Fifty years ago this month, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two human beings on the moon. Here’s everything you need to know.
Why did we go to the moon?
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Kennedy framed the goal as part of a “battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny.” In the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the space race had become a proxy for which country’s economic system was better — capitalism or communism. In all, Project Apollo would cost $25 billion (about $174 billion in today’s dollars), employ 400,000 people at its peak, and involve the efforts of 20,000 firms and universities. “Apollo was the biggest nonmilitary effort in the history of human civilization,” said journalist Charles Fishman, author of a book on the program.
How did the project start?
When NASA administrator James E. Webb first asked Kennedy shortly after his inauguration in 1961 for enough money to pursue a moon landing, Kennedy told him no. But two events apparently changed Kennedy’s mind. On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space — and also the first to orbit the planet. By comparison, American Alan Shepard’s flight on May 5 was brief and suborbital. Five days after Gagarin’s flight came the botched invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs — a personal humiliation for JFK that raised fears that communism was winning both the space race and the Cold War. “I’m sure it [the Bay of Pigs] had an impact,” said Jerome …read more
Source:: The Week – Science