SP-4312 Dreams, Hopes, Realities

 

Chapter 2:

A Place for Science

 


[
12]

A new and much larger clean room facility was built at Goddard to  accomodate servicing components for the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA Photo 93C-5065).

A new and much larger clean room facility was built at Goddard to accomodate servicing components for the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA Photo 93C-5065).

 

 

[13] Although the Goddard Space Flight Center received its official designation on the first of May 1959, Goddard's roots actually date back far beyond that. In a sense, they date back almost as far as civilization itself - for people have been gazing into the night sky and wondered about its secrets for thousands of years. In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle created a model of the universe that astronomers relied on for more than a millennium. His assumption that the universe revolved around the Earth proved to be incorrect, but his effort was no different than that of modern scientists trying to solve the riddles of black holes or dark matter.1

The roots of Goddard's work in rocket development and atmospheric research date back several centuries, as well. The first...

 


[
14]

Robert H. Goddard with a vacuum tube apparatus that he built in 1916 to research rocket efficiency. (NASA Photo 74-H-1052)

Robert H. Goddard with a vacuum tube apparatus that he built in 1916 to research rocket efficiency. (NASA Photo 74-H-1052)

 

 

...reported use of rocket technology was in the year 1232, when the Chin Tarters developed a "fire arrow" to fend off a Mongol assault on the city of Kai-feng-fu. In 1749, Scotsman Alexander Wilson was sending thermometers aloft on kites to measure upper-air temperatures. One hundred and fifty years later, meteorologists were beginning to accurately map the properties of the atmosphere using kites and balloons.2

Robert J. Goddard, for whom the Goddard Space Flight Center is named, received his first patents for a multi-stage rocket and liquid rocket propellents in 1914, and his famous paper on "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" was published in 1919. But it would not be until the close of World War II that all these long-standing interests and efforts would come together to create the foundation for modern space science and, eventually, the Goddard Space.Flight Center.3

 


The Goddard Space Flight Center was named in honor of Dr. Robert H. 
Goddard a pioneer in developing multi-stage rockets and liquid rocket propellants.

The Goddard Space Flight Center was named in honor of Dr. Robert H. Goddard a pioneer in developing multi-stage rockets and liquid rocket propellants.

 

A certain amount of rocket research was being conducted in the United States even during the war. But the Germans had made far greater advancements in rocket technology. Before the end of the war, German scientists had developed a large, operational [15] ballistic rocket weapon known as the "V-2.". When the war came to a close, the U.S. military brought a number of these rockets back to the United States to learn more about their handling and operation.

 


A V-2 rocket just after launch at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico.

A V-2 rocket just after launch at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico.

 

 

The Army planned to fire the V-2s at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. The Army's interest was in furthering the design of ballistic missiles. But the military recognized the research opportunity the rocket firings presented and offered to let interested groups instrument the rockets for high-altitude scientific research.4

The V-2 program helped spark the development of other rockets, and research with "sounding rockets," as these small upper atmosphere rockets were called, expanded greatly over the next few years. The results from these rocket firings also began to gain the attention of the international scientific community.

In 1951, the International Council of Scientific Unions had suggested organizing a third "International Polar Year" in 1957. The first two such events had been held in 1882 and 1932 and focused on accurately locating meridians (longitudinal lines) of the Earth. A third event was proposed after an interval of only 25 years because so many rapid advances had been made in technology and instrumentation since the beginning of WWII. Scientists in the 1950s could look at many more aspects of the Earth and the atmosphere than their predecessors could even a decade earlier. In 1952, the proposed event was approved by the Council and renamed the International Geophysical Year (IGY) to reflect this expanded focus on studying the whole Earth and it immediate surroundings.5

The U.S. scientists quickly agreed to incorporate rocket soundings as part of their contribution to the IGY. But a loftier goal soon emerged.

In October 1954, the International Council's IGY committee issued a formal challenge to participating countries to attempt to launch a satellite as part of the IGY. In July 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower picked up the gauntlet. The United States, he announced, would launch "small, unmanned Earth-circling satellites as part of the U.S. participation in the IGY."6 In September 1956, the Soviet Union announced that it, too, would launch a satellite the following year. The race was on.

 

[16] Sputnik, Vanguard, and the Birth of NASA

 


V-2 rockets, like this one, carried some of the first scientific payloads into the upper atmosphere.

V-2 rockets, like this one, carried some of the first scientific payloads into the upper atmosphere.

 

The U.S. satellite project was to be a joint effort of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The NAS was in charge of selecting the experiments for the satellite, the NSF would provide funding, and the Defense Department would provide the launch vehicle.

Sparked by the V-2 launch program, the Naval Research Lab (NRL) already had begun work on a rocket called the Viking, and the NRL proposed to mate the Viking with a smaller "Aerobee." The Aerobee was a rocket that had evolved from a rocket JPL had first tested in 1945 and was used extensively for sounding rocket research. The Viking would be the first stage, the Aerobee would be the second stage, and another small rocket would serve as the third stage. The proposal was approved and dubbed "Project Vanguard."7

Yet despite these efforts, the Americans would not be the first into space. On 4 October 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik I - and changed the world forever.

The launch of Sputnik was disappointing to U.S. scientists, who had hoped to reach space first. But following good scientific etiquette, they swallowed their pride and gave credit to the Soviets for their impressive accomplishment. The rest of the U.S., however, had a very different reaction. Coming as it did at the height of the Cold War, the launch of Sputnik sent an astounding wave of shock and fear across the country. The Russians appeared to have proven themselves technologically more advanced. Aside from a loss of prestige and possible economic considerations from falling behind the Russians in technological ability, the launch raised questions of national security, as well. If the Soviets could conquer space, what new threats could they pose?

The situation was not helped by a second successful Sputnik launch a month later or the embarrassing, catastrophic failure of a Vanguard rocket two seconds after launch in early December. Space suddenly became a national priority. Congress began ramping up to deal with the "crisis." President Eisenhower created a post of Science Adviser to the President and asked his Science Advisory Committee to develop a national policy on space. That policy would lead to the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.8

In the months following the launch of Sputnik, numerous proposals were put forth about how the development of space capability should be organized. But in the end, President Eisenhower decided that the best way to pursue a civilian space program with speed and efficiency was to put its leadership under a strengthened and redesignated National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Proposed legislation for the creation of this new agency was sent to Congress on 2 April 1958 and signed into law on 29 July 1958.9

The Space Act outlined a tremendously ambitious list of objectives for the new agency.

 

[17] The U.S. space program was to be of benefit to the security and general welfare of the United States and to all mankind. Peaceful objectives were to be pursued, human scientific knowledge in aeronautical and space-related matters be expanded, international cooperation in space be promoted, public and private efforts in space coordinated, U.S. leadership in space preserved, and the long-range efforts of a space program studied.10

 

While the administrative and political debate over a new space agency was being conducted, work continued on the the IGY satellite project. The Vanguard rocket project had been approved not because the Viking and Aerobee were the only rocket programs underway, but because the military did not want to divert any of its its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) efforts to the civilian IGY project. But the launch of Sputnik and the subsequent Vanguard failure changed that situation. Getting a satellite into orbit was now a top national priority.

In November 1957, the Army Ballistics Missile Agency was given permission to attempt the launch of a satellite using a proven Jupiter C missile from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The United States finally achieved successful space flight on 31 January 1958 when a Jupiter rocket successfully launched a small cylinder named Explorer I into orbit11. In retrospect, it's interesting to speculate how history might have been different had the Army's Jupiter missile been chosen as the satellite launch vehicle from the outset, rather than the Vanguard. The United States might well have beaten the Soviets into space. But without the public fear and outcry at losing our technological edge, there might well not have been the public support for the creation of NASA and its extensive space program.12

Meanwhile, the Vanguard program still continued, although it was struggling. A third rocket broke apart in flight just five days after the successful Explorer I launch. Finally, on 17 March 1958, a Vanguard rocket successfully launched Vanguard I - a six-inch sphere weighing only four pounds - into orbit.

 


Explorer 1, America's first satellite lifts off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral,  Florida on 31 December 1958 on a Jupiter rocket. (NASA Photo KSC-68P-17)

Explorer 1, America's first satellite lifts off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida on 31 December 1958 on a Jupiter rocket. (NASA Photo KSC-68P-17).

 

 

The Explorer I and Vanguard I satellites proved we could reach space. The next task was to create an organization that could manage our effort to explore it - an effort that would become one of the most enormous and expensive endeavors of the 20th century.13

 

[18] Origins of the Goddard Space Flight Center

 

As planning began for the new space agency in the summer of 1958, it quickly became clear that a research center devoted to the space effort would have to be added to the existing NACA aeronautical research centers. The space program was going to involve big contracts and complicated projects, and the founding fathers of NASA wanted to make sure there was enough in-house expertise to manage the projects and contracts effectively.

Even before the Space Act was signed into law, Hugh Dryden, who became the Deputy Administrator of NASA, began looking for a location for the new space center. Dryden approached a friend of his in the Department of Agriculture about obtaining a tract of government land near the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in...

 

 


Construction in progress on Building 2 at GSFC.

Construction in progress on Building 2 at GSFC.

 

 

....Maryland. Dr. John W. Townsend, who became the first head of the space science division at Goddard and, later, one of the Center's directors, was involved in the negotiations for the property. The process, as he recalls, was rather short.

