In 1961, President John F. Kennedy began a dramatic expansion of the U.S. space program and committed the nation to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, and the space race was on. The Soviets’ triumph jarred the American people and sparked a vigorous response in the federal government to make sure the United States did not fall behind its Communist rival President Kennedy understood the need to restore America’s confidence and intended not merely to match the Soviets, but surpass them.
On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress to deliver a special message on “urgent national needs.” He asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President Kennedy settled upon this dramatic goal as a means of focusing and mobilizing the nation’s lagging space efforts. Using an Esterbrook pen , President Kennedy signed a bill on July, 21st 1961 which increased the budget of NASA in order to fulfill the goal of landing a man on the moon.
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit Earth. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Friendship 7 capsule carrying Glenn reached a maximum altitude of 162 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,500 miles per hour. After more than four hours in space, having circled the earth three times, Glenn piloted the Friendship 7 back into the atmosphere and landed in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda.
Glenn’s success helped to inspire NASA and the Nation to continue President Kennedys mission to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
To the Moon.
As space exploration continued through the 1960s, the United States was on its way to the Moon. Project Gemini was the second NASA spaceflight program. Its goals were to perfect the entry and re-entry maneuvers of a spacecraft and conduct further tests on how individuals are affected by long periods of space travel. The Apollo Program followed Project Gemini. Its goal was to land humans on the moon and assure their safe return to Earth. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.—realized President Kennedy’s dream that begin with an Esterbrook pen and his signing of the bill that increased the size and budget of NASA with the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely back to earth.