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Exploring the Unknown.

  • J. M., Logsdon
  • S. J., Garber
  • R. D., Launius
SETI Institute


One of the most important developments of the twentieth century has been the movement of humanity into space with machines and people. The extension of human activity into outer space has been accompanied by a high degree of self-awareness of its historical significance. Because most of the activity in outer space was carried out under government sponsorship, it was accompanied by the documentary record required of public institutions, and there has been a spate of official and privately written histories of most major aspects of space achievement to date. When top leaders considered what course of action to pursue in space, their deliberations and decisions often were carefully put on the record. There is, accordingly, no lack of material for those who aspire to understand the origins and evolution of U.S. space policies and programs.This reality forms the rationale for this series. Precisely because there is so much historical material available on space matters, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) decided in 1988 that it would be extremely useful to have easily available to scholars and the interested public a selective collection of many of the seminal documents related to the evolution of the U.S. civilian space program. While recognizing that much space activity has taken place under the sponsorship of the Department of Defense and other national security organizations, the U.S. private sector, and in other countries around the world, NASA felt that there would be lasting value in a collection of documentary material primarily focused on the evolution of the U.S. government s civilian space program, most of which has been carried out since 1958 under the Agency s auspices. As a result, the NASA History Office contracted with the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University s Elliott School of International Affairs to prepare such a collection. This is the sixth volume in the documentary history series; two additional ones containing documents and introductory essays related to human space flight, including microgravity research in Earth orbit, will follow. The documents collected during this research project were assembled from a diverse number of both public and private sources. A major repository of primary source materials relative to the history of the civil space program is the NASA Historical Reference Collection of the NASA History Office located at the Agency s Headquarters in Washington, DC.

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