John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moonby J. Logsdon
Pub. Date: 12/15/2010
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan US
On May 25, 1961, President John Kennedy declared: “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.” Over his remaining time in the White House, JFK actively involved himself in space decisions and several times reviewed his
On May 25, 1961, President John Kennedy declared: “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.” Over his remaining time in the White House, JFK actively involved himself in space decisions and several times reviewed his decision to go to the Moon, each time concluding that the benefits of being the leader in space outweighed the massive costs of the lunar landing enterprise. Logsdon traces the evolution of JFK's thinking and policy up until his assassination, which brought to an end his reexamination of the program's goal and schedule and his hope to collaborate, rather than compete, with the Soviet Union in going to the Moon. This study, based on extensive research in primary documents and archival interviews with key members of the Kennedy administration, is the definitive examination of John Kennedy’s role in sending Americans to the Moon.
- Palgrave Macmillan US
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- Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology Series
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As a long time space buff I eagerly opened John M. Logsdon's new book, John F. Kennedy and the Race To The Moon. I was not disappointed. Logsdon sets the stage by taking us back to late 1960 and early 1961 as John Kennedy became President and quickly became bedeviled by the Soviet Union's stunning accomplishment of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961 and then the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba on April 17th. What could Kennedy do to begin to counter these setbacks? Professor Logsdon takes us through the internal decision making process whereby President Kennedy approved and announced to the Nation in an address to a joint secession of Congress on May 25, 1961 that "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." The race to the moon was on, and the United States was not going to settle for second place. In the heat of the Cold War and with American prestige on the line, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress quickly backed this effort and with little controversy or debate approved massive increases in funding for this new national goal. These events, now fifty years old, seem even further away in time since today's bitter and highly partisan politics in Washington make it unimaginable that one of the largest government engineering projects in our history could be imagined, announced and the initial funding approved in a matter of months. It is to Professor Logsdon's credit that these developments seem reasonable and rational in the Kennedy Administration of 1961. While the book's historical narrative and analysis essentially ends with the assassination of the President in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Professor Logsdon provides a short but insightful discussion of the legacy of the Project Apollo and the successful moon landing missions. Although Project Apollo became a dead end, with the rockets and space capsules build at enormous cost for the mission abandoned and never to used again after the mid 1970s, it was a singular achievement and probably accomplished President Kennedy's main goal of generating international prestige through this triumph of space exploration. I highly recommend this short book (244 pages of text) to understand the initial Presidential decision making that America got to the moon - first.