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Eyes Turned Skyward: Space Quotes
A star gazing, rocket riding, moon walking quote collection

Into Orbit



Putting a man in space is a stunt: the man can do no more than an instrument, in fact can do less. There are far more serious things to do than indulge in stunts… . I do not discard completely the value of demonstrating to the world our skills. Nor do I undervalue the effect on morale of the spectacular. But the present hullabaloo on the propaganda aspects of the program leaves me entirely cool.

— Vannevar Bush, chairman of the Board of Governors of MIT, in a statement to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Reported in Scientific American, June 1960.


— Yuri A. Gagarin, first man in space, translates as: “let’s Go.” Shouted as Vostok 1 lifted off, 12 April 1961.

Yuri Gagarin

I see Earth. It is so beautiful!

— Yuri A. Gagarin, first words in space, lifted off, 12 April 1961.

I saw for the first time the earth's shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black… the feelings which filled me I can express with one word — joy.

— Yuri A. Gagarin, Life magazine, 21 April 1961.

It is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

— P. L. 85-568, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958

The new socialist society turns even the most daring of man's dreams into a reality.

— TASS press statement regards Sputnik 1, man's first satellite in orbit, 4 October 1557.

One small ball in the air. I wouldn't believe that at this moment you have to fear the intelligence aspects of this.

— President Eisenhower, 9 October 1957.

An outer-space raspberry to a decade of American pretensions that the American way of life was a gilt-edged guarantee of our national superiority. We ourselves have made it an article of faith that the nation which builds the biggest bombs must be morally superior because it is materially superior. We need not be surprised today that Russia is making the same claim. We go on believing that our system can provide guns and butter. Yes, and Bibles too. But we query whether that means atom bombs and bimbes glacees; SAC by General LeMay, and sack dresses by Christian Dior; lower taxes and higher rockers&mdashall this and heaven too.

— Claire Booth Luce, regards Sputnik. She was a millionaire playwright, congresswoman, ambassador, Republican fund-raiser, and wife of the publisher of Time and Life magazines. October 1957.

Our attainments [in space] are a major element in the competition between the Soviet system and our own … . in this sense, [they] are part of the battle along the fluid front of the cold war.

— NASA Administrator James E. Webb and Security of Defence Robert McNamara, memo to President Kennedy, Recommendations For Our National Space Program: Changes, Policies, Goals, 8 May 1961.

The exploration and use of outer space,including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.

— Article 1 of the so-called Outer Space Treaty, or more formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Entered into force 10 october 1967.

There is no easy way to the stars from the earth.

— Seneca, in original Latin “Non est ad astra mollis e terris via.” Hercules Furens, c. 40 CE.

X-15 at the edge of space

All right. Let's get on with it!

— T. Keith Glennan, first NASA administrator, regarding the space program, 7 October 1958.

We all feel that there's a lot more to this thing than just being Number One, though we all want that. The Number One man will be the tool of our close-knit team. We're just getting started here with space programs that will continue as long as man can pick himself up and go. And we're all going to get a chance to make some contribution. There will be a lot of firsts: the first man on a ballistic firing, the first man into orbit, the first man to orbit the Moon, the first man to land on the Moon. The public enthusiasm in this thing so far has surprised me. If we don't keep moving, maybe the Russians are going to win a few of these blue ribbons.

— Gordon Cooper, Life magazine, 14 September 1959.

Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.

— Oleg Gazenko, Russian scientist, regards Laika and the other dogs in the Sputnik missions, 1998.

It doesn't really require a pilot, and besides, you'd have to sweep the monkey shit off the seat before you could sit down.

— repeatedly attributed to Chuck Yeager, first man to fly Mach 1 and vocal critic of the original astronauts. Regards the use of monkeys to test space vehicles and the unknown dangers of the space environment.

Ham, one of NASA's astrochimp test subjects

To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage, single-handed, in an unprecedented duel with nature — could one dream of anything more?

— Yuri Gagarin (Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин), speaking in Moscow prior to flight, 1961

I am watching the Earth. The visibility is good. I feel well and cheerful. The machine is functioning normally.

