SP-4304 SEARCHING THE HORIZON: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1976

 

7

AMES AFTER APOLLO, 1969-1976

 

[139] Harvey Allen was director of Ames barely three years. During that brief period, the demands placed upon the center had continued to grow. Though Apollo 11 would not land on the Moon until July 1969-the climax of the Apollo program -NASA's in-house personnel had peaked in 1967. Since then civil servants had been encouraged to retire early, and programs had been cut back as budgets were trimmed. Ames personnel had peaked at 2,310 in 1966. By mid-1968, the number was 2,197 and the downward trend showed every sign of continuing. Similarly, though the Ames budget for 1968 was a comforting $103.53 million, there was no reason to be particularly optimistic on that score either. Further examination of budget figures reveals that though the 1968 program plan at Ames had been allotted $3.2 million, none of that money had been immediately committed for FY 1968.1 The years of easy funding obviously were over, and the entire agency was involved not only in fiscal retrenching, but also in redefining its missions. Ames had not been in the forefront among NASA installations during the Apollo years; the waning of that program might offer the center a new opportunity to improve its position in NASA's total scheme of things.

Retrenchment after a period of rapid expansion brought a second set of dramatic changes to the research center in a decade. In mid-1958 Ames had employed 1,413 people. By mid-1966 that number had increased by over 60%. Even more dramatic was the operating budget, which had increased from the FY 1959 figure of $20.05 million to the FY 1968 peak of $103.53.2 The growth, both in personnel and in money, had changed the character of the institution, and the change was the more dramatic because of the former personality of the center.

Under the NACA, Ames had grown slowly. New personnel had been absorbed easily. The Ames family was grounded in shared college experiences, in-house marriages, and closely related fields of expertise. With aeronautics the principal-almost sole-activity at the laboratory, professional research interests were clustered in a narrow range. Intercommunication had [140] been easy. There had been only the distinction between low-speed and high-speed aeronautics. Though the two fields indeed presented different research problems, the same aerodynamic principles applied in both areas. It was symbolic that Harvey Allen, the wizard of high-speed aerodynamics, had helped to design the 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel, the classic monument to low-speed wind-tunnel research.

 

DIVERSE ACTIVITIES

 

Under NASA, with life sciences, space probes, and manned spaceflight, aeronautical research quickly became only one activity among many. By 1968 only 17% of Ames personnel worked in aircraft technology; 45% were involved in space research and technology.3 The impersonal atmosphere, blamed by many veterans on the increasing numbers of contract personnel, was also a result of the increasing diversity of research.

Another major change for Ames had been the tangible and psychological effects of geometrically increased budgets. At first glance larger budgets might appear to be an unqualified blessing, but they brought with them much more paperwork. The NACA, with its small budgets and low profile, had received yearly appropriations from Congress with a minimum of fuss. Though in many years the NACA felt underfunded, the process by which funds were obtained and allotted was at least relatively simple. Under NASA, competition for funding took much more time and demanded a lengthy bureaucratic process. This change turned many researchers into administrative money-managers and program salesmen.4

Psychologically, the effect of big budgets had been equally dramatic. The NACA, and Ames under De France, had been scrimpers and savers. They did so partly from principle. (NACA officials had been proud to return money to the Treasury, something that is considered a mark of poor management today.) They also saved because in the days of minimal bureaucracy laboratory directors could easily transfer funds from one area to another. It was possible to save enough, for example, to append another relatively inexpensive test section to the 12-foot pressure wind tunnel.5 For those in charge during the NACA period, people like George Lewis, Hugh Dryden, and Smith De France, conservative funding and relative freedom in managing money once it had been appropriated were highly suited to their own management styles.

De France had especially enjoyed administrative freedom with a minimum of Washington interference. That freedom, however, disappeared as research projects became more complicated, as contracting increased, and as NASA, very much in the public eye, met congressional demands to account [141] for its huge budgets. The Ames budget in 1940 had been approximately $5 million; in 1950, $7.5 million. In 1958 it was $26.5 million, and when De France retired in 1965, it was $91.7 million.6

In many respects De France and Allen, his successor, had coped with change quite successfully. De France had taken an active role in obtaining the Biosatellite and Pioneer projects for Ames. He had increased the Center's involvement in flight research using motion simulators, which proved important in Ames's institutional future. He had obtained the life-sciences research facility, and he had bent with the times as the new directorate began to change the character of Ames. In the last five years of his career, De France had made decisions that perhaps seemed revolutionary in light of his managerial conservatism, but he had accomplished what every founder of an institution hopes to -he had ensured that the laboratory he built had a viable future, even if that future entailed major change. Al Eggers, whose constant stream of new ideas helped to push Ames into new areas of research, retrospectively saw De France's ability to recognize the necessity for change and his determination to leave Ames as strong as possible as the explanation behind his 1957-1965 decisions. In addition, De France had had the support of Harry Goett, a strong proponent of space research, and of Jack Parsons, who in the early 1960s became convinced that Ames needed to develop project-management skills to meet the new era.7

Allen, younger and more open to new ways of doing things than De France, had nevertheless been unwilling to modernize center administration, although much of its mode of operation was outdated. Procurement methods were inefficient, research organization was sometimes too loose, and some staff changes needed to be made.8 Allen, committed to his own research and perhaps myopic from long involvement with Ames, left much of the daily administrative details to his staff. Not as enthusiastic about project work as some, Allen was less inclined to push for new directions in project areas and remained more interested in things that intrigued him from a research angle, rather than responding to a need for long-term planning. In a time when increasing cooperation and communication between the center and Headquarters, and among centers involved in combined projects, was necessary, Allen's unwillingness to spend all his time on administration hurt Ames in Washington. At the center, however, he was a genial and approachable director, with an inspiring professional reputation and the unfailing ability to excite others to imaginative research. "Harvey had a fabulously creative mind; he just understood air," as Eggers put it.9 If, as Ames director, Allen wore the cloak of management reluctantly, he served as an actively involved mentor for many young engineers, while at the same time he must have been a reassuring link with the past for the older employees.

