Category After Apollo?

Domestic Council Created

The Ash Council recommendations for reorganizing the White House were unveiled on March 4, 1970, in a White House briefing to cabinet and sub­cabinet officials; the immediate reaction was concern, voiced most vocally by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development George Romney and Vice President Agnew, that such a structure would serve as a barrier to cabinet members being able to meet directly with the president. This in fact was pre­cisely what Nixon had in mind. On March 12, the president sent a message to Congress announcing his intent to establish “a Domestic Council to coor­dinate policy formulation in the domestic area.” This White House body would be provided with its own staff, and to a considerable degree would be a domestic counterpart to the National Security Council.1

John Ehrlichman was named the executive director of the Domestic Council. Ehrlichman during 1969 had steadily risen in influence among President Nixon’s advisers. He had been named Nixon’s top assistant for domestic affairs in November 1969; the creation of the Domestic Council, with Ehrlichman as its director, completed his ascendancy to Nixon’s inner­most circle of advisors. Creating the Domestic Council gave Ehrlichman a formal role in developing space policy, since NASA was considered a domes­tic agency. Even so, Assistant to the President Peter Flanigan, who during 1969 had had primary responsibility within the White House for overseeing NASA, continued with that role, operating outside the Domestic Council framework and retaining direct access to the president. This situation created some uncertainty with respect to space policy oversight, but Flanigan and his staff and Ehrlichman and his staff worked closely together on space issues in the ensuing months. In addition, Ehrlichman and the Domestic Council staff used the Office of Science and Technology (OST) for advice on techni­cal issues, including space; later in the year Ehrlichman would ask new sci­ence adviser Ed David, “since policy, as opposed to programs, is so difficult to define,” to list for him “those issues which could be considered domestic policy which are currently under study by OST. I have in mind matters such as our manned space program.”2

Richard Nixon, Apollo 13, and Apollo 17

What Low did not know as he met with Weinberger on December 14 was that Richard Nixon was having second thoughts about going ahead with the Apollo 17 mission. The president had somehow gotten the impression that Apollo 17 was even more risky than the three missions scheduled to precede it. Nixon did not want a repeat of the Apollo 13 experience, particularly in mid-1972, when the Apollo 17 launch was then scheduled, not least of all because it would come as he was campaigning for reelection. The near­tragedy of Apollo 13 had made a strong impression on the president, and provided the background against which he decided that Apollo 17 should be canceled.

Planning for Presidential Involvement

In the five months after Richard Nixon was sworn in as president on January 20, 1969, there were two Apollo missions, both of which had to be success­ful in order for the July Apollo 11 flight to be the first try at a lunar landing. Both did succeed, clearing the path to the Moon. Apollo 9 (March 3-13) was an Earth-orbit test of the lunar module. Apollo 10 (May 18-26) was the dress rehearsal that performed all elements of the lunar landing mission except the landing itself.

Several of Nixon’s immediate staff, including chief of staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman and appointments secretary Dwight Chapin, had worked in the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, and they applied that expertise to making sure that the Apollo 11 mission and its aftermath would commu­nicate the messages important to the president and in the process burnish Nixon’s image as a world leader. On May 28, two days after Apollo 10 splashed down, Chapin and Peter Flanigan, Nixon’s assistant with specific responsi­bility for space issues, met with NASA Administrator Tom Paine “to go over the Apollo 11 activities which could conceivably involve the President, either directly or indirectly.”10 Nixon, briefed on these discussions, quickly suggested that NASA assign Borman to the White House to help manage activities “with relation to this shot and subsequent congratulation of the astronauts.” Borman recognized that the Apollo 11 mission was “obviously going to be one of the most epochal events in history if it succeeded, and by the same token an unparalleled catastrophe if the crew didn’t survive.” Those within NASA close to Project Apollo, like Borman, realized just how risky missions to the Moon were, and thus were very conscious of the pos­sibility of failure in the first landing attempt.11

