Chariots for Apollo

Courtney Brooks, James Grimwood, and Loyd Swenson

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Foreword

Preface
  • May through December 1961
  • SEB Ratings of Apollo Spacecraft Proposals by Major Area
  • Apollo Launch Vehicles
  • 1959 to Mid-1962
  • LOR Gains a NASA Adherent Early Reaction to LOR Analysis of LOR Settling the Mode Issue
  • 1962
  • 1963—1964
  • 1963-1964
  • 1965
  • 1966
  • Major Considerations in the Design of the First Lunar Landing Mission
  • 1967
  • Basic Missions
  • 1968: First Half
  • 1968: Second Half
  • 1969: First Half
  • 1960-July 1969
  • 1969: July
  • On the Surface
  • Apollo 11 Mission Events Sequence
  • Apollo 11 Recovery Sequence
  • Epilogue
  • Astronaut Assignments
  • Apollo Flight Program
  • Apollo 11 Experiments
  • Apollo 11 Lunar Samples
  • Appendix F
    NASA Logo

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration


    Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft

    By Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson
    Published as NASA Special Publication-4205 in the NASA History Series, 1979.


    For Additional Information Contact Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief
    Historian, roger.launius@hq.nasa.gov
    

    Acknowledgment: Special thanks to David Woods for scanning and proofreading Chariots for Apollo, and formatting it for use on the World Wide Web.

    Chariots for Apollo.

    (The NASA history series) (NASA SP ; 4205)

    Bibliography: p.

    Includes index.

    1. Project Apollo-History.

    I. Grimwood, James M., joint author. II.

    II. Swenson, Loyd S., joint author.

    III. Title.

    IV. Series: United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The NASA History series

    TL789.8.U6A5239 629.45'4 79-1042

    Foreword

    The story of Apollo is a remarkable chapter in the history of mankind. How remarkable will be determined by future generations as they attempt to assess and understand the relationship and significance of the Apollo achievements to the development of mankind. We hope that this book will contribute to their assessments and assist in their judgments.

    Writing the history of Apollo has been a tremendous undertaking. There is so much to tell; there are so many facets. The story of Apollo is filled with facts and figures about complex machines, computers, and facilities, and intricate maneuvers—these are the things with which the Apollo objectives were achieved. But a great effort has also been made to tell the real story of Apollo, to identify and describe the decisions and actions of men and women that led to the creation and operation of those complex machines.

    The flights of Apollo were the focus of worldwide reporting and attention. The success of these flights is directly attributable to the less well reported and less visible work of nearly 400,000 people in hundreds of different organizations. That the efforts of so many could be organized and coordinated so effectively is a tribute to American ingenuity and management abilities. Moreover, only those who were directly involved can fully appreciate the dedication, competence, courage, teamwork, and hard work of those people.

    It is not possible to single out any one or even a few of the many people and the countless decisions, actions, and key events in the program as being more critical or important than the others in determining its ultimate success. Nor is it appropriate to do so since that success could not have been achieved without having first succeeded in building effective teamwork in an environment where every task, no matter how seemingly insignificant at the time, in some way affected the ultimate outcome of the program.

    It was a rare personal privilege for me to serve on the Apollo program. The greatest reward was the opportunity to work with the many people in government, industry, and other organizations in this country and around the world who played a part in this tremendous undertaking. Words cannot adequately describe the extraordinary ingenuity and selfless devotion that were so often displayed by so many in surmounting the multitude of problems and obstacles that developed along the way. This program surely demonstrated what our great country can accomplish when the national will and leadership steadfastly support a competent and dedicated group of people who are unwaveringly committed to attaining a seemingly unattainable objective.

    I hope that this book will not only serve future generations as they view the Apollo story in a historical perspective, but will also bring the satisfaction of a job well done to all those who served in the Apollo program.

    SAMUEL C. PHILLIPS

    General, USAF (Ret.)

    December 1978

    Chariots For Apollo, Preface

    Preface

    Apollo was America's program to land men on the moon and get them safely back to the earth. In May 1961 President Kennedy gave the signal for planning and developing the machines to take men to that body. This decision, although bold and startling at the time, was not made at random—nor did it lack a sound engineering base. Subcommittees of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), had regularly surveyed aeronautical needs and pointed out problems for immediate resolution and specific areas for advanced research. After NASA's creation in October 1958, its leaders (many of them former NACA officials) continued to operate in this fashion and, less than a year later, set up a group to study what the agency should do in near-earth and deep-space exploration. Among the items listed by that group was a lunar landing, a proposal also discussed in circles outside NASA as a means for achieving and demonstrating technological supremacy in space. From the time Russia launched its first Sputnik in October 1957, many Americans had viewed the moon as a logical goal. A two-nation space race subsequently made that destination America's national objective for the 1960s.

    America had a program—Project Mercury—to put man in low-earth orbit and recover him safely. In July 1960 NASA announced plans to follow Mercury with a program, later named Apollo, to fly men around the moon. Soon thereafter, several industrial firms were awarded contracts to study the feasibility of such an enterprise. The companies had scarcely finished this task when the Russians scored again, orbiting the first space traveler, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on 12 April 1961. Three weeks later the Americans succeeded in launching Astronaut Alan Shepard into a suborbital arc. These events—and other pressures to “get America moving”—provided the popular, political, and technological foundations upon which President Kennedy could base his appeal for support from the Congress and the American people for the Apollo program.

    Because of its accelerated pace, high technology, and need for reliability, Apollo's costs were high (expected to be $20 billion to $40 billion as early as mid-1961), but the program lasted longer (albeit with aliases) than either Mercury or Gemini. (Gemini began in December 1961 to bridge some technological gaps and to keep America in space between the simpler Mercury flights and the more ambitious Apollo missions.) Requiring seven years of development and test before men could fly its machines, Apollo craft carried men into space from October 1968 through July 1975. The Apollo program itself recorded its final return from the moon on flight 17 in December 1972, after a dozen men had made six successful explorations on the lunar surface. Shortly thereafter Skylab, using the basic Saturn launch vehicle and Apollo spacecraft hardware, sailed into earth orbit, supporting crews on research missions up to 84 days in length during 1973 and 1974. Apollo passed from public view in July 1975, following the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight, flown by American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts to make the first international space rendezvous.

    The Apollo story has many pieces: How and why did it start? What made it work? What did it accomplish? What did it mean? Some of its visible (and some not so visible) parts—the launch vehicles, special facilities, administration, Skylab program, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, as examples—have been recorded by the NASA History Office and some have not. A single volume treating all aspects of Apollo, whatever they were, must await the passage of time to permit a fair perspective. At that later date, this manuscript may seem narrow in scope—and perhaps it is. But among present readers—particularly those who were Apollo program participants—there are some who argue that the text is too broad and that their specialties receive short shrift. Moreover, some top NASA leaders during Apollo's times contend, perhaps rightly, that the authors were not familiar with all the nuances of some of the accounts set down here.

    Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft begins with the creation of NASA itself and with the definition of a manned space flight program to follow Mercury. It ends with Apollo 11, when America attained its goal of the 1960s, landing the first men on the moon and returning them to the earth. The focal points of this story are the spacecraft—the command and service modules and the lunar module.

    The 14 chapters cover three phases of spacecraft evolution: defining and designing the vehicles needed to do the job, developing and qualifying (or certifying) them for the task, and operating them to achieve the objective. Like most large-scale research and development projects, Apollo began haltingly. NASA, with few resources and a program not yet approved, started slowly. Ad hoc committees and the field centers studied, tested, reported, and suggested, looking for the best way to make the voyage. Many aerospace industrial firms followed the same line, submitting the results of their findings to NASA and hoping to get their bids in early for a piece of the program.

    When lunar landing became the Apollo objective in May 1961, the United States had only 15 minutes of manned flight experience in space and a tentative plan for a spacecraft that might be able to circumnavigate the moon. No rocket launch vehicle was available for a lunar voyage and no route (mode) agreed on for placing any kind of spacecraft safely on the lunar surface and getting it back to the earth. Nor was there agreement within NASA itself on how it should be done. But the luxury of time for committees to debate, thrash out, and reconcile differences vanished all too quickly—although NASA still had too few people and resources with which to do anything else. The agency awarded contracts for development of the systems—command module, guidance and navigation, and launch facilities—that were likely to change least when subsequent decisions were finally made. The first two chapters are devoted to these discussions.

    Resolving the mode question was perhaps the most difficult decision of the entire program. The debate occupied NASA (and touched off arguments from other governmental agencies and from industry) for 18 months. General agreement on this pivotal part of the Apollo mission was essential for the selection and development of both the Saturn V launch vehicle and the lunar module that completed the Apollo hardware “stack.” Passions among the participants in the mode battle appeared violent, even divisive; but when the lunar orbit rendezvous mode was eventually selected, in July 1962, the centers and Headquarters groups closed ranks behind the decision. Chapter 4 concludes the difficult definition phase of the program.

    Apollo's middle years are covered in Chapters 5 through 9. When the development and qualification phase began, the lunar module was a year behind the command module, even though there were two versions of the CM: “Block I,” limited to earth-orbital operations, and “Block II,” equipped for lunar-orbital rendezvous. At the same time, NASA was staffing and organizing to manage the complex program and drafting detailed specifications, from the smallest component to the largest subsystem. Spacecraft development took two years, lasting much longer and meeting more difficulties than expected, and caused manufacturing delays. By 1965, Apollo managers were able to spell out the tests and reviews needed to qualify the spacecraft and get it to the launch site. All this time, the managers were fighting the extra kilograms that engineering improvements were adding to the two machines. Toward the end of the year and throughout 1966, Apollo moved ahead, with Gemini and NASA's unmanned lunar reconnaissance programs supplying some answers to Apollo planners, especially about astronauts living and working in space, the ability to rendezvous, and the composition of the lunar surface. Just when mission planning and launch schedules had assumed some firmness, a spacecraft fire on the launch pad during a routine test killed three astronauts and caused a wrenching reappraisal of Apollo program plans and much rework of the space vehicles.

    Many deficiencies in the early model of the Apollo command module were eliminated as work on the advanced version progressed. When the command module was ready for its first trial flights, the lunar module was still a year behind because of propulsion, corrosion, wiring, and weight problems. NASA flight-tested both the lunar module, with all its problems, and the Saturn V, which had developed unwanted “pogo-stick" oscillations, and then decided that neither could yet be trusted to carry men into space. While solving these problems, NASA pushed ahead to qualify the command module, launching it into earth orbit (with the first Apollo crew aboard) on the smaller Saturn IB in October 1968. A daring circumlunar voyage in December not only qualified the command module for its ultimate mission but demonstrated that the Saturn V was at last trustworthy. Only the lunar module still lagged. But early 1969, the last year allowed by Kennedy's challenge, brought two flights in quick succession—one in earth orbit and the other in lunar orbit— employing all the lunar-oriented vehicles and certifying that Apollo was ready to land men on the moon. The world then watched—via television—as its first representatives walked on the surface of the moon in July 1969. These dramatic missions are discussed in Chapters 10 through 14.

    This book is the work of three authors: Courtney Brooks, James Grimwood, and Loyd Swenson. (See Authors page for biographical sketches.) Brooks focused on the history of the lunar module, the mode issue, the search for an adequate launch vehicle, and the selection and training of astronauts (including spacesuits and training devices). Swenson examined the command module story, guidance and navigation, the command module fire, and scientific concerns. Grimwood wrote the five chapters on the Apollo missions and revised the drafts.

    Sally D. Gates, Johnson Space Center History Office Editor-Archivist, served indispensably in many capacities in preparing this history: research assistant, editor, coordinator of the comment draft, compiler of the appendixes, typist, proofreader, and critic. Contributions en route were made by Billie D. Rowell, Corinne L. Morris, and Ivan D. Ertel, all former members of this office. Rowell and Morris worked on the archives, and Ertel selected the illustrations. Verne L. Jacks, an employee of the University of Houston, transcribed some of the taped oral history interviews and typed several trial draft chapters.

    As may be seen in the source notes, the text rests on primary Apollo program documentation on the spacecraft. The archival base (about 25 cabinets of documents) was extensive, and the authors owe the program participants a great debt for heeding the admonition, “Don't throw away history!” Melba S. Henderson provided the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office reading files, which contained the day-to-day record of the worries and joys of managers and engineers as Apollo progressed. A host of others—most of whose names are in the notes—gave up treasured desk archives and illustrations. More than 300 of these participants agreed to taped oral history interviews.

    Although this book was written under the auspices of the NASA history program, partially through a contract with the University of Houston, the contents are the judgments of its authors and in no way represent a consensus of NASA management—if such a thing were possible—about any of the topics, programs, actions, or conclusions. Like many who write contemporary history, the present chroniclers found far more advantages than hazards in having the counsel of the participants in weighing the mass of evidence and clearing the technical points. This assistance proved invaluable, though many who provided aid would not agree with the authors' selections and presentations—and some have said as much. Special mention should also be made of the help received from the NASA History Office—Monte D. Wright, Frank W. Anderson, Jr., Lee D. Saegesser, Carrie E. Karegeannes, and Alex F. Roland; from former NASA Historian Eugene M. Emme; and from the Chief of Management Analysis at the Johnson Space Center—Leslie J. Sullivan. But the authors alone must shoulder the responsibility for any defects the text may still contain.

    C.G.B.

    J.M.G.

    L.S.S.

    Houston

    September 1978

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-1. Concept to Challenge. 1957 to Mid-1961

    The orbiting of Sputnik I in October 1957 stirred the imagination and fears of the world as had no new demonstration of physics in action since the dropping of the atomic bomb. In the United States the effect was amplified by realization that the first artificial satellite was Russian, not American. Yet the few scientists and engineers working in Project Vanguard and other U.S. space projects were surprised only at the actual timing. Indeed, they had already considered means of sending man around the moon.

    Modern rocket technology dates from the Second World War; the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles in succeeding years resulted in machines that could eventually launch vehicles on space missions. In this same time, man's flying higher, faster, and farther than ever before suggested that he could survive even in space. Sputnik I caused alarm throughout the United States and the ensuing public clamor demanded a response to the challenge.1 During the next year, many persons in government, industry, and academic institutions studied means and presented proposals for a national space program beyond military needs. After decades of science fiction, man himself, as well as his imagination, moved toward an active role in space exploration.

    Concurrently with the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in late 1958—a year after the first Sputnik2—a proposal (which became Project Mercury) was approved to fly man in near-earth orbit. 3


    1. Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander, This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, NASA SP-4201 (Washington, 1966), pp. 28-29; Martha Wheeler George, “The Impact of Sputnik I: Case-Study of American Public Opinion at the Break of the Space-Age, October 4, 1957,” NASA Historical Note 22, 15 July 1963.

    2. Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, National Aeronautics and Space Act: Hearings on S. 3609, 85th Cong., 2nd sess., 1958; House Committee of Conference, National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958: Conference Report (to accompany H.R. 12575), 85th Cong., 2nd sess., 15 July 1958; Public Law 85-568, 72 Stat. 426, An Act to provide for research into problems of fight within and outside the earth's atmosphere, and for other purposes (hereafter cited as the Space Act of 1958), H.R. 12575, 85th Cong., 29 July 1958.

    3. NASA, First Semiannual Report to the Congress: October 1, 1958-March 31, 1959 (Washington, 1959).

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-2. Forging a National Space Agency

    Astronauts leave Spacecraft

    Artist's concepts sketched about February 1959 were used in a presentation by M. W. Rosen and F. C. Schwenk at the Tenth International Astronautical Congress in London, 31 August 1959. Above, astronauts leave the spacecraft to investigate the lunar surface.


    Spacecraft takes off from moon

    The return vehicle takes off from the moon.


    Spacecraft reenters atmosphere

    The reentry vehicle begins to enter the atmosphere after jettisoning the propulsion unit.


    The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, passed by Congress in July of that year, said nothing about the moon or manned space flight. In its declaration of policy and purpose, however, the general objectives were to improve and use aeronautical and space capabilities “for the benefit of all mankind.” If achieving international leadership in space meant that this nation would have to fly men to the moon, the Act encouraged that ambition. 4 Clearly NASA, as the nonmilitary agency of the United States, would be responsible for furthering the national interest in space affairs. But the new agency required more than just a charter before the President and the Congress could turn it loose on a task requiring a vast acceleration of activity and a large commitment of national resources.

    Glennan visits LaRC

    Space Task Group Director Robert R. Gilruth, left, and Langley Research Director Floyd L. Thompson, center, welcome NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan to Langley Field, Virginia, for a January 1961 tour.


    Much of the preliminary planning for Project Mercury had been done by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's predecessor. NASA's first Administrator, T. Keith Glennan, president of Case Institute of Technology (on leave), set about organizing and using the heritage of experience and resources that had carried Mercury from the planning stage into actuality. His deputy, Hugh L. Dryden (former Director of NACA), planned and executed policy decisions during NASA's first few years. Abe Silverstein, who came from NACA's Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, was assigned by Glennan to manage a coordinated program for a stable of rocket boosters to suit a variety of space missions. 5

    The White House had approved plans to develop big boosters, but Glennan knew that would not be enough. He wanted organizations that had participated in developing these vehicles, and toward this end he laid plans for the eventual transfer of the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and of the Army's Wernher von Braun team (Army Ballistic Missile Agency; ABMA) into the NASA family. In January 1959, Wesley L. Hjornevik, Glennan's assistant, pressed the Administrator to “move in on ABMA in the strongest possible way . . . because it is becoming increasingly clear that we will soon desperately need this or an equivalent competence.” Although JPL came into the fold soon after the agency opened for business, a year and a half passed before Glennan persuaded the Eisenhower administration to consign a portion of ABMA and some of its facilities, later named the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, to NASA. 6

    In addition to the oldest NACA laboratory—at Langley Field, Virginia, across Hampton Roads from Norfolk—and the other two NACA laboratories—Ames, at the lower end of San Francisco Bay, and Lewis, in Cleveland—NASA inherited the NACA authorization to build a center for development and operations. Dryden was well aware of the applied research character of Langley, Ames, and Lewis. He was anxious to insulate these former NACA centers from the drastic changes that would come while shifting to actual development in NASA's mission-oriented engineering. Space science, mission operations, and, particularly, manned space flight should, he thought, be centralized in the new facility to be built near Greenbelt, Maryland. To direct Project Mercury, Glennan established the Space Task Group,a semiautonomous field element under Robert R. Gilruth. When the new center was completed, the Mercury team would move to Maryland. * In May 1959, Glennan announced that this new installation would be called the Goddard Space Flight Center in commemoration of Robert H. Goddard, the American rocket pioneer. 7

    Besides the NACA personnel, programs, and facilities, NASA acquired, by transfer, ongoing projects from the Army (Explorer), Navy (Vanguard), and Air Force (F-1 engine). 8 These were worthwhile additions to the new agency; to comply with the language and intent of the Space Act, however, NASA had to plan a long-range program that would ensure this country's preeminence in space exploration and applications.


    * In May 1959, Glennan also appointed Gilruth Assistant Director for Manned Satellites at Goddard. Harry J. Goett was named Director of the new center in September.


    4. Space Act of 1958, pp. 1-2.

    5. Forty-fourth Annual Report of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 1958 (Final Report) (Washington, l959); Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Subcommittee on Government Activities, Investigation of Governmental Organization for Space Activities: Hearings, 86th Cong., 1st sess., 1959. Silverstein, interview, Cleveland, 1 May 1964. Cf. “Silverstein Memorial Dinner,” tape recording, Thomas O. Paine, master of ceremonies, University Club, Washington, 6 Dec. 1969.

    6. T. Keith Glennan to Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson and Rep. John W. McCormick, 21 Oct. 1958; “Army-NASA Agreement,” joint Army-NASA press release, 3 Dec. 1958; Wesley L. Hjornevik to Admin., NASA, “Utilization of ABMA,” 20 Jan. 1959.

    7. Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, p. 113; Alfred Rosenthal, Venture into Space: Early Years of Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA SP-4301 (Washington, 1968), pp. 27-29; Samuel B. Batdorf, memo for file, “Presentation of MIS Program to Dr. Glennan,” 14 Oct. 1958; Robert R. Gilruth to Assoc. Dir., Langley, “Space Task Group,” 3 Nov. 1958; Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), pp. 80-81; Esther C. Goddard and G. Edward Pendray, eds., The Papers of Robert H. Goddard, 3 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970).

    8. Glennan letters, 21 Oct. 1958; NASA, “Fact Sheet on the Transfer of Certain Functions from Department of Defense to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” 1 Oct. 1958, as cited in Rosenthal, Venture into Space, pp. 284-85; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, p. 99.


    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-3. The Starting

    As part of its legacy NASA inherited the insight of an ad hoc Space Technology Committee into what some of its research goals should be. At the behest of James H. Doolittle, Chairman of NACA's Main Committee, in February 1958 H. Guyford Stever of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had headed a group that examined a wide variety of possible space projects, giving NACA needed guidance for research into space technology. Exploration of the solar system was seen as an arena where man, as opposed to mere machines, would definitely be needed. When NASA opened for business in October 1958, this recommendation in the Stever Committee's final report gave the new agency a start on its basic plans.9

    Sending men beyond the earth's gravitational field, however, required launch vehicles with weight-lifting capabilities far beyond that of the Atlas, the only American missile that could lift the small Mercury spacecraft into earth orbit. Moreover, there was nothing being developed and very little on the drawing boards that could carry out the Stever Committee's suggestion. Glennan was therefore willing to listen to anyone who might provide a sensible booster development plan. On 15 December 1958, he and his staff sat in their headquarters in the Dolley Madison House in Washington to be briefed by missile development leaders from ABMA. Wernher von Braun and two associates, Ernst Stuhlinger and Heinz H. Koelle, surveyed the capabilities of current and planned boosters, their utility for various space missions, and ABMA's work on launch vehicle design and operation. In essence, they described how their agency might play a leading role in America's national space program.10

    ABMA concept

    A lunar-earth return vehicle as envisioned at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in early 1960 was drawn for Wernher von Braun's use in an ABMA study, “A Lunar Exploration Program Based upon Saturn-Boosted Systems.”


    The theme of these presentations was manned landings on the moon. Koelle emphasized the need for a few versatile space vehicles, rather than a plethora of different models. ABMA offered a program for building a family of these rockets. Koelle predicted that perhaps by the spring of 1967

    “we will have developed a capability of putting . . . man on the moon. And we still hope not to have Russian Customs there.” He stressed how neatly ABMA's launch vehicle program complemented NASA's emerging manned space flight activity. “The man-in-space effort,” he said “dovetails with the lunar and cislunar activities because you simply can't land a man on the moon before you have established a man-in-space capability; that is quite clear.”11

    Von Braun said ABMA preferred clustering engines in launch vehicles, emphasizing that the multiengine concept of aviation was directly applicable to rockets. Next he talked about plans for a multistage Juno V—suggesting different propellants for particular stages—the most ambitious rocket ABMA then contemplated.

    To answer, “What will it take to get people to the surface of the moon and back?” von Braun described five techniques, direct ascent and four kinds of rendezvous en route. Assuming the feasibility of high-energy (liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen) upper stages and a capsule conservatively estimated at 6,170 kilograms, for direct ascent “you would need a seven-stage vehicle which weighed no less than 13.5 million pounds 6.1 million kilograms].” Developing and flying such a rocket was forbidding to von Braun.

    Instead of this enormous vehicle, he suggested launching a number of smaller rockets to rendezvous in earth orbit. He proposed using 15 of these, which “it just so happens,” he said, wryly, “had the size and weight of the Juno V.” These boosters could place sufficient payload in orbit to assemble a vehicle of some 200,000 kilograms, which could then depart for the moon. The lunar-bound craft would be staged on the way, dropping off used tanks and engines as the flight progressed—“in other words, leave some junk behind.”12

    Next, Stuhlinger rose and said:

    The main objective in outer space, of course, should be man in space; and not only man as a survivor in space, but man as an active scientist, a man who can explore out in space all those things which we cannot explore from Earth.

    He catalogued the unknowns of space vehicle components and research objectives in materials and in protection against space hazards. What happens, for instance, to metals, plastics, sealants, insulators, lubricants, moving parts, flexible parts, surfaces, coatings, and liquids in outer space? How could we guard men and materials from the dangers of radiation, meteorites, extreme temperatures, corrosion possibilities, and weightlessness? What kinds of test objectives, in what order and how soon, should be established? “We . . . are of the opinion that if we fail to come up with answers and solutions to these] problems, then our entire space program may come to a dead end, even though we may have the vehicles to carry our payloads aloft.” 13 Although Glennan was impressed, he knew that NASA's first tasks were Mercury and the giant F-1 rocket engine.

    Congress had been seeking some consensus of what the nation should do in space. At the beginning of 1959, the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration released a staff study, The Next Ten Years in Space, reporting a poll of the aerospace community on the direction of America's space program through the 1960s. Prominent among projected manned programs beyond Mercury was circumlunar flight. Those queried spoke confidently of this goal, saying it was only a question of time. Not a single spokesman doubted the technical feasibility of flying around the moon. Predictions spanned the latter half of the decade, with expectations that manned lunar landings would follow several years later.14

    Glennan and Dryden, responding to congressional inquiry, subscribed to this belief. They outlined NASA's plans in space sciences, the application of space capabilities to the national welfare, and research and development in advanced space technology. “There is no doubt that the Nation has the technological capability to undertake such a program successfully,” they said. “There is a good chance that within ten years] space scientists may have circumnavigated the Moon without landing and an active program should be underway to attempt a similar flight to Venus or Mars. . . . Manned surface exploration will be receiving serious research and development effort.” 15

    The NASA Administrator immediately asked for funds to begin designing and developing a large booster, the first requirement for space exploration. At the end of January 1959, NASA submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower a report on “A National Space Vehicle Program,” in which the agency proposed four boosters, Vega, Centaur, Saturn, and Nova.*

    These rockets were expected to fulfil all foreseeable needs during the next decade. Although Vega and Nova barely progressed beyond the drawing board, all four were basic concerns for some time. Listed here in order of their envisioned power, only the high-energy Centaur and the multistaged and clustered Saturn systems were to be developed. During January and February of 1959, the von Braun team's Juno V gained substantial backing and emerged with a new name, becoming the first in the Saturn family of rocket.16

    NASA's research centers also had done some preliminary thinking about what should follow Project Mercury. In the spring of 1959 Glennan, wanting to encourage that thinking, created a team to study advanced missions and to report its findings to him. The Goett Committee became one of the foremost contributors to Apollo.


    * Vega and Centaur were upper stages for launch vehicles. The Vega was either one or two stages (depending on the payload to be lifted or moved about in space) and used conventional fuels. Toward the end of 1959, Vega was canceled because it was too similar to the Air Force Agena. NASA continued development of the Centaur upper stage because of its more exotic propellants, hydrogen and oxygen, which promised lifting power far beyond the weight of its fuel load about 40 percent greater than possible with conventional rocket fuels like kerosene. It was not until 1966 that the agency had some confidence that the vehicle could be trusted for manned flights.

    Saturn and Nova were multistage launch vehicles, not clearly defined during NASA's first three years and often described in ways that made it difficult to tell which was which (see page 47). Some Apollo program participants contend that the Saturn V, eventually selected, was very close to what would have been a Nova had the agency chosen it.


    9. NASA Special Committee on Space Technology Stever Committee], “Recommendations regarding a National Civil Space Program,” 28 Oct. 1958.

    10. Wernher von Braun, Ernst Stuhlinger, and Heinz] H. Koelle, “ABMA Presentation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” ABMA Rept. D-TN-1-59, 15 Dec1958.

    11. Ibid., pp. 34-35, 46.

    12. Ibid., pp. 64, 113, 115. See also Koelle et al., “Juno V Space Vehicle Development Program (Phase I): Booster Feasibility Demonstration,” ABMA Rept. DSP-TM-10-58, 13 Oct. 1958; idem, “Juno V Vehicle Development Program (Status Report—15 November 1958),” ABMA Rept. DSP-TM-11-58, 15 Nov. 1958.

    13. Von Braun, Stuhlinger, and Koelle, “ABMA Presentation to NASA,” pp. 129, 132-33, 139, 140-45.

    14. House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, The Next Ten Years in Space, 1959-1969: Staff Report, 86th Cong., 1st sess., H. Doc. 115, 1959, p. 3.

    15. Ibid., pp. 118-22.

    16. Milton W. Rosen et al.], “A National Space Vehicle Program: A Report to the President,” NASA, 27 Jan. 1959; John B. Medaris, Countdown for Decision (New York: Putnam, 1960); David S. Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology: Saturn's First Eleven Years, April 1957 through April 1968, 5th ed., MHR-5 (Huntsville, Ala.: Marshall Space Flight Center, 20 Jan. 1971), p. 3; General Dynamics/Astronautics, A Primer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Centaur (San Diego, February 1964), pp. 1-29.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-4. The Goett Committee

    On 1 April 1959, NASA Headquarters called for representatives from its field centers to serve on a Research Steering Committee for Manned Space Flight, headed by Harry Goett, an engineering manager at Ames who became Director of the new Goddard center in September. Goett and nine others* began their deliberations in Washington on 25 May. Milton W. Rosen, NASA Chief of Propulsion Development, led off with a report on the national booster program. Next, representatives of each center described the status of work and planning toward man-in-space at their respective organizations. 17

    Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., said that 60 percent of Langley's effort pertained to space and reentry flight research; Maxime A. Faget, of the Space Task Group, discussed Mercury's development. Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., told the group what Ames was doing and then advocated that NASA's next step be a spacecraft capable of flying two men for one week, with enough speed to escape the earth's gravitational pull, fly to the moon, orbit that body, and return to the earth.

    Bruce Lundin described propulsion and trajectory studies under way at Lewis and warned against “setting our sights too low.” As Glennan and Dryden had done, Lundin took a broad view of space exploration, reminding the committee that a manned lunar landing was merely one goal, leading ultimately to manned interplanetary travel.

    It was apparent that NASA leaders intended to aim high. Faget, one of the inventors of the Mercury capsule, and George Low urged manned lunar landings as NASA's next objective. Low stressed study of ways to perform the mission, using several of the smaller Saturns in some scheme besides direct ascent to avoid total dependence upon the behemoth that Nova might become. The Goett Committee then recorded its consensus on the priority of NASA objectives:

    1. Man in space soonest—Project Mercury
    2. Ballistic probes
    3. Environmental satellite
    4. Maneuverable manned satellite
    5. Manned space flight laboratory
    6. Lunar reconnaissance satellite
    7. Lunar landing
    8. Mars-Venus reconnaissance
    9. Mars-venus landing18
    The next meeting of the Goett Committee was at Ames 25-26 June. Going into details about technical problems and their proposed solutions as seen from different pockets of experience around the country, the members heartily endorsed moon landing and return as NASA's major longrange manned space flight goal. As Goett later remarked:

    A primary reason for this choice was the fact that it represented a truly end objective which was self-justifying and did not have to be supported on the basis that it led to a subsequent more useful end.19

    At this meeting, the Goett Committee members compared direct ascent with rendezvous in earth orbit. At Low's request, John H. Disher first reviewed the sizable activity at Huntsville. In February 1959, the Department of Defense had announced that development of the 5,800-kilonewton (1.3-million-pound-thrust) rocket had been designated Project Saturn. Less than six months later, Disher reported, the von Braun group already had its sights set on a Saturn II (a three-stage version with an 8,900-kilonewton 2 million-pound-thrust] first stage) and rendezvous in earth orbit, even working on some modes that called for refueling in space. Von Braun's team was also studying a Nova-class vehicle for direct ascent.

    Lundin then made some disquieting comments. For direct flight to the moon, propulsion needs were staggering. Even with cryogenic propellants in the upper stages of the launch vehicle, the combined weight of rocket and spacecraft would be about 4,530 to 4,983 metric tons—a formidable size. He also noted that prospects for earth-orbital rendezvous seemed little brighter; such a procedure (launching more than a dozen Saturn-boosted Centaurs to form the lunar vehicle) required complex rendezvous and assembly operations. Lundin ticked off several areas that would need further study, regardless of which mission mode was chosen: cryogenic storage in space, a throttleable lunar-landing engine, a storable-propellant lunar-takeoff engine, and auxiliary power systems.** 20

    On 8 and 9 December 1959 at Langley, Goett's group met for the third (and apparently last) time. The main discussions centered on lunar reentry heat protection, all-the-way versus assembly-in-orbit, parachute research, environmental radiation hazards, and the desirability of or necessity for a manned orbiting laboratory. Most of the field center studies were predicated on a two-man, 14-day circumlunar flight, boosted by some sort of Saturn vehicle and protected by ablative shielding. Very little specific thought, however, had been given to the actual lunar landing.21

    Lenticle-shaped S/C

    Using a lenticle-shaped spacecraft for a reentry vehicle.


    Opinion within the committee on what NASA's next (as opposed to its long-range) program should be had been far from unanimous, however. Langley, which by this time had begun extensive studies of space station concepts and related problems including rendezvous, strongly favored earth-orbital operations.*** Faget was allied with Langley, because the Space Task Group was greatly concerned about the unknowns in lunar operations, especially radiation. But Goett and Low remained unswerving in their advocacy of lunar flight. They insisted that the technology for flying to the moon could be applied to near-earth missions, but not vice versa. Indeed, Low perhaps more than any other pushed for landing rather than just circumlunar flight, but neither the committee as a whole nor the chairman was willing to go that far. “In fact,” Low later said, “I remember Harry Goett at one time was asked, 'When should we decide on whether or not to land on the moon? And how will we land on the moon?' And Harry said, 'Well, by that time I'll be retired and I won't have to worry about it.' “22

    Although the time had come for someone in authority to start making the decisions that could lift the moon mission out of the realm of research and start it on the path toward development, Glennan could not commit the agency to any specific long-range programs, especially lunar flight. Knowing that the President's intent to “balance the budget, come hell or high water,” would preclude anything beyond Project Mercury just then, Glennan bided his time. Without executive approval, NASA could only continue its studies and wait for a more propitious moment.23


    * Goett's committee consisted of Alfred J. Eggers, Jr. (Ames), Bruce T. Lundin (Lewis), Loftin (Langley), DeElroy E. Beeler (High Speed Flight Station), Harris M. Schurmeier (JPL), Maxime A. Faget (Space Task Group), and George M. Low, Milton B. Ames, Jr., and Ralph W. May, Jr., secretary (Headquarters). Ames was a part-time member.

    ** Cryogenic fuels are corrosive and are difficult to store for any length of time because of the low temperatures required to maintain the proper state of the oxidizer—in this case, liquid oxygen. This fuel, moreover, requires the extra complication of an igniter to fire it. A throttleable engine is one that can be started and stopped as needed. Storable propellants are hypergolic fuels that ignite on contact with the oxidizer, demand no special temperature controls, are not corrosive, and can remain in storage indefinitely. The power systems Lundin talked about were fuel (or solar) cells that could generate the electrical energy needed on long flights without the weight penalties attached to the more conventional batteries used in Mercury.

    *** On the instigation of E. C. Braley and Loftin, Langley had held a conference on 10 July 1959 to study the aspects of placing a manned space laboratory in operation. This project was seen as a step to the eventual landing of a man on the moon in 10 to 15 years.


    17. John W. Crowley, Jr., to Ames, Lewis, and Langley Research Centers and to High Speed Flight Station, “Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight,” 1 April 1959; Crowley to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, subj. as above, 8 April 1959; Ralph W. May, Jr., secy., minutes of meeting of Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight, 25-26 May 1959.

    18. May, minutes, Research Steering Committee, 25-26 May 1959.

    19. May, minutes of meeting of Research Steering Committee, 25-26 June 1959; Harry J. Goett to Ira H. A. Abbott, “Interim Report on Operation of 'Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight,'“ 17 July 1959.

    20. U.S. Army Ordnance Missile Command news release, 12 Feb. 1959; May, minutes, Research Steering Committee, 25-26 June 1959.

    21. May, minutes of meeting of Research Steering Committee, 8-9 Dec. 1959.

    22. Goett, interview, Palo Alto, Calif., 26 June 1968; George M. Low, interviews, Washington, 1 May 1964, and Houston, 7 Feb. 1967; Beverly Z. Henry, Jr., to Assoc. Dir., Langley, “Langley Manned Space Laboratory Effort,” 5 Oct. 1959.

    23. Goett and Low interviews; Dwight D. Eisenhower to Swenson, 5 Aug. 1965.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-5. Focusing the Aim

    The Goett Committee did only what it was set up to do—study possible options and suggest objectives that NASA might pursue—but its findings did focus attention on manned circumlunar flight. Well before the committee discontinued its meetings, small groups at nearly all of the field centers had taken the initiative and started research toward that goal.

    For example, during the summer of 1959, Gilruth formed a New Projects Panel within the Space Task Group under H. Kurt Strass. * Meeting twice in August, the panel members identified a number of areas for research and recommended that work begin immediately on an advanced manned capsule, a second-generation spacecraft crewed by three men and capable of reentering the atmosphere at speeds nearly as great as those needed to escape the earth's gravitational pull. The group was clearly planning a lunar spacecraft. Convinced that this should be the Space Task Group's next major project, the members further agreed that manned lunar landing should be the goal to design toward, and they assumed 1970 as a suitable target date.24

    At the third meeting of the panel, on 28 September, Alan Kehlet presented some ideas for a lenticular reentry vehicle. (Later, he and William W. Petynia worked out enough details to apply for a patent on a capsule that appeared to be formed by two convex lenses and looked like a flying saucer.)25

    The thinking of the New Projects Panel—and that was all Gilruth intended it to do, think—may have been premature, but it pointed out the need to raise the level and amount of manpower invested in planning advanced spacecraft systems.** At a Space Task Group management meeting on 2 November 1959, Gilruth assigned Robert O. Piland, Strass, John D. Hodge, and Caldwell Johnson to delve into “preliminary design of a multiman (probably 3)” circumlunar spacecraft and into mission analyses of trajectories, weights, and propulsion needs.26

    Evolution to C-1 C-2

    Evolutionary launch vehicles leading to the Saturn C-1, left, and proposed Saturn C-2, right. On 18 January 1960, the Saturn project was accorded the government's highest priority rating for development and hardware procurement.


    Piland's group focused on circumlunar flight as NASA's immediate objective. The team members dealt mostly with spacecraft design, but they also dipped fairly deeply into mission analyses. They adopted the idea of flying directly from the earth to the moon's surface. Again, however, these studies by the Space Task Group at Langley were only part of similar efforts going on concurrently at NASA Headquarters, at Langley, at Ames, at Lewis, and at several industrial contractors' plants. After the thinking, the task of picking and choosing what to do would begin.27

    At Headquarters, toward the end of 1959, the Office of Program Planning and Evaluation, headed by Homer J. Stewart, drew up a “Ten Year Plan.” Much of it, especially the part dealing with manned flight, evolved from the Goett Committee's priority list. In addition to a program of unmanned lunar and planetary exploration, it called for manned circumlunar flights and a permanent space station in earth orbit by the late 1960s. Lunar landings were projected for some time after 1970.

    The Headquarters plan recommended developing more powerful engines and fitting them to huge Nova-class launch vehicles, as the most practical means of getting to the moon. Studies of rendezvous in space were under way as a part of the Saturn vehicle lunar mission analysis, but Stewart's group anticipated that manned lunar exploration would depend on Nova.28

    To clarify some of the thinking about designing manned spacecraft and missions for them, Administrator Glennan in December 1959 set up another in the long string of committees (and there would be a plethora of these before Apollo took on its final form), this time to try to define more precisely just what would make up the Saturn rocket systems. With Abe Silverstein as chairman, this group consisted of Colonel Norman C. Appold of the Air Force, Abraham Hyatt and committee secretary Eldon W. Hall of NASA, von Braun of the Army's ABMA, George P. Sutton of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Thomas C. Muse of the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering. There had been a lot of talk about what kinds of propellants to use in the vehicle's upper stages. The Lewis laboratory had researched the potentials of liquid hydrogen in combination with liquid oxygen throughout the mid-1950s. Department of Defense and NASA research was aimed at prototypes of the Centaur rocket to prove the worth of these high-energy, low-weight propellant systems. The most important result of the committee was that Silverstein and his team hammered out a unanimous recommendation that all upper stages should be fueled with hydrogen-oxygen propellants. This determination, like many others, was a significant piece of the launch vehicle puzzle.29

    Calendar year 1959 had been fruitful for those who saw the moon as manned space flight's next goal. NASA's leaders were coming around to that viewpoint and, on 7 January 1960 in a meeting with his staff, Glennan concurred that the follow-on program to Project Mercury should have an end objective of manned flight to the moon. 30 NASA had its ten-year plan to present to Congress and a reasonable assurance of getting President Eisenhower's approval to speed up the development of a large launch vehicle.


    * The members of the Strass group were Alan B. Kehlet, William S. Augerson, Robert G. Chilton, Jack Funk, Caldwell C. Johnson, Jr., Harry H. Ricker, Jr., and Stanley C. White.

    ** By June of 1959 the original Space Task Group complement of 45 had grown to 367. Gilruth anticipated that the personnel requirements for fiscal year 1961 would be 909; most of the new employees would be assigned to a maneuverable manned satellite, a manned orbiting laboratory, and a manned lunar expedition.


    24. H. Kurt Strass to Chief, Flight Systems Div. (FSD), “First meeting of New Projects Panel, . . . Aug. 12, 1959,” 17 Aug. 1959, and “Second meeting of New Projects Panel, . . . August 18, 1959,” 26 Aug. 1959.

    25. Strass to Chief, FSD, “Third meeting of New Projects Panel, . . . September 28, 1959 (Information),” 1 Oct. 1959. Application for a patent on a “Space and Atmospheric Reentry Vehicle” was filed on 13 April 1962 by Alan B. Kehlet, William W. Petynia, and Dennis F. Hasson; patent was issued 21 May 1963 (information from Marvin F. Matthews, 7 April 1976). Petynia, interview, Houston, 9 Dec. 1970; Strass to Chief, FSD, “Fourth meeting of New Projects Panel, . . . October 5, 1959 (Action requested),” 7 Oct. 1959.

    26. Gilruth memo, “Organization of Space Task Group,” 26 Jan. 1959; Paul E. Purser, “Space Task Group Complement Analysis,” 8 June 1959; Gilruth to GSFC, Attn.: Bernard Sisco, “Langley Space Task Group FY 1961 personnel distribution,” 12 June 1959, with enc.; Gilruth to staff, “Organization of Space Task Group,” 3 and 10 Aug. 1959; Purser notes, “Summary of STG Organization and Mercury Management,” n.d. (through 15 Jan. 1962); Purser to Gilruth, “Log for week of November 2, 1959,” 10 Nov. 1959; Robert R. Gilruth and H. Kurt Strass, “Manned Space Flight, Present and Future Steps,” Aero/space Engineering 19, no. 5 (1960): 16-17, 88-89.

    27. Strass, interview, Houston, 30 Nov. 1966; Ivan D. Ertel, MSC History Off., notes on Caldwell C. Johnson interview, 10 March 1966; Johnson, interview, Houston, 9 Dec. 1966; Maxime A. Faget, interview, Houston, 15 Dec. 1969.

    28. Glennan to Homer J. Stewart, no subj., 16 Jan. 1959; NASA Office of Program Planning and Evaluation, “The Ten Year Plan of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” 18 Dec. 1959, p. 2. Cf. Stewart's memo of 18 July 1960 to Admin., NASA, “Vehicle Requirements for the Space Program.” For part of the public background of NASA's first ten-year plan, see Lee A. DuBridge's 1959 lecture series at Columbia University, Introduction to Space (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1960), esp. charts and tables.

    29. Glennan to Roy W. Johnson, 20 March 1959; anon., “Notes on Meeting on Vehicle Program Status, Friday, April 17, 1959”; Saturn Vehicle Team, “Report to the Administrator on Saturn Development Plan,” 15 Dec. 1959, as cited in letter, Hyatt to Paine, 25 Nov. 1969.

    30. Eugene M. Emme, NASA Hq., telephone query to JSC Historical Office, ca. 19 May 1975; Goett, telephone interview, 20 May 1975; Sally D. Gates, JSC Historical Off., memo for record, “Telephone conversation with Dr. Goett on 20 May,” 27 May 1975.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-6. Priming the Pipeline

    “You are hereby directed . . . to accelerate the super booster program for which your agency recently was given technical and management responsibility,” Eisenhower wrote Glennan in January 1960. This action ensured the transfer of the von Braun group from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to NASA,31 giving Glennan the launch vehicle development and management capability that he wanted.

    Eisenhower's letter to Glennan was the first indication that the administration might approve something beyond Mercury. At least, Glennan interpreted it that way and told Silverstein, Director of NASA's Office of Space Flight Programs, to encourage advanced design teams at each field center and in the aerospace industry. Plans soon came in from both of those sources. In February 1960, von Braun's team distributed its latest study, “A Lunar Exploration Program Based upon Saturn-Boosted Systems.”32 A month earlier, J. R. Clark of Vought Astronautics, the Dallas, Texas, division of Chance Vought Aircraft, Inc., had sent Silverstein a brochure, “Manned Modular Multi-Purpose Space Vehicle,” the work, primarily, of Thomas E. Dolan. The booklet outlined a unified, systematic approach to a national space exploration program leading toward a manned lunar landing mission. 33

    In early 1960, with Mercury still unproved, chances of winning administration approval to move either of these proposals (or any others that surfaced) into the hardware development stage were small. On the other hand, no one was told to stop planning a payload that might fit atop the newly approved superbooster. In fact, on 15 February 1960, Silverstein told Gilruth to “work out a presentation similar to Vought using the] modular concept,” which simply meant designing separate pieces of the spacecraft for specific functions at different phases of a mission. Gilruth gave this task to Piland's advanced design group, a somewhat more concrete assignment than that of the previous November.34

    Piland's team pulled together some guidelines and began presenting them to all the NASA centers. Piland, Faget, Stanley White, and Robert Chilton spoke, answered questions, and distributed copies of their papers on the aspects of lunar mission planning, leaving the final summary to Gilruth's Associate Director for Development, Charles J. Donlan. Donlan outlined the problems that could be foreseen and solicited “suggestions and proposals as to how best this effort can be carried out. . . . We would hope in the immediate future to obtain your views as to the problems each Center may concentrate on so that the whole NASA effort can be integrated as soon as possible.”

    Donlan asked specialists at the NASA centers to study such critical areas as flight duration, optimum launch times, propulsion requirements, trajectory analyses, and the effects of the moon's gravity on lunar orbits. He also cited the need for configuration studies of the lunar landing stage—“a one- or two-component lunar vehicle.”35 While these briefing sessions were going on, Langley sponsored a conference on space rendezvous in May 1960. Participants from all of NASA's organizations reviewed rendezvous studies under way and discussed likely avenues for further research. Although rendezvous would be invaluable for future manned space programs, until NASA secured funds for a rendezvous flight-test program, the centers would be limited to their own ground-based experiments. Langley was already engaged in studies. 36 John C. Houbolt, Assistant Chief of the Dynamic Loads Division, had formed a small group to study “soft rendezvous”—or how two vehicles could come together at the high velocities required for space travel without crashing into each other.37

    Toward mid-1960, committees and groups within NASA had done as much preliminary internal work as was profitable; John Disher and George Low persuaded Glennan that it was time to sponsor a NASA-Industry Program Plans Conference in late July to tell of NASA's tentative plans. At one of the last briefings for this meeting, on 9 July, the Administrator approved the awarding of three feasibility contracts for advanced manned space flight studies.38

    Silverstein, one of those leading the charge toward more far-ranging flights than Mercury, had been looking for a suitable name for a payload for the Saturn rockets. None suggested by his associates seemed appropriate. One day, while consulting a book on mythology, Silverstein found what he wanted. He later said, “I thought the image of the god Apollo riding his chariot across the sun gave the best representation of the grand scale of the proposed program.” Occasionally he asked his Headquarters colleagues for their opinions. When no one objected, the chariot driver Apollo (according to ancient Greek myths, the god of music, prophecy, medicine, light, and progress became the name of the proposed circumlunar spaceships. At the opening of the conference on 28 July 1960, Dryden announced that “the next spacecraft beyond Mercury will be called Apollo.”39

    On 28 and 29 July 1960, 1,300 representatives from government, the aerospace industry, and the institutions attended the first in a series of NASA-industry planning sessions. During these two days, 20 NASA officials outlined the agency's plans for launch vehicle development and potential projects for manned and unmanned spacecraft. Many of the invitees returned on 30 August to learn about plans for a circumlunar manned spacecraft program and three six-month feasibility contracts to be awarded later. Briefings by the Space Task Group's top officials and planners, including Gilruth and Piland, emphasized that Apollo would be earth-orbital and circumlunar and would directly support future moon landings. Donlan wound up the afternoon with particulars of the Space Task Group's procurement plan. Any interested company would be invited to a bidders' conference in two weeks; formal proposals would be required four weeks later; and the study contracts would be awarded by mid-November.40

    Following the same general format, the bidders' briefing at Langley on 13 September included a formal request for proposal, a statement of work, and some definite guidelines. Essentially, these ground rules were based upon the assumption that the Saturn booster could launch a lunar reconnaissance spacecraft that would support three men for two weeks.

    Gilruth and aides discuss Apollo

    Robert Gilruth (second from left), Director of the Space Task Group, and chief assistants Charles Donlan left), Maxime Faget, and Robert Piland in August 1960 discuss selection of contractors to study feasibility of a manned circumlunar mission.


    Piland laid out four mission and vehicle guidelines: manned lunar reconnaissance; earth-orbital missions in conjunction with a space laboratory or space station; Saturn booster compatibility (spacecraft weight not to exceed 6,800 kilograms for lunar missions); and a 14-day flight time.

    Faget stressed return, reentry, and landing: safe recovery from aborts; ground and water landings (with a capability for avoiding local hazards); 72-hour postlanding survival period; landing in preplanned locations; and auxiliary propulsion for maneuvering in space.

    Richard S. Johnston presented three demands: “shirt-sleeve" environment, three-man crew, and radiation protection. He discussed the need of the crews for a safe environment and for atmospheric control.

    Finally, Chilton presented guidelines for onboard command, emphasizing man's role as an active participant in the mission and its influence on hardware design, and for communications tracking, discussing the ground facilities needed for flights beyond earth orbit. Altogether, these guidelines constituted what the Space Task Group would demand of the Apollo spacecraft.41


    31. President Eisenhower to Glennan, 14 Jan. 1960; Admin., NASA, and Acting Secy. of Defense to the President, draft memo, “Responsibility and Organization for Certain Space Activities,” 2 Oct. 1959; Glennan and Acting Secy. of Defense Thomas S. Gates to the President, subj. as above, 21 Oct. 1959 (approved by Eisenhower 2 Nov. 1959); House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Transfer of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Hearing on H. J. Res. 567, 86th Cong., 2nd sess., 3 Feb. 1960.

    32. ABMA, “A Lunar Exploration Program Based upon Saturn-Boosted Systems,” Rept. DV-TR-2-60, 1 Feb. 1960.

    33. J. R. Clark, Vought Astronautics, to NASA, Attn.: Silverstein, “Manned Modular MultiPurpose Space Vehicle Program—Proposal for,” 12 Jan. 1960, with enc., “Manned Modular Multi-Purpose Space Vehicle”; John D. Bird, interview, Langley, 20 June 1966.

    34. John H. Disher, notes on meeting at Langley attended by Silverstein, Gilruth, Low, and Faget, 15 Feb. 1960 (emphasis in original).

    35. space Task Group, “Guidelines for Advanced Manned Space Vehicle Program,” June 1960, esp. Charles J. Donlan, “Summary and Scheduling,” pp. 47-50; STG, “Slides for Advanced Vehicle Presentation,” April 1960; Disher to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “NASA Center Briefings on Advanced Manned Space Flight Program,” 10 May 1960.

    36. John M. Eggleston, Langley Research Center, “Inter-NASA Research and Space Development Centers Discussion on Space Rendezvous, . . . May 16-17, 1960,” 25 May 1960.

    37. John C. Houbolt, interview, Princeton, N.J., 5 Dec. 1966; idem, “Considerations of the Rendezvous Problems for Space Vehicles,” paper presented at the Society of Automotive Engineers National Aeronautical meeting, New York, 5-8 April 1960; I. E. Garrick to Emme, “Item for the historical record of the Apollo Program,” 31 Oct. 1969, with enc., Garrick to Chief, Dynamic Loads Div., Langley, subj. as above, 7 Oct. 1969; Bird, “A Short History of the Lunar-Orbit-Rendezvous Plan at the Langley Research Center,” 6 Sept. 1963 (supplemented 5 Feb. 1965 and 17 Feb. 1966).

    38. Disher memo to Long Range Plan and Budget File, “Meeting with Dr. Glennan on 7/9/60 to discuss long range plans for Saturn utilization by OSFP,” 11 July 1960; Disher draft, “Long Range Plan: Manned Space Flight Program,” 8 Aug. 1960.

    39. Disher memo, 11 July 1960; Merle G. Waugh to Grimwood, 5 Nov. 1963; Lee D. Saegesser, NASA Historical Div., informal memo, “Apollo, naming of,” 11 June 1969; William D. McCann, “Dr. Abe Silverstein Certain to Rate in Space Hall of Fame,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 14 July 1969, as cited in Congressional Record, 17 July 1969, p. E6092; Donlan, interview, Langley, 20 June 1966; “Apollo Program Review, October 20, 1962,” p. 1; Silverstein to GSFC, Attn.: Goett, “Official Name of the Advanced Manned Space Flight Program,” 25 July 1960; Hugh L. Dryden, “NASA Mission and Long-Range Plan,” in NASA-Industry Program Plans Conference, 28-29 July 1960 (Washington, 1960), p. 8; Low, “Manned Space Flight,” ibid., p. 80; Grimwood, “Mercury, Gemini, Apollo: How They Got Their Names,” Manned Spacecraft Center Roundup, 3 Oct. 1969; Felix Guirand, ed., New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, trans. Richard Aldington and Delano Ames (New York: Hamlyn Pub. Group, 1968). Cf. Berthold Laufer, The Prehistory of Aviation (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1928); Ernst and Johanna Lehner, Lore and Lure of Outer Space (New York: Tudor, 1964); Nikolai A. Rynin, Interplanetary Flight and Communication, 3 vols., 9 nos. (trans. of Mezhplanetye soobshcheniya, Leningrad, 1928-1932; NASA TT F-640-through TT F-648, Washington, 1970-1971); and Gertrude and James Jobes, Outer Space: Myths, Name Meanings and Calendars (New York: Scarecrow Press, 1964).

    40. Charles Corddry, “NASA Plans 260 Space Shots in 10 Years; Astronaut in 1961,” Washington Post, 29 July 1960; NASA-Industry Conference, 28-29 July 1960; Goett, draft memo to Dir., Off. of Space Flight Prog., no subj., 8 Aug. 1960; STG, “Project Apollo: Invitation to Bid on a Research and Development Contract for a Feasibility Study of an Advanced Manned Spacecraft and System,” 10 Aug. 1960; Goett memo, “Goddard—Industry Conference,” n.d., with encs.; STG, “Talks for Advanced Manned Spacecraft Presentation, Goddard Industry Conference,” n.d.; NASA, “Slides for Advanced Manned Spacecraft Presentation, Goddard Industry Conference,” 30 Aug. 1960; NASA, “Presentations for the Industry Conference to Be Conducted by Goddard Space Flight Center, 30 August 1960,” n.d. See also Marshall Space Flight Center, “NASA-Industry Program Plans Conference, 27-28 September 1960.”

    41. STG, “Project Apollo: An Advanced Manned Spacecraft System,” draft news release 12 Sept. 1960]; Donlan, “Project Apollo Bidders Briefing,” ca. 13 Sept. 1960]; Glenn F. Bailey, “Request for Proposal No. 302, Feasibility Study for Project Apollo,” 13 Sept. 1960, with att. A and B and enc., “General Requirements for a Proposal for a Feasibility Study of an Advanced Manned Spacecraft and System,” 12 Sept. 1960.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-7. The Feasibility Studies

    The Space Task Group had published the formal Request for Proposal on 12 September 1960. Eighty-eight firms sent representatives to the bidders' briefing, but only sixty-three picked up forms. By 9 October, NASA had received 14 bids.* Many aerospace firms teamed up, either in partnership or as subcontractors, to vie for the awards.

    All bidders were told that even the losers should continue their efforts, thus strengthening their chances in competing for the hardware phase of Apollo. NASA assured them that the agency would not limit its choice of the designer and builder of the spacecraft to the three selected study contractors. Space Task Group people met later with representatives from the losing firms, discussed the weaknesses in their proposals, and offered to work with them informally to overcome these failings.42

    Donlan and contracting officer Glenn F. Bailey prepared a detailed plan for the orderly evaluation of proposals, to begin on 10 October. Five technical panels were set up, and Donlan was appointed chairman of the evaluation board. Besides Faget and Piland (with Goett and Gilruth as ex officio members), Donlan's board consisted of Disher (NASA Office of Space Flight Programs), Alvin Seiff (Ames), John V. Becker (Langley), and Koelle (Marshall).43

    On 25 October, after the panels had compared the bidders' proposals in trajectory analysis, guidance and control, human factors and radiation, onboard systems, and systems integration, Goett announced the winners: the teams led by Convair/Astronautics of San Diego, General Electric of Philadelphia, and the Martin Company of Baltimore. Contracts of $250,000 were awarded to each of the three.

    Convair/Astronautics operated under a more complicated arrangement than the other two winners, using its Fort Worth division for radiation and heat protection, its San Diego plant for life support studies, the Lovelace Foundation and Clinic in Albuquerque for aerospace medicine, and the Avco Corporation's Research and Advanced Development Division in Wilmington, Massachusetts, for data on reentry vehicle design. General Electric's Missile and Space Vehicle Department teamed with Bell Aerosystems Company. Martin decided to go the whole route alone. 44

    Members of the Space Task Group who monitored the three study contracts developed into a fourth group, working out their own advanced designs just as the contractors were doing. Jack Funk, Stanley H. Cohn, and Alan Kehlet, for example, concentrated on trajectory analysis; Chilton, Richard R. Carley, and Howard C. Kyle studied guidance and control; Johnston, Harold I. Johnson, C. Patrick Laughlin, James P. Nolan, Jr., and Robert B. Voas investigated the human factors area; and John B. Lee, Richard B. Ferguson, and Ralph S. Sawyer looked into designs for onboard systems. This sort of work gave them the confidence they needed to act as monitors for the study contractors and an opportunity to compare their designs with those submitted by industrial experts. Most significantly, perhaps, the systems integration crowd (members who were studying how all the pieces would fit together)— Caldwell Johnson, Owen E. Maynard, Strass, Robert E. Vale, and Kenneth C. Weston—soon decided that the Space Task Group's own preliminary design was a good one.45

    When the time came to draw up early specifications for Apollo—the technical aspects of the program—NASA Headquarters left its spacecraft and booster design people alone. The tasks of these two groups, still in the preliminary stage, were so well separated that there was no real need as yet for any arbitration of the problems that might arise when Gilruth's spacecraft group and von Braun's launch vehicle team began putting their pieces of the space vehicle together.46

    Washington had, as a matter of fact, a more pressing problem on its hands: where to locate the center that would conduct future manned space flight activities. Glennan had begun to question the wisdom of moving the the Space Task Group to Goddard after Mercury ended. The new center was becoming more and more occupied with unmanned space science programs, which Glennan did not want to see diluted and engulfed by manned space flight. On 1 September 1960, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., replaced Richard Homer as Associate Administrator. That same day, Seamans talked with Glennan about the future home of manned space flight. Goett and Gilruth had discussed the matter and had concluded that Gilruth should ask for separate center status for his group. 47

    Image here]

    Caldwell C. Johnson's October 1960 sketch proposed the seating arrangement that was developed and adopted for the Apollo command module. The fourth figure illustrates the sleeping position.


