The world typically remembers the space race as the Cold War competition between the USSR and the United States, beginning with the Soviet launch of the first satellite (Sputnik I) in 1957 and culminating in the U.S. moon landing in 1969. But even before Sputnik, the United States had already taken important steps outside of the public eye. The Eisenhower administration quietly worked to establish a precedent for peaceful satellite flight over international borders and to use space-based surveillance systems to gain information that would minimize the chance of a surprise Soviet attack. The Air Force, convinced that space would ultimately become a realm of combat, conducted initial studies about hypersonic armed vehicles that could skim the upper atmosphere or even orbit the planet. For the supporters of armed space exploitation, as for many Americans in general, deterrence dictated preeminence. High-profile Soviet space accomplishments suddenly made these issues seem more urgent and transformed the degree to which the debate was made public.
Between 1954 and 1961 military planners and political leaders competed to cultivate public attitudes that would support their plans for seizing the initiative in space security issues. Key Air Force figures such as Chief of Staff Gen. Thomas White labored hard for the development of armed flight technologies that could traverse both air and space environments. The Air Force's flagship vehicle for controlling aerospace was the Dynamic Soarer space glider bomber, a heat-resistant single-seat space shuttle meant to conduct reconnaissance, bombing, and other missions to ensure American superiority--and peace. In contrast, President Eisenhower envisioned non-weaponized satellite reconnaissance systems as the best tools to ensure peace. In keeping with the low-profile but important roles that CIA actions and U.S. Information Agency initiatives played overseas, Eisenhower's policy relied on space reconnaissance happening quietly and behind the scenes.
The Other Space Race is the story of how neither policy was fully realized. By examining the important but largely forgotten period of research between 1954 and 1961, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk provides a more meaningful context for understanding space security policy and space history.
Number of Pages: 478
Genre: History, Political Science
Series Title: Transforming War
Publisher: Naval Inst Pr
Author: Martin C. Libicki
Street Date: October 15, 2016
Item Number (DPCI): 248-11-3397