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.