60th anniversary of JFK’s 1961 speech to land Americans on the moon is in the spotlight as NASA gets set to return to the lunar surface in 2024

  • President John F. Kennedy spoke at a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961 to address the nation
  • He spoke about the Cold War and how the US planned to win, but he also discusses landing men on the moon
  • Kennedy urged Congress to accelerate America’s space program, linking it to a battle between democracy and communism, as the Soviets had already sent an astronaut into orbit – the US had not yet done so 
  • Months after the speech, NASA announced Houston, Texas for its  Mission Control Center
  • Kennedy proposed a moon landing by the end of the decade and his goal was reached in July 1969
  • Apollo 11 soared to the moon, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin  planted the first human boots

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a 46-minute speech that included historical context of the Cold War and how the US planned to triumph over the Soviets, but what won the hearts of the American people was his plan to send humans to the moon.

‘Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share…,’ the late president said while standing behind the lectern during a joint session of Congress.

‘First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’

The US had not even sent a human into orbit at the time of the speech, which placed it far behind the Soviets who had sent an astronaut to space a month before Kennedy addressed the nation.

However, this did not deter Kennedy from realizing a future where the US leads the space race –  he linked the need for a space program with battle between democracy and communism, urging Congress to to mobilize financial resources to speed up the pace of the space program’s progress.

Although goals for landing humans on the moon was toward the end of the nearly 6,000-word speech, it is deemed the moment that propelled Americans to the lunar surface and start of NASA’s famed Apollo program.

Now, sixty years after that historic address, NASA is looking to return in 2024 with the Artemis mission that will see the first woman and next man leave boot marks in the lunar dirt.

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On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a 46-minute speech that included historical context of the Cold War and how the US planned to triumph over the Soviets, but what won the hearts of the American people was his plan to send humans to the moon

Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the US on January 20, 1961 and was the youngest to lead the nation by election.

His presidency was just a little over four months when he proposed the goal of sending humans to the moon, which some suggest was a way to right the wrongs that had occurred in the previous months.

Not only did the Soviets send astronaut Yuri Gagarin into space, but Kenned was still humiliated by the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

Kennedy had hoped the invasion would help the US one-up the Soviets in the cold war and trained US-backed exiles to overthrow then Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Although goals for landing humans on the moon was toward the end of the nearly 6,000-word speech, it is deemed the moment that propelled Americans to the lunar surface and start of NASA’s famed Apollo program. Now, sixty years after Kennedy address Congress (pictured), NASA is looking to return in 2024 with the Artemis mission that will see the first woman and next man leave boot marks in the lunar dirt

But the Cuban leader’s army was no match for the small group of exiles, who were ultimately killed or taken as prisoners.

And the only other way the US could out due the Soviets was to put human boots on the moon.

On April 20, 1961, Kennedy asked his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, if the US had ‘a chance of beating the Soviets’ by putting a lab in space, orbiting the moon or even landing on it.

‘Is there any other space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?’ Kennedy wrote in the memo.

Fredrik Logevall, professor of history at Harvard University, told CNN: ‘He needed to do something dramatic.’

This was a weighty proposition, and they spent a lot of time on (the speech).

‘Ted Sorensen was the person who did most of the drafting.’

Sorensen and other writers may have written most of the May 25 speech, but Kennedy was known to make his own contributions to a number of his addresses.

And in the original copy of the May 25 speech, there are edits written by Kennedy in pencil.

Kennedy linked the need for a space program with battle between democracy and communism, urging Congress to to mobilize financial resources to speed up the pace of the space program’s progress.

In November of 1961, NASA announced Houston as home to the manned Spacecraft Center that now serves as Mission Control Center for US human space flight missions. Pictured is the land where the facility now stands

This speech may not have been as rich as the one he gave at Rice University in Houston, Texas a year later where he said: ‘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.’

But the words spoken at the joint session of Congress on May 25 lit the fire NASA needed to get the ball rolling.

The following November, NASA announced Houston as home to the manned Spacecraft Center that now serves as Mission Control Center for US human space flight missions.

Along with proposing millions of dollars to fund human space flight, the president specified new technology to make it happen.

‘We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior,’ Kennedy said.

‘We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. 

This speech may not have been as rich as the one he gave at Rice University in Houston, Texas (pictured) a year later where he said: ‘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.’ But the words spoken at the joint session of Congress on May 25 lit the fire NASA needed to get the ball rolling

Following another speech about the moon in 1962, Kennedy (center) and vice president Johnson (right) toured the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) to see the the Saturn I rocket

‘But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.’ 

To many Americans, Kennedy was one of the greatest presidents to lead the nation – but his  presidency only lasted two years.

Just sometime after noon on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.

Although he was not alive to see his speech become a reality, NASA landed the first men on the moon before the end of the decade.

Although he was not alive to see his speech become a reality, NASA landed the first men on the moon before the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (pictured) planted the first human footprints on the lunar surface 

Pictured is Neil Armstrong moments before he said: ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the first human footprints on the lunar surface. 

‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,’ Armstrong said as he walked down the latter of the lander and onto the moon.

Regardless of what he did or did not do, Kennedy will be known as the first US president to inspire Americans to venture out to the moon.

NASA is keeping his dream alive with the Artemis mission that will send Americans to the moon’s South Pole by 2024 – the first US crewed flight since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The history of NASA’s Apollo Program that was originally started through JFK’s speech on May 25, 1961

The Apollo program saw a total of 11 spaceflights and the first humans walk on the moon.

NASA started the program, which is also known as Project Apollo, in 1961 with the sole mission of getting astronauts to the moon and back to Earth safely.

Six of the missions (Apollo 11, 12, 15, 16 and 17) achieved this goal from 1969 through 1972.

Apollos 7 and 9 were Earth orbiting missions that tested the Command and Lunar Modules, but did not return with data.

Apollos 8 and 10 tested various components while orbiting the moon that brought back photography of the lunar surface.

Apollo 13 was set to touchdown on the moon, but experience technical malfunctions that hindered the mission.

A total of 12 astronauts have left their boot marks on the lunar surface.

Although the all missions will forever be a part of history, Apollo 11 is what brought humans to the moon for the first time.

The goal of Apollo 11 was set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961.

He said: ‘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.’

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface.

Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit.

Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169 degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969.

 

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