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Spooky Apollo: Apollo 8 and the CIA (thespacereview.com)
78 points by Hooke 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments





Cool comment at the end:

I helped take that Proton photo, or one EXACTLY like it, on KH8 mission 4351 (launched 1981-02-28). I was a NCOIC, Satellite Operations, working on the GAMBIT program in SAFSP/OD-4 at Sunnyvale at the time. In those days, NPIC would send us a selection of some of the very best photos taken on each mission after the film was returned and processed. One of the "beauty shots" we received after that mission was identical to this one--a Proton booster, sans payload, being transported by rail at TT. In fact, I think it most likely that the photo I saw is the very same one pictured here. I remember being very excited to see it, as I had never seen the first stage of a Proton vehicle before. And, outside of the intelligence community, no one in the West would see a complete Proton until December 1984, when the Soviet Vega probes were launched.


One thing I've found facinating was, after the USSR launched the first satelite, and put the first man in space, the USA managed to redefine "win" as being "the moon".

So goes the world of propaganda. Another interesting spin is how we frame ourselves as being the anti-imperial liberators of the world and praising ourselves for workers' rights, anti-child labor and pro-living wage. It was actually the soviets who were anti-imperial and pro workers rights. It's why they initially won so many fans in china, india, africa, vietnam, etc. Didn't someone say history is a lie we tell ourselves over and over again until we forget it is a lie?

Now in defense of the US, the soviets did put a satellite up first, but we were more than capable of doing so at the same time or even before. We sent up a satellite 2 months after the soviets. Contrast that with the moon landing. The soviets never sent a man to the moon even decades after we did. So in that light, I think the moon landing was far more impressive and representative of "victory" for a lack of a better word.

Perhaps we can say the soviets won the first space battle, but we won the space war? Without a doubt, we won the PR war as the moon landing and armstrong's "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" will be the iconic and defining moment of the space race for the rest of history.


> Another interesting spin is how we frame ourselves as being the anti-imperial liberators of the world and praising ourselves for workers' rights, anti-child labor and pro-living wage. It was actually the soviets who were anti-imperial and pro workers rights.

Isn't there like a subreddit or website called like r/ShitHNSays?


I know of a Twitter account[1]

1 - https://twitter.com/shit_hn_says


> the soviets who were anti-imperial and pro workers rights.

So long as you wanted to join the COMINTERN empire, and become a proletariat subjugated to the Party's bourgeoise.


> It was actually the soviets who were anti-imperial and pro workers rights.

Now that I know more about just how atrocious the us was internally to it's minorities and worse to several foreign countries during the cold war era, I sometimes wonder just how it was that the US won the cold war, and then I see something like 'death of stalin' and I come to understand that the other side was just as venal and absurdly incompetent, and just as incapable of living up to it's founding ideals


Don't forget how ridiculously small USSR economy was compared to the US, too.

> The soviets never sent a man to the moon even decades after we did. So in that light, I think the moon landing was far more impressive and representative of "victory" for a lack of a better word.

Well, Soviet was first to "touch" the moon (Luna 2, 1959),first to "soft land" on the moon (Luna 9 and 13, 1966), did a unmanned lunar soil sample return (Luna 16, 1970), moon rover (Luna 17, 1970).

Particularily combining first human safe return trip to space followed by landing a rover (shortly after Apollo) - it makes sense for Soviet to claim Mars as the "real" target for human exploration... After having tested "all parts" to a certain extent.


This seems needlessly diminishing of the accomplishments of the Space Program.

The Soviet Space program (and US) explicitly wanted to place men on the Moon and Mars, and Korolev had a goal of doing that by 1968.

Hell, the only reason the Soviets didn't start their specific Moon program earlier was due to personal issues between competing departments as well as the Governments insistence that the space program be specialized toward weaponry rather than outright exploration.


I think if the Russians had put a man on Mars in the 70s and America hadn't, we would have a different definition of Winning.

In most wars for example who ever wins the first battle is important, but it's who wins the last battle that really matters.


Given that Russia and China can put a man in space, keep him there for a year, and return him to Earth safely, and the US can't, I guess that means Russia and China have won then.

