All News & Blogs
JFK's moon speech remembered
Visit the Photo Place
ON MAY 25, 1961, President John Kennedy told Congress, "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth." The audience leapt to its feet with thunderous applause, but elsewhere the reaction was different. In an office in Hampton Roads, a man shouted, "It just ain't possible. First, we don't have the rockets. Second, we don't have the spacecraft, and third, by God, we don't even know how to navigate our way out there and back." A colleague added, "Kennedy is nuts."
The speakers were, respectively, Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom, two of the original seven Project Mercury astronauts.
The astronauts came around in about five minutes. But Kennedy, it was clear, needed to aggressively sell an idea so literally outlandish as a manned moon landing. So on Sept. 12, 1962--50 years ago today--he ventured to Houston, Texas, home of the brand-new Manned Spacecraft Center, and at Rice University made his best pitch for American spacefaring, excerpted below:
"The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not. Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it.
"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.