Mr. Speaker, the year was nineteen-sixty-nine. Everyone around the country was glued to their TVs, waiting for video footage of one of the most incredible achievements in human history to hit their screens: a man on the moon. As a young adult in 1969, I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and felt a swell of pride when the first word spoken on the moon was ‘‘Houston.’’ I am still proud to share a hometown with NASA. The journey to a moon landing included years of research, tests, and failures. These trials culminated into something that would have seemed unfathomable to anyone just a few years before.

A man had piloted and landed a craft on the moon, gotten out, walked around, taken pictures, and returned home safely. The Space Race was a defining point of the Cold War, and perhaps the most exciting. The Cold War brought fear to the United States, including the looming threat of nuclear war. But the United States was not discouraged, and perservered to innovation with the American values of hard work and dedication. In the midst of fear, the invention of space travel created hope for the future. The Space Race gained as much attention as the Arms Race, and President Kennedy’s fierce speeches reminded the American public that this endeavor was just as important in the war against the Soviet Union. Hundreds of the brightest minds in America were called upon not to prepare for war, but to become the new Columbus’ and Magellans as explorers of this ‘‘new and final frontier.’’

The Space Program quickly began to receive the same treatment as the Nuclear Arms Programs, with millions of dollars flowing into numerous top secret projects. The newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, was faced with one of the toughest jobs on the planet. How were they going to find the men smart enough to construct a device that could not only go to the moon but land for an extended duration and reenter Earth’s atmosphere? Not to mention that a few years before a single computer had to have an entire room to be housed in, and they had to find the men brave (or foolish) enough to fly such a contraption to its harsh and unforgiving destination.

In the beginning, figuring out how we were going to put a man on the moon was not easy. Hundreds of men from all over the country were scratching their heads wondering how they were going to have enough fuel to get them there and back again with all the necessary equipment. It was John Houbolt, an engineer from Iowa who had an ingenious idea that, at the time, seemed ludicrous. Houbolt believed that more fuel could be conserved if the main craft stayed in orbit around the moon and much smaller lander would detach land on the moon, and then reattach with the main craft when it was time to depart. But this idea stretched so far from what NASA’s current team was already working on that many dismissed it. They would have to completely redesign the rocket, not to mention design this new ‘‘lander’’ and figure out how it would fit into the rocket with the astronauts. And they would have to finance even more training for the astronauts who would have to learn to detach and place the lander on the moon, and then relaunch and dock again with the orbiting rocket. But it didn’t take long for Houbolt to make his point. He insisted that this was the best way to accomplish a moon mission, and after months of hard work and redesign after redesign, the lunar lander was born.

The iconic ‘‘spider’’ shaped lander is now exhibited in museums around the country, and without it the Apollo missions would have never left the launch pad. But to pilot these machines of genius, some extraordinarily brave men were needed to explore the final frontier. NASA searched for some of the most gifted pilots and found one in the young Edward White from San Antonio. He was picked to man one of the early Gemini missions, Gemini 4, which only orbited the earth before coming back and acted as a stepping stone before the Apollo missions. During this mission, White became the first American to walk in space, exiting the vehicle and looking down at the Earth below. He was so exhilarated by the experience that he refused to come back into the vehicle at first and had to be given a direct order before he would comply. ‘‘I’m coming back in . . .’’ he told Houston, ‘‘and it’s the saddest moment of my life.’’ Unfortunately, the story of how we made it to the moon is not without tragedies.

After proving himself in the Gemini missions, Edward White was selected for the first Apollo mission. It was mere weeks before Apollo I was set to launch when the three-man crew was scheduled for a ‘‘plugs out the test,’’ meaning they would go through the takeoff procedure without leaving the launch pad. Suddenly, a fire broke out in the main cabin. Pure oxygen quickly filled the tiny cabin, fueling the rapidly spreading fire, and ultimately killing all three men aboard. While such tragedies set us back in our pursuit of the moon, we have never surrendered to a challenge. The loss of these three brave men only caused NASA to crack down harder on the designs of the vessels that would take men to space, making them more efficient and safer than ever before.

As technology evolves, space travel has become safer, however, disaster still strikes. We still remember the brave men and women aboard the Challenger and the Columbia during the shuttle missions. Portraits of these brave men and women adorn the halls of Congress, displayed for all visitors to see. Their sacrifice has only strengthened our resolve to reach for the stars. Failure is simply not an option. But apart from the men that space exploration has inspired or the technology that these programs created to make the world a better place, the space race had a profound effect on the nation. There has been nothing quite like it since. John F. Kennedy, whether or not you liked the man or his policy, definitely had a passion for the space program, and he brought that passion to each and every one of his public speeches.

It was this passion, along with the dedication of all the members involved with the project, that was passed along to the American public. Whether we were watching with baited breath from our televisions at home, engineering the rocket or flying the spacecraft, the United States was in this together. It was this devotion that united the American people like had never before, except for during war time. We were no longer Democrats or Republicans, we were Americans, cheering on and supporting the gallant men and women who were setting foot into this brave new world. No longer would bloodshed be required to bring this country together. The space race proved that Americans could come together not only in tragedies but triumphs; triumphs that would shape the world as we know it. Mr. Speaker, the space race as we knew it then will never return with the same vengeance.

Technology progresses in different, and much faster, ways than it did during the height of the Cold War. But our space quest inspired millions of people around the globe, and that dream of future space exploration is still alive. I hope that while this governing body must face many serious and somber issues to keep this country safe and prosperous, that such a time will not fade from our memories, and that the American space dream will never fade away. Its unfortunate that we’ve seen the demise of NASA, a self-inflicted wound by our own Federal Government. In the interest of national security, we must continue to support the American space dream. And that’s just the way it is.

We still remember the brave men and women aboard the Challenger and the Columbia during the shuttle missions. Portraits of these brave men and women adorn the halls of Congress, displayed for all visitors to see. Their sacrifice has only strengthened our resolve to reach for the stars. Failure is simply not an option. But apart from the men that space exploration has inspired or the technology that these programs created to make the world a better place, the space race had a profound effect on the nation. There has been nothing quite like it since. John F. Kennedy, whether or not you liked the man or his policy, definitely had a passion for the space program, and he brought that passion to each and every one of his public speeches. It was this passion, along with the dedication of all the members involved with the project, that was passed along to the American public. Whether we were watching with baited breath from our televisions at home, engineering the rocket or flying the spacecraft, the United States was in this together.

It was this devotion that united the American people like had never before, except for during war time. We were no longer Democrats or Republicans, we were Americans, cheering on and supporting the gallant men and women who were setting foot into this brave new world. No longer would bloodshed be required to bring this country together. The space race proved that Americans could come together not only in tragedies but triumphs; triumphs that would shape the world as we know it. Mr. Speaker, the space race as we knew it then will never return with the same vengeance.

Technology progresses in different, and much faster, ways than it did during the height of the Cold War. But our space quest inspired millions of people around the globe, and that dream of future space exploration is still alive. I hope that while this governing body must face many serious and somber issues to keep this country safe and prosperous, that such a time will not fade from our memories, and that the American space dream will never fade away. Its unfortunate that we’ve seen the demise of NASA, a self-inflicted wound by our own Federal Government. In the interest of national security, we must continue to support the American space dream.

And that’s just the way it is.