He (the department of Agriculture representative) said, "Are you all good guys?" I said "Yes." He said, "Will you keep down the development?" I said, "Yes." He spreads out a map and says, "How much do you want?" And that was that. We had our place.14

On 1 August 1958, Maryland's Senator J. Glenn Beall announced that the new "Outer Space Agency" would establish its laboratory and plant in Greenbelt, Maryland. But while the new research center was, in fact, built in Greenbelt, Senator Beall's press release shows how naive even decision-makers were about how huge the space effort would become. Beall confidently asserted that the research center would employ 650 people, and that "all research work in connection with outer space programs will be conducted at the Greenbelt installation."15

The initial cadre of personnel for the new space center - and NASA itself, for that matter - was assembled through a blanket transfer authority granted to NASA to insure the agency had the resources it needed to do its job. One of the first steps was the transfer of the entire Project Vanguard mission and staff from the NRL to the new space agency, a move that was actually included in the executive order that officially opened the doors of NASA on 1 October 1958.16

The 157 people in the Vanguard project became one of the first groups incorporated into what was then being called the [19] "Beltsville Space Center." In December 1958, 47 additional scientists from the NRL's sounding rocket branch also transferred to NASA, including branch head John Townsend. Fifteen additional scientists, including Dr. Robert Jastrow, also transferred to the new space center from the NRL's theoretical division.

The Space Task Group at the Langley Research Center, responsible for the manned space flight effort that would become Project Mercury, was initially put under administrative control of the Beltsville center, as well, although the group's 250 employees remained at Langley. A propulsion-oriented space task group from the Lewis Research Center was also put under the control of the new space center. The space center's initial cadre was completed in April 1959 with the transfer of a group working on the TIROS meteorological satellite for the Army Signal Corps Research and Development Laboratory in Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey.17

The Beltsville Space Center was officially designated as a NASA research center on 15 January 1959, after the initial personnel transfers had been completed. On 1 May 1959, the Beltsville facility was renamed the Goddard Space Flight Center, in honor of Dr. Robert J. Goddard. 18

 

Getting Started

 

Although Goddard existed administratively by May of 1959, it still did not exist in any physical sense. Construction finally began on the first building at the Beltsville Space...

 


Early aerial photo of GSFC showing a few complete buildings.

Early aerial photo of GSFC showing a few complete buildings.

 

.....Center in April 1959,19 but it would be some time before the facilities there were ready to be occupied. In the meantime, the Center's employees were scattered around the country. The Lewis and Langley task groups were still at those research centers. The NRL scientists were working out of temporary quarters in two abandoned warehouses next to the Naval Lab facilities. Additional administrative personnel were housed in space at the Naval Receiving Station and at NASA's temporary headquarters in the old Cosmos Club Building, also known as the Dolly Madison House on H Street in Washington, D.C. Robert Jastrow's theoretical division was housed above the Mazor Furniture Store in Silver Spring, Maryland.20

The different groups may have been one organization on paper but, in reality, operations were fairly segmented. The Center did not even have an official director and would not have one until September 1959. Until then, working relationships and facilities were both somewhat improvised.

[20] Not surprisingly, the working conditions in those early days were also less than ideal. Offices were cramped cubicles and desks were sometimes made of packing crates. Laboratory facilities were equally rough. One of the early engineers remembers using chunks of dry ice in makeshift "cold boxes" to cool circuitry panels and components. The boxes were effective, but researchers had to make sure they didn't breathe too deeply or keep their heads in the boxes too long, because the process also formed toxic carbonic acid fumes.

But there was a kind of raw enthusiasm for the work - a pioneering challenge with few rules and seemingly limitless potential - that more than made up for the rudimentary facilities. It helped that many of the scientists also came from a background in sounding rockets. Sounding rocket research, especially in the early days, was a field that demanded a lot of flexibility and ingenuity. Because their work had begun long before the post-Sputnik flood of funding, these scientists were accustomed to very basic, low-budget operations. Comfort may not have been at a premium in Goddard's early days, but scientists who had braved the frigid North Atlantic to fire rockoons (rockets carried to high altitude by helium balloons before being fired) had certainly seen a lot worse.21

As 1959 progressed, Goddard continued to grow. By June, the new research center had 391 employees in the Washington area and, by the end of 1959, its personnel numbered 579.22 As the personnel grew, so did the physical facilities at the Greenbelt, Maryland, site. By September 1959, the first building was ready to be occupied.

 


Workers install the main entrance sign to the Goddard Space Flight Center before its March 1961 dedication ceremony.

Workers install the main entrance sign to the Goddard Space Flight Center before its March 1961 dedication ceremony.

 

The plan for Goddard's physical facilities was to create a campus-like atmosphere that would accommodate the many different jobs the Center was to perform. The buildings were numbered in order of construction, and there was a general plan to put laboratories and computer facilities on one side, utility buildings in the center of the campus, and offices on the other side. Most of the buildings were one, two, or three-story structures that blended inconspicuously into the landscape. The one exception was Building 8, which was built to house the manned space flight program personnel. Robert Gilruth, who was in charge of the program, supposedly wanted a tall structure, so the building was designed with six stories. The original plan to incorporate the manned space flight program at Goddard also resulted in the construction of a special bay tall enough to house Mercury capsules as part of the test and evaluation facility in Building 5. By 1961, however, this aspect of NASA's program had been moved to the new space center in Houston, Texas. So Building 8 was used to house administration offices, instead.23

Even as formal facilities developed, it still took something of a pioneer's spirit to work at Goddard during the early days. The Center was built in a swampy, wooded area, and wood planks often had to be stretched across large sections of mud between parking areas and offices. And on more than one occasion, displaced local snakes found their way into employees' cars, leading to distinctive screams coming from the parking lot at the end of the day.24

[21] Improvisation and flexibility were critical skills to have in the scientific and engineering work that was done, as well. Space was a new endeavor, and there were few guidelines as to how to proceed - either in terms of what should be done or how that goal should be accomplished. At the very beginning, there was no established procedure to decide which experiments should be pursued, and there was a shortage of space scientists who were interested or ready to work with satellites. As a result, the first scientists recruited or transferred to Goddard had a lot of freedom to make their own decisions about what ought to be done. In 1959, NASA Headquarters announced that it would select the satellite experiments, but a shortage of qualified scientists at that level resulted in Goddard scientists initially taking part in the evaluation process. Experiments from outside scientists were incorporated into virtually all the satellite projects, but there were soon more scientists and proposals than there were flight opportunities. The outside scientific community began to complain that Goddard scientists had an unfair advantage.

It took a while to sort out, but by 1961 NASA had developed a procedure that is still the foundation of how experiments are selected today. Headquarters issues Announcements of flight Opportunities (AOs), and scientists from around the country can submit proposals for experiments for the upcoming project. The proposals are evaluated by sub-committees organized by NASA Headquarters. The committees are made up of scientists from both NASA and the outside scientific community, but members do not evaluate proposals that might compete with their own work.

 


Goddard's Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) satellites provided scientists with their first extended look at the Sun in the high-temperature ultraviolet, X-ray and Gamma-ray portions of the electronic magnetic spectrum. The first OSO satellite, pictured here, was launched in March 1962. (NASA Photo G-63-3521).

Goddard's Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) satellites provided scientists with their first extended look at the Sun in the high-temperature ultraviolet, X-ray and Gamma-ray portions of the electronic magnetic spectrum. The first OSO satellite, pictured here, was launched in March 1962. (NASA Photo G-63-3521).

 

These groups also conduct long-range mission planning, along with the National Academy of Sciences' Space Science Board.25 The final selection of experiments for satellite missions is made by a steering committee of NASA scientists. Because of a possible conflict of interest, the selection board took care to ensure a fairness in selecting space science research.26

Yet in the early days of Goddard, uncertainty about how to choose which experiments to pursue was only part of the challenge. The work itself required a flexible, pragmatic approach. Nobody had built satellites before, so there was no established support industry. Scientists drew upon their sounding rocket experience and learned as they went. Often, they learned lessons the hard way. Early summaries of satellite launches and results are peppered with notes such as "two experiment booms failed to deploy properly, however...," "Satellite's tracking beacon [22] failed...," and, all too often, "liftoff appeared normal, but orbit was not achieved."27 Launch vehicles were clearly the weakest link in the early days, causing much frustration for space scientists. In 1959, only four of NASA's ten scientific satellite launches succeeded.28

In this environment of experimentation with regard to equipment as well as cosmic phenomena, Goddard scientists and engineers were constantly inventing new instruments, systems, and components, and they often had to fly something to see if it would really work. This talent for innovation became one of the strengths of Goddard, leading to the development of everything from an artificial sun to help test satellites to modular and servicable spacecraft, to solid state recorder technology and microchip technology for space applications.

 


A researcher retrieves instruments from the remains of one of the early V-2 rockets after its flight. The rockets created large craters where they crash landed.

A researcher retrieves instruments from the remains of one of the early V-2 rockets after its flight. The rockets created large craters where they crash landed.

 

This entrepreneurial environment also spawned a distinct style and culture that would come to characterize Goddard's operations throughout its developmental years. It was a very pragmatic approach that stressed direct, solution-focused communication with the line personnel doing the work and avoided formal paperwork unless absolutely necessary.

