32. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

Department of State Responses to Questions Raised by the Vice President after the Meeting of the National Aeronautics and Space Council on April 13, 1965 2

1. What have overseas public opinion polls shown regarding the relative standing of the United States and the Soviet Union in space activities? Have you any suggestions for improving this standing?

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The latest world-wide opinion survey conducted by USIA early in 1964 in nineteen countries and major cities indicated that, by large margins, the public abroad believes that the USSR is ahead of the U.S. in space activities and, perhaps by association, in nuclear strength and general scientific development. Only in Ankara was there a majority favoring U.S. superiority. Opinions were close in West Germany, Austria, Manila and Bangkok.

In the U.K. measurements of public opinion have been taken frequently over a considerable period of time so as to reflect the variations caused by specific space events. A nationwide public opinion survey taken in the U.K. following the Ranger VII moon shot in July, 1964 showed an improvement in the relative U.S. position. Later, however, on the heels of the Soviet orbiting of the three-man VOSKHOD–1 in October, 1964 British public opinion favored a Soviet lead in space by nearly four to one. The most recent survey, conducted immediately following the Soviet VOSKHOD–2 flight and the U.S. Gemini manned flight in March of this year, suggests that this sequence of space events benefited the Soviets.3

In the short term (between now and 1970) we must anticipate that the Soviets will succeed in confronting us with additional space “coups” and that the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution (1967) will likely see special efforts in this regard. During this period we should attempt to anticipate these Soviet events with a view to softening their impact—particularly any public misreading or exaggeration of military implications—and maximizing the impact of our own successes.

An improvement in the image abroad of our space program relative to that of the Soviets requires first and foremost successful completion of the space flight programs to which the U.S. is already committed publicly. From the reactions abroad thus far it is quite clear that there can be no substitute for successful flight programs.

In addition, such an improvement will require an enlarged public relations program and extension of the NASA international cooperative program.

Thus far our public relations program has been modest. Although such a program cannot substitute for successful space accomplishments, it can emphasize the openness, breadth and purposes of our space program. It should be possible at a reasonable additional expenditure to expand our public relations program through more [Page 71] active NASA participation in events abroad such as the Paris Air Show, extension of the NASA exhibits and spacemobile programs sponsored abroad by the USIA, expansion of the NASA lecture program sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and carefully arranged appearances abroad of U.S. astronauts.
An active and expanding cooperative program, in addition to serving useful operations and foreign relations purposes, increases foreign identification with our space program and acquires for us the advantages of favorable foreign publicity whose credibility and effect may considerably outweigh our own.
Obviously neither of these programs should be expanded at the expense of U.S. flight programs to which we are already committed publicly.

[Here follow questions 2–7. The questions were: 2) What should be done to enhance international cooperation with friendly countries in the space effort?; 3) What, if anything, should be done to increase cooperation with the Soviet Union in the space effort?; 4) What have West European space organizations, such as ESRO and ELDO, done to increase cooperation with the United States?; 5) What has the United States policy been regarding the release of information about our space program and about the Soviet space activities? What should be done to improve or clarify this policy?; 6) How effective have NASA exhibits been in increasing understanding of our space program abroad? What are the plans for improving this part of the program?; and 7) What should be done to improve foreign understanding of the nature of our military space proposals?]

8. What space programs should be emphasized in our current planning so that the United States does attain and maintain a world leadership position in the future?

Our paramount concern is for the successful completion of the programs to which we are publicly committed. In addition, from the viewpoint of U.S. foreign policy objectives in the long run, it appears essential that we maintain an effort in advanced research and development sufficient to enable us to take advantage of important opportunities in the future which will be beyond the present state of the art and may affect our national security and international posture. This would appear to be particularly true in the case of those advanced technologies required for space propulsion and interplanetary missions in the period following the initial manned exploration of the moon and unmanned exploration of the nearby planets. It is also important that we take advantage of all significant opportunities to extend the development and use of practical applications of space technology which can engage the effective participation of other countries and from which other [Page 72] countries can derive direct benefit, e.g.: communications satellites, meteorological satellites and broadcast satellites.

Bearing in mind the requirements of our national security and our international posture, it is in these latter areas (advanced capabilities and maximum early development of practical applications) that we urge the members of the Space Council to give particular consideration to the long-range aspects of the space program.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SP 1 US. Confidential.
  2. A State Department record of the NASC discussion is in a memorandum from Pollack to Secretary Rusk, April 14. (Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 152, SP 1 NASC 1965) Another perspective on the meeting is in an April 14 memorandum for the files by Humphrey’s aide Norman Sherman. (Minnesota Historical Society, Papers of Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice Presidential Files, Outer Space General Files, 1964–April 1967) In a separate memorandum for the files dated the same day, Sherman reported on a clash between the Vice President and NASA Chief James Webb: “The Vice President had indicated that we should make the maximum propaganda use of our space activities. He felt that many things could be done which were not being done to involve the interest of peoples around the world. He cited Latin America as one area particularly where more could be done. Webb objected rather strenuously to some aspects of what the Vice President had to say. It was my judgment that Webb responded not to the details of what was offered but to other factors. He indicated that no President had ever told him to use the space program in a propaganda way. The Vice President clearly responded that this was not his intent. It was only after something was done that we should maximize its international impact.” (Ibid.)
  3. In a March 19 memorandum for Rusk reporting on VOSKHOD II, Pollack wrote: “This Soviet flight, clearly well in advance of our own program, underlines our growing concern as to the relative impact abroad of U.S. and Soviet space activities over the next few years.” (Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 152, SP 11, Research and Development, USSR, 1965)