Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Following an Inspection of NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility Near New Orleans.

December 12, 1967

Governor McKeithen, Mr. Mayor, Director Webb, Captain Schirra and Mr. Cunningham, Dr. von Braun, the able leaders of Chrysler and Boeing and the working people in this group, ladies and gentlemen:

Governor McKeithen and I had our hearts swell with pride as we rode through this great operation and saw the technical facilities and development that you men and women have produced.

Senators Ellender, Long, and Hale Boggs--who gave my daughter a wedding party the other evening--Congressman Hebert, and others have insisted I come to Louisiana to see what you had here. But little did I realize how mammoth it was and how much you have done and are doing.

Governor McKeithen, being a farm boy from out in the sticks, looked up to me and said, "Mr. President, this place would really hold a lot of hay, wouldn't it?"

I said, "Governor, I don't know how much hay it will hold. It has been a long time since I bought hay. But I do think it would have been big enough to invite all of my friends to the wedding." I don't think that we could buy them champagne if we got this many there. But it is big enough--as Louisiana is big enough to do whatever needs to be done.

It was 64 years ago this week that Bishop Wright of the United Brethren Church in Dayton, Ohio, received a telegram. And that telegram was from his two sons who were vacationing on the seashore.

That telegram began like this and I am going to quote just a little bit of it.

"Success four flights Thursday morning. All against 21-mile wind. Started from level with engine power alone. Average speed through air, 31 miles; longest, 57 seconds." The next line said: "Inform press."

The figures were a little off. The wind was 27 miles, not 21. The longest flight time was 59 seconds, not 57. But this was blamed on the telegraph operator--I have been blaming some other things on telegraph operators, Governor, lately. But this telegraph operator said he couldn't read Orville Wright's handwriting.

But the fact remains that these two young bicycle mechanics from Ohio had designed and had flown the first practical airplane ever to fly in the world. They had put wings on man, and that was--just think--only 64 years ago.

Standing here, in this great mammoth center, it is hard to believe that we have come so far and we have come so fast--from the Wright brothers on the sands of Jim Webb's native North Carolina to this amazing space complex here in the freedom-loving State of Louisiana.

What a leap in less than one human lifetime. From a voyage of 125 feet to a trip to the moon. And we are still soaring. We have started a journey from which there can be and there will be no turning back.

We have come a long way--and much of that journey has been made in the last 10 years. Ten years ago, we could put scarcely 100 pounds into orbit about the earth. Today we can orbit 285,000 pounds. That is progress. That is something I am proud of and that is something you are proud of. That is something we are doing together.

In the 9 years since I first introduced in the United States Senate the Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, we have seen the power of our rocket engines increase 50 times-from 150,000 to 7,500,000 pounds of thrust in the engines that you build here.

--We have satellites watching the world's weather.

--We have communications satellites linking all the continents into a community of nations. --We have mapped the moon already.

--We have flown our astronauts in orbit for as long as 14 days. They have begun to learn how men can live and work in space.

--We have perfected our technology. Thirteen Saturn vehicles have been launched without a single failure. You hear about the bad things; now let's talk about the good things.

On behalf of this very proud Nation, and as your President, I have come here to say on behalf of the American people that we thank you good people of New Orleans and Louisiana for helping to bring these miracles about. We thank you for your skill, your loyalty, and your dedication to your country that gives such blessings to all America.

But you have done more than pave man's road to the stars. Much of what you do stays here at home to enrich our lives, improve our economy, and add to our strength.

Your Apollo program will send men to the moon. And it will also help our industry, our universities, and our Nation to develop the knowledge that we need--that we are going to have to have--if we survive in the 20th century.

We are just beginning, really, to grasp the responsibilities and the opportunities of space. We are just beginning to realize its meaning for the needs here on earth.

I was talking to Governor McKeithen riding through a moment ago. We have invested some $20 billion in the past 10 years. But the value to our Nation of this $20 billion and this successful space program may be millions of times greater than the investment we made. Who knows now, when we have only lifted the first veil from the mysterious and from the miraculous?

But think of the cost to us if we were not in space--if we failed to support a program that is worthy of the wealthiest nation in history. What would that say about America's vested system of government? What would that say about our leadership in the world if we brought up the tail end?

Think of the cost to America, compounded again and again, if we had abandoned the determination to master technology--when it is so vital, not only to our prosperity but it is vital to our very national security.

It is because of you that we have not failed. It is because of you that the national effort that we launched in 1961--it is because of this investment and our foresight and sacrifices-that Americans can today watch the moon rise and the stars move through the heavens without great fear.

Not long ago we had to stand by and watch other countries accomplish what we could not accomplish. I will never forget the days of Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, and the real concern. You talk about concerned people; they were some concerned during that period.

We were the most scientifically advanced nation on the face of the earth but we did not launch man's first earth satellite.

We were backward because we did not choose to adventure. We did not choose to have vision. We did not choose to look forward. Now let us remember that our future achievements--or our future failures--will depend on how far ahead we choose to look and how far ahead we choose to think.

If we think second, and if we look third, then we are going to wind up not being first.

I hope you hear me--that man will make space his domain is inevitable. Whether America will lead mankind to that destiny does not depend on your ability, but it depends on our vision, our willingness, and our national will and determination.

This great pilgrimage of man--like all his adventures---costs money. Christopher Columbus spent more years trying to find money for his voyage than he spent discovering the New World. In the modern world, we can no longer depend on a Queen Isabella pawning her jewels. We have to depend on taxes. We must have the revenues that only Congress can grant through taxes.

So we will advance in space to the extent that our people and their representatives are prepared for us to advance and are prepared to pay the cost of that advance. We may not always proceed at the pace we desire. I regret--I deeply regret--that there have been reductions and there will be more. There have been interruptions, and I hope that we have had all we can take. But I do have faith and confidence in the American people.

We are all the descendants of those voyagers who found and settled the New World.

We Americans are the first to really enter and the first to understand the 20th century.

Today we stand here at the gateway to another and a more glorious New World.

We will not surrender our station. We will not abandon our dream. We will never evacuate the frontiers of space to any other nation.

We just must be the space pioneers who lead the way to the stars.

To Captain Schirra and Mr. Cunningham, and their associates, particularly to Director Jim Webb and Dr. von Braun, and to all of you in the great State of Louisiana, who have worked your hearts out to make this a success, to the great managers of this operation, Governor McKeithen, I say on behalf of not just the State of Louisiana, but the States of this Nation, all 50 of them--we are very proud of our space program.

We are very proud of our astronauts and the industrial genius that supports them. We are very proud of the good people of Louisiana for what they have built and for the record that they will establish.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:55 p.m. at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, a division of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Ala. In his opening words he referred to John J. McKeithen, Governor of Louisiana, Victor H. Schiro, Mayor of New Orleans, James E. Webb, National Aeronautics and Space Administrator, Capt. Walter M. Schlrra, Jr., and Walter Cunningham, designated Apollo astronauts, and Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. Early in his remarks the President referred to Senator Allen I. Ellentier, Senator Russell B. Long, Representative Hale Boggs, and Representative F. Edward Hebert, all of Louisiana.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Following an Inspection of NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility Near New Orleans. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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