The U.S. civil space program emerged in large part because of the pressures of national security during the Cold War.1 In general, it has remained tightly interwoven with the national security aspects of space. As space policy analyst Dwayne A. Day noted, "The history of American civil and military cooperation in space is one of competing interests, priorities and justifications at the upper policy levels combined with a remarkable degree of cooperation and coordination at virtually all operational levels."2 This has been the case throughout the first 50 years of the space age for myriad reasons. First, space employs dual-use technologies that are necessary for both military and civil applications. These technologies are developed mostly at government expense and sometimes with significant in-house government laboratory research by U.S.-owned and -based high technology firms, euphemistically called the military-industrial complex. Those firms do not much care whether the technologies' end uses are for civil or national security purposes, and indeed the same essential knowledge, skills, and technologies are required for both human spaceflight missions and national security space operations. The overlap of technologies and the related activities necessary to operate them explains much about the interwoven nature of civil-military space efforts.3
A second issue, closely related to the first, is that the military and civil space programs have represented essentially two central aspects of a concerted effort over the long haul to project national strength. The military component has represented "bare-knuckle" force, while the civil space program represented a form of soft power in which pride at home and prestige abroad accrued to the United States through successful space activities conducted with a sense of peace. Civil space operations also served, in the words of R. Cargill Hall, as a "stalking horse" for a clandestine national security effort in space. That cover served well the needs of the United States during the Cold War, diverting attention from reconnaissance and other national security satellites placed in Earth orbit.4
Observers certainly recognized the national prestige issue from the beginning of the space age. Vernon Van Dyke commented on it in his 1964 book, Pride and Power: The Rationale of the Space Program, making the case with scholarly detachment that prestige was one of the primary reasons for the United States to undertake its expansive civil space effort.5 In the words of reviewer John P. Lovell, "Van Dyke marshals convincing evidence in support of the thesis that 'national pride' has served as the goal value most central to the motivation of those who have given the space program its major impetus."6 Although his research is certainly dated, Van Dyke's conclusions hold up surprisingly well after the passage of more than 45 years. At a fundamental level, American Presidents have consciously used these activities as a symbol of national excellence to enhance the prestige of the United States throughout the world.7
Third, the gradual process whereby the political leadership of the United States—especially the Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy administrations—decided which governmental organizations should take responsibility for which space missions led to persistent and sometime sharp difficulties.8 Several military entities, especially U.S. Air Force leaders, had visions of dominating the new arena of space, visions that were only partially realized. This proved especially troubling in the context of human spaceflight, when early advocates believed military personnel would be required. In essence, they thought of space as a new theater of conflict just like land, sea, and air and chafed under the decision of Eisenhower, reaffirmed to the present, to make space a sanctuary from armed operations. One important result of that decision was the elimination of military human missions in space, a bitter pill for national security space adherents even today. Indeed, the insistence on flying military astronauts on the space shuttle until the Challenger accident in 1986 represented an important marker for future developments. It may also be that in some advocates' minds, the current debate over space weaponization represents an opportunity to gain a human military mission in space.9
After a brief introduction to the space policy arena in the early years of the space age, the remainder of this chapter will explore these three themes— dual-use technology, the role of soft power and the prestige and pride issue in national security affairs, and the quest for military personnel in space.
National Security and the Space Program during the Cold War
Since the latter 1940s, the Department of Defense (DOD) has pursued research in rocketry and upper atmospheric sciences as a means of assuring American leadership in technology. The civilian side of the space effort can be said to have begun in 1952 when the International Council of Scientific Unions established a committee to arrange an International Geophysical Year (IGY) for the period of July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. After years of preparation, on July 29, 1955, the U.S. scientific community persuaded President Eisenhower to approve a plan to orbit a scientific satellite as part of the IGY effort. With the launch of Sputnik I and II by the Soviet Union in the fall of 1957 and the American orbiting of Explorer 1 in January 1958, the space race commenced and did not abate until the end of the Cold War—although there were lulls in the competition.10 The most visible part of this competition was the human spaceflight program—with the Moon landings by Apollo astronauts as de rigueur—but the effort also entailed robotic missions to several planets of the solar system, military and commercial satellite activities, and other scientific and technological labors.11 In the post–Cold War era, the space exploration agenda underwent significant restructuring and led to such cooperative ventures as the International Space Station and the development of launchers, science missions, and applications satellites through international consortia.12
Role of Adventure and Discovery
Undoubtedly, adventure, discovery, and the promise of exploration and colonization were the motivating forces behind the small cadre of early space program advocates in the United States prior to the 1950s. Most advocates of aggressive space exploration efforts invoked an extension of the popular notion of the American frontier with its then-attendant positive images of territorial discovery, scientific discovery, exploration, colonization, and use.13 Indeed, the image of the American frontier has been an especially evocative and somewhat romantic, as well as popular, argument to support the aggressive exploration of space. It plays to the popular conception of "westering" and the settlement of the American continent by Europeans from the East that was a powerful metaphor of national identity until the 1970s.
The space promoters of the 1950s and 1960s intuited that this set of symbols provided a vigorous explanation for and justification of their efforts. The metaphor was probably appropriate for what they wanted to accomplish. It conjured up an image of self-reliant Americans moving westward in sweeping waves of discovery, exploration, conquest, and settlement of an untamed wilderness. In the process of movement, the Europeans who settled North America became, in their own eyes, a people imbued with virtue and justness, unique from all the others of the Earth. The frontier ideal has always carried with it the principles of optimism, democracy, and right relationships. It has been almost utopian in its expression, and it should come as no surprise that those people seeking to create perfect societies in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries—the Puritans, the Mormons, the Shakers, the Moravians, the Fourians, the Icarians, the followers of Horace Greeley— often went to the frontier to carry out their visions.
