PEOPLE the world over speak of the "Space Age" as beginning with the launching of the Russian Sputnik on 4 October 1957. Yet Americans might well set the date hack at least to July 1955 when the White House, through President Eisenhower's press secretary, announced that the United States planned to launch a man-made earth satellite as an American contribution to the International Geophysical Year. If the undertaking seemed bizarre to much of the American public at that time, to astrophysicists and some of the military the government's decision was a source of elation: after years of waiting they had won official support for a project that promised to provide an invaluable tool for basic research in the regions beyond the upper atmosphere. Six weeks later, after a statement came from the Pentagon that the Navy was to take charge of the launching program, most Americans apparently forgot about it. It would not again assume great importance until October 1957.

Every major scientific advance has depended upon two basic elements, first. imaginative perception and, second, continually refined tools to observe, measure. and record phenomena that support, alter, or demolish a tentative hypothesis. This process of basic research often seems to have no immediate utility, hut, as one scientist pointed out in 1957, it took Samuel Langley's and the Wright brothers' experiments in aerodynamics to make human flight possible, and Hans Bethe's abstruse calculations on the nature of the sun's energy led to the birth of the hydrogen bomb. just as Isaac Newton's laws of gravity, motion, and thermodynamics furnished the principles upon the application of which the exploration of outer space began and is proceeding. In space exploration the data fed back to scientists from instrumented satellites have been of utmost importance. The continuing improvement of such research tools opens up the prospect of greatly enlarging knowledge of the world we live in and making new applications of that knowledge.

In the decade before Sputnik. however, laymen tended to ridicule the idea of putting a man-made object into orbit about the earth. Even if the feat were possible, what purpose would it serve except to show that it could be done? As early as 1903, to be sure. Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy, a Russian scientist, had proved mathematically the feasibility of using the reactive force that lifts a rocket to eject a vehicle into space above the pull of the earth's gravity. Twenty years later Romanian-born Hermann Oberth had independently worked out similar formulas, but before the l950s, outside a very small circle of rocket buffs, the studies of both men remained virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. Neither had built a usable rocket to demonstrate the validity of his theories, and, preoccupied as each was with plans for human journeys to the moon and planets, neither had so much as mentioned an unmanned artificial satellite.1 Indeed until communication by means of radio waves had developed far beyond the techniques of the 1930s and early l940s, the launching of an inanimate body into the heavens could have little appeal for either the scientist or the romantic dreamer. And in mid-century only a handful of men were fully aware of the potentialities of telemetry. 2

Of greater importance to the future of space exploration than the theoretical studies of the two European mathematicians was the work of the American physicist, Robert Goddard. While engaged in post-graduate work at Princeton University before World War I, Goddard had demonstrated in the laboratory that rocket propulsion would function in a vacuum, and in 1917 he received a grant of $5,000 from the Smithsonian Institution to continue his experiments. Under this grant the Smithsonian published his report of his theory and early experiments, Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. In 1918 he had successfully developed a solid-fuel ballistic rocket in which, however, even the United States Army lost interest after the Armistice. Convinced that rockets would eventually permit travel into outer space, Goddard after the war had continued his research at Clark University, seeking to develop vehicles that could penetrate into the ionosphere. In contrast to Tsiolkovskiy and Oberth, he set himself to devising practical means of attaining the goal they all three aspired to. In 1926 he successfully launched a rocket propelled by gasoline and liquid oxygen, a "first" that ranks in fame with the Wright brothers' Kitty Hawk flights of 1903. With the help of Charles Lindbergh after his dramatic solo transatlantic flight. Goddard obtained a grant of $5,000 from Daniel Guggenheim and equipped a small laboratory in New Mexico where he built several rockets. In 1937, assisted by grants from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation, he launched a rocket that reached an altitude of 9,000 feet. Although not many people in the United States knew much about his work, a few had followed it as closely as his secretiveness allowed them to; among them were members of the American Interplanetary Space Society, organized in 1930 and later renamed the American Rocket Society. With the coming of World War II Goddard abandoned his field experiments, but the Navy employed him to help in developing liquid propellants for JATO, that is, jet-assisted takeoff for aircraft. When the Nazi "buzz" bombs of 1943 and the supersonic "Vengeance" missile-the "V-2s" that rained on London during 1944 and early 1945-awakened the entire world to the potentialities of rockets as weapons, a good many physicists and military men studied his findings with attention. By a twist of fate, Goddard, who was even more interested in astronautics than in weaponry, died in 1945, fourteen years before most of his countrymen acknowledged manned space exploration as feasible and recognized his basic contribution to it by naming the government's new multi-million-dollar experimental station at Beltsville, Maryland, "The Goddard Space Flight Center." 3

Robert H Goddard and colleages

Robert H. Goddard and colleages examine rocket components after 19 May 1937 rocket flight.
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Robert H. Goddard)

During 1943 and early 1944, Commander Harvey Hall, Lloyd Berkner, and several other scientists in Navy service examined the chances of the Nazis' making such advances in rocketry that they could put earth satellites into orbit either for reconnaissance or for relaying what scare pieces in the press called "death rays." While the investigators foresaw well before the first V-2 struck Britain that German experts could build rockets capable of reaching targets a few hundred miles distant, study showed that the state of the art was not yet at a stage to overcome the engineering difficulties of firing a rocket to a sufficient altitude to launch a body into the ionosphere. the region between 50 and 250 miles above the earth's surface. In the process of arriving at that conclusion members of the intelligence team, like Tsiolkovskiy and Oberth before them, worked out the mathematical formulas of the velocities needed. Once technology had progressed further, these men knew, an artificial earth-circling satellite would be entirely feasible. More important, if it were equipped with a transmitter and recording devices, it would provide an invaluable means of obtaining information about outer space.

