Goddard's Tennis-Shoe Crowd

During 1959, the burgeoning interest in space science, the scientific momentum generated by the IGY, and the Center's active recruiting program brought many young scientists into the space science division at Goddard. Some came from other government laboratories or industrial laboratories, but most were assistant professors or research associates with new doctorates who left their universities to come to Goddard. Most came because they thought they would have a better chance to get their experiments flown if they were at a NASA flight center. Some came because they didn't like the academic life. Many veterans of World War II who had obtained part of their education under the GI Bill. Most obtained their doctorates in a professional culture that had been nourished for the past fifteen years by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Almost all came with a somewhat different professional outlook than the cadre of senior civil service scientists who had transferred from NRL to Goddard at the end of 1958.
In the universities these young scientists had learned how to conduct research by working as assistants on research projects supported by ONR. Their professors encouraged them to select their own theses topics and allowed them to proceed with a minimum of supervision. They learned to invent and build their own equipment. The professors allowed them freedom to publish research results where they wanted, as long as they were published in a reputable scientific journal, such as the Physical Review where their work would be refereed by their scientific peers.
When these young, aspiring space scientists arrived at Goddard, they were dismayed by the paperwork associated with procurement and travel. They rejected any notion of sending their articles to NASA Headquarters for clearance or publishing their work in NASA journals. These scientists looked to their scientific peers for professional acclaim, not to the administrative hierarchy at Goddard or NASA Headquarters. They became known around NASA, sometimes affectionately as that "Goddard tennis-shoe crowd."
The members of Goddard's tennis-shoe crowd were much more concerned with the latest results in their research field, and in their own instruments and research, than they were with Center politics. The necessity of courting patronage, however, drove them out of their laboratories and into the political and management arena. They needed missions scheduled and spacecraft built that allowed them to conduct their research. Then they had to make sure they were among the scientists selected for those missions. They regarded rockets and spacecraft as essential scientific tools and were willing to spend the time and energy that was required to make them more useful. For instance, if they needed magnetically clean spacecraft * to measure weak interplanetary magnetic fields, they worked along with the Goddard engineers to designs spacecraft with minimal magnetic fields and then monitored the contractors to make sure they built them right. They undertook this work primarily to meet their own research needs, but the techniques they developed and the magnetically clean spacecraft they built could also be used by their academic colleagues. 113
In 1959, however, any benefit that might accrue to an academic scientist from having a Goddard scientist help design a scientific spacecraft lay several years in the future. Academic scientists looked at Goddard scientists as competitors with an unfair advantage because they had ready access to NASA's decision makers. Conversely, Goddard scientists saw their academic colleagues as competitors with an unfair advantage because they had ready access to the academic members of the powerful Space Science Board that evaluated proposals and assigned flight priorities. Goddard scientists did not serve on the Board, because, in order to avoid a conflict of interest. NASA and the National Academy of Sciences had agreed that no NASA scientist could serve on the Board. As a result of this policy, no NASA scientist, not even those who were members of the National Academy of Sciences, ever served as a member of the Board.
Selection of Scientists for the Early Goddard Missions
The Goddard Space Flight Center managed most of NASA's early unmanned Earth-orbiting satellite missions. Some of these early missions were started by ARPA and then transferred to NASA on October 1, 1958. In late 1958, with Glennan's approval. Silverstein appointed a project manager for each scientific mission that had been assigned to the Goddard Center, whether it was an existing ex-ARPA mission or a new NASA mission. The first project managers that he appointed were mostly scientists who had transferred from NRL.
In the fall of 1959, Harry Goett, the director of Goddard, replaced almost all the project managers who were scientists with engineers. At the same time, he appointed a project scientist for each scientific mission. The project manager directed the day-to-day work on the mission and was responsible for the overall success of the mission. The project scientist oversaw the work of the scientists who had experiments on the mission and made sure that the mission accomplished its scientific objectives. He had to resolve any conflicts that arose between the scientists and the project manager.
Starting in early 1959, Goddard scientists, either in their role as project managers or as project scientists, began to organize these new NASA missions. Goddard scientists selected the scientists who flew instruments on Explorers VIII, X, XI, and XII. In selecting the scientists for these four Explorers, neither Goddard nor NASA Headquarters solicited proposals from the scientific community or told them of their intention to conduct a mission. In most cases, however, the Goddard scientists selected scientists who had responded to Berkner's 4th-of-July telegram and whose proposals had been reviewed and recommended for flight by the Space Science Board in December 1958. 114
The selection process used by the Goddard scientists was complex. Three examples will illustrate how they proceeded, some of the forces that affected their decisions, and why academic scientists became concerned.
