"...and returning him safely to earth."
I missed the big 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing while kickin' it in the Caribbean for a few days, but I'm back stateside to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the very important safe return of Apollo 11, which took place on July 24th, 1969, an anniversary that always calls to my mind a curious part of Kennedy's famous "moon" speech.
"and returning him safely to earth"? I always found it odd that he felt it necessary to specify that if we shot a man up to the moon, we'd have to get him back. It makes me think that if he hadn't specifically made a return trip part of the space program's goal it wouldn't have come up in any of the planning meetings.
Kennedy: "First, 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."
Would he have gone to NASA and say "Hey, can we put a man on the moon?" and they would say, "sure, no problem. We could do that tomorrow."
"Could we bring him back?"
"Oh crap. That's going to take some work."
If Kennedy never said "and returning him safely to earth" maybe the moon landing, instead of being a worldwide inspirational achievement would have been the most horrible, t.v. disaster ever broadcast as people watched Neil and Buzz say to Houston, "o.k., we're ready to come home."
"Houston? We're ready for the return trip."
"Um, give us a minute Eagle." Dammit! No one said we'd have to bring them back!?!
Perhaps that's the old legislator in Kennedy coming out, making sure you spell everything out exactly so no one tries to cut corners on you. It's like starting a new schoolyard game and you're working out the rules, "I call that if we send a man to the moon we have to bring him back. You have to, I called it!"