It also summoned in the popular mind a wide range of vivid and memorable tales of heroism, each a morally justified step of progress toward the modern democratic state. While the frontier ideal reduced the complexity of events to a relatively static morality play, avoided matters that challenged or contradicted the myth, viewed Americans moving westward as inherently good and their opponents as evil, and ignored the cultural context of westward migration, it served a critical unifying purpose for the Nation. Those who were persuaded by this metaphor—and most white Americans in 1960 did not challenge it—embraced the vision of space exploration.14
Role ofPopular Conceptions of SpaceTravel
If the frontier metaphor of space exploration conjured up romantic images of an American nation progressing to something for the greater good, the space advocates of the Eisenhower era also sought to convince the public that space exploration was an immediate possibility. Science fiction books and films portrayed space exploration, but more importantly, its possibility was fostered by serious and respected scientists, engineers, and politicians. Deliberate efforts on the part of space boosters during the late 1940s and early 1950s helped to reshape the popular culture of space and to influence government policy. In particular, these advocates worked hard to overcome the level of disbelief that had been generated by two decades of "Buck Rogers"–type fantasies and to convince the American public that space travel might actually, for the first time in human history, be possible.15
The decade following World War II brought a sea change in perceptions, as most Americans moved from being skeptical about the probability of spaceflight to accepting it as a near-term reality. This shift can be seen in the public opinion polls of the era. For instance, in December 1949, Gallup pollsters found that only 15 percent of Americans believed humans would reach the Moon within 50 years, while a whopping 70 percent believed that it would not happen within that time. By 1957, 41 percent believed firmly that it would not take longer than 25 years for humans to reach the Moon, while only 25 percent believed that it would. An important shift in perceptions had taken place during that era, and it was largely the result of a public relations campaign based on the real possibility of spaceflight coupled with the well-known advances in rocket technology.16
The American public became aware of the possibility of spaceflight through sources ranging from science fiction literature and film that were closer to reality than ever before, to speculations by science fiction writers about possibilities already real, to serious discussions of the subject in respected popular magazines. Among the most important serious efforts were those of German émigré Wernher von Braun, who was working for the U.S. Army at Huntsville, Alabama. Von Braun, in addition to being a superbly effective technological entrepreneur, managed to seize the powerful print and communications media that the science fiction writers and filmmakers had been using in the early 1950s and became a highly effective promoter of space exploration to the public.17
In 1952, von Braun burst on the public stage with a series of articles in Collier's magazine about the possibilities of spaceflight. The first issue of Collier's devoted to space appeared on March 22, 1952. An editorial in that issue suggested that spaceflight was possible, not just science fiction, and that it was inevitable that mankind would venture outward. In his articles, von Braun advocated the orbiting of humans, development of a reusable spacecraft for travel to and from Earth orbit, construction of a permanently inhabited space station, and human exploration of the Moon and Mars by spacecraft departing from the space station. The series concluded with a special issue of the magazine devoted to Mars, in which von Braun and others described how to get there and predicted what might be found based on recent scientific data.18
The merging of the public perception of spaceflight as a near-term reality with the technological developments then being seen at White Sands and other experimental facilities created an environment conducive to the establishment of an aggressive space program. Convincing the American public that spaceflight was possible was one of the most critical components of the space policy debate of the 1950s. Without it, the aggressive exploration programs of the 1960s would never have been approved. For a concept to be approved in the public policy arena, the public must have both an appropriate vision of the phenomenon with which the society seeks to grapple and confidence in the attainability of the goal. Indeed, space enthusiasts were so successful in promoting their image of human spaceflight as being imminent that when other developments forced public policymakers to consider the space program seriously, alternative visions of space exploration remained ill formed, and even advocates of different futures emphasizing robotic probes and applications satellites were obliged to discuss space exploration using the symbols of the human space travel vision that its promoters had established so well in the minds of Americans.19
Role of ForeignPolicy and National Security Issues
At the same time that space exploration advocates, both amateurs and scientists, were generating an image of spaceflight as a genuine possibility and proposing how to accomplish a far-reaching program of lunar and planetary exploration, another critical element entered the picture: the role of spaceflight in national defense and international relations. Space partisans early began hitching their exploration vision to the political requirements of the Cold War, in particular to the belief that the nation that occupied the "high ground" of space would dominate the territories underneath it. In the first of the Collier's articles in 1952, the exploration of space was framed in the context of the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union and concluded that "the time has come for Washington to give priority of attention to the matter of space superiority. The rearmament gap between the East and West has been steadily closing. And nothing, in our opinion, should be left undone that might guarantee the peace of the world. It's as simple as that." The magazine's editors argued "that the U.S. must immediately embark on a long-range development program to secure for the West 'space superiority.' If we do not, somebody else will. That somebody else very probably would be the Soviet Union."20
The synthesis of the idea of progress manifested through the frontier, the selling of spaceflight as a reality in American popular culture, and the Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union made possible the adoption of an aggressive space program by the early 1960s. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) effort through Project Apollo, with its emphasis upon human spaceflight and extraterrestrial exploration, emerged from these three major ingredients, with Cold War concerns the dominant driver behind monetary appropriations for space efforts.
The Heroic Age of Space Exploration
Rivalry with the Soviet Union was the key that opened the door to aggressive space exploration, not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieving technological superiority in the eyes of the world. From the perspective of the 21st century, it is difficult to appreciate Americans' near-hysterical preoccupation with nuclear attack in the 1950s. Far from being the idyll portrayed in the television show "Happy Days," the United States was a dysfunctional nation preoccupied with death by nuclear war. Schools required children to practice civil defense techniques and shield themselves from nuclear blasts, in some cases by simply crawling under their desks. Communities practiced civil defense drills, and families built personal bomb shelters in their backyards.21 In the popular culture, nuclear attack was inexorably linked to the space above the United States, from which the attack would come.
