Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress Relative to Space Science and Exploration.

April 02, 1958

To the Congress of the United States:

Recent developments in long-range rockets for military purposes have for the first time provided man with new machinery so powerful that it can put satellites into orbit, and eventually provide the means for space exploration. The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have already successfully placed in orbit a number of earth satellites. In fact, it is now within the means of any technologically advanced nation to embark upon practicable programs for exploring outer space. The early enactment of appropriate legislation will help assure that the United States takes full advantage of the knowledge of its scientists, the skill of its engineers and technicians, and the resourcefulness of its industry in meeting the challenges of the space age.

During the past several months my Special Assistant for Science and Technology and the President's Science Advisory Committee, of which he is the Chairman, have been conducting a study of the purposes to be served by a national space program, of the types of projects which will be involved, and of the problems of organizing for space science functions. In a statement which I released on March 26, 1958, the Science Advisory Committee has listed four factors which in its judgment give urgency and inevitability to advancement in space technology. These factors are: (1) the compelling urge of man to explore the unknown; (2) the need to assure that full advantage is taken of the military potential of space; (3) the effect on national prestige of accomplishment in space science and exploration; and (4) the opportunities for scientific observation and experimentation which will add to our knowledge of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.

These factors have such a direct bearing on the future progress as well as on the security of our Nation that an imaginative and well-conceived space program must be given high priority and a sound organization provided to carry it out. Such a program and the organization which I recommend should contribute to (1) the expansion of human knowledge of outer space and the use of space technology for scientific inquiry, (2) the improvement of the usefulness and efficiency of aircraft, (3) the development of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment and living organisms into space, (4) the preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology, (5) the making available of discoveries of military value to agencies directly concerned with national security, (6) the promotion of cooperation with other nations in space science and technology, and (7) assuring the most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States and the avoidance of duplication of facilities and equipment.

I recommend that aeronautical and space science activities sponsored by the United States be conducted under the direction of a civilian agency, except for those projects primarily associated with military requirements. I have reached this conclusion because space exploration holds promise of adding importantly to our knowledge of the earth, the solar system, and the universe, and because it is of great importance to have the fullest cooperation of the scientific community at home and abroad in moving forward in the fields of space science and technology. Moreover, a civilian setting for the administration of space function will emphasize the concern of our Nation that outer space be devoted to peaceful and scientific purposes.

I am, therefore, recommending that the responsibility for administering the civilian space science and exploration program be lodged in a new National Aeronautics and Space Agency, into which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics would be absorbed. Hence, in addition to directing the Nation's civilian space program, the new Agency would continue to perform the important aeronautical research functions presently carried on by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The new Agency would be headed by a Director appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

In order to assist the President and the Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, I recommend that a National Aeronautics and Space Board, appointed by the President, be created. Several of the members of the Board should be from the Government agencies with the most direct interest in aeronautics, space science, and space technology. To assure that military factors are considered by the Board, at least one member should be appointed from the Department of Defense. Members appointed from outside the Government should be eminent in science, engineering, technology, education or public affairs and be selected solely because they have established records of distinguished achievement.

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency should be given that authority which it will need to administer successfully the new programs under conditions that cannot now be fully foreseen.

In order that the Agency may attract and retain the services of scientists and technicians which it must have to carry out its responsibilities with full effectiveness, it should have the authority, subject to regulations prescribed by the President, to fix the compensation of its employees at rates reasonably competitive with those paid by other employers for comparable work without regard to the provisions of existing classification laws.

The Agency should have the power to conduct research projects in its own facilities or by contract with other qualified organizations. It will thus be free to enlist the skills and resources required for the space program wherever they may be found, and to do so under the arrangements most satisfactory to all concerned. Provision should also be made for continuing and further enhancing the close and effective cooperation with the military departments which has characterized the work of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Under such cooperative arrangements it is expected that the National Aeronautics and Space Agency will perform research required in the furtherance of strictly military aeronautics and space objectives, just as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics now carries on important research work for the military services in aerodynamics, propulsion, materials and other fields important to the development of military aircraft and missiles.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics is already engaged in research directly related to flight outside the earth's atmosphere and has research facilities adapted to work in space science. Upon the enactment of legislation carrying out my recommendations, all of the resources of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics would immediately come under the direction of the new Agency. The Department of Defense and its contractors, as well as other agencies, have active programs which should be considered for administration by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. I recommend that this fact be taken into account and provision made for the transfer to the Agency of such functions, activities and facilities of other departments and agencies as may be found to be appropriate for administration by the new Agency, subject to the concurrence of the heads of the affected agencies and with the approval of the President.

The Director of the Bureau of the Budget is transmitting to the Congress draft legislation to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Agency and to authorize research into the problems of flight within and outside the earth's atmosphere. I urge that the Congress give prompt consideration to the draft legislation and that it be enacted at the earliest possible date.

Pending enactment of legislation, it is essential that necessary work relating to space programs be continued without loss of momentum. for this reason, I have approved, as part of an interim program of space technology and exploration, the launching of a number of unmanned space vehicles under the direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department. of Defense. The projects which I have approved include both scientific earth satellites and programs to explore space. In taking this interim action, I directed the Department of Defense to coordinate these projects with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the National Science foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. I also indicated that when a civilian space agency is created, these projects would be reviewed to determine which should continue under the direction of the Department of Defense and which should be placed under the new Agency.

It is also important that measures be taken to assure the prompt and orderly implementation of the proposed aeronautics and space legislation when enacted.

I am requesting the Department of Defense and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to review pertinent programs of the Department and to recommend to me those which should be placed under the direction of the new Agency. I have also asked that they prepare an operating plan to assure support of the new Agency by organizations, facilities, and other resources of the Department of Defense, either by cooperative arrangements or by transfer to the new Agency.

It is contemplated that the Department of Defense will continue to be responsible for space activities peculiar to or primarily associated with military weapons systems or military operations. Responsibility for other programs is to be assumed by the new Agency. In this connection, I commend to the attention of the Congress the comments of my Science Advisory Committee, in its statement of March 26, 1958, on the military applications of space technology.

I am also asking the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to begin immediate preparation of such detailed plans as may be required to prepare for the assumption by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency of the responsibilities contemplated for it. Those plans are to set forth the specific new space programs to be initiated and are to describe the internal organization, management structure, staff, facilities, and funds which will be required. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics is to discuss with the National Science foundation and the National Academy of Sciences the matter of participation by the scientific community in determining the scientific objectives of our space programs. The best scientific judgment available should be utilized. Matters related to dissemination of the data collected should also be considered.

I have also instructed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to assume the responsibility for preparing and presenting to the appropriate committees of the Congress a full explanation of the proposed legislation and its objectives.

The vigorous program contemplated will depend not only on adequate legislative authority but also on adequate financial support. I shall shortly submit to the Congress an amendment to the fiscal year 1959 Budget to provide funds that will be needed by the new Agency in its first year of operation.


Note: The President's Science Advisory Committee's statement of March 26 is published in "Introduction to Outer Space" (Government Printing Office, 1958). See also Item 105, below.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress Relative to Space Science and Exploration. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234638

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