229. Letter From the Acting Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Paine) to President Nixon1 2

Dear Mr. President:

This is a brief status report on our current efforts and immediate plans to find new ways to increase international participation in space programs in the favorable atmosphere generated by Apollo 11.


On August 11 I met with Professor Hermann Bondi, Director-General of the ten-nation European Space Research Organization (ESRO), briefed him fully on U.S. post-Apollo thinking, and urged him to begin serious consideration of new approaches to achieve more substantial European participation in the manned and unmanned exploration and utilization of major space systems in the 1970’s and 1980’s. European thinking with respect to space activity has been relatively restricted heretofore;ESRO’s current annual budget is slightly over $50 million and the European Launch Development Organization budget is slightly over $90 million. In addition, individual national efforts total some $160 million, for a total European space effort of something in excess of $300 million.

Professor Bondi agreed that a series of presentations should be made by top NASA personnel to senior space officials in Europe within the next few months to raise their sights to more advanced projects of greater mutual value.

To initiate these presentations and to conduct more direct and private discussions with officials in the best position to respond positively, I plan a short visit to Europe, probably some-time in October. I plan to brief senior (government) officials of the European Space Conference on future U.S. programs and the concrete opportunities they will offer for rewarding participation. I will also talk with Ministers of Science in the three [Page 2] principal countries but especially with Minister Stoltenberg in West Germany, which is probably in the best position to consider substantial new participation. While we cannot achieve immediate commitments of a major character from these first discussions, we do hope to gain early agreement to an arrangement which could involve the Europeans ever more closely with us and place the benefits of participation constantly in their view. To this end, I plan to propose to the leading European space agencies that they associate their top space experts with us in phased program studies which we will be undertaking for important post-Apollo missions. The knowledge and interest which we jointly develop should then open the door to more substantial participation in specific projects which flow out of these studies, and which would be suitable for European involvement. We would intend also to direct European attention to the opportunities which would then develop to associate their own astronauts with us in future programs in the context of substantive joint contributions to space exploration and application. This could generate greater public interest and support abroad for participation with the United States in this venture.
Professor Bondi’s mission to the U.S. was to obtain information needed to decide whether the European Launch Development Organization should continue the costly development of an already-outmoded medium launch vehicle, duplicating those we have had for years, or should halt this work and rely on reimbursable launch services from NASA. Europeans have heretofore feared that the U.S. would not provide launchings for regional communications satellites, which has motivated them toward small independent efforts rather than major joint ventures along the lines we will be proposing. A forthcoming response to Dr. Bondi has now been obtained from the Department of State and will, we hope, remove a long-standing negative element in the environment and facilitate our discussions looking to more significant cooperation. If Europe should now decide to abandon its trouble-plagued and obsolescent launch vehicle program in favor of purchasing U.S. launchings, European funds would be freed for more constructive cooperative purposes, a modest additional dollar market created for our vehicles and launch services.
Among other promising near-term prospects for significant cooperation with Europe are a prototype North Atlantic Air Traffic Control and Navigation Satellite Program, and a Synchronous Meteorological Satellite Program. NASA would develop the former in partnership with ESRO to meet requirements defined by the Department [Page 3] of Transportation (FAA) and its European counterparts. The latter would be developed with the French Space Commission as a contribution to the Global Atmospheric Research Program. We are pursuing both these prospects energetically.
We have recently significantly extended our data exchange arrangements with ESRO to the point where they now constitute, we believe, the most extensive and sophisticated international data system in existence. ESRO uses NASA computer software systems and formats to collect the European technical literature and feed it into their own and into NASA’s computer banks making possible a totally integrated space publication and search system. ESRO has also introduced the NASA Recon (Remote Control) System to Europe. An international on-line computerized aerospace information network is thus enabling researchers at a number of scattered locations in Europe and in the U.S. to retrieve from the NASA-ESRO data bank in “real-time,” scientific and technical information for immediate use. This is the first international system of its kind and is being studied both in Europe and in this country as a model for similar systems.
NASA welcomes and will participate enthusiastically in the review called for by Dr. Kissinger to consider U.S. policies on space and other technology exports. This is a timely opportunity to clear away unnecessary restrictions which could seriously obstruct the increased international activity which you have called for.
With regard to potential cooperation with the Soviet Union, I have recently written top Soviet space authorities offering to discuss carrying Soviet scientists’ experiments on future NASA planetary probes. I am now inviting Soviet scientists to attend a preparatory briefing next month for scientists from many other countries on our Viking Mars mission with a view to discussing possible participation in that mission and the achievement of some measure of coordination between U.S. and Soviet planetary programs. Whether the Apollo 11 success will moderate past Soviet negativism in this area is not yet clear.
Japan, Australia, and Canada are the principal remaining areas whose potential for greater participation will be carefully explored. I believe NASA has contributed to a reasonable formulation of the new agreement with Japan to facilitate that country’s purchase of certain space technology here, and we will play a role in providing for the implementation of that agreement. Under your recent directive, we will provide Canada launch services for her planned communications satellite system; this action has clearly [Page 4] improved relationships in this area, and we are already discussing with Canadian officials their active interest in passible participation in our advanced earth resources technology and satellite series. I discussed yesterday With our new Ambassador to Australia the great services that have been rendered through Australian operation of our large tracking and data acquisition complex there and our strong interest in further participation. I expect to visit these three countries at the earliest opportunity after the European talks in order to develop new opportunities for greater international cooperation in those quarters.

I will, of course, report to you the results of my forthcoming visit to Europe immediately upon my return.

Respectfully yours,

T. O. Paine
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 392, Subject Files, Space Programs, Foreign Cooperation. No classification marking. Also printed as Document I-14 in John M. Logsdon with Dwayne A. Day and Roger D. Launius (eds.), Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Vol. II, External Relations (Washington, D.C.: NASA History Office, 1996). On February 12 Paine sent the President a letter summarizing European space programs in conjunction with Nixon’s forthcoming trip to Europe and suggested positions the President might take during the trip on European and cooperative space activities, ibid., Document I-13.
  2. Paine provided a status report on NASA’s plans to increase international space cooperation in a post-Apollo program.