The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
John Glenn's flight in his Mercury spacecraft
Friendship 7 was good for NASA, good for the United States, and
excellent for international relations. Previously, the news media and
public figures in the U.S.S.R. had spoken disparagingly of the
American suborbital missions flown by Alan Shepard and Virgil I.
Grissom. For example, at a session of the Twenty-second Party
Congress, Cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov made a typical critique
of the American space program. "We fly in orbit around the earth, and
they jump up in ballistic curves. . . . We should like to wish them
success in making orbital flights." Adding a touch of comparative
politics, he commented further, "if they do want to emerge into
orbital flights let them build a reliable launching pad, let them
After Friendship 7's 4-hour and 55-minute flight, the Soviet attitude
changed. Although quick to point out that this achievement was simply
a repeat,  and a briefer one at
that, of Titov's day-long mission, the Soviet news media did give
extensive coverage to the American flight.4
More significantly, newspapers that reported the details of the
flight also carried the text of a congratulatory letter to Kennedy
Khrushchev congratulated the American people
and their President for "the successful launching of a spaceship with
a man on board." The Premier saw this to be one more step "toward
mastering the cosmos"; this time an American had been "added to the
family of astronauts." Khrushchev hoped that:
. . . the genius of man,
penetrating the depth of the universe, will be able to find ways of
lasting peace and insure the prosperity of all peoples on our planet
Earth which, in the space age, though it does not seem so large, is
still dear to all of its inhabitants.
If our countries pooled their efforts -
scientific, technical, and material - to master the universe, this
would be very beneficial for the advance of science and would be
joyfully acclaimed by all peoples who would like to see scientific
achievements benefit man and not be used for "cold war" purposes and
the arms race.5
While the words of the Soviet leader could
have been dismissed as a propaganda ploy, President Kennedy and his
White House advisers decided to take the Soviet message at its face
value and respond positively.
Kennedy's reply was direct and immediate. "I
welcome your statement that our countries should cooperate in the
exploration of space." Moreover, he told Khrushchev that he had "long
held this same belief" and that he had championed such cooperation in
his speeches to the American public. While supporting the supervisory
role of the U.N. in the field of space cooperation,...
President Kennedy rides with
John H. Glenn and General Leighton I. Davis following Glenn's orbital
flight aboard Friendship
 ...the President saw
that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had a peculiar responsibility to
lead the way toward international cooperation. As a consequence,
Kennedy said that he had asked certain members of his administration
to prepare "new and concrete proposals for immediate projects of
common action" that he hoped would be discussed by representatives
from the two countries at an early date "in a spirit of practical
In a news conference on 21 February, the
President reported that he found Khrushchev's proposal "most
encouraging" and "beneficial to the advance of science." The
President also indicated, "It is increasingly clear that the impact
of Colonel Glenn's magnificent achievement yesterday goes far beyond
our own times and our own country," or, as Kennedy phrased it later
in his press conference, now we "have more chips on the table than we
did some time ago."7
When asked by reporters how far the U.S. would go in cooperating with
the Soviet Union, Kennedy responded that it would be "premature" for
him to say, but he added that "we all know from long experience that
it's more difficult to transform these general expressions into
specific agreements." Only time would tell if practical results would
follow, and the President promised to withhold judgment until "we see
whether the rain follows the warm wind in this case."8
At NASA, the Kennedy response to the
Khrushchev suggestion for closer scientific and technological
collaboration was a surprise.* The White House staff had prepared a reply to
Khrushchev after an inquiry to Arnold Frutkin's NASA International
Programs Office concerning the possibility of developing a list of
Following the dispatch of the Kennedy letter to Khrushchev,
representatives from the White House and the State Department worked
with a list of possible joint activities drawn up by the space agency
for inclusion in a more detailed letter to the Soviet Premier. During
the work on these proposals, neither NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh
Dryden nor Frutkin had any direct contact with the President or his
White House staff. NASA worked at a distance with the Department of
State acting as an intermediary.** 10 They knew the President wanted to cooperate with the
Soviets on space projects if possible. But what was possible? Was the
President willing to sacrifice other aspects of NASA's programs to
obtain  a closer cooperative
relationship with the Soviets? In the absence of a clear mandate from
the President, Frutkin's conservative approach toward cooperation
prevailed. While not the dramatic stand desired by some Kennedy staff
members, the NASA efforts were based upon previous experience with
the Soviets in space negotiations.
