Review of Space History and the Reason to Maintain a Space Program … Research Paper
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¶ … Maintain a Space Program
History of the Space Program
It all started in the early 60s when a former Massachusetts senator John F Kennedy ran for presidency flanked by Lyndon B. Johnson as a running mate. Kennedy's campaign strategy was hinged on his vicious attacks on the sitting president for failing Americans by sitting and watching as the country slid into socio economic abyss, locally and internationally. In particular, Fredrick Kennedy accused Eisenhower of staying lukewarm on the missile gap problem; a perceived lag by the U.S. to keep at par with their Russian counterparts in developing long-range missiles with robust destructive capacities. The latter accusation was later found to be false. He was vehemently opposed to the earlier ambitions by the communists to control the world. The installing of Fidel Castro as the de facto communist leader in Cuba was a great tinder in Kennedy's campaigns for the state seat, and against Eisenhower's party candidate Richard Nixon. Kennedy went on to win the election, albeit by a narrow number of votes; despite Richard Nixon's effort to defend Eisenhower's track record and the Republican Party. Kennedy won the election by extra 118 550 votes out of over 68 million votes that were cast in the election (Beschloss). Surprisingly, Kennedy showed little interest in the space program that had been initiated earlier by ambitious American dream proponents of adventure and discovery of the unknown worlds beyond the earth.
Conversely, Kennedy was in effect the Cold Warrior he had described his opponents to be; with unrelenting fervor for a piece of the pie in international politics. His most conspicuous focus was his efforts to uphold a balance of power by launching spirited exploits in far regions of the world away from America. He kept a keen eye on the Russian-American relations, while ensuring that he always got ahead of the game in cold war tactics.
The Soviet Union had been seen to be making leaps ahead of its main opponent and political rival, the U.S.A., because she had launched her first craft to space. This development forced President Kennedy to re-embark on the earlier American mission of exploring the unknown in space.
These developments were in response to what the American public expected. He consequently allocated a significant amount of the national budget to the NASA space exploration program. It is hard to precisely define NASA without the cold war shenanigans of the period. These political undercurrents served to develop NASA and its ambitious space explorations. Consequently, project Apollo was popularized as the central state exploration program. President Kennedy did not leave anything to chances, just to keep tabs on his enemies, during the cold war. He used the war as a reason to justify the prioritization of space exploration. He also focused more on the development of ICBMs and advancing the technologies that sought to build satellite reconnaissance systems (Logsdon).
Kennedy sought help to explore ways to develop the space program as he prepared to assume office. He set up a committee to collect and coordinate efforts to advance space explorations by the state. He chose Jerome B Wiesner to head the committee. Wiesner was by then the head of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as MIT. Wiesner later became the chief of PSAC, the President's Committee for Science Advise. He declared that the nation's prestige was a paramount consideration that could not be compromised. He expressed the need to overtake the Soviet Union with respect to space exploration efforts. This meant that the U.S.A. was supposed to spend immeasurable resources in space science research. He wrote a report to the president in January 1961 that space exploration was the focus of everyone around the world. He explained that the future positive image of the United States before the world was hinged on its ability to give the world more of space adventures and discoveries. In his plea, Wiesner emphasized to President Kennedy that there was need for the U.S. to explore more avenues for applying non-military space activities, such as the launching of satellites, communication and mapping. He underscored the need to use space exploration to safeguard the country military-wise. Wiesner downplayed the importance of a human space vehicle as had been earlier fathomed by space scientists in the U.S. He said that it was unlikely, then, to place man in space before the Soviet Union did so. He sought to convince America and its allies that it was more important for the U.S.A. to explore ways of using space exploration for state security purposes and for practical benefits to man. He further asked the U.S. to play a leading role in exploiting the established scientific research findings and take them to a higher level (J.B Wiesner).
President Kennedy received Wiesner's report, but was only willing to follow some of his recommendations. Kennedy had made a resolve to take the space exploration project much further than his predecessor had done. In a strange twist of events, Kennedy had more interest in taking man to space. This was a significant departure from what his science adviser and predecessor, the former president, had envisioned. President Kennedy's ambitions were fueled in part by the developments at NASA center. There were 7 astronauts being trained under the project Mercury. There was a lot of talk and excitement about this project. Kennedy was intent on helping it succeed, despite the odds.
Wiesner had explained to the president his role in promoting project Mercury. He cautioned the president that the importance of the project was blown out of proportion by the media. The public had been made to believe and indeed believed that taking man to space was the most important aspect of space exploration. Yet the realities pointed otherwise, explained Wiesner (J.B Wiesner 16). However, since Kennedy was a politician, he spared no opportunity to exploit popular support. He decided to pursue the goal of taking man to space just so his administration would gain mileage politically. Kennedy also understood the risk in pursuing the program. There was the possibility of the Project Mercury failing. There was also the real chance of astronauts crashing and getting killed in the experiment. Thirdly, it would be embarrassing if the Soviet was the first to take man to space before America. Kennedy addressed these concerns in his public speeches. He even offered cooperation with the Soviets and asked them to embrace cooperation, too, in the space exploration ventures. Indeed, Kennedy was so keen on realizing this dream of space flight and space exploration. All these moves were aimed at reducing the possible risks that project Mercury faced. He went on to address the Soviet Premier about the subject, and proposed cooperation in exploring the heavenly bodies. He is reported to have followed up on the request for cooperation with Russia, when he gave the State of the Union address, shortly after his conversation with Nikita Khrushchev. He particularly asked the Soviet leadership to join Americans in developing a weather monitoring and prediction space program. The need for exploring Mars and Venus was on his list of proposals for the Soviet Union. He was also quick to point out that the new horizons that space science was seeking to explore would be best used for peaceful reasons, and for the benefits of mankind rather than war. He pointed out that the exploration of the mentioned heavenly bodies would reveal deep seated secrets of the universe to man. He played his politics well on the world stage and created an impression of a statesman who sought peace rather than war. Analysts were fully aware of President Kennedy's political posturing. President Kennedy knew that the Soviet Premier was unlikely to accept his proposals, but he wanted the world on his side. He wanted to play the good man against Russian rivalry. The catch in his strategy was that the world would eventually see the Soviets as selfish people who wanted to exploit the benefits of outer space for war and selfish reasons. President Kennedy managed to punch holes in the goodwill and respect that the Soviet Union had earned from their successful launch of a spacecraft to the moon, earlier. On the other hand, President Kennedy knew that if the Soviet Union accepted his call for cooperation, it would look good to the world (NASA). Such a move would gesture to the world that the Soviet recognized the U.S. as an equal.
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