SP-4103 Model Research - Volume 1

 

12

The End, 1956-1958

 

[283] The fire that was to consume the NACA was laid throughout the 1950s, waiting for the match. It was fueled primarily by the Committee's peculiar organizational arrangement, on increasingly at odds with the Committee's responsibilities and with contemporary organizational theory. Warmed by misgivings about the Committee's conservatism, its ties to industry and the military services, and the apparent duplication of its work in other labs, and set in the budget cutting and efficiency-seeking atmosphere of Washington in the Eisenhower years, the tinder grew more volatile. Sputnik provided the spark that set it off, and though it only smoldered for a while, soon the old agency was consumed in flames it was powerless to quench. From the ashes arose a new institution, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a bird of a different feather.

 

THE BALANCE OF POWER

 

At the annual meeting of the NACA, October 1956, Jerome Hunsaker announced that he was stepping, own as chairman of the Committee. After a career of 43 years in aeronautics, he felt the new world was too much with him, that he was aging and set in his ways when the times called for young and imaginative leadership, that he was ill-equipped by temperament and training to cope with the new technologies of missiles, rockets, nuclear propulsion, even space flight. He agreed to remain on the Committee, but not in the chair which he had then held for 15 years.1

In his place, and with his approval, the NACA chose James H. Doolittle. To the post Jimmy Doolittle brought unparalleled credentials acquired in one of the most remarkable careers in modern American history. Among his credits were an earned doctor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a medley of aviation records, including the first one-day cross-country flight in 1922, the first blind landing by instruments, and the world's speed record for [284] airplanes; virtually every major aviation trophy and award that a pilot and engineer could win; a military career spinning two world wars and most ranks from aviation cadet to lieutenant general; a chestful of decorations topped by the Medal of Honor for leading the famous 1942 air raid on Tokyo; and latterly, a distinguished business career as a vice president and director of Shell Oil Company. In his spare time he was special assistant to the chief of staff of the air force, chairman of the President's Airport Commission, chair an of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, president of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, and president of the Air Force Association. Any one of his careers would have occupied and fulfilled most men, but Doolittle managed them all and continued in 1956 to bring to them a vitality and energy that belled his 60 years.2

 


John F. Victory swears in James H. Doolittle as the eighth and last chairman of the NACA, as outgoing chairman Jerome C. Hunsaker looks on with apparent delight. (ARC)

 John F. Victory swears in James H. Doolittle as the eighth and last chairman of the NACA, as outgoing chairman Jerome C. Hunsaker looks on with apparent delight. (ARC)

 

All Doolittle's credentials, however, could not change the fact that he stood the tradition of the NACA chairmanship on its head. Save only the first incumbent (General George P. Scriven, whose appointment reflected the military influence on the creation of the NACA), all the chairmen had been scientists, and all but one had been academics: Durand from Stanford, Walcott from the Smithsonian, Ames from Johns Hopkins, Bush from MIT and the Carnegie Institution, and Hunsaker from MIT. True, Hunsaker had careers in the military and industry that paralleled Doolittle's in breadth if not in depth, but as chairman of the NACA he was primarily an academic and an engineer. If Doolittle was anything, he was an academic last; first or second he was a businessman, second or first military officer. He was the [285] personification of what Eisenhower was soon to label the military industrial complex.

The NACA, by law and by tradition, had operated over the years to block control by any interest group. It had parried repeated suggestions that industry representatives sit on the Main Committee, until the circumstance of World War II forced this step. Now a businessman was chairman. Similarly, though military officers had by law the largest single bloc of representation on the NACA, the army and navy had always had equal numbers of representatives and the chairman had always been an impartial scientist or academic who could ensure that neither service came to dominate. Now a retired air force general was chairman.

Doolittle himself was a man of integrity whose long public service precluded suspicion of any conflict of interest. Still, he embodied the very forces that had been changing the NACA's fortunes from the golden years under Ames through the precarious and troubled times following World War II. Strangely, the leaders of the NACA seemed oblivious to the drift of events that his chairmanship represented. He was the logical and unanimous choice of a committee that had forgotten its past.

The same movement toward new blood and new ideas that brought Doolittle to the chairmanship could be seen in the NACA's program, as the Committee pursued the new technologies, popping up all along the frontier of aeronautical progress. Early in 19$7, for example, the Executive Committee approved a proposal to cooperate with the air force on a new research aircraft to succeed the X-15, even though the latter was more than two years away from its first flight. This was the beginning of NACA involvement in the program that led ultimately to the Dyna-Soar, a boost-glide vehicle capable of flying out of the atmosphere and into space.3

In less spectacular but equally important departures, the NACA turned greater attention in these years to the operating problems of aircraft, notably to noise reduction and crash research. It increased its program of propulsion research, opening up a new facility at Plum Brook, Ohio, to investigate rockets and to continue preliminary explorations of nuclear power for aircraft, an issue in which Dryden and Doolittle became deeply involved as consultants to the air force. In the expanding field of reentry aerodynamics brought forth by the flight of long-range missiles out of the earth's atmosphere, the Ames laboratory's H. Julian Allen contributed the blunt-body concept of vehicle design that won great approbation for the NACA in military circles, demonstrating that a theoretician could work successfully within the NACA if he didn't rub against the grain.4

 

 


[
286]

Left, a 20° cone - cylinder is melted in a wind tunnel by the friction of air passing it at 6.9 times the speed of sound , much as a similarly shaped spacecraft would melt on re entering the earth's atmosphere .

Left, a 20° cone - cylinder is melted in a wind tunnel by the friction of air passing it at 6.9 times the speed of sound , much as a similarly shaped spacecraft would melt on re entering the earth's atmosphere . (LaRC) Right , H . Julian ( Harvey) Allen stands beside the test section of the Ames 8-by 7 foot unitary, plan wind tunnel, in which is mounted a test model of the blunt-body concept he pioneered counteract this heating problem in reentry vehicles. (ARC)

 

Standing in the way of progress along this broad front of aeronautical research, with its new and exciting salients, were the same problems that had plagued the NACA since World War II: budget and personnel. Even with the increased funds it got from Eisenhower in 1956, the Committee still felt pressed for money in the ensuing years and regularly went back for more. Now, however, it encountered a recession in 1957 and still more belt-tightening throughout the federal government. Once again the NACA was in the double bind that had worried Lewis in earlier years and haunted Hunsaker in congressional testimony after World War II: should the Committee be a good soldier and accept the administration's austere line-running the risk of later congressional accusations that it had not done its duty in asking for what it needed to keep America aeronautically secure or should it chomp at the bit in congressional hearings and run the risk of antagonizing Eisenhower and the Bureau of the Budget? The NACA chose the former course, but not without reluctance and misgiving.5

