Today is the anniversary of the first walk on the moon. In honor of that, here is a great segment from the fantastic book A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, summarizing Kennedy in a 1962 speech on why we were going:
In the past sixteen months, as Kennedy’s vision had materialized, so had the clarity of his purpose. To those who questioned this audacious venture, he would now give his answer.
“Why choose this as our goal?” Kennedy asked his audience. “And they may well ask, Why climb the highest mountain? Why, thirty-five years ago, fly the Atlantic?”
“Why,” he added without missing a beat, “does Rice play Texas?”
The crowd sat quietly in the heat, fanning themselves, mopping their brows, as Kennedy spelled out the technological hurdles that would have to be cleared to build the Apollo spacecraft and its Saturn V booster. … The effort would spawn new jobs, new knowledge, new technology, Kennedy said, but ultimately, the first voyages to another world would be “in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not know what benefits await us.”
“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.” His voice rang with energy and confidence; his words soared above the sound of applause. “Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our abilities 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…”