Washington DC – Today, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, participated in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, honoring four space pioneers who today received the Congressional Gold Medal. A video of Chairman Hall’s remarks can be found HERE
Text of Chairman Hall’s prepared remarks is below:
Mr. Speaker, thank you for scheduling today’s Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, honoring John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.
These men hardly need any introduction. All Americans, young and old, take great pride in our nation’s manned space flight program, in the men and women who have flown as astronauts, and the engineers, scientists, and technicians who provided the U.S. with the technologies that enabled safe travel into space.
Walk up to virtually anyone on the street and they’ll be able to tell you the names of our first President, our current President, the first American to orbit the Earth, and the first Americans to land on the Moon.
2009 marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, and next February 12, 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic ride into space on board Friendship 7. Both of these missions are remarkable for the bravery, if not audacity, of these astronauts to fly spacecraft on first-of-a-kind missions. John Glenn’s flight in the Mercury capsule was the first U.S. orbital manned mission. Apollo 11 was the first to land men on the Moon and return. And in both cases, their missions were the first to fully exercise the many systems and components that made up their rockets and capsules. The degree of difficulty was high; the risk of failure, arguably, was higher still. And yet these men were willing to embrace that peril.
It bears mentioning too, that much of the hardware in our early generation space systems, including Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, were designed not with computers but with slide rules. And the computers onboard the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules were very rudimentary by today’s standards. In a hearing before the House Science Committee, Neil Armstrong made this point by holding up his cell-phone and testifying that it had far more capability than the computer that guided his Apollo 11 capsule.
It is impossible to fully grasp the discoveries and technologies that have sprung from our nation’s space flight program, and the innovations and products they have spawned. So too, it is challenging to measure the effect our space program has had on America’s place in the community of nations, and our international prestige. But I can tell you that we wouldn’t be discussing these outcomes today were it not for John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, and their wives and families, whose support and sacrifices enabled the success of these missions.
Congratulations to all of you. Your exploits have become the integral to our nation’s history, and its success, and for that I sincerely thank you.”