Oral History Transcript — Nancy G. Roman
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Interview with Nancy G. Roman
Nancy G. Roman; August 19, 1980
ABSTRACT: General oral history centering on NASA career but including early life, professional training at Swarthmore and the University of Chicago; staff positions at Yerkes Observatory and the Naval Research Laboratory. Identifies development of astronomical interests at NASA, early advocates of space astronomy, and the evolution of the NASA astronomy programs and relationships with other space interests at Kitt Peak, NSF, and elsewhere. Discussion includes how priorities are established and the role of technological limitations.
DeVorkin:Dr. Roman, I'd like to know something about your early life in Nashville and your family origins.
Roman:I left Nashville at the age of three months, so I didn't really have much experience in Nashville.
DeVorkin:What is your family background?
Roman:Well, my father's degree was joint in physics and mathematics, but he went into geophysics just after I was born. That's why we left Nashville. Exploration in geophysics was a new field at that time. One of the oil companies asked him if he'd be willing to work with them for a while so they could experiment with it and decide whether it was useful. He stayed in geophysics the rest of his life.
We moved from Nashville first to Oklahoma, then to Houston and back to Oklahoma. We then moved up to New Jersey. He lost his job during the Depression; research being one of the things that gets cut out during a Depression. We then went up to northern Michigan, where he was on the faculty of Michigan College of Mining and Technology. I think it's now Michigan Technological University.
DeVorkin:When was that? How old were you?
Roman:That was 1934 to late 1935. I must have been six when we went up there, because I had gone to kindergarten in New Jersey.
DeVorkin:Would you typify that as your father's first stable position when you were a child?
Roman:The oil company position looked more stable than the other. It meant moving around geographically. But I think he expected to stay with them for a very long time, and probably would have if it hadn't been for the Depression.
DeVorkin:So he moved around with the same oil company?
DeVorkin:So there was a relatively short amount of time when he was unemployed.
Roman:Yes. I think he was unemployed for about 14 months actually. I don't think he ever expected the Michigan job to be permanent, though I may be wrong. Then he joined Civil Service.
DeVorkin:What is your father's full name?
Roman:Irwin Roman, no middle name.
DeVorkin:And your mother's full maiden name?
Roman:Georgia Frances Smith.
DeVorkin:What was her education?
Roman:She was trained as a teacher with a specialty in music. She taught piano and she also taught chorus but she taught generally at the junior high level.
DeVorkin:And she continued teaching?
Roman:No. She would have liked to, and I think it's unfortunate that she didn't continue teaching after she was married. But it was a different generation and in those days my father said if he couldn't support a wife, he shouldn't be married.
DeVorkin:How many children?
Roman:I'm an only child. Actually mother continued to enjoy children. Both my parents enjoyed children. In Baltimore they ran an unofficial nursery school. All the kids in the neighborhood were always over there. You know, as one child would grow older, they'd bring the young ones over, and it was just a continual stream of children in our house for many many years. So anyway my father left Michigan to join Civil Service in 1935. I'm not sure if it was the Bureau of Mines or the Geological Survey, because the Department he was with — the geophysical research branch — shifted back and forth between the two agencies. I can't keep up with the history.
DeVorkin:That's fine. We don't have to be too specific. I do want to identify influences upon you.
Roman:He planned to come to Washington, but before that, he went out to Reno, Nevada for two years and headed their Western area. Now to the extent that I can list any single thing that was an influence on me, it was probably the time in Reno, with the very clear skies. I teasingly have blamed my mother for getting me interested in astronomy, because I can remember up in Michigan she used to take me out at night and show me the constellations and the Aurora and things like that. But she also showed me birds and trees and animals and plants and that sort of thing, so it wasn't just astronomy.
DeVorkin:Was it in her family background to be interested in science?
Roman:No. Not really. I guess she was just normally interested in nature, like the average human being. But in Reno of course the skies were very clear, a beautiful place to observe the sky, and we lived on the edge of the city at the time. We had very few lights. I remember that the second summer we were there, I started an astronomy club with the girls in the neighborhood. We learned the constellations, read astronomy, that sort of thing. I just never lost my interest in it.
DeVorkin:Do you remember the approximate year that you started that club?
Roman:Probably '36 but I'm not sure. I was about 11.
DeVorkin:When you developed this interest, what reading was available to you, do you recall?
Roman:The book we used in the club was a little book which you could get at the ten cent store at that time called SEEING STARS. I still have the book. It's like the books that you can get now, just a small pocket book, rather thin. But it had nice maps of the constellations and revealed a little bit about each of them and about some of the interesting objects in them.
DeVorkin:So your interest in astronomy certainly pre-dated any exposure to science that you had in formal education?
Roman:Yes. Of course, I guess to some extent I had some exposure to science and scientific things at home through my father, but certainly it predated any school education. I don't think that's terribly unusual. I think a large percentage of children go through a stage around 11 or 12 when they're interested in astronomy. They are beginning to get seriously interested in the world around them and the universe. I know up at Yerkes, when we used to have visitors, the children at that age were always very interested and usually quite knowledgeable; much more knowledgeable than their parents. So I think it does come before school. At any rate, after that I read almost everything I could get my hands on.
DeVorkin:Through the public library?
Roman:Mostly through the public library. I did have a book by Harding, called ASTRONOMY. I guess my parents gave it to me for Christmas. I'm not sure what year. I think probably '37, but I'm not positive. Primarily I used the library and read everything I could get my hands on. I never went through the stage of being an amateur, though. I never had a telescope, and never had any particular desire to have a telescope. It was more just an academic interest.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. Did you have any exposure to science fiction or space travel at that time?
Roman:Not particularly, no. Certainly no more than any other children. I didn't become particularly interested in science fiction. I have never been.
DeVorkin:How long did you stay in Reno? Did you go to the public schools there?
Roman:I went to the public schools in Reno for two years, through 5th and 6th grades. We then moved to Baltimore. As I said, my father went out there with the idea that he'd be coming East, and that was in 1937. So I went to school in Baltimore through junior high school and high school, which was for five years. I went to high school for only three years. It was an accelerated course, where we were supposed to have four years schooling but in the four years we would get four years of high school plus a year of college. There were just 12 of us in the class. In my junior year Pearl Harbor had just happened, and so many of the group felt that they'd rather get out of school and go into other things, largely from the stimulation of the war. The school said that we could do that under two conditions. First, they wouldn't split us. We had to all agree to do whatever the majority wanted. And second, we had to go to summer school and take chemistry. We had enough credits to graduate but we hadn't had chemistry and they wouldn't' let us graduate without it.
DeVorkin:What was the name of your school?
Roman:It was Western High School, a public school in West Baltimore.
DeVorkin:Were you identified as a student who could accelerate?
Roman:Well, that was in 8th grade. I went to a school which was quite a large junior high school. The Principal felt that it was undemocratic to segregate students according to ability, and the net result was, as far as I'm concerned, disastrous. There was about a third of the class for whom things were pitched about right, and a third of the class who could never keep up no matter what they did, and a third of us who were just absolutely bored all the time.
So I think it was largely an opportunity to get out of that class that I went to high school for the 9th grade and got into the accelerated course. This was about the only way one could go to high school in 9th grade.
DeVorkin:Were your parents concerned about this? Did they push for it?
Roman:Yes. Well, they realized that I was just not getting a stimulating education in junior high. They didn't like the school particularly, so they encouraged me, and I was glad I did it. It was advantageous in several ways. In the first place, it was more challenging. I was in a group of girls all of whom were good. (It was a girls school.) For the most part we got the better teachers. So it gave us quite a good education.
DeVorkin:During all this period of time in junior high school, through high school, I imagine there was little question that you were to go to college?
DeVorkin:Was there any question as to what you were going to do in college?
Roman:Not in my mind. As I say, I made up my mind really quite early. I can't give you an age, but I can remember thinking, probably in junior high school or early high school days, that I wanted to go into astronomy, recognizing that it was going to mean a long period of education, that I was going to have to go through for a PhD and that I might not get that far. I consciously decided that I was going to try it, and then if I didn't make it, I could always drop back to teaching math or physics. I don't know exactly at what age it was, but I do remember that as a conscious decision on my part.
DeVorkin:What was the attitude of your father and mother concerning this interest?
Roman:Their feeling primarily was that I should do what I really wanted to do. Mother particularly felt that it was important that I broaden my sights. I know when I went to college her argument was that even though I thought I wanted to go into astronomy I didn't really know what it was and I hadn't really given any thought to anything else. So I should take courses in other things and be sure that astronomy was what I wanted. If it really was what I wanted, then it was OK.
DeVorkin:Were there any competing interests at all?
Roman:Not seriously. I have lots of other interests, but not seriously as a profession. Four courses was a full load during my first year of college. I took history, German, math and astronomy. I found that the only way I got through history and German was because I never had to study math and astronomy. That convinced me that I belonged in astronomy.
DeVorkin:How did Swarthmore come to be the college you went to?
Roman:I wanted to leave home. Having gone to a girls high school I very definitely wanted a coeducational college. I wanted a college that had a decent astronomy department, since that was the skill that I was interested in. I probably didn't want to go too far from home, since in those days travel wasn't quite as easy as it is now with college kids.
DeVorkin:I'm wondering why specifically Swarthmore. Did Penn have a program at that time? I think the Flower Observatory was at Penn at that time.
Roman:Yes, it was. It wasn't very big but it was there. I don't really know.
DeVorkin:Did you have Quaker tradition of any kind?
Roman:No. I didn't want to stay in Baltimore, and even if I had, Goucher wasn't that strong in astronomy. And again, I didn't want a girls school. Johns Hopkins would not take women except in the evening school. Maryland would have been a possibility. But I don't really remember considerations beyond the fact that I wanted a good coeducational school with an astronomy department.
DeVorkin:Did the presence of Peter van de Kamp have any influence?
Roman:No. I wasn't aware of him at that time. I knew they had an astronomy department. I knew they had an observatory. But I really wasn't familiar enough with the field to know the individual people in it.
DeVorkin:Did you have high school counselors who suggested any college?
Roman:I don't know. They probably did, to some extent. I don't really remember getting very much help from my high school counselors. Maybe I got more than I remember. The one thing I do remember is that they just didn't understand a woman who wanted to go into science.
DeVorkin:How about your high school teachers, your science teachers?
Roman:I had a good biology teacher. My physics teacher was very well meaning but not good as a physics teacher. She was trained as a business education teacher and normally taught business subjects but was pulled in to teach physics because they needed a physics teacher. The net result was that the poor woman was lost much of the time. She'd read the text, but unfortunately we'd read the text too, and we'd keep coming up with questions that she couldn't answer. So she wouldn't have been much help.
DeVorkin:So you decided on Swarthmore. How were you supported at Swarthmore? Did you have a scholarship?
Roman:No, I didn't. My parents paid the tuition. I did work a little in the observatory but that was more for spending money. In those days, I think parents expected to a larger extent to pay for children's education, and of course it wasn't quite as expensive.
DeVorkin:Comparative to income.
DeVorkin:Did you go directly to the astronomy department and announce yourself when you arrived?
Roman:Well, I guess the first thing I did was to go to the dean of women. The dean of women was not particularly interested in women who wanted to go into science, so she sent me over to the astronomy department. I went over there and talked to van de Kamp. It really wasn't until later that I realized that he was trying to discourage me.
Roman:I do remember one thing that he said at that time, I think as a way of discouraging me, but actually something that I have found helpful over the years. He was using plates that were taken by his predecessors 50 years earlier, and in turn he felt that he was obligated to replace those with plates that his successors would use 50 years in the future.
DeVorkin:Yes, and he needed people to take them?
Roman:No, I think he was just trying to tell me that it wasn't something that was terribly exciting in the short term. At least that would be my feeling.
DeVorkin:I see. Did you go to him in a very excited manner?
Roman:Oh, I can't remember that.
DeVorkin:But still it didn't dissuade you from astronomy.
Roman:It didn't dissuade me, no.
DeVorkin:What were your first courses like; your physics; your astronomy. Were you learning definitely what you'd call today modern physics?
Roman:No, I wouldn't say that I was. And partly this was the problem of going to school during the war. I think freshman physics was a pretty standard freshman physics course, nothing outstanding one way or the other. I think it was a good course. Second year was general physics, and unfortunately the man who normally taught it, and actually started out teaching it, who was very good, left after two or three months, maybe less than that, to go to Los Alamos.
DeVorkin:Who was that?
Roman:That was Elmore. He taught at Swarthmore for many years after that. He had a modern physics background, and I'm sure that under more normal circumstances would have brought a fair amount of modern physics into that course and also into more advanced courses. But he did go off to Los Alamos. The man they got to replace him turned out to be senile. I know the head of the department later apologized to me and said that they felt very unhappy with the institution he came from; that they didn't alert them to the problem. They had given him good recommendations without any indication of the problem, and there really was a problem. It turned out that the five or six of us in the class essentially taught ourselves that year.
DeVorkin:Who were some of your classmates who later went into science, any you recall?
Roman:No, I don't. One was Helen Dean and she left science. One was a man named Ed Page. He was in engineering. I think he later left the field. I don't really remember who the other two were. It was not a good time to be in college from several standpoints. I don't mean to degrade the education, but there were relatively few civilian men, and those that were in college tended to expect to be drafted. I found this was particularly bad when I took advanced calculus. There were only four or five of us in the class, five at least, I guess. One was a woman who at that time was trying to support herself by working essentially full time, and her health wasn't too good. She was having a pretty rough time of it. There were three men in the class and none of them expected to be able to finish the term. So it wasn't the best circumstance from the standpoint of morale.
To come back to physics, I took electricity and magnetism. I took optics. Optics was a very good classical course. Electricity and magnetism suffered from the fact that most of the equipment for the laboratory was old DC equipment that the engineering department had given them. And while we had some electronics and we certainly had AC theory, we did not have, as far as I'm concerned, as good an electronics and AC experience as we should have had, had we had more modern laboratory equipment. I took atomic physics, which was modern physics. I think, though, that it suffered from the fact that so much of atomic physics was just not being talked about at that time. That is, all of the new developments in atomic physics just weren't being taught. And, as I say, the person who should have been teaching it was off doing more practical work. So I didn't feel that I had a terribly good modern physics background.
DeVorkin:Let's move to astronomy then. You were always a declared major in astronomy.
DeVorkin:How did the instruction develop, and how did your interests develop while you were at Swarthmore?
Roman:I'm not quite sure I know how to answer those questions. I'm not quite sure I know what they mean. I took descriptive astronomy of course the first year.
DeVorkin:From van de Kamp?
Roman:From van de Kamp, and he was an excellent teacher, as you may have heard from other people who know him. Then, in the second year, I took Spherical and Practical Astronomy, which is a pretty old fashioned course, but a course which I found served me in quite good stead later. I don't regret having had it, even though it was old fashioned enough to include such things as using a meridian circle to find out latitude and longitude and things of that sort. Also in my freshman year there was a male student who was interested in astronomy, although he didn't stay in astronomy, and he and I used the student observatory. (PAUSE)
DeVorkin:When we changed offices, because of the work on the ventilating system (noise), you were just about to tell me about some work that you were doing with another student, a classmate.
Roman:Yes. We had a student observatory at that time. It had two telescopes; a six-inch visual telescope, and nine-inch photographic telescope, in addition to a meridian circle. The meridian circle, as I mentioned, was used in the course, but the other two telescopes had not been used for some time. This other student was quite good mechanically.
DeVorkin:What was his name?
Roman:I'm sorry you asked because I don't really remember. He left astronomy. In fact he didn't even stay in it during college. But he and I reconditioned both of those telescopes. To give you an indication of the condition of the observatory when we started, it was being used for storing onions! And that was really a pretty good clue to the condition of things in general.
DeVorkin:Was that van de Kamp's decision?
Roman:No, he didn't care about it. Some people who lived nearby decided that was a good place to dry onions. We took the telescopes apart, cleaned them, put them back together again, adjusted them and used them for visual work. We also used the photographic telescope for some photography, and I noticed in going through things not too long ago, still have a few of the prints of the plates we made at that time. Certainly from a professional standpoint we didn't do anything useful, but from a standpoint of getting a feel for instruments and instrumentation and just having the fun of playing around with observing techniques, I think that was a pretty valuable education.
DeVorkin:Were you making a conscious choice at the time as to what kind of astronomy you were going to go into?