Haldeman, Chapin, and Flanigan had their own ideas on how best to por­tray the president in the most positive possible light, and they did not trust Paine and other top NASA officials to give the president’s interests top prior­ity in the run up to Apollo 11. Paine had been selected as the NASA adminis­trator only after several candidates preferred by the White House had turned down the position. Paine was a holdover from the Johnson administration; as a liberal Democrat, he was an unlikely choice as Nixon’s top space official. (His selection is discussed in chapter 2.) After discussing Paine’s sugges­tions with Nixon, Haldeman told Chapin that “the President is intrigued with having a very big dinner” after the Apollo 11 crew was released from quarantine; the dinner would include all U. S. astronauts and the widows “of the three that were burned.” [This was a reference to the deaths of Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee when a fire broke out in their spacecraft during a launch pad test on January 27, 1967.] Nixon first considered having the dinner at the White House, then thought “it ought to be bigger.” After considering both New York and Chicago as venues, Nixon “ended up being primarily intrigued with the possibility of Los Angeles, doing it at the Century Plaza.” Nixon proposed charging $100 a person for the dinner and “using the income for space scholarships for underprivileged kids.” (This proposal was later dropped.) He “definitely wants to go ahead with plans to visit the Cape for the shoot” and “liked the idea of watch­ing the launch from aboard a ship.” Nixon wanted to make sure that any prelaunch reception “would clearly be the President’s affair—not NASA’s.” Nixon had been told that it would be possible to talk on split-screen televi­sion with the astronauts while they were on the Moon; he was “extremely anxious to pursue the television participation idea.” The president, reported Haldeman, “still feels he probably should go to the carrier for the pick up,” but “we can talk him out of that.” A week letter, the idea of President Nixon having dinner with Apollo 11 crew—Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., bet­ter known as “Buzz,” and Michael Collins—the night before their launch had been added to the list of possibilities.

Nixon’s interest in going to the recovery carrier had been communicated to NASA, which was skeptical of the desirability of such an undertaking. NASA’s top public relations official, Julian Scheer, told the White House that Nixon could not greet the astronauts personally, but only “talk with the Apollo 11 crew through a porthole (two feet by two feet in size)” in the isolation quarters in which they would stay for two weeks after their return from the Moon to avoid the remote possibility that they were carrying alien organisms. Even so, after meeting with Nixon on June 10, Ehrlichman ended his meeting notes with the question “splash down—DO WE GO?” Richard Nixon’s answer was “yes.”12

Another White House idea for putting Apollo 11 in a broader cultural and historical context was asking poet Archibald MacLeish, who had written the stirring words with respect to the Apollo 8 mission that Nixon had quoted in his inaugural address, to compose something similar in connection with Apollo 11. MacLeish had initially responded positively to an informal inquiry asking whether he would accept such a request, so on July 1, Nixon, noting that there was “no precedent for such a request by a President in office,” wrote MacLeish, asking him “to write a poem commemorative of this event, examining the meaning and portent of the achievement,” which Nixon noted should be viewed “not only as a great adventure, but in the perspective of the search for truth and a quest for peace.” However, even before receiving the president’s letter, MacLeish changed his mind; apparently he “thought twice about doing anything with Nixon connected with it.” On June 26 he called Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser and a former faculty colleague at Harvard, indicating that his “artistic creativity” could not be marshaled on request. MacLeish did write such a poem, but rather than providing it to President Nixon, it was published on the front page of The New York Times on the morning after the Moon landing. According to Nixon speechwriter Safire, “this slap in the face did not go unnoticed, and was an episode to recall and mutter about when we were criticized for not considering the spiritual meaning of the moon landing.”13

By mid-June, Frank Borman had arrived at the White House and had begun to work with Flanigan and Chapin on Apollo 11 activities. He relayed the information that the Apollo 11 crew was “very pleased the President will accept their invitation to dinner.” He recommended that Nixon “should not stay” for the next morning’s launch, since “there is the possibility of last minute delays.” Borman felt that the dinner with the crew would “set the stage” and “the President’s activity will build—with the television from the moon and the events thereafter.” The decision that Nixon would be present as the crew splashed down in the Pacific had been made by this time, and “plans are being made aboard the carrier for the President and his party— up to a total of 30.” After the crew’s release from quarantine in August, the White House was planning “a swing to New York City, Chicago and back to Los Angeles for the dinner in the evening.” Borman had objected to this plan, suggesting that the crew travel only to Los Angeles, but he was over­ruled. Nixon wanted a nationwide celebration of the mission’s success.14

