As Johnson Feared

It was just as Johnson had feared; the US were behind the Soviets in space. He was more stressed than the October night he saw Sputnik in the night sky. He recalled the Subcommittee session with Dr. Von Braun.

In von Braun’s arrogance he was convinced the Nazis were far more ahead in accurate, long-range ballistics than the mismanaged Soviet program, but that the US lagged behind the Soviets. The Soviets saw space as a next battleground, launching a satellite with potential military capabilities. The Soviets could spy over Earth, specifically on sensitive areas above the Earth and the US could do nothing.

The Soviets were ahead of the US in space, science, and technology and Johnson could not stand for that. He thought of space as a potential battleground, a place the Soviets might try to assert their Communist dominance. The US was lagged behind militarily, national defensively. Von Braun complained about the lack of scientists and surplus of engineers, given scientists and their distaste for technology. Scientists were technological skeptics. [2]  The US needed to build and build quickly.

Johnson was not prepared to stand for the US failing behind in national defense technology. “We’re investigating this issue further,” he might have said to himself. Johnson sat at his desk and thought the matter over more carefully. He recalled Braun’s testimony after this afternoon’s session.

“What I think could be done is this,” Braun began, “Suppose, shall we call it, a National Space Agency were set up, either under the Secretary of Defense or as an independent agency, and this agency were given its own budget. We have made a detailed plan as to what it would take to run such a thing and just to quote a figure here, we are thinking about 1.5 billion a year. This is in addition, of course, to what is spent on the military missile programs. This money would be strictly for this long-range space program, for tlhe conquest of space. When forming this agency, it should also be clearly understood that this is a long-range proposition, that this yearly going rate would be something to plan and rely on, say, for the next 10 years.”

Von Braun continued, “Now, this Space Agency would have to set up its, own in-house master planning organization where competent people would plan a course of action, a stepwise course of action, on how to proceed to attain certain milestones. For example, to put a man into an orbit on a returnable basis within the next 5 years, and to have a manned space station, say, in 10 years. The Space Agency should also be free to let project management contracts in certain subareas included in the overall scope.

An independent agency, Johnson thought. A space agency. Von Braun’s suggestion echoed in his head.

“‘Your job is to get a man, on a returnable basis, into an orbit in 5 years,’ shall we say, ‘and you will build a space station in 10. Here is your own money. You can use the same industrial structure that supports the IRBM and ICBM and other projects, but the head of the Space Agency will make certain that he coordinates his contracts with the heads of the military missile agencies of the services.'”

Johnson remembers asking von Braun, “Why do you want to go to the Moon?” “Most certainly, when Columbus discovered America, he found very little here that was worth talking about and he could not possibly have possessed the imagination to predict all the things that developed on the continent he discovered. I think curiosity, and nothing else, should be the motivating power in exploration and research, and it is just curiosity why I would like
to go to the moon.” Curiousity indeed Johnson might have thought.

“Why do you think it is important that the free world get there first?” Johnson asked.

“Visiting the moon is only part of the overall concept of conquering space.” Conquering space Johnson thought. Indeed space was a taboo word in the Pentagon 6 months ago. Now agencies were fighting to take control of space first. If we were to create a new agency…

Johnson thought heavily on the matter. He still had another few days of hearings on the topic. He was still awaiting all information from the Pentagon on Sputnik and the military’s work in space and atmospheres.

Over the next few weeks, Johnson was busied with Congressional hearings and Press conferences.

Johnson later wrote a white paper criticizing both Democrats and Republicans in there stances towards space. He wrote, “The sad truth is that US progress in space has been continually hampered by the Republican administration’s blind refusal to recognize,e that we have engaged in s space and missile race with the Soviet Union and to act accordingly.” [1]  He continued, “It is a fact that if any nation succeed in securing control of outer space, it will have the capability of controlling the earth itself.” [1]

Johnson was late to the next Congressional hearing on spaceflight in January of 1958 called “Inquiry Into Satellite and Missile Programs.” He was in a conversation with Senator Saltonstall about holding a Democratic minority conference about the hearing held last November and December to review witness testimony. He showed up to the hearing ten minutes late.

