Encyclopedia Astronautica
1964.08.03 - Preliminary draft report of the Ad Hoc Astronomy Panel of the Orbiting Research Laboratory (ORL).


Willis B. Foster, Director of Manned Space Science in the Office of Space Science and Applications, distributed a preliminary draft report of the Ad Hoc Astronomy Panel of the Orbiting Research Laboratory (ORL). The panel, which met on 26 October 1963 and again on 24 June 1964, was created to sound out the American scientific community on the validity of manned astronomy in space and to define astronomy objectives for the ORL, mission.

The panel promulgated a broad statement on the scope and direction of the manned space astronomy program. Although sounding rocket and unmanned satellite programs had merit, the panel stated that broader, more flexible and ultimately more economical- astronomy programs required the presence of man in space. Initial manned astronomy programs should he carried out as soon as possible, and, although primary interest was on Earth-orbital systems, the panel clearly was looking forward to the eventual possibility of lunar surface observatories. The Ad Hoc Astronomy Panel also presented a comprehensive rationale for man's role in space astronomy: assembly of large, bulky, or fragile equipment in space; maintenance, repair, and modification of equipment; and direct monitoring of scientific apparatus and immediate data feedback during critical periods and for specialized operations. While recognizing that the presence of flight-oriented astronauts was mandatory aboard an ORL, the panel recommended inclusion in the crew of a qualified astronomer to direct scientific operations aboard the laboratory.

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