CHARTING A PATH FOR THE AMERICAN SPACE PROGRAM
Immediately after Gagarin's flight, President Kennedy wanted to know what the United States could do in space to take the lead from the Soviets. Vice President Lyndon Johnson polled leaders in NASA, industry, and the military. He reported that "with a strong effort" the United States "could conceivably" beat the Soviets in sending a man around the Moon or landing a man on the Moon. As neither nation yet had a rocket powerful enough for such a mission, the race to the Moon was a contest that the United States would not be starting at a disadvantage.
The rationale for human exploration of the moon primarily came from a memorandum for Johnson prepared in early May 1961 by NASA Administrator James E. Webb and Secretary of Defense Robert F. McNamara.
Memorandum page A
Memorandum page B
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