The Debate Continues

The criticism of Project Apollo took on a more partisan tone as the Senate Republican Policy Committee on May 10 released a report suggesting that there were other important national problems that “should, perhaps, be examined side by side with the moon shot program.” The report sug­gested that “the question is not, then, whether man will ultimately reach the moon and beyond. The question is, rather, how shall it be done, and whether other aspects of human needs should be bypassed or overlooked in one spasmodic effort to achieve a lunar landing at once.” It suggested that “a cold, careful examination is past due.” The report was distributed to all Republican senators; it concluded that “for momentary transcendence over the Soviet Union we have pledged our wealth, national talent, and our honor” and suggested that “a decision must be made as to whether Project Apollo (the moon program) is vital to our national security or merely an excursion, however interesting, into space research. . . If our vital security is not at stake, a less ambitious program may be logical and desirable.” A month later, at a breakfast meeting with Republican congressmen, former President Eisenhower made a widely reported comment that spending $40 billion to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon was “nuts.”17

The Kennedy administration in May began an intensified effort to respond to the critics of its space program. NASA administrator Webb added to a previously scheduled speech the declaration: “At the earliest appropriate stage in the program scientists will be included on Apollo missions.” Vice President Johnson in a May 11 speech responded to criticism that the costs of Apollo would undermine the strength of the dollar as an international currency, saying that “we are not told what would happen to the dollar—or to America—if space were defaulted to the Communists.” He added: “The question is what kind of philosophy, democratic or Communist, will domi­nate outer space? . . . I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon.”

On May 26, in an effort coordinated by NASA, “eight scientists, three of them Nobel laureates and most of them in academic positions, spoke out . . . in support of the United States program of landing men on the moon.” Life magazine in a May 17 editorial added its support to the Moon program, suggesting that the United States could “abdicate its national greatness by not doing enough. . . The U. S. commitment to space seems a natural undertaking for the American people, who are a venturesome lot.” A June 3 editorial in Aviation Week and Space Technology suggested that “gradually, the point that the manned lunar landing Apollo program is simply the best possible focal point [for] development of a broad capability in space technology” is “emerging from the verbal pyrotechnics of the cur­rent debate.”18

Arguments for and against proceeding with Project Apollo were aired at June 10-11 hearings of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences; ten scientists testified and other interested parties submitted written statements. There was general agreement in the hearings that the deadline set for the first lunar landing was probably conducive to waste, and that many national problems deserved equal attention; there was no agreement that the American science enterprise was being distorted by so much attention to space. The strongest protest against the program was a written statement submitted to the committee by Warren Weaver, vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; it listed many other desirable uses for $30 billion of federal spending, which Weaver projected as Apollo’s ultimate cost. Thirty billion dollars, Weaver said, would give every teacher in the U. S. a 10 percent annual raise for 10 years; give $10 million each to 200 small colleges; provide 7-year scholarships at $4,000 per year to produce 50,000 new Ph. D. scien­tists and engineers; give $200 million each to 10 new medical schools; build and endow complete universities for 53 underdeveloped nations; create 3 more Rockefeller Foundations; and leave $100 million over “for a program of informing the public about science.”19