On this day 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy promised that the United States would put a man on the moon. Decades later, NASA has a plan to go back.

President Kennedy delivers his speech

President Kennedy addresses a crowd at Rice University Stadium in Houston on September 12, 1962.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

  • September 12 marks 60 years since President Kennedy delivered his famous “Moon Speech” at Rice University in Texas.

  • NASA is planning a landing astronauts on the moon for the first time since 1972 with its Artemis missions.

  • Artemis I is the first step: an unmanned flight test to the moon and back.

President John F. Kennedy stood behind a podium at Rice University football stadium 60 years ago and promised that by the end of the decade the United States would put boots on the moon.

“But why, some say, the moon?” He posed in front of 40,000 people on September 12, 1962. “Why choose this as our goal? And you may wonder why climb the highest mountain? Why fly the Atlantic 35 years ago? Why is Rice playing Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon and do the other things this decade, not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard.”

In the 60 years since Kennedy’s speech, space exploration has helped us discover much about the cosmos and humanity’s place in it.

The crowd at Rice University watches Kennedy's speech.

The crowd at Rice University watches Kennedy’s speech.John F Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson delivered a keynote address at Rice University’s football stadium Monday, noting that the space agency, with the Artemis missions, is poised to return to the moon for the first time in half a century — this time staying.

“There are pivotal days when opinions change, hearts fill and imaginations soar. One of those days happened 60 years ago at the same stadium in the same sweltering heat of a sunny September day,” Nelson told the crowd, which included NASA officials, astronauts and students.

“Today, in Space City, a new generation—the Artemis generation—stands ready to take humanity back to the moon and then take us further than ever to Mars. It will not be easy. It’s going to be tough.” he added.

Kennedy delivered the iconic speech amid a bitter space race with the Soviet Union; It had been a year since the USSR launched the first person, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.

In the speech, Kennedy wanted to explain to the nation why the Apollo program is such a high priority. He stressed that humankind’s push into space is a given and that the world would be better off with the US leading the push.

President John F. Kennedy addresses a crowd at Rice University Stadium in Houston and reaffirms his support for America's space program, including landing a man on the moon.

“We’re choosing to go to the moon and do the other things this decade, not because they’re easy, but because they’re difficult,” Kennedy told the crowd.NASA

“For the eyes of the world are now on space, on the moon and the planets beyond, and we have sworn that we shall not see it ruled by an enemy flag of conquest, but by a banner of liberty and peace,” he said said. “We have sworn that we shall not see outer space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

On July 20, 1969, just seven years after Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong descended from the lunar module ladder to the lunar surface.

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, stands near the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle.  in July 1969.

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, stands near the lunar module in July 1969.NASA

NASA landed five more missions on the moon, with the last of them – Apollo 17 – landing in 1972. And although there have been no boots on the moon since then, the space agency continued to send people into space.

Skylab, the first US-operated space outpost, was launched on May 14, 1973. Observing the sun was one of the most important achievements of the orbiting laboratory, according to NASA. It spent six years orbiting the Earth until its decaying orbit caused it to reenter the atmosphere and scatter debris across the Indian Ocean and parts of Australia.

Between 1981 and July 2011, NASA’s fleet of space shuttles – Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor – flew 135 missions and carried more than 350 astronauts into space.

And since November 2, 2000, humanity has had a permanent presence on the International Space Station.

ISS in 2022.

The International Space Station in 2022.NASA

To return astronauts to the lunar surface, NASA has invested 17 years and an estimated $50 billion in developing the space launch system and its Orion spacecraft.

The bright new SLS rocket is 23 stories taller than the Statue of Liberty, and the spacecraft is bolted to the top. Four car-sized engines and two rocket boosters should give it enough thrust to push Orion all the way around the moon – further than any human-made spacecraft has ever flown. That’s where NASA’s first SLS mission called Artemis I leads.

When launched on September 23, the SLS rocket was expected to put the Orion spacecraft on a trajectory to orbit the moon and return to Earth.

Illustration shows the Orange Space Launch System rocket taking off

An illustration of the Space Launch System taking off from the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.NASA

There will be no people on board, but if the spacecraft successfully completes its mission, NASA plans to bring astronauts into the Orion module for another trip around the moon and then land them on the lunar surface in 2025.

“This is now the Artemis generation,” Nelson said at an Aug. 3 news conference. “We were in the Apollo generation, but this is a new generation, this is a new breed of astronaut. And for all of us who are looking up at the moon, dreaming of the day when humanity returns to the lunar surface, folks, we are here. We go back and this journey, our journey, begins with Artemis I.”

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally released on August 20, 2022.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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