Roman:No. Not at all. This was mostly my freshman year when we worked in the observatory. We did a little my sophomore year but not much. By my sophomore year though I was working at Sproul (Observatory) part time, doing rather menial things like making finder fields and that sort of thing. But I also handled all of the photographic work for the observatory, developing plates, making lantern slides, prints, illustrations for articles, that sort of thing.
DeVorkin:You developed the night's observing from the astrometric program.
Roman:Yes. I worked there for the rest of the three years I was at Swarthmore, including summers. I used to go up there once or twice a summer to develop plates that had accumulated. In my junior year I took a seminar. You probably know the Swarthmore system, where you take two seminars each semester rather than four courses. I took a seminar in astrometry, which van de Kamp taught. That really was quite good. It gave me a very good introduction to the literature. It also gave me a very good introduction to observational errors and observational accuracy, dealing with errors and accuracy, as well as being a good astrometry course.
DeVorkin:During this time, you must have had celestial mechanics. Was that part of Spherical and Practical, or separate?
Roman:No, it was not separate. To the extent that I had celestial mechanics, it was part of Spherical and Practical, yes. We did do some work on orbits and that sort of thing in the course.
DeVorkin:It doesn't sound like it was too great.
Roman:It wasn't extensive, let's put it that way. I didn't have an in depth course in celestial mechanics. I certainly had enough so that I understood the two body problem, and I had some knowledge of perturbations. I guess really that I probably had as much celestial mechanics as most people get these days.
DeVorkin:You had astrometry. Was there any galactic structure associated with that or did you have a separate course in galactic structure?
Roman:I don't remember getting very much galactic structure as an undergraduate. But, I got some. I didn't get galactic structure as such, but what I did get was stellar motions, stellar dynamics, star streaming, velocity ellipsoids, things of that sort. That was all part of the astrometry course.
DeVorkin:This again was taught by van de Kamp?
DeVorkin:Do you remember any of the texts? Did you read Trumpler and Weaver?
Roman:No, Trumpler and Weaver came out a good bit later.
DeVorkin:Oh, that was '52, you're right.
Roman:We didn't use a text at all for astrometry. It was strictly lecture. In spite of the fact that I was the only one taking the course van de Kamp regularly lectured for two hours each week. But most of it was on the seminar system. I had a paper to write each week on a particular subject and van de Kamp would get me started by giving me a couple of references in the library, and from then on, I was on my own to find the material in the library. We didn't have any individual text.
DeVorkin:Right. I don't have to ask you about the library. That's a well known library. It certainly is fully capable of getting any journal you want.
DeVorkin:Through your junior and senior years, were there any specialties emerging? Did you start thinking about graduate schools?
Roman:Well, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. I don't remember thinking particularly about it. Again, the war had a major influence on that aspect too, because most of the graduate schools were like the physics department at Swarthmore. They were pretty badly understaffed during the war. I graduated in February of 1946. I had gone to school one summer so I made up a semester that way. By that time things were just beginning to get back to semi-normal. One place I was thinking of quite seriously was Columbia, because at that time Jan Schildt was there. It was reasonably well staffed in spite of the war. But before I actually had to make a decision, Yerkes had begun to re-assemble its staff and to switch back to astronomy. I felt that Yerkes would give me a much broader education than Columbia, and actually van de Kamp advised Yerkes, in spite of the fact that he was a good friend of Schildt.
DeVorkin:Did van de Kamp tell you that Yerkes was re-forming at that time?
DeVorkin:So it came through van de Kamp.
Roman:Yes. I had to get all my information really through him. I had no other sources.
DeVorkin:Before we leave Swarthmore, one specific question about the war. Could you say that because of the war, there were not good students and good teachers around in abundance?
Roman:That's not true. I think that there were good students. What I'm saying is that there were also times when they suffered from morale problems.
DeVorkin:Did you ever consider yourself stopping school and participating in the war effort somehow?
Roman:No, I didn't, as a matter of fact.
DeVorkin:Was there anyone who suggested that you might?
Roman:No. I don't think so. Swarthmore was a very ambivalent place to be during the war, being a Quaker campus, so that I don't think there was. I have a feeling that there might have been less influence in that direction in a place like Swarthmore than there might have been in many other schools.
DeVorkin:Let's move on then to Yerkes. You applied, I imagine, in a formal way.
DeVorkin:Did van de Kamp write references for you to Struve?
Roman:Oh, I think van de Kamp probably did. Again, I'm not really very familiar with that. But I certainly did apply formally.
DeVorkin:And you went directly there?
Roman:I went directly. Yes.
DeVorkin:And I do know that when you arrived there there were many other students during the year you arrived there.
Roman:Yes. It was the largest class that they'd ever had, by that fall.
DeVorkin:This certainly was your first contact with a big astronomy department. There were something like 30 people who were either students, staff or astronomers there. What was that atmosphere like? You arrived, when?
Roman:About March 21 roughly, 1946.
DeVorkin:It's true that Struve had not yet announced his reorganization of Yerkes at that time, if I recall?
Roman:As a student, I was not overly aware of all the faculty politics.
DeVorkin:So we can say, you had no awareness of a major change?
Roman:At Yerkes, no.
DeVorkin:When you got there, had you any preconceptions of what you wanted to do, who you wanted to work with?
Roman:No. But let me mention one thing that was interesting. I sounded like I've given Swarthmore a bad name, but not intentionally, because I didn't mean that. There were problems being in college during the war. I'm sure there would have been problems anywhere in science being in college during the war.
DeVorkin:Absolutely, I certainly have enough record of that.
Roman:I also got a very good education there, and I was used to working hard. I was used to working independently.
DeVorkin:This is at Swarthmore.
Roman:At Swarthmore. And actually, when I got to Yerkes, I was expecting to find graduate school harder than undergraduate, and instead I found it easier.
Roman:Just less work.
Roman:Swarthmore is a pretty hard paced school, I think, more so than most. And as I say, when I got to Yerkes, I don't remember if I took three courses my first term (it's on a quarterly basis) or not. I know later I only took two, the normal procedure at Yerkes. All of us had assistantships. We did some work in the institution, and we took only two courses, although we audited all the others and did a good bit of the work for them. By the end of my first quarter, I was looking around for something else to do.
DeVorkin:This was in addition to course work.
DeVorkin:What were you doing on your assistantship?
Roman:Oh, I don't really remember too much. Some observing. I took care of the clocks. I showed visitors around. General things of that sort. But by that time I did wonder what I wanted to go into. I'd almost decided I didn't want to stay in astrometry but not completely. knew I wanted to be in observational astronomy. I had made that decision, that it wasn't to be theory. So I went to Otto Struve, W. W. Morgan, and George van Biesbroock, and asked each of them for a problem that I could work on during the summer. Van Biesbroock gave me some double star observations to solve for an orbit. Struve gave me a number of plates of Beta Cepheid, to measure and analyze, and Morgan suggested that I use the 12-inch telescope to get the spectra of the stars in the Ursa Major cluster.
DeVorkin:The 12 inch telescope at the time was the old Kenwood?
Roman:It was the 12-inch long-focus refractor. I didn't remember that it was the Kenwood but that could be. It certainly was a long focus refractor. It was a double, it had a photographic and a visual tube. It was still there when I left in '55. I don't know when it was dismantled. It was in the north dome.
DeVorkin:Well, you were engaging in special projects with these three, and I know that you eventually began working a lot with Morgan.
DeVorkin:How did you make that decision?
Roman:Well, to the extent that it was a conscious decision, it was simply that I found that the most interesting of the work. I enjoyed the spectral classification. I got interested in problems of galactic structure, stellar motions; stellar astronomy in the precise sense of the word. It just sort of evolved that that's where I decided my interests lay.
DeVorkin:An obvious question I want to ask: Jesse Greenstein, in April '47, had a V-2 rocket experiment, and I would naturally want to know if (a) you knew about it and (b) were you interested in what he was doing?
Roman:Yes. I knew about it. It was pretty hard to be at Yerkes at that time and not know about it. I did know about it. I wasn't particularly involved in it, and I don't think I had any extra interest in it, let's put it that way.
DeVorkin:The failure of the rocket didn't leave you with any particular impression about space astronomy?
Roman:Not except that I was very much aware that it had failed, and the remains of the spectrometer resided in a display case for many years after that.
DeVorkin:Did it really?
DeVorkin:I'd love to find that.
Roman:Well, maybe he knows where it is. I don't know. It was there long after he left, I think.
DeVorkin:It certainly isn't there now, or at least I wouldn't recognize it.
Roman:It was about a foot and a half long maybe and about eight inches in diameter.
DeVorkin:That will be on the tape and we'll see what we can do about it.
Roman:Incidentally, if you haven't talked to him and you're interested, he has a movie of White Sands at that time, with the payload and the launch. I didn't know it until recently. He showed it out at Goddard a few months ago.
DeVorkin:I will be very interested in that. But your research was certainly directed along Morgan's lines more and more, and your publication history shows that.
DeVorkin:I would like to ask one administrative type question about Yerkes. You were there when Struve finally left in 1950.
DeVorkin:By that time, were you aware enough of the goings on and the politics and everything, to give your recollections of what the atmosphere was like when he left?
Roman:Not except that I was very much aware that there was a lot of dissension in the faculty. I think they were sorry to see him go. I guess beyond that I really can't tell you very much.
DeVorkin:But you stayed on.
DeVorkin:Although in '49 you spent a little time at Case?
Roman:That's right, a couple of months.
DeVorkin:That was purely for research purposes?
Roman:It was for a couple of reasons. Morgan felt that it would be useful for me to get some experience with objective prism spectroscopy, and I think that was the primary reason for my going to Case. It also turned out to be very good for me in a completely different way. Like most people I was pretty well exhausted by the time I finished my thesis, and the two months at Case gave me a low pressure break, while at the same time I was learning something new and had a change of atmosphere. It was almost a two month semi-vacation with enough to keep me interested.
DeVorkin:You knew of course you were coming back to Yerkes.
Roman:Oh, I knew I was coming back. Yes. That had been arranged, that I would be just a very short time at Case.
DeVorkin:That was done while you were still on your thesis?
Roman:No, that was done after my degree.
DeVorkin:OK, fine. What were your prospects for a position after your thesis? You obviously were staying at Yerkes. By your history I know that you stayed there. But they'd never had a woman on the academic staff.
DeVorkin:I know from my access to the Yerkes correspondence there that Struve once or twice and possibly Bengt Strömgren after that suggested you for positions at other colleges, and I would like to know what the atmosphere was for your staying there?
Roman:Well, actually the main time I was recommended, (I guess it must have been by Struve, I thought it was Kuiper) was before I got my degree. They recommended me for a position at Vassar. Frankly, I didn't find out until later what was going on. My feeling was that, of course, I wanted to finish my degree. But they wanted to send me before my degree. If you know Morgan, he has his hots and colds about people and subjects and everything else, and there was a period of about six months in which he wouldn't even say hello to me when he saw me in the hall.
That was a period when Strömgren was there and Blaauw was there, and they were both giving lectures in addition to the normal courses. So there was a pretty heavy schedule of lectures that I was trying to attend, and I was taking a course from Chandra, in which I wasn't doing all that well. I don't remember any more what the course was. It doesn't matter. So I had a pretty heavy load, and I was working on my thesis, and I actually was using Blaauw as a thesis advisor, rather than Morgan, at that time. But the net result was that when the students were discussed — and this of course I learned later — in faculty meeting, they asked Morgan how I was getting along, and he didn't know. For six months he hadn't talked to me. And that was what was behind the decision that maybe I should leave without a degree.
DeVorkin:Was there anything between you and Morgan that would cause him to do that, or just that he was wrapped up in himself?
Roman:I'm not aware of anything.
DeVorkin:I know it's very hard to tell. I can appreciate that situation.
Roman:So that was why they were trying to get me a position. After I got my degree, Morgan clearly wanted me to stay on. The idea was that I would stay on and help him do a revision of the MK Atlas. As you know, to the extent that it ever came about, it's just come about recently. He always wanted to do it later and later and later. But that appealed to me. I thought that would be — I enjoyed Yerkes. I thought it would give me some good experience. At that time, jobs were pretty scarce in astronomy, as I'm sure you're aware. It was essentially impossible to get a job in astronomy without a recommendation from someone like Morgan. And Morgan didn't want me to leave, so he saw to it that I didn't get any offers that would be very tempting.
DeVorkin:This is in the early fifties through '54.
Roman:Yes. For example, one of the jobs he found for me, when I made some noises about wanting to at least look around, paid $1800 a year. When I said I thought that was rather low he said, "Well, that's what I got when I started."
Roman:So, as I say, there was one job which, compared to what I was getting at Yerkes, would have been a financial improvement, and looking back, I'm not sure exactly why I didn't take that.
DeVorkin:I know of one job that you were offered, at Wayne State. That wasn't the job? There was a substantial increase in salary but there was no instrumentation.
Roman:No, it's not that one. It was one in University of Southern California, if I remember rightly.
DeVorkin:They didn't have any equipment either.
Roman:Right. I don't even remember Wayne State. I vaguely remember that it came up. I don't remember any details.
DeVorkin:All right. That was only one that I ran across briefly.
Roman:So anyway that's why I stayed.
DeVorkin:You worked with Morgan through the time that he identified the spiral arms?
DeVorkin:And this was a very critical time for him.
DeVorkin:Were you close enough to him to sense that?
Roman:Oh, I think I knew the excitement of what was going on. Yes. There was a very distinct division of labor, as you may know if you've looked at the publications of that period.
Roman:William Bidelman was working on late type stars, very late type stars. Morgan was working on the early type stars. So I picked the stars in between, just to avoid stepping on people's toes.
DeVorkin:Well, it also spread out the study somewhat. Did all of your work get onto the big chart that he had on the wall, that he was keeping?
Roman:I don't even remember the chart, so I guess the answer is no.
DeVorkin:He was building a model of the spiral structure at the time.
Roman:I was there as a research associate, and after two years of that, the administration complained that the research associate was not supposed to be a permanent job. They would either have to give me a faculty position or I would have to quit. They clearly wanted me to stay, so they gave me a faculty position.
DeVorkin:You started as instructor. You were advanced to assistant professor.
DeVorkin:Were things looking good for you? Were the prospects good to continue?
Roman:Well, right or wrong, I didn't think that I, as a woman, had a chance at tenure. I might have been wrong, but when I saw people like Bidelman and Henyey leave without tenure, I just didn't think I had a chance. I may be wrong, but I don't think so.
DeVorkin:Did anybody say anything to you?
Roman:No. But that was the way I felt about the place. I decided I'd leave when I had a good opportunity, rather than when I had to.
DeVorkin:Did you actively search for another position?
Roman:Not actively, but I kept my ears open, and Kuiper told me of a job at NRL in radio astronomy, and I had the feeling that radio astronomy had a lot to offer in galactic structure.
DeVorkin:That pretty much answers my next question, because you were definitely interested in stellar dynamics, galactic structure, and yet there was absolutely no radio work at Yerkes.
DeVorkin:It was quite obvious that radio was important.
Roman:Yes. It was new.
DeVorkin:And were you interested and ready to re-tool, so to speak, in radio work?
Roman:Well, I think that's part of the problem. I didn't mind retooling from the standpoint of learning the observing techniques, learning the literature, that sort of thing, and I think I managed that fairly successfully. But that vintage was still the time when radio astronomy was not only dominated but almost completely staffed by electronic engineers. I was one of very few classically trained astronomers, if you can use the word classically that way, in the field. As a result, everyone was expected to build his own equipment. There was a very decided reluctance to let someone else use state-of-the-art equipment.
DeVorkin:This was true at NRL?
Roman:Yes. I think it was true everywhere. I don't think it was just NRL. And after I'd been at NRL for several years, I decided that I really did not want to start over and become an electronic engineer. So I was beginning to keep my eyes open. I can't say I was actively looking for another job.
DeVorkin:Who did you work for or with at NRL? What kind of an office were you in, what kind of area?
Roman:The person who hired me was John Hag, but he had left to head Vanguard by the time I got there, and so the person I was actually working for was named Ferris.
DeVorkin:What was the office?
Roman:It was the radio astronomy branch within NRL. I don't recall if there was a space science division at that time or not. I don't remember the division structure but it was the radio astronomy branch. And it was rather interesting. When I first got there, I thought, well, I'm going from the university into the government. I had, I guess, preconceived ideas about a government job, which were not particularly accurate. I figured they know what they're hiring me for. They'll tell me what they want me to do when I get there. So I got there, and was taken around and introduced to people, and that was it. I was given a desk. I sat down and did some reading, you know, I tried to get caught up with the field. And after a few days, I decided that they weren't going to give me anything to do, and I had some plates and some other research from Yerkes, so I dug it out and decided I'll just keep this going until I find out what they want me to do.
