Photo gallery: On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared that the country should set a goal to — by the end of the decade — land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to Earth.

At the time the challenge was made, the U.S. had only made one 15-minute suborbital spaceflight. 

NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs helped make Kennedy's goal a reality, with the first two programs providing the stepping stones needed to move on to the Apollo flights, which would eventually reach the lunar surface.

Here's a photographic look back at the program that helped Americans not only reach Kennedy's goal, but actually reach it twice, by the end of 1969.