"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 the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...."
President John F. Kennedy, 1961
"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, on the Moon, 1969
The exhibit Apollo to the Moon tells the historic story of human exploration of the Moon by the United States. The defining moment of this journey occured when Astronaut Neil Armstrong, after descending the frail-looking ladder of the Lunar Module Eagle, took the first human steps on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Five more flights carried astronauts to the Moon, the last in 1972. No human has been there since.
This marvel of exploration took shape in the special circumstances of the 1950s and 1960s. The United States and the Soviet Union competed for primacy in a global struggle pitting a democratic society against totalitarian communism. This struggle, called the Cold War, motivated the first explorations of space by both countries.
The space age began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union orbited Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite.. On 3 November 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik II. Included in the payload was a dog named Laika, the first living being sent into space. Initial American attempts to meet the Soviet challenge ended in failure, inciting widespread public agitation that the United States was falling behind in this new, crucial arena Cold War competition.
From this beginning, both countries raced into space. But the goal of this competition remained unclear. Not until 1961, when President John F. Kennedy called for a lunar journey by the end of the decade, did landing humans on the Moon become the focus of the space race.
The Museum tells this history in two parts. To learn about the American and Soviet competition visit our exhibit Space Race. The story of America's effort to master the challenges of an unprecedented journey across thousands of miles of space is told here in Apollo to the Moon.
RACING TO SPACE
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