An All-Star Event: Athletes, Astronauts, & Nixon’s Moon Landing

Rivers Gambrell is a DPhil candidate in Modern History at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the history of professional sports and presidential politics. She holds an MA from Duke University in Liberal Studies and International Development Policy, and is currently the recipient of a fourth year doctoral scholarship in American history at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford.

15 minutes after the Moon landing on 20 July 1969, President Richard Nixon privately declared that the historic event reminded him of “the last twenty seconds of a tight football game”. Nixon’s sports obsession and the Apollo XI mission were important factors in his efforts to project an appealing public image. The president’s affiliation with astronauts and athletes helped him connect with Middle Americans – before it became clear that his administration would not make it to infinity and beyond.