Category NASA in the World

NASA, Space Science, and Western Europe

.^Although the Space Act of 1958 specifically mandated NASA to promote international collaboration, it was up to officials in the new organization to define the terms and conditions under which they would work with partners, most of whom had little or no experience in the domain. Chapter 1 described the parameters that Frutkin believed were essential if international collabora­tion was to be a success.1 He was emphatic that those who wished to work with NASA had to come to the table with their own scientific ideas, their money to fund them, an industrial capacity able to produce the hardware, and with official support for their program. In the late 1950s very few countries were in any posi­tion to meet these demands. In the context of the widespread interest in space at the time, this meant that scientists, industries, and national administrations had to come up with experiments, payloads, adequate funding, and an institutional home for space before they could exploit the opportunities that NASA offered. In short, NASA played a major role in kick-starting and orienting incipient space programs in many friendly countries.

A significant step toward international collaboration in space science was taken about six months after the Space Act was signed into law. It was announced at the second meeting of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). COSPAR was set up by the International Committee of Scientific Unions to maintain the momentum of the IGY.2 At the meeting in The Hague in March 1959 the American delegate to the committee, Richard Porter, made a formal offer of international cooperation on behalf of the United States. NASA’s offer, con­veyed by Porter, was that the United States would support the work of COSPAR by launching “worthy experiments proposed by scientists of other countries,” either as “single experiments as part of a larger payload, or groups of experi­ments comprising complete payloads.”3 In the former case the proposer would be “invited to work in a United States laboratory on the construction, calibra­tion, and installation of the necessary equipment in a U. S. research vehicle.” If that was not possible, a US scientist could help the originator bring the payload to fruition or, less desirably, the investigator abroad could simply provide the payload as a “black box” for installation. Entire payloads, which could weigh anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds and be placed in orbits ranging from 200 to 2,000 miles, would be accepted if recommended by COSPAR. In such cases

the United States was willing to “advise on the feasibility of proposed experi­ments, the design and construction of the payload package, and the necessary pre-flight environmental testing.” NASA also offered substantial funding for resident research associate positions in both experimental and theoretical space research.

This offer had an electrifying impact on those present. As Frutkin writes, “[T]he future of international cooperation in space exploration was raised at a stroke from the token to the real.”4 COSPAR emerged as an essential forum bringing together “precisely those individuals and national agencies best situated to motivate a positive response from their governments,” so facilitating bilateral and multilateral programs. NASA’s prestige and desirability as an international partner of choice was also confirmed at The Hague.

European space scientists were quick to respond to NASA’s offer, and remain unanimous in their praise for the help that NASA provided them, particularly in the 1960s. Reimar Lust, who was a leading figure in the European space effort for many years, spoke for many when he gave the Fulbright Fortieth Anniversary lecture in Washington in April 1987. “That the Europe of today can be seen as an autonomous, real and reliable partner of the United States in various fields of science and technology,” said Lust, “is thanks to the immensely unselfish help given to it by the United States.”5 This chapter fleshes out that remark by describing the crucial role that the agency and the US administration played in kick-starting the space programs in the “big four” European countries: Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany. This country-based approach is followed by a brief description of Europe’s contribution to the Hubble Space Telescope and a survey of two major projects undertaken between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The first, the International Solar Polar Mission, is interesting for the light it throws on the misunderstandings that can arise in international col­laboration when partners are constrained by different funding mechanisms for space projects. The second, the Cassini-Huygens planetary mission to Saturn and Titan, is a prime example of a successful joint venture of immense cost, complexity, and scientific interest.

The tapestry that weaves together NASA and Western Europe in space science has hundreds of threads and tens of knots, and it grows ever richer. This chapter can do no more than highlight some salient features. Some readers may have preferred an account that chose to be broader rather than to probe deeper. They are referred to a National Academies publication that surveyed about a dozen col­laborative projects between the United States and Europe in selected domains of space science, and that drew lessons for future collaboration from them.6

The United Kingdom

In October 1957 Harrie Massey, the leader of the British space science com­munity, was at a reception at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, when the launch of Sputnik was announced.7 He was taken completely by surprise. In fact 18 months earlier the British IGY Committee had concluded that American and Soviet plans to launch satellites were not likely to succeed, and that even if they did, they were not likely to be of much scientific interest. This is not to say that space research was entirely neglected in the country. On the contrary, the Royal

Society and the Ministry of Supply—responsible for the country’s guided missile program—supported the development of a sounding rocket program for upper atmosphere research. After several test flights of their own Skylark, launched from the Anglo-Australian rocket range in Woomera, an experimental program got under way just after Sputnik II orbited the earth.8 The excitement of exploit­ing the new device, the conviction that any useful scientific data beyond the atmosphere would be freely available to all, and of course the cost led British scientists and policymakers to remain aloof at first from embarking on a satellite – based research program.

Two main factors inspired a change of thinking. One was internal pressure from leading figures such as Bernard Lovell, the director at Jodrell Bank, whose giant radio-telescope had tracked the trajectory of Sputnik over British soil.9 Lovell and some sections of the government, notably the Foreign Office, argued that the United Kingdom would be “classed as an underdeveloped country” if she did not launch her own satellite.10 Then there was the wish to improve relations with the United States. The launch of the Sputniks transformed the parameters of scientific and technological collaboration between the two nations. For a decade the British had resented the constraints imposed on scientific and technological exchange by Washington with one of its most faithful allies, par­ticularly in sensitive areas.11 A few days after Sputnik II was launched the min­ister of defense told Parliament that the Soviet satellites had “helped precipitate closer collaboration with the United States” and remarked that this new impetus “offers new prospects which we dared not hope for a few months ago.” The country’s crash program to develop a hydrogen bomb was given a major boost.12 Cooperation in space science also moved center stage. In September 1958, six months before NASA’s offer at COSPAR, American officials offered to launch a British payload on an American satellite more-or-less free of charge. In October the administration released a report praising British achievements and extolling the importance of international collaboration in space. The State Department hoped that Britain could quickly launch a payload into space, so becoming the first nation after the superpowers to do so, denying the communist bloc another space first.

The British community was in no position to meet a tight deadline: the use of the Skylark sounding rocket still defined the limits of its space ambitions. However, the new opportunities for UK-US cooperation led the Royal Society and the Ministry of Supply to reconsider a satellite program. Massey master­minded two major policy statements in October 1958 in which he made a strong plea for an autonomous British program; he was even opposed to launching a British satellite with an American rocket, as this would involve “an obvious loss of prestige.” This national approach was quickly undermined, both for lack of domestic support and by NASA’s offer at COSPAR in March 1959. Six weeks after Porter made his statement at The Hague the British National Committee on Space Research, chaired by Massey, had established working groups to define experiments that could be launched by NASA.

In June 1959 Massey led a cohort of British scientists armed with 11 experi­ment proposals on a trip to NASA.13 They were warmly received. A provisional agreement was reached for using a Scout rocket to launch three satellites at roughly annual intervals.14 There would be no exchange of funds and clean interfaces. The scientific instruments would have to be tested using sounding rockets, preferably British but if need be also American. The first launches would probably be from Wallops Island and if the launch failed every experiment would be launched a second time. NASA would provide the body of the first satel­lite and auxiliary services such as power supplies and telemetry: Britain would gradually assume responsibility for the entire satellite. The agency’s tracking and telemetry network, possibly supplemented by British facilities, would be avail­able. For the first satellite NASA also offered to receive the telemetry tapes from the ground stations, catalog and edit them, and compress them into digital form before sending them to the United Kingdom for further analysis. NASA also provided equipment to have a quick look at the first data received from the satel­lite so that experimenters could gauge if their instruments were performing as hoped. The entire process of data reception and analysis would be handed over to the British teams after this first “tutorial.”

