Presidential Libraries

Nixon and the U.S. Space Program

In 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected the 37th President of the United States, the Cold War was in its second decade and showed no signs of ending. The Cold War was not limited to political and economic struggles on Earth. It also included outer space. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were in a heated competition for "firsts" in space. The launch of Sputnik, the first satellite, in 1957 and the 1961 mission of Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, were early Soviet victories. However, when President Nixon took office, the biggest prize remained - landing a person on the Moon.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo XI Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the Moon. This incredible technological accomplishment and American victory was the result of years of effort, expertise and coordination.

Despite Cold War competition, increased interest emerged for the possibility of joint U.S. and Soviet space exploration. In 1972, the two countries signed an agreement of cooperation regarding possible joint space initiatives.

The artifacts, photographs and documents shown here tell fascinating stories about the Apollo program and the diplomatic possibilities it created.