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Transcript for the Piece Audio version of Rocketing Ahead

In 1969, humans landed on the moon.

NEIL ARMSTRONG: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

But why? Why did we go?

KENNEDY: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

The answer has a little bit to do with science.

ANNOUNCER: Today a new moon is in the sky.

And a lot to do with politics

REEDY: And what he said was that this could clobber the Republicans and elect Lyndon Johnson as president.

And while – all these years later many question why we went; in some ways, it changed everything.

LESLIE: It certainly blurred the conventional distinctions between what universities do, and what a Defense agency or the government would do.

In this hour: How the Democrats rode Sputnik to the White House

JOHNSON: tonight we’re trying to calculate how long it will take us to catch up with the Soviet satellite.

In a campaign that forever changed science, technology and academia in America. Rocketing Ahead. Coming up after this hour’s news.

From Soundprint and producer Richard Paul, this is Rocketing Ahead.

SPEECH – JFK AT Rice University in Houston, Texas on 12 September 1962.
KENNEDY: But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Why, indeed. Look at anything with the perspective of decades and it can seem inevitable. How often do we ever stop, look the things around us and ask: How did it get that way?

SPEECH – JFK AT Rice University in Houston, Texas on 12 September 1962.
KENNEDY: We choose to go to the moon (applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Is that really the answer – is that why America has spent billions in outer space?

SPEECH – JFK AT Rice University in Houston, Texas on 12 September 1962.
KENNEDY: That challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

What about the rest of it – the need to know what our enemies were up to? The need to stay ahead in an existential battle for nuclear superiority? Isn’t that a part? Isn’t that why we went there? How did we take that next step of deciding to go to the Moon?

SPEECH – JFK AT Rice University in Houston, Texas on 12 September 1962.
KENNEDY: We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

What were the forces – social, political, domestic, international – that shaped our decision to put a man on the Moon? Scientific fact may be fixed, but every student learns that "science reflects its history and is an ongoing, changing enterprise." So while science can change history.

LAUNCH OF SPUTNIK NEWSREEL
(MUSIC) ANNOUNCER: Today a new moon is in the sky. A 23-inch metal sphere place in orbit by a Russian Rocket.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

With just as much force, history can change science.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: The Arctic, which has kept its icy secrets for centuries, is yielding at last to the scientific assaults of man. (Music)
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

So how did we come to where we are today in space? Why did we go to the Moon? Much of what we now see around us began to take shape during the middle of what came to be called "The American Century."

NEWSREEL CLIP
ANNOUNCER: This was more than a routine bombing. It was the funeral pyre of an aggressor nation.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

During the World War Two, science and technology brought horror and devastation. But they also brought the war to its end and ushered in life-altering changes that we take for granted. Things like jet engines, radio-astronomy, radar, satellites and missiles. The US had come through the war virtually untouched. When it was over, American leaders – both policymakers and leaders in business, industry and higher education – were able to pick up whichever of these advances they wished, and do with them whatever they wanted. The decisions they made about what direction American science and technology would take still resound today. They help explain the vast intrusion of politics into modern American science.

NEWS CLIP OF A LYNDON JOHNSON PRESS CONFERENCE
LYNDON JOHNSON: This will be a national hearing instead of a partisan hearing. We want to know why Russia has two satellites already launched while we have not.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

It explains the scrutiny of science by Federal agencies and by Congress.

NEWS CLIP OF A HEARING ON SATELLITES FROM 1959
WITNESS: We would still require the engineers to completely put this material together in order to launch a satellite.
SENATOR: You say that we can do it now. Would you want to say that you would have to discuss our military actualities if we can do it now? Would you want to rephrase your answer?
WITNESS: What I am – particularly, Senator – trying to stay away from it is to disclose the combinations of military missiles that we would you it’s in an attempt of this kind.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

And they help us understand why the bulk of scientists and engineers in the United States do the kinds of work they do.

NEWSREEL
(Music) ANNOUNCER: At Cape Canaveral, an Atlas ICBM takes off the ground in a full range test. The latest for this mightiest in the United States missile arsenal.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Today, of course we see this all as inexorable. In fact it was anything but.

NEWS FILM – EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
EISENHOWER: Good evening my fellow Americans. Three days from now, after half a century, in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

On January 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower said good-bye. If you ask most Americans to name ANYTHING they remember from a presidential farewell address, at best you’ll get two answers. George Washington’s warning against "foreign entanglements" and a line from this speech, where Eisenhower poured out his frustration about forces he said were hijacking the Federal purse.

NEWS FILM – EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
EISENHOWER: We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

In this speech, the president lamented the direction the country was headed when it came to spending money for science and technology. Of science he said,

NEWS FILM – EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
EISENHOWER: A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of the Federal government. Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

University research, the president said, had been removed from its lofty perch and was now a tool of politicians and the defense industry.

NEWS FILM – EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
EISENHOWER: The free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

At the time of this speech, Eisenhower’s vice president had just been defeated. And a Democrat, John F. Kennedy, was headed into the White House. According to American University space historian Howard McCurdy, that’s what this speech was really about.

MCCURDY: We all thought it was a warning about defense contractors. But in fact, I think what it was a bitter response to what had happened to the Republicans.

