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“Interview with Dr. John M. Logsdon: The Politics of Space Exploration,” Interview by Christopher Gainor
Quest Volume: 30 #1 (2023)
Even as private space travel becomes more important, there can be no dispute that human space exploration has been driven throughout its history by politicians in Washington, DC, Moscow, Beijing, and other capitals of spacefaring powers.
While President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 decision to send astronauts to the Moon is the best-known political decision in the history of United States space efforts, every President starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower has left their imprint on the US space program. And as always, Congress has played its own role in shaping US spaceflight.
The outstanding expert on the politics of the US space program is Dr. John M. Logsdon, who has written the definitive studies of how presidents Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan dealt with the US civilian space program.
Dr. Logsdon served on the faculty of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs for 38 years. During that time, he was founding director of GW’s Space Policy Institute and director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy. His expertise has been called upon many times, including service on the NASA Advisory Council and as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Quest editor Christopher Gainor interviewed Dr. Logsdon from his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, by Zoom on 6 and 9 December 2022, during the flight of Artemis 1 around the Moon, and on the 50th anniversary of the final Apollo expedition to the lunar surface, Apollo 17.
In this interview, Dr. Logsdon talks about Apollo and other consequential presidential and congressional decisions affecting America’s human space programs up to Artemis. This is an edited transcript of those discussions.. There had been a number of studies of a space station and fewer looks at the possibility of a reusable space transportation system. NASA Administrator James Webb was skeptical of the values of long-range planning until Apollo was successful.
Logsdon, John M. “Interview with Dr. John M. Logsdon: The Politics of Space Exploration.” Interview with Christopher Gainor. Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 30, no. 1 (2023): 5-14.