In mid-August 1960, the Air Force accomplished two significant "firsts" within eight days when it managed to recover instrumented packages from the thirteenth and fourteenth attempts in its Thor-Agena-launched Discoverer series of satellites. Discoverer XIII dropped its 85-pound capsule into the Pacific off Hawaii on August 11 after 16 orbits; although a mid-air retrieval had failed, frogmen and helicopters from a naval vessel found and returned this, the first man-made object recovered intact from an orbital journey. On August 19, 1960, an Air Force C-119 cargo plane trailing a huge trapeze-like trawl succeeded in being at exactly  the right place at the right time to snare in mid-air the descending instruments from Discoverer XIV. That same day, however, the Soviets launched an ark, including the "muttniks" Strelka and Belka, and the next day they recovered the dogs and their live companions (rats, mice, flies, plants, fungi, and seeds) after 18 orbits above Earth's atmosphere. This marked the first successful recovery of living biological specimens from an orbital voyage. Three months later, on November 14, 1960, another C-119 aircraft succeeded in snatching the reentry capsule from Discoverer XVII, which carried human tissue, bacteria, spores, and film emulsions to an orbital apogee of 616 miles. For the moment, though, the Soviet achievement was overwhelming in its portents for manned space flight.37
On August 12, 1960, after an attempt that had failed in May, NASA's Project Echo succeeded in placing into orbit the first passive communications satellite, a 100-foot-diameter aluminized Mylar plastic balloon, which reflected radio signals beyond Earth's curvature. Launched by a Thor-Delta vehicle into an orbit roughly 1,000 miles from Earth and inclined 47 degrees to the equator, Echo I was the first artificial moon that could be seen easily with the naked eye by all mankind. Although stargazing aborigines in neolithic cultures of New Guinea and Mozambique probably could see the Echo balloon with the unaided eye better than sophisticates in the smog and haze of urban-industrial centers from California to Kazakhstan, the new pinpoint of light in the heavens was a visible manifestation of the "space age." President Eisenhower's broadcast message reflected from this sphere circling Earth at 15,000 miles per hour proclaimed:
It is a great personal satisfaction to participate in this first experiment in communications involving the use of a satellite balloon known as Echo. This is one more significant step in the United States program of space research and exploration. The program is being carried forward vigorously by the United States for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.While the President was pointing to these and other achievements of the United States in the exploration and use of outer space, the Nation was in the midst of a highly contested presidential campaign and congressional elections. Four years earlier it had seemed sheer whimsy, but now the practical values of space exploration and policy decisions on space, missiles, and the Nation were being not only examined but reexamined. In September, a month after Strelka and Belka were orbited and recovered by the Soviet Union, Premier Khrushchev again came to the United States for some personal diplomacy and figurative sabotage in the United Nations General Assembly. Afterward he told reporters that his people were ready to launch a man into space but had not yet made any such attempt.39  No longer could Khrushchev's brogan braggadocio be ignored.
The satellite balloon which has reflected these words may be used freely by any nation for similar experiments in its own interests. Information necessary to prepare for such participation was widely distributed some weeks ago.
The United States will continue to make freely available to the world the scientific information acquired from this and other experiments in its program of space exploration.38
Meeting at Barcelona, on October 7, 1960, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale adopted the first set of rules to govern the award of official records for manned space flight. To be recognized under the "Code Sportif" that had been setting the rules for aeronautical records since 1905, the first flight into space must top at least 100 kilometers; later attempts to set records must exceed the existing record by at least 10 percent. Four categories of performance were set forth: duration of flight, altitude without orbiting Earth, altitude in orbit, and mass lifted above 100 kilometers. To be valid, all claims for records "must be supported by information on the date, time, place of takeoff and landing, identity of the vehicle commander, and any special apparatus used to assist liftoff, landing, or control."40
When in mid-October Soviet tracking ships deployed to stations in the Pacific, an alert went out to American forces to expect imminent Soviet attempts to fulfill Khrushchev's boast. In mid-August there had been much talk in the American press that the United States had "rejoined" the space race as a result of recent accomplishments. An Associated Press dispatch on August 8 reported that Abe Silverstein was not particularly dismayed by the MA-1 fiasco and believed that Project Mercury was "essentially along the same time schedule as was initially planned." Congressman Overton Brooks, Democrat from Louisiana and chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, waxed much more critical of the speed with which Project Mercury was moving. In September Glennan warned Americans to be prepared for new Soviet announcements of space spectaculars. The Mercury astronauts repeatedly were reported confident that one of them could ride a ballistic trajectory either in December or January.41 In short, the dramatic race to be first to put a man in space made such colorful copy that news editors generally ran stories on the space contest second only to news about the political contest.
