NASA Makes Its Best Case
By late November, there was increasing pressure to reach some sort of decision with respect to the space shuttle. A final budget decision needed to be made in time for it to be reflected in the president’s FY1973 budget request; the text of that request had to go to the printers in early January. NASA decided to make as strong as possible a case that its concept of the shuttle deserved to be approved.
The sense of urgency in getting the NASA case before White House decision makers was reinforced by reports of the initial decisions on the NASA FY1973 budget. Anders had attended a meeting at which the OMB space staff had made some tentative decisions on the NASA budget based on the discussions at the director’s review; he relayed this information to Low, as usual on a very confidential basis. He told Low that the staff was recommending cancelation of Apollo 16 and 17 “because there is no public interest.” The fact of President Nixon’s desire to cancel the missions was still not widely known. The OMB staff was recommending, rather than the space shuttle, a small glider, and, to make up for the employment losses from the Apollo cancelations and not starting an ambitious shuttle program, “three gap-filler missions” using surplus Apollo hardware. Marshall Space Flight Center was to be closed in 1974 and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1975. Anders also had been “taking the pulse of those in the Executive Branch involved with the NASA program”; that pulse was “rapidly changing with time.” He perceived “two opposing forces.” One wanted “to cut NASA back to a much smaller program”; the other wanted “not to increase unemployment in the aerospace industry.” He also suggested that there was “a faction in the Executive Branch that would like to cut $1 billion out of the NASA program” to start the new technology initiatives, but that “Magruder is not among those who want to cut back on space.”42 All of this added up to NASA seeing itself in a very precarious position.