In a bold speech at Rice University on 12 September 1962, President John F. Kennedy set the tone for the decades of space exploration that would follow. He said, in part: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.”
President Kennedy was a Navy man and quite proud of it. An avid sailor growing up and a PT boat skipper in World War II, he intuitively made the connection between the new frontier of space—“this new sea”—and the seafaring heritage of exploring our home planet from the decks of ships.
So, what special qualities have the U.S. naval services offered the space program in the past, and what will they still be contributing in the future? To attempt to answer this question, it’s important to go back much further in time than just the Space Age.
Space exploration is inherently expeditionary in nature, and the naval services have always been at the forefront of scientific expeditions to explore the world’s oceans beyond the horizon, the polar regions, and the sea depths.