    At the end of the month, Glennan called for a special study of the relocation. A four-man team headed by Bruce Lundin began by collecting opinions from about 20 officials in the field and in Washington. Glennan's order basically restricted the candidate sites to an existing major NASA installation near which a proposed life sciences center might be built, insisted that Mercury not be disrupted by the move, and recognized that Apollo would use contractor participation to a far larger extent than Mercury. Glennan also decreed that Marshall, Lewis, and the High Speed Flight Station were not to be considered, which left only Ames and Langley as possible sites.

    Lundin and his teammates Wesley Hjornevik, Ernest O. Pearson, Jr., and Addison M. Rothrock found their task difficult. Senior NASA officials did agree that manned space flight would soon need a center of its own. But where it should be and how it would be integrated into existing facilities was, it seemed, going to be a major issue. Lundin's group, after many administrative, political, and technical compromises, recommended rather weakly that manned space flight activity should probably be relocated in 1961 to Ames in California. 48

    Gilruth, his technical assistant Paul E. Purser, and others leading the Space Task Group, who may not have been enthusiastic about the prospect of being uprooted from their Virginia homes, had little time to worry about a move. Mercury-Atlas 1 had exploded in mid-air on 29 July, and morale among its managers was at its nadir. Unless these troubles could be overcome there might be little point in moving-there might not even be a Mercury program, much less a more advanced project. Gilruth was hard pressed to spare even enough of his experts to proceed with the feasibility studies for Apo1lo.49

    The three successful bidders began discussions with the Space Task Group on the technical aspects of their tasks almost immediately, with General Electric visiting its Langley-based monitors first. Donlan appointed three liaison engineers to act as single points of contact for the studies: Herbert G. Patterson for General Electric, John Lee for Martin, and William Petynia for Convair. Monthly meetings between these special monitors and the contractors kept Donlan and Piland informed of progress.50

    The industry conferences and the awarding of the feasibility contracts attracted the attention of the White House staff. George B. Kistiakowsky, Eisenhower's special assistant for science and technology, assigned Donald F. Hornig of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) to the chairmanship of a six-man ad hoc Panel on Man-in-Space.** This Group would investigate both NASA's activities thus far and its goals, missions, and costs in the foreseeable future. After several field trips, Hornig's panel reported: “As far as we can tell, the NASA program is well thought through, and we believe that the mission, schedules and cost are as realistic as possible at this time.”

    Obviously, the report continued, “any of the routes to land a man on the moon will] require a development much more ambitious than the present Saturn program,” calling not only for larger boosters but for lunar landing and takeoff stages as well. “Nevertheless . . . this new major step is implicit in the present Saturn program, for the first really big achievement of the man-in-space program would be the lunar landing.”51

    The cost of the moon landing would be determined to a great extent by the effort to develop, build, and qualify an extra-large and undefined Nova. Basing its estimates on Saturn costs to date, the PSAC panel placed this figure anywhere from $25 to $38 billion. Rendezvous schemes, as then envisioned, would afford little fiscal advantage: “Present indications suggest that alternative methods . . . of accomplishing the manned lunar landing mission could not be expected to alter substantially the over-all cost.” In addition to its analysis of America's booster program in relation to a lunar landing objective, Hornig's panel summarized the worldwide significance of an expanded national space effort. “We have been plunged into a race for the conquest of outer space,” the group said:

    As a reason for this undertaking some look to the new and exciting scientific discoveries which are certain to be made. Others feel the challenge to transport man beyond frontiers he scarcely dared dream about until now. But at present the most impelling reason for our effort has been the international political situation which demands that we demonstrate our technological capabilities if we are to maintain our position of leadership. For all of these reasons we have embarked on a complex and costly adventure.52

    Early in 1960 Glennan had established a Space Exploration Program Council to oversee program planning and implementation. Near the end of the year, Seamans thought it wise to convene that body. Goett, von Braun, William H. Pickering, Ira H. Abbott, Silverstein, Major General Don R. Ostrander, and Albert F. Siepert met with Seamans on 30 September for a briefing by George Low on “Saturn Requirements for Project Apollo.” Low posed five questions and defended his answers to them as proof of the realism of the proposed schedule for Apollo: (1) Will the spacecraft be ready in time to meet the Saturn schedule? (2) Will the spacecraft weight be within Saturn capabilities? (3) Are there any foreseeable technological roadblocks? (4) Will solar flare radiation prevent circumlunar flights by men? (5) What are the costs for this program?

    To each of the five questions, Low made positive assertions of competence and capability. He argued that an Apollo circumlunar prototype spacecraft could be ready in three to four years, a production vehicle in twice that time. Space Task Group weight estimates showed a reasonable margin between the weight of the spacecraft and the payload the C-2 Saturn could be expected to boost. No insurmountable technological obstacles were anticipated, Low said, not even reentry heating or solar flare radiation. Low concluded that the current cost level of $100 million a year would eventually rise to approximately $400 million annually. All of these considerations, in his opinion, argued for an immediate decision to go ahead. But the fact that this planning aimed at lunar circumnavigation rather than lunar landing seemed to be blocking approval of Apollo. NASA's top administrators appeared hesitant to fight for a mere flyby mission to the moon.53

    Low recognized this reluctance and on 17 October told Silverstein he was taking another tack:

    It has become increasingly apparent that a preliminary program for manned lunar landings should be formulated. This is necessary . . . to provide a proper justification for Apollo, and to place Apollo schedules and technical plans on a firmer foundation..

    To this end, said Low, he and Eldon Hall, Oran W. Nicks, and John Disher would try to establish ground rules for manned lunar landing missions, to determine reasonable spacecraft weights, to specify launch vehicle requirements, and to prepare an integrated development plan, including the spacecraft, lunar landing and takeoff system, and launch vehicles.54

    The Space Task Group, although still having difficulties with Mercury (in an attempted launch on 21 November, the first Mercury-Redstone had risen only a few centimeters off its pad), also moved to support a program that would be more than just a circumlunar flight. Gilruth had reorganized his people in September, setting up an Apollo Projects Office in Faget's Flight Systems Division. After getting the feasibility study contracts started, Faget, Piland (head of the new office), and J. Thomas Markley attended an Apollo-Saturn conference in Huntsville, at which they reported progress on the contracts. Later that afternoon, Faget and von Braun agreed to work together on a plan to place man on the moon and not just in orbit around it.55

    Gilruth assigned Markley as liaison with Marshall. Spending most of his time in Huntsville, Markley learned the opinions of many of von Braun's group on future vehicles and mission approaches and became well versed in their preference for rendezvous in earth orbit rather than direct flight, which would require vehicles much bigger than Saturn as then planned. In December, Markley reported to Donlan that Marshall was studying orbital assembly and refueling techniques and was planning to let contracts to industry for further studies on these subjects. 56


    * From Boeing; Convair/Avco; Cornell/Bell/Raytheon; Douglas; General Electric/Bell; Goodyear; Grumman/ITT; Guardite; Lockheed; McDonnell; Martin; North American; Republic; and Vought.

    ** Panel members were Malcolm H. Hebb, Lawrence A. Hyland, Donald P. Ling, Brockway McMillan, J. Martin Schwarzschild, and Douglas R. Lord (technical assistant).


    42. Disher to Admin., NASA, “Project Apollo Feasibility Study Bidders' Briefing,” 14 Sept. 1960, with enc.; STG, “Summary of Statement of Work of Advanced Manned Spacecraft and Systems,” n.d.; Robert C. Seamans, Jr., memo, “Debriefing of Unsuccessful Companies in Competitive R&D Procurements,” 27 Oct. 1960; Robert O. Piland to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Visit of North American representatives to discuss North American Aviation Apollo study proposal,” 2 Nov. 1960; idem, “Apollo activities,” 9 Nov. 1960; idem, “Boeing representatives' visit regarding Apollo proposal,” 9 Nov. 1960; Robert G. Chilton to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Visit of Hughes Representatives on November 8, 1960,” 15 Nov. 1960.

    43. Bailey memo to Procurement and Supply Office Files, “Project Apollo Proposed Feasibility Study Contracts,” 30 Sept. 1960; STG, “Partial Set of Material for Evaluation Board Use,” n.d.; STG, “Plan for the Evaluation of Contractors' Proposals for a Feasibility Study of an Advanced Manned Spacecraft and System,” 6 Oct. 1960; Bailey to Project Evaluation Board, Attn.: Donlan, “Procurement Procedure,” 12 Oct. 1960.

    44. STG, minutes of meeting of Evaluation Board for consideration of contractors' proposals for Apollo systems study, 18-19 Oct. 1960; STG, “Select Three Firms to Study Project Apollo,” news release, 25 Oct. 1960. In view of events a year later, of special interest are R. H. Rice to STG, Attn.: Bailey, “Proposal for Project Apollo, Request for Proposal No. 302,” 60LA 9327, 7 Oct. 1960, with enc.; and North American, “Feasibility Study for Apollo Advanced Manned Spacecraft and System,” NA-60-1247, 7 Oct. 1960.

    45. STG, “Partial Set of Material for Evaluation Board Use” and “Plan for Evaluation of Proposals”; Johnson interview.

    46. J. Thomas Markley, interview, Houston, 17 Jan. 1968.

    47. Goett interview; Seamans, interview, Washington, 26 May 1966; NASA Hq. TWX to field centers, 25 May 1961; Gilruth to staff, “President's request for additional budget action,” 26 May 1961.

    48. Bruce T. Lundin et al.], “Report of Special Working Group on Location of Manned Space Flight Activity,” 14 Oct. 1960.

    49. Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, pp. 203-204, ch. 9.

    50. Herbert G. Patterson, minutes of technical negotiations meeting with General Electric, 27 Oct. 1960; John B. Lee, minutes of meeting with Martin Company, 1 Nov. 1960; William W. Petynia, minutes of meetings with Convair/Astronautics, 2 Nov. 1960.

    51. George B. Kistiakowsky to Glennan, 28 Nov. 1960; Donald F. Hornig to Glennan, 28 Oct. 1960; Hornig et al., “Report of Ad Hoc Panel on Man-in-Space,” 14 Nov. 1960.

    52. Hornig et al., “Report of Ad Hoc Panel,” pp. 1, 7-8.

    53. Rosholt, Administrative History, pp. 152-53; Ad Hoc Saturn Study Committee, “Presentation of Results of Saturn Study,” 30 Sept. 1960, with enc., Low, “Saturn Requirements for Project Apollo, Presentation to Space Exploration Council, September 30, 1960,” 29 Sept. 1960.

    54. Low to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “Manned Lunar Landing Program,” 17 Oct. 1960.

    55. James M. Grimwood, Project Mercury: A Chronology, NASA SP-4001 (Washington, 1963), pp. 117-18; Gilruth to staff, “Change in organization of the Space Task Group,” 1 Sept. 1960; Markley to all FSD groups, “Trip Report,” 21 Nov. 1960; Markley to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Meeting between MSFC and STG on mission for Saturn C-1 R and D Program and summary of MSFC trips by J. T. Markley,” 8 Dec. 1960.

    56. Markley memo, 8 Dec. 1960.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-8. Portents for Apollo

    During the latter part of the 1960 presidential campaign, Apollo (and even Mercury) faced a murky future. This period of doubt, caused by the imminent change in administrations, led Glennan to call a mid-October session at Williamsburg, Virginia, to wrestle with the question of future NASA programs. The attendees—including top management from Headquarters and all the centers—voiced varying opinions, but the need for a manned lunar landing program threaded throughout the discussions. Glennan observed that the decision on Apollo would have to wait until the new President took office, although he assumed there would be few changes, since space flight was surely a nonpartisan ambition. But the next month, November 1960, Glennan was still not sure that Apollo was ready to move beyond the study phase without more answers than all his committees and groups had yet produced. Before spending the $15 billion he estimated Apollo would cost, Glennan wanted the reasons for going to the moon—international prestige or whatever they might be—laid out more clearly.

    With the coming of the new year, then, there was a measure of uncertainty. Assuming that manned space flight would have some part in John F. Kennedy's “New Frontier,” however, Glennan strengthened the chances for an Apollo program by announcing that the Space Task Group was a separate autonomous field element, responsible for all civilian manned space flight programs. Although the location of its permanent home was still unsettled—and Glennan favored Ames in California— Gilruth's position was affirmed. On the heels of this move, Glennan called the Space Exploration Program Council together again, to talk with many of those who had been at Williamsburg. He still warned that an Apollo hardware contract lacked presidential endorsement, but he also conceded that NASA seemed to be inevitably headed toward a lunar landing mission.57

    During the first week of January 1961, Glennan waited in vain for some member of the incoming administration to get in touch with him about the transition. Meanwhile, Dryden and Seamans discussed the coming congressional budget hearings for fiscal 1962. * At this time, they decided to formalize Low's committee as the “Manned Lunar Landing Task Group.” The expanded team was to prepare a position paper to answer, in some depth, the questions, “What is NASA's Manned Lunar Landing Program? . . . How much is it going to cost to land a man on the moon and how long is it going to take?” 58

    Low and his committee (still primarily a Headquarters group—Hall, Nicks, Alfred M. Mayo, and Pearson—but now including Faget and Koelle as spokesmen from the field centers for the spacecraft and launch vehicle) met on 9 January. Seamans outlined the group's task in detail. The members were to draft plans for a lunar program, describing both direct ascent and rendezvous, for use in budget presentations to Congress. They were to include cost and schedule estimates for both modes. Developing a plan for manned lunar landings was among NASA's major objectives, the group was reminded, even though the program was not yet approved.59

    During the next four weeks, the committee labored over “A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing” and submitted it on 7 February. Low told Seamans that the report “accurately represents, to the best of my knowledge, the views of the entire Group.” No major technological breakthroughs, no crash programs, and no real physiological barriers were envisioned. The concurrent development of spacecraft and launch vehicle should lead, if financially supported, almost inevitably to a manned lunar landing in 1968 to 1970, they thought. Its costs ought to peak around 1966 and total about $7 billion. The big Saturn and bigger Nova boosters would be built and tested anyway, the group reasoned, and a manned space station in earth orbit would probably be extant by then. Low conceived Apollo in two phases: first, extended earth-orbital missions; second, circumlunar, leading to lunar landing missions.

    The Low Committee stated that lunar landings could be made by using either direct-ascent or earth-orbital rendezvous modes. Launch vehicle development would determine how large a step NASA could take in space at any given time. Moon landings demanded launch vehicles that could lift from 27,200 to 36,300 kilograms into space fast enough to escape the earth's gravitational pull. (The C-2 Saturn in the agency's fiscal 1962 budget request would be able to boost no more than 7,000-8,000 kilograms to that velocity. It could thus send manned flights to the vicinity of the moon, but it could not land there and then return its cargo to the earth.) The committee cited two ways of getting this booster capability for manned landings, either refueling a number of C-2s in earth orbit or building a vehicle large enough to perform the mission directly from the ground. Although both appeared feasible, the earth-orbital-rendezvous scheme would probably be quicker. Accordingly, NASA must develop orbital operations techniques; refueling in orbit would probably be possible by 1967 or 1968.60

    And there the matter rested. Early 1961 was an unsettled period for NASA. With the country acquiring a new President and the agency a new Administrator, the prospect for moon flights was highly uncertain. But Kennedy was deeply interested in space. Before his inauguration, he had appointed an ad hoc committee, headed by Jerome B. Wiesner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to review the entire missile and space effort. The Wiesner Committee's report, quite critical of the way Mercury was being managed and of NASA's apparent bias in favor of manned space flight at the expense of the unmanned science programs, called for a stronger technical competency within NASA and a redefinition of goals.61 Because Wiesner had joined in the “missile gap” rhetoric during the November presidential campaign, his committee's report the following January was suspect in some quarters. Nevertheless, it spurred NASA's civil service workers to prove it wrong.

    The Wiesner report also touched off a debate on the choice of a new leader for the space agency. Wiesner, like other scientifically oriented advisers within the administration, favored a proved and respected scientist-engineer. Shortly before his inauguration, however, Kennedy had delegated responsibility for space matters to Vice President-Elect Lyndon B. Johnson, long-time champion of America's space programs in Congress and architect of the 1958 legislation that created NASA. In contrast to Wiesner, Johnson wanted a hard-driving, politically experienced administrator to preside over the agency. When he was named to head the powerful National Aeronautics and Space Council, Johnson won.

    Glennan's resignation from NASA was effective 20 January, but Kennedy did not announce his successor until the end of the month. In the interim, at the request of the White House staff, Dryden was Acting Administrator. On 30 January, the President ended a spate of speculation by naming James E. Webb as NASA's new head. Quickly confirmed by the Senate, Webb was sworn in on 15 February. Dryden, whose continued service the new Administrator solicited, remained as Deputy Administrator, personifying scientific interests within the agency.

    Dramatic changes for NASA seemed likely. Webb was a man with a long and varied background in government, industry, and public service. During the Truman era he had first been Director of the Bureau of the Budget (1946-1949) and later Under Secretary of State (1949-1952). With forceful demeanor, grandiloquent style, and a genius for extemporization, Webb soon became a familiar figure on Capitol Hill as champion of the space program and defender of the agency—and its fiscal interests—before Congress.62

    Webb met with his key officials from Headquarters and the field centers at NASA's fifth semiannual retreat, in Luray, Virginia, 8-10 March 1961. He announced that Seamans would be the “operating vice president” of the agency and that the field centers would, in future, report directly to Seamans rather than to the major Headquarters staff offices, as in the past. There were hints of other significant changes that would be needed to manage a program the size of Apollo, once it was approved. Webb's ideas were not hatched overnight but were founded, in part at least, on documents passed on to him by Glennan. The principal contribution was a study led by Lawrence A. Kimpton, Chancellor of the University of Chicago. Contained in the “Kimpton Report” were recommendations that the centers should report directly to the Associate Administrator, that formally established project offices should manage projects, and that NASA should rely more on contracting support. In 1961, many of these suggestions were implemented. Seamans' new assignment was the first step along that path. 63

    Testimony before congressional committees began at the end of February. George Low described Apollo both as an earth-orbiting laboratory and as a program for circumlunar flight that could lead to a manned lunar landing. Abraham Hyatt outlined NASA's long-term objectives, with charts that showed large launch vehicle development as the pacing item.

    Before Seamans and Low finished this round of testimony, a Russian test pilot named Yuri A. Gagarin circled the earth on 12 April in Vostok I. Congressional deliberations changed into direct demands to respond to the Russian challenge, just as they had in October 1957 after Sputnik I. Overton Brooks, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, said bluntly on 14 April, “My objective, and this is speaking individually, is to beat the Russians.” Seamans reminded the committee that Webb had told them only the day before that the cost of Apollo, without a crash program, would be between $20 billion and $40 billion over the next ten years. With an accelerated program, that figure could go even higher.64

    President Kennedy had begun strengthening the space program in late March. He sent Congress a revised fiscal 1962 budget for NASA, raising the agency's funding more than $125 million over Eisenhower's recommended level of $1.11 billion. Much of this increase was earmarked for the Saturn C-2 and the F-1 engine and was expected to speed up development of these important items significantly. ** 65

    Seamans suggested even greater increases than NASA actually received. Given the funding levels he proposed, manned circumlunar flight with the C-2 would be feasible in 1967 rather than 1969. The F-1 engine, essential to an even larger launch vehicle, was the key to manned landings. “The first manned lunar landings,” Seamans stressed, “depend upon this chemical engine as well as on the orbital and circumlunar programs and can be achieved in 1970 rather than 1973.” More money, he told Webb, “will increase the rate of closure on the USSR's lead in weight lifting capability and significantly advance our manned exploration of space beyond Project Mercury.” Webb forwarded Seamans' memorandum to President Kennedy on 23 March 1961, in response to a request for information about NASA's plans. 66

    While NASA's leaders appeared to have pushed Apollo closer to an approved program, activities in the field had also accelerated. The Technical Liaison Groups formed to evaluate the three industrial studies had grown to include, part-time, virtually every senior engineer in the Space Task Group, as well as representatives from other NASA centers. By mid-February, feverish preparations were being made by Donlan's office for separate midterm reviews of the Martin, General Electric, and Convair contracts. In March, the industrial teams came to Langley one by one and stood before a large audience who had come to hear what the contractors had to tell.

    Each company followed roughly the same agenda: trajectory analysis; guidance and control; configuration and aerodynamics; heating; structures and materials; human factors; onboard propulsion; mechanical systems; and instrumentation and communications.

    The NASA auditors commented on the presentations, each of which seemed a bit too general and lacking in the technical information the NASA planners wanted. Martin Company's team, for instance, led by E. E. Clark and Carlos de Moraes, was complimented for its briefing on mechanical systems but chided for neglecting structures and materials analyses related to Apollo design requirements. The General Electric group, headed by George R. Arthur and Ladislaus W. Warzecha, scored high on human factors but low in its discussions of mission abort studies, instrumentation, and communications.67

    Faget was especially irritated that none of the contractors had proposed modifying and expanding the blunt-body, Mercury-style spacecraft. Some theoreticians had predicted that the hot gas radiation heating caused by Apollo's greater reentry speeds would make this shape unacceptable, but experiments by Clarence Syvertson at the Ames Research Center indicated that these predictions would not materialize. In addition, Caldwell Johnson, Faget's chief design assistant, had recently finished a study on the advantages of the conical, blunt-body command module over the designs of any of the three contractors. Willard M. Taub, of the same office, later recalled that the contractors, after the midterm review, “had to jump in real fast and come in with a new vehicle based on the [Space Task Group] version.” Conversely, Mel Barlow of Convair looked on the modified Mercury as only a slight technological advance. He said he was shocked to learn that NASA intended to keep that configuration.68

    While most of the Space Task Group labored under heavy operational pressures—the third Mercury-Atlas had failed almost as miserably as the first—the nine Technical Liaison Groups at Langley tried to clarify the engineering designs for a spacecraft that would circumnavigate, and perhaps land on, the moon. Although they acknowledged that Saturn C-2 (or its next larger version) should be capable of sending a large payload to that body, the questions of how large, by what route, and with what capacities were by no means settled or even well defined.69

    In early May of 1961, the first reports from the completed study contracts began arriving at the Space Task Group. All three contractors had spent considerably more than the $250,000 NASA paid them for the work.

    William Rector

    Using a model at upper left, William Rector of General Dynamics Corp. describes the design his company proposed for the Apollo lunar mission.


    Convair/Astronautics' report depicted a three-module lunar-orbiting spacecraft. Command, mission, and propulsion modules were designed primarily for lunar orbit, with flexibility and growth potential built in for more advanced missions (such as a lunar landing) with the same basic vehicle design. A total Apollo cost of $1.25 billion over about six years was estimated.

    The San Diego-based company had selected a lifting-body concept, much like one conceived several years earlier by Alfred Eggers of Ames for the return vehicle. The command module, with an abort tower attached through launch, would nestle inside a large mission module. What Astronautics proposed was similar in its mode of operation to the command and service modules that ultimately evolved for Apollo. Convair/Astronautics envisioned mission planning as building progressively upon many earth-orbital flights before attempting circumlunar and then lunar-orbital missions. Earth landings would be by glidesail parachute near San Antonio, Texas. Elementary experiments that would evolve into rendezvous, docking, artificial gravity, maneuverable landing, and an eventual lunar landing were foreseen. The study cost the contractor about $1 million, four times what NASA paid the company. The other two contractors spent even more of their own money.70

    Webb and Low view GE's vehicle

    NASA's second Administrator, James E. Webb (at center above), and George M. Low (right above) of NASA Headquarters receive a model of General Electric's proposed vehicle.


    General Electric's study cost twice as much as Convair's and featured a semiballistic blunt-body reentry vehicle. Had this configuration been selected, the payload sent to the moon would have resembled the nose cone flown on the early Saturn C-1. General Electric's design capitalized upon hardware already almost ready to fly, but it did offer one innovation—a cocoonlike wrapping for secondary—pressure protection in case of cabin leaks or meteoroid puncture. Although General Electric did not estimate the final costs in its summary, the company was confident of achieving circumlunar flight by the end of 1966 and lunar-orbital flight shortly thereafter. 71

    Martin's Apollo study

    At lower left, E. E. Clark and Carlos de Moraes of the Martin Company display three of a dozen command module configurations considered before the choice of the one to the right. De Moraes' hand rests on volumes containing about 9,000 pages that the company submitted as its Apollo study.


    The Martin Company produced the most elaborate study of the three. Martin not only followed all the Space Task Group guidelines, but also went far beyond in systems analysis. Focusing on versatility, flexibility, safety margins, and growth, this was the only study that detailed the progression of steps from lunar orbiting to lunar landing. Martin's spacecraft would have been similar to the Apollo spacecraft that ultimately emerged. Later, when the hardware contract proposals were evaluated, Martin scored first on configuration design.

    Martin recommended a five-part spacecraft. The command module was a flat-bottomed cone with a rounded apex and a tower for a tractor-rocket launch escape system. Behind the flat aft bulkhead were propulsion, equipment, and mission modules. Tradeoffs between weight and propulsion requirements led to the selection of a pressurized shell of semimonocoque aluminum alloy coated with a composite heatshield of superalloy plus charring ablator. Two crewmen would sit abreast, with the third behind, in couches that could rotate for reentry g-load protection and for getting in and out of the spacecraft. Flaps for limited maneuverability on reentry, a parachute landing system, and a jettisonable mission module that could also serve as a solar storm cellar, a laboratory, or even the descent stage for a lunar lander were also featured. Almost 300 persons in Martin spent the better part of the six months and about $3 million on the data and designs for their recommendations.72

    NASA and its Space Task Group might have evaluated the contractor reports at a more measured pace in more normal times, but in April— the month before these reports came in—the pressures “to get America moving” toward the moon became intense.


    * Budget estimates drafted in September 1960 placed Apollo costs at $100,000 for FY 1960 and $1,000,000 for 1961; NASA intended to ask for $35,500,000 for the program for FY 1962.

    ** Kennedy and Webb held budgetary discussions on 22 March, in which they covered 11 actions NASA would have to take to accelerate the space program: (1) increase the number of Mercury flights to learn more about man's behavior in space; (2) initiate possible long-duration Mercury flights with intermediate launch vehicles; (3) accelerate exploration to provide data for manned flights; (4) speed up studies of manned reentries at lunar return velocities; (5) begin development of solid-propellant rockets for first or second stages of Nova; (6) start design work on clustered F-1 engines for Nova; (7) commence design engineering of Nova, using clustered F-1 engines for the first stage; (8) begin developing tankage and engines for Nova's second stage; (9) expedite supporting technology required for attainment of lunar goal; (10) start construction of launch pads and other facilities; and (11) provide additional vehicles and spacecraft to hasten the Tiros meteorological program. Budget Director David E. Bell later wrote the President that Webb and his associates had presented the case for an accelerated space program very well. But, he warned, the United States might be better advised to concern itself with “men on earth” rather than with putting “men on the moon.”


    57. NASA, “Fourth Semi-Annual Staff Conference, Williamsburg, Virginia, October 16-19, 1960”; Donald H. Heaton to Seamans, “Space Task Group Staffing,” 23 Nov. 1960; Seamans to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “Space Task Group Internal Organization,” 28 Nov. 1960; Seamans, administrator's briefing memo, “Space Task Group Functions and Staffing,” 30 Nov. 1960; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, pp. 300-01; NASA, “Functions and Authority—Space Task Group,” General Management Instruction 2-2-7, 1 Jan. 1961; STG, “Space Task Group Becomes Separate NASA Field Element,” news release, 3 Jan. 1961; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961: Report, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 7 June 1962, p. 1; Minutes of Space Exploration Program Council, 5-6 Jan. 1961; Heaton, “U.S. Lunar Travel Program,” paper presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers, New York, 8 Dec. 1960.

    58. Dryden, interview, Washington, 1 Sept. 1965; Dryden to Emme, “Eisenhower-Kennedy transition,” 27 Sept. 1965; NASA, “Fiscal Year 1962 Estimates, Manned Space Flight: Project Apollo,” 5 Sept. 1960; anon., “Instructions to Manned Lunar Landing Task Group,” 6 and 9 Jan. 1961.

    59. Eldon W. Hall, “Manned Lunar Exploration Working Group, January 9, 1961.”

    60. Low to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Transmittal of Report Prepared by Manned Lunar Working Group,” 7 Feb. 1961, with enc., “A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing,” January 1961; Hall, “Manned Lunar Exploration Working Group”; Hall to Rosen and Asst. Dirs., Office of Launch Vehicle Prog., “Manned Lunar Landing Program,” 20 Feb. 1961; Low interview, 1 May 1964.

    61. Jerome B. Wiesner et al., “Report to the President-Elect of the Ad Hoc Committee on Space,” 10 Jan. 1961. For background to both Eisenhower's attitude toward man-in-space and Wiesner's advice to Kennedy, see remarks of retiring PSAC Chm. and President of MIT James R. Killian, Jr., “Making Science a Vital Force in Foreign Policy,” Science 130 (6 Jan. 1961).

    62. Dryden, 27 Sept. 1965; Rosholt, Administrative History, pp. 187-88; Jay Holmes, America on the Moon: The Enterprise of the Sixties (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962), pp. 189-92. For Webb background, see Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Nomination: Hearing on the Nomination of James Edwin Webb to Be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 2 Feb. 1961, pp. 2-7.

    63. NASA, “Summary of Presentations and Discussions, Fifth Semi-Annual Staff Conference, Luray, Virginia, March 8-10, 1961,” n.d.; NASA, “Transition Memorandum Prepared by T. Keith Glennan, January 1961,” n.d.; NASA, “Report of the Advisory Committee on Organization, October 1960,” [Kimpton Report], n.d.

    64. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Scientific and Technical Programs: Hearings, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, pp. 131-80; House Committee on Science and Astronautics and Subcommittees 1, 3, and 4, 1962 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 3238 and 6029 (Superseded by H.R. 6874), 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, pp. 341-47, 354-82; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander. This New Ocean, pp. 309, 332, 335; John M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970); House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Discussion of Soviet Man-in-Space Shot: Hearing, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 13 April 1961.

    65. Hyatt to Edward C. Welsh, Exec. Secy., National Aeronautics and Space Council, 27 April 1961, with encs.; agenda, NASA-BOB Conference with the President, 22 March 1961; David E. Bell, Dir., Bureau of the Budget, to the President, “National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget problem,” n.d. (emphasis in original); Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation of the Lunar Landing Decision,” NASA HHN-81, August 1969, p. 9; Ivan D. Ertel and Mary Louise Morse, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, vol. 1, Through November 7, 1962, NASA SP-4009 (Washington, 1969), p. 77.

    66. Webb to the President, no subj., 23 March 1961, with enc., Seamans to Admin., NASA, “Recommended Increases in FY 1962 Funding for Launch Vehicles and Manned Space Exploration,” 23 March 1961 (emphasis in original).

    67. Piland note to Donlan, “Apollo Programing —January 1961,” 20 Jan. 1961, with enc., subj. as above; agenda, “Space Task Group Study Progress Report,” 15 Feb. 1961, with attachments; Piland to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Apollo study midterm review,” 27 Jan. 1961, with enc., “Proposed Items for Inclusion on Agenda for Midterm Contractor Study Review”; Jack Cohen memo, “Mid-term presentations by Apollo study contractors,” 27 Feb. 1961; Donlan, “Apollo Systems Study—Midterm reviews, March 1, 2, and 3, 1961,” introductory remarks; STG, “Comments on the Convair Astronautics Company Midterm Presentation, March 1, 1961,” “Comments on the Martin Company Midterm Presentation, March 2, 1961,” and “Comments on the General Electric (MSVD) Company Midterm Presentation, March 3, 1961,” all 8 March 1961; John D. Hodge to Chief, Ops. Div., “Mid-term Apollo Briefings Operations Critique,” 9 March 1961; Smith J. De France to STG, Attn.: Donlan, “Midterm review of Apollo study contracts,” 21 March 1961.

    68. Caldwell Johnson, “Apollo Configurations: A Case for Selection of the Blunt Body—Semi-integrated Command Module for Concentrated Study,” 9 March 1961; Faget interview; Willard M. Taub, interview, Houston, 10 April 1967; Mel R. Barlow, interview, San Diego, 28 Jan. 1970.

    69. “Remarks by Mr. Robert R. Gilruth to the Apollo Technical Liaison Groups,” 10 April 1961; minutes of meetings of Apollo Technical Liaison Groups: Configuration and Aerodynamics, Heating, Human Factors, Instrumentation and Communications, Onboard Propulsion, Structures and Materials, Trajectory Analysis, and Navigation, Guidance, and Control, 10-14 April 1961; Ertel and Morse, Apollo Spacecraft Chronology, 1: 78-81.

    70. Convair (Astronautics) Div., General Dynamics Corp., and Avco Corp., “Apollo: Final Study Report,” Rept. AE10363, 15 May 1961, 5 vols.: 1, “Summary”; 2, “Selected Vehicle Design”; 3,”Supporting Design Analyses”; 4,”Growth and Advanced Concepts”; and 5, “Implementation Plan.”

    71. General Electric Co., Missile and Space Vehicle Dept., “Project Apollo: A Feasibility Study of an Advanced Manned Spacecraft and System, Final Report,” 15 May 1961, 11 vols.: 1, “Summary and Conclusions”; 2, “Systems Considerations”; 3, “Trajectories, Navigation, and Guidance”; 4, “On-board Propulsion”; 5, “Human Factors”; 6, “Aerodynamics, Configurations, Heating, and Structures and Materials”; 7, “Mechanical and Electrical Systems”; 8, “Preliminary Design”; 9, “Apollo Program Implementation Plan”; 10, “Cost Information”; and 11, “Selected Studies Applicable to Apollo.”

    72. Martin Co., “Apollo: Final Report,” ER 12001, May 1961, 18 parts: 1, “System and Operation”; 2, “Support”; 3, “Trajectory Analysis”; 4, “Configuration”; 5, “Mechanical Systems”; 6, “Aerodynamic Heating”; 7, “Guidance and Control”; 8, “Life Sciences”; 9, “Onboard Propulsion”; 10, “Structures and Materials”; 11, “Instrumentation and Communications”; 12, “Test Program”; 13, “Fabrication and Quality Assurance”; 14, “Program Management”; 15, “Business Plan”; 16, “Preliminary Specifications”; 17, “Aerodynamics”; and 18, “Space Environment Factors.”

    Chariots For Apollo, ch1-9. The Challenge

    In the aftermath of Gagarin's flight, President Kennedy asked Vice President Johnson to find a way to regain American technological prestige through space flight. NASA top management was in almost constant communication with the White House staff, Bureau of the Budget officials, and congressional leaders. Apollo was about to pass from planning to action. Less than a month and a half after the Russian feat, NASA's new manned space flight project was approved.

    Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

    . . . I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

    With these words, on 25 May 1961, President Kennedy proclaimed before Congress and the world that manned lunar landing belonged in the forefront of an expanded American space program.73 And Congress obviously agreed with him. With almost no internal opposition, both the Senate and the House of Representatives responded to Kennedy's challenge by increasing funds for the agency that was to undertake this bold program. At this juncture, the Americans had chalked up 15 minutes and 22 seconds of manned space flight experience. The Russians had clocked 108 minutes.

    On 5 May 1961, NASA had launched Freedom 7, the first manned U.S. spacecraft. Pilot Alan Shepard became the forerunner of a new genre of American adventurer-hero, the astronaut.* Shepard's flight, a lob shot up over the Atlantic, was a far from spectacular demonstration of this country's spacefaring capabilities when compared to Gagarin's single orbit of the earth. But, as only the third flight of a Mercury-Redstone, it was a dangerous and daring feat.74

    NASA officials maintained that the agency was ready and eager to take on the lunar landing, even though it added enormously to the challenge of Apollo. Following the President's speech on 25 May, Webb, Dryden, and Seamans told newsmen that much of the additional funding Kennedy had requested would be spent on advanced launch vehicles, particularly Nova, the key to manned lunar landings. Nova was so crucial to Apollo, Webb declared, that the agency planned a parallel approach to the development of propellants for the big booster. NASA would continue its work on liquid propellants, while the Department of Defense would pursue solid-fueled-rocket development as an alternative for Nova's first stage. “As soon as the technical promise of each approach can be adequately assessed,” he said, “one will be selected for final development and utilization in the manned space program.” 75

    Dryden expanded on Webb's statement. Asked if the agency considered orbital rendezvous a serious alternative to use of Nova, he replied, “We are still studying that, but we do not believe at this time that we could rely on [it].” He stressed that Kennedy's decision had forced NASA to begin work on Nova prematurely:

    This illustrates the real nature of the decision. We could make some of these decisions better two years from now than we can now, if the program had gone along at the ordinary pace. But if we are going to accelerate this we have got to do some parallel approaches, at least for a time. The solid and the liquid propellant are going to be carried forward full steam. We have a certain amount of effort on rendezvous. If it looks like this presents any opportunity, we will certainly take advantage of it.76

    Both Dryden and Seamans freely admitted that NASA lacked the immediate scientific knowledge needed for lunar landings. Another use of the additional funding would be to speed up research into the unknowns. Development of hardware—boosters, spacecraft, and equipment —must be built upon this scientific and technical foundation. At this juncture, nobody had any really firm idea about how NASA was going to implement Kennedy's decision. Techniques for leaving the earth and flying to the moon—even more, landing there and returning—were open to considerable debate and much speculation.

    There was a vague feeling within the agency (though with several notable exceptions) that direct ascent would eventually be the answer, but no one had worked out the tradeoffs in much detail. Subsequently, as Apollo planning progressed, the question of how to fly to the moon and back loomed ever larger. In the end, the choice of mode was perhaps the single greatest technical decision of the entire Apollo program. The selection was inextricably linked to launch vehicles, spacecraft, facilities, cost, development schedules, and the future of America's posture in space. Ultimately, the mode question shaped the whole of Apollo. Many possible methods were carefully considered, and a Pandora's box of problems was opened. At the time, however, technical thinking had not matured to that degree. The United States was just on the threshold of manned space flight, and orbital flights around the earth were in themselves mind-boggling. A program to land men on the moon, 400,000 kilometers away, and bring them safely home was nearly too stupendous for serious contemplation.

    One participant charged with transforming the concepts drafted by committees and study groups to hardware later described his reactions. Acutely aware that NASA's total manned space flight experience was limited to one ballistic flight and that he was being asked to commit men to a 14-day trip to the moon and back, Robert Gilruth said he was simply aghast.77


    * The first astronauts were military test pilots: from the Navy, Lieutenant Commanders Walter M. Schirra, Jr., and Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Lieutenant M. Scott Carpenter; from the Air Force, Captains L. Gordon Cooper, Virgil I. Grissom, and Donald K. Slayton; and from the Marines. Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr.


    73. Rosen to Webb, “Reflections on the Present American Posture in Space,” 19 April 1961; Webb to Kenneth O'Donnell, The White House, no subj., 21 April 1961; John F. Kennedy to the Vice-President, no subj., 20 April 1961; L. B. Johnson to the President, “Evolution of the Space Program,” 28 April 1961; DeMarquis D. Wyatt, “Research and Development,” 24 May 1961, annotated “Prepared for use at press conf. 5/25/61”; White House, “John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, Special Message to Congress, May 25, 1961,” news release.

    74. Congress, An Act to authorize appropriations to [NASA], Public Law 87-98, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 21 July 1961; NASA with National Institutes of Health and National Academy of Sciences, (Washington, 1961); NASA, “Introduction to the Astronauts,” news conference, 9 April 1959; Low to Admin., NASA, “Pilot Selection for Project Mercury,” 23 April 1959.

    75. NASA, “Statement by James E. Webb, Administrator,” news release 61-112, 25 May 1961.

    76. NASA, “Budget Briefing,” news release 61-115, 25 May 1961.

    77. Gilruth, interview, Houston, 21 March 1968. Cf. Charles W. Mathews to staff, Flight Ops. Div., “Formation of Apollo Working Group,” 29 May 1961.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-1. Project Planning and Contracting

    May through December 1961

    By the end of April 1961, NASA's three top executives—James Webb, Hugh Dryden, and Robert Seamans—knew that Apollo would soon become an approved project aimed at landing men on the moon. The agency's engineers had done some thinking but little planning for that particular step, which they viewed only as a possible objective for the 1970s. When President Kennedy's challenge in late May abruptly made moon landing a goal for the 1960s, adjustment within NASA to meet the new charge was not an easy task. Although transfers from other agencies and a few recently created offices had resulted in a relatively strong and versatile organization, in May 1961—and for months thereafter, for that matter—NASA was not really prepared to direct an Apollo program designed to fly its spacecraft around the moon. New and special facilities would be needed and the aerospace industry would have to be marshaled to develop vehicles not easily adapted to production lines, even though no one had yet decided just what Apollo's component parts should be or what they should look like.

    Despite all the committee and task group work done since NASA opened for business, not one of the vehicles, from the ground up, was sufficiently defined for an industrial contractor to develop and build. Because of the time limitation imposed by Kennedy, Administrator Webb asked Associate Administrator Seamans to get the pieces of Apollo that were nearly defined under contract. With no appropriate project office to implement this order, ad hoc committees and task groups still had to do the work. For the remainder of 1961, until NASA could recruit enough skilled people and organize them to carry out Apollo's mammoth assignment, Seamans would continue to operate in this fashion.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-2. Committees at Work

    To begin upgrading NASA's tentative planning from circumlunar flights to lunar landing missions, Seamans on 2 May set up an ad hoc group led by William A. Fleming of Headquarters. * The task was reminiscent of that given to George Low's committee earlier in the year, but the Fleming team was to place more emphasis on the landing stage than Low's group had. Since Seamans had given him little time to complete the study, Fleming settled on direct flight as the way to reach the moon. For the final approach to landing, his group concluded, a stage weighing 43,000 kilograms would be needed, with 85 percent of that being the fuel load.1

    Once Fleming had selected the direct route, Seamans realized that he needed more options, so he formed a second committee, headed by Bruce Lundin from the Lewis Research Center, to study the choices. The eight-man committee** looked at rendezvous, mostly earth-orbit rendezvous, in which two or more vehicles would link up near the home planet and journey to the moon as a unit, and lunar-orbit rendezvous, which required a single vehicle to fly to the moon, orbit that body while one of its sections landed on the surface and returned, and then travel back to earth.

    Lundin's group believed that rendezvous offered two attractions: deciding on launch vehicle size—Nova or several proposed versions of an advanced Saturn—would not restrict future growth; and rendezvous would permit lunar landings to be made with smaller boosters, using rocket engines already under development. The Lundin team favored earth-orbit rendezvous, with two or three of the advanced Saturns. They considered it safer, although they conceded that lunar-orbit rendezvous would require less propellant and, in theory, could be done with a single Saturn C-3, one of the versions under consideration. 2

    NASA officials gathered on 10 June 1961 to hear what both Fleming and Lundin had to report. Although the audience asked a few questions after each presentation, it was obvious that neither committee had made real progress. They did root out some difficulties that lay ahead and present some suggestions on how a lunar landing might be made. But, actually, little could be done at the time, and they knew it, since NASA did not know how much money Congress intended to appropriate. 3


    * The Fleming Committee, composed of about 20 members from both Headquarters and the field centers, concluded that “it is not unreasonable to achieve the first attempt of a manned lunar landing in 1967 provided there is a truly determined National effort.” Reaching this goal would depend on the development of an adequate launch vehicle.

    ** Lundin's team consisted of Alfred Eggers (Ames), Walter J. Downhower (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) , Lieutenant Colonel George W. S. Johnson (Air Force) , Laurence Loftin (Langley) , Harry O. Ruppe (Marshall), and William J. D. Escher and Ralph May, secretaries (NASA Headquarters).


    1. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Dir., Space Flight Prog., et al., “Establishment of an Ad Hoc Task Group for Manned Lunar Landing Study,” 2 May 1961; George M. Low, interview, Washington, 1 May 1964; John M. Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation of the Lunar Landing Decision,” NASA HHN-81, August 1969, pp. 9-11; Abraham Hyatt to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Manned Lunar Landing and Return Attempt in 1967,” 8 May 1961; Seamans and Hyatt to James E. Webb and Hugh L. Dryden, “Status of planning for an accelerated NASA Program,” 12 May 1961; NASA, “A Feasible Approach for an Early Manned Landing,” pt. 1, “Summary Report of Ad Hoc Task Group Study” [Fleming Report], 16 June 1961, passim, but esp. pp. 8-9, 27, 95-96.

    2. Seamans to Dirs., Launch Vehicle and Adv. Research Progs., “Broad Study of Feasible Ways for Accomplishing Manned Lunar Landing Mission,” 25 May 1961; Bruce T. Lundin et al., “A Survey of Various Vehicle Systems for the Manned Lunar Mission,” 10 June 1961, passim, but esp. pp. 4, 13-16, 26.

    3. John I. Cumberland to Dryden et al., “Notes on June 10, 1961 Task Force Report,” 13 June 1961; Lundin to Seamans, 12 June 1961. See also “Composite Notes on June 22, 1961 Meeting with Administrator and Deputy Administrator concerning Manned Lunar Landing, Communications, Meteorological, and University Support Programs,” n.d.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-3. Spacecraft Development Decision

    This sudden preoccupation in NASA's highest echelons with the mode of flying to the moon put the spacecraft development planners in a quandary. Space Task Group engineers had the contractors' feasibility study reports in hand and had used them and their own studies in drafting specifications for a spacecraft hardware contract. The major question was whether they would have to wait until all the pieces in the Apollo stack were defined before awarding the contract. Robert Gilruth went to Washington on 2 June to find out.

    During a meeting with Abe Silverstein and his Space Flight Programs staff, a consensus developed on the six areas in which major contracts would be needed: (1) launch vehicles; (2) the spacecraft command center, which would double as the return vehicle; (3) the propulsion module, with extra duty as the lunar takeoff section; (4) the lunar landing stage, which would be both a braking rocket and a lunar launch pad; (5) the communications and tracking network; and (6) the earth launch facilities.4 To get these projects under way, Silverstein said, Seamans had approved letting the spacecraft development contract.5

    Gilruth took this good news back to Virginia, but he and his men still had a question. What would industry be bidding on? The Space Task Group favored a modified Mercury capsule (a bell shape extended into a conical pyramid) and had worked on that design. Its chief competitor was a lifting-body design, with trims and flaps, championed by Alfred Eggers and his colleagues at the Ames Research Center.

    Crew position sketches

    Space Task Group engineers sketched crew positions in the command module for an October 1960 configuration study of the “Apollo-Control Capsule.” The command module with airlock retracted is at the center, the bathing compartment sketched below it. At left center, a crewman in the extended airlock removes the hatch. At upper and lower right, legs of the third takeoff and reentry seat, rigged in the companionway, are folded away for flight and moved back into place for landing. At upper left, parachutes begin to deploy after rocket jettison for reentry.


    Spacecraft modules, mid-1961

    Spacecraft modules in this drawing were identified in the Space Task Group's request for proposals from contractors for developing and producing the command module.


    Max Faget, leading spacecraft designer at the Space Task Group, later said that one of his major objectives was to make the Apollo command module big enough; they were just finding out all the problems caused by a too-small Mercury capsule. He set the diameter at the base of the Apollo craft at 4.3 meters, as opposed to Mercury's 1.8 meters. When Faget asked Wernher von Braun, at Marshall, to fly some models of the craft, there was a problem. Since early Saturn vehicles did not have a payload, Marshall had used spare Jupiter missile nose cones on the first test flights. Douglas Aircraft Company had resized the Saturn's S-IV stage to fit the Jupiter body, which was smaller than the Apollo command module. Marshall contended that enlarging the S-IV would cost millions of dollars, and Space Task Group did not argue the point. Until this time, the design concept for the Apollo heatshield had called for a sharp rim, as in Mercury, which increased the total drag and gave more lifting capability. Rather than decrease the interior volume, Faget's design team simply rounded the edge to match the S-IV.

    The command module's rounded edges simplified another design decision. Faget wanted to use beryllium shingles on the afterbody, as he had in Mercury, to take care of reentry heating, but Langley engineers believed the spaceship would be traveling too fast for shingles to handle the heat. The design group decided to wrap an ablative heatshield around the whole command module. This wraparound shield had another advantage. One of the big questions about outer space was radiation exposure. James Van Allen, discoverer of the radiation belts surrounding the earth and named for him, had predicted exposure would be severe. Encapsulating the space vehicle with ablative material as an additional guard against radiation, even though it entailed a large weight penalty, was a big selling point for the heatshield.6

    Space Task Group engineers were satisfied with their design, although none too sure that anyone else in NASA liked it. George Low, however, found merit in both the blunt- and lifting-body configurations and suggested to Silverstein that two prime spacecraft contractors be hired, each to work from a different set of specifications. 7

    Space Task Group engineers wanted no part of this dual approach. In early July, Caldwell Johnson summarized for Gilruth their reasons for insisting on the blunt-body shape. Johnson emphasized mainly the operational advantages and the experience gained from Mercury that would accrue to Apollo. He confined his discussion to the trip to the moon and back, making no mention of landing the craft on its surface. 8 Those most concerned with the command module's basic configuration were still looking at the problems connected with circumlunar flight: a vehicle that could fly around the moon and back to earth, sustain three men for two weeks, and reenter the atmosphere at much higher speeds than from earth orbit.

    Gilruth's Apollo planners pressed on, drawing up a hardware development contract for their chosen craft. This vehicle could be adapted for a lunar landing later, but that problem was shunted to the background for the time being. Jack Heberlig, a member of Faget's design team for the Mercury capsule, drafted the hardware guidelines for the Apollo command center spacecraft. While Heberlig's procurement plan was in final review at NASA Headquarters the first week in July, Robert Piland and John Disher were setting up a technical conference to apprise potential contractors of NASA's requirements. Invitations were sent to 1,200 representatives from industry and 160 from government agencies.9

    From 18 to 20 July 1961, more than 1,000 persons (representing 300 companies, the White House staff, Congress, and other governmental departments) attended a NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference in Washington. The first day, NASA engineers talked about space vehicle design, mission profiles, and navigation, guidance, and control. On the second day, the attendees heard papers on space environment, entry heating and thermal protection, and onboard systems. During these sessions, the Space Task Group speakers pushed their blunt-body shape.10

    Gilruth's men never doubted that the keystone to Apollo was the spacecraft itself. As they waited for higher authority to act, they continued to plan with Marshall a series of tests using a blunt-body capsule.11 By the end of July, Administrator Webb had approved the procurement plan, and Glenn Bailey, Gilruth's contracting officer, had mailed out the requests for proposals. 12

    While waiting for the companies to respond, NASA awarded its first hardware contract for Apollo. After spending six months on a feasibility study, the Instrumentation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) received a contract on 9 August to develop the guidance and navigation system.13


    4. Low to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “Report of Meeting with Space Task Group on June 2, 1961,” 6 June 1961.

    5. Seamans memo for file, “Apollo procurement,” 2 June 1961; Low memo, 6 June 1961.

    6. Willard M. Taub, interview, Houston, 10 April 1967; Maxime A. Faget, interview, Houston, 15 Dec. 1969.

    7. Low to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “Apollo Configuration,” 12 June 1961. See Ivan D. Ertel and Mary Louise Morse, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, vol. 1, Through November 7, 1962, NASA SP-4009 (Washington, 1969), for illustrations of shapes proposed for the Apollo reentry vehicle.

    8. Caldwell C. Johnson to Dir., STG, “A case for the selection of the semi-integrated, blunt body configuration for Apollo spacecraft,” 5 July 1961, with encs. (final version of draft dated 20 June 1961—see n. 11).

    9. Robert O. Piland to Jack C. Heberlig, “Space Task Group Review of 'General Requirements for a Proposal, Project Apollo, Phase A' dated May 5, 1961 (First Draft),” 8 May 1961, with encs.; Robert R. Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Ernest Brackett, “Transmittal of Project Apollo Procurement Plan for Approval,” 26 June 1961, with encs.; Abe Silverstein to Herbert L. Brewer, “Comments on Project Apollo Procurement Plan,” 3 July 1961; Piland to Charles J. Donlan, “Apollo Technical Conference,” 8 June 1961; John H. Disher to STG, Attn.: Paul E. Purser, “NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference,” 13 June 1961; Disher, “Progress Status Sheet,” in Administrator's Progress Report, NASA, July 1961, p. 25.4.

    10. “Space Unit Details Plans for Apollo,” Newport News (Va.) Times-Herald, 19 July 1961; Disher, “Progress Status Sheet”; NASA, “NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference, July 18, 19, 20, 1961: A Compilation of the Papers Presented,” 2 parts, n.d.

    11. Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Low, “Preliminary project development plan for 'boilerplate' spacecrafts for the Saturn C-1 test flights SA-7,—8,—9, and—10,” 16 June 1961, with enc., Leo T. Chauvin to Dir., STG, subj. as above, and “Preliminary Project Development Plan for SA-7 Through—10 Payloads,” 9 June 1961; Johnson to Dir., STG, “A case for the selection of the semi-integrated, blunt body configuration for Apollo spacecraft,” 20 June 1961, draft memo with encs.

    12. Brackett to STG, Attn.: Gilruth, “Transmittal of Approved Project Apollo Spacecraft Procurement Plan and Class Determination and Findings,” 28 July 1961, with encs.; Glenn F. Bailey, “Request for Proposal No. 9-150, Project Apollo Spacecraft,” 28 July 1961.

    13. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961: Report, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 7 June 1962, p. 38.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-4. Astronavigation—The First Apollo Contract

    The guidance and navigation (or “G&N") system was a central concern in spacecraft design. To get to the moon and back to earth was a monumental task. NASA and its predecessor, NACA, had little experience in this field; but neither had anyone else. When NASA opened for business in 1958, more work had been done in celestial mechanics for trips to Mars than to the moon. MIT, in fact, had an Air Force contract that included research on interplanetary guidance and navigation. Out of this came a relatively extensive study for an unmanned probe to pass by and photograph Mars. By the time it was finished, however, this kind of role in space belonged exclusively to NASA.

    With the blessing of the Air Force, MIT engineers took the results of their study to NASA Headquarters on 15 September 1959. Their timing was bad; only two days earlier the Russians had crash-landed Lunik II on the moon (the first man-made object to reach that body) and had impressed the American space community by having built a launch vehicle powerful enough and a guidance system sophisticated enough to get it there. In this atmosphere, the MIT presentation netted only a small study contract. And when feasibility contracts for the Apollo spacecraft were awarded in November 1960, how to get the crew to the moon and back was still a question.14

    Like other phases of Apollo, the G&N system drew on the past. The foundation had been laid by Kepler, Newton, and Laplace in theoretical celestial mechanics and had been advanced as a practical science by such devices as Foucault's gyroscope (an instrument Sperry later made almost synonymous with his name). These and other achievements in aerial navigation and space guidance and control were not sufficient for a trip to the moon, although some engineers in the Apollo program did use the early classics in estimating fuel and developing computerized trajectory equations.15

    To a great extent, lunar navigation development relied on such newcomers in the field as computers and a worldwide tracking and communications network. By the 1960s, the electronic computer had become an integral tool of science, technology, and business. Without its capacities for memorizing, calculating, comparing, and displaying astronomical amounts of data, the lunar landing program would have been impossible. Worldwide tracking and communications networks evolved out of meteorology, astronomy, telemetry, missilery, and automatic spacecraft experience into manned space flight planning and operations. Most of the credit for telecommunications work at NASA operations belongs to the Goddard center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Myriads of data collected from unmanned satellites were processed daily in its computer banks and transmitted to such agencies as the Weather Bureau and the Geological Survey. Guidance and control technology shared the same evolutionary roots as tracking and communications, but it also drew on advances in avionics, gyroscopics, maritime and aerial navigation, antisubmarine and antiaircraft fire control systems, and cybernetics. 16

    MIT was the obvious place for NASA to look for help in Apollo's astronavigation problems. For many years, Charles Stark Draper, Director of MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory, had been recognized as the man most directly responsible for the application of automatic pilots and inertial guidance systems.17 Achievements in such second-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles as the Polaris made Draper's laboratory the logical solesource choice for the Apollo system.

    Draper inspects Apollo G and C

    Navigating to the moon: MIT Instrumentation Laboratory Director C. Stark Draper inspects a mockup of the Apollo guidance and control system in the September 1963 photo above.


    Hoag examines IMU

    David G. Hoag, technical design director at the laboratory, examines the inertial measuring unit that would measure changes in Apollo spacecraft velocity when propulsion systems were fired.


    Draper appointed Milton B. Trageser as project manager and David G. Hoag as technical director. These new Apollo leaders consulted with guidance theoreticians at Ames Research Center, * 18 before starting on the contract. Reassured by these talks and by the in-house MIT work of J. H. Lanning in 1958 on preliminary designs for a Mars mission and of J. S. Miller and Richard H. Battin in 1960 on studies of applied mathematics, Draper's laboratory was convinced that it had no near rivals in the field.19

    When the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory signed a letter contract for Apollo on 10 August 1961, NASA officials assumed they had placed this complicated task in good hands. From the outset, there was a clear understanding that MIT would do only the technical design and prototype development; when the manufacturing phase commenced, industrial contractors would take over. NASA monitors anticipated some problems in employing separate firms to make the guidance, control, and navigation equipment—but that worry could wait. In the meantime, Draper's men were not completely sure that NASA people really understood the differences between the three terms.20

    “Guidance,” to MIT, meant directing the movement of a craft with particular reference to a selected path or trajectory. “Navigation,” in space as on the seas, referred to determining present position, as accurately as possible, in relation to a future destination. “Control,” specifically in astronautics, was the directing of a craft's movements with relation to its attitude (yaw, pitch, and roll) or velocity (speed and direction, a vector quantity). MIT's expertise centered on the first two of these factors; NASA engineers (particularly those who had worked with earth-orbital flight) emphasized the first and third. 21

    Still, NASA's Apollo engineers were encouraged by what they saw of the laboratory's work and were assured by MIT that getting to the moon and back was simpler than guiding an antiballistic missile or circumnavigating the earth under water in a nuclear submarine. **

    NASA officials had some doubts. In June 1961, Dryden requested Draper to come to Washington to discuss G&N problems with Webb. Webb asked if MIT could really get a man to the moon and back safely. Draper replied that he would be willing to make the voyage himself, if Webb would guarantee the propulsion system. Over the next few months, Draper continued to hear mutterings of disbelief. To display his confidence in his team, he wrote Seamans, saying:

    I would like to volunteer for service as a crew member on the Apollo mission to the moon. . . . We at the Instrumentation Laboratory are going full throttle on the Apollo guidance work, and I am sure that our endeavors will lead to success. . . . let me know what application blanks I should fill out. . . .22

    Draper's offer to serve as an astronaut caused a ripple of laughter throughout NASA Headquarters, but only for a moment. There were other problems to resolve. The basic rocket booster for the moon mission was still in question, and NASA's administrators were in the process of selecting a spacecraft manufacturer.


