HOUSTON — NASA administrator and Rice graduate Jim Bridenstine pledges to take space exploration into new heights as he commemorates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Speaking outside Rice Stadium where President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon” in 1962, Bridenstine said the mission now is to return and stay.

Bridenstine along with several Rice University dignitaries honored Kennedy’s famous speech with a plaque and “moon tree” planted next to it.

Rosemary Roosa said the tree is the next generation from the original Apollo 14 moon tree seeds brought back by her father and astronaut Stu Roosa.

As the story goes, the seeds circled the moon on Apollo 14, but their container opened upon return to Earth. The seeds were planted during the U.S. Bicentennial and grew with no issues.

“All of this was born from a presidential speech given at this stadium, that I learned about during orientation week at Rice University,” Bridenstine said.

Bridenstine said the directive from President Donald Trump in just the past month has been to find a way to put an American back on the moon. Unlike past years, this trip will use sustainable resources.

“We need to be able to reuse every part of the architecture between here and the moon. Launch vehicles need to be reusable, we need a reusable command module in orbit around the moon permanently,” Bridenstine said.

For the first time, this will be a collective effort with the help of countries from across the globe and technology far more advanced than ever before. The goal is to complete the mission within the next five years.

“That is a big challenge friends, but it’s a challenge that NASA is up to. It’s a challenge that we’ve had in our past and it’s a challenge that we can live up to today,” Bridenstine said.