Notwithstanding the increased range and number of excepted positions the NACA won in the various pay-reform acts of the 1950s, the Committee sensed it was losing ground in, he competition for personnel with a growing aircraft industry, swollen now with large-scale [287] orders for missiles and rockets. Beginning in 1955, inroads began even into the top ranks of NACA scientists and engineers, prompting Victory to predict in late 1956 that "leadership in scientific research in aeronautics will be lost" if the trend were not reversed.6

The NACA responded to these problems as it always had. It kept a low profile around Washington, cultivated its reputation for efficiency, and brought to the attention of the right people its continuing record of achievement. Richard Whitcomb's discovery of the area rule, for example, became the highlight of the 1955 annual report, in spite of the misgivings of some committee members that this emphasis smacked of self-serving demagoguery, and in spite of informed opinion in some aeronautical circles that the area rule was not all the NACA claimed for it.7

Mostly the NACA sought to keep its principal clients happy, sought even to expand its clientele. The army's request for membership on the Main Committee in 1957 split the NACA leadership along lines that reflected the new politics of the late 1950s. "Hunsaker kept his eye on the aeronautics, telling Victory that "it is clear that Army representation could benefit the Army, but it is not so clear that it would benefit the NACA, unless the Army's own research were significant". Dryden wanted to remain "neutral on the subject," while admitting that "the possible advantages to NACA are those of additional logistic and moral support". But the issue was decided in an Executive Committee meeting at which chairman Doolittle agreed to inform the secretary of the army that "the NACA .....is of the opinion that both the Army and the NACA would benefit from Army representation, the Army because it would be in closer contact with the activities of the NACA, and the NACA because it could anticipate the support of the Department of the Army as well as the Navy and the Air Force".8 In an understandable but dangerous way, the politics of institutional survival was once more piping the tune.

 

THE STATE OF THE NACA

 

The NACA in 1957 was not entirely what it seemed. It had become an enigmatic mixture of the intended and the unintended, of the obvious and the obscure, of substance and rhetoric, of unique research agency and traditional bureaucracy.

It was first of all a large organization in comparison to its modest beginnings. In 1915 it had consisted of twelve committeemen and a clerk in search of a place to hold meetings. In 1957, a staff of almost 8000 occupied three major laboratories and as many subsidiary facilities valued at $300 million.9 Below the Main Committee, now grown to 17 members with two more planned, were four main technical [288] committees and 24 technical subcommittees, having a total membership approaching 500. From the $5000 with which the Committee conducted its first year of business, the budget had grown to $75 million.

After abandoning in 1926 the advisory role implied by its name, the Committee had concentrated on conducting and coordinating aeronautical research. In 1957, as throughout its history, the NACA was torn between the fundamental research it preferred to do and the specific problem solving it was called upon to do by the military and the industry. Since the agency's dramatic expansion during World War II, headquarters proved less able to control the details of research programs at the laboratories, freeing the staffs there to indulge their preference for fundamental research. At the same time, the NACA was becoming more of a service agency to its principal clients, drawn into problem solving and bug-chasing. In the late 1950s, the Committee acknowledged that about half its work as in response to specific military requests; a smaller but significant proportion went to requests from the industry. Add to that the role of t e industry and the military in determining which fundamental problems to undertake, and the percentage of the research program dictate d by the NACA's clients is higher still. Between them, the military and the industry controlled 69 percent of the technical-committee memberships and 69 percent of the subcommittee memberships.10

The NACA was driven to being a service agency spending most of its time on problem-solving, not because the services and industry were blind to the need for fundamental research , but because it was not in their nature to look far into the future. Pressed by the need to get the next generation of fighter aircraft into operation or the next prototype into production, both the services and industry tended to focus on immediate problems, on the incremental advances in the state of the art, on refinement of the equipment at hand. Ideally, the NACA should have complemented these institutions by being the agency of deep thought and extended vision, operating above the fray and isolated from the distractions of day-to-day competition, responsible (as it claimed to be) for anticipating the research needs, of tomorrow. But, tied to the necessity of ensuring its own survival the NACA found it all too easy to link that survival to the good opinion of its clients. What those clients asked, the NACA did, even though their requests were too often for the specific, the immediate, the transient. Unwittingly and unfortunately, they dragged the NACA It an increasing concentration on the problems of the moment rather than the problems of the future.

That was the price paid. The advantage won was a genuinely good reputation and the sturdy support of its clients. The NACA's prestige was never as high as Victory tried to ma (e it look by excerpting the bread-and-butter letters from industry and the services; all the NACA's....

 


[
289]

This portable cooling blower helps simulate flight conditions on the ground for untried engines at the Lewis laboratory, the kind of cleanup and testing into which the NACA was being increasingly drawn. (LeRC)

This portable cooling blower helps simulate flight conditions on the ground for untried engines at the Lewis laboratory, the kind of cleanup and testing into which the NACA was being increasingly drawn. (LeRC)


 

....clients had grievances. But by the mid 1950s the NACA had recovered its reputation from its World War II slump and enjoyed real esteem in most aeronautical circles.

On Capitol Hill and within the executive branch, especially in the Bureau of the Budget, the NACA was widely respected as an efficient and dependable organization, meticulous in the way it spent its money and productive of truly cost-effective results. It came under constant suspicion, especially on the Hill, of duplicating work done at military research laboratories. At the Bureau of the Budget, the NACA's organizational structure was frequently faulted. Among the general public, save those associated with flying or flight, the NACA seems to have been little known or cared about.

The Committee's besetting problems were the same ones it had had since World War II: to meet the growing demands of industry and the services for specific research and still try to cover the entire frontier of aeronautical progress. As new technologies like missiles, rockets, and nuclear propulsion broadened that frontier, the budget restrictions of the 1950s made the necessary resources harder to come by. Ideally, the new facilities of the industry and the services should have alleviated the pressure on the NACA, but that ideal was not attained. As the services instituted their own advisory and coordinating committees on which the NACA often served as guest, instead of the host it was accustomed to being the NACA lost its power to control the course of events and to direct the agenda and the discussions. Similarly, the laboratories built by the services and the industries inevitably cut into [290] NACA territory and made the Committee appear less unique, more duplicative, less indispensable.

In spite of these political vulnerabilities, the NACA seems to have felt as secure of its institutional survival in 1957 as at any time in its history. When Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October of that year the event that triggered the demise of the NACA the Committee took little notice. At its annual meeting less than two weeks later, the subject never arose.11

 


Two weeks before Sputnik, the NACA Executive Committee met at Wallops Island Station.

Two weeks before Sputnik, the NACA Executive Committee met at Wallops Island Station.

