A Closer Look at a Famous Intention

Everything at sr4 starts with an intention. When looking for an example of an intention fulfilled at the upper end of what’s possible, I always come back to John F. Kennedy’s put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It’s clear. It’s concise. And it has a built-in sense of urgency.

I’ve thought of it as an audacious leap into the unknown, asking a nation to achieve the unthinkable from a base of next-to-nothing. However, I eventually decided I should check that out.   

So I went on Amazon and ordered John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon by John M. Logsdon. It ranks #208,141 among Amazon’s list of best-sellers. But on a list of books for readers interested in learning the inner workings of powerful intentions, I think it should rank #1.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Almost two years before JFK made his decision to send Americans to the moon, NASA planners had already chosen a lunar landing as the appropriate long-term goal for NASA’s human space flight program.
  • On February 7, 1961 (less than a month after President Kennedy’s inauguration), a NASA report stated that “no invention or breakthrough is believed to be required to insure the over-all feasibility of safe lunar flight” and an initial mission to the moon would be possible before the end of the decade. The report suggested that a lunar landing “does not represent a ‘crash’ program, but rather it represents a vigorous development of technology.”
  • Over a seven-day period in April, 1961, the Soviet Union made history with the first human space flight; a U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba was repelled at the Bay of Pigs; and President Kennedy said for the first time in public, “If we can get to the moon before the Russians, then we should.” (His official declaration of intention would follow on May 25.)
  • By mid-1963, Kennedy was ready to abandon his intention of beating the Soviet Union to the moon in favor of a joint U.S./U.S.S.R lunar mission so that the first humans to land on the moon would be “representatives of all our countries.” By this time, however, ownership of the intention had passed on to an army of NASA employees, contractors and academics – to become a movement that was capable of driving to the finish line even as the original intender was beginning to hedge his bet.

Here’s what I take away from all that:  

  1. A great intention might not be as great a leap into the unknown as it appears to be.
  2. A great intention can benefit from an atmosphere of crisis.
  3. A great intention is more likely to become a great outcome when ownership shifts from the original intender to a network of communities that are advancing with the energy and focus of a coordinated movement.

And that’s just for starters; if we all read this book, and then sit around and talk about it for a day, we could come up with quite a list of take-aways.   

Bill @ sr4