SP-4310 Way Station to Space


- Chapter 12 -

Of Triumph and Tragedy



[293] The Best Of Times

The early success of America's Space Shuttle program ushered in an era that was perhaps the "best of times and worst of times" for a resurgent NASA and most especially for the growing National Space Technology Laboratories (NSTL) in Hancock County, Mississippi. During the first half of the decade of the 1980s, NASA regained confidence and again savored the national reputation the Agency enjoyed when the Eagle soared and landed on the Moon in 1969. Indeed, NASA seemed to have the world, and even the heavens, by the tail and was not about to let go.1

Riding on the crest of success and popularity, Jerry Hlass's maturing NSTL team gained special recognition as NASA's newest and toughest "can do" organization. Most of Hlass's early goals were achieved, and the morale [294] of the site employees and its community neighbors climbed as high as the white cypresses rising skyward from the Honey Island Swamp.2

The NSTL's Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) gained national and international prominence due to pioneering scientific achievements in remote sensing and space technology applications. The onsite Space Shuttle support program was proving superiority with every shuttle mission.3

Those were the days! Truly, it seemed like the good times would never end for NASA. The Space Shuttle became a national symbol, its butterfly likeness placed on T-shirts, lapel pens, and even on milk cartons. Americans began to believe that civilians - school teachers and television commentators - should take a ride on the shuttle.4

Alas! Even the best of times come to an end. The awful Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy dashed the spirits of a nation - crushing NASA's regained - confidence when the spacecraft came crashing down in the blue Atlantic waters off Cape Canaveral. Sadly, all seven crew members perished, among them a space-struck social studies teacher from New Hampshire.5

Gloom fell heavily as the grim news spread. Millions were stunned, frozen at their television sets on that cold January day in 1986. In south Mississippi, the NSTL's employees and community supporters were devastated by the initial speculation that the accident could have been caused by a failed Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) tested at the NSTL. Perhaps, NASA's greatest triumph then began on that frigid Florida morning, for from the Challenger's ashes there arose a NASA courage from the very guts of thousands of comrades across the nation who refused to let this beloved crew die in vain. Among that number were the men and women at the NSTL, who, following the tragedy, "tested the way" as NASA returned to space.6


[295] The Senator Calls

By 1981, the years of hard work and political forays in the nation's capital began to pay off for the hard-working Senator Stennis and his diligent staff members. The Mississippi installation Stennis was so closely associated with achieved the "full utilization" the Senator wanted so badly. The Naval oceanographic program completed its relocation move to the NSTL. The Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant was under construction at the NSTL and would soon be a productive addition to the nation's defense. And the Space Shuttle program that Stennis "picked up off the cutting room floors" of Congress was providing NASA with routine access to space.7

Senator John C. Stennis never forgot his promises in 1961 to the original landowners at Logtown. By 1981, he had worked tirelessly for two decades to see the $300 million testing facility investment by the nation's taxpayers reach "full utilization." The steadfast statesman from Kemper County, Mississippi, was there for his people in south Mississippi,and for their "Space Age" NSTL neighbors at every turn, whether the turn was for better or worse.8

When the NSTL all but fell prey to rampant kudzu vines during the decline of the Apollo program in the early 1970s, Stennis helped guide potential tenants, such as environmental agencies to the site. Again, when NASA was about to lose its Space Shuttle program in 1972, Stennis rallied his congressional colleagues to support the "new reusable" space vehicle. The Senator then helped relocate the Navy oceanographic program from the Washington, D.C., area to its new NSTL home in 1975. Stennis also helped NASA Headquarters find a way to avoid moving the ERL to Houston in 1976. John Stennis was also there to provide the push to pick up the huge Army munitions manufacturing plant off the planning boards and place it on the site in 1978.9

[296] Even so, the Senator did not save the south Mississippi facility by himself. He joined forces with Jerry Hlass, and, together, they worked many long hours to save the facility. The foundation Hlass laid when he arrived proved strong enough to build on, and when Senator Stennis paid visits to inspect the booming NSTL, he saw progress on every front. In fact, the proud Senator was frequently called upon to join Hlass and the NSTL employees for ground-breaking ceremonies for new facilities, for the dedication of new buildings, and to view the awesome power of the SSMEs during testing. Rarely had a legislator had the opportunity to see as many fruits of his labor as did Senator Stennis.10

Senator Stennis joined a host of Washington dignitaries and NSTL Manager Hlass to welcome the Army Ammunition Plant to the NSTL complex during ground-breaking ceremonies on 10 January 1978. Among the luminaries present were U.S. Representatives Trent Lott and G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery; Deputy Secretary of Defense Charles W. Duncan, Jr.; Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Clator, Jr.; Rear Admiral J. Edward Snyder, Jr.; and NASA Deputy Administrator Alan M. Lovelace. Hlass and Major Jerome C. Dondinger, commander of the Army plant, hosted the big event. More than 1,500 people from surrounding areas joined the NSTL employees in celebrating the beginning of the huge, $398 million construction of the plant.11

Stennis referred to the 1961 Logtown meeting in his address at the Army Ammunition Plant ground-breaking ceremony, just as he did in most of his speeches at the NSTL. "I have never forgotten the promises [I made] that day in Logtown," he said. "I have kept foremost in my mind [the fact] that the people of Hancock County willingly allowed over 40 percent of the land area of [their] county to become a federal installation. In return, the federal government assured the people of Hancock County and Mississippi that the facility would be used." For all of the high-ranking NASA, Army, and Navy officials present, Stennis, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, re-emphasized his Logtown promises when he said: "As long as I have anything to do with it, that promise of the federal government can and will be met!"12

[297] Stennis then complimented the unique arrangement of federal agencies working together at the NSTL when he said, "Today this facility exists as a national model of federal agency coordination and cooperation." Stennis also stressed that the NSTL facility served as a prime example of how diverse group needs would be met at the "lowest possible cost to the American taxpayer." U.S. Representative Trent Lott strongly endorsed the NSTL when he said the installation had made great strides as a "center of excellence."13

Hlass hosted Stennis and Lott several times during the next few years at events recognizing the installation's progress, but probably none was more rewarding than Stennis's visit on 19 October 1978. During the visit, the Senator was ushered into the Space Shuttle Test Control Center (TCC) for the last few minutes of an SSME static- firing countdown. Stennis talked freely with engineers and technicians who were not busy with the critical work of the countdown. With a serious expression on his face, Stennis listened intently to a briefing conducted by Space Shuttle Resident Manager Bob Bush and Rocketdyne Test Operations Manager Bill Costas. At T-6 minutes, Bush and Costas escorted Stennis up a steel staircase to the top of the blockhouse to view the firing. During the 100-second run, Stennis stared in awe as the powerful engine roared, pumping huge staccato puffs of steam into the south Mississippi sky. When the firing ended with its closing "whump," Stennis dispensed with his usual senatorial decorum and surprised the NASA and Rocketdyne personnel by clapping his hands and actually dancing a little soft-shoe "jig." 14

Still on an emotional high, Stennis observed, "the facility is back in business as far the space program is concerned and has taken on the role of serving as a home for the military services and others," The glowing Stennis also commented, "there is a foundation here from which NASA programs and other agency programs can grow."15

Stennis then paused to pay Jerry Hlass a well-earned compliment and offer a strong vote of confidence that Hlass and his re-invigorated NASA team were on the right track. "I am greatly impressed with Jerry Hlass's management of the installation and the talents and spirits of the people [here] are truly....



U.S. Sen. John C.Stennis claps and dances a soft-shoe <<jig>> atop the A-1/A-2 Test Control Center following a successful test of a Space Shuttle Main Engine. Pictured at the unusual event are, from left, Jerry Hlass, manager of the National Space Technology Laboratories; Stennis; Howard Griggs, resident manager of Rocketdyne; and NASA's Robert

U.S. Sen. John C.Stennis claps and dances a soft-shoe "jig" atop the A-1/A-2 Test Control Center following a successful test of a Space Shuttle Main Engine. Pictured at the unusual event are, from left, Jerry Hlass, manager of the National Space Technology Laboratories; Stennis; Howard Griggs, resident manager of Rocketdyne; and NASA's Robert "Bob" Bush. (SSC-78-459-33).


