Initial NASA Proposals

Paine on February 24 had responded to a January 23 letter from BOB Director Mayo asking NASA to identify areas for budget reductions. Rather than offer such reductions, Paine requested an additional $189 million for Fiscal Year 1970. The proposed budget additions were:

• $70 million for increasing the stay time on the Moon of the lunar module, developing a lunar rover vehicle, and other enhancements to allow the six additional Apollo missions (Apollo 15-20) then planned after the first four landings to carry out more intensive scientific activities;

• $52.2 million to preserve the option of continuing to produce Saturn V boosters; without additional large rockets, NASA would not be able to launch the large space station that was central to its post-Apollo planning and to carry out other large-scale future missions;

• $66.6 million for accelerating the pace of space station and space shuttle definition studies.4

Two days later, Paine sent directly to President Nixon a nine-page memoran­dum on “Problems and Opportunities in Manned Space Flight.” The memo­randum made NASA’s case both for the additions to the FY1970 budget and for an early presidential commitment to a large space station. Paine organized his justification for the space station in several steps. First was accepting “as a matter of policy [that] the nation must and will continue in manned space flight,” adding that “no responsible and thoughtful person, to my knowledge, advocates or is prepared to accept the prospect of the United States abandon­ing manned space flight to the Soviets to develop and exploit as they see fit.” Paine then characterized a space station as “a central point for many activities in space,” but added that “we believe strongly that the justification for proceeding now with this major project as a national goal does not, and should not be made to depend on the specific contributions that can be foreseen today . . . Rather, the justification for the space station is that it is clearly the next major evolution­ary step in man’s experimentation, conquest, and use of space.”5

This justification met a critical response. DuBridge asked the Space Science and Technology Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), his elite external group of science and technology advisers, to assess Paine’s February 26 memorandum. That panel was chaired by Lewis Branscomb, a physicist and director of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder, Colorado. During the presidential transition, the panel had pre­pared an assessment of NASA’s status that was a significant input into the Townes transition task force on space. The panel was “not reassured by the characterization of the space station’s justification as a technological end in itself, accompanied by a reluctance to discuss the station in terms of its potential contribution to science, applications, and defense.”6