DeVorkin:Did you ask anyone? Did you ask Ferris?
Roman:Well, I don't really remember. I probably did. I think I was actually working with Fred Haddock at that time. I think I did ask. I wasn't quite that shy. But I didn't get anywhere. So I decided to pull out my data and get busy, which I did. Then gradually in the course of time, I'd get involved in conversations over lunch or coffee or that sort of thing. After a few weeks they found I was useful to talk to in various ways and I became part of the group.
It wasn't actually until after I left NRL that I found out what the trouble was. They had had another woman, just about my age, also an astronomer, whom they had found absolutely useless and they were so happy when she left. Then to have another woman come in was a shock! I was hired by Hagan, and he had left by the time I got there, so here I was, thrown on them, and they didn't have the slightest idea what to do with me, except that they weren't particularly happy to have me.
DeVorkin:Oh my. The other person who left was another astronomer?
DeVorkin:Would I recognize the name?
Roman:I think you would but I'd rather not mention it.
Roman:That's not something I want to make part of the record. Although she did very well later.
DeVorkin:Well you ended up working on everything from nonthermal radio source spectra to trying to figure out what Cas A was, to radar echoes bouncing off the moon — geodetic work.
Roman:Yes, I really ended up in a very wide range of activities before I left. In fact I had a rather amusing experience not too long after I came to NASA, a year or two. Some industry representative came in to see me, and when he left he said, "By the way, how long have you been in astronomy?" I said, "All my life. Why?" He said, "Well, the last time I saw you was at a meeting on underwater sound."
It's true, I did get involved with underwater sound, because the problems with propagation of sound underwater were not all that different from the problems of propagation of photons in a stellar atmosphere. I had some background which they found useful. It was amazing to me, aside from the astronomy that I did in the radio astronomy branch, the number of areas at NRL where questions would come up that would benefit from my advice.
DeVorkin:Well, underwater sound in particular, I know that Columbia had quite a few astronomers working in it, during World War II. Did Spitzer have any contacts with NRL as an advisor?
Roman:Not that I know of.
DeVorkin:Not through you.
Roman:No. Oh, this was a minor thing. I think I worked with them for a month or two on some of their problems. It was not a major occupation. What I'm trying to say is that in addition to a rather broad participation in the radio astronomy branch, I actually did help with quite a wide range of problems in the laboratory.
DeVorkin:Were these problems identified and assigned to you by someone?
Roman:It usually was a case of somebody calling me up and asking a question. I really had an amazing amount of freedom. I was pretty well on my own there from the standpoint of how I spent my time. In fact, in many ways I found that the research atmosphere at NRL was freer than the research atmosphere at Yerkes, in terms of freedom to do what interested me.
DeVorkin:At Yerkes you had these very strong and directed programs. And you were also very well identified as someone who could participate in them, I would say.
Roman:Yes. Well, I think also at Yerkes, there was a niche, because if you stayed within that niche, you wouldn't step on somebody else's toes. That problem didn't arise to nearly the same extent at NRL.
DeVorkin:At that time of course about the only rocket work that was going on was going on at NRL.
DeVorkin:Friedman, Chubb, Byram. Did you have contact with them and did you help them in any of their work?
Roman:I had very little contact. I won't say none. There again, they came to me with astronomical questions in spite of the fact that there were a couple of astronomers in the group. But in areas where they were having problems or couldn't find answers, they came to me for advice or suggestions, and I talked over some of their problems with them. I don't know that I was all that much help, but I talked to them. But I never got involved in. In fact, strangely enough, I deliberately kept out of the rocket work at NRL.
DeVorkin:Let me change the tape and ask you why.
DeVorkin:Why did you stay away from the rocket work?
Roman:Well, I don't know. I guess I sort of had the feeling that an awful lot of it was not hard science. I won't say pseudo science, sounds too bad, and I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but I wasn't absolutely convinced that it was really doing good science, at that time.
DeVorkin:That's very interesting.
Roman:It is. Considering my future.
DeVorkin:Right. Quite fascinating. It had nothing to do with the people involved?
Roman:No. I don't think so. I think I found them compatible then. I certainly have since.
DeVorkin:You did do some indirect space work, or at least you utilized satellite data for geodetic work.
DeVorkin:And then you did radar bounces off the moon for geodetic work. This must have been another major area of interest.
Roman:Well, I think it was just something that I fell into, because the people working in those areas wanted someone with some astronomical background to help them.
DeVorkin:That was in celestial mechanics?
Roman:Yes, primarily. Celestial mechanics, plus such things as use of Ephemerides and that sort of thing.
DeVorkin:What kind of computing machinery did you have at that time at NRL? You were doing some celestial mechanics and probably some numerical projects.
Roman:Well, I really wasn't doing much with computers. NRL's major computer was a NAREC, which has a home built computer, as computers often were in those days. I graduated from that to the IBM 650, and the 650 was the only one that I really used actively for my own research. Most of it was still done with hand calculators.
DeVorkin:The Monroes and the mechanical electrical ones.
DeVorkin:On the 650, then as you were doing orbital work, did you have contact with the Naval Observatory people?
Roman:Oh, yes. Yes, I did.
DeVorkin:Was it Clemence at that time?
Roman:No, actually most of my use of the 650 was for photometry reductions, data reductions, that sort of thing. And most of my contact was with S. Sharpless, although I did have extensive contact with Ray Duncombe. In fact it was the Naval Observatory 650 that I used.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. So you had little contact, by your choice, with the rocket people. You were basically an internal consultant in astronomical matters.
DeVorkin:Was it the decision that you didn't want to become an electrical engineer that caused you to leave NRL, or how did you leave NRL and go to NASA?
Roman:Well, I think the fact that I had decided I wasn't going to become an electronic engineer meant that the idea of leaving NRL was not anathema to me. Put it that way. I wasn't really actively looking for a job. I had begun to keep my eyes open, but that was as far as it had gone.
DeVorkin:Was it the lack of very strong career direction? Was the only way that you could create a very strong career direction at NRL to become a hardware person?
DeVorkin:I see. And to run a project?
Roman:Well, no, it was really to become adept at building exceedingly sensitive radio receivers. It was that specialized. I just didn't feel that I wanted to do that. I still feel, looking back, that I was useful to the branch, and I think people in the branch would say that too. I'm still on very good terms with them.
DeVorkin:I know that even before that time, much of your research was supported by ONR.
Roman:Well, actually, I had only one ONR grant. This was for my velocity star catalog. The grant that I had from ONR was to go to the University of Toronto and to get some plates for radial velocities of high proper motion stars. I was still at Yerkes, and that's the only ONR support I had.
DeVorkin:But when you came here to Washington, did you have continued contacts with them as an advisor?
Roman:Not particularly, no. I had more contacts with them later after I joined NASA than I did when I was at NRL.
DeVorkin:As an advisor?
Roman:Well, not so much as an advisor, just an interchange of information. Jean Streeter was there and Gerry Mulders. Gerry Mulders really was at NSF. He was in ONR originally but he was out on the West Coast. It was more Jean Streeter. And we had many problems in common. We just communicated.
DeVorkin:Funding, research problems, that sort of thing. Then you were keeping your ears and eyes open?
Roman:Yes. One day Harold Urey was giving a colloquium at NASA, which was of course very young in those days. And as you know, a good percentage of the science staff in NASA in the early days did come from NRL. The old Vanguard group and the NRL rocket group were taken over en masse by NASA.
DeVorkin:Yes, but you didn't go with it.
Roman:I was not with it, no. Urey was giving a colloquium about the origin of the moon or the origin of the solar system, I've forgotten which. Anyway I came down to hear him, just because it sounded like an interesting lecture, and Jack Clark, who had been at NRL, but was now with NASA, came up to talk to me afterward, and said, "By the way, do you know anyone who would like to come and work for NASA and set up a program in space astronomy?" Well, as I say, I'd been staying very far away from anything having to do with the rocket group or the Vanguard group at NRL, but the idea of coming in with an absolutely clean slate to set up a program that I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn't turn down. That's all there is to it.
DeVorkin:At that time, the very first year or so or two years of NASA's growth, of course it was oriented toward small scientifically oriented missions and probes and that sort of thing. This is before Kennedy.
DeVorkin:This is what you had in mind when you came?
Roman:Yes. It was doing astronomy, space astronomy.
DeVorkin:Was it clear to you that in setting up this program, you would be receiving requests from the astronomical community, or that you were actually to create the research program yourself? I'm trying to get at the initial structure.
Roman:I know. It's awfully hard for me to remember back 21 years. I guess I thought that I would probably try to set up the framework, but I didn't expect to do it in a vacuum. From the beginning I recognized that I would be getting a great deal of input from the astronomical community in one way or another. We didn't have formal advisory committees as such in those days. But I spent an awful lot of my time in the early years visiting astronomy departments and various sources. I got around essentially to all of the larger ones and many of the intermediate sized ones. My purpose was partly to tell them what we were planning at NASA and what the NASA opportunities were, but it was equally to try to get from them a feeling of what they thought NASA ought to be doing; what they saw as part of a space astronomy program.
DeVorkin:From some of your later reprints, I found that you did announce the nature of the NASA program or its availability at the spring 1959 AAS meeting.
DeVorkin:Did you have any memorable reactions from the audience? Everyone was probably already aware NASA was being created.
Roman:Oh yes, at that time.
DeVorkin:Were there any outright rejections of space astronomy?
Roman:I don't remember it at the meeting, but certainly there was a very strong section of the astronomical community in those days that felt that space was a mistake.
DeVorkin:Can you name some names and be specific?
Roman:The group that stayed anti-space longest was what we called the West Coast contingent — the Palomar or Hale group. Lick was much less so, although I think in the very early days they were rather anti-space too. The group that was interested in it, as you might have expected, were the schools that had fewer observational opportunities of their own. I think of (Alan) Sandage as being the epitome of the anti-space group, but that may be unfair to him.
DeVorkin:I don't know. Ira Bowen would seem to be the type of person who would be very sympathetic to new instrumentation.
Roman:Yes, but I don't remember him as being particularly supportive of space instrumentation. In fact quite the contrary. I think he went to a fair amount of trouble at times to show that many of the kinds of things we were trying to do in space you could do better from the ground.
DeVorkin:Were you responsible for answering these criticisms?
Roman:Well, I guess to a large extent, yes.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about that? These are pretty big guns on the opposite side.
Roman:Well, I simply tried to give the case as I saw it, listen to their objections, try to decide if their arguments were valid. I guess, to the extent that I had any particular motive, it was to try to get them to understand that there were opportunities in the space program that could not be handled from the ground. Actually, what I sort of saw as my job in that area was to try to build support for the space science program in the US astronomical community as a whole, recognizing that astronomers are pretty well individualists, and I wasn't likely to win them all but at least I was trying. I tried to swing opinion from what I would say was overwhelmingly hostile in 1959 to tolerance and finally support. And I think I can say that, thanks to technological developments and a lot of other people, it was a fairly successful switch.
DeVorkin:Certainly you had some very powerful friends. Martin Schwarzschild was involved in Stratoscope 1 as well as 2, was he not?
DeVorkin:Could you identify the first people with whom you developed a very strong advocacy for space? Was Schwarzschild one of them?
Roman:I can't really think of any particular individuals that I worked with. I would say both Schwarzschild and Spitzer were very strong advocates of space very early. Goldberg was a very strong advocate of space very early. And of course actually, even before I came to NASA, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory program was in its very preliminary formative period, and the participants at that time were Spitzer, Goldberg, and Code, all of whom have remained very staunch supporters of space astronomy ever since.
DeVorkin:You knew Code from Yerkes.
Roman:I knew Code from Yerkes, yes, of course.
DeVorkin:Would you say that they are the creators of the OAO concept? Or did that emerge in NASA?
Roman:I can't really tell you in detail where I'd give the credit. But I really suspect that Jim Kupperian in NASA is the single person most responsible for the concept as it developed. Back in 1958, before NASA was formed, Lloyd Berkner of the National Academy sent out a letter or telegram or something too a large number of scientists, not completely broadcast but to quite a number. He asked for things that could be done with rockets and small satellites. He was looking for things that could be done with the Vanguard class satellite, as a matter of fact. And all three — Spitzer, Code and Goldberg — responded, proposing observations: Goldberg of the sun, Spitzer and Code of the stars, which were incorporated into the OAO.
Now, clearly none of their proposals were suited for the Vanguard type system. In fact, one of the problems with astronomy in the first few years of NASA was that you could not do very much astronomy without a pointing system. As soon as you get a pointing system, particularly as soon as you get a three-axis pointing system, you're into large large spacecraft.
Roman:That really was the biggest hurdle that we had to overcome in the early years. The pointing systems for the sounding rockets were inadequate, and we had to develop pointing systems for satellites. So these suggestions were clearly inappropriate for the Vanguard type of satellite. Roman - 26
DeVorkin:How willing were astronomers at the time to redesign their instrumentation to allow them to take advantage of the spin of a rocket or create experiments that could still gather astronomical data? We know certainly in hindsight that quite a bit of astronomy was done from spinning rockets.
Roman:Right. Well, we did, but it was pretty inefficient way of doing it really. Actually Code's proposal might have fit on Vanguard, because what he proposed was a very simple ultraviolet photometer, and he was willing to do it in a spinning satellite to just get data where he could. He had to have some sort of reference so he would know where he was getting it, but he was willing to do it that way. And of course the people in NASA were using spinning sounding rockets. But even back in '59 and '60, they were trying to develop pointing systems for rockets, so that they could go to a particular source and get observations. I really don't think that I would say space astronomy became a real science until the pointing systems developed.
The solar work went a little faster than the stellar in both rockets and satellites because pointing at the sun was an easier job. You could do it with two axis stabilization instead of three, and you had a bright object to lock onto. And as a result the pointing systems worked and worked satisfactorily much earlier than they did for the stars. I think that's why solar physics really became a valid observational technique earlier than stellar. But other than a very crude search to find out if there is something there, I don't think you could do much. I don't think you did do much and I don't think it was possible to do much in nonsolar astronomy, until you had the three axis pointing controls.
DeVorkin:And they came in about when?
Roman:Well, they started to come in about '61, if I remember rightly. They sort of developed over the years. They weren't terribly reliable in '60 and '61. They got of course increasingly sophisticated and increasingly reliable. The other thing, of course, that was a very major boon to doing science on rockets was a reliable recovery system, so that you didn't have to throw your payload away each time you flew. As long as you had to throw your payload away each time you flew, and you didn't know where you were going to point it, it really was not worth the effort involved in building an instrument.
DeVorkin:This is valuable for us to have on record now of course, but how did you feel then? You were faced with getting support from the astronomical community. You were also faced with creating the general framework of stellar astronomy. What aspects of astronomy were you working on in the beginning?
Roman:Well, in the beginning it was just optical astronomy, nonsolar optical, and then I took over the solar program as well. I can't give you the dates. At one point it was everything from gamma rays to radio, and then it narrowed down again. I recognized at the time the fact that we really were not going to be doing successful science until we got pointing controls. We were working very hard to get pointing controls.
DeVorkin:By "we," with whom did you work?
Roman:Goddard was working very hard particularly to get pointing controls. Ames was also involved in this, at the time.
DeVorkin:All the research agencies. Goddard was specifically a research mission for unmanned programs.
Roman:Right. This was before there was that much emphasis on manned flight. Actually Ames probably had more pointing control and gyroscope experience at that time then Goddard did. There was a group there that was fairly active. In fact, they developed the first solar pointing system for rockets and were responsible for the solar pointers for quite a while, after Goddard was the main group for the other rockets. And the early work on OAO was done by Harry Goett, who at that time was at Ames. He became the director of Goddard when Goddard was actually set up, but he started out at Ames.
DeVorkin:Did you have any responsibilities for funding advances in pointing controls?
Roman:I don't remember that I specifically funded them, but I certainly argued for them and helped support the idea of developing them.
DeVorkin:What did you support in your first few years that you recall was particularly successful? I'm thinking of the X-ray work.
Roman:Yes. The first X-ray work was '62, if I remember right, and that was funded by the Air Force. I didn't fund it. I guess you can blame me for being too good a scientist or you can blame me for not having foresight. Giaconni came to me with a proposal to fly an experiment to measure solar X-rays scattered off the moon, and it was, to me, absolutely clear that that was impossible. Still is.
