It’s 60 years since US President John Kennedy made his famous “Moonshot” speech.

On 12 September 1962, Kennedy addressed a crowd of 35 000 people at Rice University in Houston, recommitting the US to the Moon landing goal he proposed to Congress in May 1961. He rallied the nation to land astronauts on the Moon before the end of the decade and bring the crew safely back to Earth.

Kennedy repeated comments he made in Huntsville and Cape Canaveral that, although the Soviet Union had taken the initial lead in the space race, the US space program had made bold strides to catch up and that he intended America to take the lead in the coming years.

Addressing those doubted who the Moon landing goal, Kennedy said: “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?

“We choose to go to 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 organise 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 we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Closing his speech, the president referred to British mountaineer George Mallory, who when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, replied: “Because it is there.”

President Kennedy concluded: “Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”