 

RECONSTITUTION

 

President Eisenhower was equally unmoved by Sputnik 1 and just as deaf to the implications of the event. He felt that he had answered the Soviet technological threat when he examined the missile situation in 1954 and 1955 and instituted a crash program to develop an American intercontinental ballistic missile. He did n t want, nor did he see any need, to upset America's economic stability by investing in an expensive space program. To indulge the fantasies of the space enthusiasts "space cadets" was the contemporary sneer would divert attention and resources from the more crucial missile program. Because much of the rationale behind his position was highly classified, he was at a disadvantage in public debate over the meaning of, and the appropriate response to, Sputnik. He and his staff adopted the unfortunate policy of discounting the Russian achievement as n attempt to draw the U.S. into "an outer space basketball game" of satellites, claiming that it did not worry the president "one iota".12

The political winds, however, were blowing in the opposite direction. Many public figures and opinion makers, including key members of Congress, saw Sputnik in an entirely different light. Most important, they viewed it as a threat to national security, for it demonstrated a [291] missile capability more sophisticated than previously estimated, a capability that for the first time since the War of 1812 posed a realistic threat to the protection provided by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans against foreign attack. Second, Sputnik manifested a general advance in Soviet education, science, and technology that was already worrying informed Americans. And third, the Soviet feat was widely viewed as a psychological victory in the cold war; it could lead unaligned or wavering nations to conclude that the Soviet Union really was the rising star with which the countries of the third world should ally their futures. These concerns motivated calls for a national crash program in space to catch and surpass the Russians. The space race was on.13

Hoping to stem this tide of public opinion, Eisenhower elevated his Science Advisory Committee to White House quarters and prestige, retitled it the President's Science Advisory Committee, and imported James R. Killian, Jr., from the presidency of MIT to chair it, anointing the 53 year old engineer and administrator Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. To Killian and the rejuvenated PSAC, Eisenhower gave broad responsibilities for formulating advice on a wide range of questions involving national security, the first and most pressing being what to do about space.14

But these first steps, positive though they were, did not satisfy. Sputnik 2 had gone aloft on 3 November, carrying a dog and more than 500 kilograms of scientific equipment. Eve had the United States succeeded in launching its own satellite as scheduled the following month, it would have orbited less than two Kilograms of payload. On 25 November Lyndon Johnson convened exhaustive hearings on the nation's missile and space program before his Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The tenor of these hearings and the growing public concern over the issue soon made clear the political imperative for a major United States space program. The questions in 1957 were: Who would formulate it? Where would the program lodge?15

In this charged atmosphere, the NACA came alive to the significance of Sputnik and its, portent for the Committee. Space flight was in many ways an extension of the atmospheric flight and missile research that had been the NACA's prime concern. If fundamental research was to be done on space flight, the NACA was the logical agency to do it. Soon enough the Committee realized that the opposite was true as well; much of its current research could easily be done by a new space agency, were such an institution to arise. Far from ensuring the Committee's continued growth into a new branch of technology, the prospect of space flight jeopardized the very existence of the NACA and shattered the calm assurance of the months preceding Sputnik. In self-defense the Committee would have to decide how to respond to the [292] challenge and where it would fit institutionally into the emerging controversy over developing a national space program.16

As it had been wont to do in any crisis throughout its 42 years, the NACA began by creating a committee, in this case a Special Committee on Space Technology. When Hunsaker refused the chairmanship, it was offered to H. Guyford Stever, then associate dean of engineering at MIT. Because of the press of other business, Stever could not take up this post immediately, but this mattered little to the NACA. The purpose of what came to be called the Stever committee was not to quickly formulate a policy for the NACA, but rather to bring together under the NACA umbrella all the scientists and engineers in the United States who might play a substantial role in he development and execution of a national space policy. The Stever committee was more political than technological, intended to coopt possible critics of the NACA and guarantee it the best available grip on the course of events. It was unlikely that the NACA would be left cut of any truly significant development if its committee membership included all the individuals who would contribute to those developments.17

The Stever committee, however, had neither the opportunity nor the mandate to tell the NACA what to do next. On 18 December a meeting of key staff personnel from headquarters and all the laboratories debated the Committee's options; that night, chairman Doolittle hosted a still larger gathering of staff members that came to be called in NACA folklore the "Young Turks dinner". Here the younger engineers got a chance to say how they thought the NACA should respond to space. Opinion was divided, roughly along generational lines, between the young men who wanted the NACA to campaign for a broad new role in space and the old hands who preferred a more cautious expansion of the NACA's current activities. John Stack, the brilliant Langley engineer with two Collier trophies d an enormous ego in his corner, called Dryden an old fogey, or words to that effect. Though Stack was apparently voicing (however intemperately) the sentiments of the majority, he won little more than a debate-ending backlash from Dryden, who proceeded to "explain the approach that would be taken".18

The approach was a series of studies and papers in which the NACA made its formal claim to be select d as the agency that would conduct U.S. space research. First came "A National Research Program for Space Technology," a staff study competed on 14 January 1958, in which "the Soviet.....bid for world supremacy" was characterized as "a most serious challenge to the United States and the Western world," calling for "an energetic program for research and development for the conquest of space". The study recommended "the pattern .... already developed by the NACA and the military services" [293] and exemplified in the X-15 program, where "the scientific research [would] be the responsibility of a national civilian agency working in close cooperation with the applied research and development groups required for weapon-systems development by the military." This study was swallowed whole by the NACA Executive Committee two days later, reappearing in a "Resolution on the Subject of Space Flight," which became the basis of further staff action.19

On 10 February 1958 the staff published "A Program for Expansion of NACA Research in Space Flight Technology with Estimates of the Staff and Facilities Required," a remarkably prophetic document covering virtually every aspect of spaceflight from exotic propulsion technology to the mechanics of rendezvous in orbit, and concluding that the NACA should more than double its staff and operating budget over a two to three-year period and should undertake a $6555 million construction program, including vast expansion of the existing laboratories and creation of a new laboratory. On the same day, the Committee published "NACA Research into Space," a catalogue of all NACA work over the years that could be construed as contributing to space flight. The jewel in this diadem, as in the other NACA papers on space, was the 1952 consideration of the Woods proposal to investigate the possibilities of space flight. Now the NACA was claiming that it "in 1952 initiated studies 'of the problems associated with unmanned and manned flight'" into space when, in fact, it had (on Dryden's recommendation) actually weasel worded the resolution at the time, resolving that "a modest effort be devoted by the NACA to the definition and formulation of the problems associated with unmanned and manned flight" into space.20 Once more the NACA w s tarnishing a commendable record by claiming over much for itself.