    * Before and during the Apollo feasibility studies, the Ames center had focused on guidance and navigation as the area where it could be most useful to Apollo. Stanley F. Schmidt had looked at midcourse guidance; Dean R. Chapman anti Rodney Wingrove had concentrated on reentry guidance; and G. Allan Smith had worked on instrumentation for the astronauts' onboard operations.

    ** On 10 May 1960, the U.S.S. Triton completed a 66,800-kilometer submerged cruise around the globe.


    14. Richard H. Battin, interview, Cambridge, Mass., 29 April 1966; Jack Funk, interview, Houston, 25 June 1970; John W. Finney, “Washington Praises Shot; Hopes for Sharing of Data,” New York Times, 14 Sept. 1959; “NASA Initiates Study on Impact of Space,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 72 (1 Feb. 1960); Milton B. Trageser, interview, Cambridge, 27 April 1966; Stanley F. Schmidt to Harry J. Goett, 9 June 1961; Goett to Silverstein, 16 June 1961; Piland to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Possible MIT Guidance and Control Study for Apollo,” 4 Nov. 1960; Piland note to Donlan, “Apollo activities,” 9 Nov. 1960; Robert G. Chilton to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Meeting with MIT Instrumentation Laboratory to Discuss Navigation and Guidance Support for Project Apollo,” 28 Nov. 1960; Trageser to Donlan, 2 Dec. 1960, and 22 Dec. 1960, with encs., “Technical Proposal to NASA . . . Space Task Group, for a Guidance and Navigation System Study for Project Apollo,” 23 Dec. 1960, and “Cost Proposal to . . . Space Task Group, for a Guidance and Navigation System Study for Project Apollo,” 23 Dec. 1960; Chilton to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Massachusetts Institute of Technology Guidance System Study for Apollo,” 16 Jan. 19-61; Piland, “Apollo Programing—January 1961,” n.d.; Chilton to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Visit to Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory, March 23, 24, 1961,” 3 April 1964.

    15. Thomas P. Hughes, Elmer Sperry: Inventor and Engineer (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971); Funk and Trageser interviews.

    16. William R. Corliss, Histories of the Space Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STADAN), the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN), and the NASA Communications Network (NASCOM), NASA CR-140390, June 1974.

    17. C. S. Draper, “The Evolution of Aerospace Guidance Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1935-1951,” paper presented at the 5th IAA History Symposium, Brussels, Belgium, 19-25 Sept. 1971; Vannevar Bush, Pieces of the Action (New York: William Morrow, 1970), p. 170. See also background and brief history of Draper in C. Stark Draper, Walter Wrigley, and John Havorka, Inertial Guidance (New York: Pergamon Press, 1960), pp. 14-23.

    18. Chilton to Assoc. Dir., STG, 3 April 1961; Schmidt to Goett, 9 June 1961; Goett to Silverstein, 16 June 1961.

    19. Richard H. Battin, Astronautical Guidance (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).

    20. David W. Gilbert, “A Historical Description of the Apollo Guidance and Navigation System Development,” SG-100-153, 31 Dec. 1963, with encs.; William W. Petynia to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Visit to MIT, Instrumentation Laboratory on September 12-13, regarding Apollo Navigation and Guidance Contract,” 21 Sept. 1961; idem, “Second Apollo monthly meeting at MIT, Instrumentation Laboratory, on October 4, 1961,” 10 Oct. 1961.

    21. Milton B. Trageser and David G. Hoag, “Apollo Spacecraft Guidance System,” MIT-IL Rept. R-495, paper presented at the IFAC Symposium on Automatic Control in the Peaceful Uses of Space, Stavanger, Norway, June 1965; Richard H. Battin, “Apollo NGC in the Journals,” Astronautics & Aeronautics 9 (January 1971): 22—23; Robert G. Chilton, “Apollo Spacecraft Control Systems,” in John A. Aseltine, ed., Peaceful Uses of Automation in Outer Space (New York: Plenum Press, 1966); Aaron Cohen, “Powered Flight Steering and Control of Apollo Spacecraft,” paper presented to Northrop Nortronics Society of Automotive Engineers Committee, Houston, 11-13 Dec. 1963.

    22. Draper, interviews, Cambridge, 23 April 1968, and Houston, 27 Aug. 1973; Draper to Seamans, 21 Nov. 1961; Eugene M. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960 (Washington: NASA, 1961), p. 123.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-5. Contracting for the Command Module

    The attention devoted to guidance and navigation did not halt preparations for a contract on the command module. Data from the feasibility studies and from Space Task Group's in-house work were used to prepare a statement of work, detailing the contractor's responsibilities and the scope of his obligations in designing, building, and testing the spacecraft.23

    Project Apollo would have three phases: earth-orbital, circumlunar and lunar-orbital, and lunar landing. The prime spacecraft contractor would develop and build the command module, service propulsion module, adapter (to fit the spacecraft to a space laboratory for earth-orbital flights and to the lunar landing propulsion section for lunar missions), and ground support equipment. Although the prime spacecraft contractor would not build the lunar landing module, he would integrate that system into the complete spacecraft stack and ensure compatibility of the spacecraft with the launch vehicle.24

    Just before leaving NASA early in 1961, Administrator Keith Glennan had revised the procedures for the establishment and operation of source evaluation boards. For any NASA contract expected to exceed $1 million, all proposals would have to be evaluated by such a board; for any contract that might cost over $5 million, all proposals would be judged by a special source evaluation board appointed by the Associate Administrator. The board's findings would then be passed to the Administrator himself for final selection. On 28 July 1961, Seamans approved the overall plan for Apollo spacecraft procurement, appointed the source evaluation board members, and delegated authority for establishing assessment teams to assist the board. Then the Space Task Group issued its request for proposal to 14 aerospace Companies. * 25

    Working arrangements for the development contract followed very closely those evolved for the feasibility studies. The deadline for the submission of proposals was set for 9 October 1961, giving prospective bidders more than ten weeks to work out their proposals. A conference was held on 14 August so NASA could explain the guidelines for the contract in detail. Almost 400 questions were asked at the meeting and answered; the answers were recorded and distributed. Seamans then appointed an 11-man Source Evaluation Board, headed by Faget and including one nonvoting member from Headquarters (James T. Koppenhaver, a reliability expert). The board consisted of six voting members from the Space Task Group (Robert Piland, Wesley Hjornevik, Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Charles W. Mathews, James A. Chamberlin, and Dave W. Lang), one from Marshall (Oswald H. Lange), and two from Headquarters (George Low and Albert A. Clagett). Faget's board directed the technical assessment teams and a business subcommittee to work out and submit a numerical scoring system for comparative analyses of the proposals.26

    On 9 October 1961, five hopeful giants** of the aerospace industry brought their proposals to the Chamberlain Hotel, Old Point Comfort, Virginia. During the first two days of a three-day meeting, these documents were distributed among the members of the NASA assessment teams. The massive technical proposals, separated from those on business management and cost, were scrutinized and evaluated by more than a hundred specialists. Each group of bidders was then called in on the third day to make an oral presentation and answer questions. Gilruth persistently asked the proposal leaders, “What single problem do your people identify as the most difficult task in getting man to the moon?”27 The industrialists' answers to this question generally stressed the balance between performance, cost, and schedule controls for so complex an undertaking.

    Several weeks of intensive study followed, as the assessment teams made their rankings of the proposals. Submitted on 24 November 1961, the report of the Source Evaluation Board summarized the scoring by the assessors and evaluators:

    SEB Ratings of Apollo Spacecraft Proposals by Major Area

       (Marks out of 10)           Technical  Technical
                                   Approach   Qualification  Business
                                   (30%)        (30%)        (40%)
    
    Martin Co.                     5.58         6.63         8.09
    
    General Dynamics Astronautics  5.27         5.35         8.52
    
    North American Aviation        5.09         6.66         7.59
    
    General Electric Co.           5.16         5.60         7.99
    
    McDonnell Aircraft Corp.       5.53         5.67         7.62
    

    This step led to a summary rating, with Martin scoring 6.9, General Dynamics tied with North American at 6.6, and General Electric matched with McDonnell at 6.4 for final grades. The board was unequivocal in its final recommendation:

    The Martin Company is considered the outstanding source for the Apollo prime contractor. Martin not only rated first in Technical Approach, a very close second in Technical Qualification, and second in Business Management, but also stood up well under further scrutiny of the board.

    If Martin were not selected, however, the board suggested North American as the most desirable alternative.

    North American Aviation [NAA] . . . rated highest of all proposers in the major area of Technical Qualifications. North American's pertinent experience consisting of the X-15, Navajo, and Hound Dog coupled with an outstanding performance in the development of manned aircraft (F-100 and F-86) resulted in it[s] being the highest rated in this area. The lead personnel proposed showed a strong background in development projects and were judged to be the best of any proposed. Like Martin, NAA proposed a project managed by a single prime contractor with subsystems obtained by subcontracting, which also had the good features described for the Martin proposal. Their project organization, however, did not enjoy quite as strong a position within the corporate structure as Martin's did. The high Technical Qualification rating resulting from these features of the proposal was therefore high enough to give North American a rating of second in the total Technical Evaluation although its detailed Technical Approach was assessed as the weakest submitted. This relative weakness might be attributed to the advantage of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation's Mercury experience, and the other three proposers' experience on the Apollo study contracts. The Source Evaluation Board is convinced that NAA is well qualified to carry out the assignment of Apollo prime contractor and that the shortcomings in its proposal could be rectified through further design effort on their part. North American submitted a low cost estimate which, however, contained a number of discrepancies. North American's cost history was evaluated as the best. 28

    Word leaked out prematurely to Martin that it had scored highest in the evaluations. After two years of planning and five weeks of waiting, the Martin employees were informed over the public address system on 27 November 1961 that they had won the contest to build the moonship. The next day they learned the truth.29

    North American won the spacecraft development sweepstakes. Webb, Dryden, and Seamans apparently chose the company with the longest record of close association with NACA-NASA and the most straightforward advance into space flight. The decision would have to be defended before Congress and would be the cause of some anguish later. 30 When it was announced on 28 November, shouts of joy rang through the plant at Downey, California, as John W. Paup broke the news over the “squawk box.”31

    During December 1961, Space Task Group (renamed Manned Spacecraft Center on 1 November) and North American program directors and engineers met in Williamsburg, Virginia, to lay the technical groundwork for the spacecraft development program and begin contract negotiations.32 The spacecraft portion of Apollo had entered the hardware phase, although the launch vehicle (or vehicles) and the lunar lander had not.


    * The 14 firms were Boeing, Chance Vought, Douglas, Astronautics Division of General Dynamics, General Electric, Goodyear Aircraft, Grumman, Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, Martin, McDonnell, North American, Radio Corporation of America, Republic Aviation, and Space Technology Laboratories (STL).

    ** General Dynamics Astronautics with Avco; General Electric, with Douglas, Grumman, and STL; McDonnell, with Lockheed Aircraft, Hughes Aircraft, and Chance Vought; Martin; and North American.


    23. [Robert O. Piland], “Apollo Spacecraft Chronology,” n.d., [pp. 9-10].

    24. STG, “Project Apollo Spacecraft Development, Statement of Work, Phase A,” 28 July 1961, pp. I-1 through I-3, III-2; [Disher], “Preliminary Project Development Plan for Project Apollo Spacecraft,” 9 Aug. 1961, pp. 19-20.

    25. NASA, “Establishment of Source Evaluation Boards,” General Management Instruction 2-4-3, 1 Feb. 1961; NASA, “Project Apollo Spacecraft Procurement Plan,” n.d., approved by Seamans, 28 July 1961, with encs.; Bailey to PneumoDynamics Corp., Attn.: G. W. Rice, 3 Aug. 1961.

    26. Seamans to STG, Attn.: Gilruth, “Appointment of Source Evaluation Board,” 7 July 1961 (signed by Seamans, 28 July 1961); Gilruth, memo for staff, “Pre-proposal Briefing Attendance List,” 7 Aug. 1961; agenda, Pre-proposal Conference, Project Apollo Spacecraft, 14 and 15 Aug. 1961; Johnson to Allen L. Grandfield et al., “NASA written response to questions submitted by prospective Contractors on REP 9-150,” 15 Aug. 1961; NASA, “Project Apollo RFP No. 9-150: Technical Evaluation of Contractors Proposals,” 9 Oct. 1961; Seamans to STG, “Redesignation of Source Evaluation Board Members,” 2 Nov. 1961; NASA/MSC, “Source Evaluation Board Report: Apollo Spacecraft,” NASA RFP 9-150, 24 Nov. 1961.

    27. NASA/MSC, “Source Evaluation Board Report,” pp. 7-10, 13, 14; John W. Paup, interview, Downey, Calif., 7 June 1966.

    28. NASA/MSC, “Source Evaluation Board Report,” pp. 10, 13, 14.

    29. William B. Bergen, interview, El Segundo, Calif., 21 June 1971; E. E. Clark and John DeNike, interviews, Seal Beach, Calif., 24 June 1971; John P. Healey, interviews, Downey, 16 and 21 July 1970.

    30. North American news release, 28 Nov. 1961; “Apollo Contract Is Awarded to North American Aviation,” MSC Space News Roundup, 13 Dec. 1961; NASA, “Apollo Contractor Selected,” news release 61-263, 28 Nov. 1961; Seamans memo for file, “The selection of North American Aviation, Inc. as the prime contractor for the command and service module,” 9 June 1967.

    31. Paup interview; Harrison A. Storms, Jr., interview, El Segundo, 16 July 1970.

    32. Minutes of Technical Panel Meetings for negotiation of spacecraft development, 12-15 Dec. 1961.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-6. Influences on Booster Determination

    Concurrently with the agreement that Gilruth should get started on the spacecraft development contract, Associate Administrator Seamans realized that it was time to decide what the rest of the Apollo stack should comprise. The method chosen for the lunar trip—rendezvous or direct ascent—would affect Apollo's costs and schedules, as well as the launch vehicle configuration.

    A launch vehicle to support the moon landing was a big question mark when the President issued his challenge in May 1961. The Space Task Group wanted to get its opinions on the record—not really sure how big a vehicle would be needed but rather hoping that NASA would develop the Nova. Marshall wanted to build a big liquid-fueled rocket but was a little chary about tackling a vehicle the size of Nova. One aspect that caused the Huntsville center to hold back was the high cost projected for the F-1 engines. When he learned of Huntsville's misgivings, Max Faget suggested that solid-fueled rockets be used for the first stage.

    Faget thought the first stage should consist of four solid-fueled engines, 6.6 meters in diameter; these could certainly accomplish whatever mission was required of either the Saturn or Nova, whichever was chosen, at a reasonable cost. It made good sense, he said, to use cheap solid fuels for expendable rockets and more expensive liquid fuels for reusable engines. “We called the individual solid rocket 'the Tiger' because we figured it would be a noisy animal and would roar like a tiger,” Faget remembered. But he and his group could not sell their idea. Liquids were preferred by both Headquarters and Marshall, who insisted that the solids were too heavy to move from the casting pit to the launch pad. They also argued, he said, that solids had poor burning characteristics and were unstable. So the launch vehicle question dragged on, although pressure to make some sort of decision did not lessen.33

    After the Fleming and Lundin Committee study reports had been distributed, Seamans met with several Headquarters program directors to discuss whether the advanced Saturn, called the C-3, recommended by Lundin's team could make the voyage to the moon if the earth-orbital rendezvous approach were chosen. Silverstein warned that the vehicle's upper stages were simply not well enough defined as yet. 34 Seamans agreed. On 20 June 1961, he asked Colonel Donald H. Heaton to head a task force* to study the C-3 and its possible employment in a manned lunar landing mission using rendezvous techniques.35

    Heaton's group followed Fleming's lead in narrowing the scope of its investigations to a single mode—in this case, earth-orbital rendezvous—as the way to go. Most of the members agreed that this mode offered the earliest chance for a landing. Either the C-3 or its next larger version, a C-4, could be used. But the team urged that NASA begin work on the C-4, because it “should offer a higher probability of an earlier successful manned lunar landing than the C-3.” Moreover, a rendezvous capability would enable the C-4 to cope with future payload increases that the direct-ascent, Nova-class booster, with its fixed thrust, would be unable to handle.36

    On 22 June 1961, Webb and Dryden met with several of their top lieutenants to see what useful items could be gleaned from the reports of all these committees for charting Apollo's strategy. Abraham Hyatt, the new chief of Plans and Programs, criticized any plan that required development of two launch vehicles, one for circumlunar missions and another for direct flight. Hyatt suggested that NASA either build a huge launch vehicle with as many as eight F-1 engines in the first stage for both circumlunar flight and lunar landing or cluster half that number of these engines in a somewhat smaller vehicle and use rendezvous techniques.37

    This meeting did produce several significant program decisions. Most important was the order for Marshall to stop work on the C-2, begin preliminary design on the C-3, and continue studies of a much larger vehicle for lunar landing missions. (By this time, what constituted a Saturn, in any of its versions, or a Nova was becoming hard to understand. For some clarification of the confusion, see the accompanying list.)38

    Early in July, Seamans appointed a Lunar Landing Steering Committee,** with himself as chairman, to meet every Monday afternoon until an impending Headquarters reorganization was completed. During its three meetings in July, the committee considered the facilities and organization needed to manage Apollo and then turned its attention to launch vehicles. But nothing tangible emerged from these discussions, either, certainly no hardbound decision on a launch vehicle for Apollo.39


    Apollo Launch Vehicles

    Saturn C-1 (renamed Saturn I).*

    Configuration: S-1 booster (eight H-1 engines, clustered, with 6.7-million-newton [1.5-million-pound] combined thrust), S-IV second stage (four engines using liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen propellants, with 355,800-newton [80,000-pound] total thrust), and S-V third stage (two engines like those in the S-IV stage, with 177,900-newton [40,000-pound] total). In March 1961, NASA approved a change in the S-IV stage to six engines that, though less powerful individually, delivered 400,300-newtons (90,000-pound thrust) collectively. On 1 June 1961, the S-V was dropped from the configuration.

    Saturn C-1B (renamed Saturn IB).*

    Configuration: S-IB booster (eight clustered uprated H-1 engines with 7.1-million-newton [1.6-million-pound] total thrust) and S-IVB second stage (one J-2 engine with 889,600 newtons [200,000 pounds]). On 11 July 1962, NASA announced that the C-IB would launch unmanned and manned Apollo spacecraft into earth orbit.

    Saturn C-2.

    Four-stage configuration: S-I booster, S-II second stage (not defined), S-IV third stage, and S-V fourth stage.

    Three-stage configuration: S-I booster, S-II second stage (not defined), and S-IV third stage. Plans for the C-2 were canceled in June 1961 in favor of the proposed C-3.

    Saturn C-3.

    Configuration: booster stage (two F-1 engines with a combined thrust of 13.3 million newtons [3 million pounds]), second stage (four J-2 engines with a 3.6-million-newton total [800,000 pounds]), and S-IV third stage. Plans for the C-3 were canceled for a more powerful launch vehicle.

    Saturn C-4.

    Configuration: booster stage (four clustered F-1 engines with 26.7-million-newton [6-million-pound] combined thrust) and a second stage (four J-2 engines with combined thrust of 3.6 million newtons [800,000 pounds]). The C-4 was briefly considered but rejected for the C-5.

    Saturn C-5 (renamed Saturn V).*

    Configuration: S-IC booster (five F-1 engines, clustered, with total thrust of 33.4 million newtons [7.5 million pounds]), S-II second stage (five J-2 engines with total of 4.5 million newtons [1 million pounds]), and S-IVB third stage.

    Saturn C-8.

    Configuration: First stage (eight F-1 engines, clustered, with a combined 53.4 million newtons [12-million-pound thrust]), second stage (eight J-2 engines with total of 7.1 million newtons [1.6 million pounds]), and third stage (one J-2 engine with 889,600 newtons [200,000 pounds]).

    Nova.

    Configuration: several proposed, all using F-1 engines in the first stage. One typical configuration consisted of a first stage (eight F-1 engines, clustered, with 53.4-million-newton [12-million-pound] total thrust), a second stage (four liquid-hydrogen M-1 engines with combined thrust of 21.4 million newtons [4.8 million pounds]), and a third stage (one J-2 engine with 889,600 newtons [200,000 pounds]). Nuclear upper stages were also proposed.

    *Only the three vehicles indicated by an asterisk were actually developed and flown in the Apollo program.


    * Heaton's committee was made up of Commander L. E. Baird (Navy); Richard B. Canright, Norman Rafel, Joseph E. McGolrick, L. H. Glassman, John L. Hammersmith, Robert D. Briskman, James Nolan, Warren North, and William H. Woodward (NASA Headquarters); Wilson B. Schramm, R. Voss, Paul J. DeFries, Heinz Koelle, and Harry Ruppe (Marshall); William H. Phillips and John Houbolt (Langley); Hubert M. Drake (Flight Research Center); and J. Yolles (Air Force Systems Command).

    ** The steering committee attendance was flexible; the only members who met regularly were Seamans, Don Ostrander, Ray Romatowski, and Fleming (committee secretary). Less frequent attendees were Silverstein, Ira Abbott, Hyatt, DeMarquis D. Wyatt, Nicholas E. Golovin, Alfred Mayo, G. Dale Smith, John D. Young, Charles H. Roadman, Low, Milton W. Rosen, and Wesley Hjornevik (all of Headquarters); Eberhard F. M. Rees and Hans H. Mans (of Marshall); and Gilruth (STG).


    33. Faget, interview, comments on draft edition of this volume, Houston, 22 Nov. 1976.

    34. DeMarquis D. Wyatt memo for record, “Discussions with the Associate Administrator on June 15, 1961,” 20 June 1961.

    35. Seamans to Dirs., Launch Vehicle Prog., et al., “Establishment of Ad Hoc Task Group for Manned Lunar Landing by Rendezvous Techniques,” 20 June 1961.

    36. NASA, “Earth Orbital Rendezvous for an Early Manned Lunar Landing,” pt. I, “Summary Report of Ad Hoc Task Group Study” [Heaton Report], August 1961.

    37. Abraham Hyatt, “Proposed Items for Discussion at Meeting on 22 June 1961,” 20 June 1961; Hyatt to Seamans, “Comments on Arthur Kantrowitz's paper very glamorously titled 'Space Strategy for America,'“ 20 June 1961.

    38. “Composite Notes on June 22, 1961 Meeting”; MSFC, “Saturn Project Fact Sheet,” 1 June 1961; David S. Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology: Saturn's First Eleven Years, April 1957 through April 1968, 5th ed., MHR-5 (Huntsville, Ala.: MSFC, 20 Jan. 1971), p. 4; James E. Webb memo for record, “Selection of Contractors to Participate in Second Phase of SATURN S-II Stage Competition,” 8 June 1961; Ertel and Morse, Apollo Spacecraft Chronology, I: 234-35.

    39. Seamans to Admin., NASA, “Proposed Interim Procedures for Implementing the Lunar Landing Program,” 7 July 1964; Maj. Gen. Don R. Ostrander memo, “Manned Lunar Landing Program,” 10 July 1961, with enc.; William A. Fleming, secy., “Discussion Notes: First Meeting of Manned Lunar Landing Steering Committee,” 6 July, “Second Meeting,” 17 July, and “Third Meeting,” 31 July 1961; Low to Dir., Space Flight Prog., “Meeting of Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group,” 8 July 1961

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-7. Help from the Department of Defense

    Top-flight officials both in NASA and the Kennedy administration, when they recommended a moon landing program as the focus of America's space effort, saw Apollo as a central element of a broad national space program. The United States needed not only to develop more powerful boosters, to match Russia's, but to plan that development with a minimum of unnecessary duplication among agencies. 40

    Early in July 1961, Seamans and John H. Rubel, Assistant Secretary of Defense and Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, agreed on the need for joint NASA-Defense planning. Seamans informed Webb that the two agencies would try to determine what boosters would best meet the requirements of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA. The civilian agency's central concern, of course, was a launch vehicle for Apollo.41

    With the approval of both Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Administrator Webb,42 Rubel and Seamans set up a DoD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group on 20 July. Although Nicholas Golovin, an applied mathematician and Seamans' Technical Assistant, shared the chair with Lawrence Kavanau, a missile expert from the Defense Department, the group soon became known as the Golovin Committee.*

    This committee, like all the others, found that, for Apollo, vehicle selection and mode were inseparable. At first the planners considered only direct ascent and earth-orbital rendezvous, but they soon broadened their study to include other kinds of rendezvous. 43 When it became apparent that the committee intended to delve deeply into the mode issue, Harvey Hall (of NASA's Office of Launch Vehicle Programs) asked that Marshall, Langley, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory each study one particular kind of rendezvous—earth-orbit, lunar-orbit, or lunar-surface—and prepare a report for the Golovin group. Hall's own office would study direct ascent. 44

    Worried that this latest in the series of Headquarters committees established to select a launch vehicle for Apollo would also get bogged down in the mode issue, Gilruth wrote Golovin about the degree to which rendezvous had pervaded recent thinking. “I feel that it is highly desirable,” he said, “to develop a launch vehicle with sufficient performance and reliability to carry out the lunar landing mission using the direct approach. . . . I am concerned that rendezvous schemes may be used as a crutch to achieve early planned dates for launch vehicle availability, and to avoid the difficulty of developing a reliable NOVA class launch vehicle.”45

    Just as Gilruth had feared, Golovin's group did get mired in the mode issue, leaving the choice of an Apollo launch vehicle still unsettled. On 18 September, one committee member said the group preferred rendezvous rather than direct flight, because smaller vehicles would be available earlier than the large boosters. Preliminary conclusions indicated that the manned lunar landing might be made with the C-4 more safely than with the Nova. Moreover, the C-4 would be more useful to other NASA and Defense Department long-range needs.46

    Golovin himself disagreed with the majority of his group, insisting that direct flight was the safest and best way to go. He and those of his team who shared his belief talked to Seamans and Rubel about solid-fueled versus liquid-fueled rocket engines for Nova, the concept of modules (or building blocks to achieve a variety of launch vehicles, and an S-IVB stage, which could be powered by a single J-2 engine.

    Seamans, observing that some kind of advanced Saturn seemed to be inevitable, asked Golovin how many F-1 engines should be in the vehicle's first stage. Golovin replied, “Four—anything [less] is a waste of time.” Golovin also recommended that the advanced Saturn be engineered so it could become most of the Nova as well. 47

    At the committee's general sessions on 23 and 24 October, debates grew hotter over solid- versus liquid fueled engines for the Nova, the size of the huge booster, and the merits of five rather than four F-1 engines in the advanced Saturn's first stage. Heinrich Weigand and Matthew Collins objected strongly to any assumption that rendezvous in space would be easy. Weigand contended that his fellow committeemen were underestimating the difficulty of rendezvous and docking. He wanted a Nova with large solidfueled rocket engines in its first stage. Collins also urged that direct ascent be given first priority.

    Cochairman Kavanau warned that “lunar orbit rendezvous or direct is the only way to beat the Russians,” adding that he believed the C-4 could do the job either way. Golovin countered that “competition with the Russians is a permanent thing.” He insisted that both orbital operations and the development of large boosters would have to be studied for at least two years before any mode choice was possible.

    After listening to the cochairmen express opposing views, Collins asked bluntly: “Are we going to recommend rendezvous or direct?” Reminded that this was not in their charter—they were supposed to be selecting a launch vehicle to support either rendezvous or direct flight—the group returned to the arguments over four versus five engines for the advanced Saturn's first stage and the Nova's configuration.48

    And there the issues lay. Once again nothing was settled, although the October sessions wound up the Golovin Committee meetings. The group's greatest value had been as a forum for discussions on vehicle models and possible configurations for Apollo. The committee's conclusions—or lack of them—reflected compromises and conflicting opinions. After three months' intensive study of numerous vehicle combinations and mission approaches, the question of a launch vehicle for Apollo was still unreso1ved.49

    On 16 November, Webb and McNamara reviewed the areas explored by Golovin's group and made several policy decisions. They agreed to halt the development of large solid rocket motors (6.1 meters or larger) as a backup for the F-1 liquid engine, although the Defense Department would “continue to carry out advanced state-of-the-art technical development in the solid field.” And they decided that the Saturn C-4 should be developed for the rendezvous approach to Apollo. 50


    * The Golovin Committee originally comprised 14 member and alternate positions, equally divided between DoD and NASA. By the end of the study, these had expanded to 18 and included personnel from Aerospace Corp. (acting as advisers to DoD). The final roster listed Golovin (chairman), Eldon Hall, Harvey Hall, Milton W. Rosen, Kurt R. Stehling, and William W. Wolman (NASA Headquarters); Laurence Kavanau (cochairman and Director of Office of Defense); Warren Amster and Edward J. Barlow (Aerospace); Aleck C. Bond (Space Task Group); Seymour C. Himmel (Lewis); Wilson B. Schramm and Francis L. Williams (Marshall); Colonel Mathew R. Collins (Army); Rear Admiral Levering Smith and Captain Lewis J. Stecher, Jr. (Navy); and Colonel Otto J. Glasser, Lieutenant Colonel David L. Garter, and Heinrich J. Weigand (Air Force). James F. Chalmers, Aerospace, was secretary.


    40. Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation,” p. 27.

    41. Seamans to Admin., NASA, “Planning of a DOD-NASA Program for Development of Large Launch Vehicles,” 7 July 1961; Seamans to John H. Rubel, 3 Aug. 1961.

    42. Webb to Robert S. McNamara and McNamara to Webb, 7 July 1961.

    43. [Nicholas E. Golovin], draft report of DoD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG), 3 vols., [November 1961]; James F. Chalmers, minutes of special LLVPG meeting with Silverstein, 18 Aug. 1961; Golovin and Lawrence L. Kavanau to Launch Vehicle Panel, Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, “Report of the DOD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG) as of August 31, 1961,” 31 Aug. 1961.

    44. Harvey Hall TWX to Dirs., MSFC, LRC, and JPL, 24 Aug. 1961; Hall to Asst. Dir., Vehicles, “Comparative Evaluation of Various Rendezvous Operations,” 24 Aug. 1961; Hall TWX to John W. Small, Jr., et al., 14 Sept. 1961; Hall to LLVPG staff, “Comparison of Mission Alternatives (Rendezvous versus direct flight),” 14 Sept. 1961.

    45. Gilruth to Golovin, 12 Sept. 1961.

    46. Warren Amster to LLVPG staff, “A 'Federated' Launch Vehicle Program,” 18 Sept. 1961. For more on the role of Amster's parent company, see [Walter T. Bonney], The Aerospace Corporation, 1960-1970: Serving America (El Segundo: Aerospace Corp., 1971).

    47. Chalmers, minutes of LLVPG special meeting with Seamans: progress report, 29 Sept. 1961; idem, minutes of special LLVPG meeting with Seamans, 6 Oct. 1961.

    48. Chalmers, minutes of LLVPG general meetings, 23 and 24 Oct. 1961.

    49. “Final Report, NASA-DOD Large Launch vehicle Planning Group,” NASA-DOD LLVPG 105 [Golovin Committee], 3 vols., 1 Feb. 1962.

    50. McNamara to Webb, 17 Nov. 1961; Webb to McNamara, 28 Nov. 1961.


    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-8. Choice of Facilities

    While the launch vehicle was being debated by committee after committee, Administrator Webb was making decisions on the numbers, kinds, and locations of the special facilities and real estate needed to launch men to the moon, Within five Months—from June to October 1961—four new installations, all in the Gulf Coast states, had been added to NASA's far-flung domain.51

    C-1 1st stage test firing

    Booster stages for Redstone, Jupiter, and Saturn vehicles were tested at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. Above, in 1960, Saturn C-1 first-stage engines are static-fired for the first time.


    Although size of the launch vehicle for Apollo had still not been decided, everybody agreed it would be big, too big for the launch pads at the Cape. The first thing NASA needed was a more adequate spaceport. To fabricate and assemble the lower stages of whatever rocket was selected would require a huge manufacturing plant, preferably one already in existence. The agency would need additional land, separate from the spaceport but near the factory, to static-test the booster. Safety and noise considerations demanded an immense area that could contain not only the test stands but a buffer zone as well. And, finally, if Gilruth's team was to manage all manned space flight projects, as it had been assigned to do in January 1961, there would have to be a site for spacecraft engineering and development facilities.

    The monstrous size envisioned for the launch vehicle and the need for these installations to be accessible to each other brought an additional factor into play. Since the booster would have to be transported by water, the agency would need ice-free waterways for year-round operations. NASA planners looked, logically, at the Gulf Coast, which had a temperate climate and an intercoastal waterway system. Two of the five states, Florida and Alabama, already had Apollo-oriented centers, which led to the reasoning that the new facilities should be situated nearby.52

    Kurt H. Debus, as leader of NASA's launch operations (first for Wernher von Braun, then for all of the agency's flights from Cape Canaveral, Florida), had long dreamed of building a spaceport. In July 1961, he and Major General Leighton I. Davis, Commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center at the Cape, endorsed a report on eight proposed sites. Led by Major Rocco A. Petrone, Colonel Leonard Shapiro, and Colonel Asa B. Gibbs, the Debus-Davis study group evaluated Cape Canaveral (offshore); Cape Canaveral (onshore—Merritt Island); Mayaguana (in the Bahama Islands); Cumberland Island (off the southeastern coast of Georgia); Brownsville, Texas; Christmas Island; Hawaii; and White Sands, New Mexico. Only White Sands and Merritt Island were economically competitive, flexible, and safe enough to be considered further.53 On 24 August, NASA announced that it had chosen Merritt Island and that it would buy 323 square kilometers of land for the new NASA launch center.

    Debus had well-thought-out ideas for mobile launch operations facilities: the big boosters would be assembled stacked vertically and checked out under protective cover and then moved to the launch pad. He drew up plans for personnel buildup, construction contracts, and administrative autonomy. On 7 March 1962, when Marshall's Launch Operations Directorate became NASA's Launch Operations Center, Debus was ready. (After the assassination of the President in November 1963, the new installation would be renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center.)54

    In Huntsville, von Braun viewed the facilities for an accelerated booster development program in a different light. His 6,000 employees were housed in part of the Army's Redstone Arsenal, on the Tennessee River. Although it was adequate for engineering development and static-testing of smaller rockets, the Marshall center could not handle the immense vehicles planned for the lunar voyage. Von Braun would need land and facilities elsewhere, but with access to the navigable waters of the Tennessee Valley Authority. A survey of government-owned war surplus plants revealed one near St. Louis and another (named Michoud) near New Orleans that were suitable for building the huge boosters. But the Mississippi River around St. Louis often froze over during the winter months. So Michoud, with a mammoth building that contained 0.17 square kilometers under one roof as part of a 3.5-square-kilometer complex along the water's edge, was selected on 7 September 1961. * Designed as a shipyard, it had become a cargo aircraft factory in 1943 and a tank engine plant during the Korean conflict. Here the Chrysler Corporation and The Boeing Company would construct the first stages of the Saturn C-1 and, later, of the C-3, C-4, or C-5 (or whatever model was chosen).55

    The Michoud facility

    To assemble the large Saturns, NASA needed a plant, preferably one already built. The Michoud facility (above), close to New Orleans, suited the requirements.


    Saturn IBs inside Michoud

    Inside Michoud in 1968 (above), Saturn IBs are on the assembly line.


    Influencing the Michoud decision was the need for a test operations area nearby where acoustics could be managed and controlled, as well as logistics. Von Braun's team had always worried about the noise and vibration generated during static-testing (and so had the citizens of Huntsville). As boosters became larger, they became louder, and their low-frequency resonances threatened all kinds of structural damage. Using statistics gathered from Saturn C-1 decibel and vibration levels, acoustics experts estimated that the advanced Saturn would require a much larger buffer zone.

    Marshall occupied only about 65 square kilometers of the more than 161-square-kilometer Redstone Arsenal, and the Army needed the rest of the land for its own rocket development and test programs. But even the whole expanse would not have been large enough for the superbooster. What NASA required was about 400 square kilometers. So large a purchase could be touchy if not properly handled. NASA officials worked through Congress, while site survey teams operated through the executive branch and administrative channels on a gargantuan land deal not far from Michoud. Lieutenant Colonel S. F. Berry, detailed to NASA's Office of Launch Vehicle Programs from the Army Corps of Engineers, helped the selection committee narrow the test site choices.56

    Mississippi test facility

    When the Saturn booster grew in size, NASA obtained land in a less populated area, in Mississippi on the Pearl River near the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1968 photograph above, test stands appear beside the waterways.


    On 25 October 1961, NASA announced that it would purchase outright 54 square kilometers in southwest Mississippi and obtain easement rights over another 518 square kilometers in Mississippi and Louisiana for the big booster static-test site. Simultaneously, the Justice Department filed suits of condemnation, under the law of eminent domain, in the United States District Courts in both states. The area, largely flat pine forest, was on the Pearl River, only 56 kilometers northeast of Michoud. Well suited to NASA's needs because of its deep-water access and low-density population, the Pearl River site was bought for about $18 million. While engineers at Marshall drew up specifications for static-test stands, canals, and storage areas, nearly 100 families, including the whole community of Gainsville, Mississippi, had to sell out and relocate. There were few complaints, as most of the residents were pleased at the prospect of new economic opportunities.57

    Meanwhile, Ralph E. Ulmer and Paul G. Dembling, facilities and legal experts at NASA Headquarters, were saddled with most of the worries connected with the whirlwind activities of site scouting and selection for the manned space flight center. For example, Ames Research Center Associate Director John F. Parsons, who led the search for the spacecraft development center, reported to Dembling and Ulmer, and no one else, on the whereabouts of his team and its need for advice and support. Webb, Dryden, and Seamans referred all inquiries to Dembling, in an effort to avoid undue pressures from persons and groups trying to advance local prospects.58

    On 13 and 14 September 1961, Webb and Dryden reviewed all the factors in selecting the site for manned space flight activities and decided to move that NASA function to Houston. ** NASA announced the decision on 19 September 1961. Gilruth and his Space Task Group would soon have a home of their own to manage, a place in which to develop the payloads for future rockets. Webb called it “the command center for the manned lunar landing and follow-on manned space flight missions,” intimating that an integrated mission control center would also be located in the Houston area.

    The new MSC

    Above is a 1964 photograph of the new Manned Spacecraft Center at Clear Lake near Houston.


    Most Space Task Group “Virginians”—both native and otherwise— were not very happy over the prospect of a transfer to Texas. But NASA's opportunity to accept a politically arranged gift of four square kilometers of saltgrass pastureland was too good to refuse. *** Of course, there were the usual charges of undue political influence, largely from the areas that had been turned down. The fact that there were Texans in powerful political positions—Vice President Johnson and Congressman Albert W. Thomas (chairman of the House Independent Offices Appropriations Committee)—provided much of the ammunition for a brief barrage of critical newsprint. (Later, when NASA spent more than $1 million to acquire an additional two square kilometers for better frontage, the accusations of “special interests" were revived. But the Houston area met all the technical criteria for the new center. The seventh (soon to be sixth) largest city in the country, Houston had the utilities, transportation, and weather, as well as all the cultural, academic, industrial, and recreational specifications.59

    Webb knew that facilities and construction were critical to success in landing on the moon during the 1960s. He called on the Army Corps of Engineers for assistance, rather than face the costly and time-consuming struggle of staffing a NASA office for this one-time task. The Corps would be invaluable in acquiring land at both Merritt Island and Michoud and in constructing new facilities at the Cape, at Michoud, and at Houston. Webb asked Lieutenant General W. K. Wilson, Chief of Engineers, to join him in this enterprise almost as a partner.60

    Although the acquisition of real estate had demanded his close attention, the Administrator had never lost sight of the urgency of the Apollo launch vehicle and lunar landing mode questions. These needed to be resolved before the Corps of Engineers and NASA's facilities engineers could do very much about designing the supporting installations.61


    * Although the Saturn versus Nova debates continued, the selection of Michoud ended all chances of clustering eight F-1 engines in the first stage—unless the plant roof were raised. The fact that only four or five barrels could be put together did not worry Marshall, as this number would be more than enough to support assembly in earth orbit, that center's favored mode. Proponents of direct flight had essentially lost their vehicle; but they continued to argue for another year, anyway.

    ** For details of procedures and the criteria on which the decision was based, see Appendix A.

    *** Webb had written Gilruth in June 1961 that he seriously doubted NASA would be permitted to establish any large activity including several thousand more people in the Virginia area. Although no commitment had been made, Webb had learned from Congressman Thomas that Rice University in Houston had set aside 15 square kilometers of land for a research institution. Its location near the Houston ship channel made it highly desirable for NASA. Earlier, Don Ostrander had recommended to Seamans that the Space Task Group be moved to and combined with Marshall in Huntsville.


    51. Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), pp. 198-239.

    52. William E. Lilly, “Facilities in Support of Manned Space Flight,” in Proceedings of the Second NASA-Industry Program Plans Conference, February 11-12, 1963, NASA SP-29 (Washington, 1963), pp. 51-59.

    53. The “Debus-Davis Study” was officially titled “NASA-DOD Joint Report on Facilities and Resources Required at Launch Site to Support NASA Manned Lunar Landing Program,” Phase I Rept., 31 July 1961.

    54. Seamans TWX to all NASA field elements, 24 Aug. 1961; “Agreement between DOD and NASA Relating to the Launch Site for the Manned Lunar Landing Program,” signed by Webb and Roswell Gilpatric on 24 Aug. 1961; Seamans to Lt. Gen. W. K. Wilson, Jr., 21 Sept. 1961; Webb to Wilson, 22 Sept. 1961; Launch Operations Directorate, “Study: Feasibility of Relocation from Cape Canaveral to Merritt Island, NASA Launch Operations Directorate Industrial Facilities and Apollo Spacecraft Mission Support Facilities,” December 1961; Francis E. Jarrett, Jr., and Robert A. Lindemann, “Historical Origins of the Launch Operations Center to July 1, 1962,” draft ed., KSC Historical Monograph 1, December 1964; [Gordon L. Harris], The Kennedy Space Center Story (Kennedy Space Center, Fla., January 1969); Angela C. Gresser, “Historical Aspects Concerning the Redesignation of Facilities at Cape Canaveral,” KSC Historical Note 1, April 1964.

    55. Fleming notes, 31 July 1961; David S. Akens et al., “History of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center from July 1 to December 31, 1961,” 1, MSFC Historical Monograph 4, March 1962, pp. 37-41; “Michoud Assembly Facility,” MSFC fact sheet, 20 July 1965; NASA, “NASA Selects New Orleans Plant for Space Vehicle Assembly,” news release 61-201, 7 Sept. 1961; William Zigler, “History of NASA MTF and Michoud: The Fertile Southern Crescent: Bayou Country and the American Race into Space,” NASA HHN-127, September 1972, pp. 15-16, 25.

    56. Leo L. Jones, “A Brief History of Mississippi Test Facility, 1961-1966,” pp. 1-11; NASA, “NASA Selects Launch Vehicle Test Site,” news release 61-236, 25 Oct. 1961.

    57. NASA, “NASA Selects Test Site”; Jones, “Brief History.”

    58. Silverstein to Admin., NASA, “proposed site selection criteria and site survey team for the proposed manned spacecraft center,” n.d.; John F. Parsons et al., “Final Report of the Site Survey Team for a Manned Space Flight Laboratory,” September 1961; Paul G. Dembling, interview, Washington,25 Sept. 1969; U.S. Army, “Army Engineers Award Contract for Initial Construction of NASA Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston,” news release, 29 March 1962.

    59. Webb, memo for the President, no. subj., 14 Sept. 1961; ibid., 14 Sept. 1961, with enc., “Site Selection Criteria”; T. Keith Glennan to Rep. Albert W. Thomas, “Construction of Laboratory near Houston, Texas,” 3 Nov. 1958; Ostrander to Seamans, “Reflections on the Present American Posture in Space,” 21 April 1961; Webb to the Vice President, no subj., 23 May 1961; Webb to Gilruth, 14 June 1961; Robert B. Memifield, “Men and Spacecraft: A History of the Manned Spacecraft Center (1958-1969),” draft, pp. III-22 to III-33; Stephen B. Oates, “NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 67, no. 3 (January 1964): 350-75; Gilruth to staff, “Location of new site for Space Task Group,” 19 Sept. 1961, with enc., “Manned Space Flight Laboratory Location,” draft news release 61-207; NASA, “Manned Space Flight Laboratory Location Study Completed,” news release 61-207, 19 Sept. 1961; Col. R. P. West to NASA Spacecraft Center, 5 Jan. 1962; Dryden and Seamans to Admin., NASA, “Requirement for a 1,600-acre Site for the Manned Spacecraft Center,” 5 Feb. 1962; R. A. Diaz to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Acquisition of 600 acres of additional land for the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas,” 16 Feb. 1962; Webb to George R. Brown, 23 Feb. 1962; John A. Johnson to Chief of Engineers, Attn.: Frederick M. Figert, 23 Feb. 1962.

    60. Webb to Wilson, 22 Sept. 1961.

    61. See Webbs' foreword in Rosholt, Administrative History, pp. iii-vi.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch2-9. The Launch Vehicle: Question and Decision

    Late in September 1961, Webb announced a major reorganization of NASA, effective 1 November. Technical issues had to be resolved and leadership to be improved. Committees—no matter how many—could study problems and recommend solutions, but they could not make decisions or run a program.

    Webb, Dryden, and Seamans had scoured the country for the right man to take charge of the Office of Manned Space Flight and Apollo. On 21 September, Webb appointed D. Brainerd Holmes as Director of OMSF, to head all manned space flight activity for Headquarters. Three days later, the Administrator announced a major shakeup at NASA's top levels that saw Silverstein return to Cleveland as Director of the Lewis Research Center.

    Holmes was an electrical engineer who had been project manager for the ballistic missile early warning system across the Arctic Circle. He came to NASA from the Radio Corporation of America's Major Defense Systems Division. Webb and Holmes intended for Headquarters to take a larger part in Apollo than it had in Mercury. To strengthen this position, they hired Joseph F. Shea, from Space Technology Laboratories, Inc., as Holmes' deputy, to concentrate on systems engineering.

    Apollo's acceleration brought an administrative change for the Space Task Group, in addition to the physical move from Virginia to Texas. Redesignated the Manned Spacecraft Center, it dropped its one-program image as a task force for Mercury and assumed its role as the center for all manned space flight programs. Gilruth continued as Director. 62

    By November 1961, then, the agency had been reorganized to conduct the program more efficiently; sites and facilities had been identified to build, check out, support, and launch the lunar vehicles; and contracts had been awarded for the command section of the spacecraft, the guidance and navigation system, and various engines and stages of the launch vehicle. Much of the Apollo puzzle had been pieced together, but the principal questions of booster configuration and mission mode were still unanswered, although there were hopes for a solution in the near future.

    SA-1 launch

    Maiden launch of the Apollo program: Saturn SA-1 from Cape Canaveral, 27 October 1961.


    On 27 October, the engine cluster concept of launch vehicle stages was successfully demonstrated. A little after 10 in the morning, the eight barrels of the Saturn C-1 spewed flames as the booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral. This maiden launch of the program, carrying only dummy stages filled with water, augured well for a successful flight test program and for Apollo in general, but the 5.8 million newtons (1.3 million pounds) of thrust generated was far short of that needed to get men to the moon and back safely.63

    On 6 November, Milton Rosen (now NASA Director of Launch Vehicles and Propulsion told Seamans and Holmes that he was setting up another special in-house committee to try to pin down the large launch vehicle development program. Although he admitted that he would be repeating much of the work of Golovin's Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, Seamans and Holmes encouraged Rosen to proceed, hoping this committee might produce some tangible results.

    The committee members* came almost entirely from Rosen's office. Noticeably lacking were spacecraft people, with only John Disher to represent them until David Hammock, of Gilruth's center, belatedly joined the group. The team examined specific areas—problems of orbital rendezvous, configuration of the advanced Saturn, plans for Nova, future potential of solid-fueled rocket motor development, and NASA's possible use for the Defense Department's Titan III.#source64``64

    Rosen's committee spent most of its two weeks of concentrated effort closeted in a motel room in Huntsville, near the Marshall center. 65 But, when Rosen reported to Holmes on 20 November, he had to concede that there were still differences within the committee on rendezvous versus direct flight and on solid versus liquid motors. He nonetheless contended that the group as a whole was in accord:

    We took the view that the Golovin Committee had opened doors to a room which should be explored in order to formulate a program. Our report consists of a finer cut of the Golovin recommendations—it is more specific with regard to the content and emphasis of a program.66

    The Rosen Committee concluded that rendezvous (preferably a single operational maneuver) could be performed in either earth or lunar orbit, but the latter had the advantages of a single Saturn launch from the earth, using the C-4 or C-5, and a smaller, specially designed landing craft. A missed rendezvous, however, would prove fatal in lunar orbit. Moreover, the lunar lander, or ferry, which could place only a small payload on the moon, would permit a very limited staytime and would restrict the amount of scientific equipment that could be carried to the lunar surface. Although his group found earth orbit, where a missed rendezvous would mean only an aborted mission, more attractive, Rosen said, there was as yet no way of judging its difficulties or of estimating realistic schedules for development of docking and refueling techniques.

    By this time, NASA officials in many quarters viewed the advanced Saturn as having at least four F-1 engines in its first stage. Rosen, convinced that NASA must build the biggest booster possible, recommended sliding a fifth engine in at the junction of two very strong crossbeams that supported the other four engines, With this extra power, he later said, either rendezvous mode—earth or lunar orbit—was possible.

    Actually, Rosen himself favored direct flight; he believed it was a safer and surer way to reach the moon within the decade. He recommended the development of a Nova with eight F-1 engines in the first stage, which would be no more difficult, technically, than a five-engined Saturn.

    Rosen's group opposed large solid-fueled rockets for manned lunar landing. There were too many technical problems to ensure a reasonable degree of reliability. Since the liquid-fueled F-1 and J-2 engines would be built for the Saturn C-5 anyway, why not use them in the Nova? The S-IVB stage should be used for the third stage of both the C-5 and Nova.67

    VAB and 500-F rollout

    Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building (above; earlier called the Vertical Assembly Building) stands high on Florida's Atlantic coast; the Saturn 500-F launch vehicle rides on a mobile crawler toward the launch pad in the 1966 photo.


    On 4 December 1961, Holmes learned that Seamans essentially agreed with the committee's recommendations.68 Later in the month, Holmes established the Manned Space Flight Management Council—composed of himself, his principal subordinates at Headquarters, and senior officials from the manned space flight centers**—to set high-level policy for all manned space activities.69 At its first meeting, on 21 December, the council voted to develop the Saturn C-5. 70

    Early in January 1962, Holmes prepared a preliminary plan for the super-Saturn. He urged Seamans to release some of the money that had been authorized for an advanced Saturn, since negotiations with the three prospective contractors*** were being delayed by the indefinite status of 1962 funding.71 In deciding on the C-5, the planners endowed the Apollo launch vehicle with flexibility. It could serve as the booster for earth-orbit, circumlunar, and lunar-orbit missions. By launching two C-5s, a lunar landing could be made by earth-orbit rendezvous. And the C-5 seemed the best vehicle for the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode as well. 72

    Launch vehicle comparison

    Comparative sizes of manned space flight launch vehicles: Atlas for Mercury earth-orbital flight; Titan II for Gemini earth-orbital flight to perfect rendezvous procedures and study long-duration flight; Saturn C-5 chosen for Apollo; Nova, which would have been required for a direct flight landing on the moon.


    At the end of 1961, however, it was tacitly assumed at NASA Headquarters that the mode would be earth-orbit rendezvous. There was no distinct break, no real dividing line, marking the drift away from direct flight; the shift was so gradual that Seamans was unaware of the full import of changed feelings within the Office of Manned Space Flight and the field centers. “My own recollection is that we really kept both the direct ascent and the Earth orbit rendezvous as real possibilities,” he later commented.73

    Paralleling the switch to earth-orbit rendezvous, with direct flight as a backup, was the broadening realization also that the physical and financial realities of designing, building, and testing both the C-5 and Nova, almost concurrently, were perhaps beyond NASA's—and the country's—economic ability.74

    Officials mark O and C building

    Modules of the Apollo spacecraft were tested in Florida in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building. Above, NASA officials Walt Williams, Merritt Preston, Kurt Debus, Brainerd Holmes, and Wernher von Braun—assisted by Col. E. Richardson (Air Force and Col. H. R. Parfitt (Army Corps of Engineers)—are ready to spade dirt, to mark the beginning of construction of the building in January 1963.


    When Holmes became chief of NASA's manned programs, he had been confronted with two pressing technical problems—mission approach and the launch vehicle for Apollo. Within a few weeks the management council had settled the vehicle configuration. Holmes then assigned Joseph Shea to investigate the mode question further. 75 Although earth-orbit rendezvous was gaining ground in Washington, the devotees of direct flight were not giving in easily. And in the field elements things were no better: Marshall was united on earth-orbit rendezvous, but the Manned Spacecraft Center was split between direct flight and lunar-orbit rendezvous. Actually, the mode issue had smoldered almost from the day NASA opened for business, creating camps that favored one route or another and raising passions of individual promoters to the point of conducting evangelical missions to gather converts. The next chapter explores some of the deep-seated prejudices.


    * The committee consisted of Milton Rosen, Richard B. Canright, Eldon Hall, Elliott Mitchell, Norman Rafel, Melvin Savage, Adelbert O. Tischler, and John Disher (from Heatiquarters); William A. Mrasek, Hans H. Mans, and James B. Bramfet (Marshall); and David M. Hammock (Manned Spacecraft Center).

    ** The Management Council comprised Holmes, Low, Rosen, Charles H. Roadman, William E. Lilly, and Joseph F. Shea (Headquarters); von Braun and Eberhard F. M. Rees (Marshall); and Gilruth and Walter C. Williams (Manned Spacecraft Center).

    *** The three were Boeing, first stage; North American, second stage; and Douglas, third (S-IVB) stage.


    62. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, pp. 48-49, 77; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1963: Hearings on H.R. 11737, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, pp. 368-69; Seamans to D. Brainerd Holmes, 25 Oct. 1961; MSC, “Designation of STG as 'Manned Spacecraft Center,'“ Announcement 2, 1 Nov. 1961.

    63. Akens et al., “History of Marshall from July 1 to December 31, 1961,” pp. 26-27.

    64. Milton W. Rosen to Holmes, “Large Launch Vehicle Program,” 6 Nov. 1961, and “Recommendations for NASA Manned Space Flight Vehicle Program,” 20 Nov. 1961, with enc., “Report of Combined Working Group on Vehicles for Manned Space Flight”; Rosen, interview, Washington, 15 Sept. 1966.

    65. Rosen interview.

    66. Rosen memo, 20 Nov. 1961.

    67. Rosen memo enc., “Report of Combined Working Group on Vehicles”; [Barton C. Hacker], notes on interview with Rosen, Washington, 14 Nov. 1969.

    68. Seamans to Holmes, “Recommendations for NASA Manned Space Flight Vehicle Program,” 4 Dec. 1961.

    69. Rosholt, Administrative History, pp. 274-75.

    70. Minutes, meeting of the Manned Space Flight Management Council, 21 Dec. 1961.

    71. Holmes to Seamans, “Advanced Saturn Preliminary Project Development Plan,” 11 Jan. 1962, with enc.

    72. Walter C. Williams, interview, EI Segundo, 27 Jan. 1970.

    73. Low interview.

    74. Seamans, interview, Washington, 11 July 1969.

    75. Joseph F. Shea, interview, Washington, 6 May 1970.


    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-1. Contending Modes

    1959 to Mid-1962

    Politically setting a goal of manned lunar landing during the 1960s meant little technologically until somebody decided on the best way to fly there and back. Numerous suggestions had been made as to how to make the trip. Some sounded logical, some read like science fiction, and each proposal had vocal and persistent champions. All had been listened to with interest, but with no compelling need to choose among them. When President Kennedy introduced a deadline, however, it was time to pick one of the two basic mission modes—direct ascent or rendezvous—and, further, one of the variations of that mode. The story of Apollo told here thus far has only touched on the technical issues encountered along the tangled path to selecting the route.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-2. Proposals: Before and after May 1961

    NASA Administrator James Webb in early 1961 had inherited an agency assumption that direct ascent was probably the natural way to travel to the moon and back. It was attractive because it seemed simple in comparison to rendezvous, which required finding and docking with a target vehicle in space. But direct flight had drawbacks, primarily its need for the large rocket called Nova, which would be costly and difficult to develop. And the direct flight mission, itself, had been worked out only in the most general terms. At a meeting in Washington in mid-1960, the first NASA Administrator, Keith Glennan, had asked how a spacecraft might be landed on the moon. Max Faget of the Space Task Group had described a mission in which the spacecraft would first orbit the moon and then land, either in an upright position on deployable legs or horizontally using skids on the descent stage . Wernher von Braun of Marshall and William Pickering of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL thought it would be unnecessary to orbit the moon first. As Faget recalled, “Dr. Pickering [said] you don't have to go into orbit; . . . you just aim at the moon and, when you get close enough, turn on the landing rockets and come straight in. . . . I thought that would be a pretty unhappy day if, when you lit up the rockets, they didn't light.”1

    Two landing techniques

    Sketched at the left are two landing techniques proposed for the direct ascent mode.


    Direct flight also had supporters outside NASA. The Air Force had worked since 1958 on a plan for a lunar expedition. Called LUNEX, this proposal evolved from the earlier “Man-in-Space-Soonest” studies that had lost out in competition with Project Mercury. Major General Osmond J. Ritland, Commander of the Space Systems Division of the Air Force Systems Command, viewed LUNEX as a way to satisfy “a dire need for a goal for our national space program.” When President Kennedy announced on 25 May 1961 that a lunar landing would be that goal, the Space Systems Division offered to land three men on the moon and return them, using direct flight and a large three-stage booster. SSD believed the mission could be accomplished by 1967 at a cost of $7.5 billion. 2

    Contending lunar landing modes

    Three principal contending lunar landing techniques were suggested for the Apollo program: direct ascent, above left; earth-orbit rendezvous, above center; and lunar-orbit rendezvous.


    Rendezvous appeared dangerous and impractical to some NASA engineers, but to others it was the obvious way to eliminate the need for gigantic Nova-size boosters. Foremost among the variants in this approach was direct flight's chief competitor, earth-orbit rendezvous (EOR). The von Braun group had revealed an interest in this mode when it briefed Glennan in December 1958—long before its transfer from the Army to NASA. Von Braun had made a strong pitch for using EOR and the Juno V later Saturn booster, painting a pessimistic picture of developing anything large enough for direct ascent. Agreeing that direct flight was basically uncomplicated, von Braun nevertheless said he favored earth-orbit rendezvous because smaller vehicles could be employed. He sidestepped the problems of launching as many as 15 Saturns in rapid succession to rendezvous and dock in orbit to do the job,3

    While working for the Army, the von Braun team published a study called “Project Horizon.” Billed as a plan for establishing a lunar military outpost, Horizon justified bases on the moon in terms of the traditional military need for high ground, but it emphasized political and scientific gains as well. Again, the operational techniques would require launching several rockets and refueling a vehicle in earth orbit before going on to the moon.4 On 18 June 1959, NASA Headquarters had asked the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) for a study by the von Braun team of a lunar exploration program based on Saturn boosters. In its report of 1 February 1960, ABMA indicated there were several possibilities for a lunar mission, but only two—direct flight and earth-orbit rendezvous—seemed feasible. Reaffirming its authors' belief in rendezvous around the earth as the most attractive approach, the report continued: “If a manned lunar landing and return is desired before the 1970's, the SATURN vehicle is the only booster system presently under consideration with the capability to accomplish this mission.”5

    Earth-orbit rendezvous

    Earth-orbit rendezvous.