Allen resigned in 1968, having reached the point where the burden of administrative responsibilities was more than he chose to accept. As his [142] administrative assistant recalled years later, Allen had recognized the need for new approaches in the administration of Ames and felt a new director could better accomplish those changes.10 During the search for a new director, Jack Parsons stepped in briefly as acting director.

The choice was a natural one, as Parsons had been both De France's and Allen's associate director since 1952. One of the first Langley people at Ames, Parsons had been De France's liaison at Ames while De France was still at Langley and his construction director afterward. Quiet and perhaps somewhat eclipsed by the stronger personalities around him, Parsons had been crucial to both De France and Allen as a source of information regarding the center, and at times as a mediator. Parsons's ill health, however, forced his retirement almost immediately. He died barely five months later, leaving a large gap in the Ames administrative hierarchy. Allen returned briefly as acting director. In February 1969 NASA announced a new director at Ames: Dr. Hans Mark, professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and head of Berkeley's research reactor at Livermore.

The research center that Hans Mark inherited had an array of enviable facilities being used for many research and development projects. Spread over 366 acres, Ames in 1969 operated 18 wind tunnels, 2 sets of ballistic ranges, and 10 flight simulators. There were 11 arcjet facilities in operation and 8 laboratories. Major buildings numbered 55, soon to be increased by the completion of the Flight Simulator for Advanced Aircraft (FSAA) built for testing the characteristics of jumbo jets and supersonic transports. Costing $2.6 million and six stories high, the huge simulator capped the range of research tools available at Ames in the flight-simulation field. John Dusterberry, the engineer responsible for much of the development of the FSAA, described its advantages:

 

The unique things about the simulators at Ames are the motion systems associated with them. As far as computers and visual systems, the outfitting of the cockpit and so on, every major aircraft manufacturer does the same thing. The motion system moves [the pilot] around in space so that he gets the motion cues, whether he's leading forward or backward, . . . all the motion cues he'd feel if he were in the aircraft.... The motion systems that move the cockpit around with a great amount of travel define the time you can sustain the acceleration cue. The longer the travel in the fore and aft direction, the longer you can sustain that cue. The FSAA has [30 meters] of lateral travel so you can put side force cues on and leave them on for a long time. This requirement really came from [supersonic transport] work. Work could be done on the SST most completely [at Ames] . Now the FSAA is being used for some shuttle landing work.) 11

 

[143] In January 1969, just before Mark was appointed director, Ames also announced the beginning of construction on a Space Sciences Research Laboratory; it was to include a vertical gun for impact-cratering studies and a large vacuum chamber with an ion beam for plasma-instrumentation work.12 As had been true of the life-science groups, until the new laboratory was ready, the staff of the Space Sciences Division was housed in nooks and crannies around the center. In addition to the earthbound facilities at Ames, the center also boasted a growing contingent of research aircraft, among them a twin-engine Learjet, a Convair 990 research laboratory, a Convair 340 flying laboratory, and also a de Havilland C-8A Buffalo, soon to be converted into an augmentor-wing jet STOL aircraft.

The transfer of the Ames flight-research aircraft to the Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in 1959 had been a psychological blow to Ames, but over the next decade the center slowly regained its aircraft, especially those involved in V/STOL research. As one flight research engineer recalled, "Centering all activities [like flight research] in one place looks good on paper, but it doesn't necessarily turn out to be the most expeditious way to do research." As was soon discovered, the climate of the Mojave Desert -hot temperatures, high winds, and high altitude -were "all the things you don't want for doing flight testing" on V/STOL.13 Not only was the low altitude and denser air of the Bay Area exactly what was wanted, but for flight research, as opposed to flight testing, Ames really was unique in its facilities, with the 40- by 80-foot tunnel and the flight simulators providing a variety of ways to obtain, check, and expand V/STOL data. FRC, having no wind tunnels and only limited simulation capability, could not compete. In the next few years, research aircraft would become more and more essential to Ames's activities.

Another source of strength for Ames in the late 1960s was its relationship with the Army Aeronautical Research Laboratory, which had been established at Ames. The product of a February 1965 agreement between NASA and the Army that recognized the agencies' mutual interests in aviation technology, the collaboration sought to "achieve tangible economies and promote efficiency with respect to continuing research and development of aeronautical vehicles."14 The Army had agreed to staff and operate certain Ames facilities, while Ames supplied technical and personnel support. The immediate result was that the Army refurbished and modernized one of the two old 7- by 10-foot wind tunnels, the "war horses" of low-speed wind tunnel research of World War II, and assigned 45 people to help in research. Ames could therefore continue to use the tunnel at little cost. Joint research projects were soon under way in that tunnel, as well as in other facilities in the flight research branch. The association was to become even more important in the following years under Mark's sponsorship.