By this time (February 1958) other hats were in the ring and Eisenhower had to choose one, or Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Congress would do it for him. Chief contender, and in many ways the most logical choice, was the Department of defense, and particularly the air force. For years, when it was unpopular and politically dangerous to do so, a group in the air force's Ballistic Missile Division (formerly the Western Development Division) of the Air Research and Development Command had been planning and advocating military space activities. A comparable group in the army, centered on Wernher von Braun's Development Operations Division of the army's Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, had similar plans and ambitions. Eisenhower opposed the choice of either, because he was reluctant to fuel the military industrial complex that was becoming for him an increasing source of concern, and because the "missile mess" and the inter-service rivalry at the Pentagon over roles and missions not only in space but on earth as well did not suggest to him that the [294] services could take on this new mission without further stimulating their counterproductive and exasperating struggle for position, prestige, and budget.21

In Congress there was some sentiment for entrusting America's space program to the Atomic Energy Comission, which appeared to be enormously successful in managing large-scale technology of both military and civilian dimensions. Sen. Clinton Anderson, chairman of the joint Committee on Atomic Energy, led this crusade but never made much progress at the White House. Others suggested creation of an entirely new agency, perhaps modeled on the AEC, perhaps cut from whole cloth. The American Rocket society and the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel, for example, joined in recommending a National Space Establishment independent of the military and free to pursue the scientific, commercial, and cultural aspects of space travel and exploration.22

All these proposals had supporters and opponents, as did the NACA's bid. Many in the aviation community publicly endorsed the NACA as "the Logical Space Agency" and a "Spearhead of Progress". But some in the scientific community considered the NACA too small, too inexperienced, and above all too conservative to rise fully to the challenge of space. The jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, for example made just such an argument to Killian, but undermined the force of it's criticism by suggesting that JPL should be "the national space laboratory".23

The competition ended on 4 February 1958 when a PSAC panel that had been investigating the problem since December formally recommended that a new civilian agency be created around the nucleus of the NACA. Eisenhower quickly embraced this proposal and directed that legislation be drafted embodying the concepts in the PSAC presentation. Ideas were still vague at that point, and generalization was the order of the day. It was possible for all the participants to see in the proposed plan the acceptance of their own views; it was especially easy for the NACA to do so. Victory wrote to a former NACA member on 20 February: "Don't be surprised if you see some Congressman introducing legislation to change our name to National Advisory Committee for Astronautics, or Aeronautics and Astronautics".24

This, however, was not to be. The legislation incorporating the administration plan would be drafted n t by Congress but by the executive branch, specifically by a team composed of members from the PSAC, the NACA, the Rockefeller commission on Government Organization, and the Bureau of the Budget. The scheme was to survey comprehensively the organic legislation of all comparable federal agencies, including the case law resulting from the legislation, in order to formulate a single organic act incorporating the best recent experience [295] on how to empower a new agency. Simplicity and power were the watchwords: the legislation should not encumber the new agency with needless complications and restrictions.

With that philosophy the NACA was in warm accord, but inevitably there arose the specific issue that would divide the Committee's representatives from the other drafters: would the new agency be a committee, or would it be organized hierarchically with a single head answerable to the president? To the former scheme Dryden, Doolittle, and the other NACA representative were firmly committed. To the latter, the BoB staff was equally committed. In fact, this had been the pet grievance of BoB for years, especially in the Government Organization Branch. In 1951, when the NACA was trying to have Dryden included in the Executive Pay Act, the only comment made by William Finan of Government Organization on the proposals was: "This looks like a good reorganization plan prospect to me". ' Now Finan was a key member of the team drafting the new legislation. Even Willis Shapley, constant defender of the NACA against BoB suggestions that the Committee be transferred to another agency like the Department of Commerce or Defense, was not averse to changing the organizational structure of the NACA if the opportunity arose. On the same executive pay issue in 1951, he wrote to his boss recommending that "we continue to raise with NACA the organizational question at every appropriate opportunity".25

No opportunity in the previous decade had been so appropriate as the drafting of new legislation and the formation of a new agency in 1958. BoB spoke with one voice on this issue and most others in the executive branch concurred. Doolittle and Driden went to the wall, for they feared the elimination of the one attribute of the NACA they considered most responsible for the Committee's success. So strongly did they feel on this issue no doubt they were speaking as well for John Victory and all the rest of the Committee staff that they overstated their case and unwittingly revealed the very myopia that had brought the NACA to this pass. Doolittle wrote to Killian on 24 March protesting that "we should not tear down something that is working perfectly in order to try out a derogation of the Board that both Hugh and I are convinced is unwise".26 The NACA had real friends and admirers throughout Washington and the country, but few outside its own cloister would have claimed that the Committee system worked "perfectly". By embracing that conceit, the members of the NACA had deafened themselves over the years to the real misgivings about its organizational arrangement that friends like Shapley had been trying to express to them. Had they been more alive to the perceptions of others, they might have been better prepared in 1958 to counter the proposals of those who were determined to ring the NACA into line [296] with conventional wisdom about how to organize a government agency. As it was, the NACA protestations brought more heat than light to the debate and did nothing to dissuade the reformers. The space act drafted under Killian's general direction a d approved by Eisenhower for submission to Congress provided for a National Aeronautics and Space Agency headed by an administrator appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. As a gesture to the tradition of collective leadership, the act provided for an advisory board one that could advise, but need not consent. The experiment in government organization was being abandoned.27

 

FROM NACA to NASA

 

The space act settled once and for all the organizational structure of the new space agency. It did not determine what the new agency would do. Clearly it would continue the aeronautical research function of the NACA, but its role in space was specified nowhere in the act. Therein lay a new controversy that pitted the NACA and its friends in the Pentagon against the Congress and the president's staff. The out come was of no one's choosing, least of all the NACA's, but it extinguished the old NACA and its traditions more thoroughly even than had the discarding of the committee system.

Nothing in the administration bill convinced the NACA that it could not operate as the new space agency much as it had operated in recent years: that is, as a research organization serving the industry and the military. Nor did Eisenhower give clear directions about what the new agency would do, how it would proceed, or what programs it would control, for the simple reason that neither he nor his staff had the answers to those questions. Rather, he directed the NACA and the Department of Defense to work out the issues between them.28

While the NACA began the prescribed coordination with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a newly created branch of DoD initially assigned overall responsibility for space activities, it also took unilateral actions looking toward business pretty much as usual. It projected the addition of an 800-man Space Flight Research Center to its existing laboratories, but the latter "would not be greatly expanded". With the air force it planned and executed a joint agreement to develop a manned recoverable space vehicle on the pattern of the X-15 program: that is, a cooperative venture, with the air force in charge (and picking up the tab) while the NACA ran the technical and research aspects of the program. The X-15 program had become the NACA's model for a successful joint program and its first choice for conducting major projects in the future including space projects.29

[297] To the extent that this agreement between the NACA and the air force reflected a willingness and an ability to coordinate the civilian and military requirements of space, it was surely welcome in Congress. But the agreement itself lacked the sweep and the enthusiasm that Lyndon Johnson for one now chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics-brought to his consideration of the administration space bill. He said that "seldom, if ever, [had] a Congress and an administration faced a more challenging task," and that their actions could decide the future of the United States for the next century. He wanted nothing less than "to convert outer space into a blessing for humanity". Alongside such cosmic visions, the NACA's modest proposals looked half-hearted, even negative.30