    After transferring to NASA and becoming the Marshall Space Flight Center, the von Braun group continued its plans for developing and perfecting its preferred approach. In January 1961, Marshall awarded 14 contracts for studies of launching manned lunar and planetary expeditions from earth orbit and for investigations of the feasibility of refueling in orbit.6 By mid-year, Marshall engineers were gathering NASA converts to help them push for earth-orbital rendezvous.

    Lunar surface rendezvous

    In this proposed version of a lunar-surface-rendezvous procedure, a propellant-transfer vehicle takes fuel from the tanker to a manned space vehicle. After loading the fuel, the two astronauts would fire the engine of their spacecraft to return to the earth.


    Across the country from Huntsville, another NASA center had different ideas about the best way to put man on the moon. Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, suggested a link-up of vehicles on the moon itself. A number of unmanned payloads—a vehicle designed to return to earth and one or more tankers—would land on the lunar surface at a preselected site. Using automatic devices, the return vehicle could then be refueled and checked out by ground control before the crew left the earth. After the manned spacecraft arrived on the moon, the crew would transfer to the fully fueled return vehicle for the trip home. One of the earliest proposals for this approach was put together by Allyn B. Hazard, a senior development engineer at the laboratory. His 1959 scheme laid the groundwork for JPL's campaign for lunar-surface rendezvous during the Apollo mode deliberations. 7

    Even before the President's May 1961 challenge, Pickering had tried to sell lunar-surface rendezvous to NASA's long-range planners. Earlier that month, he had met in Washington with Abraham Hyatt, Director of Program Planning and Evaluation, to discuss this method of landing men on the moon. “We seriously believe,” he later wrote, “that this is a better approach to getting man there quickly than the approaches calling for a very large rocket.” Pickering favored this mode because the Saturn C-2 would be adequate for the job, unmanned spacecraft could develop the techniques of vertical descent and soft landings, NASA could space the launches months or even years apart, and the agency need not commit the manned capsule to flight until very late in the program (and then only if everything else was working properly). He admitted that the small payload capability of the C-2 would restrict the early missions to one-man flights but contended that “it is easy to extend the technique for larger missions, as larger rockets become available.”`8 Hyatt assured Pickering that Headquarters would examine all suggested modes, while confessing to a certain incredulity about this approach. “The idea . . . leaves me with very strong reservations,” Hyatt said.9

    The fact that the United States had no large boosters in its inventory caused several farfetched schemes to surface. One such proposal promoted rendezvous and refueling while in transit to the moon, a concept pushed persistently by a firm named AstraCo. During the summer of 1960, AstraCo argued that this approach would “improve the mission capability of fixed-size earth launch systems.” At the request of Senator Paul H. Douglas, NASA officials met with two of the company's representatives in Washington on 6 December 1960. After a discussion of the physical aspects of this kind of rendezvous and an analysis of fuel consumption and weight factors, the visitors were told that NASA was not interested. Three months later, on 14 March 1961, AstraCo took its case through another congressman to the NASA Administrator, and Webb asked his staff to take a second look. William Fleming and Eldon Hall calculated that rendezvous while on the way to the moon would save very little more weight and fuel than earth-orbit rendezvous and would be “far less reliable and consequently far more hazardous.” Fleming recommended that this scheme be turned down, once and for all. Webb concurred.10

    Another approach was the proposal to send a spacecraft on a one-way trip to the moon. In this concept, the astronaut would be deliberately stranded on the lunar surface and resupplied by rockets shot at him for, conceivably, several years until the space agency developed the capability to bring him back! At the end of July 1961, E. J. Daniels from Lockheed Aircraft Corporation met with Paul Purser, Technical Assistant to Robert Gilruth, to discuss a possible study contract on this mode. Purser referred Daniels to NASA Headquarters. Almost a year later, in June 1962, John N. Cord and Leonard M. Seale, two engineers from Bell Aerosystems, urged in a paper presented at an Institute of Aerospace Sciences meeting in Los Angeles that the United States adopt this technique for getting a man on the moon in a hurry. While he waited for NASA to find a way to bring him back, they said, the astronaut could perform valuable scientific work. Cord and Seale, in a classic understatement, acknowledged that this would be a very hazardous mission, but they argued that “it would be cheaper, faster, and perhaps the only way to beat Russia.”11 There is no evidence that Apollo planners ever took this idea seriously.

    Amid these likely and unlikely suggestions for overcoming the country's limited booster capacity came yet another plan, lunar-orbit rendezvous (LOR), which seemed equally outlandish to many NASA planners. As the name implies, rendezvous would take place around the moon rather than around the earth. A landing craft, a separate module, would descend to the lunar surface. When the crew finished their surface activities, they would take off in the lander and rendezvous with the “mother” ship, which had remained in orbit about the moon. They would then transfer to the command module for the voyage back to the earth.12

    Early in 1959 this mode was seen primarily as a way to reduce the total weight of the spacecraft. Although most NASA leaders appreciated the weight saving, the idea of a rendezvous around the moon, so far from ground control, was almost frightening.

    Perhaps the first identifiable lunar-orbit rendezvous studies were those directed by Thomas Dolan of the Vought Astronautics Division, near Dallas. In December 1958, Dolan assembled a team of designers and engineers to study vehicle concepts, looking for ways for his company to share in any program that might follow Project Mercury. From mid-1959, the group concentrated on lunar missions, including a lunar landing, as the most probable prospect for future aerospace business. Dolan and his men soon came up with a plan they called MALLAR, an acronym for Manned Lunar Landing and Return.

    Dolan's group recognized very early that energy budgets were the keys to space flight (certainly no radical discovery). It conceived of a modular spacecraft, one having separate components to perform different functions. Dolan said, “One could perceive that some spacecraft modules might be applied to both Earth-orbital and lunar missions, embodying the idea of multimanned and multimodular approaches to space flight.” With this as the cornerstone of a lunar landing program, Dolan concluded that the best approach was to discard the pieces that were no longer needed. And he saw no reason to take the entire spacecraft down to the lunar surface and back to lunar escape velocity. MALLAR therefore incorporated a separate vehicle for the landing maneuver.13

    At the end of 1959 the Dolan team prepared a presentation for NASA. Early in January 1960, J. R. Clark, Vice President and General Manager of Vought Astronautics, wrote Abe Silverstein about Dolan's concept. The MALLAR proposal, Clark said, considered not only costs and vehicles but schedules. He also cited the advantages of the modular approach, mission staging, and the use of rendezvous.14

    Nothing came of the proposal, although Dolan tried to interest NASA in MALLAR for the next two years. He found many technical people sympathetic to his ideas, but he was signally unsuccessful in winning financial support. He did get several small contracts from Marshall, but these were intended to bolster Marshall's stand on rendezvous in earth orbit. Vought tried in vain to win part of Apollo, first competing for the feasibility study contracts in the latter half of 1960 and then, a year later, teaming with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation on the spacecraft competition. Because of these failures, Dolan and his group gradually lost the support of their corporate management.15 Thereafter, Chance Vought mostly faded out of the Apollo picture—although the company competed (and lost) once more, when the lunar landing module contracts were awarded in 1962.16


    1. Maxime A. Faget, interview, Houston, 15 Dec. 1969; Ivan D. Ertel, notes on Caldwell C. Johnson interview, 10 March 1966. See also John M. Logsdon, “Selecting the Way to the Moon: The Choice of the Lunar Orbital Rendezvous Mode,” Aerospace Historian 18, no. 2 (June 1971): 63-70.

    2. U.S. Air Force, “Lunar Expedition Plan: LUNEX,” USAF WDLAR-S-458, May 1961.

    3. Wernher von Braun, Ernst Stuhlinger, and H[einz] H. Koelle, “ABMA Presentation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” ABMA Kept. D-TN-1-59, 15 Dec. 1958, pp. 113-15.

    4. U.S. Army, “Project Horizon, Phase I Report: A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Military Outpost,” 8 June 1959, vol. 1, “Summary”: 1-3, 17-26; 2, “Technical Considerations and Plans,” passim, but esp. pp. 4-6, 139-41.

    5. Army Ballistic Missile Agency, “A Lunar Exploration Based upon Saturn-Boosted Systems,” ABMA Kept. DV-TR-2-60, 1 Feb. 1960, pp. 224-40.

    6. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961: Report, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 7 June 1962, p. 3; idem, Orbital Rendezvous in Space: Hearing, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 23 May 1961, pp. 16-17; J. Thomas Markley to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Trip report . . . on May 10, 11, and 12, 1961 to Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville), Chance Vought (Dallas) and Douglas (Los Angeles),” 19 May 1961; Koelle to Robert R. Gilruth, “Mid-tem (6-month) Contractor Reviews on Orbital Launch Operations Study,” 22 May 1961.

    7. [Nicholas E. Golovin], draft report of DoD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG), 1 [November 1961], pp. 6B-39 through 6B-42; Allyn B. Hazard, “A Plan for Manned Lunar and Planetary Exploration,” November 1959.

    8. William H. Pickering to Abraham Hyatt, 22 May 1961.

    9. Hyatt to Pickering, 31 May 1961.

    10. William A. Fleming to Admin., NASA, “Comments on In-transit rendezvous proposal by AstraCo,” 5 April 1961; Charles L. Kaempen, “Space Transport by In-Transit Rendezvous Techniques,” August 1960; James E. Webb to James Roosevelt, 26 April 1961.

    11. Paul E. Purser to Gilruth, “Log for week of July 31, 1961,” 10 Aug. 1961; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962: Report, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 12 June 1963, p. 112; “Apollo Chronology,” MSC Fact Sheet 96, n.d., p. 19; John M. Cord and Leonard M. Scale, “The One-Way Manned Space Mission,” Aerospace Engineering 21, no. 12 (1962) : 60-61, 94-102.

    12. [Golovin], draft rept., pp. 6B-36 through 6B-39.

    13. Thomas E. Dolan, interview, Orlando, Fla., 14 Oct. 1968.

    14. J. R. Clark to NASA, Attn.: Abe Silverstein, “Manned Modular Multi-Purpose Space Vehicle Program— Proposal For,” 12 Jan.1960, with enc., “Manned Modular Multi-Purpose Space Vehicle.”

    15. Dolan interview; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Orbital Rendezvous in Space, pp. 16-17; Markley to Assoc. Dir., STG, 19 May 1961; Koelle to Gilruth, 22 May 1961; “Participating Companies or Company Teams” in “Partial Set of Material for Evaluation Board Use,” n.d. [ca. 7 Sept. 1960]; NASA MSC, “Source Evaluation Board Report, Apollo Spacecraft, NASA RFP 9-150,” 24 Nov. 1961.

    16. MSC, Apollo Spacecraft Program Off. (ASPO) activity rept., 23 Sept.-6 Oct. 1962; H. Kurt Strass, interview, Houston, 30 Nov. 1966.


    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-3

    LOR Gains a NASA Adherent

    At Langley Research Center, several committees were formed during 1959 and 1960 to look at the role of rendezvous in space station operations.* John Houbolt, Assistant Chief of the Dynamic Loads Division, who headed one of these groups, fought against being restricted to studies of earth-orbiting vehicles only. The mission the Houbolt team wanted to investigate was a landing on the moon.17

    A more formal Lunar Missions Steering Group was established at Langley during 1960, largely through the efforts of Clinton E. Brown, Chief of the Theoretical Mechanics Division. The Lunar Trajectory Group within Brown's division made intensive analyses of the mechanics in a moon trip. Papers on the subject were presented to the steering group and then widely disseminated throughout Langley. 18

    One of these monographs, by William Michael, described the advantage of parking the earth-return propulsion portion of the spacecraft in orbit around the moon during a landing mission. Michael explained that leaving this unit, which was not needed during the landing, in orbit would save a significant weight over that needed for the direct flight method; the lander, being smaller, would need less fuel for landing and takeoff. But he cautioned that this economy would have to be measured against the “complications involved in requiring a rendezvous with the components left in the parking orbit.”19

    Brown's steering group looked closely at total weights and launch vehicle sizes for lunar missions, comparing various modes. Arthur Vogeley, in particular, concentrated on safety, reliability, and potential development programs; Max Kurbjun studied terminal guidance problems; and John Bird worked on designs for a lander. They concluded that lunar rendezvous was the most efficient mode they had studied. 20

    Work at Langley then slackened somewhat, since NASA's manned lunar landing plans seemed to be getting nowhere. On 14 December 1960, however, personnel from Langley went to Washington to brief Associate Administrator Robert Seamans on the possible role of rendezvous in the national space program. When he first joined NASA, three months earlier, Seamans had toured the field centers. At Langley, Houbolt had given him a 20-minute talk on lunar-orbit rendezvous, using rough sketches to illustrate his theory. Seamans had been sufficiently impressed by this brief discussion to ask Houbolt and his colleagues to come to Washington in December and make a more formal presentation. At this meeting, Houbolt spoke on the value of rendezvous to space flight; Brown presented an analysis of the weight advantages of lunar-orbit rendezvous over direct flight; Bird talked about assembling components in orbit; and Kurbjun gave the results of some simulations of rendezvous, indicating that the maneuver would not be very difficult.

    Comparison of lander sizes

    A ferry that would leave a command ship in orbit around the moon, visit the lunar surface, and then return to the command ship for the voyage back to the earth could be smaller than the lander required for direct landing on the moon or other suggested modes. The reduced size was seen by many engineers as the great advantage of lunar orbit rendezvous over the other techniques.


    Houbolt closed the session, remarking that rendezvous was an undervalued technique so far, but NASA should seriously consider its worth to the lunar landing program. Several members of Seamans' staff viewed the weight-saving claims with skepticism, 21 but Seamans was understanding. He had just completed a study for the Radio Corporation of America on the interception of satellites in earth orbit, and it occurred to him that some of the concepts he had studied might well be adapted to lunar operations. 22

    Back in Virginia, the Langley researchers had been trying to get their Space Task Group neighbors interested in rendezvous for Apollo. On 10 January 1961, Houbolt and Brown briefed Kurt Strass, Owen Maynard, and Robert L. O'Neal. O'Neal, who reported to Gilruth on the meeting, was less than enthusiastic about the lunar-orbit rendezvous scheme. He conceded that it might reduce the weight 20 percent, but “any other than a perfect rendezvous would detract from the system weight saving.”23

    From December 1960 to the summer of 1961, Langley continued its analyses of lunar-orbit rendezvous as it applied to a manned lunar landing. Bird and Stone, among others, studied hardware concepts and procedures, including designs and weights for a lunar lander, landing gear, descent and ascent trajectories between the landing site and lunar orbit, and final rendezvous and docking maneuvers. Their findings were distributed in technical reports throughout NASA and in papers presented to professional organizations and space flight societies. 24

    Early LEM—MALLIR

    An early lunar excursion model was designed on a Friday afternoon in early 1961 by John D. Bird and Ralph W. Stone, Jr., of Langley Research Center for project MALLIR.


    In the spring of 1961, these Langley engineers compiled a paper proposing a three-phase plan for developing rendezvous capabilities that would ultimately lead to manned lunar landings: (1) MORAD (Manned Orbital Rendezvous and Docking), using a Mercury capsule to prove the feasibility of manned rendezvous and to establish confidence in the techniques; (2) ARP (Apollo Rendezvous Phase), using Atlas, Agena, and Saturn vehicles to develop a variety of rendezvous capabilities in earth orbit; and (3) MALLIR** (Manned Lunar Landing Involving Rendezvous), employing Saturn and Apollo components to place men on the moon. Houbolt urged that NASA implement this program through study contracts. 25


    * Most deeply engaged in Langley's rendezvous studies were John Bird, Max C. Kurbjun, Ralph W. Stone, Jr., John M. Eggleston, Roy F. Brissenden, William H. Michael, Jr., Manuel J. Queijo, John A. Dodgen, Arthur Vogeley, William D. Mace, W. Hewitt Phillips, Clinton E. Brown, and John C. Houbolt.

    ** MALLIR embodied lunar-orbit rendezvous and a separate landing craft. Because America had no launch vehicle large enough to send a craft to the moon with only one earth launch, it also required an earth-orbital rendezvous before the spacecraft departed on a lunar trajectory.


    17. John C. Houbolt, interview, Princeton, N.J., 5 Dec. 1966; Houbolt, “Lunar Rendezvous,” International Science and Technology 14 (February 1963): 62-70; John D. Bird, interview, Langley, 20 June 1966.

    18. Bird interview; Bird, “A Short History of the Lunar-Orbit-Rendezvous Plan at the Langley Research Center,” 6 Sept. 1963 (supplemented 5 Feb. 1965 and 17 Feb. 1966); Houbolt, “Lunar Rendezvous,” p. 65.

    19. William H. Michael, Jr., “Weight Advantages of Use of Parking Orbit for Lunar Soft Landing Mission,” in Jack W. Crenshaw et al., “Studies Related to Lunar and Planetary Missions,” Langley Research Center, 26 May 1960, pp. 1-2.

    20. John M. Eggleston, interview, Houston, 7 Nov. 1966; Bird, “Short History,” p. 2; Bird interview.

    21. Bird, “Short History,” p. 2; list of attendees at Briefing on Rendezvous for Robert C. Seamans, Jr., 14 Dec. 1960; Bird and Houbolt interviews.

    22. Seamans, interview, Washington, 26 May 1966.

    23. Robert L. O'Neal to Assoc. Dir., STG, “Discussion with Dr. Houbolt, LRC, concerning the possible incorporation of a lunar orbital rendezvous phase as a prelude to manned lunar landing,” 30 Jan. 1961.

    24. For a listing of some of the results of these studies, see “Reports and Technical Papers Which Contributed to the Two Volume Work 'Manned Lunar-Landing through Use of Lunar-Orbit-Rendezvous,' by Langley Research Center,” Langley Research Center, n.d.; William D. Mace, interview, Langley, 20 June 1966. See also John C. Houbolt, “Problems and Potentialities of Space Rendezvous,” paper presented at the International Symposium on Space Flight and Re-Entry Trajectories, Louveciennes, France, 19-21 June 1961, published in Theodore von Kármán et al., eds., Astronautica Acta 7 (Vienna, 1961): 406-29.

    25. Langley Research Center, “Manned Lunar Landing Via Rendezvous,” charts, n.d.; Bird, “Short History,” p. 3; Houbolt interview; Houbolt, “Lunar Rendezvous,” International Science and Technology, February 1963, pp. 62-70, 105.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-4

    Early Reaction to LOR

    When the special NASA committees in 1961 (see Chapter 2) were trying to get the Apollo program defined, Houbolt made the rounds, making certain that everyone knew of Langley's lunar-orbit rendezvous studies. At a meeting of the Space Exploration Program Council on 5 and 6 January, his arguments for lunar rendezvous were lost in the attention being given to direct flight and earth-orbit rendezvous.26 In Washington on 27 and 28 February, when Headquarters sponsored an intercenter rendezvous meeting, Houbolt again summarized Langley's recent efforts. But both the Gilruth and von Braun teams stood solidly behind their respective positions, direct flight and earth-orbit rendezvous. Houbolt later recalled his frustration when it seemed lunar-orbit rendezvous “just wouldn't catch on.”27

    On 19 May, Houbolt bypassed the chain of command and wrote directly to Seamans to express his belief that rendezvous was not receiving due consideration. He pointed out that the American booster development program was in poor shape and that NASA appeared to have no firm plans beyond the initial version of the Saturn, the C-1. Houbolt was equally critical of NASA's failure to recognize the need for developing rendezvous techniques. Because of the lag in launch vehicle development, he said, it seemed obvious that the only mode available to NASA in the next few years would be rendezvous. 28

    In June Houbolt, a member of Bruce Lundin's group—the first team specifically authorized to examine anything except direct flight— talked to the group about his concept. Although the Lundin Committee initially seemed interested in Houbolt's description of lunar-orbit rendezvous, only lunar-surface rendezvous scored lower in its final report.29

    During July and August, Houbolt had almost the same reaction from Donald Heaton's committee. Although this group had been instructed to study rendezvous, the members interpreted that mandate as limiting them to the earth-orbit mode. Houbolt, himself a member of the committee, pleaded with the others to include lunar-orbit rendezvous; but, he later recalled, time after time he was told, “No, no, no. Our charter [applies only to] Earth orbit rendezvous.” Some of the members, seeing how deeply he felt about the mode question, told him to write his own report to Seamans, explaining his convictions in detail.

    Growing discouraged at the lack of interest, Houbolt and his Langley colleagues began to see themselves as sole champions of the technique. They decided to change their tactics. “The only way to do it,” Houbolt said later, was “to go out on our own, present our own documents and our own findings, and make our case sufficiently strong that people [would] have to consider it.”30

    Houbolt felt that things were looking up when the Space Task Group asked him to prepare a paper on rendezvous for the Apollo Technical Conference in mid-July 1961. At the dry run, however, when he and the other speakers presented their papers for final review, Houbolt was told to confine himself to rendezvous in general and to “throw out all [that] LOR.”31

    The next opportunity Houbolt had to fight for his cause came when Seamans and John Rubel established the Golovin Committee. Nicholas Golovin and his team were supposed to recommend a set of boosters for the national space program, but they found this an impossible task unless they knew how the launch vehicles would be used. This group was one of the first to display serious interest in Langley's rendezvous scheme. At a session on 29 August, when Houbolt was asked, “In what areas have you received the most violent criticism of these ideas?” he replied:

    Everyone says that it is hard enough to perform a rendezvous in the earth orbit, how can you even think of doing a lunar rendezvous? My answer is that rendezvous in lunar orbit is quite simple —no worries about weather or air friction. In any case, I would rather bring down 7,000 pounds [3,200 kilograms] to the lunar surface than 150,000 pounds [68,000 kilograms]. This is the strongest point in my argument.32

    Realizing that he at last had his chance to present his plan to a group that was really listening, Houbolt called John Bird and Arthur Vogeley, asking them to hurry to Washington to help him brief the Golovin Committee. Afterward the trio returned to Langley and compiled a two-volume report, describing the concept and outlining in detail a program based on the lunar-orbit mode. Langley's report was submitted to Golovin on 11 October 1961. After it had been thoroughly reviewed, its highlights were discussed, favorably, in the Golovin report. 33

    Instead of resting after his labors with the Golovin Committee, Houbolt went back to Langley and the task of getting out his minority report on the Heaton group's findings. He submitted it to Seamans in mid November, with a cover note that said, in part, “I am convinced that man will first set foot on the moon through the use of ideas akin to those expressed herein.”34 His report to Seamans, a nine-page indictment of the planning for America's lunar program to date, was a vigorous plea for consideration of Langley's approach.

    “Somewhat as a voice in the wilderness,” he began, “I would like to pass on a few thoughts on matters that have been of deep concern to me over the recent months.” Houbolt explained to Seamans that he was skipping the proper channels because the issues were crucial. After recounting his attempts to draw the attention of others in NASA to the lunar-orbit rendezvous scheme, Houbolt noted that, “regrettably, there was little interest shown in the idea.”

    He went on to ask, “Do we want to get to the moon or not?” If so, why not develop a lunar landing program to meet a given booster capability instead of building vehicles to carry out a preconceived plan? “Why is NOVA, with its ponderous [size] simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive?” Noting that it was the small Saturn C-3 that was the pacing item in the lunar rendezvous approach, he added, parenthetically, “I would not be surprised to have the plan criticized on the basis that it is not grandiose enough.”

    A principal charge leveled at lunar-orbit rendezvous, Houbolt said, was the absence of an abort capability, lowering the safety factor for the crew. Actually, he argued, the direct opposite was true. The lunar-rendezvous method offered a degree of safety and reliability far greater than that possible by the direct approach, he said. But “it is one thing to gripe, another to offer constructive criticism,” Houbolt conceded. He then recommended that NASA use the Mark II Mercury in a manned rendezvous experiment program and the C-3 and lunar rendezvous to accomplish the manned lunar landing.35

    Seamans replied to Houbolt early in December. “I agree that you touched upon facets of the technical approach to manned lunar landing which deserve serious consideration,” Seamans wrote. He also commended Houbolt for his vigorous pursuit of his ideas. “It would be extremely harmful to our organization and to the country if our qualified staff were unduly limited by restrictive guidelines.” The Associate Administrator added that he believed all views on the best way to carry out the manned lunar landing were being carefully weighed and that lunar-orbit rendezvous would be given the same impartial consideration as any other approach.36


    26. Minutes, Space Exploration Program Council meeting, 5-6 Jan. 1961.

    27. Floyd L. Thompson to NASA Hq., Attn.: Bernard Maggin, “Forthcoming Inter-NASA Meeting on Rendezvous,” 4 Jan. 1961, with enc.; E. J. Manganiello to NASA Hq., “Agenda for Orbital Rendezvous Discussions,” 5 Jan. 1961, with enc.; Bird and David F. Thomas, Jr., “Material for Meeting of Centers on Rendezvous, February 27-28, 1961: Studies Relating to the Accuracy of Arrival at a Rendezvous Point,” n.d.; agenda, NASA Inter-Center Rendezvous Discussions, General Meeting—27-28 Feb. 1961; Bird, “Short History,” p. 3; Houbolt interview.

    28. Houbolt to Seamans, 19 May 1961.

    29. Bruce T. Lundin et al., “A Survey of Various Vehicle Systems for the Manned Lunar Mission,” 10 June 1961; Houbolt interview.

    30. “Earth Orbital Rendezvous for an Early Manned Lunar Landing,” pt. 1, Summary Report of Ad Hoc Task Group [Heaton Committee] Study, August 1961; Houbolt interview.

    31. Gilruth to General Dynamics Astronautics, Attn.: William F. Rector III, 27 June 1961, with enc., “Proposed Agenda, NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference, . . . July 18, 1961”; Thompson to STG, Attn.: Purser, “Rehearsal schedule for the NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference,” 3 July 1961, with enc.; John C. Houbolt, “Considerations of Space Rendezvous,” in “NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference July 18, 19, 20, 1961: A Compilation of the Papers Presented,” pt. 1, pp. 73, 79; Houbolt interview.

    32. Minutes of presentation to LLVPG by Houbolt, 29 Aug. 1961.

    33. Ibid.; [John C. Houbolt et al.], “Manned Lunar Landing through use of Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous,” 2 vols., LaRC, 31 Oct. 1961, p. i; Mike Weeks to LLVPG staff, no subj., 2 Oct. 1961, with encs.; Bird interview; Bird, “Short History,” p. 3.

    34. Houbolt to Seamans, no subj., [ca. 15 Nov. 1961].

    35. Houbolt to Seamans, 15 Nov. 1961 (emphasis in original).

    36. Seamans to Houbolt, 4 Dec. 1961.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-5

    Analysis of LOR

    Most of the early criticism of the lunar rendezvous scheme stemmed from a concern for overall mission safety. In the minds of many, rendezvous—finding and docking with a target—would be a difficult task even in the vicinity of the earth. This concern was the underlying reason for the trend toward larger and larger Saturns (C-2 through C-5) to lessen the number of maneuvers required. After all, von Braun had once suggested that as many as 15 launchings of the smaller launch vehicles might be needed for one mission. During earth-orbital operations, the crew could return to the ground if they failed to meet their target vehicle or had other troubles. In lunar orbit, where the crew would be days away from home, a missed rendezvous spelled death for the astronauts and raised the specter of an orbital coffin circling the moon, perhaps forever. And all this talk about rendezvous came at a time when NASA had only a modicum of space flight experience of any kind. It is not surprising, therefore, that Houbolt had trouble swinging others away from their advocacy of direct flight or earth-orbit rendezvous.

    Fears for crew safety and lack of experience were not the only factors; the Langley approach was criticized on another score—one as damning as the danger of a missed rendezvous. One of the principal attractions of Houbolt's mode was the weight reduction it promised; but he and his colleagues, in trying to sell the mode, had oversold this aspect. Many who listened to the Langley team's proposals simply did not believe the weight figures cited, especially that given for the lunar landing vehicle. In the lunar mission studies at Vought Astronautics, Dolan and his team had given much thought to designing the hardware, including a landing vehicle. Their weight calculations for a two-man lunar landing module were much higher than those proposed by the Langley engineers. Vought's study projected a 12,000-kilogram vehicle, most of which was fuel. Empty, the lander would weigh only 1,300 kilograms.37

    But, until late 1961, no one in NASA except Langley had really looked very hard at lunar landing vehicles. Using theoretical analyses and simulations, the rendezvous team at the Virginia center had studied hardware, “software” (procedures and operational techniques), flight trajectories, landing and takeoff maneuvers, and spacecraft systems (life support, propulsion, and navigation and guidance). 38 The studies formed a solid foundation for technical design concepts for a landing craft.

    LaRC lander concept

    This sketch is an artist's concept of a small lunar lander during descent to the surface of the moon, as proposed by Langley Research Center employees in October 1961.


    Langley's brochure for the Golovin Committee described landers of varied sizes and payload capabilities. There were illustrations and data on a “shoestring” vehicle, one man for 2 to 4 hours on the moon; an “economy” model, two men and a 24-hour stay time; and a “plush" module, two men for a 7-day visit. Weight estimates for the three craft, without fuel, were 580, 1,010, and 1,790 kilograms, respectively. Arthur Vogeley pictured the shoestring version as a solo astronaut perched atop an open rocket platform with landing legs. To expect Gilruth's designers to accept such a “Buck Rogers space scooter" would seem somewhat optimistic.39

    Lander for advanced Mercury s/c

    These engineering drawings were made by Harry C. Shoaf (Space Task Group Engineering Division 15 November 1961 of a proposed lunar lander to be used with an advanced version of the Mercury spacecraft.


    The same sort of minimal design features extended to subsystems, and structural weights further reflected Langley's drive toward simplicity. In February 1961, at NASA's intercenter rendezvous conference, Lindsay J. Lina and Vogeley had described the most rudimentary navigation and guidance equipment: a plumb bob, an optical sight, and a clock. This three-component system was feasible, they said, “only because maximum advantage is taken of the human pilot's capabilities.” Even some of those on the Langley team criticized this kind of thinking; John Eggleston, for one, labeled it impractical.40

    Despite Houbolt's frustration, his missionary work had stimulated interest outside Langley. Within the Office of Manned Space Flight, George Low, Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions, commented that “the 'bug' approach may yet be the best way of getting to the moon and back.”41 And Houbolt had finally struck a responsive chord when giving his sales talk to the Space Task Group in August. At this briefing, James Chamberlin, Chief of the Engineering Division, had been very attentive and had requested copies of the Langley documents. All during the year, Chamberlin and his team had been working on a study of putting two men in space in an enlarged Mercury capsule (which later emerged as Project Gemini). 42 Although this successor to Mercury had been conceived as earth-orbital and long-duration, Chamberlin thought it might fly to the moon, as well. Seamans recalled that Chamberlin “was trying to develop something that was almost competitive with the Apollo itself.” Chamberlin did, indeed, offer an alternative to Apollo. He and several of his colleagues proposed using the two-man craft and lunar rendezvous in conjunction with a one-man lunar lander, which in many respects resembled the small vehicles studied by Lang1ey. 43

    Although Chamberlin could get approval only for the earth-orbital part of his plan, one of his principal objectives—rendezvous—was highly significant. It marked the beginning of the first important shift in the Apollo mode. Gilruth and his engineers began to perceive advantages they had not previously appreciated.

    Growing interest in lunar-orbit rendezvous stemmed partially from disenchantment with direct flight. The Space Task Group had become increasingly apprehensive about landing on the moon in one piece and with enough fuel left to get back to earth. The command section it had under contract was designed as an earth-orbital, circumlunar, and reentry vehicle. It could not fly down to the surface of the moon. Lunar rendezvous, which called for a separate craft designed for landing, became more inviting.44

    Gilruth's engineers had worked on several designs for a braking rocket for lunar descent. In a working paper released in April 1961, Apollo planners had tried to size a propulsion system for landing, even though no booster had yet been chosen to get it to the moon. Two methods for landing were explored. The first was to back the vehicle in vertically, using rockets to slow, then stop, the spacecraft, setting it down on its deployed legs. The second technique was to fly the spacecraft in horizontally, like an aircraft. In this case, the legs would be deployed from the side of the craft instead of from the bottom.45

    In the summer of 1961, when the command module contract was being advertised, Max Faget described some of the problems he anticipated with the landing itself. All other phases of the mission could be analyzed with a fair degree of certainty, he said, but the actual touchdown could not, since there was no real information on the lunar surface. Exhaust from rocket engines on loose rocks and dust might damage the spacecraft, interfere with radar, and obstruct the pilot's vision. Faget said the final hovering and landing maneuvers must be controlled by the crew to ensure landing on the most desirable spot. The Apollo development plan, in its many revisions, merely said that the lunar landing module would be used for braking, hovering, and touchdown, as well as a base for launching the command ship from the moon.46

    About the time of the contract award, Abe Silverstein left NASA Headquarters to become Director of Lewis Research Center. 47 It had become increasingly apparent that Apollo would probably use one rendezvous scheme or another, and he was among the staunchest advocates of big booster power and direct flight. Concurrently with Silverstein's return to Cleveland, Lewis was assigned to develop the lunar landing stage. Gilruth and Faget did not like this division of labor, as it added a complex management setup to the technical difficulties of matching spacecraft and landing stage.

    Faget proposed a different propulsion module from the one previously envisioned for the descent to the lunar surface. He suggested taking the legs off the landing module and making it into just a braking stage, which he called a “lunar crasher.” Once this stage had eased the spacecraft down near the surface, it would be discarded to crash elsewhere before the Apollo touched down. The Apollo spacecraft would then consist of the command center and two propulsion modules, one to complete the landing and the other to boost the command module from the surface. Since the crasher's only job was to slow the spacecraft, it was not part of the vehicle's integral systems, which decreased the technical interfaces required and minimized Lewis' role in the hardware portion of Apollo. Faget based his proposal on some sound technical reasoning. The crasher engines would be pressure-fed, no pumps would be needed, and the vehicle could be controlled by turning the engines off and on as long as the propellant lasted. Pump-fed engines, on the other hand, depended on complex interactions to vary the thrust. Faget and Gilruth liked the pressure-fed system, and so did Silverstein. 48

    Although relations with Lewis were easier after the adoption of the crasher, the Houston engineers were still worried about the complexities of an actual landing. As Faget later said, “We had all sorts of little ideas about hanging porches on the command module, and periscopes and TV's and other things, but the business of eyeballing that thing down to the moon didn't really have a satisfactory answer. . . . The best thing about the [lunar rendezvous concept] was that it allowed us to build a separate vehicle for landing.” 49 Caldwell Johnson, one of the chief contributors to the Apollo command module design, had much the same reaction. He said, “We continued to pursue the landing with a big propulsion module and the whole command and service module for a long, long time, until it finally became apparent that this wasn't going to work.” 50

    By the end of 1961, the newly named Manned Spacecraft Center had virtually swung over to the lunar-orbit rendezvous idea. Gilruth, Faget, and the other Apollo planners conceded that this approach had drawbacks: a successful rendezvous with the mother craft after the bug left the lunar surface was an absolute necessity, and only two of the three crew members would be able to land on the moon. But the stage had been set for an intensive campaign to sell the von Braun team on this mode. At Headquarters, Director of Manned Space Flight Holmes wanted the two manned space flight centers to agree on a single route—he did not expect to get this consensus easily.`51


    37. Richard B. Canright to James D. Bramlet et al., no subj., 27 Nov. 1961, with enc., Canright, “The Intermediate Vehicle,” 22 Nov. 1961; James F. Chalmers, minutes of LLVPG general meeting, 28 Aug. 1961; O'Neal memo, 30 Jan. 1961; Clark enc., “Manned Modular Multi-Purpose Space Vehicle.”

    38. [Houbolt et al.], “Manned Lunar Landing through Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous”; Eggleston interview.

    39. [Houbolt et al.], “Manned Lunar Landing through Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous”; Bird and Houbolt interviews.

    40. Lindsay J. Lina and Arthur W. Vogeley, “Preliminary Study of a Piloted Rendezvous Operation from the Lunar Surface to an Orbiting Space Vehicle,” Langley Research Center, 21 Feb. 1961; Houbolt and Eggleston interviews.

    41. George M. Low to Dir., NASA OMSF, “Comments on John Houbolt's Letter to Dr. Seamans,” 5 Dec. 1961.

    42. Purser to Gilruth, “Log for Week of August 28, 1961,” 5 Sept. 1961; Bird, “Short History,” p. 4; Houbolt interview; STG, “Preliminary Project Development Plan for an Advanced Manned Spacecraft Program Utilizing the Mark II Two Man Spacecraft,” 14 Aug. 1961.

    43. Seamans interview, 26 May 1966; Harry C. Shoaf, interview, Cocoa Beach, Fla., 10 Oct. 1968.

    44. Seamans interview, 26 May 1966; Purser to Howard Margolis, 15 Dec. 1970. See also John D. Hodge, John W. Williams, and Walter J. Kapryan, “Design for Operations,” in “NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference,” pt. 2, pp. 41-56.

    45. H. K[urt] Strass, “A Lunar Landing Concept,” in Strass, ed., “Project Apollo Space Task Group Study Report, February 15, 1961,” NASA Project Apollo working paper no. 1015, 21 April 1961, pp. 166-74; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1961: Hearings on H.R. 6874, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, pp. 71-75.

    46. Maxime A. Faget, “Lunar Landing Considerations,” in “NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference,” pt. 1, pp. 89-97; STG, “Project Apollo Spacecraft Development, Statement of Work, Phase A,” 28 July 1961; STG, “Preliminary Project Development Plan for Apollo Spacecraft,” 9 Aug. 1964, pp. 7-10; MSC, “Project Apollo Spacecraft Development Statement of Work,” 27 Nov. 1961, p-p. 78-81.

    47. Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), p. 222.

    48. Seamans, interview, Washington,11 July 1969; Faget interview, 15 Dec. 1969; Faget, interview, comments on draft edition of this volume, Houston, 22 Nov. 1976.

    49. Faget interview, 15 Dec. 1969.

    50. Johnson, interview, Houston, 9 Dec. 1966.

    51. Purser letter, 15 Dec. 1970.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-6

    Settling the Mode Issue

    At the beginning of 1962, Holmes was not sure how he would vote on the lunar landing technique. Von Braun, among others, had made it clear that direct ascent, requiring the development of a huge Nova vehicle, was too much to ask for within the decade. However, both earth- and lunar-orbit rendezvous appeared equally feasible for accomplishing the moon mission within cost and schedule constraints. The decision, Holmes knew, would require weighing many technological factors. After directing Joseph Shea, his deputy for systems, to review the issue and recommend the best approach, Holmes laid down a second and broader objective. Shea was to use the task to draw Huntsville and Houston together, building a more unified organization with greater internal strength and cooperation.52

    In mid-January 1962, Shea visited both the Manned Spacecraft and the Marshall Space Flight Centers. He found Houston officials enthusiastic about lunar-orbit rendezvous but believed they did not fully understand all the problems. He reported their low weight estimates as unduly optimistic. Marshall, on the other hand, still favored earth-orbit rendezvous. Shea did not think the Huntsville team had really studied lunar-orbit rendezvous thoroughly enough to make a decision either way.

    From these brief sorties, Shea recognized the depth of the technical disagreement between the centers. He decided to bring the two factions together and make them listen to each other. During the next few months, Shea held a series of meetings at Headquarters, attended by representatives from all the centers working on manned space flight. At these briefings, the advocates presented details of their chosen modes to a captive audience. The first of these gatherings, featuring earth-orbit rendezvous, was held on 13 to 15 February 1962. 53

    Headquarters may not have realized it, but the sense of urgency surrounding the mode question was shared by the field. Recognizing that the need for choosing a mission approach was crucial, Gilruth's men hastened to strengthen their technical brief. The Houston center notified Headquarters in January that it was going to award study contracts on two methods of landing on the moon, with either the entire spacecraft or a separate module, hoping one of the contractors would do a good enough job to be chosen as a sole source for a development contract.54 But Washington moved before the center could act.

    Holmes and Shea had decided that lunar rendezvous needed further investigation. A contract supervised by Headquarters would tend to be more objective than one monitored by the field. A request for proposals was drawn up and issued at the end of January, and a bidders' conference was held on 2 February in Washington. Although this contract was small, it was critical, and representatives from a dozen aerospace companies attended the conference. Those intending to bid were given only two weeks to respond. Shea and his staff, with the help of John Houbolt, evaluated the proposals and announced on 1 March that Chance Vought had been selected.55

    Chance Vought's study ran for three months and was significant mainly because of its weight estimates. Houston calculated that the target weight of the lunar landing module would be 9,000 kilograms, but Chance Vought came up with a more realistic figure of 13,600 kilograms. Shea and his team, in the subsequent mode comparisons, used Chance Vought's higher weight projections.56

    Holmes' Management Council was also studying the mission approach. On 6 February, with Associate Administrator Seamans present, the group heard another of Houbolt's briefings on lunar- versus earth-orbit rendezvous. Charles Mathews, Chief of the Spacecraft Research Division, then described Houston's studies of the lunar-rendezvous mode. Von Braun interjected that selection of any rendezvous method at that time was premature.57

    On 27 March, the council discussed the Chance Vought study. Several of the members were concerned about the weight the contractor was estimating the Saturn C-5 would have to lift, compared with that projected by the Houston center 38,500 kilograms against 34,000. This disparity was very serious, since Chance Vought's work would be useless if Marshall decided that the C-5 could not manage the heavier load. The council also noted that the mode issue was beginning to affect other elements of the program adversely. North American was designing the service module to accommodate either form of rendezvous; but, as more detail was incorporated into the design, being able to go both ways would cost more in weight and complexity.58

    On 2 and 3 April, Shea called field center officials to a meeting on lunar-orbit rendezvous. After some basic ground rules for operations and hardware designs had been laid down, it became obvious to Shea that there were still too many unresolved questions. He told the company to go back home and continue the studies.59

    About this time, a small group in Houston took up the campaign for lunar-orbit rendezvous waged earlier by Houbolt. Charles W. Frick, who headed the newly formed Apollo Spacecraft Project Office at Manned Spacecraft Center, had aerospace management experience in both research and manufacturing—first at Ames Research Center for NASA and then with General Dynamics Convair for industry. Frick saw Marshall, rather than Headquarters, as the strategic target for an offensive. Frick said, “It became apparent that the thing to do was to talk to Dr. von Braun, in a technical sense, . . . perhaps with a bit of showmanship, and try to convince him.”60

    During February 1962, Frick and his project office staff briefed Holmes on why they favored lunar rendezvous. Frick ruefully admitted later that they did a rather poor job. “So when we got back [to Houston] we got our heads together and decided that we just weren't putting down [enough] technical detail.” He formed a small task force, drawn from his own project people and Max Faget's engineering directorate, to pull the information together.61

    William Rector of Frick's office got busy on this more persuasive presentation. The result, a carefully staged affair that became known as “Charlie Frick's Road Show,” consisted of briefings by half a dozen speakers. The opening performance was staged in Huntsville before von Braun and his subordinates on 16 April 1962. To emphasize the importance of the message, the Houston group included all of the leading lights of the center—Gilruth, his top technical staff, and several astronauts—as well as senior Apollo officials from North American the command module contractor .

    In a day-long presentation, Frick's troupe explained three technical reasons for his center's conversion to lunar-orbit rendezvous: (1) highest payload efficiency, (2) smallest size for the landing module, and (3) least compromise on the design of the spacecraft. The advantages of a separate lander all listed in Houbolt's minority report to Seamans, which would neither take off from nor land on the earth, loomed large, since Gilruth and his men believed that landing on the moon would be the most difficult phase of Apollo and they wanted the simplest landing possible.62

    Frick and his road company next headed for Washington, where they gave two performances—for Holmes on 3 May and for Seamans on 31 May.63 The Houston center's drive to sell lunar rendezvous thus followed the path traveled by Houbolt a year earlier. Although it doubtless reinforced his arguments, it appeared to have no other effect.

    In budgetary hearings before Congress in the spring of 1962, NASA officials named earth-orbit rendezvous as the best mode for Apollo, with direct flight as the backup. NASA Deputy Administrator Dryden said, on 16 April, “As we see it at the moment, we are putting our bets on a rendezvous [in earth orbit] with two advanced Saturn's.” However, Dryden continued, “if we find that we are not able to do this mission by rendezvous, we would be in a bad way.”64

    When asked by members of the House Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight about approaches other than earth-orbit rendezvous and direct flight, Holmes admitted that lunar rendezvous was also interesting. The mission could theoretically be performed with a single Saturn C-5, Holmes went on, but it was considered too hazardous, since failure to rendezvous around the moon would doom the crew. 65

    Early in May, yet another scheme for landing men on the moon appeared. A study for a direct flight, using a C-5 and a two-man crew, had been quietly considered at the Ames and Lewis Research Centers and at North American. Although there were objections from Houston, Shea hired the Space Technology Laboratories to investigate this C-5 direct mode.66

    Other researchers at Ames spent a great deal of time on plans that revealed their dislike of lunar rendezvous. Alfred Eggers and Harold Hornby, in particular, traded information and mulled over rendezvous modes with North American engineers. Hornby favored a method that resembled von Braun's December 1958 idea, arguing the advantages of some sort of salvo rendezvous in earth orbit. When he realized that NASA Headquarters was on the brink of making the mode decision, Eggers kept urging Seamans to reopen the whole question of the safest, most economical way to reach the moon.67

    Shea, having promised Holmes a preliminary recommendation on the mode by mid-June, increased the pressure on the field centers to continue their research for the coordination meetings. On 25 May Holmes asked the Directors of the three manned space flight centers to submit cost and schedule estimates for each of the approaches under consideration.68 Shea began collecting his material for final review, although there was still no agreement between Huntsville and Houston. Despite Frick's road show, the Marshall center persisted in its preference for earth-orbit rendezvous. The mode comparison meetings had obviously been less than successful in bringing the two opponents together. “I was pretty convinced now that you could do either EOR or LOR,” Shea later said, “so the choice . . . was really . . . what's the best way.”69

    Holmes and Shea, in addition to deciding on the best approach, were still determined to settle for nothing short of unanimity. They scheduled yet another series of meetings at each center, “in which we asked them to summarize their studies and draw conclusions” so everyone would feel like a real part of the technical decision process. 70

    Shortly before these summary meetings in May and June of 1962, the mounting tide of evidence favoring lunar-orbit rendezvous reached its flood. Shea and Holmes became convinced that this was indeed the best approach. But, if they were to have harmony within their organization, Marshall must be won over. Holmes asked Shea to discuss lunar-orbit rendezvous in depth with von Braun and to explore his reaction to the crimp this mode would put in Marshall's share of Apollo. Since lunar rendezvous would require fewer boosters than the earth-orbital mode and since Marshall would have no part in developing docking hardware and rendezvous techniques, the Huntsville role would diminish considerably. Also, with the Nova's prospects definitely on the wane, Marshall's long-term future seemed uncertain.

    For some time von Braun and his colleagues had wanted to broaden the scope of their space activities, and Holmes knew it. He and Shea decided that this was the time to offer von Braun a share of future projects, including payloads, to balance the workload between Houston and Huntsville.

    About the middle of May, von Braun visited Washington, and Shea told him that lunar rendezvous appeared to be shaping up as the best method. Conceding that it might well be a wise choice, the Marshall Director again expressed concern for the future of his people. Shea acknowledged that Marshall would lose a good deal of work if NASA adopted lunar rendezvous, but he reminded von Braun that

    Houston would be very loaded with both the CSM [command and service modules] and the LEM [lunar excursion module]. It just seems natural to Brainerd and me that you guys ought to start getting involved in the lunar base and the roving vehicle and some of the other spacecraft stuff. . . . Wernher kind of tucked that in the back of his mind and went back to Huntsville.71

    Huntsville was not the only center that faced a loss of business if lunar-orbit rendezvous were chosen. Lewis would also be left standing at the gate, since that mode would eliminate the need for the lunar crasher. The Cleveland group did hope to capitalize on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen technology for other pieces of the Saturn propulsion requirements, although this, of course, would mean a contest with Marshall.72

    The Management Council met in Huntsville on 29 May, two weeks after the confidential talk between Shea and von Braun. Perhaps in compliance with his implied promise to the Marshall Director, Shea opened the subject of an unmanned logistics vehicle to deposit supplies on the moon, increasing the time that a manned spacecraft could remain on the lunar surface. George Low warned that developing a logistics vehicle should not be a prerequisite to a manned lunar landing. 73 Houston questioned the usefulness of unmanned supply craft “because of the reliability problems of unmanned vehicles, and . . . whether supplies [previously deposited] on the moon could be effectively used.” Gilruth's men argued that any such vehicle should not simply be an Apollo lunar excursion vehicle modified for unmanned operation. The best approach would be a “semisoft” lander, similar to unmanned spacecraft like Surveyor. And Gilruth's engineers were quick to point out that logistic support could be obtained by attaching a “mission module” to a manned lunar module, since the Saturn C-5 should eventually be able to handle an additional 1,600 kilograms of supplies and equipment.74

    Shea's special meetings on the centers' mode studies resumed in early June. By far the most significant was an all-day affair at Marshall on 7 June, where von Braun's lieutenants catalogued the latest results of their research. “The tone of everything [throughout the day] in the presentations by his people was all very pro-EOR,” Shea recalled. At the end, after six hours of discussion on earth-orbit rendezvous, von Braun dropped a bomb that, as far as internal arguments in NASA were concerned, effectively laid the Apollo mode issue to rest. To the dismay of his staff, said Shea, von Braun “got up and in about a 15-minute talk that he'd handwritten during the meeting stated that it was the position of [his] Center to support LOR.” 75

    “Our general conclusion,” von Braun told his startled audience, “is that all four modes are technically feasible and could be implemented with enough time and money.” He then listed Marshall's preferences: (1) lunar-orbit rendezvous, with a recommendation to make up for its limited growth potential to begin simultaneous development of an unmanned, fully automatic, one-way C-5 logistics vehicle; (2) earth-orbit rendezvous, using the refueling technique; (3) direct flight with a C-5, employing a lightweight spacecraft and high-energy return propellants; and (4) direct flight with a Nova or Saturn C-8. Von Braun continued:

    I would like to reiterate once more that it is absolutely mandatory that we arrive at a definite mode decision within the next few weeks. . . . If we do not make a clear-cut decision on the mode very soon, our chances of accomplishing the first lunar expedition in this decade will fade away rapidly.

    The Marshall chief then explained his about-face. Lunar rendezvous, he had come to realize, “offers the highest confidence factor of successful accomplishment within this decade.” He supported Houston's contention that designing the Apollo reentry vehicle and the lunar landing craft were the most critical tasks in achieving the lunar landing. “A drastic separation of these two functions into two separate elements is bound to greatly simplify the development of the spacecraft system [and] result in a very substantial saving of time.”

    Moreover, lunar-orbit rendezvous would offer the “cleanest managerial interfaces”—meaning that it would reduce the amount of technical coordination required between the centers and their respective contractors, a major concern in any complex program. Apollo already had a “frightening number” of these interfaces, since it took the combined efforts of many companies to form a single vehicle. And, finally, this mode would least disrupt other elements of the program, especially booster development, existing contract structures, and the facilities already under construction.

    We . . . readily admit that when first exposed to the proposal of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mode we were a bit skeptical. . . .

    We understand that the Manned Spacecraft Center was also quite skeptical at first, when John Houbolt of Langley advanced the proposal, . . . and it took quite a while to substantiate the feasibility of the method and finally endorse it.

    Against this background it can, therefore, be concluded that the issue of “invented here” versus “not invented here” does not apply to either the Manned Spacecraft Center or the Marshall Space Flight Center; that both Centers have actually embraced a scheme suggested by a third source. Undoubtedly, personnel of MSC and MSFC have by now conducted more detailed studies on all aspects of the four modes than any other group. Moreover, it is these two Centers to which the Office of Manned Space Flight will ultimately have to look to “deliver the goods.” I consider it fortunate indeed . . . that both Centers, after much soul searching, have come to identical conclusions. This should give the Office of Manned Space Flight some additional assurance that our recommendations should not be too far from the truth. 76


    52. Joseph F. Shea, interview, Washington, 6 May 1970.

    53. Ibid.; Shea, “Trip Report on Visit to MSC at Langley and MSFC at Huntsville,” 18 Jan. 1962.

    54. Paul F. Weyers to Mgr., ASPO, “Impact of lack of a decision on operational techniques on the Apollo Project,” 19 April 1962; A. B. Kehlet et al., “Notes on Project Apollo January 1960-January 1962,” 8 Jan. 1962, pp. 1, 7.

    55. Shea memo for record, no subj., 26 Jan. 1962; Shea interview; “Apollo Chronology,” MSC Fact Sheet 96, p. 12; Purser to Gilruth, “Log for week of January 22, 1962,” 30 Jan. 1962, and “Log for week of February 12, 1962,” 26 Feb. 1962; Shea memo for file, no. subj., 2 Feb. 1962, with enc., “List of Attendees for Bidder's Conference, Apollo Rendezvous Study,” [2 Feb. 1962]; House Com., Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, p. 27; D. Brainerd Holmes TWX to all NASA Centers, Attn.: Dirs., 2 March 1962.

    56. Shea interview.

    57. William E. Lilly, minutes of 2nd meeting of Manned Space Flight Management Council (MSFMC), 6 Feb. 1962, agenda items 2 and 3; Houbolt interview; Shea memo for record, no subj., [ca. 6 Feb. 1962].

    58. Charles W. Frick to Robert O. Piland, “Comments on Agenda Items for the Management Council Meeting,” 23 March 1962; MSC Director's briefing notes for MSFMC meeting, 27 March 1962, agenda item 8; Rector to Johnson, “Meeting with Chance Vought on March 20, 1962, regarding their LEM study,” 21 March 1962; Lilly, minutes of 4th meeting of MSFMC, 27 March 1962.

    59. Shea to Rosen, “Minutes of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous Meeting, April 2 and 3, 1962,” 13 April 1962, with enc., Richard J. Hayes, subj. as above, n.d.

    60. Frick, interview, Palo Alto, Calif., 26 June 1968.

    61. Ibid.; Kehlet, interview, Downey, 26 Jan. 1970; Owen E. Maynard, interview, Houston, 9 Jan. 1970.

    62. Frick interview; Rector, interview, Redondo Beach, Calif., 27 Jan. 1970; MSC, “Lunar Orbital Technique for Performing the Lunar Mission,” also known as “Charlie Frick's Road Show,” April 1962.

    63. Low to Shea, “Lunar Landing Briefing for Associate Administrator,” 16 May 1962; Holmes to Shea, NASA Hq. routing slip, 16 May 1962.

    64. House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1963: Hearings, pt. 3, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, p. 571.

    65. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 1963 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 10100 (Superseded by H.R. 11737), 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, pp. 528-29, 810.

    66. Shea memo for record, no subj., 1 May 1962; Clyde B. Bothmer, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 1 May 1962; Shea memo [for file], no subj., 7 May 1962, with enc., “Direct Flight Schedule Study for Project Apollo: Statement of Work,” 26 April 1962.

    67. Harold Hornby, interview, Ames, 28 June 1971; Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., interview, Washington, 22 May 1970; Hornby, “Least Fuel, Least Energy and Salvo Rendezvous,” paper presented at the ARS/IRE 15th Annual Spring Technical Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio, 12-13 April 1961; Hornby, “Return Launch and Re-Entry Vehicle,” in C. T. Leondes and R. W. Vance, eds., Lunar Mission and Exploration (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1964), pp. 588-622.

    68. [Bothmer], minutes of NASA OMSF Staff Meeting, 11 May 1962; Holmes to Dirs., LOC, MSC, and MSFC, “The Manned Lunar Landing Program,” 25 May 1962.

    69. Shea interview.

    70. Ibid.

    71. Ibid.; Holmes, interview, Waltham, Mass., 18 Feb. 1969.

    72. Remarks on internal rivalries among NASA field centers are based largely on Apollo oral history interviews and on the minutes of the OMSF weekly staff meetings, 1961-1963, with Bothmer as secretary.

    73. Bothmer, minutes of MSFMC meeting, 29 May 1962, p. 6.

    74. Charles W. Mathews to Dir., MSC, “Background Material for Use in May 29 Meeting of Management Council,” 25 May 1962.

    75. Agenda, Presentation to Shea, Office of Systems, OMSF, NASA Hq., on MSFC Mode Studies for Lunar Missions, 7 June 1962; Shea interview.

    76. Von Braun, “Concluding Remarks by Dr. Wernher von Braun about Mode Selection for the Lunar Landing Program, Given to Dr. Joseph F. Shea, Deputy Director (Systems), Office of Manned Space Flight, June 7, 1962” (emphasis in original).

    Chariots For Apollo, ch3-7. Casting the Die

    Von Braun's pronouncement in favor of lunar-orbit rendezvous, thus aligning his center with Gilruth's in Houston, signaled the accord that Holmes and Shea had so meticulously cultivated. Von Braun's conversion brought the two centers closer together, paving the way for effective cooperation. “It was a major element in the consolidation of NASA,” Shea said.77

    Thereafter, ratification of the mode question—the formal decision-making process and review by top management—followed almost as a matter of course. The Office of Systems began compiling information from the field center studies, adding the result of its own mode investigations. Shea and his staff also listened to briefings from several aerospace companies who had studied lunar rendezvous and the mission operations and hardware requirements for that approach. These firms, among them Douglas and a team from Grumman and RCA, believed that such work might enhance their chances of securing the additional hardware contracts that would follow a shift to lunar rendezvous. 78

    Shea's staff then compared the contending modes and prepared cost and schedule estimates for each. It appeared that lunar-orbit rendezvous should cost almost $1.5 billion less than either earth-orbit rendezvous or direct flight ($9.2 billion versus $10.6 billion) and would permit lunar landings six to eight months sooner. 79

    The Office of Systems issued the final version of the mode comparison at the end of July. This was the foundation upon which Holmes would defend his choice. Comparison of the modes revealed no significant technical problems; any of the modes could be developed with sufficient time and money, as von Braun had said. But there was a definite preferential ranking.

    Lunar rendezvous, employing a single Saturn C-5, was the most advantageous, since it also permitted the use of a separate craft designed solely for the lunar landing. In contrast, earth rendezvous with Saturn C-5s had the least assurance of mission success and the greatest development complexity of all the modes. Direct flight with the Nova afforded greater mission capability but demanded development of launch vehicles far larger than the C-5. A scaled-down, two-man C-5 direct flight offered minimal performance margins and portended the greatest problems with equipment accessibility and checkout. Therefore, “the LOR mode is recommended as most suitable for the Manned Lunar Landing Mission.”80

    On 22 June, Shea and Holmes had presented their findings to the Management Council. After extended discussions, the council unanimously agreed that lunar-orbit rendezvous was the best mode. To underscore the solidarity within the manned space flight organization, all of the members decided to attend when Administrator Webb was briefed on the mode selection.81

    First, however, Holmes and Shea informed Seamans of the decision. “By then,” the Associate Administrator recalled, “I was thoroughly convinced myself, and everybody agreed on it.” This was a technical decision that, from a general management position, he had refused to force upon the field organizations, even though he had long thought that lunar rendezvous was preferable.82

    On 28 June, Webb listened to the briefing and to the recommendations of the Management Council. He agreed with what was said but wanted Dryden, who was in the hospital, to take part in the final decision. That night, Seamans, Holmes, and Shea called on Dryden in his sickroom. Dryden had opposed lunar rendezvous because of the risks he believed it entailed, but he, too, liked the unanimity within the council and within NASA and gave lunar-orbit rendezvous his blessing. 83

    s/c configuration evolution

    Major configuration changes in the Apollo spacecraft from May 1960 to July 1962. The inset reentry bodies illustrate shapes that received the greatest amount of study.


    Although acceptance of lunar rendezvous by the agency came before the end of June 1962, it was not announced until the second week in July. The delay was caused by outside pressure. PSAC, the President's Science Advisory Committee, headed by Jerome Wiesner, had developed an interest in NASA's launch vehicle planning and the mode selection for Apollo. Wiesner had formed a special group, the Space Vehicle Panel, to keep an eye on NASA's doings, and Nicholas Golovin, no longer with NASA, worked closely with this panel. Wiesner had hired Golovin for PSAC because of his familiarity with the internal workings of the agency and his knowledge of the country's space programs, both military and civilian. Golovin led a persistent and intensive review of Apollo planning that caused considerable turmoil within the agency and forced it into an almost interminable defense of its decision to use lunar rendezvous. Concurrently with Shea's drive for field center agreement, the PSAC panel was holding meetings in Huntsville and Houston, demanding that the two centers justify their stand on lunar-orbit rendezvous. The panel then insisted on meeting with Shea and his staff in Washington for further discussions.84

    In a memorandum on 10 July, approved by both Webb and Dryden, Seamans officially informed Holmes that the decision on the Apollo mode had been approved. The Rubicon was crossed; Apollo was to proceed with lunar rendezvous. Immediate development of both the Saturn C-IB and a lunar excursion vehicle was also approved. Seamans added that “studies will be undertaken on an urgent basis” to determine the feasibility of earth-orbit rendezvous using the C-5 and a two-man capsule, one “designed, if possible, for direct ascent . . . as a backup mode.” 85

    LOR selection announcement

    NASA announced selection of the lunar-orbit-rendezvous landing technique at an 11 July 1962 press conference. At the conference table, left to right above, are NASA Administrator James E. Webb, Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Office of Manned Space Flight Director D. Brainerd Holmes, and OMSF Director of Systems Joseph F. Shea.


    Webb, Seamans, Holmes, and Shea announced the selection of lunar-orbit rendezvous for Apollo at a news conference on 11 July 1962. Webb, perhaps as a concession to Wiesner, warned that the decision was still only tentative; during the forthcoming months, he added, the agency would solicit proposals for the lunar landing module from industry and would study them carefully before making a final decision. In the meantime, studies of other approaches would continue.

    Holmes, however, struck a more definite note on the finality of the decision. Anything so complex, so expensive, as Apollo had to be studied at length, he said. “However, there is a balance between studying a program . . . and finally implementing it. There comes a point in time, and I think the point in time is now, when one must make a decision as to how to proceed, at least as the prime mode.”

    Webb concluded the press briefing:

    We have studied the various possibilities for the earliest, safest mission . . . and have considered also the capability of these various modes . . . for giving us an increased total space capability.

    We find that by adding one vehicle to those already under development, namely, the lunar excursion vehicle, we have an excellent opportunity to accomplish this mission with a shorter time span, with a saving of money, and with equal safety to any other modes. 86

    Shea demonstrates docking

    Shea uses models to demonstrate how the lunar module would dock with the command module.


    Early the next morning, Holmes and Shea appeared before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics to explain NASA's seemingly abrupt abandonment of earth-orbit rendezvous. Holmes said, “It was quite apparent last fall this mission mode really had not been studied in enough depth to commit the tremendous resources involved, financial and technical, for the periods involved, without making . . . detailed system engineering studies to a much greater extent than had been possible previously.” Nor had there been any agreement within the agency on any approach; “further study was necessary for that reason,” as well. But investigations could go on forever, he added, and “at some point one must make a decision and say now we go. It has been really impossible for us to truly program manage [Apollo] until this primary mode decision had been made.” Although several modes were workable, lunar-orbit rendezvous was “the most favorable one for us to undertake today.” Equally important was the new rapport that had been achieved within the manned space flight organization “to get the whole team pulling together.”87

    “Essentially,” Holmes told an American Rocket Society audience a week later, “we have now 'lifted off' and are on our way.” 88 But the PSAC challenge to NASA's choice still had to be dealt with before the decision became irreversible. While fending off this outside pressure, NASA had to keep North American moving on the command and service modules, watch MIT's work on the navigation and guidance system, and find a contractor for the lunar landing module.


    77. Shea interview.

    78. Bothmer, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 8 June 1962; Hayes to Shea, “LOR briefings by Grumman, Chance-Vought and Douglas,” 12 June 1962.

    79. NASA OMSF, “Manned Lunar Landing Program Mode Comparison,” 16 June 1962; addenda to “Manned Lunar Landing Program Mode Comparison,” 23 June 1962.

    80. NASA OMSF, “Manned Lunar Landing Program Mode Comparison,” 30 July 1962.

    81. Shea interview; Bothmer, minutes of 7th MSFMC meeting, 22 June 1962, pp. 2-3.

    82. Seamans, interview, Washington, 11 July 1969.

    83. Shea interview; Bothmer, OMSF Staff Meeting, 29 June 1962.

    84. NASA, “NASA Outlines Apollo Plans,” news release, 11 July 1962; President's Science Advisory Council panel, “Report of the Space Vehicle Panel,” 3 Jan. 1962; Markley to Mgr. and Dep. Mgr., ASPO, “Trip report . . . to D.C. on 27 April 1962,” 28 April 1962; Franklyn W. Phillips to Holmes et al., “Request for Contractor's Reports on Major NASA Projects,” 22 May 1962; Bothmer, 7th MSFMC meeting, p. 5; Bothmer, OMSF staff Meeting, 29 June 1962.

    85. Seamans to Dir., OMSF, “Recommendations of the Office of Manned Space Flight and the Management Council concerning the prime mission mode for manned lunar exploration,” 10 July 1962. Gilruth wanted the Saturn C-1B (consisting of the C-1 booster and the S-IVB stage) for development testing and qualification of the command and service modules. The C-1 did not have the capability, and the C-V would be too expensive for such a mission. Frick to NASA Hq., Attn.: Holmes, “Recommendation that the S-IVB stage be phased into the C-1 program for Apollo earth orbital missions,” 23 Feb. 1962; Gilruth to von Braun, “Saturn C-1B Launch Vehicle,” 5 July 1962.

    86. NASA, Lunar Orbit Rendezvous: News Conference on Apollo Plans at NASA Headquarters on July 11, 1962 (Washington, 1962), passim, but esp. pp. 7-9, 25, 30, 32.

    87. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, NASA Lunar Orbit Rendezvous Decision: Hearing, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 12 July 1962.

    88. D. Brainerd Holmes, “Lunar Orbital Rendezvous for Apollo,” paper presented to the American Rocket Society, Cleveland, Ohio, 17 July 1962; “NASA Outlines Apollo Plans,” MSC Fact Sheet 20, n.d.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-1. Matching Modules and Missions

    1962

    During 1962, NASA faced three major tasks: keeping North American moving on the command and service modules, defending its decision to fly the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode, and finding a contractor to develop the separate landing vehicle required by that approach.

    North American engineers spent the opening months of the year at desks, at drawing boards, and in conference rooms. Although not all the pieces of the Apollo stack had been defined, the first job was obviously to build a three-man earth-orbital spacecraft. This Phase A or Block I version, already worked out by NASA in considerable depth, still required detailed analyses, precise engineering specifications, and special manufacturing tools. The contractor also had to make scale-model spacecraft for wind-tunnel tests and full-size mockups of wood and metal for study and demonstration uses.1


    1. Ralph B. Oakley, “Historical Summary: S & ID Apollo Program,” North American Space & Info. Syst. Div., 20 Jan. 1966; North American, “Project Apollo, Pre-Contractural Documentation and Orbital Rendezvous: A Literature Survey,” SID 61-470, 29 Dec. 1961.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-2. The Team and the Tools

    Harrison A. Storms, Jr. (widely known as “Stormy"), Vice President of North American and President of its Space and Information Systems Division, was a forceful leader in advanced design and development work and a vigorous decision-maker who got things done. He had studied aeronautical engineering under Theodore von Kármán at the California Institute of Technology during the 1940s. Subsequently, at North American, he had advanced steadily through the ranks. With the nationally famous test pilot A. Scott Crossfield, among others, Storms had shepherded the company team through the first phases of the X-15 and later the XB-70 aircraft programs.2

    John Paup, who had worked at North American for several years before joining Sperry Rand, returned to his former employer in mid-1961 to help Storms bid on the NASA proposals and to become general manager for Apollo.#source3``3 Paup, in turn, picked Norman J. Ryker, Jr., as his chief designer. Ryker, who had joined the company in 1951, had been a stress analyst on the pioneer Navajo missile. He had also helped prepare bids for contracts for the Ranger and Surveyor spacecraft. North American had lost these competitions, but Ryker had remained in advanced design work.4

    Charles H. Feltz, a company man since 1940, was a fourth major leader of North American's Apollo development team. He had worked on P-51 and B-25 aircraft during the Second World War and later on the B-45, the F-86, and the F-100. Feltz had been project leader on the X-15 rocket research aircraft, coming into close contact with NACA and then NASA leaders with whom he would work on Apollo. Feltz was considered by his peers to be one of the best manufacturing managers in the airframe business.5

    NAA officials

    A team and a goal: officials of North American Aviation, Inc., study a replica of the moon shortly after the announcement that NASA had selected NAA as prime contractor for the Apollo command and service modules. From left to right are Harrison A. Storms, president of North American's Space and Information Systems Division; John W. Paup, program manager for Apollo; and Charles H. Feltz, Apollo program engineer.


    In the days before Project Mercury, North American, with General Electric, had been under contract to the Air Force for “Man-in-Space-Soonest.” When the Air Force lost the manned space flight mission to NASA, North American had put in a bid for Mercury. After losing to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1959, North American officials in 1961 were not eager to chance another defeat in a major NASA competition. But Storms and Paup, after combining forces with Ryker and Feltz, were determined to try for Apollo. When NASA picked North American on 11 September 1961 to build the S-II second stage of the advanced Saturn, J. Leland Atwood, President of the corporation, and Samuel K. Hoffman, President of the firm's Rocketdyne Division, were reconciled to this role in the program. Storms, Paup, and Ryker were not; they pressed on to win the spacecraft contract as well. 6

    NAA plant at Downey

    The North American Aviation plant at Downey, California, developed and produced the Apollo command module.


    Storms' team operated from a two-story building in Downey, California. Design engineers and draftsmen occupied the major portion of the structure, their desks crowded together in cavernous halls. An adjacent building housed the manufacturing activities for the space division. Ninety percent of the property belonged to the federal government, but long-term leases had made North American, as tenant, virtually the proprietor. Now, with the Apollo contract, plans were made to recruit personnel, to buy adjoining property, and to construct more buildings and facilities. In the meantime, some of the personnel worked out of house-trailer offices in the parking lots.

    The manpower buildup in Storms' division in the first six months of 1962 doubled the size of his organization—from 7,000 to more than 14,000 persons. Although many employees were busy on the Air Force's Hound Dog missile, among other projects, the newcomers for the most part were hired to develop the Apollo command and service modules. 7

    Impact Facility at NAA

    The impact facility at North American was used to drop-test the CM on water, sand, gravel, and boulders to check structural integrity and impact loads.


    One of the first structures built at Downey specifically for Apollo began to take shape early in 1962. The Impact Test Facility, 46 meters high, looked like a gigantic playground swing. It was a swing of sorts —one designed to hold and drop a command module so the Apollo team could study it and improve structural strengths of the heatshield, honeycomb shock absorbers, inner and outer shells, afterbody, and astronaut couches. At one end of the swing was a pool of water, at the other a sandpile that could be banked or pitted with gravel and boulders. To return men safely from the moon required a knowledge of the exact limits they and their machine could endure at the final landing on earth.8

    As expected, structures, heatshields, and radiation protection were primary concerns during the first year or so. Unexpectedly, however, the manufacture of mockup modules, initially considered of less importance, quickly grew into a major program to supply boilerplate spacecraft (metal models designed to be used in testing). North American's structural assembly department had begun tooling up for extensive work on mockups in January 1962. By the end of the year, this shop employed 305 persons on three shifts, tooling, drilling, welding, and assembling custom-built units. D. W. Chidley, a 14-year veteran of North American's prototype manufacturing and head of the department, reported at year's end that his group had built six test vehicles and two full-scale mockups, which had been featured in NASA-North American reviews during the year.9

    To keep key personnel ready for the frequent meetings with NASA and aware of daily plant operations, Storms, Paup, Ryker, and Feltz held ten-minute briefings for all plant supervisors at the beginning of each morning shift. Agendas were carefully controlled; no interruptions were permitted; and everyone was required to speak for his section. Thus, until North American's Apollo operation grew too large to make this kind of communication useful, all the major managers had at least one daily direct contact with their colleagues and superiors. Some of these sessions were devoted to plans for selecting and working with the subcontractors who would develop the subsystems. 10

    Shortly after the NASA-North American contract was signed, subcontractors for four of the spacecraft systems were picked: (1) Collins Radio Company for telecommunications; (2) The Garrett Corporation's AiResearch Manufacturing Company, environmental control; (3) Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, stabilization and attitude control; and (4) Northrop Corporation's Radioplane (later Ventura Division, parachutes and earth landing.

    North American soon added other subcontractors. In February 1962 the Lockheed Propulsion Company was selected to design the solid-propellant motor for the launch escape tower. By the end of March, The Marquardt Corporation had been chosen for the command and service modules' reaction control system, Aerojet-General for the service module's main engine, and Avco Corporation for ablative coatings and the spacecraft heatshield. In April, Thiokol Chemical Corporation was named to work with Lockheed on the launch escape system.11

    Interior of CM mockup

    Interior of a partial full-scale mockup of the Apollo command module. In flight, the center couch would be removed as shown), giving better access to the instrument panel and lower equipment bay.


    While NASA was trying to decide on the mode during the first half of 1962, John Paup and his North American engineers were getting restive. Although repeatedly warned by his own people not to bend tin or cut metal too soon, Paup insisted that hardware production should get under way. He did have his model shops turn out a mockup of a lunar excursion module—which looked like a helicopter cab atop thin spidery legs— and of a lunar braking module, just in case a direct route to the moon should be chosen. On the first of June, Paup wrote Houston that schedules for spacecraft delivery were slipping further and further behind. How could they build the service module, he asked, if they did not know what it would be used for?12

    Astronauts inspect CM Mockup

    At left, left to right, astronauts Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, and Walter Schirra in 1963 inspect a full-scale mock up of the Apollo CM, designed for three men.


    But there was at least one area where work could start immediately. Early in the contract, North American and Houston engineers had agreed on a flight-test program, putting boilerplate command and service modules through structural tests and checking out the abort escape system. In mid1961, while he was still with NASA before joining North American in 1962, Alan Kehlet had suggested using a fin-stabilized, clustered-rocket, solid-propellant booster for these tests. The “Little Joe II” (named after the Project Mercury test vehicle) would be able to propel a full-sized Apollo reentry spacecraft to velocities as great as those in the critical portions of the Saturn trajectory and to altitudes of 60,900 meters. The tests would be a simple and fairly inexpensive way of determining—in flight—the full-scale spacecraft configuration concepts, systems performance, and structural integrity. Tests of the launch escape system at maximum dynamic pressure would be most important. In May 1962 the Convair Division of General Dynamics was selected to develop the vehicle.13

    Officials discussing

    General Dynamics' Little Joe II program manager Jack Hurt (holding book) discusses development and production plans with NASA officials (left to right) Walter Williams, Robert Piland, and James Elms at the San Diego plant in May 1963.


    Although launch sites at Wallops Island, Virginia; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and the Cape were considered, the New Mexico desert north of El Paso, Texas, was picked early in the spring of 1962 as the Little Joe II test area. The Army's White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) seemed the most suitable for Little Joe II ballistic flights. 14

    Apollo launch vehicles comparison

    Selection of Little Joe II completed the Apollo family of launch vehicles.


    White Sands Test Facility

    A desert area at White Sands Test Facility, New Mexico, was used for testing the spacecraft propulsion system module.


    LES Pad Abort Test

    A pad abort test at White Sands, left, helped determine that the launch escape system could propel the Apollo command module away from danger if a Saturn launch vehicle explosion should threaten.


    Little Joe II CM recovered

    A model of the CM, below, launched by a Little Joe II in 1965, is recovered after impact on the New Mexico desert.


    NASA engineers expected to conduct three kinds of tests at White Sands: (1) pad aborts, in which a solid-fueled rocket mounted on a tower attached to the top of the command module would pull the spacecraft away as it would have to do if the Saturn threatened to blow up on the launch pad; (2) maximum-dynamic-pressure (“max q") tests, in which the rocket would pull the spacecraft away from the launch vehicle if the booster veered off course shortly after launch; and (3) high-altitude tests, in which the rocket would haul the spacecraft away from the launch vehicle if the Saturn were unable to boost its payload to orbital flight.15

    Other organizations, such as the Ames Research Center, near San Francisco, had been working on Apollo while waiting for a mode decision. Quite often after a day's work at Downey, North American engineers flew to Moffett Field, carrying models for Ames to test in its wind tunnels. Ames engineers were also dropping test vehicles on a simulated lunar surface to study landing gear designs and possible structural damage on impact.16

    Ames had a close relationship with its Navy neighbors at Moffett Field. Navy flight surgeon Harald A. Smedal, who had been in aviation medicine for years, was a logical consultant to NASA's research engineers. Interested in physiological instrumentation as well as pilot performance during flight, Smedal worked on spacecraft cabin designs, especially on cockpit layouts that emphasized pilot convenience in spacecraft control.17

    Another example of Ames' applied research that fed into North American was the work of test pilots and life scientists in ground-based simulations of the characteristics of spacesuits, restraint harnesses, work-rest cycles, and isolation conditions. North American and Ames were intent on making certain that the cockpit was designed to take full advantage of the pilots' capabilities in performing and sharing their duties.18

    Major CM components

    The drawing outlines major parts of the command module structure.


    The Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, also took a hand in getting spacecraft development on a good footing by putting Marquardt's reaction control jets through a test program. These small motors—used to turn the spacecraft right or left, up or down, or in a roll maneuver —were cooled regeneratively (in a process in which the expansion of part of the hot gas cools the remainder). When tests showed that the engines would burn up during reentry heating, Houston directed North American to use Marquardt motors only on the service module (since it would be jettisoned before reentry) and to make or buy command module jets similar to the ablative engines developed for Gemini. In August 1962, the command module thruster contract was transferred to North American's Rocketdyne Division, which produced Gemini's attitude control and maneuvering engines and reentry control system. 19

    CM assembly

    The cabin section (or primary structure) of the CM is assembled at North American in 1965.


    Even though the Manned Spacecraft Center had gained its independence and had moved away, the ties between NASA-Langley and NASA-Houston remained strong, providing another source to draw on for help. Shortly after the move to Houston, Axel T. Mattson came to Texas as full-time liaison officer, coordinating the use of Langley's five-meter transonic wind tunnel in testing and studying the aerodynamic effects of reaction control jets and escape tower exhaust plumes on the command and service modules.

    Preparing aft heatshields

    Technicians prepare aft heatshields to attach to model CMs. These shields were made of fiberglas for test vehicles that did not require heat protection; the finished versions were of the same materials as the central heatshield.


    Langley's wind-tunnel experts also conducted diagnostic tests of heat transfer, heating loads and rates, and aerodynamic and hydrodynamic stability on the command module heatshield. The heatshield contractor—the Avco Corporation's Everett, Massachusetts, division— had proposed an ablative tile shield, a layered and bonded single-piece construction similar to that used on Mercury. Then McDonnell had advanced heat protection technology by developing ablator-filled honeycomb material for Gemini. When North American and NASA engineers approved this thermal protection Avco refined the new system to withstand the higher heating rates of lunar reentry. McDonnell's Gemini heatshield was made of a Fiberglas honeycomb material; the ablator, developed by Dow-Corning, was poured into it and allowed to harden. The Apollo ablative heatshield, however, was bonded to an inner brazed stainless steel honeycomb shield, and the 400,000 honeycomb cells in its plastic outer shield were filled by hand using a caulking gun, 20 with an ablator developed by Avco.

    Preparing central heatshields

    Technicians work on the central heatshield, the two men on the sides applying heat-protection ablative material with caulking guns.


    Central heatshield emplaced

    A completed central heatshield is lowered into place over the primary structure in May 1966.


    While the heatshield was going through its growing pains, the earth landing system for the command module was beginning to mature. Apollo's preliminary plan had included either water or land landing. John W. Kiker, a landing system specialist in Houston, had studied several alternatives: a rotating wing (like a helicopter's), a flexible wing (similar to a paraglider), or traditional parachutes (such as were used in Mercury). Kiker, working with experts at Langley and Ames, ran the proposed models through wind-tunnel tests and then asked the Flight Research Center to put the equipment through free-flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base.21

    Parachute recovery system

    Parachute recovery system.


    But by the middle of 1962 hopes for a touchdown on land were beginning to fade. At a meeting in Houston on 10 May engineers of Northrop-Ventura (the recovery system subcontractor described their designs for a cluster of three ring-sail parachutes for the main landing system. North American liked Northrop's proposal better than the system being tested, which deployed the parachutes through the heatshield cover on the conical top of the command module. In the proposed system, the cover would be jettisoned before the parachutes were released. On 16 May Houston told North American to go ahead with the development of this multiple-parachute system and to set the paraglider aside for further review.22

    At that time, North American was developing a paraglider landing system for the Gemini spacecraft. In Houston, Max Faget noted that the contractor was having trouble with the Gemini system and became skeptical of the paraglider's value for Apollo. In June 1962, he recommended water

    landings for the lunar program. At NASA Headquarters, George Low told Brainerd Holmes that North American's concentration on parachutes for Apollo would mean the end of the paraglider for that program. Holmes wanted to know if it could be put in later, provided the technical difficulties were solved. Low said this could be done only if the paraglider were ready within a year.23 When NASA and the Navy recovered John Glenn and Scott Carpenter and their Mercury spacecraft from the water with comparative ease, chances for a dry landing in Apollo grew slim.

    Another key part of the command module that had to keep moving was the guidance and navigation system. To get started in the right direction, representatives from North American and MIT decided to meet regularly, either at Downey or Cambridge, to keep an eye on progress and trade information. In early 1962, the guidance and navigation system had, of course, moved very little beyond the embryo stage. Some advances had been made on the gyroscopes and accelerometers for the inertial measurement unit (similar to that used to help guide the Polaris missile), but digital computer development and the space sextant were not well defined.24

    Manned Spacecraft Center engineers had questioned whether an astronaut in a pressurized suit could operate a sextant or the other delicate pieces of navigation equipment. The Apollo contract had specified a shirt-sleeve environment. For this reason, North American had been told not to include in its design a hatch that opened by explosives, like Mercury's. An accidentally blown hatch would cause an instant vacuum and certain death for a crewman not wearing his pressure suit. But on some occasions, such as launch, the crew would be in their suits and would need equipment that could be operated while wearing the bulky gloves and helmet.25

    In June 1962, several Manned Spacecraft Center and North American engineers went to MIT to learn how the crew was to operate the guidance system. One of the talks covered the use of the sextant in determining navigational position. At that point, the MIT experts were invited to Houston to try operating the sextant while wearing an inflated suit. Whether they came was not documented, but in the succeeding months modifications made the sextant and suit operation more compatible. The chief result of all these meetings, however, was a new understanding of the command module's cabin layout, which gave MIT a clearer picture of how components should fit.26

    Ames Research Center engineers also participated in the meetings (giving Gilruth another set of specialists to call upon in monitoring MIT's work). The Ames guidance experts sponsored a session at a NASA-university conference that dealt with such subjects as midcourse guidance and navigation techniques and the procedures for reducing the uncertainties connected with these operations. Ames speakers recommended making mid-course corrections early in flight to avoid the wider dispersions and greater fuel use that might result from making trajectory changes closer to the moon. Studies by Ames on atmospheric entry guidance—another critical operation—indicated that a man could indeed steer his spacecraft through the narrow reentry corridor to a safe landing on the earth.27

    When some components of the command module's guidance and navigation system were ready for development and fabrication by subcontractors, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans appointed a Source Evaluation Board in January 1962, headed by Robert G. Chilton, * of MSC, to select industrial supporters for MIT. NASA chose the AC Spark Plug Division of General Motors to build the inertial platform, Raytheon to make the digital computer, and the Kollsman Instrument Corporation to manufacture the optical systems. By May 1962, most of these contractual arrangements were complete. 28

    NASA's top officials had been concerned about MIT's ability to build a guidance and navigation system that would take a crew to the moon and back to the earth. As the system began to take shape, another worry cropped up. Would the Instrumentation Laboratory be able to manage the industrial contractors once the design evolved into development? To be certain that the subcontractors understood the arrangement, Seamans visited the Wakefield Laboratory of AC Spark Plug in July, where he was assured that AC and MIT could work together just as they had on the Titan II inertial guidance system. But the managerial task in the complex and interlocking systems of the command module, as well as those of the other vehicles in the Apollo stack, had to be spelled out in precise and formal guidelines to ensure orderly progress. A system of “Interface Control Documents” became standard.

    There was nothing very mysterious about the Interface Control Documents. Somewhere along the line, some piece of Apollo's two million functional parts assembled in one place had to meet and match with a piece put together in another place. After MIT had designed and supervised the building of the guidance and navigation system, for example, the component was sent to North American for installation in the command module. Size and location of the equipment had to be defined and agreed upon in advance so it would fit properly. Because of the many, many companies working on the different parts of the Apollo stack, these interface documents were essential in laying out just where and how the parts would come together—systems with spacecraft, spacecraft with launch vehicles, launch vehicles and spacecraft with launch facilities, and all these systems and craft with the crew and with launch and mission control centers.29

    All in all, during 1962 good progress had been made in getting command module development under way. Contractors were working together, and cooperation among the NASA field centers had improved. One of the underlying factors in this advancement had been the establishment of a formal Apollo spacecraft management office at the Manned Spacecraft Center.

    In January 1962, when Charles Frick became manager of the new Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, he assumed responsibility “for the technical direction of North American Aviation and other industrial contractors assigned work on the Apollo Spacecraft Project.” Frick arrived at Langley Field, Virginia, just in time to meet the 45 persons that his deputy, Robert Piland, had gathered into the new project office before they moved to Houston on 1 February. The new organization settled into the Rich Building, one of the center's 13 rented sites scattered around the Gulf Freeway.30 But, even before Frick's arrival and the establishment of the formal spacecraft office, the Apollo workers in Gilruth's center had taken on an expanded responsibility.


    * Chilton's board members were Caldwell C. Johnson, Jr., Charles F. Bingman, Arthur E. Garrison, and Carl D. Sword of MSC; Richard C. Henry and Earl E. McGinty of NASA Headquarters; Merrill H. Mead of Ames; and two nonvoting participants, Ralph Ragan of MIT and James T. Koppenhaver of NASA Headquarters.


    2. Harrison A. Storms, Jr., interviews, Downey, Calif., 6 June 1966, and El Segundo, Calif., 16 July 1970; Philip Geddes, “How NAA Won Apollo . . . 'management,'“ Aerospace Management, 1962, no. 4, pp. 12-16; biographical sketch of Storms in Shirley Thomas, Men of Space: Profiles of Leaders in Space Research, Development. and Exploration 4 (Philadelphia: Chilton Co., 1962); 206-32. See also Art Seidenbaum, “Quarterback for the Moon Race,” Saturday Evening Post, 5 May 1962, pp. 85-90.

    3. John W. Paup, interview, Downey, 7 June 1966; Beirne Lay, Jr., Earthbound Astronauts: The Builders of Apollo-Saturn (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1971), pp. 77-81.

    4. North American, “Norman J. Ryker, Jr., Vice President, Research, Engineering and Test,” news release, 26 March 1970; Ryker, interviews, Downey, 9 June 1966 and 20 July 1970.

    5. North American, “Charles H. Feltz, Program Vice President, Space Shuttle Orbiter Program,” news release, 8 July 1970.

    6. J. Leland Atwood, interview, El Segundo, 16 July 1970; Samuel K. Hoffman, interview, Canoga Park, Calif., 17 July 1970.

    7. Oakley, “Historical Summary,” pp. 6, 7, 43-44.

    8. North American, “Apollo Facts,” [ca. August 1963]; North American, “Impact Test Facility,” news release NS-16, 3 April 1963; Ryker, “Technical Status of the Apollo Command and Service Modules,” North American SID 64-698, 3 April 1964, p. 19.

    9. D. W. Chidley, “1962 Annual Report on Department 663, Apollo Mockup, Boilerplate Structural Assembly Department,” North American, n.d.

    10. Jack R. Hahn, interview, Canoga Park, 15 July 1970.

    11. “Four Additional Companies Named to Work on Apollo,” MSC Space News Roundup, 27 Dec. 1961; Earl Blount TWX to Lt. Col. John A. Powers, 12 Feb. 1962; Oakley, “Historical Summary,” pp. 5-6; Sanford Falbaum, interview, Long Beach, Calif., 15 July 1970.

    12. Paup to Charles W. Frick, 1 June 1962; R. L. Benner, interview, Downey, 7 June 1966.

    13. Alan B. Kehlet et al., “A Preliminary Study of a Fin-stabilized Solid-Fuel Rocket Booster for Use with the Apollo Spacecraft,” NASA Project Apollo working paper No. 1020, 7 June 1961; William W. Petynia, interview, Houston, 9 Dec. 1970; General Dynamics, Convair Div., “Little Joe II Test Launch Vehicle, NASA Apollo: Final Report,” GDC-66-042, May 1966; NASA, “NASA Project Apollo Statement of Work, Test Launch Vehicle Little Joe II),” 31 March 1962. For a discussion of the origins of the Little Joe vehicle for Mercury, see Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander, This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, NASA SP-4201 (Washington, 1966), pp. 121-26.

    14. Petynia to Mgr., ASPO, MSC, “Trip report to White Sands Missile Range on May 17 and 18, 1962, to discuss Little Joe II and pad abort flight configurations and tests,” 2l May 1962; Holmes to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Apollo Spacecraft Propulsion Development Facility Site,” 13 June 1962, with enc., “Site Recommendation for Apollo Spacecraft Propulsion Development Facility,” p. 5; Maj. Gen. John G. Shinkle to Robert R. Gilruth, 4 June 1962; James E. Webb to Robert S. McNamara, 10 Aug. 1962; Robert P. Young to Webb, “Selection for site to test Apollo service module,” 4 June 1962; idem, note, 7 June 1962; “Agreement for Construction and Operation of an Apollo Spacecraft Propulsion Development Facility at the White Sands Missile Range,” approved by Hugh L. Dryden for NASA and Paul R. Ignatius for the Army, 19 Dec. 1962.

    15. J. Thomas Markley, “Apollo at White Sands,” MSC Fact Sheet 97, 11 Sept. 1962.

    16. Calvin H. Perrine to Apollo Spacecraft Project Officer, “Minutes of Meeting at Ames Research Center on Aerodynamics and Meteorite Impact Studies Applicable to Apollo,” 5 April 1962; Harold Hornby, interview, Ames, 28 June 1971.

    17. For a sampling of research by Harald A. Smedal, see Smedal, George R. Holden, and Joseph R. Smith, Jr., to Dir., Ames, “Ames Airborne Physiological Instrumentation Package,” 11 April 1960; Smedal, Brent Y. Creer, and Rodney C. Wingrove, Physiological Effects of Acceleration Observed during a Centrifuge Study of Pilot Performance, NASA Technical Note (TN) D-345 (Langley Field, December 1960); Smedal, Holden, and Smith, Jr., A Flight Evaluation of an Airborne Physiological Instrumentation System, Including Preliminary Results under Conditions of Varying Accelerations, NASA TN D-351 (Langley Field, December 1960); Holden, Smith, Jr., and Smedal, “Physiological Instrumentation Systems for Monitoring Pilot Response to Stress at Zero and High G,” Aerospace Medicine 33 (1962), no. 4: 420-27.

    18. Hubert C. Vykukal, Richard P. Gallant, and Glen W. Stinnett, “An Interchangeable, Mobile Pilot-Restraint System, Designed for Use in High Sustained Acceleration Force Fields,” Aerospace Medicine 33 (1962), no. 3: 279-85; Edwin P. Hartman, Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1965, NASA SP-4302 (Washington, 1970), pp. 479-80.

    19. A. B. Kehlet et al., “Notes on Project Apollo: January 1960-January 1962,” 8 Jan. 1962, p. 12; Jesse F. Goree to Caldwell C. Johnson, “Command Module RCS Engines,” 20 July 1962; Johnson TWX to E. E. Sack and George A. Lemke, “Command and Service Module Reaction Control System Engines,” 31 July 1962; Holmes to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Change in Subcontractors for Apollo Command Module Reaction Control Jets,” 24 July 1962.

    20. Axel T. Mattson to Charles J. Donlan, “Report on Activities (April 1-April 5, 1962) regarding Manned Spacecraft Projects,” 5 April 1962; Clyde B. Bothmer, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 29 June 1962; Falbaum interview; Robert L. Trimpi, interview, Langley, 21 June 1966; North American, “CSM Costs/Schedule/Technical Characteristics Study: Final Report,” 2, SID71-35, 30 April 1971, p. II-24; McDonnell Aircraft Corp., External Relations Div., Gemini Press Reference Book: Gemini Spacecraft Number Three (St. Louis, 1965), p. 5; North American, Public Relations Dept., Apollo Spacecraft News Reference (Downey, Calif., rev. ed., 1969), p. 47; Johnson Space Center, “Apollo Program Summary,” JSC-09423, April 1975, p. 4-19; NASA, “Project: Apollo 7,” press kit, news release 68-168K, 27 Sept. 1968, p. 25.

    21. Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Silverstein, “Preliminary project development plan for a controllable parachute-retrorocket landing system for Apollo spacecraft,” 26 June 1961; Gilruth to Langley, Attn.: Office of Cooperative Projects, “Wind tunnel investigation of Apollo Parawing deployment problems,” n.d. [ca. August 1961]; Jack C. Heberlig to Johnson, no subj., 28 Aug. 1961.

    22. North American, “Earth Landing System, Parachute Subsystem, Proposed Revision,” SID 62-482, 8 May 1962; summary of meeting with NAA/S&ID, Northrop-Ventura, and MSC on landing system-parachute subsystem, 10 May 1962; Johnson to North American, Attn.: Paup, “Earth Landing System-Apollo Spacecraft,” 16 May 1962; Benner interview.

    23. Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA SP-4203 (Washington, 1977), pp. 31-296, passim; Johnson to North American, Attn.: Sack, “Implementation of recommended actions from Design Review Meeting, June 4 and 5, 1962,” 15 June 1962, with enc., minutes of MSC-NAA Spacecraft Design Review Meeting No. 3; Bothmer, OMSF Staff Meeting, 29 June 1962.

    24. Johnson TWX to North American, Attn.: Paup and Markley, 30-Jan. 1962; George P. Burrill III to Assoc. Dir., MSC, “Visit to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), December 19-29, 1961,” 3 Jan. 1962.

    25. Glenn F. Bailey, “Request for Proposal No. 302, Feasibility Study for Project Apollo” [13 Sept. 1960], with attchs. A and B and enc., “General Requirements for a Proposal for a Feasibility Study of an Advanced Manned Spacecraft”; Kehlet et al., “Notes on Project Apollo,” p. 8; Johnson enc., minutes, Design Review Meeting No. 3; Thomas V. Chambers to Assoc. Dir., MSC, “Coordination Meetings with MIT personnel,” 27 Nov. 1961; MSC, ASPO Management Report for 16-23 April 1964.

    26. MSC, abstract of proceedings, Guidance and Control System Meeting No. 2, 7 June 1962; Robert D. Weatherbee engineering memo to MSC, Attn.: Charles C. Lutz, “Transmittal of NASA-MIT-Apollo Space Suit Assembly Contractor Meeting dated December 5, 1962, HSER 2585-5,” 22 Jan. 1963, with enc., minutes of spacesuit navigation system optical interface meeting between NASA, Hamilton Standard, International Latex Corp., and MIT at Cambridge, Mass., 5 Dec. 1962; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Reports: no. 2, for period ending 31 Dec. 1962, p. 12, and no. 3, for period ending 31 March 1963, p. 29.

    27. H. E. Van Ness to STG, Attn.: Robert G. Chilton, “Apollo Navigation and Guidance Meetings,” 13 Oct. 1961; Proceedings of the NASA-University Conference on the Science and Technology of Space Exploration, Chicago, 1-3 Nov. 1962, NASA SP-11, 2 vols. (Washington, 1962), papers 27 through 32.

    28. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Appointment of Evaluation Board,” 31 Jan. 1962; Webb, “Statement Of the Administrator, [NASA], on Selection of Contractors for Apollo Spacecraft Navigation and Guidance System MIT Industrial Support,” n.d.; NASA, “Contractors Selected for Negotiations—Apollo Guidance System,” news release 62-112, 8 May 1962.

    29. Seamans to Admin., NASA, Trip report to Wakefield Laboratory of A. C. Spark Plug Co., July 16,” 25 July 1962; Aaron Cohen, interview, Houston, 14 Jan, 1970.

    30. MSC, “Establishment of the Apollo Spacecraft Project Office,” Announcement 10, 15 Jan. 1962; “MSC Personality: C. W. Frick Heads Apollo Project,” MSC Space News Roundup, 7 March 1962. For a description of the decentralized Manned Spacecraft Center when it first moved to Texas, see NASA-MSC booklet, “Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas: Interim Facilities,” 1 Aug. 1962

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-3. Preliminary Designs for the Lunar Lander

    Work at NASA's lead Apollo center on the excursion vehicle had started in late 1961, when designers began looking at the advantages of lunar-orbit rendezvous. But these had been analyses of general rather than specific configurations. Wernher von Braun's researchers in Huntsville had also studied concepts for soft landing. For landers weighing several thousand kilograms (and thus presumably manned), they considered liquid-fueled engines more practical than those using solid propellants. Houston engineers also drew on studies conducted by the Langley Research Center in Virginia. By mid-September 1961, Gilruth's people had roughly worked out a mission plan and figured out the kind of vehicle that might do the job. From September to December, they tried to nail down systems operations more precisely, particularly in such areas as propulsion and communications.31

    The mysterious nature of the moon's surface received much attention, since a safe lunar landing presented some tricky design problems. Manned Spacecraft Center engineers considered such things as the effect of engine exhaust on the surface layer, the influence of dust layers on landing-gear footpads, and surface dust effects on optical and radar landing aids. Although a model of the lunar surface drawn from the best available data was used for these engineering studies, Gilruth's men realized that there were varying views among scientists about the lunar surface characteristics, especially the depth of the dust layer. 32

    By early 1962, spacecraft specialists had begun to move beyond the study phase. While others fought for their chosen mode, they worked out details for building the lunar module and started preparing for its procurement. The newly created Houston Apollo spacecraft office drafted a lengthy document in April defending the hardware and operational feasibility of lunar rendezvous and the excursion vehicle. Basic concepts of the mission profile and docking and of storage arrangements for the lander inside the spacecraft adapter were fairly firm. Many aspects of guidance and navigation and of operations in lunar orbit were well understood. Several theoretical vehicle shapes were depicted, velocity requirements were delineated, vehicle weights (up to 9,200 kilograms, including a 25-percent contingency margin) were estimated, and mission development plans, using the Little Joe II and the Saturn C-IB and C-5, were considered.33

    William Rector was assigned to Frick's project office staff “to start worrying about the LEM.” Using command module documentation as a guide, he wrote a work statement. Rector drew on technical expertise from within the project office and from other center organizations, particularly Max Faget's research and development directorate. He relied heavily on advice from the Spacecraft Research Division in preparing the procurement documents. Rector began with “a real shoestring operation,” a small group of specialists for communications, propulsion, and overall configuration, and for assembling information and writing the request for proposals.

    Early in May, Rector and his team finished the preliminary statement of work and started on the formal proposal request. “I'll never forget,” he said later, “all we did was just sort of turn the command module upside down and put a window and a propulsion stage in it.” From this point on Rector and his group continually revised the proposal, to include additional information on visibility requirements, crew location, and propulsion systems as it became available. They also took first cuts at the guidance and communications systems, among others, trying to work out the basic interrelationships for each subsystem and to get them into the work statement.34

    The spacecraft office wanted the work statement in its final form by mid-July. When the early drafts went to Washington for review, Joseph Shea in the Office of Manned Space Flight insisted that the vehicle should be configured for unmanned, as well as manned, flight because NASA might want to use it to ferry large payloads to the lunar surface. Everyone in Houston, from Gilruth on down, claimed that such a lander would be unreliable. The lunar module design should not be compromised by throwing in this dual requirement.

    After a series of meetings, including a last-minute session with Gilruth and Frick, Rector carried a work statement to Headquarters that left the door open for future negotiations. To avoid further delay in procurement, he had inserted a clause that obligated the contractor to study the advantages and drawbacks of automatic versus manned modes and to assist the agency in coming to a final decision. The procurement documents were approved and issued to 11 aerospace firms * during the latter half of July.35

    While Houston was getting ready to procure the lander, Shea's Office of Systems was defending the agency's choice of lunar-orbit rendezvous before the President's advisers and the public. This was a time-consuming and harried process, a grinding day-by-day burden, that began even before the official announcement in July.


    * Companies invited to submit proposals were Lockheed, Boeing, Ling-Temco-Vought, Northrop, Grumman, Douglas, General Dynamics, Republic Aviation, Martin-Marietta, North American, and McDonnell.


    31. James P. Gardner, Harry O. Ruppe, and Warren H. Straly, “Comments on Problems Relating to the Lunar Landing Vehicle,” ABMA Rept. DSP-TN-13-58, 4 Nov. 1958, passim, but esp. p. 36; Donald C. Cheatham to Chief, Flight Ops. Div., and Head, Apollo Projects Off., “Conference with Langley Research Center personnel on problems related to lunar landing operations,” 14 Nov. 1961; STG, “A General Description of the Apollo 'Bug' Systems,” 11 Sept. 1961; Owen E. Maynard, “A General Description of the Lunar Excursion Vehicle's Systems for Excursions from Lunar Orbit to Lunar Landing and Back to Lunar Orbit,” STG, working paper no. 1028, 29 Sept. 1961; Jack W. Small to Chief, Flight Systems Div., STG, “Payload penalties and technical considerations for implementing the LEV with communication functions in addition to those which satisfy minimum requirements,” 30 Nov. 1961; Richard B. Ferguson, “Propulsion Requirements for Lunar Landing Missions Employing a Detachable Lunar Lander,” MSC, working paper no. 1038, 19 Dec. 1961.

    32. Frank W. Casey, Jr., and Owen E. Maynard, “A Hypothetical Model of the Lunar Surface for the Engineering Design of Terminal Touchdown Systems,” MSC, working paper No. 1033, 30 Nov. 1961.

    33. MSC, “Lunar Orbital Technique for Performing the Lunar Mission,” April 1962, passim, but esp. pp. 15-21, 57-61.

    34. William F. Rector III, interview, Redondo Beach, Calif., 27 Jan. 1970; MSC Weekly Activity Report for Dir., OMSF, NASA, 29 April-5 May 1962, p. 11.

    35. Rector interview; NASA, “Request for Proposals on R&D for Lunar Excursion Module,” news release, unnumbered, 25 July 1962; NASA, “Request for Proposal on 'LEM,'“ news release, unnumbered, 25 July 1962; “Apollo Chronology,” MSC Fact Sheet 96, n.d.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-4. Pressures by PSAC

    The Space Vehicle Panel of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) was apprehensive about lunar-orbit rendezvous well before NASA picked that approach. After the decision was made public in July 1962, Nicholas Golovin, at the behest of Jerome Wiesner, probed deeply into NASA's planning activities. If NASA was to reverse its decision, pressure would have to be applied before the development contract was awarded. Once that had been done, the course of Apollo would be virtually impossible to change.

    PSAC's interest in manned space flight had begun with the Mercury program and had led to the establishment of the Space Vehicle Panel in the fall of 1961. Headed by Franklin A. Long of Cornell University, the panel had met in October and December for briefings by NASA officials on the agency's plans for launch vehicles. Long reported in January 1962 the group's observations and recommendations for strengthening the country's booster capabilities. Since Apollo planning had by then shifted from direct flight to earth-orbit rendezvous, the panel also pressed for the development of rendezvous and docking techniques. 36

    Thus, 1961 had closed with some degree of harmony between NASA and PSAC; but that soon changed. As the space agency began to waver on its mode choice during the first half of 1962, Wiesner, Golovin, and the panel wedged themselves into the daily activities of spacecraft development. When NASA began to look more favorably on lunar rendezvous, relations between the two organizations deteriorated rapidly.

    Panel members visited Los Angeles during February for discussions on spacecraft and launch vehicle development by North American and then went on to Washington and several of the NASA centers later, looking closely at the mode comparison studies then in progress. They grew resentful of NASA's refusal to supply them with every draft document, both government and industry, the agency had on the subject. NASA, on the other hand, chafed at the panel's snooping into internal and contractual relationships, insisting that these activities lay outside PSAC's advisory authority.37

    During May and June, Golovin asked for detailed information on launch vehicles and spacecraft for all approaches under consideration; he also requested progress reports from all Apollo spacecraft contractors and on engine development programs. Shea did not want to release this material while the mode comparison studies were in progress, and he sent a staff member to tell Golovin that schedules were not firm and that his request was premature. Golovin was, as a matter of fact, at something of a personal disadvantage in his pursuit of NASA information. He had stirred up controversy during the 1960-1961 period of Project Mercury with his statistical reliability analysis methods, which many Mercury engineers considered merely a “numbers game.”38

    Just before the lunar rendezvous selection was publicly endorsed, the Space Vehicle Panel met with NASA officials in Washington on 5 and 6 July. In preparation for this meeting, Golovin again asked Shea for the draft documents that had been used to produce the mode comparison studies. Shea advised Golovin that this material was still subject to final editing. Golovin said that all the panel wanted was a preview of the technical data and analyses of various mode alternatives, their feasibility, and advantages.

    On 3 July, after examining some papers Shea had sent the day before, Wiesner and Golovin thought they had found a flaw. One table showed a higher probability of disaster for lunar rendezvous than for either earth rendezvous or direct flight. Wiesner called Webb, who, in turn, telephoned Shea and suggested that he see Wiesner immediately.

    Shea tried to persuade Wiesner and Golovin that the reliability numbers based on Marshall's computations contained an error. The PSAC officials were also told that figures from the report of the Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (of which Golovin himself had been chairman) were invalid because of unduly pessimistic assumptions about the reliability of rendezvous and the difficulties of abort. Calculations made within the Office of Manned Space Flight, Shea argued, showed success-failure probabilities essentially the same for all three modes. Shea got nowhere with his assertions, and he left the meeting discouraged. But he was still hopeful that the forthcoming session with the space panel would “allow us to get the facts squared away.”39

    At the 5-6 July assembly, Shea's hopes for clearing the air were dashed when panel member Lester Lees distributed a memorandum presaging the adverse tone of the panel's final report, to be issued later that month. (Lees, from the California Institute of Technology's Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, was a paid consultant to North American, which did not favor lunar rendezvous. Shea was convinced that this was the reason for his antagonism to lunar-orbit rendezvous.) Lees agreed that all four mission modes were technically feasible. But, he asked, “which of these risky adventures involves the least risk to the astronauts, provides the greatest growth potential for the manned space program, and at the same time gives us the best chance of fulfilling the President's [goal] to land an American on the moon by 1970?” Lees recommended earth-orbit rendezvous with the Saturn C-5 as the prime mode and direct flight using an uprated C-5 as backup. He disputed NASA's claims that the lighter, more maneuverable landing craft was significantly better than the command module for being set down on the moon. Lees also discounted NASA's demands for extensive visibility for the hover and touchdown maneuver, which was looked on by some pilots, he said, as “probably similar . . . to landing 'on instruments' here on Earth.”40

    The Space Vehicle Panel's reservations about lunar-orbit rendezvous were reemphasized by Wiesner in Webb's office on 6 July. Shea, Brainerd Holmes, and Robert Seamans listened as Webb was forced to equivocate, to agree that the lunar rendezvous decision was only tentative. Later in the year, following additional mode studies, NASA would either reaffirm its July preference or pick one of PSAC's favored approaches.41

    During the last half of July, the formal positions of the two sides were staked out. On the 17th Wiesner wrote to Webb spelling out PSAC's opinions of NASA's manned programs, particularly lunar rendezvous in relation to booster capabilities and America's military posture in space. Wiesner accused NASA of not adequately assessing such hazards as radiation and the potential problems of weightlessness. He had, Wiesner told Webb, “assured [President Kennedy] that there is ample time to make the additional studies . . . agreed upon before the contracts for the lunar landing vehicle need be awarded.”

    Webb assured Wiesner that NASA was, and had been, investigating weightlessness and radiation. The Administrator defended lunar rendezvous as a contribution to American space capabilities: “It is our considered opinion,” Webb wrote, “that the LOR mode . . . provides as comprehensive a base of knowledge and experience for application to other possible space programs, either military or civilian, as either the EOR mode or the C-5 direct mode.”42

    The PSAC panel issued its final report on 26 July, still contesting NASA's justification for lunar rendezvous and affirming once again the desirability of two-man direct flight. “We can only note that the Panel was originally widely divided in its opinions, but that after hearing and discussing the evidence presented to us, there is no dissent in the Panel to the views presented here.”43

    Thus, in July, President Kennedy found the space agency and his scientific advisory body firmly entrenched in separate camps. The situation remained static until lunar module procurement activities accelerated. Then Wiesner and his panel tried once more to block lunar rendezvous.

    Golovin knew that the Manned Spacecraft Center was getting ready to let the lander contract. In mid-July, he asked NASA to arrange a briefing at Downey so he could review the technical details of North American's studies of direct and rendezvous mission modes. Most North American officials favored almost any mode except lunar-orbit rendezvous, which kept the command module from actually landing on the moon. A humorous cartoon on the company walls during August 1962 depicted a rather bored and disgruntled man-in-the-moon eyeing an approaching command module with lander attached. The caption read, “Don't bug me, man.” Golovin, hoping for a negative response from these contractor studies, insisted that NASA allow the briefing. Webb complained to Wiesner that NASA “had rather complex relationships with North American” and “did not want a disturbing influence brought to bear.” When Wiesner offered to withdraw the request for the visit, however, Webb declined, saying he just wanted to be sure that Wiesner was aware of his concerns.

    Golovin had his California briefing at the end of July. On the way back to Washington, he stopped off at Cleveland to see what the Lewis Research Center was doing on the mission mode comparisons. Associate Director Bruce Lundin told Golovin that if he wanted this kind of information he should ask NASA Headquarters for it. 44

    In August, Wiesner told Webb of the Space Panel's conviction that NASA had not selected lunar-orbit rendezvous because of any overriding technical reasons and had not satisfactorily justified its decision to PSAC. The Administrator admitted that he saw “some real value [in having PSAC's] independent judgment,” but added, “we [-are] an operating agency and [can] not submit . . . our decisions for this independent judgment.” Webb said that NASA “would have to find some [other] method of review that did not prevent [our] moving ahead.” Wiesner conceded that “it was . . . important to keep in motion.” 45 Tacitly, then, he acknowledged the priority of President Kennedy's deadline.

    But Wiesner and Golovin still did not stop their sorties. Golovin visited Shea on 22 August to suggest that NASA invite a number of independent experts to decide who was right on the mode question. Shea responded that NASA was already using outside help. This session with Golovin “reinforced [Shea's] feeling that we are in for another go-around with the PSAC Committee,” He was certain that Golovin and Wiesner still believed that they could overturn the mode decision. 46

    The Webb-Wiesner and Shea-Golovin discussions had, if anything, widened the gap between NASA and PSAC. Early in September, Wiesner again wrote Webb, reiterating his concerns about lunar-orbit rendezvous and this nation's inferiority to Russia in the big booster field. PSAC, he assured Webb, stood ready to assist NASA in gathering “the best talents nationally available” to study the mode question. Wiesner sent a copy of this letter to the President, perhaps hoping that Kennedy might step in to settle their differences.47

    President Kennedy did, in fact, become involved while on a two-day visit to NASA's space facilities on 11 and 12 September 1962. After viewing the Apollo spaceport being built in Florida, Kennedy flew on to Huntsville, Alabama. There, during a tour of Marshall and a briefing on the Saturn V and the lunar-rendezvous mission by von Braun, Wiesner interrupted the Marshall director in front of reporters, saying, “No, that's no good.” Webb immediately defended von Braun and lunar-orbit rendezvous. The adversaries engaged in a heated exchange until Kennedy stopped them, stating that the matter was still subject to final review. But what had been a private disagreement had become public knowledge. Editorial criticism stemming from the confrontation-including the question, “Is our technology sound?”— forced NASA to justify its selection of lunar-orbit rendezvous to the public, as well as to PSAC.48

    Accusations by Wiesner that lunar rendezvous had not been thoroughly studied particularly galled Shea. He compiled material for Webb to use in refuting this charge, outlining the many studies leading to the selection. Shea estimated that more than 700 scientists and engineers at Headquarters, at the field centers, and among contractors had spent a million man-hours working on the route comparisons. 49

    In early August, Shea formed a team to monitor contracts awarded to Space Technology Laboratories and McDonnell to rehash the feasibility of a direct flight by two men in either a scaled-down Apollo or a modified Gemini spacecraft. Gilruth worried that these studies might impede McDonnell's work on Gemini, especially after a NASA visitor reported that the St. Louis contractor apparently wanted to expand the scope of the study as much as NASA would allow.

    Shea and his staff reviewed these studies and presented the results to the rest of the manned space flight organization early in October. The contractors agreed that either two-man direct flight or earth-orbit rendezvous was feasible but both were less attractive than lunar rendezvous because the probability for mission success was lower, the first landing would be later, and the developmental complexity would be greater. The vote was still for three-man, lunar-orbit rendezvous. 50

    Among the strongest criticisms of the PSAC-preferred two-man direct flights was an analysis that indicated they would be marginally feasible with cryogenic propellants in the braking stages and with storable propellants for the lunar takeoff and return to earth. Such flights were clearly possible only if cryogenics were used on the return leg as well. But Houston was unalterably opposed to cryogenics, which required complicated equipment and special handling, for the lunar takeoff stage.

    Another indictment of PSAC's choice was that the panel members persisted in claiming that lunar rendezvous had no time advantage over the other modes. NASA was equally obdurate in its belief that adopting one of the other modes would mean a lag of ten months. A space tanker would have to be developed, critical refueling techniques would have to be perfected, and changes in the S-IVB stage would have to be made to permit long-term storage of cryogenic propellants. All of this would mean more money, perhaps as much as an additional $3 billion. 51

    The Office of Manned Space Flight assembled the meat of these studies into another “final” version of the mode comparison, which was issued on 24 October 1962. Earlier arguments for lunar rendezvous, the report stated, were as valid in October as they had been in July. That approach was still “the best opportunity of meeting the U.S. goal of manned lunar landing within this decade.”52

    The day NASA released this report, Webb wrote Wiesner that, unless the science adviser had objections serious enough to be taken to the White House for arbitration, a contract would be awarded for development of the lunar excursion module. He told Wiesner:

    My understanding is that you . . . and your staff . . . will examine this and that you will let me know your views as to whether we should ask for an appointment with the President.

    My own view is that we should proceed with the lunar orbit plan, should announce our selection of the contractor for the lunar excursion vehicle, and should play the whole thing in a low key. . . .

    If you agree, I would like to get before you any facts, over and above the report, perhaps in a thorough briefing, which you believe you should have in order to put me in [a] position to advise Mr. [Kenneth] O'Donnell [one of the President's aides] that [you do not wish] to interpose a formal objection. . . . In that case, I believe Mr. O'Donnell will not feel it wise to schedule the President's time and that the President will confirm this judgment.53

    Wiesner and Golovin were not reconciled by NASA's latest justification. Upon reviewing the report, Wiesner asked Holmes for material to expand on that abstracted from the proposals of those aerospace companies responding to the request for bids to develop the lunar lander. Not too surprisingly, the bidders had all emphasized the advantages of a lunar excursion vehicle and had played down the difficulty of rendezvous as an added operational step. All the proposals cited the benefits from lunar rendezvous, chiefly mission success and crew safety, with a craft specifically designed for lunar landing and the need for only one Saturn C-5.

    Wiesner now wanted to examine these contractor documents in full, which Webb refused to allow because of the proprietary information they contained. Next, Wiesner asked that certain material be given Golovin without identification of the contractors. What the pair was seeking, Webb confided to Seamans, were the lunar weight estimates, but “I cannot see how the contractors' estimates can help [them] decide whether you, I, and Dryden have made the correct decision.” 54

    Holmes did send Wiesner those sections of the proposals that dealt with estimated weights for the lander. Most of the figures assumed a target weight of around 10,000 kilograms. But, Holmes pointed out, estimates of the different subsystems had varied widely. More knowledge of the lunar surface and of radiation and meteoroid fluxes would probably “force weight increases in the landing gear and shields.” Both Mercury and Gemini had demonstrated the need for keeping a margin of weight for additional equipment and redundancy, Holmes added. 55

    On 2 November, Wiesner and Golovin met with Webb and his staff once again. It was obvious that the two organizations still occupied opposing camps. Golovin presented a detailed re-analysis of the 24 October mode study, challenging both payload margins and reliability and safety considerations. He still contended that, of the two modes capable of using only storable propellants, earth-orbit rendezvous had a somewhat higher performance margin. Moreover, with cryogenic propellants in the landing stage (and for this he cited research done at Lewis), two-man direct flight was quite feasible.

