But not launching America’s first manned spaceflight program didn’t deter the Air Force from participating in space. Four days after President Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 call for the nation to land a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth within the decade, the Air Force offered to complete this goal by 1967 for just $7.5 billion with its own lunar expedition plan called LUNEX.
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Beginning in 1958 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the USAF Air Research Development Command initiated a series of Industry-Air Force studies to examine the military potential of space operations including this lunar goal. The resulting program was an audacious, four stage program to land men on the Moon by 1965. Scaled back and named for the original first stage, Man in Space Soonest, the Air Force’s program was passed over in favor of NASA’s civilian program, Project Mercury.
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