Over the month of January, Johnson heard witness testimony from several Admirals and Generals from all the branches of the military – Army, Air Force, and Navy as well as executives from Lockheed, Northrop Aircraft, General Dynamics Corp, Western Electric, and Bell Telephone Labs.



[1]  J. M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest, The MIT Press, 1970.

[2]  Z. Wang, In Sputnik’s Shadow: The President’s Science Advisory Committee and Cold War America., Rutgers University Press, 2008.



Eisenhower’s Future Theater of War

Dominique Awis

12 January 2017

.pdf available here awis_eisenhower_future_theater_of_war_slides



  • “The management of society by technical experts.” McDougall (1985)
  •  A society which uses technology in purpose of state security.

Russia and the U.S. were technocratic societies given their work on satellites and ballistic missile technologies.



  • The Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, AL had long been working in ballistic missile technology in the 1950s.
  • Von Braun saw space and national defense linked.



  • News out of Moscow reached the U.S. in a press release, “The first satellite was successfully launched in the U.S.S.R. on Oct.4.  It is fitted with radio transmitters continuously emitting signals.” — New York Times (1957)

The World Reacted

  • News of the Sputnik had reached television.  When John Glenn was asked the same night of Sputnik’s news his reaction was, “Well, to say the least, George, they’re out of this world.”

John Glenn Audiovisual Collection

Ball in the Air

  • In 1955 Eisenhower originally approved of Project Vanguard as a scientific Department of Defense project to be separate from the military’s ballistic missile project.
  • Project Vanguard was set to be launched within the International Geophysical Year but was not finished by the time Sputnik launched and when news of Sputnik reached Eisenhower.

Space Race

  • Eisenhower repeatedly discussed the U.S. was not in a “space race” with the Soviet Union and that the Soviet achievement in space was not a military threat. (Logsdon, 1970)


Congressional Subcommittee

  • Johnson  began collecting information shortly from the Pentagon after Sputnik’s launch and assembled a list of witnesses to hear from to prepare a Congressional hearing on national defense and US science and technological security.
  •  “Our country is disturbed over the tremendous military and scientific achievement of Russia. Our people have believed that in the field of scientific weapons and in technology and science, that we were well ahead of Russia. ” — Johnson, 1957


Congressional Hearings

  • Congress met with various agents over this period, however during the years 1957-1960 met the most with national defense agents, military and government defense agency (DOD).




As Johnson Feared

  • The Soviets were ahead of the US in space, science, and technology and Johnson could not stand for that.
  • He thought of space as a potential battleground, a place the Soviets might try to assert their Communist dominance.  The US was lagged behind militarily, national defensively.
  • Johnson remembers asking von Braun, “Why do you want to go to the Moon?” To which von Braun replied, “Most certainly, when Columbus discovered America, he found very little here that was worth talking about and he could not possibly have possessed the imagination to predict all the things that developed on the continent he discovered. I think curiosity, and nothing else, should be the motivating power in exploration and research, and it is just curiosity why I would like to go to the moon.”



Eisenhower did not see the military significance of satellite and rocketry.  He assured the public and the press U.S. space would not be militaristic.  He saw human spaceflight as futuristic warfare and not present warfare.  He might have thought of humans on the Moon as science fiction rather than science possibility.


More than science fiction

To Johnson, space was more than science fiction.  To Johnson, space was a battleground to be fought against the Soviet Union.  Johnson was sure to lead for U.S. dominance in space under the rationale of national security and national prestige.


Eisenhower’s Future Theater of War

Full .pdf available here: eisenhowers-future-theater-33

Chapter 1: Sputnik

1.1  Congressional Preparedness Subcommittee 

Senator Johnson sat presiding over the Congressional Preparedness Subcommittee at 10 am on a chilly Washington, DC morning along with Senators Johnson, Kefauver, Stennis, Symington, Saltonstall, and Flanders as well as members of the Congress’s special council.  The group sat with members of the Armed Services Committee.