[144] The list of 1968 achievements that Ames found noteworthy shows both the range of activities at the center and the public image that Ames sought to display.15 Pioneer 8, which had been launched in August 1966, continued to transmit useful data from the outer solar system, as had each of the previous Pioneer flights. In June, NASA announced that Pioneer 8's data suggested that the Earth's magnetic tail might be shorter, by millions of kilometers, than had previously been calculated. The steady production of data by the probe kept both the project and Ames in the news. Later in the year, Pioneer 9 was launched. The Biosatellite Project, acquired in October 1962, was engaged in preflight testing of primate behavior in the capsule that would carry a monkey on a month-long spaceflight in 1969. Typical of project management work, the testing involved not only Ames, but experimenters at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the General Electric Company.

In astronautics, sounding rockets launched from the White Sands Missile Range carried Ames payloads. Test flights designed both to check the rocket's control system and to map the magnetic field of the flight path were successful. In cooperation with the Air Force, the X-24 lifting body had undergone full-scale wind-tunnel testing at Ames. Perhaps most newsworthy, with the Apollo mission still uppermost on NASA's activity schedule, Ames scientists developed a method of calculating lunar soil depths using measurements taken from Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor photos. A few months later, a group of scientists conferring at Ames announced that they had selected a combination of electromagnetic systems to gather data on the Moon's interior.

In life sciences, exobiology was at the forefront of publicized Ames activity as Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma, one of the center's most active researchers, announced two fascinating hypotheses-that Jupiter's giant red spot might be red organic dye, millions of kilometers wide, and that the original sequence of chlorophyll syntheses on Earth had possibly been recreated in the laboratory.

On slightly more familiar levels, in 1967-1968 Ames developed bloodpressure sensors small enough to pass through a canine artery into the heart itself. The device would be developed as a human diagnostic monitoring device over the next few years. The research behind the sensors provides a fascinating example of the way interaction between research areas develops, sometimes in unlikely ways. The designer of the sensor, Grant Coon, far from being a member of the biomedical research division, as one might expect, was an engineer in the electro-mechanical research branch. The sensor was an elaboration on a pressure cell that he had previously designed for use in wind-tunnel tests where small size, high sensitivity, and high frequency were required. The reduced size of the new sensor made possible much more accurate measurement of blood flow. But the story is even more [145] complicated, for the sensor development had originally been requested by researchers in the environmental biology division who were not directly interested in blood pressure, but in investigating the transmission of artificial and heart-pulse waves through blood vessels. The research came full circle as the aeronautical researchers also discovered that they could make use of the tiny sensor in their work.16

Finally, in aeronautical research, two future strengths of Ames research] were evident in 1968. One was the developing Convair 990 program of flying aeronautical laboratories. Operated as a national facility for scientists, the first 990 was about to be equipped for a variety of research tasks, among them infrared photography, meteorological testing, and fire spotting. Second, a new V/STOL aircraft, the Ryan Vertifan, underwent flight tests before delivery to Ames. The aircraft was equipped with counterrotating propellers submerged in the wings and driven by jet exhaust. These provided lift for vertical takeoff, hovering, and vertical landing. Last, but in many ways more directly connected to day-to-day aeronautics, Ames, Langley, and the short-lived Electronics Research Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became involved in a five-year program to improve light-aircraft technology and devise a workable collision-avoidance system. The three NASA installations each had $500,000 to spend on different aspects of the program. Ames's role was to flight-test six or more general-aviation aircraft, as well as to perform a series of wind-tunnel tests on its Learjet.

The variety of important research being conducted at Ames in the late 1960s is evident from the highlights above. One of the problems Ames faced, however, was that in the NASA family of research installations, Ames did a little bit of almost everything, which made it easy for NASA Headquarters to question, as it faced continued budget cuts, whether Ames was essential to the rest of NASA operations. Ames had excellent, even unique, facilities; but could not most of the work being done there potentially be done elsewhere?

The need for a new outlook, or at least a new image, was evident at the time to many. Some of the Ames staff felt that the center had been passed by in the excitement of the space program. The old feeling of geographical separation was still present, despite the shrinking of distances through faster travel. This was often expressed as a suspicion that Langley would use its proximity to Headquarters to advance its own interests (a suspicion that was perfectly correct): "Langley always had a little advantage in . . . certain areas because they were so close to Headquarters. They were continuously up there-could shuttle up in an hour or so-to get the upper hand in any program that was coming along. We were isolated."17

Another aspect to Ames's isolation is important to mention for this period, if only in contrast to what was to come. Since its beginning, Ames had had institutional and personal ties with academia, industry, and the military. Ties with industry and the military were formalized in traditional ways.