    But Golovin found more serious faults in NASA's stance on reliability and crew safety. As he wrote Shea later that day, “It has been surprising to [read in the report] that the Direct Ascent case is less likely to be successful, and to be more dangerous to the crew than the obviously more complicated LOR mode.”56

    Members of Shea's staff disputed Golovin's estimates of performance margins and reliability factors that made earth-orbit rendezvous and direct flight appear safer than lunar rendezvous. This exchange— NASA's final technical response to outside criticism of the agency's handling of the mode question—was actually a postmortem. After Webb's letter of 24 October, Wiesner decided not to take his objections to Kennedy, since the President was occupied with the Cuban missile crisis. Subsequently, Wiesner took the position that had the situation been different, his actions might not have been the same. Webb then advised the White House that Apollo was committed to lunar rendezvous.57 Wiesner had never argued that this mode was impossible; he had simply preferred other methods. He realized the depth of Webb's commitment to his technical organization. If Wiesner had carried the question to President Kennedy, Webb would have insisted that NASA alone must make crucial program decisions. The Chief Executive almost certainly would have backed the man he had appointed to run NASA. So, presumably, Wiesner decided to let the issue die. At the end of the first week in November 1962, NASA announced its selection of a manufacturer for the lunar module. 58


    36. Donald H. Heaton to Seamans, “Forwarding of Fleming and Heaton Summary Reports to Space Vehicle Panel,” 20 Oct. 1961; Douglas R. Lord to Seamans, 5 Dec. 1961; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, p. 82; President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) panel, “Report of the Space Vehicle Panel,” 3 Jan. 1962, p. 1; Jerome B. Wiesner to Webb, 5 Jan. 1962, with enc., “Report of the Space Vehicle Panel.”

    37. Franklyn W. Phillips to Seamans, “Meeting of the [PSAC] Space Vehicle Panel . . . at Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles, Calif., February 23 and 24,” 3 Feb. 1962; Webb to Wiesner, 22 Feb. 1962; agendas for PSAC Space Vehicle Panel meetings at MSFC, 5-6 June 1962, and at MSC, 26-27 June 1962; Nicholas E. Golovin to Phillips, “Agenda for PSAC Space Vehicle Panel Meeting at Houston, Texas, June 26-27, 1962,” 11 June 1962; Bothmer for record, “Relationships with PSAC (Dr. Golovin),” 13 July 1962.

    38. Golovin to D. Brainerd Holmes, “Request for Schedule Information on the Manned Space Flight Program,” 4 May 1962; Phillips to Holmes et al., “Request for Contractor's Reports on Major NASA Projects,” 22 May 1962; Bothmer to Golovin, “Request for Schedule Information on the Manned Space Flight Program,” 16 May 1962; memo, Golovin to Bothmer, “Your Memorandum dated May 16, 1962, Concerning Schedule Information Requested by this Office,” 22 May 1962; Bothmer memo, 13 July 1962; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, pp. 266-457.

    39. Agenda for PSAC Space Vehicle Panel meeting, 5-6 July 1962; Golovin to Phillips, “Data Relevant to Choice of Mission Mode for the Manned Lunar Landing Program,” 29 June 1962; Joseph F. Shea to Golovin, no subj., 2 July 1962; Golovin to Phillips, “PSAC Space Vehicle Panel Meeting, July 11-12, . . .” 28 June 1962; Shea memo for record, no. subj., 5 July 1962; Wiesner, interview, 7 July 1969, as cited in John M. Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation of the Lunar Landing Decision,” NASA HHN-81, August 1969, pp. 73-74.

    40. Lester Lees to Chm. and members, Space Vehicle Panel, “Comparison of Apollo Mission Modes,” 2 July 1962; Shea memo for record, no subj., 9 July 1962; Bothmer memo, 13 July 1962; Bothmer memo for record, “Relationships with PSAC (Dr. Golovin),” 27 July 1962.

    41. Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation,” pp. 74-75; Bothmer memos, 13 and 27 July 1962.

    42. Wiesner to Webb, 17 July 1962, with enc., Donald F. Hornig to Wiesner, “Summary of Views of Space Vehicle Panel,” 11 July 1962; Webb to Wiesner, 20 July 1962.

    43. Hornig et al., “Report of the Space Vehicle Panel (On the Matter of Lunar Mission Mode Selection),” PSAC, 26 July 1962.

    44. Golovin to Phillips, “Space Vehicle Panel Meeting Downey, Calif. July 23-24,” 16 July 1962; George M. Low to Eugene M. Emme, NASA Historical Off., 2 Sept. 1969; Webb to Phillips, no subj., 18 July 1962; Rector interview; letter, Bruce T. Lundin to Golovin, 30 July 1962.

    45. Webb to Holmes, no subj., 7 Aug. 1962.

    46. Shea memo for record, no subj., 24 Aug. 1962.

    47. Wiesner to Webb, 5 Sept. 1962.

    48. Carroll Kilpatrick, “President Schedules Two-Day Tour to Inspect U.S. Space Installations,” Washington Post, 6 Sept. 1962; NASA, “Trip of the President: Huntsville, Alabama; Cape Canaveral, Florida; Houston, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri: September 11-12, 1962,” brochure, n.d.; “Space: Moon Spat,” Time, 21 Sept. 1962; E. W. Kenworthy, “Kennedy Asserts Nation Must Lead in Probing Space,” New York Times, 13 Sept. 1962; Philip T. Drotning to Bothmer, “Comments by Mr. Webb on LOR mode selection,” 20 Sept. 1962.

    49. Shea to Bothmer, “Comments by Mr. Webb on LOR Mode Selection,” 5 Oct. 1962, with encs., “LOR Mode Selection Considerations,” “Study Reports Generated During Mission Mode Comparison Studies,” “Apollo Mission Mode Comparison Studies-Manpower Estimates,” and “Apollo Mission Mode Comparison Studies-Key Personnel.”

    50. See two documents with same title, “Direct Flight Study Using Saturn C-5 for Project Apollo: Statement of Work,” n.d. These documents differed mostly in that one (to McDonnell) required the assistance of the Gemini Project Office in Houston, whereas the other (to Space Technology Laboratories, Inc.) depended on derivations from North American's three-man concept. Edward Andrews and Marshall E. Alper to Lord, “MAC-Two Man, Direct Flight Study,” 9 Aug. 1962; Lord to Shea, “Direct Flight Studies,” 10 Aug. 1962; Raymond L. Zavasky, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 3 Aug. 1962, p. 4; Alper draft memo [to Shea], “Re Summary of Results of Two Man Direct Flight Studies,” 28 Sept. 1962; Alper draft memo, no subj., 1 Oct. 1962; E. Phelps to William A. Lee, “Variations of Maximum and Minimum Weights of Command Module, Service Module Equipment, and Summation of Command Module and Service Module Equipment,” 8 Oct. 1962.

    51. William B. Taylor, “Feasibility of Two-Man Direct Flight and EOR Manned Lunar Missions,” 15 Oct. 1962; “Summary of Findings,” unidentified collection of miscellaneous items and charts, [ca. 3 October 1962].

    52. NASA OMSF, “Manned Lunar Landing Mode Comparison,” 24 Oct. 1962.

    53. Webb to Wiesner, 24 Oct. 1962.

    54. Holmes to Wiesner, 26 Oct. 1962, with encs., abstracts of proposals submitted by bidders on the REP; Webb to Seamans, no subj., 29 Oct. 1962.

    55. Holmes to Wiesner, 30 Oct. 1962, with encs., LEM weight estimates contained in bidders' proposals.

    56. Golovin to Shea, 2 Nov. 1962, with encs., rough draft of material under headings “Performance Considerations and Payload Margins” and “Mission Success Probability and Crew Safety.”

    57. Alper and Geoffrey Robillard to Shea, “OS + T Evaluation of the Mode Comparison Study Report, dated 24 October 1962,” 5 Nov. 1962; Eldon W. Hall to Shea, “Comments on OS&T weight comparison (Table I),” 5 Nov. 1962; Shea to Seamans, “OST Calculations of Mode Feasibility and Reliability,” 6 Nov. 1962; Lee to Shea, “Draft memo for Dr. Seamans on OST Calculations,” 23 Nov. 1962; Logsdon, “NASA's Implementation,” pp. 80-81. In his book Where Science and Politics Meet (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), Wiesner is surprisingly silent on all matters connected with space.

    58. James L. Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., 7 Nov. 1962; NASA Hq. TWX to all NASA centers, “Grumman Selected to Build LEM,” NASA news release 62-240, 7 Nov. 1962.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-5. Fitting the Lunar Module into Apollo

    Since responsibility for the Apollo command and service modules already rested with Gilruth's Manned Spacecraft Center, NASA assigned Houston to procure and manage the lunar excursion vehicle. NASA officials decided to hire a separate contractor to develop the lunar landing spacecraft.

    North American had made a strong bid for the lander when the lunar travel mode became a hot issue. Although the company was sent a request for proposals in July 1962, it was first discouraged, and then precluded, from bidding on this contract. NASA evidently believed that North American already had all the Apollo development work it could handle.59

    Facing the loss of the glamor associated with landing its own craft on the moon, North American did not give up gracefully. Harrison Storms carried his case to Administrator Webb, suggesting that his company be selected as sole source contractor for the lander, farming out most of the actual hardware work. This arrangement would have made North American the systems manager, responsible for integrating all the payload vehicles. Legal and procurement officers within NASA warned Webb against this approach. The agency should contract the lander directly, they urged. To permit an industrial firm to take over this task without competition, even though NASA would have the final approval of the selection of the subcontractors, “might be regarded as a delegation of NASA's inherent responsibility to perform its procurement function.”60

    Requests for proposals on the lander were issued on 25 July 1962, and a bidders' briefing was held in Houston on 2 August. On 5 September, barely five weeks after the issuance, NASA announced that nine companies had submitted proposals and that the agency planned to award the contract in six to eight weeks. Of the 11 companies originally invited to bid, only McDonnell—and North American—had not submitted proposals.

    Evaluations began at Houston immediately after the proposals were received and they ended on 28 September. At Ellington Air Force Base in mid-September, company officials made formal presentations to the Source Evaluation Board and a number of technical management panels. NASA teams then made one-day visits to the company plants, to see what facilities each bidder could draw upon to support the development program.61 Early in October, officials from Houston presented their findings and recommendations to NASA Headquarters. Holmes wanted the selection completed, approved, and announced by the middle of the month. But the last-minute demands by PSAC postponed the contract award for three weeks. On 7 November, NASA formally announced that the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation of Bethpage, New York, would build the excursion module. 62

    Several bidders had been very close, both technically and managerially, William Rector later said. Any of them could have done the job—“Grumman didn't turn in the only good design.” A major factor in Grumman's selection had been its facilities: spacious engineering design and office accommodations, ample manufacturing space, and a clean-room complex for vehicle assembly and testing.

    The Manned Spacecraft Center continued its studies, even after the requests had been issued. Rector remembered that “our designs were really beginning to take shape. . . . We were getting a much better feel for what we wanted this thing to look like.” The Apollo Spacecraft Project Office had been realigned on 1 August, to give the lunar module an organization of its own. Rector became project officer for the lander and Thomas Markley for the command and service modules. Rector and Markley then revised the North American statement of work to reflect Grumman's and the lunar module's place in the Apollo-Saturn stack, particularly in the arrangements for docking and for stowage within a protective adapter section.

    Rector's office began defining the lander's subsystems: propulsion, guidance and control, reaction control, electrical power, and instrumentation. The planners hoped to use Mercury and Gemini spacecraft components as well as Apollo command and service module parts (“common usage” equipment in the new vehicle. The guidance and navigation system in the command module received the closest initial scrutiny for common usage parts. MIT studies indicated that the inertial measurement unit, the telescope, and some computers and displays might be modified for the lander.63

    Numerous lunar-module-related design problems were examined during the last weeks of 1962. Among the most pressing were requirements for rendezvous and landing radar (and where to put the equipment); analyses of individual vehicle systems, such as electrical power and thermal control; considerations of mission trajectory from lunar orbit and back and of abort trajectories from any point during the descent; projections of overall costs for developing the vehicle; and questions of dust layers on the moon, the blast effect caused by descent engine exhaust, and the influence of these factors on both vehicle design and landing site selection. During this time, NASA decided that the lander's propulsion systems would be tested at White Sands in facilities similar to those being developed at Sacramento for testing the service module's main engine.64 Apollo leaders also expected to flight-test the lunar module in New Mexico, using the Little Joe II booster.

    Simulating lunar landings to train the crews would require ingenuity; imitating one-sixth g within the earth's gravitational field is complex and difficult. Three methods were considered, the simplest being a fixed-base simulator like those built for the Mercury and Gemini programs. More complicated were plans for tethered flights of a model of the lunar lander at Langley on a huge A-frame structure that used cables and rigging to relieve the descent engine of most of the vehicle's weight.

    LLTV

    The Bell Aerospace lunar landing research vehicle, manufactured for NASA as a trainer for the moon landing, was frequently referred to by the news media and others as the “flying bedstead.”


    The third method, which would simulate in free flight the actual landing on the moon, employed a unique and specially fitted flying machine called the lunar landing research vehicle. Dubbed the “flying bedstead” or “pipe rack,” this was a complex combination of rocket motors and a vertical jet engine designed to accustom the astronauts to flying in the lower gravity of the moon. Work on the vehicle, based on concepts proposed by Bell Aerosystems, had already begun at NASA's Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After awarding a contract to Bell in January 1962, that center solicited support from Houston in designing, building, and flying the craft. Paul F. Bikle, Director of the Flight Research Center, insisted that close contact with the builders of the lunar module during the designing of the hover craft was essential to make certain the handling characteristics of the moon lander were accurately represented. 65


    59. Seamans memo for file, “Apollo Procurement,” 2 June 1961; Rector and Seamans interviews.

    60. Ernest W. Brackett to Seamans, “Comments on North American Suggestion for Lunar-Excursion Contract,” 18 July 1962.

    61. Bothmer, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 3 Aug. 1962; “Apollo Chronology,” MSC Fact Sheet, p. 26; Ivan D. Ertel and Mary Louise Morse, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, vol. 1, Through November 7, 1962, NASA SP-4009 (Washington, 1969), p.130; ASPO activity reports, 2-8 Sept., p. 2, and 23-29 Sept. 1962, p. 2; Rector interview; Dave W. Lang, interview, Houston, 18 Nov. 1962.

    62. Robert G. Ferris, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 28 Sept. 1962; Bothmer, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 5 Oct. 1962; Donald T. Gregory, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 12 Oct. 1962, p. 2; William M. Allen to Webb, 12 Sept. 1962; NASA TWX, “Grumman Selected to Build LEM.”

    63. Rector and Lang interviews; Saul Ferdman, interview, Bethpage, N.Y., 2 May 1966; Frick memo, “Appointment of Project Officers, Apollo Spacecraft Office,” 31 July 1962, with enc., “Duties of the Project Officer”; “Markley, Rector Appointed Apollo Project Heads,” MSC Space News Roundup, 22 Aug. 1962; MSC, “Project Apollo Spacecraft Development: Statement of Work,” pt. 3, “Technical Approach,” 18 Dec. 1961, rev. 14 Aug. 1962; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 1, for period ending 30 Sept. 1962, pp. 25-30; Hubert P. Davis to Clinton L. Taylor, “LEM Common Usage Components,” 31 Oct. 1962; Cohen to Rector, “C/M and LEM G&N systems interface,” 27 Aug. 1962; Paul E. Ebersole and George Burrill to LEM Project Officer, “LEM Control and Stabilization System Common Usage Parts,” 29 Oct. 1962; Cohen interview.

    64. MSC, abstract of Proceedings, Guidance and Control Systems Meeting No. 5, 16 Aug. 1962; C. Dale Haines and J. T. Taylor, “Considerations toward the Selection of Electrical Power Systems and Thermal Control Systems for the Lunar Excursion Module,” working paper No. 1055, MSC, 18 Dec. 1962; Charles W. Frick, “Some Considerations of the Lunar Excursion,” MSC Fact Sheet 210, n.d.; Jack A. White, “A Study of Abort from a Manned Lunar Landing and Return to Rendezvous in a 50-Mile [80-Kilometer] Orbit,” proposed Langley technical note L-3131, 15 June 1962; J. D. Haulbrook memo for record, “Extension of LEM Projected Cost,” 29 Oct. 1962; Robert M. Mason, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Effects of Exhaust Impingement on the Lunar Surface during the Terminal Phases of Lunar Landing,” working paper No. 1052, MSC, 20 Dec. 1962; Seamans to Buckley C. Pierstorff, 2 Nov. 1962.

    65. “Gilruth at Houston Explains Astronaut Training and Equipment at Manned Spacecraft Center,” Data, 1963, no. 1, p. 26; Kenneth Levin, interview, Buffalo, N.Y., 8 June 1971; Gene J. Matranga, interview, Flight Research Center (FRC), Calif., 28 July 1971; Paul F. Bikle to MSC, Attn.: Walter C. Williams, “Transmittal of proposed Free Flight Lunar Landing Simulator Program,” 9 Jan. 1962, with enc., “Proposed Free-Flight Lunar-Landing Simulator Program,” FRC, 9 Jan. 1962; Donald R. Bellman to those concerned with the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, “Suggested areas for investigation based on a survey of proposals for the Lunar Excursion Module,” 24 Sept. 1962

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-6. NASA Adjustments for Apollo

    In mid-1962, Washington program planners spelled out in detail the interrelations of Apollo and the total space program. The agency's unmanned satellites and space probes, especially Ranger and Surveyor, would have to focus on the lunar mission, since the most pressing need was for accurate information about the space environment such as meteoroid and radiation hazards and the lunar surface. 66 Subordination of unmanned scientific programs to the manned programs brought considerable criticism during the next few years.

    NASA leadership was confronted during the summer and fall of 1962 with the dual tasks of informing Congress of the status of Apollo and of fitting its fiscal plans to the lunar-rendezvous approach. Defending Apollo's budget request for fiscal 1963 before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on 10 August 1962, Webb and Low reiterated that technical considerations had been important in choosing that approach, but so had costs. Lunar rendezvous for Apollo, although not lessening the agency's needs for the upcoming year, would be cheaper in the long run. But NASA must get started on both the lunar vehicle and a C-IB version of the Saturn booster, Webb pointed out, to develop and test rendezvous procedures in earth orbit before attempting them in lunar orbit.67

    In late 1962 and early 1963, financial resources for NASA were uncertain, particularly the funds needed for development of the lunar module. Houston needed to know when the money would be available. On 9 October, Holmes asked Seamans to request a supplemental appropriation from Congress, but Seamans refused. For the next year and a half, the fiscal 1963 and 1964 funds, set at $2.058 billion and $3.402 billion, would cover research and development and construction of facilities. This should be enough, Seamans said, to keep on schedule and meet a 1967 landing date.68

    On 21 November 1962, Webb, Holmes, and others met with the President to explore the possibility of an Apollo landing earlier than 1967 and to discuss NASA's budget. Kennedy asked the Administrator for a policy statement on the priority of the moon landing within the overall civilian space effort. On 30 November, in a lengthy letter, Webb replied: “The objective of our national space program is to become pre-eminent in all important aspects of this endeavor and to conduct the program in such a manner that our emerging scientific, technological, and operational competence in space is clearly evident.” Apollo, the largest single project within NASA, consuming three-fourths of the agency's resources, was “being executed with the utmost urgency" and was expected to “provide a clear demonstration to the world of our accomplishments in space.”

    Although it had the highest priority within NASA, the manned lunar landing program alone would not achieve superiority in space, Webb continued. “We [must] pursue an adequate well-balanced space program in all areas. . . .” He advised against canceling or curtailing space science and technology development programs merely to funnel these funds to Apollo, although that money, some $400 million, was just the additional amount needed by Apollo for 1963. NASA's top officials were concerned, he said, that attempts to get a budget supplement might jeopardize appropriations for coming years and possibly leave the agency open to charges of cost overruns and poor management. “The funds already appropriated,” Webb affirmed, “permit us to maintain a driving, vigorous program in the manned space flight area aimed at a target date of late 1967 for the lunar landing.”69

    Although a steady flow of money during the succeeding years was essential to the success of Apollo, it was not the major concern in late 1962. The lunar module contractor had been selected, but there was still a lot of work to be done. And the lander was, potentially, the pacing item—the factor that would determine when the United States might land astronauts on the moon.


    66. Shea to all Hq. Dirs. and all Center Dirs., “Technological Data Required for Support of Project Apollo,” 15 June 1962, with enc.; William H. Pickering to Seamans, “Ranger Project activities in support of manned lunar flight program,” 15 Aug. 1962; Seamans to Pickering, 24 Sept. 1962; Oran W. Nicks memo for record, “Ranger Project Activities Discussion on 11 October 1962,” 15 Nov. 1962; R. Cargill Hall, Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger, NASA SP-4210 (Washington, 1977), chap. 2 through 15.

    67. Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee, Independent Offices Appropriations, 1963: Hearings on H.R. 12711, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, pp. 870-77.

    68. Bothmer, OMSF Staff Meeting, 5 Oct. 1962; Seamans to Dir., OMSF, “Guidelines for Preparation of Detailed Fiscal Year 1964 Budget Estimates—Section II,” 9 Oct. 1962.

    69. Webb, desk calendar of appointments, November 1962; NASA, “Preliminary History of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, November 1963-January 1969.” 15 Jan. 1959, pp. I-49 through I-52; Richard Witkin, “Apollo Speed-up Is Being Weighed,” New York Times, 1 Dec. 1962, p. 3; “In Earthly Trouble,” Time, 23 Nov. 1962, p. 15; Webb, to the President, 30 Nov. 1962.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-7. NASA-Grumman Negotiations

    When Grumman was selected for Apollo, the company expanded from an aircraft producer into a major aerospace concern. This transition reflected a long-term resolution, and a considerable investment of funds, on the part of the firm's senior management to penetrate the American space market.

    The story of Grumman's drive for a role in manned space flight has a rags-to-riches, Horatio Algerlike quality. The company had competed for every major NASA contract and, except for the unmanned Orbiting Astronomical Observatory satellite, had never finished in the money. Late in 1958, when NASA was looking for a contractor for the Mercury spacecraft, Grumman had tied with McDonnell in the competition. But only a short time before, the Navy had awarded several new aircraft development programs to Grumman. For almost three decades the words Grumman and carrier-based aircraft had been virtually synonymous. To avoid disrupting

    Navy scheduling and to ensure its contractor's concentration on Mercury, NASA had selected McDonnell.70 Nevertheless, board chairman and company founder Leroy R. Grumman and president E. Clinton Towl had continued to support study programs to strengthen the firm's capabilities and build a cadre of experienced engineering experts. By 1960 Grumman's study group, guided principally by Thomas J. Kelly, had begun to focus on lunar flight, examining lunar spacecraft concepts and guidance and trajectory requirements. The company had also done some guidance work on circumlunar flight for the Navy and passed its findings on to NASA.71

    When NASA awarded the three six-month Apollo feasibility contracts in the latter half of 1960, Grumman again bid unsuccessfully. But Kelly and about 50 engineers continued their investigations full-time, without monetary assistance from NASA. Through a series of informal briefings and reports, they kept the agency informed of what they were doing. This group, on one occasion, said that the lack of funds had limited its investigations to lunar-orbital flights. In mid-May, when the three funded feasibility contractors had submitted final reports, Grumman (like several other firms that had gone ahead independently) also presented the results of its study to the Manned Spacecraft Center.72

    Grumman officials had begun to realize just what a massive undertaking the Apollo program would be. After much soul searching, the company decided not to bid alone for the command module contract, joining with General Electric, Douglas, and Space Technology Laboratories in submitting a proposal. Grumman's chief contribution was cockpit design and layout. A strengthened space working group was now headed by Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., a Grumman vice president. On three floors of a commercial building near Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the teams, sometimes numbering 200 persons, from the four companies worked day and night to put its proposal together. 73

    When NASA announced that North American had won the Apollo spacecraft contract, at the end of November 1961, the prevalent feeling at Grumman was, as one tired engineer recalled, “What do we do now?” One segment of the combined proposal, however, gave them some ideas and provided a reason to continue. The four firms had examined many aspects of a lunar landing mission beyond what was called for by NASA. One central feature the team explored was the mission mode, only lightly touched on in the proposal request. At the outset of work on the contract bid, each of the companies had studied a different mode. By chance, Grumman had drawn lunar-orbit rendezvous. After the studies had been compared, this approach was recommended in the joint proposal. 74 In the fall and winter of 1961-1962, Gavin turned full attention to lunar rendezvous and to the separate vehicle that would be needed.

    Under the leadership of Gavin as Program Director and Robert S. Mullaney as Program Manager, the study group had achieved formal status in the corporate structure of Grumman and had acquired a number of Grumman's most experienced engineering and design experts. The team studied configurations of staged versus unstaged vehicles, subsystem requirements, propulsion needs, and weight tradeoffs for the lunar lander. Thus, when NASA issued the requests for proposals for the lunar module, Grumman was able to include a large amount of solid information in its bid. Even before lunar-orbit rendezvous had been chosen, Grumman had begun to build simulators, to define the facilities that would be needed for the program, and to construct the aerospace building where, in the beginning, all the design work was done.

    Gavin and his people were confident that they were well founded in the technical requirements of the program; they also recognized that management capabilities would be an important criteria in the selection. They therefore enlisted a team of potential subcontractors and stressed the expertise of these allies. Prominent among the subcontractors were the firms for the two propulsion systems (Bell and Rocketdyne), which included the all-important throttleable descent engine.75

    Grumman displays 1/8 scale LM

    Congressman George Miller left examines a one-eighth-scale lunar module shown by Grumman officials Joseph Gavin and Robert Mullaney.


    Once Grumman had been selected, NASA agreed that a definitive contract could be written immediately, instead of (as with North American) an interim, or “letter,” contract followed by interminable negotiations leading to final agreement. For the lunar module, Rector said, “we negotiated [the whole program], even though we didn't understand [it] that well at the time.”

    Grumman officials did not really know what NASA wanted. It was, in Kelly's words, “an example of ignorance in action, . . . at least on our part.” Neither side fully appreciated the size of the development they were undertaking. The Grumman group entered negotiations under the impression that it was simply going to build the vehicle it had proposed, but “that wasn't what the NASA people had in mind.” NASA expected that, once negotiations were concluded, Grumman would begin a preliminary design phase, redefining the complete spacecraft item by item. In the long run, the definition phase took longer than either party had anticipated. But Grumman had submitted a preliminary design of the lander, and “we were still somewhat enthralled with [it],” Gavin recalled. “It took some time for this to settle down.” 76

    Conferences between NASA and Grumman began on 19 November. About 80 persons from Grumman traveled to Houston for the talks. The Bethpage contingent was broken into a dozen technical teams and several program management, reliability, and support groups. Grumman's Negotiation Management Team comprised Gavin, Kelly, C. William Rathke (Engineering Manager), and John Snedeker (Business Manager). This management team obviously had more authority than North American's negotiating group had on the command and service modules, which was hardly surprising in view of Gavin's position as vice president of the company and director of Grumman's space activities.77

    The customer and contractor teams sat down to define contractual details, review subcontracting plans, work out a technical approach, and spell out management arrangements and procedures for running the program. They examined requirements for facilities and determined the number and kinds of test articles (roughly equivalent to North American's boilerplate spacecraft), to avoid the need for building complete vehicles for testing specific subsystems. Agreements were eventually hammered out. The total value of the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract was set at $385 million, including Grumman's fee of just over $25 million.78

    Apollo officials had intended to finish the negotiations and sign the contract before adjourning, but the Grumman team caught the last available airline flight back to New York on Christmas Eve with a few details still unresolved. Gilruth went to Bethpage early in January to settle these outstanding items with Gavin and get the contract in final form for signing. The Houston center had also expected Headquarters approval during early January; that, too, was delayed. On 14January 1963, NASA told Grumman to begin development of the lunar module, although the contract was not signed until early March, at a revised cost figure of $387.9 million.79


    70. T. Keith Glennan, “Statement of the Administrator on the Selection of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation to Design and Construct a Manned Satellite Capsule for Project Mercury,” n.d., as cited in Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, pp. 137, 543.

    71. Thomas J. Kelly, interview, Bethpage, 3 May 1966; Ferdman interview; Paul E. Purser to Gilruth, “Log for week of May 2, 1960,” 9 May 1960.

    72. Kelly and Ferdman interviews; Herbert G. Patterson to Assoc. Dir., MSC, “Visit by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, March 8, 1961,” 31 March 1961; Grumman, “Project Apollo Feasibility Study Summary,” Rept. PDR-279-2, 15 May 1961.

    73. Kelly interview; Ladislaus W. Warzecha, interview, Houston, 14 Jan. 1970; Charles Bixler and Edward S. Miller, interviews, Valley Forge, Pa., 18 Feb. 1970; Gavin, interview, Bethpage, 11 Feb. 1970; Helen Highsmith, telephone interview, 23 March 1972.

    74. Ferdman and Kelly interviews.

    75. Ferdman, Kelly, Gavin, and Lang interviews; Howard Holland, telephone interview, 13 April 1972; Jack Buxton, telephone interview, 18 April 1972.

    76. Rector, Kelly, and Gavin interviews.

    77. Robert S. Mullaney TWX to Robert O. Piland, “Grumman LEM Negotiation Teams,” 16 Nov. 1962; Gavin interview; Porter H. Gilbert and Henry W. Flagg, Jr., interview, Houston, 8 April 1970.

    78. Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 2, p. 21; Bothmer, minutes of 12th Meeting of Manned Space Flight Management Council (MSFMC), 27 Nov. 1962, p. 2; Ferdman interview; “Listing of LTA by Function & Destination,” MSC, 3 Dec. 1962.

    79. Gavin interview; MSC Director's briefing notes for MSFMC meeting, 18 Dec. 1962, “Apollo Spacecraft Status for Management Council Meeting, December 18, 1962,”p. 1; Bothmer, minutes of 14th meeting of MSFMC, 29 Jan. 1963; LOC, p. 3; MSC Director's briefing notes for MSFMC meeting, 29 Jan. 1963, “Apollo Spacecraft Project Submittal for January Management Council Meeting,” p. 1; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3, p. 1.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch4-8. End of a Phase

    Fitting Apollo's final two jigsaw pieces, the mode and the lunar landing vehicle, into the picture had closed a phase for NASA. For four years, the space agency had been planning, defining, or defending some facet of what led up to and became Apollo. NASA now faced a period of developing and testing hardware and then a time of attaining the operational experience needed to land men on the moon. The past year, 1962, had been the most strenuous, not only because of Apollo's crowded activities but because Mercury and Gemini had demanded so much attention.

    Project Mercury enjoyed a banner year in 1962, with three manned earth-orbital flights: John Glenn in Friendship 7 (Mercury-Atlas 6) on 20 February, Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 (MA-7) on 24 May, and Walter Schirra in the six-orbit flight of Sigma 7 (MA-8) on 3 October. These, plus a good Saturn I flight on 16 November, gave the operations people experience in conducting actual missions.

    It was becoming clear to Walter Williams and Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Houston's mission and flight directors, that something larger and better equipped than the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral would be needed for Projects Gemini and Apollo, with their longer and more complex missions. Flight controllers were spending a disproportionate amount of time traveling from Houston to the Cape—time that could more profitably be used for discussing ways of getting better performance from the spacecraft systems, training a larger cadre of flight controllers, and studying methods for handling Apollo missions.80

    The Houston group began pushing hard for an “Integrated Mission Control Center” at the new Clear Lake site southeast of the city. “Integrated” meant not only transferring flight control from the Cape but also moving computer programming and operations to the Texas center. Computer functions, including tracking and communications, had been Goddard's responsibility during Mercury. Harry Goett's team at the Maryland center had worked out plans for expanding the Manned Space Flight Network developed for Mercury to several times the size it was then. To this team, it seemed logical to keep this function in its own capable hands. Administrator Webb, however, agreed with Williams and Kraft, at least in part, and announced on 20 July 1962 * that the main Apollo control center would be in Houston. But the location of the primary computer complex and the division of labor for the manned space flight tracking and communications network was still unsettled at the end of 1962.81

    Project Gemini operations in 1962 essentially paralleled those of Phase A—earth-orbital—for the Apollo spacecraft. The Gemini team was busy with detailed systems and subsystems definition and subcontracting. McDonnell's engineering mockup of the Gemini spacecraft was ready for review by Houston officials on 15 and 16 August. As the inspection began, Russian cosmonauts Andrian G. Nikoleyev in Vostok III and Pavel R. Popovich in Vostok IV landed safely after flights that, at first glance, seemed to have accomplished two Gemini objectives designed to gain experience for Apollo—long duration and rendezvous.

    Although the cosmonauts did log a combined time of nearly 166 hours, contrasting with less than 20 hours total time for the three Mercury pilots during the year, it soon became obvious that the Soviets could not maneuver their craft to rendezvous in space. Because the two Russians came within five kilometers of each other, however, Gemini engineers wanted to see if the Mercury spacecraft could be modified to rendezvous with a passive target. After intensive study, Kenneth Kleinknecht, the Mercury project manager, reported that the modifications would add too much weight—the spacecraft might not even reach orbital altitude.82

    Astronauts watch MA-8 launch

    Newly chosen astronauts (left to right) Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, James Lovell, Thomas Stafford, Charles Conrad, John Young (kneeling), Edward White, and James McDivitt watch the launch of Walter Schirra aboard Mercury-Atlas 8, in the next-to-last mission of the Mercury program.


    The Gemini announcement in late 1961 had declared that “NASA's current seven astronauts will serve as pilots in this program. Additional crew members may be phased in during later stages.” In April 1962, the agency began selecting a new group of pilots. Six months later, eight of the nine “astronaut trainees” ** watched from the Florida shoreline as Schirra began his six-orbit flight. Across the ocean, people in 17 countries viewed the first European television broadcast, via the communications satellite Telstar, of a space launch in “real time.”83

    Amid these and many other activities—such as building offices and training, checkout, and test facilities and erecting launch pads—the feasibility and definition phases of Apollo ended for NASA Headquarters and the three manned space flight field centers. The next step, design and development, promised to be equally strenuous and demanding.


    * At a celebration given on 4 July 1962 by the Houston Chamber of Commerce to welcome Manned Spacecraft Center employees and their families to Texas, Gilruth had intimated that the new control center would be built at the Clear Lake site.

    ** The nine new members of the astronaut corps were Neil A. Armstrong, Frank Borman, Charles Conrad, Jr., James A. Lovell, Jr., James A. McDivitt, Elliot M. See, Jr., Thomas P. Stafford, Edward H. White II, and John W. Young. All except Armstrong and See were members of one of the armed services. See did not attend the launch because he was clearing up some personal business before reporting to the Houston center. The designation “trainee” soon disappeared, except in some official documentation.


    80. NASA, Results of the First United States Manned Orbital Space Flight, February 20, 1962 (Washington, 1962); Results of the Second . . . Flight, May 24, 1962, NASA SP-6 (Washington, 1962); Results of the Third . . . Flight, October 3, 1962, NASA SP-12 (Washington, 1962); John D. Hodge, interview, Houston, 17 Dec. 1969.

    81. Edmond C. Buckley to Harry J. Goett, 25 June 1962, with enc., “Management Plan for the Manned Space Flight Network (GSFC),” 19 June 1962; Goett to NASA Hq., Attn.: Buckley, “Comments on June 19, 1962 draft of 'Management Plan for the Manned Space Flight Network,”' 5 July 1962; Corliss, Histories of STADAN, MSFN, and NASCOM; Seamans to Admin., NASA, “Location of Mission Control Center,” 10 July 1962; [MSC], “Remarks by Dr. Robert R. Gilruth at Houston-Manned Spacecraft Center Welcome, July 4, 1962”; “Gilruth Cites MSC Progress Despite Difficult Relocation,” MSC Space News Roundup, 11 July 1962; NASA, “NASA Mission Control Center to Be at Houston, Texas,” news release 62-172, 20 July 1962; Howard W. Tindall, Jr., to Assoc. Dir., MSC, “Assignment of responsibility for the technical direction over the mission computer program development for the IMCC (RTCC),” 10 Dec. 1962.

    82. McDonnell, “Project Gemini Engineering Mockup Review, 15-16 August 1962,” Rept. 9031, n.d.; L. Lebedev, B. Lyk'yanov, and A. Romanov, Sons of the Blue Planet, ed. Dr. K. S. Kothekar, trans. Mrs. Prema Pande, NASA TT F-728 (Moscow, 1971: New Delhi, India, 1973), pp. 75-79; Zavasky, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 24 Aug. 1962, p. 5; Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean, p. 462.

    83. Paul P. Haney, “NASA Plans Two-Man Rendezvous Spacecraft,” draft NASA news release, [8 Dec. 1961]; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Special Subcommittee on the Selection of Astronauts, Qualifications for Astronauts: Report, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, p. 7; NASA, “Nine New Pilots Selected for Space Flight Training,” news release 62-200-A, 17 Sept. 1962; “Some Day That Will Be Me,” photo and caption from MSC Space News Roundup, 17 Oct. 1962; “Millions in Europe Watch Launching via Telstar Relay,” Washington Post, 4 Oct. 1962.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch5-1. Command Modules and Program Changes

    1963—1964

    Once all the vehicles in the Apollo stack had been decided on, those already being developed would have to be changed to fit the new concept of Apollo. Most immediately affected was North American's command module. The shape of this craft, a conical pyramid much like the bell-shaped Mercury, had been set very early. This blunt-body vehicle, however, had been designed only for earth-orbital and circumlunar flight, with some thought given to attaching propulsion stages to make a direct-flight, lunar-surface landing sometime in the future. Adoption of lunar-orbit rendezvous eliminated the need to land the command module on the moon but forced the inclusion of some means for docking that vehicle with the lunar module and transferring two astronauts into the lander for the trip down.

    Command module development, then, took two routes. Configurations, systems, and subsystems had to be qualified and astronauts had to be trained in Apollo operations, which could be done in earth-orbital flight. It was therefore unnecessary to make any major changes on what came to be called the “Block I” spacecraft. But the time limitation set by the President did not permit waiting for the first version of the spacecraft to be completed and tested before starting on an advanced model, Block II, that could perform the new docking operation. The two spacecraft had many components in common, but development had become infinitely more complicated. Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden termed the Apollo program “the largest, most complex research and development effort ever undertaken.”1

    Vehicle Comparisons

    Comparison of spacecraft and launch vehicle configurations.


    All three of NASA's manned space flight centers—at Huntsville, Canaveral, and Houston—had their hands full during 1963 and 1964. Marshall was wrestling with the mammoth Saturn V development program; neither of the propulsion systems, the F-1 and the J-2 engines, could be simply picked off the shelves and fitted with appropriate oxidizer and fuel tanks. There were troublesome days ahead before the contractor, Rocketdyne, succeeded in developing and qualifying these engines so they could be trusted to boost astronauts toward the moon. 2 At the Cape, the Launch Operations Center was doing some educated guessing about the flight preparation facilities needed for the spacecraft and launch vehicles. And the Manned Spacecraft Center was working on three major programs: flying the last Project Mercury spacecraft (Mercury-Atlas 9) in May 1963 and getting spacecraft development under way in both Project Gemini and Project Apollo. Because of its modular configuration, Apollo had no immediate need for day-to-day coordination among the centers, which freed the program offices to work independently in solving their more pressing problems. But the program needed to be centrally managed—technically as well as administratively—far differently from Mercury, and it would have to be armed with a larger force to accomplish this. NASA Headquarters had, therefore, to become more technically oriented and would have to participate more in the daily activities of the program.


    1. Hugh L. Dryden, foreword in Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4004 (Washington, 1964), p. iii.

    2. J. Leland Atwood to James M. Grimwood, 27 Oct. 1976.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch5-2. The Headquarters Role

    Shortly after Brainerd Holmes joined NASA Headquarters as its first Director of Manned Space Flight, he and Administrator James Webb contracted with General Electric for studies on reliability and quality assurance, analysis and integration of the complete Apollo vehicle (spacecraft and booster), and procurement and operation of ground equipment to check out and certify the vehicles for flight. To fulfil this task, General Electric engineers would have to immerse themselves in the day-to-day activities of the space flight centers. No one in the field complained about General Electric's role in the reliability, quality assurance, and checkout functions, since the centers wanted all the help they could get in these areas. But the suggestion that a contractor should tell government employees how to put their vehicles together (the integration clause of the contract) to fly a mission was resisted. Edward S. Miller of General Electric said: “The contractor role in Houston was not very firm. Frankly, they didn't want us. There were two things against us down there. No. 1, it was a Headquarters contract, and it was decreed that the Centers shall use GE for certain things; and [No. 2] they considered us Headquarters spies.” For some time after the contract award, just exactly what General Electric would do was not exactly clear.3

    In February 1962, General Electric engineers began holding monthly review meetings, but they met with little success in selling their plans for spacecraft and launch vehicle integration. After several of these gatherings, contractor officials complained in August that there was “little understanding by NASA people as to the role of GE.” That same month, General Electric nevertheless transferred 15 of its engineers to Houston. To get the contractor into Huntsville operations, the manager of the Headquarters office for integration and checkout accompanied several General Electric employees to Marshall to explain “GE roles in [the] Apollo program” to the center and Saturn contractor officials. Neither Boeing nor Chrysler wanted any “unannounced visits" by General Electric engineers, especially since the two principal Saturn contractors could not foresee any way in which General Electric could be of assistance to them. Marshall and the contractors were assured that all visits would be arranged in advance, 4

    General Electric's other major task, however—designing, setting up, and operating ground equipment to check out the flight vehicles— was accepted at the field centers. Manned Spacecraft and Launch Operations Center representatives said they were satisfied with the contractor's work in this area, and Marshall asked for more help. Even here, however, there were some reservations about turning General Electric loose. The Apollo manager in Houston, for example, warned the company, in capital letters, to do nothing unless it had “A WORK ORDER APPROVED BY THE APOLLO SPACECRAFT PROJECT OFFICE.” 5

    Eventually, the General Electric contract called for almost a thousand persons, more than half of them stationed at Daytona Beach, near the Cape launch site, where they designed and assembled the ground checkout equipment needed to test the space vehicles for flight safety. The remainder went to the three NASA centers and to contractor plants, helping to ensure the receipt of good-quality hardware and performing specialized studies when they had a “work order.” 6

    ACE control room

    General Electric employees monitor activities of a spacecraft test in the automatic-checkout-equipment spacecraft control room in 1965.


    Webb had set up the General Electric contract to provide NASA Headquarters with the technical specialists to watch over and participate in Apollo's far-flung development activities in both government and contractor establishments. He also wanted a bevy of engineering system specialists near at hand to assist Holmes in making technical decisions. Webb asked Frederick R. Kappel, President of American Telephone & Telegraph Company, to form a group to provide this talent for Apollo. Bellcomm, Inc., the new AT&T division, began operating alongside Holmes' NASA Headquarters manned space flight engineers in March 1962. Holmes immediately directed the contractor engineers to work with Joseph Shea, his Office o Systems chief, first on the study of the mode issue and then on the defense of NASA's decision to land on the moon via the lunar-rendezvous method.

    Once the route studies were completed, Shea decided that Bellcomm engineers should dip into mission planning and produce some “reference trajectories”—a careful analysis of everything involved in flying the space vehicles from the earth to the moon and back. But when he took his newly formed Apollo Trajectory Working Group to a meeting in Texas, Shea met with resistance. John P. Mayer, speaking for the mission planners in Houston, said that his group had been doing this kind of work for the past two years. He told Shea bluntly that interjecting Bellcomm into mission planning was just one more attempt on the part of Headquarters to move into operational areas that properly belonged to the centers. Shea explained that Bellcomm would be a supporting group and would not try to second-guess the centers.7

    But many in Houston looked on Bellcomm representatives who attended many of the subsequent trajectory meetings as being, like General Electric, “Headquarters spies.” What continued to rankle Mayer and his colleagues in trajectory analysis was that Bellcomm, not always on the scene, simply could not keep up with the latest operations data, mission rules, and guidelines. As a result, Bellcomm sometimes gave Headquarters out-of-date information, and the field centers had to spend much-needed time in correcting misconceptions. Nevertheless, Bellcomm, never numbering more than 200 persons, did produce some useful evaluations on almost every aspect of Apollo throughout the decade. These engineers were among the first to push for the pinpoint lunar landings that were so successfully carried out after the first landing mission.8

    Along with the mounting strength in contractor personnel, the Manned Space Flight Office in Washington (only a handful of people in Mercury's early days) also increased in number. By February 1963, Holmes had a 400-man force, presided over by himself and his deputies, George Low and Joseph Shea. Low managed space medicine, launch vehicles, and office operations; Shea concentrated on engineering matters.9

    Much of the energy of the Headquarters office and its contractors during 1963 was devoted to drafting an Apollo Systems Specification book. The aim of this document was to lay out the objectives, to define the technical approach for implementing these objectives, and to establish performance requirements. The task was difficult because many systems, especially those in the lunar module and the advanced command module, simply had not been studied in enough detail for anyone to state positively what was expected. Numerous pages were stamped “TBD”— to be determined. But there was some clarification of policy for Apollo. Up to this time, the main objective had been expressed only as landing a man on the moon and returning him safely before the end of the decade. The specification book intimated, for the first time, that exploration of the moon would not be limited to a single mission. 10

    A number of interesting specifications in the manual—intended for use as the Headquarters “bible” for all parties in the development of Apollo—remained valid throughout the program. For example, all parts of the spacecraft would be designed to minimize the fire hazards inherent in the use of pure oxygen atmosphere that North American had been directed to incorporate in the command module in August 1962. North American was instructed to design the command module so a single crew member could return the craft safely to earth from any point in the mission. And the service module would provide all spacecraft propulsion and reaction control needs (spacecraft attitude changes in pitch, roll, and yaw from lunar transfer until it was jettisoned just before the spacecraft reentered the earth's atmosphere. 11

    Hand in hand with definition of the system specifications were the systems review meetings sponsored by the Office of Manned Space Flight. The meetings had a two-fold aim: to gather information for the specifications book and to make sure that the centers coordinated all activities in Apollo's complex development. At the first of these meetings, Shea found a gap in this coordination. Marshall was having trouble with F-1 engine combustion instability, yet an offer to help from Lewis Research Center—NASA's leading propulsion organization— had been ignored.12

    Other instances of this lack of cooperation may have occurred, but the three manned space flight centers had moved closer together, partially to defend the mode choice and partially to stave off the intrusion of General Electric into vehicle integration. On top of that, each center had a great many questions that needed to be answered by the other field elements. And they were working together on policies and mission rules that became the foundation for the lunar landing program. At a mission planning panel meeting, some of these ground rules emerged: two crewmen would land on the moon and one man would remain with the command module in lunar orbit; the lunar lander could stay on the moon from 21 to 48 hours; launch from the earth would take place in daylight to simplify recovery operations in the event of an abort; launch to the moon from earth orbit would begin within 4 1/2 hours because of the boil-off characteristics of liquid hydrogen in the S-IVB stage; and the first lunar mission would be only a loop around the moon and return, since too little was known about the start and restart capabilities of the service module engine. 13

    Most of these committees—and there were many, many of them—took turns meeting at Houston, Huntsville, and Canaveral. By May 1963, the panels were so numerous that Holmes realized that something had to be done to keep track of them. He told Shea to form a Panel Review Board * as one more Headquarters tool for managing Apollo.

    Shea convened the first meeting of the board in August 1963 at the Cape, and representatives of each panel summarized their past activities. The next item on the agenda was a session on standardizing the Interface Control Documents (discussed in the previous chapter) and the selection of Marshall as the repository for this documentation, to make sure it would be available for reference by the participating organizations. These periodic board meetings, besides keeping the Office of Manned Space Flight closer to the mainstream of center activities, gave the specialists a chance to learn what their colleagues were doing and an opportunity to oversee progress, costs, and schedules. Areas that might delay Apollo were discovered more quickly and dealt with more rapidly.14

    Apollo Tracking Network

    Apollo tracking network in 1966. Radar stations with large antennas for continuous tracking and communications were at Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.


    NASA Headquarters stepped in on occasion to arbitrate among the centers. At one time, telecommunications threatened to become a formidable issue in Apollo, with Houston, Goddard, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory vying for control of the tracking network. The earth-circling band of stations—about a dozen and a half—used in Mercury were not equipped for the deep space communications of Apollo, but by 1963 a capability was developing in the unmanned spacecraft programs that promised to be suitable. Jet Propulsion Laboratory intended to build two sets of 26-meter dish antennas, with two antennas at each of three sites—Goldstone, California; near Canberra, Australia; and near Madrid, Spain—that would provide continuous communications coverage of the moon. One set would be equipped with the more advanced unified S-band system (a system that tied the signals for tracking, telemetry, voice, television, and command into a single radio carrier) for controlling, tracking, and acquiring data from unmanned spacecraft, like Mariner and Surveyor, in deep space. This system consolidated the functions of the many transmitters and receivers characteristic of Mercury into one.

    Earth-Moon communications

    Communications with the moon as the earth turned. Astronauts on the moon's surface also could talk to one another.


    The Mercury tracking stations, with 9-meter dishes and the new S-band radar, would communicate with the Apollo spacecraft in earth-orbital flight. Once the vehicle had traveled 16,000 kilometers into space, the 26-meter antennas—spaced equidistantly at 120 degrees longitude around the earth so one of the three always faced the moon— would take over. Later, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was to build a 64-meter antenna at Goldstone (which then became the Goldstone Mars station) that gave Apollo clearer communications, especially in television reception. The laboratory wanted to construct two more of these stations, but the costs were too great. The British government, however, had a radar station with a 64-meter antenna at Sydney, Australia, that might be used.

    The Big Dish at Canberra

    The “big dish” at Canberra points toward space.


    Although some of the finer points on communications and control were haggled over for the next 15 months, in March 1963 NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans settled the basic issue of who was in charge and when. He assigned Goddard as the technical operator of the Manned Space Flight Network; during Apollo missions, the Manned Spacecraft Center would assume operational control. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory would be in charge of all unmanned mission communications, turning its facilities over to the other centers during manned flights. By the end of 1964, Headquarters had the communications and tracking requirements and assignments for Apollo pretty well in hand. 15

    Other NASA Headquarters offices besides Manned Space Flight assumed lead roles for Apollo—especially in the area of scientific interest. Because of the complex engineering task, no one really expected that science would do more than ride piggyback. Almost the only concern the Houston center displayed was in the composition of the lunar surface soil, which would affect the design of the landing gear. Director Robert Gilruth sent a representative to a meeting of NASA's Space Science Steering Committee to ask for help on the soil question and to remind the members that whatever scientific equipment they might develop would have to be adaptable to the lunar spacecraft. 16 But there was one area in which the scientists could be of more immediate assistance. How to land Apollo on the moon had been decided; how to get it there would be worked out by the guidance experts. Where to land it and what the astronauts could do after they got there was still unsettled.

    Shortly after President Kennedy had issued the lunar landing challenge, Homer Newell of the Headquarters science office had asked Harold C. Urey of the University of California at San Diego to suggest the best scientific sites for lunar landings. Urey told Newell of five kinds of lunar terrain of particular scientific interest:

    High latitudes—to check for possible temperature differences from equatorial areas. [Professor Harrison Brown had theorized, Urey added, that water might exist beneath the surface there.]

    Maria—to try to determine the depth of holes where great collisions had taken place and, on a second landing, to discover the composition of the material in such places as the Sea of Tranquillity.

    Inside a large crater—to look at an area, probably Alphonsus, where observers had seen gases rising from the interior.

    Near a great rille, or “wrinkle,” in a maria—to attempt to find out what had caused it. [It had been suggested that water, rising from the interior, had cracked the surface as it dried.]

    In a mountainous area—to observe crater walls. 17

    In 1962, a two-month summer study conference in Iowa was cosponsored by NASA and the National Academy of Sciences. The resulting deliberations, published as A Review of Space Research, outlined the broad objectives of a science program for Apollo. Conclusions were that the most important scientific tasks foreseeable for manned lunar explorations were educated observations of natural phenomena, the collection of representative samples of surface materials, and the installation on the moon of certain scientific monitoring instruments.

    Late in 1963 and early in 1964, NASA Headquarters established science planning teams to recommend investigations of the lunar surface, designs for prototype long-life geophysical instruments, requirements for astronaut training, the building of a receiving laboratory for handling returned samples, and plans for the reduction and interpretation of geological, geophysical, solar, selenological, astrophysical, and other scientific data. Although the work of these teams was barely visible to outside scientists, NASA had some of the best specialists in the country helping to formulate its general objectives on the lunar science program.18

    Five fundamental areas emerged as having the greatest potential:

    Studies of the lunar lithosphere, the solid moon itself, its chemical and physical constitution, and the implications this should have for its origin in history.

    Investigations of the gravitational and magnetic fields and forces around the moon, including experiments for the possible detection of gravitational waves.

    Considerations of particles like solar protons and cosmic radiation, together with their effect on the lunar gravitational field and magnetosphere.

    Establishment of astronomical observatories on the moon.

    Studies of proto-organic matter, including the possibilities for exobiology.19

    Realistically, everyone realized that the first manned visit to the lunar surface, limited to no more than 24 hours, would hardly satisfy the desires of most scientists. With proper planning, however, a bonanza of scientific results could be gleaned even from that first landing. In June 1964, the mineralogy and petrology planning team underscored these hopes by drawing an analogy between the lunar voyage and another historic event:

    Some time before the year 1492, a group of workmen were standing in a shipyard looking at a half-constructed craft. One of them said “It won't float”; another said “If the sea monsters don't get it first, it will fall off the edge”; a third, more reflective than the others, said “What do they want to go for, anyway?”

    The Apollo Project is primarily a glorious adventure, in which man will for the first time tread upon the surface of another celestial body. It will be a magnificent feat, and a milestone in the history of the human race. No other purpose or justification is necessary.

    Important scientific knowledge will result from the landing. First among the scientific objectives of the Apollo mission will be the return of samples of the lunar surface materials. The study of such samples will tell us of the thermodynamic conditions under which they were formed; whether the moon is a differentiated body or not; and perhaps whether it was captured by the Earth or was formed from it in the distant past.20

    Most of the work of NASA Headquarters on behalf of the scientific aims of Apollo by the end of 1964 had little impact on the organizations and contractors developing the program. All that the builders needed to know was how much space to allow—and this would be minimal—and a general idea of the future plans. When the time came to fly the missions, however, the planners, astronauts, and flight preparations technicians would have to pay more attention. The outline of what Apollo could contribute to science had been sketched; the details would be filled in later.

    Perhaps the Headquarters action that had the most significant effect on Apollo was a change of leadership in the Office of Manned Space Flight. When NASA had signed Grumman in 1962 to develop the lunar module, Holmes had wanted the agency to ask for a supplemental appropriation for Gemini and Apollo costs (see Chapter 4), but NASA's top administrators—Webb, Dryden, and Seamans—had refused. Webb also refused to transfer funds from other programs to manned space flight. Holmes and Webb had different views of management methods and of the priority of the manned program versus the rest of the space effort. The Administrator feared an all-out effort to land a man on the moon—one that subordinated all else—would endanger NASA's balanced program of seeking U.S. preeminence in space science and technology. The Manned Space Flight Director felt he had an overriding mandate from the President to win a race to the moon. The question of funds and priorities was taken to the White House. When President Kennedy cited the importance of the lunar landing, Webb agreed that it was important but said that he would not take responsibility for a program that was not properly balanced. Kennedy accepted his position.

    Then in the first half of 1963 came the realization that Project Gemini was suffering from more technical troubles than had been anticipated, which would push the costs of that program past the billion mark, almost double the original estimates. Gemini schedule stretchouts followed. Holmes testified in March congressional authorization hearings that the administration refusal to ask for a supplemental appropriation had delayed the Gemini and Apollo programs four or five months. In the renewal of Holmes-Webb differences over priorities, the President again backed his space program administrator. Shortly thereafter, NASA announced that Holmes was returning to industry.21

    Moving to concentrate his resources on resolving Gemini and Apollo problems, Administrator Webb had decided to conclude the Mercury program after the ninth mission and to realign NASA organization throughout Headquarters and the responsive field center elements. One of the first requirements was to find a new leader for manned space flight. After considering several candidates, Webb asked Ruben F. Mettler, President of Space Technology Laboratories, Inc., to take the job. Mettler refused but recommended George E. Mueller (pronounced “Miller"), his Vice President for Research and Development. Webb accepted the recommendation, and Mueller became NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight. With a doctorate in physics (Ohio State, 1951) and 23 years academic and industrial experience, Mueller had made many contributions to the country's missile and spacecraft programs.

    Mueller had worked on Air Force manned space flight studies as early as 1958; later his laboratory had provided NASA with data that helped in making the Apollo mode decision. Furthermore, Mueller was familiar with NASA's relations with industry, both at Headquarters and the field centers, and had studied ground support equipment problems and tracking network issues as a system analysis contractor. But most useful to NASA was his recent work with the Air Force on performance, schedule, and budget constraints for the Minuteman missile. Derivatives of this background—program control offices, schedules and resources planning, and the subsystem manager technique—were to be incorporated into Apollo to strengthen Headquarters and field center control over cost, configuration, and schedules.22

    Soon after joining NASA, Mueller asked Air Force Brigadier General Samuel C. Phillips to help him apply to Apollo the kind of configuration and logistics management procedures established for Minuteman. Phillips brought with him about 20 officers to fill key positions. Mueller realized that this sudden infusion of Headquarters-level personnel might be detrimental to relations between his office and the field activities. To forestall any resentment, he invited center directors Gilruth, Wernher von Braun, and Kurt Debus to be his houseguests, to get to know them informally and to discuss with them his plans for Apollo. Mueller then visited Huntsville, Houston, and Canaveral. After completing the circuit, he began pressuring the field elements to conform to a long-range plan of program management. 23

    In his attempts to inaugurate effective Headquarters control of Apollo, Mueller still faced vestiges of field center autonomy. The intercenter groups had gone far in working out system specifications and planning for vehicle integration; in Mueller's view, however, they had not gone far enough. To get to the moon by the set time, he told von Braun, Gilruth, and Debus, Headquarters would have to be the final authority in administering a unified and coordinated plan of program control.24

    Mueller decided to make some changes in one management tool instituted by Holmes in late 1961. In a meeting of the Manned Space Flight Management Council#explanation2``** on 24 September 1963, Mueller said that too many persons were on the council and that it would henceforth be composed only of himself, von Braun, Gilruth, and Debus. This new, slimmed-down body would act as a board of directors in making decisions and managing Apollo and would expect to be frequently and thoroughly briefed on all Apollo matters, down to the nuts and bolts, by top technical managers. To make sure that the industrial leaders in the program were kept abreast of progress and problems, Mueller also intended to form an Apollo Executives Committee, of company presidents, which would tour the appropriate NASA facilities and then hold periodic reviews thereafter. These men, Mueller knew, could put pressure on their people to solve any development problems. 25

    Webb, Dryden, and Seamans recognized in mid-1963 that NASA (and Apollo) had grown too large for Seamans to continue as “operating vice president,” which he had been since 1961. They decided to give Seamans three “Associate Administrators” for specific activities: Mueller would manage the Office of Manned Space Flight and the three centers working on manned missions—Huntsville, Houston, and Canaveral. Homer Newell and Raymond L. Bisplinghoff would hold similar positions for the Office of Space Science and Applications and the Office of Advanced Research and Technology. Mueller revamped his own office, dividing it into five suboffices (the five-box system)—(1) program control, (2) systems engineering, (3) test, (4) flight operations, and (5) reliability and quality—for each major program, Apollo and Gemini, reporting to a program director who would in turn answer to Mueller. Mueller kept the job of acting Apollo manager for himself and gave Gemini responsibility to Low. The manned spacecraft centers were directed to organize their program offices accordingly.26

    While the reorganization was going on, Mueller asked two veterans in his office, John Disher and Adelbert Tischler, for a study of Apollo's chances off landing on the moon by 1970. From the information they gathered on the existing technical problems, Disher and Tischler concluded that prospects were one in ten. After reading this pessimistic report, Mueller knew the adverse schedule trend would have to be reversed. When MSC Director Gilruth sent a representative to Headquarters in late September to find out if the four manned Saturn I flights Washington had planned could be reduced to three, Mueller saw an opportunity to begin tightening the schedules. He reviewed a Bellcomm study that recommended terminating the Saturn I launch vehicle program after the tenth flight, which Marshall estimated would save $280 million, and concluded that there was no reason to fly any manned Saturn I vehicles. Ironically, NASA had just selected 14 new pilots, bringing corps strength to 30.*** Administrator Webb worried briefly that the astronauts might not get enough space flight experience with the cutback, but Mueller reminded him that Gemini would fill that gap. Mueller added that there was a much better chance of beating the deadline if NASA had to man-rate only two boosters, the Saturn IB and V, instead of three. 27

    Hard on the heels of the Saturn I decision came another pronouncement that was just as startling—if not more so—to the field centers. At a late October meeting of the Management Council, Mueller told Debus, von Braun, and Gilruth that “we can now drop this step-by-step procedure” of flight-testing. All parts of the spacecraft and launch vehicle would be developed and thoroughly tested at manufacturing plants and test sites before being delivered to the Cape as ready-to-fly hardware. There would no longer be any need for piece-by-piece, stage-by-stage qualification flights of the vehicles. Each launch was to be prepared as though it were the ultimate mission, to avoid dead-end testing, with its narrow objectives and hardware components not intended for the lunar missions. 28

    Although the chances for getting to the moon within the allotted time may have improved, Apollo now had more launch vehicles and pads than were needed to do the job. When contracts were awarded, from late 1961 through 1962, step-by-step testing had been the norm. Hardware was purchased and facilities were built to carry out this time-tested practice. Mueller's all-up decision changed the rules, limited the number of Saturn I launches, and made it likely that not all of the Saturn IBs contracted for would be flown in mainline Apollo. These results raise an interesting, though moot, question. If this decision had been made before the contracts were awarded, would there have been both a Saturn I and a IB? An earth-orbital and lunar-orbital version of the command module? Later, NASA had to find some useful employment for the excess vehicles, eventually assigning them to the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. But this did not worry Mueller in late 1963. His job was to figure out how to get men on the moon within the time set by President Kennedy.

