One Giant Leap….. Reflections on the 45th Anniversary of the Moon LandingBe the first to comment
This week marks the 45th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. It is hard to overstate the impact of this event to the world at the time; the moon landing was a major victory for America in the space race between the US and USSR, and was a moment shared with the entire nation through the expanding medium of television.
The moon landing holds even additional significance for my generation as it represented the fulfillment of President Kennedy’s bold promise that America would land on the moon before the 1970s. So much of our space program owes its existence and success to President Kennedy.
The USSR fired the opening salvo in the space race in 1957 with the dramatic and successful launch of the world’s first artificial satellite- Sputnik.
Given the incredible cold war tension between the two superpowers at the time, the idea of the Soviet Union gaining a significant military advantage through space was deeply troubling.
In response, President Eisenhower initiated Project Mercury, and selected the first American Astronauts. Yet the US continued to be outpaced- the USSR was first to put a man in space in 1961.
JFK Makes a Difference
President Kennedy refused to allow the United States to fall permanently behind in the space race. He asked Congress for nearly $10 billion in additional funding for NASA. The successes began to roll in on the American side. John Glenn, Jr. because the first American in space in 1962.
But President Kennedy was not satisfied with matching Soviet accomplishments. In a speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962 – less than a year after we first placed a man in orbit- President Kennedy pledged that the USA would land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, the United States continued to gain the advantage in the space race. The 8th mission of the new Apollo program – Apollo 8—was the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The entire space race culminated in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Fulfilling JFK’s vision, Neil Armstrong, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. became the first men to walk on the moon, while Michael Collins piloted the craft in orbit.
Though JFK did not live to see his vision realized, I believe he would be extremely proud of the United States victories over the USSR in the space race and the entire Cold War.
Where do you think the space race falls on the list of JFK’s accomplishments? Comment on my FB page HERE!