One early radio astronomy satellite, for example, required a complex system to keep it pointed in the right direction and an antenna array that was taller than the Empire State Building. After heated debate as to how the satellite should be built, the project manager approved one engineer's design and asked him to document it for him. On the launch day, when asked for the still-missing documentation, the engineer ripped off a corner of a piece of notebook paper, scribbled his recommendation, and handed it to the project manager. As one of the early scientists said, the Center's philosophy was "Don't talk about it, don't write about it - do it!"29

 

Dedicating the new space center

 

This innovative and pragmatic approach to operations permeated the entire staff of the young space center, a trait that proved very useful in everything from spacecraft design to Goddard's formal dedication ceremonies. Construction of the facilities at Goddard progressed through 1959 and 1960. By the spring of 1961, NASA decided the work was far enough along to organize formal dedication ceremonies. But while there were several buildings that were finished and occupied, the Center was still lacking a few elements necessary for a dedication.

A week before the ceremonies, the Secret Service came out to survey the site, because it was thought President Kennedy might attend. They told Goddard's director of administration, Mike Vaccaro, that he had to have a fence surrounding the Center. It rained for a solid week before the dedication, but Vaccaro managed to find a contractor who worked a crew 24 hours a day in the rain and mud to cut down trees and put in a chain link fence.

After all that, the President did not attend the ceremonies. But...

 


[
23]

Dedication ceremonies take place at Goddard Space Flight Center on March 16, 1961.

Dedication ceremonies take place at Goddard Space Flight Center on 16 March 1961.

 


Esther Goddard talks with the bust of her husband, sculpted by Joseph Anthony Atchison.

Esther Goddard talks with the bust of her husband, sculpted by Joseph Anthony Atchison.

 

....someone then decided that a dedication couldn't take place without a flagpole to mark the Center's entrance. Vaccaro had three days to find a flagpole - a seemingly impossible deadline to meet while still complying with government procurement regulations. One of his staff said there was a school being closed down that had a flagpole outside it, so Vaccaro spoke to the school board and then created a specification that described that flagpole so precisely that the school was the only bid that fit the bill. He then sent some of his staff over to dig up the flagpole and move it over to the Center's entrance gate - where it still stands today.

There was also the problem of a bust statue. The dedication ceremony was supposed to include the unveiling of a bronze bust of Robert J. Goddard. But the sculptor commissioned to create the bust got behind schedule, and all he had done by the dedication date was a clay model. Vaccaro sent one of his employees to bring the clay sculpture to the Center for the ceremonies, anyway. To make things worse, the taxi bringing the bust back to the Center stopped short at one point, causing the bust to fall to the floor of the cab. The bust survived pretty much intact, but its nose broke off. Undaunted, Vaccaro and his employees pieced the nose back together and simply spray painted the clay bronze, finishing with so little time to spare that the paint was still wet when the bust was finally unveiled.30 But the ceremonies went beautifully, the Goddard Space Flight Center was given its formal send-off, and the Center could settle back down to the work of getting satellites into orbit.

 

The Early Years

 

In the view of those who were present at the time, the 1960s were a kind of golden [24] age for Goddard. There was an entrepreneurial enthusiasm among its employees, and NASA was too new and still too small to have much in the way of bureaucracy, paperwork, or red tape. The scientists were being given the opportunity to be the first into a new territory. Sounding rockets and satellites weren't just making little refinements of already known phenomena and theories - they were exploring the space around Earth for the first time. Practically everything the scientists did was something that had never been done before, and they were discovering significant and new surprises and phenomena on almost every flight.

Because of the impetus behind the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, space scientists also suddenly found themselves with a level of funding they had never had available before. Although there were many frustrations associated with learning how to operate in space and develop reliable technology that could survive its rigors, support for that effort was almost limitless. The Apollo program was "the rising tide that lifted all boats," as one Goddard manager put it. There was also a sense of mission, importance and purpose that has been difficult to duplicate since. We were going to space and we were going to be first to the Moon, and our national security, prestige, and pride was seen as dependent on how well we did the job.31

 

 


Gemini VI spacecraft as photographed by Gemini VII crew, 15 December 1965, 160 miles above the Earth.

Gemini VI spacecraft as photographed by Gemini VII crew, 15 December 1965, 160 miles above the Earth.

 

 

The Goddard Institute for Space Studies

 

In this kind of environment, both the space program and Goddard grew quickly. Even before Goddard completed its formal dedication ceremonies, plans were laid for the establishment of a separate Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. Two of the big concerns in the early days of the space program were attracting top scientists to work with the new agency and insuring there would be space-skilled researchers coming out of the universities. Early in NASA's development, the agency set aside money for both research and facilities grants to universities to help create strong space science departments.32 But one of Goddard's early managers thought the link should be personal as well as financial.

Dr. Robert Jastrow had transferred to Goddard to head up the theoretical division in the fall of 1958. He argued that if Goddard wanted to attract the top theoretical physicists from academia to work with the space program, it had to have a location more convenient to leading universities. By late 1960, he had convinced managers at Goddard and Headquarters to allow him to set up a separate Goddard institute in New York. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) provided a gathering point for theoretical physicists and space scientists in the area. But the institute offered them another carrot, as well - some of the most powerful computers in existence at the time. The computers were a tremendous asset in crunching the impossibly big numbers involved in problems of theoretical physics and orbital projections.

[25] Over the years, the Goddard Institute organized conferences and symposia and offered research fellowships to graduate students in the area. It also kept its place at the forefront of computer technology. In 1975, the first fourth generation computer to be put into use anywhere in the United States was installed at the Goddard Institute in New York.33

 

International Projects

 

Goddard's international ties and projects were expanding quickly, as well. In part the growth was natural, because Goddard and the space program itself grew out of an international scientific effort - the International Geophysical Year. Scientists also tended to see their community as global rather than national, which made international projects much easier to organize. Furthermore, the need for a world-wide network of ground stations to track the IGY satellites forced the early space scientists and engineers to develop working relationships with international partners even before NASA existed. These efforts were enhanced both by the Space Act that created NASA, which specified international cooperation as a priority for the new agency, and by the simple fact that there was significant interest among other countries in doing space research.

Early NASA managers quickly set down a very simple policy about international projects that still guides the international efforts NASA undertakes. There were only two main rules. The first was that there would be no exchange of funds between...

 


Researcher checks out Explorer XVIII, the first Interplanetary Monitoring Platform spacecraft, prior to launch. The satellite measured cosmic radiation, magnetic fields and solar wind beyond the Earth's magnetic field. (NASA photo G-64-269).

Researcher checks out Explorer XVIII, the first Interplanetary Monitoring Platform spacecraft, prior to launch. The satellite measured cosmic radiation, magnetic fields and solar wind beyond the Earth's magnetic field. (NASA photo G-64-269).

 

 

....NASA and international partners. Each side would contribute part of the project. The second was that the results would be made available to the whole international community. The result was a number of highly successful international satellites created by joint teams who worked together extremely well - sometimes so well that it seemed that they all came from a single country.34

 


Explorer X studied particles and fields in interplanetary space and near Earth's reaches. It was on 25 March 1961.

Explorer X studied particles and fields in interplanetary space and near Earth's reaches. It was on 25 March 1961.

 

In April 1962, NASA launched Ariel I - a joint effort between Goddard and the United Kingdom and the first international [26] satellite. Researchers in the U.K. developed the instruments for the satellite, and Goddard managed development of the satellite and the overall project. Ariel was followed five months later by Alouette I, a cooperative venture between NASA and Canada. Although Alouette was the second international satellite, it was the first satellite in NASA's international space research program that was developed entirely by another country.35

 

 


The Explorer XVII was designed to measure the density, composition, pressure and temperature of Earth's atmosphere after NASA launched the spacecraft in 1963. It was launched on April 3, 1963. (NASA photo G-63-4001)

The Explorer XVII was designed to measure the density, composition, pressure and temperature of Earth's atmosphere after NASA launched the spacecraft in 1963. It was launched on April 3, 1963. (NASA photo G-63-4001)

 

These early satellites were followed by others. Over the years, Goddard's international ties grew stronger through additional cooperative scientific satellite projects and the development of ground station networks. Today, international cooperation is a critical component of both NASA's scientific satellite and human space flight programs.

 

The Work

 

The work Goddard conducted throughout the 1960s was focused on basics: conquering the technical challenges of even getting into space, figuring out how to get satellites to work reliably once they got there, and starting to take basic measurements of what existed beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

[27] The first few satellites focused on taking in situ measurements of forces and particles that existed in the immediate vicinity of Earth, but the research quickly expanded to astronomy, weather satellites, and communication satellites. Indeed, one of the initial groups that was transferred to form Goddard was a group from the Army Signal Corps that was already working on development of a weather satellite called the Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS). The first TIROS satellite was launched in April 1960.

Four months later, the first communications satellite was launched into a successful orbit. The original charter for NASA limited its research to passive communications satellites, leaving active communications technology to the Department of Defense. So the first communications satellite was an inflatable mylar sphere called "Echo," which simply bounced communications signals back to the ground. The limitation against active communications satellite research was soon lifted, however, and civilian prototypes of communications satellites with active transmitters were in orbit by early 1963.36

As the 1960s progressed, the size of satellites grew along with the funding for the space program. The early satellites were simple vehicles with one or two main experiments. Although small satellites continued to be built and launched, the mid-1960s saw the evolution of a new Observatory-class of satellites, as well - spacecraft weighing as much as one thousand pounds, with multiple instruments and experiments. In...

