On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NASA absorbed the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915 for aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958, the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel formed the core of the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Photo courtesy of NASA: President Eisenhower presents NASA Commissions to Dr. T Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA, and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator.
Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Center intern Steven Robles.
Today marks the anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nomination of Keith Glennan as NASA’s first administrator. Eisenhower submitted the nomination to the Senate for confirmation on August 8, 1958. Glennan’s appointment ended a tumultuous year during which Americans and their government struggled to respond to the Soviet Union’s unprecedented achievement of 1957, the launch of the satellite Sputnik. Between Eisenhower’s stoic leadership and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson’s deft political maneuvering in Congress, Americans soon had their own civilian space program, NASA, with heady goals to surpass the Soviets. But the work had hardly begun.
In its first tempestuous years, the young NASA incorporated many disparate pieces and had to devise a structure that put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to efficient use. Some of the early plans for the new civilian space program were modeled off its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. But quickly, politicians and policymakers realized that the daunting tasks facing the new space program would require a single authoritative administrator rather than a committee of advisors, like the one that had presided over NACA. Equally important to this decision about core structure, then, was the appointment of the first Administrator himself. Glennan’s successful presidency of Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, his involvement as member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and his history of service made him an ideal candidate for the post.
After Eisenhower submitted his nomination of Glennan, the Senate had the task of either confirming or denying the appointment. The poll sheet, shown above, documents an important step in the Senate’s process. Here the Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, chaired by Lyndon Johnson, unanimously voted to recommend the nomination’s confirmation to the Senate at large, which accepted the recommendation and confirmed Glennan just five days later on August 19. In the three short years the Glennan served as Administrator at NASA, he oversaw the incorporation of installations such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center into NASA. Glennan’s contribution helped to ensure the space program’s success throughout the 1960’s and to secure NASA’s place in the history of great scientific achievements.
Nomination of T. Keith Glennan to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 8/8/1958, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 306360)
Poll Sheet of Members of the Senate Special Committee on Space and Aeronautics relating to Nominations of T. Keith Glennan, 8/14/1958, Records of the U.S. Senate