Johnson and his colleagues were also alive to the military potential of space, and they dreaded Armageddon as much as they sought the "millennium of peace". Naturally, they wanted cooperation between the new space agency and the Department of Defense, to ensure that the U.S. would not be found wanting should space become a new arena for war; but they also wanted to keep the new agency from being dominated by the vast and voracious Department of Defense. So Johnson and his colleagues rewrote the administration bill, adding two provisions particularly displeasing to Eisenhower. First, the congressmen called for a civilian military liaison committee to ensure regular and formal coordination between the civilian and the military space programs, and they prescribed a free exchange of information between the NASA and the DoD. Second, they added to the act language establishing a National Aeronautics and Space Council to be chaired by the president and to consist of heads of all agencies concerned with space: i.e., NASA, DoD, AEC, State Department, and such other agencies as the president deemed necessary. The purpose of the council was to ensure that the president would take a personal interest in the space program and that space matters would be examined in the highest councils of government, where the voice of the new space agency would be equal to those of the established giants. And the council replaced the advisory board that had been included in the administration bill as a sop to NACA sensibilities; Johnson considered the board too weak for the task at hand, a sac, measure of the NACA's reputation on the Hill.31

These organizational constraints the Congress could legislate, but it was powerless to infuse the new agency with the enthusiasm that dominated the special committees on space which both houses created to deal with the space act. The new administrator was to be chosen by the president with the consent of the Senate and though Congress could not really say what it did want a space cadet it could say what it didn't want Hugh Dryden. He seemed the logical choice to head [298] the new agency, but his testimony before Congress in the spring and summer of 1958 ended any hopes he might have had for that post. His statements contained many of the right words, invoking visions of space stations and manned travel to the planets, but they lacked the enthusiasm and zeal so prevalent in Congress.32

His most famous and most damaging gaffe illustrates the difficulty. Wernher von Braun, the dynamic and charismatic head of the army ballistic missile program at Redstone Arsenal, had suggested in earlier testimony before Congress that the Unite States should immediately begin a crash program with equipment a ready available to launch a man straight up into space and return hi by parachute, just for the sake of doing it, for the sake of beating the Russians. When asked about this proposal, Dryden characterize it as a mere "stunt" like shooting a woman out of a cannon, devoid of scientific merit or technological substance. Of course he was right; but what he failed to grasp then and what the Apollo program would demonstrate in only a few years was that a stunt was just what the country wanted, a daring and dramatic demonstration of American technological superiority. The engaging and hyperbolic von Braun came away from the exchange looking bold and imaginative. The soft-spoken and correct Dryden came away looking timid and lackluster. So too did the NACA. Not only would a new agency be required, but a new leader as well.33

Meanwhile, the executive branch of government, led by presidential science adviser Killian, was handling the NACA almost as roughly. It began by abrogating the joint NACA-UF agreement to develop a manned recoverable space vehicle. Killian wanted ARPA to be the military space agency for the time being and he did not want the NACA making separate agreements with the air force. In the long run ARPA became just as aggressive and demanding about the military role in space as Killian feared the air force would have been, but at least he could keep the number of players to a minimum. He wanted the NACA and ARPA to work out a division of labor as directed by Eisenhower; then he could adjudicate what they found irreconcilable.34

At the outset, only two issues were clear. Reconnaissance satellites and other uses of space for military intelligence gathering were surely an exclusively military function. Space science was a civilian function. For all other space activities envisioned at the time-meteorology, communications, lunar and planetary exploration, and manned spaceflight both civilian and military pro rams could be envisioned.35

The existence of a joint agreement on the manned recoverable satellite suggested that the NACA and its friends in the Pentagon, especially in the air force, would have been pleased to arrange joint projects in these gray areas, along the lines of the X-15 program. But Eisenhower would have none of that. He did not want to hand over to [299] any group in the Pentagon a large and potentially enormous new area of activity, especially as he seriously doubted the services' ability to handle their current missions. ARPA had bee created in large part to eliminate the inter-service rivalry over new technologies and the missions that went with them, and on the same day that Eisenhower sent the space act to Congress he forwarded a draft defense-reorganization act designed to clear up the "missile mess" and rationalize the development and employment of new technologies in the Pentagon.36

Killian and the staff of the Bureau of the Budget had other reasons for disliking joint programs on the model of the X 15. Although the), encouraged cooperation and coordination between NACA and the services on programs of common interest, they wanted each program to have a clearly identified lead agency with managerial responsibility and sole control of funding. The ultimatum to the NACA and the ARPA was to divide the programs between them along the lines of the evolving space act: programs "peculiar to or primarily associated with weapons systems or military operations" would go to ARPA, all others to the new civilian agency.37

On this ground the NACA and ARPA debated and negotiated through the spring and summer. Finally, Killian had to step in. Every controversy he decided in favor of the civilian agency. NASA would control the development of launch vehicles, meteorology, and most important, manned spaceflight. Only in communications did the military make a case and win a minor concession: the civilian agency would run passive satellite communications (i.e., bouncing signals off a reflecting satellite) and the military would run active communications satellites, those capable of receiving and transmitting messages. The reconnaissance satellite went to the air force, the communications satellite to the army; with that, the ARPA was essentially out of the space program. But, in the few short months since, its creation, ARPA had become wedded to space, and it fought t retain a role in space activities. This proved to be a harbinger of future military attempts to alter the division of roles between the new space agency and the Department of Defense.38

For the time being, however, the debate was over. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed by Congress on 29 July 1958 and signed by President Eisenhower the same day. Within that month the basic division of labor between NASA and the military was determined. On 9 August Eisenhower nominated T. Keith Glennan, president of Case Western University, to head the new agency. At Glennan's request, Dryden accepted the post of deputy administrator. The two men were confirmed by the Senate on 15 August and sworn in at the White House four days later. The space act gave them less than three months to effect the transition from the NACA to NASA.39

[300] Many issues about the future of the new agency remained unresolved, but one thing was already clear: it would differ greatly from the NACA. It would operate under a new head unfamiliar with NACA traditions, and the staff would incorporate new personnel from outside the field of aeronautics. The new organizational structure would strengthen the head of the agency and reduce the advisory board to a powerless appendage outside the mainstream of agency activities. The addition of new groups specifically the Vanguard staff of the Naval Research Laboratory and the jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology would bring new style to the laboratory work of the NACA, as would the new research facility to be built just outside Washington. NASA would be an operating organization conducting entire programs and missions, in contrast to the more limited research role performed by the NACA. The new agency would soon be contracting out up to 90 percent of its bud et, in contrast to the minor contracting done by the NACA. With its far reaching mission and the public attention being focused on space, the new agency would operate far more in the limelight, would move more often in the highest councils of government, and would command a far larger budget than its predecessor had. One wag represented t e transition as:

 

NA¢A NA$A

 

But while changes from the old aeronautical research agency to the new civilian space agency would obviously be drastic, there was no telling how much of the NACA influence would stay, how much would be swept away.

The NACA Executive Committee held its last meeting on 21 August 1958. On 30 September Chairman Doolittle sent the 44th and last annual report of the Committee to President Eisenhower. At close of business that day, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics ceased to exist.

