382. Action Memorandum From the Director of the Office of International Scientific Affairs (Rollefson) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Meeting of the National Aeronautics and Space Council to be held at 2:30 p.m. July 17 in Room 274 of the Executive Office Building

Vice President Johnson, the Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, is convening a meeting of the Space Council, the purpose of which is to explore the status and progress of coordination in space activities. More specifically, coordination between NASA and DOD in project Gemini and in the establishment of space stations will be discussed.

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On January 22 the DOD and NASA announced that agreement had been reached between the two agencies under which the DOD would 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 in a period of up to two weeks. The Gemini program, in part, will prepare for the Apollo lunar missions which will land US astronauts on the moon.

The NASA-DOD agreement is intended to assure the most effective utilization of Project Gemini and to provide for Air Force participation in what was originally conceived by NASA to be a purely civilian project.

Under the terms of the agreement NASA will continue to be responsible for the management of the Gemini project but coordination will be effected through a Program Planning Board composed of representatives from NASA and the DOD.

While it is understood that Secretary McNamara and Mr. Webb are in general agreement with regard to the degree of Air Force and NASA participation in the project, it is understood that lower echelons in NASA and in the Air Force are still dissatisfied with the extent of each other’s detailed participation. The purpose of the meeting is to attempt to clarify these issues.

The Department, at the request of NASA, recently negotiated the extension of the Mercury tracking agreements for use in the Gemini program with the U.K., Spain, Nigeria and Mexico. Negotiations with respect to the extension of the Mercury agreement with Zanzibar are continuing. In obtaining renewal of the agreements with Mexico, Spain and Nigeria the Department, with the concurrence of NASA and DOD, agreed that acceptance of the agreement by the other governments was based on the understanding that the tracking stations would be used only in experiments of a strictly scientific and technical character without military objectives. The U.S. would notify those countries in advance of Gemini flights which would have objectives other than those stated above if the stations were to be used. It is highly doubtful that these countries would permit the use of the tracking stations for Gemini flights if the military role in the flight were significant.

Deputy Under Secretary U. Alexis Johnson is familiar with the DOD-NASA Gemini agreement and the problems it could raise with respect to U.S. tracking stations operated abroad. Under the circumstances it would appear appropriate that Mr. Johnson represent you at the meeting of the Space Council on July 17.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960–63, SP 10 US. Limited Official Use.
  2. A handwritten note below the last paragraph reads: “Mr. Johnson concurs.” Rusk approved the recommendation on July 13.