After an arms race with its nuclear component, a series of hot and cold crises in the Eisenhower era, and the launching of Sputniks I and II in 1957, the threat of holocaust felt by most Americans and Soviets seemed increasingly probable. For the first time, enemies could reach the United States with a radical new technology. In the contest over the ideologies and allegiances of the world's nonaligned nations, space exploration became contested ground.22 Even while U.S. officials congratulated the Soviet Union for this accomplishment, many Americans thought that the Soviet Union had staged a tremendous coup for the communist system at U.S. expense. It was a shock, introducing the illusion of a technological gap and leading directly to several critical efforts aimed at catching up to the Soviet Union's space achievements. Among these efforts were:
More immediately, the United States launched its first Earth satellite on January 31, 1958, when Explorer I documented the existence of radiation zones encircling the Earth. Shaped by the Earth's magnetic field, what came to be called the Van Allen radiation belt partially dictates the electrical charges in the atmosphere and the solar radiation that reaches Earth. It also began a series of scientific missions to the Moon and planets in the latter 1950s and early 1960s.24
Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established NASA with a broad mandate to explore and use space for "peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind."25 The core of NASA came from the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which had 8,000 employees, an annual budget of $100 million, and research laboratories. It quickly incorporated other organizations into the new agency, notably the space science group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology for the Army, and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama.26
The Soviet Union, while not creating a separate organization dedicated to space exploration, infused money into its various rocket design bureaus and scientific research institutions. The chief beneficiaries of Soviet spaceflight enthusiasm were the design bureau of Sergei P. Korolev (the chief designer of the first Soviet rockets used for the Sputnik program) and the Soviet Academy of Sciences, which devised experiments and built the instruments that were launched into orbit. With huge investments in spaceflight technology urged by premier Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union accomplished one public relations coup after another against the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s.27
Within a short time of its formal organization, NASA also took over management of space exploration projects from other Federal agencies and began to conduct space science missions, such as Project Ranger to send probes to the Moon, Project Echo to test the possibility of satellite communications, and Project Mercury to ascertain the possibilities of human spaceflight. Even so, these activities were constrained by a modest budget and a measured pace on the part of NASA leadership.
In an irony of the first magnitude, Eisenhower believed that the creation of NASA and the placing of so much power in its hands by the Kennedy administration during the Apollo program of the 1960s was a mistake. He remarked in a 1962 article: "Why the great hurry to get to the moon and the planets? We have already demonstrated that in everything except the power of our booster rockets we are leading the world in scientific space exploration. From here on, I think we should proceed in an orderly, scientific way, building one accomplishment on another."28 He later cautioned that the Moon race "has diverted a disproportionate share of our brain-power and research facilities from equally significant problems, including education and automation."29 He believed that Americans had overreacted to the perceived threat.
During the first 15 years of the space age, the United States emphasized a civilian exploration program consisting of several major components. The capstone of this effort was, of course, the human expedition to the Moon, Project Apollo. A unique confluence of political necessity, personal commitment and activism, scientific and technological ability, economic prosperity, and public mood made possible the May 25, 1961, announcement by President John F. Kennedy of the intent to carry out a lunar landing program before the end of the decade as a means of demonstrating the Nation's technological virtuosity.30
Project Apollo was the tangible result of an early national commitment in response to a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. NASA leaders recognized that while the size of the task was enormous, it was technologically and financially within their grasp, but they had to move forward quickly. Accordingly, the space agency's annual budget increased from $500 million in 1960 to a high point of $5.2 billion in 1965. NASA's budget began to decline beginning in 1966 and continued on a downward trend until 1975. With the exception of a few years during the Apollo era, the NASA budget has hovered at slightly less than one percent of all money expended by the U.S. Treasury (see figure 10–1).31
Figure 10–1. NASA Budgets as a Percentage of Federal Budget
While there may be reason to accept that Apollo was transcendentally important at some sublime level, assuming a rosy public acceptance of it is at best a simplistic and ultimately unsatisfactory conclusion. Indeed, the public's support for space funding has remained remarkably stable at approximately 80 percent in favor of the status quo since 1965, with only one significant dip in support in the early 1970s. However, responses to funding questions on public opinion polls are extremely sensitive to question wording and must be used cautiously.32 Polls in the 1960s consistently ranked spaceflight near the top of those programs to be cut in the Federal budget. Most Americans seemingly preferred doing something about air and water pollution, job training for unskilled workers, national beautification, and poverty before spending Federal funds on human spaceflight. In 1967, Newsweek stated: "The U.S. space program is in decline. The Vietnam war and the desperate conditions of the nation's poor and its cities— which make spaceflight seem, in comparison, like an embarrassing national self-indulgence—have combined to drag down a program where the sky was no longer the limit."33
Nor did lunar exploration in and of itself inspire a groundswell of popular support from the general public, which during the 1960s largely showed hesitancy to "race" the Soviets to the Moon (see figure10–2). Polls asked, "Would you favor or oppose U.S. government spending to send astronauts to the moon?" and in virtually all cases, a majority opposed doing so, even during the height of Apollo. At only one point, October 1965, did more than half of the public favor continuing human lunar exploration. In the post-Apollo era, the American public has continued to question the validity of undertaking human expeditions to the Moon.34
Figure 10–2. Public Attitudes about Government Funding for Space Trips
These statistics do not demonstrate unqualified support for NASA's effort to reach the Moon in the 1960s. They suggest, instead, that the Cold War national security crisis that brought public support to the initial lunar landing decision was fleeting, and within a short period the coalition that announced it had to retrench.35 It also suggests that the public was never enthusiastic about human lunar exploration, and especially about the costs associated with it. What enthusiasm it may have enjoyed waned over time, until by the end of the Apollo program in December 1972, the program was akin to a limping marathoner straining with every muscle to reach the finish line before collapsing.
