NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Goddard’s First Building

Here at Blueshift, we like to give you a backstage pass to what’s going on here in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard. We introduce you to our missions, scientists, discoveries, and more. But we also want to provide some context – what’s it like to work here? How does what we do fit into the bigger picture at Goddard, at NASA, and beyond?

We gave you a little background on Goddard’s history in our Halloween episode last year, which talked about the founding of NASA in 1959 and one of the earliest buildings that was established here on center. Now we want to take that one step further, and give you a tour of Goddard – building by building, a little bit of history and how it all fits together! You’ve heard about Building 2. I work in Building 34. As you might imagine, there are a lot of buildings in between. So this is a daunting task.

But we’ll start at the very, very beginning… with Building 1. This is a photo-heavy tour, and you can click on any image to enlarge!

Dedication ceremony at B1, 3/16/1961

Here’s Building 1, at the Goddard Space Flight Center dedication ceremony held on March 16, 1961. You can read more about these early days at Goddard in the 40th anniversary book Dreams, Hopes, Realities, but here’s an excerpt:

But someone then decided that a dedication couldn’t take place without a flagpole to mark the Center’s entrance. Vaccaro had three days to find a flagpole – a seemingly impossible deadline to meet while still complying with government procurement regulations. One of his staff said there was a school being closed down that had a flagpole outside it, so Vaccaro spoke to the school board and then created a specification that described that flagpole so precisely that the school was the only bid that fit the bill. He then sent some of his staff over to dig up the flagpole and move it over to the Center’s entrance gate – where it still stands today.

There was also the problem of a bust statue. The dedication ceremony was supposed to include the unveiling of a bronze bust of Robert J. Goddard. But the sculptor commissioned to create the bust got behind schedule, and all he had done by the dedication date was a clay model. Vaccaro sent one of his employees to bring the clay sculpture to the Center for the ceremonies, anyway. To make things worse, the taxi bringing the bust back to the Center stopped short at one point, causing the bust to fall to the floor of the cab. The bust survived pretty much intact, but its nose broke off. Undaunted, Vaccaro and his employees pieced the nose back together and simply spray painted the clay bronze, finishing with so little time to spare that the paint was still wet when the bust was finally unveiled. But the ceremonies went beautifully, the Goddard Space Flight Center was given its formal send-off, and the Center could settle back down to the work of getting satellites into orbit.

Here’s Building 1 today. As you can see, it’s gotten a little bigger over the past 50 years!

B1 in 2010

The building bears the official NASA seal, a ceremonial and traditional emblem reserved for special use. I suppose being Goddard’s first building (and one of NASA’s earliest buildings as an agency) counts as special!

NASA seal on B1

Building 1 is largely occupied by employee support services – training, human resources, and on-center necessities like a cafeteria, post office, and employee store. The cafeteria dining area is decorated with old mission posters. I would love to have some of these hanging on my office walls!

B1 cafeteria posters

I snapped a couple of detail shots of the posters because some of them are really cool. These capture NASA history, pop culture, and NASA’s style over the years!

B1 cafeteria posters - detail #1

B1 cafeteria posters - detail #2

On a nice day, people like to eat outside in a picnic area. Goddard is built on a heavily wooded tract of land next to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and it means we have lots of trees and our share of wildlife. We’ve got deer and geese that have the run of the place – which means that sometimes you have to, um, watch your step!

B1 cafeteria picnic area

Back inside, there are plenty of conveniences for Goddard’s employees. A small Post Office contract station handles personal mail – and they even have a special Goddard Space Flight Center cancellation stamp! (I like sending mail with a Goddard postmark!)

Our stamp club (Goddard has a lot of employee clubs and organizations) creates special collectible covers for big NASA launches and events. Here are two for last year’s STS-125 mission:

Goddard Stamp Club - STS-125 cancellations

And an older one for a 1993 launch of a NAVSTAR GPS satellite:

Goddard Stamp Club - NAVSTAR cancellation

There’s also a NASA Federal Credit Union for employees and their families. They have a full-service branch (in another building) and a few ATMs. I feel like I’m giving you a full tour of NASA insignia – here’s the retired NASA logotype we used from 1975-1992. We informally call it the “worm,” and sometimes get a little nostalgic about it.

NASA Federal Credit Union

On our way back out of Building 1, I snapped a photo of the GEWA (Goddard Employee Welfare Association) store. This is the place on-center to get all of the little essentials you might want during the day, like snacks, cough drops, batteries, greeting cards, etc. They also have lots of gifts, toys, collectibles, and household items, plus services like photo developing and tickets to local events. There really is something for everyone!

GEWA (Goddard Employee Welfare Association) store

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of our Goddard building tour… feel free to talk back in the comments! What do you want to see at Goddard?



  • […] 16/06/2010 · Leave a Comment NASA Blueshift is the official blog and podcast of the Astrophysics Science Division of NASA Goddard. Today, it begins an extensive online tour of the facility with many photos, a lot of history and a gift shop. Building 1 is where it all began on the 16th of May 1961 and it is where the tour also begins. […]

  • Mike Hutcheson says:

    I agree that I would also love to have some of the pictures hanging on my wall too. It is so cool to actually see some really good pictures of the Goddard building and by adding the great informative content, it makes this a really good post…Thanks for sharing this with us all…

  • Dam says:

    This is pretty neat. Could you imagine being one of those employees trying to find a flagpole for th front of the Goddard Building, or trying to fix the clay bust, spray painting it bronze, just hoping no one would notice? Nothing too important, only the opening of the space program.

  • antiques in fort worth says:

    My interest in Goddard began as a child, simply because I attend RH Goddard Jr. High School. I’ve read dozens of books, been to Roswell, NM, Almagordo, NM, etc. My love of rockets comes from the great Mr. Goddard.

NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration