National Aeronautics and Space Administration



The year 1996 was productive for the History Office at NASA Headquarters. This program was established in 1959 to preserve and disseminate a record of agency activities for the public interest. Our efforts continued during 1996 toward building a significant collection of reference documents for use by both NASA personnel and the public; providing historical perspective and documentary support for agency executives; and researching and writing NASA history for publication in books, monographs, articles, and reports.

Reference Collection and Research Support:

During the year the NASA Historical Reference Collection answered a total of 3,487 research requests from government, educational, and private organizations on all manner of divergent research interests. A priority during the year was providing background information and documentary records to aid NASA decision-makers in their work. This required a total number of 2,563 work hours by the office staff. Also during the fiscal year, the History Office provided research services to 574 on-site researchers using its collections. The office also prepared several types of historical materials:

  1. The NASA history staff created a special World Wide Web site on STS-51L, Challenger, because of the tenth anniversary in January 1996. The World Wide Web address is: sts51l.html. Material on this page includes a mission profile; The Report of the Presidential Commission, chaired by William P. Rogers; a description of modifications to the Solid Rocket Boosters from the On-line Space Shuttle Reference Manual; a summary of Space Shuttle accomplishments since STS-51L; a Challenger bibliography; Dr. Joseph Kerwin's investigation of the causes of death of the crew; the transcript from the mission's voice recorder, which operated from T-2:05 until the accident; biographical information on the Challenger crew; and the NASA Administrator's Press Release on the Tenth Anniversary of the Challenger Accident.
  2. Office personnel prepared background studies and participated in briefings and working groups discussing the development of technology transfer strategies for governmental scientific and technological agencies in the twentieth century as a means of enhancing present-day NASA efforts in this arena.
  3. In May 1996, the NASA History Office provided assistance for a photographic exhibition on the NACA/NASA recipients of the Collier Trophy. This exhibit detailed the projects receiving the Collier Trophy "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America" during the previous year.

One ongoing effort in the office has been the creation of a computer-based inventory and finding aid for NASA's historical reference collection. Beforehand, the only one who knew the contents of the collection in any detail was our archivist, Lee D. Saegesser. The Archives consists of 1,800+ linear feet of material and growing. Approximately, 1,125 total ft. have been catalogued, accounting for over 70 percent and a total of 14,899 records. Propulsion (10 ft.) was completed in March 1996, Awards and Museums and Special Collections (141 ft.) were completed in August 1996. Federal Agencies (10 ft.) was completed September 1, 1996. Aeronautics (13 ft.) has been completed as of the end of December 1996. International Cooperation and Foreign Countries (50 ft.) is 50 percent completed. In May 1996, the database received a much needed Windows upgrade for Inmagic (DB/TextWorks) and is now much easier to use.

In addition, after months of preparation, and a few false starts, on March 29, 1996, the NASA Security Office began the declassification of historical materials housed in the NASA History Office. This is being undertaken in response to Executive Order 12958, which mandated the review and declassification of most Federal documents created more than 25 years ago. Security personnel were still proceeding systematically with the review and declassification of these materials at the end of the year, although several interesting materials related to the Kennedy era are available to research.

Publication Program:

The hallmark of the NASA history program continued in 1996, as previously, to be the preparation of solid, well-researched works on the history of the U.S. civil space program. During the year the NASA History Program published several major new books and other less ambitious publications. These are shown in the list below.


Contractor Reports and Technical Memoranda

Monographs in Aerospace History

NASA History Office Annual Reports

NASA Historical Publications in the News:

Since first appearing, Exploring the Unknown has received exceptionally favorable attention. It has been made available to the intergovernmental working group developing space policy for the Clinton administration as an aid in understanding the process that led to type of space program currently being carried out in the United States. Additionally, in an internet posting Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge College, kindly wrote of it as "indispensable for anyone interested in the space program and space policy." This book is available for sale from the Government Printing Office. Because of this, on the evening of February 7, 1996, the NASA Office of Policy and Plans and the Space Policy Institute of the George Washington University hosted a reception commemorating the release of Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volume 1, Organizing for Exploration (Washington, DC: NASA SP4407, 1995). Attended by more than 80 people from the space policy community, Administrator Daniel S. Goldin made a presentation, as well as John M. Logsdon, the general editor of the volume.

