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President John F. Kennedy Presents His "Urgent National Needs" Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, May 25, 1961

Flanked by Vice President and President of the Senate Lyndon B. Johnson (left) and Speaker of the House Samuel T. Rayburn (right), President John F. Kennedy challenged Congress to make a moon landing an urgent national goal.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

President John F. Kennedy Presents His "Urgent National Needs" Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, May 25, 1961

Race to the Moon

In the 1950s the United States and the Soviet Union both began programs for manned and unmanned scientific missions into space. Spurred by the Soviets’ successful 1957 launch of the unmanned Sputnik 1 satellite, Congress initiated the U.S. civilian space program. Winning the space race became a political, scientific, and security priority, intensified after President John F. Kennedy and Congress set a national goal of being first to send an astronaut to the moon.

I believe that 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.

- President John F. Kennedy, “Urgent National Needs” Speech, May 25, 1961