What were supposed to be final plans for the president’s involvement were in place by July 1. Nixon would fly to Cape Kennedy on July 15 for an early dinner with the Apollo 11 crew, who had to get up at 4:00 a. m. on launch day, and then return to Washington after dinner. He would watch the launch from the White House. On July 20, the day the astronauts would land on the Moon, there would be a White House church service with a large attendance of members of Congress, NASA officials, and other dignitaries. Shortly after the crew members began their walk on the Moon, at that point scheduled for the early morning of July 21, they would unveil a plaque on the lunar mod­ule saying “Here Men from the Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969, A. D. We Came in Peace for All Mankind.” The plaque would bear the signatures of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, the three men who had actually journeyed to the Moon—and that of Richard Nixon. Adding Nixon’s signature was a late decision on NASA’s part, without White House urging, reflecting the space agency’s interest in making the president posi­tively disposed toward NASA’s post-Apollo plans.

The final wording on the plaque was a White House responsibility, after NASA had prepared a first draft of the text. Initially it was to read “first landed,” but there were Central Intelligence Agency reports that the Soviet Union might land a robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface before the astronauts arrived, so “landed” was changed to “set foot.” Safire, who was reviewing the text for the plaque, changed “we come in peace” to “we came in peace.” He thought the former phrase sounded like “a stereotyped salute from white settlers to Hollywood Indians.” NASA’s adding “A. D.” to the date, noted Safire, was “a shrewd way of sneaking God in”; it would “tell space travelers eons hence that earthlings in 1969 had a religious bent.” Safire recalls that “the one item we did not bother to discuss was the sig­nature of the President” on the plaque, since “the President, whoever he is, always signs a new Federal bridge or post office,” so “we took it for granted he would sign his name to the moon project.” Safire added, “we were insen­sitive to the sensitivity of old Kennedy hands,” who interpreted Nixon’s sig­nature as “trying to horn in on a Kennedy project.” The president was given two alternatives for the last line on the plaque: “A New Dawn for the Human Spirit” and “A New Dawn of Peace for All Mankind.” Nixon decided to stay with “We Came in Peace for All Mankind.” He gave his personal approval to the wording of the plaque, writing “OK” on a June 16 memorandum com­municating the text.15

Nixon also decided in June to make his long flight to the Apollo 11 splash­down on July 24 the first stop on a round-the-world diplomatic tour that would have as its theme “The Spirit of Apollo.” In this way Nixon could use his long trip to be present at the mission’s end as a springboard for broader diplomatic purposes. In particular, Nixon was eager to visit Romanian head of state Nicolae Ceausescu, who had indicated that he could serve as a com­munication channel to Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai for a Nixon initia­tive to begin the process of normalizing the U. S.-Chinese relationship. This planning assumed the mission’s success, which was certainly not guaranteed, and thus represented significant risk-taking on Nixon’s part.16

Richard Nixon got much of his information about what was going on in the world from assiduously reading his “daily news summary,” a digest of stories from around the world, usually prepared by his young staff assistant Patrick Buchanan. The July 7, 1969, news summary reported that NASA medical officials were “extremely upset by the President’s plans to have dinner with the APOLLO 11 astronauts the night before they blast off.” The source of the reported concern turned out to be NASA’s Dr. Charles Berry, who billed himself as the astronaut’s personal physician, although according to Mike Collins, “we seldom saw him.” Berry apparently was wor­ried that the president might be carrying germs that could affect the crew’s health during the mission. The Apollo 11 astronauts thought that this con­cern was absurd, given that they were in daily contact with a number of others not under quarantine restrictions, and would have dinner a few days before the flight with NASA Administrator Paine who, noted Collins sarcas­tically, “was apparently germ-free.” Borman called Berry’s warning “totally ridiculous” and “dammed stupid,” but advised Nixon to cancel the planned dinner because “if anyone sneezes on the Moon, they’d put the blame on the president.” As the story gained wide circulation, Nixon’s staff accepted Borman’s advice and decided it had no choice but to cancel the president’s prelaunch dinner with the crew. Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin on July 9 sent a telegram to the president, expressing their “deepest regrets over the unfortunate circumstances that precluded your coming. . . You are welcome in our quarters at any time.” Instead of dining with the Apollo 11 crew on July 15, Richard Nixon called them as they were having dinner and sent them a telegram saying: “On the eve of your epic mission, I want you to know that my hopes and my prayers—and those of all Americans—go with you. . . It is now your moment.”17

