Kennedy was not interested in space travel

September 13th, 2012 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 13 (IANS) Former US president John F. Kennedy was initially very hesitant about space travel, and could not be convinced that all rockets were not a waste of money, according to a biography.

Correspondence in 1961 between the then newly-inaugurated president and vice-president Lyndon Johnson show that the reason behind the space programme was a chance at political victory over the Soviet Union, and not exploring the universe, the Daily Mail reported.

During a 1962 meeting with NASA, the 45-year-old president said that he was ‘not that interested in space’.

According to the biography “John F. Kennedy: History, Memory, Legacy”, space exploration was Kennedy’s weakest area during his first few months in office.

It was an area he was least confident with. The president did not take much interest in educating himself about space, the daily said.

During a dinner with Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and aerospace pioneer Charles Draper, Kennedy and his brother Robert ridiculed Draper’s pitch about space travel.

However, when the Soviet Union sent the first man into space in 1961, just three months after Kennedy was sworn in as president, the president began to see the political benefits of exploring space.

As Yuri Gagarin returned to Earth in April 1961, fears began to grow in the US that the Soviets were technologically more advanced, the book says.

Kennedy turned to Johnson, and wrote a letter that there was only one reason for his support of the space programme.

“Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the Moon, or by a rocket to land on the Moon, or by a rocket to go to the Moon and back with a man?” the Daily Mail quoted the letter as saying.

“Is there any other space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?” he wrote.

On May 25, 1961, in an address to the Congress, Kennedy announced America’s new goal of landing a man on the moon.

Six years after Kennedy was assassinated in July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

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