The news media both reflected and fostered a widespread restlessness over the apparent failure of American know-how to equal and surpass Soviet rocket technology. Back in October 1959, two years after Sputnik I, Newsweek had featured an article, "How to Lose the Space Race," itemizing blanket criticisms of all American space programs. To ensure that you have the losing ticket, advised Newsweek, simply "start late, downgrade Russian feats, fragment authority, pinch pennies, think small, shirk decisions."42 At the beginning of 1960, Hanson W. Baldwin, the influential military affairs correspondent for the New York Times, had chided the Eisenhower administration for neglecting the power of intangible ideas and had advised the government to seek more advice from political rather than physical scientists: "It is not good enough to say that we have counted more free electrons in the ionosphere than the Russians have . . . we must achieve the obvious and the spectacular, as well as the erudite and the obscure." And in July 1960 one of the deans of space fiction and fact, Arthur C. Clarke, published a  playful, widely viewed article that suggested that the United States had "already suffered a failure of nerve" and forfeited its future by failing to "rocket to the renaissance."43
Project Mercury specifically, as 1960 wore on without much to show for the taxpayers' millions, began to be criticized more minutely. Perhaps the most painful sting felt by the Mercury team came from adverse publicity in Missiles and Rockets, a weekly defense industry trade journal, on August 15, 1960. There, under the heading "Is Mercury Program Headed for Disaster?" writer James Barr excoriated Project Mercury:
NASA's Mercury manned-satellite program appears to be plummeting the United States toward a new humiliating disaster in the East-West space race.Although Barr's animadversion could have been discounted in an election year as a plug for more encouragement and funding to the Air Force's Dyna-Soar program, the occasions for self- doubt inside Project Mercury indisputably were becoming more numerous. On September 16, 1960, Gilruth issued a memorandum for his staff that showed the effects of barbs like those from Barr on the morale of the Task Group. The subject of the memo was "Favorable Press Comments (for a change)":
This is the stark conclusion that looms in the minds of a growing number of eminent rocket scientists and engineers as the Mercury program continues to slip backward.
These experts, many of whom are already calling Mercury a latter day Vanguard, contend:
The program today is more than one year behind its original schedule and is expected to slip to two. Therefore, it no longer offers any realistic hope of beating Russia in launching the first man into orbit around the earth - much less serve as an early stepping stone for reaching the moon.
Despite precautions and improvements, Mercury continues to be a technically marginal program that could easily end in flaming tragedy. Mercury, at best, is a technical stop-gap justifiable only as an expedient. It is no substitute for what is needed sooner or later, a maneuverable spacecraft similar to the Air Force's much hampered Dyna-Soar.
Mercury originally had the supposed advantage of being cheap, an attribute that made it particularly attractive to the Administration. However, Mercury has proven to be a trip down a dead-end road that U.S. taxpayers are finding themselves paving in gold. Appropriations have reached a quarter-billion to date. They may double.44
As most of you know, there have been some adverse comments in the press and trade publications about the progress, or lack of progress, being made in Project Mercury during recent weeks. A number of members of the Space Task Group have expressed concern about these articles.At NASA Headquarters there was serious concern over how to answer public criticisms. On August 14 Warren North sent the Administrator some arguments filling in the contextual background of Mercury schedules:
In any program as broad and complex and as important to our national stature as Project Mercury, it is inevitable that there will be people around us who either will not agree with us, period, or who tend to disagree in one element or another just to be disagreeable. At the same time, there are a number of people around our country who do understand how much work and how much blood and sweat go into an undertaking of this kind.
