December 5, 1957: Memorandum of Discussion at the 347th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington:
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3. Public Announcements of Launchings of U1.S. Scientific Satellites
Growing out of the discussion of the previous item, Secretary Dulles said that he was about to be obliged to leave the meeting, and before doing so he had a word to say about the postponement yesterday of our attempt to launch our first scientific satellite. He earnestly hoped that in the future we would not announce the date, the hour, and indeed the minute, that we were proposing to launch our earth satellite, until the satellite was successfully in orbit. Speaking very earnestly, Secretary Dulles said the effect of the publicity of the last few days, culminating in the final decision to postpone the attempt to launch our first earth satellite, had had a terrible effect on the foreign relations of the United States.
The President commented that he was all for stopping such unfortunate publicity, but he had no idea how we could stop it.
Secretary Quarles then undertook to explain what had happened yesterday. He stated that we were, in a sense, hoist by our own petard. We had in our earth satellite program dedicated ourselves from the beginning to work upon this program as a scientific experiment. We had accordingly promised the IGY scientists throughout the world that we would inform them when we proposed to try to launch our earth satellite and to give them all the desired information about it. It is too bad that yesterday's test had to be postponed, but we had promised the scientists of the world to inform them when we made our attempt to launch the satellite, so that they could all be ready at their various stations to receive the scientific data coming from the earth satellite. Secretary Quarles said that these remarks constituted not an excuse, but an explanation.
Still speaking feelingly, Secretary Dulles asked whether we could not possibly avoid further announcements of launchings until we were assured that they were successful. Secretary Quarles replied that we could only do so by changing our policy with respect to the fundamental purposes of our scientific satellite program. Secretary Dulles commented that what had happened yesterday had been a disaster for the United States.
The President inquired whether the scientists of the world would lose very much significant data if they were unaware that the United States had actually successfully launched a scientific satellite until it had orbited the world at least once.
Dr. Killian likewise inquired whether, in our next try to launch a satellite, we could not assure ourselves of its successful orbiting before we notified the world that we were attempting to launch such a satellite.
The President inquired whether what had happened at the Florida grounds yesterday constituted a failure to launch the scientific satellite. Secretary Quarles replied that it had not been a failure, but that a delay had occurred in the course of the countdown. The President then went on to inquire whether there were not other launching sites available for the earth satellite. Couldn't we launch our satellite from some desert region rather than from the thickly-populated Florida coast? Secretary Quarles replied that while it might well be desirable to have additional launching sites for the earth satellite, none had been prepared. The President then inquired whether it was not possible to shield the activities and the installations from which the satellite would be launched. Could not something be done so that not everyone within miles of the Florida base could see the rocket?
Secretary Dulles continued to express his irritation at our practice of giving out such precise announcements of the days, hours, and minutes of our launching attempts. What had happened yesterday had made us the laughing-stock of the whole Free World, and was being most effectively exploited by the Soviets. Secretary Quarles again replied that our announcement policy had been drawn up in terms of a certain philosophy about our scientific satellite program. Perhaps we should change this philosophy.
Dr. Killian then suggested that he and Secretary Quarles, together with Dr. Bronk and Dr. Waterman, should sit down and try to figure out how best to deal with the timing of our announcements of attempts to launch our earth satellites.
Mr. Allen stated that from the point of view of the U.S. Information Agency, he emphatically believed it would be best if the President were to order that no announcement was to be made next time until the scientific satellite was actually in its orbit.
The National Security Council: Noted the President's request that the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, in consultation with the Director, National Science Foundation, and the President, National Academy of Sciences, study whether public announcement of any attempted launching of a U.S. scientific satellite could be postponed until a successful launching had been assured.
Note: The above action, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, the Director, National Science Foundation, and the President, National Academy of Sciences, for appropriate implementation.
S. Everett Gleason
December 5, 1957: Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Berding) to the Secretary's Special Assistant for Disarmament and Atomic Energy (Farley):
For your information there is quoted below an excerpt from my preliminary and informal notes on the OCB luncheon of December
"'Publicity on Launching of U.S. Satellite
"At the OCB luncheon there was extended discussion of the publicity connected with the attempt to launch an earth satellite at Cape Canaveral, Florida. There was general agreement that the extensive and sensational news stories were having an extremely deleterious impact throughout the world. Mr. Herter remarked that the psychologic beating which the U.S. took because of the launching of Sputnik was being exceeded by the beating the U.S. is suffering because of the publicized fizzle in Florida. The fact that papers throughout the U.S. were carrying official U.S. Navy photographs of arrangements for the launching was mentioned, as were the facilities being accorded to the press at the launching site. Mr. Sprague said that the Department of Defense had been under great pressure from the press, which had adopted an attitude that delay or failure in the launching was impossible. Further, the press felt that it was entitled to full coverage irrespective of the possible impact overseas.
"Later, General Cutler expressed strong views that the proposal to name U.S. satellites after scientists was inadvisable. He felt that the use of names would be misunderstood and would make the U.S. vulnerable to propaganda attacks. Names might mean one thing in English and to the West, but might mean something quite different in other languages and areas. Nationality, racial and religious complications were foreseen. There was general agreement by the Board that efforts should be made to stop the proposed use of the name 'Goddard' for the first satellite and that the whole policy of giving names to satellites should be reviewed.
"It was agreed by the Board that Defense should report at the meeting next week on its experiences to date under the guidelines on publicity which were adopted by the Board on November 6, and particularly with regard to difficulties in applying the guidelines in the case of the attempted satellite launching in Florida. The Executive Officer of the OCB was called upon to present to the Board next week updated guidelines incorporating the OCB committee actions subsequent to November 6."
Arthur L. Richards
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