Reaching for the High Frontier: Chapter 9

by Michael A. G. Michaud

Copyright 1986 by Praeger Publishers and reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT. Read complete book here.


Chapter 9: Organizing for Politics

One of the reasons for the surge of space interest group formation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the attempts at coalition, was the desire to influence public policy decisions; the reality of the need to lobby had intruded on the space dream. The space constituency had not been organized for the 1976 and 1978 elections, and its wishes had seemed to be largely ignored. Meanwhile, however, new technologies were promoting grass-roots lobbying and the rise of single-issue groups. In some other fields, such as environmental protection, groups already had demonstrated the potential effectiveness of citizens organizing for politics outside the traditional party and interest group structure. In addition, some space activists had acquired political experience through their work with other cause-oriented groups.

Around 1980, people in the citizens space movement “woke up to politics,” as Trudy E. Bell puts it.[4] There had been growing impatience with the unwillingness of the Ford and Carter administrations to support major new projects in the space field. There also was a widespread desire to get new space goals approved by national authorities. The 1980 election seemed to offer a focal point for such an effort. With the approaching first flight of the Space Shuttle, some sections of the new space advocacy saw a need to begin campaigning for the next step in the classic agenda for manned spaceflight: the permanently manned space station. In the communications media used by the space advocacy, calls for political action were seen with growing frequency. “To have true political clout, we must first learn to apply the techniques of other already successful special interest groups,” wrote one correspondent in a letter in the August 1981 issue of Astronomy. “Let’s stop being politically naive and get our act together.”[5]

These initiatives have led in the direction of more permanent, formal efforts to influence the decision-making process in Washington, although citizens pro-space groups still are relatively weak as a political force. They also have led to a growing exchange of activists between the space movement and the world of politics.


In Chapter 2 I pointed out that the major aerospace interest groups had government relations offices at work by the mid-1970s. In the case of the pro-space citizens groups, the beginnings of their organization for politics can be traced back at least as far as 1977, when Carolyn Meinel Henson started the L-5 Society’s Legislative Information Service. Ken McCormick’s National Action Committee for Space, formed in 1978, might be described as the first citizens pro-space lobbying operation actually located in Washington, D.C., although it was small, underfunded, and did not last long. The L-5 Society also was the first citizens pro-space group to hire a professional lobbyist (Leigh Ratiner), in 1979. The L-5 phone tree, formally created in 1980 after three years of informal existence, also was an early attempt to form a political arm of the citizens pro-space movement, as was the Space Coalition in 1980.

Political scientists Michael Fulda and Nathan C. Goldman, themselves space activists, have written that pro-space groups emerged as a political force in the 1979 session of Congress and in the 1980 elections. They noted that the groups first made a foray into Washington lobbying, then into electoral campaigns.[6] That 1979 foray was focused primarily on the Moon treaty and the satellite power station issue, described in Chapters 4 and 5.


The first lasting, independent organization created specifically for the purpose of pro-space politics at the national level came from different origins. In late 1978, several individuals “actively involved in some aspect of making the citizens of this country aware that a commitment to space is absolutely vital for our future” formed an “invisible college” held together by regular correspondence and telephone calls.[7] This group included Mark R. Chartrand III, his then wife Trudy E. Bell, space writers David Dooling and James E. Oberg, photographer Karl Esch, and space enthusiasts Harrell Graham, James Logan, and Alan Fader. In early 1980, Graham told members of this group that he was thinking of forming a political action committee (PAC) for space. (Graham had been bringing lecturers on space to Antioch College in Ohio, where he was then working.)

Members of the invisible college were in contact with space activists David Webb, Charles Chafer, and Sallie Chafer. In a meeting held in March 1980, a new organization was formed called Campaign for Space, which was intended to be “a grass-roots public-interest politically active organization.” The original Campaign for Space was to have several arms: member services, public information services, a space lobby, a space PAC, and an adjunct research organization.[8] In effect, it attempted to bring together into one organization the functions then distributed among different space interest groups. Graham was to be the Campaign for Space representative in Washington.

It was decided to incorporate Campaign for Space in March 1980, when the American Astronautical Society was holding an annual meeting in Washington, D.C. According to Bell, the feeling of an awakening to political awareness was particularly evident in a special AAS session on the politics of space, where Carolyn Meinel Henson gave a speech about the need to work on Congress.[9] Many space activists were very conscious of the fact that 1980 was an election year and that something would have to be done politically to get space concerns back near the top of the national agenda.

After filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, Campaign for Space put out a press release in which its Executive Director David C. Webb said, “Our national leadership is put on notice that Campaign for Space is joining the election process immediately to represent the views of a diverse constituency calling for a revitalized American space program.” To achieve its goals, the new group announced that it would assist the election of political candidates sympathetic to the need for a stronger U.S. space effort and actively oppose those who had failed to recognize the importance of a stronger effort in space. Campaign for Space sought the greater involvement of private industry in all aspects of space development, the early establishment of factories in Earth orbit, and changes in regulatory and tax structures to encourage private sector space development and exploration. In addition, the group favored ongoing research into the use of lunar and asteroidal resources for space industry.[10] One of the organization’s board members was Gene Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek.” Senator Adlai Stevenson III wrote a letter of support for the Campaign for Space in early 1980.

Unfortunately, Campaign for Space got off to a bad start, in part due to friction between Graham and some of the other activists. Graham left and founded the Citizens for Space PAC, which advertised in Omni and organized letter-writing campaigns. He then formed its educational offshoot United for Space. Both later merged into the L-5 Society.[11] Graham also invented the T-shirt design of our galaxy with the slogan, “You Are Here.” David Webb became the leading figure in Campaign for Space but was less and less active as he got involved in campaigning successfully for U.S. participation in the UNISPACE conference held in Vienna in August 1982.