The design of the satellite required close collaboration between teams on both sides of the Atlantic. The performance characteristics of the Scout rocket had still not been fixed early in 1960: payload capacity and orbit capability were in flux, and temperature and vibration conditions at launch were only vaguely known. As Massey and Robins explain, the scope for mishap was immense. NASA had to design “the satellite structure, power supplies, data storage devices and encoders, and telemetry transmitters.” Groups in Britain, for their part, “would design the instrument sensors, which would interlock and interact with practically every aspect of the NASA design activities.”15 They had chosen their seven experiments by December 1959 by drawing as much as possible on the experience gained with Skylark. This favored instruments that studied the high altitude ionosphere.

To manage the project a joint US/UK working group, which met every three months, was established. By the end of 1960 a number of major difficul­ties still loomed on the horizon. Data encoding and transmission was proving more demanding than anticipated. Mechanically complex external paddles were needed to support the solar power cells. For safety reasons the maximum launch inclination of the Scout from Wallops Island was 52°, somewhat less than the British scientists had planned for.

The restraint on launch inclination was lifted during the course of 1961, when it became clear that the Scout would not be available early in 1962, as planned. NASA accepted the additional cost of launching with the already developed and reliable Thor-Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. The British were more than willing to oblige, and took advantage of the enhanced telemetry coverage by enrolling radio stations in Singapore, Port Stanley in the Falkland islands, and on a Royal Navy ship off the coast of Tristan da Cunha.

The first launch of the satellite, on April 10, 1962, was aborted due to a fault in the fuel system of the rocket. A few weeks later, on April 26, 1962, Britain’s first scientific payload was successfully lofted into space on board a satellite bap­tized Ariel 1. Its capacity was degraded unexpectedly three months later by a high-altitude test of a hydrogen bomb that temporarily perturbed the opera­tion of its instruments and permanently damaged the solar cells providing elec­tric power. Ariel 2 (launched from Wallops Island in March 1964) and Ariel 3 (launched from the Western Test Range in May 1967) followed, with the United

Kingdom taking increasing responsibility for the engineering design, construc­tion, and testing of the satellite itself, as well as for data handling and analysis.

As was mentioned earlier, NASA originally hoped that, in the context of Cold War rivalry, a British satellite might secure a space first for the free world. This was not to be. On September 29, 1962, Canada’s Alouette 1 was successfully orbited by a Thor-Agena rocket.16 NASA provided the launch vehicle, launch facilities, and a worldwide network of ground stations. The satellite was designed and built by the Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment (DTRE) in Ottawa. The project was intended to help Canada gain a space capability, to acquire new data for the engineering of high-frequency communication links, and to enhance the DTRE’s considerable in-house expertise on the effects of the ionosphere on the scattering and deflection of radar beams. Alouette 1 was the first successfully launched satellite to be developed indigenously by a country other than the United States or the Soviet Union.


The idea of foreign participation in the post-Apollo program moved through two quite distinct phases. The first was dominated by NASA administrator Tom Paine, and lasted for about a year from October 1969 through September 1970. Paine’s enthusiasm for including other countries and regions—Western Europe, but also Australia, Canada, and Japan—in NASA’s ambitious schemes for the 1970s and 1980s, produced a flurry of activity on both sides of the Atlantic. Frutkin took the lead in exploring, along with interlocutors represent­ing the European Space Conference, the financial, industrial, technological, and managerial possibilities of a major contribution to the Space Transportation System. In the second phase, which lasted from the end of 1970 to the middle of 1972, new and extremely determined actors played an increasingly impor­tant role in shaping the contours of collaboration. White House staffers Peter Flanigan and Tom Whitehead, with the support of the president’s science adviser Edward David, led the charge. They were hostile to Paine’s “swash-buckling” approach, believed that NASA had to completely rethink its role and redefine its demands on the public purse, and were deeply concerned about technol­ogy transfer to Western Europe. New NASA administrator Jim Fletcher, while willing to fight for the STS, shared their grave doubts about international col­laboration. His sentiments permeated through NASA once the president had authorized the shuttle program, and were adopted by Deputy Administrator Low and by Arnold Frutkin. By March 1972 only the State Department was still prepared to make a strong case for European participation in the core of the program, but it was too late.

Senior negotiators on both sides adopted entrenched positions that were immune to argument. For the Europeans, it was the Belgian chairman of the European Space Conference, Theo Lefevre, with strong backing from France, who demanded watertight launch guarantees before he would fully commit Europe to post-Apollo cooperation. The horizons of his thinking were domi­nated by the fear that the United States might use its monopoly on access to space to impede the development of a strong European telecommunications sat­ellite industry. The short history of Intelsat in the 1960s had convinced him, and many people in Europe, that America would only relinquish its control of this lucrative market with great difficulty, and that the State Department would work along with Comsat to undermine meaningful competition from separate, regional telecom systems.

On the US side it was Whitehead, along with David, who sought cast-iron guarantees that there would be no significant technological leakage to Europe through its participation in the shuttle program. When Paine launched post – Apollo cooperation in 1969 the argument that the United States should help close the technological gap with Europe still had considerable traction in Washington, DC. By 1970 it was technological competition, not collaboration that dominated the thinking of many in the White House. Whitehead, who could barely conceal his contempt for Paine, was convinced that NASA was reck­lessly giving away US technology to Europe. Endless reports and analyses failed to change his position, which found resonance with Ed David. When one adds this unrelenting hostility to technological leakage with the problems of manage­rial organization, the dangers of cost-overruns, and the fears that the Europeans were not quite up to the technological tasks they wanted to undertake, one has a bundle of arguments that was immensely corrosive to any collaborative project.

The president had the authority to bring his White House staffers to heel. The image of Nixon that emerges from these debates, however, is one of a presi­dent whose policy pronouncements were often vague, imprecise, and off the cuff—and open to manipulation and self-serving interpretation by his closest advisers. There is no doubt that Nixon was genuine in his desire for interna­tional space collaboration, above all with the Soviets and the eastern bloc (see chapter 7). This was central to his geopolitical strategy of detente, a strategy that sidelined Europe in the interest of improving relations with both the Soviet Union and Mao’s China. Within that broad policy framework the president was usually vague about the scope and intimacy of technological collaboration. This left considerable room for officials in NASA and the White House—doubtless in good faith—to justify policy agendas, even conflicting policy agendas in the president’s name. Though Kissinger was extremely frustrated by these gambits, Nixon apparently ignored them: certainly he did little to clarify his position.

American industry did not share the concerns over technological transfer that so preoccupied senior members of the administration. All of the major American aerospace contractors were positive about incorporating European firms as sub­contractors in various parts of the shuttle system. They had identified European technological strengths, which complemented their own. They were convinced that a foreign contribution would provide greater long-term stability to the program, especially before Congress. And they had no doubt that, even if the Europeans did acquire new and significant knowledge from them, they would still emerge superior in the long run, both because of what they picked up them­selves from Europe, and because they were confident that US industry was far more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and innovative than its sluggish, bureaucratized European partners.

The Department of Defense was another actor that had little influence on the trajectory of post-Apollo collaboration. It was deeply implicated in the shut­tle design by virtue of its demand for an orbiter cross-range capability of some 1,250 nm. That demand, in turn, made major technological demands, particu­larly regarding the Thermal Protection System on the leading edge of the delta wings. Europe’s experience with Concorde was a potential asset here, however. If the Air Force eventually took little interest in the course of deliberations it was because it rapidly concluded that it would need to build its own tug anyway— and of course as the technological feasibility of that element waned so too did the Department of Defense’s engagement in the negotiations.

