The 50th Anniversay of JFK’s Moon Speech

Well wouldn’t you know it? It’s been only a day since a somber anniversary came and went, and already another one is upon us. Yes, it was 50 years ago today that John F. Kennedy, then-president of the United States, made his famous Moon Speech. Of the many speeches that were issued during the height of the Cold War and the Space Race, this one stands out in people’s minds as one of the most inspiring and iconic.

Though Kennedy did not live to see the fruition of the space program he helped spearhead, his words encapsulated the drive and determination that made the Appollo Moon Landing possible. Much like Neil Armstrong’s “One Small Step For Man” speech, this speech is one that continues to inspire, regardless of how much time has passed.

The full transcript appears below:

President Pitzer, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Congressman Thomas, Senator Wiley, and Congressman Miller, Mr. Webb, Mr. Bell, scientists, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief.

I am delighted to be here, and I’m particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.

We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation¹s own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.

No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man¹s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward–and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

In the last 24 hours we have seen facilities now being created for the greatest and most complex exploration in man’s history. We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn, generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators on the floor. We have seen the site where the F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile, assembled in a new building to be built at Cape Canaveral as tall as a 48 story structure, as wide as a city block, and as long as two lengths of this field.

Within these last 19 months at least 45 satellites have circled the earth. Some 40 of them were “made in the United States of America” and they were far more sophisticated and supplied far more knowledge to the people of the world than those of the Soviet Union.

The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this stadium between the the 40-yard lines.

Transit satellites are helping our ships at sea to steer a safer course. Tiros satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes and storms, and will do the same for forest fires and icebergs.

We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.

To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.

The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains.

And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority–even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.

I’m the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. [laughter]

However, I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.

I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Thank you.

Hey, and is it turns out, this is my 500th post! I’m honored that this personal milestone coincided with an anniversary of such significance! If only Neil were still around, he would certainly have something to say about this momentous occasion. RIP JFK, and you too Neil. And here’s to the dream you both made a reality!

Transformers (Cont’d)

(Continued…)

3. Stupid Comic Relief:
Not long ago, I thought George Lucas was the authority when it came to using stupid characters in a movie, ones which were intended for comic relief, but were really just annoying and oftentimes racist. Then Bay came along not once, not twice, but thrice with his own take on that idea! In all three Transformers movies, it seemed that the only point of having black characters was to add some sass and punchy dialogue. Take for example the fat, hacker dude in the first one (Anthony Anderson*), the fat, whiney special ops dude in the third one, the “Twins” in the second, or the street-talking “Jazz” (“whaddut bitches?”) from the first, who was also the only one to die! In most cases, these caricatures bordered on racism, or at least, bad taste. But when it came to the “Twins” – those flappy-eared, gold-toothed, ebonics talking, non-reading robots – it was not only blatantly racist, but incedibly stupid! Really, the only strong black character in this entire franchise was Epps (Tyrese Gibson), but even he was constantly playing second fiddle to Lennox, the white special ops dude played by Josh Duhamel.

(*Anthony Anderson, from Harold and Kumar fame: “Pooky, we gotta burn this muthaf*cka down!”)

Then there were Sam’s parents. In all three movies, they are annoying, too-much-information spouting, no fashion-sense having, clueless morons who are constantly getting in the way. In the first one, this was semi-tolerable, just some passing talk about masturbation and the usual “parents are insufferable” stuff. But the scene in movie two where they are bringing him to college and the mom gets high on some pot brownies? How stupid was that? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they are then captured by the Decepticons, thus becoming a total liability as well. By movie three, they are such incessant nags with the worst fashion sense that you get the feeling they are retired, eighty, and partly-senile (they’re even driving a massive Winnebago!) And aside from just popping in and being a total bother, they serve no other purpose. Yep, in movie three, they don’t even have the good sense to get kidnapped, but that was probably for the best!

And then there was John Turturro, a usually sublime actor reduced to the role of the Sector 7 agent, who’s purpose it seemed was to be awkward, inject some comic relief, and advance the action a little. He kind of peaked in the second movie, what with that whole “I’m under the machine’s scrotum” thing. Seriously, Transformer balls?! John Malcovich who they brought in for the third movie was similarly awful, a solid actor from such classics as Of Mice and Men, In the Line of Fire and Being John Malcovich brought in to plays an oddball eccentric who insists on color-coding everything on his office floor, boxes with a Transformer and then falls to the ground declaring he’s ticklish, and stares luridly at Sam’s girlfriend! Not funny! Dumb!