Explorer XII
Explorer XII, designed to study the Earth's magnetosphere and cosmic rays, was one of the first missions initiated by Goddard. Leo Davis, a scientist from NRL, was the initial project manager. In the fall of 1959, Goddard's management appointed a new project manager and a project scientist for Explorer XII. Dr. Frank B. McDonald, a cosmic ray physicist who had left the State University of Iowa in August to join the Goddard, was appointed the project scientist. McDonald was one of the first project scientists appointed by Goddard; his work on Explorer XII established a precedent at Goddard that gave a great deal of authority and responsibility to future project scientists.
When McDonald took over as project scientist, he found that one scientist, M. Bader, a plasma physicist from NASA's Ames Research Center, had already been selected by the newly designated director of Goddard, Harry Goett. Bader had no previous experience as a space scientist. His experiment had not been reviewed by the Space Science Board. Prior to coming to Goddard. Goett had been the associate director of Ames, knew Bader, and thought his experiment should fly. McDonald decided to use the remaining capability of the spacecraft to add a cosmic-ray experiment, a magnetic-field experiment, and a trapped-radiation experiment. McDonald chose his own cosmic-ray experiment. He chose Leo Davis, the former project manager and now a member of McDonald's branch, to provide another cosmic ray experiment. Although there was a strong magnetometer group at Goddard in McDonald's branch, he decided that there should be more academic scientists involved in the mission. Therefore, he chose Dr. L. Cahill to conduct the magnetic-field experiment. Cahill had recently moved from the State University of Iowa to the University of New Hampshire. Finally, McDonald chose Dr. B. J. O'Brien from the State University of Iowa to conduct the trapped-radiation experiment because he had an experiment that could meet the weight constraints on the payload. Earlier, in 1958, the Space Science Board had reviewed and approved for flight, experiments proposed by McDonald, Davis, Cahill, and O'Brien.115, 116, 117, 118
In the absence of any formal NASA or Goddard process for selecting scientists. McDonald chose a highly competent group of scientists for Explorer XII. All of their instruments, except for Bader's, provided excellent data. There were, however, other equally competent scientists whose experiments had also been reviewed and recommended for flight by the Space Science Board. These people questioned the propriety of McDonald's selection. To them, looking at the list of experimenters, it appeared as if McDonald had selected himself, two former colleagues at Iowa, a scientist who worked for him at Goddard, and an unknown scientist from another NASA center.
Orbiting Solar Observatory
In 1959, Dr. John Lindsay, initially the project manager and later project scientist for the first Orbiting Solar Observatory, OSO I, assembled the payload for that mission. OSO I, designed to study solar radiation, used a large spinning "wheel" to stabilize the satellite and points platform at the Sun. Lindsay selected twelve scientists, eight of whom were colleagues at Goddard and four who were from universities. In this case, most of the payload space was on the rotating wheel of the OSO spacecraft and not considered a particularly good place for an experiment, so Lindsay had a difficult time finding scientists who were interested in preparing experiments for the wheel. To fill up the wheel, he turned to his colleagues at Goddard. 119
Explorer VIII
Also during 1959, Robert Bourdeau, acting as both project manager and project scientist for Explorer VIII, an ionospheric physics mission, selected the scientists for that mission. He selected himself and four colleagues at Goddard to conduct the five experiments. Bourdeau's experiment had been reviewed and approved by the Space Science Board with himself and Dr. John F Clark as co-investigators. In October 1958, after he accepted a position on Newell's staff at NASA Headquarters, Clark withdrew from the experiment to avoid any conflict of interest. 120, 121, 122
For each of these missions, the senior management of Goddard reviewed the list of scientists selected and then sent it on to NASA Headquarters, where Newell and his staff reviewed and forwarded it to Silverstein for approval.
In addition to competing with the Goddard project scientists, academic scientists who came to NASA Headquarters to discuss a flight proposal quite frequently found themselves discussing the proposal with someone from Goddard who was either a competitor, or who was supervising a group of scientists at Goddard who were their competitors, for the same opportunities to fly on NASA missions. The Goddard scientists attended Newell's staff meetings and in general performed the same tasks as the permanent members of Newell's staff.
