John F. Kennedy's moon speech

What did the moon landings teach us about why humans go to space?
27 October 2015


A mission to Mars is regarded by many as the next giant leap. So let's look back atJohn F Kennedy the legacy of the last one... Connie Orbach has been looking at one of History's defining speeches.

JFK - 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 we intend to win and the others too.

Connie - In 1962, the then United States President John F. Kennedy gave a historic speech at Rice University, Houston when he announced the USA's commitment to send an American to the moon by the end of the decade. In the 1960s, travel to the moon was just a bigger challenge as the Mars trip seems today. Many of the arguments for and against were the same.

JFK - To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year--a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year.

Connie - Of course, a challenge of this level had more objectives than purely to inspire and the political motives were almost certainly the greatest influence on America's success. The space race became an extension of the Cold War and the Russians had twice beaten the USA. First, with the satellite Sputnik and then with human space flight. Kennedy needed a challenge that he felt he could win to pull the American people together and reaffirm America's status as a leading world power. Today, human space travel is once again on the agenda and the challenge is even bigger. Could it be that we're at the start of yet another space race?

JFK - If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.


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