Economic History of the Relationship Between Congress and NASA: A Case Study of the Apollo Program

  • Leonid KrasnozhonEmail author
  • William Maye
Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 39)


We examine the principal-agent relationship between Congress and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Apollo program using an application of the congressional dominance theory. NASA received 4.4% of the federal budget, the highest share in its history, in 1966 but received approximately one percent less than a decade later. We consider how political incentives such as presidential favoritism and congressional jockeying affected NASA’s funding throughout the Space Race and up to the closure of the Apollo program in 1975. Using retention rates of the House Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight as a proxy for NASA’s political value, we find that the appropriation amount is an accurate measure of an agency’s political value but that the difference between an agency’s budget request and the congressional response is an inaccurate measure. We argue the congressional dominance model explains a general pattern in the relationship between Congress and NASA during the Space Race though one of the propositions of the model does not fit our historical analytical narrative.



We thank participants of the 2017 Public Choice Society meeting, New Orleans, LA, for helpful comments on earlier drafts. We thank Justin Callais for his outstanding research assistance. An earlier version of this paper titled “Application and Extension of Congressional Dominance Theory: Evidence from the Space Race” was written as an honors thesis by William Maye under the supervision of Dr. Leo Krasnozhon and Father James Carter, S.J. The views of the authors do not represent the views of their respective employers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loyola University New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.CoreData ResearchBostonUSA

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