At the end of the war, when most Americans wanted to forget about rockets and everything military, these men were eager to pursue rocket development in order to further scientific research. In 1888 Simon Newcomb, the most eminent American astronomer of his day, had declared:- "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." In 1945, despite powerful new telescopes and notable advances in radio techniques, that pronouncement appeared still true unless observations made above the earth's atmosphere were to become possible. Only a mighty rocket could reach beyond the blanket of the earth's atmosphere; and in the United States only the armed services possessed the means of procuring rockets with sufficient thrust to attain the necessary altitude. At the same time a number of officers wanted to experiment with improving rockets as weapons. Each group followed a somewhat different course during the next few years, but each gave some thought to launching an "earth-circling spaceship,'' since, irrespective of ultimate purpose, the requirements for launching and flight control were similar. The character of those tentative early plans bears examination, if only because of the consequences of their rejection.

"Operation Paperclip." the first official Army project aimed at acquiring German know-how about rocketry and technology, grew out of the capture of a hundred of the notorious V-2s and out of interrogations of key scientists and engineers who had worked at the Nazi's rocket research and development base at Peenemuende. Hence the decision to bring to the United States about one hundred twenty of the German experts along with the captured missiles and spare parts. Before the arrival of the Germans, General Donald Putt of the Army Air Forces outlined to officers at Wright Field some of the Nazi schemes for putting space platforms into the ionosphere; when his listeners laughed at what appeared to be a tall tale, he assured them that these were far from silly vaporings and were likely to materialize before the end of the century. Still the haughtiness of the Germans who landed at Wright Field in the autumn of 1945 was not endearing to the Americans who had to work with them. The Navy wanted none of them, whatever their skills. During a searching interrogation before the group left Germany a former German general had remarked testily that had Hitler not been so pig-headed the Nazi team might now be giving orders to American engineers; to which the American scientist conducting the questioning growled in reply that Americans would never have permitted a Hitler to rise to power. 5

At the Army Ordnance Proving Ground at White Sands in the desert country of southern New Mexico, German technicians, however, worked along with American officers and field crews in putting reassembled V-2s to use for research. As replacing the explosive in the warhead with scientific instruments and ballast would permit observing and recording data on the upper atmosphere. the Army invited other government agencies and universities to share in making high-altitude measurements by this means. Assisted by the German rocketeers headed by Wernher von Braun, the General Electric Company under a contract with the Army took charge of the launchings. Scientists from the five participating universities and from laboratories of the armed services designed and built the instruments placed in the rockets' noses. In the course of the next five years teams from each of the three military services and the universities assembled information from successful launchings of forty instrumented V-2s. In June 1946 a V-2, the first probe using instruments devised by members of the newly organized Rocket Sonde Research Section of the Naval Research Laboratory, carried to an altitude of sixty-seven miles a Geiger-counter telescope to detect cosmic rays, pressure and temperature gauges, a spectrograph, and radio transmitters. During January and February 1946 NRL scientists had investigated the possibility of launching an instrumented earth satellite in this fashion, only to conclude reluctantly that engineering techniques were still too unsophisticated to make it practical; for the time being, the Laboratory would gain more by perfecting instruments to be emplaced in and recovered from V-2s. As successive shots set higher altitude records, new spectroscopic equipment developed by the Micron Waves Branch of the Laboratory's Optics Division produced a number of excellent ultraviolet and x-ray spectra, measured night air glow, and determined ozone concentration. 6 In the interim the Army's "Bumper" project produced and successfully flew a two-stage rocket consisting of a "WAC Corporal" missile superimposed on a V-2.

After each launching, an unofficial volunteer panel of scientists and technicians, soon known as the Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel, discussed the findings. Indeed the panel coordinated and guided the research that built up a considerable body of data on the nature of the upper atmosphere. Nevertheless, because the supply of V-2s would not last indefinitely, and because a rocket built expressly for research would have distinct advantages, the NRL staff early decided to draw up specifications for a new sounding rocket. Although the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University. under contract with the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance and the Office of Naval Research, was modifying the "WAC Corporal" to develop the fin-stabilized Aerobee research rocket, NRL wanted a model with a sensitive steering mechanism and gyroscopic controls. In August 1946 the Glenn L. Martin Company won the contract to design and construct a vehicle that would meet the NRL requirements. 7

Four months before the Army Ordnance department started work on captured V-2s, the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics had initiated a more ambitious research scheme with the appointment of a Committee for Evaluating the Feasibility of Space Rocketry. Unmistakably inspired by the ideas of members of the Navy intelligence team which had investigated Nazi capabilities in rocketry during the war, and, like that earlier group, directed by the brilliant Harvey Hall, the committee embarked upon an intensive study of the physical requirements and the technical resources available for launching a vessel into orbit about the earth. By 22 October 1945, the committee had drafted recommendations urging the Bureau of Aeronautics to sponsor an experimental program to devise an earth-orbiting "space ship" launched by a single-stage rocket, propelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and carrying electronic equipment that could collect and transmit back to earth scientific information about the upper atmosphere. Here was a revolutionary proposal. If based on the speculative thinking of Navy scientists in 1944, it was now fortified by careful computations. Designed solely for research, the unmanned instrumented satellite weighing about two thousand pounds and put into orbit by a rocket motor burning a new type of fuel should he able to stay aloft for days instead of the seconds possible with vertical probing rockets. Nazi experts at Peenemuende, for all their sophisticated ideas about future space flights, had never thought of building anything comparable.8

The recommendations to the Bureau of Aeronautics quickly led to exploratory contracts with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology and the Aerojet General Corporation, a California firm with wartime experience in producing rocket fuels. Cal Tech's report, prepared by Homer J. Stewart and several associates and submitted in December 1945, verified the committee's calculations on the interrelationships of the orbit, the rocket's motor and fuel performance, the vehicle's structural characteristics, and payload. Aerojet's confirmation of the committee computations of the power obtainable from liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen soon followed. Thus encouraged, BuAer assigned contracts to North American Aviation, Incorporated, and the Glenn L. Martin Company for preliminary structural design of the "ESV," the earth satellite vehicle, and undertook study of solar-powered devices to recharge the satellite's batteries and so lengthen their life. But as estimates put the cost of carrying the program beyond the preliminary stages at well over $5 million, a sum unlikely to be approved by the Navy high brass, ESV proponents sought Army Air Forces collaboration. 9 Curiously enough, with the compartmentation often characteristic of the armed services, BuAer apparently did not attempt to link its plans to those of the Naval Research Laboratory. 10

In March 1946, shortly after NRL scientists had decided that a satellite was too difficult a project to attempt as yet, representatives of BuAer and the Army Air Forces agreed that "the general advantages to he derived from pursuing the satellite development appear to be sufficient to justify a major program, in spite of the fact that the obvious military, or purely naval applications in themselves, may not appear at this time to warrant the expenditure." General Curtis E. LeMay of the Air Staff did not concur. Certainly he was unwilling to endorse a joint Navy-Army program. On the contrary. Commander Hall noted that the general was resentful of Navy invasion into a field "which so obviously, he maintained, was the province of the AAF." Instead, in May 1946, the Army Air Forces presented its own proposition in the form of a feasibility study by Project Rand, a unit of the Douglas Aircraft Company and a forerunner of the RAND Corporation of California. 11 Like the scientists of the Bureau of Aeronautics committee, Project Rand mathematicians and engineers declared technology already equal to the task of launching a spaceship. The ship could be circling the earth, they averred, within five years, namely by mid-1951. They admitted that it could not be used as a carrier for an atomic bomb and would have no direct function as a weapon, but they stressed the advantages that would nevertheless accrue from putting an artificial satellite into orbit: "To visualize the impact on the world, one can imagine the consternation and admiration that would be felt here if the United States were to discover suddenly that some other nation had already put up a successful satellite." 12

Officials at the Pentagon were unimpressed. Theodore von Kármán, chief mentor of the Army Air Forces and principal author of the report that became the research and development bible of the service, advocated research in the upper atmosphere but was silent about the use of an artificial satellite. Nor did Vannevar Bush have faith in such a venture. The most influential scientist in America of his day and in 1946 chairman of the Joint Army and Navy Research and Development Board. Bush was even skeptical about the possibility of developing within the foreseeable future the engineering skills necessary to build intercontinental guided missiles. His doubts, coupled with von Kármán's disregard of satellite schemes, inevitably dashed cold water on the proposals and helped account for the lukewarm reception long accorded them. 13

Still the veto of a combined Navy-Army Air Forces program did not kill the hopes of advocates of a "space ship." While the Navy and its contractors continued the development of a scale model 3,000-pound-thrust motor powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, Project Rand completed a second study for the Army Air Forces. But after mid-1947, when the Air Force became a separate service within the newly created Department of Defense, reorganization preoccupied its officers for a year or more, and many of them, academic scientists believed, shared General LeMay's indifference to research not immediately applicable to defense problems. At BuAer, on the other hand, a number of men continued to press for money to translate satellite studies into actual experiments. Unhappily for them, a Technical Evaluation Group of civilian scientists serving on the Guided Missiles Committee of the Defense Department's Research and Development Board declared in March 1948 that "neither the Navy nor the USAF has as yet established either a military or a scientific utility commensurate with the presently expected cost." 14 In vain, Louis Ridenour of Project Rand explained, as Hall had emphasized in 1945 and 1946, that "the development of a satellite will be directly applicable to the development of an intercontinental rocket missile," since the initial velocity required for launching the latter would be "4.4 miles per second, while a satellite requires 5.4." 15

In the hope of salvaging something from the discard, the Navy at this point shifted its approach. Backed up by a detailed engineering design prepared under contract by the Glenn L. Martin Company, BuAer proposed to build a sounding rocket able to rise to a record altitude of more than four hundred miles, since a powerful high-altitude test vehicle, HATV, might serve the dual purpose of providing hitherto unobtainable scientific data from the extreme upper atmosphere and at the same time dramatize the efficiency of the hydrogen propulsion system. Thus it might rally financial support for the ESV. But when The First Annual Report of the Secretary of Defense appeared in December 1948, a brief paragraph stating that each of the three services was carrying on studies and component designs for "the Earth Satellite Vehicle Program" evoked a public outcry at such a wasteful squandering of taxpayers' money; one outraged letter-writer declared the program an unholy defiance of God's will for mankind. That sort of response did not encourage a loosening of the military purse-strings for space exploration. Paper studies, yes; hardware, no. The Navy felt obligated to drop HATV development at a stage which, according to later testimony, teas several years ahead of Soviet designs in its proposed propulsion system and structural engineering. 16

