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History of Space Exploration Day Holiday Effort

Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Header
Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Gradient
Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Header

Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Gradient
Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Header

Space Exploration Day - July 20th - Menu Gradient

Picture taken in 1992

1971-J. David Baxter, then a Junior at East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, conceived the idea of promoting the Space Program on the anniversary of the first historic landing of men on the Moon. His goal was to increase public interest, through public education on space benefits, so that astronauts could continue missions to the Moon, including establishing a Moon base. He was also concerned about budget cuts in the space program in which he attributed to lack of public interest. The first U.S. Space Program Week activities were held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Support was received from both the NASA Ames Research Center in California and from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Participants appeared on KCPX Television, spreading the message of the U.S. Space Program throughout the intermountain West.

1972-Baxter got Ken Randle, Chairman of the Utah Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), involved in U.S. Space Program Week activities. David Baxter encouraged all of the nation's Governors of the States and Puerto Rico to issue United States Space Program Week Proclamations for July 16-22. Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Utah issued proclamations that first year. David also encouraged astronomy clubs and planetariums, throughout the nation, to have public activities. Ken Randle obtained five VIP invitations from Senator Wallace Bennett of Utah, obtained funding sponsors, and took four Salt Lake area high school students from the Utah Space Association (USA) to witness the night launch of Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972, the last manned mission to the Moon of the 20th Century.

1973-Senator Frank E. (Ted) Moss, Chairman of the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, brought the Apollo 17 astronauts, their wives and Representative Olin E. (Tiger) Teague, Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, to an AIAA dinner meeting on March 16th. Later Congressman Teague and Senator Moss introduced U.S. Space Week Resolutions in Congress. Thirty-two Governors, as well as several city and county governments, made proclamations within their jurisdiction. Ken Randle encouraged AIAA Sections to have public activities.

1974-President Nixon signed the first Presidential Proclamation for United States Space Week on the fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing of men on the Moon. Again, David Baxter encouraged astronomy clubs and planetariums to have special public activities, while Ken Randle was encouraging support from AIAA Sections.

1975-Senator Moss and Representative Teague came up with the idea of calling the nine-day period, July 16-24, United States Space Observance, which coincides with the liftoff and return dates of the Apollo Moon mission. This made the dates remain the same each year. Previously, the dates of Space Week were the week containing July 20th, the date of the landing on the Moon. The purpose of the United States Space Observance is to stress the benefits of the space program to all humankind, to encourage increased public interest in the nation's space program and to commemorate all space achievements on the anniversary of the first historic landing of men on the Moon. The Apollo-Soyuz mission was July 15-24. The Utah Space Association and the World Association of Amateur Astronomers promoted the first International Space Week. Support was shown in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and the United States.

1976-President Ford, at the request of AIAA President, Dan Fink, issued the first Space Exploration Day Proclamation for July 20th on July 19th. This was the nation's bicentennial year and President Ford noted that the U.S. has entered upon the exploration of yet another frontier-the corridors of Space. The first Viking Lander landed on Mars on July 20th. Senator Moss and Representative Teague again had introduced Resolutions in the Senate and House of Representatives. For such a commemorative observance to be established for the entire nation, the Resolutions had to pass through both the House and Senate by unanimous vote. The 218th signature was obtained on September 23rd and the House Resolution passed on September 30, 1976, just one day prior to adjournment of Congress. Senate Concurrent Resolution 47 had passed unanimously on July 11, 1975. Originally, the Resolutions were to proclaim the U.S. Space Observance for each year, but as a result of an amendment at the final passage by Congress, the Resolution was in effect for only one year.

1977-President Carter signed the first United States Space Observance Proclamation based on the Concurrent Resolutions sponsored by Moss and Teague the previous year. Ken Randle received the AIAA Distinguished Service award for his exceptional service to the Institute and profession; especially by obtaining 1976 Congressional passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 47 which calls on the President of the United States to proclaim U.S. Space Observance

1978-The National Space Institute printed an article in which nationwide community participation in U.S. Space Observance was encouraged. The concept of a Space Exploration Day holiday was introduced in the same article.

1979-President Carter signed the United States Space Observance for the tenth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon after a concerted effort was made to pass Concurrent Resolutions in the House and Senate. NASA promoted the tenth anniversary with activities in Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City and the NASA Centers. They sent astronaut Ken Mattingly (Apollo 16) to Salt Lake City to participate in activities and exhibits held at the Hansen Planetarium and the ZCMI Center (shopping mall). The street between the two facilities was closed off and a stage was set up for dignitaries to speak. Bill Nixon, NASA Education Office, conducted workshops for local teachers.

1980-The World Space Federation promoted the advancement of the U.S. Space Observance/Space Exploration Day effort. Spaceweek 80 was held in Houston, Texas.

1981-This was the first of nine consecutive years that all fifty state Governors plus Puerto Rico issued Proclamations, Declarations or Statements of Support for U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day within their borders. This is believed to be unprecedented for an unofficial commemoration. Spaceweek National Headquarters in Houston, Texas started a coordinated national community participation program.