Over the previous months – from 1957 until the election – the Democrats had pounded Eisenhower – particularly when it came to spending on outer space – and by a narrow margin, driven the Republicans – and the Republican agenda – from power. But we’re starting at the end. Let’s jump back.

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Keep in mind that "science reflects its history." So, according to American University’s Howard McCurdy, it’s important to have a full recollection of the American state of mind during The Eisenhower Years.

MCCURDY: It was a very scary time.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: In Moscow’s trade union house, scene of the secret purge trials of the 30s, the father of Francis W. Powers is present for the elaborately staged spy trial of the U2 pilot. Incommunicado, he is the central figure in a courtroom drama who was Red-written script is intended to indict the policies of the United States.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

MCCURDY: Public opinion polls that suggested that 50% of the American people thought that we would have a nuclear war.

Americans had at first largely embraced the Atomic Bomb. Eight-five percent supported the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And according to Paul Boyer, author of the book "By the Bomb’s Early Light," that attitude continued to prevail at the opening of the Cold War.

BOYER: In November 1951 the Gallup Poll found that 51% of Americans were urging the use of the Atomic bomb in Korea.

But as the 1950s progressed, a creeping dread began to highjack the American psyche.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: At the Yucca Flats proving grounds in Nevada, a plastic balloon carries aloft the largest atom bomb ever to be tested in the United States.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Alan Winkler is a history professor at Miami University in Ohio and author of "Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety About the Atom."

WINKLER: In 1952, after a test called "Mike," which basically carved out a huge, mile-long hole in the bottom of the ocean, people began to realize the hydrogen bomb was something pretty ominous.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: At United Nations headquarters in New York, the General Assembly meets in fateful session. Members of the Soviet delegations sit stony face as the story of Russia’s ruthless suppression of Hungary is spread out for all the world to see.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

What made matters worse, from a US perspective was that these bombs, which had once been ours alone, were now finding their ways into enemy hands.

CIVIL DEFENSE PSA
KARLOFF: This is Boris Karloff. No one can guarantee the survival of every home during a nuclear war. But a strong Civil Defense can save millions of lives.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

On top of all the generalized fear, in the mid-1950s, Howard McCurdy says, the events that had plunged America into World War Two were still fresh in everyone’s mind. Especially the president’s.

MCCURDY: He was a military officer who was raised with a generation of military officers for whom the events of Pearl Harbor had been seared into their consciousness. There was a thought -- much like September 11 to us today -- and that this should never happen again

Eisenhower, he says, would do anything to avoid a sneak attack. The president thought his best bet was to put eyes in the sky. The US had spy planes.

FILM FROM 1955
ANNOUNCER: As the plane gains altitude, the earth becomes a map in color. (music) Each frame is a piece of a gigantic puzzle, reflecting hundreds of square miles of terrain.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

But according to Roger Launius a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, spy planes were risky and controversial.

LAUNIUS: Every time you fly over a foreign nation, you have invaded their air space. And they have the right to bring you down.

At a summit in Geneva with his Soviet counterpart, Eisenhower proposed an idea.

MCCURDY: We will open our skies to your overflights if you will open them to our overflights.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: President Eisenhower renews his Open Sky Plan to prevent surprise attack. With a striking demonstration of aerial photography’s effectiveness.
EISENHOWER: Here, I want to show you a picture. This is a photograph of the North Island Naval air station in San Diego, California. It was taken from an altitude of more than 70,000 feet. But the white lines in the parking strips around the field are clearly discernible from 15 miles up -- 13 miles up.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

MCCURDY: At practically the same time as the Geneva summit, scientists and the National Security Council in the White House were meeting and approving a satellite program for the United States.

The US and the Soviets had agreed that while a spy plane might be considered hostile, that same restriction didn’t apply to something OUTSIDE the atmosphere. Something, Roger Launius says, like a satellite.

LAUNIUS: The key to satellite reconnaissance was that the stricture against overflying a foreign nation did not exist.

MCCURDY: So when he was -- presented his proposal for a satellite launch, it was advantageous to the White House and to the National Security Council members to begin with a scientific satellite rather than to begin with a reconnaissance satellite.

A scientific satellite? Nothing like that existed. If one was made by the government the Soviets could say it was just a weapon in disguise. Who would make it? Under whose auspices? The answer came from the world’s scientists.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: Feeling cold? Perhaps it’s because the Antarctic has been in the news all the year.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

A few years earlier, in 1950, some of the leading lights of America’s scientific community got together at the home of James Van Allen, a top geophysicist. There, they talked about something called I-P-Y, the International Polar Year, that sent expeditions to the North Pole in 1857 and 1858. There was a second I-P-Y 50 years later. The scientists thought that 1957 and 58 would be a good time to do it all again. But this time, Roger Launius says, they’d take the exploration even farther.

LAUNIUS: It’s not just going to be about the poles, let’s make it geophysical. So it became the International Geophysical Year.

I-G-Y, Launius says, would be an exploration of a broad range of science.

LAUNIUS: Things like weather patterns -- how do they work? How is the jetstream operated? What about the magnetosphere that had been theorized as something that existed above the Earth; does it exist? Can we somehow categorize its strength and its capabilities and what all it does and so forth? What about the South Pole? Can we also create bases that may be permanent that are scientific installations in these various places?

