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by Dr Mike Griffin, Head of NASA

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Captain James Cook's first expedition to the South Pacific in 1768 was funded jointly by the Royal Society and the British Admiralty. The primary purpose of this voyage was to obtain astronomical observations of the planet Venus transiting across the disk of the Sun on Saturday, June 3rd, 1769, in order to calculate the "astronomical unit" or distance between the Sun and the Earth.

In many ways, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is carrying on the tradition of exploration and scientific discovery that the Royal Society initiated with this expedition. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's address will apply certain lessons learned from one of the Royal Society's greatest explorers to the endeavours NASA is carrying out today in exploring the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets of our solar system and our own Sun.