From the European perspective, the departure of Paine and the arrival of Fletcher turned out to be a serious setback to post-Apollo collaboration. Paine’s enthusiasm was infectious, yet his optimism was misguided, even irresponsible. He simply did not have the support in NASA, and certainly not in the Nixon White House for an ambitious collaborative project. Of course Frutkin and Low did what they could to carry out the administrator’s wishes. Their efforts were truly Herculean. They had to contend with European negotiators who sought to be treated as equals in a massively asymmetric financial, industrial, and technological project. They found attempts to move forward on discuss­ing concrete sites for collaboration constantly thwarted by European demands for launch guarantees. On top of this they found the ground cut away under their feet by senior officials in other sections of government. Johnson’s will­ingness to yield to Charyk’s last-minute demand to reinterpret the meaning of votes on what counted as significant economic harm in the Intelsat Assembly of Parties infuriated Europeans and isolated NASA. So too did the collapse of the negotiations over Aerosat, in which once again Whitehead and Flanigan’s concerns about technological leakage played an important role. Fletcher, for his part, seems to have had no stomach for a fight with the White House staffers. More precisely, perhaps, he agreed with their concerns. He too was concerned about the multiple complications that would ensue on giving the Europeans a large technological role in post-Apollo, and quickly came to the conclusion that the only possible merit of post-Apollo collaboration was its foreign policy aspects. It was a definitive move in a climate in which, as we have said, Europe was no longer a major concern in the president’s foreign policy agenda, and its growing technological maturity—and not concerns about the “technologi­cal gap”—was shaping the contours of policy thinking by senior White House staffers. Rogers and Johnson—the latter already discredited for having made a too-generous deal with Japan over launcher technology (see chapter 10)—could not hope to bring off a major collaborative project with Western Europe under these circumstances.

If the Sorie Can/Spacelab survived this lengthy process at all it was because Germany remained determined to keep the collaborative ball in the air, because the State Department saw considerable interest in working closely with a tradi­tional ally that was itself reevaluating its relationships with the eastern bloc and the Soviet Union, and because this technological element embodied Frutkin’s two cardinal principles of “no exchange of funds” and “clean interfaces” in their pure form. In March 1972 George Low wrote that NASA sought foreign par­ticipation in the use of the shuttle, not in its development. Spacelab satisfied that requirement.

The Effects of the Chinese Nuclear Test

On October 16, 1964, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) successfully tested a 22-kiloton atomic bomb at the Lop Nur site. The balance of power in Asia clearly tilted toward Beijing. The government of India began to reconsider its non-nuclear posture, and eventually tested its own bomb a decade later—an option denied to Japan by Article 9 of its postwar constitution that prohibited the development of nuclear weapons. Instead the press and officials in Tokyo emphasized the loss of prestige suffered at the expense of a third-world communist country, and suggested that a robust space program would be a valu­able technological antidote that could save national pride.18 Indeed, as one lead­ing politician and space advocate put it in 1966, “[I]f Mainland China should succeed in launching a satellite ahead of Japan, the sense of hopelessness of the Japanese will be so great that no one will have the heart to see it. It is the national responsibility of the leaders of our country,” Yasuhiro Nakasone went on, “to take the initiative so that this national confidence cannot be lost, even a little.”19 The risks of nuclear proliferation to nonaligned countries led the State Department to plan for an appropriate response even before the explosion occurred at Lop Nur. The imminent Chinese test, the State Department sug­gested, provided “an opportunity to demonstrate U. S. cooperation in sharing of advanced technology with countries of Asia.” Granted the strict limits on nuclear collaboration with Japan, an alternative like “full and active cooperation with the Japanese in such outer space endeavors as space communications and the launching of a Japanese space satellite” suggested themselves.20 This was not going to be easy, however, as officials in the American Embassy in Tokyo pointed out after China had tested its bomb. The Japanese would not leap at the opportunity to collaborate with the United States since there was “a feeling among Japanese space officials that independent development of a successful space program is important to Japan’s prestige, especially in view of the recent ‘Chicom’ [State Department abbreviation for the PRC] successes in the nuclear field.”21 Certainly the prime minister wanted to see a Japanese satellite aloft to counter the impact of the PRC’s nuclear test, and to demonstrate Japan’s advanced scientific and technological capability. What is more, “Assistance from the U. S. in tracking and communicating with such a satellite would be well received in Japan and would contribute to U. S.-Japan relations.” However, the Embassy emphasized, granted Japanese sensibilities, “[t]he position of the U. S. was to remain one of cooperation and assistance, rather than guidance or domi­nation, if the political objectives of the Japanese were to be met.”22 Too much engagement would obviously expose Tokyo to a propaganda onslaught from Beijing for being dependent on the United States.

In September 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson suggested to NASA administrator James Webb that the American space program “should have more visibility abroad and should yield more return to American foreign pol­icy objectives.”23 Assisting the Europeans and the Japanese with their space programs would help strengthen the alliance within the capitalist bloc and assure greater American involvement in those nations. By helping its allies, the United States could also impress them with its technological superiority vis-a-vis the Soviets. Following up on this, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, who was also chairman of the Space Council, visited Japan late in December 1965. There he suggested that the two countries work together on a major project akin to the Helios mission that the American president had proposed to German chancellor Erhard just a few days before (chapter 2). “We in the U. S. have watched Japan’s remarkable advance into this field with interest and admiration. We look to your country,” Humphrey went on, “for a major con­tribution on the leadership role as the world crosses the threshold into the space age.” Hence the value of cooperating on “major space projects which none of us can do alone.”24

This high-level willingness to collaborate constructively with Japan was thwarted by Itokawa’s determination to remain autonomous, and his con­tempt for his competitors. Itokawa made official statements beginning in 1964 calling for Japan to launch a satellite in 1966. He wanted his country to be the fourth nation to orbit a satellite after the United States, USSR, and France. However, he insisted that his group achieve the feat alone and without help from foreign countries, unlike Canadian and European scien­tists who had sought US assistance in launching their satellites. He chose the three-stage Mu series rocket to launch a Disturbed Ionosphere Patrol Satellite (DIPS) or an All-Wave Radio Noise Receiving Satellite. He viewed both the satellites as a distinctly Japanese contribution to space science and as an exten­sion of the experiments with Japanese instruments sent up in NASA sounding rockets from Wallops Island. Responding to critics who argued that “lack of coordination might result in duplication of effort within Japan,” he said he saw “no harm in duplication.” He also dismissed all efforts by the NSAC to rationalize the program by discrediting the Council: “[T]here are no space scientists among the members of the NSAC,” said Itokawa, “and its chair­man Kaneshige could hardly be called a space scientist. His field was textile machinery.”25

In exchanges with State Department officials in April and May 1966 Kaneshige confirmed that the internal strife that so struck Barnes and Frutkin was damag­ing the Japanese space program. The chairman of the NSAC remarked on the “lack of a good program,” and said that “the fact that Japan has not yet suc­ceeded in integrating its two space programs—the Itokawa program sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Program of the Science and Technology Agency—[was] causing embarrassment.” According to Kaneshige, the prime minister was making policy with regard to space, but “there [was] nobody now who can speak for the Japanese space program.” He amplified this statement by claiming that no one (presumably other than the prime minister) was even authorized to request American tracking assistance in the event of the launching of a Japanese satellite. Kaneshige believed that Japan might ultimately establish some sort of national space agency, a “little NASA,” though he felt that it was first essential to work out a sensible, long-range plan for space research.26