— Yuri A. Gagarin, first person to orbit Earth, 12 April 1961

I am a friend, comrades, a friend!

— Yuri A. Gagarin, first words on the ground after first spaceflight, to a woman and a girl nearby, 12 April 1961.

The woman replied: Can it be that you have come from outer space?
Yuri: As a matter of fact, I have!

The Soviet Union has become the seacoast of the universe.

— Sergei Korolev

I am eagle, I am eagle!

— Gherman Titov (Герман Степанович Титов), Russia — s second astronaut.

Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?

— Alan B. Shepard Jr., to Mission Control regards another delay during his four hour sit atop the 10-story, 33-ton Redstone rocket while last-minute problems were being fixed. Cape Canaveral Air Station, just prior to the United States' first manned space mission, 5 May 1961.

you’re on your way, Jose!

— Deke Slayton, at Mission Control, to Alan Shepard at liftoff of Freedom 7, first American in space, 5 May 1961.

Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.

— Alan B. Shepard Jr., replying, 09:34:13 EST 5 May 1961.

A-OK full go.

— Commander Alan Shepard Jr., on blast-off of rocket carrying him aloft as America's first man in space, 5 May 1961. Defined as an engineering term for 'double OK' or perfect, it became a U.S. idiom for 'everything is going smoothly' and was later attributed by the Associated Press (New York Times, 31 July 1963) to Lieutenant-Colonel John Powers, public spokesman for astronauts.

On the periscope … . What a beautiful view. Cloud cover over Florida - three to four tenths near the eastern coast. Obscured up to Hatteras … I can see [lake] Okeechobee. Identify Andros Island. Identify the reefs.

— Commander Alan Shepard Jr., Freedom 7 rocket ride, 5 May 1961.

NASA handbook

Godspeed, John Glenn.

— Scott Carpenter, spoken from the Pad 14 blockhouse as Friendship 7 lifted off, but not over the ground-to-air circuit and so not heard by John Glenn. From 'God Spede you,' or God prosper you, which is a 15th century Middle English expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey. Test conductor Tom O'Malley followed with “May the good Lord ride all the way.” 20 February 1962.

Zero G and I feel fine.

— John Glenn, first American in orbit. NASA scientists were still debating how humans would handle long periods of zero g, and there were many health concerns. Glenn's line from Earth orbit directly addressed these concerns, 20 February 1962

It was quite a day. I don’t know what you can say about a day when you see four beautiful sunsets… . This is a little unusual, I think.

— John Glen, American Chronicle, 1962.

That was a real fireball.

— John Glenn, re-entry, 20 February 1962

I am a stranger. I come in peace. Take me to your leader and there will be a massive reward for you in eternity.

— Note carried by John Glenn on his historic flight, translated into several languages, for use if he splashed down in the remote South Pacific seas.

It was a cherished experience. I feel I got the chance to see the inner workings of the grand order of things. In the overall scheme of things, it proves that men can do about anything they want to if they work hard enough at it, and I knew that I could do it … and that leads, of course, to a strong suspicion that everybody else can do it if they want to.

— Scott Carpenter, recalling his 1962 Mercury 7 space flight.

Father, we thank you, especially for letting me fly this flight — for the privilege of being able to be in this position, to be in this wondrous place, seeing all these many startling, wonderful things that you have created.

— L Gordon Cooper Jr., personal prayer while orbiting the earth, quoted in the New York Times, 22 May 1963.

Anyone who has spent any time in space will love it for the rest of their lives. I achieved my childhood dream of the sky.

— Valentina Tereshkova (Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва), first woman in space.

Equipment malfunctions will also occur, particularly during subsystem development testing. In manned flight we must regard every malfunction, and, in fact, every observed peculiarity in the behavior or a system as an important warning of potential disaster. Only when the cause is understood and a change to eliminate it has been made and verified, can we proceed with the flight program.

