Soon after becoming president, John F. Kennedy showed interest in the excitement of the space race with Russia and in the fact that the near-term inferiority of our launch vehicles seemed to condemn the United States to second place. He encouraged NASA leaders to focus on programs that might leapfrog serial developments and secure space preeminence for the country. Several ideas were studied, but the specific task of outlining a program for sending men to the Moon was assigned to a group of five NASA Headquarters members and two center representatives in early January 1961. Chaired by George Low, the group (made up of Eldon Hall, Alfred Mayo, E. O. Pearson, and myself from Headquarters, Maxime Faget from the Space Task Group at Langley, and Herman Koelle of the von Braun group at Marshall) reported after 4 weeks of concentrated study that a manned Moon landing was possible and could be accomplished under specified ground rules in 1968. Our brief study considered a number of options but recommended a direct ascent mission using a large rocket booster that was to be called Nova. The direct ascent concept called for a trajectory from Cape Canaveral to a landing on the Moon without either Earth or lunar orbit. The return from the Moon was to require a launch from the lunar surface directly to a reentry into Earth's atmosphere.
On the basis of the advice given him, President Kennedy made his famous speech proposing that the United States send men to the Moon and return them safely to Earth within the decade. The simple language and concise definition of a national goal was important and in itself a contribution to the final success of the Apollo program. To the public it offered the promise of a major space accomplishment in the foreseeable future, after a long string of past and probably future Russian triumphs. To the Congress it represented a clear goal they could discuss with their constituents and among themselves, if need be, when it came time to support it with funding commitments. To NASA and to the industrial and academic communities, it  provided a focus on an activity that was soon to dominate the total space effort. Kennedy himself, as stated in a speech given at Rice University in September 1962, regarded it "...as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency...." What an understatement!
Approval was not universal. To many who had begun to see the potential scientific rewards of space exploration and the practical uses of Earth orbit, the mandate for manned flight to the Moon was less attractive. An informal coalition of scientists decried the decision, arguing that far greater sums of money would be required, with lesser returns, than if funding were channeled into unmanned but exclusively practical and scientific missions.
Nor was some measure of disenchantment restricted to those who foresaw personal disadvantage; even within NASA, an agency with much to gain from the decision, there were elements that felt a manned lunar landing was a dubious goal. The widely respected Deputy Administrator, Hugh Dryden, had once noted in public testimony a parallel between suborbital manned flights and "shooting a man out of a cannon." T. Keith Glennan, the first Administrator of NASA and a man who had done much to organize and shape the new agency, beating off predatory forays by the military and establishing NASA's vaunted policy of complete openness about plans and results, was another with reservations about sending men to the Moon.
"It probably became apparent that I wasn't all that excited about man in space..." he told me in an interview 21 years later, "but it soon became apparent that we had to have the man-in-space program. To me the law said something-it said 'for benefit of all mankind.' I wasn't sure what man in space was going to do for all mankind very quickly."
But the times were changing and the tide was running. Dr. Glennan, an appointee of the previous administration, left NASA in January 1961. The public (and to some degree Congress as well) clearly reflected attitudes that were to prevail in subsequent decades: if the mission was manned, people cared deeply, and if only instruments flew, interest was lessened and somewhat remote. Even the most successful and rewarding planetary missions could never evoke the outpouring of fascinated concern elicited by astronauts.
Although the decision had been made and the goal set, unresolved questions about mission design remained. In the early days, many people at NASA (including the special task force I had served on) believed that direct ascent was the best approach to manned lunar missions. A group led by Wernher von Braun favored Earth-orbital rendez-vous with launchings to the  Moon from, and return to, an orbital platform. Under the direct approach scheme using a very large rocket system, the spacecraft plus its landing and launching rockets was to be launched directly from Earth to a landing on the Moon, with a direct launch from the Moon directly to Earth atmosphere reentry.
Work was begun on the Nova rocket required to perform a direct ascent mission and continued until some time after a strongly worded letter was sent to Headquarters by a Langley research engineer named John Houbolt. He opposed both Earth-orbital rendezvous and the direct ascent scheme, arguing that rearranging a single vehicle in Earth orbit, launching into lunar orbit, descending to the lunar surface in a special vehicle, and returning to rendezvous in lunar orbit before the trip home represented a more logical plan. Though this type of mission appeared to be significantly more complex than a direct approach and return flight, it required a good deal less rocket energy, as it employed the effective concepts of staging to a maximum degree. Critics saw the scheme as "scattering hardware all the way to and from the Moon" but Houbolt's position was recognized as having a sound technical basis, and the issues were examined in more searching detail. After almost a year of analysis and debate, LOR (the acronym for lunar orbit rendezvous) was officially adopted.
