Richard Nixon photo

Remarks on Presenting the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy to the Apollo 8 Astronauts.

March 05, 1969

MR. MURRAY. On behalf of our National Space Club, Mr. President, we take pride and pleasure to have you present this award to Captain James Lovell.

The Goddard Trophy is something that is endowed by our Club through Mrs. Goddard, presented annually here at the White House and also at the Goddard dinner.

I would like to have the citation read if we may.

THE PRESIDENT. I think we would be interested, for the purpose of our visitors here, in hearing something about the Goddard award, how it came about. I know that it will be covered at the dinner tonight, but I think it would be well to hear it at this ceremony.

MR. MURRAY. The Goddard award came about in 1958. It was felt that for the father of American rocketry that a bust should be designed to endow what he has done for rocketry and astronautics in this country.

Mrs. Goddard may have a few words she'd like to say about this, also.

THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Goddard, can you tell us something about your husband and this award?

MRS. GODDARD. My husband was dedicated from his 17th birthday to the idea of exploring space. I have been indeed blessed to have lived so long as to see this kind of thing in his honor. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Captain Lovell, I am very honored to present this award to you; honored because of what the award represents and honored because it allows me again to recognize the exploit of our astronauts who took the first historic voyage around the moon.

I am going to let you hold it for a moment. You are stronger than I am. Our spacemen are very strong.

So much has been said about the epic journey into space that I hesitated at first as to whether I should read the citation, but it is such an eloquent citation I think all of us would like to hear it:

"In an epic journey man for the first time in December 1968 soared out of the earth's gravitational field, flew unerringly into a close orbit of the moon, then back to a precise and safe landing. This historic voyage performed at times before the largest television audience in history, and open for coverage by the world's press, reflects the utmost credit on the United States Space Program, Congress, NASA, and thousands of companies and employees in industry representing all these, the courageous, competent crew of Apollo 8

If I could say a word about Mr. Goddard, who is not here, I think that one of the most impressive memories I have with regard to the dinner that we had with the Apollo crew and their wives at the White House was the statement that was made by a member of the crew to the effect that they had been honored all over the country, but that they realized that they were speaking not just for themselves, but for 400,000 people who at one time or another had played a part in the space program.

They pointed out that there were two million parts in the Apollo spacecraft and of course, we could therefore see how much this was a venture that was symbolized, of course, by the courage of the men who participated in it, but would not have been possible without the support of thousands of others, and also it would not have been possible--and, Mrs. Goddard, this is in relation to your husband--had it not been for the men and women of the past, those who dreamed of what could happen in going to space, those who made the early experiments and who made it possible for us to build on what they have done.

I think perhaps the most appropriate comment I could make with regard to your husband, Mrs. Goddard, is to quote one of my favorite quotations: The reason that we can see further than the ancients is that we stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us.

So the reason that Captain Lovell and his colleagues could see from the moon the earth is that they were able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who had gone before them.

Mr. Goddard was one of the giants. You stood on his shoulders and that is why this award, I think, of all the awards you have received, Captain Lovell, may have a special meaning.

Would you like to say a word?

CAPTAIN LOVELL. Yes, sir. On behalf of Frank Borman, Bill Anders and myself, let me just say that we are very proud and very humble to be here today. It is of special significance for me to be here today, because Dr. Goddard has given me the inspiration to follow the field which I pursued.

I first became interested in rockets around 1943, and during my days as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, I wrote my term paper on rockets and the development of the liquid fuel rocket engine, and my wife had very nicely given me a book called "Rocket Development" which was a compilation of the works Dr. Robert Goddard had done in his experiments out in New Mexico.

So it is a very significant day for me, and again, may I say thank you for the award on behalf of Frank and Bill.

THE PRESIDENT. Now, Dr. Paine, would you step forward, please? I have an announcement to make.

There has been a great deal of interest as to who would be the new head of NASA. I will admit right now that we have searched the country to find a man who could take this program now and give it the leadership that it needs, as we move from one phase to another. This is an exciting period, and it requires the new leadership that a new man can provide.

But after searching the whole country for somebody, perhaps outside the program, we found, as is often the case, that the best man in the country was in the program, and that is why I am announcing today that Dr. Paine, who is now the Acting Director of NASA, will be appointed the Director of NASA.

I know that all of these spacemen will make a talk if they are asked, so go ahead.

DR. PAINE. Mr. President, I am very pleased and very touched by your confidence in me. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience to me to be associated with the fine people in the Space Agency, and I certainly look forward with a great deal of enthusiasm to continuing this association.

I believe in the space program. I believe in this country, and I think that this country should indeed be the preeminent nation in space-faring, and with your help, Mr. President, I am sure that we can go ahead in the next 4 and then 8 years to really see that the NASA program in the second decade of space will even outperform the accomplishments in the first.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Note: The ceremony began at 10:40 a.m. in the Fish Room at the White House. Those taking part included James M. Murray, President of the National Space Club, which sponsored the trophy; Mrs. Robert H. Goddard; Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr., USN; and Dr. Thomas O. Paine, Acting Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

White House press releases issued on the same day give biographical information on Dr. Paine and background information on the Apollo 8 flight and the three astronauts.

The trophy is given each year to the person or persons selected for great achievement in advancing spaceflight programs contributing to United States leadership in astronautics.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Presenting the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy to the Apollo 8 Astronauts. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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