Americans have always been competitive, and during the post World War II era, when Russia was flexing its muscle and launched Sputnik, America took notice and decided they should get started developing something that could be put into the outer atmosphere before the Russians took control of the skies. The fact that the military was already working on ICBM’s and had some skills in rocket propulsion was one reason, the government handling of the space program seemed logical. The Cold War was on the minds of almost everyone and especially those in the military. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a military man and he along with Congress saw the need to build a society of math and science experts. Out of this atmosphere of urgency, President Eisenhower and Congress created NASA. It was a civilian space exploration agency.
The need for a device that could go into outer space to show the world that the US was the leading power in this area was important to the political as well as the military world. A second reason that the government using the military and not US industries was that the military already had daring test pilots on their payroll and at the end of the war, the military captured several German rockets as well as Dr. von Braun and a group of scientists that worked with him. The US military seemed to have a head start on developing a device that would launch into outer space. President Eisenhower, who had been an Army General thought that the quickest and most economically efficient way to get an object into space was to use the military and the resources in science and technology that were available.
Even in the early days, companies saw this race to space as a chance to provide materials for this project and to make a profit for themselves. Industries set up special divisions to be able to provide materials that the space project needed. NASA bought specially designed components from private companies. Materials like steel and iron were needed for the space projects along with technology to get these devices off the ground. The cost of developing these rocket type devices and sometimes just having them blow up was huge. It would have been hard for private companies to absorb these costs. To go into space required the most sophisticated machine that man had ever built. The problem was that it was necessary to try these flights that were not successful to learn “what could go wrong.”
I think that initially the aircraft and other commercial industries realized the need for this type of project but it was such an exhaustive task, they could not see how to manage it from start to finish. The expense alone of locating and hiring the “best” scientists, technicians and “brave people” to make the flight would have stretched their budgets past the limit.
The fact that the military had a large budget and people already on the payroll who could, with a lot of encouragement and deadlines, produce a device that could go into outer space was a real advantage. Because of the expense of carrying out such a project, commercial industries were little competition for the government-sponsored space program. As time has progressed and as the government has budgeted less money for NASA and the US space programs, investors have taken a second look at private space crafts that may at some time in the future take individual citizens into space.
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