Is there a doubt we couldn't though? I think that's what defines the moon landing as an accomplishment, it was an impressive feat, especially for the time (an ESP8266 is much more powerful than any computer they had at the time).

I'm sure if you gave 20 billion more a year to NASA and said put a man in space, we could do so. It's just that quite frankly, we've out grown human beings in space, beyond simply doing so for bragging rights. You can do any kind of tests you want, with almost no limit to complexity, with robotics nowadays, and I don't believe we feel the need to "race" Russia and China to goals we've already accomplished. There's simply better ways to spend the money, research wise.


Yep, for now definitely winning.

USSR could do that Russia not so much.

They’re doing it every six months...

They can send a human in space they can not keep human in space for a year without use of ISS. Russia does not have resources or human capital to build a new space station.

They built and still own big chunks of the ISS and the ISS has only been habitable and functional thanks to them for many years. It's not like they don't have space station technology. If they really wanted to put something up separately, they'd just do it, no problem. It's just a matter of resource allocation, not absolute capacity.

It's a matter of human capital USSR specialists are either dead, retired or about to retire there are no replacements for them plus total and absolute corruption is significantly affecting ability to produce anything.

This is the sort of claim for which I'd like to see some support.

Look at the photo of Roskosmos senior people :) On a serious note you can just look at all the launch issues Roskosmos is having. They have prosecuted people for stealing gold parts from rocket engines among other things.

ISS is basically several space stations and modules docked together in space. One set of modules is Russian, and entirely capable of undocking and operating as independent, small space station.

I think they are in fact planning to continue with their own station after the non-Russian components of the ISS are deorbited: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Piloted_Assembly_and_E...

They also plan to build a moon base and many other amazing things it's delivery that is the issue.

> I think if the Russians had put a man on Mars in the 70s and America hadn't, we would have a different definition of Winning.

Putting a man on Mars would have required a monumental investment, which the USSR couldn't remotely afford.

And if they somehow had found a way to do that, they would have had to quit the arms race, which could very well have been considered a "win" for the US.


Well nobody in the West wanted the USSR to win the space race so the victory was graciously granted to the United States.

Ah the Cold War: when everyone was united in a common struggle against communism whether you spoke Italian, American or Japanese.


A phenomenal movie on the Apollo program and our lead up to is "The Right Stuff" [1]. It's a 1983 film that I only ran into by complete coincidence. It holds up extremely well and is loaded with fun symbolism, real footage, and other stuff making it a multi-watcher. It also gets into the CIAs involvement and the dangerous relationship between visible progress and program/pilot safety.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Right_Stuff_%28film%29


The Right Stuff is about Mercury, not Apollo. Great movie though.

> The best and most comprehensive historical account of the Apollo 8 lunar decision is contained in Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox’s 1989 book Apollo: the Race to the Moon. Murray and Cox devoted ten pages to the subject. They clearly stated that the decision to send Apollo 8 on a circumlunar mission was overwhelmingly determined by Apollo’s aggressive schedule and not Cold War competition.

1) The book is terrific, well worth the time for anyone interested in these matters.

2) I didn't see anything in the article that contradicts the idea that the decision was made based on schedule rather than competition. Did I miss something?


> Even if the CIA did provide extensive information to NASA about Soviet circumlunar plans, that does not necessarily mean that, as the memo indicates, the NASA decision was a “result” of CIA information. Only the NASA officials who made the Apollo 8 decision knew what factors influenced them most. That was primarily George Low, whose records point to the Apollo schedule being the primary influence.

The drive to get Apollo 8 up and around the moon (as well as the intentions of the rest of the Apollo flights) may not have been explicitly called out in mission documents as having the purpose of directly competing with Russia, but I'm not sure that really matters in the grand scheme of things. Even if the intentions of the program managers and engineers that put Apollo in space really were just sticking to their planned schedule without concern of the other side's progress, the funding, fast track bureaucracy, and schedule timeline that allowed NASA to do the things they did certainly was motivated by political interests. That, to me, makes the issue of whether or not they based it on CIA info less profound, if not moot.


A good read, but the title is a pure click-bait.

Yes - no need for "Spooky"

I think it's intended as a pun. Spies are sometimes referred to as spooks.

great story, thanks for posting!



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