The Project That Never Lifted Off
On the American side, neither NASA nor the Department of Defense was very enthusiastic about the MOL. NASA was immersed in its plans for sending astronauts to the moon, and the DoD was skeptical as to the usefulness of military personnel in space. The program was cancelled in 1969 after one unmanned launch. It went from being the announcement that spurred the Soviets to design and launch a space station to being a footnote in the history of the space race. In February 2008, the PBS series Nova aired a program titled "Astrospies" focusing on MOL. While there have been a few fairly detailed books and magazine articles over the past 40 years, for whatever reason, the public was not fed much information about the program. According to NOVA, potential military astronauts were being evaluated for inclusion in the program in 1964 and were officially selected as astronauts a year later. During that year, it is believed that the astronauts were trained in conducting scientific experiments that would take place in the space laboratory.
However, the focus of MOL shifted from being an experiment laboratory to being a reconnaissance mission. By the late 1960s, reconnaissance experts concluded that MOL's optics would be hurt, and not helped by having astronauts on-board. The studies - if any - that took place at that time to confirm this remain classified or distribution limited.
While there were some claims in the NOVA television program that MOL was finally canceled due to competition from another reconnaissance program, the KH-11 KENNAN, MOL was actually canceled two years before KH-11 was approved. The real reasons MOL was canceled were its high cost, a schedule that kept slipping, and inadequate definition of its benefits.