In Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership, ten contributors present compelling arguments and analyses that shed new light on the power and leadership of the nation's presidency and on the space program. Setting the tone for the collection, Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy maintain that the nation's presidency had become imperial by the mid-1970s and that supporters of the space program had grown to find relief in such a presidency, which they believed could help them obtain greater political support and funding. Subsequent chapters explore the roles and political leadership, vis-a-vis government policy, of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.
For over 30 years space advocates have looked to strong presidential leadership in space policy as the sine qua non of forwarding their space exploration agendas. Kennedy's bold decision to race the Soviets to the moon in the 1960s represents the high-water mark of presidential leadership in space matters. But as this collection of essays by 11 presidential scholars demonstrates, the power of the president is more limited than space advocates seem to realize. Each essay reviews every administration's space policies since Eisenhower to reveal the complex relationships among the presidency, Congress, and the bureaucracy that produce policy. They clearly demonstrate that overreliance by space advocates on the power of the "imperial presidency" to set the space agenda single-handedly has hampered implementation of expanding space efforts as the power of the presidency waned in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate. The failure of Bush's Space Exploration Initiative in the early 1990s stands in contrast to Kennedy's Apollo decision, proving that presidential edicts alone are insufficient to implement space policy. Highly recommended for academic libraries.Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll., Ga.