[146] With academia, the ties existed on a more personal level of collaboration among colleagues in similar fields. In the local community, Ames had few real ties at a working level. Local officials were invited to annual inspections, but Ames as a working research center took little part in local life, and when it did, it did so quietly. Public relations, in the contemporary sense of the term, did not exist under De France, who felt that quality work would produce all the recognition that was needed without calculated flasgwaving. The low-profile, nose-to-the-grindstone approach, admirable in many ways, was suitable in its day, but it too created a certain isolation among researchers, as felt by the newcomers from academia who comprised the life-sciences group. Perhaps even more detrimental, the policy of understatement created a public image Ames could no longer afford in the late 1960s. What was needed was a clear-headed assessment of Ames's strengths and weaknesses, and a practical program for eliminating weaknesses and ensuring recognition of Ames's strengths by NASA Headquarters.

 

THE NEW APPROACH

 

Hans Mark came to Ames at a turning point in its history. His credentials were impressive. His family had fled Hitler's Germany in 1940, when Mark was 11. He was educated at Berkeley and MIT; his 15-year teaching career was a steady stream of accomplishments. He had held administrative positions in academia, carried taxing teaching loads, and served in various capacities as a consultant to the Army, Air Force, National Science Foundation, and Institute for Defense Analysis. His published articles made an imposing bibliography in nuclear engineering. As a scientist who had maintained a research career while also holding high administrative positions, Mark promised to take a much more active role in the details of administration than Allen had. Also completely committed to continuing his own work m nuclear-engineering research, however, Mark could be expected to have empathy with the problems of researchers and understanding of the research process, a quality that De France probably had partially lost.

In strong contrast to his predecessors, Mark was new to Ames and NASA. He would view the institution with the perspective of a stranger While a disadvantage in certain respects, his lack of old ties and habits would make it easier for him to see the need for changes and to implement them.

Mark was also an academic, not a civil servant, and he brought with him a set of work habits and associations that differed from those of De France and Allen. These differences, combined with Mark's professional record and energetic personality, meant that the center, which a veteran manager would [147] later characterize as having become "stodgy," was destined to change, whether gradually or forcibly.

With his strong views on solutions to Ames's problems, Mark perhaps managed the center, both internally and externally, less diplomatically than an insider would have. As an aggressive leader, he chose directions for Ames to which some objected. However one evaluates the wisdom and effectiveness of his management, the atmosphere certainly changed under his direction. Some viewed the differences as a transfusion, bringing fresh air into the old institution.18 Others criticized both his goals and his methods, accusing him, at least privately, of destroying the last vestiges of the old pre-NASA intimacy. Decisiveness is always controversial, because almost by definition it steps on toes. The end question is, were drastic measures imperative to keep the center viable in a changing environment of shifting research needs and less generous funding? Evidence suggests that they were.

 


Hans Mark, Director of Ames 1969-1977.

Hans Mark, Director of Ames 1969-1977. Mark brought to the Center an outsider's view of Ames's strengths and weaknesses, and an energetic management approach that created an effective variety of research options for the Center.

 

[148] In 1969-1970 the question of Ames's continued existence as a NASA installation was a topic of conversation at Headquarters. Though the threat of closure never came close to reality, the possibility was rumored around the center. NASA Deputy Administrator George Low discussed it with both Mark and Deputy Director Clarence Syvertson, former head of the Astronautics Directorate.19 He and Mark felt at the time that the possibility of closing was "fairly valid."20 Had NASA pulled out, the center probably would have been put to use by another federal agency, very likely the Air Force. At the time, the Ames administrators convinced Low that they needed time to make changes and improvements. Though the center still faced reduced manpower, budgets, and programs, closure possibilities went no further than those conversations with Low. In a way, however, the circulating rumors aided Mark, who had to decide where reductions should be made. "We really took advantage of the fact that Ames closure stories were going around. It made our job much easier, because people listened to you. ''21

The new director changed the working atmosphere almost immediately. Creating an aura of urgency through his own work habits, Mark involved himself in every aspect of running Ames. Often working 12-hour days and expecting his staff to do the same, he quickly became noted for his production of "Hans-g-grams," detailed memos that were fired from his office with alarming rapidity. They struck at every level and quickly alerted all personnel to the fact that they had a director who missed little in the way of detail. His monthly correspondence file was often 3 cm thick. Staff, both administrative and research, were likely to be summoned for weekend meetings and brainstorming sessions, a logical practice for someone with a seven-day work week, but an unpopular intrusion to many of those involved.22 The Strategy and Tactics Committee, a floating group of Ames personnel, was instituted by Mark as a way of involving key researchers in institutional planning for the center. "We'd ask them to put together various game plans," Mark recalled, "and then we'd modify them. A lot of people got involved in the management of the center."23 According to one of the members, the committee meetings often featured fierce debates, during which various future projects and facilities were hashed out.24

Another practice Mark instituted, both to remain abreast of current research and to sort out the Ames talent, was the research review. Every section head with an active research project was called upon to give an account of his work before the director and the entire chain of command in the section-head's directorate. If sometimes traumatic for those making the presentations, the practice institutionalized a periodic self-examination by the researchers themselves.25 Under De France and Allen, a researcher had had to use his own initiative to get a hearing with top management. Though this had always been possible, it had probably occurred only sporadically.

