UPDATE: Sen. Reid Lauds JFK's Space Achievements as House RSC Calls for Cuts

UPDATE: Sen. Reid Lauds JFK's Space Achievements as House RSC Calls for Cuts

UPDATE: A link to a NASA photo of Bolden and Garver at the event has been added.

Jeff Foust over at Spacepolitics.com points out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration yesterday and had nice words to say about the space program. At the same time, the House Republican Study Committee issued its plan to cut $2.5 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years by holding agencies like NASA to previous years’ funding levels.

Reid’s comments are posted on his website, where he notes that Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin was in the audience. The portion about space activities is as follows:

“Before I talk about President Kennedy’s tremendous legacy in the area of space exploration and innovation, I want to acknowledge the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who is here today.

“When he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to touch the moon, our nation rejoiced not just because we were launching a new era of exploration and technology. We cheered for more than just a stunning success for science.

“When man first set foot on another world, we celebrated the fact that those first men were Americans.

“As Armstrong leaped off that ladder, I remember hearing Walter Cronkite take care to note that the astronaut was a 38-year-old American.’ Because he was an American – a boy scout from Ohio and a pilot in our Navy – we all took pride. America was moving mankind forward. We were leaders.

“The story of that journey did not begin when the Eagle landed. It began years before: in the imaginations of Americans everywhere, and in laboratories and hangars in Florida and Texas.

“But it took flight in this building, when President Kennedy asked Congress to commit to sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to Earth. And in a stadium in Houston where he told the world we were accepting this challenge precisely because it was daunting and difficult – because it was an opportunity we could not afford to put off until tomorrow.

“He was right – it would be hard. Not just the technology, but also the politics. Opponents called his vision a boondoggle’ and a science-fiction stunt.’ But President Kennedy knew from the start what was waiting for America in the stars.

“On his first day as president, he invited the crowd gathered here at the Capitol – and the millions who were watching and listening – to join him in exploring the worlds beyond ours and seizing the wonders of science.

“And throughout the brief time he was our nation’s leader, he insisted that our nation lead the sprint to conquer space – and that we finish that race first.

“On his last full day as president, as he dedicated a medical space research center in San Antonio, President Kennedy reaffirmed his commitment to corralling the full promise of the universe. I think the United States should be a leader,’ he said. America, he demanded, should be second to none.’

“In the first words of the inaugural address we celebrate today, Kennedy recalled the nation’s founding nearly two centuries earlier and observed, The world is very different now.’ Half a century later, the world is again very different.

“Solar energy is a reality in states like Nevada and across the country because of the science that started in space.

“The water we drink is cleaner. Our oceans are healthier. We diagnose cancer sooner. All because of the discoveries our space program has made possible.

“Our wounded warriors wear better and stronger artificial limbs. Citizens of the world are safer from land mines. Firefighters can better track forest fires, and are safer when they fight them. Airplanes fly smarter, and even golf balls fly farther. All because when many others pulled back and doubted, President Kennedy kept pushing forward – forward with faith.

“We’ve all seen the picture that captured Armstrong’s small step for man – the imprint of his American boot in the dust of the moon.

“But you don’t need to scale the heavens to know the meaning or feel the force of space and science in our lives. Look all around you. That is President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s footprint on our future.”

Foust says that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver also were at the speech. (UPDATE: NASA is distributing a photo of Bolden and Garver at the event together with members of the Kennedy family, astronaut Leland Melvin and former astronaut Scott Altman.)

Senator Reid’s enthusiasm for NASA must be welcome news to space advocates at a time when the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) is proposing that NASA and most other agencies be held to their FY2008 spending levels in the next Continuing Resolution (CR). That CR apparently will cover the rest of FY2011. The current CR expires on March 4 so Congress must pass another appropriations act before then or the government will have to shut down.

The RSC’s plan to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years calls for non-defense, non-homeland security, non-veterans agencies — a group that includes NASA — to be held at their FY2008 levels for FY2011, then drop to their FY2006 spending levels for the rest of the 10-year period. Rumors are that the proposal is not likely to be adopted, at least in its entirety. Some reports say that, in particular, efforts to protect NASA and a few other agencies are in the works.

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