John F. Kennedy, Part 2

John F. Kennedy, Part 2

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VISIONARIES OF THE OPEN FRONTIER

John F. Kennedy, Part 2

Architect of Apollo

By Frank White

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 1995, All Rights Reserved

This message is the 20th in a series of Space Frontier Foundation essays designed to inform the Internet public about the incredible possibilities awaiting us in space and the fifth in Frank White’s series on the Visionaries Of The Open Frontier.

Over thirty years after his untimely death, we must acknowledge, with the brilliance born of hindsight, that everything said about President Kennedy’s contribution to our movement is at least partially true. The Apollo program was a detour and a benchmark, a distraction and a triumph. When Apollo 8 turned its cameras back and showed us the whole Earth, we knew, without a doubt, that we were all riding through the universe on a beautiful blue and white spaceship. When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, we knew, for the first time ever, what it felt like to be a multi-planet species. When Gene Cernan, the last human to walk on the moon, climbed into the lunar module and said good-bye, some of us felt that something unique was coming to an end. Thus, Apollo inspired us and left us feeling let down. Perhaps most of all, it filled us with a longing for what might have been — if we had simply continued.

At a recent Space Frontier Foundation meeting, Rick Tumlinson dubbed us “Apollo’s Children,” a phrase which also gave the event its name. In a way, he’s right. For many of us who came of age in the 1960’s, it was President Kennedy and Apollo that gave us the vision we still carry, no matter how it has altered and transformed itself with time.

Kennedy said that space was a sea on which we must sail, and he was right; because we can’t stay in home port (on home planet) forever. He said we would do it not because it was easy, but because it was hard, and he was right, because that is the true spirit of the frontier. He also said that the price of freedom is high, but Americans have always been willing to pay it, and he was right, because ensuring human freedom is what opening the frontier is all about, and the price will, eventually, be paid.

In the end, opening the frontier will not be the story of any one person’s contribution, but of the small and large contributions of thousands, even millions of people. Each of our stories will probably contain many of the ambiguities we find in the Kennedy legacy. With the brilliance born of hindsight, what will our descendants say of us?

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