United States had been planning to launch its first scientific satellite
in late 1957. However, two launch attempts using the Navy's Vanguard
rocket ended in disaster.
response to the Vanguard failures prompted national soul-searching
in the United States. The media questioned why "Ivan"
could accomplish things that "Johnny" could not.
damaged Vanguard satellite was recovered after the December 6, 1957,
launch attempt ended in an embarrassing explosion. Its designation
TV3 means "Test Vehicle #3."
the first Vanguard failure, the Army gained approval to attempt
a satellite launch. On January 31, 1958, a modified Redstone missile,
the Jupiter-C, lofted America's first satellite, Explorer 1, into
space. In March the Navy's Vanguard succeeded in its third attempt
to launch a satellite.
still behind, America had rallied after its initial stumble and
was now in the Space Race.
FOR THE LEAD
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.
May 25, 1961, when President Kennedy announced the goal of landing
a man on the Moon, the total time spent in space by an American
was barely 15 minutes.
| A videotape
of part of President Kennedy's speech is playing near the entrance
of the Apollo to the Moon gallery.