Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

 
 
CHAPTER 9
 
UNIVERSITIES
 
 
 
[129] NACA had had a rather small involvement with the universities.40 What university research NACA did pay for usually was tied into research projects going on at the NACA laboratories. For NASA, however, relations with universities would be more extensive and different. This was especially true in space science, where the number of disciplines encompassed in the program dictated that a great deal of the work would have to be done outside and largely in the universities. Much of this would be an extension of a university's own research, with the addition of new tools-rockets and spacecraft. NASA would accordingly be funding university research as a major part of a broad space science program rather than as specific support to in-house projects. By undertaking to carry out a substantial part of the national space science program, the universities became allies of NASA.
 
But when NASA also decided to create space science groups at the Goddard Space Flight Center, the jet Propulsion Laboratory, and other centers, the universities found themselves in the role of rivals to NASA. For, the in-house groups would inevitably be in competition with those outside for funding of their research and for accommodation on scientific flights, as mentioned earlier. A number of the mechanisms that NASA devised for working with the scientific community were influenced by the need to moderate the tensions that soon appeared. For this reason the responsibility for selecting space science experiments and experimenters was kept in headquarters even during periods when there was a general attempt to decentralize authority by transferring to the field many functions previously handled by headquarters.
 
Work with the universities was sufficiently important to the space program-particularly to the space science program-that NASA established an organizational unit specifically for handling university relations.41 The university office guided NASA's work with the academic community, not hesitating to experiment with new ideas on government university relations. More attention is given to the NASA university program, particularly as it bore on space science, in chapter 13.
 

 
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