On April 12, 2011, I am giving a presentation on the subject of this blog post at a conference in Houston, Texas. The conference is the 18th IAA Humans in Space Symposium.
My abstract reads: What is it about the Moon that captures the fancy of humankind? A silvery disk hanging in the night sky, it conjures up images of romance and magic. John F. Kennedy did not fully understand the forces he unleashed when he announced his decision on May 25, 1961, that the United States would reach for the Moon and land with astronauts before the end of the decade of the 1960s. This decision was sparked in no small measure by the flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, coupled with other setbacks in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, especially the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion. This difficult political situation served as a trigger for the U.S. to undertake Project Apollo. This presentation assesses this situation in the spring of 1961, as well as the multi and varied story of the accomplishment of Project Apollo. It also analyzes how humanity has responded to the experience of the Moon landings in the more than forty years since the first one took place. Specifically, what was it about this time and circumstance that led JFK to make the decision to land on the Moon, and what drove its continuation through to successful conclusion for more than a decade?
The presentation is here: When Cosmic Tumblers Clicked into Place.