Much initial work went into the development of efficient launch vehicles. Saturn launch vehicle hardware that could be built and tested in a stepwise manner was defined, leading to ultimate integration into a very large launch vehicle. Upper stages were visualized with some geometric relationships so that initial developments could be applied even though modifications were to be expected in the final configuration. Multiple engines allowed flexibility in design; we could combine as many as we needed for a particular stage. An early decision to develop a hydrogen-oxygen engine for upper-stage application was a significant technical choice.
With these concentrated efforts on high-performance rocket engines, the seeds were sown for later difficulties in the development of Centaur. Early work had been conducted under the auspices of the Air Force and ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency) on high specific impulse rockets using hydrogen and oxygen. The NASA decision to develop this technology made it desirable for the work to be combined and assigned to Marshall Space Flight Center. This proved to be both good and bad for Centaur: good because it made sense to develop the hydrogen rockets for Centaur and Saturn under one roof, and bad because the keener preoccupation of  Marshall personnel with Saturn meant that Centaur inevitably slipped into a second priority position. This later became a severe handicap for NASA's lunar and planetary programs. In reflecting on the attitude of von Braun and the Marshall team, Dr. Glennan described the situation thus: "Saturn was a dream, Centaur was a job."
Because of the Saturn-Centaur link, it may be well to review the status of Saturn at the time of the decision to make manned landing a national goal. Developments had been limited to Saturn C-1 and C-2 versions, capable of putting a small manned laboratory into Earth orbit. First-stage engines were to use existing technology, with liquid oxygen-jet propulsion fuel (a kind of kerosene) engines having less specific impulse-roughly half that of the high-performance hydrogen-oxygen engines planned for upper-stage development. During the time a direct approach to the Moon was contemplated, the huge new vehicle named Nova was also on the drawing board; it would cluster the large F-1 and J-2 engines under development, and some held that it might use large solid fuel rockets, then undeveloped. The Air Force had done some preliminary work on large solid fuel rockets; though they were far from ready to fly, it was contended that NASA already had its hands full with liquid fuel engine development and that the Air Force should continue large solid fuel rocket development. When the decision was made to accept Houbolt's LOR mission concept, it was possible to dispense with the gigantic Nova and all the additional complications its concurrent development would have brought.
Along with these decisions came some very significant budget increases for the lunar program managed by the Office of Space Science and Applications. Added funds were to strengthen unmanned exploration of the Moon, using hard-landing Rangers and soft-landing Surveyors to collect basic lunar information of value for the design of the coming manned landing spacecraft. Senior NASA officials considered this an essential preparatory step and took this position with Congress. Unfortunately, people in the Apollo program, dedicated to manned lunar landings, did not always agree, for a variety of reasons.
First, some had little confidence that unmanned spacecraft were capable of successful lunar missions. This attitude may have arisen in part from the self-confidence of a group intensely concentrating on a difficult time-limited goal, in part from a degree of pride not far from hubris, and in part from a cynical assessment of the string of failures of Ranger, the leadoff unmanned lunar effort. Some of the leading engineers on Apollo, including Max Faget  (whom I had gotten to know during our special lunar study), took the position that the manned landing had to be planned without counting on any unmanned results.
Since the manned and unmanned programs were managed separately, with no common authority except at the administrator level, these differences in viewpoint were largely unnoticed. Those of us in Lunar and Planetary Programs did coordinate closely with systems engineers employed to support Apollo, mainly Bellcomm, Inc., experts from a division of American Telephone and Telegraph, who had been hired to conduct systems studies and to develop guidelines and tradeoffs for Apollo. In our meetings with Bellcomm some moderate conflicts arose occasionally, but rarely to a troubling degree.
Only once did the conflict detonate with a resounding report. The problem arose during a visit by Congressman Joseph Karth and others to the newly founded Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in 1962. The Congressman, seated next to Max Faget at lunch, asked Max about Surveyor's importance to Apollo, in a context that implied that Surveyor had been funded largely on the basis of its probable importance to Apollo Lunar Module design. Faget, never known for pulling his punches, flatly told Karth they really were not depending on Surveyor. In fact, Max told him they had plans of their own for obtaining the necessary data by orbital reconnaissance with manned vehicles before committing to landing.
