The Congressional Space Caucus, 1981-1989

The contemporary fears surrounding the loss of American supremacy in space are strikingly similar to the fears that brought about the formation of the Congressional Space Caucus in the early 1980s. The Caucus not only boasted impressive membership statistics, peaking at nearly 200 Congressmen, but it also shared a particularly close relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Caucus highlights not only the role of Caucuses in the broader Congressional context, but also the interaction between Congressmen, their staff, and the staff from the industries (in this case the space industry) that are encompassed within the scope of the caucus.

I first came across this topic during my internship this past summer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration History Program Office in Washington DC. I was perusing the archives looking for a potential topic for this research when one of the archivists helping me came across a small folder labeled “The Congressional Space Caucus”. Going through the documents, I became incredibly interested in the Caucus and I was also intrigued by the lack of outside literature regarding the Caucus. In the Caucus, I found a topic that I could embrace without being influenced by other opinions or preconceived notions.

I anticipate a few challenges throughout this process. First, because there is not a lot of literature on this topic, I will have to piece together the historical progression largely on my own. Second, I feel like there are a lot of different directions I could go so choosing the best route is always a challenge. Third, there are several different groups of actors that each play very different roles in the Caucus, so adequately differentiating between them will be difficult, yet essential.

I am very excited to pursure this topic for several reasons. After spending the summer with NASA I grew to love and appreciate space, so being able to find a topic that integrates space with Congress is exciting. Also, because my topic is examining a relatively recent history, a lot of highly relevant actors are still active in the space/government community, so I am hoping to be able to get some first-hand interviews.

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