....great," Stennis praised in his expansive mood. Again Stennis repeated his support of the southwest Mississippi facility by simply stating that the NSTL "will continue to have my solid support."16

On another visit on 5 April 1981, Stennis returned to NSTL with the express purpose of showing Secretary of the Navy John H. Lehman, Jr., the Navy elements that relocated and consolidated at the Hancock County site. At that time, a combined total of more than 1,250 people were employed as members of either the Commander's staff, Naval Oceanography Command staff, Naval oceanographic office, and the Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity. The entire population of the site was approximately 3,400 - a far cry from a previous low of about 900 in the early 1970s. During his visit, Stennis stated that budget cuts proposed by the Reagan Administration would have little effect on the work at the NSTL. "What you are doing here is too important," the confident Stennis remarked.17

The brisk activity at the NSTL represented the kind of growth and productivity that the Senator originally envisioned for the facility. Stennis returned triumphantly on 31 March 1983 to dedicate the Mississippi Army [299] Ammunition Plant. Built to manufacture the improved M483 conventional munitions 155mm projectile, the plant's final cost reached $479 million. The monstrous plant, located on 7,000 acres in the northern portion of the site, meant approximately 1,300 jobs for Mississippians. Stennis appreciated that most workers were local people, trained by Pearl River Community College and the Army. At the dedication the Senator used praised the people for their support of the NSTL and called on his fellow citizens to "do a better job" of finding talented young people to "understand hard science, hard math, and hard languages."18

Although Jerry Hlass had come to know Senator Stennis during the Apollo days when Hlass (at NASA Headquarters) provided Stennis's office with progress reports of the ongoing construction, the two men came to know and respect each other even more during the 1980s. Stennis knew the NSTL was in good hands with Hlass. Hlass, on the other hand, knew his work was appreciated and the NSTL had support from one of the most influential members of the Congress, a situation that was good for the facility, and also for the Agency in general. As a result, NASA leaders often called upon Hlass to intercede with the Senator for help on space projects that actually had very little to do with the NSTL.19


A New Look For The NSTL

The transformation of the NSTL during the Hlass years pleased many people. The NSTL employees, members of the local communities, and NASA Headquarters officials all found the "renasafication" of the site to their liking. For the first time, site employees began receiving recognition for their work, and nearby communities began to reap additional rewards from years of supporting the installation. Students in southern Mississippi and Louisiana were being treated to educational benefits by NASA giving them a "leg up" on children in other parts of the country. The decade of the 1980s was truly a time of growth and prosperity for Jerry Hlass and his NSTL team.20

[300] The first NASA "Honor Awards Ceremony" at the NSTL was held in the Gainesville Room in Building 1100 after Jerry Hlass's arrival in 1978. The large conference room only held about 75 people so Hlass later moved the annual awards ceremony to the auditorium in the Central Control Building (Bdlg. 1200), which seats about 270 people. Hlass felt the ceremony had to be conducted before the employees' colleagues and fellow workers to achieve maximum morale building. All NASA employees were strongly encouraged to attend by their supervisors and the contractor employees were invited by their managers for any special recognitions.21

The awards were given for contributions by NSTL employees to many diverse endeavors, e.g., Space Shuttle program; joint United States-Mexican program to control illicit drugs through application of remote sensing technology; Regional Applications Program (RAP); use of vascular aquatic plants for waste treatment; development of specialized software for processing imagery data. Hlass was presented two executive awards signed by the President. Dr. Robert A. Frosch, NASA administrator, presented Hlass with his first "President's Rank of Meritorious Executive" at ceremonies at NASA Headquarters on 10 September 1980. Hlass, on receipt of the award, said his accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of the "NSTL team."22

Members of the NSTL family were not the only people who benefitted from the new-found prosperity. In 1981, the total community economic impact of the NSTL, in a 50-mile radius from the site reached approximately $150 million per year. The NSTL employees contributed to Gulf Coast charities more than $100,000 in 1981, a figure that continued to rise each year with the growth of the facility.23

A Picayune (MS) Item editorial noted that during the booming years of the 1980s, the NSTL and the city of Picayune came together to form a "good marriage," one that was beneficial to both parties, and the newspaper projected an even brighter future. The 1980 editorial represented the positive attitude in nearby [301] communities as a result of the new image projected by Hlass and his vibrant NSTL team.24

Perhaps U.S. Representative Trent Lott best summarized the community contributions made by the NSTL during one of his frequent visits on 10 April 1982. The supportive congressman told those attending an Americanism Rally in Picayune that development of "the multi-agency facility had worked beyond my wildest dreams." Lott, House Republican Whip, said, "I have to tell you, [the] NSTL is a tremendous asset to this area and to our entire state."25

Jerry Hlass must receive much of the credit for the positive response the facility received during this period, primarily because of his "good will" policy. Hlass extended his good will policy into the public arena by supporting education, youth, and visitor information programs. He assisted Mack Herring, public affairs officer, in starting a sitewide newsletter for the employees. The Lagniappe was first issued in November 1977 and quickly became one of the better newsletters in the entire NASA family. Area media representatives also enjoyed the Lagniappe because it helped them to keep up with the news at the NSTL.26

In 1979, Hlass supported a modest, educational outreach program that provided an aerospace education lecturer for elementary and secondary schools in the Gulf Coast area.This program was expanded with the addition of an aerospace lecturer and a "rolling store" teacher resource vehicle, which traveled throughout Mississippi dispensing space-oriented materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. The rolling store was a converted milk truck, and although slow, it was effective with its wide body and walk-in rear door.27

The NSTL had operated a public visitors program since 1965, but lacked the personnel and resources to attract and accommodate large numbers of people. In 1966, von Braun turned the Central Control Building (Bldg. 1200) into a colorful museum. He sent his best designers and artists from Huntsville to give the lobby, 90-foot [302] observation tower, and grounds a "Space Age" look. Unfortunately, without continued financial support, this initial work deteriorated.28

Hlass supported a small array of exhibits in the Building 1200 museum and allowed additional funds to be spent on a visitors program. In November 1980, the improved Visitor's Center opened, with Terry Malone, a retired NASA employee, named to operate a limited program for public visitors.29

With the announcement that the 1984 World's Fair would be held in New Orleans, NASA Headquarters supported developing a first-class NSTL Visitors Center. This was a direct result of the Agency's desire to showcase NASA programs, and rightly so, as NASA officials expected many World's Fair visitors to stop at the Mississippi facility on their way to New Orleans.30

Hlass called in favors from friends at Headquarters and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to obtain funding for the project. Most of the money - to renovate Building 1200, enlarge the museum, and develop a thematic exhibit portraying space program history and NSTL activities - came from the profits of KSC's Visitors Center. The Johnson Space Center (JSC) helped by furnishing contractor exhibit specialists and art work through a cooperative venture.31

The NSTL Visitors Center, with a theme of "Space-Oceans-Earth" was opened 1 day before the grand opening of the New Orleans's World Fair on May 12, 1984. Mississippi Congressman Trent Lott was principal speaker and Astronaut Terry Hart, who had just repaired a satellite in space, joined the NSTL employees at the dedication. Highly successful, 175,000 people visited the center the first year, with numbers eventually leveling off to about 100,000 people per year.32

In 1985, in answer to President Ronald Reagan's (1911-) "Operation Liftoff" call to help America's young people learn more about science and math, Teacher Resource Centers were established at all NASA's field centers and installations.Hlass organized another interdisciplinary team and built one [303] of NASA's best teacher centers, located in the Visitors Center basement. In addition to the outreach education and visitor programs, the NSTL ventured into other youth-oriented endeavors and achieved recognition from NASA Headquarters and national scouting organizations. In 1980, Hlass agreed to host a "Summer Apprenticeship Program" for area high school students selected on the basis of their academic backgrounds, personal interviews, and interests in math and science programs. The selected students were placed in different NSTL laboratories and work areas, where they would gain on-the-job experience. A NASA mentor was assigned to assist each student. Curtis Graves, director of Education Programs at NASA Headquarters, commented, after the first apprenticeship program was successfully completed, that the NSTL had the "best coordinated and conducted program" in all of NASA.33

In addition to the apprenticeship program, the NSTL organized one of the largest Explorer Scout Posts in the nation, with a charter membership of 67 youths from nearby communities. Called "Space-Oceans-Earth," the Scout Post offered young people leadership learning activities in several disciplines represented by the federal and state agencies in residence at the NSTL.34


Selecting Future Leaders

The youth and education initiatives by Jerry Hlass sowed the seeds for development of potential future leaders for the space program and the nation. The first major management change occurred when Henry Auter, often referred to as the NSTL's "gentle giant," retired in February 1980. Auter, who was associated with the installation since its 1961 inception when he helped to plan and build it, was appointed deputy manager in 1963. He went on to serve in that capacity under Captain William Fortune, Jackson Balch, and Jerry Hlass.35

[304] Hlass launched a search to replace his dedicated "strong right arm" after Auter decided to step down. Several (six or seven) very capable managers from throughout NASA were interview for the position. Using his management and engineering skills, Hlass developed a matrix of questions that he asked the candidates and then used for detailed comparison. In Hlass's mind, the selection had to be from a group of applicants with the very best qualifications, since he knew that his choice would probably become the future NSTL director.36

Roy Estess, one of the candidates that Hlass was considering, presented an most impressive resume, which included a long history at the NSTL that began in February 1966. During the Saturn V acceptance test program, Estess was a key member of the S-II static-firing test team, subsequently, he directed the advanced planning effort for SSME testing.37