 

CONCLUSION

 

If the NACA was so good, why was it laid to rest? First was it so good? The evidence examined in this stud does not support a conclusion one way or another. The NACA w s the premier aeronautical research organization in the country that came to lead the world in aeronautical development. The position the NACA held, however, does not necessarily establish its contribution, a y more than position establishes the credit of the Guggenheim laboratories, or the military air branches, or the design and development teams of the aircraft manufacturers. More needs to be known about the nature of aeronautical [301] progress before the contribution of the NACA can be isolated and evaluated with confidence.40

Still, some tentative conclusions can be drawn from the circumstantial evidence uncovered in this study. The men and women of the NACA were not as creative, innovative, and effective as they said or believed. Like other government employees competing for scarce funding to perform a job they believed in, they found it necessary to blow their own horns just to stay in existence. They read their own clippings and may have become victims of their own propaganda: Even so, they were better than is generally recognized. Letters of praise, congratulations, and appreciation fill their records and spill over into John Victory's private card file of kudos. Many of these, of course, were proforma, even self serving, submitted by customers and clients with a vested interest in the continued existence of the NACA. But many of the endorsements have the ring of sincerity too and many are from individuals and institutions with no back to scratch. Furthermore, the thousands of copies of NACA reports sent out by the Committee every year were sought after, used, and cited by aeronautical engineers and designers around the world. The NACA's reputation in the world of aeronautics was usually secure, at times transcendent.

That it boasted overmuch suggests two conclusions about public institutions. First, organizations without a firm and continuing political base believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have to engage in selling themselves, often to a degree that is unbecoming, self deceptive, and finally counterproductive. Second, people who stay with an agency all or most of their careers develop loyalty and experience, but they also get the institution's reputation confused with their own self esteem. The result can be sentimentality and corporate narcissism.

The NACA enjoyed an enviable reputation for efficiency and economy, largely because of the fastidious and conscientious John Victory. "We were the most law abiding organization, mind your own business type of organization, in the Federal Government", 41 he boasted with some reason, and though he offended many with his conceits and his compulsions, he pleased those in the Bureau of the Budget and Congress who worried over what return the taxpayer got on his dollar.

On balance, the NACA was a good agency if not as good as it thought, at least as good as other agencies that outlived it. Why, then, was it eliminated? There are at least seven answers to that question, in roughly the following order of importance.

First, it was a committee. This peculiar organizational structure always rankled people who cared about organizational arrangements the successive Hoover Commissions, the Brookings Institute, the Bureau of the Budget. But what to do about it? The two most popular suggestions were to merge it with the Department of Commerce or the [302] military establishment, but this always seemed to entail favoring either commercial or military aviation to the detriment of the other. So the NACA remained an independent committee not because there was much liking for that structure, but because its critics failed to come up with a compelling alternative. Sputnik changed all that, providing an ideal opportunity to remodel the agency in a more conventional and hierarchical pattern. This was the solution that the Committee's critics had missed over the years, because the), disliked its independence almost as much as its committee form. To leave the agency independent while eliminating the committee structure was to eliminate the main irritant without taking away the autonomy that the NACA insisted it needed.

Sputnik pointed up another problem closely related to organizational structure: size. Committee management of the NACA might have been allowable in the 1920s and 1930s when budgets were never more than a few millions and the staff never topped 500, all housed in a single laboratory and a small headquarters. Since World War II, however, the NACA had been a large and expensive organization spread across the country, employing thousands and spending as much as $100 million in a single year, far more than in its first 25 years combined. Gone was the simplicity and ease of operation that characterized the early years when a close knit or organization could operate out of George Lewis's hip pocket. In the 1950s the NACA was a large, complex, expensive enterprise, requiring t e most modern of management techniques. A committee did not fit that requirement.

Third, during World War II the aviation industry and the aviation branches of the military services had grown so large and powerful that they began to encroach on the NACA domain and compromise its claims to be unique and indispensable. This intrusion was largely unavoidable, because no clear dividing line exists between fundamental research, development, and testing, the areas claimed respectively by the NACA, industry, and the services. The NACA had set up an artificial division in order to stake out for itself a research field that it could monopolize without antagonizing any of it potential clients. The intrusion of the services and the industry the NACA's domain after World War II was also the result of jet propulsion and the discovery after the war of other German advances that cast doubt on the NACA's ability to anticipate the future course of aeronautical development and keep the United States in the forefront.

A fourth cause of the NACA's demise was its conservatism. Committees are conservative by nature, especially when one seeks of them unanimity as the NACA chairmen often did. Decisions become still more conservative when made from a precarious political base where a bold step in the wrong direction can be fatal. Over the years the NACA [303] became increasingly a service agency, responding not so much to its own considered judgment about the future course of aeronautics as to the day-to-day demands of industry and the services, not to vision but to routine. For every X-15 program there were a dozen others that were pedestrian and unexceptional.

Another shortcoming of decisions by committee is that they tend to endorse those projects that have sponsors on the committee and overlook those that do not. This tendency accounts for a number of skeletons in the NACA closet, some of which contributed to the Committee's demise. Failure to discover jet propulsion was the most famous and damaging of these, because it came to the attention of Congress and because it upset Hap Arnold so. But other shortcomings tempered the praise the industry and the services gave to the NACA. The Committee stayed too long with airships and seaplanes, for example; it came too late to structures and helicopters.

By 1956 the NACA had also lost the Progressive purity that distinguished its beginning. It was an article of faith in the early years that representatives of industry should not sit on NACA committees or subcommittees lest they exert undue and self-serving influence on research policy. But over the years, as industry grew more powerful, its representatives slowly won memberships and even chairmanships, first on the subcommittees, then on the main technical committees, finally on the Main Committee. However scrupulous these men may have been, their presence nurtured the impression in some circles that the NACA was a captive of the military industrial complex.

Finally, aviation was no longer the infant technology it had been when the NACA was formed. Surely research was still needed, but with the industry and the military services engaging in so much of their own, the need for a separate agency was less obvious than at the outset. In many ways the NACA had achieved what its founders set out to do: contribute to the establishment of a thriving technology in the United States, a technology that could now survive without a government agency devoted exclusively to its nurture. Thus, in a most significant way, the NACA was laid to rest because it had accomplished what it set out to do.

 


[
388-391] Notes

1. Jerome C. Hunsaker, second annual Wings Club Lecture, New York, 26 May 1965. Hunsaker's disenchantment with the course of flight development began shortly after World War II. Confronted in 1947 with a poll that showed 26 percent of the respondents expected orbital and interplanetary flight in 10 years remarkably accurate expectation), Hunsaker responded that the poll indicated that people who know about rockets like them. The same is no doubt true with regard to helicopters, alcoholic drinks and chamber music. (Walter Bonney notes on Hunsaker papers, box 8, May 1972.) See also Bonney's outline for his history of the NACA, chap. 31.

