KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), the first American to orbit the Earth, told a gathering Saturday marking the Kennedy Space Center's 25th anniversary that the United States must continue to pursue its destiny in space.
Glenn spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 at a ceremony commemorating the March 7, 1962, opening of the facility.
Glenn flew the nation's first orbital flight on Feb. 20, 1962, days before the opening. Seven years later, man's first landing on the moon was launched from the Kennedy facility.
"Twenty-five years from now, I want America to be first in space," Glenn said. "Being first is the only way to design our destiny."
He said the Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger disaster was a tragedy that paid for the feeling that the program was infallible because of the "triumph after triumph after triumph" that preceded it.
But he said the human error that caused it should not interrupt research or flights into space.
First to Orbit Moon
The first manned launch from the center was Apollo 8, during which Frank Borman, James A. Lovell and William A. Anders became the first men to orbit the moon. The crew, orbiting between Dec. 21 and 27, 1968, captured the nation's attention by reading passages from the Bible on Christmas Eve.
From the same site, the United States landed 12 men on the moon, orbited crews in the Skylab space missions and finally launched the space shuttles.
Before the Challenger flight, the center had launched 24 successful manned missions.
Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who flew on the last successful shuttle mission, recalled in remarks Saturday the words of teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who died on the Challenger.
"Exploring space is part of our nature, as we are discoverers and explorers who went west, and then to a new frontier up in the heavens," Nelson said. "Christa said it well when she declared: 'We just have to continue to reach for the stars.' "