* * * * * *
 I am personally confident that the work that all of you are doing will bear fruit in the near future. In the interim, I urge all of you to put on your thickest hide, to continue your concerted efforts to make Project Mercury the kind of program it was designed to be, and to reflect with me upon our past accomplishments.45
Since the negotiation of the capsule contract, McDonnell personnel have averaged 14% overtime for an equivalent 56 hour week. McDonnell has assigned approximately 13,000 people in direct support of Project Mercury. In October 1959, production went on a 7-day week, three shifts per day. Since January 1960 capsule checkout personnel have worked three shifts per day seven days per week. McDonnell is also working three shifts at Cape Canaveral. During the past eighteen months, Space Task Group personnel have been using less than half their annual leave. Many have used essentially no annual leave since February 1959. Space Task Group personnel at Cape Canaveral worked approximately 50 hours a week preparing for flight operations. When the MA-1 capsule was delivered to the Cape on May 23, 1960, this group went on a 60-hour week. During the final month of MA-1 preparations, the launch operations crew was working a seventy-hour week. The forthcoming simultaneous operations with Atlas and Redstone will require a continuation of this type of effort.46On September 9, 1960, George Low addressed a United Press International editors conference at a hotel in Washington on the subject of the progress made in Project Mercury to date. Low began by arguing against three common misconceptions about the project in the public press: Mercury was not, he said, "merely a stunt," not "designed only to win an important first in the space program," and should not "be terminated if the Soviets achieve manned orbital flight before we do." Firmly convinced that the Soviets now had the capability of achieving manned orbital flight, Low tried to persuade the opinion molders of the "fourth estate" to accept Mercury as an indispensable step toward Project Apollo, one which "must be carried out regardless of Russian achievement." This theme subsequently became official NASA policy. The urgency of Project Mercury was transferred onto the higher level of the urgency of manned space flight in general and for the future. "It has been a major engineering task," said Low, "to design a capsule that is small enough to do the mission, light enough to do the mission, and yet has reliable subsystems to accomplish the mission safely."47
Within the aerospace community of industrialists, technicians, and Government scientists and engineers, the context described by North and Low needed little explication. Experience with federally sponsored "R and D" programs since 1940 helped them understand the difference between a project rating the "DX," or highest industrial procurement priority, and one designated an all-out "crash" program. Mercury was never a "crash" project in the sense that the Atlas ICBM  or the Manhattan Project had been, in which duplicative and parallel solutions were developed for its most difficult systems. The DX priority for materials, NASA's own first rating, and STG's high "sense of urgency" were tempered always by the rule of noninterference with priority defense programs. In mid- September NASA and the Defense Department agreed to aid each other to avoid duplication and waste by means of a new Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, with Dryden and Herbert F. York as co-chairmen.48
But the citizenry, through the press, saw these problems in simpler terms. "Project Mercury: Race or Pure Science?" was a banner headline in a Norfolk newspaper of September 11. Richard M. Mansfield related therein how the United States "space fever" had fluctuated over the previous three years:
Gilruth gets a little angry when people talk about Mercury lagging behind schedule. Some say it is behind as much as a year. Gilruth says this is pure nonsense, that no one can properly put a specific target date on a research program that explores "new frontiers," and is beset by such "detailed problems."Reporter Mansfield went on to summarize the conflicting attitudes of scientists who "are never in a hurry," with Government employees, including scientists, who must respond to the demand of the electorate to "overtake the Soviets." The eagerness of the seven American astronauts to make their suborbital flights was tempered, he reported, by their recognition that the orbital venture into space had already slipped too far. "There is little doubt among them that the Russians will have been there first," said Mansfield.
* * * * * *
Gilruth gave assurance that extra money would not have cut time appreciably. He does not believe that a blank- check crash program would save much time even now.
