NASA HISTORY: CALENDAR YEAR 1999 IN REVIEW

 

During 1999 the efforts of the NASA History Division continued to focus on our core goals in accomplishing the collection, preservation, and dissemination of historical knowledge about NASA. These goals include:

We accomplish this by developing 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:

Information Requests

During calendar year 1999 NASA History Division personnel answered a record total number of 13,273 research requests from government, educational, and private organizations on all manner of divergent research interests. This required a total number of 4,368 work hours by the office staff. Also during the year, the History Division provided research services to 635 on-site researchers using its collections. Table 1 breaks down the number and type of information requests handled by NASA history personnel during calendar year 1999. It shows a peak in usage in July, probably owing to the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the significant media and student attention that this event received.

Table 1 also depicts the large percentage of e-mail requests for information that the History Division is receiving. With the advance of this technology, querying the History Division has become easier than ever, and it represents a growing workload that must be met in the future. To enable the office to meet this workload we have begun a series of new procedures:

While these have aided in meeting the current demands of this rising workload, we are concerned that these requests may soon become unmanageable. Additional options are being explored for dealing with this workload in the future. Some of those options are less than desirable, such as policy decisions not to respond to e-mails and to request all queries in letter form or not to respond to foreign inquiries at all. We remain committed to providing quality, timely service for those seeking information about NASA’s history but the challenges of doing so are becoming increasingly difficult as the number of requests continue to rise.

TABLE 1
 Bar Graph of Information Requests 1999

Additionally, the numbers of requests noted in Table 1 represents a significant rise in total requests for information, and in the time necessary to answer them, over 1998 and previous years. Table 2 graphically demonstrates the rise of information requests from 1990 to 1999. From a low of 601 information requests requiring 762 work hours in 1990, the workload has steadily grown by orders of magnitude to what we have for 1999. While the History Division has been able to reduce the amount of time given to each information request, demonstrating some efficiencies not previously obvious, the annual workload for information requests is more than two full-time equivalent personnel. Since the History Division does not have these resources in-house, we have relied on student interns and volunteers for some of this work, but the rise in the workload is a matter that requires continued attention if we are to meet the requirements of NASA on this score.

TABLE 2
Bar Graph of Information Requests 1991-1999

Special Staff Studies

A priority during the year was providing background information and documentary records to aid NASA decision-makers in their work. In so doing, the office prepared several types of historical background papers and staff studies on a variety of subjects:

    1. Launius, Roger D. "Background Paper on Centennial of Flight Commemoration Act" (January 12, 1999).
    2. Launius, Roger D. "Walter Cronkite Facts and Quotes about Space" (March 5, 1999).
    3. Launius, Roger D. "Non-Russians on Mir since 1992" (March 8, 1999).
    4. Launius, Roger D. "Study of Interactions Between the DOD and NASA in Early Space Operations" (March 29, 1999).
    5. Launius, Roger D. "NASA as Percentage of Federal Budget" (July 9, 1999).
    6. Launius, Roger D. "Background Paper on NACA and Technology Transfer" (July 26, 1999).
    7. Launius, Roger D. "The Space Shuttle Decision" (September 9, 1999).
    8. Launius, Roger D. "NASA Administrators Tenure of Service" (November 10, 1998).
    9. Launius, Roger D. "Background Paper on the History of the Space Station Program" (November 15, 1999).
    10. Launius, Roger D. "Next Steps in Establishing the Centennial of Flight Commission" (November 1, 1999).

History Division Document Management System (DMS)

The DMS began operating in May 1998, and the bugs are being worked out. This system was procured to help alleviate the press of space in the History Division by imaging discreet parts of the NASA Historical Reference Collection—especially high volume collections which are not added to on a regular basis—and then transferring the hard copies to the National Archives while maintaining the electronic version. We embarked during 1997 on a long-term effort to scan and create in an electronic format a database of historically-significant one-of-a-kind documents currently maintained on paper only in the NASA Historical Reference Collection. This project accomplishes several tasks:

To start the process we requested a review of the viability of placing in electronic form (on-line or on CD-ROM) these materials. We identified several major collections as candidates for placement in electronic form. These included:

We acquired the necessary imaging equipment in March 1998 and began work on the imaging task. At present we are concentrating on the Missions Operations Reports, and are working toward a goal of imaging, accessioning, and making available this entire set of documents.

One of the issues explored this past year is the question of how best to organize the NASA Historical Reference Collection in view of the introduction of the electronic document system. For thirty years the collection had been organized according to a system of paper files each containing disparate items about a single subject. It is a practical system, but it appears it is impossible to perpetuate it electronically. The electronic system lends itself to other structures which lack some of the user-friendly features of the paper folder system. Choosing to break from the folder system will require a major decision and strategies to ensure that items can be located without unrealistic staffing demands. It is not yet necessary to answer this structure question, because the archivists are currently scanning only large documents such as MORs. However, should we ever wish to scan the disparate short items that comprise a typical folder and then add more items to that folder over time, the structure issue must be resolved. This effort was on-going at year’s end.

Administrator’s Files Preservation Project

Archivist Jane Odom organized and coordinated an effort in 1999 to develop a comprehensive system for the papers of NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. This project resulted in the cataloging of his papers, the creation of an electronic database, and their storage in the Federal Records Center. She worked with the Administrator’s office to determine specifications for the final product, met with the HQ Records Manager to establish document disposition procedures, and coordinated with computer personnel to obtain necessary database support. Once completed, there were 128 boxes with 4,392 records in the database. Ms. Odom also created a brief user's guide for the database and collection.

Oral History Projects

During 1999 the NASA History Division undertook the compilation of an "Electronic Guide to the Oral Histories contained in the NASA Historical Reference Collection." This project, completed by Linda D. Voss, Inklings, Inc., was completed in the summer of 1999. Consisting of a name, subject, date, location, and media type index, it allows the office to gain physical control of its oral history collection.

Also during 1999, this office began a joint project with the Johnson Space Center to conduct oral histories of key personnel in NASA history. The focus of this effort, thus far, has been on human spaceflight personnel, however, there are efforts underway to define additional subjects for oral histories. Among them, a "Herstories" effort to interview women in aerospace history.

Finally, on November 1, 1999, the NASA History Division and the Space Business Archives co-sponsored a collective oral history at the American University in Washington, D.C. This workshop recorded the recollection of several key people involved in the development of commercial space policy in the 1980s. It gathered their recollections of efforts to open the region to commercial activities during the Reagan administration. The participants in this oral history included:

The oral history was moderated by W.D. Kay, Department of Political Science, Northeastern University.

Dr. Kay began by asking each of the participants to make a short opening statement of up to five minutes. They addressed several key issues in their statements: where they were during the 1980s, what space policies they felt needed to be changed during that time, and finally, how they went about making modifications. At the conclusion of these individual statements there were additional comments offered on a variety of subjects relative to the subject. The NASA History Division is in the process of transcribing this oral history and once completed it will be available for public use.

We believe that this event proved both enjoyable for the participants and useful in developing a fuller understanding of the transformation of space policy during the 1980s. Accordingly, we hope that this is the first in a series of re-examinations of key policies and trends in the recent history of spaceflight.

NASA History Office and Space Business Archives Sign MOU

On March 8, 1999, NASA and the Space Business Archives entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperative actions. The major provisions of the MOU call for collaboration in the preparation of inventories and finding aids; co-sponsorship of series of roundtables, workshops, focus groups, or other forums relating to the historical development of space business; collaboration in the preparation of on-line exhibits and publications of documentary materials; and ease of access to each facility by researchers sponsored by the other organization.

Personnel Changes

On March 9, 1999, the archivist, Terese K. Ohnsorg, departed the NASA History Division for another position, and we worked to hired a replacement civil service archivist. The announcement for this position closed on March 31, 1999, and on April 19-20 we interviewed all candidates for the position. We selected Jane B. Odom, archivist in the Office of Senator Ted Stevens as the new NASA Chief Archivist, and she reported on June 7, 1999. She had an immediate and important impact on the office throughout the remainder of the year. We welcome her aboard.

Publication Program:

A very important element of the NASA history program continued this last year 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.

Special Publications

New Series in NASA History

Contractor Reports and Technical Memoranda

Monographs in Aerospace History

NASA History Division Annual Reports

NASA History Division Books from Other Publishers

NASA Historical Publications in the News:

Space and the American Imagination (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), written by Howard E. McCurdy and sponsored by the NASA History Office was selected for the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award. Awarded by the American Astronautical Society, the Emme Astronautical Literature Award recognizes truly outstanding books serving public understanding about the impact of astronautics upon society and its potentialities for tomorrow. Previous winners have included: Arthur C. Clarke, Thomas O. Paine, Bruce C. Murray, and Frederick I. Ordway and Randy Lieberman.

The award committee commented that "Space and the American Imagination is written in a style equally appealing to laymen and scholars. It offers a conceptually sound, historically sophisticated perspective on the development and evolution of American space policy and programs. McCurdy’s use of social science models to structure and explain material ranging from science fiction to federal legislation helps clarify causal connections in what otherwise might appear as a hodgepodge of interesting, but ultimately unrelated, details. Readers confront an engaging interpretation of how ideas can excite the general population and, thereby, strengthen a particular vision sufficiently to survive in public policy, despite sometimes disappointing programmatic results. In a sober, yet compelling conclusion, McCurdy asserts that the catalytic effect of popular culture, while beneficial in the short term, eventually resulted in diminished support for a sustained, large-scale space exploration program."

This award represents the fourth time that a NASA historical work has received the Emme award. These earlier works include: Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., Before Lift Off: The Making of a Space Shuttle Crew (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); Karl Hufbauer, Exploring the Sun: Solar Science Since Galileo (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); and James R. Hansen, Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo (Washngton, DC: NASA SP-4308, 1995).

Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian, participated in the 50th International Astronautical Congress, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on October 3-7, 1999, where his book, NASA and the Exploration of Space (New York: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1998), received the Luigi Napolitano Award from the International Academy of Astronautics.

Historical Publications Nearing Publication:

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.

Special Publications

Books Published by Other Presses

NASA History Division Annual Reports

New NASA Historical Projects Begun in 1999:

NASA History on the Internet:

During 1999 the NASA History Division, under the leadership of Stephen J. Garber, worked to place numerous materials on-line. Most important, the History Division revised its home page at http://history.nasa.gov. In addition to this conveniently simple URL, there are now several ways to find the information among the thousands of NASA History Web pages. We recommend trying our convenient topical index, as well as our keyword search function and our previous historical subject headings. There is a new "hot topics" page that contains information on frequently asked questions, new publications, and new on-line information. The major new materials placed on-line include:

Professional Activities:

Members of the History Division staff were involved at several levels in professional activities germane to aerospace history during 1999. The first area was as co-organizers of various professional conferences or symposia. Second, 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.

Aerospace History Conferences and Symposia Co-Sponsored by NASA

"Space Exploration at the Millennium: In Remembrance of Carl Sagan"

"Space Exploration at the Millennium: In Remembrance of Carl Sagan," was a symposium co-sponsored by NASA that took place on March 24, 1999, at American University in Washington, DC. The symposium featured presentations by Buzz Aldrin, Yvonne Cagle, Andrew Chaikin, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Hugh Downs, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Don Herbert, Homer Hickam, Ted Koppel, Bill Nye, Robert Pickardo, Ned Potter, Kim Stanley Robinson, Donna Shirley, Kathy Sullivan, and Jill Tarter, among others.

The symposium offered a retrospective on one of this century's crowning accomplishments: the genesis of space exploration. It included panel discussions, numerous exhibits and displays, and small session meetings with several panelists. It proved to be exceptionally popular. Total attendance was more than 1,800 people, including school groups and many students from American University. The symposium was broadcast live on NASA TV and simulcast on MS/NBC, CBA Interactive, broadcast.com, and several other web-based media outlets. Reports from all of the major daily newspapers and news magazines were quite positive. Local television coverage was also impressive.

"Developing U.S. Launch Capability: The Role of Civil-Military Cooperation"

On November 5, 1999, the NASA History Division co-sponsored a high-profile one-day historical symposium, "Developing U.S. Launch Capability: The Role of Civil-Military Cooperation," at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. The Air Force Space Command, the National Air and Space Museum, the George Washington University Space Policy Institute, and the National Space Society co-sponsored this symposium.

Three panels addressed "The Ballistic Missile Legacy," "Building a U.S. Space Flight Capability," and "Perspectives and Legacies." The presentations included the following:

Session One: "The Ballistic Missile Legacy"

Session Two: "Building a U.S. Space Flight Capability"

Session Three: "Perspectives and Legacies"

In addition, the symposium honored the unique contributions of Dr. Simon Ramo and General Bernard A. Schriever to the United States’ launch vehicle capabilities. Each received, as a part of the opening ceremonies of the symposium, the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. This medal is awarded only to individuals whose distinguished accomplishments contributed substantially to the NASA mission. The contributions must be so extraordinary that other forms of recognition by NASA would be inadequate. It is the highest honor that NASA confers to a non-government individual.

NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin also delivered a major address on the role of civil-military cooperation in the development of American launch capability. The symposium took place before a packed house of scholars, practitioners, and others at the AAAS auditorium. It was taped and the History Division plans to get at least some of it transcribed for permanent retention in the NASA Historical Reference Collection.

NASA History Sessions at Conferences and Symposia

American Historical Association Annual Meeting

NASA sponsored a very successful session at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington, D.C., entitled, "New Views of Aerospace History: Research from the AHA Fellowship Program," on Friday, January 8, 1999. The lineup for the session was as follows:

The session was chaired by Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian, and the commentator was Roger E. Bilstein, University of Houston-Clear Lake.

In 1984 the American Historical Association established the Fellowship in Aerospace History, funded by the NASA History Division, as a means of enhancing scholarly study in the field. Modeled on similar fellowship programs administered by the National Academy of Sciences and other organizations, the AHA aerospace history fellowship program has now passed its fifteenth year, and has succeeded admirably in its principal objectives of broadening research and writing in the field.

All of the papers given in this session presented research sponsored through the AHA Fellowship in Aerospace History. It brought together senior scholars, public historians, and younger scholars to explore themes in the "New Aerospace History."

National Council on Public History Annual Meeting

On April 30, 1999, NASA sponsored a very successful session entitled, "Aerospace History and the Challenge of Presenting the Past to Multiple Audiences," at the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History in Lowell, Massachusetts. The lineup for the session was as follows:

Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian, chaired the session, and the comment was provided by Jannelle Warren-Findley, Arizona State University.

Society for the History of Technology Annual Meeting

At the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), on October 10, 1999, in Detroit, Michigan, Stephen B. Johnson of the University of North Dakota's Department of Space Studies organized the session, "Organizing Research and Development for Missiles and Space." This session described the evolution of the social and legal milieu of research and development in the aerospace industry from the 1950s to the 1970s. Chaired by Howard E. McCurdy, American University, the session featured the following presentations:

The commentary was offered by Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian.

History of Science Society Annual Meeting

Additionally, "The Politics of Cancellation: Recent Science, the Public Policy Process, and Organized Protest," took place at the annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 5, 1999. Organized by Roger D. Launius, the session featured the following presentations:

The commentary was offered by Teresa L. Kraus of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Other Public Venues for Disseminating NASA History

AHA Fellowship in Aerospace History:

The American Historical Association awarded one fellowship for the 1999-2000 academic year; NASA funds this program as a means of fostering serious scholarship in aerospace history. The fellow for this year is David H. Onkst, Ph.D. candidate in American history at the American Univesity, Washington, D.C. His fellowship will enable him to work full time on his dissertation, tentatively entitled "The Triumph and Decline of the 'Squares': Grumman Engineers and Production Workers in the 1960s."

Thanks to NASA History Division Volunteers

Our special thanks to interns Madeleine Short and Nicole Garrera for all their help in 1999. We also thank Eric Jones, who continues to oversee the 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 http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/. This site has been mentioned on CNN and warmly reviewed in Air & Space/Smithsonian.

Our thanks also to the following volunteers who prepared other historical information for the World Wide Web, especially Chris Gamble, who has formatted several books; H.P. Engel, who prepared a number of documents relating to the X-15; Kipp Teague who has scanned numerous photographs and diagrams; John Henry, who prepared a Congressional handbook on space; and David Woods and Frank O’Brien who have created the Apollo 15 Flight Journal. Our thanks to all these volunteers.

 

Roger D. Launius

NASA Chief Historian

January 17, 2000