FIRST AMONG EQUALS : THE IMPACT OF JAMES E. WEBB

 
 
Creation of the Office of Space Science
 
During 1960 and 1961, as Newell and the scientific community developed a mutually satisfactory selection procedure, another worrisome event loomed on the horizon-1960 was an election year. Who would be the new president? What would his attitude be toward space? Who would he appoint as Administrator of NASA? Would the new administrator want a strong space science program or would he focus on manned space flight? Would he want strong university involvement or would he bring the space science program into the NASA field centers? Would he want to clean house and appoint his own people to key positions? As 1960 drew to a close and John F. Kennedy was elected president, these and other questions plagued Newell and his staff. Their concerns were intensified when the appointment of the new NASA administrator dragged on long after most of the other members of the new administration were selected.
 
Early Misconceptions About Webb
 
It was January 1961 before Kennedy finally named James E. Webb as NASA administrator. No one in the Office of Space Flight Programs knew much about him, information trickled in that he was a red-neck lawyer and Democratic politician from North Carolina, a former director of the Bureau of the Budget under President Truman, and a former under secretary of state to Dean Atcheson. The scientists in NASA Headquarters thought that this was an inappropriate background for a leader. They wanted someone with a keen interest in space science and strong opinions about the role of the Space Science Board and the involvement of universities in the space program. How wrong they were!!
 
There came a day in February 1961 when Newell and his staff confronted Jim Webb. That day they discovered that he was indeed a lawyer from North Carolina, had directed the Bureau of the Budget, but was definitely not a red-neck, Democratic politician. Although he was not a scientist, they found that he understood science and scientists; he knew the long-range importance of space science to the nation and most definitely wanted universities to play a major role in the space science program.
 
When Webb took over in the spring of 1961, NASA had been following the selection process specified in TMI 37-1-1 for almost a year. However, the use of it in the future was by no means certain. The scientific community and many people inside NASA had not yet accepted it. The Space Science Board and its committees were still operating and ready to take on a major role in the selection of space scientists. Webb had several options: he could chose to accept the existing process; he could abolish TMI 37-1-1 and create his own process; he could eliminate Newell's organization and use the Space Science Board to plan the space science program and select the scientists, as it had done for NASA in 1958 and 1959; he could decide that space science was too complex, risky, and important to the national welfare to involve academic scientists and move all of the scientific research into the NASA centers; or he could delegate the responsibility for planning the program and selecting the scientists to the NASA centers, giving the nation a lunar and planetary program formulated and executed by Pickering and his staff at JPL and an earth satellite program formulated and executed by Harry Goert and his staff at Goddard.
 
Out of all these options, Webb chose to continue with the same basic organization and the existing selection process, with two fundamental and important changes. He strengthened the scientists' control over the selection process and he created the NASA University Program to provide additional research support, facilities, graduate students, and security to academic scientists. Webb's University Program also encouraged the presidents and vice presidents of universities to actively participate in NASA's Space Science Program and to publicly support all of NASA's programs.
 
Webb wanted a strong, technically competent Headquarters organization and equally strong centers, but centers that would respond, promptly and properly, to direction from NASA Headquarters. He wanted the backing and help of the Space Science Board, but did not want the Board to sit at his elbow and tell him how to run NASA. He wanted a strong university program and the backing of university administrators. He was prepared to provide universities with new laboratories, graduate fellowships, and research grants to encourage them to participate in the space science program.
 
Webb Creates an Office of Space Science
 
On November 1, 1961, Webb reorganized NASA Headquarters. He abolished Silverstein's Office of Space Flight Programs and the Office of Launch Vehicle Programs. In their place he created three new offices: the Office of Tracking and Data Acquisition, the Office of Manned Space Flight, and the Office of Space Science. Silverstein left Headquarters to return to the NASA's Lewis Research Center as its Director. Webb appointed Newell as director of the Office of Space Science and Edgar M. Cortright, assistant director of the Lunar and Planetary Program, as Newell's deputy. Webb assigned responsibility for all unmanned launch vehicles to the Office of Space Science and for all manned launch vehicles to the Office of Manned Space Flight. These changes gave Newell control of his transportation to space, one of the tools essential for a successful space science program. However, Webb did not give Newell control of the two space flight centers, one of the tools Newell needed to conduct his program. Instead, Webb took the control of JPL and Goddard, which had resided in the Office of Space Flight, and gave it to the associate administrator, Newell's immediate superior. Two years later, Webb realized his mistake and placed Newell in charge of the two centers, finally giving him all the tools he needed to conduct the program.
 
