The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Origins of the Office for International Programs


It was not altogether clear at first exactly what role the Office of International Programs was to play in the overall mission of NASA. The Space Act of 1958 was signed into law on 29 July, and T. Keith Glennan and Hugh L. Dryden were sworn in as Administrator and Deputy Administrator on 19 August. NASA officially came into existence on 1 October. In the whirlwind rush, the question of international programs was just one of a host of pressing concerns.

As early as May, draft organization charts had shown a position for an Assistant for International Activities.16 The idea for this staff office reflected the view of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics on organization. When Glennan was appointed, he asked the management consultant firm McKinsey and Company to study the various proposals for NASA managerial structure. McKinsey suggested the creation of an office devoted solely to international questions. First, it would provide a central point of coordination and assistance for the Administrator and other officials in the development of a cooperative international program of "space research and development," and, second, the office would provide staff support to the State Department on matters that concerned foreign policy and space affairs. The International Office was also to serve as a [22] clearinghouse and coordinating body for exchange of scientific and technical information, arrangement of cooperative facilities in other countries, and coordination of a host of scientific activities, such as weather observation.17

Glennan accepted the recommendation and appointed a Director of the Office of International Cooperation, who, within nine months was replaced by Arnold Frutkin.18 The forty-one-year old Frutkin brought with him a sober realism born of his experiences during the IGY. In May 1957, Frutkin had joined the staff of the National Academy of Sciences as Director of the Office of Public Affairs of the U.S. Committee for the IGY. Concurrently, he served as Deputy to the Executive Director of that committee. As a consequence, Frutkin had witnessed firsthand many of the frustrations of working with other national committees, especially the difficulties encountered with the Soviet committee.

Frutkin reflected on the IGY and its meaning for the exploration of space in his book, International Cooperation in Space. Looking at the day-to-day efforts of the IGY, he held that the idea of "shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation" was "a substantially misleading picture." In short, Frutkin saw the IGY as "a collection of national programs, independently working toward purely scientific objectives loosely coordinated by a nongovernmental mechanism." While the IGY did construct "scientific bridges across political chasms," he argued that "the bridges had no effect on the chasms; these remained and no traffic other than scientific crossed them."19

From Frutkin's vantage point, the broad success that characterized many cooperative scientific endeavors did not extend into space research. Scientific representatives of the Soviet Union "stubbornly restricted IGY agreements for the exchange of information in this area. . . . attempts to improve the situation . . . were unavailing." Frutkin summarized: "Extensive efforts to apply the usual IGY data exchange formulas to space came to naught. . . . Clearly, the cold war had reached into the IGY and frostbitten one of its major arms, the space program."20

But what did the experiences of the IGY say to the man who would be responsible for government-to-government considerations of collaboration in space activities? First, "it remains most important to recognize that those who molded the IGY were probably far freer from disabling political considerations than would have been the case if governmental representatives had attempted to frame a similar program." Second, the IGY "was a notable element among the forces that gave the U.S. national space program its peculiar shape" when NASA was created in 1958. Clearly, Frutkin perceived that the difficulties experienced by his non-government colleagues in the IGY would be magnified within NASA should that agency negotiate for international cooperation with the representatives of other governments. His [23] earlier experiences with the IGY and his concern for realism in international negotiations were to temper his approach to cooperative ventures in the years that followed.21


16. Rosholt, Administrative History of NASA, p. 332; and T. Keith Glennan to James R. Killian, Special Asst. to the President for Science and Technology, 29 Oct. 1958.

17. McKinsey & Company, Inc., "Organizing Headquarters Functions: National Aeronautics and Space Administration," with letter of transmittal, 31 Dec. 1958, pp. 2-26, 2-27.

18. NASA News Release, HQ, "Henry E. Billingsley Named NASA's Director of the Office of International Cooperation," 6 Jan. 1959.

19. Frutkin, International Cooperation in Space, p. 19.

20. Ibid., p. 21.

21. Ibid., p. 22.