Campaign for Space survived these problems and donated about $2,000 to 12 candidates during the 1982 campaign, concentrating on members of the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Contributions were doubled during the 1984 elections, when Campaign for Space contributed about $4,000 to 28 candidates.[12] This was very modest when compared with the $113 million given by PACs in the 1983-84 election cycle; the National Association of Realtors gave over $2 million.[13] On the Presidential side, Campaign for Space supported John Glenn’s bid for the Democratic nomination with a $1,000 contribution.[14] After Glenn lost the nomination to Walter Mondale, Campaign for Space endorsed Ronald Reagan for his support of the civil space program but explicitly did not support the idea of a space-based anti-missile system because it opposed the “militarization” of space.[15]

As of 1984, Campaign for Space was being run by Thomas J. Frieling and his wife Barbara in Bainbridge, Georgia. According to a 1984 promotional circular, the organization supported with financial aid and in-kind contributions the election of candidates who favor a strong civil space program, researched the attitudes of Congress, and provided the legislative and executive branches with up-to-date information on space issues.[16]

Campaign for Space produces the bimonthly newsletter Update, and occasional notices to members on events related to space politics. A “Space Station Alert” postcard mailing in late 1983 called for supporters to telephone the White House opinion line, and an April 1984 circular called on recipients to send telegrams supporting the space station to House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Edward P. Boland. Campaign for Space also supports a fifth Space Shuttle orbiter.

Campaign for Space remains small, with about a thousand contributors. It also is handicapped by the fact that it has no full-time representation in Washington, D.C. A larger pro-space PAC might have been possible if pro-space groups had joined together to support it. However, other political action groups sprang up, continuing the fragmentation of the space movement into the political field as well.

Charles Chafer, who originally supported the PAC approach, had become skeptical of it by 1983, noting that space advocates got into the PAC field just as other interest groups were moving away from it and toward coalition politics.[17] On the other hand, PACs have remained a growth industry, with “nonconnected” or ideological PACS the fastest growing category. There were 3,803 PACs registered as of July 1, 1984.[18]


The first serious candidate for a major party Presidential nomination to speak out on space during the 1970s was Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown, who stirred a brief flicker of hope among some space enthusiasts between 1976 and 1980. However, the effort by citizen pro-space activists to support Brown was never well organized, attracted little attention outside California, and more or less died when Brown failed to win national office.

Pro-space activists had no success in persuading either the Democratic or Republican camps to include a strong pro-space plank in their 1980 platforms. However, political scientist Michael Fulda, a supporter of third-party candidate John Anderson, played a role in persuading Anderson to adopt a strong pro-space policy statement, in what he considered a first-time attempt to mobilize the space constituency at the Presidential campaign level. The AIAA ‘ s Jerry Grey made significant contributions to the drafting process, which involved about one hundred individuals; Fulda calls it “a community effort of the space constituency.”[19]

A group was organized known as Anderson Supporters for Space Science and Technology, which included two former NASA administrators on its board of directors and had chapters in 13 states. The Anderson campaign set up a special account for space-related donations. Although the dollar amount collected in the fund was small, it did account for 10 percent of the funds collected from citizens groups for Anderson, third behind womens and environmental issue donations.

During the campaign, space fan Peter Anderson, with the assistance of Omni magazine and Barbara Evans of the Space Studies Institute, sought to organize a debate on space among the major Presidential candidates. According to Anderson, contact was made with Reagan adviser Edwin Meese, and arrangements were made with the Smithsonian Institution to sponsor the event. However, the Reagan camp reportedly declined the invitation.[20]


The pace of space-related political activity began to accelerate noticeably in early 1981, when the Reagan administration was taking office and the Space Shuttle was moving toward its first flight. This was due both to the perception of an opportunity, with the arrival of an administration that might be more sympathetic than its predecessor to the space dream, and to concerns that the Republicans might slash NASA funding as part of a budget-cutting exercise. Several groups and individuals made active efforts to influence the space policy of the new administration during the transition period and the first months of the Reagan administration.

Omni had a Space Project, whose coordinator Peter Anderson sought to put together “The Prospectus for Space Development” to influence the new administration. Anderson sent out telegrams to pro-space organizations in January and February 1981 calling for a mail campaign supporting NASA.[21] Meanwhile, the L-5 Society conducted a letter-writing and telephone campaign in late 1980 and early 1981 that it claimed was carefully coordinated with “behind the scenes negotiations in Washington.”[22] The L-5 Society called on members to urge support for a permanently inhabited space station and for increased research and development on solar power satellites. The ubiquitous Barbara Marx Hubbard also was involved, writing to Vice-President Bush to urge a visionary space policy.[23]

This period also saw a notable increase in pro-space activity by political conservatives, who saw space as an arena for private enterprise, the new military high ground, a symbol of high technology leadership, and a place where the United States could compete successfully with the Soviet Union. They had forceful spokesmen in Congress, such as Senator Malcolm Wallop and Congressman Ken Kramer on space defense, and Senator Harrison Schmitt and Congressman Newt Gingrich on civil space policy issues. Some conservative groups had elevated mail solicitation into a science, and they applied these techniques to the space interest field. The subsequent emergence of conservatively oriented pro-space organizations was to change the character of the pro-space movement, bringing new strains into its already divided councils.


