director of the Johnson Space Center. "It is equally of value to understand the changes that have occurred since that time, which were graphically demonstrated during the time Mr. Albrecht served as executive secretary of the space council under President George H.W. Bush. There are worthwhile lessons to be learned."
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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.