The Space Program and Dual-use Technology
The reality, if not the definition, of dual-use technology has existed since humanity first fashioned a weapon and then used it for some other nonviolent purpose. Certainly, spears, bows and arrows, swords, clubs, firearms, and a host of other implements have dual uses for both destructive and constructive purposes. Even as nondescript a tool as a shovel has a military use as an implement for digging fortifications and as a crude weapon in hand-to-hand combat. During the Cold War, this concept of dual-use technology reached a crescendo in the context of nuclear weapons in general and their delivery systems in particular. It also found explicit situating within international agreements such as the Nonproliferation Treaty, the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.36 The Wassenaar accord is by far the most sweeping in its attempt to govern the transfer of dual-use space technologies. Interestingly, remote sensing, navigation, and communications satellite policies emerged first as the technologies requiring governance, with launch vehicle technology being added later. This was in no small part because of the perception that nuclear weapons launchers did not present a problem for the enhancement of military capability. Only later in the 20th century did U.S. officials wake up to the realization that the spread of launcher technology to so-called rogue states such as North Korea, Iraq, and other potential enemies posed a threat to national interests.37
Launch vehicles developed for the delivery of nuclear weapons unquestionably had dual use as civil space launchers with minimum, if any, alteration. Most of the launchers used by NASA during its formative years originated as military ballistic missiles that DOD had developed (see figure10–3). It was, and remains, the fundamental technology necessary for civil space exploration, and it came largely from the military. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, rocket technicians working for DOD conducted ever more demanding test flights, and scientists conducted increasingly complex scientific investigations made possible by this new dual-use technology.38 The Army developed the Redstone rocket during this period, a missile capable of sending a small warhead a maximum of 500 miles, and its dual use became obvious when NASA used it to send the first U.S. suborbital Mercury missions with astronauts Alan B. Shepard and Gus Grissom into space in 1961.39 The same was true for the Air Force's Atlas and Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), originally developed to deliver nuclear warheads to targets half a world away. The Atlas found important uses as the launcher for the Mercury program's orbital missions, and the Titan served well as the launcher for the Gemini program human spaceflights in 1965–1966.40
Figure 10–3. Launch Vehicles, 1953-2000
But the application of military rocket technology to the civil space program was neither automatic nor especially easy. As a converted ICBM, for example, the Atlas had undergone on-again, off-again development since 1946. Canceled once and underfunded thereafter, the Air Force had been unable until the Sputnik crisis of 1957–1958 to secure sufficient resources to make serious progress on it. Because of this difficulty, U.S. Air Force officials had accepted a 20 percent failure rate. This rate offered the fundamental argument against using the Atlas in the civil space program; no one was willing to accept the loss of one out of five missions with astronauts aboard. But even that rate proved higher in the early going. By 1959, seven out of eight launches had failed. That would most assuredly not do with astronauts aboard. NASA's Robert R. Gilruth testified to Congress about this problem in mid-1959: "The Atlas . . . has enough performance . . . and the guidance system is accurate enough, but there is the matter of reliability. You don't want to put a man in a device unless it has a very good chance of working every time." Gilruth added, "Reliability is something that comes with practice."41
Incrementally, NASA, Air Force, and contract engineers improved the performance of the Atlas. They placed a fiberglass shield around the liquid oxygen tank to keep the engines from igniting it in a massive explosion, a rather spectacular failure that seemed to happen at least half the time. They changed out almost every system on the vehicle, substituting tried and true technology wherever possible to minimize problems. They altered procedures and developed new telemetry to monitor the operations of the system. Most important, they developed an abort sensing system (labeled ASS by everyone but the people involved in developing it) to monitor vehicle performance and to provide early escape for astronauts from the Mercury capsule.42
Transition to the Titan launcher for the Gemini program was also far from automatic. It experienced longitudinal oscillations, called the "pogo" effect because it resembled the behavior of a child on a pogo stick. Overcoming this problem required engineering imagination and long hours of overtime to stabilize fuel flow and maintain vehicle control. Other problems also led to costly modifications, increasing the estimated $350 million program cost to over $1 billion. The overruns were successfully justified by the space agency, however, as necessities to meet the Apollo landing commitment, but not without some sustained criticism.43
The dual-use nature of this launch technology has long presented serious challenges for the interrelations of the civil and national security space programs. Moreover, this reliance on the descendants of the three major ballistic missiles—Atlas, Titan, and what became the Delta—developed in the 1950s and 1960s for the bulk of the Nation's space access requirements has hampered space access to the present. Even though the three families of expendable space boosters—each with numerous variants—have enjoyed incremental improvement since first flight, there seems no way to escape their beginnings in technology (dating back to the 1950s) and their primary task of launching nuclear warheads. National defense requirements prompted the developers to emphasize schedule and operational reliability over launch costs.
Movement beyond these first-generation launchers is critical for the opening of space access to more activities. Like the earlier experience with propeller-driven aircraft, launchers have been incrementally improved for the last 40 years without making a major breakthrough in technology. Accordingly, the United States today has a very efficient and mature expendable launch vehicle (ELV) launch capability that is still unable to overcome the limitations of the first-generation ICBM launch vehicles.44
The overpowering legacy of the space shuttle has also dominated the issue of space access since Project Apollo, and it has enjoyed dual use as both a military and civil launcher. Approved in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon as the major NASA follow-on program to the highly successful Moon landings, the space shuttle would provide routine, economical, and reliable indefinite access to space for the U.S. human spaceflight program.45 With the first spaceflight of the Columbia in 1981, NASA's human spaceflight capability became wedded to the space shuttle, and moving beyond that basic coupling has required 20 years. In addition to forestalling debate on a shuttle replacement, the decision to build the space shuttle in 1972 short-circuited debate on the desirability of investment in new ELVs. At first, NASA and most other space policy analysts agreed that the shuttle would become the "one-size-fits-all" space launcher of the U.S. fleet. There would be, simply put, no need for another vehicle since the shuttle could satisfy all launch requirements, be they scientific, commercial, or military, human or robotic.46 The military Services at first agreed to launch all of their payloads on the shuttle, and NASA aggressively marketed the shuttle as a commercial vehicle that could place any satellite into orbit.47
This was never a perfect situation, for in the truest sense of dual usage, the shuttle was shouldering the responsibility for all government launches and many commercial ones during the early Reagan years. It was, sadly, ill equipped to satisfy these demands. Even with the best of intentions and with attractive payload pricing policies, the space shuttle remained what it had been intended to be in the first place: a research and development vehicle that would push the frontiers of spaceflight and knowledge about the universe. The desire for the shuttle to be all things to all people—research and development aerospace vehicle, operational space truck, commercial carrier, scientific platform—ensured that it would satisfy none of these singular and mutually exclusive missions.48
Only with the loss of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, did this reliance on the space shuttle begin to change. It reinvigorated a debate over the use of the space shuttle to launch all U.S. satellites. In August 1986, President Reagan announced that the shuttle would no longer carry commercial satellites, a policy formalized in December 1986 in National Security Decision Directive 254, "United States Space Launch Strategy." A total of 44 commercial and foreign payloads that had been manifested on the space shuttle were forced to find new launchers.49
For the next 3 years, the U.S. Government worked to reinvigorate the American ELV production lines and to redesign and modify satellites to be launched on ELVs instead of the shuttle. The shift back to ELVs required additional government funding to fix the problems that had resulted from years of planning to retire these systems. The United States practically ceased commercial launch activities for several years, conducting just three commercial satellite launches (one just prior to the Challenger flight) for only 6 percent of U.S. space launches from 1986 to 1989.50
During this period, however, two actions were initiated that enabled the emergence of a legitimate U.S. launch industry. First, DOD committed to purchasing a large number of ELVs as part of a strategy to maintain access to space using a mixed fleet of both the space shuttle and ELVs. This reopened the dormant U.S. ELV production lines at government expense and helped provide economies of scale necessary to enable U.S. companies to effectively compete against Ariane. Second, in 1988, Congress amended the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) to establish new insurance requirements whose effect was to limit liability for U.S. companies in case their launches caused damage to government property or third parties. The revised CSLA also established protections against government preemption of commercial launches on government ranges.51
As a result, the first U.S. commercial space launch took place in 1989— nearly 5 years after the CSLA was passed. Beginning in 1989, U.S. launches of commercial satellites were conducted by commercial launch companies (in most cases, the same companies providing launch services for DOD and NASA payloads as government contractors), not the U.S. Government.52
There is much more to this story of space access and the nature of dual-use technology, but I will conclude with these observations. The commonality of this technology has meant one of two things for both military and civil space efforts: either a competition for knowledge and capability among a limited pool of suppliers, or a cooperation to achieve a fleet of dual-use machines that satisfy all users. In many cases this has never happened, and the differences between NASA and DOD have been persistent and at times quite combative.
