378. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to All Posts1


  • NASA-DOD Project Gemini Agreement


The recently concluded agreement between the DOD and NASA provides for certain participation in the NASA Project Gemini and as a [Page 859] consequence may pose certain questions. The following background and talking points are for the Missions’ information and use in answering questions about the agreement.

On January 22 the Department of Defense and NASA announced that an agreement has been reached between the two agencies under which the Department of Defense will participate in the Gemini Program. Gemini, a two-man follow-up of the single-man Mercury manned space flight program is an experimental program to advance the technology of manned space flight, including rendezvous and docking, and to study the effect of weightlessness for a period of up to two weeks. This NASA-DOD agreement is intended to assure the most effective utilization of Project Gemini. It supplements the NASA-USAF management agreement that has been in effect since the spring of 1962 and which, among other things, provided space vehicle development support, Air Force assistance in contingency recovery of capsules, use of Air Force tracking facilities and the provision of logistic support. Under this new agreement, the Department of Defense will assist in the development, pilot training, pre-flight checkout, launch operations and flight operations of the Gemini Program so as to meet both DOD and NASA objectives. (Enclosure)2

Under the terms of the new agreement, NASA will continue to be responsible for managing the Gemini Project. A Gemini Program Planning Board has been established under the co-chairmanship of Dr. Robert Seamans, Associate Administrator for NASA and the Honorable Brockway McMillan, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development. Other Board Members are Mr. Brainerd Holmes, Deputy Associate Administrator (for Manned Space Flight Centers), NASA, Admiral W.F. Boone, USN (Ret), Deputy Associate Administrator (for Defense Affairs), NASA, Lt. General B.A. Schriever, USAF, Commander, Air Force Systems Command, and Dr. Lawrence Kavanau, Special Assistant (Space) to the Director, Defense Research and Engineering. The Board will report jointly to the Administrator of NASA and to the Secretary of Defense. The Board will insure that the Gemini Program is planned, executed and utilized in the over-all national interest in accordance with policy direction of the Administrator of NASA and the Secretary of Defense, so as to avoid duplication of effort in the field of manned space flight.

FYI. As specified in the agreement, the US will utilize the Gemini for the acquisition of scientific and engineering data which, while of potential interest to our national security, has not been permitted to justify the establishment of a parallel program under military direction. End FYI.

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The public announcement of the conclusion of this agreement may pose certain questions regarding international relations generally and in particular, the retention of certain foreign support which will be required for Mercury, Gemini, and other space projects. Department, NASA and Defense unaware extent foreign press coverage given to foregoing agreement and whether unwarranted conclusions reached concerning nature DOD participation in program. Misimpressions that Gemini Program now being converted to military objectives could be particularly undesirable at present time when extension of manned flight tracking station agreements under urgent renegotiation.

Embassies should not take initiative at this time to discuss USAF participation in program, but should be guided by following points in responding any questions which may be raised:

Gemini objectives remain unchanged. Project is experimental program to advance technology of manned space flight, including rendezvous and docking, and to study effect weightlessness for periods up to two weeks.
As is well known, DOD has in past supported manned flight program through provision of test pilots as astronauts, astronaut recovery operations, boosters, availability of launch sites, and tracking by down-range instrumentation stations. The new agreement provides additional support.
Participation of DOD (which is, of course, civilian controlled) will not alter peaceful scientific and engineering character of Gemini program in future any more than in past.
NASA continues responsible for management Gemini Project, including planning for and operation of NASA tracking stations.
As in the case of the Mercury program, scientific data received from Gemini program will be made available to the world scientific community through customary channels.
The total U.S. space effort seeks to exploit to the fullest extent possible the national resources of the U.S. without duplication by individual agencies. The planned cooperation by NASA and DOD on Project Gemini is designed to accomplish this end.

Missions now engaged negotiations extension Mercury tracking station agreements will receive supplemental instructions.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960–63, SP 10 US/GEMINI. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Trevanion H.E. Nesbitt; cleared by Under Secretary McGhee and Rollie H. White (M), William L.S. Williams (ARA), Hanson (USIA), Deputy Under Secretary Johnson (G), Richard Friedman (EUR), Guy A. Lee (NEA), Richard E. Usher (FE), Dana Orwick (G/PM), Arnold W. Frutkin (NASA), Eric E. Oulashin (AF), George Moffitt (UNP), Francis W. Herron (P), Laurence L. Kavanau, and Colonel John (DOD); and approved by Edwin M.J. Kretzmann (SCI).
  2. Not printed.