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National Security Space: Then.Now.Tomorrow
by General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command
Colorado Springs CO (SPX) May 20, 2014

General William L. Shelton.

Well that was far too generous of an introduction. I didn't even recognize any of that myself. It is great to be back at the symposium this year and thank you all for attending this morning. It's an honor to stand before this particular audience and it's a remarkable collection of space experts, including many friends, and by the way at this point in my life I refuse to call you old friends.

Special thanks to the Space Foundation too for 30 years of just wonderful symposiums here, it is just fantastic how this keeps growing every year and it seems like we say this every year, that it keeps getting bigger and better. Because it does, it just keeps getting bigger and better every year. And what a fantastic job the Space Foundation does in educating America about space and promoting space activity and the space industry.

As Elliot said this is my last time to be able to speak to you in uniform, so I hope you don't mind if I choose this opportunity to wax a little nostalgic and talk to you about some memories over the last 38 years of service in this business, and I also wanted to share some thoughts with you about the progress of National Security Space over the years.

I think it's something that we should all celebrate and I hope you'll agree with me on that. At the same time I think there is a lot of work we need to do to stay relevant in what I call the new normal of space.

Hopefully you'll agree with me on that by the time we're done here, and I'll try very hard to be through in time [so] that we can do some questions and answers.

You know the month of May is really a historic month for space. On May 25th, 1961 President Kennedy declared to the Congress the American objective to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade. As a youngster growing up in the great State of Oklahoma, I remember watching those early TV programs, my parents were kind enough to get me up, and let me watch those grainy black and white images and I've got to tell you I was hooked. I was hooked on the space business.

After that point I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life. And several years later, I remember watching the Apollo landing and I was watching it in my girlfriend's living room, on her TV. It was one of those events in life where you'll never forget where you were at that particular point in time. By the way, that girlfriend was not Linda, so for those of you who know Linda forget anything I said about my girlfriend. I'm sure I can trust all of you.

I would submit to you that the world has been transformed by our inexorable progress in space. We have strengthened our economy, and made the world smaller. We've also used space to promote international relations and promote scientific discovery. However, the operating environment in space is very different than it was 50 years ago.

So, with that thought in mind, let's look back at how our National Security Space program got started, take stock of where we are today, and also look toward our future.

The earliest efforts in the space race began soon after World War II. Theodore von Karman's Toward New Horizons report in 1945 stated very concisely, the satellite is a definite possibility. In 1946 the first RAND study suggested "World Circling Spaceships" to observe Soviet missile development, warn of ballistic missile launches, communicate with and command our forces around the world, forecast the weather, and be warned of activity in space that would affect our satellites. Pretty prescient for 1946!

The launch of Sputnik, and the realization that the Soviet Union now had a missile with intercontinental range, compelled the United States and the Air Force to move quickly into the launch business.


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