January Thought Leader Series – ISS, past and future

State of the Union address on Jan. 25, 1984 given by President Ronald Reagan.

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President should “from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

The reason we don’t have transcripts of Abraham Lincoln or Millard Fillmore giving thundering speeches to Congress is that for most of the first 150 years of our republic, the President submitted a written State of the Union to Congress. Woodrow Wilson began the speech in person for the first time since Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice more than a century previous. After fits and starts for the next 20 years, the State of the Union became a powerful speech in a sitting President’s arsenal with Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

Why is Space Center Houston’s blog giving an impromptu lesson on civics? Our next Thought Leader Series was inspired by a speech.

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, 1984, President Ronald Reagan directed NASA to build an international space station within a decade. By 2000, ISS has its first permanent residents and has allowed human to live continuously in space ever since. ISS may have missed Reagan’s deadline, but it clearly fulfilled the vision he laid out nearly two decade before.

The U.S. space program swelled to passionate speeches over the years. John Kennedy’s Moon speech at Rice University may have launched the Apollo program. Richard Nixon proposed a reusable spacecraft that became the Space Shuttle Program in a State of the Union speech of his own. Reagan was just carrying on a proud tradition in 1984.

His words can still inspire today. In the speech, he discussed why we reach for the stars and why a permanent space station made sense.

Our progress in space—taking giant steps for all mankind—is a tribute to American teamwork and excellence. Our finest minds in government, industry, and academia have all pulled together. And we can be proud to say: We are first; we are the best; and we are so because we’re free.

America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade.

A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, in metals, and in lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space. We want our friends to help us meet these challenges and share in their benefits. NASA will invite other countries to participate so we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals.

Today, ISS stands as a National Laboratory, where astronauts routinely conduct exciting and groundbreaking experiments. In the past two years, one has made heart cells beat in microgravity, one has grown edible lettuce and one has studied how the immune system changes while in orbit.

Join us at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 for the next installment of our ongoing Thought Leader Series to discuss the incredible achievements and continuing mission of ISS. NASA ISS program manager Kirk Shireman and Boeing ISS program manager Mark Mulqueen will discuss the beginnings of ISS, its current activities and future plans.

This free event has limited seating and requires a separate ticket which must be presented at the door for entry.

Get your free ticket!

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