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Prestige and National Security Mid Journey
Webb: We’re stronger. We can do this job within the 28 billion, plus the 15, in this ten year period, but we’ve got to have enough level of support in ’64 and ’65 to get over the hump and then the expenditures will drop. Now suppose then we don’t get that – suppose we have to drop back a few hundred million in both years, we still would have at a few hundred million below that, a fighting chance to do it, but not much more than a fighting chance.
President Kennedy: To do what?
Webb: To make the lunar landing within this decade.
President Kennedy: Is that right?
President Kennedy: If they cut this budget this year and next year –
Webb: We’d have a fighting chance. I’m trying to get this clearly in your mind, because you have to say something about this.
Webb: Now whether you want to start right now, belaboring the Republicans which I don’t think you do, saying it may be – it’s impossible to do this job in this decade. And that is a real political issue in ’64. I’m not at all sure that you want to do that because I’m not sure that the country feels that strongly about this program right now.
Well, you see, we have in the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft that will fly men for long periods of time under zero G conditions and what we really need to know beyond that is what we could learn by putting a small centrifuge in a space station so that you could go from zero G, up to 1/10, 2/10 on up to 1G maybe to 2G’s. But at least we would be closing the gap as to what happens, if 0G is something men can’t tolerate in space. (break)
President Kennedy: Well I talked to the other day, about 2 weeks ago, to McNamara and Gilpatric for a few minutes and said that I thought the space program, looking ahead, unless the Russians did something dramatic and we don’t have anything dramatic coming up for the next 12 months, so it’s going to be an attack on the budget, but this looks like a hell of a lot of dough to go to the moon when you can go - you can learn most of that you want scientifically through instruments and putting a man on the moon really is a stunt and it isn’t worth that many billions. Therefore the heats going to go on unless we can say this has got some military justification and not just prestige. Otherwise Eisenhower is going to be kicking us around and we’re going to look like he’s probably right – they don’t want to spend that kind of dough. Why should we spend that kind of dough to put a man on the moon? (break) But it seems to me what we’ve got to try and do, is for the reasons you suggested: we’ve got to wrap around in this country, a military use for what we’re doing and spending in space. If we don’t, it does look like a stunt and too much money – some people – Christ, we can’t get money for some ( ) and all the rest and people saying we’re spending billions in going to the moon. If we can show that that’s true but there’s also a very significant military use. Now how are we going to do that.
Webb: What I would say –
President Kennedy. I think it’s the only way we’re going to be able to defend it before the public in the next 12 months. We’re not going to have anything spectacular ourselves and if the Russians don’t have any, it’s going to be open season next year (break). But I’d like to see what we could do to get the military, you said they’re holding out, but we can, we can give this thing a military slant. In the final – we can justify the military or national security route much better than we can justify the prestige these days. (break)
Webb: Would you be better off thinking about ‘64 in the political year, if you just took a military man and put him in charge of this program?
President Kennedy: That is a way, I don’t think that what we ought to do now, but I am concerned that I have a – I think this can be an asset, this program. I think in time, it’s like a lot of things, this is mid journey and therefore everybody says ‘what the hell are we making this trip for’ but at the end of the thing they may be glad we made it. But we’ve got to defend ourselves now and I think that at least its occurred to me that unless the Russians do something spectacular, the only way we can defend ourselves is if we put a national security rather than a prestige label on this.
JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
Columbia Point, Boston MA 02125
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