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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has a long tradition of turning to accomplished citizens for advice and guidance on major program and policy issues before the agency. This tradition originates with NASA’s predecessor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Established in 1915, the NACA became the United States’ premier aeronautical research institution; it was governed by an advisory committee appointed by the President of the United States. The NACA’s “main committee” served as a board of directors, and a group of research advisory committees guided the NACA’s research in specific areas.

With the creation of NASA in 1958, the NACA was abolished, and its research centers Ames Research Center, Lewis Research Center , and Langley Aeronautical Laboratory were incorporated within the new space and aeronautics agency along with some elements of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, then engaged in rocket-related work. The tradition of turning to nongovernment sources for independent judgment and guidance survived, however, as NASA established new advisory committees to assist it with planning for its new and continuing responsibilities in aeronautics, space technology, space science and applications, and human space flight.