2017 JFK 100th Birth Anniv-Moon Landing
Item #M11851 – mint sheet honoring Kennedy’s role in the Moon landing

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of his most famous and stirring speeches, to generate support for the Apollo program.

1964 5¢ Kennedy Memorial
US #1246 was issued for JFK’s 47th birthday.
1967 13¢ Prominent Americans: John F. Kennedy
US #1287 – from the Prominent Americans Series

The Space Race began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite. Originally, the Soviet Union planned to launch a much larger satellite, known to its designers as “Object D.” However, the telemetry system was not functioning as needed, and a lower than expected impulse of the launch rocket delayed the project. Fearing that the US would launch a satellite first, a decision was made to develop a much simpler rocket concurrently. Sputnik was smaller than a basketball and carried only a radio transmitter instead of multiple scientific instruments. Object D would be launched successfully as Sputnik-3 on May 15, 1958.

2017 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
US #5175 was issued for JFK’s 100th birthday.

Success continued for the Soviets during the next few years. In 1959, they sent two rockets to the Moon. One landed while the other transmitted photos of the moon’s dark side back to Earth. In 1960, they sent two dogs, a rabbit, two rats, and 42 mice into orbit. All animals onboard returned safely, becoming the first animals to do so.

2009 Grenada - Moon Landing 40th Anniversary
Item #M10404 was issued for the Moon landing’s 40th anniversary.

The Soviet space program continued to advance, constantly seeming to stay a step ahead of the US. By far the biggest blow to the US happened on April 12, 1961, however. On that day, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. It was this event that caused President Kennedy to seek a goal that the United States had a good shot at attaining before the Soviets. After consulting with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and NASA officials, the decision was made to attempt to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.

2010 Liberia JFK Election Anniv. 4v
Item #M10650 honors Kennedy’s dedication to the space program.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a special joint session of Congress to announce his ambitious goal. He stated that, “Now it is time to take longer strides – time for a great new American enterprise – time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.”

1969 10 ¢ Moon Landing
US #C76 – America’s first jumbo-sized commemorative, the engraved master dies for this stamp traveled to the Moon aboard Apollo 11.

Public support for the mission was low – a Gallup Poll revealed that 58% of Americans opposed the mission. President Kennedy hoped to gain greater support though. In September 1962, he visited Rice University, which had served as the intermediary for a land donation to expand the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. During his visit, the president toured the new facility, guided by astronauts Scott Carpenter and John Glenn, and got to see the Friendship 7 spacecraft.

2013 Mustique JFK 50th Mem Anniversary
Item #M11261 pictures JFK at Rice University.

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy delivered a special speech to an audience of 40,000 people at Rice University’s Rice Stadium. Kennedy spoke about space as a new frontier, comparing it to the pioneer spirit of American folklore that explored and settled the West. His speech also stressed urgency and American destiny, and reminded listeners that Americans could choose their destiny, rather than have it chosen for them. While he had at one time suggested a joint Moon mission, he now called for a competition with the Soviet Union.

2017 JFK 100th Birth Anniversary Space Program
Item #M11852 includes the most famous line of Kennedy’s speech.

Kennedy’s speech was generally well received and did help to gain some additional support for the Apollo program, though some still opposed it because of the cost. After Kennedy’s death in November 1963, the Apollo project continued on in his memory, achieving his goal six years later in 1969.

1994 $9.95 First Moon Landing, Express Mail
US #2842 – Express Mail stamp commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing.

Click here to watch President Kennedy’s speech.

Click here for more Kennedy stamps and click here for more space stamps.

FREE printable This Day in History album pages
Download a PDF of today’s article.  
Get a binder or other supplies to create your This Day in History album.  

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article

One Comment

  1. A fantastic idea. Instead of an arms race we have a race to space. Maybe bring that concept back.
    Of course it leaves room for “coopatition”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *