The National Research Council of Canada

round table discussion -3


[See also the written material provided by Ian McDiarmid, both on NRC and also on Don Rose and the written material provided by Al McNamara, .]

GS Thank you. That closes this session. Now we will go on to NRC, and Ian has been sitting there so quiet.
IM - I don't mind. I don't mind
GS We'll start with you, then Alister, and Allen can fill in some of the parts that you didn't cover.

IM I guess some of it started when Don Rose came to NRC in 1948. He came from CARDE. He was Chief Superintendent there for about three years or so, and that's where he got involved with rockets, with the Velvet Glove project, and of course the solid fuel propellant they were working on there eventually got into Black Brant rockets. He was a big booster of that rocket program and Bristol Aerospace and the whole business aspect of the thing, and the fact that there was a company involved actually helped in persuading NRC to support space research. But during the war, and before the war Don did all kinds of things. His research ranged all the way from looking at electric shock ways to kill chickens, to developing a rocket, to basic science. During the war he was scientific advisor to General McNaughton and he ran an operations research station for the Navy on one of the coasts, I've forgotten which one. He spent a lot of time in England talking to the UK people, so he really had a very varied experience.He worked at NRC before the war. When he came back to NRC in 1948 they said, you can pick a field and do whatever you like. Why he picked cosmic rays I have no idea, because as far as I know he had no connection with cosmic ray work before that.
GS He worked in photogrammetry, and he found these streaks in photographic plates taken from aircraft.
IM Really? I'd never heard that.
GS And that twigged him onto looking at cosmic rays.
IM And that got him interested in cosmic rays?
GS I think he told me that himself.
IM Ian McDiarmid speakingAnd they probably weren't streaks from cosmic rays at all, they were probably something else [laughter]. Because it would be very hard to get cosmic ray streaks in ordinary photographic plates at that altitude. In the 1950s in the Cosmic Ray Group Don and John Katzman carried on with cosmic ray monitoring at various stations in Canada. But most of the group was involved with particle physics. After the collaboration with Heikkila we slowly got into the space business and Don became a really big supporter of space research across the board. And, of course, he played a big role in the IGY, he coordinated the Canadian effort, at a time when it needed some coordinating, as a matter of fact. He got NRC to set up an Associate Committee on Space Research, and he really promoted space research both in NRC and in Canadian universities. He set the groundwork for the Canada Centre for Space Science thing, which came along much later. But as far as the science was concerned, we concentrated on the magnetosphere and auroral particle physics rather than cosmic rays, and we built up a fairly sizeable group: Burrows, and Budzinski, and Whalen and Margaret Wilson in the 60s, and then more after that. But most of the interesting science really happened in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s - but during most of the 60s we were trying to figure out what we should be doing rather than doing it. I put down those rather brief notes which cover most of what I could remember. I couldn't remember all that much when it came down to it. I hadn't really thought about any of it very much until I got your email. I'm not sure how much I could add to that, because I have no records of what went on, apart from the published stuff, which isn't what we are interested in here. And how many records there are at NRC I have no idea, frankly. I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't that many. Anyway, why don't you say something, Alister, and Al.
GS I think it's worth pointing out - you were in separate groups which later merged.
IM Yes. That's another point, of course. Initially, Al's section and mine were in different divisions, but later both sections became part of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and then there was more interaction between the groups.
GS But not Alister, of course.
IM But the time period is a bit awkward; you see, most of the space physics section's work came after the period that you people are talking about.
CH Plus the Churchill group, which was DRB, because NRC had to take over . . .
AM When NRC really got into Churchill in a big way, of course, was about 1960, 61. 1963 was the first launch of rockets under that sort of new organization where Radio Division did the payload instrumentation, and integrated all the experimenters. And the first experiments integrated were mainly from Cosmic Ray Section, that Ian mentioned, and my plasma probes from the Upper Atmosphere Research Section, some meteor detectors by Wlochowicz . . .
RN The Space Research Facilities Branch, it belonged to.
AM That was set up by NRC to manage the rocket program.
IM That was later; this was Dick Rettie's operation initially. Space Research Facilities Branch came along after that. And after that came the Canada Centre for Space Research.
AM That was the point at which NRC entered in a big way in terms of funding a national-type program, as distinct from funding their individual labs. And as I said, McKinley committed a whole section to that instrumentation, I think for a number of years, and then eventually they started transferring the payload integration and launch facilities over, first to Bristol and also to SED, the Space Electronics Division, that the University of Saskatchewan set up under Alex Kavadas; so those two organizations did all the payload and balloon engineering, and coordinated the launches under the direction of the Space ...
?? Was this in the 60s?
AM Well, then again, like Ian said, we lost all our records since our storage space was demolished at Sussex Street, and any records we have are hard to find, but . .
IM That was in the late 60s, I think.
AM 

Yes, it was in the late 60s when they transferred over. I know the Radio Division carried the payload engineering for quite a few years before it was transferred to Bristol and Saskatchewan.

