After at least four years of research and writing, I completed a book about President Kennedy’s joke on the US people. He truly did send a space medicine scientist, one of the few the US had, to the USSR to help keep their cosmonauts alive. JFK did not live long afterwards, but Presidents Johnson and Nixon carried on the program. Apparently, they did not tell Congress.
Premier Khrushchev of the USSR had to be in agreement, of course. He was ousted in 1964, so Premier Brezhnev had a choice to make. He chose to keep the program intact. The scientist secretly flew back and forth to the USSR for about nine years, while the US was competing with the USSR to be first to send a man to the moon.
I knew the space medicine scientist, who died a few years ago. After I wrote the book, I sent a letter to one of his children, also a scientist, saying that the book was on the market but that I had altered the scientist’s name and home city.
A few weeks ago I got a letter from a child of the scientist. It was very informative. He did not know I had written the book and he did not know what his father had been up to. Here is what he said, in part:
Dear Mr. Fiske,
On the advice of my sibling, I have read your book The Insider. Needless to say, the content left me floored. I had no idea that my father led a double life as our country strove to put a man on the moon. My next reaction is to thank you for helping to fill in some of the blanks of my father’s life. He was remarkably careful in what he would tell us about his work and it was clear that he had a lot more to say. Without your patient and persistent interviews the story would have died with him. I am very grateful that you were willing to take the time and personal risk and write your book. A couple years prior to his death I had arranged for a physiologist working on the history of space flight to interview Dad. His health was already failing and his Parkinson’s (disease) made communication difficult. Dad refused to meet with the physiologist and I always regretted the opportunity missed. I should have known that Dad would have arranged for an interview on his terms.
The interview was with me. I am not a physiologist, however. Nor did I intend to write about the scientist. While I got a crash course in physiology from the scientist, little of it “took.” I am an MBA and more of a student of management and an economist that a medicine man. I never liked biology and its off-shoots. Once the scientist had told someone about his adventure, he said nothing to anyone else. I was working under the theory that his children knew what their father had accomplished, but the letter tells me I was wrong.
It appears that his wife knew and I knew. She was also my friend. But in this country, we three knew alone knew of the very brave things the scientist accomplished. Of course, two Intel agencies knew, but it all took place over forty years ago, and most of them are dead or retired by now. Newer staff doesn’t care and is busy working on other problems. Still, no one in our Government is giving up any information, willingly. The Russians know and have long memories. They would rather not let the world know that they had important assistance from the US when they were setting all kinds of records in space. It is not a time of ease at my house.
I called the book The Insider: NASA’s Man at Baikonur. It is available at the usual dot com book stores.