The same is true of Rainn Wilson (the creepy professor in #2), Alan Tudyk (Turturro’s fey, German bodygaurd in #3), Ramon Rodriguez (Sam’s cowardly, hacker roommate in #2), Frances McDormund (the CIA director-lady in #3), and Ken Jeong (office weirdo in #3). In each case, we see otherwise well-respected and talented actorw/actresses reduced to the most low-brow of antics in order to provide cheap laughs. Again, in the first movie, it was tolerable. The second time around, these antics were so awash in crappy writing that it kind of went unnoticed. But by movie three, I just couldn’t believe it anymore. In fact, it got so over the top by movie three that I had to wonder what kind of man Bay really is. Does HE think creepy weirdos who get in people’s faces, annoy the hell out of them and act so dumb you want take a monkey wrench to their faces are funny? Is HE that kind of person? Megan Fox would seem to think so, but she’s aint exactly the authority on sane behavior herself!

Above all, it seems like every single secondary character has no purpose in these movies aside from providing cheap laughs. Well, that and advancing the plot by increments, but always with an unhealthy dose of stupid antics! Who finds this funny? Seriously, who?

4. Women as Objects:
Speaking of Megan Fox, she did one thing which I respect the hell out of, and that was tell Bay where to go! Shortly after she quit the franchise, Fox went on record as saying the main reason she left was because she was sick of being treated like an object by her former director. This was by no means her only complaint about the man, nor his about her, but she had a valid point. Just look at how Bay positioned Fox in every single shot of movies one and two! When she’s not spread out on the back of a motorbike or reclining over something, she’s running around in tiny jean shorts and a tank top.

Once she left, look who Bay decided to replace her with… a freaking lingerie model! Yep, rather than go with an actress, Bay decided to enlist Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Fox’s replacement. Fox calls him an awkward sexist schmuck and he goes and does this. Way to prove people wrong, Bay! In addition to having zero acting experience, her range consisted of smiling seductively and staring vacantly, even when things are exploding around her. In every shot, she looks like she’s modeling, pushing out her breasts or puckering her big, luscious lips. That might work wonders on the runway or in commercials, but in a movie, people are expected to talk, interact, and show some emotion.

Oh, and remember that awful scene where her evil boss is talking about cars and the female form? The whole time, the camera is checking her out while she’s stands idly by, breasts out, back arched, arms behind her like she’s a mannequin. At no point in the movie is she wearing street clothes or sensible shoes, just dresses and high heels. She provides no real impetus to the movie, other than being a damsel in distress and providing sex appeal. But of course, that’s why Bay went with her, isn’t it? Whereas Megan clearly thought of herself as an actress and demanded more respect, Rosie is a model and clearly has no problem being moved around like a doll or told to pose seductively. It’s what models do!

But what this really seems to demonstrate is the attitude behind Bay’s approach. Just like his repeated use of racial caricatures, he seems committed to portraying women in the most stereotypical light possible. When they are not pretty little dolls constantly bending over things or running around in skimpy outfits, they’re damsels in distress, being captured so the hero can save them. The only exception is when they are vile temptresses. Remember robot-girl Alice from Fallen? It was the dumbest thing in the world that she turned out to be a robot, but still, her purpose was clear. A pretty thing with pouty lips and partially exposed breasts, constantly trying to screw Sam so he’d divulge secrets! That bit about the robot tongue only added insult to injury!

5. Raping History:
As a historian, it always bothers me when crappy movie makers try to rip off history in order to lend a sense of credibility to their movies. Just look at Roland Emmerich or Jerry Bruckheimer. The former used Roswell to make Independence Day, the American Revolution to make the Patriot, and the mysteries of the Mayan Calendar to make 2012. Meanwhile, Bruckheimer (who was the executive producer for several of Bay’s movies) has been at least partially responsible for the rape of Arthurian legend, 19th century piracy, and just about every conspiracy theory known to man in order to make The Rock, Pirates of the Carribean, and National Treasure.

But with this franchise, Bay had em all beat! In the first movie, he claimed that the Hoover Dam was some sort of secret base. Why? Because it was built during FDR’s presidency, which was when Sector 7 was formed and Megatron found. In movie two, ancient history becomes the target as Bay claims that the Pyramid of Giza and the ancient city of Petra were both built in order to hide some ancient Transformer artifacts. Then, hang onto your hat, in movie 3, he claims that the ENTIRE SPACE RACE was part of some alien, robot-related conspiracy. And the fact that we’ve never been back since the 70’s was attributed to some cover up by the Decepticon-collaborators. Yep, not budgets, not the general thaw in tensions between East and West. No, no, it was a big cover up! And let’s not forget Chernobyl. It was already established that the Appollo program led the US to discover the wrecked Ark and that Sputnik did something similar for the Russians. But they take that a step further by saying that the nuclear accident at Chernobyl was in fact Russian scientists testing captured Decepticon technology. Only fifteen minutes into the movie and already I wanted to vomit!

