39. Letter From the Acting Director of the Office of International Scientific and Technological Affairs (Pollack) to the Assistant Administrator for International Affairs, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Frutkin)1

Dear Mr. Frutkin:

The following reaffirms our agreed understanding as to the guidelines which govern the joint NASA-State, pre-Webb commission advance team which will visit Bonn and other capitals in Europe during the next two weeks to engage in discussions on possibilities for joint exploration of space.2

As you will recall President Johnson, in his meeting with Chancellor Erhard on December 20, 1965, in a toast, made the following proposal concerning space cooperation:

“Only last summer, our two governments worked out an agreement whereby we would launch a German-built satellite to probe the inner radiation belts.

Now, we would like to discuss with you—and with others—an even more ambitious plan to permit us to do together what we cannot do so well alone. Examples would be two projects which stand high on the space agenda. Both are very demanding and both are quite complex. One would be a probe to the sun, and another a probe to Jupiter. To cooperate on such a major endeavor would contribute vastly to our mutual knowledge and to our mutual skills.

So, I propose, early in the year, to send a commission—headed by our able Administrator of NASA, James Webb—to consult with you and other governments of Europe wishing to participate in a joint exploration of space.”

The communiqué following German Chancellor Erhard’s visit to the President in December, 1965, contained the following offer of cooperation in space:

“The President and the Chancellor voiced mutual satisfaction at the arrangements worked out, and already successfully under way, between the United States Space Agency and the German Ministry of Scientific Research for a joint project to launch a German-built satellite to probe the inner radiation belts. The President suggested several other possible cooperative projects, including a probe to the sun and a probe to Jupiter. He also indicated his intention to send a commission [Page 82] to Europe early in 1966 to consult with the German Government and other European Governments which wish to join in the cooperative exploration of space.”3

The President’s proposal and the team’s mission are to be represented as an American response to the frequently-stated European desire for greater participation in the development of space technology. The President is desirous of accommodating this desire and has therefore suggested certain opportunities which may be taken up by the European nations if they are, in fact, sufficiently interested.

These opportunities can and should be formulated in terms consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives and NASA’s cooperative program. This means that the United States is willing to cooperate in identifiable, essentially non-duplicating, advanced projects of mutual interest in the mainstream of space exploration. The significant difference is that the examples cited by the President in his suggestion to Chancellor Erhard make clear his readiness to consider cooperative projects of considerably greater magnitude and more far-reaching technological implications than anything proposed heretofore.

The President’s specific suggestions of Jupiter or solar probes are to be understood only as examples indicating (a) the extent to which the United States is prepared to go in cooperation with European nations, and (b) types of projects which can afford a wide exercise in space technology. The precise levels of cost and difficulty which Europe may be prepared to face are entirely for Europe to decide. It is possible to modify the division of responsibilities in such advanced projects so that certain spacecraft elements would be contributed by the U.S. to lighten the load on Europe. It is also possible to define useful projects of lesser cost and difficulty which yet can contribute toward the advanced projects suggested by the President. NASA is prepared to discuss projects at either the advanced or intermediate levels and to hear from interested European authorities ideas of their own which are subject to formulation within the existing guidelines.

While Europe must determine its own interest in these prospects, and the United States does not mean to pursue the matter in the absence of such interest, we are nevertheless prepared to explain our own concept of the values, in the near and distant term, which we attach to our own heavy investment in space technology. We are prepared to do this in the thought that our own experience and our own expectations may be of some use to European authorities in determining where their best interests lie. (These values are to be stated in terms of the contribution major advanced technological exercises can make to the [Page 83] partnership of government, university, and industry, to the development of critical management capabilities, to economic security, and to common political objectives of institution-building and western cohesion.)

Discussion of the foregoing benefits should establish a basis for pointing out the possible growth implications of a successful collaboration of the kind envisaged by the President. Collaboration in space technology in associating its technical capability with other technology in the future could lead to the development of other broader, political economic and technical interests.

Reverting to the specific project formulations which are possible, the President’s suggestion is premised on the following conceptual framework. It is possible to define spacecraft whose development would afford a very wide exercise in space technology and whose use would fit into on-going space exploration programs. The European community might undertake responsibility for the preparation of such spacecraft while the U.S. would undertake their launching and, to the extent required, tracking and data acquisition. Tracking and data acquisition by ESRO or its members to the extent they can meet the requirement is not precluded. European recourse to American experience and competence would be available essentially through two channels: (a) a joint working group at the project level, and (b) commercial ties which may arise between European and American firms, with export arrangements facilitated by the United States. Effective precedents and patterns for the functioning of both channels are well established.

The conceptual framework should serve (a) to accommodate most alternative project proposals which may be suggested either by NASA or the Europeans, and (b) to direct discussion toward spacecraft responsibilities for Europe rather than delivery vehicle-related responsibilities.

The U.S. preference is that any cooperative undertaking should be multilateral in character while allowing scope for West German leadership. (Expanded bilateral cooperation with European countries can go forward as appropriate.) Indeed, German initiative may be useful in motivating the participation of other countries.4 The utilization of ESRO in such a multilateral undertaking is considered to have political and technical advantages. Even if all members of ESRO would not [Page 84] wish to participate, it remains desirable to explore the use of ESRO as a mechanism for those members who are more positive. An ESRO/NASA memorandum of understanding confirmed by exchanges of notes among all the participating governments, would be a suitable format for agreement. In a major sense, however, the choice of mechanism for implementation would have to be made by the participating European governments.

The team should keep in mind that policy considerations make it desirable for the Japanese to have a full opportunity to cooperate in a comparable space venture. Therefore, as appropriate, the team should explore European interest in the possible association of Japan with whatever undertaking they initiate.

The team should attempt to determine, in appropriate ways, the reaction of the governments contacted, their notions of their future courses of action, and the next suitable steps, including the timing of a visit by Mr. Webb and the commission.5

In addition, I urge that every consideration possible be given to requests for visits, beyond the presently planned itinerary, to other countries which may desire a visit by the team.

I wish you and your colleagues every success in this mission which is both scientifically and politically important.

Sincerely yours,

For the Secretary of State: Herman Pollack 6
  1. Source: Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383. Confidential. Drafted by Trevanion H.E. Nesbitt (SCI) on February 8 and cleared by Leroy F. Percival (EUR/RPE) in draft.
  2. During February 14–25 a NASA-State Department advance team visited Bonn, London, The Hague, Paris, and Rome.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 36.
  4. As Humphrey wrote: “I think it especially important that our new program with the German Federal Republic, which might well set a pattern for other programs of peaceful Atlantic cooperation, should be undertaken on a multilateral basis. I should think our German friends would not only agree, but would welcome this opportunity for positive and constructive leadership within Europe.” (Letters from Humphrey to Webb and to John Leddy, both January 10; both Minnesota Historical Society, Papers of Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice Presidential Files, Outer Space General Files, 1964–April 1967)
  5. The team concluded that no firm decision could be taken before mid-April, after talks with British and French officials and tentative meetings of ESRO and ELDO. (Memorandum from Frutkin to Webb, March 22; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Historical Reference Collection, Files of the Office of International Affairs) NASA officials continued to monitor European opinion, according to a memorandum from Frutkin to Webb, April 4. (Ibid.)
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Pollack signed the original.