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Why we went to the moon

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An iconic image from the first lunar landing in 1969, Apollo 11 astronuat Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag. (Photo: NASA)

A half-century ago, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a joint session of Congress his decision to send Americans to the moon "before this decade is out." Thus began the largest mobilization of financial and human resources to achieve a single purpose in U.S. peacetime history,  culminating with the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969.

On April 25, 2011 at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., three experts on the space race discussed both the reasons behind JFK's decision to go to the moon and the actions he took to turn the decision into a successful program. The speakers also evaluate the scientific and historical legacies of NASA's Apollo program.

 

Watch the lectures:

  • John M. Logsdon,  Professor Emeritus, George Washington University and author of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon -- reveals that JFK sought to avoid an expensive moon race with the Soviet Union by suggesting that the two superpowers cooperate in space. 
  • Roger D. Launius, Senior Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and author of After Apollo: The Legacy of the American Moon Landings -- discusses the Apollo program, and its enduring legacy 50 years on. 
  • Paul Spudis, Senior Staff Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Texas and author of Blogging the Moon -- comments on the treasure trove of data collected during the six lunar landings, noting that it changed our understanding of impact science and spurred interest in the effects of impacts on Earth geology. 

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An iconic image from the first lunar landing in 1969, Apollo 11 astronuat Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag. (Photo: NASA)
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