Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

[305] That was how most of NASA's international program developed. As has been seen, NASA quickly became involved with the United Nations and the Committee on Space Research. But those served more as a backdrop than as the arena for NASA's international activities. By far the most frequent arrangement was a bilateral one between NASA and a counterpart agency in another country, sometimes with a covering government-to-government agreement. The State Department provided guidance and a considerable amount of assistance and in the dealings with the United Nations took the lead. But except for U.N. matters, NASA, while keeping contact with the State Department, was pretty much on its own.
The variety of the program was remarkable. By 1962, 55 nations plus the European Preparatory Commission for Space Research were engaged with NASA in various space activities.18 Twenty-four were helping with operational support to NASA missions through the Minitrack, Mercury, [306] and Deep Space tracking networks; the optical tracking network inherited from the International Geophysical Year; the volunteer program of satellite observations called Moonwatch; and data acquisition. Assistance varied all the way from simply providing the real estate on which to erect and operate ground stations, to assuming a substantial responsibility for their staffing and operation.
Thirty-four nations were working with NASA in cooperative projects using satellites, sounding rockets, and ground-based work in meteorology and communications. As in the United Nations space committee, many nations expressed a great need for scientific and technical training related to space. By 1962 13 foreign Resident Research Associates were at NASA centers, 5 foreign students were being trained in American universities under NASA sponsorship, and 13 engineers or technicians were training at NASA centers or ground stations. Visitors from 42 countries plus the European Preparatory Commission had come to explore their interests in the space program. By the 1970s 94 countries or international organizations were cooperating in some form with NASA.19
By the time Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden, Arnold Frutkin (who had become head of NASA's Office of International Programs), and the author journeyed to Aachen in September 1959 to attend meetings of the NATO Advisory Group for Advanced Research and Development, the guidelines for NASA's international activities were pretty much in mind. They were referred to time and again in discussions with dozens of scientists from the different countries who sought out the NASA people to explore ways of participating in the space program. In any cooperative project that might develop, the guidelines called for:
A decade later virtually the same guidelines were still in force.20
Generally the guidelines were readily accepted. Only the third, calling for no exchange of funds, occasioned some expressions of dismay. Accustomed to being funded by the U.S. for a variety of things, some had hoped that they might be supported in space research by American dollars. But Dryden and Frutkin pointed out that a project in which a country was willing to invest some of its own money was more likely to be of genuine interest and value than one that was undertaken simply because someone [307] else was willing to pay for it. In time the policy came to be accepted as natural and proper, and in fact one could sense-possibly because one wished to-a greater feeling of satisfaction and pride on the part of those who were paying their own way.
There was a decided difference between the East and the West in space cooperation. By far the greater part of NASA's international program was between NASA and Western countries. While some cooperative projects were agreed upon between Blagonravov and Dryden, which were confirmed by the two governments, these were of very limited scope. Moreover, in Soviet-American cooperation during the 1960s it proved generally impossible to achieve the kind of openness and freedom necessary for more than arm's length relations.