“Please come to order,” Senator Johnson said.

Senator Johnson would be presiding over a hearing called, “Inquiry into Satellite and Missile Programs” on the November afternoon almost two months after the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957.

Senator Johnson continued, “We are here today to inquire into the facts on the state of the
Nation’s security. Our country is disturbed over the tremendous military and scientific achievement of Russia. Our people have believed that in the field of scientific weapons and in technology and science, that we were well ahead of Russia. ”

The room was quiet.  “With the launching of Sputniks I and II, and with the information
at hand of Russia’s strength, our supremacy and even our equality has been challenged. We must meet this challenge quickly and effectively in all its aspects,” Johnson reported.

Johnson remembers looking up at the night sky and seeing Sputnik and feeling distressed that the US was not first in science and technology, in space. [1]  He  began collecting information shortly from the Pentagon after Sputnik’s launch and assembled a list of witnesses to hear from to prepare a Congressional hearing on national defense and US science and technological security.  His hope was to create a record to sort out all the media hype about satellites and guided missiles.

Johnson continued, “There are a few things I wish to make clear about the committees
attitude.  It would appear that we have slipped dangerously behind the Soviet Union in some very important fields. But the committee is not rendering any final judgments in advance of the evidence, on why we slipped or what should be done about it. Our goal is to find out what is to be done. We will not reach that goal by wandering up any blind alleys of partisanship. I suppose that all of us, being human, have some ideas on steps that should be taken. But the committee judgment will represent a meeting of the minds after all the facts are available, and this committee’s judgment will represent an effort to make a contribution to the defense of our Nation.  The facts that I learned so far give me no cause for comfort…”

Johnson called for unity between Democrats and Republicans.  He brought up Pearl Harbor.  “There were just Americans anxious to roll up their sleeves to close ranks and to wade into the enemy,” he said.

Johnson called the first witness, Dr. Edward Teller, known as the Father of the H-Bomb, now a professor at University of California Radiation Laboratory.  Mr. Weisl was first to question the witness.  “Will you please tell us, Dr. Teller, briefly, what your relationship to atomic and thermonuclear weapons has been since your arrival to this country?”  Dr. Teller gave a brief summary of his travels to different laboratories and his eventual tenure at University of California.

“Have you participated very actively in the development of the hydrogen bomb?” Mr Weisl asked.  “I have, yes, sir,” Dr. Teller responded.  Senator Johnson interrupted, “Senator Symington is having trouble seeing the witness because of the photographers, and we have had a request to ask them to take their pictures and then move along.”  Johnson shooed the audience of photographers to the side.

Mr Weisl asked Dr. Teller about the relationship between fissionable and thermonuclear long-range missiles.  Dr. Teller told of ballistic missiles, long-range missiles could shoot 1,500 to 5,000 feet, however the missiles weren’t much for accuracy therefore the larger the explosive the greater the accuracy.

Mr. Weisl was concerned about accuracy, and asked Dr. Teller about “clean bombs” that is, bombs that are powerful enough to cause a powerful explosion that hits on target, rather than a long-range missile that requires a huge explosion to barely hit a target.  Dr. Teller told Mr. Weisl such weapons require significant testing.

The questioning continued.  Dr. Teller testified that Sputnik required a rocketry, a rocket motor, a guidance system, propulsion; and he discussed how these systems relate to ballistic missiles.  If rocket technology could be adapted…

Mr. Weisl got to the heat of the argument: “Then you believe that the Russians have an intercontinental ballistic missile at this time? ”  Dr. Teller responded that he did not know if the Russians had adapted rocketry technology to their ballistic missiles.  The room was quiet; Mr. Weisl pressed Dr. Teller.  “Dr. Teller, what must the Russians have in their
long-range guided missile, in addition to their ability to put a satellite in outer space, in order to hit a target?”  Dr. Teller told Mr. Weisl about the problem of reentry when a rocket comes up the velocity that is inevitable on the come down would be a high speed and be a problem.  Dr. Teller told the committee it was a problem the Russians could probably solve.

