Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.09.01 - Soviets study NASA's ambitious plans

NASA gave the US President a 130-page programme outlining plans for America's future space programme. The thing read to the Soviets like a science fiction novel, with reusable space ferries, huge orbital stations and lunar bases, nuclear rocket stages, and manned Mars expeditions. There was no way the Soviet Union could compete with such a programme -- and that was leaving unconsidered the massive American military space progamme.

In 1969 NASA had 301,745 employees, including 13,700 senior engineers and scientists. Another 218,435 contractor staff worked on NASA projects. NASA's charter was to pursue all non-military space activities with a clearly defined budget separate from the military. By comparison, in Russia, every General Designer had his own ideas and agenda. The space budget and authority was spread over ten different ministries and entities - the Ministry of Defence, the General Staff, TsUKOS, RVSN, the Central Committee, the VPK, the Politburo, the Soviet Ministers. In the VPK and Kremlin this system of space exploration was known as 'state feudalism'. However the Soviet engineers were but soldiers in the Cold War and could but only occasionally serve on the second 'space' front.

The US plan foresaw a permanent manned space station by 1977, a 50-man space bridgehead in low earth orbit by 1980-1984, increasing to 100 staff by 1989. Eight Apollo lunar expeditions would be flown in 1970-1972, to be followed by a permanent lunar base station in 1980-1983. A manned expedition to Mars would be accomplished in 1981.

If this read to the Soviets like science fiction, that's because it was. America would not even achieve its completed permanent space station until well into the 21st Century (if the ISS is ever completed). Chertok observed: what a historical paradox! In the USSR, the lunar program was in crisis due to a series of crashes and disasters. In America, their program was in crisis at the moment of greatest triumph because they couldn't decide how to proceed further...

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