From the very beginning it was decided that one goal of I-G-Y would be to put manmade satellites into orbit. Up to this point, according to Robert Smith, a space historian at the University of Alberta in Canada, there were limited means of doing a lot of the atmospheric research that I-G-Y wanted to accomplish.

SMITH: There had been a lot of observations using earlier technologies; the balloons, and even things called "rock-oons" where you have a combination of a rocket and a balloon to try and extend (chuckles) your observation time.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: U.S. Army doctor Major Symons became the highest man in the world by spending a whole day more than 19 miles up in a balloon gondola.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

SMITH: But it was really the satellites that gave you this extended period of observation from above the atmosphere.

NEWSREEL
(music) ANNOUNCER: The giant rockets that will launch earth’s first artificial moon are already in production. As the International Geophysical Year opens.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

President Eisenhower’s need for surveillance dovetailed perfectly with I-G-Y.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: From the forbidding frontier of the Arctic ice cap, at the top of the world, come rare films made by a task force of Army engineers.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The I-G-Y was an international endeavor. Sixty-three countries ended up participating. It was the perfect opportunity to put a civilian, scientific American satellite into orbit.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: The nuclear submarine Spargo probes under the Arctic ice pack to the pole in the wake of her atomic sister ships. Her sail or conning tower pokes through at the North Pole itself -- latitude zero, longitude zero.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Bill Leslie is a professor of the history of science and technology at Johns Hopkins University. He says of I-G-Y

LESLIE: It’s the public face of a lot of science that is being done "in the black," or classified.

He points out that the Pentagon supported the funding of I-G-Y because they saw the military benefit of the science it would achieve.

LESLIE: Much of what was going on was "OK, how do we map the gravitational field of the earth -- not just so we can understand it, but so that we can plot missile trajectories appropriately?" Why do we send up satellites? Well, yes, they are useful for measuring the weather, but they are also useful for plotting our nuclear strategy.

The I-G-Y started in July of 1957. All 63 countries involved were committed to making scientific advances, like putting a satellite into space. So it’s hard to argue that what happened three months later, on October 4th was a complete surprise. We’ll hear about that when we come back. This is Rocketing Ahead from Soundprint and producer Richard Paul. More after a break. Stay with us.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
This is Rocketing Ahead from Soundprint and producer Richard Paul. The International Geophysical Year, I-G-Y, began in July of 1957 with 63 countries pledged to explore the earth’s physical properties through human expeditions and through emerging science. All the participating nations had pledged to put a human satellite into orbit. So, despite what you’ve been told over the years, what happened three months later – this announcement over Radio Moscow on October 4th, 1957 was not a surprise.

RADIO MOSCOW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE BROADCAST
ANNOUNCER: As a result of intensive work by research institutes and designing bureaus, the first artificial earth satellite in the world has now been created.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

There are two different stories of the impact of Sputnik, according to Margaret Weitekamp, a Curator in the Space History division at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

WEITEKAMP: One is the story that many of us have come to know which is: It was a great shock, and I think the shock really comes from the people who were working in the military complex or working in rocketry or working in satellites.

People like Gil Moore who, in 1957 was a graduate student doing I-G-Y-related work at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

MOORE: My wife and I walked out on our front lawn that evening and looked up and we were stunned! by this site going across the sky.

SOUND-BEEPING OF SPUTNIK

MOORE: We thought, "Ewwww. If they can do that, they can throw nuclear devices at anybody they want to anywhere in the world."

But that attitude was not widely shared. The leader of the American satellite effort, UCLA physicist Joseph Kaplan, called Sputnik, "Fantastic." Much of the public felt that way too. According to the Smithsonian’s Margaret Weitekamp, the anthropologist Margaret Mead had a study in the field of high school and college students the night that Sputnik went up.

WEITEKAMP: So they did an emergency telegram to all of their researchers, asking them to get reaction in that first seven days after the Sputnik. Were people afraid? What do people know about the satellite? What did people think the satellite could do?

They found quite a mix.

WEITEKAMP: Some people very fearful, some people very hopeful, some people very excited -- and there was a real mix of how important people thought this was.

MUSIC Sputnik Satellite Girl (Jerry Engler and the Four Ekkos)
(beeping) / Well the fun has just begun / We got Sputnik number one / We fly through outer space / At a rocket-going pace
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

This is Jerry Engler and the Four Ekkos, singing "Sputnik Satellite Girl." Engler wasn’t the only one serenading Sputnik.

WEITEKAMP: You see a lot of songs -- popular music, R&B, swing, rock ‘n roll that adopt the beep, beep, beep into some other lyrics.

There were country songs about Sputnik. Blues songs. Louis Prima put a Sputnik song into his lounge act in Las Vegas.

MUSIC - Beep, Beep (Louis Prima)
My baby’s foolin’ around with a satellite / Now you know that that ain’t right. / My love for her is gonna keep. / ‘Til she comes back and whispers (beep, beep, beep, beep)
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

And it wasn’t just music. Paola Antonelli is a design curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

ANTONELLI: Ashtrays to toasters to even cars were inspired -- if not directly by the Sputnik at least, indirectly, by the zeitgeist that it brought with it.

There was the Sputnik cocktail – two parts vodka, one part sour grapes. The Smithsonian’s Roger Launius says

LAUNIUS: You’ve even got a wrestler in Memphis, Tennessee who changes his first name to Sputnik.

