Did The Americans Buy Yugoslavia’s Space Program During the Cold War?

Apparently, the USA and the Soviet Union weren’t the only ones trying to land on the moon. There was another participant in the Space Race; Tito’s Yugoslavia had a secret space program and the US paid $2.5 billion to buy it in its entirety, under the mistaken impression that it was far more advanced that it really was.

Did US bought the Yugoslavian space program?
The documentary claims that the US bought the Yugoslavian space program from Yugoslav strongman Tito in March 1961, not long before President Kennedy announced the American lunar landing program. The director of this documentary, Ziga Virc, used declassified top-secret documents to uncover the behind-closed-doors dealings between President John F. Kennedy and Tito. A lot of documents from the 1960s were declassified in the past few years, which grant a much clearer picture of what happened in the 60’s.

Secret Space Program
The Yugoslavian secret space program was based on the work of Herman Potocnik, a Slovenian artillery officer who wrote a book The Problem of Space Travel. The book contained revolutionary ideas about space travel, but everything was lost until the end of the World War II when the Yugoslavian intelligence services found Potocnik’s documents and immediately informed Tito about their potential importance.

Soviet’s “Sputnik” VS Yogoslavian “Object 505”.
The documents were examined by Yugoslavian experts and they concluded that the documents consisted of detailed instructions about how to build a spacecraft that could take humans to the moon. Tito himself came to a conclusion that the documents might be very important for his country, so, he ordered work to start on the Yugoslav space program immediately. The Yugoslavs started looking for a location to test their space technology, so they build the so-called “Object 505,” a gigantic underground air force base, which was perfect for the purpose. The Yugoslavs were confident that their project would be better than Soviet’s “Sputnik.”

Triglav 1:
As it’s said in the documentary that they build a rocket with a small module, in which they put a live pig. The project was called “Triglav 1” and it was based on Potocnik’s documents. After launch, the rocket reached the stratosphere and the module fell in Adriatic sea close to Italy. The pig survived the fall. Unfortunately, the space program was too expensive for such young country as Yugoslavia and to pursue it further would have meant bankruptcy.

US Has The Money, Yugoslavia Has The Technology
Finance wasn’t a problem for the Americans as it was for Yugoslavia. They had the money, but they weren’t making enough technological progress. When JFK became president of the US he was under pressure to get something done. The CIA informed Kennedy about the Yugoslavian space program, which was supposedly similar to the American program. After he heard about the Yugoslavian space program, Kennedy sent the experienced diplomat William Averell Harriman to Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Nasa Officials Visit Went Well
NASA officials later visited Yugoslavia and as it’s said in the documentary they were very impressed with the Yugoslavian space program. They assumed that it was a very advanced program and that the technology was also advanced.

Tito decided to offer the space program to the Americans to buy, knowing that they were desperate since they were lagging behind the Soviet Union in the space race. After long hours of negotiation, the Yugoslavs sold the entire space program to the Americans for 2.5 billion dollars (About $50 billion today). It was said that the money was given to Yugoslavia for its development. The deal was done.

More about the further development of the proeject: Huston, we have a problem!


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