Category After Apollo?

Flying Foreign Astronauts?

The possibility of having non-U. S. astronauts go into space on U. S. space­craft had interested Richard Nixon from the start of his presidency. He asked Henry Kissinger soon after his inauguration to explore broadening interna­tional space cooperation, and especially “participation of foreign astronauts in the US program.” Nixon may have mentioned this idea to Frank Borman when the Apollo 8 crew visited the White House on January 30, 1969. At any rate, as Borman returned from touring Western Europe, he recommended that President Nixon invite the European Space Research Organization, the intergovernmental agency created to pool resources for Europe’s space sci­ence efforts, to nominate two European scientists to train at NASA as astro­nauts. Borman followed his phone call with a letter to Secretary of State Rogers proposing that the United States “immediately request an interna­tional agency to select a certain number of qualified scientists from different nations of the earth to join our program to participate as scientists/astro – nauts in future earth-orbital space stations.”20

The subject of non-U. S. astronauts came up again on the July 23 flight across the Pacific Ocean aboard Air Force One to meet the returning Apollo H astronauts, as Borman discussed the idea with the president and Henry Kissinger. Nixon remained intrigued, and asked Borman to follow up with Kissinger. Borman laid out his thinking in an August 5 memo. He proposed that the United States immediately begin discussions with Europe and Japan to nominate scientist-astronauts who could “participate in the earth orbital flights. . . in the mid-1970’s.” He also proposed “a rather dramatic call for Japanese-European experiments to be flown on the space station.” He sug­gested that “the appropriate time to undertake negotiations” leading to for­eign participation was “the immediate future.”21

NASA Administrator Paine was also on the flight across the Pacific, and he met separately with Nixon and Kissinger. Nixon authorized Paine to begin discussions with potential international partners, particularly in Europe, with respect to their possible participation in the post-Apollo program. Soon after returning to Washington after the Apollo H landing, Paine met with the head of the European Space Research Organization to brief him on U. S. post-Apollo planning. He stressed that the opportunity “to associate their own astronauts with us in future programs” had to be considered “in the context of substantive joint contributions” to those programs. Linking flight opportunities to sharing the costs of hardware development was to remain central to Paine’s thinking on international cooperation.22 Paine had either misread or misinterpreted Richard Nixon’s interest in enhanced cooperation, which was focused on flying non-U. S. astronauts, not on joint development of or major foreign hardware contributions to post-Apollo space systems. What the president had in mind was clear to Flanigan, who told Nixon of Paine’s initial conversations with European representatives, saying that based on these discussions, Paine “would prepare a plan for the inclusion of foreign nationalists [sic] in future U. S. space activities.”23

Between October 1969 and March 1970, Paine traveled to Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia, promoting the STG report as reflecting what the United States was very likely to do in space in the coming years, even as he knew full well that the Nixon administration was resisting approval of the major programs the STG had recommended. His rather paternalistic goal in Europe was “to stimulate Europeans to rethink their present limited space objectives” and “to help them avoid wasting resources on obsolescent developments [such as their own launch vehicle].” Paine also sent the STG report to the Soviet Union in the hopes of promoting “complementary or cooperative space programs.” These efforts to create substantial international involvement in the U. S. post-Apollo space program will not be discussed in detail in this study, other than to note that they became controversial within the upper reaches of the Nixon administration.24

By late November Richard Nixon was becoming impatient with the lack of any action with respect to flying non-U. S. astronauts. He asked “is there still no way to get multi-national participation in some of our future space flights? I have raised this with Paine and Borman and I know there are some technical problems but it is a pet idea of mine and I would like to press it.” He asked Peter Flanigan to “jog the bureaucracy” on the issue.25

Flanigan did discuss the issue with Borman, and Borman responded in a December 2 memorandum, saying “it was perfectly feasible and desirable to invite foreign participation in the space program at the present time.” He equated “foreign participation” with flying foreign astronauts, saying that “the inclusion of foreign astronauts in our programs would lead to further cooperation at the engineering level and hopefully to more direct financial participation” on the part of other countries. While NASA’s Paine believed that financial contributions were a necessary prerequisite to flight oppor­tunities for foreign astronauts, Borman (and seemingly Richard Nixon) thought the flight opportunities should precede, and perhaps lead to, finan­cial involvement. Borman noted that in principle a foreign astronaut could be part of an Apollo lunar landing mission, but he recommended against such a step, saying that “the Apollo hardware is extremely complicated and requires long training periods for proper utilization.” In addition, there were already a number of U. S. astronauts who had been training for a long time and who “would quite properly wonder at the sudden inclusion of a foreign crew member.” As he had suggested in August, Borman repeated “the time to take the initiative in this field is ripe.”26

