America sent a man to the moon in 1969, and with Neil Armstrong’s first steps, the United States projected to the world an image of American power, wealth and achievement. But it was hardly just for bragging rights. The space race started under Kennedy to compete with the Soviets on a global stage, but it was under Johnson that its goals became domestic. NASA, Head Start, Medicaid and even the war in Vietnam were domestic social programs, used at least in part to alleviate poverty, provide jobs and desegregate the country.
But the spending on these programs birthed a new political movement on the right demanding smaller government - and attracted the ire of progressives on the left who thought the money spent on rockets to be misdirected. Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam intensified, costing the nation far more than just money.
For more on NASA’s efforts to desegregate the South, check out the book “We Could Not Fail,” by Richard Paul and Steven Moss.
For more on the African American women who worked as human computers for NASA, overcoming discrimination and sexism to change history, we recommend the book “Hidden Figures,” by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Finally, Audra Wolfe’s book, “Competing with the Soviets,” was crucial to our overall understanding of the Cold War.
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