President Richard M. Nixon (1960 - 1968)

Part III
USAC and the Space Race

Even with Soviet and American troops eyeing one another in Europe, and American reservists fighting a bloody war in Cuba, President Nixon found the time to officially inaugurate the Space Race. With the race to the Moon underway, Nixon announced that a new agency would be formed to more efficiently reach this goal. Thus, the floundering National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) was replaced by the United States Aerospace Command (USAC), a joint civilian-Air Force space agency.

The new Air Force handlers at USAC inherited the beginning stages of NASA�s Mercury rocket, a program which, in 1962, became the Hermes rocket which carried an Air Force officer into orbit. In 1963, the Hermes Program gave way to the Aries Program, with the objectives to rendezvous and dock with a second orbiting vehicle; learn how to keep astronauts and equipment in space for up to two weeks; develop and test controlled reentry into the earth�s atmosphere and precision landing in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean; and enable astronauts to leave the spacecraft while in space.

The German Border Crisis� (contd.)

In February of 1962, nearly a year after President Nixon had first taken the oath of office, the United States was engaged in a grueling war on the island of Cuba and potentially facing a Third World War, this time with the Soviet Union. Nixon knew, however, that, if a war broke out with the Soviets, America would be unable to win. With nearly 5,000 casualties in nine months of fighting in Cuba, the American public, although still supportive of their president, were growing more and more leery of the use of military power. Not to mention the extreme blow to military morale that the Cuban War was developing into.

President Nixon needed to find a way to win the German Border Crisis without firing a shot. The only problem: neither he nor Premier Khrushchev were willing to order their soldiers to stand down. Enter Secretary of State William P. Rogers and a communiqu� from the Red Chinese inviting Nixon to visit Beijing. So, amidst the grumblings of his growing number of detractors, President Nixon headed to China, the first president to have any sort of official contact with the Red Chinese government.
Mao Zedong
Sino-American Relations

Before President Nixon was elected in 1960, relations between the United States of America and the People�s Republic of China had been strained, to say the least. During the Korean War, not only had American and Chinese soldiers fought one another, but at least one front commander had actively urged unleashing total war upon the Chinese people. With US recognition of the Chinese government-in-exile on Formosa, or, rather, the lack of recognition extended to the Communist government on the mainland, relations between the two mighty nations had only grown worse in the decade since.

However, when, in February of 1962, Richard Nixon, the notorious �Red Hunter,� announced that he was accepting an invitation from Chairman Mao Zedong to visit the People�s Republic of China, much of Congress and the American population itself were puzzled by unexplained movement. Some were even angry that the President would pull a stunt like this during the middle of a war and while the country was on the brink of another. The Nixon administration was, predictably, very tight-lipped about the entire affair and, in late February, President Nixon boarded Air Force One for the trip to Communist China.

Upon arrival and following the excessive pageantry which is a part of Chinese politics, President Nixon got down to serious negotiations with the leader of the PRC, Chairman Mao. What Nixon knew, and what most of the American public failed to think of, was that relations between the Soviet Union and the People�s Republic of China had been steadily worsening since the end of the Korean War.

In 1959, the already strained Sino-Soviet relationship deteriorated sharply, when the Soviets started to restrict the flow of scientific and technological information to China. The dispute escalated, and the Soviets withdrew all of their personnel from China in August 1960. In the same year, the Soviets and the Chinese began to have disputes openly in international forums. Upset at Khrushchev�s de-Stalinization, which he branded revisionism and a capitulation to capitalism, Mao became convinced that China needed to build its unique version of communism. In the early 1960s China struck out in an independent and often anti-Soviet direction in foreign policy, thus further opening the wound in Sino-Soviet relations.

Despite the previously awful relations with the United States, however, the professionalism Nixon displayed at the negotiating table eventually won Mao over and allowed him to a shot a Khrushchev. In exchange for some trade concessions and the opening of several liaison offices within the PRC, Chairman Mao agreed to send several Chinese divisions northward, to the Amur river and the border with the Soviet Union. Also, support (which, at this time, was purely psychological) for Castro�s communist regime officially ended in the People�s Republic of China.
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