In seeking an engine for an intermediate range ballistic missile, the Army Ordnance Corps, however, was able to profit from North American Aviation's experience with HATV design; an Air Force contract for the Navaho missile ultimately produced the engine that powered the Army's Jupiter C, the launcher for the first successful American satellite. Thus money denied the Navy for scientific research was made available to the Army for a military rocket. 17 Early in 1949 the Air Force requested the RAND Corporation, the recently organized successor to Project Rand, to prepare further utility studies. The paper submitted in 1951 concentrated upon analyzing the value of a satellite as an "instrument of political strategy," and again offered a cogent argument for supporting a project that could have such important psychological effects on world opinion as an American earth satellite. 18 Not until October 1957 would most of the officials who had read the text recognize the validity of that point.

In the meantime, research on the upper atmosphere had continued to nose forward slowly at White Sands and at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington despite the transfer of some twenty "first line people" from NRL's Rocket Sonde Research Section to a nuclear weapons crash program. While the Navy team at White Sands carried on probes with the Aerobee, by then known as "the workhorse of high altitude research," 19 a Bumper-Wac under Army aegis-a V-2 with a Wac-Corporal rocket attached as a second stage-made a record-breaking flight to an altitude of 250 miles in February 1949. Shortly afterward tests began on the new sounding rocket built for NRL by the Glenn L. Martin Company. Named "Neptune" at first and then renamed "Viking," the first model embodied several important innovations: a gimbaled motor for steering, aluminum as the principal structural material, and intermittent gas jets for stabilizing the vehicle after the main power cut off. Reaction Motors Incorporated supplied the engine, one of the first three large liquid-propelled rocket power plants produced in the United States. Viking No. l, fired in the spring of 1949, attained a 50-mile altitude; Viking No. 4, launched from shipboard in May 1950, reached 104 miles. Modest compared to the power displayed by the Bumper-Wac, the thrust of the relatively small single-stage Viking nevertheless was noteworthy. 20

cross-sectional drawing of the HATV

The Navy's High-Altitude Test Vehicle (HATV).
It was proposed in 1946 and was to have launched a satellite by 1951.

While modifications to each Viking in turn brought improved performance, the Electron Optics Branch at NRL was working out a method of using ion chambers and photon counters for x-ray and ultraviolet wavelengths, equipment which would later supply answers to questions about the nuclear composition of solar radiation. Equally valuable was the development of an electronic tracking device known as a "Single-Axis Phase-Comparison Angle-Tracking Unit," the antecedent of "Minitrack," which would permit continuous tracking of a small instrumented body in space. When the next to last Viking, No. 11, rose to an altitude of 158 miles in May 1954, the radio telemetering system transmitted data on cosmic ray emissions, just as the Viking 10, fired about two weeks before, had furnished scientists with the first measurement of positive ion composition at an altitude of 136 miles.
21 This remarkable series of successes achieved in five years at a total cost of less than $6 million encouraged NRL in 1955 to believe that, with a more powerful engine and the addition of upper stages, here was a vehicle capable of launching an earth satellite.

cross-sectional exploded drawing of an earth orbiting satellite

RAND Corporation proposal for a rocket to launch
an "Earth Circling Satellite", 1951.

Essential though this work was to subsequent programs, the Naval Research Laboratory in the late l940s and the l950s was hampered by not having what John P. Hagen called "stable funding" for its projects. Hagen, head of the Atmosphere and Astrophysics Division., found the budgetary system singularly unsatisfactory. NRL had been founded in 1923, but a post-World-War-II reorganization within the Navy had brought the Office of Naval Research into being and given it administrative control of the Laboratory's finances. ONR allotted the Laboratory a modest fixed sum annually, but other Navy bureaus and federal agencies frequently engaged the Laboratory's talents and paid for particular jobs. The arrangement resembled that of a man who receives a small retainer from his employer but depends for most of his livelihood on fees paid him by his own clientele for special services. NRL's every contract, whether for design studies or hardware, had to be negotiated and administered either by ONR or by one of the permanent Navy bureau-in atmospheric research, it was by the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. The cancellation of a contract could seriously disrupt NRL functioning, as the years 1950 to 1954 illustrated.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, the tempo of missile research heightened in the Defense Department. While the Navy was working on a guided missile launchable from shipboard and a group at NRL on radio interferometers for tracking it, rocketeers at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama were engaged in getting the "bugs" out of a North American Aviation engine for a ballistic missile with a 200-mile range, and RAND was carrying on secret studies of a military reconnaissance satellite for the Air Force. In June 1952 NRL got approval for the construction of four additional Vikings similar to Viking No. 10 to use in ballistic missile research, but eleven months later BuAer withdrew its support and canceled the development contract for a high-performance oxygen-ammonia engine that was to have replaced the less powerful Viking engine; this cancellation postponed by over three years the availability of a suitable power plant for the first stage of the future Vanguard rocket. Similarly in 1954 lack of funds curtailed an NRL program to design and develop a new liquid-propelled Aerobee-Hi probing rocket. At the request of the Western Development Division of the Air Force in July 1954, the Laboratory investigated the possible use of an improved Viking as a test vehicle for intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs. The study, involving a solution of the "reentry problem," that is, how to enable a missile's warhead to return into the atmosphere without disintegrating before reaching its target, produced the design of an M-I0 and M-15 Viking, the designations referring to the speeds, measured by Mach number, at which each would reenter the atmosphere. But the Air Force later let the development contracts to private industry. 23 In these years the Department of Defense was unwilling to spend more than token sums on research that appeared to have only remote connection with fighting equipment.

