11
$\begingroup$

In September 1962 a nice young man ordered the United States to commit to landing on the moon in eight years. What input did NASA have in the decision? Did James Webb support or discard the idea that his organization could develop the technologies, methods, and materials for doing so within eight years?

The Wikipedia article for the Rice University speech mentions with whom the president had spoken, without providing information on the information (supporting or opposing the landing) that each provided.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Certainly on-topic here but also on-topic in History SE and History of Science and Mathematics SE and maybe Politics SE as well. Wish there was a way that this particular question could be cross-viewable (though not cross-posted). I think answers in those sites will draw upon different resources and use different perspectives than those here. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 28 '18 at 11:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If there is a way to divide the question into two somewhat different aspects, then you can have both posts, and each could contain a link to the other. I think that's even better. Historical aspects there, more technical aspects here. It does look like quite a full question now, splitting may be straightforward. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 28 '18 at 12:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: I'll see if I can divide the question. It really could be two questions anyway, as both aspects are distinct. Please leave this comment history here so it won't appear as an ill-mannered cross-post. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Oct 28 '18 at 13:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The HSE.SE thread is here, all feedback welcome. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Oct 28 '18 at 13:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since this is historical, I answered this question on the HSE.SE thread rather than this one. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Oct 28 '18 at 20:12
7
$\begingroup$

NASA had already proposed the idea to Kennedy, according to this NASA history article (citing a memo titled, “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Budget Problem,” dated 22 March 1961):

Firm evidence for Kennedy's essential unwillingness to commit to an aggressive space program came in March 1961 when the NASA Administrator, James E. Webb, submitted a request that greatly expanded his agency's fiscal year 1962 budget so as to permit a Moon landing before the end of the decade. While the Apollo lunar landing program had existed as a longterm goal of NASA during the Eisenhower administration, Webb proposed greatly expanding and accelerating it. Kennedy's budget director, David E. Bell, objected to this large increase and debated Webb on the merits of an accelerated lunar landing program. In the end the president was unwilling to obligate the nation to a much bigger and more costly space program. Instead, in good political fashion, he approved a modest increase in the NASA budget to allow for development of the big launch vehicles that would eventually be required to support a Moon landing.

The article goes on to suggest two reasons that Kennedy came to support the lunar program: humiliation over Gagarin's being the first person in orbit, and (closer to home) humiliation over the Bay of Pigs invasion.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.