On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America's activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.What History.com doesn't provide is why NASA's unprecedented success between 1958 and 1972 came to a crashing halt. Luckily, 'Whitey on the Moon' by Paul Kersey provides the explanation, but in honor of NASA's establishment on July 29, 1958, why not a refresher course?
|In 1972, Rep. Charles Rangel (yeah, he's still around) charged NASA with bias and demanded a civil rights probe against all-white astronaut corps|
Only four years into NASA's establishment, racial politics were inserted into astronaut selection by an overzealous Kennedy Administration seeking to find a black astronaut avatar to parade around the nation as "the hope for black people everywhere."
Enter Air Force Capt. Edward Dwight. Colin Burgess' Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts offers up an incredible frank summation of what was expected out of the pursuit of a black astronaut candidate:
Even as NASA began the process that would choose the third group of astronauts, political pressure was being exerted at the highest levels for the space agency to select an African-American pilot. For some time, President John F. Kennedy had wanted the minority electorate to regard him as doing something positive on the issue of equality in the military.
On 24 June 1962 he appointed an advisory committee to study equal opportunity policies in the military, charging its members with ensuring that “any remaining vestiges of discrimination in the armed forces on the basis of race, creed or nation origin” were removed.
One of the initiatives he pressed for was for a black serviceman to be inducted into the high-profile astronaut corps. At the specific behest of the president, the Department of Defense was contacted to determine whether the Air Force had any suitable candidates, but even though records were thoroughly scoured the response coming back to the White House was apologetic.
No black Air Force officers had the required amount of flying time or the requisite academic background, let alone meeting other stringent requirements for consideration. President Kennedy did not like being denied his initiative. In response the Air Force was essentially instructed to locate a suitable black candidate and have him enrolled in the next Aerospace Research Pilot School course at Edwards AFB. Once the airman had passed the course, and even without the necessary flight hours, background, experience and academic qualifications, pressure would then be exerted on NASA to include the officer in its next astronaut group.
Once again the Air Force searched through its records and, to the relief of the researchers, finally came across something that might fit the bill – a hope-filled application from a serving Air Force officer requesting test pilot and astronaut training. The name on the application was 28-year-old Capt. Edward Joseph Dwight, Jr., USAF. (p. 201)1962.
Four years into NASA's existence, the Kennedy Administration was trying to force a black astronaut onto the space administration, a clear example of social engineering for the benefit of electoral success if there ever was one...
Capt. Dwight ended up not being made of the right stuff, as you can learn about here (thanks Chuck Yeager).
10 years later, an almost completely white NASA came under the scrutiny of professional black agitator Rep. Charles Rangel (D., New York).
Yes, that Charles Rangel.
Here's what Jet magazine published on August 10, 1972 regarding a the black congressman's crusade to erase the whiteness at NASA [ Rangel Charges NASA Bias; Wants Civil Rights Probe]:
Rep. Charles Rangel (D., New York) recently called upon the U. S. Civil Rights Commission to conduct an investigation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to discover why the agency has no Black, Spanish or women astronauts.
In an interview with JET, Rangel said, "I am not concerned with reviewing the program as it exists today. It is obvious that it is not representative of the people of these United States. I would have NASA review its personnel policy. Something is seriously wrong when not a single member of the 42-man astronaut corps is female, Black or Hispanic. NASA is one of the few federal agencies which manages to get more money from Congress than the Administration often requests."
During its 14-year history, NASA has had only one Black nominee to be an astronaut. He was Maj. Robert Lawrence, a native of Chicago, Ill. However, his career as an astronaut ended tragically when he was killed making a landing of his F-104 jet.
John Buggs, newly appointed staff director of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission, said that an investigation of NASA would fall in line with the responsibility of the commission.Prior to 1972, NASA had standards.
It based pilot selection (outside of the Kennedy Administration forcing Capt. Dwight on NASA for his advantageous blackness) on merit.
After 1972, those standards - once general operating procedure - were replaced with a mandate from the U. S. Civil Rights Commission to... scrub away the vestiges of whiteness and replace it with minorities.
