From late 1957 to early 1958, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) began studying what a new non-military space agency would entail, as well as what its role might be, and assigned several committees to review the concept. On January 12, 1958, NACA organized a "Special Committee on Space Technology", headed by Guyford Stever. Stever's committee included consultation from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's large booster program, referred to as the Working Group on Vehicular Program, headed by Wernher von Braun, a German scientist who became a naturalized US citizen after World War II.
On January 14, 1958, NACA Director Hugh Dryden published "A National Research Program for Space Technology" stating:
“ It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space... It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency... NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology.
Launched on January 31, 1958, Explorer 1, officially Satellite 1958 Alpha, became the U.S.'s first earth satellite. The Explorer 1 payload consisted of the Iowa Cosmic Ray Instrument without a tape data recorder which was not modified in time to make it onto the satellite.
On March 5, PSAC Chairman James Killian wrote a memorandum to President Eisenhower, entitled "Organization for Civil Space Programs", encouraging the creation of a civil space program based upon a "strengthened and redesignated" NACA which could expand its research program "with a minimum of delay." In late March, a NACA report entitled "Suggestions for a Space Program" included recommendations for subsequently developing a hydrogen fluorine fueled rocket of 4,450,000 newtons (1,000,000 lbf) thrust designed with second and third stages.
In April 1958, Eisenhower delivered to the U.S. Congress an executive address favoring a national civilian space agency and submitted a bill to create a "National Aeronautical and Space Agency." NACA's former role of research alone would change to include large-scale development, management, and operations. The U.S. Congress passed the bill, somewhat reworded, as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, on July 16. Only two days later von Braun's Working Group submitted a preliminary report severely criticizing the duplication of efforts and lack of coordination among various organizations assigned to the United States' space programs. Stever's Committee on Space Technology concurred with the criticisms of the von Braun Group (a final draft was published several months later, in October).
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