McNamaraOne interesting sidelight in the early days, one of the first involvements, I guess, with the Radio Division, was, McKinley was asked to set up the Minitrack stations - Dick Rettie did most of the spade work on that. But McKinley was a very unusual fellow. He had a quiet sense of humour. I know he showed me back in the early days the first negotiations with NASA for this Minitrack network, and he had got this memo from diplomatic circles from NASA describing the contract: NRC shall operate these stations, NRC shall take data, NRC shall ship data. McKinley always liked to have a red pen at hand, and he went through this document and changed all the shalls to mays, and sent it back to NASA. [laughter]

Again, following on to what Ian said, the really big developments occurred during the expansion of the space program, I guess really starting with the IGY, and then carrying on into the space era with the rockets. Really, from 1960 up to approaching 1980, it was really doing well, and then the government funding started cutting in, and with the final closing of the range, I guess it was around 1983 or 84, wasn't it?
IM It closed twice; once we got it back and the second time we didn't.
AM Yes, and of course that was really a disaster at that point, from that point on funding was very tight.
IM That's when the government was making these huge cuts in all the departments, and the departments had to decide what to let go. Actually, two years before NRC had gone through a similar exercise but on a smaller scale.
[At this point there is a gap of a minute or two in the audio recording. I have tried to fill it in from the video tape, but the sound quality is poor and much of it is indecipherable]
AM ... right at the election there, was it 1981 or 80 ...
IM If there had been an election call they could have got it turned on again.
CH So the joining of the groups . . .
[End of gap in audio recording]
AM The Herzberg Institute was formed in the 1970s; from Physics Division there was the Cosmic Ray group that Ian was in, and High Energy Physics, and Spectroscopy from Physics, and from the Radio Division there was the Upper Atmosphere Research Section, Radio Astronomy, and the two observatories out west, DAO and DRAO, and then we were consolidated in the Sussex Street building in the mid-1970s, around 1975 or 76.
IM Yes, 76 I think it was.
AM And of course that helped tremendously when we were in a common building and we could interact more closely. And at that point Ian's section and mine did a lot of cooperative work and discussions, common payloads.
GS Do either of you want to comment about its final disappearance? Could anything have been done differently?
IM About what? The range?
GS No, the space component of HIA.
IM I don't know. I wasn't there when that happened.
GS Alister was still there.
IM I think it was partly the fact that the Space Agency was coming, and NRC was still fairly strapped, and the presidents of the time were not terribly keen on space. We had one guy who was very un-keen on it, what was his name - I've forgotten.
GS Perron.
IM Yes, he was dead set against it.
AM Two terms, I guess it was that he was in there.
AVJ There were two steps; the rocket program shut down first, and then the Herzberg Institute moved to Victoria.
AM Yes, that really put the end to things.
AVJ Not long afterwards, the people who had remained on staff, Fokke Creutzberg, and
AM Don Wallis
AVJ Dick Gattinger, and so on, continued to work in that field - they were essentially retired, and refused to accept early retirement.
IM And some of them moved to the University of Calgary - Andrew Yau . .
AVJ He was in the middle of a very promising research program
IM That's right, and Whalen got fed up and left, which was a pity.
AVJ And before that there was the change when the US Air Force contracts were terminated sometime in the mid 60s and the optical group at Saskatchewan began to look for support from NRC then, particularly for balloon and rocket experiments. Usually the rule was you went to NSERC to get the instrument support, and NRC would have this panel which would decide which experiments were to be flown, put them in order, and then SED and BAL would figure out how to put them on the rockets, and if it was possible it would go ahead.
IM But most of this is after the period you were talking about.
GS Alister is getting back into the early part, I think, and Al was talking about when we would each submit proposals, and I had the idea Don Rose himself sort of said, OK, take one of mine and one of Alister's and one of Al's and put them together and that's a payload.
IM No, there actually was a little panel, there were 4 or 5. In fact, Patterson, from UTIAS was on it . .
AM Yeah, there was an organization called CSRPG, the Canadian Sounding Rocket Program Group. I was chairman of it for a number of years, and there was always a university component, and that was rotated around. And they would evaluate the proposals, and try and rate them for their scientific quality ...