As an assistant to former site manager Jackson Balch, Estess was one of the "marketeers" who, in the early 1970s, had scouted the technical community for space- and environmental-oriented agencies to locate at the site. Balch confided to his associates that Estess was his "number one man" in the recruiting endeavor. With Estess's knowledge of the onsite agencies and their activities, he became head of the Applications Engineering (AE) office. Hlass recognized that in an AE technical management position, Estess would work closely with federal and state managers involved in the application of remote sensing and technology transfer activities. In 1977, Estess was named a division manager in the NSTL ERL. Estess and his employees of the very visible and popular Regional Applications Program (RAP) were charged with assisting 17 Sun Belt states in transferring Landsat technology to help in management of a number of programs, including land use and agriculture.38

Hlass, a firm believer in the attributes of a quality formal education, knew Estess had a bachelor of science in Aerospace Engineering from Mississippi State University. Active in his alma mater's affairs, Estess also held membership on the Advisory Committee to the College of Engineering at the university. [305] Estess was also a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Mississippi Energy Resource and Development Committee.39

Hlass, however, admitted that education was not the only important factor considered when he was selecting a deputy director. Hlass also looked at the "character" of the candidates; in Roy Estess, he found a devoted family man. Estess and his wife were natives of Tylertown, Mississippi and had two children, Stephen Andrew and Mauri. A resident of Picayune, Estess was involved in a number of civic and church activities, and was named Citizen of the Year in 1974 for his contributions to the community. At the time of the selection, he had been a scoutmaster for 12 years and was on the Executive Council of the Pine Burr Council of Boy Scouts, covering the south Mississippi area.40

Based on Estess's experience, education, and personal credentials, Hlass selected him as his deputy effective 29 August 1980. Hlass was most impressed by Estess's ability to communicate with people at all levels, a point evident in his management of the ERL's RAP, where Estess was in contact with state officials, university scholars, and politicians. Indeed, Hlass's choice of Estess as his deputy was an important decision affecting long-range plans for the installation and, ultimately, the history of the center. After serving over 8 years as deputy director, Estess became director of the John C. Stennis Space Center in January 1989.41

Hlass made another appointment that had far-reaching effects on the installation when he asked Harry Guin to join the director's staff as assistant for Program Planning and Development. Guin moved his office to the onsite Rouchon House 1 May 1983, and began assisting Hlass in searching for new programs. Essentially, Guin became a one-man future projects office, a position utilizing upwards of 25 scientists, engineers, and planners at other NASA centers.42

[306] Guin, who enjoyed meeting and working with new people, such as program managers and planners at Headquarters and other centers, was a natural for the position. The University of Alabama graduate was known for his "soft shoe" presentations and his forceful, "Coach Bear Bryant," persuasive personality. Many considered him a "born leader," who quickly attracted friends and motivated people.43

Hlass encouraged Guin to get involved with the people managing programs such as the U.S. Air Force Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, National Aerospace Plane, the NASA Commercial Programs Office, and the Space Station. With continued support and encouragement from Hlass, Guin was instrumental in helping the NSTL gain work in all of these major programs. Guin's dogged persistence and belief that the NSTL should seek its future where it began - as the nation's premier center for propulsion testing - paid off years later. Sadly, Guin lost his life in an untimely automobile accident in 1993.44


The Earth Resources Laboratory: Studying The Earth From Space

By 1980 when Jerry Hlass selected Estess as his deputy and Guin as his future projects manager, the NSTL Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) was completing its first decade conducting research investigations to demonstrate applications of remote sensing techniques. Using data generated by satellites, aircraft, and human-operated spacecraft, the "Lab" had been extraordinarily successful in learning how to utilize specialized information for practical use here on Earth. Perhaps, even more importantly, the Lab scientists and technicians became masters at teaching others how to utilize remote sensing technology in a wide variety of areas, such as agriculture planning, resources management, and environmental monitoring.45

The ERL moved from the NSTL to the Slidell Computer Center (later known as the Slidell Computer Complex) early in 1976 to make way for the [307] Navy. Hlass, however, convinced NASA Headquarters to fold the Lab back into his NSTL organization in 1977. The administrative functions of the ERL were moved from Slidell to the NSTL almost immediately. As soon as the Navy transferred to its new NSTL quarters, vacating the old ERL spaces, the rest of the Lab's people returned to the site, with the exception of a small unit of about 20 people responsible for photographic processing and field-verification data. At that time about 25 civil service personnel and 85 support contractor personnel with Lockheed Management Services Company were associated with the ERL. During its organizational life, the Lab's workforce ranged from 25 to 50 civil servants and 80 to 175 Lockheed support personnel.46

The ERL's first director was Robert O. Piland, a respected member of Dr. Robert Gilruth's science staff at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (JSC), Houston, Texas.Piland organized the ERL at Houston and established it at the NSTL when the site was still named the Mississippi Test Facility in 1970 as a component of JSC - at the insistence of Senators Stennis and Ellender. D.W. "Wayne" Mooneyhan, a member of the Saturn V test team at the MTF and a key member of Jackson Balch's staff, was named ERL's first deputy director. Mooneyhan succeeded Piland as director in 1973, when the latter returned to Houston.47

Like Estess, Mooneyhan was instrumental in helping Balch develop his strategy for bringing in new business and new agencies when the Apollo program began to wane. In fact, Mooneyhan, who worked side-by-side with Estess during the S-II rocket testing, was preparing the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) proposal, when he was selected as deputy to Piland for the new ERL in 1970. Mooneyhan approached the ERL deputy director's position [308] with excellent management experience literally proven "under fire," while the static- testing of the powerful Saturn V stages - when split-second decisions were crucial. His credentials and knowledge of the NSTL dated back to his early days as a member of the Working Group in Huntsville.48

A little-known fact that also played heavily in Mooneyhan's selection as the Lab's first deputy director was his work with Piland and Gilruth in creating the ERL. After Senators Stennis and Ellender insisted that NASA locate a program at the MTF to show "good faith," Piland and Gilruth came to the site at the direction of NASA Headquarters. Mooneyhan spent 2 days working with the JSC executives and the result was the framework for the early ERL.49

Basically, the Lab was designed to be compatible with the environmental agencies planned for the MTF and to be responsive to the needs of the user community in the Gulf South. Because of internal NASA "territorial disputes" the jurisdiction on paper limited the ERL facilities to research investigations in Mississippi and Louisiana.50

Surrounding Mississippi was the JSC territory in Texas, and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) territory in Alabama and Tennessee. The KSC territory was in nearby Florida. The ERL quickly and quietly extended its boundaries into other states, and eventually expanded until it was literally performing its mission on a global scale, with the United Nations as one of its customers. The extent of the ERL's reach was exemplified when Mooneyhan was invited to present a paper in 1979 on "Improvement of Selected Satellite Applications Through the Use of Microwave Data" at the Congress of the International Astronautical Federation in Munich, Germany. Every nation in the world was represented at the gathering. Obviously, the ERL had grown from its modest, regional status into an organization of national and international prominence.51

Nevertheless, the Lab's simple organizational structure allowed it to easily expand as technology developed and the user community demands grew. The [309] ERL's first organizational plan placed Piland as director; Mooneyhan in charge of the Land Remote Sensing Applications group; E.L. "Lee" Tilton, III, chief of the Sea Remote Sensing Applications group; and S.L. "Sid" Whitley, lead of the Data Acquisition and Management group.52

The very nature of remote sensing technology immediately pointed the researchers to state, local, and private enterprise practical needs. With the almost unlimited data from Landsat after it was launched in 1972 and added mobility with the Lab Lear Jet, their test beds for research and markets for applications of space and airborne technology were virtually unlimited, bound only by the imagination of Mooneyhan and his researchers.53

The Laboratory personnel's pioneering technology led them to study the rain forest in South America; help inventory vast lands of the Navajo Indians in New Mexico; study plant life in Olympic National Park in Washington; catalog wheat fields in Kansas; and even explore archaeological sites in search of ancient civilizations in Peruvian jungles.54

As the Lab's reputation flourished, they were called for immediate assistance when hurricanes struck Florida and the Gulf Coast; tornadoes touched down in Mississippi and Alabama; forest fires raged in northern California, and mosquitoes invaded villages in Kenya. One of it's most effective programs was helping stem the flow of illicit drugs into our country by identifying growth areas of certain plants in Mexico. In a joint U.S.ÄMexican government program, Curb Illegal Narcotics (CIN) Lab personnel working in potentially dangerous situations, concluded that their studies showed a drastic reduction in the amounts of dangerous Mexican drugs available for smuggling into the U.S. Veteran ERL [310] scientists and researchers all agree that the CIN program, the Navajo Indian lands inventory, and the Olympic park plant life study were extremely important programs and good examples of their work. One additional program that gave the ERL an opportunity to showcase its wide array of space technology and applications skills was the Regional Applications Program (RAP).55

Initiated in 1977 by the Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications, RAP was designed to provide a mechanism for transferring Landsat remote sensing technology to state and local government agencies involved in resource management. The NSTL program incorporated the 17 "Sun Belt" states.56

