Lyndon Baynes Johnson and NASA
The president who set the precedent of lying about going to the Moon

Control of space means control of the world.
From space, the masters of infinity...
There is something more important tan the ultimate weapon
and that is the ultimate position,
The position of total control over Earth
that lies somewhere in outer space.

[1] = section 1.  This web page will include the sections relevant to LBJ's statements regarding NASA.  Other sections were about the Viet Nam war, Paris Peace talks, State of the Union, etc.

It is remarkable that LBJ would not want to quickly greet the Apollo 8 astronauts in person.   These were presumably the first 3 men to leave Earth's orbit and to orbit the Moon.  If he knew they were faking it, because of the dangerous Van Allen Belt, that may explain his preference to go to the LBJ ranch for Christmas.  He did call them on the phone, at least, plus their wives (of course).   The astronauts, arriving at Houston, could meet him there.  But I find no record of their meeting in person.  December 27, 1968

1968 December 4 - .

646 - The President's News Conference
December 27, 1968


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] We had a good visit with Dr. Paine1 this morning and reviewed the developments and had his observations on what had transpired the last few days.

1Dr. Thomas O. Paine, Acting Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Following that, I talked to the three wives of the astronauts2 and expressed our gratitude and the gratitude of the Nation to them for this great performance of their husbands and the contribution it had made to our advancement and the advancement of the world, to America's standing and prestige in the world.

2 See Item 645.

All of us know that a man's wife is an integral part of his every act. Except for the strength and comfort that we get from them, few of us could really measure up to what people expect of us.

These men have given us so much pride that I wanted the womenfolk to know how the Nation felt about it.

Naturally, as you would expect, I have never been a wife; I don't know what to expect; they were very excited and very thrilled, and looking forward eagerly to when their men get back on the carrier.

We have a brief statement that the President will communicate to the men if they decide to bring them back by chopper, pick them up before daylight, and bring them back to the carrier. We will probably communicate it to them. 3 If we do, we will communicate from the Fish Room and Tom 4 can prepare you in advance for it.

3See Item 647.

4 Wyatt Thomas Johnson, Jr., Assistant Press Secretary to the President.


[2.] We then plan to leave. Mrs. Johnson and, I think, Lynda and the baby are going. Luci went back yesterday on a skiing expedition or something that she is going on football games and so forth5 So she is already there.


[5.] Dr. Paine said this morning that he remembered when Mrs. Johnson and I saw the Sputnik through the skies from the banks of the Pedernales. That is almost a decade ago, more than a decade ago. It was November 25, 1957, following the orbiting of the first earth satellite on October 4th. Here is the Library of Congress report:

"Senator Johnson took the initiative in the first congressional hearings on our satellite program. The inquiry into satellite missiles resulted in testimony from all the Nation's experts during the following two months. On January 23, 1958, the subcommittee concluded that decisive action must be taken to strengthen the United States space program and accelerate it in 17 specific areas."

So in this decade, we do have--this was 1957. That is a Congressional Library report, if you want to look it over, any of you. Helen?13
13 Helen Thomas of United Press International.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us a little bit about your feelings this morning as you watched television and waited for the ship to get back, waited and watched? Were you excited? Did you feel kind of tense inside about it? How did you feel about it?

THE PRESIDENT. That is very difficult to describe, to portray accurately. I think all of you must know the anxiety that a President feels during a period like this. I think you must have thought a thousand times, "Are you sure we are ready? Is this the date? If something terrible happens, why does it happen the last week I am here or the last month I am here?" or "Has every possible precaution been taken? Has every man performed his every requirement?"

About all you can do under those circumstances is to pick men that you have confidence in, that you trust, give them the support they need, and then hold on. That is what I have done.

President Kennedy asked me at Palm Beach to assume responsibility for the space program and try to give it some leadership and direction.

The first thing he asked me to do was to select the leader for it. I interviewed 28 different people before I interviewed Mr. Webb for the second time, when he turned it down the first time. I kept going back to him. He had a combination of military experience in the Marines, State Department diplomatic experience, budget experience, scientific experience, that very few men in this country had.

The President talked to me a number of times about the desirability of setting a goal to go to the moon in this decade, and the dangers of it and the wisdom of it. He asked for my recommendation, which we made in writing. I recommended this goal for this decade. Mr. Sorensen15 and I discussed the goal at length before it was announced.

15 Theodore C. Sorensen, Special Counsel to President John F. Kennedy.

In view of the fact that our beloved President had set that goal, naturally we have religiously adhered to it and tried to make it. There have been many pitfalls every step of the way. I don't know how many folks have just wanted to abandon it, clip it, cut it, take the money for the cities or the war or just anything else. Space has been a whipping boy.

So when you see the day approaching when visions, and dreams, and what we said to the Congress when we created the Space Administration back in 1958 are becoming reality, you naturally are hopeful.

I don't guess your blood pressure can get down completely normal until you see the astronauts back with their wives in Houston, until they come up out of that water, until they come on the carrier, until they are moved back home.

But we have come so far, so fast, so good. I have said many prayers the last few days expressing thanks for the good fortune we have had.


Q. Mr. President, having nursed this thing along and having been with it since the beginning, have you a specific recommendation you are going to make to your successor involving the space program and where it goes?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think President Nixon feels very strongly about the program and its value. He will have to-looking at all the other priorities confronting him, and the problems that he faces--determine how this fits in.

I have every confidence that his decision will be a good one. I am not very strong on advising Presidents and speaking with cool authority on just how they ought to handle each specific subject. I have received a lot of advice in my time and a good deal of it has been worthwhile, but I am not sure that the next President would profit a great deal by just having my personal views on some of these things. They will be available to him on anything that he wants them on, but I want to try to follow a policy somewhat like President Eisenhower has followed with me: To be there to help if you can, but don't be presumptuous enough to think that you are required.