Famous moon speech remembered

50th anniversary of Kennedy's speech

HOUSTON - Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy supported NASA's Apollo program in a speech that contained some famous words about space exploration.

On Sept. 12, 1962, the famous 10-minute moon speech was delivered at Rice University and laid out why the president believed sending astronauts to the moon was so important. It's known as one of the best known speeches of his presidency.

"I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort," said Kennedy in his speech.

On the day of his speech, classes hadn't yet started and freshmen were on campus for orientation. An estimated 40,000 people packed Rice Stadium to hear the president speak.

Ronald Sass, now a fellow at the Baker Institute, was there with his daughter that day.

"I remember it was very hot. I know I listened to a very important man saying very important things," said Sass.

Sass said one particular line stuck out to him.

"I remember when he said going to the moon is as hard as Rice beating Texas, or something like that," Sass said.

That was a line the president added himself.

"Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard," said Kennedy in his speech.

"It was sort of like David and Goliath in everybody's mind. I think it was in Kennedy's mind," said Sass.

From that speech at Rice, Houston's place in space exploration was changed forever. Houston since became home to the astronauts, to astronaut training and every manned space mission.

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