1982-The Governors of all fifty states plus Puerto Rico again issued U.S. Space Observance Related Proclamations. The World Space Federation merged with the L-5 Society. Spaceweek National Headquarters established a network of participating cities.

1983-The Kansas State Legislature passed Resolutions in the House and Senate establishing July 20th of each year as Space Exploration Day and July 16-24 of each year as Kansas Space Observance. All of the Governors again issued U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations..

1984-President Reagan signed the Space Exploration Day Proclamation for July 20th, the fifteenth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. Prior to the signing, a reception was held for all of the Apollo astronauts, in which AIAA President John L. McLucas and Ken Randle were invited. Then everyone was moved to the East Room of the White House, where President Reagan gave a speech on the commercialization of space. Afterward, he sat down (with the Apollo 11 astronauts and NASA Administrator James Beggs standing behind him) and signed the Space Exploration Day Proclamation which was the result of Ken Randle requesting Representative Don Fuqua and Senator E. J. (Jake) Garn to sponsor the Concurrent Resolutions in Congress for Space Exploration Day as a non-paid commemorative Holiday. Diana Hoyt in Representative Daniel Akaka's office did most of the work in obtaining the necessary 218 co-sponsors in the House, with the help of many members of AIAA contacting their congressman. All of the Governors again issued U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations.

1985-President Reagan again signed the Space Exploration Day Proclamation for July 20th. All of the Governors again issued U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations.

1986-The Ohio Legislature passed a Joint Resolution recognizing July 20th of each year as a commemorative holiday on the anniversary of the historic landing of men on the Moon and honoring native son, Neil Armstrong, the commander of the mission. Therefore, the Ohio Legislature adopted the Resolution recognizing July 20th as Space Exploration Day and the period from July 16 through July 24 of each year as Ohio Space Observance and encouraged all residents to celebrate the occasion. All of the Governors again issued U. S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations.

1987-All of the Governors again issued U. S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations.

1988-All of the Governors again issued U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day Proclamations.

1989-President George Herbert Walker Bush signed the Space Exploration Day Proclamation for July 20th commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the first landing of men on the Moon. All of the astronauts were invited to Washington, D.C. for the celebration. For the ninth consecutive year, the Governors of all 50 States plus Puerto Rico issued Proclamations, Declarations or Statements of Support for U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day within their borders. Spaceweek, Inc. in Houston recognized the U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day proclamations, but encouraged their participants to use the term "Spaceweek." They reported that 76 cities participated in Spaceweek celebrations.

1990-All of the Governors of the States plus Puerto Rico, except Michigan and West Virginia, issued Proclamations, Declarations or Statements of Support for U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day within their borders. Spaceweek, Inc. reported that 124 cities throughout the nation participated in Spaceweek activities.

1991-All of the Governors of the States plus Puerto Rico, except Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont, issued Proclamations, Declarations or Statements of Support for U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day within their borders.

1994-President Clinton issued a National Apollo Anniversary Observance Proclamation honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon and invited the Apollo 11 astronauts to the White House. The Utah State Senate issued an Official Citation concurring with the Governor of Utah's designation of July 16-24, 1994, as United States Space Observance and July 20, 1994, as Space Exploration Day. All of the Governors of the States plus Puerto Rico, except Georgia, Montana and New Hampshire issued Proclamations, Declarations or Statements of Support for the U.S. Space Observance and Space Exploration Day within their borders.

1999-President Clinton recognized the thirtieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission. Twenty-four Governors issue proclamations.

In summary, the U.S. Space Observance reminds us of our excitement and pride as we have watched the Apollo Lunar landings; Viking Mars landings; the Voyager Spacecraft close-up pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; the many successful Space Shuttle flights; the building of the Space Station; the wonders of the Universe through the eyes of the Hubble Telescope and currently the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers on Mars.

The Reader's Digest Almanac lists the Moon landing among the top 100 milestones in the history of humankind. Historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., says, "The 20th Century will be remembered, when all else is forgotten, as the century when man burst his terrestrial bonds and began the exploration of space." The nation's news media voted the Apollo 11 Moon landing as the second most important event of the 20th Century. The first event was the World War II bombing of Hiroshima. The number three event was the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For over thirty years, Baxter and Randle have been trying to get a permanent non-paid commemorative national holiday, like Flag Day, on July 20th as Space Exploration Day. Getting legislation through Congress proved to be very time consuming. Congress has more recently turned the authority to declare commemorative days and holidays over to the President of the United States. President Ford proclaimed the first commemorative Space Exploration Day in 1976 without a congressional resolution. The Apollo 11 Moon landing deserves a holiday. Thanksgiving, Flag Day and Mother's Day were established as calendar listed holidays by Presidential executive order. It is time to ask President Obama to do the same on a permanent basis to celebrate the anniversary of the first historic landing of men on the Moon.

Click here for Presidential proclamations.
Click here for information on the founding of these efforts.