Only when there has been clear delineation of responsibilities has this absence of collaboration not been the case. For example, on April 16, 1991, the National Space Council directed NASA and DOD to jointly fund and develop the National Launch System to meet civil and military space access by the beginning of the 21st century at a cost of between $10.5 billion and $12 billion.53 This effort failed. Most of the other efforts to cooperate have not been much more successful. It seems that the best results have come when either the civil or the military side of the space program develops its own technologies, at least in space launch, and the other adapts it for its own use. That was the case with NASA employing launchers originally designed as ballistic missiles in the 1960s and DOD using the space shuttle built by NASA in the 1980s. The landscape is littered with failed cooperative projects in space access.54
Prestige and Soft Power on the International Stage
From the early days of thought about the potential of flight in space, theorists believed that the activity would garner worldwide prestige for those accomplishing it. For example, in 1946, the newly established RAND Corporation published the study "Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship." This publication explored the viability of orbital satellites and outlined the technologies necessary for its success. Among its many observations, its comment on the prestige factor proved especially prescient: "A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century. The achievement of a satellite craft would produce repercussions comparable to the explosion of the atomic bomb."55
This perspective is a classic application of what analysts often refer to as soft power. The term, coined by Harvard University professor Joseph Nye, gave a name to an alternative to threats and other forms of hard power in international relations.56 As Nye contends:
Soft power is the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. It differs from hard power, the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will. Both hard and soft power are important . . . but attraction is much cheaper than coercion, and an asset that needs to be nourished.57
In essence, such activities as Apollo represented a form of soft power, the ability to influence other nations through intangibles such as an impressive show of technological capability. It granted to the nation achieving it first an authenticity and gravitas not previously enjoyed among the world community. In sum, this was an argument buttressing the role of spaceflight as a means of enhancing a nation's standing on the international stage.
Even so, few appreciated the potential of spaceflight to enhance national prestige until the Sputnik crisis of 1957–1958. Some have characterized this as an event that had a "Pearl Harbor" effect on American public opinion, creating an illusion of a technological gap and providing the impetus for increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of new Federal agencies to manage air and space research and development. This Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union provided the key that opened the door to aggressive space exploration, not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieving technological superiority in the eyes of the world. From the perspective of the 21st century, it is difficult to appreciate the importance of the prestige factor in national thinking at the time. Although the initial response was congratulatory, American political and opinion leaders soon expressed a belief in the loss of national prestige. As the Chicago Daily News editorialized on October 7, 1957, "It must be obvious to everyone by now that the situation relative to Russian technology and our own has changed drastically. There can be no more underestimating Russia's scientific potential, either for war or for peace."58
Political leaders also used the satellite as an object lesson in prestige. Senate majority leader Lyndon B. Johnson recalled of the Soviet launch, "Now, somehow, in some new way, the sky seemed almost alien. I also remember the profound shock of realizing that it might be possible for another nation to achieve technological superiority over this great country of ours."59
One of Johnson's aides, George E. Reedy, wrote to him on October 17, 1957, about how they could use the Sputnik issue to the party's advantage: "The issue is one which, if properly handled, would blast the Republicans out of the water, unify the Democratic Party, and elect you President." He suggested that "it is unpleasant to feel that there is something floating around in the air which the Russians can put up and we can't."60
Unquestionably, the Apollo program in particular and all of U.S. human spaceflight efforts in general were mainly about establishing U.S. primacy in technology. Apollo served as a surrogate for war, challenging the Soviet Union head on in a demonstration of technological virtuosity. The desire towin international support for the "American way" became the raison d'etre for the Apollo program, and it served that purpose far better than anyone imagined when first envisioned. Apollo became first and foremost a Cold War initiative and aided in demonstrating the mastery of the United States before the world. This motivation may be seen in a succession of Gallup polls conducted during the 1960s that asked, "Is the Soviet Union ahead of the United States in space?" Until the middle part of the decade— about the time that the Gemini program began to demonstrate American prowess in space—the answer was always yes. At the height of the Apollo Moon landings, world opinion had shifted overwhelmingly in favor of the United States.61 The importance of Apollo as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy—which is closely allied to but not necessarily identical with national prestige and geopolitics—should not be mislaid in this discussion. It served, and continues to serve, as an instrument for projecting the image of a positive, open, dynamic American society abroad.
For decades, the United States launched humans into space for prestige, measured against similar Soviet accomplishments, rather than for practical scientific or research goals. This was in essence positive symbolism—each new space achievement acquired political capital for the United States, primarily on the international stage. As Caspar Weinberger noted in 1971, space achievements gave "the people of the world an equally needed look at American superiority."62
In this context, the civil space program, both its human and robotic components, was fully about national security. Demonstrations of U.S. scientific and technological capability were about the need to establish the credibility and reliability of nuclear deterrence in this new type of standoff with the Soviet Union (see figure10–4). If the Soviets did not believe that credibility was real, if the rest of the world thought it bogus, the American rivalry with the Soviet Union portended a dire future for humankind. American success in space offered a perception of credibility worldwide about its military might. "This contest was rooted in proving to the world the superiority of capitalism over communism, of the American and communist ways of life, and of cultural, economic, and scientific achievements," according to historian Kenneth Osgood. American civil space successes served to counteract those questioning the nature of the future.63
Figure 10–4. Is the Soviet Union Ahead of the United States in Space?
