SP-4902 The Planetary Quarantine Program

 

NASA and Its Planetary Quarantine Responsibilities

 

[9] THE AUTHORITY FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION of the national and international recommendations concerning the prevention of contamination, and later concerning planetary quarantine, resides in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, subject always to the final authority of the Congress, which established that agency and which appropriates the funds to carry out approved programs, and to the Federal Executive office, which approves the budgets NASA presents to the Congress.

In 1958, Dr. T. Keith Glennan, then President of Case Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, was named by President Eisenhower to be the first administrator of NASA. The other top officials were mainly drawn from the predecessor organization, NACA. For example, Dr. Hugh L. Dryden became Deputy Administrator, and Dr. Abe Silverstein became Director of Space Flight Programs.

NACA had been an engineering and physical sciences organization carrying out its own investigations in a complex of research centers: Ames in California, Langley in Virginia, and Lewis in Ohio. These centers had few capabilities in the biological sciences. To remedy this, Dr. Glennan in April 1959 brought into NASA as a special medical and biological advisor, Dr. Clark T. Randt, Professor of Neurology from Western Reserve University. Dr. Randt acted in this staff capacity for a year until he became the first director of NASA's Office of Life Sciences.

The first major problem facing NASA was to take over certain [10] military space programs from the Department of Defense and to coordinate them with the expanded NACA functions. In December 1958, Dr. Dryden delineated the functions of the various organizations reporting to NASA headquarters. The existing three NACA centers were to remain in-house research and development centers. Goddard Space Flight Center, to be constructed in Maryland, was given responsibility for Earth orbit missions. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), whose contract with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was to be assumed by NASA on January 1, 1959, was to handle all deep space missions. The first such program at JPL, Ranger, was still in the planning stage. Another NASA inheritance was the work being done by the Space Technology Laboratory (STL), a subsidiary of the then Ramo-Woldridge Corporation, under contract to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and later with the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). STL was already engaged in the early Pioneer series of lunar shots and the Atlas-Able shots which were to follow. Only Pioneer 4 (March 1959) was to escape the Earth's gravitational field. It missed the Moon by 37,000 miles. Even before NASA came into the picture, some effort had been made by the military, in response to the advice of the scientific community, to decontaminate, if not to sterilize, these space probes.

On September 14, 1959, Dr. Hugh Odishaw, Secretary of the Space Science Board, wrote to Dr. Glennan and to Dr. Roy Johnson of ARPA transmitting the recommendations of Dr. Lederberg's ad hoc Committee on Sterilization, saying that the recommendations had SSB's approval and requesting that they be followed. Dr. Glennan answered this request on October 13, 1959, pledging that NASA would attempt to carry out the recommendations. Also during October, Dr. Abe Silverstein sent JPL, Goddard Space Flight Center, and STL (through the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division) letters stating the following:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been considering the problem of sterilization of payloads that might impact a celestial body. Consideration was given to scientific questions, engineering problems, NASA's responsibility towards protecting scientific investigations into space, and the reputation and integrity of the United States. As a result of the deliberations, it has been established as a NASA policy that payloads which might impact a celestial body must be sterilized before launching.

The letters went on to list particular payloads of concern, gave several references, and suggested that the group at the U.S. Army BioLabs, Fort Detrick, Maryland, under Dr. Charles R. Phillips, had experience in [11] problems associated with sterilization and should be contacted. Shortly after, on November 12, 1959, Dr. Glennan transferred funds to the Army under a governmental interagency agreement to support their cooperation. Dr. Silverstein's letters could be considered the first official NASA policy directives on spacecraft sterilization.

Dr. Gerhard F. Schilling, one of the German rocket scientists who came to the United States following World War II, had taken over as NASA Project Manager for the Atlas-Able Pioneer series of shots. He became one of the first NASA officials charged with responsibility for space vehicle sterilization.

The various committees and scientific advisory panels set up by and reporting directly to NASA-as opposed to the outside scientific bodies discussed earlier-will be listed in a later section of this report. Two of these committees were primarily concerned with the establishment of biological competence and facilities within the NASA organization. The first was the NASA Special Life Sciences Committee, better known as the Lovelace Committee after its chairman, Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace, II. This was formally established on October 1, 1958, the same date as NASA itself. It had its foundations in an earlier Special Committee on Space Technology established by NACA in November 1957, a month after the first Sputnik launch. This NACA committee had been headed by Dr. H. Guyford Stever of MIT. It had seven working groups, one of which was on Human Factors and Training, headed by Dr. Lovelace. The new NASA Special Life Sciences Committee stemmed from earlier recommendations that NASA should "develop a capability as quickly as possible [in Life Sciences] starting with contract coverage concurrent with in-house support" and that a special Life Sciences Committee should be established to consider immediate problems. NASA promptly implemented these recommendations. This new committee consisted of Dr. Lovelace, Chairman; Brig. Gen. Don Flickinger, U.S. Air Force (USAF); and Dr. Wright Langham, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), from the earlier Stever group. Additional members were Lt. Comdr. John M. Ebersole, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, National Medical Center; Lt. Col. Robert H. Holmes, Medical Corps, U.S. Army; Dr. Robert B. Livingston, U.S. Public Health Service-National Institute of Health (USPHS-NIH); and Dr. Orr. E. Reynolds, DOD; with Capt. G. Dale Smith, USAF, serving as secretary. The committee tried unsuccessfully to interest various institutions and government agencies in entering into an agreement with NASA to manage a major life science program for them. The committee was dissolved on March 31, 1960, after the establishment of an Office of Life Sciences within NASA.

