"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win. . ." President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962, Rice University
The Gemini program launched men into space with ten missions from 1965-66. I was about to graduate from high school and spend my first year at college. Still, my interest int the space program didn't wane and I watched at each opportunity to see each launch and marvel at our progress.
Gemini was the test platform to learning how to control the space craft more and gain valuable information on what travel in space did to the physical bodies of the astronauts. Of course strapping two men into such a tight space for as much as 14 days seems to be a physically taxing proposition even without going into space (think riding in a Smart car for fourteen days without stretching your legs).
It was also important to learn how to make pinpoint landings, work outside the space craft, and be able to link with another craft in space. We held our collective breath at each stage, especially when the first space walks were done.
There was a lot learned and accomplished in those few years and soon NASA was ready to reach out to take one small step and a giant leap.