 


The Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) spacecraft were the first meteorological satellites. The first one was launche in April 1960. (NASA Photo G-65-5216)

The Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) spacecraft were the first meteorological satellites. The first one was launche in April 1960. (NASA Photo G-65-5216)

 

....part, the bigger satellites reflected advances in launch vehicles that allowed bigger payloads to get into orbit. But they also paralleled the rapidly expanding sights, funding, and goals of the space program.

The research conducted with satellites also expanded during the 1960s. Astronomy satellites were a little more complex to design, because they had to have the ability to remain pointed at one spot for a length of time. Astronomers also were not as motivated as their space physics colleagues to undertake the challenge of space-based research, because many astronomy experiments could be conducted from ground observatories. Nonetheless, space offered the opportunity to look at objects in regions of the electromagnetic spectrum obscured by the Earth's atmosphere. The ability to launch larger satellites brought that opportunity within reach as it opened the door to space-based astronomy telescopes.

[28] Goddard launched its first Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) in 1966. That satellite failed, but another OAO launched two years later was very successful. These OAO satellites laid the groundwork for Goddard's many astronomical satellites that followed, including the Hubble Space Telescope. Goddard scientists also were involved in instrumenting some of the planetary probes that were already being developed in the 1960s, such as the Pioneer probes into interplanetary space and the Ranger probes to the Moon.

The other main effort underway at Goddard in the 1960s involved the development of tracking and communication facilities and capabilities for both the scientific satellites and the manned space flight program. Goddard became the hub of the massive, international tracking and communications wheel that involved aircraft, supertankers converted into mobile communications units, and a wide diversity of ground stations. This system provided NASA with a kind of "Internet" that stretched not only around the world, but into space, as well. Every communication to or from any spacecraft came through this network. A duplicate mission control center was also built at Goddard in case the computers at the main control room at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas failed for any reason.

 


Goddard was the hub of an international tracking and communications network, which followed and communicated with scientific missions and manned spacecraft.

Goddard was the hub of an international tracking and communications network, which followed and communicated with scientific missions and manned spacecraft.

 

Whether it was in tracking, data, satellite engineering, or space science research, the 1960s were a heady time to work for NASA. The nation was behind the effort, funding was flowing from Congress faster than scientists and engineers could spend it, and there was an intoxicating feeling of exploration. Almost everything Goddard was doing had never been done before. Space was the new frontier, and the people at Goddard knew they were pioneers in the endeavor of the century.

 

External relations

 

This is not to say that there were no difficulties, frustrations, problems, or disappointments in the 1960s. Tensions between the Center and NASA Headquarters increased as NASA projects got bigger. Goddard's first director, Harry Goett, came to Goddard from the former NACA Ames Research Center. He was a fierce defender of his people and believed vehemently in the independence of field centers. Unfortunately, Goddard was not only almost in Headquarters' back yard, it was also under a much more intense spotlight because of its focus on space.

 


[
29]

This was a parabolic antenna in Rosman, North Carolina tracking station built in 1963. At one time, GoddardÕs tracking and data networks involved up to 24 countries.

This was a parabolic antenna at the Rosman, North Carolina tracking station built in 1963. At one time, Goddard's tracking and data networks involved up to 24 countries.

 

The issues between Goddard and NASA Headquarters were not unique to Goddard, or even to NASA. Tension exists almost inherently between the Headquarters and field installations of any institution or corporation. While both components are necessary to solve the myriad of big-picture and hands-on problems the organization faces, their different tasks and perspectives often put Headquarters and field personnel in conflict with each other. In order to run interference for field offices and conduct long-range planning, funding, or legislative battles, Headquarters personnel need information and a certain....

 


[
30]

An artistÕs concept of an Interplanetary Monitoring Platform. The IMP acronym for the satellites  was chosen by  its projectÕs scientist Dr. Frank McDonald, <<in honor of his children.>>

An artist's concept of an Interplanetary Monitoring Platform. The IMP acronym for the satellites was chosen by its project's scientist Dr. Frank McDonald, "in honor of his children."

 

....amount of control over what happens elsewhere in the organization. Yet to field personnel who are shielded from these large-scale threats and pressures, this oversight and control is often seen as unwelcome interference.

In the case of NASA, Headquarters had constant pressure from Congress to know what was going on, and it had a justifiable concern about managing budgets and projects that were truly astronomical. To allow senior management to keep tabs...

 


Researchers prepare Explorer XX, the Topside Sounder IE-A, for launch. The satellite was put into orbit on 25 August 1964.

Researchers prepare Explorer XX, the Topside Sounder IE-A, for launch. The satellite was put into orbit on 25 August 1964.

 

....on different projects and to maintain a constant information flow from the Centers to Headquarters, NASA designated program managers at Headquarters who would oversee the agency's various long-term, continuing endeavors, such as astronomy. Those program managers would oversee the shorter-term individual projects, such as a single astronomy satellite, that were being managed by Goddard or the other NASA field centers.37

These program managers were something of a sore spot for Goett and the Goddard managers, who felt they knew well enough how to manage their work and, like typical field office managers, sometimes saw this oversight as unwelcome interference. Managers at other NASA Centers shared this opinion, but the tension was probably higher at Goddard because it was so close to Headquarters. Program managers wanted to sit in on meetings, and Goett wanted his project managers and scientists left alone. Tensions over authority and management escalated between Goett and Headquarters until Goett was finally replaced in 1965.38

The increasing attention paid to the space program had other consequences, as well. If it created more support and funding for the work, it also put projects in the eye of a public that didn't necessarily understand that failure was an integral part of the scientific process. The public reaction to early launch failures, especially the embarrassing Vanguard explosion in December 1957, made it very clear to the NASA engineers and scientists that failure, in any guise, was unacceptable. [31] This situation intensified after the Apollo I fire in 1967 that cost the lives of three astronauts. With each failure, oversight and review processes got more detailed and complex, and the pressure to succeed intensified.

As a result, Goddard's engineers quickly developed a policy of intricate oversight of contractors and detailed testing of components and satellites. Private industry has become more adept at building satellites, and NASA is now reviewing this policy with the view that it may increase costs unnecessarily and duplicate manpower and effort. In the future, satellites may be built more independently by private companies under performance-based contracts with NASA. But in the early days, close working relationships with contractors and detailed oversight of satellite building were two of the critical elements that led to Goddard's success.

 


In its first decade, the Goddard Space Flight Center was responsible for launching more than 100 different spacecraft carrying a wide variety of weather, communications, space physics and astronomy experiments.

In its first decade, the Goddard Space Flight Center was responsible for launching more than 100 different spacecraft carrying a wide variety of weather, communications, space physics and astronomy experiments.

 

The Post-Apollo Era

 

The ending of the Apollo program brought a new era to NASA, and to Goddard, as well. The drive to the Moon had unified NASA and garnered tremendous support for space efforts from Congress and the country in general. But once that goal was achieved, NASA's role, mission and funding became a little less clear. In some ways, Goddard's focus on scientific [32] missions and a diversity of projects helped protect it from some of the cutbacks that accompanied the end of the Apollo program in 1972. But there were still two Reductions in Force (RIFs)39 at Goddard after the final Apollo 17 mission that hurt the high morale and enthusiasm that had characterized the Center throughout its first decade. Yet despite the cutbacks, the work at Goddard was still expanding into new areas.

 

Spacecraft Technology

 

Even as the Apollo program wound down, NASA was developing a new launch vehicle that what would become known as the Space Shuttle. The primary advantage of the Shuttle was seen as its reusable nature.

 


NASA astronauts work to repair the Solar Maximum Mission spacecraft in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle. The repair marked the first time a satellite was retrieved and serviced in space (NASA Photo S13-37-1711).

NASA astronauts work to repair the Solar Maximum Mission spacecraft in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle. The repair marked the first time a satellite was retrieved and serviced in space (NASA Photo S13-37-1711).

 

[33] But an engineer at Goddard named Frank Ceppolina saw another distinct opportunity with the Shuttle. With its large cargo bay and regular missions into low Earth orbit, he believed the Shuttle could be used as a floating workshop to retrieve and service satellites in orbit. Goddard had already pioneered the concept of modular spacecraft design with its Orbiting Geophysical Observatory (OGO) satellites in the 1960s. But in 1974, Ceppolina took that concept one step further by proposing a Multi-mission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) with easily replaceable, standardized modules that would support a wide variety of different instruments. The modular approach would not only reduce manufacturing costs, it would also make it possible to repair the satellite on station, because repairing it would be a fairly straightforward matter of removing and replacing various modules.

The first modular satellite was called the "Solar Max" spacecraft. It was designed to look at solar phenomena during a peak solar activity time and was launched in 1980. About a year after launch it developed problems and, in 1984, it became the first satellite to be repaired in space by Shuttle astronauts. The servicing allowed the satellite to gather additional valuable scientific data. But perhaps the biggest benefit of the Solar Max repair mission was the experience it gave NASA in servicing satellites. That experience would prove invaluable a few years later when flaws discovered in the Hubble Space Telescope forced NASA to undertake a massive and difficult repair effort to save the expensive and high-visibility Hubble mission.40

 


The International Ultraviolet Explorer, shown here  during assembly at Goddard, became one of the longest-lasting and most productive satellites in the Center's history. When it was finally shut down, it had been returning useful data for nearly 19 years. (NASA Photo 77-HC-484).

The International Ultraviolet Explorer, shown here during assembly at Goddard, became one of the longest-lasting and most productive satellites in the Center's history. When it was finally shut down, it had been returning useful data for nearly 19 years. (NASA Photo 77-HC-484).