Newell then reorganized the Office of Space Science into a launch vehicle division and three scientific divisions: Geophysics and Astronomy, Lunar and Planetary, and Life Sciences. Following the pattern established by Silverstein in 1960, Newell appointed a director and deputy director for each division, making one a scientist and the other an engineer. Newell made one important change. Under Silverstein the director of a division was always an engineer; under Newell the director could be either a scientist or an engineer, depending upon his or her seniority and leadership ability. If the director was a scientist, then the deputy was an engineer and vice versa. Each division had two kinds of positions: program chiefs, who were scientists, responsible for a particular scientific discipline, and program managers, who were engineers, responsible for a single major scientific mission or several smaller missions. In addition to a program manager, each scientific mission had a program scientist, usually a program chief, who, among other duties, handled the selection of the scientists for that particular mission. Newell also created a position of chief scientist and chairman of the Space Science Steering Committee, a position that he did not immediately fill.
 
Line management went from Newell to Cortright to the Division directors. The Division directors remained responsible for planning missions, overseeing the selection process, and recommending payloads to the Steering Committee. Newell rewrote TMI 37-1-1 and gave himself final approval authority for all NASA space science experiments. 169, 170
 
Newell remained chairman of the Space Science Steering Committee throughout the rest of 1961. In the spring of 1962, he found that administrative work occupied too much of his time and appointed Dr. John F. Clark as chief scientist and chairman of the Space Science Steering Committee. This final appointment established the administrative structure for the Office of Space Science at Headquarters that survived for the next two decades.
 
Shadow Networks
 
As chief scientist, Clark led a "shadow" scientific network that consisted of the lead scientist director or deputy and the program chiefs in each division. Newell's deputy, Cortright, led a similar informal shadow engineering network that consisted of the lead engineer and the program managers. The shadow science network handled the purely scientific issues and the shadow engineering network handled the purely engineering issues. Issues involving both science and engineering and direction to center directors went through the formal line organization. These shadow networks served to speed the routine work, promote teamwork between scientists and engineers, and to make the most efficient use of payload space available on the NASA missions.
 
Webb's University Program
 
In June 1961, Webb decided to encourage additional university participation in NASA's space science program and improve the ability of academic scientists to compete for the opportunity to participate in NASA's scientific missions. He directed Newell to conduct a study to see what could be done. Three activities resulted from the study: construction of new laboratories at universities, provision of fellowships for graduate students, and establishment of "step funded" grants for space research. Webb, however, did not provide the regional engineering centers to support academic scientists that the Space Science Board had recommended. Instead, he provided facilities and funding to the universities so that an academic scientist could conduct the research needed to develop an instrument and prepare a proposal for a scientific mission. These Supporting Research and Technology (SR&T) funds also helped the academic scientists to maintain the engineering staff they needed to design, build, test, and integrate their instruments into NASA spacecraft. Scientists at Goddard and JPL already had access to a large group of experienced aerospace engineers. By providing funding for facilities and engineering support to universities. Webb enabled academic scientists to compete on a more equal basis with Goddard and JPL scientists. 171
 
The Space Science Board Reorganizes
 
In the fall of 1961, spurred by discussions with Webb and a letter from Dryden, Berkner reorganized the Space Science Board, abolished most of its committees, and announced his intention to retire as chairman in June 1962. Before he left, he helped the Board start on a new direction. He organized the Board's first summer study to plan a long-range strategy for space science. Berkner turned, once more, to Dr. James A. Van Allen to lead the study.
 
The study group met in Iowa City, Iowa, for two months in the summer of 1962. The Iowa Summer Study set a pattern for all the studies conducted by the Board over the next twenty-five years wherein each summer the Board reviewed or revised NASA's long-range strategy. The Iowa Study considered the broad objectives and major missions of space science, endorsed some, eliminated others, and postponed others until the science or the technology was ready. 172, 173, 174 The Board conducted a second study in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1964 to help plan a program for NASA after the completion of the Apollo Program. These studies helped NASA conduct a coherent series of major scientific missions such as Viking, HEAO, the Hubble Telescope, Pioneer's X and XI, and Voyager.
 
Major Conflicts Resolved
 
Dryden's letter to Berkner in the fall of 1959 had taken the Space Science Board out of the business of selecting space scientists. Webb's reorganization in the fall of 1961 placed Newell in charge of planning and executing the space science program and selecting the scientists to participate in it. The reorganization ended Newell's rivalry with the directors of JPL and Goddard for the right to control the space science program and select space scientists. As a result, in 1962, everyone- academic and NASA scientists, the members of the Board, the directors of Goddard and JPL, and the administrative scientists at NASA Headquarters-could now settle down to do his or her part of the job to ensure that the United States achieved its goal to be leader of the world in space science and technology.


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