Mr. Weisl spoke, “Dr. Teller, why do you believe we are behind the Russians in the development of the long-range missile?”  Dr. Teller told the committee the US is behind in ballistics and the Russian rocket technology is proof the US is behind.  Dr. Weisl and Dr. Teller spoke for several minutes and discussed how Russian scientists lead a good life and how Russian society uses science very practically in everyday life.

Dr. Teller changed the subject.  “Shall I tell you why I want to go to the moon?” he joked.

Mr. Weisl laughed, “Yes, sir.”

Dr. Teller told of the scientific advancement going to the Moon or Mars would hold.  Mr. Weisl was more concerned again about Russia and asked Dr. Teller if he thought the Russians would see the Moon as a military endeavor and if the US would find it practical militarily to go to the Moon.  “My imagination is not good enough for that,” Dr. Teller responded.  The committee discussed assorted topics with Dr. Teller before calling its next witness to give testimony.

The Subcommittee met again the next day and discussed Russia science programs, its economy, use ballistic missiles, and then Project Vanguard.

Project Vanguard was a project lead by Director, Dr. John Hagen who also served as a member of the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Hagen would be the Subcommittee’s next witness.  Dr. Hagen discussed Project Vanguard and how it was first a science experiment lead by the Department of Defense to launch a satellite for the International Geophysical Year (IGY).  The Department of Defense had already done work in atmospheres and the Aerobees and Viking rockets needed to launch the satellites needed to be built at the Naval Research Laboratory.  The IGY would last from July 1957 to December 1958.  Dr. Hagan described the Viking rocket and the orbit and the space-to-Earth communications of the satellite to the Subcommittee.  The satellite uses radio waves to communicate with a ground station.  Dr. Hagen reiterated the project was supposed to be off the ground by the end of the IGY.

Mr. Vance asked if the project could be hurried, and Dr. Hagen said there were funding limitations, that ballistic missiles were of a higher priority and the Vanguard satellite program was a secondary priority classification.

Mr.Vance asked, “[Without limitations] do you think that you could have gotten it up ahead of Sputnik I?”  Dr. Hagen responded at first hesitantly than responded, “I think that we probably would have come very close to the same time, if not ahead of it.”  It was after this questioning Congress had the information it needed to boost the Vanguard project from a low priority science project to a higher security national defense project.  Johnson called the committee to order and decided an executive session was needed to meet in the Armed Services Committee Room to hear the Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. Allen Dulles.  Johnson settled the press, “At the conclusion of his testimony I will meet with the press and tell them anything that I may be able to as a result of that testimony…Dr. Hagen, we thank you for indulging us. Counsel, will you proceed with the examination of the witness?”

Dr. Hagen continued to discuss the scientific benefits of the Vanguard Project.  Later, Mr. Vance asked Dr. Hagen about the military benefits of Project Vanguard. “…satellites, close-in satellites, can certainly beexcellent aids to navigation. Within the Navy we, have this navigation problem. The problem is not confined of course to the Navy but we are very aware of it. Close-in satellites can help in navigation.  They could also help in such things as television relays.

“What are they,” Dr. Vance asked.  Dr. Hagen continued, “You can place a satellite in an orbit some 22,000 miles or so above the earth, at which time it has a period of just 1 day.
So you could place it over the United States, for example, and if you instrumented it as a television relay station, you could feed television programs into the satellite and have them rebroadcast to cover the whole of the United States with one transmitter. This is an obvious thing which will be done some day and it certainly has its military advantages.”

Dr. Vance then asked Dr. Hagen about Russian satellites.  Dr. Hagen described Sputnik, and described the “decay” process in which satellites are dragged down by the atmosphere and lose orbit and burn up in the atmostphere “just as the meteor does,” Hagen described.

Dr. Hagen discussed the Russian satellite Sputnik with the council and described the kind of propulsion needed to launch the satellite.  Senator Johnson was concerned if the American Viking rocket could support such as satellite and Dr. Hagen was not sure, “we were comparing potatoes and peas here when we compare with they are doing with our
Vanguard experiment, because our rocketry for this is not a military rocket, and we should not draw conclusions about our military capabilities in this comparison.”  Dr. Hagen continued to describe the physics of the Vanguard project and images were included in the Congressional record.