After Ronald Reagan’s victory in November 1980, leading figures in the L-5 Society and the American Astronautical Society decided that something should be done to influence the new administration’s views on space policy, and they planned a meeting in the Los Angeles area in January 1981. Science fiction writer Jerry E. Pournelle, the local coordinator for the meeting, invited selected individuals to a “workshop” to be held on January 30, 1981, at the home of science fiction writer Larry Niven, a frequent co-author with Pournelle. The meeting was to prepare documents to be submitted to the “Space Policy Advisory Committee.” When neither of the expected chairmen was able to attend the meeting, Pournelle took the chair of what was called the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, a position that he has held ever since. Well-connected in conservative political circles, Pournelle played a role in getting the council’s views to decision makers in the new administration. The work of the council was supported by grants from the L-5 Society and the Vaughan Foundation and by “the generosity of individual members.”[24]

The council is not a coalition of organizations but an ad hoc group of individuals invited by the chairman. Although its ranks have tended to include a disproportionate number of L-5 members, it is an intriguing cross-section of space activists and other figures with a space connection. At that first meeting, it included science fiction writers Paol Anderson, Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle; ex-NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine; former astronauts Gerald Carr, Philip K. Chapman, Gordon Cooper, and Walter Schirra; scientists David Criswell, Freeman Dyson, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and Lowell Wood; veteran L-5 activists Randall Clamons, K. Eric Drexler, Gerald W. Driggers, Mark M. Hopkins, J. Peter Vajk, and Gordon Woodcock; von Braun rocket team member Konrad Dannenberg; Space Foundation activists Arthur Dula and astronomer Harlan Smith; space entrepreneur Gary C. Hudson; Space Coalition Chairman Robert E. Salisbury; American Astronautical Society President Charles Sheffield; aerospace engineer and writer G. Harry Stine; Bjo Trimble of Write Now!; and Barbara Marx Hubbard.

Not all these people were political conservatives by any means. However, the first report of the council had a strongly nationalistic ring. Stating that “the statesmen who lead Mankind permanently into space will be remembered when Isabella the Great and Columbus are long forgotten,” it urged the President to announce a bold new space plan, with the following specific goals:

  • A space “industrial park” in low Earth orbit to be partially operational by the fall of 1988
  • Development of technology for construction of large space structures in high Earth orbit
  • A lunar base to exploit lunar resources, to be operational before the end of the century.[25]

According to the council, the low Earth orbit base would develop U.S. space capabilities; large space structures would lead to national wealth from communications and energy systems (notably the solar power satellite) and lunar resources would, ensure U.S. raw material requirements in the next century. There was a strong implication that space science and planetary exploration were considered secondary; missions were to be subordinated to technology acquisition, and missions that increased capabilities to reach national goals were to have priority over those that did not.

Much of the language of the report was straight out of the mainstream of space activism. It stated: “We do not have to accept limits to growth.”[26] However, there were new themes, which were to be increasingly characteristic of the post-1980 space movement: the importance of space for national defense and an increased emphasis on private enterprise in space. “Space has very great military potential,” said the report. “Many experts believe that strategically decisive weapons can be deployed in space.. . . Space based beam weapons may develop into reliable missile defenses.”[27] This last point was made more than two years before President Reagan gave implied endorsement to the concept in his speech of March 23, 1983. Titling one committee report “How to Save Civilization and Make a Little Money,” the Council argued, that “the most important goal is to make space self-sustaining, which means economically profitable.”[28] This was to become a central theme of the Reagan administration’s space policy.

In August 1983, the council issued a report entitled “Space and Assured Survival” that called for immediate deployment of defensive systems.[29] According to Pournelle, its recommendations were the result of a compromise among different technical schools of thought within the counci1.[30]

Pournelle believes that the council’s reports have been read at high levels in the White House and have had a real influence on policy. According to him, a copy of the first report was hand-carried to the office of Reagan adviser William Clark “within hours.”[31] The L-5 Society also has claimed that Richard Allen, the first National Security Adviser in the Reagan White House, had read the first report and that a copy had been placed on the President’s desk.[32] Pournelle has a letter from then Deputy National Security Adviser Robert C. MacFarlane acknowledging receipt, and letters from President Reagan and Science Adviser Keyworth complimenting the council on its work. One Keyworth letter regretted that he could not attend the meeting but said he had asked Dr. Lowell Wood to represent him. (Wood, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, has been active on the issue of space-based weapons.) However, Victor Reis, who was then Keyworth’s assistant director for space issues, believes that the council’s reports did not reach the President and had little impact on policy.[33]

Pournelle has stated that language from the council’s report appeared in President Reagan’s State of the Union address of January 23, 1984. A textual analysis shows some similarities.

The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, which has remained an ad hoc body of fluctuating membership, seems to have been more effective in influencing policy than either the National Coordinating Committee on Space (NCCS) or the Space Coalition (which never really began operating). It was a single organization, in which members were present as individuals and not as representatives of other groups. Its members tended to have broadly similar views about the potential uses of space. Its views were in tune with those of the new administration, and its timing was good (it took the NCCS until September 1981 to put together a much vaguer statement). The council concentrated its efforts on the White House, where major space policy decisions are made, rather than on the Congress, where most other space advocates have focused their energies. Above all, many of the individual members of the council were well connected, and some appear to have had access points at high levels in the administration, an advantage that most pro-space groups have lacked.


The American Space Foundation (ASF) grew out of a December 1980 conversation between Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich of Georgia, a young, dynamic ex-history teacher first elected in 1978, and Robert Weed, a young but experienced Republican political activist who had worked on a Gingrich campaign. Gingrich, who was to emerge as a leading spokesman for the “Conservative Opportunity Society,” suggested that Weed set up a political action committee for space. During the following month, Weed brought together other young Republican political workers he knew, including Andrew Alford, William G. Norton, Melinda Farris, and Carlyle Gregory (Weed, Farris, and Gregory all were on Gingrich’s staff at the time). They founded the American Space Political Action Committee to raise funds for pro-space candidates and to fill what they saw as a vacuum in U.S. space policy.[34]

When the American Space PAC failed to attract enough support, its organizers quickly abandoned it and founded the American Space Foundation, which was to be a pro-space lobbying organization. They were convinced that they were filling a gap and that no other comparable organization existed. Others were brought in, including Frank Lavin, a young Republican politico who had been with the conservatively-oriented Bruce Eberle direct-mail organization and who had joined the White House personnel office after the Reagan administration took power. It was his idea to use direct mail for a pro-space lobbying organization.