2. NACA release, "Doolittle Succeeds Hunsaker as Chairman of NACA,- 17 Oct. 1956; Department of Defense release, "Lieutenant General James H Doolittle, USAFR," Jan. 1955.

3. Minutes, Executive Committee meeting, 21 Feb. 1957 pp. 7-8. For a full discussion of the origins of the Dyna-Soar program, see Richard P. Hallion, "The Path of the Space Shuttle," paper presented to the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science, Houston, 3-8 Jan. 1979, and "The Emergency of the Lifting Reentry Concept in Aerospace Vehicle Design," paper presented to the 30th congress of the International Astronautics Federation, Munich, 21 Sept. 1979.

4. On operating problems, see, for example, AR 195-1 a minutes, Executive Committee meeting, 16 Dec. 1955, pp. 4-5. The Plum Brook facility was approved at the annual meeting 20 Oct. 1955 (minutes, p. 2), and the ground was broken in 26 Sept. 1956. The political web in nuclear-powered airplane is neatly which Dryden and Doolittle became entangled over the clear explained in Herbert York, Race to Oblivion. A Participants View of the Arms Race (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), chap. 4. On Allen's blunt-body concept, see AR 1957, pp. 4-8.

5. See, for example, BoB, Military (W.H. Shapley), National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) with the Deputy Director, September 28, 1956, memo for files, 2 Oct. 1956; minutes of Executive Committee meetings, 18 Aug., pp. 4-6, and 19 Sept. 1957, p. 14. Dryden observed in the August meeting that "the appropriations received by NACA were always less than the same originally requested, even though the NACA always limited its requests to the amounts actually needed," and that there was an increase in the number of kinds of problems which the Committee [was] being called upon to solve." For these reasons and others, the Committee felt it deserved to be exempted, from the administration's campaign to hold 1958 expenditures to 1957 levels.

6. Victory to Reginald M. Cleveland, 29 Oct. 1956, in AF Academy, Victory papers, box 3, general correspondence, 1956. For evidence that BoB did not always take the NACA troubles as seriously as Victory, see Military Div. Shapley) to Roger Jones, "NACA proposed legislation to increase the number of P.L. 167 supergrades," 22 July 1955. For a broader perspective on administration response to the NACA plight, see minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 21 May 1956, pp. 3-5.

7. AR 1955, pp. 2-4. Of an earlier draft of this section o the annual report, Gen. Frederick C. Crawford said: If I were a Congressman and you came before me asking for funds with this statement I would think maybe you are selling so hard because you are not so good. "(Notes on meeting of Executive Committee, of 15 Sept., dated 16 Sept. 1955.) Though the NACA did tone down the account in the annual report, it made much in the ensuing years of the advantages of the area rule. A magazine article subject prompted Kelly Johnson of Lockheed to write to Dryden in protest, reporting t at his "studies of the data indicate that the Whitcomb area rule works primarily on aircraft involving sweep and then, generally, only on airframes which are poor to start with.' ' Dryden agreed that the magazine article in question was "fantastic," but he gave little ground n the importance of the area rule. Johnson to Dryden, 12 Aug., and Dryden to Johnson, 20 Aug. 1957, both in 65 A 953 (36), A-34, 1957.)

8. Hunsaker to Victory, 8 Mar.; Dryden to Hunsaker, 18 Mar. 1957; minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 21 Mar. 1957, p. 7.

9. In 1957, Dryden estimated that the NACA plant in 1941) had represented at least half the "total public investment in such facilities at the time". Though the NACA plant had tripled since then, Dryden offered no guess as to what proportion of the total it now made up. Dryden to George W. Taylor, 26 July 1957, in 65 A 953 (31), A-28, July-Dec. 1957.

10. The 50 percent figure appears in 'Report by Senator Ralph E. Flanders to Committee on Armed Services ... on Visit to the Facilities of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics ... April 8 to April 13, 1955," committee print, 84/1, 1955, p. 3. Committee memberships are listed in appendix B.

11. Minutes of annual meeting, 10 Oct. 1957; Dryden to Eugene Emme, "The NACA-NASA Transition, October 1957 to October 1958," 8 Sept. 1965, p. 3.

12. Asked at a 9 Oct. 1957 news conference if Sputnik worried him, Eisenhower replied, "so far as the satellite itself is concerned, that does not raise my apprehensions, not one Iota. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957 (Washington: General Services Administration, National Archives and Records Service, 1958), p. 730.) The other words were penned by Bryce Harlow and spoken by Sherman Adams; Harlow later labeled it a disservice to Adams, cute but not clever. (Harlow interview, Washington, D.C., 11 June 1974 by E.M. Emme and Alex Roland. Sherman Adams was quoted in the New York Times, 20 Oct. 1957; see Martha Wheeler George, "The Impact of Sputnik: Case-Study of American Public Opinion at the Break of the Space Age, October 4, 1957," NASA Historical Note 22, NASA History Office Archives.) The best published account of the Eisenhower administration response to Sputnik is James R. Killian, Jr., Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower. A Memoir of the First Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977).

13. Lyndon Johnson was the most prominent congressional leader to take this position. See, for example, his opening remarks in Senate Committee on Armed Services, Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, Inquiry into Satellite and Missile Programs, Hearings, Part 1, 85/1 and 2, 1958, pp. 1-3. Norman Cousins, the distinguished editor of the Saturday Review, undertook with a group of associates to place full-page ads in the country's leading newspapers under the hyperbolic title: "We Are Facing a Danger Unlike A iv Danger that Ever Existed ...... Cousins to President Eisenhower, 13 Nov. 1957.

14. Killian, Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower.

15. In the event, the first U.S. attempt to orbit a satellite ended in flames on the launch pad; it was not until 31 Jan. 1958 that the U.S. matched the Soviet feat, and then with only 8 kilograms of payload. Constance McLaughlin Green and Milton Lomask, Vanguard: A History (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1971).

16. A subcommittee member, C.L. Poor, wrote to Dryden on 27 Nov. 1957:

I feel that it is more than important that the NACA have its best people, its best facilities, and its highest priorities devoted to space flight. It is essential. If the NACA does not do it, the job will not be done, or another agency will be established to do it. It would be a catastrophe if the job were not done, and done well. It would be a waste of magnificent beginnings if the job went to a new agency.

For an indication of how quickly the NACA program could be made to look applicable to spaceflight, see the Committee's "NACA Research Into Space," a confidential document published in Dec. 1957.

17. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 21 Nov. 1957, pp. 6-7; H. Guyford Stever interview, Washington, 7 Feb. 1974, by Emme and Roland; NACA release, "NACA Space Technology Committee Holds Organization Meeting," 14 Feb, 1958; John L. Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen as a Propulsion Fuel, 1945-1959 (NASA SP-4404; Washington, 1978), p. 181. By the time the Stever committee held its final meeting and submitted its recommendations, the NACA was no longer in existence. See minutes of meeting o' the Special Committee on Space Technology, 27-28 Oct. 1958, and "Recommendations Regarding a National Space Program" by the NASA Special Committee on Space Technology, 28 Oct. 1958.

