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President Kennedy Speaks at United Nations

Sept. 20, 1963 - President Kennedy (pictured with U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Secretary U Thant) suggested today that the U.S. and the Soviet Union send a joint expedition to the Moon. He said this joint effort could carry “representatives of all humanity,” not a single nation, to the Moon in this decade. In a speech hailing the “pause in the cold war,” Mr. Kennedy told the U.N. General Assembly it was essential for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as the two major nuclear powers, “to concentrate less on our differences and more on the means of resolving them peacefully.” The President emphasized the need for increased cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in space. He reminded the Assembly that it adopted a resolution in 1961 recommending that nations renounce territorial claims in space and asked, “Why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the Moon be a matter of national competition?” The President’s proposal caught many Government officials by surprise. It seemed a sudden reversal of the Administration’s position on the “space race.” The proposal, which could set a radically new course for the five-year-old civilian space program, was drafted by a small group of White House advisers and officials and inserted at the last minute in the President’s speech. There was speculation in Washington that the proposal represented the first step toward pulling out of the costly “moon race” and backing away from the Presidential commitment that the U.S. would land a man on the Moon before 1970. The speculation was strengthened by the fact that the proposal came when it was becoming increasingly doubtful it would be possible to achieve the lunar landing by 1970 and when the Administration was under strong pressure to hold down Government expenditures.


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