Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

[58] Scheduling V-2 flights, developing newer rockets, testing instruments, seeking financial support, fighting military classification, arguing and politicking in meetings national and international-such activities seemed to consume more time and energy than the actual science that was their ultimate purpose. But because of those subsidiary activities, which fill most of the pages of this book, the scientific research moved steadily forward. Month by month, year by year the results accumulated. By the time NASA began to operate, a rich harvest had already been reaped from sounding rockets, with several significant contributions from the scientific satellite program of the International Geophysical Year. These, especially upper atmospheric and cosmic ray research, gave NASA a running start in space science.
By the early 1960s the study of energetic particles and magnetic fields from the sun and their interaction with the earth's magnetic field had become a well integrated and coherent field of study. By then, also, satellite geodesy had begun to make its mark. But the space science program was open ended, and the harvest a continuing one. This steady advance of space science is the subject of three chapters (6, 11, 20), whose aim is to present in broad outline what the space science disciplines encompassed and to show how space techniques made notable contributions. The present chapter reviews achievements through 1958.