Xavier Magazine

Profile: John Logsdon

John Logsdon

Bachelor of Science in physics, 1960

Professor Emeritus, political science and international affairs, George Washington University

Washington, D.C.

First Job | After graduating from Xavier, Logsdon took a job in Los Angeles as a technical writer on military programs for Hughes Aircraft. “I found it very unsatisfying,” he says. “Having writing skills for a military program was a very marketable skill, but it was boring.”

The Big Apple | Logsdon moved to New York City in 1962 for a technical writing job, and began taking political science courses at New York University. “There at NYU, almost by osmosis, I started focusing my work on the politics and history of the space program.”

Bookmark | Before Logsdon could defend his dissertation, it was turned into a book, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest.

The Doyen | Logsdon considers himself a career academic whose specialty is government policy making, but he likes the label assigned him by the Economist: “The doyen of American space studies.” “To me, that’s a pretty good description of my career. I helped create an area of space study and I’m recognized as one of its leading practitioners.”

Credentials | Logsdon taught full time at George Washington University for 38 years, after serving four years as a professor at Catholic University of America. Among his credentials are founder and long-time director of GW’s Space Policy Institute and member of the NASA Advisory Council. In 2003, he served as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

NASA Niche | “The Washington location has allowed me to have continuing contact with leadership of the space community. I’ve worked with every head of NASA since the 1960s. Since the Challenger accident in 1986, I’ve had a media talking-head career.”

Bookmark 2 | Logsdon’s 2010 book, John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, outlines his belief that Kennedy wanted to cooperate with the Soviet Union, not compete.

Setting it Straight | Logsdon’s new book is an attempt to tell another side of the story he says he missed 40 years earlier. “My 1970 book only went through the decision Kennedy announced in the speech to send American astronauts to the moon. The compelling evidence that Kennedy, in fact, wanted to cooperate with the Soviet Union, rather than compete, was lost after the assassination. Kennedy is so closely associated with the race to the moon, the idea of cooperation doesn’t fit the story. It’s not part of the master narrative.”

Lost in Space | The last U.S. space shuttle blasted off last summer, a move that Logsdon agrees with, in part, but bemoans as well. “It’s overdue. The sad thing is the country’s leadership hasn’t had the political will to replace the program.”

Read Lodgson’s article on the Space Shuttle program in Scientific America

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