Moon Race Controversy

May 8, 1963

Report Outline
Rising Criticism of U.S. Moon Program
Methods and Hazards of Flight to Moon
Gains for Man in Conquest of the Moon

Rising Criticism of U.S. Moon Program

The United States may fall short of its goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the present decade. Beset by delays and mounting costs, the American moon program is being subjected to searching criticism for the first time. In the past, Soviet space feats could be counted on to generate demands for spending additional money and effort on U.S. space projects. But announcement of the launching on April 2 of Lunik IV, Russia's first moon shot in three and one-half years, met with more indifference than alarm. Many members of Congress are beginning to wonder whether the $20 billion needed to put a man on the moon by 1970 will yield a commensurate return in national prestige, scientific knowledge, or military advantage.

Commitment to Send a Man to the Moon by 1970

President Kennedy said in a special message to Congress, May 25, 1961, that he believed “we should go to the moon” even though “we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first” in space. The President asserted that “no single space project [in the 1960s] will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space” than getting to the moon, but he warned that “none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” He urged “every citizen … as well as the members of Congress [to] consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, … because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful.”

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which [has] not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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