September 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech that would shape the worldview of a generation. At Rice University in Houston, Texas in front of 35,000 people he said, “We choose to go to the moon.”
To understand the significance lets go back to 1961 when Kennedy became president. Many Americans believed the U.S. was losing the Space Race. The USSR successfully launched the first artificial satellite. The first man in space was a Russian before the U.S. could launch its first astronaut.
But Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon.” And about 6 years later the first man that landed on the moon was Neil Armstrong, July 1969. Here is a snippet of the speech.
January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger launch was broadcast on TV sets in schools across America. Included on board Challenger was Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher who won a nationwide competition to become the first “Teacher in Space”.
“4…3…2…1… lift off.” 73 seconds had passed after those words. Challenger ascended to an altitude of 46,000 feet. And then, a ball of fire and smoke engulfed the shuttle. The TV broadcaster and control station became silent for many seconds. I was 6 years old.