|The Enterprise Mission|
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, before a joint session of Congress on May 27, 1961, challenged Americans to make the great leap for the Moon with these memorable words:
"...Now is the time to take longer strides -- time for a great new American Enterprise -- time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth..."
The President was announcing the beginning of the Apollo Program, the all-out effort to place Americans "where no one had gone before" ...on the surface of the Moon:
"...I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth... No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish..."
John Kennedy's extraordinary challenge was successfully accomplished July 20, 1969 -- when Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin finally set foot upon the lunar surface at Tranquility Base ...less than 8 years following a young President's "ringing call to arms." But fifteen years after that unique accomplishment, a faltering interest in the space program by the press and a striking lack of democratic involvement by the American people called for something new...
Across the Summer of 1976 -- the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States -- a widening circle of space supporters (organized by Richard C. Hoagland and a small group of associates, including White House consultant, Jerome Glenn) produced in three short months over half a million letters to the President (according to the Washington Post) -- on the subject of NASA's newest "wonder" following Apollo, the "space shuttle."
This overwhelming citizen outpouring, coupled with a "White House Briefing Paper" prepared by Hoagland and his colleagues specifically for the President, petitioned Gerald Ford to follow a naval tradition going back at least two hundred years... the "naming of the first new ship-of-the-line, 'Enterprise.'" The research, and the surprising public response to the idea, ultimately convinced the President to intervene directly against the expressed wishes of his own space agency...
Thus, on September 8, 1976, complete with a Marine Corp band playing the familiar theme, and the creator of the famous television series in the audience, NASA reluctantly... grudgingly... rolled out the first of its new shuttles. Except--
After President Ford pulled rank on behalf of the true "owners" of the space program, "NASA's shuttle" was no longer "their's" (if it ever was...); it truly became "ours"--
In keeping with John Kennedy's own characterization of the beginnings of the space age ..."a great American enterprise"... that ultimately took all of us -- if ever so briefly -- to the Moon.
Jon Eberhart, writing in Science News (September 11, 1979) would later note:
"It is just possible... that one of the huge vehicle's more important contributions to the space program was reflected at the rollout by the name printed on its side in stern sans-serif type: ENTERPRISE. The point is that a whole lot of people asked something of the space program -- and got it. The operative difference between Trekkies (sic) and others interested in space seems only to be that Trekkies know that it can pay to stand up and be counted [emphasis added]."
Space was supposed to be democratized, both technologically and politically, on that September afternoon... the grass-roots persuasion of a President and the successful naming of the ENTERPRISE promising far more than it could instantly deliver on the Bicentennial:
A "Second Age of Space."
Yet, unknown to all of us in the Fall of 1976, an unmanned Viking spacecraft only days before... 1000 miles above a lonely Martian desert, had twice photographed a "curiosity" on Mars... an enigmatic "face."
20 years later... a full generation after the "Enterprise" was launched and the "Face on Mars" was found... when the real reason for Apollo now is known...
The real Enterprise Mission has begun.
Welcome to the dawning of the Second Age...
The Enterprise Mission
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