What this says about American reaction to Sputnik is significant. Talk of nuclear annihilation was everywhere. And yet here was a Russian satellite being celebrated, playfully in American society.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: With thousands of cheering kids on hand alerted in advance to expect not Martians, not Russians, but Santa. Traveling by Sputnik.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Paula Antonelli says this has to do with the dual messages in Sputnik’s beep. One frightening/one breathlessly hopeful.

ANTONELLI: The Sputnik, you know what: It was the Soviet Union, it was fearsome. But it was all about advances it was about progress. And therefore, it was safe to celebrate.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: Sputnik, space helmets and Santa. Ah, there’s a jolly Christmas ahead for us all.

President Eisenhower’s reaction was similar to the general public’s, according to American University’s Howard McCurdy.

MCCURDY: Eisenhower was not surprised by the launch of Sputnik. It hit the press on Friday. Eisenhower left on Friday to go to Camp David to play golf.

When he got back on Monday, the President answered some Sputnik questions at a press conference.

NEWSREEL
EISENHOWER: Our scientists assure me that we are well ahead of the Soviets. We intend to stay ahead.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

A few weeks later, when he had another press conference, Roger Launius says

LAUNIUS: Nobody even asked about it anymore.

But that was about to change.

NEWS CLIP – LYNDON JOHNSON
JOHNSON: The information already available to us indicates very clearly that our present target dates are entirely too modest. They are not adequate to meet the needs of this nation
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The strategy to get America concerned and excited about Sputnik evolved through typical Washington back channels. An aide to Senator Lyndon Johnson named George Reedy, got a visit from a friend, named Charles Bruton. Here’s Boston University historian Bruce Shulman.

SHULMAN: Charles Bruton had been an assistant to Alabama Senator Lister Hill who had seen the federal spending and economic development as a way out of the South’s problems. And Bruton passed a memo to George Reedy, one of LBJ’s closest aides.

Reedy talked about the impact of Sputnik in a NASA video in 1999, just before he died.

REEDY: He came down to see me, and what he said was that this could clobber the Republicans and elect Lyndon Johnson as president. Well, I told him that Lyndon Johnson was not interested in running for the presidency. He said that was all right with him. He would settle for clobbering the Republicans.

Reedy sat up most of the night composing a memo to Johnson on how to exploit the Sputnik issue. As Bruce Shulman says

SHULMAN: They understood that this was going to be big.

REEDY: This could be one of the great dividing lines in American and world history, the whole history of humanity.

Republicans and Democrats had been battling over the best way to address the Soviet threat. Eisenhower preferred nuclear deterrence – Mutually Assured Destruction. According to Meena Bose, a scholar of the American presidency at Hofstra University, the Democrats leaned on a strategy called "Flexible Response" that called for a range of options. She says Democrats argued …

BOSE: That the Eisenhower administration -- by cutting defense expenditures, relying more on nuclear deterrence and less on conventional forces -- had made the United States more vulnerable.

Reedy told Johnson that the Democrat’s key to success was to pound away at Sputnik and support more money for space science. The Smithsonian’s Roger Launius says, Johnson picked up the ball and ran with it.

LAUNIUS: It is impossible to underestimate the importance of Lyndon Johnson in all of this. Nobody was more significant than him.

NEWS CLIP
JOHNSON: We are lagging in both of the satellites and missile field. But there is no reason to believe that we cannot catch up if we have the will to win and if we just pitch in and get going.

In 1957, Johnson WAS about to begin an aggressive pursuit of the White House, despite what George Reedy told his friend Bruton.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: The only major threat to Kennedy’s hopes among the declared candidates is Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon Johnson.

CROSS FADE TO

NEWS CLIP OF JOHNSON CAMPAIGNING
JOHNSON: I think I can agree with everything that every candidate has said except that conclusion they all draw that they ought to be nominated. (audience laughs)
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

As a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Johnson used Sputnik as a campaign issue against the Republicans. He said the Russian launch proved that the US had squandered its lead in the Cold War. Meanwhile, President Eisenhower continued to believe that a Space Race with the Soviets would be expensive and counter-productive.

EISENHOWER: I don’t think we should pay one cent for defense more than we have too. But I do say is our ‘fense, our defense is not only strong, it is awesome, and it is respected elsewhere.

But Eisenhower didn’t press the point and he didn’t bring it up that much in public. According to Roger Launius, Eisenhower didn’t see what his political enemies were plotting Eisenhower, he says,

LAUNIUS: Had a tin ear when it came to how this could be used against him.

NEWSREEL
EISENHOWER: Our nation has today and has had for some years, enough power in its strategic, retaliatory forces to bring near annihilation to the war-making capabilities of any country.

TV NEWS CLIP
JOHNSON: It is not very reassuring to be told that next year we’ll put a better satellite into the air. Perhaps it will even have chrome trim, automatic windshield wipers.

Why didn’t Eisenhower push back more effectively? According to Hofstra University’s Meena Bose

BOSE: He didn’t see that as an issue that really had to be addressed. He knew from secret U2 flights over the Soviet Union that in fact the United States was far ahead of the Soviet Union in missile development and technologies.

Contrary to what Johnson and the Democrats were saying, throughout the 1950s, the US was involved in extensive defense-related activity high above the atmosphere.

