May 25, 1961 So here was the proposal: the nation that had launched precisely one astronaut into space on one mission that had lasted 15 minutes was, in less than nine years, going to put a man on the moon, bring him home alive and do it all before the Russians who, let's face it, had a surer hand with this kind of thing than the U.S. did could. Oh, and this bright idea came from the man who had signed off on the Bay of Pigs. But Kennedy said it to a joint session of Congress and Kennedy meant it. In the event there were doubters, his phrasing made things pretty clear. "I believe that this nation should commit itself," he declared, "to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." Not a whole lot of wiggle room there.