Indeed, the ERL was "outside" its originally assigned territory, operating in the backyards of not only the MSFC, but the JSC and the KSC as well. The assignment was gerrymandered to give the ERL the midwestern states to assist in the project. The expertise the Lab demonstrated in its first 7 years of operation was proof for Headquarters that the ERL was up to their assigned task.57

With Roy Estess as ERL RAP manager, the program was tailor-made for ERL scientists and researchers to apply technology in many areas of interest to state governments. Mooneyhan has stated that Estess "worries about people," and that as the RAP manager, he was very effective in communicating with the state officials and people at all levels of the political hierarchy. Estess said the success of RAP was enhanced by the involvement and personal support of Wayne Mooneyhan - ERL director. The staff's level of commitment to excellence was evident within one year every Sun Belt state was contacted and began learning how to use the data from space.58

The RAP projects included automatic computer classification of Landsat data of a land area selected by a state as an information source for important resource management decisions. The program also provided hands-on [311] training in using computers to analyze Landsat information. P.K. "Pat" Conner followed Roy Estess in the RAP manager's position when Estess was appointed Deputy Director of the NSTL.59

Conner became the NSTL's first woman technical manager. She previously worked for the National Park Service with the Navajo Indian Nation in its resource management programs. With her experience and proven management ability, Conner quickly gained the respect of subordinate researchers working with her and the state officials and technical personnel she dealt with. She is remembered today for her effective contributions at the NSTL and later at NASA Headquarters.60

The ERL research and remote sensing applications endeavors were not limited to projects requiring formal arrangements, such as RAP. The Lab scientists found the development of computer technology and specialized sensors could be applied to more human uses - as medical diagnostic tools and as inventions to assist low-vision persons to "see," even if classified legally blind.61

Many scientists and researchers were responsible for ERL's pioneering developments in remote sensing and applications, some of whom worked for Lockheed. The Lab's scientists and researchers were very effective because Mooneyhan encouraged them to pursue their ideas and utilize their own special talents in a nonrestrictive atmosphere, much like the early days of the famous Bell Labs when so many noted inventions came from the scientists associated with that famous institution.62

Dr. Armond Joyce came to the ERL with a specialty in environmental science and forestry, a combination in great demand in the early days of the Lab. Joyce additionally had used remote sensing when researching both his master's thesis and his Ph.D. dissertation. He came to the ERL with four [312] years experience in the operational use of remote sensing for natural resource inventory throughout the U.S. Central America, and South America. Recruited in 1971 by Alex Perisich, then assistant to the director of the ERL - Robert Piland , Joayce was a civil servant transfer from a position with the Natural Resource Division of the Interamerican Geodetic Survey to ERL. The purpose of his transfer was to develop applications for land resource inventory and monitoring through remote sensing.63

Prior to recruitment, Joyce read about the ERL in The Miami Herald when he was involved in environmental work in the Panama Canal Zone in 1971. The newspaper article said the work of the newly organized ERL would be "international" in scope. Joyce was to discover, however, after talking with Piland that the concept for the Lab had changed. According to Piland, after the article was written, it was decided that the Lab would at first be "regional," but the ERL's work would become international because "satellites look at the whole world." Piland's prediction proved to be correct.64

S.L. "Sid" Whitley, another researcher, worked as project mathematician, evaluating the performances of guided-missile systems and space probes. Earlier in his career, Whitley was responsible for testing parachutes used in the Project Mercury human spaceflight program. Whitley, who previously worked at the JSC, was one of the early scientists transferred to the Lab in 1971. He served as chief of the Data Acquisition and Management group in the early ERL organization and later became deputy director of the laboratory.65

As an ERL physicist and botanist, Dr. W.G. "Bill" Cibula gained recognition with his research in mycology, the study of fungi, and ecology. Noted for his contributions to the Olympic National Park study, which Mooneyhan called a space "benchmark" for remote sensing, Cibula enjoyed the challenge of "taking a piece of information and determining its usefulness." Like Joyce and Whitley, Cibula traces his attachment to the Lab back to 1971.66

[313] In more recent times, the Lab has acquired the unique and extraordinary talents of NASA's only archaeologist, Dr. T.J. "Tom" Sever. Sever pioneered the use of advanced aircraft and satellite remote sensing technology to study ancient civilizations in Central and South America.Through Sever's research, using remote sensing, an extensive area of Mayan sites were identified beneath a rain forests canopy in the Peten area of Guatemala, which is considered the Mayan civilization heartland.67

Also, through Sever's studies, information was revealed that suggested a civilization existed in the subtropical Peruvian jungles prior to that of the Incas. Sever's work was recognized by the University of Colorado, where he received the prestigious Morris Award, and by the National Geographic Society, which has included his work in its studies and even funded his research into the fascinating Mayan civilizations.68

One creative ERL scientist used ERL technology in a cooperative effort with John Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Douglas Rickman managed a project, using technology developed for computer processing of satellite images, that culminated in improving visual capability of low-vision patients by enhancing and altering images to compensate for their impaired eyesight.69

In another project, Rickman teamed with researcher Jim Anderson to develop image-enhancement techniques that advanced the diagnostic tools of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance scans. This project was a partnership between NASA's ERL and the Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.70

Jerry Flanagan, ERL researcher, grew up in Louisiana where he spent his free time and spare money launching model rockets. With NASA, he became one of the first engineers to take part in an aircraft remote sensing technology program. Flanagan previously worked at the JSC on a variety of experimental packages flown on the Space Shuttle. He transferred to the NSTL in 1976 and began directing ERL data-acquisition activities, including building [314] remote sensors. The inventive work of Flanagan and others contributed to the Lab reputation of "world class" sensor development.71

The ERL chief of the Systems Development Branch in the mid-1980s, Billie Edwards played a major role in keeping the NSTL on the "leading edge" of automated data-processing technology. While serving as ERL's acting director in 1985, Roy Estess said Edwards was largely responsible for developing several large and complex data-processing systems at the NSTL and abroad.72

True, ERL scientists and researchers used their expertise across the nation and, literally, around the world. But wherever they traveled, most of them took along part, what many referred to as the "heart," of the Lab, a special computer-software package developed by Ronnie Pearson, a colleague still remembered by ERL personnel.73


Alabama native Ronnie Pearson, a mathematician in the National Space Technology Laboratories' (NSTL) Earth Resources Laboratory, designed most of the Earth Resources Laboratory Applications Software (ELAS), the Laboratory's basic software package. (SSC-80-122-9).

Alabama native Ronnie Pearson, a mathematician in the National Space Technology Laboratories' (NSTL) Earth Resources Laboratory, designed most of the Earth Resources Laboratory Applications Software (ELAS), the Laboratory's basic software package. (SSC-80-122-9).


An unorthodox computer genius, Pearson took bits and pieces of some basic research from the Lab's early days and developed the Earth Resources Laboratory Applications Software (ELAS) package that became an information [315] mainstay for the Lab scientists and technicians. ELAS is a transferable set of software for processing imagery data, as well as topographic, soil, rainfall, and other data, to produce resource management and socioeconomic information.74

The software was used by Lab personnel and taught to others in special classes and demonstrations. ELAS was also distributed to remote sensing data users all over the U.S. and in foreign countries. By 1984, the software was used in 25 states, 150 government agencies, and in scores of foreign countries, where remote sensing research and development were conducted. ELAS is still the basic package used by United Nation's experts everywhere.75

The influence of the Lab and its scientists and researchers will be felt for many years to come. A shift at NASA Headquarters, in the early and mid-1980s, from an emphasis on technology applications to "pure science," caused a funding drain that almost extinguished the once vibrant Lab.76

Mooneyhan left in 1985 to become director of the United Nations's Global Information Resources Data Base in Geneva, Switzerland, and his long-time friend and colleague, Roy Estess, was assigned by Hlass to serve as interim ERL director. Evidence of the Lab's research is still prevalent wherever people study Earth from the vantage point of space, whether in the public or private sector, and in military use for the defense of our country.77


A Blooming Science

In the shadows of the giant rocket test stands and just a shout away from the humming computers displaying images from space, a down-to-earth science emerged at the NSTL from what appeared to be a common lily pond. Dr. B.C. "Billy" Wolverton and Rebecca C. "Becky" McDonald began their Vascular Aquatic Plant program with the beautiful but dreaded, water hyacinth plant. Wolverton and McDonald converted the pesky, nuisance plant into a useful natural resource.78

[316] The water hyacinth - the fastest growing plant known to humans - is one of the most successful colonizers in the plant world. Originating in Venezuela, the water hyacinth was first brought to this country by Japanese exhibitors at the 1884 Cotton States Exposition in New Orleans. Because of their beautiful blossoms, the plants were kept as souvenirs in New Orleans and its vicinity; as a result, the hyacinth spread all over the southeastern United States. Unfortunately, the hyacinth gained an outlaw reputation because it hampered traffic in waterways. Before Wolverton began his research at the MTF in 1971, government and private entities paid large sums of money trying to eradicate the plants. Through the plant program, however, the hyacinth became useful as a natural resource, cleaning domestic and laboratory waste water with its large root system resembling octopus tentacles. Wolverton and McDonald used the plants, which produce beautiful lavender blossoms to clean all waste generated at the NSTL, including laboratory waste containing chemicals and heavy metals.79