A Holding Action

As he took over the leadership of NASA in October 1968, one of Tom Paine’s first tasks was to submit to the White House Bureau of the Budget (BOB) a NASA budget request for FY1970, which would begin on July 1, 1969. As acting administrator, Paine was not in a strong position, but that did not deter him from an aggressive posture with respect to NASA’s future. The BOB had given NASA a budget target for FY1970 of $3.6 bil­lion, continuing the downward trend in the NASA budget that had started four years earlier. Paine called the target “a going-out-of-business projec­tion, certainly not a viable program.” Paine argued that a budget at the BOB target level would immediately after Apollo bring “to a halt the great program that was built at such a great cost.” Paine’s arguments did not convince the BOB staff. In a paper commenting on NASA’s request, the staff noted “the resource requirements of the Viet Nam war and of pressing domestic needs, coupled with an apparent acceptance of the Soviet pres­ence in space, have tended to push the civil space program down the scale of national priorities.” The paper recognized that “major decisions must be made in the 1970 and 1971 budgets.” The BOB staff was skeptical of the value of human space flight, suggesting that “the case for a continuation of a manned space flight effort after Apollo is one of continuing to advance our capability to operate in space on a larger scale, for longer duration, for ultimate purposes that are unclear.”16

Based on a judgment that an outgoing administration should not make decisions with long-term budget implications, BOB Director Charles Zwick told Paine that he would recommend a budget of only $3.9 billion to President Johnson. This was not acceptable to Paine; he insisted that he and Zwick meet with the president to allow Paine to argue his case for a higher budget. As Paine correctly saw it, Zwick’s proposed budget would provide only “the minimum levels of funding required to preserve for the next Administration the option, in the next two years, to decide whether and in what areas to move ahead in aeronautics and space.”

When Paine and Zwick met with Lyndon Johnson, the president sup­ported BOB’s position. Lyndon B. Johnson had been a major supporter of the NASA program as a senator, as vice-president, and in the first few years of his presidency. In his 1971 memoir, Johnson would speak of his hope that the United States could build on Apollo to develop “laboratories in space,” “an Antarctica-type station on the moon,” “a spacecraft that can be reused,” and would eventually “move out to other planets.” But in his last weeks in the White House, weary from the turmoil of the late 1960s, he was unwill­ing to do anything but pass the question of the future of the United States in space to Richard Nixon.17

NASA Planning in Disarray

Tom Paine’s intent was to have NASA’s input into the STG deliberations emerge from the planning process initiated under Homer Newell’s direction in 1968. Newell made an initial presentation of the proposed NASA submis­sion to the STG to Paine on May 27. Paine was not impressed “with the level of imagination and the level of innovation and the level of forward thrust” of Newell’s proposals; he characterized the product as “good, workmanlike, but sturdy and unimaginative.” He directed Newell to work on developing a more exciting prospectus.18 During June, a strategic focus began to emerge in Newell’s plan—exploration of the solar system with both robotic and human missions. This was perhaps the first time that exploration—going to new places to learn about them—was put forward as a justification for mov­ing forward in space, distinct from scientific discovery. A Newell position paper suggested “a commitment to the principle of manned planetary explo­ration would give focus to the exploration theme, and would guide related program activities of the agency.” By late June, Newell had a revised NASA “core plan” ready. It called for

• a 12-person space station by 1975

• a space shuttle by 1977

• a space station in polar orbit by 1977

• a space station in synchronous orbit by 1978

• beginning a build up to a 50-person space base in 1977, when the space shuttle would be available

• a small lunar base by 1976

• a lunar orbit station by 1977.

Newell suggested that a program of this scope could be accomplished for a NASA budget of $70 billion over a ten-year period, with budgets starting at $4 billion per year and increasing to $8 billion per year later in the 1970s. By comparison, NASA at that point was citing the cost of the Apollo program as $25 billion over eight years, so that the plan Newell was proposing was almost three times as expensive as the lunar landing effort. This proposal was totally disconnected from political realities, and was typical of NASA’s misreading of its likely post-Apollo environment. Newell also suggested that “the United States begin preparing for a manned expedition to Mars at an early date,” arguing that “the question for us to ponder is not whether man will go to the planets, for surely he will, but when this will take place and whether America will take the lead.”19

The plan developed by Newell and his associates formed the body of the July 9 NASA submission to the STG, titled “America’s Next Decade in Space.”[2] Included as an appendix was “a summary of one of the many stud­ies produced in NASA’s planning effort.” The report cautioned that “since the programs outlined [in the appendix] . . . are not official NASA propos­als,” their “cost and schedule estimates must be used with care since in many cases they are quite preliminary.” These caveats were quickly rendered inop­erative. By the end of July, what had been an appendix to the official NASA plan became its core.