DeVorkin:Did they know that? Giaconni and the others?
Roman:They claimed since that they did know it, that what they wanted all along was to do a sky survey in X-rays.
DeVorkin:Why didn't they ask you for that?
Roman:If they had come to me to say they wanted to do a sky survey in X-ray, I think, admittedly in hindsight, that I would have supported them, because I was very much aware of the desirability of finding out something about new wave length regions. But I could not see supporting an experimental rocket to measure reflected solar X-rays from the moon.
DeVorkin:Do you have any hypothesis as to why they would fabricate that purpose?
Roman:The only thing I can see is that they were used to dealing with the Air Force, and that they thought it might be more saleable to the Air Force. That's the only thing I can say. I don't know. You'll have to ask them.
DeVorkin:It's interesting. The Vela system was certainly on the drawing board at that time, and there were very well known military and reconnaissance applications of X-ray reconnaissance. And a general survey would seem to be perfectly all right.
Roman:I don't know. All I know is, and they admit it, that when they came to me, it was to do the reflected solar X-rays. And so I turned them down. I just couldn't see it. I thought, "am I being stupid?" And I asked one or two other people who should know the answer about what sort of sensitivities were needed to make the observation and their guesses agreed very closely with mine, and so I said, "No." So that's something I didn't support. What did I support in that period?
DeVorkin:Well, Stratoscope must have been one of them.
Roman:NASA didn't get involved with Stratoscope I at all. That was entirely ONR.
DeVorkin:That was much earlier, but Stratoscope II?
Roman:We didn't get involved with Stratoscope II immediately. It started out as an ONR program, and then it got too big for ONR and NSF got into it, and they were still having problems. So they asked NASA to get involved with it, which we did, and we started out by just getting involved by partial funding. I've forgotten now what share. I don't know if it was as much as a third. It may have been less than that. I think it was originally a good bit less than that. And they were still having major problems, and so we brought some technical advice into it. But they really weren't terribly interested in accepting advice from NASA, to be perfectly honest.
Roman:I don't know whether it was Schwarzschild so much as Perkin Elmer. But between them certainly they didn't seem to be terribly anxious to have advice from NASA. ONR's and NSF's philosophy was not to give people advice unless they ask for it. Let them go on their own. So the first few years were rather frustrating, to be perfectly honest.
DeVorkin:You had the OAO program.
Roman:We had the OAO program by then, yes. The OAO program started very early. But then ONR was getting in deeper and deeper in Stratoscope. ONR finally got to the place where they essentially had to pull out or come close to it.
DeVorkin:When you say it was frustrating, you were applying that only to the Stratoscope, not in general?
Roman:Yes, just the Stratoscope program. And then, NSF and NASA took over the funding. Finally we took over the funding completely. By that time we said, OK, we'll support it, but we're going to get in and manage it as a project. It's just too big to let it keep going unguided. And we gave Marshall Space Flight Center the job of managing the program. By that time I think Schwarzschild was beginning to realize that he could take advantage of some of our NASA competence, and I think it actually worked out quite happily.
DeVorkin:Was this your decision to make, or did you have to consult with others as far as funding something as major as this in that time period is concerned?
Roman:Well, I'm sure I did consult with others. You know, in a way, that's a difficult question to answer, because strictly speaking, in an organization like this, someone at my level never has the authority to fund anything, at any size.
DeVorkin:Oh. Could you give me an idea of what the routing and reporting procedure was? The first few years?
Roman:I don't know. I can't tell you what it was the first few years. I don't really remember. But let me tell you what it is now, because I don't think it was all that different the first few years, if I remember rightly. With one exception. Now, we do what we call an operating plan
Roman:You were asking me about funding authority. The way we do it now is that each year, we make what we call an operating plan. This plan lists all of the people and research projects that we plan to fund, the level we plan to fund them, the level we funded them last year and the level we expect to fund them next year. And needless to say, there's a certain amount of dreaming built into this to allow for some flexibility during the year, but it is there, nevertheless. That goes up to the chief scientist.
DeVorkin:So, you make a recommendation yourself.
Roman:Yes. And then we get a sign-off. We review it. We review the whole program with the chief scientist who is Adrian Timothy. Then, once we've reviewed it and she's convinced that it's an acceptable program, she signs off, and anything that is actually on that plan, (we have a few percentage leeway up and usually infinitely down) the division director can sign when we actually make the funding request.
So, I or someone working with me, would initiate a funding request. If it was someone working with me I'd OK it, and it would go to the division director, and if it was on the original list, the division director can sign off. If not, it has to go to the chief scientist for authority. That's a slightly more complicated situation than it was 20 years ago, in the sense that I don't think we had the detailed operating plan reviewed by the chief scientist and sign off. But it was true even then that, as a minimum, the division director had to sign off on all funding actions, and usually someone at the next step higher, at any funding level. Now, for something the size of Stratoscope, you're talking about an amount that is large enough that clearly I would discuss it with the division director, possibly with others in the division, with the chief scientist, so that other people would be overtly aware of what I was doing. But I can't think of any situation since I've been in NASA where I was second guessed on a funding action.
Roman:Where something I recommended was turned down, or something that I recommended against was funded. Now, there may be exceptions. I can't think of any. But the legal authority and the actual authority are not in the same place.
DeVorkin:Yes, right. What about major funding directions? Were you ever asked to testify to a Congressional Committee or any group at the White House to justify continued programming in any area?
Roman:No. I have occasionally met with Congressional staff, to explain what we were doing, or tell them about some of the scientific results of some of our programs, that sort of thing. But I have never done any testimony. Again, most Congressional testimony is done at a fairly high level in the agency.
DeVorkin:I see. Did you advise any people who were giving testimony?
Roman:Oh, I often had a major role in writing testimony. That's a different situation. In fact, writing Congressional testimony to support the budget is something we all get involved with.
DeVorkin:Right. During the times when you talked to Congressional people, I guess these would be liaison people?
Roman:No, they're literally staff members. The various Congressmen particularly, Senators too, but I've gotten more involved with Congressmen, had committee staffs that kept up with a fair amount of detail about what was going on in NASA, as they have other staff keeping up with other agencies.
DeVorkin:Do you recall any specific names or instances of major importance to you, the people you talked to, some of the points you got across?
Roman:Not really. I remember talking to them about some of the results that came out of OAO. Particularly I think after about six months of the OAO III operation. I remember also talking to them about ()AO II and some of the results that came out of that.
DeVorkin:Who did you talk to, do you recall?
DeVorkin:The person's office?
Roman:They were the staff of the House Authorization Committee that we dealt with in the space sciences.
DeVorkin:It's one thing to explain what is coming in on OAO II and OAO III. But the first OAO III, I understand didn't work.
Roman:The first OAO I, you mean.
DeVorkin:I must admit I get these numbers confused.
Roman:There were actually four OAO's. The first one never produced any science. It was launched. It went into orbit. And the power supply system failed after about three days. That was OAO I, OAO I was Wisconsin, and on the other side there were three high energy packages: a gamma ray and two X-ray experiments. That was because the Smithsonian experiment which was planned for the satellite, was not ready and we didn't want to hold the launch. It looked like it was going to be a long time. Then, when OAO I failed, we re-flew it with Wisconsin and Smithsonian. And that was OAO II and that was very successful.
DeVorkin:Right. The Smithsonian package, this was primarily ultraviolet work?
Roman:It was all ultraviolet. All of the OAO's have been ultraviolet except for a small X-ray package on III.
DeVorkin:On the first OAO I that had a substitute package on there, how did the people feel about not getting their berth on the second OAO? Partly in the psychology, but in the obvious nightmare of having to deal with people who have these very important projects going on. I mean, you worry about something NSF doesn't have to worry about as much. You worry about a rocket not working. I'd like to get a feeling for the experience that you have had.
Roman:Yes. I wish I could tell you more. I guess maybe it's one of these things where psychologically you tend to forget bad moments. Although I have to admit, I haven't forgotten the failure of OAO I. It was launched on Good Friday, and it failed on Easter. There must be something telling us something about that. The reason I remember it is that on Sunday afternoon, I went to the hospital to visit a friend to cheer myself up. So it was a pretty grim experience.
DeVorkin:You were in the situation, I would imagine, of simply not being able to carry out the experiment. There was nothing that you were directly in control of yourself that failed.
Roman:That's right. Yes.
DeVorkin:Now, I know in the past and during this period, in the Office of Space Science and Application, that was not exactly your office at first. You were in the Office of Space Flight?
Roman:Well, they're the same. They just changed names.
DeVorkin:I know they did in the early years. There was much criticism leveled on that office because there were a lot of flight failures. I'm just confused because I didn't understand whether it was the failure of the package or the failure of the rocket.
Roman:It was just that rockets and rocket technology weren't very reliable in those days.
DeVorkin:So why would they level criticism at Homer Newell? During this period?
Roman:You're certainly familiar with the American political system. You don't always find the person who's at fault; particularly if there isn't a person at fault, then you find somebody to blame. Newell was the responsible person and was automatically held responsible for everything, even though there's probably absolutely nothing he could have done about it.
DeVorkin:Because control of these rockets was out of his jurisdiction completely?
Roman:Well, it wasn't out of his jurisdiction, but obviously he wasn't in a position to go down and test absolutely every piece of hardware himself. And even if he could have, I suspect it wouldn't have helped. I think people were doing the best that they could do. I think it was just a sufficiently new field so that we hadn't learned how to make things reliable. We learned a lot. OAO II was scientifically a ref light of what was intended to be on OAO I, but the spacecraft was far from identical. We delayed the launch, the ref light two years if I remember rightly. We went in and we completely redesigned a good bit of the electronic system. Some of the mechanics, but mostly the electronics, to make things redundant.
In the case of the OAO I one of the problems was that when a particular system was in trouble, we could not switch it to backup from the ground. We had a backup system but the spacecraft wouldn't switch to it and we had no way of making it switch. In OAO II, we put in the capability of commanding that switch from the ground, overriding the automatic. Actually what happened to OAO I, if I remember rightly, is that we could command it from the ground, but the onboard spacecraft logic kept switching it back, and there was just no way to keep it on. That was corrected. There were a lot of other things that were looked at, made redundant. There was a lot more testing. All that was expensive.
DeVorkin:Yes. Where did the money come from? Was the money already allocated for the general program, and this was simply money that you had not expected to use on the ref light?
Roman:We had to get more money.
DeVorkin:You had to argue for it?
Roman:Yes. In those days it was easier to get more money than it would be today. In fact, the difference between OAO I and its failure and OAO B and its failure is simply a matter of timing. Maybe I should go on just a little bit. You were saying you were confused about the OAO numbers. OAO A was the first flight. It was literally Smithsonian plus Wisconsin from the scientific standpoint, and the first spacecraft.
DeVorkin:That's what we call Celescope?
Roman:Yes. The Celescope didn't make it so we substituted the three high energy payloads, and flew them on the first spacecraft.
DeVorkin:The ill fated one.
Roman:The failure. That was OAO A and also OAO I. Then, we redid the spacecraft, as I said, flew OAO A prime, which did have Wisconsin and Celescope, and that was OAO II. The number is given after its been in orbit for 24 hours. OAO I was in orbit operating for three days, so it got a number. But it was a failure scientifically. Then OAO B was flown. The shroud didn't come off. That's interesting, discouraging but interesting. It turned out after a failure analysis that there was one bolt on the shroud that had been tightened too tight and that was it. Well, that of course was a complete failure and never went into orbit so it didn't get a number. By that time funds were getting tighter, and we never were able to get the funds to refly the OAO B payload. The backup instrument exists but we couldn't fly it.
DeVorkin:What was that?
Roman:That was a general purpose medium resolution spectrograph. It was a Goddard experiment.
DeVorkin:Where is the backup?
Roman:Goddard still has it, to the best of my knowledge. It may be somewhat cannibalized by now.
DeVorkin:I would expect so.
Roman:Then OAO C was the Princeton.
Roman:That's Copernicus. That became OAO III, and that is primarily a high resolution ultraviolet spectrograph, plus a small set of X-ray telescopes. And that incidentally will be celebrating its 8th birthday. We're having an 8th birthday party for it Friday.
DeVorkin:Is there a lot of spirit like that at NASA?
Roman:Yes. Of course this is more than just NASA, although it's primarily NASA.
DeVorkin:Yes. That's fascinating.
Roman:You asked me about the people who were on the X-ray project: the high energy people. I think they were all pretty severely disappointed. There were three groups.
DeVorkin:These were the people who got bumped.
Roman:Yes. Of course they knew when they flew the first time what was going to happen, but they'd put a lot of work into it. Krauschaar in a way had the best of it, because he flew an experiment which had flown in a satellite successfully. That was the gamma ray experiment. I don't think Phil Fischer ever recovered. There were other things that he probably reacted to, but he had a nervous breakdown not too much later, and he's had 'his ups and downs since. But he's never really recovered. I'm not a psychiatrist or a physician, but I suspect that probably the problems of working very hard to get that experiment ready and then having it fall was at least a contributing cause. There were other things too and I'm sure it took more than that. I'm trying to remember what the third experiment was. I think it was a Goddard experiment. I'm not positive of that.
DeVorkin:At this time you were not getting any direct proposals or requests from Friedman or Giaconni or anyone like that at NRL or elsewhere for X-ray packages in satellites? They were still doing rocket work primarily?
Roman:They were still doing rocket work primarily. But now I'm having a little trouble with the phasing. It wasn't too much later than Giaconni came in and wanted to do an X-ray satellite. NRL seemed a good bit later. Of course, they were doing some on their own without coming to NASA. They had a whole series of X-ray satellites which they flew.
Roman:Yes. Giaconni came in around 1964 or '65, if I remember rightly, and wanted to do a satellite. And that was the prelude to the small astronomy satellites. The idea was at that time that we would develop a general purpose three-axis stabilized small satellite for astronomy. For one reason or another, most of our general purpose satellites have not been terribly successful. People keep wanting to evolve them, for one thing.
DeVorkin:Do you mean, while they're on the ground and working? They're sent up in some not fully defined technical state?
Roman:No, I don't mean that. We build one and send it up, but then for the next payload they want it modified. Instead of a carbon copy. Instead of buying three Fords off the assembly line, from the same year we buy a 1950 Ford, a 1955 Ford, a 1960 Ford, which are rather different.
DeVorkin:Who would want it modified? Would this be the engineering people making the equipment or the astronomers who want a slightly different experiment?
DeVorkin:Each person wants to feel as if he's doing something new?
Roman:I think that's partly it. It does get better too. It also gets more expensive, but it does get better. Each person wants to do his best, and you can understand that.
DeVorkin:I know we're jumping ahead. The first Small Astronomy Satellite was SAS A, then it became UHURU?
DeVorkin:That was a very successful flight.
Roman:Yes. Oh yes. But the next one was the gamma ray satellite, SAS-B, and that was very successful. In fact all three of the Small Astronomy Satellites were very successful. I don't remember that B was modified all that much, but C, which was the MIT experiment, was modified quite extensively. It was almost a new satellite, spacecraft-wise, not quite. The basic ideas were the same, but there were very major modifications.
DeVorkin:In most cases when these satellites were flown, there was usually a backup satellite, even for the Small Astronomy Satellites?
Roman:No. No, there wasn't. In the early days, certainly up into the mix-sixties, we did build backup satellites. Largely this was a reflection of the unreliability of satellite hardware in those days. But as money became tighter and as spacecraft became more reliable, instead of building backup satellites we built backup components. And we tested them on the ground, and if they failed we could interchange components. That sort of thing. But we didn't attempt to build a completely new system. We did build a prototype, which we tested very thoroughly, and then a flight model. Now, you could re-do the prototype and fly it, if necessary, but it normally would take a reasonable amount of re-work.
More recently we've gone over to what we call the protoflight, which is just a single satellite that we build, with spares. We test it, not as extensively as we used to test the prototype, because we do not want to test it to death if we can help it, but we did test it probably a little bit above the levels that we expect to see in flight, and then fly it.
DeVorkin:As you said, this is partly an economy measure, partly the fact that the technology is improving.
DeVorkin:Was there a prototype to the imaging optics of HEAO II, the Einstein X-ray satellite?
Roman:I don't think so, but you could ask. You could ask Dick Halpern here at NASA.
DeVorkin:Thank you. I will follow that up. But I still have a number of questions about the early days.