The creation of the National Science Foundation in May 1950 tended to justify that position, for one of the new agency's main functions was to encourage and provide support for basic research chiefly by means of grants- in-aid to American universities. The mission of the Army, Navy, and Air Force was national defense, that of the Foundation the fostering of scientific discovery. It was a responsibility of the Foundation to decide what lines of fundamental research most merited public financial aid in their own right, whereas other federal agencies must by law limit their basic research to fields closely related to their practical missions. While the Foundation's charter forbade it to make grants for applied research and development- the very area in which the military would often have welcomed assistance-any government department could ask the National Academy of Sciences for help on scientific problems. The Academy, founded in 1863 as a self-perpetuating body advisory to but independent of the government, included distinguished men in every scientific field. When its executive unit, the National Research Council, agreed to sponsor studies for federal agencies, the studies sometimes involved more applied than pure research. The Academy's Research Council, and the Science Foundation, however, frequently worked closely together in choosing the problems to investigate24 .

Aerobee-HiViking 10Bumper-Wac

Aerobee-Hi; Viking 10 on the launch pad at White Sands; Bumper-Wac

Certainly the composition of the ionosphere, the region that begins about fifty miles above the earth's surface, and the nature of outer space were less matters for the Pentagon than for the National Academy, the Science Foundation, and the academic scientific world. Indeed, the panel of volunteers which analyzed the findings from each instrumented V-2 shot and later appraised the results of Aerobee, Viking, and Aerobee-Hi flights contained from the first some future members of the Academy. Among the participants over the years were Homer J. Stewart and William H. Pickering of Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Milton W. Rosen, Homer E. Newell, Jr., and John W. Townsend, Jr., of NRL, and James A. Van Allen of the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University and later a professor at the State University of Iowa. Under Van Allen's chairmanship, the Panel on Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research came to be a strong link between university physicists and the Department of Defense, a more direct link in several respects than that afforded by civilian scientists who served on advisory committees of the DoD's Research and Development Board.

While the armed services were perforce confining their research and development programs chiefly to military objectives, no service wanted to discourage discussions of future possibilities. In the autumn of 1951 several doctors in the Air Force and a group of physicists brought together by Joseph Kaplan of the University of California, Los Angeles, met in San Antonio, Texas, for a symposium on the Physics and Medicine of the Upper Atmosphere. The participants summarized existing knowledge of the region named the "aeropause," where manned flight was not yet possible, and examined the problems of man's penetrating into that still unexplored area. The papers published in book form a year later were directly instrumental, Kaplan believed, in arousing enthusiasm for intensive studies of the ionosphere. 26

A few months before the San Antonio sessions, the Hayden Planetarium of New York held a first annual symposium on space exploration, and about the same time the American Rocket Society set up an ad hoc Committee on Space Flight to look for other ways of awakening public interest and winning government support for interplanetary exploration. From a few dozen men who had followed rocket development in the early l930s the society had grown to about two thousand members, some of them connected with the aircraft industry, some of them in government service, and some who were purely enthusiasts caught up by the imaginative possibilities of reaching out into the unknown. The committee met at intervals during the next two years at the Society's New York headquarters or at the Washington office of Andrew Haley. the Society's legal counsel, but not until Richard W. Porter of the General Electric Company sought out Alan T. Waterman, Director of the National Science Foundation, and obtained from him an assurance that the Foundation would consider a proposal, did a formal detailed statement of the committee's credo appear. Milton Rosen, the committee chairman and one of the principal engineers directing the development and tests of the Viking sounding rocket, then conceived and wrote the report advocating a thorough study of the benefits that might derive from launching an earth satellite. Completed on 27 November 1954, the document went to the Foundation early the next year. 27

Without attempting to describe the type of launching vehicle that would he needed, the paper spelled out the reasons why space exploration would bring rich rewards. Six appendixes, each written by a scientist dealing with his own special field, pointed to existing gaps in knowledge which an instrumented satellite might fill. Ira S. Bowen, director of the Palomar Observatory at Mt. Wilson, explained how the clearer visibility and longer exposure possible in photoelectronic scanning of heavenly phenomena from a body two hundred miles above the earth would assist astronomers. Howard Schaeffer of the Naval School of Aviation Medicine wrote of the benefits of obtaining observations on the effects of the radiation from outer space upon living cells. In communications, John R. Pierce, whose proposal of 1952 gave birth to Telstar a decade later, 28 discussed the utility of a relay for radio and television broadcasts. Data obtainable in the realm of geodesy. according to Major John O'Keefe of the Army Map Service, would throw light on the size and shape of the earth and the intensity of its gravitational fields, information which would be invaluable to navigators and mapmakers. The meteorologist Eugene Bollay of North American Weather Consultants spoke of the predictable gains in accuracy of weather forecasting. Perhaps most illuminating to the nonscientifically trained reader was Homer E. Newell's analysis of the unknowns of the ionosphere which data accumulated over a period of days could clarify.