In the final analysis, the plant program saved the government more than $1 million up front, and millions more for operations and maintenance will be saved over the years. Wolverton gained worldwide recognition for the Vascular Aquatic Plant program. Newsmen, from Germany, England, Japan, and many other countries, visited the NSTL in order to obtain the plant program story for their viewers. Wolverton and the aquatic plant program were also featured on major American television networks, such as NBC and CNN. In addition, Wolverton assisted with designing and installing similar waste treatment systems in Coral Springs,Disney World, Florida; Hercules, and San Diego, California; and Rio Hondo, Texas.80

Before his career with ERL ended, Wolverton was inducted into the U.S. Space Foundation Hall of Fame. Billy Wolverton and Rebecca "Becky" McDonald received many other awards and recognitions for their simple "blooming science," and they are continuing their work in separate endeavors for NASA and private industry.81


[317] Hlass's Plan Pays Off

As the NSTL approached the mid 1980s, Jerry Hlass was able to see most of his goals and "vision" for the South Mississippi NASA site attained. He set out with a carefully planned agenda when he took over in 1976. In a sometimes methodical, deliberate fashion, Hlass kept ticking off his early action items, which included a new mission statement that was quickly completed and approved at Headquarters. By 1985, the NSTL had control over a strong and effective SSME support role, complete with independent, Headquarter's adequate funding. The Hlass team provided relocation and settling of the Navy's oceanographic programs, with its approximately 1,400 personnel. The NSTL also gained an internationally recognized ERL program, and the NASA organization evolved into an effective, high-morale, "can do" team, applauded by Headquarters for its accomplishments.82

Hlass improved community relations and morale with the Partners in Progress Community program, increased community participation in the NSTL activities; and education and visitor programs for area youth. Improved resident agency relations resulted in "tenant satisfaction," and a "new look" for the facility, with a new tugboat, a Lear Jet, and sitewide maintenance on major items, such as the navigation lock and cryogenic barges. In addition, he increased contractor morale with "quality circles," "excellence" study programs, awards, and recognitions. He also initiated future planning, with employee participation in management retreats, quarterly reviews, and interdisciplinary team planning.83

With his original goals achieved and his vision for a "new NSTL" in sight, Hlass applied his own progressive philosophy by pursuing new work for his people. With Harry Guin as his point person, Hlass set out to garner two new programs: a modest role in the Space Station program and a lead role in the developing Commercial Programs initiative at Headquarters.84

President Ronald Reagan's Space Station program announcement on 25 January 1984 was a boost to the Agency and the aerospace industry. With [318] Hlass's vision for a "new NSTL" in sight, the Space Station initiative came as especially good news for the NSTL. The Space Station would mean additional SSME testing because: (1) the Space Shuttle would be used to ferry materials and people into orbit to build and operate the orbiting station, and (2) the ERL expertise earned a reputation for quality development of spaceborne sensors; and (3) the ERL had the ability to help find appropriate users for the bold new Space Station.85

Participation in these important national programs gave every appearance that the NSTL's "time" had come. In fact, Hlass commented immediately after Reagan's Space Station announcement that he "hoped [the] NSTL would be assigned roles in [such an] exciting and important program." He also stated that the "Station" would mean the NSTL would be required to test SSME's for "years to come."86

In addition to the known mission of SSME testing for the Space Shuttle's trips to the Station, the NSTL was assigned a support role to the Goddard Space Flight Center for designing a system to produce simulated payload statistics to evaluate the capability of the customer data system before its installation in the Space Station.87

The NSTL was also given a role to assist commercial entities in research processes that would ultimately lead them to perform missions on the Space Station. Guin described this NSTL task as a mission "to provide an interface with industry and establish their set of needs and requirements to be incorporated into the ultimate Space Station design where it will be available for them when they get ready to use it."88

Key NSTL personnel working on the Space Station project were Sid Whitley, chief of the Sensor and Data Systems Group, and systems analyst Joel Wakeland, charged with design of the simulation system. Pat Conner, chief of Applications Research, was responsible for leading promotion of the Space Station commercial remote sensing mission; the initial task was to develop requirements for [319] potential commercial missions. The NSTL worked with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the project.89

The Space Station was not the only program the NSTL obtained during its rejuvenated search for new missions. In August 1985, five NASA-funded, nationwide, incentive grants were awarded for "research to promote and stimulate space technology commercial applications." The Mississippi Institute of Technology Development (ITD) in Jackson, Mississippi, received one of these grants to establish the Space Remote Sensing Center (SRSC) at the NSTL. With the new emphasis at NASA Headquarters on commercially-oriented programs, the NSTL was selected in August 1985 as one of five recipients nationwide to host a commercial program.90

The Space Remote Sensing Center was located at the NSTL in order to capitalize on the expertise and technology of the ERL. Congressman Trent Lott announced that $3.5 million would initially be spent on the SRSC and that 25 high-tech people would be employed.91

Hlass, Guin, and David Brannon led the way in obtaining the new program, which would receive funding over the next five years. The NSTL management considered the assignment of a national center for the commercial development of space a credit to the installation's ability to manage programs. The other NASA-funded grants were assigned to the Battelle Institute, Columbus, Ohio; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the University of Alabama, Huntsville; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.92

The NSTL, however, was the only NASA installation selected to host one of the new commercial space centers. The Mississippi facility became one of the six divisions of the ITD, and gained even more recognition in the "commercial" world.93


[320] Before The Fall

In less than a decade, Jerry Hlass and his team obtained new programs - involving the ERL, Space Station, and the ITD SRSC. There were no complaints about the NSTL's support of the SSME test program. On the contrary, NASA Headquarters and the MSFC publicly recognized the support government-contractor crew. The recognition focused primarily on the fact that the NSTL never held up a major engine static firing, including the huge task of proving the Space Shuttle's Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA).94

True, the engine testing was at its peak, but there was activity all over the growing installation by the end of 1985. Workers were actually crowded on the big complex, with 4,724 people working for a myriad of space, environmental, and national defense agencies. The Navy successfully relocated 1,389 people from Suitland, Maryland, and the giant Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant employed 1,459 people for its manufacturing program. New construction was under way all over the base, including a new NASA conference center, and a Navy building, plus additions and modifications to other buildings.95

Locally, community relations could not be better for the positive-minded Jerry Hlass. In 1985, a proud Hlass reported that the NSTL had just pumped $171 million into the economy of south Mississippi. The NSTL employees also contributed over $120,000 to the Combined Agencies Campaign, which disbursed funds to local charities. In November 1985, the NSTL hosted the kickoff of the "Partners For Progress" program, jointly sponsored by the NSTL and the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. Hlass was pleased with his new community friend, John Mason, president of the Hancock Chamber.96

In 1985, the NSTL also participated in the NASA Teacher In Space project, designed to provide NASA with the first civilian to go into space on the Space Shuttle in early 1986. The Teacher In Space project was first announced in August 1984; and Jim McMurtray, NSTL aerospace education [321] specialist, was chosen by NASA Headquarters to be one of the project mentors. With the help of others at the NSTL, McMurtray was successful in soliciting several hundred Mississippi applicants. The two finalists chosen to represent Mississippi were Connie Moore from Oak Grove High School in Lamar County and Joanne Reid of the Weir Attendance Center in Choctaw County.97

The popularity of the Teacher in Space project was evidenced when over 10,000 applicants responded from all 50 states. The competition and the teacher's flight on the shuttle were designed to "bring the space program down to Earth," so most Americans would identify with space travel, and to add to the prominence of the teaching profession. The applicant chosen was Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a devoted and energetic social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire.98


They Touched The Face Of God

For years, NASA advertised that the Space Shuttle would provide the nation with "routine access to space."With 24 successful flights, a space-struck American public had no reason to think otherwise. NASA officials debated what category of Americans should be the first civilians to fly in space. Many thought the first civilian should be a newsperson, someone who had the talent and background for recording the mission.99

President Reagan's "Project Liftoff," administered by NASA resulted in the final decision that the first civilian to fly in space should be a teacher. As a result,Christa McAuliffe was the envy of practically every teacher in America as she trained in Houston for the January 1986 flight. She followed a rigorous training program, similar to that of a payload specialist, but not as intensive as an astronaut. In addition, McAuliffe developed "lesson plans" to use during the flight in a classroom in space, enabling literally millions of [322] children across America to have the opportunity to listen to discussions by McAulliffe from space.100

