Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Specifically, yesterday marked 50 years since President Eisenhower came to Huntsville to dedicate the new center, which brought elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency based at Redstone Arsenal under the auspices of the then-two-year-old National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The center’s first director was the ABMA’s German genius, Wernher von Braun.
In his comments on that day, Eisenhower recognized the ABMA’s work on the Redstone and Jupiter rockets and Explorer 1 satellite, and the already ongoing work on the Saturn architecture. (“No doubt this mighty rocket system makes its presence known loudly — possibly too loudly — in Huntsville.”)
Eisenhower went on to say:
Marvel as we will these technical achievements, we must not overlook this truth:
All that we have already accomplished, and all in the future that we shall achieve, is the outgrowth not of a soulless, barren technology, nor of a grasping state imperialism. Rather, it is the product of unrestrained human talent and energy restlessly probing for the betterment of humanity. We are propelled in these efforts by ingenuity and industry — by courage to overcome disappointment and failure — by free-ranging imagination — by insistence upon excellence — with none of this imposed by fiat, none of it ordered by a domineering bureaucracy. In this fact is proof once again that hard work, toughness of spirit, and self-reliant enterprise are not mere catchwords of an era dead and gone. They remain the imperatives for the fulfillment of America’s dream.
Not pushbuttons nor electronic devices, therefore, but superlative human qualities have brought success and fame to this place.
There are far more famous words that the agency has been charged with over the decades, but we would do well not to forget these that Eisenhower shared with this center. I hope that, fifty years later, we continue to live up to them. I feel like we do. I hope that I continue to live up to them.
Yesterday was a proud day for me. As Marshall marked 50 years of existence, I have been a tiny part of the Marshall team for eight, about a sixth of the time it’s been around. A minority, to be sure, but a measurable minority. And that’s a huge honor and privilege for me, to have worked at this storied institution for so long and to have seen so much of its history. Marshall continues to do amazing things, and his poised to do unprecedented things again. And I get to watch from the front row, and chronicle those things for those who will continue that work in years to come.
Like I said, an honor.
The picture above was taken to celebrate the occasion. Can you find me?