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JFK’s Moonshot Mandate Explored By Experts, Legends at Nov. 6 Event

Florida Tech, JFK Library Foundation, Universities Space Research Association Partner for Free Symposium

MELBOURNE, FLA. — In 1961, John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to send men to the moon and return them safely. Two years later, on Nov. 16, 1963, he visited NASA’s “new Merritt Island Launch area” to check on the progress of his bold mandate, speaking with James Webb and Wernher von Braun, touring launch facilities and viewing a submarine-launched missile.

Kennedy did not live to see that his mission was accomplished in July 1969.

Yet his recognition of the importance of exploration beyond Earth and his understanding of how doing so could unify a nation and supercharge technological discovery continues to thrive a half-century later.

But what is the historical and cultural significance of President Kennedy’s vision? How have various agents, from universities to politics, shifted and shaped that vision to reflect our modern times? And what does the future hold, as commercial space companies rise and lunar and Martian colonization inch closer to reality?

A gathering of experts from across the country will tackle those questions and more at JFK’s Moonshot Mandate: Then, Now and Destiny, a free, half-day symposium Nov. 6 at Florida Tech’s Gleason Performing Arts Center. 

Presented by Florida Tech, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), the event will feature three panel discussions examining the past, present and future of space exploration in the shadow of Apollo 11, and a special screening of the Florida Today Apollo 11 documentary, People of Apollo.

Doors open at 7:30 a.m., with continental breakfast offered until the symposium begins with opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. Panel discussions start at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. The event resumes at 1:30 p.m. with the documentary presentation and concludes for the day at 2:30 p.m.

Special guests include Apollo 15 astronaut and command module pilot Al Worden, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Executive Director Steven Rothstein and USRA President and CEO Jeffrey Isaacson.

Former CNN space correspondent John Zarrella will serve as master of ceremonies.

Panelists scheduled to participate are:

  • Andrew Aldrin, director of Florida Tech’s Aldrin Space Institute
  • Saida Caballero-Nieves, assistant professor, Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences, Florida Tech
  • Alyssa Carson, astrobiology student at Florida Tech and the youngest person to graduate from the Advanced Space Academy
  • Suzanne ‘Suzy’ Cunningham, strategy and integration manager for communication and public engagement, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Scott Henderson, vice president, test and flight operations, Florida site director, Blue Origin
  • Jeffrey Isaacson, president and CEO, USRA
  • David Kring, principal scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute at USRA
  • Dwayne McCay, president,Florida Tech
  • Shawn Quinn, director of engineering, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Steven Rothstein, executive director, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
  • Winston Scott, former shuttle astronaut, NASA
  • Bob Sieck, former director of shuttle processing at Kennedy Space Center
  • Cynthia Simmons, deputy director of planning and business management operations, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Lee Solid, retired senior executive, Rockwell Space Operations
  • Al Worden, former Apollo astronaut, NASA

Following the panel discussions, guests are invited to view a presentation of People of Apollo, the special Apollo 11 50th anniversary documentary from Florida Today that looks at the Apollo program through the eyes of people who worked on the program. Tim Walters, who produced, wrote and edited the film, will offer a brief introduction prior to the screening.

Attendees are asked to RSVP by Oct. 30 by visiting www.floridatech.edu/apollo50th, where additional details, including an event agenda and bios on all panelists, are also available.

EDITORS/PRODUCERS/REPORTERS: To secure access, please confirm attendance with Florida Tech Director of Media Communications Adam Lowenstein at adam@fit.edu or 321-674-8964.

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