You can only have one mandate: prior to 1972, NASA's mandate was space exploration; post-1972, NASA's mandate was pleasing the U. S. Civil Rights Commission.
Joseph Shafritz and Jay Atkinson's 1985 book The Real Stuff: A History of NASA's Astronaut Recruitment Program fills us in one what happened next once NASA mandate for the exploration was grounded in favor of minority uplifting:
"We are working on plans to get members of minority groups into space. The Space Shuttle, which is the keystone to all our future space programs, will be an important factor in accomplishing this goal," NASA Administrator James Fletcher told an audience of 200 during a luncheon address on March 2, 1972, at the Equal Employment Opportunity Conference at Kennedy Space Center.
Fletcher turned to the television and news reporters, emphasizing, "These are only plans. We don't know they'll work out," adding that he would personally aid in "attempting to cut out the red tape and removing the stumbling blocks to real progress in EEO."
Sending black and women into space had become one of the major issues of the space program.
During a personal interview Ruth Bates Harris, Director of NASA Equal Employment Opportunity , said, "We [NASA] were concerned that we had no minority or women astronauts and that was something that came up constantly in my discussions with managers, including the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator."
NASA was vitally in a goldfish bowl. The emphasis on equal opportunity had increased significantly after passage of the 1972 amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act subjected the federal government to equal opportunity legislation.
On July 19, 1972, in a memorandum to Todd Groo, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, Harris state:
You perhaps will recall our earlier conversation in which I strongly underscored the urgency of moving ahead in this regard as (1) a way to improve our image and hence win some support from minorities and (2) a way to improve our EEO in a very vital area. I have taken this same concern to the Administrator and Deputy Administrator as well. It is important that we take steps now to implement Dr. Fletcher's publicized remarks at NASA's EEO conference that "we are working on plans to get minority groups into space."
It would not be considered preferential treatment nor reverse discrimination for NASA to integrate its Astronaut Corps. In fact to the contrary, it is discriminatory to allow our Corps to remain as pasteurized and insulated from the real world. Not only do we contribute to their mis-education by allowing a segregated group to exist, but also we acquiesce to a false sense of security and superiority... Equally as poignant is the fact that in spite of many space missions, minorities and women have gone through almost a half generation without being able to identify a single space hero in NASA. This looms as extremely significant when one realizes how our history books already have distorted versions about the contribution (or lack of them) by person from minority groups. A similar situation exists for women and other traditionally excluded group. (p. 134-135)Considering minorities have made virtually no positive contributions to America (sports, music, and entertainment don't count), it's puzzling to try and ascertain what Ruth Bates Harris was talking about back in 1972.
In closing, it's important to note the response Charles Rangel's charge of bias at NASA received. The Real Stuff: A History of NASA's Astronaut Recruitment Program tells us:
As a result, Jeffry M. Miller, Director, Office of Federal Civil Rights Evaluation, told NASA in a letter written August 12, 1972:
The Commission recently received a letter from Congressman Rangel which asserted that all of the astronauts in NASA's space program are white males. In view of the important part that this programs plays in our lives and the great psychological impact that media coverage of our manned space efforts has on millions of people around the world, this figure if true is most distressing. (p. 136)America, in 2014, no longer has a manned space program.
We no longer have the ability to send men of any color into space, unless they hitch a ride with the Russians.
But, remember, the "most distressing" (words of the Director, Office of Federal Civil Rights Evaluation in 1972) news of an all-white male astronaut program was greeted with the full force of the Federal Government; NASA's mission for the stars ended, with the advancement of colored people via the white man's technology the new priority.
So we no longer have a manned space program, but at least we have a multicolored mixture of humans pretending to be astronauts!
So, there's your history of NASA the History Channel (History.com) won't share with you.
From 1958 to 1972, NASA embarked a mission to explore the heavens; post-1972 NASA was nothing more than the United States Postal Service, dedicated to the same goals as the NAACP -- the advancement of colored people at the expense of white people.