At his ninth and largest press conference in Washington April 12, President Kennedy expressed admiration for Russia's "outstanding" feat in sending a man into space and said that he had sent his congratulations to both Prime Minister Khrushchev and "cosmonaut" Major Gagarin.
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LV INT..Kennedy walks to stand
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CU Kennedy speaks SOF...
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TRANSCRIPT SEQ 4: KENNEDY: "....we had a series of candid and friendly talks."
REPORTER: "Will you give us your views sir about the Soviet achievement of putting a man in orbit, and what it would mean to our space programme, as such?"
KENNEDY: "It really is a most impressive scientific accomplishment and also I think that all of us as members of the race have the greatest admiration for the Russian who participated in this extraordinary feat. I have already sent congratulations to Mr. Khrushchev and I sent congratulations to the man who was involved. I indicated that the task force we have set up on space way back last January 12, indicated because of the Soviet progress in the field of boosters, where they had been ahead of us, that they would be first in space and orbiting a man in space and of course that has taken part in carrying out our programme and we hope to make progress in this area this year."
REPORTER: "Now you have asked Congress for more money to speed up our space programme, what is the prospect that we'll catch up with Russia, perhaps surpass Russia in this field?" KENNEDY: "The Soviet Union gained a important advantage by securing these large boosters which are able to take greater weight and that advantage is going to be with them for some time. However tired anyone may be, and no one is more tired than I am, it is a fact that it is going to take some time and I think we have to recognise it".
REPORTER: "What did you discuss with the British Premier?"
KENNEDY: "We discussed the problem of readmission of Red China and we also discussed the fact there also was a difference of approach between the British and ourselves. I made it very clear that the United States was going to continue to meet its commitments to the people on Formosa, the Government of Formosa, and I also did discuss the fact that the vote on the moratorium was very close and that we are not making final judgement as to what the vote on the moratorium will be on the admission of Red China. But I must say that the report I saw this morning of that conversation from London, was not accurate in that it indicated that the United States had changed its position on the moratorium. That we have not done."
Later, the American President was asked if he thought the Russian success suggested a danger that the Communist system might prove more durable than the democratic system. He replied: "I do not regard the first man in space as a sign of weakening in the free world."
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Background: At his ninth and largest press conference in Washington April 12, President Kennedy expressed admiration for Russia's "outstanding" feat in sending a man into space and said that he had sent his congratulations to both Prime Minister Khrushchev and "cosmonaut" Major Gagarin.
The President was asked about the Soviet achievement and the prospect of America catching up in this field (SOF):