Although not a technologist, presidential advisor Theodore C. Sorensen had great impact on the technical achievements of the 20th century. In this video he talks about the decision to land a man on the moon.
You may have read of the passing last weekend of Ted Sorensen, advisor to (and who some consider co-president with) President John F. Kennedy. It set me to thinking about last year when I had the privilege of hearing him speak at MIT during a 40th anniversary commemoration of the first Apollo lunar landing.
While having suffered a stroke some years earlier, Sorensen's intellect and wit were still intact as he described the presidential decision process, reaction of the country to the challenge, and pros and cons of having committed the nation to landing a man on the moon during the decade of the '60s. (This, along with resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the push for the Civil Rights Act, he considers the most significant achievements of Kennedy's New Frontier administration.)
Sorensen was tasked by the president to come up with a program that could demonstrate to the world the technological prowess of the U.S. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was in full competition, part of which was winning the hearts and minds of new nations (former colonies) and their leaders. The group headed by Sorensen chose a lunar landing as providing the most benefit and visibility—and the legacy of Apollo, both technological and inspirational, is now history.
You can watch that informative and fascinating commemorative speech which is posted at the MIT Web site. Just click on the link below and scroll the cursor to 37 minutes to start his comments, which last a half hour—you'll be impressed with the man and enthralled with the story. And if you have the time, view the rest of the video which features first-person accounts on the challenges of developing the Apollo hardware and flying each mission into unknown territory.