John F Kennedy and the Term Paper

  • Length: 15 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: American History
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #70132838

Excerpt from Term Paper :

" The spectacular effect achieved by the Russians therefore had a significant effect upon the minds of citizens around the globe (Dick, March 24).

The financial and political implications of the Apollo program became significant once the president made the decision to commit the United States to a Lunar landing. It was important to the president to set a goal that his country had a good chance of achieving before the Soviet Union. After a definite decision for the launch of the project was made, further important issues of politics and financing became deciding factors in the growth and development of the program.

The decision proved to be sound if the reaction of the nation could be used as a measure of effectiveness. The American imagination was captured, and they lent overwhelming support for Kennedy's decision to sponsor the moon landing. In the eyes of the nation, difficulty, expense and complication were minor issues in the light of the grand achievement that it promised to be.

In terms of the political issues mentioned above, the Apollo program and intended moon landing were so ambitious that it effectively dealt with most of the problems faced by the administration during the time. If they were successful, the Soviet leadership in space and technology would be effectively rivaled, and any other embarrassing political decisions, such as the Bay of Pigs would vanish into the background. Indeed, the presidential commitment to the program was sufficiently dramatic to once again place the United States at the forefront of the space race. Interestingly, this was accomplished by no more than announcing the president's intention to commit to the program. Nothing practical had been accomplished to back the commitment. Yet the size of the program was sufficient to impress the nation's imagination in symbolic terms, and Kennedy effectively refocused the spotlight of the world upon the United States (Dick, Oct 22).

The timing is also significant. In 1961, neither the United States or the Soviet Union had nearly the technological or scientific capacity to carry out a moon landing. This was in fact so far beyond the ability of either country that the early success of the Soviet Union's space endeavor could in no way predetermine whether they would be able to rival the American in a project of such scale. The United States therefore had a reasonable, or even a strong chance of success. The public mood, as seen above, was therefore one of excited optimism and complete support.

The concomitance of political and public support for the program provided NASA with the drive and resources necessary to launch the project on a very large scale.

Additional programs were also created for further scientific and technological support and research that could be used prior to and after the moon landing. From the beginning, the program was therefore conducted on an integrated basis (Dick, Oct 22).

This integration also occurred on the public scale: in addition to international prestige, the technological group assigned to the Apollo program proposed a national effort that would incorporate not only scientific, but also commercial components. In this, the positive mood of the nation could then be used to full effect to encourage continued support for the Apollo. In retrospect then, it is easy to see how Kennedy, despite his initial misgivings, had little other choice than to announce his commitment to the program. The overwhelming confluence of people, institutions and interests moved the administration inevitably towards the decision and its culmination. Once the decision had been made, financial and technical issues, along with the promised time scale, needed particular and close attention.

After the Decision: Financial and Scheduling Issues

According to a 1962 schedule drawn up by Brainerd Holmes, the Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, the first human Apollo launch was set to take place during March 1965. Several more launches were set for the ensuing years until 1968, with the first piloted Lunar landing set for the latter half of 1967. This, according to the schedule, was the earliest possible date at which such an attempt could be made.

The human factor was however not far behind in complicating many of the issues surrounding the Apollo program. Holmes and James Webb for example experienced significant strain in their relations, starting in the summer of 1962. Dick (Oct 22) regards this problem as one of professional pride. Holmes had for example been labeled in the media as the "Apollo czar," while Webb received no such recognition. This strain was exacerbated by the feature of a Holmes photograph on the cover of Time magazine during August 1962. On a personal level, this made for difficulties in professional performance.

Another issue that ran concomitantly with personal and scheduling issues was the financial issue. Kennedy's full acceptance of the Apollo program means that he also had to make a commitment in terms of resources. Holmes was therefore obliged to approach Webb for supplemental funding to ensure that the schedule was met on a timely basis. This funding amounted to $400 million, which was not in the Fiscal Year 1962 budget shortfall (Garber, 2002).

Holmes approached the issue from several angles, but was rejected by Webb on several occasions. Holmes retaliated by complaining to the media and Congress, whereafter he approached President Kennedy directly, thereby undermining Webb's authority, further straining the relationship (Garber, 2002).

Webb however, on 29 October 1962, also approached Kennedy via a letter (Webb, 1962) concerning a modification to the budget so that the Lunar landing program could be revised to occur six months and twelve months earlier than scheduled. Both were however large sums of money and required revisions to the existing budget and an appeal to Congress for additional funding. Kennedy reacted to this by requiring a review of the national space effort. The culmination of the review was a report concluding that Apollo required $16.4 billion in total to succeed, and in addition also addressed the issue of project acceleration.

Holmes and Webb continued to experience personal conflict. According to Garber (2002), Holmes publicly complained about Webb's effect on the space program. Holmes however apologized to Kennedy, presumably for one of his comments during these complaints. President Kennedy reacted to the conflict and budget issues by calling a meeting for the purpose of being briefed on his options regarding the program. Both Homes and Webb were present.

In terms of the budget, the issue of the extra requirement of $400 million was discussed, together with options of accelerating the program. A specific requirement for the approval of this amount was an assertion by the president that it was in the interest of national security. The outcome of the meeting was that Apollo received a national security designation during April 1962, according to which the program had top priority for attention and material. This indicates the political importance of the program for Kennedy. It was however also politically important to ensure that the Apollo program did not adversely affect other programs of high national security importance. Other issues still to discuss was the acceleration of the program and the increase of the budget (Garber, 2002).

The acceleration of the program was a very important issue, especially in terms of other essential NASA programs. According to Webb, an important concern was the significance of these other programs to ensure the success of Apollo. Accelerating Apollo itself could decrease its chances of success, as the other programs were designed to provide research data for Apollo. Without sufficient data, it would be nearly impossible to accurately determine the success of Apollo on the basis of much more than guess work.

On this issue, Kennedy and Webb experienced a serious disagreement during the meeting. Webb, as mentioned above, was concerned about the technical and scientific necessity of key programs at NASA for the success of the Apollo mission. Programs such as the Centaur upper stage and the Surveyor would for example be neglected if Apollo received priority attention above all else. Webb's second concern was his own negotiating position in the face of a clear statement from the president regarding the priority of Apollo. If the president were to clearly state the priority of Apollo above other programs, Webb feared that this might be to the detriment of his position (Garber, 2002).

Specifically, the key programs mentioned above were not formally part of the Apollo program. Webb nonetheless believed that their timely completion was crucial to the success of Apollo. Centaur for example was created with the purpose of robotic probes into space, its relevance to the Apollo program lay in its use of liquid hydrogen for a propulsion fuel. Webb felt that the knowledge gained from the use of this fuel was vital to the Apollo program. According to Garber (2002), this was an accurate assessment, as benefits were indeed gained from observing Centaur's use of these fuels.

Webb furthermore addressed the issue of scientific programs in the same vein. Ranger and Surveyor were two programs that Webb deemed…

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