Kaneshige’s gloom led him to pour cold water on every suggestion made by senior State Department official Herman Pollack for closer collaboration between the two countries, no matter how tentative. A memo summarizing an exchange between the two men, in which Pollack emphasized how much store he placed on collaborating with Japan, concluded that Kaneshige’s replies “in general carried the impression that until Japan’s internal problems with its space program are settled by the Japanese themselves, Japan would find it difficult to discuss with the U. S. the details regarding a useful program of international cooperation in space.”27

To sum up, during the 1960s NASA collaborated sporadically, and with difficulty with Japan. Absent a coherent national space program and a single government-sponsored organization to serve as interlocutor, there was no reli­able point of contact in Tokyo. Frutkin was emphatic that he would not deal with individuals unless they were empowered by their national authorities. Itokawa’s strident nationalism and public misrepresentation of NASA’s launcher policy ruled him out as a partner. Kaneshige’s intentions were sound but he was not able to rein in his rival, a man who enjoyed wide public visibility and who contemptuously dismissed him as a meddling bureaucrat. Relations with the United States were further soured by provocative remarks by Itokawa that may have struck a popular chord at home but that only increased consterna­tion in Washington. The Chinese nuclear test particularly irked the head of ISAS. In 1964 the State Department reported that Itokawa had said that “some Japanese scientists had been considering the possibility of publicizing Japan’s potential to produce nuclear weapons if it so chose, as a means to counteract any claims about the superiority of Chinese Communist science in connec­tion with its nuclear program.”28 ISAS’s work on solid propellant research also raised eyebrows. It was noted, for example, that the Mu series of rockets, which were being developed by ISAS in collaboration with firms like Nissan and Mitsubishi, had the potential to evolve incrementally to an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). Under these circumstances NASA could not but tread cautiously, above all in the domain of launchers, and notably since NSAM334 of July 1965 specifically prohibited technological assistance to foreign entities that might enable them to acquire independent access to the geostationary orbit for comsats (chapter 3).

That said, it is all the more remarkable that in 1969 the two governments signed an agreement to provide Thor Delta technology to Japan. The steps taken by the president and the State Department to draw closer to Tokyo after the Chinese nuclear test in 1964 planted the seeds of this agreement. Those initial contacts, however, were limited to discussions of what might be done at a general level to foster space collaboration between the countries. The narrowing down of the field to one major project required a determined push by senior officials in the State Department against the wishes of NASA and other arms of the admin­istration. This episode is important enough to merit a study of its own, and is handled in depth in chapter 10.

European Participation in the Post-Apollo. Program, 1969-1970: The Paine Years

The negotiations over European contributions to the post-Apollo program concerned the biggest single attempt to integrate a foreign nation or region into the technological core of the American space program during the first decades of NASA’s existence.1 These discussions were carried on for about three years, and engaged several NASA administrators: Thomas Paine, from October 1969 until he left NASA in September 1970; George Low, who temporarily led the organization while a successor was found; and then James C. Fletcher. They also engaged multiple arms of the administration: NASA of course, as the lead agency, but also the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Office of Telecommunications Policy, the National Security Council, and, hovering in the wings, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which assumed extensive powers in the Nixon administration.2 They were of deep concern to industry. And they were dominated by issues of technology transfer and launcher policy, here embedded in a framework that touched on matters of international diplo­macy, national security, and American technological, commercial, and political leadership of the free world.

In a speech to the United Nations in September 1969 President Nixon called for the “internationalization of man’s epic venture in space.” Feeling himself mandated to broaden the base of the post-Apollo program, Paine made a con­certed effort to seek international partners, and made his case with passion to the Australians, the Canadians, the Japanese, and the West Europeans. It was the last who were best positioned to take advantage of it. European engineers, managers, and policymakers, who had learnt so much from NASA in the early 1960s, were deeply impressed by the Apollo missions: the United States, it seemed, could do anything it wanted in space. The gap in technological, engineering, and mana­gerial capacity that had opened up between the two sides of the Atlantic in the space sector had now become a chasm—and yet here they were being invited to join in NASA’s next major program. Their reactions combined awe at American achievements, with pride that they were deemed worthy of inclusion in the next leap forward, and with fear born of uncertainty. Given their limited resources, if they made a major commitment to NASA’s post-Apollo program they risked sacrificing an indigenous space program of their own devising, above all an

autonomous launch capability. If they rejected the American offer they would be doomed to an inferior position, always collaborating from a position of weakness with the world’s space leaders. NSAM 294 and NSAM 398 were suggestive of what that could entail: a vulnerability to the constraints on international col­laboration imposed by US commercial, political, and security concerns, which could mean launchers denied, technology and managerial skills withheld, and prime contractors always based on US soil.

The account that follows will flesh out these more general considerations in greater detail. It is divided into three chapters. The first covers the period from the end of 1969 to early 1971, when the budget appropriations for FY1972 were finalized—and much to NASA’s distress, post-Apollo did not figure largely in them.3 The second chapter covers 1971. While some progress was made on defin­ing the parameters of US-European collaboration, the year was dominated by a separate if related concern: the implications of the definitive Intelsat agreements (accepted in principle by 73 governments on May 21, 1971) on the availability of US launchers for European telecommunications satellites. Finally, there is the period inaugurated by President’s Nixon’s statement on January 5, 1972, that the space shuttle (more precisely the STS, Space Transport System) would be the centerpiece of NASA’s post-Apollo program. Poised to move quickly, NASA rap­idly took advantage of the new situation. Plans for a major technological collab­orative project were refined in a series of meetings with experts from both sides of the Atlantic. A variety of possible platforms for a European contribution were explored, including the construction, under the guidance of an American prime contractor, of parts of the orbiter itself. Alternatives included the European- led construction of a “space tug,” an orbit-to-orbit vehicle intended to ferry hardware and people from the shuttle’s low-earth orbit to the moon, the geo­stationary orbit, and so on, and a Sortie Can or a RAM (Research Applications Module), a capsule or a palette for doing space science that would be lodged in the shuttle’s cargo bay.

The managerial, industrial, and technological complexities of direct par­ticipation in the orbiter soon overwhelmed NASA’s wish to have any partners directly engaged in building its new space transport system. The agency also started having grave doubts about the wisdom of developing the tug, which had emerged as Europe’s preferred contribution to the program. Taking the bull by the horns, in June 1972 it was announced, to the distress not to say anger of many of its partners, that the United States could only support a European effort to build a “sortie can” for space science experiments, while encouraging international participation in the use of the shuttle system. Germany decided to take advantage of this offer, and took the lead in developing what later became known as Spacelab. The French, by contrast, were now even more emphatic that meaningful technological collaboration with the United States was impossible. The withdrawal of the tug, and the conditions under which the United States would launch foreign communication satellites, played into the hands of those who were seeking political justification for an independent European launcher program. The French authorities, yielding to pressures from engineers in their national space agency and the Gaullist wings of the political elite, took prime responsibility for developing a European heavy launcher called Ariane, which made its first successful maiden flight on Christmas eve, 1979.

