Notes on Writing History

— Notes —


A Short Guide to Writing History Essays © 2009, Department of History, University of Calgary

Preparing a Proposal

  • What is your topic and how is it defined (thematically, chronologically)?
  • What is/are your principal research question(s) and why?
  • What is your hypothesis or preliminary answer to research question(s)?
  • Why is your project interesting and important?
  • What do you expect your reader to learn from your project?
  • What sources are you going to use? Why are these the best sources?
  • Is there a methodology you are applying and, if so, why is it appropriate?
  • What preliminary conclusions have you formed?


My response:

The paper takes place between 1955 and 1960 and tells the story of the U.S. space program during this period.  The setting is during a time when the U.S. was in its initial stages of building the space program.  The story follows the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the start of their respective technocratic ages and traces history up until the creation of NASA.

The purpose of the book is to trace history during this period and find what actors and agents effectively altered the space program.  From sitting Senator Johnson to sitting President Eisenhower, von Braun and various scientists and military actors, the story traces each perception of the events and how events unfold.

The main argument the story makes is how Johnson thought the US was behind in space nationally defensively and thought the space program should beat the Russians.  Eisenhower was not alarmed by Sputnik and did not want the space and national defense fields to mingle.  Johnson was a true visionary for humankind’s future in space while Eisenhower viewed human spaceflight as a futuristic military venture.

I use quantitative methods such as plotting and text modeling.  I use graphs, tables, and images.  The sources are mostly primary with some secondary sources.  The time period covered for the sources are 1955-1960.




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.