News / USA

'Man on the Moon' Challenge, 50 Years On

US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy gives a speech on the nation's space effort before a special session of Congress on May 25, 1961, announcing the goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end on the decade
US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy gives a speech on the nation's space effort before a special session of Congress on May 25, 1961, announcing the goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end on the decade

Multimedia

Fifty years ago, on May 25, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy issued a grand challenge that changed the world as humankind knew it - to send a man to the moon and bring him home again, and to do it by the end of the decade.  

It is one of the most enduring images of all time - an earthling setting foot upon the moon for the first time.  The moment was immortalized by astronaut Neil Armstrong.

"One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," he said.

The challenge to put a man on the moon had been issued only eight years earlier, on May 25, 1961, by newly elected President John F. Kennedy in a bold speech before 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," he said.

To set the stage for this speech, here is a bit of history:

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik - the first artificial object ever placed into orbit around Earth.

And only one month before Kennedy's speech, the Soviets sent the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin.

Three weeks later an American followed suit - Alan Shepard, who admired the view from his Freedom 7 Mercury space capsule.

"On the periscope - what a beautiful view," said Shepard. "Cloud cover over Florida."

The space race was well underway.

Allan Needell, who works at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, where he curates the lunar-mission spacecraft collection, says attaining technological superiority in the space race was also about swaying new nations on Earth.

"The Soviet Union was providing a real challenge to American supremacy, and the fear was that most of these emerging countries, both in Latin America and in Asia, would choose the model of the [Communist] Soviet system rather than the free market, capitalist system that was favored by the United States," he said.

At the time of Mr. Kennedy's speech, there were also issues at home.

"It was the end of a recession, a recession which by recent standards wasn't as severe as the one we're just passing, but it was severe in the context of the 1950s, which had been a period of quite dramatic growth," said Needell.

There was also high unemployment and a number of aging Americans who could not afford adequate healthcare - challenges similar to those the country faces today.

Recently, President Barack Obama recalled the early days of the space race.

"After investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs," he said.

That wave of innovations sent men to the moon.

Other presidents have set out grand challenges for space innovation, such as Ronald Reagan in 1984.

"We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic and scientific gain," President Reagan said. "Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade."

It took a little longer than planned, but people have lived continuously on the International Space Station for the past decade, and the ISS is seen as an advancement for all mankind.

Needell says that was also the case with the first moon landing.

"The vision of this being 'we come in peace for all mankind' was developed and actually accepted all around the world, that this was a human accomplishment as much as it was a demonstration of American superiority," he said.

And a giant leap for mankind.

 

Highlights of 50 Years of the U.S. Space Program

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid