Webb held the view that the space program was more than a race to the moon-it could also be a catalyst for strengthening the nation's universities and industry. As one example, he promoted a program to expand the supply of scientists and engineers by assisting students in obtaining advanced degrees. Through initiatives such as this Webb expected the space program to help the country meet future challenges.
NASA, like the Department of Defense, accomplished most of its work through contracts to industry and universities. NASA dollars flowed into communities all across the nation, making many Americans direct participants in the great venture. At the peak of Apollo, NASA had 35,000 employees and over 400,000 contractors in thousands of companies and universities. Project Mercury, the first American human space exploration effort, and Project Gemini were completed during Webb's tenure. Robotic spacecraft-Rangers, Surveyors, and Lunar Orbiters-examined the Moon in preparation for exploration by astronauts. And scientific probes were sent to Mars and Venus to extend our understanding of the solar system. Webb saw his greatest contribution in the "grand alliance" he forged among government, industry, and the academic community. He expected this collaboration to provide a lasting resource for improving local communities and for meeting the country's scientific and technical needs.
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