Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 7 Aeronautical and Space

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Chapter 7. Records of the Committee on Commerce and Related Committees, 1816-1968

Records of Committees Relating to Commerce, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 1958-76
1961 Thor-Able Star Rocket launch
Launch of the THOR-ABLE STAR ROCKET that projected the TRANSIT IV-A satellite into space, 1961, from NARA's Online Catalog  

7.138 The Senate established the standing Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences on July 24, 1958, with its approval of S. Res. 327, 85th Cong. This action followed 9 months of investigation and hearings by the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee and 6 months of the same by the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics in the wake of the Soviet Union's successful launchings of the Sputnik satellites during the fall of 1957.

7.139 The prime mover in the Senate's campaign to increase Federal involvement in aeronautical and space sciences was Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson, Chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, where the chief concern was maintaining U.S. preeminence in ballistic missiles. He also served as chairman of the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, authorized by S. Res. 256, 85th Cong., to investigate all aspects of space exploration, including the control, development, and use of astronautical resources, personnel, and equipment. Johnson assured the subject's high priority by recommending the appointment to the special committee of many of the chairmen or ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Government Operations, and Interstate and Foreign Commerce, as well as the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy--all of whom had a logical interest in space exploration. Five of the special committee's members and several of the professional staff were veterans of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee's missile-satellite investigation. The bill drafted by the Senate to include President Dwight Eisenhower's proposal of April 2, 1958 on space science and exploration was introduced by Johnson as S. 3609 with widespread bipartisan support. The final version, enacted as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-568), established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and defined the relationship between NASA and the Defense Department.

7.140 Following the enactment of Public Law 85-568, Johnson introduced and the Senate approved S. Res. 327, establishing the standing Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences. The committee's jurisdiction was narrow compared to that of other committees: NASA and other aeronautical and space and related scientific activities, except those peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems or military operations. The committee was abolished on February 11, 1977, by S. Res. 4, 95th Cong., when its responsibilities were assigned to the newly created Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

7.141 For a more detailed history of the committee and its origins, see S. Doc. 116, 90th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 12798-3, issued to commemorate its 10th anniversary.

7.142 Of the 169 feet of records of the committee from 1958 to 1976, approximately 90 feet predate 1969. Included are records of the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, 1958-59, which were incorporated into various subject and legislative files of the standing committee. Unlike most other standing committees, the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee did not break its files at the conclusion of each Congress, preferring instead to carry over project and other subject files from Congress to Congress.

7.143 General records, 1958-66 (40 ft.), including records of the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics and the standing Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, are arranged alphabetically by primary category and thereunder either alphabetically by subject (e.g., personal name or project name) or chronologically by date of outgoing letter or date of publication. Primary categories include administrative; committee (business, hearings, and publications); correspondence (chronological and alphabetical); Departments (e.g., Air Force); facilities (NASA); inventions; memoranda (staff to chairman); NASA (reports, newsletters, contract listings); newspaper clippings; organizations; projects; propellants; publications requests; reports (from agencies other than NASA); and speeches, statements, articles, and television scripts. More than one-half of the series comprises general and chronological correspondence, newspaper clippings, and requests for publications. Also included, however, are minutes of the February 20, 1958, organizational meeting of the special committee and related staff memorandums, records relating to the Ad Hoc Committee to the President-elect on Space (1960), background material for hearings, and an extensive collection of speeches, statements, and articles by NASA administrators and scientists, military leaders and specialists, and Members of Congress. A shelf list more fully describing the material accompanies the records.

7.144 During the early 1960's, the committee adopted a decimally arranged central filing system and applied it retroactively to some records dating from 1958. This filing system was used until the committee was terminated in 1977. The committee's decimal file, 1958-68 (20 ft.), is organized by the following primary classification numbers: 1 - Administrative; 2 - Program and Research Subjects; 3 - Budget; 4 - Committee Activities [including minutes of meetings and background papers relating to hearings]; 6 - General and Chronological Correspondence; 9 - NASA Facilities, Status Reports, and Press Releases. For example, correspondence relating to the committee's hearings on the 1967 fire on Apollo 204 (also known as Apollo III) appears under file number 4.5-16 and the Space Shuttle and Space Station program under 2.7-11.

7.145 Legislative case files, 1958-68 (12 ft.), include copies of bills or resolutions, and if enacted, the final public law; committee reports; printed hearings; committee prints comparing House and Senate versions; conference reports; statements of witnesses before the committee; background information chiefly from NASA; staff correspondence and memorandums; and miscellaneous files on legislative proposals and accomplishments. An extensive file on S. 3609, 85th Cong., referred to the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, is a major component of this series. Supporting these files are public hearing transcripts, 1961-72 (8 ft.), most of which have been printed.

7.146 Transcripts of executive sessions of the committee, 1958-68 (10 in.), were transferred to the National Archives as records of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. This series includes executive sessions of the Special Committee on Space and Astronautics as well as those of the standing committee.

7.147 Budget estimates of NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics (NACA), 1958-68 (9 ft.), include, besides fiscal data, drawings, floorplans, diagrams, and maps. A few photographs of NACA/NASA facilities are also available.

7.148 Other records of the committee include: Executive communications, 1958-68; Presidential messages on space matters, 1956-74; speeches, statements, and press releases of Chairmen Clinton Anderson (1963-72) and Frank Moss (1973-77); speeches of the staff director and other professional staff, 1963-64 and 1968-75; papers of Eilene Galloway, staff specialist on international cooperation in space, 1958-65; drafts of committee reports on the Apollo 204 (Apollo III) accident and on aeronautical research and development policy, 1967; special subject files on communications and COMSAT, 1960-64, and on patent policy, 1960-65; and miscellaneous administrative and reference files.

1969-76 (91st-94th Congresses)

7.149 The records of this committee consist of series identical or similar to those before 1969. The committee did not retire its files in a systematic fashion at the end of each Congress and as a result there is significant intermixing of open and closed records. Transcripts of executive sessions are filed with the records of its successor committee, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.