Decades later, after his retirement from NASA, Max described the incident in a reminiscing session we had in his Houston consulting office. Time had mellowed us both, so the story Max told about the incident did not seem as exasperating as it had originally. "I made a terrible mistake with Mr. Karth once," he recalled. "They were down here shortly after we arrived. Karth was, I realized afterwards, trying to justify some appropriations. We had an all-day-tell-them-about-the-program thing. Karth asked me, 'What kind of a problem would it amount to if the Surveyor program failed?' I said, 'That wouldn't be any bad problem. We can do it without those guys. We've got a great big wide landing gear and we just can't afford to be vulnerable to the loss of that program. We'd go ahead anyway.'
"I tried to explain to him the things we had. Within our own shop we had thoughts on what we'd do if we didn't get any support from the unmanned program. Actually, the unmanned program did several things. Ranger, of course, gave us a close-up view. It gave us some idea of the fine-grain roughness of the terrain, which was pretty important. And, of course,  Surveyor, by landing, proved that Tommy Gold [a Cornell University astronomer who had theorized that the Moon might have a surface of deep dust into which landers would sink and be lost] was all wet. I don't think that anybody really believed him. But we planned to make orbital flights if the other programs didn't come through-some very low orbits of the Moon. We had some penetrometers we were designing to drop from the spacecraft.
"We could make our own survey of the Moon, make our own penetrometers, and we were even talking about doing radar scans of the surface. In many ways it would have been a nice program to carry. We had a lunar survey module, a fairly large-diameter can that would replace the Lunar Module to allow us to spend as much as a week or so orbiting the Moon. It would have been a good program, but it didn't happen."
I reminded Max, "Well, I guess we heard about your conversation with Mr. Karth-it caused me to do a lot of writing and explaining."
"Oh, yes!" Max exclaimed, "Next morning Mr. Webb [NASA Administrator] called Dr. Gilruth [Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center] and gave him what for. Gilruth had to call me into his office. He was sympathetic but he said, 'I gotta tell you, Max, you really blew it.' He told me how exercised Webb was. Apparently Karth really gave Webb hell about it."
The conversation made waves for a time at NASA Headquarters. Webb promptly set the record straight about Surveyor's importance to Apollo and told Gilruth to make sure his people were properly informed of NASA policy in all external contacts thereafter. And so they were, to some degree. There were no more casual statements of independence, although I am not sure attitudes changed much. Those in charge at the Manned Spacecraft Center were still convinced that it was necessary to plan to obtain critically needed information with manned missions. They no longer spoke openly of doubts about Ranger and Surveyor, but they still held that their program could not depend on activities over which they had no control.
Apollo requirements were indeed high in the minds of those of us in the Lunar and Planetary Programs Office. We made every effort to ensure that the scientific mission objectives considered the urgent need for data to aid in the engineering design of Apollo. Obvious key questions concerned the nature of the lunar surface and its load-bearing strength. The resolution of the best Earth-based telescope photos at that time defined features the size of a football field-far too large for a confidently designed landing gear. Resolution on the order of 2 or 3 feet was a must. Early Ranger missions, in addition to providing TV coverage on approach that could give visual  information, were also expected to eject a rocket-decelerated spacecraft containing a balsa-covered ball with a seismometer inside it. This was intended to survive impact and capture details about the structure and seismic activity on the Moon. The impact itself would allow inferences about surface strength.
Three Ranger flights of this type were planned, with the thought that at least one of the three could be expected to succeed. This kind of landing on a totally unknown surface was clearly risky, and some evolution on a trial-and-error basis was foreseen. We did not foresee that the early launch vehicles would not successfully deliver the Rangers to the Moon, and that when they did, Ranger spacecraft carrying landers would not work. It was not until July 29, 1964, that Ranger 7, the first fully successful flight in the series, sent back the pictures that justified that misfortune-dogged spacecraft.
Long after President Kennedy had established a manned lunar landing as a national goal, some measure of controversy lingered. To a few of the unconvinced, it was no more than a stunt-like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel or shooting gold bullion into space-certainly no basis for using tax funds. Fortunately, these jaundiced views did not prevail. Many foresaw that so broad and difficult an effort would inevitably create a great intellectual advance, filling gaps in knowledge of everything from algebra to zoology. Others saw it in terms of a national race with Russia, a competition for worldwide prestige in an area in which national dominance could be at stake. There were, however, those who argued that funds spent on Apollo could have been better spent right here on Earth, for schools and hospitals, dams and bridges. The Apollo missions, while not contributing to human welfare in the same way as a clinic or a highway, yielded significant advances in engineering methods and scientific knowledge. One of the peculiarities of the support of research is that, while specific, immediate benefit cannot be safely predicted, a multiplied social benefit almost always accrues Except to those who argue from glib antithesis, knowledge is rarely evil; nor is ignorance a proper human goal.
