I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before
this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the
Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to
mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none
will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
Then, on September 12, 1962 at Rice University in Houston, President Kennedy defined our quest for the Moon as effectively as could have been done:
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation. We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war...
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon... (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
And now, the first installment of Their Finest Hour's "Apollo+40: America Goes to the Moon":
Thursday, October 3, 1968: NASA managers, engineers, and Astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walt Cunningham meet for the last approval required to let Apollo 7 launch - the flight readiness review.
Wally Schirra had wanted NASA to recind its rule against naming spacecraft so that he could call the mission's Apollo spacecraft, CSM-101, Phoenix - as it would be rising from the ashes of the Apollo 1 tragedy in January of 1967.
40 years ago today America's Phoenix - to sadly be known just as Apollo 7 - was determined to be fully ready in all respects to get our Nation back into space, and on our inexorable path to the Moon.
Launch was set for Friday, October 11th - 8 days later.
Sources: Encyclopedia Astronautica, NASA Human Spaceflight, and NASA KSC Apollo 7 History Page