The 7 March 1962 letter that Kennedy sent to
the Soviet Union was based on a conscious strategy aimed at enhancing
the possibility of obtaining a cooperative
relationship.*** 11 Negotiations would be conducted at the technical
level, not at the head of state level where politics might intrude.
Such discussions would involve coordination of efforts in space
research without calling for the integration of experiments of one
nation into the spacecraft or ground equipment of the other. This
parallel effort would be coupled with the reciprocal exchange of
Arnold Frutkin has summarized the key topics
proposed in Kennedy's letter to Khrushchev:
- the establishment of an operational world
weather satellite system through the coordinated launching by the
US and the USSR of weather satellites in complementary orbits, the
resulting data to be distributed globally through existing
- the exchange of spacecraft tracking
services, each side providing equipment suited to its own
requirements to be erected and operated on the other's territory
by the other's technicians;
- mapping of the earth's magnetic field in
space, a matter "central to many scientific problems," by
satellites which the countries would launch, one each, in
- an invitation to the Soviet Union to join
in programs already under way with other countries for the joint
testing of intercontinental communications satellites (each
country providing a ground terminal suitable for working with US
communications satellites and participating in an international
ground station coordinating committee).12
Beyond these four points, Kennedy briefly
touched on the possibility of pooling and exchanging data gathered in
space medicine and of exploring plans for future manned and automated
space flight. This effort on the part of the White House staff to
keep broader topics open for discussion was
 indicative of a desire to let the Soviets know that
dialogue could evolve into something larger. Kennedy therefore
stressed that the points raised in his letter were not intended "to
limit our mutual consideration of desirable cooperative
As the work on the Kennedy letter progressed,
NASA, the State Department, and the President's Science Adviser
decided to go ahead and appoint a technical negotiator in
anticipation of a positive response from Khrushchev.**** Dryden, NASA's Deputy Administrator, was the unanimous
choice, and President Kennedy approved the appointment on 19 March.
The following day the President received a reply from the Soviets. In
Dryden's words, "Now events moved very rapidly."14
Chairman Khrushchev's 20 March response to the
Kennedy proposal contained a lengthy preamble restating a desire to
preserve space for peaceful exploration and exploitation of those
studies that would benefit all nations. Khrushchev's shopping list of
proposals contained some that were nearly identical to those
suggested by Kennedy, plus two new ones. Suggestions that were
similar centered on cooperation in communications and weather
satellites, data collection relating to the earth's magnetic field,
exchange of space medicine information, and organization of a system
for observing and tracking vehicles launched to the moon or the
planets. The new topics dealt with the rescue of spacecraft and with
Khrushchev was agreeable to drafting an
international pact providing "for aid in searching for and rescuing
spaceships, satellites and capsules that have accidentally fallen."
This agreement seemed particularly important "since it might involve
saving the lives of cosmonauts. . . ." Rescue operations and
returning space hardware pointed also to the further necessity of
attending to the "important legal problems" of space that confronted
the spacefaring nations.16
To begin the dialogue, Khrushchev told Kennedy
that the Soviet representatives to the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful
Uses of Outer Space were being instructed to meet with their American
counterparts. Further, Khrushchev seemed to indicate a relaxation of
one of the barriers that had been hindering concrete discussions:
disarmament no longer was held to be the basic prerequisite to such
talks, though it was a conditioning factor. It seemed obvious to the
Soviet leader "that the scale of our . . . cooperation in the
peaceful conquest of space . . . is to a certain extent related to
the solution of the disarmament problem." Therefore, Khrushchev felt
that "until an agreement on general and complete disarmament is
achieved, both  our countries will .
. . be limited in their abilities to cooperate in . . . space." If
the question of disarmament could be satisfactorily resolved,
"Considerably broader prospects for cooperation and uniting our
scientific-technological achievements, up to and including joint
construction of spacecraft for reaching other planets - the moon,
Venus, Mars - will arise. . . ."17
In a news conference on 21 March, President
Kennedy announced that he was gratified by the Khrushchev reply, and
that steps would be taken to initiate an early discussion with the
Soviets, with Dryden as his technical representative. Kennedy said
that the U.S. would make "all possible efforts to carry forward the
exploration and use of space in a spirit of cooperation for the
benefit of all mankind."18 The rhetoric sounded promising, but the work remained.
