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Apollo 11

July 20, 2009

Forty years ago, the world watched in awe as two Americans set foot for the first time on an orbiting sphere other than our own planet. The moon landing marked the beginning of the end of audacious era of exploration.

Looking back on the accomplishments of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and their NASA colleagues, we should see exemplified not just courage, charisma, and technological derring-do, but evidence of what people can do when presented with a challenge that requires intense collaboration and persistence in the face of enormous odds. The race to put men on the moon was borne of competition with the Soviet Union but accomplished only through the concerted efforts of thousands of men and women to collaborate in an enormously complex and challenging undertaking that aimed to achieve the most uncertain and indeed unlikely of outcomes.

Today, our nation finds itself at a crossroads. Collaboration has given way to competition. Risk aversion is displacing strategic opportunism. And faith in in a better future has been eroded by avarice, which has led to waning trust in our neighbors, our institutions, our government, and in some cases even ourselves.

The new frontier for Americans no longer lies at the distant edges of our solar system, our galaxy, or even the universe as we know it. It lies within us individually and collectively. The journey upon which we must now embark is one of exploring what it means to be human, to live in community, and make futures for ourselves and others that are indeed better than the ones we inherit.

Space exploration provided us the first glimpses of what we could become and how isolated and fragile our world really is. A renewed commitment to what made this enterprise such a great expression of the American spirit is both the challenge and opportunity that lies before us today.

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