The U.S. should not abandon space flight and exploration, Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson said Tuesday at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs as he urged business and political leaders to inspire students to pursue careers in science, engineering, math and technology.

“We are at a crossroads in space, especially in the United States. We face challenges in this political, financial and budget environment and some question the value of space exploration, but that can’t be the legacy of JFK’s challenge,” Swanson told more than 1,000 business, military and government leaders attending the symposium at The Broadmoor International Center, referring to a 1961 speech that President John F. Kennedy made to a joint session of Congress committing the nation to putting a man on the moon.

“Fifty years later, do we want to do the unthinkable and leave space and opportunities to understand our world and ourselves and the innovations and new technologies that make life easier?” Swanson asked. “We as a nation need to recommit federal dollars to space programs, including human exploration.”

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