21. Letter From the Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Dryden) to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President:

With reference to our conversation at the reception following the dedication of the National Geographic Society’s new building on January 18th, I wish to report the following:

A position paper on possible US–USSR cooperation in lunar exploration is now in the final stages of coordination with the Department of State, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Aeronautics and Space Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency2 and will be forwarded through channels in approximately one week.3 This paper outlines a step-by-step approach to further cooperation and discusses the many aspects to be considered in making specific proposals, a number of which are described and analyzed.

If, in the light of that discussion, you should decide that the US should take the initiative now in the direct presentation of a specific proposal, I suggest that you propose that the US and the USSR cooperate in a joint program of unmanned flight projects to support a manned lunar landing. The effort should begin with the exchange of data already obtained and with joint planning of future flight missions to secure additional data in the following areas:

Micrometeoroid density between the earth and the moon.
Radiation and energetic particles associated with solar activity along trajectories to the moon.
Characteristics of the lunar surface.
Selection of best lunar landing sites.

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While we cannot forecast the Soviet response in advance, and adequate implementation requires a change in the Soviet attitude with respect to disclosure of information with regard to program plans and results, I believe this proposal constitutes a practical step which goes as far as we should prudently go in the light of our own national interests. If such a cooperative project were satisfactorily under way, more advanced proposals could be considered.

In view of the personal interest of Secretary Rusk in this question, I enclose a copy to be forwarded to him, should you so desire. This specific package proposal has not been coordinated with other agencies.

Respectfully yours,

Hugh L. Dryden 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, FG 260. No classification marking.
  2. On November 12, 1963, in NSAM No. 271, President Kennedy directed NASA Administrator James E. Webb to take personal responsibility for the formulation of proposals to explore the possibility of cooperation with the USSR in space. In January 1964, Webb deputized Hugh Dryden to convene an interagency meeting to establish a basis for a report to the new President. (Memorandum from Webb to Charles E. Johnson, December 18, 1963; ibid., National Security File, Charles E. Johnson Files, Cooperation in Space, US–USSR #2, Box 14) NSAM No. 271 is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XXV.
  3. See Document 22.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Dryden signed the original.