As Kennedy said, "an agreement to negotiate does not always mean a
* Dryden and Frutkin
indicated that the initiative for the Kennedy response of 21 Feb.
came from the White House, although NASA received the message through
the State Department. Dryden felt that Presidential Science Adviser
Jerome Wiesner might have been the source of this particular
response, but he was not certain.
** The NASA contacts in
the State Department were George C. McGhee, Under Secretary of State
for Political Affairs; Philip J. Farley, Special Assistant to the
Secretary of State for Atomic Energy and Outer Space; and Robert F.
Packard, Farley's assistant.
*** There have been some
charges that the Kennedy proposals represented nothing new. Former
Kennedy White House science aide Eugene Skolnikoff also charged NASA
with selecting "only those projects which it thought would be
technically and politically desirable." Accordingly, NASA was
interested only in the exchange of information and not "intimate
cooperation that would have involved joint research and development
programs." Arnold Frutkin would not disagree with the specifics, but
he would take exception with the interpretation. He felt that NASA
should deal with those projects that were possible, not with those
that were desirable simply because they were idealistic and
**** Administrator James
E. Webb represented NASA in this discussion, with George McGhee of
the State Department and Science Adviser Jerome B. Wiesner.
3. "Text of Gherman
Titov's October 26 Speech," 22nd CPSU
Congress, 15: 56.
4. "SShA-vtoraya strana,
poslavshaya cheloveka v kosmos, polet Dzhona Glenna" [USAsecond
country to send a man into space, pilot John Glenn], Izvestiya, 22 Feb.
5. Nikita Sergeyevich
Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy, 21 Feb. 1962, as printed in U.S.
Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences,
Documents on International Aspects of
the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, 1954-1962, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 1963, p. 232.
6. Kennedy to
Khrushchev, 21 Feb. 1962, as printed in Committee on Aeronautical and
Space Sciences, Documents on
International Aspects of Space, p.
7. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States,
John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington,
1963), pp. 151-152 and 157-158; and Theodore C. Sorenson,
(New York, 1965), p. 529.
8. Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 157-158.
9. Interview, Hugh L.
Dryden-Arnold W. Frutkin, Walter D. Sohier, and Eugene M. Emme, 26
Mar. 1964, p. 20.
10. Ibid., pp. 20-21;
and A. W. Frutkin comments on draft history, 12 Feb. 1975.
11. "Address by the
Director of the Office of International Programs, National
Aeronautics and Space Administration [Frutkin], on International
Cooperation in the Exploration of Space, February 16, 1960," as
printed in Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences,
Documents on International Aspects of
Space, pp. 168-175. For an alternate
and critical view, see Eugene B. Skolnikoff, Science, Technology and American Foreign
Policy (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), pp.
International Cooperation in
Space, p. 93. For full text of the
Kennedy letter, see Public Papers of
John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 244-245;
and Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Documents on International Aspects of
Space, pp. 242-244.
13. Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 244-245.
14. Philip J. Farley to
George W. Ball, memo, "Designation of Technical Representatives for
U.S.-Soviet Space Cooperation Talks," 9 Mar. 1962; Ball to Kennedy,
memo, "Designation of Technical Representatives for U.S.-Soviet Space
Cooperation Talks," 16 Mar. 1962; interview, Dryden-Frutkin, Sohier
and Emme, 26 Mar. 1964, p. 22; Thomas J. Hamilton, "U.N. Space Panel
Hears U.S. Urge Cooperation," New York
Times, 20 Mar. 1962; and "Dryden Hard
to Fool in Science or Politics," Washington Star, 22 Mar.
15. Khrushchev to
Kennedy, 20 Mar. 1962, as printed in Committee on Aeronautical and
Space Sciences, Documents on
International Aspects of Space, pp.
16. Ibid., p. 250. For
further comment, see R. Cargill Hall, "Rescue and Return of
Astronauts on Earth and in Outer Space," American Journal of International Law 63 (Apr.1969): 197-210.
17. Khrushchev to
Kennedy, 20 Mar. 1962, pp. 250-25].
18. Ibid., pp.
19. Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 264.