Remembering how JFK sparked the dream which was landing on the Moon.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a special joint session of Congress with a highly ambitious and peculiar proposal: He wanted to send someone to the Moon.
On October 4, 1957, just four years before John F. Kennedy’s landmark message to Congress, the Soviet Union had successfully launched its artificial satellite, “Sputnik 1,” turning cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into the first human being to go into space and igniting a certain unease in the US president regarding the “space race” the United States was competing in with Moscow. Just three weeks after Gagarin orbited Earth,NASA had launched astronaut Alan Shepard aboard the Freedom 7 capsule, making him the first American in space. His historic flight began from Cape Canaveral in Florida and lasted 15 minutes and 28 seconds before splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. But it was not enough. Kennedy felt great pressure to see his country “catch up and overtake” the Soviet Union in the race to space, and felt his urgency should be shared across the nation.
Kennedy proceeded to ask his Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, in his role as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, to identify the probability of the US being able to take the next giant leap in space travel. Johnson consulted with James E. Webb and other NASA officials who told him there was no real chance of beating the Russians to launching a space station. Furthermore, as it was unknown if NASA could orbit a man around the Moon, the best option would be to attempt a landing, which meant more danger, higher costs, and more uncertainty. There was no real confidence in a favorable outcome for the mission.