DeVorkin:So we're making a very definite break here, to go back, so it doesn't look like we're jumping around too badly. As NASA became organized, Army facilities at JPL and Huntsville were "acquired." Were there any long term reverberations over these kinds of takeovers? I know that there was some ill feeling about NASA taking over the Saturn Booster Project and things like that, and in the range of programming there was some criticism.
DeVorkin:Were you involved in that?
Roman:I wasn't involved in any of that. I did work with Marshall (Space Flight). In fact the first work I had with what later became Marshall was with the gamma ray satellite back when it was still an Army project. But I wasn't involved in any of the ill feeling. I think you're right, that there was some, quite definitely, particularly with JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) I think even more than Marshall. I may be wrong. But I wasn't involved directly. People at Marshall I think were quite happy about the switch.
DeVorkin:But not at JPL?
Roman:I don't know. I had less to do with them.
DeVorkin:From the people you did have contacts with who were directly affected, was there a suggested alternative to this kind of growth, this octopus kind of growth of NASA? Did they want to see it old NACA style being retained?
Roman:That's a different problem. I think some of the old NACA people did. Yes, I think they felt that NACA was a close knit functioning organization, and that grafting NASA on top of it really overwhelmed it. It was sort of like grafting a new apple tree on an old stump. The stump is still there but nobody pays any attention to it. And I think a lot of the NACA people felt that that would happen when NASA was grafted onto their organization. Surely there were still plenty of NACA people around, and many of them played a very active role in the new agency. I don't mean that they were completely overshadowed. But I think there was a feeling, more at the centers than at headquarters, although not exclusively, that they were swamped by the new organization. But as far as JPL was concerned I guess that the Army felt that they wanted to hold on. You know, the Navy held onto their satellite program, and really didn't want to give up that, and I think the Army felt the same way. They wanted to hold onto a missile program, and of course in the end they did.
DeVorkin:Yes, it seemed as though when NASA began taking these centers over, they then had to turn right around and go back to the Department of Defense for their expertise.
Roman:Yes. Well, what NASA took over was not the military applications. We never pretended to get into the military applications. Even up until the Shuttle or even up until Saturn, I should say, which is not really a vehicle with a lot of military potential. So up until the Space Shuttle, where both the military and NASA wanted to use the same vehicle, it was still a military vehicle, and we bought them from the supplier, often going through the military to do it. There is an exception, and that is the Scout. The Scout was a NASA development and the military did buy the Scouts through us, and in many cases, we launched them for them. Not always but in many cases we did.
DeVorkin:Scout is what sent Uhuru up and sent up the Small Satellites?
DeVorkin:And it was developed specifically by NASA for Small Satellite work?
Roman:Well, it was really an outgrowth of Vanguard.
DeVorkin:But Vanguard was liquid fuel, wasn't it?
Roman:Yes. Well, the third stage of the Scout came directly from Vanguard. I didn't get so involved in the vehicles that I worried that much about them. But that was the one vehicle I know that was a NASA vehicle.
DeVorkin:We were talking about the relations of the Army and NASA. can easily see an irony here. It was the Army that finally got something into orbit.
DeVorkin:And they were turned around and stepped on. But as far as you are concerned, you had no direct contacts?
Roman:No. I have the feeling, it may be wrong, that some of the people at JPL felt that they had a little less direction, let's put it that way, when they were working for the Army, than they did with NASA. Less management. But I could be wrong there.
DeVorkin:Less management under the Army?
DeVorkin:And they were happier with more management under NASA?
Roman:No, with less management (under Army) (Laughter).
DeVorkin:OK, that sounds more realistic. Getting back to your own particular program, between the period 1958 and '74, you later noted that during that period no visual work in stellar astronomy was done in space.
DeVorkin:Were there applications to your office to do visual work? And was it simply a clear priority to stay away from the visual spectrum? Why was this the case?
Roman:I don't remember that any work has been done in the visual region even yet, except for Zodiacal Light. And I think the reason is that, except for something like Zodiacal Light, until you can get better pointing and optics than you can get from the ground, there isn't any point to doing it in space. I can't think of anybody who was trying to do it.
DeVorkin:I see. There was no intent with the Copernicus or any of those OAOs to get that kind of pointing accuracy?
DeVorkin:Were there visual astronomers who wanted that as a higher priority item?
Roman:I really can't think of any. Of course Space Telescope is the instrument that's being designed to provide that.
DeVorkin:That was deferred for quite a few years?
Roman:Yes. I think it's largely a technological problem. Again I come back to pointing controls. It sounds like a trivial matter to keep harping on, but pointing has been the pacing team that has really controlled what we've been able to do in space astronomy as the field has developed.
Sure, techniques like the X-rays and gamma rays and the Einstein satellite have been important. Copernicus too. But I think that in each case, it's really been very much a problem of pointing. Copernicus has been exceedingly successful, but it depends on having a pointing control accuracy which is in an order of magnitude higher than the pointing control accuracy of OAO II. I don't know whether that's quite as true for Einstein, but even then, the problem of pointing something like Copernicus, which is reasonably short and stubby, and the problem of pointing a "hot-dog" like Einstein, are rather different. The latter was a clear technological challenge, even after Copernicus has been done, even though Einstein does not need the pointing capability of Copernicus. Space Telescope will be another order of magnitude better than Copernicus.
DeVorkin:Was it a conscious decision, then — one of your criteria for acceptance or rejection of proposals — to consider pointing accuracy and feasibility? It certainly seems so.
Roman:Yes. I think quite clearly it was. It also was, though, I'm sure, a consideration on the part of the people making the proposals. But yes, I can think even recently with the Shuttle, where we reviewed proposals, and where we rejected several proposals as recently as within the last two years because we did not feel that the pointing control plus image quality (optics) was adequate to give a significant scientific advance.
DeVorkin:You keep referring to "we" and I'm interested, is there somebody else involved in these decisions — a particular name?
Roman:No, not a particular name. But I don't think anything is achieved by an individual in a program like the program I've been trying to run. I don't mean to say that an individual doesn't have an influence on the program. It's not that much of a community effort. But you know, I don't do the engineering, so yes, there are others.
DeVorkin:But you must talk to someone who talks about pointing accuracy.
Roman:I talk to a lot of people who talk about pointing accuracy.
DeVorkin:Any people in particular?
Roman:Well, I can give you some particular names, but before I do that, I'll tell you the way headquarters is structured and then also the way we deal with the centers, because I think maybe it'll help explain the "we." As I say, none of this is a one person job. It can't be. There are hundreds of people involved in every satellite. Headquarters, at least in the space science area, is organized on a duo or trio basis, if you want. For each major area, there's a scientist who has the science responsibility for a project, and there's an engineer who has the engineering and management responsibility for a project. Then each office also has an administrative type who worries about that type of thing. There are fewer of them than the scientists or engineers. But there's really a very close parallel between the scientists and the engineers, here at headquarters, on each project.
DeVorkin:They're considered of equal status?
Roman:They're considered equal level in the organization, and they work together as a team. They really do work as a team. I don't think either of them would be effective without the other.
DeVorkin:Certainly, in your experience, who was your engineering counterpart?
Roman:Well, it depends. It changed all the time. On Space Telescope, it's now Don Burrowbridge. Up until about a year ago it was Warren Keller. On OAO, for many years, it was Dixon Ashworth. For SAS, Small Astronomy Satellite, it was Jack Holtz. So it varies with different projects. Holtz was my counterpart on Stratoscope, which you mentioned. I think it was Dixon Ashworth who worried about the X-15 airplane, which is something we should come back to, but I do want to bring it up because I think it was a step in the early history that we should record.
Roman:So it varies. Holtz handled the sounding rockets. Actually on the Small Astronomy Satellites under Holtz there's a man who worked for Holtz called Leon Dondey, who actually was my counterpart for the Small Astronomy Satellites. He worried about them in much more detail than Holtz. So there have been various people over the years. But we at headquarters are not "doers," in the sense of actually working with hardware. We may look at it occasionally, but that's about as close as we ever get to it. We work with people in the NASA centers who actually manage the projects on a day to day basis. That is, people in the NASA centers usually working with people in industry, although not always, who develop the pointing systems; who develop the techniques; that we need to do the projects that we want to do. And so the whole effort is very much a community effort.
DeVorkin:In NASA has there been anyone who has tried to control a project, to dictate anything to you, outside of their own realm of expertise, which would be to tell you what the technological limitations would be. I mean, did you ask for technological capabilities, and did they come back to you and say, "No, you can't have it, this is all you can get within the cost frame"?
Roman:To some extent, yes, although I think even then it's a little bit less formal than that. I talk to them about what's available. Or people from Goddard who are handling sounding rockets will come in and say, "Look, this is what we can do now. Let people know." Or in the case of Space Telescope, "This is what we want, can you do it?" There would be studies done to show how it can be done. So there is a lot of give and take. It's sort of like a family. You don't usually, I suspect, go to your wife with a formal request, "Can I have thus and thus for dinner tonight?" She'll say, "Such and such is in sale this week, do you think you'd like to have some?" and you'll say, "Well, I'm kind of tired of it, do you think we might have something else?"
DeVorkin:I appreciate that. What I'm getting at is that I know from a number of published sources that engineers during World War II, in the big MIT projects, felt that they were really ridden rough shod over by the scientists, and that in contemporary problems, some of the engineering problems that we may be facing in some of the major research labs today dictate the first active lives of major instrumentation. It could be particle accelerators, satellites or whatever. And there are some engineers who remember World War II experiences and try to keep themselves and their projects as much in the engineering mode as possible.
DeVorkin:Have you encountered that kind of feeling anywhere?
Roman:Not overtly, I think is what I can say. Let me put it this way: engineers are interested in equipment. They're interested in building things that work better. And they're always going to want to be pushing to build better things instead of going ahead and getting something that will do the job and launching it. Scientists are the same way. They always want to do something that will do just a little bit better, rather than going ahead and getting what they can. I haven't seen many, if any, instances where either side has run away with the other. That's probably the best way to put it. But you may get a completely different story from other people. My experience has been that, of course there are exceptions when you're dealing with individual people.
DeVorkin:But it is your experience I'm interested in.
Roman:Yes, but I mean even in that there are exceptions. I think for the most part, the engineers and the scientists that I have been involved with in NASA have really worked together quite well as a team. I feel very comfortable working with the engineers I deal with, and I hope they feel comfortable working with me. And I think that everybody's benefited by the fact that we've both been there.
DeVorkin:It was clear from the very beginning of NASA that this structure where you had a scientist, a science officer and an engineering officer, pretty much all at the same level would be present.
DeVorkin:You were never faced, as you were at NRL, with the necessity of developing hardware yourself.
Roman:No, but of course I'm in a different situation here. I'm in an administrative situation and not a laboratory situation.
DeVorkin:Did you find that it was sometimes difficult hiring astronomers at a level where they would handle hardware? Or would you be interested in them if they were not hardware people?
Roman:Well, I was not hiring astronomers to do hardware. That was a job at the centers. In the very early days it was very hard to get astronomers at all.
DeVorkin:Did you do any recruiting in the early days?
Roman:Only for positions here at headquarters.
DeVorkin:Any astronomy positions that would be interesting to recall?
Roman:Well, I don't think so. I needed help in my program, and I gave up at trying to get an astronomer and finally hired an engineer who was with me for many years.
DeVorkin:May I ask you for specific names of people you might have approached?
Roman:Well, the person I can remember who at least appeared to be most interested, at least we went on longest in the negotiations, was William Bidelman, and he decided not to come.
DeVorkin:But he was interested?
Roman:He seemed to be quite interested, yes. I'm sure I tried other people, I was looking pretty broadly, but I didn't find anyone. Then I hired Nancy Boggess on a part time basis, while her children were still quite young. She went back to school and finished her degree after her youngest was in school, so after she finished her degree I asked her if she'd be interested in working. She thought she'd like to work half time. She is an astronomer. She worked half time for many years and then went to three quarter time and then about a year ago went to full time. I hired Jocelyn Gill back in the mix-sixties. She was with me for a while, and then she left me, stayed with NASA but went into working with the astronauts, which I had gotten her started in. And then she was transferred to another office. She finally retired on disability. She has multiple sclerosis. And then I hired Jeff Rosendhal, and now Ed Weiler.
DeVorkin:Well, you were certainly able to get a few astronomers.
Roman:Yes, but not originally. The first one I hired was Jocelyn in 1965 somewhere about that period. And the reason that I could get her was that she was at the point where she was no longer physically able to stand teaching. So they were pretty hard to get even then.
DeVorkin:But mentally she was active.
DeVorkin:Well, I didn't realize they were so hard to recruit. Then again astronomy was expanding very rapidly.
Roman:Astronomy was expanding very rapidly in the sixties. There were relatively few astronomers. They were mostly younger people, and I needed somebody with at least a little bit of knowledge of the community. I might have taken a fresh PhD if I could have found one, but I would have preferred somebody with a couple of years beyond graduate school, obviously.
DeVorkin:Did you ever consider Code or someone like that, who showed tremendous interest in space astronomy?
Roman:He wasn't interested.
DeVorkin:He was already too advanced?
Roman:He was already too advanced. But the NASA centers have had similar problems hiring people. There were people who came over from Vanguard, but they really weren't many at Goddard particularly, (which was the group that had the astronomy capability). Goddard had a physicist handling their astronomy program and a physicist handling their solar program for many years, because they just couldn't get astronomers. Again, it comes back to the fact that the majority of the community was anti-space during that period. Plus the fact that there was a shortage of astronomers compared with the number of good jobs, and getting good people was just very very difficult.
DeVorkin:Did you feel isolated from the astronomical community in any way because of this anti-space attitude?
Roman:No, actually with a job like mine, I had so many contacts with the entire community continually that I never felt isolated from them.
Roman:I never felt personally alienated. No. Rightly or wrongly. I might disagree with them on certain issues, but I always felt that I was a part of the community and I always felt that I was accepted as a part of the community. Though this is something that someone else could judge better than I.
DeVorkin:Well, certain people, depending on how you think about yourself, would take their professional positions or the associations of their professional lives, and if what they were standing for was being rejected, they'd take it personally. Other people wouldn't.
DeVorkin:You seem to be in the latter category?
Roman:Yes. I do remember (Jan) Oort asked me one time, "Why did you leave astronomy?" I have to admit I was rather taken aback by that, because I didn't believe I had left astronomy. I believed I'd left research. But I felt that I was still in astronomy, and I felt that I could probably do as much for astronomy in this job and probably a good bit more than I'd ever have done as a research worker.
DeVorkin:Well, bringing up research, let me ask two questions, even though chronologically they're slightly haphazard. I know in 1966 you spent some time at Kitt Peak.
DeVorkin:And that you were still doing some spectra, some MK work. You did some MK work later on with Skylab.
DeVorkin:Now, as you mentioned in your resume, you did always maintain a research interest, though certainly the level was lower.
DeVorkin:But I'd like to know what experiences and contacts you had with Kitt Peak, which was growing up at exactly the same time as NASA, which originally had a space division, and where the space division disappeared. What was going on there? What was your experience when you did have that leave to visit Kitt Peak? How long were you there, first?
Roman:Oh, a week or so. I was there a couple of times, actually, and at Cerro Tololo once.
DeVorkin:So it was not as if you took a sabbatical year or something.
Roman:No. I think you have to separate the two parts of your question.
DeVorkin:Fine. I'll let you separate them.
Roman:During my visits to Kitt Peak, as an observer, I felt very welcome. I think I stayed there a month one time. I take it back. I wasn't observing for very long, but I did spend a month there one time.
DeVorkin:You thanked the people very very warmly in your paper.
Roman:I don't remember that, but I do remember that I felt they were very warm to me. They urged me to come, when I brought up the possibility, and they went out of their way to make it convenient for me to come at the time when I could come. I couldn't have asked for anything more from a host institution. Any of the times I was there.
DeVorkin:Who was that?
Roman:It was Mayall, at Kitt Peak, and Blanco at Tololo who were the directors but the welcome extended through the staff.
DeVorkin:You were doing this research purely as a continuation of earlier work. It had nothing to do with NASA.
Roman:That's correct. And I was accepted as at least an astronomer who once had had credentials from the community, and I sort of had the feeling that they looked on me as a prodigal who might be returning for a short period. (laughter) I don't mean that in a nasty sense. I just mean that they did welcome me as someone they had known for many years, and were glad to see come back and try to do a little research.
DeVorkin:To finish this part of it, what allowed you to spend that time? Was it some understanding from NASA that you take some leave time or they were supporting your research?
