On September 20, 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a unique proposal.
“Hey, Soviets… why don’t we just go to the moon together? … could be fun, am I right?”
(Not an exact quote.)
This announcement came three years after his 1961 call to compete in, and win, the “space race” with the Soviets. At the time, the Soviets had already successfully launched a satellite (Sputnik) into orbit around the Earth. Their Sputnik accomplishment of 1957 was seen as a challenge by the United States at a time when Russian and U.S. relations were… less than friendly.
“It’s a race!”
However, relations between the two countries by 1963 had become much less tense. The Cuban Missile Crisis had become less of a crisis, a nuclear weapons treaty had been signed and the two countries even established a hotline to promote good communication, or late-night chats… when they were having trouble sleeping.
“Hey, Soviets. Just wanted to call to say we were thinking about you.”
“Do you know what time it is here?!?!”
Get a load of these phones by the way… The Soviets seemed to be using a typewriter rigged up to a car battery.
Many claimed that the high price of space aviation was not worth the competition with the Soviets. A moon trip in 1963 was proposed at around $20 billion. That’s a seriously expensive shuttle just to see a giant rock. President Kennedy was hoping to go dutch with Khrushchev.
Unfortunately, two months later President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. This set back the space program in the United States significantly. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was not a huge fan of the Soviets. Ultimately, he abandoned the idea of splitting the check.
Johnson did, however, continue with the U.S. lunar mission. In 1969, the United States landed the first person on the moon. Upon arrival, U.S. astronauts planted the American flag, jumped around mockingly and all-around had a fantastic time.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!