"I think we've done our optimum," he said. "It's just like having a baby. Maybe (with more money) we could have had a lot more of them, but you wouldn't have cut the time on any one of them."49
Late in September members of the military and industrial community engaged in aerospace and defense business watched with interest for indications where best to invest their votes. The editors of Missiles and Rockets addressed an open letter to both the Republican and the Democratic candidates for the Presidency, inviting comments on a "modest proposal for survival." The journal sought specific commitments on the recognition as national policy of the strategic space race with Russia and on the endorsement of a bold long-range program for space projects during the next decade. Candidate John F. Kennedy responded immediately with his concurrence that "we are in a strategic space race with the Russians, and we have been losing. . . . if a man orbits earth this year his name will be Ivan." To this audience Kennedy also explained one meaning of his campaign slogans on "moving ahead" into the "new frontier": "This is the new age of exploration; space is our great new frontier." Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, seeing the issues of an alleged "missile gap" and of national prestige loom ever larger in the  later stages of the campaign, at last replied by vigorously defending the record of the Eisenhower administration.50 The issue of manned space flight was never clearly joined, here or in the television debates preceding the election. But after the first Tuesday in November, even though the popular vote barely showed a preference, it was clear that the next Chief Executive as well as the Congress would be Democratic and that this meant change.
Project Mercury, as one large and unproven part of NASA, could expect to be influenced by "the gathering storm over space" and some sharp changes in the Nation's defense and space programs.51 The most forthright change to be expected with the new administration likely would be an honest and open admission of the competitive aspects of space technology. International negotiations on disarmament had failed to produce any further arms control measures since the 1958 Russian-American agreement to suspend atmospheric nuclear testing. Efforts in the United Nations to exempt space as an arena for international rivalries, following the example of the 1959 Antarctica treaty, had so far failed. It seemed purely sentimental to act as if coexistence would become any less competitive. Besides, recent successes of American missiles reinforced the United States' foreign policy of steadfast resistance to Communist encroachments. An Atlas ICBM had again flown 9,000 miles for a bullseye in the Indian Ocean on September 19, 1960; the Thor was operational, and the Polaris and Titan weapon systems were in active test phases. A "booster gap" there admittedly was, but the "missile gap" appeared closed, at least to discussion, after the election. The new President would probably find it politic to move speedily but cautiously toward a more intensive national (in contrast to a scientific-international) space program. Kennedy was historically minded and could be trusted to see "the present in perspective," but whether he would consider, as one professional historian did, "manned space flight as the main object of Russo-American rivalry" was entirely moot.52
Congressional attitudes before and after the election of 1960 seemed to change less drastically because Congress was already Democratic and had been critical of the Republican "no-race" thesis for three years now. Some of those legislative representatives who felt a need to justify their loyal opposition to Eisenhower and their support for manned space exploration could do so by mailing their constituents a congressional staff report entitled "The Practical Values of Space Exploration." Philip B. Yeager, a staff member of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, wrote this pamphlet "to explain to the taxpayer just why so many of his dollars are going into the American effort to explore space, and to indicate what he can expect in return which is of value to him." Two editions of this report, before and after the election, began with a quotation from a Russian workman who reportedly complained in a letter published on the front page of Pravda for June 12, 1960:
What do Sputniks give to a person like me? . . . So much money is spent on Sputniks it makes people gasp. If there were no Sputniks the Government  could cut the cost of cloth for an overcoat in half and put a few electric flatirons in the stores. Rockets, rockets, rockets. Who needs them now?53Neither edition of Yeager's staff report spoke explicitly about Project Mercury, but both implicitly illustrated Mercury‘s motivation. The author delineated in lay language five categories of values served by national space programs. Intangible values came first and included scientific curiosity and the human urge to do as well as to know. National security was second, and included the argument for space rivalry as a substitute for war. Economic benefits, immediate and remote, were described in social terms for the third category. "Values for everyday living" described some of the technological and medical "fallout" or "spin-off" from space-related research. And finally this pamphlet pointed to long-range values and to possible interrelationships with the population explosion, water shortages, soil erosion, new leisure time, and the scientific and spiritual aspirations of humanity. In conclusion Yeager chose to quote a paragraph, from an editorial in the magazine Industrial Research, which "sober study indicates . . . may not be too 'far out' after all":
Space technology is probably the fastest moving, typically free enterprise and democratic industry yet created. It puts a premium not on salesmanship, but on what it needs most - intellectual production, the research payoff. Unlike any other existing industry, space functions on hope and future possibilities, conquest of real estate unseen, of near vacuum unexplored. At once it obliterates the economic reason for war, the threat of overpopulation, or cultural stagnation; it offers to replace guesswork with the scientific method for archeological, philosophical, and religious themes.54
36 For an overview of the parallel development of this rocket research aircraft see Thomas A. Toll and Jack Fischel, "The X-15 Project: Results and Research," Astronautics and Aeronautics, II (March 1960), 20-28.
