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  President Dwight Eisenhower's opinion of Apollo

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Author Topic:   President Dwight Eisenhower's opinion of Apollo
Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-03-2013 01:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
President Dwight Eisenhower is credited with creating NASA as a civilian space agency in 1958, in response to an emerging space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. He died in March 1969, never seeing the pinnacle of that race, man walking on the moon.

Eisenhower however, was apparently not supportive of the Apollo effort. As he told a Republican breakfast on June 13, 1963:

"Anybody who would spend $40 billion in a race to the moon for national prestige is nuts."
(Credit to Sy Liebergot for sharing a news clip including the quote.)

Other than that quip, does there exist additional insight into Eisenhower's opinion of the Apollo program? Did he comment on Apollo 8's circumlunar flight?

413 is in
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posted 09-03-2013 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 413 is in   Click Here to Email 413 is in     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some direct quotes from first NASA administrator T. Keith Glennan's diary:
Tuesday, October 11 (1960): Arriving at Friendship Airport without much sleep, I made tracks immediately for the White House where I was to attend another meeting of the National Security Council. For the first time, my car telephone came in handy as I kept in touch with developments between the airport and the White House. As luck would have it, after I waited thirty minutes, the item on the National Security Council agenda in which I was interested was canceled. Immediately after lunch, I reviewed the Portland situation with Bob Nunn and Homer Joe Stewart. We must move rapidly on this communications business before it gets out of hand. At 3 o'clock, I met with the president. I had called in from Portland the day before in order to get this date because of the probability that the president was going to be away from Washington for two weeks. I found him [Eisenhower] tired and preoccupied. I simply brought him up-to-date on our activities, told him of my speech in Portland and what meaning it had for the executive branch and then indicated that we were going to require additional money in the way of a supplemental. He had no comment to make on this matter. I told him something of the costs that appear to be involved in Project Apollo, the follow on to Project Mercury. He expressed himself once more as having little interest in the manned aspects of space research. He was cordial enough but it was obvious that he was not at his best today.

Tuesday, December 20 (1960): At 2:30, we met with the National Security Council. I presented our budget and 10-year plan as revised while Hugh described in more detail the activities to be undertaken under the 1962 budget, which is now set at $1.16 billion approximately. Of that amount, $50 million will be requested in a supplemental for the current fiscal year. After we had completed our story showing the NASA budget increasing to more than $2.5 billion annually by the end of the decade, Kistiakowsky talked about the manned space flight program beyond Project Mercury. Most of his information had been derived from presentations given by our people to a committee of the President's Science Advisory Committee. The total dollars estimated to be required for landing a man on the moon and returning him to earth are really quite staggering. One can support a figure anywhere from $10 billion to $35 billion and even then, not know whether or not he is in the right ballpark. The president was prompt in his response: he couldn't care less whether a man ever reached the moon. There was desultory comment by others in the meeting who were concerned over the increasing cost of space research. I pointed out that our presently planned program did not contemplate the tremendous expenditures mentioned by Kistiakowsky - that some of these decisions must be made by a later administration [293] following more significant results from research now in progress. Finally, I stood up and addressed the president saying that my toughest problem in the face of congressional, public and other pressures - some of them from within the administration - had been to develop a sound program in this area. Facts cannot be changed - this is a difficult, complex and costly business. I stated my belief that we had succeeded in avoiding the clamor for "spectacular accomplishments" that had no basic scientific interest. In some ways, the meeting was discouraging. However, I think that feeling might be considered a natural one under the circumstances.

Tuesday, January 3 (1961): Now I will get on with the chronicle. At 9 o'clock, several of our people came in to talk about the establishment of the theoretical division at some site near Columbia University in New York. I have approved this in principle and am now awaiting budgetary and logistic proposals. It seems a good idea to have this group, which is largely academic in character, associated with an academic community. At 9:45, Dryden and I visited Kistiakowsky to attempt to get a change made in the budget message of the president, which is to be delivered on 18 January. Apparently, following the National Security Council meeting on the 20th, a statement was prepared for inclusion in the message that would, in my opinion, be unwise. The president proposes to say that there is no scientific or defense need for man in space beyond Mercury. It is much better, if I am any judge of the political realities of the situation, to say that we need much more research and development before a definite decision can be made in this matter. Actually, such a statement would be in complete agreement with the facts as they will be presented in the budget message. After much telephoning, we were able to get this statement changed.

The full publication, The Birth of NASA is available online here.

