This chapter describes the change in plans for space science that took place in August 1958 when President Eisenhower appointed T. Keith Glennan as the first NASA administrator. It provides the background of the team Abe Silverstein assembled to manage NASA's space flight program.
A Change of Plans for Space Science
From March 5 through August 19, 1958, Dr. Hugh F. Dryden directed the plans to convert the NACA into NASA. He worked closely with the president of the National Academy of Sciences to create the Space Science Board and planned a NASA organization that would emphasize the importance of space science and be designed to work closely with the Board. Glennan changed that organization into one that reduced the emphasis on space science and focused on the massive engineering and management problems that faced the new agency.
Dryden's Plans for Space Science
It was true in 1958 as it is now that each government agency has an organization chart that reflects the way the head of the agency wants it to operate. Titles and proximity to the head indicate the importance of a particular program or function. Between May 20, 1958 and August 19, 1958, when the new administrator was sworn in, Dryden's staff prepared at least four versions of a NASA headquarters organization chart. They reflected Dryden's plans for space science. All four of the charts show an Office of Space Science headed by an associate administrator who reported directly to the administrator.
The August 11, 1958 organization chart, the last one prepared under Dryden's direction, shows the importance Dryden gave to space science and the role he expected the Space Science Board to play. The chart shows four associate administrators reporting directly to the Office of the Administrator. One of these is an associate administrator for Space Science who has four assistant administrators reporting to him: an astronomer, a physicist, a biologist and a meteorologist. The chart also shows a dotted box linked directly to the associate administrator for Space Science containing the long detailed title, "To Utilize the Services of the Scientific Community, e.g. the National Science Foundation, The National Academy of Sciences etc."
When this chart was prepared, the Space Science Board had met for the second time and its chairman, Lloyd V. Berkner, had sent Dryden the Board's first recommendation for six space experiments. The Board was preparing recommendations for additional space science experiments and Dryden was preparing an organization to receive and implement them. This coherence between the plans of the Board and the plans of NASA was to be expected. Dryden had helped to create the Board and attended its first two meetings.
On August 1, 1958, Dryden testified again before the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration and further alienated the Committee when he stated that "the prospective space programs are not such as to leapfrog the Soviets immediately or very soon." Those were not the words the Committee wanted to hear. They wanted an administrator who intended to develop a program that leapfrogged the Soviets and captured U.S. leadership in space exploration. Dryden did not sound like that kind of an administrator. From the written history, it is unclear whether Dryden was the first casualty in a long war over the importance of manned space flight or whether Eisenhower wanted a Republican businessman to head NASA rather than Dryden, "the good, grey scientist" and nominal Democrat. 76, 77
Glennan's Plan for Space Science
In any case, on August 8, 1958, Eisenhower announced the nomination of T. Keith Glennan to be administrator of NASA. Glennan, former president of Case Institute of Technology and a former Atomic Energy commissioner, understood science and engineering, recognized the need to be competitive with the Soviets in space, and saw the importance of manned space flight in that competition. 78 Glennan requested Dryden's appointment as the deputy administrator of the new agency. Glennan knew and respected Dryden and wanted his technical competence and administrative ability in the new agency. The two were sworn in on August 19, 1958.
Glennan's concept of the importance of space science differed from Dryden's. On August 19, 1958, immediately after he was sworn in as NASA administrator, Glennan met with Dryden and his staff to discuss the NASA organization. Two days later, the staff issued another organizational chart. On that chart space science has disappeared. In its place there is a director of Space Flight Programs and under that an assistant director for Space Flight Research, but no mention of space science or a liaison with the space science community. On October 24, an assistant director for Space Science reporting to the director of Space Flight appeared on another interim organizational chart. 79, 80 NASA formulated and began to conduct a space science program but it was done by scientists serving under former NACA aerospace engineers. A separate office of space science, reporting directly to the administrator did not reappear on a NASA organization chart until James E. Webb put it there on November 1, 1961.
NASA Opens Its Doors
On October 1, 1958, Dr. Glennan formally opened the doors of NASA in the old Dolley Madison House across Lafayette Square from the White House. The Administration and the Congress had created, on paper, a unique agency and given it the authority and responsibility that they thought it needed to catch up with the Soviets. It was now up to Glennan and Dryden to convert the NACA into NASA and recruit the additional people they needed to conduct the program.
Glennan selected as the director of the Office of Space Flight, Abe Silverstein, the propulsion engineer that Dryden had brought to Washington in March 1958 to lead the NACA planning team. For its next three formative years, Silverstein led the entire NASA space flight program.