    Mueller briefs Kennedy

    On 16 November 1963 in Cape Canaveral's Blockhouse 37, NASA's new manned space flight chief George Mueller briefed left to right, front row seated) George Low, Kurt Debus, Robert Seamans, James Webb, President John Kennedy, Hugh Dryden, Wernher von Braun, Gen. Leighton I. Davis, and Senator George Smathers on Apollo program plans. The models on the table—Vehicle Assembly Building, Saturn V launch vehicle on crawler, and mobile service tower—represented key elements in the Apollo mission.


    Shortly after Headquarters reorganized for improved management of Apollo and Mueller made his changes to enhance the chances for meeting schedules, the whole nation was wracked by a series of traumatic events. President Kennedy was assassinated, and his alleged killer was murdered while the country watched. No one who had access to a television set can ever forget those days. In the soul-searching that followed, national goals and social priorities were questioned. Periodicals such as Science were soon attacking what they called NASA's misplaced priorities, and books like The Moon-Doggle were expressing disillusionment with Apollo.29

    Although caught up in the grief of the times, the Apollo worker— manager, engineer, technician—had been and still was deluged by the complex tasks inherent in developing and qualifying the vehicles.


    * Board membership consisted of: from the Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), Deputy Director, Systems, and Deputy Director, Programs; from Marshall (MSFC), Deputy Director, Research and Development, and two Associate Directors; from the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Deputy Director, Development and Programs, and Deputy Director, Mission Requirements and Flight Operations; and from the Launch Operations Center (LOC), Assistant Director, Plans and Project Management. The authorized panels and their cochairmen were: Crew Safety, Joachim P. Kuettner (MSFC) and Alfred D. Maniel (MSC); Electrical Systems Integration, Hans J. Fichtner (MSFC) and Milton G. Kingsley (MSC); Flight Mechanics, Rudolf F. Hoelker (MSFC) and Calvin H. Perrine (MSC); Launch Operations, Rocco A. Petrone (LOC) and Walter C. Williams (MSC); Mechanical Design Integration, Hans R. Palaoro (MSFC) and Lyle M. Jenkins (MSC); Mission Control Operations, Fridtjof A. Speer (MSFC) and John D. Hodge (MSC); and Onboard Instrumentation, Otto A. Hoberg (MSFC) and Alfred B. Eickmeier (MSC).

    ** The council, established on 21 December 1961, originally consisted of Holmes, his directors in OMSF (Charles H. Roadman, Aerospace Medicine; Milton W. Rosen, Launch Vehicles and Propulsion; and William E. Lilly, Program Review and Resources Management), and his deputies (Shea, Systems Engineering, and Low, Spacecraft and Flight Missions); Wernher von Braun, Director, and Eberhard F. M. Rees, Deputy Director (MSFC); and Gilruth, Director, and Walter C. Williams, Associate Director (MSC). By 27 February 1962, James E. Sloan, Holmes' Director of Integration and Checkout, and Kurt Debus, Director, LOC, had been added. On 26 and 27 February 1963, three new names appeared on the council rolls; James C. Elms, Deputy Director, Development and Programs (MSC); Albert F. Siepert, Deputy Director (LOC); and Robert F. Freitag, Director, Launch Vehicles and Propulsion (OMSF—replacing Rosen). During 1963, George M. Knauf took over from Roadman as Director of Aerospace Medicine.

    *** The astronauts in the third group (announced 18 October 1963) were Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., William A. Antlers, Charles A. Bassett II, Alan L. Bean, Eugene A. Cernan, Roger B. Chaffee, Michael Collins, R. Walter Cunningham, Donn F. Eisele, Theodore C. Freeman, Richard F. Gordon, Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott, and Clifton C. Williams, Jr. As in the second group, only two (Cunningham and Schweickart) were not members of the military services.


    3. MSC, “Manned Spacecraft Center, Atlantic Missile Range Operations: Facilities, 1959-1964,” 15 April 1963; NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963, pp. 195-96; Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA SP-4203 (Washington, 1977), chap. 6 through 9; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962: Report, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 12 June 1963, p. 15; James E. Webb, “Statement of the Administrator, [NASA], Regarding Selection of a Contractor for Overall Checkout of the Project Apollo Space Vehicle,” 12 March 1962; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 1964 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 5466 (Superseded by H.R. 7500), 88th Cong., 1st sess., 1963, pp. 1099, 1101, 1103-04; John H. Disher, interview, Washington, 26 Jan. 1967; Ladislaus W. Warzecha, interview, Houston, 14 Jan. 1970; Webb to D. Brainerd Holmes, no subj., 5 Jan. 1962; NASA, “Procurement Plan for Project Apollo Space Vehicle Integration Analysis, Reliability Assessment and Checkout,” February 1962; Charles W. Frick to Robert O. Piland, “Comments on Agenda Items for the Management Council Meeting,” 23 March 1962; Dave W. Lang to Wesley L. Hjornevik et al., “Contract clause,” 9 April 1962; Webb, “Determination and Findings: Authority to Negotiate Class of Contracts,” 25 July 1962; Edward S. Miller, interview, Valley Forge, Pa., 18 Feb. 1970.

    4. Percy F. Hurt to Dep. Proj. Mgr., ASPO, “Trip Report of Percy Hurt to Syracuse, New York, to Attend GE Progress Review Meeting, on August 14, 1962,” 16 Aug. 1962; H. L. Schimmack to Paul F. Weyers, 24 Aug. 1962, with enc., “Integration Assignment Activity: 4 August-22 August 1962”; Charles Appelman, telephone interview, 18 April 1972; James E. Sloan memo, “Introductory meetings with MSFC contractors to discuss G.E. roles in Apollo program (Boeing and Chrysler) held on October 2, 1962,” 4 Oct. 1962, with encs.; Henry P. Yschek to North American, Attn.: H. H. Cutler, “Letter Contract NAS 9-150, Right of Access of Apollo Integration Contractors,” 10 April 1962.

    5. Minutes of the third meeting of the Systems Checkout Design Review Board, 1 Nov. 1962, p. 2; Frick to NASA Hq., Attn.: Sloan, “Transmittal of General Electric Work Statement and Manpower Requirements for FY-63,” 3 Dec. 1962, with enc. (emphasis in original).

    6. William Collins, Jr., to Walter L. Lingle, “Discussion of language changes under the General Electric contract at a meeting in Mr. Holmes's office on Friday, June 28, 1963,” 1 July 1963; George E. Mueller to MSC, MSFC, and LOC, Attn.: Dirs., “Realignment of General Electric Company Contract,” 30 Sept. 1963; Stanley M. Smolensky, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 11 Jan. 1963; Melvin E. Dell to Yschek, “NAA contractual change to establish the Apollo Support Department of the General Electric Company as an associate contractor for NAA,” 30 Dec. 1963; J. Thomas Markley to Mgr., ASPO, “Present use of GE,” 20 Jan. 1964; General Electric Support Dept., “Apollo Support Program, Monthly Progress Report: March 1963,” Daytona Beach, Fla., 10 April 1963 (cf., e.g., idem, “ACE-S/C Reliability Quarterly Status Report, Third Quarter 1965,” 15 Oct. 1965.

    7. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 1964 NASA Authorization Hearings, pp. 372-73, 1076, 1091, 1098-1101; Paul E. Purser memo, “Operations of OMSF Office of Systems and Bellcomm,” 14 Jan. 1963, with encs.; minutes of Apollo Reference Trajectory Working Group Meeting No. 1, 3 Jan. 1963; John P. Mayer to Dir., MSC, “First meeting of Apollo Trajectory Working Group, January 3, 1963,” 7 Jan. 1963, with encs.

    8. Joseph F. Shea to Julian M. Wrest, 7 Nov. 1963; Shea to Brig. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, 25 Nov. 1964; Purser memo, 14 Jan. 1963; Jay Holmes, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 22 Nov. 1963; Carl R. Huss to JSC History Office, “Comments on Draft Copy of 'Chariots for Apollo: A History of Lunar Spacecraft,'“ 2 Nov. 1976.

    9. NASA, “Holmes Names Two Deputies,” news release 63-32, 20 Feb. 1963; George M. Low, interview, Houston, 7 Feb. 1967.

    10. NASA, “Apollo System Specification,” OMSF directive M-D M 8000.001, 2 May 1963, pp. 1-1, 1-2, 2- 1, 2-2.

    11. Ibid., pp. 4.3-1, 4.3-2; letter, Carl D. Sword to North American, “Contract Change Authorization No. 1,” 28 Aug. 1962.

    12. Low to Robert R. Gilruth, 26 Dec. 1962, with enc.; Smolensky, OMSF Staff Meeting, 11 Jan. 1963; D. B. Holmes to Wernher von Braun, “Combustion Instability of F-1 Engine,” 26 Jan. 1963; von Braun to D. B. Holmes, 11 March 1963.

    13. MSC-ASPO, “Consolidated Meeting Plan, Initial Issue,” 18 Feb. 1962; Walter C. Williams to MSFC, Attn.: von Braun, “Flight Control Operations and Ground Support Requirements for Project Apollo,” 1 March 1963; Williams to von Braun, 7 March 1963; “Mission Control Operations Panel (MCOP),” n.d. (probably August 1963); Robert V. Battey, minutes of Apollo Mission Planning Panel organization meeting, 27 Feb. 1963; Mayer memo, “Charter for Apollo Spacecraft Mission Trajectory Sub-Panel,” 26 March 1963; abstract of Apollo Mission Planning Meeting No. 1, 27 March 1963; R. A. Newlander to Actg. Mgr., RASPO/LEM, “Trip report of R. A. Newlander to MSC on March 27 & 28, 1963 to attend Mission Planning Panel and Trajectory Sub-Panel Meetings,” 1 April 1963; Battey to Action Committee, “Errata to Abstract of Mission Planning Panel Meeting No. 1,” 1 April 1963; Mayer memo, “Preliminary Mission Rules for Use in Apollo Mission Trajectory Calculations,” 30 April 1963, with encs.; W. Schoen and G. Scheuerlein to Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., et al., “Meeting of Spacecraft Operations Analysis Working Group at MSC, Houston on May 1, 1963,” 7 April [sic] 1963.

    14. D. B. Holmes to MSC, MSFC, and LOC, for Gilruth, von Braun, and Kurt H. Debus, “Establishment of a Panel Review Board,” 10 July 1963, with enc., Holmes memo, “Panel Review Board,” 10 July 1963; agenda, Panel Review Board Meeting 63-1, 9-10 Aug. 1963, with encs.; minutes of Panel Review Board Meeting 63-1, LOC, 9-10 Aug. 1963; agenda, Panel Review Board Meeting 63-2, 25 Sept. 1963, with encs.

    15. N. A. Renzetti, ed., A History of the Deep Space Network, 1, From Inception to January 1, 1969, JPL technical report 32-1533 (Los Angeles, 1 Sept. 1971), pp. 13-16, 25; Renzetti, telephone interview, 13 June 1972; Gerald M. Truszynski memo for file, “Meeting at MSC on Location of European DSIF Station,” 3 Dec. 1962; Goddard Space Flight Center, “A Ground Instrumentation Support Plan for the Near-Earth Phases of Apollo Missions,” GSFC X-520-62-211, 23 Nov. 1962; Corliss, Histories of STADAN, MSFN, and NASCOM, pp. 149, 162-259; Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to William H. Pickering and Harry J. Goett, 11 March 1964, with enc., “Management Plan for the Manned Space Flight Network,” 5 Feb. 1963; Seamans memo, subj., as above, 11 March 1963, with enc.; Dennis E. Fielder to Chief, Flight Operations Div. (FOD), “Network management and control for manned space flight,” 30 Oct. 1963; Henry E. Clements to Chief, FOD, “GSFC's presentation on network control,” 31 Oct. 1963; Gilruth to GSFC, Attn.: Goett, “Computation and Data Flow Integrated Subsystem Testing Interface,” 28 May 1964, with enc., “Computation and Data Flow Integrated Subsystem (CADFISS) Testing Interface between GSFC and MSC for the Gemini and Apollo Programs,” n.d.; Mueller and Edmond C. Buckley to KSC, MSC, MSFC, and GSFC, Attn.: Dirs., “Assurance of Compatibility between Apollo Spacecraft, Launch Vehicle and the supporting Tracking and Data Acquisition Network,” 30 July 1964; Buckley to Dep. Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Division of Responsibility between GSFC and MSC on Computation for the Manned Space Flight Network,” 2 Oct. 1964, with enc.; Bernard Lovell, The Story of Jodrell Bank (New York: Harper and Row, 1968).

    16. Robcrt O. Piland to Dir., MSC, “Space Task Group representation on Lunar Sciences Subcommittee of the NASA Space Sciences Steering Committee,” 7 July 1961; Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Low, “Designation of liaison member for the Lunar Sciences Subcommittee of the Space Sciences Steering Committee,” 11 July 1961.

    17. Harold C. Urey to Homer E. Newell, 19 June 1961.

    18. Leonard D. Jaffe, secretary, minutes of Ad Hoc Working Group on Apollo Scientific Experiments and Training, 27 March 1962; Vern C. Fryklund. Jr., to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Scientific Guidelines for the Apollo Project,” 8 Oct. 1963; National Academy of Sciences, A Review of Space Research, NAS-NRC 1079 (Washington, 1962), report of summer study under auspices of NAS at State Univ. of Iowa, 17 June-10 Aug. 1962; Edward M. Davin. ed., “Apollo Lunar Science Program: Report of Planning Teams,” pt. 1, “Summary,” December 1964.

    19. Shea memo for record, no subj., 26 March 1962; Fryklund letter, 8 Oct. 1963; Willis B. Foster to Dir., Program Review and Resources Management, “Submission for 1964 President's Annual Report,” 30 Oct. 1964; Davin, ed., “Planning Teams Report,” pp. 4-5.

    20. Eugene N. Cameron et al., introduction to “Preliminary Report on the Sampling and Examination of Lunar Surface Materials,” 22 June 1964, in Appendix to Davin, ed.. “Planning Teams Report.”

    21. NASA, “Preliminary History of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, November 1963-January 1969,” final ed., 15 Jan. 1969, pp. I-49 through I-52; D. Brainerd Holmes, interview by Don Neff, Time, Inc., 18 Jan. 1969; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 1964 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 5466, 88th Cong., 1st sess., no. 3, pt. 2(a), 1963 (March 7), pp. 242-243; Robert Sherrod notes on interview of David Williamson, Asst. Assoc. Admin., NASA, 10 April 1972; Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans, p. 128; NASA, “Holmes Returns to Industry as Mercury Concludes,” news release 63-133, 12 June 1963; Richard A. Smith, “Now It's an Agonizing Reappraisal of the Moon Race,” Fortune, November 1963, pp. 128, 268; John W. Finney, “NASA Loses Chief of Moon Project,” New York Times, 13 June 1963, pp. 1-2.

    22. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1964: Hearings on S. 1245, 88th Cong., 1st sess., pt. 2, pp. 774-75; Saul Ferdman to Grimwood, 15 Nov. 1976; Joseph L. Myler, UPI, “Mueller to Head Program to Land Men on Moon,” Washington Post, 24 July 1963; Mueller interview, Washington, 27 June 1967; NASA, “George E. Mueller,” biographical data, 8 Jan. 1964; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1965: Hearings on S. 2446, 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 467-68.

    23. Jay Holmes, minutes of OMSF Staff Meeting, 27 Dec. 1963; NASA, “NASA Appoints General Phillips to Assist in Apollo Program Management,” news release 63-287, 31 Dec. 1963; Mueller interview.

    24. Mueller interview.

    25. Clyde B. Bothmer, minutes of Manned Space Flight Management Council (MSFMC) meetings, 24 Sept. and 29 Oct. 1963.

    26. Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), pp. 281-302; NASA, “NASA Realigns Office of Manned Space Flight,” news release 63-241, 28 Oct. 1963; Jay Holmes, minutes of Special OMSF Staff Meeting, 24 Oct. 1963, with enc., “Reorganization of the Office of Manned Space Flight,” 24 Oct. 1963; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for 1965, pp. 471-73.

    27. Disher and Adelbert O. Tischler, presentation to Mueller, 28 Sept. 1963; Disher interview; Tischler, interview, Washington, 7 July 1972; “Apollo Flight Mission Assignments,” OMSF program directive M-D E 8000.005A, 9 April 1963; Alfred D. Mardel and Rob R. Tillett to Piland, “Trip Report to Washington, D.C.,” 30 Sept. and 3 Oct. 1963; Mueller to Robert F. Freitag, “Replacement of Scheduled Manned Flights on Saturn I,” 18 Oct. 1963; Mueller to Webb, “Reorientation of Apollo Plans,” 26 Oct. 1963, annotated, “Approved during telephone discussion with Dr. Mueller on Oct. 28, 1963 and later reviewed via telephone with Dr. Seamans,” signed by Webb; NASA, “NASA Announces Changes in Saturn Missions,” news release 63-246, 30 Oct. 1963; David M. Hammock TWX to North American, Attn.: E. E. Sack and Alan B. Kehlet, 4 Nov. 1963; Bellcomm, “Recommended Changes in the Use of Space Vehicles in the Apollo Test Program,” NASA OMSF technical memo MD (S) 3100.180, 29 Oct. 1963; Webb to Col. C. J. George, no subj., 10 March 1964; MSC news release 180-63, 18 Oct. 1963.

    28. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1965 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 9641 (Superseded by H.R. 10456), 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 154-56; Bothmer, MSFMC meeting, 29 Oct. 1963; Hammock TWX, 4 Nov. 1963; von Braun to Mueller, 8 Nov. 1963, with encs.; von Braun, interviews, Washington, 27 Aug. 1970 and 30 Nov. 1971, and Houston, 3 Feb. 1972; Shea, interview, Waltham, Mass., 12 Jan. 1972; Jay Holmes, minutes of Special OMSF Staff Meeting, 31 Jan. 1964.

    29. See Philip H. Abelson's editorials in Science, late 1963 to early 1964; John Barbour, “Scientist Abelson Raps Race for Man on Moon,” Washington Evening Star, 2 Sept. 1963; Amitai Etzioni, The Moon-Doggle: Domestic and International Implications of the Space Race (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1964); Edwin Diamond, The Rise and Fall of the Space Age (Garden City: Doubleday, 1964). Cf. Robert Hotz, “Space Flight Enters New Period to Exploit Capabilities of Man for Probing Universe,” editorial in Aviation Week & Space Technology 79, Manned Space Flight ed. (22 July 1963): 68-69.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch5-3. Command Module: Problems and Progress

    The lateness of the decision on how to fly to the moon had forced the Manned Spacecraft Center and the contractor, North American, to delay work on the command and service modules. Once the choice was made, they realized that much of what had been done had no place in the lunar-orbit rendezvous scheme. But that was not the only problem. NASA still insisted on having an earth-orbital command module, even though it could not dock with the lunar module, to train crews and flight controllers in the basic functions of the spacecraft. The definitive contract for that vehicle, however, had not been negotiated. In late 1961, NASA had issued a letter contract to North American, which would be extended as necessary, outlining in general terms what the spacecraft would be like. When all of Apollo's pieces were finally picked, it was time to reach an agreement with North American on the precise details of the spacecraft.

    Charles Frick, the Apollo manager in Houston, assigned his special assistant, Thomas Markley, to negotiate the definitive contract with North American and its principal contractors. When deliberations started, on 7 January 1963, the Manned Spacecraft Center was facing crowded conditions in its temporary locations along the Gulf Freeway. Markley and his government team therefore met the contractor representatives in 16 rooms on the 13th floor of the Rice Hotel in downtown Houston. Signaling the start and finish of 15-hour work days, Monday through Saturday, with a cow bell, Markley and the groups completed the “basic contract package” on 26 January. The proposed contract then had to travel through administrative levels until it reached Webb for final approval or refusal. As the document journeyed through channels, the cost figures on the subsystems were revised. On 24 June, the estimated value was $889.3 million (without fee). When it was finally approved in August, the price, with $50-million fixed fee, was $934.4 million. For this sum, NASA was to receive 11 mockups (facsimile models), 15 boilerplate capsules (test vehicles), and 11 flight-ready spacecraft.30

    Under the letter contract, many of these items had gone into the manufacturing cycle, with scheduled delivery dates. Immediately after contract approval, Mueller sent his two deputies, Low and Shea, to Downey, California, to find out why North American was late on those deliveries. Harrison Storms, president of the division building the command module, briefed the visitors on the problems and admitted to a 10-month slip in schedule for the first command module earmarked for orbital flight. Storms counter-attacked, however, reminding the NASA customers that some of their decisions had been late in coming and that orders to change some of the subsystems had slowed factory schedules— and were still doing so.31

    Transposition and docking

    Once the S-IVB stage placed the spacecraft on a trajectory to the moon, the spacecraft-lunar module adapter panels would blossom outward 45 degrees (later they were discarded by explosion). The Apollo command and service modules would separate from the stage, pull away, turn around, dock with the lunar module, and then pull the LM away from the stage.


    Another item changed Apollo manufacturing plans in Downey. NASA officials learned that North American intended to build the spacecraft —lunar module adapter* in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Air Force had decided to cancel the Skybolt missile development program and to keep using Hound Dog missiles, which were manufactured in Downey. When the Air Force ordered more Hound Dog vehicles and demanded that production in Downey continue, some Apollo work had to be done elsewhere.32

    One chief aim of the 1963-1964 period was to get both versions of the command module far enough along for a formal mockup review board to accept them as the final configuration. With a great deal of this work being done simultaneously, the task was extremely onerous. John Paup, command module manager at North American who had fretted over the slowness of the mode decision, wanted to get the systems of the earth-orbital Block I spacecraft set so he could begin production on that vehicle. At the same time, he was anxious to get the exact differences between the two vehicles delineated. Joseph Shea, who had by now replaced Frick as Apollo manager in Houston, told Paup that Block II definition was not going to be easy to arrive at, with the Block I configuration still not settled.

    CM full-scale model

    Full-scale model of the command module, above: the strake aerodynamic devices may be seen at either side of the spacecraft just above the aft heatshield.


    Paup contended that several areas of common interest between the two vehicles had to be resolved immediately. One of the debates was whether to use strakes, tower flaps, or canards to stabilize the command module in the event of a launch abort. Whichever was used, the object was to get the spacecraft down in what was called the “BEF” (blunt end forward) position. Strakes were semicircular devices near the top of the heatshield that would keep the vehicle from landing on its nose. Recent changes in the subsystems had shifted the vehicle's center of gravity, which forced a lengthening of the strakes to handle the aerodynamic change. After heat-resisting ablative material was added to the longer strakes, however, they weighed too much. North American suggested using either tower flaps (fixed surfaces near the top of the launch escape tower) or canards (deployable surfaces on the forward end of the escape-rocket motor). Paup wanted to know which to install, and Shea told him to put canards on Block I and then look for some way to eliminate all these devices on Block II.33

    CM and LES drawing

    On the drawing of the launch escape system at upper right, the canard aerodynamic devices are near the top of the escape tower.


    LES jettison

    Jettison of the launch escape system (right) after successful launch, also pulls away the boost protective cover that protects the windows from flame and soot.


    Another decision that would influence both spacecraft was on whether to set the vehicle down on land or water, a question that had been under discussion since mid-1962. During a meeting in early 1964, a North American engineer reported that “land impact problems are so severe that they require abandoning this mode as a primary landing mode.” That was all Shea needed to settle that debate. Apollo spacecraft would land in the ocean and be recovered by naval ships as Mercury had been.34

    SM full-scale model

    Full-scale model of the service module, resting on a mockup of a spacecraft-lunar module adapter, with panels off to reveal part of the internal arrangement.


    Throughout 1963 and 1964, there were frequent meetings on command module subsystems that were common to both versions of the craft. Because space missions would be of longer duration, a concept had developed very early that the astronauts would repair or replace a malfunctioning part in the spacecraft during flight. This plan would require tools and spare parts to be carried on the missions and created another weight problem. At a subsystems discussion in April 1964, Shea told the North American engineers that NASA no longer favored this method of ensuring good working components in space. Instead, the contractor was to work toward reliability through manufacturing and test processes and by installing redundant systems. If something did go wrong, the crew should be able to shift to another system that could perform the same function as the malfunctioning one. Houston also wanted the contractor to upgrade its reliability program by improving its failure reporting practices, manufacturing schedules, engineering change controls, test plans, traceability methods, means of standardizing interface control documents, and ground support equipment provisioning.35

    Houston had already taken measures in late 1963 to increase its control over and improve on subsystem development, chiefly to get the more advanced Block II command module under way. Shea asked Max Faget, chief of the Engineering and Development Directorate at the Manned Spacecraft Center, to pick experts in the engineering shops to act as subsystem managers. The managers were directed to oversee their components from design through manufacture and test. They were responsible for cost, schedules, and reliability. When changes in one unit became necessary, other systems had to be considered, and any conflicts resolved, before alterations could be made. The subsystem manager concept was therefore an excellent device for restraining engineers eternally eyeing good hardware for chances to make it better.36

    North American and Grumman also made significant contributions toward controlling hardware development. As far back as mid-1962, John Disher had urged Houston to draft hardware development and flight test schedules through the first manned lunar landing. Houston submitted these schedules in October 1962. When 1963 rolled around, delays of one kind or another had made this paper nearly meaningless. Near the end of the year, North American invited the other two major contractors, Grumman and MIT, to help settle this issue. The contractors drew up charts on all three modules—command, service, and lunar—looking at development tests of subsystems, ground tests of partial and fully assembled modules, and Saturn-boosted flight tests of completed modules. Formally known as the “Apollo Spacecraft Development Test Plan,” their report to NASA, outlining the tests and exact uses of every piece of hardware for the years 1964 through 1968, was called “Project Christmas Present” by the contractors. 37

    A second move, led by Grumman, was made in the early months of 1964. Grumman officials had complained to Shea that the frequent changes in the lunar mission concept made it impossible for the design and development engineers to decide what components they needed. The general outline of the mission was pretty well set, but the haziness about specific refinements was playing havoc with attempts to design hardware to cover all normal and contingency operations. Shea told Grumman to see if it could get the requirements pinned down. North American and MIT crews soon joined the lunar module contractor team to come up with a “Design Reference Mission.”

    First the group looked at what Apollo was supposed to accomplish: “Land two astronauts and scientific equipment on the near-earth-side surface of the moon and return them safely to earth.” A second major objective was to carry more than 100 kilograms of scientific equipment to be set up on the moon and to bring back more than 30 kilograms of lunar soil and rocks. To make sure this was understood, the study group would have to analyze every moment of a hypothetical mission—on the ground, in space, on the moon, and during the return to the earth— from the time the stacked vehicles were rolled toward the launch pad until the command module was recovered in the Pacific Ocean. In other words, the North American-led study concentrated on getting reliable hardware to the launch pad; the Grumman-sponsored task aimed at making sure that the equipment would be able to handle the job of getting to the moon and back.

    The group soon realized it had to pick out an arbitrary mission launch date—it chose 6 May 1968—to give realism to the plan and to focus attention on every move, every procedure, in the minutest detail. Working out the specific position of the moon on that date in relation to the earth, members drew up a precise launch trajectory. Then, assuming a given number of hours spent in flight and on the moon, they calculated the corrections in the return trajectory that would have to be made to accommodate changes in the moon-earth position. The task was not an easy one. It took four months of “working like hell” to produce three thick volumes describing the sequence of events and related actions. The work would have to be updated later, of course, but the contractors had a better understanding after the exercise of what their subsystems should be and what they should do. Thus, long before the astronauts embarked on an actual lunar landing mission, the mission planners, government and contractor, had spent untold hours agonizing over every minute of that trip.38

    The design reference mission study led neatly into the requirement for North American to accelerate Block II command module work. That vehicle had moved slowly following the lunar-orbit mode decision, but it would have been almost impossible to increase the speed. Until Grumman got the lunar module design relatively well set, North American engineers would have only the most general ideas of how the two vehicles would rendezvous and dock, which limited them to guesses about the influence of the docking equipment on the command module weight. The following spring, however, new mission rules gave them a clearer picture of what they were designing toward: the crew members would be able to stay in their couches during docking and the connection between the command and lunar modules would be rigid enough to maintain a pressurized pathway through which the astronauts could travel between the craft.39

    Probe and drogue drawing

    North American engineers favored probe and drogue devices to dock the command module with the lunar module. The CM probe would slip into the LM's dish-shaped drogue, and 12 latches on the docking ring would engage, to lock the spacecraft together, airtight. The astronauts could now remove a hatch, take out the docking devices, and travel between the two spacecraft. When operations were finished, they would return to the CM, reinsert the devices, install the hatch, and release the latches to disengage from the LM.


    By mid-1963, North American engineers had begun work on an extendable probe on top of the command module that would fit into a dish-shaped drogue on the lunar module. They considered three possible ways of docking: (1) soft docking (latching with enough separation between the craft to make sure that pilot errors could not impair flight safety and then reeling the vehicles together), (2) hard docking (going straight in and latching without preliminaries) as a backup mode; and (3) transferring the crew by extravehicular means (getting out of one spacecraft in free space and climbing into the other vehicle) in an emergency situation. It was now apparent that the main difference between the Block I and Block II spacecraft was that Block II would be equipped with the means for docking and the pressurized crew transfer tunnel, but Block I would not.40

    By March 1964, Manned Spacecraft Center and North American were close to agreement on the design of the Block I command and service modules. A Mockup Review Board** was getting ready to go to Downey, with a team of systems and structural specialists, to examine every part of the proposed model and decide what items to accept. Following NASA tradition in engineering inspections, the board would consider four categories of changes: items (1) approved for change, (2) accepted for study, (3) rejected outright, and (4) found not applicable. The review board would rule on the suggested changes on the basis of technical accuracy, desirability and feasibility, and the impact on cost and schedules.

    CM mockup review

    NASA and North American engineers at the April 1964 command module mockup review (above) closely examine all pieces of the Apollo command and service modules. While several engineers on the platform inspect the CM recovery system, the forward heatshield waits to be lifted into position.


    At the end of April 1964, a hundred persons gathered at North American's Downey plant. After being welcomed by contractor officials, members of the board and their specialists watched as several astronauts simulated operating the vehicle. Next came a walk-around for a general examination of the spacecraft mockup and such special displays as wiring, cutaway models of subsystems, parachute packing, and electrical connectors. Managers and counterpart engineers from NASA and the manufacturer then split up into small groups to examine minutely and evaluate each piece. More than a hundred requests for changes RFCs were written on the spot for consideration by the board; 70 were approved, 14 were designated for further study, and 26 were rejected.

    Engineers discuss changes

    Groups of engineers of the various specialties (right) meet to discuss and list requests for changes for consideration by the NASA Review Board.


    The spacecraft couches worried the board members a great deal, since the crewmen, wearing pressurized suits, fitted too snugly into their seats. As a matter of fact, an astronaut lying in a couch could not move easily, even in an unpressurized suit. Three pilots lying side by side in the couch area would be virtually immobilized. By July, adjustments had been made to alleviate this situation and to cover other suggestions by the board and its assistants. After a second mockup review, in September, NASA told North American to begin production of the Block I, earth-orbital command and service modules. 41

    McDivitt prepares CM checkout

    Astronaut James McDivitt receives assistance with a shoe cover before entering the command module to check out the cabin from a pilot's viewpoint.


    CM clearance problem

    One of the most worrisome items astronauts found in the CM arrangement was an “elbow-shoulder clearance problem,” Four years later, in 1968, this problem still vexed astronauts Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, the first crew to fly an Apollo spacecraft.


    After Project Christmas Present and the decision to use redundant systems rather than making repairs en route to the moon, work on the Block II spacecraft began to move a little faster. Since two large vehicles, the command-and-service-module combination and the lunar module, would be boosted into space, a weight-reduction program became of major importance. North American met this challenge principally by shaving kilograms off the command module heatshield and the service module structure.42

    During the spring of 1964, continuing problems with the Block I and Block II vehicles triggered a change in management at North American. Dale D. Myers, program manager of the Hound Dog missile, took over as Apollo manager, replacing John Paup. Myers, a company employee since 1943, later remarked: “The first thing I did when I got on the program was to work out with Joe Shea . . . a program definition phase for Block II that [lasted from April] till October. We set up all the milestones we had to go through . . . in getting to the definition of the Block II vehicle.”43

    Shea and Myers assigned teams at Houston and Downey to guide the definition phase of Block II. Alan Kehlet led the contractor team, and Owen Maynard headed the NASA group. Both men had worked on Apollo spacecraft design as far back as the feasibility studies of 1960. Under their leadership, teams concentrated on such activities as charting and evaluating changes caused by abandoning the inflight repair concept, finding places in the cabin for the lunar sample boxes, studying the design of the pressurized tunnel that permitted the astronauts to move from one vehicle to the other, eyeing the probe and drogue docking mechanism, reviewing the heatshield and service module weight-reduction programs, and modifying the service module design to provide an empty bay to hold the scientific experiment equipment. 44

    Maynard and Kehlet planned to hold their Block II design review meeting in August, but it was 29 September before 130 board members *** and specialists had something at Downey to examine. But even this was not a complete mockup of the advanced command module, as some NASA officials had expected. The contractor presented mockups of the command module interior, including the arrangement of the upper deck and lower equipment bay, and the service module with two of its four bays exposed. Although the couches from the April Block I review were still featured, the harnesses had been modified to afford roomier seating. The hatches—inner and outer—were the same as for Block I, and the spacecraft exterior reflected only the changes from Block I. New systems, such as docking and crew transfer, were sketched out in little detail.

    After the specialists had examined the mockup, they submitted 106 requests for changes. The board accepted 67, recommended 23 for further study, rejected 12, and returned 4 as not applicable. What worried everyone, government and contractor employees alike, was the lack of good, solid information on how this vehicle and the lunar module would work together on rendezvous and docking. Across the continent at Grumman's New York plant, however, the lunar module contractor had a mockup that would be ready for formal review in October. That would give North American a clearer picture of the exact changes necessary in its spacecraft. In five months, after these changes had been studied and incorporated, a formal Block II command and service module review would be held. Meanwhile, one engineer from Houston and one from Downey would be assigned to each of the 67 requests for changes that the board considered critical.45 Essentially, then, waiting for the lunar module to settle into its final form became a way of life for North American engineers.

    But some of the decisions on what would constitute the North American spacecraft were not influenced by the lunar module, nor were they based on theoretical studies and ground tests. Some came from actual missions.

    At White Sands, New Mexico, on the morning of 13 May 1964, a Little Joe II launch vehicle rammed Boilerplate (BP) 12 to an altitude of 4,700 meters, to see if the launch escape system could propel the spacecraft away from the booster after it had reached transonic speed. Only one incident marred an otherwise successful flight. A parachute riser broke during descent, collapsing one of the three main parachutes. The boilerplate landed safely on the two remaining parachutes, in what one engineer later called “a welcome unplanned result of the test.”46

    As 1964 drew to a close, the Little Joe II abort test program at White Sands was nearing its third**** and, in many ways, most crucial launch. Because of their fixed fins, the first two solid-fueled rockets had been somewhat erratic in flight. Jack B. Hurt's people at the Convair plant of General Dynamics in San Diego then built a relatively simple attitude control and autopilot system for the rest of their vehicles to allow hydropneumatic operation of “elevons,” like ailerons, in each of the four fins while in flight. In addition, for the “max q” (maximum dynamic pressure) and high-altitude abort tests coming up, small reaction control motors were installed in the fin fairings to increase the precision of aiming control to the test points desired. Vehicle No. 12-51-1, as it was called, with four Recruit and two Algol motors, was the most powerful Little Joe II yet flown, intended to develop 1,500 kilonewtons (340,000 pounds of thrust to lift itself and its cargo—BP-23 and the launch escape tower—more than 9 kilometers high. The whole assemblage, weighing 41,500 kilograms, was pointed toward the north at a point in space where the launch escape system, fitted with canards, would pull the capsule and boost protective cover away from the Little Joe II while traveling at a speed of mach 1.5. This area was in the middle of the region where a Saturn V ought to experience max q.

    At precisely 8:00 on the morning of 8 December, Little Joe II roared upward, straight and true. Thirty-six seconds later—almost out of sight and two seconds, or 900 meters, early—the planned abort took place. After an 11-second coast period, the canards deployed, and the capsule tumbled four times in its turnaround before stabilizing blunt-end forward and jettisoning the escape system. The boost protective cover shattered slightly more than expected, but the two drogue parachutes deployed. Its three main parachutes opened, and BP-23 drifted gently to rest, 11,000 meters uprange from the launch site, after 7.5 minutes of flight. Max q had been higher than predicted, but all else had worked well; at the end of 1964, Little Joe II, with its payload, was ready for more stringent flight tests. 47

    Apollo models at KSC

    Full-scale models of the Apollo command and service modules and launch escape tower (foreground) are received in a hangar at the Kennedy Space Center for the first launch of an Apollo spacecraft by a Saturn vehicle—mission SA-6, 28 May 1964.


    Across the country, in Florida, engineers and technicians from California, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere were grooming the first Apollo-configured spacecraft model to ride aboard a Saturn I booster. Although Saturn I was no longer part of the manned Apollo program, the SA-6 launch on 28 May did prove that Marshall could build a booster to fit the command module. In the jargon of the trade, “The mission was nominal.” After 54 earth circuits, BP-13 reentered the atmosphere east of Canton Island in the Pacific Ocean on 1 June. No spacecraft recovery was planned. Just three and a half months later, on 17 September, a nearly identical test of the seventh Saturn I and BP-15 had equally satisfactory results.48

    SA-6 ready to go

    SA-6 spacecraft and launch vehicle ready to go.


    Thus, in the closing months of 1964, the final form of the command ship was emerging, the management team was in better shape to handle the program, and the mission planners had a clearer picture of the multitude of steps necessary in the performance of a lunar mission. During this two-year period, the lunar module also assumed definite shape.


    * The lunar module nestled inside the adapter (SLA) from launch through separation of the service module from the S-IVB. The honeycomb panels of the adapter were then explosively fired to allow the command and service modules, after turning around and docking with the lunar module, to pull the lander from the booster's third stage.

    ** Christopher C. Kraft, Donald K. Slayton, Caldwell C. Johnson, Owen E. Maynard, and Clinton L. Taylor would act for NASA, and H. Gary Osbon and Charles H. Feltz for the contractor.

    *** Board membership had changed considerably. Maynard (Chairman), Faget, Slayton, Owen G. Morris, Taylor, and Sigurd A. Sjoberg represented NASA, and Norman J. Ryker, Jr., and Kehlet acted for North American.

    **** The first Little Joe II, a qualification test vehicle without a payload, was launched successfully on 28 August 1963.


    30. Frick memo, “Reorganization of the Apollo Spacecraft Project,” 11 Jan. 1963; Frick and Hjornevik memo, “NAS 9-150 Contract Negotiation,” 4 Jan. 1963; Markley, interview, Houston, 17 Jan. 1968; Daniel A. Linn to William Risso, “Weekly Activity Report through Period Ending Monday, June 24, 1963,” 25 June 1963; Frick to NASA Hq., Attn.: D. B. Holmes, “Apollo Spacecraft Definitization Status,” 29 Jan. 1963, with enc.; Henry W. Flagg, Jr., to JSC History Off., “Review of Comment Draft of Chariots for Apollo: A History of Lunar Spacecraft,” 24 Nov. 1966.

    31. Low and Shea to Harrison A. Storms, Jr., 16 Aug. 1963; Robert P. Young memo for record, “Meeting with Mr. H. Storms,” 21 Aug. 1963; Storms to Low and Shea, 4 Sept. 1963.

    32. North American, “CSM Cost/Schedule/Technical Characteristics Study: Final Report,” 4 vols., NAA SID7135, 30 April 1971, 2: 24; Bothmer, minutes of 7th Meeting of MSFMC, 22 June 1962, p. 5; Sack to MSC, Attn.: Sword, “Research and Development for Project Apollo Spacecraft, NAA/Douglas Joint Use Agreement, Tulsa Oklahoma Facilities,” 4 Dec. 1962; Storms to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Research and Development for Project Apollo Spacecraft, Assignment of Work to S&ID-Tulsa Facility,” 26 Dec. 1962; Low to Dir., OMSF, “Extension of GAM 77 (Hound Dog) Program,” 14 Jan. 1963; Piland to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Transport of Apollo Spacecraft-Launch Vehicle Adapter,” 16 Sept. 1964; R. L. Barber TWX to MSC, Attn.: Shea, 30 Oct. 1964; Markley interview.

    33. NASA, “Shea to Head Apollo Spacecraft Development at Manned Spacecraft Center,” news release 63-226, 8 Oct. 1963; John G. Zarcaro to Chief, FOD, MSC, “Change in Configuration of the Apollo Command Module,” 26 Feb. 1963; Hammock to ASPO, MSC, “Evaluation of the strakes on the dynamic behavior of the Apollo Command Module (CM),” 8 May 1963; Calvin H. Perrine to Actg. Mgr., ASPO, “Report on Trip to NAA S&ID on June 27 and 28,” 15 July 1963; abstract of Flight Technology Systems Meeting No. 19, 24 July 1963; Piland to Ames Research Center, Attn.: Asst. Dir. for Aeronautics and Flight Mechanics, “Dynamic Tests of an Apollo Command Module in the 7' X 10' Tunnel,” 1 Aug. 1963; Hammock TWX to North American, Attn.: Sack, 12 Dec. 1963; Perrine memo, “Minutes of meeting on tower flap and canards, February 7, 1964,” 12 Feb. 1964; Perrine to Mgr., ASPO, “Recommended ASPO position on canard versus tower flap,” 24 Feb. 1964; Perrine to Asst. Chief, Systems Engineering Div. (SED), MSC, “Visit to NAA on February 24 and 25 to discuss tower flap vs canard,” 26 Feb. 1964; minutes of NASA-NAA Technical Management Meeting, 25 Feb. 1964, pp. 2, 3; Perrine to Asst. Chief, SED, “Trip Report—Visit to NAA on 24 April on WSMR program,” 27 April 1964.

    34. Minutes, Technical Management Meeting, 25 Feb. 1964, p. 3; Raymond L. Zavasky, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 28 Feb. 1964; William E. Stoney, Jr., to Chief, Advanced Spacecraft Technology Div., MSC, “Apollo land landing,” 10 March 1964; Freitag memo, “MSF Position on Land versus Water Landings—Apollo and Gemini,” 5 March 1964; James C. Cozad, NAA, to MSC, Attn.: John B. Alldredge, “R&D for Project Apollo Spacecraft, Design of Apollo Command Module for Earth Impact,” 27 April 1965.

    35. Minutes of NASA-NAA Technical Management Meeting, 7-8 April 1964; Piland memo, “Sparing Concept,” 19 Aug. 1963; David W. Gilbert to Mgr., ASPO, “Implementation of Built-in Redundancy for Spacecraft Sub-systems,” 30 Oct. 1963.

    36. MSC, “Apollo Subsystem Management Plan,” 16 Dec. 1963; minutes of Structures and Mechanics Div. Apollo Subsystem Management Meeting, 29 Jan. 1964; MSC, “Apollo Operating Procedures,” 10 April 1964, signed by Shea and Maxime A. Faget.

    37. Disher TWX to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Establishment of Guidelines for First Formal Call for Development and Flight Schedules for the Manned Space Flight Program,” 12 July 1962; Low to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Manned Space Flight Program Launch Schedule for Apollo and Saturn Class Vehicles” [October 1962], with enc., subj. as above, OMSF directive M-D M 9330, 15 Oct. 1962; Storms to Low and Shea, 4 Sept. 1963; North American, “Apollo Spacecraft Development Test Plan,” AP 63-86, December 1963; North American, “CSM Characteristics Study,” vol. 2. Cf. an earlier plan, MSC, “Command and Service Module Test Program through the First Manned Apollo Mission,” 15 July 1963; Kehlet to Grimwood, 7 Jan. 1977.

    38. James L. Decker to Grumman, Attn.: Robert S. Mullaney, “Apollo Project Spacecraft Integration Review Action Items—Line Item 13,” 24 Sept. 1963; idem, “Development of Apollo Lunar Landing Mission Design Plan,” 11 Sept. 1963; Hammock TWX to North American, Attn.: Sack, 3 Dec. 1963; D. R. Treffeisen to Apollo Mission Planning Task Force Members, “Minutes of 1st Direction Group Meeting—12/16/63,” 17 Dec. 1963; Thomas G. Barnes et al., “Apollo Mission Planning Task Force, Phase I Progress Report,” Grumman LED-540-7, 4 May 1964, 3 vols., especially 1: 3-1 and 3-5, 2: 7-2, 3: A-7; Arnold B. Whitaker, interview, Bethpage, N-Y., 12 Feb. 1970; John Boynton, interview, Houston, 27 April 1970.

    39. Minutes of MSC-NAA Apollo Spacecraft Design Review no. 7, 13-14 Dec. 1962, p. 4; Caldwell C. Johnson memo, “Docking Ground Rules: and Design Criteria,” 1 April 1963, with enc., “Docking Concept Ground Rules and Design Criteria,” SSS-DC304, 25 March 1963; Rene A. Berglund to Hammock, “Docking Study Background and Report on Trip to NAA to Review Their Docking Mechanisms Studies,” 8 May 1963, with enc.

    40. Piland TWX to North American, Attn.: Sack, and MSC-RASPO, Attn.: George M. Lemke, “Docking Simulation,” 26 June 1963; Owen E. Maynard to Piland, “Docking,” 9 July 1963; Decker to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM-CM Docking Concept Selection,” 16 July 1963; H. Gary Osbon TWX to MSC, Attn.: Piland, 26 July 1963; Maynard to Dep. Mgr., LEM, “Extendible Boom Docking Simulation Plans,” 20 Aug. 1963; J. R. Berry TWX to Grumman, Attn.: P. Gardner, “Confirmation of Telecon between R. Gustavson and P. Gardner re Columbus Docking Simulation Study,” 15 Aug. 1963; Hammock to North American, Attn.: Sack, “Apollo Docking Concept,” 31 Dec. 1963.

    41. Clinton L. Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Sack, 9 March 1964; Shea memo, “Apollo Mockup Review,” 11 March 1964; Maynard memo, “Mockup Review of Block I Command and Service Modules,” 23 April 1964, with enc.; MSC, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of Block I Mock-up Command and Service Modules, April 23-30, 1964”; Osbon to MSC, Attn.: Taylor, “R&D for Project Apollo Spacecraft, Transmittal of Minutes, Block I Coordination Meeting NASA/NAA, July 9-10, 1964 at Downey, California,” 20 Aug. 1964, with encs., minutes, “NAA Comments—Block I Definition,” 9 July 1964, and “Block I Definition Milestones,” 10 July 1964; minutes of NASA-NAA Technical Management Meeting, 17 Sept. 1964; Maynard memo, “Distribution of Block I Specification Negotiation Minutes, dated 28 September 1964 and Review of Negotiated Block I Specifications, dated 1 October 1964,” 9 Oct. 1964.

    42. Kehlet to Grimwood, 7 Jan. 1977.

    43. Ralph B. Oakley, “Historical Summary: S&ID Apollo Program,” 20 Jan. 1966, p. 10; NASA, “Dale D. Myers,” biographical data, February 1971; Myers, interviews, Downey, Calif., 12 May 1969, and Washington, 11 Sept. 1970.

    44. Kehlet to Grimwood, 7 Jan. 1977.

    45. Maynard memo, “CSM Block II changes transmitted to NAA for implementation,” 19 June 1964; MSC, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of Block II Mockup, Command and Service Modules, September 29-October 1, 1964,” especially app. I, Yschek letter to North American, ["Contract Change Authorization No. 224"], with enc., “Apollo C&SM Block II Changes,” and Appendix 4; MSC, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of M-5 Mockup, Lunar Excursion Module, October 5-8, 1964.”

    46. Maynard memos, “Mission A-001 preflight launch phase trajectory input data,” 20 April 1964, and “Launch Escape Vehicle trajectory input data for Mission A-001 (Boilerplate 12) flight test,” 6 May 1964; MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-001 (BP-12), MSC-R-A-64-1, 28 May 1964, pp. 1-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-111 through 4-118; MSC, “Apollo Boilerplate 12,” news conference, 13 May 1964; Emory F. Harris to Chief, Mgmt. Analysis Div., Attn.: Clarence Presswood, “Significant Accidents and Failures,” 10 Dec. 1964; Carl R. Huss memo, 2 Nov. 1976.

    47. Perrine to Apollo Support Group, Attn.: John P. Bryant, “Request for trajectory analysis in support of the BP-23 flight test,” 19 May 1964; Paul E. Fitzgerald and Phillip L. Suttler, Jr., memo, “Minutes of meeting on BP-23,” 25 May 1964; Fitzgerald memo, “Mission requirements for mission A-002 (BP-23),” 16 June 1964; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Sack, 16 June 1964; Fitzgerald and Zack H. Byrns memo, “Minutes of meeting on BP-23,” 29 June 1964; MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-002 (BP-23),” MSC-R-A-65-1, 22 Jan. 1965; General Dynamics, Convair Div., “Little Joe II Test Launch Vehicle, NASA Project Apollo: Final Report,” 1, May 1966.

    48. North American, “Project Apollo Flight-Test Report, Boilerplate 13,” SID 63-1416-3, August 1964, pp. 2-1, 2-2; “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-101 (BP-13),” MSC-R-A-64-2, 18 June 1964, pp. 2-1, 3-2 through 3-5, 4-1 through 4-3, 7-1; KSC, “Apollo Spacecraft BP-13: A Chronology of Technical Progress at Kennedy Space Center,” SP-188, 7 May 1965; MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-102 (BP-15),” MSC-R-A-64-3, 10 Oct. 1964 pp. 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-10. The Lunar Module and the Apollo Program

    Although configuration was not settled and major subsystems development was not begun until near the end of 1964, NASA had begun taking stock of where the lunar module stood in relation to other pieces of Apollo. Structural connections between the lunar module and other Apollo hardware were confined primarily to the command and service modules and the adapter. Unlike its scratchy relations with MIT, Grumman's association with North American was smooth. * Early meetings between the contractors were devoted to hardware designs and docking requirements. Initially, each manufacturer was to design and test all equipment mounted on his own vehicle, but in March 1963 North American assumed responsibility for the complete docking device as well as the adapter structure.

    Late in 1963, design engineers from Downey recommended, and NASA approved, a center probe and drogue for docking. Stowage of the lander in the adapter was settled in October 1963, when the contractors and Houston agreed upon a truncated cone, 8.8 meters long, with the lunar module mounted against the interior wall by a landing-gear outrigger truss. Thereafter, detailed design focused on the dynamic loads expected during launch and on the deployment of the four panels for removal of the lander during flight. Grumman sent North American a mockup to use in confirming the structural mounting and panel opening characteristics.41

    Lunar module ground testing to prove the practicality of the design and flight testing to verify the spaceworthiness of the flight vehicle also had to be worked into overall Apollo plans. Gilruth had stated that one fundamental requirement for mission success was employing “the kind of people who will not permit it to fail.” The basic reliability philosophy, he said, was “that every manned spacecraft that leaves the earth . . . shall represent the best that dedicated and inspired men can create. We cannot ask for more; we dare not settle for less.” As the lander grew larger and more complex, it became, in the eyes of some observers, the “most critical part of the [Apollo] vehicle.” The many things that could doom the crew made ground-testing all the more important. Reliability for the lander dictated either redundant systems or, where that was impractical because of weight and size, ample margins of safety.

    Grumman's basic plan for ground testing, set forth in May 1963, called for extensive use of test models and lunar test articles (called “TMs” and “LTAs” by the engineers), as well as for propulsion rigs to test propellant lines and for engine firing programs. Because the lander's flight would be brief, Bethpage engineers adopted a practice of testing hardware until it failed, to provide an indication of strength and to gather information on failure points. Ground testing began with individual parts and subsystems and progressed upward, before the spacecraft was committed to flight.42

    Bethpage came up with a scheme for testing the lander in simulated flight by powering the vehicle with six jet engines, to overcome the pull of gravity, and using a modified descent engine to practice maneuvering the vehicle. Although the idea appeared workable, it would be both costly and complex. There were also suggestions for swinging the lander from a gantrylike frame at Langley or from a helicopter or a blimp at White Sands. After a second look, the last two were also scrapped. Grumman and Houston hoped that the lunar landing training vehicle being developed by Bell could test some of the flight components at least, but installing extra equipment might slow the development of the training vehicle. A few flight instruments and the hand controller might be incorporated at a later date into the training vehicle, which the astronauts would use to practice simulated lunar landings. Flight testing within the earth's atmosphere was finally ruled out when Langley discovered in wind tunnel investigations that the Little Joe II-lander combination would be aerodynamically unstable.43

    Grumman had wanted some unmanned missions, using the Little Joe II and the Saturn IB launch vehicles, before men flew the lunar lander. Houston authorized the procurement of autopilots for unmanned spacecraft but did not actually schedule any such flights. After Mueller invoked the all-up concept, with each flight groomed as though it were the ultimate mission, Houston planners began to think about putting both the lander and the North American spacecraft aboard a single Saturn IB. One Houston engineer even went to Huntsville to ask von Braun about the possibility of increasing the launch vehicle's payload capacity. And there was some discussion about strapping Minuteman missile solid-fueled rocket stages onto the launch vehicle to provide the extra boost needed!

    In the meantime, ground testing would have to carry the burden of qualifying the lander until the Saturn was ready to fly the vehicle, which caused some realignment of the lunar module program. Eleven flight vehicles and two flight test articles were earmarked for Saturn development flights. NASA also decided that the first three flight vehicles must be able to fly either manned or unmanned. 44

    In November 1964, Shea, Mueller, and Phillips decided on a tentative flight schedule. Saturn IB missions 201, 202, 204, and 205 would be Block I command module flights. There was no assignment for 203 at this time. Shea told the Houston senior staff that it looked as though an unmanned lander might be flown on 206. The first flight of a combined Block II command module and lunar module would be Mission 207 in July 1967. By that time, the Saturn V was expected to be ready to take over the job of flying the missions.45

    The lunar module had to be worked into Apollo facilities, as well as into flight schedules. Grumman had its own testing equipment in Bethpage and on the Peconic River, both on Long Island. But the lander's propulsion systems would have to be tested at the Air Force's Arnold Center and at White Sands. Fitting the lunar module into the launch complex at the Cape raised some interesting issues. One of the earliest was the rule that any vehicle flown from there must carry a destruct mechanism, in case a mission had to be aborted shortly after launch. The rule was based on a philosophy that it was better to explode propellants in the air than to have them burst into flame on the ground. Houston, however, refused to put a destruct button in the vehicle that was intended to land men on the moon, with the gruesome possibilities of a malfunction on the lunar surface that would either kill the astronauts outright or leave them stranded. Eventually, the Air Force Range Safety Officer agreed to drop this requirement for the lander.46

    A difficult task at all locations, Bethpage included, was getting ground support equipment (GSE) ready to check out the lunar module subsystems. Traditionally, GSE has been a problem, since it cannot be designed and built until the spacecraft design is fairly firm. Because the lander was the first of its kind and changed from day to day as the mission requirements changed, Grumman was even slower than other contractors in getting its checkout equipment on the line. Shea complained that “the entire GSE picture at Grumman looks quite gloomy.” He insisted that Grumman use some equipment that North American had developed for the command module. The situation had improved by the end of 1964, but much work was yet to be done over the next two years before the equipment could be considered satisfactory 47

    By mid-1964, both the lander and the command module were beginning to experience the weight growth that seems inevitable in spacecraft development programs. Von Braun promised Mueller in May that he would try to get an extra 2,000 kilograms of weight-lifting capability from the Saturn V, which eased some of the pressure on Gilruth's team in Houston. Even so, the lander was getting dangerously fat, moving steadily toward its top limit of 13,300 kilograms. Most of the weight-reducing talent in Houston was busy with the command module, whose Block II configuration was not as well defined at the time as the lander's. Several modifications in the landing vehicle were suggested, but any that limited either operational flexibility or reliability were resisted. Moreover, the lander was so unlike other spacecraft that projections were almost useless in estimating future weight increases. Containing this growth would be a major project during the coming year.48

    The years 1963 and 1964 had seen the lunar module move from the drawing boards to the manufacturing line. During 1965, hardware fabrication, assembly, and testing would begin. After that, it would take only a few steps to put the craft into space. These steps, though few after the spacecraft design had been “frozen,” would not be easy ones. There proved to be several more pitfalls to overcome. Some of these problems—difficulty with combustion in the ascent propulsion system, for example—were resolved only a short time before the mission that fulfilled Apollo's goal of landing men on the moon.


    * The two contractors had worked together amicably enough on the Project Christmas Present Report (detailed vehicle test plan), led by North American, and on the Apollo Mission Planning Task Force, headed by Grumman. Both are discussed in Chapter 5.