[149] In April 1972 Mark also began frequent project reviews at Ames, both to aid in preparing the Ames reviews for Headquarters and to keep the center staff alert to potential problems. As Mark once observed, "the project management task is of major importance, [and] much of the future of the center depends on how well our projects are managed."26 Identified by Mark for periodic review were current and future projects - Venus Pioneer, Tilt Rotor, Pioneer F and G, Illiac, and the 91.5-cm airborne infrared telescope

Mark continued Allen's practice of using technical research assistants Whereas Jack Boyd had freed Allen from management details, Mark relied or Boyd and the succeeding technical assistants for technical expertise as well a management assistance. These long-term Ames employees, experts in their fields, greatly eased Mark's adjustment period by educating him on aeronautical technology. Eventually the research assistantships were also seen as training positions for younger persons who might someday be in management positions, giving them a broader view of the whole center. Similarly staff-assistant positions were created for the deputy director on the same principle. The arrangement provided the director with firsthand ties to the research activities of the center and gave valuable management perspective to the technical assistants. A division chief later remembered his three years as a research assistant as a practical education that someone moving up from research into management by normal advancement (researcher to section head to branch chief. etc.) would have missed.27

Other changes followed. During the next few years, Mark made new appointments in the administrative staff, shifting personnel into new positions where greater effectiveness might be obtained. Some organizational procedures were changed. One example was the procurement system, which previously had served the whole center without differentiation by research area. The new director of administration, Louis Brennwald, who had a background in industrial management gained from years with the Northrop aircraft company, reorganized the system by creating separate procurement branches for each major research area. In this way responsibility was clearly apportioned and procurement procedures became more responsive and efficient.

Mark's first year saw the creation of a new directorate, that of research support. Headed by Loren Bright, it contained computer operations research facilities and equipment, and technical-services divisions. Eventually it would also contain the Institute for Advanced Computation, built around the Illiac IV computer that Ames acquired a few years later.

Though the visible shifts Mark had made in the way the center operated seemed dramatic enough, he created even more stir as the major Ames emissary to Headquarters and other agencies. Where Washington had seldom seen De France and had had to summon a reluctant Allen when needed, Mark descended on Washington both frequently and persuasively. In an early [150] 1970s OMB-NASA meeting, where the question of closing a research center was to be discussed, Mark appeared uninvited and presented such a favorable picture of Ames that OMB was noticeably impressed.28

It was not uncommon for the Ames director to make two trips to Washington in a week, promoting center projects and establishing ties that would lessen the transcontinental isolation from which the center still suffered. Riding the late-night "red-eye special" to be in Washington early in the morning, Mark planned tightly scheduled itineraries and announced his presence by dawn deliveries of San Francisco's sourdough bread left on many NASA desks. After a day of meetings, he would return to Ames on the late flight, to be at his desk the next morning.

In addition to changing the Headquarters image of Ames, Mark also embarked on what became a three-part plan to make the center indispensable to NASA. First, he sought to obtain even more unique facilities for Ames, facilities that would draw to them important research projects, much as the 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel had drawn the V/STOL work. Astronautics Director Dean Chapman described Mark's attitude: "[He] had a fundamental sense of property ... that many Europeans have.... He has always been more willing than many to consider the possibility of collapse. The whole thing may collapse, . . . so you get as much steel and concrete set in dirt as you can."29 Second, he fostered as many outside associations and joint research projects as possible, both to increase Ames's value outside NASA and to make it more difficult for NASA Headquarters to control and cut back the center's work.30

The third aspect of the plan, and the last to appear chronologically, was to introduce the concept, first at Ames itself and then at Headquarters, on very specific areas of expertise for each center. By gradually carving out a research niche for Ames that would be unique, the center's existence could not then be challenged with the argument that other centers could duplicate its work. Fascinated with the implications of technological interrelationships,31 Mark planned to expand the range of facilities and then to ensure that those facilities were used by a much wider variety of research groups, who would then become added justification for continued support by NASA. Years later, Mark described the train of thought involved in his planning:

 

In the NASA system, Ames competes with Langley. Langley is [151] somewhat bigger than Ames; it's older, better established, closer to Washington. We recognized early that we could not compete with Langley across the board, that we had to establish strong areas and put all our marbles on those, and then become the best.... Ames was the first to make projections for the future about long-term trends. By 1973 we knew we were on the right track; if we simply did our own thing, established ourselves as being excellent in the areas we had chosen, the agency would have no choice but to give us those areas.32

 

NEW FACILITIES

 

A major resource at Ames was its assortment of motion simulators. Though approved back in 1965, the Flight Simulator for Advanced Aircraft was not put into operation until Mark's first year. The event was made much of both at the center and outside it. The facility guaranteed that important flight testing of the supersonic transport and the space shuttle would take place at Ames. The simulator was to form an important part of Mark's argument that Ames had, as was indeed true, the best flight simulators in the world. The Vertical Motion Simulator, planned during the early 1970s, was submitted as part of the projected facilities building program for 1974. It was eventually approved in 1975, a result of steady efforts on the part of Ames to convince Headquarters that it was essential for both VTOL and helicopter research.

Simulator workloads reflected their changing role at Ames. Originally simulators had been used mostly in support of NASA's own in-house research. Simulation studies had validated wind-tunnel work and airborne research. Eventually, however, both industry and the armed services came to recognize the simulators as essential tools for testing specific models while still in the prototype stage. Outside users like the military often used the simulators instead of the wind tunnels for testing, providing strong support for continued expansion of simulation facilities.

