Rice University: Rice to celebrate JFK’s moon speech


Rice University will celebrate the 60-year anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice Stadium that launched the race to the moon.

At the same time, NASA’s next human-capable spacecraft is scheduled to be orbiting the moon after a successful launch of the Artemis 1 mission.

Three days of free events and exhibitions open to the public will take place Sept. 10-12, beginning with a mass “spelfie” from space and capped by an event at the stadium on the anniversary.

The main event on Monday, Sept. 12, will feature a reading from the president’s speech, a message from astronauts on board the International Space Station and talks by NASA administrator and astronaut Bill Nelson, Rice President Reginald DesRoches, Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, Rice alumna and astronaut Shannon Walker, French spationaut Jean-Loup Chrétien and elected officials, and a message from JFK’s daughter, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

The Marching Owl Band will perform, and Houston Youth Poet Laureate and Rice student Avalon Hogans will read her poem “Skyline of Mine.” Thousands of Houston Independent School District students are expected to attend the event as well.

The “spelfie” will take place at Rice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, beginning at 11 a.m., weather permitting, with a satellite flyover scheduled for 12:06 p.m. The Rice community is invited to help form a giant “60” on the field to be photographed by a passing Airbus Pléiades satellite.

“The space selfie opportunity is a fun add-on to our weekend of events and helps our community celebrate this historic anniversary in a unique way,” said David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute.

Kennedy’s speech at Rice is widely acknowledged as the event that kicked off an intense era of exploration, as well as competition with the Soviet Union to get to the moon first.

The speech also prompted Rice to form a dedicated space science department, the first in any academic institution and an initiative that continues to pay dividends at Rice and NASA to this day.

NASA plans to begin the next phase of its return to the moon shortly before the Rice event, with launch of the unmanned Artemis 1 mission scheduled for Aug. 29.

Artemis 1 will test both the Space Launch System, a rocket larger than the Saturn V that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon, and an unmanned Orion capsule that will spend several weeks orbiting the moon before returning to Earth in early October.

These will feature equipment and information on NASA missions including Artemis, the commercial crew program, the upcoming Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, an extravehicular mobility unit, the lunar-orbiting Gateway station, the ISS, Orion, the Orion Crew Survival System, the Valkyrie robot and the VIPER rover.

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