John King, USA

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July 8th, 2011
10:28 PM ET

Kennedy, Obama and the moon

(CNN) – The moon isn't what it used to be.

When President John Kennedy promised the country a lunar landing within eight years, his famous declaration became a symbol of the American can-do ideal, stating that we do such endeavors, "Not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

In February 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used that sentiment as a defense from his Democratic primary rival, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who attacked his campaign for being too idealistic.

An indignant Obama channeled the Kennedy sentiment when he declared at the Wisconsin Jefferson Jackson dinner, "That’s what hope is. Imagining and then fighting for and then working for what did not seem possible before. That's leadership. John F. Kennedy didn't look up at the moon and say, 'That's too far. We can't go.'"

In April 2010, an election, a financial crisis, and an Inauguration later, Obama voiced a different sentiment, however, seemingly tempering his aspirations for the moon as a human destination.

"I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned," he said at Cape Canaveral, Florida. "But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We've been there before. Buzz (Aldrin) has been there."

But minutes after the final shuttle launch Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that the president's space policy is not restrained, but rather expansive.

"The fact is, the president has laid out an ambitious agenda, an ambitious vision for human space life that will take American astronauts beyond where we’ve been ever before, with the ultimate goal being a human mission to Mars,” Carney said.

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