In the view of ASF’s founders, the space movement needed a political arm, a way of bringing space enthusiasts together with those who knew politics. In short, it needed a formal lobby (this was somewhat reminiscent of Leigh Ratiner’s views when he and his colleagues tried to launch the earlier Space Coalition). “You can’t just have enthusiasts,” says Lavin. “You need to involve managers and political experts.”[35] ASF’s intent was to be the lowest common denominator, a nonpartisan organization with a pro-space legislative agenda. Lavin, who became chairman of the American Space Foundation in the fall of 1981, argues that ASF was started to protect NASA, to focus the debate, to give legitimacy to space, to allow congressmen to be more pro-space, and to facilitate the civil and commercial uses of space.[36] In those desires, ASF was reflecting much of the pro-space constituency.

During 1981, two fund-raising mailings were sent to Omni subscribers in Georgia and Virginia. The letters were signed by Senator Mack Mattingly, of Georgia, another Republican. By the fall of 1981, the Bruce Eberle organization was doing fund-raising mailings for the new group.[37]

During 1982, Weed spent much of his time working on the campaign of Republican Paul Trible, who was running for (and won) a Virginia Senate seat. Frank Lavin, then an employee of the Agency for International Development, became the new chairman of ASF. The organization continued its direct mail fund-raising campaign, building up its finances and its mailing lists. According to Lavin, ASF was applying the fund-raising and direct mail sophistication of modern politics to space issues. The new organization deliberately kept its program three to six months behind its revenues,[38] in sharp contrast to the early L-5 Society, which had tended to take action first and worry about the money later. This approach generated suspicion among some other pro-space activists, who asked if ASF members were getting anything for their money. However, L-5 Society Vice-President Mark Hopkins commented in 1984 that this is a legitimate technique.[39]

In January 1983, ASF began putting out a quarterly newsletter, ASP News. It sent out appeals for funds, including one signed by ex-Skylab astronaut Edward Gibson.[40] Later that year, ASF set up an office in a building on Capitol Hill owned by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Former congressional staffer Fred Whiting was hired to be ASF’s first executive director. (Whiting, a former television and radio news reporter in Richmond, Virginia, had worked for Senator Trible.) In November 1983, ASF performed an important Capitol Hill ritual by hosting a recep­tion in the Capitol building, thereby announcing the existence of the new organization and giving it some political credibility. By then its advisory board included former astronauts Edward Gibson and Brian T. O’Leary.

During 1983, ASF took on its first lobbying campaign, in support of the Space Commerce Act introduced by Democratic Congressman Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. Lavin believes that ASF was the first pro-space organization to use a postcard campaign as a technique, stimulating about 1,000 cards to Congress.[41] Akaka aide Diana Hoyt was quoted as saying that the ASF postcard campaign provoked a considerable response on the part of many congressional offices.[42] The foundation also made a point of publicly giving awards to members of Congress whom it considered pro-space.

ASF became active again in the fall of 1983 when it joined other pro-space groups in campaigning for the space station. ASF also conducted a survey of opinion on space-based defense systems and a congressional poll on the space station and released an “issue brief” on why the station should be manned.[43] For the L-5 Society and the World Science Fiction Convention, the organization prepared a membership guide for student space groups.[44]

In January 1984, ASF’s board of directors set out the objectives of its lobbying for the next year:[45]

  1. The establishment of a permanently manned space station
  2. Significant increases in NASA funding, to a level of 1 percent of the federal budget
  3. The fostering of private sector development of space and its opportunities
  4. Serious consideration of the issue of a space-based defense system to prevent nuclear war.

Except for the second item, these positions supported those already taken by the Reagan administration. In other initiatives, ASF sought support for the Young Astronaut Program backed by the Reagan administration, circulated a petition for a stamp honoring astronauts Grissom, White, and Chafee, who died in the Apollo fire of January 1967, and worked on the Tax Status of Space Act.

ASF renamed its PAC the ASF Candidates Committee in 1983 to raise money that it could give to pro-space candidates in the 1984 elections.[46] Like the L-5 Society and its offshoots, ASF seemed to be attempting to perform at least three major functions: (1) education, (2) lobbying, and (3) the PAC type of political action.

As of 1984, ASF seemed to have been quite successful in attracting members through direct-mail techniques. With only 1,100 members at the end of 1982, ASF grew to 22,000 by the spring of 1984. In its 1983 Annual Report, ASF published a graph of its membership growth (Figure 9.1 [not included due to copyright]).

On the other hand, ASF’s first annual conference, held in Washington, D.C., in September 1984, attracted only about 75 attendees. By the end of that year, Fred Whiting had left the organization to join the National Space Council and Robert Weed became executive director and later president.

On the face of it, ASF looks like a useful step toward a permanent, professionally staffed, pro-space lobbying organization. However, several space activists interviewed during 1983 and 1984 expressed reservations about ASF because of its close ties with conservative Republican activism.


Until 1981, the only institutional advocates of the space program in Congress were the authorizing committees responsible for NASA. Individual members such as Congressman George E. Brown and Senator Barry Goldwater also spoke out in support of increased space activity outside the context of those committees.

New phenomena appeared in 1981. One was the emergence of new conservative Republican spokesmen who took high profile positions in favor of increased American activity in space. The most visible were Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and Robert Walker, of Pennsylvania, both also spokesmen for the Conservative Opportunity Society. The other phenomenon was the formation of organizations of members and staffers within the Congress around the pro-space theme.