Robotic and Human Spaceflight

Staff at Ames crafted several Cosmos biosatellite experiments specifically to complement projects on US human-rated spacecraft, beginning with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. James Connolly, chief of the Payload and Facilities Engineering Branch of the Life Sciences Division, functioned as ARC’s project manager on Bion satellite experiments from 1986 through 1993. When inter­viewed, Connolly recalled some of the pros and cons of flying instruments on human or robotic craft. For one thing, “you have a lot more paperwork on a Shuttle mission,” he explained, due to the safety considerations for astronauts. Bion satellites also had a quick turnaround: whereas the 3-4 year lead time on a Shuttle mission afforded advantages for more complex instrument and experi­ment development, the average Bion satellite permitted only 12-18 months preparation time (allowing for quicker turnover or faster revisions to studies). In the end, ARC staff found that they could use Soviet biosatellites as something of a test bed for Shuttle instruments. Connolly elaborated: “One advantage that we saw in the Cosmos program, as compared to the Shuttle, was that we could acquire technology components, do proof-of-concept development of a system, fly it, and then transition it into a Shuttle mission if the opportunity presented itself.”83 Looking to the future of biomedical cooperation, Connolly predicted that transferring experiments to the International Space Station would pose an entirely new set of demands on ARC equipment, having to function in space for long-duration flights of roughly 90 days (as opposed to the two – or three-week runs on Bion or the Shuttle). “On the Shuttle, we don’t even consider changing out a filter. We have done some inflight refurbishment of water supplies and, of course, there were animal food change-outs that we dealt with in shorter flights.” Perhaps these considerations contributed to his preference for robotic craft: “I’m in favor of as much automation as you can get,” Connolly explained. Automated experiments allowed for greater consistency in operations and when sent on manned missions, require less attention from crews. Although auto­mated missions accelerated the rate of experimentation and eliminated a consid­erable amount of red tape, biosatellites did have their costs.

For the most part, materials and organisms could only be viewed on Bions, not manipulated. This meant that in the event of a malfunction, it was nearly impossible for investigators to repair equipment. In spite of the scrupulous quality control and the necessity for high-reliability hardware to overcome such risks, the flight of nonhuman spaceflight experiments placed a significantly smaller burden on NASA budgets than did manned.84 This relatively low-bud­get ceiling (paired with an equally low profile in the public eye) might well have made it possible for Bion cooperation to continue, even after NASA/Soviet Academy of Sciences 1977 Bilateral Agreement in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space lapsed in 1982.85

Carter, China, and "Inducing Soviet Flexibility"

NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences signed the 1977 Bilateral Agreement in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as diplomatic relations were unraveling rapidly at the state level. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter observed Soviet human rights violations against the Polish Solidarity movement with increasing frustration. This, coupled with involvement in conflicts in Ethiopia, Angola, Shaba, Yemen, Cambodia, Cuba, and Iran all reached a climax with the December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Cold War historian Odd Arne Westad characterizes Carter’s response as that of “an activist president who was deter­mined to make the Soviets pay a high price for their invasion of Afghanistan.”86 The Carter administration retaliated on a number of diplomatic fronts: recalling their ambassador, boycotting the Moscow Olympics, suspending the Senate con­sideration of SALT II, discontinuing various cultural and economic exchanges, restricting fishing rights in US waters, effecting an embargo on high-tech exports to the Soviet Union, and, most alarmingly, cancelling a 17-million-ton shipment of grain.87

At this time, President Carter flirted with capitalizing on Nixon’s advance­ments in China to isolate and embarrass the Soviet Union as much as possible. Pondering cooperation across a broad spectrum of activities including space and nuclear energy, the Carter administration sought to reinforce diplomatic rela­tions with the People’s Republic of China. American technologies, together with scientific cooperation, were intended to “serve as a positive and constructive force in deepening US relations with the People’s Republic, exerting influence on the PRC’s future domestic and international orientation and, perhaps, mod­erating Soviet foreign policy conduct.” In particular, scientific and technological exchanges stood to “place the USSR on notice that provocative Soviet behavior could stimulate increasingly intimate Sino-US ties with security overtones.”88

In the fall of 1978, the president’s Policy Review Committee met regarding science and technology programs with China. Acting on the president’s instruc­tions that they “move ahead” with student exchanges, technical aid in the field of energy, and space, the committee communicated a few suggestions. In particular, they noted that the Departments of State and Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and NASA each agreed that the United States could consider “allowing the PRC to procure” two 12-transponder C-band Westar Class satellites “from US industry under carefully designed controls that would limit undesirable tech­nology transfer and unfavorable domestic and international reactions.”89 The satellite would be purchased and delivered in “turnkey” condition—that is to say, in geosynchronous orbit. Though no satellite hardware would enter the PRC, the committee did allow that US tracking-telemetry-control ground sys­tem technologies would have to be exported. As of negotiations in 1978, the Chinese would “pay all costs associated with activities which benefit them,” and the United States would do likewise.

Up-to-date geosynchronous telecommunications satellites were, in Science Advisor Frank Press’s opinion, the “definitive test of future US-PRC scientific and technological relationships.” Carter also considered PRC interest in acquiring a Landsat ground station, capable of receiving multispectral data from the 1981 Landsat-D thematic mapper.90 At the same time, the Department of Commerce began meeting with counterparts in the PRC discussing possible fields of sci­entific collaboration including metrology, meteorology, oceanography, fish­ery research and management, data center management and data interchange, and patents.91 The committee acknowledged that these actions were calculated specifically to “help induce Soviet flexibility.” Regarding the so-called Soviet – American Factor in Sino-American cooperation, the Committee reported:

In [Soviet] propaganda they condemned the Frank Press visit and they can be expected to cast specific projects in the worst possible light. Yet, the prospects of expanded S&T contact may have helped induce Soviet flexibility. Clearly, they will be especially sensitive to any Sino-US collaboration which they see as enhancing the PRC’s military capabilities vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.92

While this “turnkey” export of satellites to China never came to be, it does illus­trate the lengths the Carter administration would consider.

The Benefits of Collaboration: What the. United States Could Offer

The uproar over launcher availability crowded out ongoing discussions at the technical level over the modalities of European collaboration in the post-Apollo program. Three possibilities were on the table: (1) the space tug (figure 5.1) that would ferry satellites from the shuttle’s low-earth orbit to other, notably geo­stationary orbits; (2) experimental modules for the station or the shuttle (Sortie Cans or RAMs); and (3) the construction of components of the orbiter itself.

Frutkin and other senior NASA personnel discussed these matters on February 1, 1971.25 They concluded that a reusable tug was “the most valu­able and desirable element the Europeans could contribute to the post-Apollo program.” It was “an essential element which cannot be undertaken directly by NASA for a number of years.” For financial reasons, in the short term the agency would probably have to use expendable adaptations of the Centaur or Atlas rockets for tug missions. If Europe built a tug and had it ready by 1979, the United States could take advantage of that alternative. Even though the tug

The Benefits of Collaboration: What the. United States Could Offer

Figure 5.1 The space tug concept.

Source: Technology Transfer in the Post Apollo Program. NASA HQ MF71-6399, 7-27-71, Record Group NASA 255, Box 14 Folder II. H, WNRC. Permission: NASA.

was a big step forward, the advanced technology that it required—in structure, propulsion, and controls—was probably within European capabilities, and could productively feed back into NASA’s work. Interfaces would be clean, manage­ment simplified, and, in the event of failure, delays, or overruns, the impact on shuttle development would be minimal. The USAF’s attitude was the only “major uncertainty,” but it was felt that this was not an “unmovable obstacle,” if only because the Air Force might not get funding for its own tug and could probably manufacture a tug developed abroad if it needed one.