NEWSREEL
(music) ANNOUNCER: Final adjustments are made on the Atlas carrier and its payload, the 5000 pound experimental Midas.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The US had spent billions on rockets and missiles and was geared up to spend more. German scientists, who’d surrendered to America after World War Two had brought their advanced rocket technology with them and were now putting it to work on the American side in the Cold War. Konrad Dannenberg was the last surviving member of that German team before he died in 2009.

DANNENBERG: Colonel Toftoy had shipped over to this country 106 of the V-2’s. So the first thing we did in this country in the White Sands area was to build a test stand. And I am still amazed; in a matter of just a few months, they could build – under wartime conditions – a test stand.

And American University’s Howard McCurdy says the defense department was working on putting humans on top of those rockets, in a project called "Man In Space Soonest."

MCCURDY: The Air Force was ready to undertake a crash program to put humans in orbit. And they picked an astronaut corps and Neil Armstrong along with a number of notable test pilots of that era was in that particular astronaut corps.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: President Eisenhower reassures the nation that Russia’s success with the first satellite does not indicate a serious lag in American rocket research.
EISENHOWER: Our satellite program has never been conducted as a race with other nations. Rather, it has been carefully scheduled as part of the scientific work of the International Geophysical Year.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

In a way, Eisenhower HAD to keep quiet. He didn’t want to tip off the Soviets about what he knew and how he knew it. But Meena Bose, who’s written a book about the way Eisenhower communicated, says there’s more to it than that.

BOSE: He had a very limited view of how a president should use public communications. He really didn’t see that as a tool for what presidential scholars would call "building political capital."

NEWS CLIP
EISENHOWER: I don’t take it very kindly the implied ah, accusation that I’m dealing with uhm, the whole manner defense on a partisan basis.

BOSE: I don’t think that it is that Eisenhower was unable to do this, it was that he didn’t really see that it was necessary.

And for a while in 1957, the President held steady. But American University’s Howard McCurdy says, world events were about to push things over to Johnson’s advantage.

MCCURDY: You have to distinguish between Sputnik-1 and Sputnik-2. Sputnik-2 was launched with a dog and a payload which if it had been translated into a warhead, was capable of delivering a warhead of sufficient magnitude to cause considerable damage to the United States.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: Earth’s first real space pioneer was a dog. A Russian Husky called "Laika."
CROSS FADE TO
NEWS CLIP – JOHNSON SPEECH
JOHNSON: It took the Soviets 4 years to catch up with the Atomic Bomb. It took the Soviets 9 months to catch up with the Hydrogen bomb. And now, tonight we’re trying to calculate how long it will take us to catch up with the Soviet satellite.
CROSS FADE TO
NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: America’s first attempt to launch a satellite, a 6 and a half inch sphere weighing just over 3 lbs. was checked out by scientists and declared ready.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Sputnik-2 would not be the end of America’s problems. A month later, on December 6th, with a national television audience watching, the Navy finally prepared to put Project Vanguard into space.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: What happened is already unhappy history. Another set-back for the United States in the race into outer space. Here are official defense Department films of the launching of the 72 foot missile.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The Vanguard missile exploded on the launch pad.

LAUNIUS: It looks like the Soviets can do no wrong and the Americans can do nothing right in space.

At that point, the Democrats ratcheted up the pressure. Here’s former Johnson aide, George Reedy.

REEDY: What Senator Russell did was to authorize Johnson to use the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee to hold some hearings into this whole question and start gathering people that could be useful.

NEWS CLIP – JOHNSON’S SATELLITE HEARINGS
JOHNSON: One of the witnesses on yesterday compared the present situation to the challenge that faced America after Pearl Harbor. In some respects I think that it is an even greater challenge.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

As often happens in Washington, interest groups coalesced around the two sides of this argument. On Eisenhower’s side, the Smithsonian’s Margaret Weitekamp says, you had fiscal conservatives like Defense Secretary "Engine" Charlie Wilson.

WEITEKAMP: And one of the things he worried about was that exploration into human spaceflight would really look, "like Buck Rogers nonsense."

The groups on other side, Roger Launius says, were numerous. One were space enthusiasts who believe space flight is mankind’s destiny.

LAUNIUS: A person like Werner Von Braun was clearly in this latter camp.

TV CLIP
ANNOUNCER: Here to reveal a plan for a trip around the moon is the chief of the guided missile development at the United States Army is at Redstone Arsenal, Dr. Warner von Braun.
WON BRAUN: A voyage around the moon must be made in two phases.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Von Braun was the leader of the Army’s team of German rocket scientists. Their advances in missile technology fired the imaginations of Americans and made space travel seem less and less like science fiction. An idea Von Braun was happy to promote in any venue; speaking here to military officers.

FILM – VON BRAUN TALKING ABOUT SPACE STATIONS
VON BRAUN: A rocket ship taking off from the Earth’s surface will keep circling the Earth in an orbit outside of the atmosphere.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

And here in a TV show produced by Walt Disney.

NEWSREEL CLIP – VON BRAUN DISCUSSES A SPACE STATION
VON BRAUN: On the right of this picture, you see a large wheel-shaped space station.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

LAUNIUS: A third group are the people who are in the aerospace industry who certainly viewed this as an opportunity that they hadn’t had before.