The Space Shuttle flight of 51-L, using the orbiter Challenger, finally got its turn on the launch pad in January 1986. After four bothersome postponements, the major concern related to the launch was a weather forecast of extremely frigid weather to follow the blustery winds whipping against the shuttle pad. Weather officials predicted a mass of cold arctic air would drop temperatures below freezing on the morning of the launch. Nevertheless, NASA proceeded with preparations for Challenger's launch on 28 January 1986, hoping for a break in the weather and the opportunity to avoid another delay.101

Along with McAuliffe, the crew members represented a cross section of American society. The crew included Commander Francis R. "Dick" Scobee, 46, from Cle Elum, Washington, who was making his second shuttle flight; Pilot Michael J. Smith, 40, from Beaufort, North Carolina, who had waited years for the flight; Ellison S. Onizuka, 39, born in Kaelakekua, Kona, Hawaii; Ronald E. McNair, 35, a native of Lake City, South Carolina; Judith A. Resnik, a 36-year-old native of Akron, Ohio; and Gregory B. Jarvis, 41, Detroit, Michigan, a Hughes Aircraft Company satellite engineer and payload specialist.102

On the morning of the launch, the sunshine's bright rays illuminated a blue sky and lit up the beaches at Cape Canaveral, boosting the spirits of the faithful spectators huddling in the freezing cold to watch the launch. The major news story in Florida that day was the cold weather, not the launch of Challenger. Citrus growers in central and south Florida were very concerned about near-freezing temperatures because they were afraid that they would lose millions of dollars worth of crops. As a result, on the morning of the ill-fated Challenger launch, most Florida residents were more concerned with the weather than the success of the launch.103

In Mississippi, over 200 school children from the local gathered at the NSTL Visitors Center to watch the launch on NASA's closed circuit television. The [323] children had closely followed Christa McAuliffe's preparations for the flight and anticipated her expected lessons from space. A number of NSTL employees also had a special interest in the launch, because most of the crew had visited installation. Sadly, during pilot Mike Smith's last visit, he told his escort to "keep your fingers crossed that I will soon be assigned to a flight."104

Cheers went up when the Challenger lifted off in a loud, popping roar from Pad 39-B at 11:38 a.m. EST on 28 January 1986 and quickly accelerated into the deep blue sky over the ocean. Watching the liftoff, with the families of the crew, were 119 Teacher In Space finalists and several thousand public well-wishers. Everyone cheered and pointed to the sky as the Challenger rolled and moved swiftly upward for 73 seconds. Then, the shuttle came apart in a giant, ugly off-color pinkish-red fireball, right before everyone's eyes! What NASA feared secretly as a "worse case scenario" had happened.105

The falling spacecraft pieces left streaming contrails of white smoke as they descended downward into the Atlantic Ocean. Scores of chunks of the Challenger fluttered toward the blue ocean, as if from an exploding Fourth of July skyrocket - falling, splashing, bit-by-bit into the sea. Millions watching on television, like the thousands of viewers at the Cape and the NSTL Visitors Center, were at first dumbfounded. Many reported they thought the crew would somehow escape. Some who saw the awful tableau said they thought the careening solid-rocket motors that were sent off in divergent directions after the fireball were "escape rockets." No one had ever seen such a sight at Cape Canaveral before.106

Steve Nesbitt, the public affairs commentator at Mission Control in Houston, in a calm, informative, but disbelieving voice, announced, "Obviously we have a major malfunction...We have no down link...We have a report from the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded."107

The loss of the Challenger and its crew on Space Shuttle flight 51-L devastated the nation and the world. The crew's enthusiastic supporters at the NSTL were specifically affected by the awful explosion - for two reasons. The workers at the Mississippi space facility knew most of the members of [324] the crew, for they visited the site early in their careers as astronauts. Some returned to witness shuttle engine static-firings and to learn more about the main propulsion system that drives all American Space Shuttles.108

Even worse for the NSTL workers, immediately following the disaster many in the media believed the explosion was caused by a failure of an SSME that had been test-fired at the NSTL. As a result, the hours following the disaster were an extremely painful and frustrating time for the men and women of the NSTL. There was some comfort to be gained by the south Mississippi men and women when it was confirmed that the accident was caused by a failure in the joint between the two lower segments of the right Solid Rocket Motor.109



1. Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities (New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1969), p. 1; Lovell Beaulieu, "NASA Rocketing Into The '80s," The New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune (henceforth referred to as The Times-Picayune), 20 January 1980; Roger D. Launius, NASA: A History Of The U.S. Civil Space Program (Malabar, FL: Kreiger Publishing Company, 1994), p. 112; Henry C. Dethloff, Suddenly Tomorrow Came...A History Of The Johnson Space Center (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics And Space Administration SP-4307, 1993), p. 285; William B. Breuer, Race To The Moon, America's Duel With The Soviets (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993), p. 196.

2. "NSTL Receives Good Notices In State, Area Press Coverage," Lagniappe, 17 August 1979, Stennis Space Center Historical Records Collection (henceforth referred to as the SSCHRC); "Accomplishments Receive Extensive Press Coverage," Lagniappe, 13 February 1981, SSCHRC; "NASA Employees Recognized For Outstanding Achievements," Lagniappe, 25 September 1980, SSCHRC.

3. Ibid.

4. "Journalists To Fly On Space Shuttle," Lagniappe, 20 November 1985, SSCHRC; Howard Benedict, The Journey Continues (Houston: Pioneer Publications, Inc., 1989), pp. 101-102.

5. Benedict, The Journey Continues, pp. 104-106; William P. Rogers, et.al, Report Of The Presidential Commission On The Space Shuttle Accident (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986), pp. 19-21.

6. "NSTL Joins Nation In Tribute To Challenger Crew," Lagniappe, 20 February 1986, SSCHRC; "Jerry Hlass Speaks To NASA, Contractor Teams," Lagniappe, 21 April 1986, SSCHRC.

7. "Army Welcomed To NSTL Family," Lagniappe, 23 January 1978, SSCHRC; "Senator Stennis Greatly Impressed During October Visit to NSTL," Lagniappe, 3 November 1978, SSCHRC; Mack Herring, "U.S. Senator John C. Stennis: He Was A Giant In Every Way," Lagniappe, 25 May 1995, SSCHRC; "Stennis Tribute Dinner, June 23, 1988," Congressional Record, 100th Congress, vol. 134, No. 105, Senate, 13 July 1988.

8. "Salute To Senator Stennis," The (Bay St. Louis, MS) Sea Coast Echo (henceforth referred to as The Sea Coast Echo), 30 April 1995.

9. Ibid.; Nan Patton Ehrbright, "Stennis' Life, Work Saluted," The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Sun Herald (henceforth referred to as The Sun Herald), 4 August 1988; It is interesting to note that kudzu vines are found throughout the South and choke all other vegetation they come in contact with.

10. "John C. Stennis Space Center," Lagniappe, 20 May 1986, SSCHRC; See chapters 9 and 10 of this book for a good discussion of the Navy's relocation from Suitland, Maryland, to the NSTL.

11. "Salute To Senator Stennis," The Sea Coast Echo, 30 April 1995.

12. "Army Welcomed To NSTL Facility," Lagniappe, 23 January 1978, SSCHRC; "Watch For Speculators," Rural Electric News, December 1961.

13. "Army Welcomed..." Lagniappe.

14. "Stennis Pleased With NSTL Progress," Lagniappe, 23 January 1978, SSCHRC.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Douglas Nanney, "Stennis, Navy Secretary Tour NSTL," Picayune (MS) Item (henceforth referred to as the Picayune Item), 5 April 1981; "Stennis, Navy Secretary, Visits Site," Lagniappe, April 1981, SSCHRC.

18. "Army Plant Dedicated," Lagniappe, 17 April 1983, SSCHRC.

19. Interview, Jerry Hlass by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 27 February 1996; "Salute To Senator Stennis," The Sea Coast Echo, 30 April 1995.

20. Mack Herring, "For NSTL...The Best Of Times," Lagniappe, 25 January 1980, SSCHRC; "Lovelace Forecasts Positive Future For NASA, NSTL," Lagniappe, 25 January 1980, SSCHRC.

21. "NASA Employees Recognized For Outstanding Achievements," Lagniappe, 25 September 1980, SSCHRC; Lisa Monti, NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL Conducts Annual Awards Ceremony," 25 October 1984, SSCHRC; Lisa Monti, NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL Employees Receive Major Awards," 22 October 1985, SSCHRC; NASA-NSTL News Release, 10 September 1980 SSCHRC.

22. "Presidential Award Presented To Hlass," Lagniappe, 25 September 1980, SSCHRC.

23. "Installation Hosts Tourism Committee," Lagniappe, 17 August 1981, SSCHRC.

24. Ed Darling, editorial, "NSTL-Picayune: A Good Marriage," Picayune Item, 29 April 1980.

25. "Lott Praises NSTL," Picayune Item, 2 May 1982; "Representative Lott Praises NSTL; Pledges Continued Support," Lagniappe, 19 April 1982, SSCHRC.

26. NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL, Charles B. Murphy School Conduct Cooperative Education Program," 1 February 1984; Lagniappe, 11 November 1977 (first issue), SSCHRC; The Lagniappe was the first sitewide newsletter published at the NSTL.

