Farewell to an American Hero

Earlier today a grateful nation bid farewell to an American hero. Neil Armstrong was revered not only for being the first human to set foot on the moon, he was also a war hero and throughout his life he seized every opportunity to serve his country and all humankind. Space exploration, as Neil knew so well, is about all of us – from the astronauts in flight to the engineers, construction workers and support teams on the ground to the millions of people around the world eager to see what lies beyond the next horizon. The words on the plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 11 read: “We came in peace for all mankind.”

Today, especially, it is important to remember that NASA’s vision is to reach for new heights and explore the unknown, so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind. It’s about making life better here on Earth and improving the human condition. Neil noted that geographic features and national boundaries disappear as you get farther from the Earth. You can see how fragile our planet is, and how small we are by the scale of the universe. From space you can see that we really are all in this together.

As Administrator Bolden said during today’s memorial service, “Neil Armstrong left more than footprints and a flag on the moon.”  He laid the foundation for even greater successes and paved the way for future American explorers to be the first to step foot on Mars or another distant planet.

We are planning a return flight around the Moon in preparation for a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid in 2025, and on to Mars in the 2030s. Our current plan, which we’ve detailed to Congress and the public, calls for an uncrewed flight around the Moon in 2017, and a crewed flight in 2021.

Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon. But today, in a classroom somewhere in America, is a child who will one day walk on Mars. And each step she takes will benefit all humankind.

Happy Labor Day

The first Monday in September is a holiday for many of us. It’s the beginning of the school year and the time when offices switch from casual summer dress back to suits and ties. We’ve taken our summer vacations and are ready to settle in for the fall.

But it’s also a day to thank an American worker. Our great country exists because of the people who get out of bed every day to build bridges and roads, run the checkout stand in the grocery store, patrol our streets, and keep planes and trains running on time and safely. And many protections we take for granted – weekends, 40-hour work week, paid holidays like Labor Day – came from the struggle and sacrifice of the American worker.

Labor Day is national tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is appropriate today that we honor the workers who contribute so much to the strength and prosperity of our country. NASA is a great example of what the American worker accomplishes in this country everyday. Over 18,000 civil servants and tens of thousands of contractors make it possible for this nation to dream big and achieve amazing things.

NASA’s vision is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind. But we could not do any of that without the infrastructure created by the American worker. We could not build Mars rovers and launch rockets without the workers in the big factories and small independent businesses. We could not design the life support systems that keep us alive in orbit or on another planet without the teachers who help create an educated workforce. We could not create ways to make planes safer and more efficient without the innovators in the high tech sector.

To every American worker, whether you have the day off or are working hard, thank you.