What was contained in the appendix was “one way in which a versatile low-cost earth orbital space capability [i. e., the space shuttle] may be used as the basis of an integrated total space program.” This “integrated plan” was the brainchild of NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George Mueller. It had been developed in relative secrecy without consulting other elements of NASA, not as part of Homer Newell’s planning process. In this, it was typical of Mueller’s style, which was highly individualistic and control oriented. Mueller had become convinced that Newell’s effort was not likely to produce the kind of approach to the future that could gain political and public support, and viewed himself as a “white knight, saving the agency from itself.”20

Mueller had earlier come to the conclusion that high priority should be given to lowering the costs of space operations by developing not only a space shuttle but also reusable space “tugs” to move payloads from low Earth orbit to other destinations between the Earth and the Moon; he characterized the combination of the shuttle and tugs a “Space Transportation System.” His plan stressed three characteristics:

• commonality: the use of a few major systems for a wide variety of mis­sions;

• reusability: the use of the same system over a long period for a number of missions; and

• economy: the reduction of “throw away” elements in any mission.

As Mueller had previewed his planning effort to associates in the human space flight community, there was considerable skepticism that his proposed development schedules and cost targets were realistic. Mueller paid little attention to such doubters. He “forced people to give him numbers that were a lot lower in many areas than people wanted to give him,” resulting

NASA Planning in Disarray

George Mueller at the Apollo 11 launch. (NASA photograph)

in costs that were “vastly underestimated.” Eventually Mueller’s colleagues gave his scheme their support, recognizing that “the integrated plan was suc­cessful at telling the story, even if it was a fairy tale.”21

The integrated plan retained the Saturn V to launch its heavy hardware elements. Other components of Mueller’s plan were:

• a 33-foot diameter “core module” capable of operating as a 12-person space station in Earth orbit by 1975 and in lunar orbit by 1976. The same module could also be used to develop a larger space base through in-orbit assembly and by 1980 could be used to create a geosynchronous station;

• a space shuttle as a fully reusable Earth-to-orbit transportation system, available to support the initial space station in 1975 and fully operational by 1977;

• a reusable, chemically fueled space tug capable of moving crew, spacecraft, and equipment throughout cislunar space, the area between the Earth and the Moon;

• a reusable nuclear-powered tug, to be operational by 1979 and capable of operating in cislunar space and beyond;

• human-tended and fully robotic spacecraft for science and application mis-

sions.22

As he became aware of Mueller’s integrated plan in its fully developed form, Tom Paine decided that it should be central to what NASA would

propose to the STG. In doing so, he was accepting what was in essence a very clever repackaging of the hardware proposals identified by Newell’s plan­ning process, but with more optimistic estimates of NASA’s being able to overcome technological challenges and to meet ambitious, likely unrealistic, schedule and budget targets.

After hearing what his organization was preparing to propose, Paine also concluded that what was still missing was a truly bold goal. The objective of the integrated plan was developing capabilities that would allow the United States to carry out whatever activities it decided to pur­sue in the Earth-Moon region. But it lacked a unifying focus for the use of that capability. Vice President Agnew, with Paine listening carefully, had told the meeting of Invited Contributors on July 7 “when I consider the potential of a manned mission to Mars—and I recognize many cogent arguments counter it—I conceive of it as the possible overture to a new era of civilization.” Comparing a human mission to Mars to the explor­atory sea voyages of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Agnew asked “would we want to answer through eternity for turning back a Columbus or Magellan? . . . Would we be denying the people of the world the enlight­enment and evolution which accompany every great age of discovery?” On July 16, in the hours preceding the launch of the historic Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, Agnew went public, telling reporters at the launch site that it was his “individual feeling that we should articulate a simple, ambitious, optimistic goal of a manned flight to Mars by the end of the century.” After the launch, Agnew told the launch team that he had “bit the bullet. . . as far as Mars is concerned.” Agnew’s statement at the launch was not spontaneous; it had been planned in advance, and Tom Paine was likely in on the planning.23

Spurred on by Agnew’s statement and by his own sense that there was a need for a dramatic goal for the 1980s to focus NASA’s activities in the 1970s, Tom Paine in July 1969 also “bit the bullet”; he decided in the excite­ment of Apollo 11 that it was time for NASA to propose sending Americans to Mars, not by the end of the twentieth century, three decades away, but as soon as possible.