In addition to spawning the American Space Foundation, Gingrich and Weed also discussed ways to increase interest in space within the Congress. One idea, also discussed with Senator Paul Trible, was a Congressional Space Caucus, a coalition of members “pushing” space.[47] But other events occurred first.
In February 1981, Gingrich and Trible sent out a pro-space “Dear Colleague” letter to other members of Congress. The letter supported a space operations center (a form of manned space station), a space fighter, and a satellite solar power station. The idea of Gingrich and Weed, the letter asked other members to write if they were interested.[48]

Inspired by the first flight of the Space Shuttle in April 1981, Gingrich sent out another “Dear Colleague” letter to collect signers for a letter to President Reagan urging a visionary space policy. Seventeen members, including some liberal Democrats, signed the letter.[49] Gingrich also began talking to others about a bill on space policy. On July 28, 1981, Gingrich and Congressman David Emery (later Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency) introduced a bill entitled the National Space and Aeronautics Act. According to James Muncy, who did much of the drafting, this was a rewrite of Senator Harrison Schmitt’ s space policy act. If anything, it was even more visionary, containing language about using space to enhance freedom and foreseeing the addition of extraterrestrial colonies to the Union. Although it drew 17 co-sponsors, the bill went nowhere.[50]


Meanwhile, in May 1981, several Republican congressional staff aides began meeting to discuss ways to work for space within Congress. In July, they formed the Congressional Staff Space Group (CSSG). The key organizers were Robert Weed, the peripatetic young space activist James Muncy (then an aide to Gingrich), William Norton (aide to Congressman James Jeffries), Karl Pflock (aide to Congressman Ken Kramer), and Fred Whiting (press secretary to Congressman Ray McGrath). Norton was elected chairman, John Bosma, vice-chairman, Melinda Farris (then an aide to Gingrich) secretary-treasurer, and James Muncy, executive director. Diana Hoyt, the dynamic young aide to Congressman David Akaka, also became an early activist in the CSSG and later chaired the organization. According to Muncy, Barbara Marx Hubbard supported the effort from the sidelines.[51]

Karl Pflock, who had been a member of the L-5 Society and the National Space Institute as well as being a science fiction writer, recalls that the motivations for the CSSG were (1) a coincidence of interests among people who already knew each other and (2) the catalyzing effect of the first Space Shuttle mission in April 1981 (he notes, however, that the idea had been discussed before then). According to Pflock, he, Norton, and Weed thought the defense side was important; in their view, the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union and could lose its access to space. All strong supporters of free enterprise, they also wanted to see space commercialization happen.[52]

The CSSG was essentially an informal mechanism for exchanging views and information among congressional staffers interested in space, sometimes with the intent of influencing members. Muncy says it was intended to be the infrastructure for a space caucus.[53] It also became something of a public forum on Capitol Hill, cosponsoring lunches with the American Astronautical Society. Although useful as a network, it did not have the potential political clout of a caucus, which was the next step.


The CSSG people, particularly Muncy, approached Gingrich and liberal Democratic Congressman Timothy E. Wirth, who agreed to be co­chairmen of a congressional space caucus. When Wirth lost interest, the CSSG activists approached Akaka, who had become interested in space matters after NASA refused to fund a support facility for an observatory in Hawaii. Akaka agreed to become co-chairman.[54]

On November 20, 1981, Gingrich, Akaka, and six other members of the House sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter to all members of the House of Representatives. This letter, drafted by Diana Hoyt and James Muncy, said the Congressional Space Caucus would provide legislative support on space issues, serve as a clearinghouse on space information, and assist its members in promoting their common goal of revitalizing America’s space program. Proposed activities of the caucus included special briefings and presentations for members and staff and the publication of a newsletter and issue briefs. “By joining the Congressional Space Caucus,” it was stated, “you can demonstrate your concern and interest in this growing political issue.”[55]

Hoyt became executive director of the caucus in 1982. Largely through her efforts, the caucus remained active and continued to build its membership. It sponsored briefings and debates on a wide variety of space-related subjects. Carl Sagan spoke on planetary exploration in 1982,[56] and other speakers have addressed space commercialization, the Space Shuttle, the Centaur launch vehicle, and Ken Kramer’s space defense-related “People Protection Act” (see Chapter 11). The caucus sponsored a debate on the issue of anti-satellite weapons.[57] Materials on the High Frontier space defense proposal, public opinion about space, and other subjects have been circulated to members of Congress. The Congressional Space Caucus joined with the Congressional Black Caucus and the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to honor black high school students from Camden, New Jersey, whose experiment flew on a Space Shuttle in 1983.[58]

The increase in caucus membership was impressive. The original eight signers grew to 35 by the time the caucus was registered as a legislative service organization in January 1982. With Hoyt in charge of recruiting, membership took off: 80 in February 1983, 130 in July 1983, and 166 in February 1984. This made it one of the largest caucuses on Capitol Hill. As of mid-1984, its leaders hoped to expand to the Senate. The caucus remained bipartisan, about half Rebublicans and half Democrats. As of 1984, the caucus was a loose, unstructured organization, without dedicated office space, permanent staff, or its own budget.

The caucus has avoided taking positions on specific issues. Like the pro-space movement, it would have difficulty in achieving consensus on such divisive issues as weapons in space or manned versus unmanned space exploration. The caucus also has to be careful about stepping on political toes on Capitol Hill. The more it sought to take positions, the more it would risk offending the House Committee on Science and Technology, which regards civil space issues as falling within its jurisdiction.

It has to be a boost for the pro-space cause that over a third of the members of the House of Representatives publicly committed themselves to saying that space is important to the nation. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that so many professional politicians see no political risk in doing so. The caucus helps members of Congress feel comfortable about being pro-space.