37 Eugene M. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915- 1960 (Washington, 1961), 126-130.
38 Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960-61 (Washington, 1961), 630; A Chronology of Missile and Astronautic Events, 121, 123. See also Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 88 Cong., 1 sess. (1963), Documents on International Aspects of the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, 1954- 1962, May 9, 1963, 181. Eisenhower listed Pioneer V, Tiros I, Transit 1, Echo 1 and the X-15 flight in the "impressive array of successful experiments" during the year preceding Aug. 17, 1960. He omitted mention of the first successful Polaris launches from the submerged nuclear submarine George Washington, on July 20, for flights of over 1000 miles down the Atlantic Missile Range, and he also avoided publicizing the solid-fueled Minuteman missile and the SAMOS and MIDAS satellite programs.
39 Washington Post, Sept. 27, 1960. Chapman Pincher reported in the Washington Daily News, Dec. 1, 1960, that Victor Jaanimets, a sailor who deserted the Russian ship that brought Khrushchev to New York, had told U.S. intelligence services that the ship, the Baltika, was equipped with mockups and demonstration equipment to advertise the Soviet feat in case they succeeded in an early attempt to put a cosmonaut in orbit.
40 A Chronology of Missile and Astronautic Events, 129. See also Nancy T. Gamarra, "International Aeronautical Federation (FAI)," section in Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 89 Cong., 1 sess. (1965), International Cooperation and Organization for Outer Space, 419-426.
41 Silverstein quoted in news story in Newport News Times-Herald, Aug. 8, 1960. See also Brig. Gen. Thomas R. Phillips, "U.S. Out of Man-in-Space Race Until Saturn Is Ready in 1965," and "Criticism of Mercury Space Program Said to Lack Validity," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 1 and 2, 1960; "Astronauts Hope for '61 Flight," New York Times, Sept. 19, 1960; "NASA's Chief Expects Red Space Shows," Baltimore Sun, Sept. 20, 1960; Warren Rogers, Jr., "Man-in-Space Effort by U.S. Rolls Again," New York Herald Tribune, Sept. 25, 1960.
42 Newsweek, LIV (Oct. 19, 1959), 73-76. This magazine continued with blanket criticisms in LIV (Nov. 2, 1959), 26; LV (Feb. 8, 1960), 67-68; LV (Feb. 15, 1960), 35; but a special report on the manned space race in Newsweek, LVI (July 11, 1960), 55-59, was entitled "The Dawn," symbolizing better understanding of STG's efforts.
43 Hanson W. Baldwin, "Neglected Factor in the Space Race," New York Times Magazine, Jan. 17, 1960, 77; Arthur C. Clarke, "Rocket to the Renaissance," Playboy, VII (July 1960), 34, 84.
44 James Barr, "Is Mercury Program Headed for Disaster?" Missiles and Rockets, VII (Aug. 15, 1960), 12-14. See also Carl R. Huss, comments, Oct. 5, 1965.
45 Memo, Gilruth to staff, "Favorable Press Comments (for a change)," with two enclosures, Sept. 16, 1960: Marvin Miles' article described the "recent splurge of sniping at the Mercury program," and Glennan's letter of August 26 commended the article "as a shot of adrenalin" for all the workers on Mercury.
