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American Odyssey
American Odyssey: The 20th Century and Beyond Glencoe Online
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Web Activity Lesson Plan
Chapter 21: The Kennedy and Johnson Years
"Space Case"


Students have read about Kennedy's 1961 speech that challenged Americans to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this exercise, students will review an exhibit from the National Air and Space Museum that follows the events leading up to Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon.

Lesson Description

Students will use information from the Apollo to the Moon Web site to learn about the efforts to land a man on the moon. Students will read quotes from President Kennedy, view photos of artifacts from the mission, and examine documents that detail the commitment of the United States to the project. Students will then answer four questions and apply this information by writing an imagined conversation between themselves and President Kennedy concerning some of the achievements of the space program.

Instructional Objectives

  1. Students will identify the motivations of the space race and characterize the ways in which the government mobilized to achieve the goal of landing a man on the moon.
  2. Students will be able to use this knowledge to write an imagined conversation between themselves and President Kennedy concerning some of the achievements of the space program.

Student Activity Answers

  1. When Kennedy linked the cold war to the space race, he appealed to Americans' patriotism. He spoke of keeping space "free" for all men to explore, and he indicated that if the Soviets landed on the moon first, it would signal Communist dominance. Kennedy appealed to Americans' fears of communism.
  2. Nearly all of NASA's efforts in space were focused on the lunar landing mission after Kennedy's speech. NASA began scientific studies of the moon, and humans began to orbit the earth. At its peak, more than 400,000 people supported the human and scientific exploration programs.
  3. The following preceded the first lunar landing: the Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft; Project Mercury; the Gemini Program; and finally the Apollo program.
  4. Many Americans felt that the goal of the program had been met with the moon landing. Others felt the program was just too expensive to continue, especially since the cold war was waning. Since the United States had won the race, they reasoned, why continue to throw tax dollars away?
  5. Students' dialogues will vary.

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