Despite its critics, manned lunar landing was a steady and popular national goal. In a sense it exerted a unifying influence, almost the way an accepted war unifies the clamorous voices of peacetime. During the earlier part of the space race it seemed evident that the Russians were leading; this may have been a spur for us, in keeping with the observation that when you are number 2 you try harder. On the other hand, the American success with Apollo may have contributed to subsequent letdown and institutional  dissolution, for high effort was no longer needed. Would it have been better for the national goal to have been more difficult and open-ended, for example, to explore the solar system and beyond? It does not seem likely that future goals as neatly constrained and defined will ever occur, but if they should, a greater degree of open-endedness could be desirable.
As the first unmanned lunar missions began, we were forced to come to grips with the thorny policy question concerning the degree of openness with which we would release the data acquired. From the beginning of NASA, Glennan and Dryden had been advocates of scientific openness, mindful of the language of the Space Act calling for ". . . the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information . . . " and ". . . for the benefit of all mankind.... " There was reason to believe that our new Administrator, James E. Webb, agreed significantly with his predecessors. However, when at last Ranger returned close-up photographs of the Moon and when Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter began to return a torrent of detailed new data, the strong military background of some people prompted them to argue the case for constraining the information. Lunar data might greatly aid the Russians, they argued, and in a race one does not present one's opponent with any assistance. Ingenious compromisers proposed intermediate positions of selective release and delayed publication, but the basic open position proved strongest, and all Ranger photos were promptly made available in atlases for the world's observatories, libraries, and technical information centers. It was, in retrospect, a wise decision, garnering respect and support worldwide for NASA and the United States.
Studied with care by the specialists at JPL and at the Manned Spacecraft Center, those first successful Ranger pictures in the summer of 1964 gave comforting information on the size and distribution of craters and rocks. They gave us confidence in the engineering model used for the design of landing gear. Some debate was still possible on the bearing strength of the surface, however, and it was only after Surveyor 1 soft-landed in 1966 that anxieties on this aspect were entirely set to rest. From the viewpoint of some onlookers, the confirming of assumptions about the Moon was less dramatic than their overturning would have been, but this is, of course, not the way engineers are trained to think.
As Surveyors continued to succeed-five of seven soft-landed on their lunar targets-personnel at the Manned Spacecraft Center were pleasantly surprised at the results. Among them was Max Faget, who had taken the position that he could not count on these unmanned spacecraft when designing  the manned lunar vehicles. After Surveyor 1 soft-landed in working shape, Max called me at Headquarters to congratulate us and to say that he hadn't believed we could bring off an unmanned landing, especially not on the first try. Though we reveled in Max's "eating crow," we respected him greatly and took his words as high praise for our mission's work.
Three years later, those of us who had been involved in Surveyor felt special pleasure and a certain pride when Apollo 12 landed close to Surveyor 3, and its astronauts, Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., and Alan L. Bean, walked over to the silent spacecraft, took pictures of it with the Lunar Module in the background, and brought back parts to Earth for analysis. In the end, Surveyor's importance to the Apollo program could not be denied.
Close-up photos taken by Ranger's cameras dispelled many uncertainties about the size of boulders and craters. Lunar Orbiter missions were notable for mapping the surface and for helping to certify sites as suitable for manned landings. In addition to providing primary maps for all Apollo landing sites, by-product orbiter images, particularly the oblique photographs, allowed flight simulators to be developed that would help train astronauts to steer through the awesome terrain they would see as they descended to the surface. Lunar Orbiter also provided most of the knowledge we now have of the side of the Moon that never faces Earth. Surveyors gently touched down at five different sites (including the inside of a crater) to examine the strength, physical characteristics, and chemical constituents of surface material. They provided a wealth of information, later complemented by the soil and rock samples brought back by astronauts, that contributed much to our basic knowledge of the properties of the Moon.
The unmanned and manned lunar programs provided scientific data in a mutually reinforcing manner, with only modest overlap. All told, 13 successful unmanned and 6 manned spacecraft combined to produce most of our current knowledge of the Moon, assembled in a logical fashion that has withstood the test of time. Very few second guessers, if any, have shown ways in which the national goal might have been more efficiently achieved.