John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon

John M. Logsdon

Professor Emeritus, Space Policy Institute, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

Videography by Nerine & Robert Clemenzi, Edited by Nerine Clemenzi
Copyright © Philosophical Society of Washington.  All rights reserved.


Based on his award winning 2010 book with the same title, John Logsdon will review the factors that led President John F. Kennedy, just four months after his inauguration, on May 25, 1961, to set as a national goal sending Americans to the Moon "before this decade is out." The story of Kennedy's Cold War decision to go to the Moon is relatively well-known; less understood are JFK's actions and second thoughts with respect to the lunar landing goal during the remaining thirty months of his presidency. These will be explored in some depth, including Kennedy's little-remembered September 1963 proposal to turn Project Apollo into a cooperative U.S-U.S.S.R. undertaking and the existence of a sweeping review of the U.S. space effort underway as Kennedy was assassinated that considered, among other options, cancelling Apollo or slipping the date for the first lunar landing.

After reviewing this history, Logsdon will present his views on the question: "Was Apollo worth its costs and risks?" He will also relate the experience and evaluation of Apollo to current controversies regarding the character of future U.S. space efforts. His talk will be supplemented by video and audio clips of Kennedy's speeches and White House meetings on the lunar project.

John Logsdon

About the Author:

John Logsdon is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. Prior to his leaving active faculty status in June 2008, he was on the faculty of the George Washington University for 38 years; before that he taught at the Catholic University of America for four years. He was the founder in 1987 and long-time Director of GW's Space Policy Institute. He is also a faculty member of the International Space University. He holds a B.S. in Physics from Xavier University (1960) and a Ph.D. in Political Science from New York University (1970).

His research interests focus on the policy and historical aspects of U.S. and international space activities. He is author of the award-winning John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (2010) and The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest (1970) and is general editor of the multi-volume series Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program. He has written numerous articles and reports on space policy and history. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Planetary Society. From September 2008-August 2009, he held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. In 2003, he served as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. He is a former member of the NASA Advisory Council and its Exploration Committee. From 1997-1999, he served as a member of a blue-ribbon international panel evaluating Japan's National Space Development Agency. From 1998-2008, he was a member of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Council of the Department of Transportation. He has also served on the Vice President's Space Policy Advisory Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council. He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Public Service, Distinguished Public Service, and Public Service Medals, the 2005 John F. Kennedy Award from the American Astronautical Society, and the 2006 Barry Goldwater Space Educator Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

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