SP-4302 Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center 1940-1965


Part III: THE LEAP TO SPACE : 1959-1965





People and Events




[401] IN January 1963 a major revision of the Ames organization was announced. Necessitated by changing missions and requirements, it established two new management offices, or directorates, each of which like the previous four was headed by an Assistant Director of the Center. One of the new directorates, headed by Robert Crane with the title of Assistant Director for Development, was obviously needed to deal with the project-management responsibility which the Center had recently assumed. The second was headed by an Assistant Director for Research & Development Analysis and Planning in the person of Alfred Eggers. It was formed specifically to provide a channel for Al to exercise his talents and interests which for the past few years had focused on mission studies. The move was well justified by the leadership and personal productivity which Eggers had demonstrated.

These major changes in January 1963, together with minor changes that took place later in the year, are reflected in the chart which shows the Ames organization as it existed on January 1, 1964. The Life Sciences Directorate was at this time headed by Dr. Harold P. Klein, who formerly had been chief of the Exobiology Division. An expert in the field of microbiology, he had for 7 years prior to his arrival at Ames been professor of biology and subsequently chairman of the biology department at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Dr. G. Dale Smith, who had once been Deputy Assistant Director of Life Sciences, had become Manager of Experiment and Life Support Systems in Project Biosatellite. Dr. Richard S. Young, the first lifesciences man to appear for duty at Ames, was at this time Acting Chief, and in 1965 became Chief of the Exobiology Division. Also Steve Belsley was now Acting Chief, and was soon to become Chief, of the Biotechnology Division. The Biotechnology post assumed by Belsley had been vacated by Dr. Siegfried Gerathewohl when, late in 1963, Dr. Gerathewohl accepted an assignment at Headquarters. It will also be noted in the chart that the third....



Organization chart of Ames Research Center, January 1964.

Organization chart of Ames Research Center, January 1964.



Dr. Harold P. Klein, member of Life Sciences stay.


....life-sciences division-the Environmental Biology Division-was at this time headed by Dr. Eric Ogden with Dr. David D. Feller serving as Assistant Chief. The staff of the Life Sciences Directorate had been carefully selected and all the key men were of the highest repute, known nationally, if not internationally, for their work.

The work of the Life Sciences Directorate had no direct connection with Project Biosatellite and there was surprisingly little interchange between the two activities. This situation was said to he a source of regret to both the life-sciences and the project-management people. It could also be said that the three life-sciences divisions were quite individualistic and their work was only tenuously related. Additionally, the modes of operation of each of the three divisions, especially regarding contracting, were considerably different as were also their means of financial support. The Exobiology Division was funded by OSSA 1 in Headquarters, whereas the other two divisions were funded, as was most of the remainder of Ames, by OART. A degree of financial inflexibility thus arose from the inability of the Life Sciences Directorate to transfer funds freely between its several divisions. Moreover, the situation left room for one or another of the divisions to feel that it had been slighted with respect to financial support. A divisive influence was this unfortunately present.

One of the outstanding features of the organizational change in January 1963 related to the organization of the research divisions; they were now organized around disciplines rather than around specific research facilities. This change, which actually had begun a few years earlier, represented a complete reversal of the old NACA practice of organizing a research group around each major facility. While there was something to be said for each [405] method, the shortage of personnel and the trend of research had made organization according to discipline seem desirable.

Inasmuch as many of the wind tunnels were now used much more for development work than for fundamental research, it was feasible to assign these facilities to a single group which would operate them as a service to development or research groups located either within or outside of the Center. Also, since the Unitary Plan tunnels had been built to serve a similar function, they too were included in the facility group just mentioned and the name 'Unitary Plan" was dropped. Thus within the Aeronautics Division there was established, under the leadership of Loren Bright (later assigned to Verlin Reed), an Experimental Investigations Branch to manage and operate a group of wind tunnels which included the 8- by 7-foot, the 9- by 7-foot, the 11-foot, and the 14-foot, the 12-foot, the 6- by 6-foot, and the 2- by 2-foot tunnels. Later the 1- by 3-foot tunnel, which had established an enviable record in the field of research, was added to the list.




In June 1964 Al Eggers was transferred to Washington to become Deputy Associate Administrator in OART. His departure represented a serious loss to Ames and left the directorate created especially for him without a permanent head. In his place, Clarence Syvertson became Acting Assistant Director while continuing his permanent assignment as Chief of the Mission Analysis Division. David Dennis retained his position as Assistant Chief of the Division.

