JFK to LBJ on the Space Program
THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON
April 20, 1961
MEMORANDUM FOR VICE PRESIDENT
In accordance with our conversation I would like for you as Chairman of the Space Council to be in charge of making an overall survey of where we stand in space.
1. Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip round the moon, or by a rocket to land on the moon, or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man? Is there any other space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?
2. How much additional would it cost?
3. Are we working 24 hours a day on existing programs? If not, why not? If not, will you make recommendations to me as to how work can be speeded up?
4. In building large boosters should we put our emphasis on nuclear, chemical or liquid fuel, or a combination of these three?
5. Are we making maximum effort? Are we achieving necessary results?
I have asked Jim Webb, Dr. Wiesner, Secretary McNamara and other responsible officials to cooperate with you fully. I would appreciate a report on this at the earliest possible moment.
John F. Kennedy
LBJ to JFK on the Space Program
OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT WASHINGTON, D.C.
April 28, 1961
MEMORANDUM FOR PRESIDENT
Subject: Evaluation of Space Program.
Reference is to your April 20 memorandum asking certain questions regarding this country’s space program. A detailed survey has not been completed in this time period. The examination will continue. However, what we have obtained so far from knowledgeable and responsible persons makes this summary reply possible.… The following general conclusions can be reported:
a. Largely due to their concentrated efforts and their earlier emphasis upon the development of large rocket engines, the Soviets are ahead of the United States in world prestige attained through impressive technological accomplishments in space.
b. The U.S. has greater resources than the USSR for attaining space leadership but has failed to make the necessary hard decisions and to marshal those resources to achieve such leadership.
c. This country should be realistic and recognize that other nations, regardless of their appreciation of our idealistic values, will tend to align themselves with the country which they believe will be the world leader—the winner in the long run. Dramatic accomplishments in space are being increasingly identified as a major indicator of world leadership. . . .
Q.1- Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the moon, or by a rocket to land on the moon, or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man. Is there any other space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?
A.1- The Soviets now have a rocket capability for putting a multi-manned laboratory into space and have already crash-landed a rocket on the moon. They also have the booster capability of making a soft landing on the moon with a payload of instruments, although we do not know how much preparation they have made for such a project. As for a manned trip around the moon or a safe landing and return by a man to the moon, neither the U.S. nor the USSR has such capability at this time, so far as we know. The Russians have had more experience with large boosters and with flights of dogs and man. Hence they might be conceded a time advantage in circumnavigation of the moon and also in a manned trip to the moon. However, with a strong effort, the United States could conceivably be first in those two accomplishments by 1966 or 1967. There are a number of programs which the United States could pursue immediately and which promise significant world-wide advantage over the Soviets. Among these are communications satellites, and navigation and mapping satellites. These are all areas in which we have already developed some competence.
Q.3- Are we working 24 hours a day on existing programs? If not, why not? If not, will you make recommendations to me as to how work can be speeded up?
A.3- There is not a 24-hour-a-day work schedule on existing NASA space programs except for selected areas in Project Mercury, the Saturn C-1 booster, the Centaur engines and the final launching phases of most flight missions. . . .
Q.5- Are we making maximum effort? Are we achieving necessary results?
A.5- We are neither making maximum effort nor achieving results necessary if this country is to reach a position of leadership.
Lyndon B. Johnson