Paine also responded to Flanigan’s query about flying foreign astronauts by lobbying for approval of a NASA FY1971 budget that allowed rapid prog­ress on the space station and space shuttle. Paine told Flanigan “obviously, we can’t fly foreign astronauts if we are not going to have anything to fly them in—a Space Shuttle, or anything to fly them to—a Space Station.” Flanigan responded in a manner suggesting either a slip in attention or that he was still not fully familiar with NASA’s programs, saying “how about fly­ing them in the Apollo obligations [sic—should be applications] program?” While Borman had suggested that foreign astronauts could fly on the orbital workshop, which is what Flanigan was referring to, Paine did not offer that possibility, saying that there were too many American scientist-astronauts hoping to be on one of the planned three flights to the workshop to open up a slot for a foreign participant.27

With the decision to postpone the release of the space statement until March, the urgency of responding to President Nixon’s query about flying foreign astronauts diminished. But Nixon did not forget his “pet idea.” On February 12, after reading a report regarding Paine’s international activi­ties, the president, clearly impatient, tried to force the issue. He informed the National Security Council that “he would like to have a program which could be announced as soon as possible for German, Japanese, British and French astronauts to participate in our space program.” Nixon wanted “to have this program initiated in the earliest possible year.”28

It may have been the possibility of announcing an invitation for foreign astronaut participation to which Paine was referring in January when he said that the delay in releasing the space statement would allow NASA to “add more sex appeal” to the draft. The president’s persistent raising of this issue appears to have catalyzed action on this concept. On February 26, NASA proposed a modification of the January draft of the space statement that would include

the first official announcement on foreign astronauts. Foreign astronaut par­ticipation is linked to space shuttle-space station projects as the first practi­cal opportunity for foreign astronauts in the current U. S. program. Foreign astronaut participation is also tied to “broad involvement” and “contribution” by the foreign nations to the space shuttle-space station programs so as to be consistent with our attempt to secure meaningful participation by the other countries.29

NASA’s change was not accepted; there was opposition to such a step com­ing from the president’s staff. In his February 10 memorandum discussing the possibility of making international cooperation a central theme of the presidential space statement, Lee Huebner of the speechwriting office had added a “caution,” saying that Tom Whitehead was “very skeptical about over-selling internationalization,” since “there has been little substantive progress” and the issue “is wrought with pitfalls.” Given this, “the President could easily overpromise without being able to deliver.” Whitehead perceived NASA as “engaging in some wishful thinking, trying to create new reali­ties through public relations even though the tough questions in the area have not yet been hammered out.” In addition, NASA was trying in its sug­gested language to link Nixon’s interest in flying foreign astronauts to get­ting the sought-after presidential commitment to the space station and space shuttle.30

Whitehead’s position, seconded by Flanigan, carried the day within White House policy circles, even in the face of the president’s explicit request for a plan for foreign astronaut participation. This was not an isolated incident. Nixon’s senior staff not infrequently ignored or countermanded his direc­tives, especially those issued in a fit of anger, when they judged them not to be in the country’s or the president’s interests. In this case, Nixon had persisted in pushing his “pet idea,” but either explicitly or by not being offered the option of adopting it as his space statement finally reached him for approval, his wish was overruled.

A New Science Adviser

Science adviser Lee DuBridge decided in mid-1970 that it was time to leave Washington. DuBridge had not been able to exercise the influence he had anticipated in taking the science adviser’s job, and was frustrated both by his lack of direct access to President Nixon and by cuts in science funding. A search for DuBridge’s successor was initiated in early summer. It was soon successful. President Nixon’s new science adviser would be Edward E. David, Jr., a 45-year-old engineer who had spent the prior 20 years of his career at Bell Laboratories, working in areas as diverse as computer science, undersea warfare technology, and developing an artificial larynx. David was the first presidential science adviser since the position was created in 1957 to come from an industrial rather than a university background. He was reported as being “very skeptical of the value of the man-in-space program,” feeling that “we should push the space program but in a very studied fashion.” David was sworn in as science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology on September 14, 1970. Russell Drew stayed on as David’s top staff person on space issues.5