The mission-analysis work at Ames had been Al Eggers' primary inter-....


David H. Dennis.

David H. Dennis.


[406] ....-est and, when he went to Washington, he apparently sought to persuade Ray Bisplinghoff, his immediate superior, that OART should have its own mission-analysis group and that the proposed group might best be located at one of the OART-controlled Centers, specifically Ames. As usual, Eggers' arguments were convincing; in January 1965 a Headquarters (OART) Mission Analysis Division was established at Ames with the staff of the Ames Mission Analysis Division becoming, on a tour-of-duty basis, the nucleus of the OART Division and with Clarence Syvertson becoming its Chief. It was expected that the staff nucleus thus acquired would be augmented by men temporarily assigned by other OART-controlled Centers such as Langley, Lewis, and the Flight Research Center at Edwards; but, as time went on, the realization of this expectation seemed increasingly remote. Ames, in any case, was to furnish administrative support for the OART division, but management responsibility was to rest with OART.

The function of the original Ames Mission Analysis Division had been to make studies to determine research areas in which Ames could most effectively use its time and money. The function of the OART division would be essentially the same, except that the studies would be extended to encompass the broader interests of OART. The Division was also given responsibility for coordinating the OART advanced-study program. The planned complement of the Division for 1965 was about 50, but here again hopes were not realized.

The formation of the OART Division at Ames left in a rather fractured state the Directorate for Research and Development, Analysis and Planning that had been created for Eggers. Thus as 1965 ended, plans were in hand for eliminating the Directorate, leaving only the OART Mission Analysis Division headed by Syvertson. The planning function which had been carried out by Eggers' directorate was at the beginning of 1966 to be transferred to a new Programs and Resources Office under Merrill Mead who had but recently returned from a tour of duty in Washington. Mead's new office was also to absorb the functions of Ferril Nickle, the Resources Management Officer, who retired at the end of 1965. Nickle and Parsons, it may be recalled, were the first Ames employees and also the first to arrive at the Moffett Field site. Nickle had made important contributions to the early construction program at Ames and subsequently, as Budget Officer and later as Resources Management Officer, had served with great ability. Reporting to the Office of the Director, Nickle each year led the "battle of the budget," a rather thankless task but one of vital consequence to the Center.

In September 1964, three months after Eggers departed, Bill Harper was transferred to Headquarters to become Chief of the Aeronautics Division in OART. Here again the loss to Ames was keenly felt. Harper was badly needed at the Center at this time and fortunately it appeared that his assignment to Washington might be temporary. Accordingly, Larry Clous-...



From left to right: George H. Holdaway, Frederick A. Demele, Dr. Seymour N. Stein, and Phillips J. Tunnell, members of Technical Planning Division staff.

From left to right: George H. Holdaway, Frederick A. Demele, Dr. Seymour N. Stein, and Phillips J. Tunnell, members of Technical Planning Division staff.


....-ing was made Acting Chief of the Full Scale and Systems Research Division with Woodrow Cook and Norman Johnson as Assistant Chiefs.




Before the end of 1965 there was one more major change in the Ames organization, but this will be described at a later time. There were also a few smaller but individually important developments during this period. One was the retirement in March 1965 of Carlton Bioletti, who for 33 years had served in NACA and NASA. The position he vacated as Chief of Project Biosatellite was filled by Charles Wilson. To be happily reported was the return to Ames in July 1965 of the exceptionally able Morris Rubesin, who had satisfied his earlier craving to be an entrepreneur. Rubesin was shortly appointed Chief of the Physics Branch, filling a position earlier relinquished by Michel Bader, whose interests had turned to airborne astrophysical research. Another organizational change, made in September 1965, was the appointment of Dr. John Billingham as Assistant Chief of the Biotechnology Division. Also to be mentioned was the honor earned by John....



William R. Johnson (left) and Carol J. Tinling and Harry J. DeVoto (right).

William R. Johnson (left) and Carol J. Tinling and Harry J. DeVoto (right).


....Boyd, technical assistant to the Assistant Director for Astronautics, who in 1965 was named to receive the 1965-1966 Stanford-Sloan Executive Fellowship. A similar award, the 1962-1963 MIT-Sloan Executive Fellowship, had earlier been won by Merrill Mead, Chief of the Ames Technical Planning Division.

