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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

50 Years Ago Today - Kennedy Promises the Moon The President before Congress

The President before Congress.

Has it really been fifty years?

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy arrived at the Capitol to address Congress about the most momentous decision he would make so far in his presidency. Broadcast on television, radio and printed in the newspapers, the president declared in bold terms that we were going to the Moon.

"First, 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 the Earth."

America was behind in the Space Race with the Soviet Union. The Russians were boldly proclaiming the superiority of their technology and their communist agenda alongside their successes in launching the first satellite, the first dog, and then the first man into space. The Cold War was in full swing and many worried about the advance of communism across the globe. Kennedy felt that America could compete against the Soviets and win the propaganda fight, but he needed a project he felt America could beat them with. The space program became his chosen sword.

Kennedy and Von Braun.

With the recent success of launching Alan Shepard into a 15-minute suborbital flight, Kennedy selected this moment to do something dramatic. His advisors counseled him that because the Russians had a rocket more capable of heavy lift, they would remain in the lead for a time. Kennedy wanted to know how we could beat them. He was advised that nothing would be more dramatic than a man planting the American Flag on the Moon, and we could probably get there before the Soviets. The President made his decision.

"No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more
important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or
expensive to accomplish."

At NASA the administrators, engineers, technicians and astronauts listened to the radio with rapt attention. This was it. The operation was GO. Apollo would be the program to get us there.
We were going to the Moon.

Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator
Magellan Simulator

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