Status Report

Remarks at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center, President John F. Kennedy, San Antonio, Texas, November 21, 1963

By SpaceRef Editor
November 21, 2003
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Secretary, Governor, Mr. Vice President, Senator, Members of the
Congress, members Of the military, ladies and gentlemen:

For more than 3 years I have spoken about the New Frontier. This is not
a partisan term, and it is not the exclusive property of Republicans or
Democrats. It refers, instead, to this Nation’s place in history, to the
fact that we do stand on the edge of a great new era, filled with both
crisis and opportunity, an era to be characterized by achievement and by
challenge. It is an era which calls for action and for the best efforts
of all those who would test the unknown and the uncertain in every phase
of human endeavor. It is a time for pathfinders and pioneers.

I have
come to Texas today to salute an outstanding group of pioneers, the men
who man the Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine and the
Aerospace Medical Center. It is fitting that San Antonio should be the
site of this center and this school as we gather to dedicate this
complex of buildings. For this city has long been the home of the
pioneers in the air. It was here that Sidney Brooks, whose memory we
honor today, was born and raised. It was here that Charles Lindbergh and
Claire Chennault, and a host of others, who, in World War I and World
War II and Korea, and even today have helped demonstrate American
mastery of the skies, trained at Kelly Field and Randolph Field, which
form a major part of aviation history. And in the new frontier of outer
space, while headlines may be made by others in other places, history is
being made every day by the men and women of the Aerospace Medical
Center, without whom there could be no history.

Americans make the mistake of assuming that space research has no values
here on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the
wartime development of radar gave us the transistor, and all that it
made possible, so research in space medicine holds the promise of
substantial benefit for those of us who are earthbound. For our effort
in space is not as some have suggested, a competitor for the natural
resources that we need to develop the earth. It is a working partner and
a coproducer of these resources. And nothing makes this clearer than the
fact that medicine in space is going to make our lives healthier and
happier here on earth.

I give
you three examples: first, medical space research may open up new
understanding of man’s relation to his environment. Examinations of the
astronaut’s physical, and mental, and emotional reactions can teach us
more about the differences between normal and abnormal, about the causes
and effects of disorientation, about changes in metabolism which could
result in extending the life span. When you study the effects on our
astronauts of exhaust gases which can contaminate their environment, and
you seek ways to alter these gases so as to reduce their toxicity, you
are working on problems similar to those in our great urban centers
which themselves are being corrupted by gases and which must be clear.

second, medical space research may revolutionize the technology and the
techniques of modern medicine. Whatever new devices are created, for
example, to monitor our astronauts, to measure their heart activity,
their breathing, their brain waves, their eye motion, at great distances
and under difficult conditions, will also represent a major advance in
general medical instrumentation. Heart patients may even be able to wear
a light monitor which will sound a warning if their activity exceeds
certain limits. An instrument recently developed to record automatically
the impact of acceleration upon an astronaut’s eyes will also be of help
to small children who are suffering miserably from eye defects, but are
unable to describe their impairment. And also by the use of instruments
similar to those used in Project Mercury, this Nation’s private as well
as public nursing services are being improved, enabling one nurse now to
give more critically ill patients greater attention than they ever could
in the past.

third, medical space research may lead to new safeguards against hazards
common to many environments. Specifically, our astronauts will need
fundamentally new devices to protect them from the ill effects of
radiation which can have a profound influence upon medicine and man’s
relations to our present environment.

at this center we have the laboratories, the talent, the resources to
give new impetus to vital research in the life centers. I am not
suggesting that the entire space program is justified alone by what is
done in medicine. The space program stands on its own as a contribution
to national strength. And last Saturday at Cape Canaveral I saw our new
Saturn C-1 rocket booster, which, with its payload, when it rises in
December of this year, will be, for the first time, the largest booster
in the world, carrying into space the largest payload that any country
in the world has ever sent into space.

think the United States should be a leader. A country as rich and
powerful as this which bears so many burdens and responsibilities, which
has so many opportunities, should be second to none. And in December,
while I do not regard our mastery of space as anywhere near complete,
while I recognize that there are still areas where we are behind–at
least in one area, the size of the booster–this year I hope the United
States will be ahead. And I am for it. We have a long way to go. Many
weeks and months and years of long, tedious work lie ahead. There will
be setbacks and frustrations and disappointments. There will be, as
there always are, pressures in this country to do less in this area as
in so many others, and temptations to do something else that is perhaps
easier. But this research here must go on. This space effort must go on.
The conquest of space must and will go ahead. That much we know. That
much we can say with confidence and conviction.

O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he
and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when
they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to
try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off
their hats and tossed them over the wall–and then they had no choice
but to follow them.

Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice
but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be
overcome. Whatever the hazards, they must be guarded against. With the
vital help of this Aerospace Medical Center, with the help of all those
who labor in the space endeavor, with the help and support of all
Americans, we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we
shall then explore the wonders on the other side.


SpaceRef staff editor.