Confusing and complex happenings in the atmosphere, wrote Newell, were "a manifestation of an influx of energy from outer space. What was the nature and magnitude of that energy? Much of the incoming energy was absorbed in the atmosphere at high altitudes. From data transmitted from a space satellite five hundred miles above the earth, the earth-hound scientist might gauge the nature and intensity of the radiation emanating from the sun, the primary producer of that energy. Cosmic rays. meteors, and micrometeors also brought in energy. Although they probably had little effect on the upper atmosphere, cosmic rays, with their extremely high energies, produced ionization in the lower atmosphere. Low-energy particles from the sun were thought to cause the aurora and to play a significant part in the formation of the ionosphere. Sounding rockets permitted little more than momentary measurements of the various radiations at various heights, but with a satellite circling the earth in a geomagnetic meridian plane it should be possible to study in detail the low-energy end of the cosmic ray spectrum, a region inaccessible to direct observation within the atmosphere and best studied above the geomagnetic poles. Batteries charged by the sun should be able to supply power to relay information for weeks or months.

Contrary to what an indifferent public might have expected from rocket "crackpots," the document noted that "to create a satellite merely for the purpose of saying it has been done would not justify the cost. Rather, the satellite should serve useful purpose-purposes which can command the respect of the officials who sponsor it, the scientists and engineers who produce it, and the community who pays for it." The appeal was primarily to the scientific community, but the intelligent layman could comprehend it. and its publication in an engineering journal in February 1955 gave the report a diversified audience. 29

A number of men in and outside government service meantime had continued to pursue the satellite idea. In February 1952 Aristid V. Grosse of Temple University, a key figure in the Manhattan Project in its early days, had persuaded President Truman to approve a study of the utility of a satellite in the form of an inflatable balloon visible to the naked eye from the surface of the earth. Aware that Wernher von Braun, one of the German-born experts from Peenemuende, was interested, the physicist took counsel with him and his associates at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Fifteen months later Grosse submitted to the Secretary of the Air Force a description of the "American Star" that could rise in the West. Presumably because the proposed satellite would be merely a show piece without other utility, nothing more was heard of it. 30

A series of articles in three issues of Collier's, however, commanded wide attention during 1952. Stirred by an account of the San Antonio symposium as Kaplan described it over the lunch table, the editors of the magazine engaged Wernher von Braun to write the principal pieces and obtained shorter contributions from Kaplan, Fred L. Whipple, chairman of the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, Heinz Haber of the Air Force Space Medicine Division, the journalist Willy Ley, and others. The editors' comment ran: "What are we waiting for?", an expression of alarm lest a communist nation preempt outer space before the United States acted and thereby control the earth from manned space platforms equipped with atomic bombs. On the other hand, von Braun's articles chiefly stressed the exciting discoveries possible within twenty-five years if America at once began building "cargo rockets" and a wheel-shaped earth-circling space station from which American rocket ships could depart to other planets and return. Perhaps because of severe editing to adapt material to popular consumption, the text contained little or no technical data on how these wonders were to be accomplished; the term "telemetry" nowhere appeared. But the articles, replete with illustrations in color, and a subsequent Walt Disney film fanned public interest and led to an change of letters between von Braun and S. Fred Singer, a brilliant young physicist at the University of Maryland. 31

At the fourth Congress of the International Astronautics Federation in Zurich, Switzerland, in summer 1953, Singer proposed a Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite of the Earth, MOUSE, based upon a study prepared two years earlier by members of the British Interplanetary Society who had predicated their scheme on the use of a V-2 rocket. The Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel at White Sands in turn discussed the plan in April 1954, and in May Singer again presented his MOUSE proposal at the Hayden Planetarium's fourth Space Travel Symposium. On that occasion Harry Wexler of the United States Weather Bureau gave a lecture entitled, "Observing the Weather from a Satellite Vehicle." 32 The American public was thus being exposed to the concept of an artificial satellite as something more than science fiction.

By then, Commander George Hoover and Alexander Satin of the Air Branch of the Office of Naval Research had come to the conclusion that recent technological advances in rocketry had so improved the art that the feasibility of launching a satellite was no longer in serious doubt. Hoover therefore put out feelers to specialists of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Huntsville. There von Braun, having temporarily discarded his space platform as impractical, was giving thought to using the Redstone rocket to place a small satellite in orbit. Redstone, a direct descendant of the V-2, was, as one man described it, a huge piece of "boiler plate." sixty-nine feet long, seventy inches in diameter, and weighing 61,000 pounds, its power plant using liquid oxygen as oxidizer and an alcohol-water mixture as fuel. A new Redstone engine built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., and tested in 1953 was thirty percent lighter and thirty-four percent more powerful than that of the V-2. 33 If Commander Hoover knew of the futile efforts of BuAer in 1947 to get Army Air Forces collaboration on a not wholly dissimilar space program, that earlier disappointment failed to discourage him. And as he had reason to believe he could now get Navy funds for a satellite project, he had no difficulty in enlisting von Braun's interest. At a meeting in Washington arranged by Frederick C. Durant, III, past president of the American Rocket Society, Hoover, Satin, von Braun, and David Young from Huntsville discussed possibilities with Durant, Singer. and Fred Whipple, the foremost American authority on tracking heavenly bodies. The consensus of the conferees ran that a slightly modified Redstone rocket with clusters of thirty-one Loki solid-propellant rockets for upper stages could put a five-pound satellite into orbit at a minimum altitude of 200 miles. Were that successful, a larger satellite equipped with instruments could follow soon afterward. Whipple's judgment that optical tracking would suffice to trace so small a satellite at a distance of 200 miles led the group to conclude that radio tracking would be needless. 34

