Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
NASA formally opened its doors on October 1, 1958, and it turns 60 years old today. The nation’s space agency has marked the diamond anniversary in various ways, and anticipates a bright future.
However, given heated talk of a Space Force, military “domination” of space, and the rise of commercial companies, it is reasonable to pause at this moment to ponder NASA’s durability. A review of the space agency’s early history validates concerns about NASA’s relative fragility. In the late 1950s, the US Air Force resisted the removal of human spaceflight activities to a new civil space agency, and it has quietly been pushing back ever since. Even 60 years later, this war may not yet be lost by the military.
This tension, and more, is revealed in a new book titled The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration, edited by space historian John Logsdon. The book presents some of the seminal documents from the creation and evolution of NASA over the last six decades. It reflects what Logsdon describes as “30 years of immersion in primary documents and reflects my judgment on a mixture of what’s most important plus some that are human interest and fun.”
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Civil or military?
In an interview with Ars, Logsdon reviewed some of the earliest government discussions that led to the formation of NASA. In February 1958, President Eisenhower and a small group of advisors—including then Vice President Richard Nixon—met with Republican congressional leaders four months to the day after the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite.
“One of the things is that from its inception, and even before that, the space program was a political act,” Logsdon said. “It was formulated in the context of geopolitics. And back in the 1950s, in particular it was the Cold War competition between the United States and Soviet Union. Some of the themes that we are debating even today, like the importance of space for our national security, and the right way to organize that, were addressed right at the very beginning.”
The principal question debated during this meeting concerned the US response to Russia’s spaceflight activities: should they be led by the military, or some kind of civilian space agency? Eisenhower, according to notes