1962: Too Hard to Follow
61% of U.S. middle school students would rather take out the trash than do math homework.
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy traveled to Rice University in Houston, Texas, to note the one-year anniversary of his administration's decision to build the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's “Manned Spacecraft Center” in that city. It was also Kennedy's second speech on his vision of a manned flight to the moon by the end of the decade.
Kennedy's first call to action on this goal didn't come in a speech on this bold initiative. Rather, it was a 173-word paragraph buried in a 5,856-word speech to Congress entitled “Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs,” delivered on May 25, 1961. Here the President had to explain, among other topics, the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion a month earlier.
Houston was different. The goal there was nothing other than to promote the importance of the moon mission, and the growing importance of NASA, in Vice President Lyndon Johnson's home state two months before the midterm election.
With a battery of television cameras placed near the podium, President Kennedy delivered a masterful speech (you can watch it on YouTube) on a hot and sultry day challenging the country to land a man on the moon, and return him safely, by the end of the decade.
The Rationale for the Lunar Landing
Why President Kennedy chose the end of the decade as the goal for the moon ...