ASK OCE — May 29, 2007 — Vol. 2, Issue 3
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and issued a bold challenge: to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
“I believe this nation should commitment itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,” Kennedy told Congress just four months after taking office. Recognizing the daunting nature and expense of the task, he added, “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.”
Kennedy framed the challenge as a stark ideological contest between the United States and the Soviet Union. “If we are to win the battle that is going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, if we are to win the battle for men’s minds, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take….We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”
Kennedy’s speech came at a white-hot moment in the space race between the two nations. Just six weeks earlier, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. NASA sent Alan Shepard into space three weeks later on May 5, but he only flew on a short suborbital flight rather than orbiting the earth, as Gagarin had done.
Read or listen to President Kennedy’s speech to Congress.
Learn more about the Apollo decision.
In This Issue
Message from the Chief Engineer
NASA On the Hill: Transition to Next Generation Human Spaceflight System
This Week in NASA History: JFK’s Moon Challenge
Universal Management Lessons from GP-B
Leadership Corner: Charles Koch on the Science of Success
A View from the Outside: Venus Express