The importance of this prestige issue for civil space also worked at home. It conjured images of the best in the human spirit and served, in the words of journalist Greg Easterbrook, as "a metaphor of national inspiration: majestic,technologically advanced, produced at dear cost and entrusted with precious cargo, rising above the constraints of the earth." It "carries our secret hope that there is something better out there—a world where we may someday go and leave the sorrows of the past behind."64 It may well be that space achievements, particularly those involving direct human presence, remain a potent source of national pride and that such pride is why the U.S. public continues to support human spaceflight. Certainly, space images— an astronaut on the Moon or the space shuttle rising majestically into orbit—rank just below the American flag and the bald eagle as patriotic symbols. The self-image of the United States as a successful nation is threatened when we fail in our space efforts, as we have seen from the collective loss when astronauts die before our eyes in space shuttle accidents. Americans expect a successful program of civil spaceflight as part of what the United States does as a nation. Americans are not overly concerned with the content or objectives of specific programs. But they are concerned that what is done seems worth doing and is done well. It is that sense of pride in space accomplishment that has been missing in recent years.65
The Military and the Quest for a Human Mission in Space
Even before the beginning of the space age, DOD had angled for the mission of placing humans in space for myriad tasks. In the early 1950s, Wernher von Braun had proposed a massive space station with more than 50 military personnel aboard to undertake Earth observation for reconnaissance and as an orbiting battle station. He even believed it could be used to launch nuclear missile strikes against the Soviet Union.66 While von Braun could not get any Eisenhower administration authorities to adopt his space station plan, some senior DOD officials did see a role for military astronauts. The U.S. Air Force proposed the development of a piloted orbital spacecraft under the "Man-in-Space-Soonest" (MISS) program in 1957.67 After the launch of Sputnik I, the Air Force invited Edward Teller and several other leading members of the scientific and technological elite to study the issue of human spaceflight and make recommendations for the future. Teller's group concluded that the Air Force could place a human in orbit within 2 years and urged that the department pursue this effort. Teller understood, however, that there was essentially no military reason for undertaking this mission and chose not to tie his recommendation to any specific rationale, falling back on a basic belief that the first nation to accomplish human spaceflight would accrue national prestige and advance, in a general manner, science and technology.68
Soon after the new year, Lieutenant General Donald L. Putt, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Development, informed National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Director Hugh L. Dryden of the Service's intention to pursue aggressively "a research vehicle program having as its objective the earliest possible manned orbital flight which will contribute substantially and essentially to follow-on scientific and military space systems." Putt asked Dryden to collaborate in this effort, but with the NACA as a decidedly junior partner.69 Dryden agreed; however, by the end of the summer, Putt would find the newly created NASA leading the human spaceflight effort for the United States, with the Air Force being the junior player.70
Notwithstanding the lack of clear-cut military purpose, the Air Force pressed for MISS throughout the first part of 1958, clearly expecting to become the lead agency in any space program of the United States. Specifically, it believed hypersonic space planes and lunar bases would serve national security needs well in the coming decades. To help make that a reality, it requested $133 million for the MISS program and secured approval for the effort from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.71 Throughout this period, a series of disagreements between Air Force and NACA officials rankled both sides. The difficulties reverberated all the way to the White House, prompting a review of the roles of the two organizations.72 The normally staid and proper Hugh Dryden complained in July 1958 to the President's science advisor, James R. Killian, of the lack of clarity on the role of the Air Force versus the NACA. He asserted that:
The current objective for a manned satellite program is the determination of man's basic capability in a space environment as a prelude to the human exploration of space and to possible military applications of manned satellites. Although it is clear that both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense should cooperate in the conduct of the program, I feel that the responsibility for and the direction of the program should rest with NASA.
He urged that the President state a clear division between the two organizations on the human spaceflight mission.73
As historians David N. Spires and Rick W. Sturdevant have pointed out, the MISS program became derailed within the Department of Defense at essentially the same time because of funding concerns and a lack of clear military mission:
Throughout the spring and summer of 1958 the Air Force's Air Research and Development Command had mounted an aggressive campaign to have ARPA convince administration officials to approve its Man-in-Space-Soonest development plan. But ARPA balked at the high cost, technical challenges, and uncertainties surrounding the future direction of the civilian space agency.74
Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 into law at the end of July and the next month assigned the Air Force's human spaceflight mission to NASA. Thereafter, the MISS program was folded into what became Project Mercury. By early November 1958, DOD had acceded to the President's desire that the human spaceflight program be a civilian effort under the management of NASA. For its part, NASA invited Air Force officials to appoint liaison personnel to the Mercury program office at Langley Research Center, and they did so.75
Everyone recognized that time was of the essence in undertaking the human spaceflight project that NASA would now lead. Roy Johnson, director of ARPA for DOD, noted in September 1958 that competition with the Soviet Union precluded taking a cautious approach to the human spaceflight initiative and advocated additional funding to ensure its timely completion. As he wrote to the Secretary of Defense and the NASA administrator:
I am troubled, however, with respect to one of the projects in which there is general agreement that it should be a joint undertaking. This is the so-called "Man-in-Space" project for which $10 million has been allocated to ARPA and $30 million to NASA. My concern over this project is due (1) to a firm conviction, backed by intelligence briefings, that the Soviets' next spectacular effort in space will be to orbit a human, and (2) that the amount of $40 million for FY 1959 is woefully inadequate to compete with the Russian program. As you know our best estimates (based on some 12–15 plans) were $100 to $150 million for an optimum FY 1959 program.
I am convinced that the military and psychological impact on the United States and its Allies of a successful Soviet man-inspace "first" program would be far reaching and of great consequence.
