January 24, 1957: Memorandum of Discussion at the 310th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington:
Mr. Cutler briefed the Council on the contents of NSC 5520. In the course of his briefing he analyzed the issue between the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation as to whether the program should involve the attempt to launch six or twelve satellites. He also pointed to the considerable rise in the costs of the program since it had first been adopted by the National Security Council. He indicated that Dr. Furnas, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development, would outline the position of the Department of Defense in favor of the present program for launching six satellites. Dr. Waterman, Director of the National Science Foundation, would subsequently present his views in favor of a program for twelve satellites. Before hearing from either speaker, Mr. Cutler suggested that it would be useful for the Director of Central Intelligence to report briefly on what was known about the Soviet program for launching an earth satellite. (A copy of Mr. Cutler's briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)
Upon the conclusion of Mr. Dulles' remarks, Dr. Furnas briefly summarized the progress to date of the U.S. program to launch an earth satellite in accordance with NSC 5520. In the course of his remarks he pointed out that the final preliminary test would occur in September 1957. After this date all six satellites would be in existence and ready to launch. The first attempt actually to launch a satellite was scheduled for October 31, 1957. Dr. Furnas expressed the view that at least one of the six launchings would prove successful in getting the satellite into its orbit. After describing very briefly the instrumentation of the earth satellites and the means envisaged for tracking them, Dr. Furnas indicated that the program was essentially on schedule.
Turning to the recommendations of the NSC Planning Board, Dr. Furnas stated that the Department of Defense concurred in two of the three recommendations of the Planning Board, viz., paragraphs 8 and 10; but did not concur in paragraph 9, in which the National Science Foundation recommended a program for launching twelve instrumented satellites rather than the six currently envisaged in NSC 5520. He then listed the several reasons for the non-concurrence of the Department of Defense.
At the conclusion of Dr. Furnas' report, Mr. Cutler called on Dr. Waterman to provide the Council with his views in favor of the recommendation advanced in paragraph 9.
Dr. Waterman indicated that he would first like to call the Council's attention to developments and changes in this program which had occurred since the Council last considered the subject. Following this he provided a brief picture of what the satellite really means, stressing that he would approach the subject . . . from the point of view of a civilian scientist, . . . . Dr. Waterman pointed out that an earth satellite was unique as a means of observing space, because once it was in position it observed without the need of any unit of propulsion. Accordingly, if successfully launched, the earth satellite would provide us with a continuous record of information on outer space. Such information would be of enormous value ....
In view of the above possibilities, Dr. Waterman believed that ordinary prudence suggested that we do all we possibly could to achieve this kind of information. Dr. Waterman also pointed out that the United States was now taking the lead-as compared to the Soviets-in the development of instrumentation for satellites. While he believed that the Russians might well surprise us in the achievement of a launching unit, he did not believe that they were likely to equal us in the instrumentation of the satellite itself, although they will do their utmost to try to get ahead of us in this area also.
The foregoing remarks, continued Dr. Waterman, explained the recommendations of the National Science Foundation for a program to include six extra satellites. Such a program of twelve launchings Dr. Waterman believed would guarantee at least one successful launching. The added merit of the twelve-satellite program would consist of the greatly increased scientific data which we could anticipate.
With respect to the problem of financing six extra satellites, Dr. Waterman pointed out his view that the actual expenditure for the six satellites would not necessarily occur next year, but would come after the completion of the present program, at the end of two years. If, having restricted ourselves to a program of only six satellites, we have to start all over again with a new program two years from now, the ultimate costs would be much larger than they would be if we were simply to add six additional satellites to the present program.
Dr. Waterman said he would close his remarks by pointing out that the program which he advocated was intended to respond directly to scientific purposes, and it would in addition provide an excellent start on the program recently outlined by Ambassador Lodge in the United Nations, calling for supervision and control of the exploitation of outer space.
At the conclusion of Dr. Waterman's statement, Mr. Cutler invited him to refresh the Council on certain basic facts with respect to the speed and the orbit of the earth satellite. Dr. Waterman replied that the orbit would be elliptical, and that the satellite would vary in its distance from the earth within a spread of 200 to 800 miles. The speed of the satellite was estimated to be 18,000 miles per hour, and it would circle the earth in a period of one and a half hours.
Mr. Cutler then summarized the three recommendations of the Planning Board report on the satellite program, and pointed out that the total costs of the program had risen from the initial estimate of some $20 million to $83 million for launching six satellites. He then pointed out that the question before the Council was whether it was desired to authorize a program involving six additional satellites.
The President inquired of Dr. Waterman when it was expected that we would launch our first earth satellite. Dr. Waterman replied that the first launching would occur in October of this year, and that the remaining five satellites would be launched at intervals of two months thereafter. The President then inquired as to the costs of the satellites themselves, not including the launching and other costs of the program. Dr. Waterman replied that the sum was $10 million. Dr. Furnas added that the cost of six additional satellites would be $30 million if we also included the costs of the launchings.
