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Public Statements

Commemorating Neil Armstrong

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Brooks) for 5 minutes.

Mr. BROOKS. Mr. Speaker, I represent Alabama's Fifth Congressional District, home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, home to the Saturn V rocket that carried American astronauts to the Moon.

Today, the Fifth District's talented scientists, engineers, and others work tirelessly to develop the Space Launch System for manned space flight both to and beyond low Earth orbit.

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy challenged America to do the impossible, send an astronaut to the Moon and safely return him. As a young boy in the 1960s, I vividly remember the Earth tremble, dishes rattle, and windows pulsate as America tested our Saturn V rocket on nearby Redstone Arsenal. In 1969, America's hard work paid off.

I will never forget watching the grainy, black-and-white footage on TV as American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the lunar dust. The thrill of that moment, our pride in America, our awe of what Americans could do have belonged to all Americans ever since. Armstrong's walk on the Moon helped define America and changed world history as we left Earth behind and ventured into the mysteries of space.

Neil Armstrong was an accomplished aerospace engineer, Navy pilot, astronaut, and the first man to walk on the Moon. Neil Armstrong will be forever immortalized as a brave and great explorer.

Toward the end of his life, Neil Armstrong spoke frequently and passionately about the future of manned space flight. Neil Armstrong understood that American exceptionalism is in jeopardy and may be lost to future generations.

As a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I recently had the privilege to meet Neil Armstrong during a public hearing on NASA's Space Launch System, the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, and America's role in space. During that hearing, Neil Armstrong expressed concerns about the direction of America's space program.

Neil Armstrong testified, and I quote:

The past year has been frustrating to NASA observers as they tried to understand NASA's plans and progress. NASA leadership enthusiastically assured the American people that the agency was embarking on an exciting new age of discovery in the cosmos. But the realities of the termination of the shuttle program, the cancellation of existing rocket launcher and spacecraft programs, the layoffs of thousands of aerospace workers, and the outlook for American space activity throughout the next decade were difficult to reconcile with the agency assertions.

Neil Armstrong continued, and again I quote:

So, much has been accomplished. But NASA, hobbled by cumbrous limitations, has been unable to articulate a master plan that excites the imagination and provides a semblance of predictability to the aerospace industry.

Neil Armstrong concluded by testifying, and again I quote:

Predicting the future is inherently risky, but the proposed Space Launch System includes many proven and reliable components which suggest that its development could be relatively trouble free. If that proves to be so, it would bode well for exploration.

In the midst of America's current economic malaise and deficit-ridden Federal spending on programs that do nothing or little to advance technology or humanity's condition, I share Neil Armstrong's concern for the future of NASA and whether Washington has the inspirational leadership exhibited by President Kennedy in the 1960s, or ``the right stuff'' that is essential for space exploration.

Today, American astronauts hitch a ride from Russia. Oh, how far we have fallen. Quite frankly, America and the human condition beg for the White House leadership once shown by President Kennedy, but which now is sorely lacking.

Mr. Speaker, there is a whole universe out there waiting for us to explore. Just as America did in the 1960s, today's Americans can accomplish what is seemingly impossible. All America lacks is the vision needed to help us understand where we should go and the leadership needed to get us there.

Mr. Speaker, America will best honor the memory of Neil Armstrong and his achievements by striving for the American exceptionalism exemplified by Neil Armstrong in continuing his dream of manned space flight and exploration.

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