A caucus can be a useful political instrument within the Congress, a kind of internal lobby that can support or oppose specific positions or legislation. However, the Congressional Space Caucus had not reached that stage as of 1985 and appeared to be inactive. William Norton comments, “The Caucus never fulfilled its potential.”[59]


Throughout the late 1970s, the L-5 Society had been the most politically active of the citizens pro-space organizations. In lobbying so actively, it ran a risk of bringing into question its tax-free status as an educational, nonprofit organization under Section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Under the law, such organizations may not spend more than 20 percent of their funds on lobbying. Responding to the opportunity of the 1980 election, L-5 wanted to divert more of its funds to political action. The emerging leadership of L-5, headed by Mark Hopkins and Jerry Pournelle, saw the need for a separate organization.

Early in 1982, an L-5 Society mailing announced the formation of a new organization called the L-5 Spacepac, or simply Spacepac. Mark Hopkins, signing as L-5 Legislative Action Coordinator, explained that Spacepac had the same general goals as the L-5 Society. It also had much of the same board of directors; Spacepac’s board included Hopkins, L-5 President Philip Chapman, Jerry Pournelle, and L-5 phone tree Coordinator David Brandt-Erichsen. In the best L-5 tradition, Spacepac was decentralized, starting with five local chapters. At the national level, Spacepac was to engage in fund-raising, donating money to candidates, and lobbying. “Donating money to political campaigns is the key reason for the effectiveness of political action committees,” wrote Hopkins. “Let us show the politicians that the pro-space constituency understands this basic fact of political life.”[60]

Using direct-mail techniques, Spacepac first raised money from L-5 members, then from outside the society. Arrangements with some other space interest groups allowed Spacepac to use their mailing lists for its appeals. Spacepac received cooperation from the National Space Institute, Spaceweek, High Frontier, Omni, and others.[61] Spacepac circulated letters of support from former NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine, author James A. Michener, and science fiction writer and editor Ben Bova, then vice-president of the National Space Institute.

Spacepac, like Campaign for Space, did a Congressional Report Card, which rates all members of Congress on their positions on space issues. In 1984 it issued The Space Activist’s Handbook,[62] inspired by Robert A. Freitas Jr.’s 1978 book Lobbying for Space. The handbook included advice, voting records, and statistical “ammunition”; the American Space Foundation provided a section on “membership technologies.” Spacepac also has access to the L-5 phone tree of 17,000 to 18,000 names, which it claims can place at least 2,000 telephone calls on anyone’s desk within 48 hours.[63]

During the 1982 election campaign, Spacepac contributed to 11 pro-space candidates. Volunteers, through the network of local Spacepacs, were active in several campaigns. Congressman Newt Gingrich, of Georgia, who received a $1,000 contribution, is said to have publicly thanked Spacepac when he addressed the spring 1983 L-5 Society Space Development Conference in Houston.[64]

In its summer 1983 mailing, Spacepac said it was organized by the leaders of the L-5 Society to “make politicians listen to the hopes and dreams of the millions of space enthusiasts in America.” The primary focus was to be the space station. Noting that Walter Mondale had been a leader in the fight against the Space Shuttle, Spacepac Chairman Mark Hopkins wrote “Mondale’s past record on space issues marks him as a disaster if he is elected.”[65] Spacepac was left with only one option for the Democratic nomination, which was to support Senator (and ex-astronaut) John Glenn. The organization also endorsed Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, stating in a January 1984 letter, “There is a consensus emerging in Washington that Ronald Reagan is strongly pro­space.”[66]

Late in 1983, Spacepac and L-5 drew closer to the Glenn campaign, contributing $5,000 and volunteers. Glenn in turn joined the board of governors of the L-5 Society. To make it easier for supporters to contribute to the party of their choice, Spacepac set up a Republican fund and a Democratic fund.[67] Spacepac also was involved in what Mark Hopkins calls the “Space Station War” (see Chapter 13).

Politics was a central theme at the L-5 Society Space Development Conference in San Francisco in April 1984. Since John Glenn was by then out of the Democratic candidate race and Walter Mondale was considered unacceptable, L-5 and Spacepac leaders decided to throw their support to Ronald Reagan. At the conference, Hopkins announced the formation of a group called “Space Advocates for Reagan.”

In an August 1984 article in the L-5 News, Spacepac Director of Public Affairs Scott Pace described the group’s policy platform, which showed how far the L-5 Society had moved toward the mainstream of space advocacy, NASA, and the Classic Agenda for manned spaceflight, as well as toward the private enterprise approach to space development favored by the Reagan administration:[68]

  1. Complete full development of the National Space Transportation system
  2. Make the establishment of a permanently manned space station an immediate national priority
  3. Establish at least one new planetary exploration mission start each year
  4. Develop, publicly or privately, orbital transfer vehicles for a wide range of missions
  5. Increase support for both pure and applied space science programs
  6. Increase efforts to facilitate the transfer of government developed technology to the private sector
  7. Rekindle the enthusiasm of America’s students and educators for science and technology education
  8. Create a favorable tax environment for new commerical ventures and products in space
  9. Streamline the government regulation of private sector launches and payloads
  10. Ensure reliable and sufficient funding to carry out the points of this policy outline

Spacepac appears to have a broader base of financial support than Campaign for Space, and therefore a bigger fund from which to make contributions. According to its Washington representative Gary Paiste, the organization hoped to raise $100,000 for the 1984 campaign.[69] However, this remains modest compared with the funds raised by some of the larger PACs.

