Bookmark and Share

Nixon Recognized Importance of Space Program

Space Policy had Broader Role in Nixon's Foreign Policy

Nixon Tapes Capture Conversations with Crews of Apollo XV, XVI, and XVII

With the fortieth anniversary this week of the first manned lunar landing by the crew of Apollo XI, once again we are pointed to the fascinating era in American history that coincided with the presidency of Richard Nixon. Like so many other substantive conversations captured on the Nixon taping system, the conversations dealing with space policy have to date not been studied by historians. However, what these recordings demonstrate is that Nixon did not conceive of space policy simply for its own sake.

Instead, Nixon compared the "shock" of American achievements in space, especially the first manned mission to the moon which touched down on July 20, 1969, as one part of his broader foreign policy ambitions. In private, Nixon liked to compare going to the moon with his February 1972 trip to China, or his May trip later that same year to the Soviet Union. Nixon believed that going to Peking and Moscow to engage these long-time American adversaries, marking the first time an American president visited either country, was like going to the moon. In fact, Nixon modeled yet other policies on the shock of going to the moon, such as the August 15, 1971 announcement of his New Economic Policy.

While unfortunately no Nixon tapes exist of Nixon's private thoughts on the July 20, 1969 moon landing, since the taping system did not begin operation until February 1971, on more than a dozen occasions after the first moonwalk Nixon reminisced about the landing and the effect he thought it made on people's perceptions of both his foreign and domestic policies. In addition, Nixon also made it a habit to speak with the crews of each space mission before they departed, and he often invited them to the Oval Office to chat about their mission after they returned. In particular, recordings were made on the taping system of Nixon speaking to the crews of Apollo XV (top picture), Apollo XVI (middle picture), and Apollo XVII (bottom picture).

On February 1, 1972, Nixon welcomed the crew of Apollo XV to the Oval Office. A few months later, on June 15, 1972, the president invited the crew of Apollo XVI to the White House. For that second conversation, NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher also joined the crew in the Oval Office. In the final conversation available here for the first time, Nixon called the Apollo XVII crew from Camp David the day before the beginning of what would be the final Apollo mission. In fact, Apollo XVII was not only the final Apollo mission, but it also represented the last manned mission to the moon. There is no doubt that these recordings are among the more unique conversations captured by the Nixon taping system.

To listen to the complete conversations, see below. A summary of the conversations has also been included.

The participants are as follows:

P = President Richard Nixon
SBB = Stephen B. Bull
APB = Alexander P. Butterfield
EAC = Eugene A. Cernan
CMDuke = Charles M. Duke
REE = Ronald E. Evans
PMF = Peter M. Flanagan 
JCFl = James C. Fletcher
AMH = Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
JBI* = James B. Irwin
HAK = Henry A. Kissinger
TKMatting = Thomas K. Mattingly, III
Press = Members of the Press
HHSch = Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt
DRS* = David R. Scott
AMW = Alfred M. Worden
JWY = John W. Young
RLZ = Ronald L. Ziegler
WHP = White House Photographer



Time Participants Audio


OVAL 662-006 02/01/1972 11:53 am -  12:05 pm P, DRS*, JBI*, AMW, PMF, AMH, WHP, SBB mp3 (11.7m)  pdf (16k)
OVAL 735-004a 06/15/1972 12:16 - 12:42 pm P, TKMatting, JWY, CMDuke, JCFl, APB, RLZ, Press, WHP, SBB mp3 (15.6m)  pdf (19k)
OVAL 735-004b       mp3 (11.7m)  
CDST 157-002  12/05/1972 9:31 - 9:39 pm P, EAC, REE, HHSch mp3 (1.5m)  pdf (15k)



Copyright 2007- |