This Office of Life Sciences was formed after NASA, in August 1959, [12] set up another biological group, the ad hoc Bioscience Advisory Committee, better known as the Kety Committee after Dr. Seymour S. Kety, its Chairman. Other members were Drs. Wallace O. Fenn, David R. Goddard, Donald G. Marquis, Robert S. Morison, and Cornelius A. Tobias. Advisors included Stephen Dole, Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Dr. Melvin Calvin, and Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace, II. Dr. Randt served as executive secretary. The Kety Committee had met on October 15-16, 1959, and on January 25, 1960, and had recommended that an Office of Life Sciences be established as a major division of NASA.

Dr. Glennan accepted the recommendation and established the office on March 1, 1960, naming Dr. Randt as Director. This office was responsible for all biological and medical programs within NASA. The mandate included aerospace medicine, biological satellite experiments, exobiology, and the accompanying spacecraft sterilization program. Col. Charles H. Roadman, who was on assignment from the Air Force and had previous experience with aerospace medicine, was brought into the organization in June 1960. Other chief members of the staff were Drs. Freeman H. Quimby, George J. Jacobs, Richard S. Young, G. Dale Smith, Siegfried J. Gerathewohl, and Jack Posner. The latter served in an administrative position and, as such, was the first to oversee the sterilization projects underway at JPL and the U.S. Army BioLabs.

On April 1, 1961, Dr. Randt resigned as Director of the Office of Life Sciences. Colonel Roadman replaced him, first as Acting Director then as Director, until November 1, 1961, when, under a major reorganization, the four major offices of NASA headquarters, including the Office of Life Sciences were abolished. Four new major offices were established: (1) Manned Space Flight, Dr. D.B. Holmes, Director; (2) Advanced Research and Technology, Dr. Ira H. Abbott, Director; (3) Space Sciences, Dr. Homer E. Newell, Director; and (4) Applications, Director to be appointed.

The medical and biological programs within NASA, formerly all residing within the Office of Life Sciences, were split between three of these new offices. Aerospace medicine, headed by Brig. Gen. Charles H. Roadman, went into the Office of Manned Space Flight. Biological technology was placed in the Office of Advanced Research and Technology, while biosatellite experimentation, exobiology, and sterilization of spacecraft went to the Office of Space Sciences (OSS). Dr. Orr E. Reynolds was appointed the first Director of Biosciences Programs in OSS on February 11, 1962. Dr. Reynolds first had Dr. Quimby handle sterilization as a part of the exobiology program. On August 1, 1963, Capt. Lawrence B. Hall, a senior commissioned officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, was detailed, on request from the

[13] NASA Administrator to the Surgeon General, to duty with NASA. His task was to develop the sterilization program. He became the first NASA Planetary Quarantine (PQ) Officer, assuming responsibility for direction and operation of the program He retired from the Public Health Service on September 30, 1965, but has remained with NASA in the same position, as a civilian.

The headquarters staff at the PQ office remained small, concerned with the direction of research and operations, particularly in its overall programming and funding aspects. Dr. Carl W. Bruch was brought in at the beginning of the PQ Program and stayed until September 24, 1966. James Miles, a NASA engineer, was assigned engineering responsibilities in the PQ Program from 1963 to 1965, when he transferred to other duties. Capt. Jack H. Fooks, also detailed to NASA by the Public Health Service, served as Sterility Control Officer for planetary quarantine from November 1, 1965, to December 31, 1967. Concurrently, Capt. Arthur H. Neill, a USPHS officer detailed to duty with NASA January 1, 1967, served as Deputy Planetary Quarantine Officer. He retired on May 31, 1971. Lt. Comdr. Donald G. Fox, also on loan as a USPHS commissioned officer, served as a Sterility Control Officer from October 1968 to August 30, 1971. During portions of 1971-1973, JPL maintained a series of detailees in NASA headquarters to the support of the technical aspects of the PQ Program. Mrs. Suzanne Gallagher, on loan as a USPHS civilian, has served as Administrative Officer from June 21, 1964, to the present.

The PQ Program operated from 1963 to 1971 under the Bioscience Programs, NASA Office of Space Science and Applications. When Bioscience Programs was eliminated in 1971, the PQ Program was transferred to Planetary Programs, Office of Life Sciences, for administrative purposes. To avoid any possibility of conflict between the regulatory responsibility of the PQ Program and the operational responsibility of the Planetary Programs, the NASA Director of Life Sciences was given an overall coordination role, and a direct line of communication was authorized, for use if needed, from the Planetary Quarantine Officer to the Associate Administrator, Office of Space Science.

The planetary quarantine staff at NASA headquarters has remained small because of staffing limitations in effect at the time of organization. Its administrative functions have of necessity been augmented under three contractual arrangements. Since 1965, the Biological Sciences Communication Project of George Washington University has handled documentation of both research supported by the PQ office and outside scientific literature. The American Institute of Biological Sciences, since 1964, has performed various functions [14] including the handling of details for outside conferences and meetings. Exotech Systems, Inc., under a series of contracts beginning in 1965, has provided a number of services in systems analysis, research integration, and operations research. These latter two contractual services will be discussed in more detail later.


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