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Space Exploration Achievements and the Future
President Kennedy: What do you think of the general analysis of our problem?
James Webb: I think we’re in good shape in every way except in the political front which is partly exacerbated by the desire to cut the budget and the problem with the military. I think we’ve got a good program you’re going to be proud of and I think it’s going to generate the technology that is going to make a great difference in the future of this country, far beyond space. (break) This thing attracts the public more than you think. I’ve been in 17 states with high school students in places where you have had a whole high school full of people –
President Kennedy: What’s unfortunate would be, ah, as I say, maybe the Russians will have this thing but we don’t have anything coming up now for the next 14 months. So I’m going into the campaign to defend this program, we won’t have had anything for a year and a half. (break) If we’re cut by that amount to 5 billion, 150, we’re going to, say, slip, a year.
James Webb: We will slip at least a year, which means that if we run into any serious trouble we’re – we don’t want to be thinking about-
President Kennedy: If I get re-elected, I’m not – we’re not – go to the moon in my – in our period are we?
Webb: Ah, no, you’re not going.
President Kennedy: We’re not going…yeah.
Webb: You’ll fly by it probably.
President Kennedy: I’m not going personally, but it won’t be done while we’re-
Webb: No, no. We’ll have worked to fly by though while you’re President but it’s just going to take longer than that. This is a tough job, a real tough job. But I will tell you what will be accomplished while we’re President and it will be one of the most important things that’s been done in this nation. A basic need to use technology for total national power. That’s going to come out of this space program more than any single thing.
President Kennedy: What’s that again?
Webb: A basic ability in this nation to use science and very advanced technologies to increase national power – our economy all the way through.
President Kennedy: Do you think the lunar, the manned landing on the moon is a good idea?
Webb: Yes sir, I do.
President Kennedy: Why?
President Kennedy: Could you do the same with instruments much cheaper?
Webb: No sir, you can’t do the same. (break) The lunar landing gave us the impetus to build big boosters and to tailor them specifically for the purpose, therefore they’re going to succeed otherwise they would not have succeeded or been efficient. The second reason is that in understanding the forces of nature and applying them right here on earth and using them for national power, you’ve got to have, sometime, a proof of the theory of how the universe was formed and how it applies back on the scientific concepts. You’ve got to prove or disprove. The Moon is the first place you can do that. It would either fall hot or cold and it has different structure, in either case and you need to know that. (break) While you’re President, this is going to come true in this country. So you’re going to have both science and technology appreciating your leadership in this field. Without a doubt in my mind. And the young of course see this much better than in my generation. The high school seniors and the college freshman are 100% for man looking at three times what he’s never looked at before. He’s looking at the material of the earth, the characteristics of gravity and magnetism and he’s looked at life on earth. And he understands the Universe just looking at those three things. Alright, maybe he’s gonna have, material from the Moon and Mars; he’s going to have already a measurement from Venus about its gravity and its magnetic fields. And if we find some life out beyond Earth, these are going to be finite things in terms of the development of the human intellect. And I predict you are not going to be sorry, no Sir, that you did this.
JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
Columbia Point, Boston MA 02125
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