NASA’s administrator likens new space exploration program to the importance of the Pilgrims

NASA’s administrator, Michael Griffin, compares the importance of future exploration by the United States to the importance of the Pilgrims exploring North America hundreds of years ago. Griffin stated:

If humans are indeed going to go to Mars, if we’re going to go beyond, we have to learn how to live on other planetary surfaces, to use what we find there and bend it to our will, just as the Pilgrims did when they came to what is now New England – where half of them died during that first frigid winter in 1620. There was a reason their celebration was called “Thanksgiving.”

International Space Station

The Pilgrims were only a few thousand miles from home, and they were accomplished farmers and artisans. And yet, when they came to an unfamiliar land, they didn’t know how to survive in its harsh environment. They didn’t know what food would grow and what wouldn’t. They didn’t know what they could eat and what they couldn’t.

The Pilgrims had to learn to survive in a strange new place across a vast ocean. If we are to become a spacefaring nation, the next generation of explorers is going to have to learn how to survive in other forbidding, faraway places across the vastness of space. The moon is a crucially important stepping stone along that path – an alien world, yet one that is only a three-day journey from Earth.

Using the space station and building an outpost on the moon to prepare for the trip to Mars are critical milestones in America’s quest to become a truly spacefaring nation. I think that we should want that. I want that. I want it for the American people, for my grandchildren, for my great-grandchildren.

Throughout history, the great nations have been the ones at the forefront of the frontiers of their time. Britain became great in the 17th century through its exploration and mastery of the seas. America’s greatness in the 20th century stemmed largely from its mastery of the air. For the next generations, the frontier will be space.

Other countries will explore the cosmos, whether the United States does or not. And those will be Earth’s great nations in the years and centuries to come. I believe America should look to its future – and consider what that future will look like if we choose not to be a spacefaring nation.

Image and quote source: NASA

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~ by tellinghistory on November 13, 2007.

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