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7/18/11Posted Monday, July 18, 2011, at 11:46 AM
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Many of us recall the image on television as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon 42 years ago this week. This triumph of American ingenuity and innovation was the deciding event marking our victory over the Soviet Union in the "Space Race" that started nearly a decade earlier.
The presidential election campaign of 1960 was marked by the Cold War and communist threat from abroad. Soviet influence around the world was growing to an unprecedented level and there was a lot of pressure on American leaders to keep pace with their technological creativity and economic advances.
The Final Frontier was the growing tensions between the Free World and Communist Bloc. By the time the presidential campaign of 1960 started, the Soviet Union had launched Sputnick, the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth. In the eyes of many Americans, we were falling behind in science and technology.
The first televised debate, innovative in its own right, between Vice President Nixon and Congressman Kennedy was the beginning of our commitment to beat the Russians to the moon. In that debate, Kennedy's argument was framed in terms of America against the Soviets, and we were coming in second. Kennedy argued that this was particularly true of the new, space science.
After the election, President Kennedy, before a joint session of Congress, called for America to send someone to the moon and back before the end of the decade. Kennedy said the project would be difficult and expensive, and we should be totally committed to it or not start the project at all. Congress committed, leading to that victorious moment of July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Armstrong made his famous statement.
Many products today are the result of the Space Race. We have benefitted from the science NASA has introduced to the world. We owe our numerous inventions and improvements to existing products to the commitment we made to the space program and to NASA's scientific diligence.
For example, long distance communications is a child of our commitment to space. We would not be able to communicate with our family overseas if it wasn't for the technology spurred on by our race with the Soviets. Satellites built to communicate the conditions in space to people on the ground led to this groundbreaking advance.
Another example is the ear thermometer which is commonly used to take the temperature of babies. This thermometer takes advantage of NASA science used to measure the temperature of stars with infrared technology. Ear thermometers take a temperature much quicker than their mercury counterparts freeing up our time for other things.
The space program points the way to recovery in today's ailing economy. As in the past, our economy has experienced tremendous growth through innovation. The key is for the state to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in a way that allows a start-up company to flourish.
The biggest problem many entrepreneurs face is start-up money to get their idea off the ground. Legislators should focus on ways to link venture capitalists to entrepreneurs in the state. This includes entrepreneurs in the rural areas of the state like the 163rd District.
We have done a few things at the state level to get new ventures up and running. We have made it easier for start-ups to find the seed money they need by providing low-interest loans to them. Business incubators also provide office space for little or no rent.
However, more needs to be done on this front. As legislators, we need to find creative ways to encourage entrepreneurs. It is time for an innovative, legislative approach to this problem. It will be difficult, due to the budget situation in the state, but strategic investment is needed.
Much like 1961, we need a call for us to work together to achieve something great for Missouri and our country. Our children are depending on us to make changes to revitalize our economy and move the country forward. We can't expect to get different results if we continue to do the same thing we've done in the past.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.
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