Space and National Priorities

The Space Task Group (STG) report can be seen as a marketing docu­ment. The report recommended as being in the national interest a course of action that could be followed at several levels of investment. Like any other sales prospectus, it made the most positive case possible for investing in its proposed activities, without comparing that investment to alternative uses of available funds. The issue facing the Nixon administration in fall 1969 was how to react to the report’s recommendations. To make that judg­ment, the administration, and ultimately President R ichard Nixon, would have to decide where the post-Apollo space program fit into overall national priorities.

As the Nixon administration in late 1969 and January 1970 formulated its overall budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY)1971, which would begin on July 1, 1970, the inexperience of Richard Nixon and his top White House staff in actually managing the federal government became evident. There was con­tinuing uncertainty regarding the overall economic and fiscal policy context within which the budget was being formulated. Communication between the president and his top policy advisers, on one hand, and the Bureau of the Budget (BOB), on the other, broke down. There were several errors made in forecasting federal revenues, confounding President Nixon’s intent to submit a balanced budget and forcing a last-minute round of budget reductions to achieve that goal. The cumulative result was a great deal of confusion regard­ing final budget decisions.1

NASA found itself caught up in this breakdown of the budget process. Tom Paine had hoped that the recommendations of the STG report could provide the framework for FY1971 budget choices. There was a conviction on the part of Paine and others in NASA that in the wake of the successful Apollo 11 mission, NASA merited continued high priority among govern­ment programs and thus that the agency should receive funding commen­surate with the STG report’s more ambitious options. Given the chaos of the budget process, coupled with the opposition to the STG recommenda­tions from key White House advisors and from BOB Director Robert Mayo and his staff, this approach did not prove productive. The results of the

FY1971 budget decisions were deeply disappointing to Paine and his associ­ates. NASA’s 1969 series of achievements, including four successful Apollo missions and two flybys of Mars by robotic spacecraft, were not rewarded; rather, the space agency’s future remained almost as uncertain in January 1970 as it had been as the Nixon administration took office a year earlier. According to Paine, NASA “fought a retreating action through the entire budget process, beaten back but fighting lustily at every turn of the road.” However “lusty” NASA’s resistance to budget reductions might have been, it was ultimately unsuccessful.2

When to Release the Space Statement?

As they met on January 22, 1970, after the final budget decisions, President Nixon, Paine, and Flanigan agreed that the statement should be issued before the Apollo 13 launch in April. Nixon stressed that the statement should be written in a way to avoid opponents of the space program being able “invidi­ously” to compare “his positive statements on space to problems in poverty and social problems here on earth.” He did not want to be put in a position of appearing as if “he is taking money away from social programs and the needs of the people here to fund spectacular crash programs out in space.”14 This was another example of the impact of treating space as a domestic issue, competing for funding with other domestic programs.

Following the presidential meeting, Flanigan reported that “Dr. Paine sees no necessity for the President’s Space Statement being made in the very near future. In fact, he believes the ideal time would be between the last week in February and the middle of March.” The release was then sched­uled Saturday, February 28, in time for it to be reported in that Sunday’s newspapers. Flanigan told Paine of the date, suggesting that if it was “not appropriate would you please let me know” and asking Paine to be sure that any changes in the early January draft of the statement “are discussed with us early enough so that we can staff them through the speechwriting office.” Paine had suggested that a delay in releasing the statement would allow NASA to insert in the draft “some additional information. . . to give it more sex appeal.”15

Paine reminded Flanigan that he would be out of the country beginning February 22 on a two-week trip to Australia and Japan “to develop possibili­ties for further space cooperation.” This would mean that Paine would not be in Washington if the statement were released on February 28. Additional discussions between NASA and Flanigan’s office led to a decision to delay the statement’s release by one week, until Paine had returned from his over­seas trip; the release was then set for Saturday, March 7. At the January 22 meeting among Nixon, Paine, and Flanigan, the desirability of increased attention to international partnerships was discussed, and Paine had sug­gested that the statement should be revised to “put somewhat more emphasis on international cooperation.”16