Whipple then approached the National Science Foundation begging it to finance a conference on the technical gains to be expected from a satellite and from "the instrumentation that should be designed well in advance of the advent of an active satellite vehicle." The Foundation, he noted some months later, was favorable to the idea but in 1954 took no action upon it. 35 Commander Hoover fared better. He took the proposal to Admiral Frederick R. Furth of the Office of Naval Research and with the admiral's approval then discussed the division of labor with General H. T. Toftoy and von Braun at Redstone Arsenal. The upshot was an agreement that the Army should design and construct the booster system, the Navy take responsibility for the satellite, tracking facilities, and the acquisition and analysis of data. No one at ONR had consulted the Naval Research Laboratory about the plan. In November 1954 a full description of the newly named Project Orbiter was sent for critical examination and comment to Emmanuel R. Piore, chief scientist of ONR, and to the government-owned Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena which handled much of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's research. Before the end of the year, the Office of Naval Research had let three contracts totaling $60,000 for feasibility analyses or design of components for subsystems. Called a "no-cost satellite," Orbiter was to be built largely from existing hardware. 36

a large Redstone rocket being lifted onto static firing stand

A Redstone rocket on the static-firing stand at the
Army Ballistic Missile Agency, Huntsville, Alabama.

At this point it is necessary to examine the course scientific thought had been taking among physicists of the National Academy and American universities, for in the long run it was their recommendations that would most immediately affect governmental decisions about a satellite program. This phase of the story opens in spring 1950, at an informal gathering at James Van Allen's home in Silver Spring, Maryland. The group invited by Van Allen to meet with the eminent British geophysicist Sydney Chapman consisted of Lloyd Berkner, head of the new Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, S. Fred Singer, J. Wallace Joyce, a geophysicist with the Navy BuAer and adviser to the Department of State, and Ernest H. Vestine of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution. As they talked of how to obtain simultaneous measurements and observations of the earth and the upper atmosphere from a distance above the earth, Berkner suggested that perhaps staging another International Polar Year would be the best way. His companions immediately responded enthusiastically. Berkner and Chapman then developed the idea further and put it into form to present to the International Council of Scientific Unions. The first International Polar Year had established the precedent of international scientific cooperation in 1882 when scientists of a score of nations agreed to pool their efforts for a year in studying polar conditions. A second International Polar Year took place, in 1932. Berkner's proposal to shorten the interval to 25 years was timely because 1957-1958, astronomers knew, would be a period of maximum solar activity.
37 European scientists subscribed to the plan. In 1952 the International Council of Scientific Unions appointed a committee to make arrangements, extended the scope of the study to the whole earth, not just the polar regions, fixed the duration at eighteen months, and then renamed the undertaking the International Geophysical Year, shortened in popular speech to IGY. It eventually embraced sixty-seven nations. 38

Orbiter project staff meeting

Meeting on Project Orbiter, 17 March 1955 in Washington, D.C.

In the International Council of Scientific Unions the National Academy of Sciences had always been the adhering body for the United States. The Council itself, generally called ICSU, was and is the headquarters unit of a nongovernmental international association of scientific groups such as the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the International Scientific Radio Union, and others. When plans were afoot for international scientific programs which needed governmental support, Americans of the National Academy naturally looked to the National Science Foundation for federal funds. Relations between the two organizations had always been cordial, the Foundation often turning for advice to the Academy and its secretariat, the National Research Council, and the Academy frequently seeking financing for projects from the Foundation. At the end of 1952 the Academy appointed a United States National Committee for the IGY headed by Joseph Kaplan to plan for American participation. The choice of Kaplan as chairman strengthened the position of men interested in the upper atmosphere and outer space.

During the spring of 1953 the United States National Committee drafted a statement which the International Council later adopted, listing the fields of inquiry which IGY programs should encompass-oceanographic phenomena, polar geography, and seismology, for example, and, in the celestial area, such matters as solar activity, sources of ionizing radiations, cosmic rays, and their effects upon the atmosphere. 39 In the course of the year the Science Foundation granted $27,000 to the IGY committee for planning, but in December, when Hugh Odishaw left his post as assistant to the director of the Bureau of Standards to become secretary of the National Committee, it was still uncertain how much further support the government would give IGY programs. Foundation resources were limited. Although in August Congress had removed the $15,000,000 ceiling which the original act had placed on the Foundation's annual budget, the appropriation voted for FY 1954 had totaled only $8 million. In view of the Foundation's other commitments, that sum seemed unlikely to allow for extensive participation in the IGY. In January 1954 the National Committee asked for a total of $13 million. Scientists' hopes rose in March when President Eisenhower announced that, in contrast to the $100 million spent in 1940 on federal support of research and development, he was submitting a $2-billion research and development budget to Congress for FY 1955. Hope turned to gratification in June when Congress authorized for the IGY an over-all expenditure of $13 million as requested and in August voted for FY 1955 an appropriation of $2 million to the National Science Foundation for IGY preparations. 40

