Moon Walk JFK and the Space Program

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President John F. Kennedy’s expansion of the U.S. space program did a lot to help two men be the first to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. It has been 45 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon for the very first time. This great occasion deserves a fantastic celebration. Kennedy Space Center and NASA are collaborating to host a series of events to celebrate the day Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. Aldrin and Michael Collins will be on hand at the renaming ceremony of the Operations and Checkout building on Monday, July. 21. Perhaps John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th president, will be there in spirit, lurking around looking at some old equipment, remembering what he did to help facilitate this celebration.

Using Twitter, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum will re-create that famous eight-day journey to the moon that ended with a fantastic splashdown on July 24, 1969. One does not have to leave the comfort of the couch to experience this journey in space.

Sunday night, NASA TV will be broadcasting restored footage of Armstrong and Aldrin’s first steps on the moon, beginning at the exact moment that they opened the hatch, 10:39 p.m. Many will watch the rerun of the moon walk from the comfort of their couches, and a few may even remember JFK and what he did for the space program so long ago.

General Electric (GE)  is also joining in to help us remember the event with the re-creation of Neil Armstrong’s moonboots in the form of limited-edition high-top sneakers, branded as The Missions. GE was responsible for developing the original Apollo 11 boots using their extreme-temperature silicone rubber. Keeping with the theme, The Missions will be made of super materials as well. The sneakers will have carbon fiber sides, the top collar will be made of thermoplastic rubber. The sneakers will be covered in a hydrophobic coating, complete with a Galactic color scheme. 100 pairs will be sold starting Sunday at a cost of just under $200 a pair, a real steal for a moonwalk fan.

JFK was not the first president to address the space issue. Just after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became involved in something called the Cold War, a huge push by both nations to become number one, the country that every other nation looked up to economically and politically. On July 29, 1955, the United States announced to the world that they would begin launching satellites and moon probes. Four days later the Soviet Union made a similar announcement. The race for space was official.

The Soviet Union gave the U.S. quite a run for its money when they launched Sputnik 1 on Oct. 4, 1957. The U.S. launched its first Earth satellite, Explorer 1, on Jan.31, 1958, prompting the discovery of the Van Allen Radiation Belt. Dwight Eisenhower created NASA on Oct. 1, 1958. NASA was given an annual $100 million budget, had 8,000 employees at its inception, three major research labs and two test facilities. Later, other scientific agencies around the country joined the NASA conglomerate. In 1959, the Soviet Union launched three moon probes. In 1960, the Soviet Union launched three probes, one of them carrying two dogs. That same year the U.S. launched three Mercury rockets.

Kennedy was elected 35th president of the U.S. on Jan. 20, 1961. Shortly after that, April 12, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On May 5, Alan Shepard had the honor of being the first U.S. astronaut in space with Gus Grissom becoming the second on July 21. On Sept. 12 1962, JFK visited Rice University and gave a resounding speech reaffirming America’s commitment to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade and justifying the space program’s huge expense. He talked about his recent decision to give the space program high priority, the launching of 40 U.S. satellites within only 19 months, the Mariner spacecraft on its way to Venus and how the space effort has done wonders for the country. He also talked about the staggering annual space budget, $5.4 billion. His final words might have helped to put men on the moon on July 20, 1969. He asked for God’s blessing while the nation undertook the greatest risk it has ever been asked to endure, to explore the unknown and reach for the moon. The speech he made that day spurred the nation to reach greater heights, to have faith in his foresight and to shoot for the moon.

Kennedy helped to create thousands of new jobs and thousands of new companies, thanks to his efforts to expand the space program. During his tenure in office, Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom were able to observe the Earth from space. John Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, followed by Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper. But Kennedy did more than that for the nation. Suddenly, people were on fire to learn about space. Children were playing space-related games and reading space books by the tons. As the nation celebrates the day the first man walked on the moon, remember John F. Kennedy and what did for the space program and this great country.

Opinion by Dennis De Rose

Sources

The Sacramento Bee

redOrbit

History Shots

NASA History Program Office

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