The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States had become a space race motivated in the 1960s by an acute political rivalry to see who would be dominant in space. Admittedly, the Soviets had a head start by sending a man into Earth orbit in 1961, which put enormous pressure on President Kennedy to catch up and overtake the Soviets. In a speech to the joint session of Congress in 1961, he stated “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space- craft.”
Just over eight years after the speech, on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission would land the first humans on the Moon – 50 years ago this month.