Frutkin and his colleagues viewed the manufacture Sortie Cans or RAMs as the next best task, for the same reasons as the tug. The least desirable contribu­tion was selected elements and structures for the orbiter itself. Technology trans­fer was a major concern here, even though US industry had identified excellent possibilities for subcontracting elements of the orbiter to European sources. If a single European firm made a critical item, like the vertical tail, it would obtain “proportionately more in general knowledge about the STS system than could be justified by the depth and amount of contributions to the program.”

These ideas were presented to a joint meeting of experts from February 16 to 18. The leaders of the European delegation, Causse and Dinkespiler, were extremely impressed with the clarity of the presentations made by NASA.26 The cross-range requirements for the shuttle, and their implications, were spelt out in detail. The plans for the station were explained, and the importance of RAMs emphasized. A mission model for the use of the shuttle covering all payloads was also presented. Some 60 flights per year from 1980 onward were foreseen; the tug was needed for about two-thirds of them. NASA’s preference for Europe to build the tug or a RAM that could be used with the station or with the shuttle alone was stressed. Its concerns about subcontracting out parts of the
orbiter were emphasized.27 One issue on which all agreed—Low, Johnson, and Lefevre—was that collaboration should be in a multilateral framework. This was to simplify management, to pressure European nations to work together, and to stop individual countries from signing bilateral agreements with NASA to the benefit of their home industry.

Space Station Freedom and Perceptions of NASA’s inefficiency

After nearly a decade of development and $9 billion in tax expenditures, NASA had no hardware, nor a singular plan to show for the Space Station Freedom project. On March 9, 1993, the newly elected president Clinton ordered NASA to begin a “rapid and far-reaching redesign of the Station,” with the intention of “significantly reducing development, operations, and utilization costs.”57 Clinton wanted to reduce the planned cost from $14.4 billion to $9 billion and directed NASA to submit options to a redesign committee.

In the spring and summer of 1993 Charles Vest, vice presidential appointee and MIT president led a committee assessing three new possible space station configurations, all of which still averaged $10 billion over the Clinton admin­istration’s prospective costs of $5 billion, $7 billion, or $9 billion. Option A was estimated to cost $17 billion and required 16 Shuttle flights for assembly. Option B was larger than Space Station Freedom, required 20 Shuttle flights, and cost $19.7 billion. Option C cost $15.5 billion, was the least like Space Station Freedom, and required 8 Shuttle flights to place in orbit one US module and seven internationally contributed modules.58

While weighing Options A, B, and C for station redesign, the Vest Committee considered the ramifications of cooperating with Russia in space station con­struction. It eventually endorsed the notion of consolidating design plans and hardware from Mir-1 (still in orbit), Mir-2 (still on the drawing board), and Space Station Freedom, in spite of the fact that it would demand a higher inclina­tion orbit—moving the space station from a 28-degree orbit to one that extended 51.6 degrees from the equator (and therefore necessitate expensive upgrades to the Shuttle).

NASA staff took the Vest Committee recommendations and ran with them. One year later, a number of former committee members and NASA staff alike agreed that they had successfully implemented a “single core NASA manage­ment team to optimize efficiency, accountability, expertise and cost effective­ness.” Changes included setting up a single host center, identifying a single prime contractor, following the new Integrated Product Team approach to concurrent engineering, and refining Program Office-line organization.59

Thus, within a brief period of time NASA administrators, staff, and contrac­tors weathered several interconnected changes. They completely overhauled SSF management, “co-locating” Boeing and NASA in one International Space Station Program Office. At the same time, NASA prepared itself for the possibil­ity of cooperating with Russia, reviewing Russian space technologies and their possible contributions to the space station.

Why were all these changes necessary? Critics of NASA management includ­ing Dan Goldin himself believed that in order for an initiative as expensive and complicated as the space station to survive, it must operate more smoothly and inexpensively. One Clinton official demanded in 1993 that NASA would have to go through organizational reengineering similar to most major companies of the time, observing, “[I]ts decision structure is cluttered, it’s circular, it’s labyrinthine.”60

It is important to note that these changes were implemented on the assumption that Russia would be integrated into the new space station, either as a contractor or partner, and that NASA made these initial decisions inde­pendent of the original Space Station Freedom partners. The (then hope of) political and financial benefits of Russian cooperation paired with drastic changes in NASA management to build a new coalition of supporters that was just barely strong enough to defend the International Space Station from a hostile Congress: the project survived by just one vote in the House in sum­mer 1993.61 Russian-American cooperation on the space station was finalized later that year.

Administrator Daniel Goldin used the ISS’s redesign as evidence of greater changes taking place in NASA. Pointing out that his staff had reduced the SSF’s projected annual operating costs from $3.5 billion to the International Space Station’s $2.1 billion, Goldin explained, “The problem we had was we had 4 prime contractors and 4 NASA Centers. Now, that’s an oxymoron in itself—4 prime contractors.”62 Not only was management hopelessly decen­tralized, but the four NASA Centers tended to compete for jobs, dollars, and autonomy. Observed Goldin, “And each prime contractor reported to a cen­ter Director and every so often, Center Directors would get together. . . And NASA Johnson didn’t trust NASA Marshall. They did the pressurized mod­ules, and NASA Lewis did the power system. NASA Kennedy did the launch integration. But who was responsible? Each Center Director was responsible for their budget.”6 3 Centralizing management accompanied drastic budget cuts at NASA (estimated at 30 percent).64 At the same time, SSF’s former Tier 1 subcontractors trimmed staff and budgets. McDonnell Douglas downsized from 1,800 to 1,000, Rocketdyne from 1,000 to 800, and Boeing from 1,230 to 1,100.65

Rarely did Goldin miss an opportunity to tout the estimated $2 billion sav­ings that resulted from cooperation with the Russians. “We get a space station that has almost double the power,” he raved.

We go from 60 kilowatts to 110. We get a space station over a year sooner. And we get a space station that costs America $2 billion less. We get a [space station] that has dual access from Cape Kennedy and Baikonur, which gives us tremendous flexibility. We get a tremendous knowledge base from the Russians, who have had astronauts in space since 1986 almost continuously.

Goldin continued, stating, “They have helped us solve some reliability prob­lems already. So we have a more robust station earlier for less money,” plus, he added, “we have a coming together of the scientific community in Russia with America.”66


I have always claimed with gratitude that CNES is the child of NASA, and I would add, the loving child of NASA. There has always been a great friendship and mutual understanding between the two agencies. . .

Jacques Blamont17

Nazi missiles raining down on their country stimulated the French military’s interest in rocketry.18 About 100 V-1s fell between June and September 1944; almost 80 V-2s struck in four weeks from September to October that year. Henri Moreau, the director of a Parisian laboratory, was so impressed with the weapons that he made several trips to Germany to study them more closely, including a visit to the infamous production facility at Nordhausen. Moreau brought back nine wagon loads of missile parts and signed an agreement with the American authorities to receive ten complete V-2s. These were never delivered, presumably because of the presence of communist ministers in the postwar French govern­ment and in important scientific organizations.

A ballistic missile research laboratory was established at Vernon in May 1946 to exploit the spoils of war, a test range was built at Colomb-Bechar in the Sahara Desert, and 123 German engineers and technicians who had been involved in Von Braun’s program at Peenemunde were employed under contract to work on missiles for the French military. One of them, Karl-Heinz Bringer, was to stay in France and play a crucial role in developing the pro­pulsion systems for the French sounding rocket Veronique as well as its first missile-derived satellite launcher, Diamant, and the immensely successful European rocket, Ariane.19

France was ill-prepared for the opportunities provided by the IGY. Contrary to Britain, it had no space policy, no institutions to promote it, no technologi­cal or industrial capability in the space sector, and no space science community. This was partly because of the weakness of science in France after the war, and its inability to organize groups having a critical mass, partly due to interser­vice rivalry between the technical branches of the three arms of the military, and partly due to the huge investment, undertaken in 1956, to test a French atomic bomb within four years. In summer 1958 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lamented the country’s marginal influence on the international scene. The dis­persal of already limited resources between different administrative organs made it impossible for France to speak with one voice. The essentially military charac­ter of its rocket program excluded it from playing a role in COSPAR.

