90 kennedy ultimately decided to pursue what became

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[90] Kennedy ultimately decided to pursue what became the Apollo program , and on May 25 took the opportunity to ask for Congressional support in a Cold War speech titled "Special Message on Urgent National Needs". Full text He justified the program in terms of its importance to national security, and its focus of the nation's energies on other scientific and social fields. [91] He rallied popular support for the program in his " We choose to go to the Moon " speech, on September 12, 1962, before a large crowd at Rice University Stadium, in Houston, Texas, near the construction site of the new Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center facility. [91] Full text Khrushchev responded to Kennedy's implicit challenge with silence, refusing to publicly confirm or deny the Soviets were pursuing a "Moon race". As later disclosed, the Soviet Union secretly pursued a crewed lunar program until 1974. [ citation needed ] Completion of Vostok and Mercury programs [ edit ] Mercury [ edit ]
John Glenn, the first American in orbit, 1962 American Virgil "Gus" Grissom repeated Shepard's suborbital flight in Liberty Bell 7 on July 21, 1961. Almost a year after the Soviet Union put a human into orbit, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, on February 20, 1962. [92] His Mercury-Atlas 6 mission completed three orbits in the Friendship 7 spacecraft, and splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean, after a tense reentry, due to what falsely appeared from the telemetry data to be a loose heat-shield. [92] As the first American in orbit, Glenn became a national hero, and received a ticker-tape parade in New York City , reminiscent of that given for Charles Lindbergh . On February 23, 1962, President Kennedy escorted him in a parade at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station , where he awarded Glenn with the NASA service medal. [ citation needed ] The United States launched three more Mercury flights after Glenn's: Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962 duplicated Glenn's three orbits, Sigma 7 on October 3, 1962 six orbits, and Faith 7 on May 15, 1963 22 orbits (32.4 hours), the maximum capability of the spacecraft. NASA at first intended to launch one more mission, extending the spacecraft's endurance to three days, but since this would not beat the Soviet record, it was decided instead to concentrate on developing Project Gemini . [ citation needed ] Vostok [ edit ] Replica of the Vostok capsule Gherman Titov became the first Soviet cosmonaut to exercise manual control of his Vostok 2 craft on August 6, 1961. [93] The Soviet Union demonstrated 24-hour launch pad turnaround and the capability to launch two piloted spacecraft, Vostok 3 and Vostok
4 , in essentially identical orbits, on August 11 and 12, 1962. [94] The two spacecraft came within approximately 6.5 kilometers (4.0 mi) of one another, close enough for radio communication. [95] Vostok 4 also set a record of nearly four days in space. Though the two craft's orbits were as nearly identical as possible given the accuracy of the launch rocket's guidance system, slight variations still existed which drew the two craft at first as close to each other as 6.5 kilometers (3.5 nautical miles), then as far apart as 2,850

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