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Project Apollo: Prospects, 1963

Apollo survived the debate of 1963, as it would survive worse troubles later, but the cut in NASA's budget request (more than 10 percent) left its mark. The following spring Administrator James Webb would not assure Congress, as he had in the past, that he was confident the lunar landing would be accomplished within the decade - only that it was possible, if everything went well.47

And much could yet go wrong. Spacecraft design and the basic mission operations plan had been settled and the major contracts had been let. Years of testing and design refinement lay ahead. An entire project, Gemini, was still to be conducted, to establish the feasibility of rendezvous - bringing two spacecraft together in orbit - on which the success of Apollo depended. In terms of technical milestones, the lunar landing was still a long way off. The science community had registered its objections to Apollo, as had other concerned citizens, and the nation had reaffirmed the commitment asked of it by its late president. Those same objections would continue to be voiced, but the lunar landing would remain the major driving force behind the national space program. One thing that could be clearly seen at the end of 1963 was that manned space flight had an important interest in reaching some kind of accommodation with science. Over the next four years NASA officials and members of the science community worked to establish a program of scientific exploration that would become the primary purpose of the later Apollo missions.

47. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1965 NASA Authorization, Hearings on H.R. 9641, 88/2, part 1, p. 10.

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