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Donna E.
Democrat MD 4

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  • Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range Designation Act

    by Representative Donna F. Edwards

    Posted on 2013-02-25

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    EDWARDS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, H.R. 667 has been offered to redesignate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center. The bill would also rename the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.

    While I plan to support this bill, it is a bit unfortunate since it honors one aerospace pioneer by stripping away the honor previously extended to another worthy pioneer, Hugh L. Dryden.

    Dr. Hugh Latimer Dryden was director of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA, from 1947 until the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration where he was named deputy administrator.

    President Johnson said of his passing that it was: A reason for national sorrow. No soldier ever performed his duty with more bravery, and no statesman ever charted new courses with more dedication than Hugh Dryden.

    Whenever the first American spaceman sets foot on the Moon or finds a new trail to a new star, he will know that Hugh Dryden was one of those who give him knowledge and illumination.

    NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, was named in his honor on March 26, 1976. The center is NASA's premier site for aeronautical flight research. At the dedication ceremony, then-NASA Administrator, James Fletcher, stated: It is most fitting that this Flight Research Center, with its unique and highly specialized capability for solving aerospace problems, should memorialize the genius of Hugh Dryden.

    Neil Armstrong joined NACA in 1955 following his service as a naval aviator. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, NASA.

    As a research pilot, he flew over 200 different models of aircraft, such as the storied X-15. He transferred to astronaut status in 1962 and was command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission on which he performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space. As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong successfully led the first manned lunar landing. His service and his famous words, ``that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,'' inspired millions around the world, including this Congresswoman sitting in front of a black and white television.

    Mr. Speaker, it's clear that Mr. Armstrong never sought the honor of having a NASA center named after him while alive. In truth, his name will live on throughout history whether or not we ever name anything for him. I doubt, in this era of declining funding for NASA, that either Neil Armstrong or Hugh Dryden would want a single precious dollar to be spent on a cosmetic facility name change when that money could be spent instead on fulfilling NASA's mission to reach for the stars. And, in fact, when Neil Armstrong appeared before our Science Committee, he almost said exactly that.

    While I expect that we will approve this legislation today, I hope that all the Members who vote to honor Neil Armstrong today will remember his testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee during which he said: The key to the success of American investment in space exploration is a clearly articulated plan and strategy supported by the administration and the Congress and implemented with all the consistency that the vagaries of the budget will allow. Such a program will motivate the young toward excellence, support a vital industry and earn the respect of the world.

    I hope we can honor his words. But his words were foreshadowed by Hugh Dryden in a letter he wrote to Senator Robert Kerr, chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences in 1961: The development of space science and technologies strengthen our whole industrial base and serves as insurance against technological obsolescence. Education will profit. The discipline of cooperation in a great national effort may well be the instrument of great social gain.

    If the same Members who vote to rename these two NASA facilities today will commit to working in the coming months and years for those exploration goals to which both men devoted their lives, then we will have truly honored both of their legacies in an enduring and a meaningful way.

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