Flight-simulator work was growing apace and the facilities had become so complex and extensive that it was deemed desirable to establish a separate division, in Russ Robinson's directorate, to manage, further develop, and operate these facilities as a service to the several research groups that had need for them. The new organizational unit, known as the Simulation Sciences Division, was founded in September 1965 with George Rathert as Chief and John Dusterberry as Assistant Chief. The function of the new division was noticeably similar to that of the Experimental Investigations (wind tunnel) Branch earlier mentioned. It was not expected to carry on research, except that required for the improvement and fullest exploitation of flight simulators.

Also to be mentioned was the formation within the Administration Directorate of a Technical Information Division headed by William R. Johnson. Included in this Division were a Library Branch under John W. Pollock, a Graphics and Exhibits Branch under Harry J. DeVoto, Jr., and a Manuscript Branch under Carol Tinling.

The less happy events occurring in the 1963-1965 period included the deaths of Dr. Harald Smedal in the spring of 1963, of Ray Braig in October 1964, and of Ralph Huntsberger in June 1965. Dr. Smedal, extremely popular, was a man of the highest ability. Ray Braig, one of the charter members of the Ames staff, was very well liked and his performance had always been of the highest quality. His position was subsequently filled by Frank Lawrence [409] Ralph Huntsberger was a competent performer whose work on the design, construction, and operation of the Unitary Plan tunnels was quite outstanding. In 1964, together with Bill Harper, Jay Christensen, and Earl Keener, Ralph won the NASA Group Achievement Award for contributions to the X-15 program. Lloyd Jones was selected in December 1965 to take over Ralph's position.

Another death affecting Ames was that of Dr. Hugh L. Dryden on December 2, 1965. Once Director of NACA, Dr. Dryden had since the beginning of NASA held the position of Deputy Administrator of the latter organization. Above all other men, he had given character to the huge, sprawling, tumultuous organization that NASA had become. The feeling for Dr. Dryden among his many acquaintances was one of deepest respect while among those who knew him best, it bordered on the reverential. In him a gentle, humane spirit had cloaked a driving intellectual force. President Johnson, in eulogy of Dr. Dryden, said:

Hugh Dryden's death ended nearly 50 years of single-minded devotion and effort by one of the most distinguished civil servants this country has ever known. Beloved by all his associates and respected throughout the world, Dr. Dryden more than any other man led us into the age of jet aircraft and space exploration.




With regard to the supply of manpower, the Ames Research Center was being squeezed unmercifully. Through the first 3 years of NASA, the Ames staff had remained constant at the final NACA level of about 1475.2 Then with the Kennedy impulse of 1961-1962, it rose quickly to a new plateau of about 2200.3 The personnel growth was about 50 percent, but the responsibilities assigned to the Center increased by 100 percent or more. The squeeze was on manpower rather than on money and, although there was a national shortage of scientists and engineers at the time, its imposition on Ames appears to have represented deliberate Headquarters policy. Ames was being "encouraged" to carry on more of its work by contracting rather than in-house.

Ames management had resisted pressures encouraging the Center to undertake project management and space operations. Other NASA Centers, such as Lewis, had yielded more quickly to these pressures and during the Kennedy impulse had acquired the staff needed for such activities. By the time Ames was prepared to enter the game, the manpower allocations resulting from the Kennedy impulse had been completed and the lid on personnel recruitment had again been clamped down tightly. At Ames the pangs arising from manpower shortage were thus very acute and new activities in [410] the fields of space sciences, life sciences, and project management were especially hard hit. All possible means were used to relieve the situation but none except contracting was very effective.

Some improvement in the manpower picture at Ames was achieved by decommissioning certain low-productivity wind tunnels and by grouping others under a single operating branch. An important additional benefit came from the National Academy of Sciences postdoctoral fellowship program, which provided a number of very able research men who were not counted in the Ames personnel quota. Of somewhat less help was the annual faculty summer fellowship program under which 10 to 15 university faculty members would spend 10 weeks in the summer working, for mutual benefit at the Ames Center. The latter program was jointly sponsored by NASA and the American Society for Engineering Education. Some indirect benefits were also achieved by improving the competence of existing staff through cooperative training arrangements with local colleges and universities. The Stanford-Ames program, begun many years earlier, was still in effect though operating at low ebb. In the past, such programs had enabled Ames employees to acquire skill in the new disciplines evolving in the general fields of aeronautical and space science. But while such "retreading" operations had been useful in the past, many of the newer disciplines were of such fundamental complexity as to place them beyond the reach of a retreaded wind-tunnel engineer. Recently graduated Ph. D.'s were needed.

