JFK wanted a joint moon mission but the Russians said no, says ...

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JFK wanted a joint moon mission but the Russians said no, says expert

The US president asked Nikita Khrushchev to join forces, but Khrushchev declined, setting up a bitter space race

Sarah Knapton

John F Kennedy wanted to work with the Soviet Union to put a man on the moon and never intended the programme to be a nationalistic American endeavour, an eminent historian has claimed.

Space race expert John Logsdon, a former member of Nasa’s advisory council and founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said that in 1961, 10 days after announcing his goal for a manned moon mission within a decade, Kennedy met Nikita Khrushchev. According to Logsdon, the president invited the leader of the Soviet Union to join forces, but Khrushchev declined, setting up a bitter space race between the two countries that would only end when America succeeded in the mission on July 20 1969.

Kennedy repeated his offer two years later in September 1963, when the Apollo programme was in danger of cancellation and frosty relations with the Soviet Union following the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis were beginning to thaw. That offer was recorded in a long-forgotten speech to the United Nations, in which the president said: “There is room for new co-operation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon ... Why therefore should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction and expenditure?..

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