Between Sputnik’s launching in October 1957 and the lunar landing in July 1969 America sponsored five human spaceflight projects. NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were well publicized and to varying degrees Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson used them as tools for garnering international prestige in the cold war competition with the Soviet Union. However, Dynasoar and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) of the DoD were largely classified and fundamentally oriented toward the military mission of reconnaissance. This study examines the NASA-DoD relationship with a special emphasis on these two sets of projects by asking three questions. First, what did each president believe about using space exploration as a cold war competitive tool? Eisenhower was not at all keen on such a construct: he did not believe the US should race to the moon in search of prestige. Kennedy did and reoriented American space policy toward the moon. Johnson continued this lunar landing goal but refused to expand American space policy beyond it as he grappled with the demands of Vietnam and the Great Society. Second, what was the institutional relationship between NASA and the DoD? This relationship was a complex one involving simultaneous support, coordination, and rivalry under all three presidents. However, over the course of twelve years NASA achieved greater independence while lessening its reliance on the DoD.
The Evolution of the NASA-DoD Relationship from Sputnik to the Lunar Landing, Published April 18, 1997 [669 Pages, 16.1MB]