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Operation Moonglow: Project Apollo and the Politics of Space
Evening Program on Zoom
Monday, April 12, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET
On July 20, 1969, hundreds of millions tuned in to witness Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon. The most expensive civilian scientific and technological program in U.S. history, Project Apollo symbolized the caliber of America’s capability in space exploration. Yet, according to Smithsonian curator Teasel Muir-Harmony, the project wasn’t only about advancing science. It was part of a political strategy to foster a global community aligned with America’s Cold War interests.
In 1961, President Kennedy proposed sending Americans to the Moon as a way of restoring the nation’s tarnished geopolitical standing in the wake of the Soviet Union’s launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and a humiliating defeat in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The success of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 was touted as an accomplishment for the U.S. and the world—and helped President Nixon and Henry Kissinger to advance their new foreign policy agenda.
On the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, Muir-Harmony draws on her new book, Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo, to explore how and why the Moon landing became one of the 20th century’s most decisive geopolitical events.
Copies of Operation Moonglow (Basic Books) are available for purchase.
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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.