Celebrating Independence Day

Sunday marks the United States' 228th birthday, a time for celebration of the many things we treasure about our country, including our Grand Old Flag. Indeed, one constant throughout American history has been the presence of the Red, White and Blue; symbol of the land we love and of our nation's commitment to freedom, equality and opportunity in the settings of America's most defining moments.

We recall this Independence Day how the Lewis and Clark Expedition carried the Stars and Stripes westward 200 years ago on their epic voyage of exploration and discovery. At the same time, the USS Constellation, pride of America's new fleet of ships, sailed the seas showing the flag, symbolizing our determination to open up new vistas of commerce and communications.

In the past century, whether the setting was the North Pole, the shores of Normandy Beach, a battle-scarred mountain on Iwo Jima, or the Moon's Sea of Tranquility, the Stars and Stripes always shined bright.

This Fourth of July, the American flag remains the banner of a great nation, a country determined to expand the well being of all through new achievements, new discoveries and new efforts to extend humanity's frontiers.

This weekend, while enjoying the magnificent sight of fireworks, I hope those of you who are in the right location also take the opportunity to view the International Space Station as it makes its stately arc across the sky. Onboard the Space Station, U.S. astronaut Mike Fincke proudly wears the Stars and Stripes on his uniform as he works alongside Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.

Further out in the heavens, our Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, now sending back spectacular images from the ringed planet, are extending the spirit of exploration and discovery ever outward with Old Glory brightly patched on their sides. Now, with our new exploration vision and the work we will do through a project aptly named Constellation, I'm confident we will see the flag flying in some incredible places in the years ahead.

Of course, the Fourth of July provides occasion not only to reflect on our heritage and focus on the promise of the future, but also the opportunity to get together with family and friends for some well-deserved time off. I hope all of you have a most enjoyable and safe Fourth of July as we celebrate the continuation of this great experiment in democracy.

On this important weekend, please also remember the brave men and women of our armed forces who are serving our country at home and abroad. They are the vanguards who stand for the cause of liberty and make possible all the benefits we enjoy. Their professionalism and constant diligence serve as an inspiration to all Americans.

Sean O'Keefe
NASA Administrator