Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 19

Records of the Committee on Science and Astronautics

Committee records described in this chapter:


History and Jurisdiction

19.1 Concern over the Soviet Union's launching of the Sputnik space satellite in October 1957 led the House of Representatives to establish the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, the predecessor of the Committee on Science and Astronautics. This select committee was established on March 5, 1958, to study and investigate "all aspects and problems relating to the exploration of outer space and the control, development, and use of astronautical resources, personnel, equipment, and facilities."1 During its brief existence it accomplished two objectives: it wrote the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 which established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and it paved the way for the creation of the Committee on Science and Astronautics.

19.2 The Committee on Science and Astronautics, authorized by H.Res. 580 on July 21, 1958, became the first standing committee created by the House after passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. In January 1959 the committee began operations. During the first decade its jurisdiction covered:

  • (a) Astronautical research and development, including resources, personnel, equipment and facilities. (b) Bureau of Standards, standardization of weights and measures and the metric system. (c) National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]. (d) National Aeronautics and Space Council. (e) National Science Foundation [NSF]. (f) Outer space, including exploration and control thereof. (g) Science scholarships. (h) Scientific research and development.2

Its primary initial mission was oversight of NASA and the non-military space program. Over the years shifts in focus resulted in the committee changing its name from the Committee on Science and Astronautics to the Committee on Science and Technology (94th Congress) to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (99th Congress). Most recently, the name changed to the Committee on Science (104th Congress).

19.3 For further information on the history and operation of the committee see Toward the Endless Frontier: History of the Committee on Science and Technology, 1959-79 [link to Google Books] by former committee member Ken Hechler. 3

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Records of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86th-90th Congresses (1959-1968)

Record Type Volume    Congresses (Dates)
Petitions & Memorials    4 in. 86th-90th (1959-68)
Committee Papers 5 ft. 86th-90th (1959-68)
Bill Files 7 ft. 86th-90th (1959-68)
TOTAL: 12 ft., 4 in.     

19.4 A few petitions and memorials exist for each Congress for the years in question but they are not a significant part of the committee's records. All documents in this category were addressed to the Speaker of the House and subsequently referred to the committee. Fewer than a dozen memorials from state legislatures are present in the collection. These came from Hawaii (location of a satellite launch facility, 86A-H12.1 and 87A-H11.1); Arizona and New York (congratulations to astronaut John Glenn, 87A-H11.1); New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Massachusetts (location of a proposed Electronics Research Center, 88 SA.3); and Florida (continuation of the status quo vis-a-vis private support services, 89 SA.3). Petitions came from the New England Association of Fire Chiefs endorsing the creation of a National Advisory Commission on Fire Prevention and Control (90 S&A.4), the Nebraska Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars expressing support for NASA and the Mercury space program (87A-H11.1), and the Board of Selectmen of a Massachusetts town urging the selection of the Central Merrimack Valley as the location of a NASA space research laboratory (88 SA.3), as well as from two individuals on various personal concerns (86A-H12.1, 88 SA.3, 90 S&A.4).

19.5 Committee papers consist of executive communications, published committee and subcommittee hearings, published House documents and agency reports, and final published editions of committee calendars. Executive communications generally were addressed to the Speaker of the House and then referred to the committee. These communications consist of transmittal letters and enclosures such as lists of grants from the Agriculture Department, lists of contracts negotiated by NASA, and suggestions for proposed bills from cabinet departments. Of particular note among the executive communications are NASA volumes relating to a proposed Electronics Research Center (88 SA 2).