Then there were also university-based scientists who, according to Bill Leslie, professor of the history of science and technology at Johns Hopkins University, had been receiving millions in Federal funding during the Second World War. Money for space, he says

LESLIE: Looked very attractive because the space program was gearing up just at the time when some of those defense contracts were starting to level off.

These groups came together over Johnson’s hearings. Many testified, others wrote op-eds, magazine articles; made television appearances and warned of the dangers posed by Soviet control of space.

NEWS CLIP – TESTIMONY FROM JOHNSON’S HEARING
WITNESS: If Russia wins the dominance of this completely new area, well I think the consequences are fairly plain. Probable Soviet world domination.

While the politicians involved in the space debate had their agenda, many scientists did too. While there were scientists who thought manned space flight was too dangerous, others pushed strongly for a human space-flight project. On a massive scale … a project that today would fall under the rubric of what we call "Big Science." Robert Smith, a space historian at the University of Alberta in Canada explains.

SMITH: The term "Big Science" is usually meant to include extremely large-scale projects that engage armies of scientists and engineers. If you are talking about the paradigmatic kinds of Big Science, then we would be looking at research around a very large accelerator, perhaps. Or an enormous telescope.

At the time of Sputnik, America had just come off its first foray into Big Science, the Manhattan Project.

SMITH: After World War II, that became something of a model for people to look at and so for example, you start to see discussions of now for example, A War On Cancer. How do you tackle it? Well, maybe we employ these kinds of methods that we have seen employed -- say -- with the atomic bomb project.

Now, scientists were proposing a Manhattan Project for Space.

NEWS CLIP
LYNDON JOHNSON: I would like to hear testimony on that before deciding that we should have a Manhattan Project.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

While often making significant scientific advances, an important point of Big Science projects is – in fact – their bigness and the technological and scientific prowess it conveys. After Sputnik-2 and the Vanguard explosion, America – including the defense and intelligence establishments – feared the nation would be seen as 2nd best around the world. They saw that the Russians were willing to pay anything to maintain a propaganda edge.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: There have been grumblings in Russia about the cost of the space program. But that is forgotten today as tens of thousands pour into Red Square.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

There was a deliberate search for large-scale science and engineering projects that could gain America prestige on the international stage. The CIA even came up with one to drill through the earth’s crust. This push for Big Science had ramifications that still reverberate 50 years later. We’ll hear about that and about a scientific discovery that scrambled our understanding of humankind’s place in the universe when we come back. This is Rocketing Ahead from Soundprint and producer Richard Paul.
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This is Rocketing Ahead. From Soundprint and producer Richard Paul.

NEWS CLIP
LYNDON JOHNSON: Today, outer space is free. No nation holds a concession there. It must remain this way.
CROSS FADE TO
NEWS CLIP
EISENHOWER: What the world needs today even more than a giant leap into outer space is a giant step toward peace.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Through the 1950s, politicians continued to fight over whether or not the US should make a full-scale, manned push into outer space. The scientific and academic communities joined the fight. All these years later, we can see impact of that decision. Universities aligned themselves with Federal Big Science projects, and when they did, they fundamentally altered the nature and the mission of the university in America. That’s according to Bill Leslie, a professor of the history of science and technology at Johns Hopkins University.

LESLIE: It certainly blurred the conventional distinctions between what universities do, which is supposed to be the pursuit of higher knowledge and what a Defense agency or the government would do, which is very applied missions.

So , Leslie says, it wasn’t uncommon at a place like MIT for a student thesis to be on the design of a missile.

LESLIE: That talent went into that missile instead of into something else. And so that kind of opportunity cost is very real.

After World War Two, Big Science projects, funded by the government became more and more the norm.

LESLIE: The government has long been the largest single funder of university research (up inflection). That was true certainly in the 1940s, 1950s. After the war, it’s really three agencies -- it is the Department of Defense, it is the National Institutes of Health, and increasingly -- after its creation -- NASA.

He says all this Federal money washing around changed the nature of science education in America.

LESLIE: If you put all of your high-tech energy into military R&D, you are going to get very, very high performance, very expensive equipment.

At the same time that Cold War competition and the Pentagon’s efforts to put Americans in space were changing the university in America, the space race was also altering the nation’s education at the elementary and secondary level. Here’s the Smithsonian’s Roger Launius.

LAUNIUS: In 1958, the passage of the National Defense Education Act, which established a federal program to provide resources to train scientists and engineers as well as teaching kids in grammar and high school about science and math.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: A delightful summer outing to the zoo, with human youngsters meeting animal youngster. What could be more pleasant? And what could spoil quicker than the words back-to-school.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The N-D-E-A, as it’s called, came after Sputnik and many people believe it came about because of Sputnik. Carl Kaestle (KAY sull) is a Professor of Education, History and Public Policy at Brown University and the leading authority on the history of the N-D-E-A. Kaestle says, the push to change American schools – to take them back to basics and to focus more on math and science – was well underway when Sputnik went up.

KAESTLE: It was coming on the scene when progressive education was just all out of "oomph," didn’t have much social guts to it; was called "Life Adjustment Education" and there had already been a great deal of criticism of it in the early 1950s, long before Sputnik.

