61. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council (Welsh) to Vice President Humphrey1


  • U.S.-USSR Space Cooperation

1. Policy. It has been and continues to be the policy of the U.S. to seek areas of mutually beneficial cooperation with the USSR in space activities. This policy practice is based on the assumption that such cooperation would improve relations between the two nations and [Page 117] might introduce some economy either by joint projects or through coordinated avoidance of unnecessary duplication of effort.

2. Record. The history of this country’s attempts to develop useful cooperation with the USSR in space includes the following:

Beginning in 1955 in the planning for the International Geophysical Year, efforts were made to arrange for wide exchange of space data. Soviet participants opposed all but the most general and non-obligatory agreements.
In 1959, an offer by the U.S. to assist in tracking Soviet manned flights was not accepted.
In 1962, after an exchange of correspondence between President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev and after the John Glenn flight, Khrushchev expressed the view that it would be good if the two nations could pool their efforts in space.
Later in 1962, an agreement between Dr. Dryden and Academician Blagonravov provided for (1) coordinated launchings and exchange of meteorological data; (2) coordinated launchings and exchange of data for a map of the Earth’s magnetic field; and (3) joint communications tests using the U.S. Echo II satellite. In 1965, a second agreement was arrived at, for the preparation and publication of a joint U.S.-USSR review of space biology and medicine.
Soviet performance in even these limited projects has been disappointing. Better than nothing is the best that can be said.
Both President Kennedy and President Johnson have urged space cooperation between the U.S. and the USSR. U.S. invitations to the USSR to join Intelsat have had no effect. Invitations to view our launches have not been accepted by the Soviets. Offers to assist the Soviets on tracking of space shots have not been favorably received.
In reporting on Soviet-U.S. cooperation in space, October 2, 1967,NASA told the Congress as follows:

“We regret that the Soviets have not been prepared to move more rapidly and more broadly to cooperate in space. We would welcome meaningful cooperation in projects of mutual interest and have set no arbitrary limits of any kind. We do not propose to stop trying, but it seems apparent that significant cooperation depends upon the Soviet Union effecting very substantial changes in its attitudes.”

3. Dr. Sedov’s Statements. Sedov made several statements in a press conference at the International Astronautical Federation meetings in Belgrade recently which were interpreted here in the United States as indicating that the USSR favored space cooperation with the United States. It is NASA’s view that Sedov’s statements were misinterpreted. First of all, the meeting was not a governmental meeting and none of Sedov’s comments committed his Government either as to policy or [Page 118] as to plan. In NASA’s view, there is no basis for encouragement from the reports on Sedov’s remarks. The State Department also has analyzed these statements and seems to feel that prospects regarding USSR cooperation are remote and that such cooperation would have to be based on a new international climate. Disagreement with the war in Vietnam seems to be a major stumbling block.

It is recalled that Sedov has made statements vaguely suggestive of cooperation practically every year at the International Astronautical Federation meetings. I attach no significant weight to the reports on Sedov’s remarks and believe that they were carried primarily by the New York Times because they fitted so well with that newspaper’s editorial policy.

4. Recommendations. In spite of this gloomy picture regarding Soviet cooperation, it seems reasonable that we should continue to try not only because it might assist in the space program, but also because it might have broader international impact. Consequently, the following is suggested:

We should explore further the possibility of joint use of the Soviet Molniya communications satellite system along with the Intelsat system.
U.S. and USSR experts should review what specific steps might be taken to implement the recently concluded Space Treaty. This could deal with assistance to astronauts in distress, coordinated tracking and data acquisition, etc.
Arrangements should be attempted for effective rescue in the case of space emergencies. This should include some interface between hardware and life support systems so that such cooperation could be realistic.
Since Article X in the Space Treaty provides for equality of opportunity to observe the flight of space objects, it would be well to attempt mutuality of observations. This would call for the development of common frequencies for tracking and data readouts, etc.

The above-listed are just some of the possible approaches which might be made. This is not to indicate that NASA has failed to explore these various avenues, but rather is simply a recommendation that we not be discouraged with the small amount of progress made in past attempts.

E.C. Welsh
  1. Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Papers of Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice Presidential Files, 1965–68, 150.F.10.1 (B). A cover memorandum attached to the source text reads: “October 9, 1966. To: The Vice President. You indicated in your meeting with several of my staff members and also in memoranda to me that you were interested in an additional study on the subject of international cooperation, particularly with the USSR. I have prepared the attached, as a brief staff study on this subject. This may prompt you to make additional recommendations as to how you think the matter should best be pursued. E.C. Welsh.”