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Rice Space Institute


Origins of Rice Space Science

Presentation by Prof. Dick Wolf

Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 mission commander, with the
Suprathermal Ion detector taken at Oceanus Procellarum,
the largest dark plain on the face of the moon (Nov., 1969).

The Rice/NASA Connection

Address at Rice University on the National Space Front by John F. Kennedy
September 12, 1962

Within months of his January 1961 inauguration, John F. Kenney issued his famous challenge to the nation’s scientific community: land a man on the moon by decade’s end. That challenge would be met in 1969 with “one giant leap for mankind.”

That speech predicted that Rice would contribute significantly to the revitalized U.S. space effort. Indeed, in the years ahead the university established the country’s first space science department in 1963 and opened its Space Science and Technology building in 1966. A sizeable number of NASA scientists and engineers, particularly at the Johnson Space Center, have come from Rice. Rice scientists helped develop the space helmets worn on the first moon landing. To date, fourteen astronauts are Rice University graduates, including Peggy Whitson ’85 (Ph.D.), who served as the first female commander of the International Space Station.

Original memo from NASA Administrator James Webb to President Kennedy recommending Houston as the location of the Manned Spacecraft Center (now JSC).

John F. Kennedy Space Effort Speech at Rice University records, 1962-1964, Rice University Archives, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.