The NASA History Office is also pleased to announce that the recently published To See the Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy, by Andrew J. Butrica, has received excellent reviews. In this illuminating history of a littleunderstood discipline, Butrica describes important increases in scientific knowledge resulting from the use of planetary radar astronomy during the past 50 years. By carefully aiming radio signals at planets and asteroids, scientists can detect and analyze the resulting echoes. Leonard David, writing in the 29 July4 August 1996 edition of Space News gave it a very favorable review:

The unique attributes of radar that enlarge scientific knowledge about our planetary neighborhood are captured in this appealing account, written under the NASA history series banner. Butrica opens the saga during the 1940s when investigators first bounced radar waves off the moon. Later uses of radar included studying Venus, helping target the landing of robotic craft on Mars, detecting ice on the sunbaked planet Mercury, as well as producing the first threedimensional images of an asteroid. The author weaves a readable tale about people, projects, and the role of big science and technology that molded planetary astronomy into the productive research tool it is today.

Very readable, yet rigorously written, this book is recommended for anyone interested in space science or the Government's role in large science projects. This book is available for sale from the Government Printing Office.

New Historical Publications Underway:

Also during the year, NASA historians worked toward the publication of several other histories on a wide diversity of subjects. Here is a list of major projects presently nearing completion, along with projected publication dates. The dates of publication, of course, may slip due to the exigencies of funding.


Books Published by Other Presses

Contractor Reports and Technical Memoranda

Monographs in Aerospace History

NASA History Office Annual Reports

New GPO Brochure for NASA History Publications

The Government Printing Office (GPO) released in August 1996 a new brochure highlighting the NASA History books that it sells. The colorful brochure includes ten books in the categories of NASA management histories, general reference works, NASA field center histories, and NASA project histories. These are all useful and interesting works at reasonable prices. Please contact the NASA History Office at 2023580384 for a copy of this brochure.

NASA History on the Internet:

The NASA History Home Page on the Web is This links to many other NASA sites such as the home pages for NASA Headquarters, the Office of Policy and Plans, the Office of Space Flight, and the Public Affairs Office. We have gotten good feedback on our home page and encourage you to check it out! We also welcome comments on how to improve our home page. See below for more suggestions on finding aerospace materials on-line.

The NASA History Office has also on-line several NASA history publications. These include the following texts, as well as many of the illustrations from the originals:

In commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Apollo 11, we have develeoped Apollo 11 at TwentyFive. (Baltimore, MD: Space Telescope Science Institute, 1994). This is an electronic picture book surveying the Apollo program from May 1961, with its announcement by President John F. Kennedy, to December 1972, when the program ended with the flight of Apollo 17. It was issued on Mackintosh computer disk using hypercard software.

The office has also created Apollo 11, a button under the Public Affairs homepage on the Internet. It is a special exhibit prepared for the 25th anniversary of the first lunar landing and includes analyses, images, video, patches, biographies, recollections, and key documents. It has been placed on-line on the NASA History Homepage at URL: History/Apollo/.

The Aeronautics and Space Report of the President, Fiscal Year 1995 Activities, commonly known as the "President's Report" is now on-line at history/toc.htm.The report is also available in pdf format at history/1presrep.pdf. Check out the useful narrative and appendices.

Need some information on the Apollo 204 accident? There is a new World Wide Web site at The site includes data on the mission's three astronauts and the accident investigation.

Eric Jones has compiled an extensive Apollo Lunar Surface Journal covering the activities of the six pairs of astronauts who explored the moon from 1969-1972. The World Wide Web site is located at

NASA History Program Review Working Group:

On September 19 and 20, 1996, the NASA History Program Review Working Group met at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, hosted by the MSFC historian, Mike Wright. This group meets annually to review the status of the history function at NASA and to offer advice on more effective operations and activities. There were two major issues that emerged from this review:

Professional Activities:

Members of the History Office staff were involved at several levels in professional activities germane to the aerospace history specialty. The first area was as a participant in various professional conferences. Dr. Roger D. Launius and Stephen J. Garber each participated in conferences and symposia during the year, giving papers and participating in panels. Several staff members also published historical books, articles, and book reviews during the year. A total of 26 articles and several book reviews were published by members of the staff during the year.

