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Who said: “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index V > James Alfred Van Allen Quotes

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James Alfred Van Allen
(7 Sep 1914 - 9 Aug 2006)

American physicist who discovered the Earth's magnetosphere, two toroidal zones of radiation due to trapped charged particles encircling the Earth.


Science Quotes by James Alfred Van Allen (23 quotes)

...Outer space, once a region of spirited international competition, is also a region of international cooperation. I realized this as early as 1959, when I attended an international conference on cosmic radiation in Moscow. At this conference, there were many differing views and differing methods of attack, but the problems were common ones to all of us and a unity of basic purpose was everywhere evident. Many of the papers presented there depended in an essential way upon others which had appeared originally in as many as three or four different languages. Surely science is one of the universal human activities.
— James Alfred Van Allen
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Almost all of the space program’s important advances in scientific knowledge have been accomplished by hundreds of robotic spacecraft in orbit about Earth and on missions to the distant planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Robotic exploration of the planets and their satellites as well as of comets and asteroids has truly revolutionized our knowledge of the solar system.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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Certainly one of the most enthralling things about human life is the recognition that we live in what, for practical purposes, is a universe without bounds.
— James Alfred Van Allen
Science quotes on:  |  Bound (119)  |  Certainly (185)  |  Human (1468)  |  Life (1795)  |  Live (628)  |  Most (1731)  |  Practical (200)  |  Purpose (317)  |  Recognition (88)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Universe (857)

Does human spaceflight simply have a life of its own, without a realistic objective that is remotely commensurate with its costs? Or, indeed, is human spaceflight now obsolete?
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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Few people doubt that the Apollo missions to the Moon as well as the precursory Mercury and Gemini missions not only had a valuable role for the United States in its Cold War with the Soviet Union but also lifted the spirits of humankind. In addition, the returned samples of lunar surface material fueled important scientific discoveries.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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I am among the most durable and passionate participants in the scientific exploration of the solar system, and I am a long-time advocate of the application of space technology to civil and military purposes of direct benefit to life on Earth and to our national security.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?' Quoted in Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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I ask myself whether the huge national commitment of technical talent to human spaceflight and the ever-present potential for the loss of precious human life are really justifiable.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004). [Note: published one year after the loss of seven lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. —Webmaster]
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (411)  |  Commitment (27)  |  Human (1468)  |  Human Life (29)  |  Justify (24)  |  Life (1795)  |  Loss (110)  |  Myself (212)  |  National (26)  |  Potential (69)  |  Precious (41)  |  Present (619)  |  Space Flight (25)  |  Talent (94)  |  Technical (43)

I think we need someone in a responsible political position to have the courage to say, “Let’s terminate human spaceflight.”
— James Alfred Van Allen
Advocating for robotic missions.
Science quotes on:  |  Courage (69)  |  Human (1468)  |  Political (121)  |  Say (984)  |  Space Travel (19)  |  Think (1086)

I was a kind of a one-man army. I could solder circuits together, I could turn out things on the lathe, I could work with rockets and balloons. I’m a kind of a hybrid between an engineer and a physicist and astronomer.
— James Alfred Van Allen
Characterizing the self-reliance of scientists of his day, contrasted to the complexities of scientific undertakings today, when “the pattern is much more a team of people” who are “backed up by a technical staff that does most of these things.” In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
Science quotes on:  |  Army (33)  |  Astronomer (93)  |  Balloon (15)  |  Circuit (29)  |  Engineer (121)  |  Hybrid (14)  |  Individual (404)  |  Kind (557)  |  Make (25)  |  Man (2251)  |  Physicist (259)  |  Rocket (43)  |  Scientist (820)  |  Self-Reliance (2)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Together (387)  |  Turn (447)  |  Work (1351)

In a dispassionate comparison of the relative values of human and robotic spaceflight, the only surviving motivation for continuing human spaceflight is the ideology of adventure. But only a tiny number of Earth’s six billion inhabitants are direct participants. For the rest of us, the adventure is vicarious and akin to that of watching a science fiction movie.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004). [Note: published one year after the loss of seven lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. —Webmaster]
Science quotes on:  |  Adventure (56)  |  Billion (95)  |  Comparison (102)  |  Continue (165)  |  Direct (225)  |  Dispassionate (8)  |  Earth (996)  |  Human (1468)  |  Ideology (14)  |  Inhabitant (49)  |  Motivation (27)  |  Movie (16)  |  Number (699)  |  Participant (6)  |  Relative (39)  |  Rest (280)  |  Robot (13)  |  Science (3879)  |  Science Fiction (31)  |  Space Travel (19)  |  Survive (79)  |  Tiny (72)  |  Value (365)  |  Vicarious (2)  |  Watch (109)