A New Office of Management and Budget

Following up on another of the Ash Council’s recommendations, the presi­dent also proposed to create within the Executive Office of the President an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that “would be the President’s principal arm for exercise of his managerial functions. . . The Domestic Council will be primarily concerned with what we do; the Office of Management and Budget will be primarily concerned with how we do it, and how well we do it.” Although functions of the Bureau of the Budget (BOB) remained the core element of the new OMB, responsibilities such as overall management of the executive agencies and evaluating their per­formance were added to the organization’s charter. In the BOB, only the director and deputy director were chosen by the president. In the new OMB, there would be in addition several presidentially selected associate and assistant directors; by placing political appointees in these positions, the intent was to more effectively link budget choices to Nixon’s policy and political priorities.3

Chosen to be the first OMB director was George Shultz, at that point Nixon’s secretary of labor. Shultz held a doctorate in economics and had come to the Nixon administration from the University of Chicago, where he had been dean of the business school. Shultz was a steady personality and was one of the few cabinet members who had established a good relationship with President Nixon during the administration’s first year; in his new posi­tion, he soon became part of the president’s inner circle of advisers. To clear the way for appointing Shultz, BOB Director Robert Mayo in June 1970 was named counselor to the president, a position with no substantive responsibil­ity. Recognizing that he had been shunted aside, Mayo resigned in July to become the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Selected as OMB deputy director with primary responsibility for bud­get issues was Caspar “Cap” Weinberger, who was chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, a regulatory agency. Weinberger had served as California governor Ronald Reagan’s budget director before coming to Washington, and his budget-cutting fervor there had earned him the sobriquet “Cap the Knife.” The OMB assistant director for energy, natural resources, and sci­ence, one of the new political appointees, was Donald Rice. He came to OMB from the Department of Defense, where he had been responsible for cost analysis, manpower and logistics requirements, and budget planning. Shultz, Weinberger, and Rice would from the time they took office in mid – 1970 become key actors in the space policy process.

A New Office of Management and Budget

President Nixon with his new budget team: (l-r) George Shultz, President Nixon, Donald Rice, and Caspar Weinberger. (National Archives photo WHPO 8904-11)

Apollo 11, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy

There was little inclination on Richard Nixon’s part to acknowledge President John Kennedy’s role in initiating the lunar landing program as the launch of Apollo 11 approached. Indeed, throughout the many celebrations of the Apollo 11 achievement, Nixon never once publicly spoke Kennedy’s name.

This visceral aversion to sharing credit for Apollo became evident as Nixon’s Special Assistant for Urban Affairs Daniel P. Moynihan, who was among the more liberal of Nixon’s White House staff and who had earlier served as an assistant to President Kennedy, received a request from another Kennedy alumnus, Bill Moyers. Moyers, in 1969 the publisher of the Long Island, New York, newspaper Newsday, on June 4 forwarded a column he had written suggesting that the Apollo 11 spacecraft be commissioned “The John F. Kennedy” in recognition of the late president’s role in initiating Project Apollo. Moyers told Moynihan “you knew John Kennedy even bet­ter than I did; can’t you influence your friends there to take up this sugges­tion?” Moynihan forwarded the suggestion to Haldeman, saying that “the Newsday proposal has a certain gallant quality to it. I imagine this would be interesting to the President, and I strongly suspect it would be to his advan­tage.” Haldeman had the proposal circulated among other senior staff mem­bers. Counselor Arthur Burns, at that point Nixon’s top advisor on domestic policy, “heartily” endorsed the idea, saying that “such an act of gracious­ness is justified by history and would be, I think, good politics besides.”