AHA Fellowship in Aerospace History:

The American Historical Association awarded one fellowship for the 1995-1996 academic year; NASA funds this program as a means of fostering serious scholarship in aerospace history. The fellow is Dr. Stephen Waring, associate professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He spent his fellowship term researching the history of the Challenger and the management of large-scale technological programs.

Conference Sessions and Symposia:

During 1995 the NASA History Office sponsored several sessions at major historical conferences. First it participated in a symposium on February 9, entitled "Vistas in Aerospace Engineering: Historical Perspectives and the Future," sponsored by the Minta Martin Fund for Aeronautical Research and Education and the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park. The premise of this symposium was that aeronautics and astronautics is a spectrum of innovative thinking, dedication, and inspired faith in the future of flighta history that has taken us from the Wright Flyer (1903) to supersonic (1947) and hypersonic (1961) flight to current exploration of our solar system. The legacy of flight has been a mixture of success and failures. However, the advancement of flight has always been associated with visionary thinking and firm leadership. The goal of this symposium was to identify the essential characteristics of past successes and failures so as to provide a historical framework for engineering decisions of the future. Other participants in this symposium included: Walter L. Melnik, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland at College Park; Dr. William W. Destler, Dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland at College Park; Dr. Donald R. Baucom, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization; Dr. Richard P. Hallion, USAF Chief Historian; Prof. Dr. Peter Hamel, Director, DLR/Institut of Flight Mechanics, Braunschweig, Germany; Dr. John D. Anderson, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland of College Park; Dr. Tsutomu Iwata, General Manager, OnOrbit Systems Laboratory, National Space Development Agency of Japan; Dr. Robert E. Whitehead, Assoc. Administrator for Aeronautics, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters; Dr. Michael H. Gorn, National Air and Space Museum; and Dr. Stephen G. Brush, History Department, University of Maryland at College Park.

Roger D. Launius gave the keynote speech at the annual Dartmouth College seniors week lectures on April 8, 1996. The speech, in keeping with the theme of the lecture series was, "They Said It Couldn't Be Done": The Power of Apollo in the American Consciousness.

The NASA Office of Policy and Plans, led by the history staff, held an exceptionally successful symposium on October 17, 1996, at the Institute for Public Policy of George Mason University, Herndon, VA. With the theme"What is the Role of a Policy and Plans Organization in a Federal R&D Agency?"the symposium included about 35 participants drawn from both government and universities. It explored the nature of policy formulation and adoption, developed some lessons learned from past experiences, and began the process of charting a roadmap for the future of the policy and plans function within NASA. The meeting proved enormously successful and yielded a series of interesting recommendations that will be considered in the months to come.

NASA Historical Manuscript Receives Prize:

Joseph N. Tatarewicz's manuscript, "Exploring the Solar System: The History of Planetary Geosciences Since Galileo," received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 1997 History Manuscript Award. This historical project was managed by the NASA History Office and funded by Office of Space Science. The manuscript is now being revised for publication in the "New Series in NASA History," published at no expense to the Federal Government by the Johns Hopkins University Press, and should appear in about a year. The last winner of this award was Michael Neufeld's manuscript on German rocketry in World War II, The Rocket and the Reich.

Personnel Update:

Congratulations to Lee D. Saegesser, NASA Archivist since 1967, for receiving the Patrick Moore Medal from the British Interplanetary Society. The citation said that the BIS awarded the medal to Lee "in recognition not only of the help you have given us over many years but in acknowledgment also of the invariably helpful response you have given to a multitude of others, not forgetting your constant endeavours to preserve and further space history in its many facets."

Finally, there is a new face in the NASA History Office: Mark Kahn came to the office in February 1996. As a contractor working on indexing and abstracting our archival collection, Mark has quickly gotten up to speed on the Inmagic database used to control the collection (see below). He also provides reference support to NASA and external customers doing historical research. Prior to working at NASA, Mark spent three years as the contract archivist for the Federal Aviation Administration. He also has a master's degree in history from the University of New Hampshire.

Code Z Homepage

January 16, 1997

For further information contact
Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian, or
Steve Garber, NASA History Office,