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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The IAS – later years (1945 to 1963)

During World War II the organization continued to publish Astronautics and received increasing numbers of requests for information on rockets.  A realization of the need for professional information led to a redefinition of the ARS into a technical society to meet the professional needs of a growing number of scientists and engineers. The first step was to establish an office, and hire staff. The first permanent employees was Agnes “Billie” Slade, a former secretary of Ed Pendray’s whom he convinced to man the ARS office for two days a week.  At this point there were exactly 237 dues-paying members. In 1947 the society passed new by-laws that included official grades of membership, added four regional sections, established subcommittees for technical specialties (reaction motor development, fuels and combustion; instrumentations and communications; and aerodynamics and space problems), and named three national awards. Astronautics had become The Journal of the American Rocket Society.

In 1953,the ARS hired James Harford as its first Executive Director, who oversaw, and was a key element of, years of spectacular growth for the Society.  Within two years, he had increased the Corporate members from 10 to 61, and the membership to over 4,000 – a number that would reach 21,000 by the end of the 1950s. The five original sections grew to 26 at this time, and the ARS held or participated in eight major meetings in 1955 alone.  Harford remained as Executive Director of the ARS and later AIAA until 1988.

Because of World War II and the early challenges of rocket development during the Cold War, they ARS had largely ignored the issue of spaceflight for close to a decade.  This changed in 1950, when the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) invited the ARS to participate in the Second International Congress of Astronautical Societies, the predecessor of the IAF. This meeting’s purpose was to publicize the fact that spaceflight would shortly become reality. Several ARS members enthusiastically participated, and serious discussions about space flight with the ARS led to the creation of an Ad Hoc Space Flight Committee. The subject was a controversial one; more conservative ARS members did not want to focus heavily on space flight; others felt the ARS was not doing enough.  These members ultimately formed the American Astronautical Society (AAS) to promote space flight on a national level. This led the ARS to reevaluate its position, and the society released a proposal justifying a study of the potential utility of a satellite, entitled "On the Utility of an Artificial Unmanned Earth Satellite." This report was one of the most persuasive documents that led to President Eisenhower’s decision to launch small scientific satellites as part of the research for the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58.

The pinnacle of the ARS participation in going into space, however, was the Space Flight Report to the Nation in 1961. This amazing conference, developed over a year under the direction of Dr. Jerry Grey of Princeton University, offered the opportunity to everyone, engineers and the general public, a glimpse of the opportunities of space. Two hundred and fifty papers in 50 sessions, along with plenary speakers and technical panels, took place over five days in at the New York City Coliseum. Speakers included the leading names in space flight, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Over 12,000 people attended.

This period was a time of great growth for the ARS, which went from 3500 members in 1956 to 20,500 six years later.


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