 


The High Energy Astronomical Observatories (HEAO) made tremendous strides in the extraordinary world of X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy. Three HEAO spacecraft were built and launched successfully throughout the 1970s. (NASA photo 74-H-524).

The High Energy Astronomical Observatories (HEAO) made tremendous strides in the extraordinary world of X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy. Three HEAO spacecraft were built and launched successfully throughout the 1970s. (NASA photo 74-H-524).

 

 

Space Science

 

Goddard made significant strides in space science in the years following Apollo, developing projects that would begin to explore new wavelengths and farther distances in the galaxy and the universe. The International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) launched in 1978, has proven to be one of the most successful and productive satellites ever put into orbit. It continued operating for almost 19 years - 14 years beyond its expected life span - and generated more data and scientific papers than any other satellite to date.

Goddard's astronomy work also expanded into the high-energy astronomy field in the 1970s. The first Small [34] Astronomy Satellite, which mapped X-ray sources across the sky, was launched in 1970. A gamma-ray satellite followed in 1972. Goddard also had instruments on the High Energy Astronomical Observatory (HEAO) satellites, which were managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center.41

 


The Small Astronomy Satellite-A (SAS), launched on 7 May 1975, studied X-ray sources within and beyond the Milky Way galaxy. (NASA photo G-71-2213)

The Small Astronomy Satellite-A (SAS), launched on 7 May 1975, studied X-ray sources within and beyond the Milky Way galaxy. (NASA photo G-71-2213)

 

The HEAO satellites also marked the start of a competition between Marshall and Goddard that would intensify with the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. When the HEAO satellites were being planned in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Goddard had a lot of different projects underway. Senior managers at the Marshall Space Flight Center, however, were eagerly looking for new work projects to keep the center busy and alive. Marshall's main project had been the development of the Saturn rocket for the Apollo program and, with the close of the Apollo era, questions began to come up about whether Marshall was even needed anymore.

When the HEAO project came up, the response of Goddard's senior management was that the Center was too busy to take on the project unless the Center was allowed to hire more civil servants to do the work. Marshall, on the other hand, enthusiastically promised to make the project a high priority and assured Headquarters that it already had the staff on board to manage it.

In truth, Marshall had a little bit of experience with building structures for astronomy, having developed the Apollo Telescope Mount for Skylab, and the Center had shown an interest in doing high-energy research. When it got the HEAO project, however, Marshall still had an extremely limited space science capability. From a strictly scientific standpoint, Goddard would have been the logical center to run the project. But the combination of the available work force at Marshall and the enthusiasm and support that Center showed for the project led NASA Headquarters to choose Marshall over Goddard to manage the HEAO satellites.

The loss of HEAO to Marshall was a bitter pill for some of Goddard's scientists to swallow. Goddard had all but owned the scientific satellite effort at NASA for more than a decade and felt a great deal of pride and investment in the expertise it had developed in the field. It was an [35] adjustment to have to start sharing that pie. What made the HEAO loss particularly bitter in retrospect, however, was that it gave Marshall experience in telescope development - experience that factored heavily in Headquarters' decision to award the development of the Hubble Space Telescope to Marshall, as well.

There were other reasons for giving the Hubble telescope to Marshall - including concern among some in the external scientific community that Goddard scientists still had too much of an inside edge on satellite research projects. Goddard was going to manage development of Hubble's scientific instruments and operation of the telescope once it was in orbit. If Goddard managed the development of the telescope as well, its scientists would know more about all aspects of this extremely powerful new tool than any of the external scientists. By giving the telescope project to Marshall to develop, that perceived edge was softened a bit.

Indeed, Hubble was perceived to be such a tremendously powerful tool for research that the outside community did not even want to rely on NASA Headquarters to decide which astronomers should be given time on the telescope. At the insistence of the general astronomical community, an independent Space Telescope Science Institute was set up to evaluate and select proposals from astronomers wanting to conduct research with the Hubble. The important point, however, was that the telescope project was approved. It would become the largest astronomical telescope ever put into space - a lens into mysteries and wonders of the universe no one on Earth had ever been able to see before.42

 

 


This colorful image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever seen. Planetary Nebulae are actually not planets at all, but gas clouds formed by dying <<red giant>> stars. This particular one, called the <<Cat's Eye>> Nebula, is about 1,000 years old and was formed by a star that was once about the size of our own Sun. (NASA Photo PRC95-01a).

This colorful image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever seen. Planetary Nebulae are actually not planets at all, but gas clouds formed by dying "red giant" stars. This particular one, called the "Cat's Eye" Nebula, is about 1,000 years old and was formed by a star that was once about the size of our own Sun. (NASA Photo PRC95-01a).

 

Earth Science

 

The field of space-based Earth science, which in a sense had begun with the first TIROS launch in 1960, also continued to evolve in the post-Apollo era. The first of a second generation of weather satellites was launched in 1970 and, in 1972, the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) was put into orbit. By looking at the the reflected radiation of the Earth's land masses with high resolution in different wavelengths, the ERTS instruments could provide information about the composition, use and health of the land and vegetation in different areas. The ERTS satellite became the basis of the Landsat satellites that still provide remote images of Earth today.

Other satellites developed in the 1970s began to look more closely at the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, as well. The Nimbus-7 satellite, for example, carried new instruments that, among other things, could measure the levels of ozone in the...

 


[
36]

Artist's concept of a Landsat satellite. Using remote sensing technology, the Landsat spacecraft furnish data on a variety of Earth resources and environmental conditions. (NASA photo G-75-070259).

Artist's concept of a Landsat satellite. Using remote sensing technology, the Landsat spacecraft furnish data on a variety of Earth resources and environmental conditions. (NASA photo G-75-070259).

 

....atmosphere and phytoplankton in the ocean. As instruments and satellites that could explore the Earth's resources and processes evolved, however, Earth scientists found themselves caught in the middle of an often politically charged tug-of-war between science and application.

Launching satellites to look at phenomena or gather astronomical or physics data in space typically has been viewed as a strictly scientific endeavor whose value lies in the more esoteric goal of expanding knowledge. Satellites that have looked back on Earth, however, have always been more closely linked with practical applications of their data - a fact that has both advantages and disadvantages for the scientists involved.

When Goddard began, all of the scientific satellites were organized under the "Space Sciences and Applications" directorate. Although the Center was working on developing weather and communications satellites, the technology and high resolution instruments needed for more specific resource management tasks did not yet exist. In addition, it was the height of the space race and science and space exploration for its own sake had a [37] broad base of support in Congress and in society at large.

In the post-Apollo era, however, NASA found itself needing to justify its expenditures, which led to a greater emphasis on proving the practical benefits of space. At NASA headquarters a separate "applications" office was created to focus on satellite projects that had, or could have, commercial applications. In an effort to focus efforts on more "applications" research (communications, meteorology, oceanography and remote imaging of land masses) as well as scientific studies, Goddard's senior management decided to split out "applications" functions into a new directorate at the Center, as well.

In many ways, the distinction between science and application is a fine one. Often, the data collected is the same - the difference lies only in how it is analyzed or used. A satellite that maps snow cover over time, for example, can be used to better understand whether snow cover is changing as a result of global climate system changes. But that same information is also extremely useful in predicting snow melt runoff, which is closely linked with water resource management. A satellite that looks at the upper atmosphere will collect data that can help scientists understand the dynamics of chemical processes in that region. That same information, however, can also be used to determine how much damage pollutants are causing or whether we are, in fact, depleting our ozone layer.

For this reason, Earth scientists can be more affected by shifting national priorities than their space science counterparts.43 The problem is the inseparable policy implications of information pertaining to our own planet. If we discover that the atmosphere of Mars is changing, nobody feels any great need to do anything about it. If we discover that pollutants in the air are destroying our own atmosphere, however, it creates a great deal of pressure to do something to remedy the situation.

Scientists can argue that information is neutral - that it can show less damage than environmentalists claim as well as more severe dangers than we anticipated. But the fact remains that, either way, the data from Earth science research can have political implications that impact the support those efforts receive. The applicability of data on the ozone layer, atmospheric pollution and environmental damage may have prompted additional funding support at times when environmental issues were a priority. But the political and social implications of this data also may have made Earth science programs more...

 


A Landsat image of Baltimore/Washington area.

A Landsat image of Baltimore/Washington area.

 

 

 

[38] ...susceptible to attack and funding cuts when less sympathetic forces were in power.44

Yet despite whatever policy issues complicate Earth science research, advances in technology throughout the 1970s certainly made it possible to learn more about the Earth and get a better perspective on the interactions between ocean, land mass and atmospheric processes than we ever had before.

 

The Space Shuttle Era

 

As NASA moved into the 1980s, the focus that drove many of the agency's other efforts was the introduction of the Space Shuttle. In addition to the sheer dollars and manpower it took to develop the new spacecraft, the Shuttle created...

 


An artist's concept of the Tracking & Data Relay Satellite System spacecraft. Three satellites in this space-based system could do the same work as the worldwide tracking and data ground stations Goddard used until the late 1980s.

An artist's concept of the Tracking & Data Relay Satellite System spacecraft. Three satellites in this space-based system could do the same work as the worldwide tracking and data ground stations Goddard used until the late 1980s.

 

....new support issues and had a significant impact on how scientific satellites were designed and built.