In the solution of the Ames manpower bind, the remedies just cited were quite inadequate. Contracting, with all its disadvantages, was the only way out. Contracts were let for the maintenance of major mechanical auxiliaries, for computing services, for maintaining and operating some of the now-extensive electronic computing equipment and architectural and engineering services in connection with facilities design, for staff training and, in 1965, for wind-tunnel operation. As a result of needs expressed for the services of the 12-foot tunnel, which had been largely dormant since 1963, Ames, in March, let a contract for the operation of the tunnel to ARO, Inc., a subsidiary of Sverdrup & Parcel & Associates, Inc., of St. Louis. The work of the tunnel, as operated by ARO, was still coordinated by Verlin Reed's Experimental Investigations Branch. By the end of 1965 the arrangement with ARO had proved so successful that thought was being given to the letting of contracts for the operation of the 6- by 6-foot and the 14-foot tunnels.

In a similar move, NASA, in February 1965, completed arrangements with the U.S. Army whereby that agency was granted permission to use, for its own purposes, with its own staff and largely at its own expense, the Ames 7- by 10-foot tunnel No. 2. This tunnel had been idle for a number of years and required a considerable investment by the Army in its restoration and in the updating of auxiliary equipment. Not only were the Army's uses of the tunnel of interest to Ames but there were additional benefits from the [411] arrangement which accrued to the Center. These benefits arose from the fact that the Army agreed to provide not only the operating staff for the tunnel but also additional personnel to assist Ames in carrying out research and development projects of particular interest to the Army. To accomplish these purposes, the Army established a group of about 45 people at Ames in what was known as the Army Aeronautical Activity at Ames (AAA-A). The head of AAA-A was Colonel Cyril D. Stapleton, USA, while the technical director, a former Ames employee, was Paul Yaggy. The relationship between Ames and the Army proved very friendly and mutually profitable.

Such were the measures taken to deal with the manpower squeeze at the Ames Research Center; but they were not enough. Contracting, it was clear, must be extended to the design and construction of research instruments, to the planning and execution of research projects, and even to the analysis of the resulting data and the writing of research reports. In the lifesciences activity at Ames, a large part of the research was performed by agencies to whom NASA contracts or grants had been given. The contract research for the Exobiology Division amounted to only a few percent of the total; but that for the Environmental Biology Division represented about 70 percent of the total, and that of the Biotechnology Division also loomed rather large. The Space Sciences Division of the Astronautics Directorate likewise became involved in an extensive contracting operation, but its contracts were largely restricted to the procurement of services and to supporting research and development. The research experiments themselves were mostly conceived, and often carried out, by the Space Sciences staff. The project-management activity at Ames was largely a contract operation. Its funds for the most part were spent on contracts for booster hardware, spacecraft design, research planning, instrumentation, and analysis of data. In addition to the cases cited, almost all of the physical research divisions at the Center carried out certain research and development projects by means of contracting.4

In the matter of research contracting, the interests of the Center differed considerably from those of NASA as a whole. To NASA, the practice gave access to talent, facilities, and a sheer volume of technical manpower that could not feasibly be assembled within the confines of a Government laboratory. It was probably the only way the huge task confronting the agency could be accomplished. From the standpoint of the Center, whose interest lay mainly in basic research, such contracting was in many respects debilitating. It would, of course, inhibit the full development of the Center and would dilute the quality and reduce the morale of the staff. It would render more difficult the problem of acquiring and retaining research men of the highest quality and would be particularly harmful if it reduced the Center's best research men to mere contract monitors-assuming that they [412] would accept such a role. Moreover, if contracting were undertaken in areas of research in which the Center's staff members were acknowledged leaders, the results would surely be an inferior substitute for the product that might otherwise have been obtained. As with mercenary soldiery, there was in any case a question of the quality of "bought" research.

What was happening was fairly obvious. To handle its vast responsibilities, to achieve the necessary speed and volume of output, NASA was deliberately paying the associated penalty. The penalty was a deterioration at least of its research centers and probably also of the quality of its research product; and of course the cost of the product, good or bad, was shockingly high. The process was earlier referred to as the "shotgun" approach-effective but costly. These then were some of the influences operating at Ames during this period.


1 The Headquarters Life Sciences Programs Office, to which all three Ames life-sciences divisions might otherwise have been responsible, was eliminated in 1961 and its functions were split up between the remaining Headquarters program offices.

2 See app. A.

3 Ibid.

4 See app. A re costs of contracting.