27. "NASA Establishes Education Outreach Program," The Sea Coast Echo, 16 April 1979; NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL To Host Regional Mathcounts Competition," 13 February 1984 ,SSCHRC; NASA-NSTL News Release, "Teachers Workshop," 7 July 1980, SSCHRC.

28. NASA-NSTL News Release, "Expanded Visitors Center Program Available At NSTL," 14 November 1980, SSCHRC; NASA-NSTL News Release, "NASA-NSTL Visitors Center Enhancement Progresses, 24 January 1984, SSCHRC.

29. Hlass interview.

30. Ibid.; "Chamber Group Plans For '84 World's Fair," Lagniappe, 18 April 1982, SSCHRC.

31. Ibid.

32. Hlass, interview; Mack Herring, NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL To Dedicate Visitors Center," 4 May 1984, SSCHRC; Edith Bierhorst Back, "NSTL Visitors Center Is Dedicated," The Mississippi Gulf Coast Sun/Daily Herald, 12 May 1984; "Good Times Roll' As Fair Gates Open," The Times-Picayune, 13 May 1984.

33. Lisa Monti, NASA-NSTL News Release, "NASA To Dedicate Teacher Resource Center," 25 June 1985, SSCHRC; "Dedication Ceremonies Held For Teacher Resource Center," Lagniappe, 19 July 1985, SSCHRC; Mack Herring, personal notes, master of ceremonies, Teachers Resource Center Dedication, circa June 1985; NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL Summer Research Program," 12 June 1980, SSCHRC.

34. "Space-Oceans-Earth Post Receives Charter From Pine Burr Council," Lagniappe, 17 August 1981, SSCHRC.

35. Jerry Hlass to NASA Deputy Administrator, "Incentive Award - Deputy Manager (Auter)," 19 February 1980, SSCHRC; "Auter Retires At NSTL," Picayune Item, 29 February 1980; "Henry Auter: A Quiet Giant," Lagniappe, 26 February 1980, SSCHRC; Christine Uthoff, "Profile: Quiet Giant, Achieves The Great As Though The Task Were Simple," Picayune Item, 28 April 1985.

36. Hlass, interview; Roy Estess, interview by Henry C. Dethloff, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 444, 1991, SSC, MS, 18 June 1991, p. 21, SSCHRC.

37. Ibid., pp. 7-9; Jerry Hlass to Executive Secretary, Incentive Awards Board, NASA Headquarters, "Nomination of Roy S. Estess for NASA Exceptional Service Medal," 5 May 1981; James M. Beggs to Jerry Hlass, "Estess to Receive Exceptional Service Medal," 27 August 1981, SSCHRC.

38. Estess, interview by Dethloff, p. 10; "Roy Estess Named NSTL Deputy Director, Lagniappe, 25 September 1980, SSCHRC.

39. Ibid.

40. Roy Estess, interview by Mack Herring and Myron Webb, audio tapes, SSC, MS, 7 July 1995, SSCHRC.

41. Hlass, interview; State of Mississippi, House Concurrent Resolution No. 128, "A Concurrent Resolution Commending and Congratulating Roy. S. Estess, Director Of The John C. Stennis Space Center," 27 March 1996; Roy Estess, interview by Mack Herring and Myron Webb, notes and audio tapes, SSC, MS, 24 April 1996, SSCHRC; Gerald Smith, telephone interview by Mack Herring, Atlanta, GA, 18 April 1986; NASA-NSTL News Release, Mack Herring, "Estess Appointed NSTL Deputy Manager," 29 August 1980, SSCHRC; Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 4 April 1996.

42. "Guin Named To Director's Staff," Lagniappe, 5 May 1983, SSCHRC; "Harry Guin Receives New Appointment," Lagniappe, 21 August 1986; Harry Guin, biography, SSCHRC. The author enjoyed a close relationship with Mr. Harry Guin, first meeting him in the summer of 1963. During the many years we worked together on many projects, such as the establishment of the Visitors Center in 1983-84 and the Dedication of the Stennis Space Center in 1988.

43. Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, 27 February 1996; Pat Mooney, interview, Slidell, LA, 30 March 1996.

44. Ibid.

45. T.O. Paine to John C. Stennis, 1 June 1970, NASA Headquarters Historical Reference Collection (henceforth referred to as the NHHRC), Washington, DC; NASA-MSFC News Release, "Establishment of Earth Resources Laboratory," 9 September 1970, SSCHRC; "Earth Resources Program Due For State Facility" Vicksburg, Mississippi Evening Post, 9 September 1970; Paul D. Lowman, Jr., "The Earth From Orbit," National Geographic, Washington, DC, November 1966, pp. 645-670; NASA-NSTL Office of Applications Engineering," National Space Technology Laboratories, capability document, November 1975, pp. 46-47, SSCHRC; NASA-NSTL, "NSTL Earth Resources Laboratory Developing Technology Through Research," brochure, ud., Washington, DC, pp. 1-2, NHRC.

46. "ERL Moving From NSTL To Slidell Facility," The Times-Picayune, 24 January 1976; Maria Watson, "NASA Begins Relocation Of Earth Resources Lab," The Daily Herald, 20 January 1970; NASA-NSTL, briefing, "Relocation of NSTL Earth Resources Laboratory From Slidell Computer Complex To NSTL," 2 May 1979; D.W. "Wayne" Mooneyhan, interview by Mack Herring, Picayune, MS, 5-6 April, 1996.

47. Gil Webre, "MTF's Role In The 70s: "Space Technology," The Times-Picayune, 8 July 1973; Activities Briefing, "Earth Resources Laboratory," Mississippi Test Facility (MTF), 31 March 1972, SSCHRC; Organization Chart, Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL), MTF, 1972, SSCHRC; Dr. C.C. Kraft, "Manned Spacecraft Center, Earth Resources Laboratory Charter," circa 1972, SSCHRC; Kenneth D. "Ken" Cashion, interview by Charles Bolton, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 466, Picayune, Mississippi, 18 August 1993, pp. 6-10, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview.

48. Kraft, "Manned Spacecraft Center"; Estess, interview by Dethloff, pp. 5-6; Mooneyhan, interview.

49. Mooneyhan, interview

50. Ibid.; During interview with author, Mooneyhan alluded to NASA's traditional management scheme in place when the ERL was established. According to NASA's scheme, the U.S. was divided into "territories" and the territories were assigned to the various field centers. Mooneyhan said the ERL did not pay much attention to the foolish territorial chart and eventually operated "worldwide."

51. Mooneyhan, interview; Mack Herring, NASA-NSTL News Release, "Mooneyhan Attends International Congress," 9 November 1979, SSCHRC.

52. ERL Organization Chart, 1972, SSCHRC.

53. "Landsat In Excellent Condition; NSTL Contributions Significant," Lagniappe, 18 August 1982, SSCHRC; NASA-NSTL News Release, "NSTL Jet Assists Firefighters In Northern California Forests," 21 September 1987, SSCHRC; Cashion, interview by Bolton, pp. 15-16; "NSTL Experts Conduct Training For Nation's Top Archaeologists," Lagniappe, 21 September 1987, SSCHRC; "Landsat Successfully Launched," Lagniappe, 19 March 1984, SSCHRC.

54. "Laboratory Hosts World Landsat Group," Lagniappe, 18 May 1979, SSCHRC; Dr. Armond Joyce, telephone interview by Virginia A. Butler, SSC, MS, 22 March 1996; Dr. Armond Joyce, interview by Mack Herring, SSC, MS, 25 March 1996; "ERL's Bill Cibulla Bridges The Gap In Sciences," Lagniappe, 21 September 1987, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview; Joyce, interview by Herring; P. K. "Pat" Conner, interview by Mack Herring, Petal, MS, 4 April 1996; Dianne Johnson, University of Colorado, and Mack Herring, NASA-NSTL, News Release, "NASA, University Of Colorado, Boulder, Team Up For Study Of Peruvian Andes," 17 April 1985, SSCHRC; Leon Perry, NASA Headquarters and Mack Herring, NASA-NSTL, News Release, "NASA Technology Uncovers Possible Ancient Civilization," 29 November 1985, SSCHRC; Myron Webb, NASA-SSC News Release, "NASA Archaelogist Tom Sever Receives Major Award," 16 May 1990, SSCHRC.

55. Joyce, interview by Herring; Conner, interview; "NASA-Navajo Enter Agreement," Lagniappe, 11 November 1977, SSCHRC; "Navajo Project In Second Phase Using Landsat Satellite Data," Lagniappe, 15 March 1979, SSCHRC; Conner, interview.

56. NASA-NSTL Earth Resources Laboratory, "Proposed Plan To Accomplish The Regional Applications Program Assignment To ERL And To Realign ERL With NSTL Organizationally," 1 March 1977, SSCHRC; "Regional Applications Program Transfers Technology To States," Lagniappe, 13 February 1981, SSCHRC; Conner, interview; Mooneyhan, interview; "Regional Symposium Provides 'Open Forum' For Data Users," Lagniappe, 21 November 1979, SSCHRC; Joyce, interview by Herring; Estess, interview by Dethloff, p. 20.

