…happened forty-three years ago today. In an excerpt from the book I’m working on:
…sadly for the enthusiasts, as already noted, it wasn’t really about space. As even the supposedly visionary Kennedy told his NASA administrator, James Webb, a few months before his assassination in 1963, “I don’t care that much about space.” It was about national prestige, not space per se – space was just the venue in which the competition was to be fought. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, it’s not clear that the Apollo program would have continued, or at least no more than it was under Lyndon Johnson who, under pressure from the Congress with the rising costs in blood and treasure from Vietnam, and the Great Society (and riots in Newark, Watts and Detroit, and other inner cities), actually ordered the end of production of new hardware in 1967, two years before the first landing. In fact, it was likely only the perceived martyrdom of the president who started the program that allowed it to go on as long as it did.
Beyond that, the space race was viewed as so expensive that many in the government (particularly those of a socialistic bent in the State Department) wanted to end it permanently, and in a sense they did, by signing and ratifying the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, which banned claims of national sovereignty off planet. Absent claims of national sovereignty, private off-planet property claims became, if not impossible, problematic. This had the intended effect of significantly reducing the incentive for nations to race to other worlds, including the moon. It also dramatically reduced the incentive for private enterprise to invest its own resources in doing so, even if there were some way of getting a return on the investment, by creating uncertainty in the legality of extraterrestrial property and real estate.
Alan Wasser is trying to do something about that. This is the sort of thing a Congress truly interested in conservative space policy would do, instead of keeping the pork flowing.