[FPSPACE] Sambaluk on David, 'Spies and Shuttles: NASA's Secret Relationships with the DOD and CIA'

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
Tue Apr 7 02:01:35 EDT 2015


  This provides background information on why there was at one stage a Russian fear or claim that the shuttle would or could "bomb" Moscow. Not true, but something covert going on in the background.  -  Keith

>>> On 2015/04/07 at 02:15 AM, in message <604229990.27941991.1428365700906.JavaMail.zimbra at comcast.net>, <jameseoberg at comcast.net> wrote:


 Sambaluk on David, 'Spies and Shuttles: NASA's Secret Relationships with the DOD and CIA'

James E. David.  Spies and Shuttles: NASA's Secret Relationships with
the DOD and CIA.  Gainesville  University Press of Florida, 2015.
370 pp.  $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8130-4999-1.

Reviewed by Nicholas Sambaluk (Purdue University and the United
States Military Academy)
Published on H-War (April, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

James E. David's _Spies and Shuttles _traces a crucial yet typically
underacknowledged aspect of the history of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA): its connection and interactions with
the Department of Defense (DOD) and the other national security and
intelligence entities during the Cold War. The irony and significance
of David's findings hinge on the fact that NASA was established a
year after the Soviet satellites with the explicit purpose of
conducting civilian space activity in the open and keeping it
unclassified, in order to draw a contrast against the Soviet program,
which intimately connected its security efforts with the rest of its
projects.

Even before NASA's establishment, its aviation-oriented predecessor
had been complicit in the making of a cover story that aimed to
protect the U-2 spy plane as a weather research vehicle. NASA
officials' attempts to use intelligence requirements as a means of
leveraging greater funds in the 1960s floundered because
budget-shaping figures in Congress and the White House already had
access to NASA's information as well as that of the intelligence
agencies.

As David demonstrates, NASA's autonomy even during its heyday in the
1960s was overshadowed to a considerable extent by the strictures
imposed by the intelligence community and by the need to fend off
intermittent encroachments by DOD. As the country contemplated a
lunar venture, Defense Secretary McNamara unsuccessfully proposed
that NASA retain lunar efforts but cede crewed Earth-orbit missions
to DOD. Where intelligence entities deemed that NASA's use of secret
but existing cutting-edge cameras or sensors might disclose US
intelligence-gathering capabilities, or reveal information about the
United States, they convened to require the civilian space
administration to use equipment of lesser capability. The
relationship was not entirely one way, as later on NASA's Hubble
telescope was in many ways possible because of shared technology, and
intelligence organizations relented to allow specialized cameras to
do crucial work supporting the selection of Apollo moon landing
sites.

The quest to secure a substantial space program after Apollo was
"lengthy and frustrating," and David relates this (p. 188). NASA's
ambitious wish list winnowed to the development of a reusable shuttle
expected to make frequent trips into space and provide a cheaper
satellite-delivery capacity than existed with one-time use expendable
launch vehicles. The shuttle would also offer the chance to repair or
upgrade friendly satellites in orbit. The shuttle project survived
the budget knives of the 1970s to a considerable degree because it
promised economy of scale. NASA won allies in its fight for the
shuttle by literally reshaping the vehicle to fit the anticipated
needs of DOD and the intelligence community.

The shuttle era, David indicates, marks a betrayal of NASA's "guiding
principles" because of its agreement to undertake missions on behalf
of DOD and "repeatedly carry classified payloads and conduct
classified experiments, employ secure command and control procedures,
and withhold extensive information from the public" (p. 217). A large
proportion of slated missions were to be dedicated to putting
classified DOD payloads into orbit. NACA and then NASA had
begrudgingly acquiesced in the concealment of Central Intelligence
Agency reconnaissance activities, but up until the 1980s NASA had not
been conducting entire space missions at the behest of DOD and
without informing the public of a mission's purpose.

The shuttle's fate was sealed for many reasons. It underperformed
relative to the lift capabilities originally promised, the turnaround
time between missions was far greater than estimated, and security
entities that had encouraged the building of a fifth orbiter never
committed money to its construction and instead began backing away
from the shuttle as it underperformed. This disengagement accelerated
following the accidental destruction of _Challenger_ in February 1986
and the extended delay before the next shuttle mission in 1988.

David's work provides a valuable window into the workings of NASA and
the impact that defense and intelligence efforts have on civilian
science. One natural upshot of David's topic is that he encountered
repeated instances of documents remaining classified. This was, as he
acknowledges, a formidable obstacle from the 1970s through the end of
the period he examines. Although David mentions some recent
activities including the 2010 launch of the unmanned Air Force X-37
that had been a cooperative effort with NASA, the focus is definitely
on the Cold War era. Defining the project in these terms makes
natural sense, particularly given the increasing problem of
classification as the study approaches the modern day. It is an
excellent book: descriptive, informative, and engaging. The topic,
unfamiliar to many readers, still means that a reader who already
holds some awareness of NASA history will feel more at home than a
reader unfamiliar with NASA's general history. _Spies and Shuttles
_is a must read for those interested in space history, Cold War
security issues, and twentieth-century science and technology.

Citation: Nicholas Sambaluk. Review of David, James E., _Spies and
Shuttles: NASA's Secret Relationships with the DOD and CIA_. H-War,
H-Net Reviews. April, 2015.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=43197

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.

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