Headshot
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posted 09-03-2013 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A review of the contents of two Chicago-based conservative newspapers, from Aug 1968 to Jan 1969, yielded no comments or opinions from Eisenhower.

cspg
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posted 09-03-2013 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In this book? Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige

bwhite1976
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posted 10-05-2013 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bwhite1976   Click Here to Email bwhite1976     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The president was prompt in his response: he couldn't care less whether a man ever reached the moon. There was desultory comment by others in the meeting who were concerned over the increasing cost of space research. I pointed out that our presently planned program did not contemplate the tremendous expenditures....
To be fair to Eisenhower, essentially his presidency was over in a matter of a few weeks at the time of these meetings. I am sure, to some degree, he had to view this as the next presidents problem and to just let the next set of people coming in work on it.

One Big Monkey
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posted 10-10-2013 02:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for One Big Monkey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to M Erickon's "Into the unknown together", Eisenhower was generally sceptical of such 'prestige stunts'.

His main focus was national security, and his reaction to (for example) Sputnik was not one of outrage that they had been beaten to the punch with an orbiting satellite, but concern that the USSR had rockets capable of putting it there and what other payloads they might carry.

He did not share the public hysteria over the 'space race' (he didn't particularly think there was one) and did not like being pushed towards knee jerk reactions to Soviet advances, although he was prepared to put money into things like the development of the Saturn rocket on practical grounds, almost "it might come in handy". He also tried to reign in demands from the military for a more aggressive use of space, including costly and (to him) pointless lunar bases.

He was reportedly horrified at the potential cost of a human lunar mission, and saw the role of humans in space as a tool for scientific research that could aid the US's Cold War battle with the Soviets, not as a means of showing off.

It's an interesting read, and google should find you a pdf copy (the link I had from google was too long and clumsy!)

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posted 10-10-2013 06:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So far it appears that collectSPACE members have not uncovered any evidence that Eisenhower changed his view in the wake of the successes of the Gemini program and the early manned Apollo flights.

carmelo
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posted 10-10-2013 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by One Big Monkey:
He also tried to reign in demands from the military for a more aggressive use of space, including costly and (to him) pointless lunar bases ...and saw the role of humans in space as a tool for scientific research that could aid the US's Cold War battle with the Soviets, not as a means of showing off.
= Dyna Soar X-20.

p51
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posted 10-10-2013 04:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think Ike ever really grasped the use of airpower in almost any form.

In WW2 he routinely either oversimplified what strategic airpower could accomplish, or dismissed it outright. He had Hap Arnold (and the commanding generals of the 8th and 9th Air Forces locally) to deal with that. Tactical interdiction (lighters and light bombers attacking targets in the open) was not something he allowed into planning of offenses, at least in comparison with other commanders in other parts of the world, especially in ideal country for tactical air ops that was Western Europe in the 40s (when the weather was good, anyway). In spells of bad weather, it didn't kneecap his ability to plan campaigns, because he was able to simply remove air operations from the plan and go from the ground.

Even though he'd gotten a pilot's license before the war, he neither embraced military aviation nor, apparently, really understood it. His career was largely built initially in combat arms (never leaving the country during WW1) and in staff positions. "ladder climbing," is what they call a career like that today.

He also didn't want to lose any more men in the name of advancing into Germany at the end of the war in the name of Allied control afterwards. He decided it was best to let the Russians bear the brunt of the assault into Berlin (at a huge cost) and would untangle the postwar mess afterward. I always had the impression he was big on the, 'let the next guy take care of that,' school of leadership.

I'm not the least bit surprised he put little emphasis on landing a man on the moon.

LeapfrogMark
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posted 11-04-2013 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LeapfrogMark   Click Here to Email LeapfrogMark     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm sure I read that in the final days of his Presidency, Eisenhower ensured the Hornig 'Ad Hoc' report was circulated to anyone in Congress and beyond who might have an influence on JFK's future space policy. I can't, however, remember where I read this. I'd actually really appreciate it if anyone can confirm my vague memory.

Duke Of URL
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posted 12-14-2013 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Duke Of URL   Click Here to Email Duke Of URL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Didn't Eisenhower cancel an October 1956 launch which would probably put the nosecone into orbit? There may be more to it than a disregard for space.

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posted 12-14-2013 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Being a military man, Eisenhower had a natural tendency towards secrecy. In the '50s our rockets were derived from military ICBMs. Ike might not have wanted to graphically demonstrate our capabilities to the Soviets. Public pressure after Sputnik, and the 1960 presidential campaign, forced him to change this position.

