The Birth of NASA: The Diary of T. Keith Glennanby T. Keith Glennan
Early in the morning of 4 October 1957, T. Keith Glennan went to work, just as he had for more than a decade, at the president's office of the Case Institute of Technology (CIT). On that Friday Glennan's career path changed sharply. Because of the events of that day he soon became caught up in the vortex of superpower rivalries and projects to enhance international… See more details below
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Early in the morning of 4 October 1957, T. Keith Glennan went to work, just as he had for more than a decade, at the president's office of the Case Institute of Technology (CIT). On that Friday Glennan's career path changed sharply. Because of the events of that day he soon became caught up in the vortex of superpower rivalries and projects to enhance international prestige. Less than a year later he would be in Washington, D.C., serving as head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a newly-constituted, federal research and development agency charged with helping to define and execute a far-reaching space exploration effort.
Glennan's move from CIT to NASA came about because of the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik I on 4 October 1957. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and others feared that the Soviet Union could now legitimately claim leadership in a major technological field. Sputnik I meant that longstanding rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union had entered a new plane, one where Americans were at a disadvantage. Americans were shocked and incredulous about this achievement by a communist country, and the result was increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of new federal agencies to manage air and space research and development.
One of the most important results of this event was the establishment of NASA on 1 October 1958. Glennan headed NASA from its inception until the change of presidential administrations in 1961. During this period he oversaw the definition of U.S. policies for operations in space, contributed to the development of goals and programs to further those policies, and consolidated the resources needed to carry them out. In the process he set the stage for both NASA's future accomplishments and many of the strategies employed in America's exploration of space, and created the infrastructure that still supports NASA's space efforts.
Glennan came to the leadership of NASA naturally enough, perhaps, but his earlier career also shaped many of the priorities, limitations, and accomplishments of his tenure as NASA Administrator. The document was dictated by T. Keith Glennan to record for his own children his observations and priorities while head of NASA during the Eisenhower administration. The first part of it is actually a memoir, consisting of a summary of major events in which he participated during his early years at NASA in 1958 and 1959. Most of the rest is in a diary format, made up of daily summaries of events, including his personal reflections from 1 January 1960 through the end of the Eisenhower presidency over a year later. There also follows a postscript written by Glennan in 1963 to record his thoughts on the space program during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
Throughout the document, footnotes provide background information about matters that Glennan brings up in the diary but does not elaborate upon. The notes also add supplemental information about budgetary data, organizational matters, and the like, as well as occasional identifications of individuals mentioned in the diary but not fully identified. Where it is brief enough, sometimes we have provided identifications in brackets right in the text of the diary, and brackets sometimes also indicate where material from the original diary has been deleted. At the end of the diary, a biographical appendix provides sketches of the lives of the major figures Glennan talks about.
T. Keith Glennan was responsible, probably more than any other single person in the early history of the agency, for creating a National Aeronautics and Space Administration that could carry out a broad-based scientific and technological program. As such, he left an enduring legacy to the agency. His personality and beliefs, fiscally and socially conservative in some ways but progressive in others, also helped to shape NASA. His diary leaves a valuable legacy to historians, scientists, engineers, and public policy analysts seeking to understand the evolution of the U.S. venture into space. Glennan left a remarkable account of his work at NASA, and his record of meetings with President Eisenhower, the National Security Council, and other bodies as well as of the evolution of NASA as an institution provides important perspectives not only for those specifically interested in NASA but also for students of the recent history of science and technology in the United States.
452 pages, numerous photos and illustration. Contents hyperlinked for easy navigation.
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