In the Apollo era, the spacecraft travelled away from the Earth, so a ground network of tracking stations could keep the astronauts in sight and in touch with mission controllers at almost all times. The Shuttle, however, was designed to stay in near-Earth orbit. This meant that the craft would be in range of any given ground station for only a short period of time. This was the case with most scientific satellites, but real-time communication was not as critical when there were no human lives at stake. Satellites simply used tape recorders to record their data and transmitted it down in batches when they passed over various ground stations. Shuttle astronauts, on the other hand, needed to be in continual communication with mission control.

Goddard had gained a lot of experience in communication satellites in the early days of the Center and had done some research with geosynchronous communication satellite technology in the 1970s that offered a possible solution to the problem. A network of three geosynchronous satellites, parked in high orbits 22,300 miles above the Earth, could keep any lower Earth-orbiting satellite - including the Space Shuttle - in sight at all times. In addition to its benefits to the Shuttle program, the system could save NASA money over time by eliminating the need for the worldwide network of ground stations that tracked scientific satellites. The biggest problem with such a system was its development costs.

[39] NASA budgets were tight in the late 1970s and did not have room for a big budget item like the proposed Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). So the agency worked out an arrangement to lease time on the satellites from a contractor who agreed to build the spacecraft at its own cost. Unfortunately, the agreement offered NASA little control or leverage with the contractor, and the project ran into massive cost and schedule overruns. It was a learning experience for NASA, and not one managers recall fondly.

Finally, Goddard renegotiated the contract and took control of the TDRSS project. The first TDRSS satellite was finally launched from the Space Shuttle in April 1983. The second TDRSS was lost with the Shuttle "Challenger" in 1986, but the system finally became operational in 1989.

The TDRSS project also required the building of a new ground station to communicate with the satellites and process their data. The location best suited for maximum coverage of the satellites was at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. So in 1978, Goddard began building the TDRSS White Sands Ground Terminal (WSGT). The first station became operational in 1983, and a complete back-up facility, called the Second TDRSS Ground Terminal (STGT), became operational in 1994. The second station was built because the White Sands complex is the sole ground link for the TDRSS, and the possibility of a losing contact with the Shuttle was unacceptable. The second site insures that there will always be a....

 


An aerial view of the White Sands Ground Terminal Tracking Station on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. All the TDRSS data pass through this station before being networked throughout NASA. (NASA Photo 0691-1542).

An aerial view of the White Sands Ground Terminal Tracking Station on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. All the TDRSS data pass through this station before being networked throughout NASA. (NASA Photo 0691-1542).

 

....working communications and data link for the TDRSS satellites.45

The edict that TDRSS would also become the system for all scientific satellite tracking and data transmission did not please everyone, because it meant every satellite had to be designed with the somewhat cumbersome TDRSS antennas. But the Shuttle's impact on space science missions went far beyond tracking systems or antenna design.

Part of the justification of the Shuttle was that it could replace the expendable launch vehicles (rockets) used by NASA and the military to get satellites into orbit. As a result, the stockpile of smaller launch rockets was not replenished, and satellites had to be designed to fit in the Shuttle bay instead.

There were some distinct advantages to using the Space Shuttle as a satellite launch vehicle. Limitations on size and weight - critical factors with the smaller [40] launch vehicles - became much less stringent, opening the door for much bigger satellites. Goddard's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, for example, weighed more than 17 tons. The Space Shuttle also opened up the possibility of having astronauts service satellites in space.46

On the other hand, using the Shuttle as the sole launch vehicle complicated the design of satellites, because they now had to undergo significantly more stringent safety checks to make sure their systems posed no threat to the astronauts who would travel into space with the cargo. But the biggest disadvantage of relying exclusively on the Shuttle hit home with savage impact in January 1986 when the Shuttle "Challenger" exploded right after lift-off. The Shuttle fleet was grounded for almost three years and, because the Shuttle was supposed to eliminate the need for them, there were few remaining expendable launch rockets. Even if there had been a large number of rockets available, few of the satellites that had been designed for the spacious...

 


A Black Brandt XII sounding rocket being launched Wallops Island. Wallops launches approximately 35 sounding rockets to conduct scientific research each year. (NASA Photo WI-88-589-4)

A Black Brandt XII sounding rocket being launched Wallops Island. Wallops launches approximately 35 sounding rockets to conduct scientific research each year. (NASA Photo WI-88-589-4)


 

....cargo bay of the Shuttle would fit the smaller weight and size limitations of other launch vehicles. Most satellites simply had to wait for the Shuttle fleet to start flying again.

 

Wallops Island

 

The 1980s brought some administrative changes to Goddard, as well. NASA's Wallops Island, Virginia flight facility had been created as an "Auxiliary Flight Research Station" associated with the NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in 1945.47 Its remote location on the Atlantic coast of Virginia made it a perfect site for testing aircraft models and launching small rockets. As the space program evolved, Wallops became one of the mainstays of NASA's sounding rocket program and operated numerous aircraft for scientific research purposes, as well. It also launched some of the National Science Foundation's smaller research balloons and provided tracking and other launch support services for NASA and the Department of Defense.

Yet although its work expanded over the years, Wallops' small size, lower-budget projects, and remote location allowed it to retain the pragmatic, informal, entrepreneurial style that had characterized Goddard and much of NASA itself in the early days of the space program. People who worked at Wallops typically came from the local area, and there was a sense of family, loyalty, and fierce independence that characterized the facility. As one of NASA smaller research stations, however, Wallops was in a less protected political position than some of its larger and higher profile counterparts.

 


[
41]

Launch row at the Wallops Island Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. Wallops became a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1982.

Launch row at the Wallops Island Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. Wallops became a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1982.


 

In the early 1980s, a proposal emerged to close the Wallops Station as a way of reducing NASA's operating costs. In an effort to save the facility, NASA managers decided instead to incorporate Wallops into the Goddard Space Flight Center. Goddard was a logical choice because Wallops was already closely linked with Goddard on many of its projects. The aircraft at Wallops were sometimes used to help develop instruments that later went on Goddard satellites. Goddard also had a sounding rocket division that relied on Wallops for launch, range, tracking and data support. As time went on, Wallops had begun to develop some of the smaller, simpler sounding rocket payloads, as well. By the late 1970s, NASA headquarters was even considering transferring Goddard's entire sounding rocket program to Wallops.

In 1982, Wallops Island Station became the Wallops Island Flight Facility, managed under the "Suborbital Projects and Operations" directorate at Goddard.48 At the same time, the remaining sounding rocket projects at Goddard-Greenbelt were transferred down to Wallops. The personnel at Goddard who had been working on sounding rockets had to refocus their talents. So they turned their entrepreneurial efforts to the next generation of small-budget, hands-on projects - special payloads for the Space Shuttle.49 As the 1980s progressed, Goddard began putting together a variety of small payloads to take up spare room in the Shuttle cargo bay. They ranged from $10,000 "Get Away Special" (GAS) experiments that even schoolchildren could develop to multi-million dollar Spartan satellites that the Shuttle astronauts release overboard at the start of a mission and pick up again before returning to Earth.

 

[42] The Post-Challenger Era: A New Dawn

 

All of NASA was rocked on the morning of 28 January 1986 when the Shuttle "Challenger" exploded 73 seconds after launch. While many insiders at NASA were dismayed at what appeared to have been a preventable tragedy, they were not, as a whole, surprised that the Shuttle had had an accident. These were people who had witnessed numerous rockets with cherished experiments explode or fail during the launch process.

 


The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, was launched on June 7, 1992 on top of a Delta launch rocket. The Delta rocket program managed by Goddard remains one of the most successful launch vehicle programs in NASA history. (NASA photo PL92C-110006).

The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, was launched on June 7, 1992 on top of a Delta launch rocket. The Delta rocket program managed by Goddard remains one of the most successful launch vehicle programs in NASA history. (NASA photo PL92C-110006).


 

They had lived through the the Orbiting Solar Observatory accident, the Apollo 1 fire, and the Apollo 13 crisis. They knew how volatile rocket technology was and how much of a research effort the Shuttle was, regardless of how much it was touted as a routine transportation system for space. These were veteran explorers who knew that for all the excitement and wonder space offered, it was a dangerous and unforgiving realm. Even twenty-five years after first reaching orbit, we were still beginners, getting into space by virtue of brute force. There was nothing routine about it.

It was an understanding of just how risky the Shuttle technology was that drove a number of people within NASA to argue against eliminating the other, expendable launch vehicles. The Air Force was also concerned about relying on the Shuttle for all its launch needs. The Shuttle accident, however, settled the case. A new policy supporting a "mixed fleet" of launch vehicles was created, and expendable launch vehicles went back into production.50

Unfortunately, a dearth of launch vehicles was not the only impact the Challenger accident had on NASA or Goddard. The tragedy shattered NASA's public image, leading to intense public scrutiny of its operations and a general loss of confidence in its ability to conduct missions safely and successfully. Some within NASA wondered if the agency would even survive. To make things worse, the Challenger accident was followed four months later with the loss of a Delta rocket carrying a new weather satellite into orbit, and the loss a year later by an Atlas-Centaur rocket carrying a Department of Defense [43] satellite. While these were not NASA projects, the agency received the criticism and the consequential public image of a Federal entity that could not execute its tasks.

Launches all but came to a halt for almost two years, and even the scientific satellite projects found themselves burdened with more safety checks and oversight processes. The Shuttle resumed launches in 1989, but NASA took another hit in 1990 when it launched the much-touted Hubble Space Telescope, only to discover that the telescope had a serious flaw in its main mirror. As the last decade of the century began, NASA needed some big successes to regain the nation's confidence in the agency's competence and value. Goddard would help provide those victories.