I also believe there were several other proposals (such as the 1954 "MOUSE") that might have resulted in our orbiting an object before the Soviets, but they were cancelled. Senior members of Ike's cabinet believed that if research did not have military or business value, it was not worth allocating funds. Science had little or no value to them.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-14-2013 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know if it played into Eisenhower's decision making regarding a pre-1957 launch, but I've read from several sources that he seemed to be aware that if the Soviet Union flew over the United States with a satellite first, without objection, then it gave the U.S. the opportunity to set the sovereign airspace limits. (This also played into the Air Force setting 50 miles, rather than the internationally-recognized 62 miles, as the start of space.)

However, it may be that Eisenhower didn't consider such matters until Sputnik.

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posted 12-14-2013 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I do not believe that Eisenhower nor any of his cabinet or military advisors believed that the Soviet Union was capable of launching a satellite into orbit. This despite the fact that the Soviets had claimed, since 1953, this was one of their goals. What is worse is that the Soviet Union drastically upped the rhetoric in 1956 and announced they would send their satellite into orbit during the 1957 IGY.

Lou Chinal
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posted 12-14-2013 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did President John Kennedy receive a briefing about space from anyone before the 1960 election?

moorouge
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posted 12-15-2013 03:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One has to be very careful not to engage 20/20 hindsight when discussing Eisenhower's attitude towards space.

In the latter days of the Eisenhower Presidency his administration faced severe economic problems. The US economy turned sharply downward in the summer of 1957 and reached its low point in the spring of 1958. Industrial production fell 14 percent, corporate profits plummeted 25 percent and unemployment rose to 7.5 percent. President Eisenhower did little to stimulate the economy because he worried more about inflation and not unemployment. Subsequently, in 1959 the economy realized a $12 billion deficit, a new record for a budget shortfall during peacetime.

Consequently, with the 1960 election approaching and with the likelihood of another Republican (Nixon) succeeding him, his concerns concentrated on the economy. He had little time to have thoughts on space.

robsouth
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posted 12-15-2013 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is one thing to not have any thoughts on a subject and to let it be the next guys problem, it is another thing altogether to actively put road blocks in the way of something happening.

President Eisenhower didn't want to be in a space race with the Soviets. He also had no desire to see the military in charge of the American space effort, the last thing he wanted was to see space turned into a battleground.

So in spite of Soviet announcements about orbiting satellites and there being intelligence stating that this was an aim of Russia, the U.S. Army was prevented from sending a payload into orbit during September 1956.

If America was to have a space program then President Eisenhower wanted it to be a peaceful program so despite being able to beat the Soviets into orbit the president prevented it happening.

History could have been much different, yes the Americans could have been first into space but at what cost? The military would be running the show, NASA might never have been formed and space might not have been an arena for exploration but one of tense confrontations.

You could say that President Eisenhower lost the battle, but prevented the war.

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posted 12-15-2013 09:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This thread is veering off-topic from the original question, something of which I have contributed along with others.

Eisenhower's opinion of Project Apollo is not necessarily the same as his opinion of space exploration.

So far we have not discovered any evidence if Ike changed his opinion of Apollo beyond the original statement in Robert's first post.

moorouge
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posted 12-15-2013 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Something can be measured by this from Harrison Schmitt's book "Return to the Moon":
...Eisenhower enlarged President Truman's President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). To be its chair, he selected Dr James R. Killian, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus the first presidential science adviser. Killian apparently was very influential in space-related matters during late 1957 through 1959. Eisenhower's commitment to Saturn development, however, appears to be a prime manifestation of his personal concerns about space and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, to his subordinates, he occasionally professed a lack of enthusiasm for manned space flight in general and flights to the Moon in particular. Eisenhower's apparent antipathy toward man-in-space, particularly military man-in-space, only increased when the Soviets shot down Gary Powers' U-2 reconnaissance plane in 1960.

In spite of such contradictory indications, it is difficult to believe, in view of his push for Saturn development, that Eisenhower had anything in the back of his mind other than human flights to the Moon...

In retrospect, Eisenhower seemed split between his concern about the role of the United States as the protector of freedom in the world during the Cold War and his commitment to control the federal budget and the "acquisition of unwarranted influence... by the military/industrial complex." Still, on Eisenhower's watch, NASA came into existence, public education in math and science was enhanced, studies of manned flights to the Moon progressed, and a manned lunar booster project was aggressively pursued.

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