LIFE ADJUSTMENT EDUCATION MOVIE
ANNOUNCER: How are your teeth? Have you thought of them lately? Well, that’s what we want to talk about. About your teeth.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

KAESTLE: 1945 -- that was the heyday of this "Life Adjustment Education" stuff. So to the critics, there was just too darn much of ho- to-write-a-business-letter, what-it-means-to-go-to-the-dentist, and how-about-your-first-date?

LIFE ADJUSTMENT EDUCATION MOVIE
(Music) ANNOUNCER: This is a story about what to do on a date. It begins one early summer afternoon. It begins with Jeff and Kay and Nick.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

KAESTLE: That is the stereotype that the critics were making. They were saying, "No hard math, no hard physics." And the Soviet Union was a convenient kind of whip to lash people with.

MOVIE FROM THE 1950s ABOUT SCIENCE EDUCATION
FATHER: What courses are you taking next year?
SON: Oh, my schedule is already made up. In the ninth grade, you have to take mathematics, and English and history.
FATHER: No science?
SON: Well, I had my choice of taking general science this year or next. But I put it off a year.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

KAESTLE: The Commissioner Of Education was a guy named Lawrence Derthick, and he went to the Soviet Union in ‘57 and came back with somewhat alarmed reports that the Soviets are out to beat us and they make no bones about it and they are really doing terrific schooling.

But Kaestle says that what the Soviets were good at wasn’t schooling per se, but instead

KAESTLE: Identifying talents and then spending a lot of effort on that minority of kids to make them into a technical elite. They got Sputnik out by focusing on a small percentage who were very, very talented.

Cold War fear had injected itself into a debate that had been going on since the late 1930s. Back then, wise heads in the science world like James Conant, a chemist and the president of Harvard were calling for a return to basics, so that we could compete with the Germans, who – we were told – were beating us at science. Now it was the Russians. There were new kinds of learning that came out of N-D-E-A. Not all of them good for kids.

TOM LEHRER SINGING
You can’t take three from two, / Two is less than three, / So you look at the four in the tens place. / Now that’s really four tens, / So you make it three tens, / Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones,
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

That’s Tom Lehrer singing about the most infamous outgrowth of N-D-E-A. "New Math." Bob Drake is a professor of education at the University of Cincinnati.

DRAKE: University mathematicians had complained literally for 100 years at least – that students coming out of public schools had very little understanding of the mathematics they had learned, and the original New Math movement was to correct that problem.

New Math was actually part of a larger outgrowth of N-D-E-A that included New Physics and New Chemistry according to education historian David Tyack.

TYACK: It had to do with the Cold War. So what do we do? We hire scientists, physicists and chemists and biologists to come in and remake the curriculum.

Unfortunately, in the case of math, they turned to the wrong people to do the job.

TOM LEHRER (singing):
And so you have thirteen tens, / And you take away seven, / And that leaves five... / Well, six actually. / But the idea is the important thing. /(AUDIENCE LAUGHS)
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The New Math curriculum was designed not by educators, but by mathematicians. People who knew virtually nothing about the way kids process information. Scores of American young people wasted years mastering a type of math that was gone by the time they got to high school. The overall effect of N-D-E-A, according to historian Carl Kaestle

KAESTLE: It was pushing for math and science to be more primary and essential than English and social studies -- whether you like that or not.

TOM LEHRER (singing):
Hooray for new math, / New-hoo-hoo-math, / It won’t do you a bit of good to review math. / It’s so simple, / So very simple, / That only a child can do it!

Throughout this period, America continued to try to get into space. Vanguard had been a Navy program. After the explosion, the task of putting up an American satellite was moved over to the Army.

ARMY FILM ABOUT THE EXPLORER LAUNCH
ANNOUNCER: At Huntsville Alabama. A sudden meeting has been called by General John P. Medaris.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

Werner Von Braun’s team of Germans, now working out of the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, had been given 90 days to put America in orbit.

ARMY FILM ABOUT THE EXPLORER LAUNCH
ANNOUNCER: The decision was passed down -- modify the Redstone ballistic missile, the Army’s most powerful weapons carrier, over a 200 mile range.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

George Ludwick was a graduate student, doing I-G-Y work for geophysicist James Van Allen. They were at the University of Iowa, building the satellite for the Vanguard Program. When the decision was made to move the satellite work to J-P-L, Ludwick says,

LUDWICK: I collected all of the hardware that I had -- the plans, my notebooks, plus my family, my wife and two children -- into our car and drove out to Pasadena, California where I worked at the JPL and helped convert our instrument -- put it in final shape for launch on the Army vehicle.

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: At Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Army’s Jupiter-C rocket is readied for America’s second attempt to launch a space satellite.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

The von Braun team got the job done. And America had a satellite aloft..

NEWSREEL
ANNOUNCER: Some three minutes later, Explorer is in orbit, broadcasting to the world its coded scientific data.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

LUDWICK: The experiment was originally designed to look at the cosmic rays. Instead, when it got into space, we found something that we didn’t understand at all initially.

Explorer had a Geiger counter on board that started giving the scientists readings that were off the charts. Gil Moore was another I-G-Y grad student at the time.

MOORE: So they got the expected rise in concentration of cosmic radiation up to maybe 1000 miles and then, "What the heck!?" Van Allen and his guys could not figure out what the heck was happening. They thought their equipment was malfunctioning.

What had happened, they learned later was a new phenomenon in space science.