By the fall of 1959, academic scientists were seeing the major share of the payload space on Goddard missions being assigned to Goddard scientists-an intolerable situation. Scientists who were not from NASA and who felt Newell's hybrid organization did not give them a fair chance to compete complained to Newell, the Space Science Board, and the President's science advisor.
Newell's Conflicts with Goddard
Academic scientists were not the only scientists who raised their voices against Newell's hybrid organization. Some of the scientists at Goddard complained that neither JPL nor Newell's staff at NASA headquarters gave fair consideration to their proposals to fly experiments on JPL lunar and planetary missions. 123
Next, Harry Goett, the new director of Goddard, a long-time NACA employee and firm believer in a strong role for center directors, complained to Newell about the use of Goddard scientists at Headquarters. Goett did not want his scientists to work directly with Newell to arrange missions that Goddard would then have to carry out. Goett wanted his scientists to prepare their plans at Goddard, present them to him, and then he would work out the arrangements with his boss, Abe Silverstein. That was the way the center directors of the NACA had operated and that was the way he wanted to operate. After Goett's complaint. there is no record of any Goddard scientists attending Newell's staff meetings. Also Newell hired additional scientists to work in Headquarters, thereby reducing the need for Goddard scientists. 124
Newell's Conflicts with JPL
Throughout 1959, Dr William H. Pickering, director of JPL, opposed Newell's mode of operation. At the end of 1958, after JPL was transferred from the Army to NASA, Silverstein asked the Laboratory to begin planning lunar and planetary missions. Pickering created a Space Science Division and appointed Dr. Al Hibbs, a physicist from the California Institute of Technology, director of the Division. Pickering expected Hibbs to work directly with the Space Science Board and those scientists interested in lunar research. Hibbs was to plan missions and select the scientists to work on them. Pickering himself also expected to review these missions and their payloads before sending them to NASA Headquarters for review by Newell and approval by Silverstein.
Newell took a different approach. He asked Dr. Robert Jastrow ** to chair an ad hoc "Working Group on Lunar Exploration" to help him plan the lunar exploration program. Newell expected Jastrow and his group to evaluate proposals, select scientists, and propose payloads for him take to Silverstein for approval. After approval, Newell expected Silverstein to direct JPL to negotiate contracts with the scientists selected and incorporate their experiments into the spacecraft.
In February 1959, Jastrow's group recommended a series of lunar experiments. These included gamma-ray experiments to assay the lunar material, magnetometers to measure the lunar magnetic field, and seismometers to measure seismic activity on the Moon. Silverstein approved these experiments and directed JPL to include them on lunar missions. During the summer of 1959, Hibbs and his staff and Jastrow and his working group sought to find mutually acceptable experiments for lunar missions. By fall, they had tentatively agreed on the priority of experiments for a series of six flights to test a new rocket system. In December, NASA Headquarters canceled the test flights as well as the rocket System.
Meanwhile, Pickering and his staff prepared a five-year plan for lunar and planetary exploration that they submitted to NASA in April 1959. In its plan, JPL scheduled a mission to Mars in October 1960, Venus in January 1961, a rough lunar landing in June 1961, and a lunar orbiter in September 1961. 125
As discussed earlier, the success of Luna I in January 1959 and the prospect of additional Soviet lunar missions led NASA Headquarters to focus on lunar missions. In the summer of 1959, Silverstein directed JPL to cancel the Mars and Venus missions and focus its work on lunar missions. This emphasis on the lunar program further irritated Pickering, who thought that the NASA program should emphasize planetary missions. To Pickering and his staff, eager to work on the frontiers of technology, a planetary mission was the supreme challenge. They were unhappy with the NASA Program, with NASA management, and with Newell's process for selecting scientists for JPL missions.
Newell's Conflicts with the Space Science Board
In early 1959, the Space Science Board still thought that NASA faced a shortage of competent scientists to undertake research in space. The Board continued to encourage scientists to enter space research, to formulate the space science program, and to recommend experiments for NASA missions. In April 1959, the Board and NASA conducted a joint seminar in Washington. D. C. to stimulate interest in space science.
In July, the Board published a lengthy article in Science. The article encouraged scientists to propose space science experiments to NSF and NASA. It discussed the engineering problems involved in designing space hardware. In the article, the Board gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back, noting that it had successfully solicited and selected experiments and that NASA had adopted its recommendations.