The arrival of President General de Gaulle to power in June 1958 was trans­formative. De Gaulle was determined to strengthen the country’s scientific and technological capability, believing that it was essential to reestablishing “la grandeur de la France” and to its strategic independence. A major missile pro­gram was established to provide an independent nuclear deterrent. A new civil Committee for Space Research was set up in January 1959 at the request of the minister of foreign affairs. Its brief was to take stock of the resources already at hand, to draw up a plan for the future, and to advise the prime minister on national and international space policy.

With space assuming a new significance, considerable resources were released for a campaign using an enhanced Veronique-IGY sounding rocket. The first launches that got under way in March 1959 were a spectacular success. The payloads were provided by a newly minted PhD, Jacques Blamont, who had worked at the University of Wisconsin in 1957. Blamont visited the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories near Boston on his way home, where he was given the blueprint of the mechanism for ejecting sodium vapor into the atmo­sphere that was being used with the American Aerobee sounding rocket. It was perfectly adapted to the limitations of the French situation at the time: cheap, solid, simple, of proven success, and it did not require any electronic equipment. Three German engineers prepared the rockets for launch at Colomb Bechar. Though the first launch did not attain the expected height the next two achieved their objectives. The ejector released a huge orange sodium cloud over Algeria between 90 and 130 kilometers, and then between 90 and 180 kilometers.

On Blamont’s telling, in addition to its scientific achievements, this campaign had two major consequences. First, there was renewed interest in having a French space program. The rocket-borne sodium clouds that could be seen hundreds of kilometers away for over an hour were given wide media coverage. The public was so enthralled that hundreds of newborn girls were named Veronique.20 Second, it brought him together with Robert Aubiniere, “a brilliant army colonel whose ambitions were inspired by technology and the future.”21 Strong bonds were quickly established between the two men and with Aubiniere’s support previ­ously unimaginable resources were made available for Blamont and for French space science. What is more, the authorities were persuaded that France now had the means to move beyond sounding rockets to ballistic missiles and satel­lite launchers. In March 1962 the French national space agency, CNES (Centre national d’etudes spatiales) came into being to replace the Committee for Space Research. Over the years the agency developed launchers, built a national sat­ellite industry, a tracking network, and a dedicated equatorial launch pad in Kourou, French Guyana, as well as being responsible for international affairs.

Relationships with the United States were an important source of train­ing and of legitimacy for the young community of French space scientists and engineers. Bell labs helped engineers from the national center for telecommu­nications research (CNET—Centre nationale d’etudes de telecommunications) to build a ground station at Pleumeur-Boudou to receive signals from Telstar 1.22 Blamont’s sodium vapor experiment was followed by an invitation to the Goddard Space Flight Center in October 1959. NASA encouraged Blamont to extend the range of his investigations to higher altitudes and in 1960 and 1961 he launched his payload with Javelin sounding rockets from Wallops Island, reach­ing an altitude of 600 kilometers (compared to 200 meters for Veronique). In March 1961 a formal agreement was signed in Washington for launching French payloads on American rockets and for hosting French engineers in NASA centers in the framework of the COSPAR offer. A French group took over a major bal­loon project that had lost support in the United States, and which they baptized Eole. In 1963 CNES and NASA signed a protocol defining a two-phase FR1 program: sounding-rocket studies of the upper atmosphere between 75 and 100 kilometers followed by the launch of a scientific satellite using a Scout.

The origins of Eole can be traced back to a project called GHOST (Global Horizontal Sounding Technique) promoted by Vincent Lally at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories. Lally suggested floating 2,000 mylar bal­loons in low earth orbit along with a system of satellites that would localize them and relay meteorological measurements made at different heights back to earth.23 This corresponded with a surge of interest in mathematical models of the atmosphere that needed an input of fresh data points at least once a day. Blamont realized that a project of this kind was one that was both prestigious and politically visible and NASA agreed that France pursue it. Eole was led by Pierre Morel using mylar balloons imported from the United States. About 500 balloons were launched from stations constructed in Argentina for the project. The lifetime of each was about 103 days, and each took some 8 days to go around the world. The project was haunted by the fear of a collision with high­flying aircraft and was gradually wound down. Morel’s conclusion is uncompro­mising. Eole, he says, was a courageous and risky choice but it was not a scientific success. His team launched less balloons than they had hoped. The project was premature given the state of knowledge at the time, and it was undertaken in a hemisphere about which the French scientists knew very little.

NASA’s help was unstinting in the FR1 program. Arnold Frutkin and Jack Townsend arranged for 12 young, enthusiastic French engineers to spend six months at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Each worked in a separate technical domain and was instructed to establish bonds of mutual respect and friendship with their American colleagues. Whenever possible, contracts for the hardware were placed with French firms; otherwise NASA helped arrange for orders to be given to American companies that were visited regularly by CNES engineers to improve their own skills. To facilitate communications with NASA’s tracking network the French used the already crowded VHF bands that NASA used, 136 MHz for telemetry, 148 MHz for tele-command. Relationships were warm, and with the help of NASA the French were able to proceed far more rapidly, and with a reduced risk, than if they had worked alone. Sam Stevens, the project leader at NASA was particularly effective. Jean Pierre Causse, the first director of the satellite division at CNES, affectionately remembers him as a kind of elder brother who freely gave of his advice without ever imposing his solutions. In fact this support meant so much to him that at a recent conference Causse exclaimed, “Thank you Sam! Bravo NASA and the United States!”24

The construction of FR1 also established close ties between Thompson Ramo Wooldridge (TRW) and Matra.25 TRW sought international partners to strengthen its bid for communications satellites being built by Comsat on behalf of Intelsat (see chapter 5), while the French firm sought an American partner to build its credibility as a prime contractor for projects being developed by CNES and by ESRO (the European Space Research Organization). In 1965 a “Technical Assistance and License Agreement” was signed between Matra and TRW’s Space Technology Laboratories division (STL) that allowed Matra to have access to the patents and know-how of STL through visits and internships of French engineers and technicians at its headquarters in California. The inter­penetration of practices between the two firms was so great that one senior ESA official reputedly remarked that “[w]hen one spoke with people from Matra one had the impression that one was speaking to American industrialists.”26

In 1964 NASA established an office in Paris that gave the agency a permanent representative in Europe. The first to arrive was Gilbert Ousley, who left GSFC in 1964 to take up his new post. He has described his role at the time as primar­ily being “to find cooperative programs which would benefit NASA and which in our judgment could be done with a partner that would live up to their side of the agreement.” The training offered at GSFC was not simply intended to bring young French scientists and engineers up to speed, however. It was also intended to export NASA’s way of running projects abroad. As Ousley puts it, it

was a great excuse for us to really share technology and training but we also had a selfish purpose. It was to get young engineers that were experienced to participate in our program and later come back to France speaking the same terminology that NASA uses, that understood our review process and did not feel insulted by peers looking at what was being done and making constructive criticism.27

