Fifty Years Ago Today

President Kennedy tasked America with landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

"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 Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Adding... New tapes have been released of Kennedy voicing concern about the future of the space program.

  • Brian C

    I fear we Americans have become way too jaded and cynical to come together to work toward a common purpose like the space program of the ’60s. I was a little kid back then but I remember the excitement that electrified the nation. I remember setting up cots and sleeping bags in front of the TV so we could get up in what seemed like the middle of the night to watch the launches. We watched the first space walks live, watched the Gemini and Apollo programs take shape and then, finally, in 1969, the first steps of man on the moon. You could feel a collective swelling of pride in the wake of that. More than that, though, there was a sense that we were going after something much bigger than any of us, that what we were working so hard to do would ultimately benefit everyone worldwide and, perhaps someday, be a factor in the very survival survival of the human race. There was a sense that if we truly applied ourselves there were no limits to what we could accomplish. And, in the process, we developed what was at the time one of the best public educational systems in the world. We produced some of the world’s foremost engineers and scientists. We poured money into infrastructure and NASA research bled over into all areas of our lives. A huge number of products we take for granted today were first developed for the space program in a true public/private partnership. Anyone still drink Tang? It was one of the first powdered fruit drinks on the market and came straight from NASA. Many of the polymer compounds we have today and much of our computing technology can trace their lineage back to the early days of the space program. Very early research on “space-age” fabrics, navigational systems, electronic and electro-mechanical systems, heating, air conditioning and ventilation technology and much much more all have their roots in the space program.

    Our planet is running out of room and resources. Ultimately, humanity must either change how we populate our world and shepherd its resources (and our track record ain’t so hot on that one) or look to space for our long-term survival. Along the way, the spending–no, the investment–we dedicate to that effort will have untold benefits to our people and our economy. I read a good article today in USA Today by Neal Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan on this general topic. One very good point they made is that private entrepreneurs can’t economically do the R&D on the scale required to sustain a viable space program; government must be the primary driver. In the final analysis, it depends on how you view the space program: as a cost or an investment. It should be no surprise by now that I fall on the “investment” side of that equation. Like so many other things that I fear cannot happen in our poisonous political atmosphere, this seems like a no-brainer to me. When you accurately and objectively assess the benefits we stand to gain from a robust manned space program, how can we justify passing that opportunity by?

  • lukenstein

    Yhis made me think of your call for a “Manhattan Project” or :Mission to the Moon” for clean energy? – If that’s what you’re getting at, then hells yea! And let’s “green” our infrastructure too. We should be able to zip around in trains across this country, ride a bike without getting ran over, or actually walk to distant cities on roads and greenways designated for cyclists and pedestrians.

    Anyways, that’s my tangent for the day.

    • lukenstein

      wow, I’m totally random.

  • JMAshby

    I believe my favorite line is “We chose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard”

    A concept which this country seems to have completely lost sight of.

    • BuffaloBuckeye

      Appears to be all too true.

  • holyreality

    As the bumpersticker says;
    Earth First! Then we mine, log and drill the rest of the planets.