Presidential science advisor Lee DuBridge thought that the proposal would be “a fitting tribute indeed to the man who, against great opposition, initi­ated this bold project.” In contrast, White House communications direc­tor Herb Klein “strongly” recommended against the proposal, saying “the Kennedy angle will get major play anyway. We would get more mileage with a gracious Presidential mention of Kennedy’s vision.” Congressional rela­tions assistant Bryce Harlow noted that it was President Eisenhower who ini­tiated the U. S. space program and remarked that “we have gone far enough in ‘Kennedyizing’ the mission.” Senior advisor John Ehrlichman pragmati­cally noted that “such an action would win us neither friends in Congress nor votes in 1972,” suggesting “fall prey to this and the next step will be renaming the moon because NBC thinks it would be a good idea.” After receiving these diverse views, Haldeman directed that “any plan to commis­sion the Apollo 11 shot John F. Kennedy be abandoned”; in initialing the memorandum recording this decision, he added in bold handwriting with double underlining, “positively!!”18

There is no evidence in the written record that President Nixon knew of this episode, although it is hard to imagine that Haldeman in his frequent and extended meetings with Nixon did not raise the matter. At any rate, Haldeman’s decision meant that there was no obstacle to the Apollo 11 crew themselves choosing the names for their spacecraft, as had become the tradi­tion. The crew announced at their last prelaunch press conference on July 5 that their command and service module would be christened Columbia and their lunar lander, Eagle.

Getting Ready for the New President

Paine, like most of the Washington space community, thought it unlikely that he would be kept on as NASA administrator by the incoming Nixon administration. He was a liberal Democrat, and his wife had campaigned for Nixon’s opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. But it was not in Paine’s character to sit back in a caretaker role until his successor was named. On December 23 he briefed the space transition team that had been set up by the president-elect on NASA’s future aspirations. He spent much of his time in the first weeks of 1969 trying to develop a more compelling argu­ment than what was coming out of the Newell planning effort for developing a space station, the program that NASA had chosen to be the centerpiece of its post-Apollo efforts.

There was a problem in developing that argument—the various elements of NASA were not in agreement on what kind of space station the agency should be developing. The BOB had agreed that the FY1970 budget would contain modest funds for studies of a space station by the aerospace industry, and as 1969 began NASA was struggling to outline for potential contractors the characteristics of the station they should study. What had emerged from NASA’s internal planning was a station with a six-to-nine astronaut crew capable of resupply and crew rotation. The goals of such a station were both to qualify astronauts and their equipment for long-duration flights in Earth orbit and beyond and to demonstrate the ability of astronauts to carry out useful engineering and science experiments in the microgravity environment of space.18

Paine found this station concept neither sufficiently ambitious nor excit­ing enough, and on January 27, 1970, called his top managers to Washington for a meeting on what kind of space station NASA should be proposing. By the time of this meeting, Richard Nixon was already president and NASA had received the expected request from Nixon’s new budget director Robert Mayo to reexamine its FY1970 budget proposal, primarily to identify places where it could be reduced. Paine also knew that the White House was con­sidering several candidates to be his replacement as Nixon’s NASA adminis­trator. Even so, Paine continued his push for bolder thinking. He told those invited to the meeting that there was a “need to outline bold objectives for the Space Station program. Modest goals. . . are not worthy successors to those of Apollo. They will neither challenge our people nor draw the support of the nation to retain a space effort of the present size and capability.” These two objectives—developing a technologically challenging program for the NASA workforce and gaining enough public and political support to allow NASA to continue to operate in an Apollo-like mode—were underpinnings of Paine’s approach to the future of NASA.19

At the January 27 meeting, Paine discovered that he was not alone in seeking a more ambitious post-Apollo goal. The director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, emigre German engineer and space visionary Wernher von Braun, observed that NASA should spell out “what we foresee as the ultimate—the long range—the dream—station.” Then, he suggested, NASA could define a first-generation station “as a core facility in orbit from which the ultimate ‘space campus’ or ‘space base’ can grow.” Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center Robert Gilruth suggested that NASA should be looking “at a step more comparable in challenge to that of Apollo after Mercury.”20 Paine found von Braun’s and Gilruth’s advice very much to his liking. Commenting on the space station meeting, he said “We’re trying to get the best talent in NASA focused on setting the right course for the future.” He added that “the Space Station looms very large in post-Apollo manned space flight, but we’ve not yet adequately planned for this.”

Soon after the January 27 meeting, the trade publication Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that “all previous concepts have been retired from active competition in favor of a large station,” with the goal of a “100- man earth-orbiting station with a multiplicity of capabilities” and with the first step the launch “of the first module of a large space station, with per­haps as many as 12 men, by 1975.”21 Paine would soon try to sell to the new Nixon administration an ambitious space station program as the initial large-scale post-Apollo space effort. It would prove to be a tough sell.