Jean Pierre Causse amplified this by stressing how important the NASA man­agement principles of “no exchange of funds,” memoranda of understanding, a single project manager, design reviews, systematic testing by engineers in the project and in industry, and so on were to the success of the French teams sent to Goddard.28 This flow of management practices across the Atlantic from TRW and from GSFC was a characteristic feature of NASA’s relationship with European projects in the 1960s and 1970s, as Stephen Johnson has shown, and played a major role in helping Europeans acquire the skills needed to bring com­plex space projects to fruition.29

Close collaboration with France also had an important political and ideologi­cal role. Many French scientists were left-wing. Working with NASA sharpened their perception of the differences between the two world systems. Roger Bonnet, for example, who grew up in a communist family was first attracted to space by Soviet achievements. And even if he would have liked to work closely with Soviet colleagues, he found that, by adopting an “open policy of information which we could not always get from the Russians,” NASA “could attract and involve the best foreign scientists in their programs, directly or indirectly [. . .] So, ultimately there was a greater appeal to cooperate with the Americans.”30

From NASA’s point of view, collaboration with France did not simply kick – start the national space program, and build a community that adopted NASA’s management practices, so facilitating the day-to-day technical cooperation between people on both sides of the Atlantic. It was also an instrument of “soft power” that provided a counterweight to the attraction that some French scien­tists felt for working with the highly successful Soviet program.31

Sustaining Soviet-American. Collaboration, 1957-1989


The relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union in space is quite accurately portrayed as one of fierce competition. The launch of the Sputniks in late 1957 and Gagarin’s flight in 1961 were deep blows to American pride. They challenged preconceptions about the superiority of American sci­ence and technology, even about the superiority of the capitalist system itself. Thus, the global struggle for “the soul of mankind” inscribed itself upon a mul­titude of scientific instruments, launch systems, institutions, and individuals.1 For many years, historians have labored to reconcile the paradoxes of Soviet- American cooperation in space with the space and missile races of the mid-twen­tieth century.

Such histories commonly open with speculation centered on the likelihood of a joint lunar mission proposed by President Kennedy to Premier Khrushchev.2 Indeed, Kennedy’s famed May 1961 “Moon Speech,” announcing the United States’ “race to the moon” was bookended by both covert and public invitations to collaborate.3 In so doing, Kennedy unwittingly set up audacious expecta­tions for astronauts and cosmonauts to explore the moon and beyond. With human spaceflight as the agency’s signature activity, scholars have struggled to assign some sort of reason to the two nations’ rocky progression from (what was apparently) an utter lack of intercourse to the stilted Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and finally the interdependence of the International Space Station.4 Geopolitics became reified in human spaceflight: cold shoulders through the dire years of missile and space races; detente’s climactic 1975 handshake in space; and finally, the Cold War denouement in the International Space Station agreements.

Beginning with the Kennedy-Khrushchev moon flirtations, historians have characterized US offers for cooperation as meeting a “rhetorical goal” and functioning as a “benign hypocrisy.” Operating as such, the US space program appeared open to Soviet contributions, but at the same time participated in implicit competition to outdo their rival in hardware and soft power perfor­mances. Such narratives explain the complex motives and political economy of major commitments such as a joint lunar expedition, the ASTP, or the ISS.

Well-publicized, expensive, and demanding years of lead-time, these projects were carefully orchestrated under the watchful eyes of presidential administra­tions and Congress (whose interests at times conflicted with one another and/ or NASA administration).

On the flip side of the coin, the many years spanning Kennedy’s joint lunar base offer and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project as well as those years separating ASTP and the International Space Station Agreements are commonly explained by intractable negotiations on diplomatic fronts: wrangling over nonprolifera­tion treaties, controversy over interventions in the developing world, or the uncompromising political will of heads of state. Collaboration seems impossible at these times.

These two chapters aim to add breadth to that presumption, exploring Soviet – American collaboration through the following questions. To what degrees did representatives of NASA attempt to sustain collaborative activities since the 1957-1958 IGY? To what degree might collaborative activities have been shaped by the interests of researchers and policymakers representing state, national, and transnational scientific organizations?

It remains something of a paradox that the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/Russia have cooperated in space exploration for more than half a century. While their relations have been strained by fears of technol­ogy transfer, threatened by executive posturing, and reshaped by fiscal consider­ations, to fluctuating degrees individuals making up these research communities have labored steadily to share resources and exchange information.

Japan and Post-Apollo Talks

The 1969 agreement on the transfer of launcher technology to Japan catalyzed renewed efforts in the country to establish a centralized body responsible for space that was similar to NASA. Japan’s National Aeronautics and Space Development Agency (NASDA) was established to that end. Though ISAS was sidelined in favor of NASDA, both these bodies along with a few other government agencies and private corporations steered the Japanese space program until an umbrella organization called the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was formed in 2003.29 Cognizant of the “growing pains” of building and establishing a space program in Japan, of the geopolitical realities during the Cold War, and of domestic politics in Japan, over the last 50 years NASA has identified selective niches within ISAS, NASDA, and later JAXA for scientific and technological col­laborative endeavors.

NASDA was established as a public organization on October 1, 1969, with strong support from both the minister of science and technology and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. It operated under the policy guidance of the STA who provided its budget, along with some government agencies. NASDA took over the functions of the National Space Development Center and of the Ionosphere Sounding Satellite Division of the Radio Research Laboratories of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and included engineers and scientists from both academic and industrial circles.

The timing of the creation of NASDA reflected the trajectory space was tak­ing toward the application needs of nation-states. The agency took the lead in the development of space application capabilities in Japan, including satellites for remote sensing, communications, and meteorological observation, the develop­ment of launch vehicles for those satellites and the development of facilities for production, testing, and tracking the satellites. It also benefited from a change in Washington’s foreign policy initiatives in the 1970s that saw the waning of a “special dependency relationship” that had characterized US-Japan relations since the end of World War II. The opening of China during the Nixon administra­tion and the “changing nature of the cold war—detente with Soviet Union, the evolution of a new world economy, and domestic forces transformed the Pacific alliance.”30 This was reflected in NASA administrator Tom Paine’s invitation to Japan in March 1970 to participate in the post-Apollo program (see chapter 4).

While the Japanese space community was eager to participate in the post-Apollo program, it was unclear what they could contribute. Uncertainties over the evolv­ing configuration of the post-Apollo program itself (chapters 4 and 5) were com­pounded by the reorganization of the national program, and the limited resources Japan had for space. Minister Nishida noted that the country could only make a useful contribution to post-Apollo if it had achieved something significant of its own, and was suitably advanced technologically: “real international cooperation” was otherwise impossible.31 Notwithstanding these reservations a special commit­tee was formed by the Space Activities Commission on July 1, 1970, to consider what contributions Japan could make. It sought clarity from NASA on its detailed plans, but to little avail given the fluid nature of the situation in the United States and Frutkin’s determination that potential partners should bring their own sug­gestions to the table (see chapter 4). A top-level team visited NASA field centers and contractors in July 1971 and had extensive discussions with Arnold Frutkin at the NASA headquarters.32 The lesson that was drawn was that Japan should first close the technological gap with other countries by developing space technolo­gies indigenously. The Special Committee backed off from any major participa­tion in the shuttle, recommending instead, in its final report filed in May 1974, that Japan prepare experiments to use the shuttle and Spacelab, doing its best to develop and supply the hardware itself.33 It also recommended that when the next generation system for human spaceflight was developed it was in Japan’s interest to extend its cooperation to the full development of a space laboratory and to send­ing a Japanese astronaut into space.34 This came in handy when deliberations on participation in the space station came up in 1984.