6. Big Changes:
Just me just say off the bat that I am abundantly aware of how geeky this is going to sound! And truth be told, it always annoys me when people say how changes were made from the original like its automatically a bad thing. But in this case, I think they would be right. As someone who grew up with the original series, I did happen to notice that certain things had been changed or discarded from the original series that had actually lent it some depth and credibility. I mention this for those reasons, not because I feel like someone raped my childhood by deviated from the original script (George Lucas!) Okay, disclaimer signed, bring on the geekdom!

The All Spark: In the original series, it was never entirely clear where the Transformers had come from. They’re were references here and there to something called the Matrix, but it was never really made clear exactly what this was. But as the series got older, the concept seemed to mature (much like its fanbase). I never really did watch any of the spin offs after the original series, but by the time Beast Wars came out, nostalgia got the better of me and I watched a few episodes. Interestingly enough, by this time, the focus seemed to have shifted to dealing with more adult themes, like why the Transformers transform in the first place, the origins of Cybertron, and the purpose of their existence.

All of this seemed to point to some genuine signs of quality. There were also clear examples of Biblical allegories and parallels with other creation myths which was pretty cool. For example, in the course of Beast Wars, it was explained that the Matrix was a sentient machine that lay at the heart of Cybertron. It was also established that it was responsible for creating the earliest robot civilizations and had given rise to both the Autobots and the Decepticons. In addition, it was said that every robot had a spark, an indefinable essence that gave them life. Like a soul, it was indestructible and rejoined the Matrix once the robot died. Though the Autobots were around for several millions years, they really knew nothing about the Matrix or why it had chosen to create them in the first place. They also had no idea why it had chosen to create evil in the form of the Decepticons.

In short, the origins of the Transformers was something shrouded in mystery, subject to legend and myth. This was something that was missing from the movies. At no point in the original was there something known as an All Spark. And while the Matrix served the same basic purpose (i.e. giving the robots an origins story), we never really got a close look at it or learned much about it. Nor, for that matter, was there a race on to claim it because it really had no role in their war. In short, it was inaccessible, beyond the control of anyone, and who’s purpose, creators and motives were completely unknown. It’s obvious why Bay would choose to change all that; it simplified the plot, cut down on explanations and exposition, and provided an motive for why the bots came to Earth in the first place. Which brings me to change number 2:

The Ark: In movie three, we are told that the Ark was a ship carrying a weapon and was bound for Earth because Sentinel was trying to save Cybertron with it (in truth, he was defecting, but that’s neither here nor there). But in the original, the Ark served a much more inspired purpose. Essentially, it was a survivor ship that the Autobots built after they realized that the war on Cybertron was lost. It’s purpose was to carry the Autobots to some distant solar system where they would survive and rebuild. Yep, another Biblical allegory! However, the Decepticons intercepted and boarded it, and the resulting fight caused the ship to crash-land on Earth, circa several million years ago. In short, the Transformers came to Earth by accident, not in search of something.

Again, this was an example of real quality in the original. And again, Bay changed and simplified it. Not only was the Ark robbed of its significance in movie 3, it was also used for the purposes of giving the Transformers yet another thing to scramble for, just like in movies 1 and 2! So not only did he tamper with an original idea, he did so for the purposes of unoriginality! Which relates directly to the entire premise of the second movie – you know, the whole sun-destroyer inside the Pyramid thing. In short, none of it happened in the original franchise, but I’m sure everybody knew that already. The idea of Transformers hiding a massive sun destroyer inside the Pyramid of Giza was so dumb, audiences had to know that only Bay could be responsible.

Whoa! That was a long review! But this is a big franchise. Not in terms of depth or credibility, but definitely in terms of screen time and hype. And really, did it deserve either? As I’m sure I wrote earlier, I’m not one of these people who would say Bay is a criminal based on how he made changes from the original franchise. I WOULD say he’s a criminal based on what he’s done to our collective intellect; namely, insulted it! And if you look at Bay’s resume, this was just one entry in a long list of things he rehashed, rebooted, or reimagined: The Island, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In short, he’s done virtually nothing in his entire career that could be called original!

Ultimately, the Transformers Trilogy failed to be the big re-imagining and the pop-culture phenomena that many hoped it would be. The main reason for this, aside from the weak writing, poor acting and the directorial style of Michael Bay, was the motives that went into making it. Like all of Bay’s projects, the goal here was obvious: spend a shitload of money on some movies who’s sole purpose was to make an even bigger shitload of money. He’s good at that, no doubt about it! When all is said and done, Bay excels at giving the audience what they want. At least in the short-run. The problem is, once its over, we all feel guilty for wasting the time and money and subjecting ourselves to such insulting crap. In a way, its kind of getting waisted and having a one-night stand. Sure, it seems like fun at the time, but there’s always the hangover and walk of shame to worry about the next day!

Transformers:
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Direction: 7/10
Total: 6.5/10

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Plot: 1/10
Direction: 5/10
Total:
3/10

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Plot: 5/10
Direction: 5/10
Total: 5.5/10