Because of this deep conviction, I feel that no time should be lost in launching an aggressive Man-in-Space program and that we should be prepared if the situation warrants, to request supplemental appropriations of the Congress in January to pursue the program with the utmost urgency.76
Johnson agreed to transfer a series of space projects from ARPA to NASA but urged more timely progress on development of the space vehicle itself. Two weeks later, ARPA and NASA established protocols for cooperating in the aggressive development of the capsule that would be used in the human spaceflight program.77
To aid in the conduct of this program, ARPA and NASA created a panel for Manned Space Flight, also referred to as the Joint Manned Satellite Panel, on September 18, 1958. At its first meeting on September 24, the panel established goals and strategy for the program. Chaired by Robert Gilruth and including such NASA leaders as Max Faget and George Low, the panel focused on a wide range of technical requirements necessary to complete the effort. Under this panel's auspices, final specifications for the piloted capsule emerged in October 1958, as did procurement of both modified Redstone (for suborbital flights) and Atlas (for orbital missions) boosters.78
Even while cooperating with NASA on Project Mercury, DOD remained committed to the eventual achievement of human spaceflight. It pursued several programs aimed in that direction. The first was the X–20 Dynasoar, a military spaceplane to be launched atop a Titan launcher—a narrow mission, to be sure. The Air Force believed that the X–20 would provide a long-range bombardment and reconnaissance capability by flying at the edge of space and skipping off the Earth's atmosphere to reach targets anywhere in the world. The Air Force design for the Dynasoar project, which began on December 11, 1961, required the Titan IIIC to launch its military orbital spaceplane.79 This winged, recoverable spacecraft did not possess as large a payload as NASA's capsule-type spacecraft and was always troubled by the absence of a clearly defined military mission. Accordingly, in September 1961, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara questioned whether Dynasoar represented the best expenditure of funds. This resulted in numerous studies of the program, but in 1963, McNamara canceled the program in favor of a Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). This military space station, along with a modified capsule known as Gemini-B, would be launched into orbit aboard a Titan IIIM vehicle that used seven-segment solids and was human-rated. As an example of the seriousness with which the Air Force pursued the MOL program, the third Titan IIIC test flight boosted a prototype Gemini-B (previously used as GT–2 in the Gemini test program) and an aerodynamic mockup of the MOL laboratory into orbit. It was as close as MOL would come to reality. The new military space station plan ran into numerous technical and fiscal problems, and in June 1969, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird informed Congress that MOL would be canceled.80
Military space policy analyst Paul Stares summarized the fallout from the loss of the X–20 and MOL programs upon the Air Force during the 1960s:
With the cancellation of the Dynasoar and MOL, many believed in the Air Force that they had made their "pitch" and failed. This in turn reduced the incentives to try again and reinforced the bias towards the traditional mission of the Air Force, namely flying. As a result, the Air Force's space activities remained a poor relation to tactical and strategic airpower in its organizational hierarchy and inevitably in its funding priorities. This undoubtedly influenced the Air Force's negative attitude towards the various ASAT modernization proposals put forward by Air Defense Command and others in the early 1970s. The provision of satellite survivability measures also suffered because the Air Force was reluctant to propose initiatives that would require the use of its own budget to defend the space assets of other services and agencies.81
This setback did not dissuade DOD from further attempts to enter the realm of human spaceflight, although the next effort involved persuading NASA to alter its space shuttle concept and to include a military mission in its planning scenarios.
After Apollo, the human element of the U.S. civil space program went into a holding pattern for nearly a decade. During that time, it moved from its earlier heroic age to one characterized by more routine activities, perspectives, and processes; it was an institutionalizing of critical elements from a remarkably fertile heroic time.82
The space shuttle became the sine qua non of NASA during the 1970s, intended as it was to make spaceflight routine, safe, and relatively inexpensive. Although NASA considered a variety of configurations, some of them quite exotic, it settled on a stage-and-a-half partially reusable vehicle with an approved development price tag of $5.15 billion. On January 5, 1972, President Richard Nixon announced the decision to build a space shuttle. He did so for both political reasons and national prestige purposes. Politically, it would help a lagging aerospace industry in key states he wanted to carry in the next election, especially California, Texas, and Florida.83 Supporters—especially Caspar Weinberger, who later became Reagan's defense secretary—argued that building the shuttle would reaffirm America's superpower status and help restore confidence, at home and abroad, in America's technological genius and will to succeed. This was purely an issue of national prestige.84
The prestige factor belies a critical component. U.S. leaders supported the shuttle not on its merits but on the image it projected. In so doing, the space shuttle that emerged in the early 1970s was essentially a creature of compromise that consisted of three primary elements: a delta-winged orbiter spacecraft with a large crew compartment, a cargo bay 15 by 60 feet in size, and three main engines; two solid rocket boosters; and an external fuel tank housing the liquid hydrogen and oxidizer burned in the main engines. The orbiter and the two solid rocket boosters were reusable. The shuttle was designed to transport approximately 45,000 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, 115 to 250 statute miles above the Earth. It could also accommodate a flight crew of up to 10 persons (although a crew of 7 would be more common) for a basic space mission of 7 days. During a return to Earth, the orbiter was designed so that it had a cross-range maneuvering capability of 1,265 statute miles to meet requirements for liftoff and landing at the same location after only one orbit.85
Many of those design modifications came directly from the Department of Defense; in return for DOD monetary and political support for the project, which might have not been approved otherwise, military astronauts would fly on classified missions in Earth orbit. Most of those missions were for the purpose of deploying reconnaissance satellites.
The national security implications of the space shuttle decision must not be underestimated. Caspar Weinberger was key to the movement of the decision through the White House, and he believed the shuttle had obvious military uses and profound implications for national security. "I thought we could get substantial return" with the program, he said in a 1977 interview, "both from the point of view of national defense, and from the point of view [of] scientific advancement which would have a direct beneficial effect."86 He and others also impressed on the President the shuttle's potential for military missions. John Ehrlichman, Nixon's senior advisor for domestic affairs, even thought it might be useful to capture enemy satellites.87 The Soviets, who built the Buran in the 1980s and flew it without a crew only one time, pursued a shuttle project as a counterbalance to the U.S. program solely because they were convinced that the U.S. shuttle was developed for military purposes. As Russian space watcher James Oberg suggested: "They had actually studied the shuttle plans and figured it was designed for an out-of-plane bombing run over high-value Soviet targets. Brezhnev believed that and in 1976 ordered $10 billion of expenditures. They had the Buran flying within ten years and discovered they couldn't do anything with it."88
After a decade of development, on April 12, 1981, Columbia took off for the first orbital test mission. It was successful, and President Reagan declared the system "operational" in 1982 after only its fourth flight. It would henceforth carry all U.S. Government payloads; military, scientific, and even commercial satellites could all be deployed from its payload bay.89 To prepare for this, in 1979, Air Force Secretary Hans Mark created the Manned Spaceflight Engineer program to "develop expertise in manned spaceflight and apply it to Department of Defense space missions." Between 1979 and 1986, this organization trained 32 Navy and Air Force officers as military astronauts.90
Even so, the shuttle soon proved disappointing. By January 1986, there had been only 24 shuttle flights, although in the 1970s NASA had projected more flights than that each year. Critical analyses agreed that the shuttle had proven to be neither cheap nor reliable, both primary selling points, and that NASA should never have used those arguments in building a political consensus for the program.91 All of these criticisms reached crescendo proportions following the loss of the Challenger during launch on January 28, 1986.92 A result of this was the removal from the shuttle of all commercial and national security payloads and the reinvigoration of the expendable launch vehicle production lines. It became another instance of DOD seeking a military human mission that eventually went awry.