MOORE: They all sat around and said, "Oh Ho-ho. By golly, I think maybe we have encountered a new phenomenon (chuckles) here instead of an equipment failure."

It would be called The Van Allen Radiation Belts and it changed forever mankind’s approach to space exploration.

MOORE: The discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts was an incredibly important scientific event. We discovered that the sun has explosions that occur rather routinely during an 11 year sunspot cycle. And a lot of the radiation coming from the sun gets trapped in the region which is now commonly known as the Van Allen Radiation Belt Region.

MCCURDY: This of course was a terrible shock to science fiction fans.

American University’s Howard McCurdy.

MCCURDY: Most of the proposals for things like space stations had anticipated that we would not use low Earth orbit, but that we would be using these orbits that were about 1000 miles out.

FILM OF VON BRAUN TALKING ABOUT SPACE STATIONS
VON BRAUN: To facilitate this refueling operation, we will establish an advance base in orbit, 1000 miles above the earth.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

MCCURDY: The discovery of the Van Allen Radiation Belts was the first touch of reality in the fantasies of space exploration advocates because of they had viewed outer space as being an essentially benign environment -- like scuba diving.

FILM OF VON BRAUN TALKING ABOUT SPACE STATIONS
VON BRAUN: Our space satellite will have the shape of a wheel. Measuring 200 feet across. This outside rim will contain living and working quarters for a crew of 50 men.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

MOORE: We didn’t realize that there would be a region of space that was so heavily charged with energetic particles, that we would not be able to stay there. We didn’t realize this would be quite a hazard to spaceflight.

MCCURDY: Here is the first bucket of cold water that gets thrown in the face of everybody.

MOORE: And if you’re in the middle of those, you just can’t stay.

MCCURDY: They are susceptible to radiation poisoning. If there is a solar maximum during any of these voyages, the astronauts have to be shielded or they will get the equivalent of a radiation burn. It creates this barrier if you will which is safe to quickly pass through, but you clearly wouldn’t want to live there.

FILM OF VON BRAUN TALKING ABOUT SPACE STATIONS
VON BRAUN: The entire wheel will slowly rotate at three revolutions per minute. The resulting centrifical force will produce an artificial gravity for the men in the rim.
FADE AND LEAVE UNDER

MOORE: We knew immediately that shielding would be necessary in order to operate in those regions.

MCCURDY: One answer is lead. But since you are trying to keep the mass of the capsule down, that is impractical.

A lead-lined rocket just couldn’t lift off. As rocket pioneer Konrad Dannenberg explains.

DANNENBERG: To generate the large thrust that you need to make the rocket take off -- that was a very demanding area. You have a big problem with heat transfer. Your rocket combustion temperature is much higher than the melting temperature of steel. So even if you build your rocket from steel, it has a tendency to melt through and to have a big hole in your rocket engine.

When we ask about the true, lasting legacy of Sputnik this is it. In the light of history, THIS is the take-away. The grand, scientific discovery, the Van Allen Radiation Belts are the capstone. Now that America had a significant, space-science achievement under its belt, Roger Launius says the coalition around Senator Johnson called for more – more focus on science and more money for science.

LAUNIUS: Some people were proposing that you should create a Department Of Space. Another wanted a Cabinet post that was a Department Of Science.

The pressure forced Eisenhower to make large and important structural changes to the United States government. Eisenhower created an Office of Presidential Science Advisor.

LAUNIUS: And that was an important step because it now had -- for the first time -- inside the White House a person who really spoke for science and technology.

The president also created the Advanced Research Project Agency or ARPA. Which in 1972 became DARPA, the agency that created the Internet. He also streamlined the space components of the Defense Department, largely by creating the most visible legacy of the Sputnik launch, NASA.

NASA FILM -- INTRODUCING THE MERCURY PROGRAM
(music) ANNOUNCER: Project Mercury -- the country’s first manned spaceflight program -- was given the go-ahead just one week after NASA was formed on October 1, 1958.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

To give you a sense of the proportion of these changes, Roger Launius points out

LAUNIUS: Those reorganizations are only dwarfed by the changes in the aftermath of 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

NEWS FILM – EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
EISENHOWER: Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

So this is what President Eisenhower was complaining about in his "Military/Industrial Complex" speech. Of course, the president who followed him had another agenda. Beating the Russians to the Moon and – if possible – continuing to clobber the Republicans.

CLIP – KENNEDY SPEECH
KENNEDY: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
FADE & LEAVE UNDER

The programs he advocated took us to the moon, which at the time – in the middle of the Cold War – seemed much more important than it does today. Fifty years out we ask: Would the nation be better off if we’d spent that money on something else? Say, mass transit or alternative fuels or urban redesign? Maybe. Science, as we said is an ongoing, changing enterprise. Perhaps its for the future to know whether history will change today’s science and; if it does, whether that science will change history.

MUSIC UP AND OUT

CREDITS
Rocketing Ahead was written, produced and narrated by Richard Paul. It was edited by Moira Rankin. We would like to thank David Krasnow at Studio 360 and Bill Buzenberg. Steven Dick and Colin Freeze at the NASA history office and Christina Rodriguez at the Lyndon Johnson Library. This program is part of the "Out of This World" project. More information is on the web at Out Of This World Science dot org.

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