Our space race with the USSR was pretty much the opposite of what JFK wanted

Our space race with the USSR was pretty much the opposite of what JFK wanted

On September 12, 1962 while speaking at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy spoke about the progress of American history—how our relatively youthful nation had been at the forefront of technological and scientific innovation in the world. He reasoned that space exploration was no different: “We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it,” he said. Kennedy went on to explain that, in light of the political climate of the time, “. . . Only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.”

However, in a conversation with NASA Administrator James Webb on Nov. 21, 1962, Kennedy realized how much man-power (and money) would be needed to make his goal a reality. Webb insisted that much research was necessary before setting foot on the moon was possible. He mentioned radiation and micrometeorites. He explained the challenges of planning a “landing” on a surface that was mysterious and unpredictable as yet.

Kennedy was not interested in his scientific concerns much to Webb’s dismay. He didn’t want to spend billions of dollars on experiments that may or may not be necessary; he just wanted one man to set foot on the moon.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 came right after this conversation. The world held it's collective breath in fear of nuclear war. But released that breath and came out on the other side.

That is why less than a year after his Rice University speech, Kennedy proposed to the United Nations that the United States should work cooperatively, not competitively, with the USSR. He approached the subject from an economic as well as emotional standpoint: “Why should the United States and the Soviet Union . . . Become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries–indeed of all the world–cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending someday in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.”

Sadly, Kennedy was assassinated a little over a month later, the day he was set to deliver a speech with the same message of global cooperation to the Texas Democratic State Committee in Austin



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