As of 1984, Spacepac appeared to be more of a lobbying organization than a typical PAC. Of the roughly $30,000 Spacepac spent in 1984, most went into mail and telephone campaigns, primarily in support of full funding for the space station.[70]


The January/February 1984 issue of Campaign for Space’s Update commented that the 1984 Presidential campaign had the potential of being a favorable one for the U.S. space program. For the first time in years, space policy was being debated on the national level. One major candidate (Glenn) had announced a detailed space policy (in 1983, including a call for a space station),[71] and the incumbent President might be in the process of launching the United States on its first new manned space program in more than a decade. This situation, said Update, “is a veritable embarrassment of riches compared to the previous Presidential election, when neither Reagan nor Carter mentioned the civil space program, and only very late into the campaign did third-party candidate John Anderson release a space policy statement.”[72]

The 1984 platforms of the two parties revealed a sharp difference of opinion on space-related issues. The Democrats had nothing to say in support of the dreams of most pro-space activists and attacked proposals to put weapons in space.[73] By contrast, the Republicans supported the space station as a stepping stone to a multi-billion private economy in space. Their platform specifically stated: “The permanent presence of man in space is crucial both to developing a visionary program of space commercialization and to creating an opportunity society on Earth of benefit to all Mankind.” The Republicans also supported the President’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which might include space-based weapons.[74] Reportedly, Newt Gingrich played a major role in drafting the platform.[75]

The 1984 election posed the clearest choice in years for the advocates of manned spaceflight. This polarization suggested that the Republicans had seized the initiative on pro-space issues, leaving the mainstream of space advocacy little choice but to incline toward the Republican approach in the civil field (this was complicated by the opposition of many space advocates to space-based weapons). Many Democrats seemed to have abandoned the space field. Diana Hoyt put it succinctly in 1983: “Where are the Democrats on this issue?”[76]


One of the features of the space advocacy’s increasing involvement in politics in the early 1980s was the interchange of individuals between pro-space groups and congressional staffs. Those staffs are a kind of transmission belt that brings in untrained young people, gives them a chance to experience political life and to play a role in influencing legislation and policy, and then often sends them on to other positions in their areas of interest.

By 1984, this clearly was happening in the pro-space world. Fred Whiting, for example, moved from a congressional staff position to the American Space Foundation, and then to the National Space Council. John Bosma went to High Frontier and then to the editorship of the weekly newsletter Military/Space. Diana Hoyt moved from Congressman Akaka’s office to the staff of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

One particularly fascinating example is James Muncy. In December 1980, he was a student at the University of Virginia, finishing a degree in mathematics. Meeting other people interested in the future of American science and technology, he founded the Action Committee on Technology (ACT), whose purposes somewhat resembled those of the recently defunct FASST. Noting that this occurred as the citizens space groups were becoming known, Muncy comments that ACT was to be “more political,” a lobbying organization. Becoming a registered lobbyist, Muncy was at work lobbying in May 1981.

Meeting Robert Weed in February 1981, Muncy became involved in the discussions that led up to the formation of the Congressional Staff Space Group and the Congressional Space Caucus. In April 1981, ACT, which consisted mostly of Muncy himself, endorsed this effort. Muncy was the executive director of the CSSG until the end of 1981.

Muncy also worked on “Project Slcyport,” an attempt in late 1981 and early 1982 to get President Reagan to include a manned space station in his January 1982 State of the Union address. Muncy drafted a letter for Congressman Gingrich, which appeared in Omni in December 1981, calling for people to write to Vice-President Bush rather than to President Reagan (the theory was that Bush’s office would be more likely to notice the letters).[77] This effort failed to produce the desired commitment to a space station that year.

In January 1982, Gingrich created a new position on his staff for Muncy, whom he describes as “a phenomenon.”[78] Gingrich and Muncy came up with the idea of an organization called Using Space for America (USA), visualizing it as a lobby, a political action committee, and a foundation. USA was formed in May 1983, describing itself as a coalition of labor, education, defense, science, business, and other interests, all of whom benefit from space and who see space as part of their future, united for political activities (this, of course, is reminiscent of earlier efforts). As Muncy puts it, USA was formed to “market space.”[79] Like ACT, USA is primarily Muncy himself.

In 1983, Muncy joined the staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. There he played a role in writing speeches on space issues, notably President Reagan’s address in October 1983 on NASA’s 25th anniversary, when the President called on the space agency to be more visionary. Muncy says he wanted to get the President to articulate a vision to capture the hearts and minds of the American people, not just a bureaucratic compromise. Meanwhile, Muncy has written for publications such as USA Today and the Washington Times.[80] He also has spoken on space politics at the L-5 Society’s Space Development Conferences.

Muncy is the first of the new space advocates to serve in a citizens group, as a congressional staffer, and in the White House, giving him a unique combination of experiences. If more pro-space people gain this kind of experience, they could enhance their impact on national policy.


