Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20, 1963 – Kennedy Proposes His Joint Moon Mission

In an address to the United Nations, US President John F. Kennedy presented the idea of a joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union saying,

“Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity - in the field of space - there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?”

After the speech, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko said that the notion was a “good sign” and presented it to USSR Premier Krushchev. He had backed the Russian space program in its early days, beating out the United States by launching the first satellite, putting the first man in space, and being the first to orbit Earth. Krushchev saw no need for a joint mission; it was merely the American capitalists seeing the expense of going to the moon and looking to place the burden upon the working class.

The political climate soon changed dramatically. Kennedy was killed only months later in Dallas, Texas, while Krushchev was muscled out of office and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev worked to increase Soviet influence, especially by expanding the Soviet military, and the new US president Lyndon Johnson redoubled his predecessor's efforts on the space race. The worst days of the Vietnam War came in 1968 just as an aide, while looking for documents pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement, came across Kennedy's outline for a political dealing with Russia for a joint mission. LBJ set upon it as a solution to the war.

Presented in a combination of backroom and public deals, the Soviet Union would act as mediator between the North Vietnamese / Chinese and South Vietnamese / American forces, separating Vietnam as they had Korea. By February, peace talks had begun as well as cooperative training programs between NASA and the Soviet space program. The war was proclaimed ended by September of 1968, giving plenty of time for LBJ to shift praise toward his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, who would ride the success to beat Republican Richard Nixon in the November election.

The next year, Apollo 11 carried astronaut Neil Armstrong and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov to the moon. Reportedly, the two flipped had a coin to see who would be the first to set foot on the extraterrestrial surface, and Armstrong won. The two planted their respective nations' flags beside one another along with a flag for the United Nations. Eight lunar missions would follow.

Through the 1970s, increasing international cooperation would improve the effectiveness of study in space as the International Space Station (also known as Alpha, Eden, and Mir) grew in orbit. The Space Shuttle program revolutionized launch in the 1980s, but, by the late 1990s, space programs had become stagnant. The Russian Federation remained an important part of space, but domestic and economic issues weakened its position. In 2001, the decommissioned Alpha, pockmarked with micrometeors and burdened with ancient technology, would be de-orbited and burn up over the Pacific.

The new space station, Beta (with nicknames such as Eagle and Freedom), began construction with increasing Chinese influence as the world's most populous nation came into the forefront of international politics. By 2010, suggestions that humanity returns to the moon have been embraced, perhaps using it as a stepping-stone for a mission to Mars. Projections place a potential landing in 2027, though each year they are modified to match budgetary issues.

In reality, Kennedy's proposal for a cooperative moon-landing was met with, at best, skepticism. The Space Race was the champion of American progressive ideals, finally beating the Soviet Union to the moon in 1969. International cooperation would gradually blossom with the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, connecting spacecraft hatches in orbit. The International Space Station would begin construction in 1998.

1 comment:

  1. we revisit this idea from a different angle in 13th August, 1969 - Red Square Parade for Apollo 11 Heroes in which we imagine that Apollo 11 had saved a manned Luna 15 mission.


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