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‘We elect to visit the moon…’ again: NASA marks 60th anniversary of JFK speech

Separated by 60 years, President John F. Kennedy (left) and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson reaffirmed

Separated by 60 years, President John F. Kennedy (left) and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson reaffirmed “we elect to go directly to the moon” in Rice Stadium at Rice University in Houston on Sept. 12, 1962 and 2022, respectively.(Image credit: NASA/NASA TV)

As NASA once more prepares to create sail “on probably the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure” which humanity has ever embarked, the area agency’s leaders returned to the website where 60 years back, to your day, President John F. Kennedy reconfirmed that “we elect to go directly to the moon.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined other program officials at Rice University in Houston on Monday (Sept. 12) to mark the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech (opens in new tab), which rallied the country to land astronauts on the moon. Kennedy first set the target during an address to Congress in-may 1961 and, with the speech at Rice, it resulted in the six Apollo lunar landing missions between 1969 and 1972.

“Throughout America’s story, you can find defining days. Days when minds change, hearts fill and imaginations soar. Days when visions transformed the trajectory of the American story, that is our story, and something of these days happened 60 years back,” said Nelson, addressing an audience of invited guests, NASA alumni and a large number of Houston-area students at Rice Stadium. “On that day 60 years back, seven famous words you’ve heard repeated carried across this stadium and in the united states: We choose to visit the moon.”

“The area program [was] propelled to the forefront of culture and consciousness. It galvanized a historic effort that people are actually the stewards of,” he said.

Related: NASA’s Apollo moon missions in pictures

While looking back, Nelson also drew parallels to the challenges NASA now faces since it nears the launch of the Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed test flight that’s designed to clear just how for sending a fresh generation of astronauts to circle the moon and land at the lunar south pole (opens in new tab).

“Now the Artemis generation is approximately to leave a significant mark,” said Nelson. “This generation everyone, students from around America, students across the world this generation will elect to head to Mars, and that journey begins at this time with humanity’s go back to the moon.”

“Obviously, we’d all hoped that Artemis 1 would already be along the way (opens in new tab) to the moon,” he said. “However the NASA team has been working night and day, and their resolve and perseverance are unrivaled. I’ve full faith in this team and the mission. We shall launch whenever we are prepared, but mark my words: We have been going.”

Joining Nelson for the commemoration was NASA associate administrator Bob Cabana, Johnson Space Center director Vanessa Wyche, astronauts Shannon Walker and Jean-Loup Chrtien, Rice University president Reggie DesRoches and Houston’s youth poet laureate Avalon Hogans. David Alexander, the director of the Rice Space Institute, served because the master of ceremonies.

Related: President John F. Kennedy’s NASA legacy

Elected officials, NASA alumni and students from the Houston area attended the 60-year celebration of Pres. John F. Kennedy's

Elected officials, NASA alumni and students from the Houston area attended the 60-year celebration of Pres. John F. Kennedy’s “We Elect to Go” speech at Rice Stadium, Sept. 12, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

“Today is really a day to think about how far we’ve come also to reaffirm our commitment to the exploration of space for the advantage of all,” said Kjell Lindgren, who along with his Expedition 67 crewmates joined the celebration by way of a video sent down from the International Space Station. “The Apollo program was an awe-inspiring exemplory case of what we have been capable of whenever we commit our talents and resources to a complex goal. We have been proud to keep that bold tradition today. “

Congress members Eddie Bernice Johnson, Brian Babin, Al Green, Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Fletcher, along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also attended and spoke at the function. Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz delivered recorded remarks by video.

Before and through Monday’s event, NASA and several its industry partners create exhibits at Rice to showcase hawaii of space exploration six decades after JFK’s speech. On the list of companies that took part were Ad Astra Rocket, Axiom Space, Boeing, Collins Aerospace, Intuitive Machines and Jacobs.

NASA artwork marking the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's

NASA artwork marking the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “We Elect to Go” speech, which he delivered at Rice University in Houston on Sept. 12, 1962. (Image credit: NASA)

Along with spurring on the area race with the former Soviet Union, JFK’s speech prompted Rice University to create a separate space science department, the initial in virtually any academic institution.

“With seven words, ‘we elect to visit the moon,’ President Kennedy changed the span of history and cemented Rice University’s invest the lore of America’s space program,” said DesRoches. “By enough time Apollo 11 landed, several dozen graduate students and countless undergraduates had helped build instruments that made historic breakthroughs and stick to the top of moon today.”

Rice University’s football team, the Owls, commemorated the anniversary with a particular uniform at its opening home game on Saturday. Created together with NASA and Adidas, the uniform featured excerpts of JFK’s “We Elect to Go” speech on its shoulder and a custom Rice space logo that represented the flight path from Earth to space. (Rice won the overall game, beating McNeese State 52-10.)

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Robert Pearlman is really a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community specialized in space history with a specific concentrate on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman can be a contributing writer for and co-author of “Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Employed in Space published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the area tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the annals Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of FOR SEVERAL Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted in to the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.

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