Earlier this week, we were all captivated by an incredible sight.
One man, wearing a space suit, dropped out of a capsule 24 miles off the face of the planet.
With a few words… he stepped out into space and hurtled towards earth…
In a free-fall, he moved faster than the speed of sound.
At one point, he was spinning out of control…
If he had continued spinning, he would have surely died.
But with all of us watching, he was able to stabilize himself…
And with slightly more than 4 minutes into his fall… he pulled the chute… and gently drifted to the earth.
It was an amazing sight. A world record free fall.
Who was this great discoverer of the heavens? An astronaut from NASA?
No. He was a skydiver… a basic stuntman. He wasn’t even an American.
Who sponsored this test of the human capacity for endurance? The US military?
No. It was the maker of a high-caffeine energy drink.
Makes you wonder. If a drink company can come up with this kind of mind-bending achievement, what can NASA do with all its scientists and resources?
Turns out, all they know how to do is turn out the lights.
Earlier this summer, NASA sent the space shuttle Endeavour on a cross-country trip to California.
They flew it over the entire country…
And gave us all a beautiful and awesome and mighty demonstration of mankind’s power of discovery.
Swooping low over the Golden Gate.
My son spoke about it just this weekend when he saw a 747 at the airport.
He said that’s like the plane that flies the space shuttle.
But the space shuttle wasn’t on its way to new adventures.
It was on its way to its grave.
We were watching the funeral parade for America’s manned spaceflight program.
And instead of holding our hands over our hearts… a tear in our eye… we acted like it was a great show.
I’m not sure what scientific purpose was served by Felix Baumgartner’s 24 mile drop from space. I’m not sure what we learned… or whether we learned anything…
But at least someone is trying.
At least someone is doing audacious things.
Scaling the walls of the heavens… firing through new barriers… “breaking the surly bonds of earth.”
The shuttle used to be our vehicle of discovery. It used to be the best example of America’s leadership in space.
It was American run.
Now, We’ll need to hitch a ride with the Russians.
Or the Chinese.
If they’ll let us on.
We were the pioneers.
And now, we’re putting our spacecraft
And giving up the role of leadership to others.
Because, we’re told, we can’t afford it any longer.
This is an abdication of leadership.
And it’s a lie. If a small beverage company can get a man 24 miles up from the surface of the earth… and have him drop to the earth like a stone safely…
We can be part of mankind’s ongoing exploration of the heavens.
Surely we can do more and do better than we do today.
John Kennedy once worked at this desk and challenged the nation’s top scientists to put a man on the moon… and return him home safely… in one decade’s time.
The genius of Kennedy’s charge was that it wasn’t just big… it wasn’t just bold…
It represented a choice. We could have chosen to do less… be less… and settle for lesser things. But Kennedy understood that Americans don’t settle.
We set big goals precisely because we believe we should achieve them.
True, we don’t always succeed.
But the men who have sat at this desk… worked in this room… they didn’t get elected to play small ball…
They were trusted to put America on a path of greatness… a path of exploration… a path of discovery.
And when a president limits our ambition… actually puts an end to the single greatest act of discovery we can undertake… it is not just a violation of the mission of this office…
It’s a violation of the principles that have made America great.
It speaks volumes that children around the country were captivated by the man who fell from space.
They wanted to learn more about this man… and how he did it.
Children are still dreaming… are still curious… are still hoping that life will be filled with new horizons.
Let’s not disappoint them any more. Let’s bring back our own sense of the possible.
Thanks for watching. May God bless you, and may God bless the Republic.