Another facility acquired in the early 1970s greatly strengthened Ames for work in theoretical fluid mechanics, as well as concentrating superior computer strength at the center (see chap. 8). In 1971 Ames entered into an agreement with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), part of DOD, to house and manage the Illiac IV computer complex, which would be the largest and most sophisticated in the world. Obtaining Illiac IV was a coup for the center, and though some time was needed for the problems in the system to be ironed out, by early 1973 it was in use. The association with ARPA was a step toward the entangling alliances that Mark desired. In 1974 the High Reynolds Number Channel was brought into operation, a facility built to evaluate computer codes for the numerical simulation of viscous turbulent flows. In combination with the computer system, the High Reynolds Number Channel, using real airflow, gave Ames further means to check and expand acquired data.

[152] The 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel, which had been in continual use since its June 1944 dedication, continued to be one of Ames's most important facilities. As low-speed V/STOL work gained in importance, the huge tunnel was operated round the clock to accommodate the many demands on it. In 1973 it was refurbished, and a few years later an extension would be added to create a second test section, an 80- by 120-foot offshoot attached to the original tunnel. Increasing the versatility of the tunnel, the addition would greatly strengthen the unique facilities argument.

Research aircraft, while not facilities in the usual definition, play a similar role in the life of a research institution. In 1969-1976 Ames acquired several aircraft or the programs that would in turn bring such aircraft to the center. In 1970 the C-141 that was to be fitted with the 91.5-centimeter telescope was acquired, becoming operational in 1974. In the same year Ames, in cooperation with the Canadian government, began plans for a jet-powered, augmentor-wing STOL research aircraft. A converted C-8A de Havilland Buffalo was delivered to Ames in the summer of 1972, the first of a new line of experimental short-haul research aircraft. That same year, in cooperation with the Army, a tilt-rotor research vehicle was planned, another example of major V/STOL work that involved a NASA commitment to an "outside" customer.

The Convair 990 Galileo had become one of the major programs at Ames, proving invaluable in a variety of cooperative research ventures with other agencies. A medium-altitude research airplane, Galileo had undertaken a number of weather and resources surveys. Tragically, in April 1973 it collided over Moffett Field with a Navy P-3 while both were making landing approaches. The loss of the entire crew of Galileo was a real blow for Ames, but plans were immediately laid to acquire another Convair 990, which was delivered near the end of the year. In 1974 Galileo II resumed the work of its predecessor.

Another major addition to Ames was to be the Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft, for which design plans were completed in 1974. When operational, the graceful aircraft was to prove an exciting research tool, its remarkably short touchdowns approaching avian competence.

 

NEW ASSOCIATIONS

 

Mark's firm belief that Ames stood to benefit from ties that extended beyond NASA was pursued through a series of short- and long-term collaborations. Not only did Ames benefit from pooling research efforts and funding, but the new ties gave the center much greater visibility than it had previously enjoyed, a necessity in the most competitive post-Apollo years.

 


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1976. Mid-altitude Convair 990 research aircraft over Lake Tahoe.

1976. Mid-altitude Convair 990 research aircraft over Lake Tahoe. The aircraft has undertaken research projects ranging from studying wildlife migration patterns and ice-floe movements to making archaeological surveys of Mayan ruins and studying monsoon behavior in the Indian Ocean area. The Convair 990 represents another direction in Ames's aeronautical research, that of using an aircraft itself as a research tool.

 

As already observed (see chap. 5), the Life Sciences Directorate had formed a variety of associations with other groups and institutions. These projects had made new professional contacts for Ames, with noticeable results in the world of public relations. Similar efforts in aeronautical projects produced much the same kind of public exposure in the 1970s. In 1973 a joint NASA-Soviet study undertook to analyze ice flow, meteorological data, and wildlife migration patterns in the Bering Sea; for this study Ames provided the Convair 990. Also in 1973 Ames earth-resources survey aircraft, two high-altitude U-2s, cooperated with the Department of the Interior and the State of Arizona to produce the first accurate land-usage maps for the whole state. The next year the same aircraft assisted Oregon and Washington in surveying tussock-moth damage and also measured flood damage along the Mississippi and in California's Sacramento and Feather River basins. In 1976....

 


[
154]

One of the new directions for Ames resulted in a NASA-Army partnership on rotorcraft research, which produced in 1977 the XV-15 Tilt Rotor.

One of the new directions for Ames resulted in a NASA-Army partnership on rotorcraft research, which produced in 1977 the XV-15 Tilt Rotor. The aircraft, with an engine prop rotor assembly, has the properties of helicopter flight when its rotors are shifted to a horizontal position and conventional flight when its rotors are oriented forward. It represents one of the more exciting varieties of V/STOL aircraft.

 

....the U-2s supported several state agencies by following uncontrolled forest fires in northern California.

Even more useful to Ames, however, was the development of long-term cooperative projects with other powerful government agencies. The Ames-ARPA Illiac IV project has already been noted, but in three other areas. Ames committed itself to associations that proved valuable both for immediate research and, over the longer term, in strengthening Ames as an institution.

Cooperation with the Army for joint research in VTOL studies, dating from 1965 (p. 143), was greatly expanded in 1969. Army personnel at Ames doubled. In 1970 the Army consolidated its flight research and development as the Army Air Mobility Research and Development Laboratory, with headquarters at Ames. Cooperative work in VTOL and V/STOL studies led into additional exploratory and advanced research, with the Tilt-Rotor Research [155] Aircraft and the Rotor System Research Aircraft programs coming out of the first joint successes.33 Eventually the Army's endorsement of Ames would help the center gain the lead role in NASA's helicopter research.