Roman:Well, when I joined NASA, the promise was that I could have 20 percent of my time for research. Well, that never worked. It was never possible. There was obviously much too much to do, to allow that kind of time. On the other hand, NASA has never been negative to my trying to do some research, if I could find the time for it. That's about what it amounted to.
Roman:They were supportive. They paid my pay and per diem for going to the Observatory. They supported the papers that came out. So there was certainly nothing negative. It's just that the work load was such that it was almost impossible. Plus the fact that, in an administrative environment, it's very difficult to do research. The time span that you have to do anything is so different. And the type of thinking, the approach, is so different. I remember that several years after I was with NASA, I wrote a review article on high velocity stars that I had been committed to write before I joined NASA.
DeVorkin:Yes. Was that the Stars and Stellar Systems chapter?
Roman:Yes. And I don't think I've ever done anything in my life as hard as that paper. In spite of the fact that it was a field that I knew and which I had tried to keep up with, the complete switch in thinking between a very high pressure administrative job, and sitting down and researching the literature and writing a review paper, were just so different that I found it very difficult to make the switch. The great difficulty of trying to combine research and administration in an administrative job which was essentially full time was then really clear. Now, I'm sure if I had a research job with a small amount of administration, it would be something I could handle, but I, at least, found it very difficult to switch between full time one and full time the other.
DeVorkin:Did this cause any anxiety on your part over the years, where you always wanted to get back to your research?
Roman:I don't think I could use the word anxiety. I guess, "longing," would be accurate. One of the things I've done since I retired — I haven't had all that much time since I've retired, for various reasons — I have gone back, and I've been working with some of my old data. The data is almost ready for publication. It's just a matter of checking and that sort of thing. And I have to admit I'm enjoying it.
DeVorkin:Good. That's great.
Roman:So that's the first aspect of it. The other thing, the Space Division at Kitt Peak is a completely separate issue. I might as well have been two people, as far as my dealings with Kitt Peak on the two of them were concerned. Not that my dealings with them on the space division were acrimonious. I don't mean that. I think I've always had good relations with N.U. Mayall. But the Kitt Peak Space Division was really set up by (Alan) Waterman. Waterman at NSF wanted to get into space, and as a result, he set up the Hulbert Center, and he set up the the Space Division at Kitt Peak. I think he really had grand ideas of the two of them merging eventually and becoming a competitor to Goddard. This was the realm of space science or at least space astronomy and astrophysics. That, in itself, created some friction between the two organizations, as you can imagine; between NASA and NSF, and through NSF, Kitt Peak. But then, they wanted support from NASA.
I guess originally they got all of their support from NSF. At that time Russ Nidey, an engineer with background in pointing controls was running their space engineering effort. He is not the easiest person in the world to get along with. I don't think he would have had as many problems if he and the people at Goddard who were developing rocket instrumentation could have had a better interchange of ideas.
DeVorkin:He was at Kitt Peak?
Roman:He was at Kitt Peak.
Roman:But I have a feeling that he and the rocket group at Goddard did not communicate. I think there was a fair amount of feeling on both sides, that they were doing it right and the other one was doing it wrong. And this did not lead to terribly good feeling between the two groups.
DeVorkin:Was this primarily sounding rockets?
Roman:Yes. As NSF started partially phasing down, and as Kitt Peak wanted to grow, they came to NASA. NASA had no problem supporting Kitt Peak in the same way that we support other groups of space astronomers: that is, for things that fit in with the NASA program and seem to be going with it. But we weren't willing to give Russ a free hand to do anything he wanted. And I think that created some friction between the two groups.
DeVorkin:Yes, I can appreciate that.
Roman:That was the first thing. Then the next thing was the space group. By this time Kitt Peak was beginning to get into satellites. But it was so large financially — at Kitt Peak — compared with the rest of the Kitt Peak operation that I think that there was a lot of hard feeling within Kitt Peak.
DeVorkin:I thought it was a small segment that just died out.
Roman:Well, it was only a small segment of Kitt Peak Personnel. But it had a large budget because space work is expensive. They had a lot of money per person. It was almost like the tail trying to wag the dog. This would be my view of it, from a distance. You may get a different view from Kitt Peak, but from where I sat, I think it was really an internal problem at Kitt Peak that led to the demise of the group.
They came to the point where Kitt Peak, again being squeezed by the NSF budget, had to make a decision to cut back. And I think they finally decided that they either had to put a lot of money into the space area, and give it healthy support, or they had to get out. And I think their feeling at that point was that they did not want to divert sources for the ground-based effort into the space effort at the level that it would have been required to have a healthy continuing space group there. Again, from where I sit that's what happened. I wasn't privy to any of the AURA discussions that were involved with phasing it out. But from the outside, that's what appeared to be the problem. On top of that, there were personality problems. Russ Nidey had left, or I think he'd left by then. He did leave certain they closed it out. But there were also problems with —-, who is continuing to be active on the planetary missions. I'm not sure whether he's still part of Kitt Peak or if he's now part of the University of Arizona. I think he went to Arizona.
DeVorkin:Was he involved with G. Kuiper then at all?
Roman:No. This was after Kuiper. (passage deleted) — but you should talk to Al Hiltner or Code or Greenstein. Probably Greenstein would be as good a person as any to talk to on that point.
DeVorkin:People at AURA — that is a good suggestion. Now, you mentioned the X-15 before. There are still some very early things, general impressions of things, that I wanted to cover. Does the X-15 fall into the early sixties category?
DeVorkin:OK, so we can go back again to that time, although the Kitt Peak demise was not too long after that.
Roman:Oh, no, the Kitt Peak demise was about four years ago, maybe.
Roman:Oh yes. It's been quite recent. It may be six years ago. It feels like four. It's not the sixties. It's definitely well into the seventies.
DeVorkin:That was something I didn't realize. Going way back, your first year or two there, you were moving along with a lot of small scale astronomy programs.
Roman:And the OAO. The OAO was a very major part of those first couple of years.
DeVorkin:So the primary interest here was unmanned space exploration. Then after the JFK inauguration, and a rather negative report by Weisner, as you began to see manned space flight taking a front row seat, what were your impressions about your own future in NASA and the future of unmanned space exploration in NASA, because it looked as though, especially with the first few Rangers that were having problems, there was pressure to make the unmanned program subservient to the needs of the manned program. Is this a distortion or what?
Roman:I think it depends on the particular view applied. I think the one person who saved science in NASA and people like me in science was probably Homer Newell, with his very strong support for science. He felt that NASA research was "science for the sake of science" and not for the sake of the manned program. And I think that really allowed science to prosper independently of what was going on in the manned program. In addition, we tried to get a little science involved in the manned program.
I think we were a little less successful at that, but we still tried. But the problem continues. Financially, the science program has always been small compared to the manned program, ever since it started. Congress is much more interested in applications than in pure science, although at the moment "science" is a good deal bigger than "applications." Science is always in a position where it has to fight for its life, but I think the top levels of NASA management have been sufficiently empathetic and understanding of basic science that we've been able to not only survive, but prosper, in spite of all these inroads. And maybe the inroads have kept us from getting too fat and happy.
DeVorkin:That's an interesting way to put it. Newell then certainly was your spiritual as well as scientific leader in many ways.
Roman:In the early days, yes. I think that's fair to say.
DeVorkin:Did you write position papers for him to take to Capital Hill?
Roman:Again, yes, I got involved in preparing budget testimony, As I say, that's a community effort everybody gets involved with.
DeVorkin:Are there any specific meetings, events, conversations that you may recollect from that period when the future was in question, particularly with Newell, when you would get together and plot strategy?
Roman:No, I really wasn't involved at that level. I worried about astronomy and the astronomy program. I'm not a politician. It certainly is not my forte. And I never really got involved significantly at a policy level.
DeVorkin:Do you recall any memorable activities or instances where you had a minor success or minor setback — up to the point where Ranger was finally successful, and the office could show what they had finally done, especially when Surveyor performed everything it had to for Apollo and then went on to do some scientific work.
Roman:The one thing I can think of in that period really was Abe Silberstein's work getting the OAO off and running. We'd been talking about it for two years. We'd had industry briefings and so forth, and finally there was a question of whether we would have a solar one or not, and everybody was vying for first, etc. We finally got that disentangled and moving in late '6l would be my memory. I guess that was sort of a highlight of that period.
DeVorkin:Do you remember how you got it disentangled?
Roman:It was mainly Abe's doing. He just sort of jumped in and put his foot down and said, "Look, time we get moving, let's do it this way.
DeVorkin:This is on the government side of NASA.
DeVorkin:He handled that, then you probably handled the scientific side of the OAO.
DeVorkin:Then how did you unravel exactly what was going to be done on OAO?
Roman:Well, I think it was pretty clear at that time what was going to be done. We'd been working with Goldberg and Spitzer and Code and Boggess for a couple of years, so there wasn't any ambiguity there. It was just a matter of what order made sense. And there, again the problem went back to pointing controls the one that required the least pointing went first and so forth.
DeVorkin:Did this come out of the Astronomy Missions Board?
Roman:That came in a little later.
DeVorkin:So at this time, you're not talking about large study groups.
DeVorkin:This is all still very much internal or small panels.
Roman:The first study group was the Iowa City Summer Institute in '62, the first one I was involved with.
DeVorkin:Did you organize that?
Roman:No. I was there, but I didn't organize it.
DeVorkin:That was very much James van Allen's work?
Roman:Yes. I think Newell had a major role in organizing that too, although I'm not positive. I don't remember for sure.
DeVorkin:What were the meetings like?
Roman:The one thing I remember about it was the very major push for the Large Space Telescope, at a time when we had not yet flown OAO. I just didn't think the technology was ready. And I guess there were other things. There must have been a lot else discussed at that meeting besides the Large Telescope. Aden Meinel particularly was pushing for a 50-inch telescope at that time. No, I guess not, I guess at that time he was pushing for a 250-inch. He looked at the Saturn rocket and decided a 250-inch telescope would fit and therefore we should go for one.
DeVorkin:Well, he's a man who has considerable optical and mechanical experience.
DeVorkin:He's no ingénue when it comes to engineering.
Roman:Well, he dropped back to a 50-inch later. And in fact when he was director of Kitt Peak, he was doing a lot of work on a 50-inch (automatic) telescope and we did give him some support for design studies, but that was later.
DeVorkin:And even later, I know that when the panels were organized by the National Academy of Science, they did with your recommendation to wait.
Roman:I don't know that they ever did agree.
DeVorkin:Well, in effect they deferred the Space Telescope.
Roman:Yes, sure, but rightly or wrongly, I think it was just a case of my dragging my feet, and I think the community would tell you that I'm responsible for the fact that it didn't come earlier because I wouldn't get things moving.
DeVorkin:Because you knew that technologically it was not reasonable?
Roman:I was positive that technologically we just were not ready. That doesn't mean I was right, that technologically we weren't ready. I thought we had to do a lot of other things first, and I still feel that that was right.
DeVorkin:Who was on the other side with Meinel? Did anyone come to you and say, "Here is a package that can provide pointing accuracy that's sufficiently accurate."
Roman:No. I don't think anybody ever came to that point. But everybody agreed it should be done. Spitzer was pushing pretty strongly for it, at that time, and some of the others.
DeVorkin:Did they argue that you should give over money to accelerate the process?
Roman:No. The '62 Iowa City study said that we should convene a committee to do a study on it and to form a committee of astronomers to study it the following summer. But we didn't. The first study that NASA did was in 1965. Now, there was another summer study in '65 at Woods Hole. We were now farther along in the Mercury Project and so we asked should the telescope be in orbit or on the moon? There was a lot of discussion, pro and con, for both approaches.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about that?
Roman:I don't know that I had very strong feelings. I could see advantages and disadvantages at both places.
DeVorkin:Was the moon suggested because then you could go back to a conventional mount, if you could get it there, of course?
Roman:Yes. I think the feeling was that if it could get to the moon it would be more permanent than in orbit because you could go back to it, refurbish it, up-date it and that sort of thing.
DeVorkin:Were some people trying to take advantage of the glory of the manned space program?
Roman:I'm sure they were. Yes.
DeVorkin:Did that go to Congress? Did that kind of idea ever get up there?
Roman:No. At least not officially.
DeVorkin:It never came down from Congress that you know of.
Roman:No. The other question that was debated rather heatedly at the Woods Hole Conference, and which has come up since actually, is the question of man's participating: man's role in the Space Telescope. There I guess I did have a firm feeling. Most astronomers agreed with me, but not all. We wanted to keep man out of it. We were trying to get away from the problems that man and his atmosphere provided on the ground — we didn't want to take them up with us.
DeVorkin:Fair enough. Again, we don't want to jump to the present, but there are still plenty of people today who say that you can never duplicate with a CCD what you can do with a photographic plate.
Roman:That's true. And on the other hand, there are any awful lot of people using photographic plates on the ground who are criticizing NASA because we don't give them CCPs! So, it works both ways. (Laughter)
DeVorkin:OK, maybe we can get back to that. Let's stay in the very early period. Would it be appropriate now to discuss the X-15? What was your contact with X-15?
Roman:Well, the X-15 is an example of a program that didn't work out for us, and I think it's the one thing, the one major area, not the one flight, but the one major area that we tried that really turned out to be disappointing.
DeVorkin:That is from the Bell X 1 up the X-15?
Roman:Just the X-15 itself. The X-15, as you know, was essentially a rocket with a man on top. But there was some space aboard where you could put other equipment. There was a stabilized platform aboard. I'm not sure why there was a stabilized platform. It must have had something to do with the flight engineering. Art Code found out about it, and he proposed to do some photometry. Now, it doesn't get high enough to get to the far ultraviolet, but it does get high enough to get to the 2000 and 3000 region fairly successfully.
DeVorkin:That's where the V-2's were in the late forties.
Roman:So, he proposed to do it. We looked into it and it looked like quite a reasonable thing to try. The platform was there. He actually built some equipment to point his photometers with respect to the platform and to provide somewhat better stabilization.
DeVorkin:Was the pilot to operate this machine?
Roman:All the pilot really had to do was orient the plane and turn it on. He didn't have to do anything very sophisticated about operating it, but yes, he did operate it to some extent. And Code and his people worked on it for several years. They had all kinds of problems, not the least of which was, I don't know if you remember that one of the X-15s crashed and was destroyed in that period, and that happened to be the one carrying this equipment.
Roman:You think of airplanes as being relatively safe as compared to sounding rockets, and they are. But we did have the one crash. The pilot wasn't particularly hurt but the plane was pretty badly damaged, and that held things up a long time. Code finally did get several successful flights, but he never did get the kind of science data that was commensurate with the time and effort that he put into it, or even the money that we put into it. Even though it was not a terribly successful venture still I think it was something worth trying in the early period, to find out what could be done.
DeVorkin:So that was the extent of the X-15?
Roman:Yes. After that we got out of airborne astronomy until we started getting into the infra-red program in the seventies.
DeVorkin:What about that program and also balloon borne instrumentation through the sixties and seventies? Stratoscope was infrared?
Roman:No, Stratoscope wasn't infrared. Stratoscope was primarily visual. One of the early Stratoscope flights was infrared, but that was partly because of Neville Wolf's interest and it was partly because things just weren't far enough developed to do the high resolution optical work. But Stratoscope II was designed to do high resolution optical photography. Visual photography.
DeVorkin:That was your one inroad in visual astronomy at the time.
DeVorkin:Did the Kuiper Airborne Observatory come directly out of your office?
Roman:Yes. It started actually with the Lear jet, when we had a small 12-inch telescope, though I'm not even sure we started with a 12-inch.
DeVorkin:There were no airplane flights before that time?
Roman:None except the X-15.
DeVorkin:So you never were involved with the U-2 people?
DeVorkin:Had no contact with those people.
DeVorkin:By 'not really" —?
Roman:It was the sort of thing where people hinted at its existence, and said we ought to get into it, but it was pretty highly classified, and we didn't want to get into anything classified, so we didn't.
DeVorkin:You generally didn't try to reap the benefits of military technology?
Roman:Not if it involved classification.
DeVorkin:So that would be the same for the Vela system?
DeVorkin:And the Discoverer system?
DeVorkin:So you knew they had the technology but you didn't go after it?
Roman:That's right. Well, you know, it really isn't clear that we would have gained all that much. There were some points, in the early days, when people did fly payloads on military vehicles and there were military rockets. We didn't fund those. They were funded by the Air Force. In fact, it's still happening. We have one coming up that we are funding, but that's a different story.
