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ASK OCE — September 20, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 14


On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy outlined the bold challenge of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade in a speech given on the football field of Rice University.

“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,” said Kennedy.

At the time of Kennedy’s address at Rice, the goal of a lunar landing seemed completely unreachable. The United States had less than fifteen minutes of combined human space flight experience and NASA was only two and a half years old. In the war of perception, the Soviet Union, with the successes of Sputnik and the orbital flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gregarin, seemed indomitable at the time.

Kennedy’s speech showed that he innately understood the historical context and high stakes of a Cold War space race. “I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.”

The speech is widely considered a visionary example of President Kennedy’s support for the Apollo program and one of his most memorable and effective rhetorical feats.

Read the full text of President Kennedy’s speech.

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

Leadership Corner: Rickover on Doing a Job

This Week in NASA History: JFK Challenges U.S. to Reach Moon by Decade’s End

First-Person Perspective: NASA History

Reaching for the APEX at Ames

Government Brief: FAA Publishes New Commercial Space Safety Standards

Copy That: Progress in Rapid Prototyping

A View from Outside: Russia and China to Collaborate on Mars Mission

Archimedes Archive: The Turtle

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