  1. Thomas J. Frieling, undated Campaign for Space circular, 1984.
  2. As quoted in Trudy E. Bell, “Space Activists on Rise,” Insight (National Space Institute), August/September 1980, p. 10.
  3. Attributed to the American Space Foundation.
  4. Interview with Trudy E. Bell, November 22, 1983.
  5. Letter from William Blair, Astronomy, August 1981, p. 41.
  6. Nathan C. Goldman and Michael Fulda, “The Outer Space Lobby and the 1980 Election,” in Paul Amaejionu, Nathan C. Goldman, and Philip J. Meeks, eds., Space and Society: Challenges and Choices (San Diego: Univelt, 1984), pp. 15-28, 21.
  7. Much of this is based on materials kindly provided by Trudy E. Bell and on an interview with her.
  8. “Campaign for Space,” draft document dated March 16, 1980, kindly provided by Trudy E. Bell.
  9. Bell, “Space Activists on Rise,” p. 10, and interview with Trudy E. Bell.
  10. Undated press release from Campaign for Space.
  11. Trudy E. Bell, “From Little Acorns…: American Space Interest Groups, 1980-82,” unpublished paper.
  12. Undated Campaign for Space letter from Thomas J. Frieling, late 1984.
  13. Clay F. Richards, “PACs Donate a Record $113 Million,” Washington Post, December 1, 1985.
  14. “Senator Glenn Receives Contribution,” Campaign for Space Update, January/February 1984, p. 1.
  15. “President Reagan Endorsed by Campaign for Space,” Campaign for Space Update, September/October 1984, p. 1.
  16. Undated circular from Campaign for Space, 1984.
  17. Interview with Charles Chafer.
  18. “1984 Races Become Battleground for Competing Interest Groups,” Congressional Quarterly, September 1, 1984, pp. 2147-52, 2150.
  19. Much of the section on the Anderson campaign is based on materials kindly loaned by Michael Fulda. See also Goldman and Fulda, “The Outer Space Lobby and the 1980 Elections,” pp. 22-24 and Goldman and Fulda, “Outer Space Groups: Galaxies of Interests, Galaxies of Groups,” paper to be published in volume 2 of the Space Humanization Series.
  20. Goldman and Fulda, “The Outer Space Lobby and the 1980 Elections,” p. 24.
  21. Copies are in the files of the Space Coalition.
  22. See “Flash L-5 Launches Nationwide Telegraph Campaign,” L-5 News, March 1981, p. 5.
  23. Letter from Barbara Marx Hubbard to Vice-President Bush dated January 20, 1981 (copy in the files of the Space Coalition).
  24. See Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, Space: The Crucial Frontier, Spring 1981, published by the L-5 Society, 1981.
  25. Ibid., p. vii.
  26. Ibid., p. 1.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid., p. 9.
  29. Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, Space and Assured Survival, Executive Summary Report, September 28, 1983, published by the L-5 Society, 1983, p. 7.
  30. Interview with Jerry E. Pournelle.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Undated letter from Mark M. Hopkins.
  33. Interview with Victor Reis.
  34. Much of this section is based on interviews with Franklin L. Lavin, October 31, 1983; Fred Whiting, October 13, 1983; William F. Norton, May 7, 1985 and May 14, 1985; and on materials from the American Space Foundation. Also see Jonathan Z. Agronsky, “Return of The Right Stuff,” Regardies, June/July 1983, pp. 45-48.
  35. Interview with Frank Lavin.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Interview with James Muncy, November 18, 1983.
  38. Interview with Frank Lavin.
  39. Interview with Mark M. Hopkins.
  40. Undated letter from Edward Gibson, 1983.
  41. Interview with Frank Lavin.
  42. “ASF Members Make Impact on Capitol Hill,” ASF News, Spring 1984, P. 5.
  43. “Issue Brief: Why the Space Station Should be Manned,” Washington, D.C.: American Space Foundation, May 13, 1984.
  44. “Space Movement Happenings,” ASF News, Fall 1983, p. 6.
  45. “ASF Sets Goals for 1984 – and Beyond,” ASF News, Spring 1984, p. 7.
  46. “Space Happenings,” ASF News, Spring 1984, p. 6.
  47. This section draws heavily on interviews with James Muncy, Diana Hoyt, Karl Pflock, and William G. Norton.
  48. Interview with James Muncy, March 8, 1984.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Interview with James Muncy, November 18, 1983. The bill was H.R. 4286, The National Space and Aeronautics Act, July 28, 1981.
  51. Interview with James Muncy, March 8, 1984.
  52. Interview with Karl Pflock, December 9, 1983.
  53. Interview with James Muncy, March 8, 1984.
  54. Interview with Diana Hoyt, October 17, 1983.
  55. Letter dated November 20, 1981, signed by Daniel Akaka, Newt Gingrich, Tom Bevill, Wayne Grisham, Timothy E. Wirth, Joe Skeen, Norman Y. Mineta, and Ken Kramer.
  56. Dear Colleague letter from Daniel Akaka and Newt Gingrich, March 9, 1982.
  57. Dear Colleague letter from Daniel Akaka and Newt Gingrich, June 8, 1983.
  58. Dear Colleague letter from Daniel Akaka, June 16, 1983.
  59. Interview with William G. Norton, May 14, 1985.
  60. Undated letter from Mark M. Hopkins, 1982. See also Mark M. Hopkins, “Hopkins Announces: Birth of L-5 Spacepac,” L-5 News, May 1982, p. 1.
  61. A longer list is contained in Mark M. Hopkins’ Spacepac letter of January 6, 1984.
  62. Duncan Forbes, ed., The Space Activist’s Handbook (Santa Monica, Calif.: Spacepac, 1984).
  63. Undated Spacepac brochure.
  64. Interview with Mark M. Hopkins.
  65. Undated letter from Mark M. Hopkins, 1983.
  66. Letter from Mark M. Hopkins, January 6, 1984.
  67. Ibid.
  68. Scott Pace, “Space Politics: The Role of Spacepac,” L-5 News, August 1984, P. 9.
  69. Interview with Gary Paiste.
  70. Scott Pace, “Spacepac and the 1984 U.S. Election,” L-5 News, April 1985, p. 12.
  71. See “Glenn Stumps for Expanded Space Station,” Astronautics and Aeronautics, October 1983, p. 14.
  72. “Presidential Endorsement on Hold,” Campaign for Space Update, January/February 1984, p. 1.
  73. See “Text of 1984 Democratic Party Platform,” Congressional Quarterly, July 21, 1984, pp. 1747-80, 1774.
  74. See “Text of 1984 Republican Party Platform,” Congressional Quarterly, August 25, 1984, pp. 2096-2117, 2104, 2117.
  75. See Lois Romano, “Newt Gingrich, Maverick on the Hill,” WashingtonPost, January 3, 1985.
  76. Interview with Diana Hoyt.
  77. See letter from Newt Gingrich, Omni, December 1981, p. 14.
  78. Interview with Newt Gingrich, March 9, 1984.
  79. Interview with James Muncy, November 18, 1983.
  80. See James Muncy, “Needed: A Bold Leap Into Space,” Washington Times, December 9, 1983.

Reaching for the High Frontier:     Table of Contents     Chapter 10