The Board also noted that "the rapidly developing strength and competence of the NASA" enabled the Board to devote its efforts to the "longer-term problems in space research." In addition, the article reiterated the intention of the Board to operate in the traditional advisory mode of the National Academy of Sciences, rather than engage in any operational role in space science.
According to the article, provision for the "operational aspects of the conduct and support of space research has been made by law in the establishment of the government agencies cited above." The agencies cited were NASA, NSF and ARPA. Here the Board was wrong. The Space Act made only one agency, NASA, responsible for the conduct of civilian space research. The Board wanted to keep the National Science Foundation involved in space science and to keep the conduct of the scientific research separate from operations, rockets, spacecraft, and tracking stations. 126
Six days after the article was published, and despite the statements in the article that the Board would not get involved in operations, Dr. Hugh Odishaw, executive director of the Board, sent an urgent request to the members of the Board asking for their recommendations for a ten-year space science program. They were asked to specify experiments, group the experiments into payloads, and designate the scientists who had the competence to conduct them. 127
The Board continued with its self-assigned tasks through most of 1959. On October 29, 1959, using the power of the purse. NASA firmly took the Board out of program planning and selection of space scientists. The contract to support the operation of the Board was up for renewal. A Work Request was needed to describe the tasks NASA wanted the Board to undertake in the coming year. The deputy administrator of NASA, Dr. Hugh F. Dryden, signed a Work Statement that accompanied the funds NASA provided for the Board in Fiscal Year 1960. This work statement, prepared by Newell, outlined NASA's interest in the Board as follows: 128
NASA . . . would like to have from the Space Science Board a continuing input of thoughts, ideas, and recommendations on the broad overall objectives, and the course that the space science activities in the United States should take. A prime question is: What are the basic philosophical objectives that should underlie the space science activities and program: Guiding principles are needed, rather than a detailed program formulation, which must be worked up in the NASA in consideration of a variety of factors, such as budget, availability of rockets, testing facilities, the balanced program emphasis between space sciences and other NASA activities . . .
From the Board NASA wanted long-range strategic planning and help in justifying space science, not guidance or participation, in its day-to-day operations.
On November 13, 1959, the chairman of the Board, Lloyd V. Berkner, reported on the status of the nation's space science program to the chairman of the President's Science Advisory Committee, Dr. George Kistiakowsky. In the transmittal letter, Berkner stated that: 129
upon request of the NASA, the Board is now turning its attention to the development of recommendations concerning the longer range objectives of space research and will plan also to give consideration to such matters as the basic philosophical objectives which should underlie space science. . . .
In February 1960, Odishaw sent a memorandum to the committee chairmen. He directed them to refocus their attention, to turn from missions and evaluation of experiments to the nature and scope of the U.S. space program for the coming years.130
The final meetings of the Board's seven discipline committees took place in 1960. The NASA scientific subcommittees described in chapter 6 took over the functions of planning the scientific program and evaluating proposals. Hereafter NASA, not the Board, formulated the space science program and selected the scientists to conduct it.
However, the Board assigned itself another function-oversight of NASA's performance. In his November 1959 report to Kistiakowsky, Berkner used this function. He did not like the way NASA and its contractors were treating scientists and he raised this issue in the report to Kistiakowsky: 131
In one case, a particularly vicious practice has grown up of excluding the scientist from the payload engineering. . . . This practice is not suitable for space activity, should not become imbedded in its procedures, and should be terminated forthwith by cancellation of contracts that insist on this procedure.
Berkner did not identify the "case," but presumably Space Technology Laboratories, racing toward the launch of the lunar orbiter by Thanksgiving, was the culprit. Berkner would concede the legal obligation and practical necessity for NASA to plan and conduct the space science program, but he would retain the right of the Space Science Board to oversee the work and criticize NASA's performance directly to the President's Science Advisory Committee, rather than to the administrator of NASA. The failure of the launch vehicle for NASA's lunar orbiter over Thanksgiving weekend added credence to Berkner's criticism of NASA and the contractor's performance.

* A spacecraft whose materials and electric wiring were designed to reduce or eliminate spurious internal magnetic fields.
** Newell's friend and former colleague at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) who had been appointed director of the Theoretical Division at GSFC early in 1959.