NASA is supporting it but not from the astronomy office. But frankly, most of the people that I knew who got involved with those missions in the early years were pretty discouraged before they were over. They had problems getting enough information to really do satisfactory interface jobs. They had nothing to say about the testing. They simply delivered a piece of hardware, and it would fly, maybe. They weren't even guaranteed a flight in some cases. They were supposedly guaranteed a flight and they'd be given a date and they'd get ready for that date, and then either the flight would slip or they would be taken off one vehicle and be put on another one. Frankly, at least from where I sat, it didn't look like a very satisfactory way to try to do science. It was a way to get a ride if you couldn't get one any other way, but it wasn't something that I felt we wanted to go after.
DeVorkin:It seems as though Code was trying that with the X-15.
Roman:Yes, but at least it wasn't a classified program and at least he was in on the problems. Sure, it had problems, but at least he was involved, he knew what the problems were, he knew what he could expect at any point in the game.
DeVorkin:So as you had proposals for different projects, did you make decisions here and there as to what the best ride would be, whether it be an orbiting satellite, a balloon, or airborne with the Lear jet?
Roman:The proposals usually were for a specific vehicle.
DeVorkin:Did you ever disagree with them?
Roman:Yes, and I'd talk to people about them and say, "You know, I don't think this is the way to do it. You should look into this." And I'd send them out to talk to somebody who could give them more information on a particular vehicle, to see if they still thought it was satisfactory, or alternatively if it might be more satisfactory than the one that they proposed. Yes, I did do that.
DeVorkin:This was an expected thing for you to do?
Roman:Yes. I think so.
DeVorkin:Some of the first infra-red work, as you say, was done on the airborne Lear Jet at first?
Roman:Yes, and the balloons.
DeVorkin:I'm familiar with the project of Frank Low and Al Harper and associates in flying their small infra-red telescope that had a bolometer on the end of it. How significant was that type of flight, that particular instrument? I know that it was continuously modified.
Roman:Yes, sure. I think that it was quite significant. The modifications have largely been a matter of improved detector sensitivity, as bolometers became better over the years. It's really the first detailed look that we've gotten at the structure of objects in the infrared. Now, the balloons did infrared work, but when you're talking about the advantages of different vehicles, the balloons are relatively poor for accurate pointing. We come back to pointing again because that's the consideration.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that.
Roman:And they carried relatively wide field or were often scanning instruments. The airborne instrument was somewhat better at pointing, and had limited area. So they were very complementary to one another. But there has been relatively little work done on individual sources or source details from balloons because of the pointing problem, and there's been relatively little work done on large areas from the airplane because of the reverse pointing problem.
DeVorkin:The balloons were manned, were they not?
DeVorkin:None of them were? Stratoscope?
Roman:Stratoscope wasn't. Certainly none of the ones we were involved with were manned. Now, I won't go so far as to say that there was no science done on any manned balloon, but certainly that's the exception.
DeVorkin:This will show my ignorance, but I am very interested in learning more about that. Why would there not have been manned balloons? Tremendously increased expense?
Roman:Tremendously increased expense. Lower altitude. You wanted to get as high as you could. But a manned flight would mean lower altitude both because of the fact that man can't survive up there without a pressurized cabin, and lower because of the weight of carrying a man. You don't want to do that. And then there's still the same problem that we have with men on spacecraft: they wiggle. Plus the fact that the man needs his atmosphere. You don't want that. You don't want man perspiring — in the Infrared, water is a very serious contaminant, and you don't want it anywhere around you. In fact, some of the early problems of even unmanned balloons were because you carried up water with you that you didn't recognize. So, there's just no advantage in taking man, and a lot of disadvantages.
DeVorkin:So the infrared balloon work was unmanned and remote controlled and there was your pointing accuracy?
DeVorkin:I see. In the case of the jets then you had better pointing accuracy, but I understand that the Low experiment, at least was the first that was designed without a window. It was actually put into the escape hatch?
Roman:Right. There was no transmission optics and no atmosphere.
DeVorkin:When they proposed this project, to your recollection, was this something that helped to create the airborne program? Or was the airborne program created without any specific project in mind?
Roman:If my memory is right, it may not be in this case. I think the airborne program was there. It was being used. Of course, Ames had an airborne program just to test airplanes. But it was also being used for aeronomy in the early days, and I think the infra-red astronomy sort of grew out of the aeronomy program, if I remember correctly. And as far as the Kuiper airplane (goes), Ames had had an interest in infrared astronomy for a long time, really before it became a practical field. And they had airplanes. They were interested in infrared astronomy and they knew that they had to get above the water vapor. So they had visions of a major telescope on airplanes for some time. And the Lear Jet success I think was what they felt they needed to sell the idea. Indeed it was what they needed to sell the idea of a major telescope on an airplane that would be well stabilized.
DeVorkin:That was a 36-inch?
Roman:I guess so, it is a 91 centimeter.
DeVorkin:There was one that crashed.
Roman:That was Galileo.
DeVorkin:That was the Convair?
Roman:That was the Convair 990. Yes. People like Low had graduated from the Lear Jet to the 990, and there was quite a bit of work done in the Infrared with the 990, but with relatively small instruments and looking through windows. I can't remember anything on the 990 that didn't go through a window, but they did have special windows on the 990, so that they would not restrict the transparency.
DeVorkin:Well, that actually went backwards a little bit because the Lear Jet did have direct access to near space.
Roman:It did have open hatches. But on the other hand, the 990 could carry much larger pieces of equipment.
Roman:The Lear jet's a very crowded plane.
Roman:And by the time you put a door in, there's hardly room for the observer, particularly if it's an observer the size of Frank Low.
DeVorkin:Right. Well, then you would certainly typify Frank Low's first instrumentation on the Lear Jet as pioneer instrumentation in infrared?
DeVorkin:That is one of the items I had my eye on. Let me turn to something almost completely different. We go back to 1960 again.
Roman:You're testing my memory which isn't very good!
DeVorkin:This is directly from your resume. In 1960 you were on a science management and policy in government summer study.
Roman:That was just a two weeks study down in Williamsburg, run by Brookings.
DeVorkin:Then the next year it was a similar situation with the Civil Service. Then in '62 and '63, you have something I'd like to know more about, "Management for Women." And in '65 there was one in plasma physics, which sounds more traditional. Then in '72 you were involved in one called the Federal Executive Institute. Now, were these courses taken by most NASA people at your level? Did you volunteer for them? Or was it something to help you specifically with job related responsibilities?
Roman:I'd say that the majority, leaving out the Management and Women, were taken by most people on my level, and I did volunteer for them. The Brookings course I think is one of the educational highlights of my life. That was really an excellent course. And I might mention that two of my co-students were Jack Clark, who became director of Goddard, and Lou Branscomb, whom I think you've heard of. I don't remember the other students. I just remember those two. Basically they were all people in science administration, in government, and they brought in a number of speakers — some from government some from the academic area — who tried to give us an understanding of science as seen from the political system, the political system as it affects science, a historical perspective on the interaction of science and politics, that sort of thing. Now, don't ask me in detail. It was 20 years ago. But it was a very very interesting couple of weeks.
DeVorkin:I know that some of the academic institutions are just waking up to the fact that it's very valuable to have people trained who know what government says and wants, and also know what science wants, and this looks like something that's been available for quite some time actually?
Roman:Yes. As I say, it was basically an attempt to give those of us who have come up from the science end of training an understanding of the political, I think that's the best way to put it.
Roman:Then, the King's Point Civil Service one in '62 or '63, was something that just about all people at grades 13 to 15 go to. One way or another. There's a whole series of courses that they give, but Civil Service considers it as something you should have as part of your development.
DeVorkin:Anyone who rises to that level in government?
Roman:Civil Service requires, to get to a certain level, two weeks of management training.
DeVorkin:Not a bad idea.
Roman:And this is one of the weeks, although it's a little broader. What I went to was a good bit broader than just management per se. Then Women for Management; the first one I went to I thought sounded like a good idea. It was run by the Business and Professional Women. It's the first one I had heard of at that time. It was run at Michigan. It was called Management for Women. The main idea of the course sounded good to me. I was disappointed in it, I have to admit. The idea sounded good, because it seemed to me that women did face problems in management, if for no other reason than that they were essentially completely in a male world; that a male in the same job did not face. And I thought that a course for women in management would hit those problems; give us some guidance. I found that course quite disappointing. In the first place, the speakers were people who were used to talking to men in management and as far as I could tell, gave us essentially the same things, except they sort of "feminized" it without understanding the real problems that women in management face. They tried to add things like "dress design" and so forth. I may be wrong on that, but you understand the type of thing. They tried to bring in some things that they thought would be "women's interests," without worrying about women's problems. So I found it a pretty discouraging course.
I wouldn't have gone to the second one, except that Penn State was just starting a course on Women in Management, and they strongly urged a group of us who were in government management to come and to help them get started. The women I went with I enjoyed very much. I knew many of them before from Washington. I still see some of them occasionally. But I have to admit that I didn't feel much more positive about the course than I did the one at Michigan. On the other hand we were guinea pigs there and I think that they were anxious to use our reactions to the course to improve it in the future. I hope that they have.
DeVorkin:They did continue it afterwards?
Roman:I presume they've continued it. Now, plasma physics is an obvious one. The Federal Executive Institute is a course. When I took it it was 8 weeks, it's now 7 or 6 weeks. It is for government administrators in the super-grades. That used to be GS16 and above or the equivalent. I'm not sure exactly what the idea of the course is, but I think the basic idea is twofold: first, to get them away from the office for a significant period of time, to let them get a broader perspective that one can't get when in the middle of the forest — although, that's never been the stated reason. As far as I'm concerned it's one of the more valuable parts of the course, and I've talked to other people who have gone and they felt that way too.
The stated reason for the course is to give managers a broader education, a broader outlook on the government, a broader outlook on management, a broader outlook on people and dealing with people, a broader outlook on themselves. I found it a fascinating eight weeks. I just thoroughly enjoyed it. They have a series of little mini-courses. You take a couple of mini-courses at a time and they vary, through the period. And there's some choice. Everybody doesn't take the same thing. It's broken up into relatively small groups. So you end up with maybe eight mini-courses in the course of the eight weeks. This will sound strange, but I think the thing that I got out of it, which has been apparently most meaningful to me, is a much better understanding of myself. Me, who I am, what I wanted and how to go about being happy.
DeVorkin:That's very interesting.
Roman:I don't think that's a useless bit of education.
DeVorkin:No, I would think that someone put into a position such as yours should have it. If you didn't already feel that way about yourself, should have been put into a course like that a lot earlier.
DeVorkin:Did you have that kind of a feeling?
Roman:I hadn't thought about that. Of course, you don't really stop and think about things like that. You're too busy keeping the day to day work going.
DeVorkin:Yes. By that time, of course, there were already cutbacks at NASA.
DeVorkin:Do you feel that the early institutes, the first one in particular, Brookings, helped you in your position?
Roman:I think so, and I think the Federal Executive Institute, is much the same way. I mentioned that I thought the strong point was knowing about myself, but there were a lot of other things that I think I picked up. I think it's helped me with my position, not so much in saying; "does it help me make this decision properly?" But they both helped me a great deal in understanding the events around me, dealing with people. I don't now mean in the management sense, but I've been able for example to help the people that worked for me get a better view on some of the bureaucracy, some of the budget cutbacks, that sort of thing. So I think things like that have helped. I think that they both helped give a much longer range view on the political system, on science and the political system, and the way the political system works. I mentioned that I'm not a good politician and I haven't got involved in extensive dealings with Congress or that sort of thing, but after all, we live in a political environment. This is a political agency. We are a headquarters of a government agency. And an understanding of the milieu helps a great deal in just realizing how what you're doing fits into the whole picture, and how things that look completely uncomprehensible aren't quite so uncomprehensible, when you see the whole.
DeVorkin:Can you give me any example of something that was clarified to you after you gained perspective? Something within the structure of this organization that might have been particularly mystifying?
Roman:There are two things pulled out of context I remember very vividly — one from Brookings. Back in '61, Jack Clark asked the speaker how long does it take for a new agency to become bureaucratized? And the answer was: about five years, and the process will be completed in about ten. I have seen that come true, so accurately, that I have found it very interesting. I guess I have a better feeling for some of the changes that I've witnessed in that first ten years, as a result of that.
Another thing that stuck in my mind, and I guess I can't say it's had any particular relevance to my job, but it's meant something to me as a citizen, is the recognition of the importance of politics. I guess that's helped my job too. But the recognition of the importance of politics and the role of politics in the American government, and the realization that politics should not be a pejorative term.
The fact is that the system isn't going to work without it. And the thing that really sticks in my mind is the recognition that the probably most critical attribute of the President is that he must be a good politician. I look over the Presidents that I've been aware of, and I can see how true that is. The ones that were good politicians have been successful Presidents, and the ones that weren't have not. Take Lyndon Johnson, for example, who was the supreme politician, or Harry Truman, who nobody thought could possibly do the job. But he was a sufficiently skilled politician to come through and do remarkably well. I think you can take Eisenhower as an example on the other side. I don't know if those are the sorts of answers that you had in mind?
DeVorkin:Yes. I would certainly like to take the idea of the politician and trickle that down to what was going on in NASA.
Well, I think there the answer is the realization of the importance of the politics in the scientific community and the government community, and the fact that it's something we have to deal with. We do have to deal with it, even though we would like to make all of our decisions in a vacuum strictly on scientific and technical grounds. But unfortunately that's an impossibility because we don't live in that kind of world. We can't even get money in that kind of world. I think it helped to understand some of the things which are done for political reasons, even though they — I won't say are against science — would not be done for scientific reasons alone.
DeVorkin:Well, that gets us right into some things that are more recent. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the SETI program, the applications programs, and the two major policy or priority studies that you were involved in, in 1969 and '70. The first was the Astronomy Missions Board, in 1969 and then the next year, the National Academy of Sciences priorities statement, where you were in one of the working groups.
Roman:I worked with them.
DeVorkin:These two particular studies didn't quite agree with one another.
Roman:Well, one was space science and one was all of astronomy.
DeVorkin:The funding levels seemed to be different. To what degree were you looking at applications research or looking at the SETI as a vehicle to maintain astronomical research?
Roman:I don't think we were at all at that time. And I don't think I have very extensively since. I think SETI has been something that has been pushed on us. I haven't been deeply involved. I've only been involved with SETI off and on.
DeVorkin:You were at a few meetings?
Roman:Yes, I've been to a few meetings, and actually, I wrote a paper on the detection of extraterrestrial planets back in 1959 so it's not a completely new field to me.
DeVorkin:I'll have to look for that.
Roman:I don't know whether I actually wrote a paper. I gave a talk at an AAS meeting on it in 1959. so it isn't something that I'm absolutely uninterested in, to put it mildly.
DeVorkin:But you think that it was thrust upon you?
Roman:I think the size of the program which we had for a while, or which we thought we were going to have for a while was thrust upon us. I think that most of us feel that SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Planets, is an important program. But I think that at least some of us felt that it was going overboard. I'm almost tempted to say that it was the same with the Large Space Telescope back in 1962, that technologically we weren't at the stage where we should be going at it with the very major brute force techniques that were being proposed in SETI.
I may be wrong on that. I think there are some things that ought to be done, and I think some of them have been suggested, and hopefully some of them will be done. But I guess I don't want to see Cyclops for a while, and I will reserve judgment on the astrometry program until I see a little bit more about it, and also a little bit more about what Hipparchus will do.
DeVorkin:What will do?
Roman:Hipparchus that's the European astrometry satellite.
DeVorkin:There will be some astrometry on the Space Telescope.
Roman:On the Space Telescope, oh yes.
DeVorkin:I have heard statements here and there saying that they could detect a Jovian type planet.
Roman:Yes, they should be able to. And what I'm saying is, I think there are things that need doing, and I'm very much in favor of planetary detection and that sort of thing, with something like the Space Telescope or possibly Hipparchus, although I'm a little bit more dubious about Hipparchus. I think we should do some more work than we have done with radial velocities to detect small bodies. But I'm not, at this point, personally in favor of a more than half a billion dollar a year program which I think is what they wanted to put into that. I think that's premature, personally. On the other hand, I don't think anybody that I know of in NASA really saw that as a way of supporting astronomy. I think we saw it, if anything, as a challenge to supporting astronomy rather than a help.