In 1973 a similar agreement for jointly developing new experimental aircraft was reached with the Air Force. In February both agencies agreed to cooperate on the development of both the Air Force's Advanced Medium STOL Transport Prototype and the NASA Quiet Propulsive Lift Flight Research program. Later in the year, an Air Force office was established at Ames to administer joint programs, with Air Force personnel permanently assigned. Thus another link was established to the armed services.34

Ames also concluded a valuable agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation in September 1971. The agreement made Ames simulators available for qualifying checks on new commercial aircraft. By 1976 cooperation with the FAA had expanded to include joint research using the Augmentor Wing C-8A Buffalo and establishment of the Air Safety Reporting Systems Office, which sought to conduct continuing analyses of air-safety factors.

 

NEW PHILOSOPHIES

 

Not by chance did the Army, Air Force, and Federal Aviation Administration start cooperative work with Ames on V/STOL aircraft and helicopters. A new perspective on the center's place within the NASA network was slowly emerging, taking advantage of changing national priorities and consciously guided by Hans Mark.

In late 1968 the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences had announced that a new commitment was to be made in federally supported aeronautical research.35 Clearly this would affect Ames, since its research strengths within NASA had always tended toward aeronautics rather than toward space. Indeed, Mark's annual report to the center in 1970 mentioned the strong possibility that Ames would play a leading role in future short-haul aeronautical research, including V/STOL aircraft.36 Two years later he was able to announce that the national budget for research and development in aeronautics had increased from a little over $100 million in 1969 to $161 million.37 Meanwhile, Mark campaigned to establish wide public recognition of Ames's strengths in short-haul and V/STOL research. Speaking to the House Subcommittee on Advanced Research and Technology in 1971, he underlined his center's capability by "illustrating how our organization works in aeronautical research" as he discussed both STOL and simulator research.38

[156] In 1972 and 1973 Mark began to develop and publicize the concept of areas of aeronautical emphasis for Ames. In developing presentations for OMB, the Ames staff constructed budgets and research programs that emphasized research tools unique to Ames: low-speed, short-haul aviation research tools like the 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel and the flight simulators. Ames was already involved in just such research; future planning built on a solid framework.

Early in 1973 NASA's Office of Advanced Space Technology (OAST) appointed Clarence Syvertson to prepare an institutional planning document, forecasting future research undertakings at the OAST centers. When asked to comment, Mark emphasized the developing philosophical trend at Ames: concentration in areas where Ames already had clear research talents and facilities to support future programs.39 At the end of the year, the OAST institutional plan produced a list of areas of focus for Ames that were defined along the lines Mark had verbalized earlier.

Six areas of emphasis were listed: short-haul aircraft research, flight simulation, theoretical fluid mechanics, planetary atmospheres, airborne sciences and applications, and life sciences. In recent years Ames had undertaken highly visible activity in each of these areas. Further, there was relatively little overlap between Ames and other centers; Ames already had most of NASA's competence in all of them. Though there was some reluctance at Headquarters to adopt the concept of areas of emphasis,40 within a year NASA had officially accepted it, including the list of specialties Ames was to monopolize.41

The emphasis on short-haul aircraft research forms a fitting climax to the present history of the research center. When Ames became the center for short-haul aircraft research, it appeared logical to go even further in the same direction. Consequently, after a campaign waged by Mark on his frequent trips to Washington, NASA Headquarters transferred the helicopter research being done at Langley to Ames. The result was clearly defined control by Ames of all NASA's short-haul areas, both V/STOL and rotorcraft programs, and the equally visible support of that role by the Army, Air Force, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Mark's comments on the transfer underlined the claims Ames was able to make for its case:

 

By the time we got the Langley helicopter research, we'd made the first modification to the 40- by 80-foot tunnel, had the second one approved, built the vertical-motion simulator. We had all the facilities for helicopter work, and most important, we had persuaded the Army to put its rotor-craft research laboratory at Ames. So we had the Army in our corner. So with all those things, the rationale for moving it here was absolutely unanswerable. All Langley had on its side was tradition.42

 

[157] The decision to transfer helicopter research from Langley has remained, at least in some quarters, controversial. At Ames, some researchers felt they "were being sold something that didn't originate here, and Langley was already doing it. It was a whole new field, and we had to reeducate a lot of people."43 Langley had been involved in helicopter research since the 1930s, and supporters of that center were understandably upset at losing that element of its research. Resentment focused both on Mark for perpetrating the transfer by his "area of emphasis" concept, and upon Ames in general for "stealing" Langley's research program, some of their personnel, and their research rotor aircraft. For Leonard Roberts, Ames director of aeronautics and flight systems, the subject was particularly delicate. Roberts was responsible for arranging the details of the transfer, and as a former Langley researcher, he was faced with an awkward task.44 After the decision was announced, NASA Administrator James Fletcher, seeking to sweeten Langley's bitter pill, pointed out that the transfer was logical in terms of Ames's short-haul center designation, and in view of the relationship that....

 


1976. Three directors of Ames gather. Hans Mark, left, and Harvey Allen, right, congratulate Smith De France on his 80th birthday.