57. NASA-NSTL Earth Resources Laboratory," Proposed Plan..." 1 March 1970; Mooneyhan, interview.

58. "Regional Applications Program Transfers Technology To States," Lagniappe, 13 February 1981, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview.

59. Landsat Demonstration Project Completed In South Carolina," Lagniappe, 19 March 1981, SSCHRC; "Faculty Members Are Students In Remote Sensing Classes," Lagniappe, 23 May 1980, SSCHRC; Conner, interview.

60. "NASA Navajo Enter Agreement," 11 November 1977; "Navajo Project In Second Phase Using Landsat Satellite Data," Lagniappe, 15 March 1979, SSCHRC; Conner, interview; Patricia Penton, interview by Mack Herring, SSC, MS, 4 April 1996.

61. "NSTL Uses Satellite Technology For Analyzing The Human Body," Lagniappe, 20 June 1985, SSCHRC; Mack Herring, NASA-NSTL News Release, "NASA, Johns Hopkins Use Space Technology To Improve Sight," 28 April 1988, SSCHRC; Barbara Selby and Myron Webb, NASA-News Release, "NASA, Johns Hopkins Unveil System To Help Visually Impaired," 13 May 1992, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview; Joyce, interview by Herring; Robert V. Bruce, Bell, Alexander Graham Bell And The Conquest Of Solitude (Boston: Little Brown And Company 1973), pp. 375-378.

62. Joyce, interview by Herring; Joyce, interview by Butler; Dr. Joyce Assists Honduras Officials," Lagniappe, 21 April 1978, SSCHRC.

63. Joyce, interview by Butler.

64. Ibid.

65. David Jones, "Sid Whitley--Working With Landsat, Systems Development," Lagniappe, 22 August 1980, SSCHRC; "Major Agency Awards Presented To NASA's Whitley, Wolverton," Lagniappe, 17 December 1979, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview; Conner, interview; "Peten" Encyclopedea Americana vol. 18 (Danbury, Conn.: Grolier, IN, 1994), p. 540.

66. "ERL's Bill Cibula Bridges The Gap In Science," Lagniappe, 21 September 1987, SSCHRC; Bill Cibula, biography, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan interview.

67. Thomas L. Sever, "Cirriculum Vitae," 1996; Memorandum for the Record, "T. Sever, Trip Report-March 11-22, 1991, Guatemala," 9 April 1991.

68. Ibid.

69. Shelby, Webb, News Release, "NASA, Johns Hopkins..."; Herring, Johnson, News Release, "NASA, University Colorado Team Up..."; "NSTL Uses Space Technology To Assist Low-Vision Patients," Lagniappe, 20 May 1988, SSCHRC.

70. Ibid.

71. David Jones, "NASA's Jerry Flanagan - 'Sensing' Opportunities," Lagniappe, 16 February 1983, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview.

72. "Goals Set And Efforts Put Forth Accomplish Much For Billie Edwards," Lagniappe, 19 July 1985, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview; Estess, interview by Herring and Webb, 7 July 1995.

73. "As Mathematician Stereotype Pearson Does Not Compute," Lagniappe, 25 April 1980, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview.

74. Cashion, interview by Bolton, pp. 9-10.

75. "NSTL To Host ELAS User Group," Lagniappe, 20 September 1984, SSCHRC; Mooneyhan, interview.

76. "Dr. Anthony Calio Visits Installation," Lagniappe, 25 July 1980, SSCHRC; "NASA Employees Recognized For Outstanding Achievements," Lagniappe, 25 September 1980, SSCHRC.

77. Conner, interview; Mooneyhan, interview.

78. Keith Skantz, "Earth Resources Lab Work Helps Farmers, Fisherman," Picayune Item, 25 February 1979; Gil Webre, "Water Hyacinth: A Disposal Plant," The Times-Picayune, 2 March 1975.

79. Ibid.

80. "Research Turns Water Hyacinth From Nuisance To Natural Resource," Lagniappe, 15 June 1979, SSCHRC;

81. Dr. B.C. "Bill" Wolverton, interview by Steven Patterson, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 421, 1993, Picayune, MS, 30 October 1992, pp. 5-10, SSCHRC; Mack Herring, NASA-NSTl News Release, "New Hybrid Wastewater Treatment System," 6 July 1981, SSCHRC; "NASA Employees Recognized During NSTL Awards Ceremony," Lagniappe, 18 April 1983, SSCHRC; Wolverton, interview by Patterson, 13; Wolverton, interview by Herring, Picayune, MS, 12 April 1996; The Billy Wolverton story goes on. He now works as a consultant, operating out of his home, which is specially designed as an environmental "showplace." Wolverton's research has led him to use plants to purify the air at home and the workplace. He designs filters to assist industry with emissions. Wolverton continues to receive recognition for his work, regularly interviewed, is a lecturer on the international circuit.

82. Hlass notes, SSCHRC.

83. Ibid.

84. Jerry Hlass, draft #5, "National Space Technology Laboratories, Goals And Objectives," 28 January 1985, SSCHRC; "Hlass Receives Presidential Award," Lagniappe, 20 February 1987, SSCHRC; Hlass, interview.

85. "President Reagan Announces Comprehensive Plan For Space," Lagniappe, 17 February 1984, SSCHRC; Mireille Girard and Pamela W. Edwards, eds., Space Station Policy And Utilization (New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1983), pp. 5-7, 14, 116.

86. "NASA Establishes Space Station Teams," Lagniappe, 19 March 1984, SSCHRC.

87. Ibid.; "A Message From The Director," Lagniappe, 18 December 1985, SSCHRC.

88. "Space Station Commercial Group Holds Meeting At Installation," Lagniappe, 20 February 1986, SSCHRC.

89. Working Group, Commercial Earth And Ocean Observations, "Proposed Program For Commercial Earth And Ocean Observations," first draft, July 1985; Conner, interview.

90. "NSTL Selected As Location For ITD Remote Sensing Center," Lagniappe, 20 September 1985, SSCHRC.

91. Ibid.

92. Ibid.; Harry Guin was a believer in the NSTL's expertise to be national leader in commercial uses of space. He championed the cause from his earliest days as Hlass's assistant.; Harry Guin, biography, SSCHRC; David Brannon, chief of Remote Sensing Applications Program Office, remembered Guin's early associations with the ERL when dollars were scarce for applications related work. Guin and others learned many lessons in RAP, began creatively converting expertise to accommodate "commercial" programs.

93. Ibid.

94. W.R. Lucas to Jerry Hlass, "Space Shuttle Main Propulsion Test Complex," 25 February 1977.

95. NSTL Personnel Office, "Personnel Strength," December, 1985, SSCHRC; Hlass, interview.

96. "NSTL And Hancock County Join In 'Partners In Progress' Effort, Lagniappe, 20 November 1985, SSCHRC.

97. Howard Benedict, NASA: The Journey Continues (Houston: Pioneer Publications, Inc., 1989), pp. 101, 102; Jim McMurtray, telephone interview by Mack Herring, SSC, MS, 14 April 1996.

98. "More Than 10,000 Teachers Apply For Flight On The Shuttle," Lagniappe, 21 March 1985, SSCHRC; McMurtray, interview.

99. Henry C. Dethloff, Suddenly Tomorrow Came...A History Of The Johnson Space Center (Washington DC: National Aeronautics And Space Administration, SP-4307, 1993), p. 293.

100. Ibid.; "Live Lessons Set To Highlight 'Teacher In Space' Shuttle Flight," Lagniappe, 21 January 1986, SSCHRC; McMurtray, interview.

101. William P. Rogers, et. al, Report Of The Presidential Commission On The Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1986), pp. 13-18, 82.

102. "List of Deceased Astronauts." [http://spacelink.msfc.nasa.gov/NASA.Projects/Human.Space.Flight/Astronauts/Astronaut.Factbook/Biographical.Sketches/Deceased.Astro-naut.4/18/96 (Link no longer available; go to http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/index.html, under the former astronauts section; Chris Gamble, html editor], 1993, pp. 1-7.

103. Benedict, NASA: The Journey Continues, pp. 101-102.

104. "Live Lessons Set to Highlight 'Teacher in Space' Shuttle Flight," Lagniappe, 21 January 1986.

105. Paula Harrison and Ann Mittman, "Exploration Shatters Dream for Teachers, Students," (Cocoa Beach, FL) Florida Today, 29 January 1986; Rogers, Report Of The Rogers Commission, pp. 82-104.

106. Benedict, NASA: The Journey Continues, p. 102; Rogers, Report Of The Rogers Commission, pp. 82-104.

107. Challenger resource tape, JSC-1531B, NASA-Johnson Space Center.

108. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1996.

109. Ibid.