Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

[120] Most important for space science were relations with the National Academy of Sciences and the Space Science Board. It was assumed without question that NASA would look to the Space Science Board for advice on scientific questions. Accordingly NASA joined the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense in providing funding for the board. In the fall of 1959, when time approached for the National Science Foundation to renew the annual contract with the board, Dryden sent to Alan Waterman, director of NSF, a work request that NASA would like to see incorporated in the new contract.14 The contents of the request, a copy of which was sent to the National Academy the same day it went to NSF, had been discussed in advance between the author and Hugh Odishaw, executive director of the Space Science Board. 15 NASA sought assistance from the board on (1) long-range planning, (2) specific planning for the separate scientific disciplines, (3) international programs, and (4) the handling of space science data and results. The first two were straightforward, but care was taken to emphasize planning, and NASA took this opportunity to turn back an incipient interest on the part of the board in getting into operational matters like the review and selection of experiments for space science missions.
A major point under (3) concerned U.S. representation on the international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). At the invitation of Lloyd Berkner, who was then president of the International Council of Scientific Unions, the author had convened the organizing meeting of COSPAR in London 14 November 1958. Subsequently the question arose as to whether America's permanent representative should come from NASA. The Academy thought not, and Dryden and the author agreed. It was traditional and appropriate that the country's representation on international scientific, as opposed to political, bodies should fall under the aegis of the Academy of Sciences. NASA supported this view and further agreed to pay America's annual subvention to the Committee on Space Research.
The final item in the work request on data and results was fuzzy, not at all clear at the time. Since the Academy had been involved during the [121] International Geophysical Year with the operation of world data centers, which archived and distributed data and information derived from the IGY science program, it was thought that the Academy might continue this function for the national space program. After all, there had been a Data Center on Rockets and Satellites, so what could be more direct than to have that center expand its responsibilities? There were subtleties to the problem, one of which surfaced in a meeting 9 December 1959, held at Boulder, Colorado. Hugh Odishaw asked if NASA would support a center devoted to data from all upper-atmosphere and solar research, not just those obtained from rockets and satellites.16 NASA representatives equivocated and, after prolonged discussion with the Academy, established the Space Science Data Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center.17 Although the new organization did undertake to archive a great deal of data that were not obtained from space experiments, in general such data were selected because they would increase the value of the space data.
During the period that NASA was developing its working relations with the Space Science Board, the agency was also feeling its way toward some mechanism to provide broader and closer contacts with the scientific. community than could be expected from the Space Science Board alone. For the most part unaware of the extensive and skillful use NACA had made of committees to keep in touch with thinking outside the agency, NASA space scientists began to move in a similar direction. Internally a Space Sciences Steering Committee was established in April 1960, with responsibility for recommending space science programs and projects to the director of spaceflight programs, Abe Silverstein. The steering committee also recommended the selection of experiments and experimenters for space science missions.18 Subcommittees were formed for the scientific disciplines.19 Unlike the steering committee, however, which consisted solely of NASA employees, about half the members of the subcommittees were outside scientists. From this group of disciplinary subcommittees the NASA advisory structure in space science evolved over the years. Advisory committees became a major element in NASA's relations with the scientific community and in planning and conducting the space science program. This subject will be discussed in detail in chapter 12.