19.6 Among printed hearings found in the committee papers are those for the 1962 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 3238 and H.R. 6029, superseded by H.R. 6874, 87th Cong., 87A.F14.2); the 1963 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 10100, superseded by H.R. 11737, 87th Cong., 87A-F14.2); the 1964 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 5466, superseded by H.R. 7500, 88th Cong., 88 SA 4); the 1965 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 9641, superseded by H.R. 10456, 88th Cong., 88 SA 4); the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1967 (H.R. 6637, 90th Cong., 90 S&A.2); the international biological program (H.Con.Res. 273, 90th Cong., 90 S&A.2); the 1968 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 4450 and H.R. 6470, superseded by H.R. 10340, 90th Cong., 90 S&A.2); and the 1969 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 15086, superseded by H.R. 15856, 90th Cong., 90 S&A.2). Printed House documents generally consist of presidential messages transmitting annual reports or recommending amendments to existing legislation. Other printed materials include NASA's semi-annual reports and a Senate document from the Bureau of the Budget on government contracting for research and development (87A-F14.4).

19.7 Committee calendars are present for the 86th, 87th, and 88th Congresses (86A-F15.3, 87A-F14.3, and 88 SA.5). They serve as a modern-day substitute for docket books.

19.8 Bill files make up the core of the committee holdings. The format of bill files varies from committee to committee; indeed, the contents of bill files for a given committee will vary from Congress to Congress. The bill files for the Science and Astronautics committee are as complete and informative as a researcher could expect to find in a series of this nature.

19.9 Bill files are arranged as follows: House of Representatives bills (H.R.), House joint resolutions (H.J. Res.), House concurrent resolutions (H. Con. Res.), House resolutions (H.Res.), and Senate bills (S.). On the front of most file folders is pasted a printed endorsement identifying the Congress and session, bill number, purpose of the bill, name of the member who introduced it, and date of referral to the committee. Inside the folder, usually in reverse chronological order, may be found the printed bill, correspondence with departments and agencies seeking opinions and recommendations, correspondence with committee witnesses, letters and telegrams from the general public, magazines, newspaper clippings and other enclosures sent from the public to the committee, copies of the Congressional Record concerning Senate action on a given subject, printed House and Senate reports, sheets showing differences between House and Senate versions of corresponding bills, and printed copies of public laws. On occasion one also finds text of suggested floor statements or amendments for a bill, copies of the House resolution requesting a rule from the Rules Committee, and appropriate inter-committee correspondence. Both full committee and subcommittee printed hearings are a part of this series, including: Establishment of a National Order of Science (H.R. 6288, 86th Cong.); the 1960 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 6512, 86th Cong.); property rights in inventions made under federal space research contracts (H.R. 9484, 86th Cong.); amendments to the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (H.R. 9675, 86th Cong.); the authorization of appropriations for NASA (S. 1096, 86th Cong.); establishment of a National Science Academy (H.R. 1, 87th Cong.); the 1966 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 3730, 89th Cong.); the metric system (H.R. 2626, 89th Cong.); the 1967 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 12718, 89th Cong.); erection of a memorial statue to Dr. Robert H. Goddard (H.J. Res. 597, 89th Cong.); and institutional grants (H.R. 875, 89th Cong.). Very infrequently one also finds original mimeographed transcripts of subcommittee hearings such as those on H.R. 4986 (86th Cong.) concerning the establishment of a National Science Academy.

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Committee on Science and Astronautics (1969-1974)
Committee on Science and Technology (1975-1986)

19.10 The name of this committee has changed frequently during its short history: It has been known as the Committee on Science and Astronautics, the Committee on Science and Technology, the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the Committee on Science, the Committee on Science and Technology, and as of the 112th Congress, the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The records from 1969-1978 contain bill files (called Legislative histories), executive communications, and copies of printed committee hearings and prints. Beginning in 1981, the records contain transcripts of hearings and markup sessions, and minutes of full committee and subcommittee meetings.

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1 Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 85th Cong., 2d sess., March 5, 1958, p. 167.

2 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States, Ninetieth Congress, H. Doc. 529, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1967, p. 352.

3 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Technology, Toward the Endless Frontier: History of the Committee on Science and Technology, 1959-79, by Ken Hechler, Committee Print, 96th Cong., 2d sess., 1980. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1980 (Y1.2: F92/959-79).

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

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