A very important photograph captures the reuniting of the major politics and science visionaries who made the U.S. Moon landing possible.
President John F. Kennedy, center, gets a briefing of the Saturn launch system from Dr. George Mueller, on November 16, 1963. One year earlier, President Kennedy had detailed his goals for the nation’s space effort in the famous “Moon speech” at Rice University.
“We choose to go to the Moon. 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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
—President Kennedy, Rice University, September 12, 1962
President Kennedy was at Cape Canaveral to survey Project Gemini and the advancement of the Saturn I SA-5 rocket. Seated next to him are notably Wernher von Braun, Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and chief architect of the Apollo Saturn space vehicle, NASA administrator James Webb, NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans, Kurt Debus, director of the Kennedy Space Center and George Low, chief of manned space flight.
In a speech at Brooks AFB in San Antonio, Texas, on November 21, 1963, the day before he was assassinated, president John Kennedy identified this launch as the one which would place US lift capability ahead of the Soviets, after being behind for more than six years since Sputnik.
“And in December, while I do not regard our mastery of space as anywhere near complete, while I recognize that there are still areas where we are behind—at least in one area, the size of the booster—this year I hope the United States will be ahead.”
This was the last visit of the President to the Florida Space Center. After Kennedy’s assassination on November 23, 1963, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, suggested to President Johnson that renaming the Cape Canaveral facility would be an appropriate memorial for the President who had set the goal of landing on the Moon.
From 1963 to 1973, Cape Canaveral became Cape Kennedy when President Lyndon Johnson by executive order renamed the area, announced in a televised address six days after the assassination, on Thanksgiving evening.