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Reds in space: American perceptions of the Soviet space programme from Apollo to Mir 1967-1991

Reds in space: American perceptions of the Soviet space programme from Apollo to Mir 1967-1991
Reds in space: American perceptions of the Soviet space programme from Apollo to Mir 1967-1991
This thesis reconstructs American perceptions of the Soviet space programme between the climax of the 1960s Moon Race and the USSR’s collapse. Whereas previous scholarship has focused on America’s stunned introduction to the Soviet programme with the 1957 Sputnik Crisis, this thesis explores the long-term ramifications of a communist presence in outer space, a place frequently characterised as a rejuvenating terrain that it was America’s destiny to explore, prospect and settle. America was never alone on this new frontier: it shared use of outer space with its principal geopolitical rival, a collectivist state that articulated its own prophecy of cosmic destiny. This thesis seeks to recapture American perceptions of the Soviet space programme through government documents, contemporary cultural and media material and the personal papers of prominent space experts. It argues that, long after the Apollo lunar landings, American discussion of the Soviet space programme continued to reflect hopes and fears about the future of the superpowers’ relationship.

The secrecy that shrouded the Soviet programme nourished a “Shadow Programme” of rumours and speculation about Soviet activities. Duplication and infighting were largely concealed and replaced with images of a frenzied determination to surpass America and seize the space frontier. This image of Soviet determination survived the Moon Race and was only conclusively dispelled with the revelations that emerged from Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost transparency campaign. American observers often filled the gaps left by the lack of verifiable information about Soviet space plans with their own prejudices and preconceptions about the USSR. The image of a dedicated and determined Soviet programme was also used by space enthusiasts as a reproach to supposed American inaction and concern about the Soviet space threat intensified during hiatuses in the US crewed spaceflight programme. By illuminating a longer history of American engagement with the communist presence in space, this thesis demonstrates outer space’s continued importance as a political terrain. Whether as a decisive battleground for the final confrontation between capitalism and communism, or an optimistic venue for reconciliation and accommodation, outer space continued to play an important role in Cold War rhetoric and strategy.
University of Southampton
Ellis, Thomas
24c8a8b1-f6e9-49a6-86a9-3f2beb11e7d4
Ellis, Thomas
24c8a8b1-f6e9-49a6-86a9-3f2beb11e7d4
Oliver, Kendrick
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Craig, Campbell
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Ellis, Thomas (2018) Reds in space: American perceptions of the Soviet space programme from Apollo to Mir 1967-1991. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 262pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis reconstructs American perceptions of the Soviet space programme between the climax of the 1960s Moon Race and the USSR’s collapse. Whereas previous scholarship has focused on America’s stunned introduction to the Soviet programme with the 1957 Sputnik Crisis, this thesis explores the long-term ramifications of a communist presence in outer space, a place frequently characterised as a rejuvenating terrain that it was America’s destiny to explore, prospect and settle. America was never alone on this new frontier: it shared use of outer space with its principal geopolitical rival, a collectivist state that articulated its own prophecy of cosmic destiny. This thesis seeks to recapture American perceptions of the Soviet space programme through government documents, contemporary cultural and media material and the personal papers of prominent space experts. It argues that, long after the Apollo lunar landings, American discussion of the Soviet space programme continued to reflect hopes and fears about the future of the superpowers’ relationship.

The secrecy that shrouded the Soviet programme nourished a “Shadow Programme” of rumours and speculation about Soviet activities. Duplication and infighting were largely concealed and replaced with images of a frenzied determination to surpass America and seize the space frontier. This image of Soviet determination survived the Moon Race and was only conclusively dispelled with the revelations that emerged from Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost transparency campaign. American observers often filled the gaps left by the lack of verifiable information about Soviet space plans with their own prejudices and preconceptions about the USSR. The image of a dedicated and determined Soviet programme was also used by space enthusiasts as a reproach to supposed American inaction and concern about the Soviet space threat intensified during hiatuses in the US crewed spaceflight programme. By illuminating a longer history of American engagement with the communist presence in space, this thesis demonstrates outer space’s continued importance as a political terrain. Whether as a decisive battleground for the final confrontation between capitalism and communism, or an optimistic venue for reconciliation and accommodation, outer space continued to play an important role in Cold War rhetoric and strategy.

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Published date: March 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 422136
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/422136
PURE UUID: e8c8629f-d371-4de3-a100-51fa343972ee

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Jul 2018 16:31
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:22

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Contributors

Author: Thomas Ellis
Thesis advisor: Kendrick Oliver
Thesis advisor: Campbell Craig

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