Whether these efforts would have borne fruit without a sharp change in the political climate is anyone's guess. The past two years had seen their share of false starts, dashed hopes, and aborted plans. But the climate did change. Within months after taking office, President Kennedy and his advisors found compelling reasons to support an American manned space flight program far larger than Project Mercury. One factor was certainly the renewed clamor about a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Informed opinion might discount Soviet accomplishments or stress American sophistication against Russian brute force; that smacked of quibbling to the American public, especially after 12 April 1961, when Cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin aboard Vostok I became first human being to orbit in space.  Two days later, the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics was not merely speaking for himself when he asserted, "My objective . . . is to beat the Russians." The President announced his decision on 25 May 1961, in a speech to Congress on "Urgent National Needs." He committed the United States to landing an American on the Moon before the end of the decade.1
1 John M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 93-130; U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics and Subcommittees Nos. 1, 3, and 4, 1962 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 3238 and 6029 (Superseded by H.R. 6874), 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, p. 380.