In our daily lives, we enjoy the pervasive benefits of long-lived robotic spacecraft that provide high-capacity worldwide telecommunications; reconnaissance of Earth’s solid surface and oceans, with far-reaching cultural and environmental implications; much-improved weather and climatic forecasts; improved knowledge about the terrestrial effects of the Sun’s radiations; a revolutionary new global navigational system for all manner of aircraft and many other uses both civil and military; and the science of Earth itself as a sustainable abode of life.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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In some sense, there’s nothing as impractical as astronomy. You could take away the whole astronomical universe, and most people wouldn’t know the difference—except for the sun and maybe the moon.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
Science quotes on:  |  Astronomy (229)  |  Difference (337)  |  Impractical (3)  |  Know (1518)  |  Moon (237)  |  Most (1731)  |  Nothing (966)  |  People (1005)  |  Sense (770)  |  Sun (385)  |  Take Away (5)  |  Universe (857)  |  Whole (738)

It seems to me it [hands-on experience] was more prevalent in a more primitive society, where you’re closer to machinery. [As a university teacher,] I see this with farm kids all the time. They have a more or less rugged self-reliance.
— James Alfred Van Allen
About the his concern that as society is changing, education is losing the benefits of childhood hand-on experience. In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  All The Time (4)  |  Childhood (38)  |  Closer (43)  |  Diminish (17)  |  Education (378)  |  Experience (467)  |  Farm (26)  |  Hands-On (2)  |  Kid (15)  |  Machinery (56)  |  More (2559)  |  More Or Less (68)  |  Prevalent (4)  |  Primitive (75)  |  Rugged (7)  |  See (1081)  |  Seem (145)  |  Self (267)  |  Self-Reliance (2)  |  Society (326)  |  Teacher (143)  |  Time (1877)  |  University (121)

It still fascinates me to think that here in this room you have radio signals from stations all over the world going through, and we can stick up an antenna and receive them.
— James Alfred Van Allen
Recalling how his lifelong “natural interest in how things work” began as a youth, which included such activities as building a Tesla coil and assembling crystal radios. In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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I’m one of the most durable and fervent advocates of space exploration, but my take is that we could do it robotically at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.
— James Alfred Van Allen
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I’m trying to assemble pieces of this great jigsaw puzzle of the origin of the solar system, to see if we can illuminate our own processes on the Earth more fundamentally.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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My position is that it is high time for a calm debate on more fundamental questions. Does human spaceflight continue to serve a compelling cultural purpose and/or our national interest?
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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Some people have remarked that if the surface of the moon were covered with diamonds, it would hardly be worthwhile bringing them back.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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The biggest thrill of my life was finding out something that nobody in the world ever knew before. Another gratification is a recognition of the fact that you really do understand a lot of things that go on in the world that most people don’t—like planets moving around the sun.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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The follow-on space shuttle program has fallen far short of the Apollo program in its appeal to human aspirations. The launching of the Hubble Space Telescope and the subsequent repair and servicing missions by skilled crews are highlights of the shuttle’s service to science. … Otherwise, the shuttle’s contribution to science has been modest, and its contribution to utilitarian applications of space technology has been insignificant.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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The sociological context of the times [affects education]. Some people call it television culture—you’re supposed to be able to get everything in 30 seconds, a sort of quiz-show attitude.
— James Alfred Van Allen
Recognizing in education a declining “dedication to rigorous thinking and the fact that things are really hard to understand.” In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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These days, it’s really been uninteresting except when disasters occur.
— James Alfred Van Allen
Science quotes on:  |  Disaster (51)  |  Occur (150)  |  Uninteresting (9)

[Understanding] dispels superstition, and it gives you a feeling of mastery which you can’t have any other way.
— James Alfred Van Allen
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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See also:
  • 7 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Van Allen's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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