— F.J. Bailey, Jr., NASA Manned Space Center, Review of Lessons Learned in the Mercury Program Relative to Spacecraft Design and Operations, March 1963.

We are gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel godlike as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky.

— Michael Collins, regards his Gemini 10 spacewalk, Carrying The Fire.

NASA handbook

Feeling weightless … it's so many things together. A feeling of pride, of healthy solitude, of dignified freedom from everything that's dirty, sticky. You feel exquisitely comfortable … and you feel you have so much energy, such an urge to do things, such an ability to do things. And you work well, yes, you think well, without sweat, without difficulty as if the biblical curse in the sweat of thy face and in sorrow no longer exists, As if you've been born again.

— Wally Schirra.

In order for us to use the very best judgment possible in spending the taxpayer's money intelligently, we just have to do a certain amount of this research and development work ourselves. We just have to keep our own hands dirty to command the professional respect of the contractor personnel engaged with actual design, shop and testing work.

— Wernher von Braun, speech to the Sixteenth National Conference on the Management of Research, 18 September 1962

Failure is not an option.

— in the 1995 movie Apollo 13 this line is said by legendary NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris), but there is no evidence Kranz ever said it before the movie came out. He used it as the title of his excellent 2000 book Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond, in which he wrote it was “a creed that we all lived by” (page 12) and that “Failure does not exist in the lexicon of a flight controller. The universal characteristic of a controller is that he will never give up until he has an answer of another option” (page 307). Gene uses the phrase several other times, but never directly claims it was his or that it was ever articulated as it's now known. Jerry C. Bostick, the Flight Dynamics Officer (FDO) for Apollo 13 has written that Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, the script writers of the movie, interviewed  him regards the atmosphere in mission control:

One of their questions was “Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?” My answer was “No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution.” I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview. Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, “That's it! That's the tag line for the whole movie, Failure is not an option. Now we just have to figure out who to have say it.” Of course, they gave it to the Kranz character, and the rest is history. (www.spaceacts.com)

The phrase certainly sums up the 'human factors' atitude of NASA mission control in the 1960's, but it was created for a movie, condensed from reality, rather than a real world quotation.

Gene Kranz in mission control wearing one of his famous vests

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

— Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1962.

The Earth was absolutely round … I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.

— Alexei Leonov, regards his 18 March 1985 historic first spacewalk, interview 1980.

What struck me most was the silence. It was a great silence, unlike any I have encountered on Earth, so vast and deep that I began to hear my own body: my heart beating, my blood vessels pulsing, even the rustle of my muscles moving over each other seemed audible. There were more stars in the sky than I had expected. The sky was deep black, yet at the same time bright with sunlight.

— Alexei Leonov, cosmonaut, Life magazine, November 1988.

I’m not coming in … this is fun.

— Ed White, Gemini 4, enjoying America's first space walk, 3 June 1965.


I’m coming back in … and it's the saddest moment of my life.

— Ed White, on being told again to re-enter the Gemini 4 capsule, after NASA controllers warned there was only four minutes of daylight left, so ending America's first spacewalk. He was outside for almost twice as long as scheduled. 3 June 1965.

Long flights give you more time to reflect, look around, experience your surroundings. I got to know the nooks and crannies on Mir very, very well.

— Mike Foale, who has 168 days logged in space.

You keep returning to the thought that only very thin walls separate you from the deathly cold and incomprehensible emptiness of space, which can extinguish life instantly and piteously.

— Oleg Makarov, cosmonaut, Life magazine, November 1988.

Dear Iranian nation, your children have placed the first indigenous satellite into orbit.

— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, announcing the launch of the first Iranian satellite on State television, 2 February 2009.

Can I ask a question, too: aren’t you interested in the hair styles of my colleagues? My flight is my job. I feel a huge responsibility towards the people who taught and trained us and I want to tell them: we won’t let you down!

— Yelena Serova, Russian Cosmonaut, replying to questions about her hair style and parenting her daughter right before leaving for the ISS. She launched in a Soyuz TMA-14M on 25 september 2014.



Eyes Turned Skyward: Space Quotes

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