Carter Man: Logsdon Alternative View to the Space Race

The Logsdon article I read argues that the Apollo missions were motivated by national security. Despite Hodgson’s offering of an alternative view to the space race, he still seems to agree with the traditional narrative the space race was conducted as a general competition between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., at least at times. He does differ with the traditional narrative in some important respects. For instance, the traditional narrative holds that the Soviet launch of Sputnik caused the U.S. to rapidly accelerate its own space program. But according to Logsdon, Eisenhower didn’t want to commit significant national resources to a space program simply to compete with the Soviet Union. Additionally, Logsdon argues Kennedy initially favored cooperation with the Soviet Union in sending a man to the moon, then competition, and then leaning towards cooperation again before his death. When Kennedy died, the nation took it upon itself to send a man to the moon in honor of Kennedy. This would be done on behalf of the nation. The question of Soviet cooperation was off the table. He also argues the nation’s political leaders were not as enthusiastic about the space program as traditionally made out to be.

When challenging a traditionally accepted version of history, the author’s approach must be revisionist to some degree. He still uses primary sources, such as presidential speeches, to make his argument. But it’s difficult to discern where he got a good chunk of his information from since the article lacks citations.

The article seems to be a shortened version of his book on the space race, which I found to be in abundance on Summon. The author makes an interesting argument, but I have some concerns. For instance, I don’t see citations for the evidence used by the author, so it’s difficult to know how reliable such evidence is. The one source of evidence that it’s clear he uses comes in the form of speeches. But Kennedy’s famous speech about sending a man to the moon suggests he wanted to do so for scientific purposes. That Logsdon pursues an alternative interpretation suggests he rejects speeches as definite indicators of intent, yet he uses a JFK speech at the United Nations to suggest the U.S. was interested in cooperating with the Soviet Union in order to send a man to the moon.

Word Count: 387

Logsdon, John M. “John F. Kennedy’s space legacy and its lessons for today.” Issues in Science and Technology 27, no. 3 (2011): 29+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context (accessed October 19, 2017). http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A255841743/OVIC?u=viva_vpi&xid=2bc0822e.

  1 comment for “Carter Man: Logsdon Alternative View to the Space Race

  1. blogrh
    October 19, 2017 at 11:59 am

    I appreciate the alternative-alternative interpretation for why the US sent people to the moon. Indeed, geopolitics played a huge role in sending people to the moon, and the fact that JFK wanted to work with the USSR tells us something different from what people generally take for granted. As you suggested, Logsdon wrote extensively about the geopolitics of the space program in a few books. What you read was largely a summary, so you’d need to look at his books for more documentation.

    As a side note… when the space “race” ended, the US and USSR did a lot of work in space together, starting with the Apollo-Soyuz projects in the 1970s to the International Space Station (today–of course, with Russia, the successor of the USSR). Some historians have argued that the cooperative space ventures helped ease Cold War tensions significantly in the late 1970s and 1980s. RH

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