In 1961, President john F. Kennedy began a dramatic expansion of the U.S. An are program and also committed the nation to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

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In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, and the an are race to be on. The Soviets" triumph jarred the American people and sparked a vigorous solution in the federal government to make sure the United says did not loss behind that is Communist rival. 

A new space program, job Mercury, to be initiated two years later, throughout President Dwight D. Eisenhower"s administration. Seven males were selected to take part in the program: Scott Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, john Glenn Jr., Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald "Deke" Slayton. Task Mercury"s purposes were come orbit a manned spacecraft about Earth, inspection the capability of astronauts to function in space, and recover astronauts and spacecraft safely.

Then, in 1961, the country suffered an additional shock as soon as Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ended up being the first man to orbit the Earth. The joined States, it seemed, was still falling behind.

President Kennedy"s Challenge

President Kennedy construed the need to restore America"s confidence and intended not just to match the Soviets, but surpass them. On may 25, 1961, he stood before Congress to provide a special message on "urgent nationwide needs." the asked for second $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the room program, proclaiming that "this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the te is out, the landing a male on the Moon and returning the safely come the earth." chairman Kennedy settled upon this dramatic goal together a method of focusing and mobilizing the nation"s lagging room efforts.

Skeptics questioned the capacity of the nationwide Aeronautics and an are Administration (NASA) to fulfill the president"s timetable. Within a year, however, Alan Shepard and also Gus Grissom came to be the an initial two americans to travel right into space.

An American in Orbit

On February 20, 1962, john Glenn Jr. Became the first American to orbit Earth. Released from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Friendship 7 capsule moving Glenn reached a maximum altitude the 162 miles and also an orbital velocity that 17,500 miles per hour. After an ext than four hours in space, having circled the planet three times, glen piloted the Friendship 7 back into the atmosphere and landed in the Atlantic Ocean close to Bermuda.

Glenn"s success aided inspire the great army of people working to with the Moon. Medical researchers, engineers, test pilots, machinists, manufacturing facility workers, businessmen, and industrialists from across the nation worked together to achieve this goal. By may 1963, astronauts Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra Jr., and also L. Gordon Cooper had additionally orbited Earth. Every mission lasted longer than the one before and also gathered much more data.

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To the Moon

As room exploration ongoing through the 1960s, the United states was on its way to the Moon. Project Gemini to be the 2nd NASA spaceflight program. Its objectives were to perfect the entry and re-entry maneuvers the a spacecraft and also conduct additional tests on exactly how individuals are impacted by lengthy periods of room travel. The Apollo Program followed Project Gemini. Its goal to be to land people on the Moon and assure their safe go back to Earth. ~ above July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and also Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.—realized president Kennedy"s dream.