We choose to go to the Moon
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The "Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort", or better known simply as the "We choose to go to the moon" speech, was delivered by then U.S. President John F. Kennedy in front of a large crowd gathered at Rice University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962. It was one of Kennedy's earlier speeches meant to persuade the American people to support the effort of NASA to send a manned space flight to the moon.
When John F. Kennedy became president in January 1961, Americans had the perception that the United States was losing the "space race" with the Soviets. The Soviet Union had almost four years earlier successfully launched the Sputnik. Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first man in space that April. President Kennedy understood the need and had the vision of surpassing the Soviets. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy delivered a speech describing his goals for the nation’s space effort before a crowd of 35,000 people in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, Texas:
"Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
Kennedy's speech used three strategies: "a characterization of space as a beckoning frontier; an articulation of time that locates the endeavor within a historical moment of urgency and plausibility; and a final, cumulative strategy that invites audience members to live up to their pioneering heritage by going to the moon."
Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University, wrote in looking back on the speech on its 50th anniversary that:
Kennedy's oration was front-page news around the country. Pundits saw it as another Ted Sorenson-penned speech drenched in terrestrial aspiration. But for all of its soaring rhetoric, the Rice address was grounded in pragmatism. Kennedy made the case to taxpayers that NASA needed a $5.4 billion budget. Kennedy also did a tremendous job of connecting the moonshot to Houston in ways that thrilled locals. "We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a state noted for strength," he said. "And we stand in need of all three." What Kennedy did so brilliantly that day was frame the moonshot as being instrumental for U.S. security reasons.
- "1962-09-12 Rice University." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
- Howard E. McCurdy, et al. "Helpful Lessons From The Space Race." Issues In Science & Technology 27.4 (2011): 19-22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
- "We choose to go to the moon." Wikisource. 7 Dec. 2011. 22 Oct. 2013. <https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/We_choose_to_go_to_the_moon>.
- Jordan, John W. "Kennedy's Romantic Moon And Its Rhetorical Legacy For Space Exploration?" Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6.2 (2003): 209-231. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
- Brinkley, Douglas. "50 Years Ago, Kennedy Reached for Stars in Historic Rice Address." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
- DeGroot, Gerard. "The Dark Side Of The Moon." History Today 57.3 (2007): 11-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
- Launius, Roger D. 2003. "Kennedy's Space Policy Reconsidered: A Post-Cold War Perspective." Air Power History 50, no. 4: 16-29. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 24, 2013).