Apollo missions and moon landing were a big PR stunt for JFK

Apollo missions and moon landing were a big PR stunt for JFK

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy stood on a stage at Rice University and mentioned that America should go to the moon and that mankind can’t be deterred “in his quest for knowledge and progress.”

But, it seems, he didn’t care a lot about both information or progress. In truth, the younger president reportedly had little curiosity in area. He supposedly informed an MIT professor that rockets were a waste of cash.

Even so, in 1961, he all of the sudden invested $25 billion within the “most ambitious space program in national history.”

“Kennedy didn’t propose it for the sake of science,” writer and curator of the Smithsonian’s Apollo assortment Teasel Muir-Harmony informed The Post. “It was really a demonstration of what the American industry was capable of and a demonstration of American values.”

In her new ebook, “Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo” (Basic Books), out now, Muir-Harmony dug via packing containers of hidden authorities paperwork to shine a gentle on the little-known position that propaganda and overseas relations performed in fueling the area program — slightly than the marvel of discovery.

The Eisenhower administration first conceived the Apollo program partially as a solution to “contain Communism, align the world with the United States, and shore up America’s power.”

But one of many issues America confronted when it got here to the area race was that it was shedding. The Soviet Union’s Sputnik triumph pressured the world to view the united states in a “very different light,” in accordance with the United States Information Agency (USIA). A front-page New York Times headline in 1960 trumpeted, “US Survey Finds Others Consider Soviets Mightiest.”

In 1961, the Soviets put the primary man in area. Yuri Gagarin turned an instantaneous worldwide celeb who later went on tour.

When Kennedy took workplace in 1961, the federal government’s PR machine ratcheted up. Kennedy was “a man who perhaps better than any other president in our history, understood how foreign opinion worked, what molded it, what shaped it and how to shape it,” USIA Acting Director Donald Wilson says within the ebook.

When it got here to the space-race propaganda, the Americans were decided to do issues in another way than the Soviets.

“The Soviet Union was relatively closed about what they were launching when they were launching it and their technology,” says Muir-Harmony. “The US took a different tack, inviting the press to cover launches and sending spacecraft around the world.”

Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon both saw the potential to exploit the space race to show off American ingenuity.
Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon each noticed the potential to take advantage of the area race.

In 1961, for instance, Freedom 7, the capsule that carried the primary American into area, was exhibited in Paris and Rome, drawing greater than a million guests.

“Two young men soared into space early this year,” a USIA report back to Congress learn. “The Russian was the first one up, but the American’s achievement was more widely heard and even more widely believed.”

After John Glenn turned the primary man to orbit the earth in 1962, the USIA and the State Department chosen cities that may be most strategically advantageous to exhibit his capsule, Friendship 7.

On its first exhibiting in London, hundreds were turned away attributable to overcrowding. In Paris, the curious waited 5 hours, forcing the museum to remain open till midnight. In Egypt, one onlooker was overheard saying, “I thought this space flight business was a rumor but now that I can see the ship I believe it.”

In 1965, the astronauts themselves were despatched on tour. Lyndon Johnson shipped two Gemini astronauts to Paris to glad-hand.

The cover of Operation Moonglow

American embassies all over the world started clamoring for a go to of their very own. The US embassy in Turkey, for instance, wrote that a go to could be “extremely useful [for] this NATO partner which directly confronts USSR . . .”

In the summer season of 1969, Apollo 11’s moon landing gave the world “one giant leap for mankind” and President Nixon a enormous alternative.

Nixon timed a “diplomatic tour explicitly to take advantage of the international popularity of the moon landing,” the writer writes. His eight-country journey, named Operation Moonglow, sought to display a concern for Asia and Eastern Europe and a dedication to securing peace in Vietnam with the message that “if mankind can send men to the moon, then we can bring peace to the Earth.”

Operation Moonglow bore tangible fruit. Using the journey for cowl, Nixon and his nationwide safety advisor, Henry Kissinger, were in a position to have a secret, back-channel conferences with the North Vietnamese that helped pave the way in which to ending the struggle.

As Kennedy had envisioned, the area program went a great distance towards enhancing America’s model and creating “a sense of goodwill,” the writer says. But, finally, this system tapped into one thing higher.

“The message that resonated with people around the world was not of US greatness and strength; it was of sharing and community and openness,” Muir-Harmony writes. “It required forgoing the message of nationalism in favor of world connectedness. For Apollo to ‘win hearts and minds,’ to advance US nationwide pursuits, it needed to be an achievement of and not for all humankind.”

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