Senator Johnson thanked Dr. Hagen for his testimony and the Subcommittee hearing ended about 4 pm that November day.  The next few days the Subcommittee would hear testimony on ballistics and guided missiles with witnesses from the Department of Defense, the Army and the Army’s Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) including testimony from Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of Development Operations Division at the ABMA in Huntville, Alabama.

Dr. Werhner von Braun was a man in his mid forties; he had short brown hair, wrinkles on his face from decades studying rocket physics.  He sometimes wore glasses.  Von Braun was long influenced by the science fiction works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and got his start in rocketry working for the German Army working in the ballistic missile division. [1]  He was formerly apart of Hitler’s “rocket team” and built V-2 bombers that used slave labor from a concentration camp in Mittelwerk.  [1]  He stood before Congress that Wednesday afternoon and prepared to be questioned about his work for the ABMA and the US’s status on rocket development.

Mr. Weisl began, “Dr. von Braun, you are associated in the German use of the V-2.  Will you tell the committee briefly just what your association with the V-2 was?”

Von Braun responded, “The V-2 was the outgrowth of liquid fuel rocket developments that
had been going on in Germany since 1930. In 1930, still as a student, I became associated with the German Society for Space Travel. We built some rather primitive liquid-fuel rockets under the auspices of this society.”

“How old were you at that time, Doctor?” Mr. Weisl asked.  “Eighteen,” Von Braun replied.

Von Braun began, “In 1932, about 2 years later, the German Army became interested in our work, but was ready to support us only with the stipulation that we would move behind the fence of an army facility.  This is how I became affiliated with the German Army.  Under the auspices of the army we first built two smaller liquid fuel rockets, and by 1936 this project had progressed so well that the German Army, jointly with the German Air Force, decided to establish a rocket center on the Baltic Sea, which became the Rocket Center of Peenemuende, and it was there that the V-2 rocket was developed.  The actual development work on the V-2 began in early 1940.  The first flight tests were made in the spring of 1942, but were unsuccessful.  In October 1942, the first successful flight of the V-2 was made.  In September 1944, the V-2 went into military operation.”

Mr. Weisl asked, “Dr. von Braun,, will you tell the committee briefly how you managed to escape from the Russians as they were approaching Peenemuende?”  Von Braun testified about how the Russian Army was approaching from the East and him and his comrades could hear the artillery fire at night.  “It was very obvious to me and my associates that the war was lost…” he said.  The group was on the rear of the fighting front, confused about which direction to go.  They decided to go west.

“We finally wound up partly in central Germany and partly in Bavaria. There we were ultimately run over by the American Army,” von Braun testified.

“Were you able to escape to the American Army with equipment?” Mr. Weisl asked.

“Yes sir,” von Braun replied.  Von Braun continued, “only about 2,000 tons, but I would say the most important equipment, finally wound up in American hands, including the documents covering our scientific and engineering work.”

Mr. Weisl asked, “In other words, you delivered the equipment and documents and all the supporting data you could bring with you to the American Army?”

“That is right,” von Braun replied.

Mr. Weisl asked to what extent had the Russian Army gained German rocketry technology, but von Braun told the committee about how the Russians made poor use of their gained technology and that the Russia ballistic missile program was heavily mismanaged.

“The Russian program wasn’t very convincing, and not really dangerous,” von Braun concluded.

Dr. Weisl responded, “You do not underestimate the ability of the Russians to make and develop and plan and research into the missile field do you?”

“No sir, I don’t,” von Braun replied.

“Do you believe the Russians are ahead of us in this field?” Dr. Weisl asked.

“In the ballistic missile and satellite business, definitely; yes, sir,” von Braun answered.

Mr. Weisl and Dr. von Braun discussed impediments to the missile program for some length.  They discussed the unfunded Jupiter missile program and how a larger problem was in engineering.  Von Braun discussed his shortage of engineers and surplus of scientists who were not helping the project.  Von Braun thought the answer lied with how the missile program was prioritized.