RN Brian Wilson was on it once, wasn't he?
AM He was at one time. A great variety of people were on the panel, they tried to rotate it around.
GS That really worked, didn't it. People actually got their experiments flown, they didn't have to wait for ten years to get something up, it went next year.
AM That essentially started in the early or mid 60s, and went on well up into - well, when was it that CCSS took over there?
IM That's a good question. I was trying to think about that the other day.
AM Somewhere around 80, late 70s.
IM I think it was 1979.
AM Well, it was after we moved to Sussex Drive, wasn't?
IM Well, I don't actually remember, but it was around there somewhere.
AM Anyway, then the format changed.
IM Then we funded everything, rockets, payloads, the whole works. We actually came by a lot of money at that point. So things loosened up a bit.
GS I think things worked pretty well under NRC, I must say.
IM Most of it was pretty good, not all, but most of it.
DM I was never personally involved, but it seemed to me that for a long time after that and probably still to the present, there was this, within the universities this continual issue of - you can get the equipment, but you can't do the science. You have to go to NSERC to get the money to do the science, but ...
AVJ There was the great Polaire exercise. [See also the recollections of Peter Forsyth on this subject.]
GS That was one that didn't work.
IM I had forgotten about that one. That was back in this period.
AVJ The proposal was to get a satellite for less than $20 million, or something like that.
IM Which, of course, probably was completely unrealistic ...
RN It took NSERC to learn about long term Big Science programs
GS That was under Peter. He had identified this little drop in the funding and said that we could fill it in. Unfortunately, we weren't the only ones that noticed that.
IM Well, again, DRTE wanted to do communications at that time; John Chapman turned off the Polaris program. I think he had some good reasons, from his point of view.
AVJ The remnants led to some very productive things when the Clark government came through with some money, WINDII started then, and the Viking satellite.
IM That's when the money increased, after ours got turned down. Yes, I had forgotten, but there was a Space Science Coordination Office which Peter was director of for a year or so, and that was in the Polaris time.
GS And when you got involved it was the Canada Centre for Space Science.
IM Which was right after that.
GS And then Roy VanKoughnett followed you?
IM Yes.
AM That's right, the office that Peter ran was in the early 70s, and then when you took over with CCSS it was the last half of the 70s.
DM I think it was mid 70s, 75 to 77 he was on leave from Western, something like that.
IM There are some interesting little bits in there about Polaris which I had completely forgotten about.
GS Yes, that, and I think Peter had to get credit for the Forsyth Report, what I call the Forsyth Report, getting that moving, and it moved along pretty quickly then.
AVJ There was the DASP report right before that.
GS Yes, the DASP report just led it. Yes, it was just a bit ahead.
IM Actually, some of what got the continuous funding was a fairly clever move with Treasury Board, which got approval in principle in one go-around one year to get funding for this, but no money, and the next year it was in competition with a lot of things, but because it had the approval in principle the previous year, it got the money. So there was a little trickery went on there, and it worked. But now, you see, with Dave Kendall in the business, there is lots of money for space science [laughter], the Agency, I mean, there's no problem.
DK You got the money in 79 for WINDII, AIMS and WISP, that big block, and you used that money very cleverly to get involved in the Vikings and other things which came along.
IM Well, they didn't pan out too well, that first lot, so we used the money for something else.
GS They didn't get launched, just WAMDII. So there was a bit of a vacuum, so in 1984 we had this chance to get WINDII on UARS because the French had withdrawn, and Gerard Tuillier came over from France.
IM I remember the meeting we had at NRC for that.
GS We had this meeting, you remember, you and Roy VanKoughnett, and we just talked about it for an hour, and then Roy said, "OK, let's do it!" It's not that easy these days to get something accepted!
DK Do you remember the meeting in Paris, where we were asked to leave the room.
GS I liked those NRC days, I thought they were very good.
RN This was all part of the evolution from small science to medium science to big science, they are different operational modes.
DM 

And, of course, what is small science one decade would have been big science a decade or two earlier.

I see that it is a couple of minutes after five. Are there any last words that anyone would like to say. .... Well, then, on behalf of both of us, thank you very much for coming.


round-table discussion - 4