Houston, Texas (FOX26) On Wednesday, it will be exactly half a century since President John F. Kennedy announced that America was aiming for the moon. Kennedy delivered this historic speech right here in Houston, at Rice Stadium.
"Why, some say, the moon?" asked Kennedy, addressing the audience at Rice. "Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?"
The President paused as laughter rippled through the crowd. "We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy. But because they are hard," he concluded.
At the time, a single American astronaut – John Glenn – had orbited the earth three times. There were still formidable technological challenges to overcome and no guarantees that American ingenuity would triumph.
"The issue wasn't putting someone on the moon or putting a piece of machinery on the moon," explained Dr. David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute. "It was putting a person on the moon safely, and bringing them back."
And, true to the president's promise, Apollo 11's lunar module touched down on the moon's surface less than seven years later. And all three astronauts on that mission made it back to earth.
JFK spoke to the crowd at Rice University on a sweltering day in mid-September, 1962. His notes rested on a podium bearing the presidential seal.
That podium itself was quite high-tech for the times. It could be raised and lowered mechanically with the touch of a button.
Today, it's a piece of history that you can see for yourself.
"We just feel privileged and honored to have this as a part of our collection here at Space Center Houston," said Richard Allen, who runs the official visitors 'center of NASA's Johnson Space Center.
President Kennedy's speech, here in Houston, is widely seen as marking the beginning of the Space Age.