“This is a very fundamental and, I think, a very serious question…” von Braun began, “The question is asked, very simply: ‘Do we need it for the Atlas?’  Answer: ‘No.’ ‘Do we need it for the Titan?” ‘No.’ ‘For the Jupiter?’ ‘No.’ ‘For the Thor?’ ‘No.’ Consequently, there is no need for a big engine.”

Mr. Weisl was interested, “In other words, you agree with General Medaris there is need for an engine with a large thrust?” Von Braun replied, “Yes, sir.”

The testimony continued, “And you join with General Medaris in feeling that
the control of outer space and, I might say, with General Gavin, that the control of outer space is just as important, if not more so, than the development of the ballistic missile?” Mr Weisl asked.

“Sir, I believe that–”

Mr. Weisl pressed, “You join in that belief?”

Dr. von Braun looked cool.  “Yes, sir; I do…I am convinced that the Russian concept, as demonstrated by Sputnik No. 2 carrying this animal, is clearly much broader. They consider the control of space around the earth very much like, shall we say, the great maritime powers considered the control of the seas, in the 16th through the 18th century, and they say, ‘If we want to control this planet, we have to control the space around it.’

Mr. Weisl responded, “Then we will discuss outer space with you this afternoon, Dr. von Braun.”

Senator Johnson concluded, “The committee will stand recess until 2:30.  The room erupted.



On NASA’s creation and Eisenhower’s “Future Theater of War”

On July 16, 1969, five minutes until liftoff of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the vehicle went through its usual status checks. The astronauts were busy conducting reports, awaiting confirmation systems were all clear and “go for launch.” Three minutes later, Apollo 11 would lift off and make it to the Moon and back.

We remember the launch and we remember Neil Armstrong’s historic “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” words, but how did we get there? How did the US decide to get to the Moon let alone return? What happened during the Apollo Era that would warrant such a decision?

In the 1940s, the US was involved in ballistic missile and atmospheric science, largely with the Huntsville military ballistics program lead by the Army. The US had been interested in science and technology policy largely during this period. The US worked as a technocracy, that is, using government lead technological enterprise as a means to secure the state. The only other country involved in technocratic enterprises during this period was the Soviet Union.

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched an unmanned probe into space, Sputnik, thus effectively creating the world’s first satellite into orbit. The US saw this as a threat to state security and immediately called to order a Congressional hearing to discuss Soviet involvement in space and the US’s role in missile and satellite technology. As Logsdon (1970) tells, proponents of entering the space race saw the US falling into a second-class nation without demonstrating rocketry technology. Rocket technology would effectively show the US had achieved long-range missile capability.

The US had already had plans to launch a satellite into orbit as part of the International Geophysical Year of 1957 under Eisenhower and it called this program Project Vanguard. The US team under Eisenhower viewed this project as a scientific endeavor and did not place this project on top priority until Soviets launched Sputnik. After Sputnik, satellites became a national security issue.

After Congressional hearings with leaders from the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Army, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed with the goal of creating an agency that would handle our space crisis. Eisenhower’s first job for NASA was to transport Department of Defense functions to NASA as well as in 1959 transfer the Army ballistics in Huntsville to NASA. NASA would become the agency that handled rocketry sciences lead by Werner Von Braun and no longer in Army hands. The Air Force had also long been interested in human spaceflight specifically for warfare purposes. [1]

The US was at a race with the Soviet Union for technocratic achievement and after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, the US viewed itself as behind the Soviets technocratically. Many technocratic rationales for beating the Soviets were argued during this period: National prestige, national security, science, and technology.

Logdson (1970) credits the Apollo Mission to President Kennedy, not Eisenhower as Eisenhower wasn’t motivated under the rationales of national prestige, national defense, or science and technology as means to explore space; he saw space as a scientific and futuristic prospect. [1]  Eisenhower did not believe NASA should be motivated by militaristic rationales, like national defense, which was a crucial decision for his making NASA a civilian, not defense Agency. [1]  Kennedy was motivated by these rationales and the decision to go to the Moon is largely credited to him.