Thus reassured, the representatives from the National Academy set out in the late summer for Europe and the sessions of the International Scientific Radio Union, known as URSI, and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, IUGG. As yet none of the nations pledged to take part in the IGY had committed itself to definite projects. The U.S.S.R. had not joined at all, although Russian delegates attended the meetings. Before meetings opened, Lloyd V. Berkner, president of the Radio Union and vice president of Comité Spéciale de l'Année Géophysique Internationale (CSAGI) set up two small informal committees under the chairmanship of Fred Singer and Homes E. Newell, Jr., respectively, to consider the scientific utility of a satellite. The National Academy's earlier listing of IGY objectives had named problems requiring exploration but had not suggested specific means of solving them. For years physicists and geodesists had talked wistfully of observing the earth and its celestial environment from above the atmosphere. Now, Berkner concluded, was the time to examine the possibility of acting upon the idea. Singer was an enthusiast who inclined to brush aside technical obstacles. Having presented MOUSE the preceding year and shared in planning Project Orbiter, he was a persuasive proponent of an IGY satellite program. Newell of NRL was more conservative, but be too stressed to IUGG the benefits to be expected from a successful launching of an instrumented "bird," the theme that he incorporated in his later essay for the American Rocket Society. URSI and IUGG both passed resolutions favoring the scheme. But CSAGI still had to approve. And there were potential difficulties.

Hence on the eve of the CSAGI meeting in Rome, Berkner invited ten of his associates to his room at the Hotel Majestic to review the pros and cons, to make sure, as one man put it. that the proposal to CSAGI was not just a "pious resolution" such as Newton could have submitted to the Royal Society. The group included Joseph Kaplan, U.S. National Committee chairman, Hugh Odishaw, committee secretary, Athelstan Spilhaus, Dean of the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology. Alan H. Shapley of the National Bureau of Standards, Harry Wexler of the Weather Bureau, Wallace Joyce, Newell, and Singer. The session lasted far into the night. Singer outlined the scientific and technical problem-the determination of orbits, the effects of launching errors, the probable life of the satellite, telemetering and satellite orientation, receiving stations, power supplies, and geophysical and astrophysical applications of data. Newell, better versed than some of the others in the technical difficulties to be overcome, pointed out that satellite batteries might bubble in the weightless environment of space, whereupon Spilhaus banged his fist and shouted: "Then we'll get batteries that won't!" Singer's presentation was exciting, but the question remained whether an artificial body of the limited size and weight a rocket could as yet put into orbit could carry enough reliable instrumentation to prove of sufficient scientific value to warrant the cost; money and effort poured into that project would not be available for other research, and to attempt to build a big satellite might be to invite defeat.

Both Berkner and Spilhaus spoke of the political and psychological prestige that would accrue to the nation that first launched a man-made satellite. As everyone present knew, A. N. Nesmeyanov of the Soviet Academy of Sciences had said in November 1953 that satellite launchings and moon shots were already feasible; and with Tsiolkovskiy's work now recognized by Western physicists, the Americans had reason to believe in Russian scientific and technological capabilities. In March 1954 Moscow Radio had exhorted Soviet youth to prepare for space exploration, and in April the Moscow Air Club had announced that studies in interplanetary flight were beginning. Very recently the U.S.S.R. had committed itself to IGY participation. While the American scientists in September 1954 did not discount the possible Russian challenge, some of them insisted that a satellite experiment must not assume such emphasis as to cripple or halt upper atmosphere research by means of sounding rockets. The latter was an established useful technique that could provide, as a satellite in orbit could not, measurements at a succession of altitudes in and above the upper atmosphere, measurements along the vertical instead of the horizontal plane. Nevertheless at the end of the six-hour session, the group unanimously agreed to urge CSAGI to endorse an IGY satellite project. 41

During the CSAGI meeting that followed, the Soviet representatives listened to the discussion but neither objected, volunteered comment, nor asked questions. On 4 October CSAGI adopted the American proposal: "In view," stated that body,

of the great importance of observations during extended periods of time of extra-terrestrial radiations and geophysical phenomena in the upper atmosphere, and in view of the advanced state of present rocket techniques, CSAGI recommends that thought be given to the launching of small satellite vehicles, to their scientific instrumentation, and to the new problems associated with satellite experiments, such as power supply, telemetering, and orientation of the vehicle. 42

What had long seemed to most of the American public as pure Jules Verne and Buck Rogers fantasy now had the formal backing of the world's most eminent scientists.

Thus by the time the United States Committee for the IGY appointed a Feasibility Panel on Upper Atmosphere Research, three separate, albeit interrelated, groups of Americans were concerned with a possible earth satellite project: physicists, geodesists, and astronomers intent on basic research; officers of the three armed services looking for scientific means to military ends; and industrial engineers, including members of the American Rocket Society, who were eager to see an expanding role for their companies. The three were by no means mutually exclusive. The dedicated scientist, for instance, in keeping with Theodore von Kármán's example as a founder and official of the Aerojet General Corporation, might also be a shareholder in a research-orientated electronics or aircraft company, just as the industrialist might have a passionate interest in pure as well as applied science, and the military man might share the intellectual and practical interests of both the others. Certainly all three wanted improvements in equipment for national defense. Still the primary objective of each group differed from those of the other two. These differences were to have subtle effects on Vanguard's development. Although to some people the role of the National Academy appeared to be that of a Johnny-come-lately, the impelling force behind the satellite project nevertheless was the scientist speaking through governmental and quasi-governmental bodies.

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