18. Dryden, "The NACA-NASA Transition, October 1957 to October 1958," pp. 4-5, with annotations by Walter T. Bonney; Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen, p.181.

19. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 16 Jan. 1958, pp. 7-10. The only change made in the staff study was the inclusion, at the suggestion of Detlev Bronk, of mention of the role of the National Academy of Sciences.

20. "NACA Research Into Space," 10 Feb. 1958, p. 2; minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 14 July 1952, p. 15.

21. Killian, Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower; York, Race to Oblivion, chap. 6; Andrew J. Goodpaster interview, Washington, 22 July 1974, by Emme and Roland; and James R. Killian interview, Cambridge, Mass., 23 July 1974, by Emme and Roland.

22. Homer E. Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere: The Early Years of Space Science (NASA SP-4211; Washington, 1980), chap. 8.

23. "Spearhead of Progress," Aviation Week, 5 Nov. 1956, p. 21; "NACA, the Logical Space Agency," ibid., 3 Feb. 1958, p. 21; Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere, pp. 6-39, 10-47; W.H. Pickering to Killian, 9 July 1958.

24. Dryden, "The NACA-NASA Transition," p. 2; Killian, Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower; Victory to Vice Adm. Donal B. Duncan, USN, 20 Feb. 1958, in USAF Academy, Victory papers, box 3, general correspondence, 1958.

25. Shapley to "Mr. Veatch," "Status of Amendment to Executive Pay Act proposed by NACA to increase the salary of the Director of NACA,- 14 Aug. 1951, with attached note, Finan to RCA, 7 Sept. 1951; National Security Branch (Shapley) to "Mr. McCandless ... .. NACA Appropriation Language to Increase the Salary of the Director to $17,500," 8 Oct. 1951.

26. Doolittle to Killian, 24 Mar. 1958.

27. Reliable accounts of how the space act came to be can be found in Alison Griffith, The National Aeronautics and Space Act: A Study of the Development of Public Policy (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1962); Enid Curtis Bok Schoettle, "The Establishment of NASA,- in Sanford Lakoff, (ed,.) Knowledge and Power: Essays on Science and Government (New York: Free Press, 1966), pp. 162-270, and Mary Stone Ambrose," The National Space Program, Phase 1: Passage of the 'National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1953," MA thesis, American University, 1960.

28. "The ultimate potentialities of spaceflight cannot now be fully grasped," Eisenhower wrote to the secretary of defense and the chairman of the NACA on 2 Apr. 1958, the same day he sent the space bill to Congress. Though he made clear in this letter that he intended the new NASA to be the nation's lead space agency, he did state that "the new Agency [would] continue to perform for the Department services in support of military aeronautics and missiles programs of the type now performed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and also provide similar services with respect to military space programs."

At a White House meeting on space on 3 Feb. 1958, Donald A. Quarles, deputy secretary of defense and a former member of the NACA, said that in the space area, the "NACA should perform its 'classic' role of research." (Undated notes, apparently prepared by Willis H. Shapley of the Bureau of the Budget from the debriefing given him and others by Maurice Stans, director of the BoB, who attended the White House meeting.)

29. ARPA was created in Feb. 1958, in part to remove the development of new weapons systems from the interservice rivalry in the Pentagon that had spawned the "missile mess" and threatened to spill over into the realm of military space activities, and in part to provide an interim agency to carry on the nascent space program while the administration decided where that program would finally be lodged. The story is told by ARPA's first chief scientist in York, Race to Oblivion, pp. 115-20. See also minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 15 May 1958, pp. 4-5; Hugh L. Dryden to Eugene Emme, "The 'signed' agreement of April 11, 1958, on a Recoverable Manned Satellite Test Vehicle," 8 Sept. 1965.

30. Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, Hearings on S. 3069, a Bill to Provide for Research into A-problem of Flight within and outside the Earth's Atmosphere, and for Other Purposes, part 1, 85/2, 1958, pp. 6-7.

31. Alison Griffith, The National Aeronautics and Space Act.

32. See, for example, his 16 Apr. 1958 statement in House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, Astronautics and Space Exploration, Hearings on H.R. 11881, 85/2 1958, pp. 401-19.

33. Ibid., pp. 74, 117, 420.

34. Dryden believed that the NACA-USAF agreement was canceled because the Department of Defense wanted ARPA to be the defense space agency. (Letter to Eugene Emme, "The 'signed' agreement of April 11, 1958, on a Recoverable Manned Satellite Test Vehicle," 8 Sept. 1965. ) BoB documents make it clear that Killian was at the heart of all administration decisions on space. See, for example, Military Div. to d rector, "Meeting with Dr. Killian on 'Space' responsibilities," 16 May 1958, and Military Div. to director, "Pending agreement on space' responsibilities," 12 May 1958.

35. As early as 3 Feb. 1958, Herbert York and Donald Quarles had agreed that "the only military value [of space] was for reconnaissance." (Shapley, undated "Notes on Mr. Stans' 'debriefing after White House meeting on 'space' Monday morning, February 3, 1958")

36. The Eisenhower bill submitted along with the space act became the Defense Reorganization Act of 1958.

37. BoB, Military Div. to the director, "Status report on 'Space' program and budgetary problems," 10 June 1958.

38. BoB, Military Div. to the director, "Actions needed to resolve pending questions on 1959 'Space' programs," 1 July 1958; ibid., "Further information for 'Space' meeting, Thursday, July 10, 1958, "9 July 1958; ibid.," Air Force 1959 funds and programs to be considered for transfer to and interaction with NASA program, "15 July 1958. On the ARPA attempt to circumvent the intent of the administration, see BoB, W.E. Gathright to "Mr. Veatch," "ARPA million-pound thrust engine development," 18 Aug. 1958, which brought "into question the whole basis of the recent settlement and, in effect, raise[d] again the question of whether it [would] be possible to draw any workable line (or any line at all) between the space programs of Defense and NASA."

See also, Military Div. to the director, "Current status of 'space' problem, 25 July 1958," in which Shapley commented:

It seems clear to us that these discussions have degenerated into a bureaucratic struggle for survival as a "space" agency on the part of ARPA. The [Defense] Secretary's main problem seems to be to get a settlement that will keep ARPA happy. The position Dr. York keeps taking makes it unlikely that ARPA will be satisfied unless they get everything they wanted n the first place.

39. Robert Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963 (NASA SP-4101; Washington, 1966), pp. 37-48.

40. See Alex Roland, "Defining Aeronautical Progress," paper presented to the Southern Association for History of the Sciences and Technology, Lexington, Ky., 7 Apr. 1979.

41. Transcript of interview of Victory by Alfred F. Hurley, Colorado Springs, Co., 29 June 1962, p. 2-11.

 
previousindexnext