This quest for military astronauts did not end there. In the 1980s, DOD along with NASA began work on a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle for military purposes. If there is a holy grail of spaceflight, it is the desire for reusable SSTO technology—essentially a vehicle that can take off, fly into orbit, perform its mission, and return to Earth, landing like an airplane. This is an exceptionally difficult flight regime with a multitude of challenges relating to propulsion, materials, aerodynamics, and guidance and control. Fueled by the realization that the space shuttle could not deliver on its early expectations, DOD leaders pressed for the development of a hypersonic spaceplane. During the Reagan administration and its associated military buildup, Tony DuPont, head of DuPont Aerospace, offered an unsolicited proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design a hypersonic vehicle powered by a hybrid integrated engine of scramjets and rockets. DARPA program manager Bob Williams liked the idea and funded it as a black program code-named COPPER CANYON between 1983 and 1985. The Reagan administration later unveiled it as the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP), designated the X–30. Reagan called it "a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport and accelerate up to twenty-five times the speed of sound, attaining low Earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours."93
The NASP program initially proposed to build two research craft, at least one of which should achieve orbit by flying in a single stage through the atmosphere at speeds up to Mach 25. The X–30 would use a multicycle engine that shifted from jet to ramjet and to scramjet speeds as the vehicle ascended burning liquid hydrogen fuel with oxygen scooped and frozen from the atmosphere.94 After billions of dollars were spent, NASP never progressed to flight stage. It finally died a merciful death, trapped as it was in bureaucratic politics and seemingly endless technological difficulty, in 1994.95 Thus fell another military astronaut program.
Elements of DOD remain committed to this mission to the present. Throughout the 1990s, a succession of studies argued for the potential of military personnel in space. One 1992 study affirmed:
It is absolutely essential for the well being of today's space forces as well as the future space forces of 2025, that DOD develop manned advanced technology space systems in lieu of or in addition to unmanned systems to effectively utilize military man's compelling and aggressive warfighting abilities to accomplish the critical wartime mission elements of space control and force application. National space policy, military space doctrine and common sense all dictate they should do so if space superiority during future, inevitable conflict with enemy space forces is the paramount objective. Deploying military man in space will provide that space superiority and he will finally become the "center of gravity" of the U.S. space program.96
Another analysis found 37 reasons why military personnel in space would be required in the future, ranging from problem-solving and decisionmaking to manipulation of sensors and other systems. It concluded that "a military space plane could play a key role in helping the United States Air Force transform itself from an air force into an aerospace force."97 Yet another study found: "Our National Security Strategy must take full advantage of the full political, economic, and military power of this nation to be successful. That means soldiers, sailors and airmen able to operate in every region of the world critical to national security, whether it be on land, at sea, in the air, or in space. A strategy built on anything less is incomplete and shortsighted."98 Of course, if Aviation Week and Space Technology is to be believed, DOD not only wished for a military human mission in space but also developed a spaceplane named Blackstar and began flying missions as early as 1990.99
It is obvious the decision made initially by Eisenhower to split the civil and military space programs and to assign the human mission to the civil side has been a bitter pill that remains difficult for DOD to swallow. It represents one instance among many in which a continuum between cooperation and competition has taken place in the interrelationships between the civil and military space programs. It is one of the many policy decisions made in the 1950s that may be overturned in the post– Cold War environment.
The fact that this survey of civil space history in relation to the national security arena has been oriented largely toward human spaceflight does not mean that other areas are insignificant in these interrelations— tracking and recovery, launch complexes and ranges, technology development, and a host of other issues come to mind—but the overwhelming amount of the funding spent on the civil space side has been for human spaceflight. Well over half of the NASA budget since the agency's creation has been expended on the human program, and therefore an emphasis on the part of the civil program appears appropriate. We have seen that there has been a long mating dance between the civil and military space programs over the years, and it appears that in the post–Cold War era, there may be a much closer relationship than was allowed earlier.
In terms of lessons learned, what might spacepower analysts take from this discussion? First, spacepower possesses a major civil space, soft-power component that has been critical in the conduct of foreign policy during the last 50 years. It was a positive development in the winning of the Cold War, and the soft power element of spaceflight must be considered in the context of any policy issue. Second, there is so much overlap between the technology of civil and military spaceflight that it is critical that these two realms be kept as separate as possible. Finally, human spaceflight has long been a province of the civil space program in the United States, but the military has always wanted to become a part of it. There may well come a time when this becomes a reality, but probably not until humans have made their homes in space.
As scientists and entrepreneurs spread into space, military personnel are likely to accompany them. Although the space frontier differs considerably from the American West, one aspect of the military role on the American frontier is worth remembering. For most of the time during the era of expansion, military personnel on the American frontier performed many tasks. They restrained lawless traders, pursued fugitives, ejected squatters, maintained order during peace negotiations, and guarded Indians who came to receive annuities. This was largely peaceful work, with the military catalyzing the processes of economic and social development.
If humans develop a base on the Moon or even an outpost on Mars, the military may perform these duties once more. Remembering the role of the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in opening the American West, military leaders may propose the creation of a U.S. Corps of Space Engineers. The role they could play would be analogous to military activities in Antarctica. The U.S. Navy oversees the American station at McMurdo Sound and, every winter, the U.S. Air Force conducts a resupply airdrop at the South Pole station. Similar arrangements could take place on the Moon. Military personnel could construct and maintain an isolated lunar outpost or a scientific station on the back side of the Moon. By providing support, military personnel would establish a presence in space and help secure national interests. This is a strikingly different perspective than what has been pursued militarily in space to date.