National Archives Highlighting Nixon, Ford Contributions to the Space Program

National Archives Highlighting Nixon, Ford Contributions to the Space Program

As part of its commemoration of the centennials of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the National Archives is having a special exhibit on “Nixon and the U.S. Space Program” this month and a panel discussion on Thursday on the roles both presidents played in the space program.

Nixon was President during all of the Apollo lunar landings and the Skylab program, but is best known for his lack of enthusiam for bold new steps in human spacefight like those championed in the 1969 Space Task Group report chaired by Vice President Spiro Agnew — a space shuttle, a permanently occupied space station, and people on Mars by the 1980s.   Instead, he gave only grudging approval of the space shuttle program in 1972.  It was 12 more years before a permanent space station was endorsed by President Ronald Reagan, and human trips to Mars seem as distant now as they did then (unless you don’t care about radiation exposure). 

Nixon resigned in August 1974 and was replaced by his second Vice President, Gerald Ford.  By then, the last Skylab mission was over and the only human spaceflight mission remaining on the books was the July 1975 U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP).  No U.S. human spaceflights took place for six years after ASTP while the space shuttle was built. 

Basically, both presidents oversaw lean years for the space program and the end of the first era of U.S human spaceflight.   On Thursday, June 13, John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, and Bill Barry, NASA chief historian, will give a more complete picture of their contributions to space.   The National Air and Space Museum’s Roger Launius is the moderator.   The event will be broadcast on Ustream.

The panel discussion will be held at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, where the Nixon space exhibit also is located.  The exhibit will be on display through the end of June and includes the telephone Nixon used to talk to the Apollo 11 astronauts after the Moon landing and tongs used by the Apollo 12 crew to collect moon rocks.


User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.