For most of our lunar adventure, a majority of Americans did not support going to the moon. On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s "We choose to go the moon" speech, we excavate this forgotten opposition.
Today, we recall the speech John F. Kennedy made 50 years ago as the beginning of a glorious and inexorable process in which the nation united behind the goal of a manned lunar landing even as the presidency swapped between parties. Time has tidied things up.
Polls both by USA Today and Gallup have shown support for the moon landing has increased the farther we've gotten away from it. 77 percent of people in 1989 thought the moon landing was worth it; only 47 percent felt that way in 1979.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, a process began that has all but eradicated any reference to the substantial opposition by scientists, scholars, and regular old people to spending money on sending humans to the moon. Part jobs program, part science cash cow, the American space program in the 1960s placed the funding halo of military action on the heads of civilians. It bent the whole research apparatus of the United States to a symbolic goal in the Cold War.
This chart from the Congressional Research Service shows just how extreme the Space Race's funding levels were, even in comparison to the Manhattan Project or the brief fluorescence of energy R&D after the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.