46 Memo, North to Administrator, "Background of Project Mercury Schedules," with enclosures, including a chronology, Aug. 14, 1960. Significant excerpts from this memo illustrated other features of Headquarters concerns:
"A major factor in the compressed Mercury schedule is concurrent effort in the areas of research and development, design, and manufacturing. As a result of this concurrent effort, many of the capsule subcontractors underestimated their costs and delivery dates. As early as October 1959, McDonnell anticipated cost increases ranging from 200% to 450% from some of their major subcontractors, such as Bell Aircraft, AiResearch, Collins Radio, and Grand Central Rocket.
"Because of different flight test objectives, it is possible to fly some of the early capsules with incomplete and unqualified systems.
"From the standpoint of project urgency, it was consistent policy to set . . . classified target schedules as tight as possible. . . . However, since problem areas cannot be pinpointed in advance, it was felt that the project objectives could be most rapidly achieved by purposely setting optimistic target schedules and keeping everyone working to meet these dates. . . .
"One is tempted to extrapolate . . . thereby obtaining May 1961 and November 1961, as the actual launch dates for the manned Redstone and manned orbital flights. It is hoped, however, that based on past experience, subsequent capsules can be more accurately scheduled through capsule systems checkout. Conversely, it must also be remembered that as yet none of the production capsules have been qualified during the maximum Q abort and reentry missions."
47 Low, "Project Mercury Progress," an address before UPI Editors Conference, Washington, Sept. 9, 1960, NASA News Release 60—275; Low, comments, Oct. 5, 1965.
48 For the significance of the AACB, see Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958 to 1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), 172-173; see also NASA News Release 60-260, Sept. 13, 1960.
49 Richard M. Mansfield, "Project Mercury: Race or Pure Science?" Virginian-Pilot and Portsmouth Star, Sept. 11, 1960.
50 "An Open Letter to Richard Nixon and John Kennedy," Missiles and Rockets, VII (Oct. 3, 1960), 10-11; John F. Kennedy, "If the Soviets Control Space They Can Control Earth," Missiles and Rockets, VII (Oct. 10, 1960), 12-13; "Nixon 'Declines' to Join Defense/Space Debate," Missiles and Rockets, VII (Oct. 24, 1960), 13; Richard M. Nixon, "Military has Mission to 'Defend' Space," Missiles and Rockets, VII (Oct. 31, 1960), 10-11. Cf. a similar set of questions and answers in Western Aviation, Missile and Space Industries (Nov. 1960). See also Edward C. Welsh, interview, Washington, Sept. 1, 1965.
51 See Robert Hotz, editorial, "The Gathering Storm Over Space," Aviation Week, LXXIII (Nov. 7, 1960), 21; and "Sharp Defense/ Space Changes Expected," Aviation Week, LXXIII (Nov. 14, 1960), 30.
52 Hans W. Gatzke, The Present in Perspective: A Look at the World Since 1945 (2 ed., Chicago, 1961), 188. See also Philip C. Jessup and Howard J. Taubenfeld, Controls for Outer Space and the Antarctic Analogy (New York, 1959), 200, 282.
53 House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 2 sess. (1960), The Practical Values of Space Exploration, Report No. 2091, July 5, 1960, 1. Cf. revision as House Report No. 1276, Oct. 2, 1961, 20-22.
54 Ibid., 54. Aside from the better illustrations and the updated figures on space costs and accomplishments, the August 1961 revision of this report contained one significant addition, namely a two-page (20-22) discussion in the national security section entitled "Interpreting The Race," which said in part:
"The fact that we are racing the Russians to the moon and the planets should not be allowed to obscure certain facets of the precise situation we are in.
"To begin with, it is essential to realize that sending men beyond earth's environment requires rockets of very high thrust - big boosters. The Soviets, who have about a 5-year jump on the United States in this field, have such rockets in operation. Our biggest ones are still in the development stage, although they are showing considerable promise. So we begin this particular phase of 'the race' under a marked handicap and doubtless will be in second place for some time to come.
"It is equally important, however, to recognize that 'getting there first' is only one part of the race. Two other parts are just as crucial:
"In summary, our international prestige and stature, so far as they are influenced by our space activities, depend on all three elements of 'the race' - not on one or two."