The US saw the Apollo mission of landing men on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth as the goal of the Space Race under the guise of boots on the ground in space. The US eventually put man first on the Moon beating the Soviets, however after the Space Race was effectively run, NASA’s Apollo missions ended.

Human spaceflight and Eisenhower’s Future Theater of War

Logsdon (1970) shares that human spaceflight to Eisenhower was seen as a “futurist theater of war” in space and served as a potential to warfare rather than an immediate danger. [1]  Human spaceflight was seen as a low priority and future tier of spaceflight in the Sputnik era of early satellite technology. Wang (2008) credits the President’s Scientific Advisory Council (PSAC) as technological experts as well as skeptics. [2]  PSAC has listed rationales: 1) man’s need to explore space; 2) national defense; 3) national prestige; and 4) science as reasons to explore space. [1]

Still, PSAC had a human spaceflight agenda on their report, albeit a far shooting one, that included moon bases as an eventuality. [1] Eisenhower and his advisers viewed human spaceflight as an ending goal, yet satellites as a top priority. As Logsdon (1970) tells, Eisenhower viewed satellites under the rationale of science not defense, and did not approve of space as a defense endeavor; it was Kennedy and Johnson that saw the potential of warfare in space at the human level and reach the decision to go to the Moon. [1]  The Apollo Era was a defense endeavor and men on the Moon was seen as an epic military enterprise, effectively “boots on the ground” type military achievement. This was a futuristic age of scientific pursuits and technocratic progress.


[1]  J. M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest, The MIT Press, 1970.

[2]  Z. Wang, In Sputnik’s Shadow: The President’s Science Advisory Committee and Cold War America., Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Short Explanation of Space Policy & History

Short Explanation of Space Policy & History

By Dominique Awis

17 Nov 2016

The United States has the authority and legitimacy to conduct outer space activities because of U.S. space policy; space policy is an integration of both foreign and domestic policy, foreign policy through international law and relations and domestic policy through scientific research, education, and largely technological development. [1]

NASA was effectively established in 1958 when two executive orders by President Eisenhower transferred Department of Defense functions to NASA (Executive Order no. 10783,10793).  The Department of Defense had began space-related research and activities since the 1940s, largely with atmospheric and rocketry science. [2]  NASA integrated itself with other institutions such as NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and various U.S. propulsion laboratories. [2]

NASA’s main goals listed in the unamended National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 Congressional Declaration of Policy and Purpose are to do some combination of the following: a) peaceful purposes of outer space, b) aeronautical and space activities for state security, c) expansion of human knowledge of atmospheres and space, and d) development of aeronautical and space vehicle technologies.  The amended National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 includes Earth science, the commercial use of space, international cooperation of space activities, bioengineering research, ground propulsion systems, and potential hazards of near-Earth objects.


Space policy is a modern phenomena as the US government has grown in complexity over time, and therefore has increased attention to areas once not within the agenda sphere of the U.S. government.  The U.S. government created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, as a result of this increased attention.  NASA was established when the U.S. government began to allocate attention to space, science, and technology policy in the 1950s and was mandated by law to focus attention to this area of policy. [3]  

The increase of attention to space, science, and technology policy, the creation of NASA is also largely credited from the pressures of national defense [2] such that the Space Race was a result of a crisis. Historians Logsdon (1970), Launius (1994), Beschloss (1997) have found that the US initiated the Space Race in the 1960s as a competition with the Soviet Union. [4]  The US is famously the first regime to place a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth in July 1969, effectively “winning” the Cold War Space Race.

  • dA

[1] Steinberg, 2011. Space policy responsiveness: the relationship between public opinion and NASA funding.

[2] Garber and Launius, 2005. A Brief History of NASA: Launching NASA.

[3] Jones and Baumgartner, 2005. The Politics of Attention: How Governments Prioritize Problems.

[4] Kay, 2003. Problem Definitions and Policy Contradictions: JKF and the Space Race.