‘A Competence Which Should Be Used:’ NASA, Social Movements, and Social Problems in the 1970s

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Cyrus Mody argues that NASA and Johnson Space Center experienced the 1970s through the paradox of “existential success.” The Apollo Program convinced other organizations that NASA engineers had “a competence which should be used,” and therefore hired those engineers away and/or tapped NASA’s expertise for their own organizational objectives. Meanwhile, the gap between Apollo and the space shuttle meant NASA had reasons to accede to such demands, and few political resources to resist them. As a result, the possibility emerged, if briefly, for NASA to re-orient its mission to the issues given currency by the civil rights movement: poverty (especially among ethnic minority communities), environmental justice, the urban dysfunctions created by white flight to the suburbs, etc. That that possibility soon disappeared, though, says much about the changing politics of race and civil rights in the 1980s and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNASA in the ‘Long’ Civil Rights Movement
EditorsBrian C. Odom, Stephen P. Waring
PublisherUniversity Press of Florida
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780813066202
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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