 

Spacecraft Technology

 

One of Goddard's biggest strengths was always its expertise in spacecraft construction. Most of the incredibly successful Explorer class of satellites, for example, were built in-house at Goddard.But the size and complexity of space science projects at Goddard - and even the Center's Explorer satellites - had grown dramatically over the years. From the early Explorer spacecraft, which could be designed, built and launched in one to three years, development and launch cycles had grown until they stretched 10 years or more. Aside from the cost of these large projects, they entailed much more risk for the scientists involved. If a satellite took 15 years from inception to launch, its scientists had to devote a major portion of their careers to the...

 


The Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite, launched December 1, 1998, detects water vapor throughout the Milky Way.

The Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite, launched December 1, 1998, detects water vapor throughout the Milky Way.


 


Hitchhiker payloads, developped at Goddard, offer researchers a low-cost opportunity to put small experiment in the Space Shuttle cargo bay.

Hitchhiker payloads, developped at Goddard, offer researchers a low-cost opportunity to put small experiment in the Space Shuttle cargo bay.


 

....project. If it failed, the cost to their careers would be enormous.

In part, the growth in size and complexity of satellites was one born of necessity. To get sharp images of distant stars, the Hubble Space Telescope had to be big enough to collect large amounts of light. In the more cost-conscious era following Apollo, where new satellite starts began to dwindle every year, the pressure also increased to put as many things as possible on every new satellite that was approved.

But in 1989, Tom Huber, Goddard's director of engineering, began advocating for Goddard to begin building a new line of smaller satellites. In a sense, these "Small Explorers," or SMEX satellites, would be a return to Goddard's roots in innovative, small and quickly produced spacecraft. But because technology had progressed, they could incorporate options such as fiber optic technology, standard interfaces, solid state recorders, more advanced computers that fit more power and memory into less [44] space, and miniature gyros and star trackers. Some of these innovations, such as the solid state recorders and advanced microchip technology for space applications, had even been developed in-house at Goddard. As a result, these small satellites could be even more capable than some of the larger projects Goddard had built in the past. The goal of the SMEX satellites was to cost less than $30 million and take less than three years to develop. The program has proved highly successful, launching five satellites since 1992, and is continuing to develop advanced technology to enable the design of even more capable, inexpensive spacecraft.51

 

Space Science

 

In late 1989, Goddard launched the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite aboard a Delta launch rocket. Originally scheduled for launch aboard the Space Shuttle, the COBE satellite, which was built in-house at Goddard, had been totally redesigned in less than 36 months after the Challenger accident to fit the nose cone of a Delta rocket. Using...

 


A sky map taknby the Differential Microwave Radiometer instrument on Goddard's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite. The map shows indications of anisotropy, or temperature fluctuations, in the background radiation of the universe. These irregulatities reveal the original structures of the universe.

A sky map taknby the Differential Microwave Radiometer instrument on Goddard's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite. The map shows indications of anisotropy, or temperature fluctuations, in the background radiation of the universe. These irregulatities reveal the original structures of the universe.


 

....complex instruments, COBE went in search of evidence to test the "Big Bang" theory of how the universe began - and found it. Famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking called the NASA-University COBE team's discovery "the discovery of the century, if not of all time."52 The COBE satellite had perhaps solved one of the most fascinating mysteries in existence - the origins of the universe in which we live. It had taken 15 years to develop, but the COBE satellite offered the public proof that NASA could take on a difficult mission, complete it successfully, and produce something of value in the process.

Goddard reached out into another difficult region of the universe when it launched the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 1990. The Compton was the second of NASA's planned "Four Great Observatories" that would explore the universe in various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Hubble Space Telescope was to cover the visible and ultraviolet regions, the Compton was to explore the gamma ray region, and two additional observatories were to investigate phenomena in X-ray and infrared wavelengths. At over 17 tons, the Compton was the largest satellite ever launched into orbit, and its task was to explore some of the highest energy and perplexing phenomena in the cosmos.

Three years later, Goddard found itself taking on an even more difficult challenge when the Center undertook the first Hubble servicing mission - better known as the Hubble repair mission. The odds of successfully developing and implementing a fix for the [45] telescope, which had a flaw not in one instrument but in its central mirror, were estimated at no better than 50%. But because of Goddard's earlier successful pioneering efforts with servicable satellites, the Hubble had been designed to be serviced in space. This capability, and Goddard's previous experience repairing the Solar Max satellite, provided the critical components that made the Hubble repair possible. Fired with the same enthusiasm and sense of crisis that had fueled the Apollo program, the Goddard team assigned to manage the project, working with a hand-picked Shuttle crew from Houston's Johnson Space Center, succeeded beyond expectation. The success of such a difficult mission earned the team a Collier Trophy - the nation's highest award for the greatest aeronautical achievement in any given year.53

 

Earth Science

 

Even as Goddard launched the Compton Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope to explore new regions of the universe, NASA announced the start of a massive new initiative to explore the planet we call home. Dubbed "Mission to Planet Earth" when it was introduced in 1990, the effort was expected to spend thirty billion dollars over at least 15 years in order to take a long-term, systems-oriented look at the health of the planet.. In some ways, the program was a natural outgrowth of increasing environmental concerns over the years and the improved ability of satellites to analyze the atmosphere and oceans of our planet. But it received a big boost...

 


An image of the ozone <<hole>> over Antarctica. Areas shown in and Blue/purple indicates areas of low ozone, while the red areas inidcate higher levels.

An image of the ozone "hole" over Antarctica. Areas shown in and Blue/purple indicates areas of low ozone, while the red areas inidcate higher levels.


 

...when a hole in the ozone layer was discovered in 1985. That discovery, as one researcher put it, "dramatized that the planet was at risk, and the potential relevance of NASA satellite technology to understanding that risk." In the wake of the Challenger disaster, Mission to Planet Earth was also seen as one of the top "leadership initiatives" that could help NASA recover from the tragedy and regain the support of the American public.54

Although numerous NASA centers would participate in the MTPE effort, the program office was located at Goddard. It was a natural choice, because Goddard was the main Earth Science center in the agency anyway. Earth Science was broken out of the Space and Earth Sciences directorate and its research began to take on a new sense of relevance in the public eye.

As with earlier Earth science efforts, however, the political and social implications of this data also have made the program more susceptible to shifting national priorities than its space science counterparts. In the past eight years, the program has been scaled back repeatedly. Its budget is now down to seven billion dollars and the [46] name of the program has been changed to Earth Science Enterprise.55

There are numerous reasons for the cutback of the program. But it can be argued that we find money for the items that are high national priorities. And one factor in the changing fortunes of the Mission to Planet Earth program is undeniably the shifting agendas that affect NASA funding. Nevertheless, the more moderate Earth Science Enterprise program will still give scientists their first real opportunity to study the planet's various oceanographic and atmospheric processes as an integrated system instead of individual components - a critical step toward understanding exactly how our planet operates and how our actions impact its health.

In short, Goddard's work in the early 1990s helped bring NASA out of the dark post-Challenger era and helped create in a new energy, enthusiasm and curiosity about both planet Earth and other bodies in the universe. We now had the technology to reach back to the very beginning of time and the outer reaches of the universe. The Hubble...

 


This image combines satellite data from several satellite sources, to show an anomaly in sea height and sea surface temperature in the year preceding  the last strong El Niño climate condition.

This image combines satellite data from several satellite sources, to show an anomaly in sea height and sea surface temperature in the year preceding the last strong El Niño climate condition.


 

....servicing mission made possible the beautiful images of far-away galaxies, stars, nebulae and planets that now flow into publications on a regular basis. These images have not only provided valuable clues to scientific questions about the cosmos, they have also fired the imaginations of both children and adults, generating a new enthusiasm for space exploration and finding out more about the galaxy and universe we call home.

At the same time, we had the technology to begin to piece together answers about where El Nino weather patterns came from, how our oceans and atmosphere work together to create and control our climate, and how endangered our environment really is. These advances provided critical support for NASA at a time when many things about the agency, and the Goddard Space Flight Center, were changing.

 

Better, Faster, Cheaper

 

As we head into the twenty-first century, the world is changing at a rapid pace. The electronic superhighways of computers and communications are making the world a smaller place, but the marketplace a more global one. Concerns about the United States' competitiveness are growing as international competition increases. The crisis-driven days of the space race are also over, and cost now is a serious concern when Congress looks at whether or not additional space projects should be funded.

This need to be more cost-efficient is driving changes both within Goddard itself and in its relationships with outside industry. Goddard recently underwent a major [47] administrative reorganization in the hopes of making better use of its engineers' time. Instead of being scattered around the Center, its almost 2,000 engineers are being organized almost entirely into either a new Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) directorate or a new Systems, Technology, and Advanced Concepts (STAAC) Directorate. In essence, AET will provide the hands-on engineering support for whatever projects are underway at the Center, and STAAC will work on advanced concepts and systems engineering for future projects.

