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U.S. Endeavors - America starts for the Moon - by Mark Romeo

"This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it." --Pres. John F. Kennedy, November 21, 1963

Splashdown of Apollo 11After the successful mission and safe splashdown return of Apollo 11, which put three Americans on the Moon’s surface, Americans hailed the successful completion of the most audacious and complex technological undertaking of the 20th century [1].  Just over eight years before, when President John F. Kennedy proposed the manned lunar landing as the focus of the United States' space program, only one American - Alan B. Shepard, Jr. – had been into space, on a sub orbital lob shot lasting only about 15 minutes. At the end of the first lunar landing mission, American astronauts had logged more than 5,000 man-hours in space. The first successful lunar landing mission marked the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's greatest achievement and demonstrated their devotion in the development of the capability to explore space in order to serve the national interest.

Throughout the 1950s to the 1980s, the two superpowers of the U.S. and USSR, each sought to develop and maintain an offensive strategic nuclear force sufficient to deter the other from launching a first-strike attack.  These efforts produced a strategic balance of power that proved reasonably comfortable to both sides.  The first consequence of this unusual community of interest was that each side tried to confine regional conflicts by limiting the type and employment of military forces.  In certain areas the close proximity of powerful conventional military forces equipped with tactical nuclear weapons greatly increased the risk that a local conflict might escalate into a global nuclear war. 

This concept of massive retaliation buildup implied a reduction in conventional military forces, but placed greater emphasis on nuclear armaments.  The so-called "Arms Race" [2], which accompanied the Cold War, assumed formidable status when the United States exploded the first hydrogen bomb in 1952 and the USSR duplicated the test six months later.  After, while work continued on nuclear weapons and atomic tests, both sides concentrated on perfecting the means of delivering these bombs and warheads.  New long-range aircraft were developed and by 1957 both nations had workable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).  As a result, despite Eisenhower's desire to reduce federal spending, defense and defense-related budgets consisted approximately 50 percent of the annual budgets of his administration.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a basketball-sized satellite called Sputnik 1 (Click here to hear Sputnik I as it orbited the Earth), and a second Soviet satellite (Sputnik II) carrying a living dog (named Laika) soon followed.  These launchings won almost universal praise throughout the rest of the world as outstanding scientific achievements.  At the same time, U.S. authorities recognized that the Soviet satellites, besides having propaganda value, reflected significant Soviet advances in the design and construction of rocket-propelled ballistic missiles. [3 The Soviet achievement therefore provoked nationwide debate, and many public figures urged a congressional probe of U.S. development in rocket and missile research and advocated new reforms in the educational system in order to increase scientific and technology personnel.  The U.S. missile program was intensified, and in January 1958 the U.S. Army launched the first U.S. earth satellite, Explorer 1.

On December 19, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's voice was heard around the globe -- the first human voice ever to be heard speaking through an Earth-orbiting satellite.  Here President Eisenhower is shown receiving the first taped copy of his broadcast.  Click HERE to hear the actual recording.The Soviet Union‘s launch of the world‘s first man-made satellite made America focus its attention on its own fledgling space efforts.  Congress, alarmed by the perceived threat to American security and technological leadership, urged immediate and strong action.  Several months of debate produced an agreement that a new federal agency was needed to conduct al non-military activity in space.  On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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