Secretary Wilson stated his belief that if we were to add six additional satellites to the program we would be crowding ourselves and incurring very great expense. The fact is that we were running out of money in the Department of Defense, and that was the real issue before the Council this morning. Looking at the matter strictly from the point of view of the Defense Department, Secretary Wilson added that if we were going to spend another $30 million there are other things that the Department of Defense would like to buy for that sum of money. Accordingly, rather than crowd the earth satellite program too much by adding six satellites, Secretary Wilson advocated postponing the decision for a year.
The President indicated his general agreement with the position taken by Secretary Wilson, pointing out that we were involved with a program the cost of which, from its inception to the present, had risen from $20 million to over $80 million. We were talking of adding additional satellites and spending additional money without waiting to see what we could achieve with our current program of trying to launch six satellites. The President said he thought that the current program was a good program, and that we should see what results it produced before putting another $30 million into the program. This kind of gamble he did not feel was justified, and he closed with a statement that we should complete the present program before adding another.
Mr. Cutler said he would like to address a question to Dr. Waterman. Suppose, he inquired, we were successful in actually launching three of the six satellites called for by the present program. Would Dr. Waterman feel that even in this event it would be desirable to add six additional satellites to the existing program?Dr. Waterman replied that the real question was this: We believe that we will get at least one successful launching out of the present program of six. But there was so much more that we wanted to learn than we were likely to learn from only one successful launching that he believed we ought to make sure the continuation of the program if this proved necessary.
Secretary Humphrey stated that as far as he could see, all the Council was talking about was whether we should now proceed to obligate ourselves in this unknown field for additional funds at the present time in order that we may save money in the future if we decide to go ahead with a bigger program at some future time. Secretary Humphrey said he was opposed to this course of action in view of our present financial situation and our need to be more selective in our national security expenditures.
The President said that once we have succeeded in getting one satellite into its orbit we will then desire to make a decision as to how many more such satellites we need to have. This might well prove to be more than six. Perhaps we should even want to launch an earth satellite once every year.
Mr. Cutler said that he thought that what Dr. Waterman had just said in his statement, about, the beneficial effect on our missiles program of the information we would get from an earth satellite, was perhaps the most significant aspect of the satellite program if one had regard for the vast sums of money that the Government is devoting to the program for achieving intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Dr. Flemming asked the President if he might read the recommendations of Dr. I.I. Rabi, Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee of ODM, on the earth satellite program.
After Dr. Flemming had finished reading Dr. Rabi's recommendations, Mr. Cutler turned to Dr. Furnas and asked if the following proposal offered a solution to the dilemma: After three successful launchings, could the Defense Department then decide on the need for an additional six satellites? Dr. Furnas replied that this seemed to him a good idea, and that such a course of action would not involve a very heavy additional cost. Secretary Wilson also thought well of Mr. Cutler's suggestion.
The President then asked Dr. Flemming to interpret Dr. Rabi's recommendations. Was Dr. Rabi, asked the President, calling for a program now comprising twelve instead of six satellites? Dr. Flemming replied that the position taken by Dr. Rabi was consistent with that advocated by Dr. Waterman. The President then stated that we should go ahead with our present program and later take up the question of future programs, even though such a course of action would involve additional costs later on.
Mr. Cutler then inquired whether the Council would agree to bringing up the issue of additional launchings after three launchings had been attempted under the present program. The President replied that he was not averse to the issue being brought up any time after we had achieved one successful launching of an earth satellite. If we do otherwise, we shall simply be gambling on something which it wasn't necessary to gamble on. Our future program ought to be based progressively on what we find out in the course of implementing our present program.
After Mr. Cutler had summarized a proposed Council action in accordance with the discussion, and after the President had amended slightly Mr. Cutler's proposed action, Secretary Wilson said he was obliged to raise the question of financing the present program. The Department of Defense simply did not have the funds necessary to cover the increased cost, now that it was estimated that the total program would cost $83 million. The President turned to the Director of the Budget, and said that he would simply have to "scratch around" and get this additional $17 million out of existing appropriations.
The National Security Council:
a. Noted and discussed the reference Progress Report on the subject, prepared by the Department of Defense pursuant to NSC Action No. 1545-d, and the comments thereon by the National Science Foundation and the Science Advisory Committee, Office of Defense Mobilization (Annexes A and B to the reference memorandum of November 9, 1956); in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of December 3, 1956, and an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the Soviet earth satellite program.
b. Noted the President's directive that the present program under NSC 5520, of endeavoring to launch six scientific satellites, should be continued; but that the Department of Defense should submit to the Council a progress report on the program at any time a significant development occurs, but not later than the completion of the third attempted launching.
c. Directed the NSC Planning Board, in the light of experience gained from attempted launchings under NSC 5520, to consider and report to the Council whether broad national security interests require a continuing program beyond NSC 5520 for making explorations in and from the outer regions about the earth.
Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for implementation.
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