Again, this change in matrix structure within Goddard is not a new concept. The Center has gone back and forth a couple of times between putting engineers with scientists on project teams and trying to follow a stricter discipline-oriented organization. The advantages of a project-based organization are that the engineers get to really focus on one job at a time and build synergistic relationships with the scientists with whom they are working. These relationships often lead to innovative ideas or concepts that the individual engineers or scientists might not have come to on their own. The disadvantage of this structure, which is a greater concern in times of tighter budgets, is that even if those engineers have excess time during lulls in the project, it can't easily be taken advantage of by anyone else in the Center. Their talent is tied up in one place, which can also lead to territorial "fiefdoms" instead of a more ideal Center-wide cooperation.56

At the present time, the changes are administrative only. The engineers are still being co-located with their scientist colleagues. How or if that changes in the future remains to be seen, as does the success of the reorganization in general. After all, the impact of any administrative change is determined more...

 


An image of a planetary nebula, produced by a dying star, taken from The Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA Photo PRC96-07).

An image of a planetary nebula, produced by a dying star, taken from The Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA Photo PRC96-07).


 

....by how it is implemented than how it looks on paper, and the success of that can only be determined once the change has been made.57

Another issue facing Goddard is the recurring question of who should be building the spacecraft. One of the strengths of Goddard has always been its in-house ability to design and build both spacecraft and instruments. The Center's founders created this in-house capability for two reasons. First, there was little in the way of a commercial spacecraft industry at the time Goddard was started. Second, although most of the satellites actually would be built by contractors, the founders of NASA believed that the agency had to have hands-on knowledge of building spacecraft in order to manage those contracts effectively.

 


[
48]

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, shown here in one of Goddard's clean rooms. is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise effort to study Earth's climate as an integrated global system.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, shown here in one of Goddard's clean rooms. is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise effort to study Earth's climate as an integrated global system.


 

Over the years, the commercial spacecraft industry has grown and matured tremendously, leading to periodic discussions as to whether NASA should leave the spacecraft building jobs entirely to the private sector. After all, there is general agreement that the government, in the form of NASA, should not do what industry is capable of doing. In truth, however, the issue isn't quite that simple.

In the late 1970s, Goddard's senior management all but stopped in-house satellite building at the Center, focusing the engineers' efforts on instrument building, instead. The rationale was that industry was capable of building satellites and NASA should be working on developing advanced technology sensors and instruments. Yet even aside from the argument that keeping in-house competence was necessary to effectively manage contracts with industry, there were flaws to this rationale.

For one thing, building satellites in-house had a significant indirect effect on the employees at Goddard. The ability to help design spacecraft helped attract bright young engineers to the Center, which is always an important concern in a field where industry jobs generally pay better than NASA positions. Furthermore, knowing that some of the spacecraft sitting on top of launch vehicles had been built in-house gave Goddard employees a sense of pride and involvement in the space program that instrument building alone could not create. Taking away that element caused a huge drop in the Center's morale. Indeed, when Tom Young became the Center's director in 1980, one of his first moves was to restore the building of in-house satellites in the hopes of rebuilding morale.58

The commercial space industry has matured even further in the past 20 years, and the question about whether Goddard still should be building in-house satellites has been raised again in recent years. In the end, the answer is probably "Yes". The question lies more in the type and number of satellite projects the Center should undertake. The goal is for Goddard to pursue one or two in-house projects that involve advanced [49] spacecraft technology and to contract out projects that involve more proven spacecraft concepts. At the same time, Goddard is taking advantage of the expertise now present in the commercial satellite industry by introducing a new "Rapid Spacecraft Procurement Initiative," with the goal of reducing the development time and cost of new spacecraft. By "pre-qualifying" certain standard spacecraft designs from various commercial satellite contractors, Goddard hopes to make it possible for some experiments to be integrated into a spacecraft and launched within as short a time frame as a year. Not every experiment can be fit into a standard spacecraft design, but there are certainly some which could benefit from this quick-turnaround system.The contracts developed by Goddard for this initiative are now being used by not only other NASA Centers, but by the Air Force, as well.59

A more complex issue is how involved NASA should be in even managing the spacecraft built by industry. Historically, Goddard has employed a very thorough and detailed oversight policy with the contracts it manages. One of the reasons the Center developed this careful, conservative policy was to avoid failure in the high-profile, high-dollar realm of NASA. As a result, the concern of NASA engineers tends to be to make sure the job is done right, regardless of the cost. While industry engineers have the same interest in excellence and success, they sometimes have greater pressure to watch the bottom line. Goddard managers quote numerous examples of times contractors only agreed to conduct additional pre-launch tests after Goddard engineers managing the contract insisted on it. They also recall various instances where Goddard finally sent its own engineers to a contractor's factory to personally supervise projects that were in trouble.

Industry, on the other hand, can argue that Goddard's way of building satellites is not necessarily the only right way and this double-oversight slows down innovation and greatly increases the cost of building satellites. And in an era of decreasing federal budgets, deciding how much oversight is good or enough becomes an especially sticky issue. Currently, the trend seems to be toward a more hands-off, performance-based contract relationship with industry. Industry simply delivers a successful satellite or doesn't get paid. Some argue that a potential disadvantage to this approach is that it could rob industry engineers of the advice and experience Goddard might be...

 


COBE under construction at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Originally designed to be launched aboard the Space Shuttle, the satellite had to be redesigned to fit on a Delta rocket after the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986. (NASA Photo GSFC PAO#4).

COBE under construction at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Originally designed to be launched aboard the Space Shuttle, the satellite had to be redesigned to fit on a Delta rocket after the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986. (NASA Photo GSFC PAO#4).


 

[50] ....able to offer. Goddard's scientists and engineers have a tremendous corporate memory and have learned many lessons the hard way. So sharing that expertise might prove more cost-effective in the long run than the bottom line salary and labor allocation figures of a more hands-off system might suggest.

In the end, there is truth in what all parties say. It's hard to say what the "right" answer is because, for all our progress in the world of space, we are still feeling our way and learning from our mistakes as we keep reaching out to try new things.

The exact nature and scope of NASA's mission has been the subject of frequent debate since the end of the Apollo program. But NASA certainly has an edict to do those things that for reasons of cost, risk, or lack of commercial market value, industry can or will not undertake. In the early 1960s, the unknowns and risk of...

 


An image from the SeaWiFS shows varying chlorophyll levels along the eatern seaboard of the United States.

An image from the SeaWiFS shows varying chlorophyll levels along the eatern seaboard of the United States.


 

....failure were far too high and the potential profit far too uncertain for industry to fund the development of anything but communication satellites. Today, that situation is changing. In some cases, a commercial market for the data is developing. In others, the operations once considered too risky for anyone but NASA to perform are now considered routine enough to contract out to private companies, which are also much more capable than they once were.

Some tracking and data functions that were a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center since its inception, for example, were recently moved down to the Marshall Space Flight Center, where they will be managed by a private company under contract to a supervising Space Operations Management Office at the Johnson Space Center.60

NASA is also starting to relinquish its hold on the launching of rockets itself. In years past, all launches were conducted at government facilities for reasons of both safety and international politics. But that is beginning to change. The state of Virginia is already in the process of building a commercial space port at the Wallops Island facility in partnership with private industry. The payloads and launch vehicles using the space port will be developed privately, and the consortium will contract with NASA to provide launch range, radar, telemetry, tracking and safety analysis services.61

NASA has also used a privately developed, airplane-launched rocket called the "Pegasus" to send a number of small [51] satellites into space. It should be noted, however, that the Pegasus vehicle went through a series of developmental problems before it became a reliable system. The same is true of the SeaWIFS satellite, which is currently providing very useful data on ocean color but which was developed under a very different type of contract than most scientific satellites. The SeaWIFS spacecraft was developed independently by the Orbital Sciences Corporation and NASA paid only for the data it uses. While the satellite is now generating very good data, it ran into many developmental difficulties and delays that caused both NASA and the contractor a lot of aggravation. On the one hand, because NASA paid the majority of the money up front, there was less incentive for the contractor to keep on schedule. On the other hand, the up-front, fixed-price lease meant that the contractor absorbed the costs of the problems and delays when they occurred.62

Fixed-price contracts work well in many arenas. The complication with scientific satellites is that these spacecraft are not generally proven designs. It's difficult to foresee ahead of time what problems are going to arise in a research project that's breaking new ground.

Indeed, there are a lot of uncertainties amidst the tremendous atmosphere of change facing Goddard, NASA and the world at large, and it remains to be seen how they will all work out. Most likely, it will take a number of missteps and failures before the right mix and/or approach is found. The process will also undoubtedly entail the same pendulum swings between different approaches that has characterized Goddard throughout its history. And since external circumstances and goals are constantly changing, there may never be one "correct" mix or answer found.

In the end, our efforts in space are still an exploration into the unknown. On the cutting edge of technology and knowledge, change is the only constant - in theories of the universe as well as technology, priorities, and operating techniques. Once upon a time, Goddard's biggest challenge was overcoming the technical obstacles to operating in space. Today, Goddard's challenge is to find the flexibility to keep up with a rapidly changing world without losing the magic that has made the Center so successful over the past forty years.

The new frontier for Goddard is now much broader than just space itself. The Center has to be open to reinventing itself, infusing new methods and a renewed sense of entrepreneurial innovation and teamwork into its operations while continuing to push boundaries in technology development, space and Earth exploration for the benefit of the human race. It has to be flexible enough to work as part of broader NASA, university and industry and international teams in a more global and cost-constrained space industry and world. It has to find a way to reach forward into new areas of research, commercial operations, and more efficient procedures without losing the balance between cost and results, science and engineering, basic research and applications, inside and outside efforts. And, most importantly, Goddard has to accomplish all of these things while preserving the most valuable strength it has - the people that make it all possible.


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