DeVorkin:A year or two ago there were rumblings through the astronomical community that Congress or the administration pushed NASA into SETI as a "new New Frontier," as Kennedy had created; purely a political thing. And when you brought up this idea of the art of politics, that made me think: There was nothing of that that filtered down, you weren't pressured by anyone?
Roman:I didn't say that. I was giving you my opinion. I said I didn't think we were doing it to support astronomy. Yes. Sure. We were pressured to do this.
DeVorkin:Can I ask you, who pressured?
Roman:I guess strictly speaking, I don't know. I know it came from above.
DeVorkin:Who here would know where it came from?
Roman:Frosch the director of NASA. As far as I know, it came to us from Frosch.
DeVorkin:I see. Well, what about the application side? I know that you were involved to a certain extent in OGO?
Roman:Not very much. Only peripherally. Anyway, I don't consider OGO an applications program. It was a science mission.
DeVorkin:It was primarily science?
Roman:It was entirely science. It was geophysics, and I guess there are now applications of some of the geophysics, although not all that much really. It was to observe the magnetic environment of the earth, the particle environment of the earth, some aeronomy, that type of thing.
DeVorkin:As far as infra-red mapping and agricultural studies?
Roman:No, they didn't get into that. OGO's didn't get into that at all. My closest contact with applications was on the "Outlook for Space" study, where we did look at applications in a rather major way. I was working more on the science side of the study, obviously, but we all looked at all of it.
DeVorkin:What did you do specifically?
Roman:Back about five years ago, somebody, I think it was OMB although the origin may have been Congress or somebody else, wanted the agency to do some long range planning. That was one thing. Secondly, NASA was at a stage where Apollo was essentially over. We hadn't started Shuttle or were just beginning to start Shuttle, and the agency was looking for a new thrust. So they put together a 20 man committee to look at where NASA could be going. Not where it should be going, but where it could be going. And we prepared three volumes, one primary volume which was quite thick, in which we looked at a large number of problems and questions in science and applications both, and what instrumentation it would take to get answers to those questions, and what sort of time phasing might make sense, if we were not budget limited. From a technological standpoint, and from a standpoint of what should come first, what sort of phasing should we have.
We worked on that for just about a year. We had three panels. There was a science panel, an applications panel, and then there were one or two people worrying about technology, and I was on the science panel, obviously. We all did get together, and I listened to and read material on what we could learn about wheat production from LandSat, and communications satellite techniques and that sort of thing, and other people listened to astronomy.
DeVorkin:So you were thinking more in terms of combined applications and basic science programs?
Roman:Yes. It was to be an overall NASA program.
DeVorkin:Yes you never really looked at applications yourself, other than the possibility that some might be compatible with scientific goals?
Roman:No, that's not what I meant. What I meant is that people who were pushing LandSat, for example, talked to us about what great things LandSat could do and we simply critiqued it and came up with, as a committee, what we felt was a realistic, maybe slightly optimistic but more or less realistic assessment of the possibilities there.
DeVorkin:That was the nature of the role?
Roman:Yes. But I haven't gotten involved in any applications programs, unless you call geodesy "applications," and of course it wasn't applications at the time I was involved. If I can go back a minute, you asked me about what stands out in '63 period. Geodesy stands out. In fact there are two things about that I would like to mention. One is a decision I made unilaterally, with some criticism, which I think was the right decision, and the other was geodesy. Take geodesy first. We were trying to get a geodetic satellite program started back in the early days of NASA, a natural outgrowth of the Vanguard work. And Air Force did not want to do it. They wanted to keep it classified. I think we were able to establish that there was no need for the classification, and the issue finally went to the White House. The decision was that NASA should do it. But the outcome was that the Air Force kept it classified. NASA could not do it.
DeVorkin:And overruled the White House?
Roman:I thought that was an interesting lesson.
DeVorkin:Heavens, how did they do that?
Roman:I don't know. I just know it was done.
DeVorkin:So that effectively kept geodesy away from you.
Roman:And we had to start over again several years later. That was an interesting fight the second time, but at least the second time we succeeded in getting the program started.
DeVorkin:That must have been very frustrating.
Roman:It was. Now, the second thing: the decision I mentioned. In the early days, and I think I'm now talking about 1960 though I'm not absolutely sure of the date, we were supporting three clock developments. This was with the idea of doing the gravitational red shift experiment. One was a quartz clock which Zacharias at MIT was involved with. One was a rubidium maser, and one was the hydrogen maser.
Anyway we were developing three of them when the Pound-Rebka experiment was done, using the gamma ray line. And it seemed to me very clear that the accuracy which they got with that experiment was better than we were going to get with the satellite experiment, and so I just unilaterally killed them, killed the support. This had two repercussions. One, Zacharias was relatively powerful politically. He didn't like his support being cut out. And the other was a man whom I had worked for but I didn't work for at that point really berated me up one side and down the other for doing such a foolish thing.
DeVorkin:Who was that?
Roman:That was Gary Schilling. He wasn't with NASA all that long.
DeVorkin:He didn't understand that it could be done better in other ways?
Roman:I think he must have. I don't see why he didn't. He should have.
DeVorkin:Was it politics with Zacharias?
Roman:It could have been. I don't know. Anyway that was one decision which I made which I felt rather proud of.
DeVorkin:But those were tough decisions.
DeVorkin:Did you have any decisions after the big cutbacks in the early seventies that were comparable, that were equally tough, equally memorable?
Roman:Actually I don't know that I would say that was a tough decision. It was tough in the sense that I realized I was impacting people's livelihoods. But it was not tough in the sense of what looked from a technological and scientific standpoint as the sensible thing to do, if I was going to be a responsible guardian of the public purse. Yes. I guess I have had decisions since. I'm trying to think of some. There are places where I cut people.
DeVorkin:I've heard rumors that the imaging X-ray telescopes on Einstein had been proposed well before 1970, although the 1970 proposal was the one that of course finally went. Is there any truth to that?
Roman:Well, I'm not sure what you mean. We flew them on OAO III.
DeVorkin:They were small.
Roman:They're small, but they are imaging X-ray telescopes.
DeVorkin:You had an imaging telescope on an Apollo, did you not?
DeVorkin:For the sun?
DeVorkin:But I was thinking of the big one, the big Einstein. Was Giacconi's first proposal to you funded?
Roman:I'm trying to remember. There's nothing that stands out in my mind. I think the answer is that we certainly were funding him for X-ray optics in that period. We were also funding some other people for X-ray optics and have continued to fund other people for X-ray optics.
DeVorkin:I just heard here and there that there was initially a little bit of reluctance but then you came through very quickly. And it needed Uhuru.
Roman:No, it didn't need Uhuru. The reluctance was the problem of the size of the satellite that you needed to fly it. And it's not a cheap thing. Finally Jesse Mitchell said, "Well, let's do a cheap huge Explorer." He called it a "huge dumb Explorer," and that's what HEAO grew out of it. Well, it wasn't a cheap dumb Explorer by the time it was finished.
DeVorkin:What was the "cheap dumb Explorer"?
Roman:It didn't exist.
DeVorkin:Oh, you never used it. So Uhuru did not convince everybody that they should start supporting more high energy work?
Roman:I don't think so. I think it was a gradual development, of which Uhuru was one part, but I don't think it changed a lot of people's minds. It is just that it takes time to build up the technology. It takes time to get the money.
DeVorkin:Right, especially for something that size. Staying with Uhuru, there's another theme that I want to get into, especially with COSPAR and that is international cooperation. You were involved in COSPAR?
Roman:Not very much. I attended one COSPAR meeting. The one that was in Washington I went to and that's the only one I ever went to.
DeVorkin:You certainly were involved with Uhuru and that was international.
DeVorkin:And with Ariel - that was international.
Roman:And with ESA, ESRO, and then ESA.
DeVorkin:The European Space Agency. How truly egalitarian were these international cooperative projects? Was NASA really footing the bill for Uhuru? It seemed as though it was.
Roman:I think that with most of the international cooperation, we gave more than we got, from a financial standpoint certainly. From a science standpoint, you know, if our goal was to create science, or to do science, then I don't think the return was all that bad. But I think there was a conscious effort on NASA's part to build up the space capability in some other countries. I think that there was a feeling, probably rightfully, that international cooperation made things easier to fund over here, easier to sell.
DeVorkin:That's part of the politics?
Roman:That's part of the politics.
DeVorkin:And you were perfectly happy with that?
Roman:Yes. I think so, in the long run I guess partially because science isn't a terribly nationalistic field.
DeVorkin:Right. The other international thing I missed is your involvement with ICO, International Commission for Optics.
Roman:I just went to one meeting and gave a talk. I wasn't involved in any detail, no.
DeVorkin:I've been talking to a number of people who were involved in the Space Telescope, and as you know, there were many competitors for the major packages, the instrumentation packages, and one of the consistent themes was that when a particular group got into the design stage for a particular package, at an early date, and got locked into what eventually would become outmoded instrumentation, they were more often than not knocked out.
Roman:That's right. Unfortunately.
DeVorkin:It is an unfortunate situation, and we have the problem of lead time. How are lead times determined? These are not arbitrary, I would imagine, but many people would wish that they be reduced.
Roman:Yes. I think there are two reasons for the lead times. One's technological and one's financial. They both play a role. The lead times for the instruments we selected for Space Telescope seem awfully long. Most of the investigators thought that they were too long. They're not going to be able to make them on schedule. That's part of it. The other one, the long lead time in the Phase A, was simply that it took that long to get approval of a project. That was the funding lead time. Just a long slow uphill fight, to get that kind of money.
DeVorkin:Was the first lead time criterion an outgrowth of the problems encountered with OAO I with the Celescope being delayed?
Roman:No, I don't think so. You mean for Space Telescope?
Roman:No, I don't think so. I think the lead time for the Space Telescope was simply the length of time it took for us to get Congressional authorization to go ahead.
DeVorkin:And as a result a number of people had bad luck.
Roman:Yes. You asked about difficult decisions. I think another decision, not as late as you would think, came when we were funding six groups to develop gamma ray spark chambers at one point.
DeVorkin:These were things that would be flown as detectors?
Roman:Be flown as detectors for gamma rays, and it was clear that six was more than we could afford to develop. All six groups were good. There wasn't any question about that. And we had a competitive review and cut them 'down to three. I think that was one of the harder jobs I did, because I knew all the three groups I was dropping were good, good people. Some of them were people that had given us a lot of support in other areas, you know, in other ways, which made it even harder.
DeVorkin:You have an objective criterion, a rating system?
Roman:I had, with external reviews. I did the best I could.
DeVorkin:The AMB work you were involved in, '67, '69, I see here that on the X-ray gamma ray panel, that you were the contact for it. First Giacconi and Friedman were together with Fowler, Burbidge, and other people. I'm curious, seeing both Friedman and Giacconi on the same panel, were priorities clear and smooth? How did they finally agree that Friedman would be involved with HEAO I, and Giacconi with HEAO II?
Roman:That did not come out in the Missions Board. Getting priorities on the Missions Board was pretty difficult. And I'm not at all sure we succeeded. But that is true generally. It has nothing to do with just the fact that Friedman and Giacconi were on the same panel. It is very, very difficult to get advisory committees to make priorities. They'll tell you the great things that should be done, and they'll even tell you that something isn't worth doing, if nobody on the panel is there to defend it.
But scientists do not like to say "My work is good, yours is bad," and they're even more reluctant to say "Your work is good, mine is bad." And as a result, I have never really found an advisory committee that did a satisfactory job of developing priorities. Now, for the question of Friedman versus Giacconi, there again, technology — the pointing control — the sophistication of the system needed for Giacconi, was higher than that needed for Friedman. So Friedman came first.
DeVorkin:But my question also was, not who came first but was there any point in time when Friedman wanted to do imaging objects?
Roman:No, that was always Giacconi's. Friedman wanted to do the experiment he did do.
DeVorkin:So it was purely technological, which came first.
DeVorkin:It seems as though one did feed and help the other.
Roman:Yes, I think it has, and I think we realized that it would.
DeVorkin:To whom do you turn to assess the reliability of something as crucial as the CCD in the operation of the Space Telescope?
Roman:We had a team headed by Jeff Rosendhal, who is not himself a detector expert, but his team included detector experts from various institutions. It went around and visited everybody who was proposing for the Space Telescope for either the wide field camera, or the faint object spectrograph. They looked as soon as they could at the detectors that were being proposed, and the stated development performance, before we chose instruments. They spent about three weeks.
DeVorkin:Just going over them.
Roman:They even went to Europe and looked at the — faint object camera.
DeVorkin:They were able to look themselves. They weren't content in any way to accept an industry statement on reliabilities?
Roman:That's correct. The team included Kent Ford from Carnegie, Buckie Freeman from the Army Night Vision Lab, a man from Langley who was an expert in detectors; I don't remember the other people.
DeVorkin:There was no question then that you did your own homework.
DeVorkin:There are some final questions. We haven't said enough about the woman's role in astronomy and in NASA particularly. Do you think that, aside from what we talked about with the women's institutes and that sort of thing, that as a woman you've been treated equally at NASA?
Roman:Yes. As far as I know. There is only person that I'm aware of who had any problems because I was a woman, and I think it was also partially because I was an astronomer. (passage deleted) He was very ambitious and saw me as a competitor, as an astronomer, as well as a woman.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see.
Roman:But other than that, I'm not aware of anything. Now that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Maybe I'm blind. But I think I've been treated pretty much the way a man would be treated in this job. I've had no problems working with people that I'm aware of because I'm a woman. I think I've been accepted as one of the team. I've felt very good about it. In fact, I can say that about the government. I had that feeling at NRL too.
DeVorkin:Had it at NRL; but not at Yerkes?
DeVorkin:What is your feeling on how the AAS has responded to the ERA call to boycott states not ratifying it?
Roman:I don't know. I've mulled over it a great deal, and I'm not sure that I agree that they should have done it. I don't know what decision I would have made, had I been on the board. On the council, at that time. I'll put it that way. I guess I'm somewhat glad they did take the decision that they made. I'm very glad that they stuck to it once they'd taken it.
DeVorkin:But some people were of the attitude that it should have been a vote of the entire AAS and not the board.
Roman:Yes. Well, I don't think you can ever get a vote of an organization the size of the AAS that means anything. Maybe I'm wrong.
DeVorkin:You're probably right. Looking back over your NASA career, what mission or participation in NASA has been most satisfying to you? Can you point to any one?
Roman:Hard to say, but I'll say, what I've been telling people recently is that the one I feel most proud of is the IUE. And the reason I say that is that I think every other major project that I was involved with would have occurred sooner or later without me. I don't think IUE would have.
DeVorkin:Why is that?
Roman:IUE was an uphill fight. I don't mean I didn't have some support, but I think I carried it on almost single handedly. I was fighting people like Friedman and Giacconi.
DeVorkin:They were against it?
Roman:Yes. They saw it as competition for X-ray funds.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. Who was the principal investigator for IUE?
Roman:That's part of the problem. It was a Goddard project, and it's open observatory that everybody can use.
DeVorkin:It was truly a national observatory on a small SAS scale.
Roman:Yes. Correct. International actually. The British were very deeply involved. The UK provided some of the instrumentation. They provided a lot of the design. ESA has a tracking station and they operate it a third of the time. We operate it two-thirds of the time. It's being used by roughly 150 astronomers a year, maybe more. Marvelous results are coming out.
DeVorkin:Who initially proposed it?
Roman:Well, it originally was proposed by Bob Wilson. It actually grew out of a study which Bob Wilson from the UK did for ESA. ESA decided then that they didn't have the money to fund it. Goddard was trying to do something to revive OAO-B, the general purpose spectrograph. Al Boggess at Goddard and Bob Wilson in the UK, at Appleton at that time, got together and proposed a joint project which would use much of the UK design, the general purpose spectrograph that Goddard was interested in, and make it a general purpose observatory.
Sorry we ran off tape. Please add any additional commentary if you wish.
 1 ApJ 124 (1956), 35; Proc. I.R.E., 46(1958), 293
 Pubs. of David Dunlap Obs., 11(1955) #3,97.
 Covered on pp. 114-116.
 PASP 79 (1967), 168.
 Stars and Stellar Systems V: Blaauw and Schmidt Galactic Structure. (University of Chicago, 1965), Chapter 16, p. 345.
 "Planets of Other Suns" AAS meeting, Toronto, Sept. 1, 1959.
 "The National Space Observatory Concept" (1974), "The United States Geodetic Satellite Program" (can't find likely title circa 1975)