1976. Three directors of Ames gather. Hans Mark, left, and Harvey Allen, right, congratulate Smith De France on his 80th birthday. The three men represent facets of aeronautical/astronautical research and its management stretching from World War I into the space age.

 

[158] ....Ames had established with the Army Air Mobility Research and Development Laboratory.45 The helicopter research provided tangible proof of the significance of the alliances Ames had built and the ability of the center's management to use them for Ames's benefit.

The 1976 shuffle was not all to Ames's benefit, however; the Pioneer project and future planetary missions went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena. The loss of Pioneer, managed from the outset by Ames, was a blow for which the expansion of research strength in short-haul aircraft might compensate. Thus Ames once more faced major changes that would test its managers' ability to realign priorities and to establish a new sense of mission within NASA. As we have seen, Ames's fortunate history, flexible Leaders, depth and breadth of facilities and personnel-all these strengths augered well for the future.

The remaining chapters will investigate more closely three aspects of Ames during recent years: the working of a research directorate, the center's changing role in the community, and an assessment of changes in the institution over its first 38 years.


[159-160] SOURCE NOTES

Chapter 7. Ames after Apollo, 1969-1976

 

1. Jane Van Nimmen and Leonard C. Bruno, NASA Historical Data Book, 19581969, vol. 1, NASA Resources, NASA SP-4012 (Washington, 1976), pp. 255-257.
 
2. Ibid., pp. 255-256.
 
3. Ibid., p. 256.
 
4. this factor in the changing Ames personality was mentioned by virtually all interviewees who had been employed at the center before 1958.
 
5. De France was particularly good at doing more with allotted funds than originally planned, and several small additions to the center's facilities resulted from leftover funding.
 
6. See app. B for yearly Ames budgets.
 
7. Alfred J. Eggers interview, 6 Oct. 1982.
 
8. these opinions were expressed by a number of interviewees commenting on the first decade under NASA.
 
9. Eggers interview.
 
10. Edie Watson Kuhr interview, 27 Apr. 1981.
 
11. John C. Dusterberry interview, 21 Apr. 1981.
 
12. Ames Astrogram, 16 Jan. 1969, p. 1.
 
13. Seth Anderson interview, 8 Feb. 1982.
 
14. Summary of AARL-Ames agreement of 1965, in statement issued by the Army Air Mobility Research and Development Laboratory Office, June 1978.
 
15. See Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1968: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4010 (Washington, 1969), passim.
 
16. Ames Astrogram, 25 May 1967, p. 3.
 
17. Anderson interview, 8 Feb. 1982.
 
18. Harry J. Goett interview, 3 Dec. 1981.
 
19. Hens Mark interview, 20 May 1982, and Clarence Syvertson interview, 31 Aug. 1982. Both recounted the conversation with Low, which took place during the first year of Mark's directorship.
 
20. Mark interview, 20 May 1982.
 
21. Ibid.
 
22. The weekend meetings, often mentioned by interviewees as one of Mark's radical innovations, were almost universally unpopular among the older Ames staff.
 
23. Mark interview.
 
24. Howard K. Larson interview, 23 June 1982.
 
25. Mark's research reviews were described by Edie Watson Kuhr, 27 Apr. 1981. A researcher's perspective was added by Dell P. Williams III, 27 May 1982.
 
26. Mark to deputy director and organizational directors, 24 Apr. 1972, 74-A-1624, box 163100, SBFRC.
 
27. Alan B. Chambers interview, 24 Feb. 1982.
 
28. Ibid.
 
29. Dean Chapman interview, 28 Apr. 1982.
 
30. Chambers interview.
 
31. See Edward Teller, Hans Mark, and John S. Foster, Jr., Power and Security: Critical Choices for Americans, vol. 4 (Lexington, 1976).
 
32. Mark interview.
 
33. NASA-Army Agreement - Joint Development and Operation of Tilt-Rotor Proof-of-Concept Research Vehicles at Ames Research Center, NASA Management Instruction 1052. 154, 1 Nov. 1971.
 
34. NASA-USAF Memorandum of Understanding - Coordination of USAF AMST and NASA Quiet Propulsive-Lift Flight Research Programs, NMI 1052.163A, 7 Feb. L973.
 
35. U.S. Senate, Aeronautical Research and Development Policy, report 957, Jan. 1968. Sponsored by the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.
 
36. "Director's Annual Report to the Center," 20 Mar. 1970, Astrogram, 26 Mar. 1970, p. 2.
 
37. "Director's Annual Report to the Center," 18 Feb. 1972, Astrogram, 2 Mar. 1972, p. 2.
 
38. Speech to House Subcommittee on Advanced Research and Technology, 24 Mar. 1971, in 255-77-0020, 1/60, box 081780, SBFRC.
 
39. Mark to Clarence Syvertson, 3 Jan. 1973, ibid.
 
40. Chambers interview, 24 Feb. 1982. Chambers thought that NASA management opposed the division-of-research concept because it lessened their own management options.
 
41. "Director's Annual Report to the Center, " Astrogram, 10 Apr. 1975.
 
42. Mark interview.
 
43. Anderson interview, 8 Feb. 1982.
 
44. Leonard Roberts interview 8 Sept. 1982.
 
45. Sunnyvale Valley Journal, 11 June 1976.


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