Monday, 28 February 2011

Would it all have been different if Nixon had won in 1960?

I'm doing some work today on my paper for 49th Parallel which builds on my presentation delivered in Oxford last November. That was called 'A New Frontier or just a 240,000 mile cul de sac'. It's still my working title for the printed paper, but I'm  tempted to use a great Kennedy quote instead. 

In a meeting held in December 1962 with NASA Administrator Jim Webb, a gathering of the great and the good from NASA management and also JFK's Budget Director, the President rather flippantly said: "I'm not that interested in space." I think it makes a pretty good title for a piece revisiting Eisenhower and Kennedy's role in US space exploration. 

However, I'd also like to use the piece to put forward a view on whether anything would have been different had Nixon won the Presidential election in 1960. 

While defence and the missile gap loomed large in the 1960 election campaign, I can't find much from Nixon particularly on space policy after his work on the 1958 Space Act. Would he have followed Kennedy's single-minded route to the moon? Would he have taken on Khrushchev over space? Who knows. It's fun to speculate. This morning I've spent some time putting the question to a number of renowned space historians. I will be interested in their views if they choose to come back to me.