    41. Shea to Mueller, 29 July 1964; Newlander to Actg. Mgr., RASPO-GAEC, “Trip . . . to MSC on March 12 and 13, 1963 to attend Mechanical Systems Meeting,” 15 March 1963; C. A. Rodenberger to Chief, Structural-Mechanical Syst. Br., “Trip to NAA to Discuss LEM Adapter Structural Design,” 9 Aug. 1963; Rector to LEM Proc. Off., “Request for CCA, Drogue Design and Manufacture,” 1 June 1964; Henry P. Yschek to North American, contract change authorization no. 2, rev. ], 29 March 1963; MSC. abstract of Structural-Mechanical Systems Meeting no. 17. 21-22 May 1963; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 19 Oct. 1964; Piland TWX to MSFC, Attn.: Joachim P. Kuettner, 21 Oct. 1963; Maynard to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Implementation of Actions Recommended in Apollo Program Systems Meetings,” 5 Dec. 1963; Yschek to North American, contract change authorization no. 166, 19 March 1964; Rector to Chief, CSM CEB, “LEM/Adapter Mockup,” 20 April 1964.

    42. Robert R. Gilruth, “MSC Viewpoints on Reliability anti Quality Control,” paper presented before American Institute of Architects, Houston, 15 Nov. 1962, reprinted as NASA/MSC Fact Sheet 93, title as above, p. 10; William F. Rector III, “LEM Lesson: Reliability As Never Before,” Grumman Horizons 4 (1964): 20-23; Grumman, “The Test Plan for the Lunar Excursion Module, Project Apollo,” 1. “Summary of Ground and Flight Tests,” LPL-600-1, 15 May 1963; Grumman Report no. 8, LPR-10-24, 10 Oct. 1963, p. 45; Grumman, “LTA Program presented to NASA/NAA, 13 June 1963”; Maynard to Grumman. Attn.: Mullaney, “Lunar Landing Test Program.” 10 Dec. 1963; letter, Piland to MSFC, Attn.: Alvin Steinberg, “Determination of Reliability Achievement,” 23 Aug. 1963; George E. Mueller, ["Discussion of Objectives of U.S. Manned Space Flight Goals"], address to 1966 Annual Symposium on Reliability, San Francisco, 26 Jan. 1966; Mueller, “Apollo Program,” no. 3 in series of lectures at University of Sydney, Australia, 10-11 Jan. 1967. pp. 13-14; Shea, untitled luncheon speech, n.d. [probably April 1963], p. 7.

    43. Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report no. 3, for period ending 31 March 1963, p. 47; Zavasky, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 29 March 1963, p. 4; Donald R. Bellman to Chief, Research Div., “Meeting of the LEM-LTA-9 committee at MSC, Houston, Texas, October 18, 1963,” 21 Oct. 1963; Newlander to Small, “Trip . . . to FRC on 4/21/64,” 24 April 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Use of Flight Research Center LLRV for LEM Flight Control System Testing and Programming of LTA-9 anti WSMR Static Test Article,” 4 June 1964; Rector to Shea, “Status Report, LEM LLRV,” 20 July 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Use of Flight Research Center LLRV for LEM Flight Control System Testing,” 12 Aug. 1964; Grumman, “LEM Requirement Study for Little Joe II Flight,” 13 June 1963; Aleck C. Bond to ASPO, Attn.: William W. Petynia. “LEM/LJ-II longitudinal vibrations,” 24 June 1963; Chilton to ASPO, Attn.: Paul E. Fitzgerald, “Performance study of the Little Joe II booster with the LEM as the payload,” 2 July 1963, with encs.; Decker TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 21 Aug. 1963; Grumman Report no. 11, p. 42; Axel T. Mattson, LaRC, memo, 7 Aug. 1964; Shea memo, “Cancellation of LEM/LJ II Program,” 10 Feb. 1964; Rector to Robert E. Vale, “Cancellation of LEM-LJ II Test Program,” 25 Feb. 1964, with encs.

    44. Alfred D. Mardel to Mgrs., Syst. Integration et al., “Review of the Preliminary LEM Flight Test Plan from Grumman,” 11 Feb. 1963, with encs.; Donald R. Segna to Mgr., ASPO, “Trip Report to Grumman, February 5, 1963,” 12 Feb. 1963; Rector to Mgr., Flight Proj. Off., “Comments on GAEC Preliminary LEM Flight Test Plan!' 19 Feb. 1963; Thomas F. Baker to Frank W. Casey, Jr., “Mission Profile for a Saturn IB-Launched LEM,” 11 June 1964, with enc.; Small to Decker, “Unmanned LEM Development Flights,” 17 May 1963; Mueller to Dirs., MSC, LOC, and MSFC, “Manned Space Flight Schedule,” 18 Nov. 1963; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM Flight Development Plans,” 10 Sept. 1964; Baker memo for file, “Test planning direction provided Apollo spacecraft contractors to date,” 24 Sept. 1964.

    45. John B. Lee, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 6 Nov. 1964; William Lee to Apollo Trajectory Support Off., Attn.: Cohen, “Mission Objectives and Profile Requirements for Mission 206A, LEM Development (Unmanned Launch),” 6 Nov. 1964; Shea to Phillips, 1 Dec. 1964.

    46. Col. Jean A. Jack to MSC, Attn.: Baker, “FY 64-65 Apollo Test Support at AEDC,” 16 Nov. 1962; Frick to Jack, 12 Dec. 1962; Goree to Dep. Mgr., LEM, “Visit to Arnold Engineering Development Center for Discussion of Potential LEM Test Requirements, May 14, 1963,” 20 May 1963; AEDC TWX to MSC, 17 Jan. 1964; Shea TWX to AEDC, Attn.: DCS/Test, 17 Feb. 1964; Madyda to Chief, Prop. and Energy Syst. Div., “Trip to AEDC to attend the Ascent Engine Development Test Coordination Meeting,” 19 March 1964; Madyda to LEM PO, “Availability of Lewis altitude test facilities for LEM propulsion,” 17 March 1964; Maynard to SEDD, Attn.: Pohl, “LEM Reaction Control System (RCS) Testing and Facility Requirements at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR),” 5 Sept. 1963; Jack B. Hartung to Actg. Mgr., ASPO, “Trip . . . to Cape Canaveral on August 29, 1963,” 3 Sept. 1963; Kraft memo, “Aspects of Apollo Range Safety,” 1 Nov. 1963; William Lee to Mgr., ASPO, “Apollo Range Safety Policy,” 27 Oct. 1964; William Lee to Chief, Mission Feasibility Br., “Range Safety characteristics of Apollo spacecraft propellants,” 24 Nov. 1964.

    47. Shea to Mullaney, 17 Dec. 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Common Use GSE Meeting,” 20 Dec. 1963, with enc., abstract of proceedings of GSE Common Use Meeting, 17 Dec. 1963; idem, “Common Use GSE,” 29 Jan. 1964, with enc.; Paul E. Purser, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 18 Dec. 1964, p. 4.

    48. Maynard to Mgr., CSM Eng. Off., “LEM Design Goal and Control Weights,” 5 Aug. 1963; Maynard to Dep. Mgr., LEM, “LEM Weight,” 9 Aug. 1963; Decker to Mgr., Syst. Integration, “Spacecraft Weights,” 27 Sept. 1963; Paul E. Cotton, notes on 22 April 1964 meeting between Mueller, Gilruth, Wernher von Braun, and Kurt H. Debus, 1 May 1964; Zavasky, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 22 May 1964, p. 4; Rector to Shea, “LEM Weight Report (LED-490-8, dated May 1, 1964),” 1 June 1964; Newlander to Small, “Trip . . . to MSC on 6/12/64,” 15 June 1964; Newlander to Small and Gaylor, “Weight control,” 20 Aug. 1964; Maynard to Mgr., ASPO, “Spacecraft weight status summary,” 13 Nov. 1964, with enc.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-1. Lunar Module

    1963-1964

    With the signing of the lunar module contract, the Manned Spacecraft Center and Grumman began the design and development of a vehicle that would land two men on the moon and, subsequently, take them off. When NASA selected Grumman in late 1962 to build this final piece in Apollo's stack, the landing craft was still a long way from a “frozen" hardware design. While the command and service modules were evolving from Block I to a more advanced Block II version during 1963 and 1964, the lunar module was also changing, moving toward the huge, spidery-legged bug that later landed on the moon.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-2. External Design

    Houston and Grumman engineers had spent a month in negotiations and technical groundwork before signing the contract on 14 January 1963. Although ratification by NASA Headquarters was not forthcoming until March, Grumman forged ahead, devoting most of the first three months to establishing a practical external shape for the vehicle. 1

    Cooperation between customer and contractor got off to a fast start. In late January, officials from the Houston Apollo office visited Grumman to review early progress, to schedule periodic review meetings, and to establish a resident office at Bethpage similar to the one already operating in Downey. Then, following a tradition that had proved effective in other programs, the Houston office set up spacecraft and subsystem panels to carry out technical coordination. Thomas J. Kelly had directed Grumman's Apollo-related studies since 1960, earning for himself the title “father of the LEM,” but the vehicle that finally emerged was a “design by committee” that included significant suggestions from the Houston panels, notably Owen E. Maynard's group2

    LM generations

    Lunar module generations from 1962 (above left; the vehicle originally proposed by Grumman) to 1969 (a model of the version that landed on the moon). The second and third from the left are renderings for 1963 and 1965.


    Using Grumman's initial proposal for the lunar module as the departure point for continuing configuration studies and refining subsystem requirements, the team that had guided the company through its proposal spearheaded the design phase. When the contractor assigned 400 engineers to this task, an optimistic air about how long it would take pervaded both Bethpage and Houston. The job took longer than the six to nine months originally anticipated, however, because of special efforts to guard against meteoroids and radiation and to incorporate criteria imposed by the unique lunar environment.

    Webb inspects docked S/C

    NASA Administrator James Webb examines models of the lunar and command modules in docked position.


    Underside of LM

    The underside of the lunar module descent stage shows fuel tank installation.


    Descent stage drawing

    The drawing of the stage indicates positions of components.


    Basic elements in Grumman's proposal remained the same: the lunar module would be a two-stage vehicle with a variable-thrust descent engine and a fixed-thrust ascent engine; and the descent stage, with its landing gear, would still serve as a launch pad for the second, or ascent, stage.* But almost everything else changed. As a first step in defining the configuration, Grumman formed two teams to study the ascent stage. One group examined a small cabin with all equipment mounted externally, and the other studied a larger cabin with most equipment internal. The findings of the two teams pointed to something in between. The spacecraft that ensued was ideally suited to its particular mission. Embodying no concessions to aesthetic appeal, the result was ungainly looking, if not downright ugly. Because the lunar module would fly only in space (earth orbit and lunar vicinity), the designers could ignore the aerodynamic streamlining demanded by earth's atmosphere and build the first true manned spacecraft, designed solely for operating in the spatial vacuum.3

    At a mid-April 1963 meeting in Houston, Grumman engineers presented drawings of competing configurations, showing structural shapes, tankage arrangements, and hatch locations. Grumman and Houston officials then worked out the size and shape of the cabin, the docking points, and the location of propellant tanks and equipment. The basic structure and tankage arrangement was cruciform, with four propellant tanks in the descent stage and a cylindrical cabin as the heart of the ascent stage, which also had four propellant tanks. Still to be resolved were questions of visibility, entrance and exit, design of the descent engine skirt (which must not impact the surface on landing), and docking and hatch structures.4

    In late April and early May, Maynard (chief of spacecraft integration in MSC's Spacecraft Technology Division) summarized for Director Robert Gilruth the areas still open for debate, especially the landing gear and the position of the landing craft inside the launch vehicle adapter. Another sticky question, he said, was the overall size of the vehicle, which dictated the amount of propellants needed to get down to the moon and back into orbit. The lunar module structure, especially the descent stage, would be wrapped around the tanks; as the tanks were enlarged, the vehicle design would have to grow to accommodate them. There was one ray of light, however; Marshall was talking about increasing the lifting capability of the Saturn V launch vehicle from 40,800 kilograms to 44,200. With that capability, the target weight for the lander could be pegged at between 12,700 and 13,600 kilograms, instead of the 9,000 kilograms listed in the proposal.5

    One early concern, though not directly connected with external design, was the firing of the ascent engine while it was still attached to its launch pad, the descent stage. The exhaust blast in the confined space of the interstage structures—called FITH for fire-in-the-hole— could have untoward effects. Some observers feared that the shock of engine ignition might tip the vehicle over. And what would happen if the crew had to abort during descent, shed the descent stage, and return to lunar orbit? This would require extra fuel, posing yet another weight problem. Scale model tests in 1964 allayed these misgivings to some degree, but the real proof had to wait for a firing test in flight of a full-scale vehicle.6

    Although the descent structure, with its four propellant tanks, appeared practical from the standpoint of weight and operational flexibility, the ascent stage was harder to pin down. Nearly two years passed before the cabin face, windows, cockpit layout, and crew station designs were settled. By late 1963 Grumman engineers had begun to worry about the weight and reliability of the four-tank arrangement, with its complicated propellant system. They recommended changing to a two-tank model, and Houston concurred. Redesign delayed the schedule ten weeks at an added cost of $2 million, but the system was much simpler, more reliable, and lighter by 45 kilograms. Yet the change brought its own problems. Because oxidizer was heavier than fuel, four tanks had allowed the engineers to put one tank of each on either side of the cabin for balance. With only two tanks, some juggling had to be done to maintain the proper center of gravity. The fuel tank was moved farther outboard than the oxidizer, giving a “puffy-cheeked” or “chipmunk" appearance to the front of the vehicle.7

    Also shaping the face of the ascent stage were its windows. Windows were basic aids for observation and manual control of the spacecraft, and the pilots expected to use them in picking the landing site, judging when to abort a mission, and guiding the spacecraft during rendezvous and docking with the command module.

    The importance of visibility was recognized early in Houston's studies and stressed in Grumman's original proposal. In both, large windows afforded an expansive view. Grumman had featured a spherical cabin like that of a helicopter, with four large windows so the crew could see forward and downward. This design was discarded because large windows would require extremely thick glass and a strengthening of the surrounding structure. The environmental control system would have trouble maintaining thermal balance. Two smaller windows could replace the four large ones, but the field of view would have to remain very much the same. To get the required visibility with smaller and fewer windows, Grumman had to abandon its spherical cabin design. The new cylindrical cabin had a basically flat forward bulkhead cut away at various planar angles; the large, convex windows gave way to small, flat, triangular panes (about one-tenth of the original window area canted downward and inward to afford the crew the fullest possible view of the landing area.8

    Grumman's change to a cylindrical cabin posed another problem. A spherical shape is simple from a manufacturing standpoint, because of the relative ease in welding such a structure. The new window arrangement and front face angularity made an all-welded structure difficult. The Grumman design team wrestled with the new shape and in May 1964 adopted a hybrid approach. Areas of critical structural loads would be welded, but rivets would be used where welding was impractical. Grumman neglected to inform Houston of the switch in manufacturing processes, but a Houston engineer noticed the combination of welding and riveting while on a visit to Bethpage.

    Toward the end of May, there was a series of reviews and inspections of Grumman's manufacturing processes. NASA representatives looked at welding criteria, mechanical fastening techniques, and the behavior of sealant compounds under temperature extremes and a pure oxygen atmosphere. The contractor demonstrated that its part-riveted structure showed very low oxygen-leak rates in testing. Although Manned Spacecraft Center officials tentatively approved the change, they left an engineer from the MSC Structures and Mechanics Division in Bethpage to watch Grumman closely. Marshall experts visited Grumman from time to time to extol the virtues of an all-welded design and to warn of the problems of mechanical fabrication. But the peculiarities of the lunar module made a mix of the two techniques almost inevitable. 9


    * The descent engine had another possible chore: to act as a backup propulsion system if the service module engine failed to fire on its way to the moon. No special modification to the descent engine was required, but the docking structure on the spacecraft had to be strengthened to withstand the shock of the firing.


    1. Ernest W. Brackett to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Go-ahead of LEM contract,” 11 Jan. 1963, annotated, “1/11/63 3:30 p.m.—Seamans' office (Mary Turner) says Webb has initialed 'go ahead.' Called Dave Lang and gave him the go-ahead”; James L. Neal memo, “Distribution of Contract NAS 9-1100 and Exhibits 'A' through 'E,'“ 19 March 1963, with enc., “Contract for Project Apollo Lunar Excursion Module Development Program,” signed 14 Jan. 1963 by Neal for MSC and E. Clinton Towl for Grumman; Raymond L. Zavasky, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 4 Jan. 1963, p. 5; Robert S. Mullaney, interview, Bethpage, N.Y., 2 May 1966.

    2. MSC Director's briefing notes for 29 Jan. 1963 Manned Space Flight Management Council (MSFMC) Meeting; MSC, “Consolidated Meeting Plan, Initial Issues,” MSC-ASPO, 18 Feb. 1963. Much of the material on the LEM was brought to the authors' attention by William F. Rector III, who graciously allowed us to use his personal papers and notebooks, in which he set down day-to-day events all during his tenure as LEM Project Officer (PO) for MSC; Mullaney interview.

    3. Saul Ferdman, interview, Bethpage, 2 May 1966; Rector to PE, “Request for study effort data,” 13 March 1964; Rector to LEM Proc. Off., “Request for CCA for Study Efforts,” 6 May 1964; James L. Decker to Grumman, Attn.: Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., “LEM Program Status,” 10 July 1963; Jerry L. Modisette to ASPO, MSC, Attn.: Robert L. O'Neal, “Report on discussions of RCA and Grumman radiation work at Grumman, July 11 1963,” 24 July 1963; Decker to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Meteoroid Environment,” 16 Oct. 1963; Apollo Mission Planning Task Force, “Use of LEM Propulsion Systems as Backup to Service Module Propulsion System,” 27 July 1964; Milton B. Trageser to MSC, Attn.: R. Wayne Young, “Impact of LEM Propulsion Backup to Service Propulsion System,” 16 Sept. 1964; Owen E. Maynard memo, “Action items,” 1 Dec. 1964; Dale D. Myers to Dep. Admin., NASA, “LM 'Lifeboat' Mode,” 3 Aug. 1970, with encs.; Thomas J. Kelly and Eric Stern, interviews, Bethpage, 3 May 1966; Mullaney interview; Rector, interview, Redondo Beach, Calif., 27 Jan. 1970; Kelly, “Apollo Lunar Module Mission and Development Status,” paper presented at AIAA 4th Annual Meeting and Technical Display, AIAA paper 67-863, Anaheim, Calif., 23-27 Oct. 1967, pp. 6-7; Stanley P. Weiss, “Lunar Module Structural Subsystem,” Apollo Experience Report (AER), NASA Technical Note (TN) S-345 (MSC-04932), review copy, June 1972.

    4. MSC, LEM Mechanical Systems Meeting no. 2, “LEM Configuration,” 17 April 1963; Grumman, “Vehicle Configuration Study Briefing,” 17 April 1964; Grumman Monthly Progress Report (hereafter cited as Grumman Report) no. 3, LPR-10-6, 10 May 1963, pp. 3-4, 7-8; notes, Maynard, “Design Approach Tentatively Agreed Upon” [ca. April 1963], with encs.

    5. MSC Director's briefing notes for 30 April 1963 MSFMC meeting; Kelly to MSC, Attn.: Robert O. Piland, “LEM Propulsion Tank Sizing,” 28 Feb. 1963; Zavasky, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 3 May 1963, p. 4.

    6. MSC Consolidated Activity Report for Assoc. Admin., OMSF, NASA, 19 July-22 Aug. 1964, p. 23.

    7. Grumman Reports nos. 10, LPR-10-26, 10 Dec. 1963, p. 16, and 11, LPR-10-27, 10 Jan. 1964, p. 1; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report no. 6, for period ending 31 Dec. 1963, p. 3; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM Program Review,” 17 Jan. 1964; Stern interview; Rector to LEM Proc. Off., “Change from 4-Tank to 2-Tank Configuration Ascent Stage,” 24 March 1964.

    8. Robert R. Gilruth and L[ee] N. McMillion, “Man's Role in Apollo,” paper presented at Institute of Aerospace Sciences Man-Machine Competition Meeting, IAS paper 62-187, Seattle, Wash., 10-11 Aug. 1962, pp. 5, 10-11; Robert W. Abel, “Lunar Excursion Module Visibility Requirements,” NASA Program Apollo working paper No. 1115, 15 June 1964; [Grumman], “Some Notes on the Evolution of the LEM,” typescript by unknown author, 8 Aug. 1966, p. 1; Orvis E. Pigg and Stanley P. Weiss, “Spacecraft Structural Windows,” AER TN S-377 (MSC-07074), review copy, July 1973.

    9. MSC, ASPO Weekly Management Reports, 7-14 May and 28 May-4 June 1964; Mullaney interview; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 22 May 1964; LEM Contract Eng. Br. (CEB), “Accomplishments,” 11-17 June 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Manufacturing Review Meeting,” 16 June 1964, and “LEM structural design and fabrication,” 22 June 1964; Joseph F. Shea to MSFC, Attn.: Harold Landreth, “Request for meeting at MSFC concerning joining methods for spacecraft,” 23 June 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Meeting at MSFC concerning joining methods for spacecraft,” 22 June 1964; W. Richard Downs to Chief, Structures and Mechanics Div., “Report of trip of Dr. W. R. Downs to Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, on June 30, 1964,” 8 July 1964.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-3. Tailoring the Cockpit

    The lunar module's interior was as different from that of other manned spacecraft as its exterior. And it also took two years to design. A home on the moon required some very special features besides visibility: equipment and procedures for rendezvous and docking, environmental control for living, an easy means for leaving and reentering while on the moon, and the capability of operating in a low-gravity or no-gravity environment.10

    With an internal volume of 60 cubic meters, the lunar module would be the largest American spacecraft yet developed. It would also be the most spacious, except for the command module when the pilot was there alone. To lessen already formidable crew training demands, Houston pressed Grumman to make the cabin instruments and displays as similar as possible to those of the command module. Complete duplication was impossible, however, because the two craft were so unlike. Ground rules were laid down governing the degree of redundancy required in controls and panels. Although these controls would be duplicated on each side of the cockpit, some of the instrument displays would have to be shared by the crewmen. Above all, Grumman was told, the spacecraft must be designed so that the hover and touchdown could be flown manually and so that no single failure of the controls or displays could cause a mission abort.11

    Because the lunar module was a means of transportation, as well as shelter and living quarters for the crew while on the moon, cockpit design presented interesting problems to human factor engineers. The man-machine interface embraced such items as stowage of space suits and personal equipment and room for the pilots to move about within the cabin. In a mockup in mid-1964, two crewmen demonstrated that they could put on and take off their portable life support systems with suits either pressurized or deflated, reach for and attach umbilical hoses, and recharge their backpacks. The MSC Crew Systems Division drew up a document governing spacecraft-spacesuit interface and change procedures. This was used by NASA to supplement spacecraft specifications and interface control documents. It was also an important managerial tool between Grumman and North American and their major associates, MIT and Hamilton Standard (developers of the guidance and navigation system and the life support system). 12

    The astronauts were an essential “subsystem” on the lunar module, and they were very much in evidence at Bethpage, as well as at Downey, where they helped in the design of the command module. Scott Carpenter, Charles Conrad, and Donn F. Eisele drew the lunar module as their special assignment, and William F. Rector, the lunar module project officer, frequently called upon them for help. He also urged other astronauts to take part in the periodic mockup reviews and significant design decisions: “They should be [part] of it,” Rector said. “They're going to fly it.” This was not an unusual arrangement; astronauts, being both engineers and test pilots, have played an active role in the design and development of every manned American space vehicle. *

    Conrad probably worked more on the vehicle's basic design than any other pilot, as the configuration evolved. Rector relied on him to sound out the crews on cockpit features—controls, switch locations, and visibility, among others. One innovation which Grumman favored, and which Conrad was instrumental in getting incorporated, was electroluminescent lighting. An inherent problem in both aircraft and spacecraft had been light intensity that varied from panel to panel. This uneven lighting made it difficult for a pilot to scan his instruments rapidly and to adjust quickly to low-level exterior light conditions. Electroluminescence, a wholly new concept that used phosphors instead of conventional filament bulbs, afforded an evenness in intensities hitherto unequaled in any flying craft. At the same time, it weighed less and used far less power than incandescent lighting. Conrad also got this new system into the Block II command module.13

    Seats in LM mockup

    Mockup of lunar module cabin with seats.


    The seating arrangement in the lunar module was perhaps the most radical departure from tradition in tailoring the cockpit. It soon became apparent that seats would be heavy, as well as restrictive for the bulky space suits. Bar stools and metal cagelike structures were also considered and discarded. Then an idea dawned. Why have seats in the lander at all? Its flight would be brief, and the g loads moderate (one g during powered flight and about five on landing). Since human legs were good shock absorbers, why not let the crew fly the lunar module standing up?

    LM cockpit interior—drawing

    NASA engineers in 1964 decided that astronauts could stand in the lunar module cabin during the trip to the lunar surface. Note triangular windows.


    This concept was bandied about rather casually at first by two Houston engineers, George C. Franklin and Louie G. Richard. Franklin then went with Conrad to talk to Howard Sherman and John Rigsby at Bethpage. These Grumman employees, in turn, passed the idea along to Kelly and Robert Mullaney. At this point, the seat and window problems merged. Standing up, the crew would be close enough to the windows to get a larger field of view (one engineer estimated it at 20 times greater) than with any seating arrangement yet suggested. Moreover, since cockpit designers would not have to worry about knee room, the cabin could be shortened, saving 27 kilograms and improving the structure. Conrad called it a “trolley car configuration,” and said, “We get much closer to the instruments without our knees getting in the way, and our vision downward toward the moon's surface is greatly improved.”

    LM sleeping positions

    Proposed sleeping positions for astronauts on the moon.


    Grumman technicians later devised a restraint system to hold the pilots in place during weightless flight and prevent them from being jostled about the cabin during landing. Resembling the harness used by window washers and linked to a pulley and cable arrangement under constant tension, it was augmented by handholds and arm rests and by Velcro strips to keep the pilots' feet on the floor. 14


    * An interesting example of pilot preference influencing spacecraft design revolved around including an “eight-ball” (an artificial-horizon instrument used for attitude reference) in the lunar module. Grumman had proposed an eight-ball, assuming that the astronauts would want it. Arnold Whitaker recalled, “The first thing NASA did was to say that there's no operational requirement for it—take it out. So we took it out. Then the astronauts came along and said, 'That's ridiculous. We must have it.' So we put it [back] in. By this time, we're late. Dr. Shea had a program review and said, 'What's holding you up?' And we said, 'This is one of the things. . . .' And he said, 'Take it out. I'll accept the responsibility for it.' The astronauts found out about it and said, 'We won't fly a vehicle until you put it in.' And NASA put it in, this time with a kit [for easy removal later].”


    10. T. J. Kelly, “Technical Development Status of the Project Apollo Lunar Excursion Module,” paper presented at 10th Annual Meeting, American Astronautical Society, AAS Preprint 64-16, 4-7 May 1964, pp. 28-29.

    11. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966: Hearings on S.927, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 254; ASPO Status Report for period ending 23 Oct. 1963; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Requirements for Dual Flight Controls and Displays in the LEM,” 14 Jan. 1964; Andrew J. Farkas, “Lunar Module Display and Control Subsystem,” AER TN S-285 (MSC-0437l), review copy, May 1971; F. John Bailey, Jr., to LEM Eng. Off., “Single-failure Criterion,” 22 Oct. 1963.

    12. Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Stowage volume requirements for Lunar Excursion Module,” 27 Nov. 1964; MSC, Consolidated Activity Report, 19 July-22 Aug. 1964, p. 21; Richard S. Johnston TWX to Hamilton Standard, Attn.: R. D. Weatherbee, 17 July 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Memorandum of Understanding,” 13 July 1964.

    13. MSC news release 64-125, 9 July 1964; Rector interview; Arnold E. Whitaker, interview, Bethpage, 12 Feb. 1970; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: C. William Rathke, “Inspection of Lighted LM-1 Mockup,” 9 July 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Lighting Mockup Review,” 4 Aug. 1964, with enc., abstract of LEM Crew Integration Meeting, 16 July 1964; ASPO Weekly Management Report, 8-15 Oct. 1964; Howard Sherman, interview, Bethpage, 11 Feb. 1970; Charles D. Wheelwright, “Crew Station Integration: Volume V— Lighting Considerations,” AER TN S-360 (MSC-07015), review copy, November 1972.

    14. Sherman interview; Kelly, “Technical Development Status,” p. 29; MSC news release 64-27, 12 Feb. 1964; Kelly interview; “Some Notes on Evolution of LEM,” p. 3.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-4. Hatches and Landing Gear

    The lander originally had two docking hatches, one at the top center of the cabin and another in the forward position, or nose, of the vehicle, with a tunnel in each location to permit astronauts to crawl from one pressurized vehicle to the other. (Extravehicular transfer between craft remained an emergency backup method.) After injection into a translunar trajectory, a course toward the moon, the command module pilot would turn his ship around, fly up to and dock with the lander's upper hatch, and then back the two vehicles away from the spent S-IVB third stage. This top-to-top docking arrangement aligned the thrust vector of the service module propulsion engine with the centers of gravity of the two spacecraft, thus avoiding adverse torques or tendencies to tumble during firings for midcourse corrections and injection into lunar orbit. The crew would enter the lunar module through this hatch. When the lander returned from the moon, however, the front hatch would be used for docking and crew transfer. With no windows in the top of the lander, the lunar pilots would be flying blind if they docked with the upper hatch. One of Grumman's human factor experts later said, in an apt analogy, “It's nice to see the garage . . . when you drive into it.”15

    Improved LM features

    The drawing shows improved lunar module features—ladder, porch, hatch, and rendezvous window (above the triangular window).


    By spring 1964, NASA and Grumman engineers were thinking of deleting the front docking procedure and adding a small window above the lunar module commander's head. This overhead window might add seven kilograms weight and some extra thermal burden, but cabin redesign would be minimal. The added weight would be offset by eliminating the front tunnel and the extra structural strength needed to withstand impact loads in two areas. Eliminating forward docking had another advantage. The hatches could now be designed for a single purpose—access to the command module through one hatch and to the lunar surface through the other—which certainly simplified the design of the forward hatch. NASA directed Grumman to remove the forward docking interface but to leave the hatch for the astronauts to use as a door while on the moon.16

    Once the location of the hatches was settled, getting the astronauts out and onto the lunar surface had to be investigated. Using a cable contraption called a “Peter Pan rig” to simulate the moon's gravity, Grumman technicians looked into ways for the crews to lower themselves to the lunar surface and to climb back into the spacecraft. When astronaut Edward White, among others, scrambled around a mockup of the lander, using a block and tackle arrangement and a simple knotted rope, he found that both were impractical. In mid-1964 a porch, or ledge, was installed outside the hatch and a ladder and handrail on the forward landing gear leg. When the astronauts discovered they had trouble squeezing through the round hatch in their pressurized suits and wearing the bulky backpads, the hatch was squared off to permit easier passage.17

    Knotted rope on LM

    Astronauts found a knotted rope from the lunar module difficult to climb down (or up)


    Ladder on LM leg

    The addition of a ladder on a landing gear leg made the task much easier.


    All these design features, although unusual, appeared to be compatible with the lunar environment—at least the engineers did not entertain any special worries. But the landing gear was different. The design of the legs and foot pads depended on assumptions about the nature and characteristics of the lunar surface. In the absence of any firm knowledge and with scientific authorities differing radically in their theories, how should one design legs to support a craft landing on the moon?

    Grumman had first considered five legs but, during 1963, decided on four. The change was dictated by the weight-versus-strength tradeoff that had produced the cruciform descent stage, with its four obvious attachment points. The revised gear pattern also greatly simplified the structural mounting of the vehicle within the adapter. Four legs set on the orthogonal axes of the lander (forward, aft, left, and right) mated ideally with the pattern of four reaction control “quads” (the basic four-engine package). The quads were rotated 45 degrees so the downward-thrusting attitude control engine fired between the two nearest gear legs, overcoming a severe thermal problem of the five-leg arrangement.18

    While Bethpage was wrestling with the legs, Houston decided it had been too optimistic about the load-bearing strength of the lunar surface in the request for proposals. The resulting revision placed heavier demands on the landing gear, and Grumman had to enlarge the foot pads from 22 to 91 centimeters in diameter. The bigger feet made the gear too large to fit into the adapter. A retractable gear therefore replaced the simpler fixed-leg gear. Retractability also figured in the shift from five to four legs—the fewer to fold, the better.

    LM in adapter

    The fit of the LM inside the adapter during launch.


    Leg experts at Grumman had to change the geometry of the undercarriage, devise the best structure for impact absorption and stability upon landing, and choose the most suitable folding linkages. A broad program of computer-assisted analysis at Houston and Bethpage was used to determine the worst combinations of conditions at impact. The studies were reinforced by drop tests of lander models at Houston, Bethpage, and Langley. There were also plans to drop-test full-sized test articles to check out the new designs.19

    During 1963 Grumman engineers continued to worry about the nature of the lunar surface and to carry on theoretical and simulation studies of lunar geology and soil mechanics, with the support of such consulting firms as the Stevens Institute of Technology in New York and the Arthur D. Little Company in Massachusetts. Much of this work covered the interaction between vehicle and surface at the moment of landing. What would happen to the landing gear at touchdown? Would the lunar dust that might be kicked up by the descent engine exhaust obscure the landing site? Would soil erosion affect the stability of the lander? Washington also assisted in this research. In mid-1963, Bellcomm surveyed all that was being done inside and outside NASA and suggested that a backup gear be developed, in case the surface should be more inhospitable than it appeared.20

    But Grumman could not wait on the outcome of these studies. At meetings in Houston in October and November, contractor engineers described gears that tucked sideways (lateral folding) for stowage in the adapter; a tripod arrangement (radial), with three struts meeting at the base just above the footpad, that tucked inward; and a cantilevered device, with secondary struts for extra strength that folded inward against the vehicle for stowage and braced the leg when deployed for landing. Houston and Bethpage selected the cantilevered version. Somewhat narrower than the radial one, it was, in many ways, more stable. It had other advantages: less weight, shorter length for easier stowage, and a simpler, and therefore more reliable, folding mechanism.

    A landing gear for the lunar surface had to be designed for varying landing conditions, such as protuberances, depressions, small craters, slopes, and soil-bearing strength. To achieve the necessary stability, the landing gear had to be able to absorb a diversity of impact loads. Houston and Bethpage met this challenge by using crushable honeycomb material in the struts, so the gear would compress on impact. A principal advantage of honeycomb shock absorbers was their simplicity. Since they had to work only once, the more common hydraulic shock absorbers and their complexities could be avoided. Subsequently, crushable honeycomb was also applied to the large saucerlike foot pads to improve stability further for landing.21


    15. Donald K. Slayton to ASPO, Attn.: William A. Lee, “Docking Operational Requirements,” 2 Dec. 1963; Kelly, “Technical Development Status,” p. 29; “Some Notes on Evolution of LEM,” pp. 1-2; Sherman interview.

    16. Joseph P. Loftus to Chief, Sys. Eng. Div. (SED) , “Disposition of TM-1 mockup review chit no. A9-4,” 28 April 1964; Slayton to ASPO, Attn.: Maynard, “LEM overhead window experiment,” 6 May 1964; LEM PO, “Accomplishments,” 14-20 May 1964.

    17. Sherman interview; Kelly, “Technical Development Status,” p.29; “Some Notes on Evolution of LEM,” pp. 3-4.

    18. Kelly, “Technical Development Status,” p. 48; John L. Sloop to Dep Admin., NASA, “Comparison of technology readiness at start of Apollo and Shuttle,” 11 Feb. 1972, with encs.; Maynard, interview, Houston, 18 Feb. 1970; Grumman Report no. 1, LPR-10-1, 10 March 1963, p. 5, and no. 3, LPR-10-6, 10 May 1963, p. 7.

    19. Grumman Report no. 4, LPR-10-7, 10 June 1963, p. 13; Robert A. Newlander to John W. Small and Walter J. Gaylor, “LEM Landing Gear,” 8 May 1963; Newlander to Mgr., RASPO, “Trip . . . to MSC on May 20, 21, 22, 1963 to attend Mechanical Systems Meeting,” 27 May 1963; MSC Director's briefing notes for 25 June 1963 MSFMC meeting; Decker draft memo to Grumman, “Landing Gear,” 21 Aug. 1963; ASPO Weekly Activity Report, 5-11 Sept. 1963, pp. 7-8; Newlander to Gaylor, “1/6 Scale Model Tests,” 19 Sept. 1963; Axel T. Mattson to MSC, Attn.: Shea, “Langley Research Center Tests of Interest to Project Apollo,” 7 Aug. and 17 Nov. 1964; Maynard memo, “Notice of LEM Structures and Landing Gear meeting,” 15 Dec. 1964; Kelly memo, “Re-definition of TM-5 Test Program,” 15 Dec. 1964, with enc., R. A. Hildermen to Rathke, Kelly, and Whitaker, “Elimination of Lift Systems for TM-5 and LTA-3, Drop Testing and Configuration of TM-5,” 10 Dec. 1964.

    20. Gavin, interview, Bethpage, 11 Feb. 1970; Ferdman to Eugene M. Shoemaker, 24 May 1963; Maynard to ASPO Prog. Cont., Attn.: James A. York, “GAEC Letter LLR-150-550, 'Landing Performance in a Lunar Dust Environment,' dated 29 October 1964,” 21 Dec. 1964, with enc., John C. Snedeker to MSC, Attn.: Neal, “System Engineering Study . . . Request for Approval. . . ,” 29 Oct. 1964; Thomas L. Powers, “Lunar Landing Dynamics,” 17 June 1963; Hugh M. Scott memo, “Minutes of meeting on the LEM landing gear held at MSC on September 3, 1964,” 15 Sept.. 1964, with encs.; Bendix, “Final Report: Lunar Landing Dynamics Specific Systems Engineering Studies,” MM-65-4 (Bellcomm Contract 10002), June 1965; Robert E. Lewis to Asst. Chief, SED, “OMSF specified LEM tilt angle on lunar surface, constraints imposed by G&C Performance Requirements,” 20 May 1964; General Electric, “Study of the Postlanding Tilt Angle of the LEM,” TIR 545-S64-03-006, 21 May 1964; William Lee to Chief, SED, “LEM postlanding tilt angle,” 2 June 1964; Maynard to LEM PO, “Exhibit E to LEM Statement of Work—Change to incorporate LEM lunar postlanding attitude,” 11 June 1964; Decker to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Landing Gear Design Development,” 4 June 1964.

    21. ASPO Status Reports for period ending 16 Oct. and for week ending 19 Nov. 1963; Grumman Report no. 10, pp. 2, 10, and no. 23, LPR-10-39, 10 Jan. 1965, pp. 1, 15; Rector memo to LEM Proc. Off., “Change from a 180” [457-cm] Tripod Landing Gear to a 160” [406-cm] Cantilever Design,” 13 April 1964; Robert E. Vale and Scott, telephone interviews, 20 March 1975; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Landing gear design criteria,” 11 Dec. 1964; abstract of LEM Structures and Landing Gear Systems Meeting, 21-22 Dec. 1964, with encs.; Bendix Products Aerospace Div., “Space Vehicle Landing Gear Systems,” brochure, November 1963; Raymond J. Black, “Quadripedal Landing Gear Systems for Spacecraft,” reprinted from Journal for Spacecraft and Rockets 1, no. 2 (March-April 1964): 196-203; MSC news release 64-9, 15 Jan. 1964; William F. Rogers, “Lunar Module Landing Gear Subsystem,” AER TN S-316 (MSC-04797), review copy, January 1972.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-5. Engines, Large and Small

    When Grumman began designing the lunar module in January 1963, its major subcontractors began work on the vehicle's integral subsystems: Bell Aerosystems, ascent engine; Rocketdyne Division of North American, descent engine; The Marquardt Corporation, reaction control system; and Hamilton Standard Division of United Aircraft Corporation, environmental control. Identifying rocket engines as the most critical subsystem, Grumman started their development first. The lander had 18 engines: 2 large rockets, one for descent to the moon and another for return to lunar orbit, and 16 small attitude control engines clustered in quads and pointing up, down, left, and right, around the ascent stage.22

    During the spring of 1963, Grumman hired Bell to develop the ascent engine, basing the selection on Bell's experience in Air Force Agena development and hoping that the technology from that program might be applicable to the lunar module. Grumman placed heavy emphasis upon high reliability through simplicity of design, and, in fact, the ascent engine did emerge as the least complicated of the three main engines in the Apollo space vehicle (the descent and service module engines were the other two).* Embodying a pressure-fed fuel system using hypergolic (self-igniting) propellants, the ascent engine was fixed-thrust and nongimbaled, capable of lifting the ascent stage off the moon or aborting a mission should a landing not be feasible.

    There was one major concern about the ascent engine, and that was the usual worry about the ablation material burning off too fast and causing damage to the thrust chamber. Some ablative material eroded during firing tests at Bell's plant near Niagara Falls and at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. But this erosion was not severe enough to warrant changes in the combustion chambers. In late 1964, Arnold was also the site of a fire-in-the-hole (FITH static firing test on a full-scale vehicle to supplement Grumman's previous scale-model test. The FITH flight test had to wait for later trials at White Sands.

    Not everything went well with ascent engine development, however. About a year after the program began, the subsystem manager in Houston discovered that Grumman and Bell were using testing criteria left over from the Air Force Agena program. Since the Agena was unmanned, these were less stringent than NASA demanded for manned spacecraft. More rigorous standards were belatedly imposed by Houston, and a problem was revealed. In “bomb stability” tests, where the engine had to recover from combustion instability caused by an explosive charge within the combustion chamber, the ascent engine “went unstable” (failed to return to normal operation), and structural damage followed. This problem would have to be resolved before the engine could be trusted to bring a crew back from the lunar surface.23

    The lunar module descent engine probably was the biggest challenge and the most outstanding technical development of Apollo. A requirement for a throttleable engine was new to manned spacecraft. Very little advanced research had been done in variable-thrust rocket engines— NASA's principal effort in this field, the hydrogen—fueled RL-10 used in the S-IV stage of the Saturn, antedating work on the lunar module engine by only a few months. Rocketdyne proposed a method known as helium injection, introducing inert gas into the flow of propellants to decrease thrust while maintaining the same flow rate. Although Bethpage and Houston agreed that this seemed a plausible approach to throttleability, it would be a major advance in the state of the art, and the MSC Apollo office directed Grumman to carry out a parallel development program and select the better design.

    On 14 March 1963, Grumman held a bidders' conference, attended by representatives from Aerojet-General, Reaction Motors Division of Thiokol, United Technology Center Division of United Aircraft, and Space Technology Laboratories, Inc. (STL). In May, STL (which had lost out in the original bidding for the engine) was selected to develop the competitive motor. STL proposed a pressure-fed hypergolic system that was gimbaled as well as throttleable. The engine's mechanical throttling system used flow control valves and a variable-area injector, in much the same manner as does a shower head, to regulate pressure, rate of propellant flow, and the pattern of fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.

    With two subsystem contractors working on such radically different throttling techniques, NASA planners, as Rector later said, “thought one or the other would stub his toe real quick . . . , that it would be obvious that we should go one [way] or the other—but it wasn't happening. They were both . . . pretty good. . . .” STL and Rocketdyne continued this head-to-head competition for the final-and lucrative-engine development and qualification contract through the end of 1964.24

    In November 1964, Joseph Shea, Apollo spacecraft manager in Houston, told NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel Phillips in Washington that he had established a committee** of propulsion experts from Grumman, the Marshall and Lewis centers, NASA Headquarters, and the Air Force to review the contractors' efforts and recommend a choice. Selection of one firm over the other rested with Grumman and MSC, in the final analysis, and, Shea stated, “I do feel that we should have the intelligence at our disposal to appreciate all ramifications of [Grumman's] final recommendation.”

    Panel members visited both companies the week of 7 December 1964, but their findings were largely inconclusive. The progress of each firm was nearly identical. Both contractors, although experiencing minor troubles with injector designs, demonstrated satisfactory structural compatibility between injector and thrust chamber. After a year and a half, neither helium injection nor mechanical throttling had proved superior over the other. On 5 January 1965, Grumman decided to stick with Rocketdyne.25

    Manned Spacecraft Center Director Gilruth appointed a five-member board*** to weigh Grumman's recommendations, review the findings of the earlier committee, and study a technical comparison prepared by Houston's Propulsion and Power Division. On 18 January this review board, in a surprising move, reversed Grumman's action and named STL instead of Rocketdyne. The board said that the

    recommendation of STL is based upon the assessment that STL is in a more favorable position [and] is capable of supplying more management and superior resources to this program without interference of other similar programs. . . . there are potential benefits to be gained for the Gemini and Apollo attitude engine programs at NAA by the cancellation of the [Rocketdyne] descent engine development. ****

    This decision, unusual because Houston rarely vetoed a recommendation for a subcontractor made by a prime contractor, was sustained by Phillips at Headquarters. Shea and Contracting Officer James L. Neal then directed Grumman to proceed with STL. 26

    Grumman chose Marquardt to build the lunar module's third engine system, the small 100-pound-thrust attitude control thrusters. In 1960, Warren P. Boardman and Maurice Schenk of Marquardt had visited Robert Piland and Caldwell C. Johnson at Langley to discuss their firm's propulsion work. Piland and Johnson were intrigued with the idea for a bipropellant thruster that promised to be far superior to the monopropellant engine then used in Mercury. Testing of Marquardt's product—a dual-valve, pulse-modulated engine with a radiation-cooled combustion chamber—at the Lewis Research Center paved the way for its incorporation into Apollo. Marquardt at first supplied engines for both the command and service modules. In mid1962, NASA decided to use the Marquardt engine for the service module only, because the command module thrusters would be buried within the heatshield, making radiation cooling impossible. Rocketdyne would supply the command module thrusters, which were similar to those it was already developing for Gemini.

    Marquardt would furnish attitude control engines and mounting structure and perform some tests of the propellant system. Grumman would provide tanks (purchased from Bell), propellant lines, and the pressurization system. Apollo officials had expected that the service module thrusters, with only slight modifications, could also be used in the lander, but common use proved difficult. The end results, though beneficial, fell far short of Houston's anticipations. Differing functional requirements, as well as unique environmental and design constraints, precluded direct incorporation of the service module thruster. Houston, however, complained that Grumman failed to take advantage of all the common-use technology available and attributed delays in procurement of many thruster components to this failure. 27

    After thruster tests at Bethpage and at Marquardt's Magic Mountain Facility in California during the first half of 1964, a technical problem emerged: the engine spiked, or backfired, at ignition, and a rapid rise in temperature and pressure caused the engine to explode. The spiking appeared so significant that Grumman wanted to develop a backup engine through another source, but Houston refused permission. Marquardt eliminated spiking by installing a small, tubular “precombustion” chamber inside the engine.28


    * The rocket engine of the ascent stage developed about 15,500 newtons (3,500 pounds) of thrust, which produced a velocity of 2,000 meters per second from lunar launch to docking. The descent stage, a throttleable engine, reached a maximum of 43,900 newtons (9,870 pounds) and operated at a minimum of 4,700 newtons (1,050 pounds) for delicate maneuvers. Considerably larger than the two lunar module engines, the service module motor attained 91,200 newtons (20,500 pounds) of thrust.

    ** Committee members were Max Faget (chairman), Rector, Joseph G. Thibodaux, and C. Harold Lambert (MSC); Charles H. King and Adelbert O. Tischler (NASA Headquarters); Leland F. Belew (Marshall); Irving A. Johnson (Lewis); P. Layton (Princeton University); Major W. R. Moe (Edwards Rocket Research Laboratory, USAF); and Joseph M. Gavin and M. Dandridge (Grumman).

    *** Members of the Subcontractor Review Board for the LEM Descent Engine were Faget (chairman), Dave W. Lang (Procurement), André J. Meyer, Jr. (Gemini), Joseph G. Thibodaux, Jr. (Propulsion and Power Division), and Rector.

    **** Gemini manager Charles W. Mathews was having trouble getting reliable engines for his spacecraft from Rocketdyne. In its decision, the board was obviously supporting both his program and Apollo.


    22. Neal TWX to Small, 29 Jan. 1963; MSC news release 63-14, 30 Jan. 1963; Grumman, “LM System Description,” from information package for Apollo 11, July 1969; Bell Aerosystems, “Bell Aerosystems Company and Apollo 11,” news release, July 1969; Aerojet-General, “Fact Sheet about the Main Rocket Engine for the Apollo Command and Service Modules,” news release, July 1969; William R. Hammock, Jr., Eldon C. Currie, and Arlie E. Fisher, “Descent Propulsion System,” AER TN S-349 (MSC-05849), review copy, October 1972; Clarence E. Humphries and Reuben E. Taylor, “Ascent Propulsion System,” AER TN S-341 (MSC-04928), review copy, May 1972; Chester A. Vaughan et al., “Lunar Module Reaction Control System,” AER TN S-315 (MSC-04567), review copy, December 1971.

    23. Dave W. Lang TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Brackett, 5 Feb. 1963; Clyde B. Bothmer to George M. Low, “Bell Aerospace Contract for LEM Engine,” 11 Feb. 1964; LEM Program Management Meeting, Grumman NASA, 22 April 1964; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 21 Aug. 1964; minutes of LEM Ascent Propulsion Subsystem Schedule and Technical Status Meeting at Grumman, 16-17 Sept. 1964; ASPO Weekly Management Reports, 23-30 July 1964 and 21-28 Jan. 1965; Rector TWXs to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 2 Sept. 1964; Rector and Gavin interviews; Alexander L. Madyda to LEM PO, “Response of GAEC Propulsion to MSC Requests and Directions,” 5 Nov. 1964.

    24. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962: Report, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 12 June 1963, p. 145; Neal to Grumman, Attn.: Snedeker, “Descent Engine Subcontract,” 12 Aug. 1963; Rector interview; Charles W. Mathews to Asst. Dir., Research and Dev., “Procurement Plan for Apollo Supporting Research—Throttleable Engine Development,” 16 Aug. 1962; Robert H. Voight to Asst. Mgr., ASPO, “Parallel Development LM Descent Engine, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Audit Report MSC 11-67A,” 8 March 1967; RASPO Grumman Activity Report, 10-16 March 1963, p. 1; Carl D. Sword TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Snedeker, 27 May 1963; MSC news release 63-92, 29 May 1963; R. F. Mettler TWX to Charles W. Frick, 20 Nov. 1962; Gavin interview; Jack N. Cherne, “Mechanical Design of the Lunar Module Descent Engine,” paper presented at the 18th International Astronautical Congress, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 24-30 Sept. 1967, p. 1; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 5 May 1964; Roger D. Hicks to Chief, Propulsion and Power Div. (PPD), “Report of trip to Rocketdyne and STL, July 8 and 9, 1964,” 10 July 1964; MSC Weekly Activity Report for Assoc. Admin., OMSF, NASA, 28 June-4 July 1964, p. 3; Rector and Mullaney interviews.

    25. Shea to Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, 25 Nov. 1964; Shea TWX to STL, Attn.: J. Elverum, 30 Nov. 1964; Robert W. Polifka to Chief, PPD, “Trip to White Sands Missile Range, . . . STL, . . . and Rocketdyne . . . in review of Rocketdyne and STL LEM descent engine injector development, August 16-21, 1964,” 26 Aug. 1964; Voight to ASPO, 8 March 1967; Maxime A. Faget to Mgr., ASPO, “LEM Descent Engine Subcontractor Review,” 23 Dec. 1964, with encs.; Gavin to MSC, Attn.: Rector, “Selection of the LEM Descent Engine Contractor,” 5 Jan. 1965.

    26. Gilruth to Asst. Dir., Eng. anti Dev., “LEM Descent Engine Subcontractor Review Board,” 8 Jan. 1965 (identical memos sent to Chief, Procurement and Contracts Div.; Senior Asst., Gemini Prog. Off.; Chief, PPD; and LEM PO, ASPO); Faget to Dir., MSC, “LM Descent Engine Subcontractor Review Board Report,” 20 Jan. 1965, with enc., subject as above, 18 Jan. 1965; Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn.: William C. Schneider, “Rocketdyne Performance on the Gemini Program, . . .” 29 April 1964, with encs.; Charles W. Yodzis to Chief, PPD, “Evaluation of Parallel LEM Descent Engine Contracts,” 11 Jan. 1965; Voight to ASPO, 8 March 1967.

    27. MSC, Consolidated Activity Report, 24 Feb.-23 March 1963, p. 7; Piland note, 9 Dec. 1960; Charles J. Donlan to LeRC, Attn.: Bruce T. Lundin, “Proposed program with Lewis Research Center for evaluating developments in bipropellant reaction control systems,” 17 Nov. 1960, with enc.; Donlan to NASA Hq., Attn.: Low, “Support from Lewis Research Center for evaluating developments in satellite attitude controls for application to Project Apollo,” 6 Dec. 1960; A. B. Kehlet et al., “Notes on Project Apollo, January 1960-January 1962,” 8 Jan. 1962, p. 12; D. Brainerd Holmes to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Change in Subcontractors for Apollo Command Module Reaction Control Jets,” 24 July 1962; Caldwell C. Johnson TWX to North American, Attn.: E. E. Sack, “Command and Service Module Reaction Control System Engines,” 31 July 1962; Decker TWX to Sack, 25 March 1963; Small to Decker, “Review of GAEC Specification . . . for the Reaction Control System,” 30 April 1963; Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Snedeker, 15 July 1963; Maynard to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Reaction Control Subsystem, . . . Bell Aerosystems Company Proposal, . . . dated November 1963,” 3 Dec. 1963; Faget to Systems Evaluation and Dev. (SEDD), Spacecraft Research, and Life Systems Divs., “Investigation of similar or near similar systems, subsystems and components on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (including Lunar Excursion Module) spacecraft,” 17 Aug. 1962; Rector to Decker and Neal, “Proposed Reply to GAEC TWX LTX-150-7,” 2 July 1963; Rector to Maynard and Alfred D. Mardel, “Differences in Development, Environmental, Quality Assurance, and Reliability Requirements between NAA/S&ID and GAEC for Potential Common Usage Items,” 17 Feb. 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM RCS Tank Specification No. LSP-310-405,” 16 March 1964; B. Darrell Kendrick to LEM PO, “LEM RCS Propellant Tanks,” 23 April 1964; abstract of Proceedings, LEM RCS Meeting on 9 April 1964; Witalij Karakulko to Chief, PPD, “Review of the problems associated with the common usage components of the LEM RCS,” 22 May 1964; Rector to Neal, “Implementation of the common usage rule in LEM RCS components,” 9 July 1964, with enc.; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: George E. Mueller, “Grumman,” 1 Aug. 1964; Rector to Chief, SED, “LEM RCS Propellant Quantity Gaging System Design Approach,” 30 Oct. 1964; Gaylor to Small, “Past RASPO Activity Report Status on C. U. RCS Components,” 20 Oct. 1964.

    28. ASPO Weekly Management Report, 30 July-6 Aug. 1964; Decker TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 26 Aug. 1963; LEM PO, “Problems,” 14-20 May 1964; Richard B. Ferguson memo, “SM and LEM Reaction Control Engine Development?' 8 June 1964; Gary A. Coultas to Chief, Design Integration Br., “Trip report Service Module/LEM RCS engines, the Marquardt Corporation,” 25 June 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Thermal analysis of the SM/LEM RCS Engine,” 20 July 1964, with encs.; Rector to LEM Proc. Off., “GAEC Request for Development of Backup Source for a 'Common Usage' RCS Engine,” 21 July 1964; Henry O. Pohl to Chief, PPD, “Meeting with The Marquardt Corporation (TMC) and North American Aviation (NAA) to discuss the ignition pressure spike problem,” 28 July 1964; Karakulko to Chief, PPD, “Trip report to The Marquardt Corporation (TMC),” 2 Dec. 1964; Marquardt, Apollo Service Module Reaction Control Engines, Monthly Progress Report, TMC Project 279, A-1011-26, 30 Sept. 1964, pp. iii, 30.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-6. Environment and Electricity

    Grumman selected Hamilton Standard to supply the environmental control system for the lunar module. Like AiResearch's unit in the command module, it was a “closed-loop” atmospheric circulation system, using supercritical oxygen and nonregenerative removal of carbon dioxide to provide a pure oxygen atmosphere. The system also had a liquid-circulating network and heat-absorbent panels to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the cabin. By mid-1964, Hamilton Standard had finished the design phase and begun fabrication and testing. Occasional problems arose during development, but none that threatened the manufacture of a successful subsystem. 29

    United Aircraft Corporation's Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division, a legendary name in aircraft powerplants, was also a pioneer in research on fuel cells using hydrogen and oxygen as reactants to generate electricity. Grumman picked this firm in July 1963 to develop the power system for the lander. The fuel cell program was laden with technical and managerial problems. Many of the lander's components operated with considerable independence, but the electrical power system had a complex interrelation with virtually every subsystem in the vehicle. The question of how many fuel cell stacks and how many tanks of reactant were needed to meet electrical requirements was, therefore, difficult to answer. In March 1964, Houston approved a three-cell, five-tank arrangement; by summer the fuel cell was in deep technical trouble. NASA and Grumman engineers concluded that it might take more than a year to get the cells working with the other systems properly. The lunar module, which had begun development a year late, did not have the time to spare.

    Houston told Grumman in late 1964 to consider substituting batteries for fuel cells, and on 26 February 1965 Bethpage was ordered to make the change. Although the switch was not entirely welcome to the lunar module design team, it caused no appreciable delay. And to some it came as a distinct relief; the beauty of batteries lay in their simplicity, hence their reliability, in contrast to fuel cells. Some of the battery development cost would be offset by the cancellation of the Pratt & Whitney contract.30


    29. Wilbert E. Ellis and D. William Morris, Jr., “Lunar Excursion Module Environmental and Thermal Control System Optimization,” MSC working paper no. 1102, 8 Jan. 1964; LEM PO, “Problems,” 7-13 May 1964; Maynard to Asst. Dep. Mgr., ASPO Syst. Integration, “Review of Apollo Spacecraft Systems Development Specification, . . . Environmental Control System . . . ,” 25 May 1963; Maynard to LEM CEB, “LEM Environmental Control System (ECS) redundant equipment cooling,” 10 March 1964; Richard E. Mayo to Mgr., ASPO, “Summary report on Hamilton Standard Division for East-Coast Subcontractor Review,” 22 Oct. 1964, with encs.; Robert E. Smylie to Chief, Prog. Cont. Off., “Apollo Spacecraft Program Quarterly Status Report No. 9,” 14 Oct. 1964, with enc.; MSC Crew Syst. Div. 1964 Annual Status Report; Richard J. Gillen, James C. Brady, and Frank Collier, “Lunar Module Environmental Control Subsystem,” AER TN S-296 (MSC-04937), review copy, September 1971.

    30. William A. Parker TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Brackett, 1 July 1963; Maynard to Decker, “CSM and Gemini Fuel Cell Development Programs,” 28 May 1963; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Electrical Power Subsystem Fuel Cell Configuration,” 20 Dec. 1963; Robert V. Battey memo, “Minutes of the LEM Electrical Power Requirements Meeting, May 5, 1964,” 8 May 1964; William R. Dusenbury to LEM PO, “Assessment and recommendation of LEM PGS configuration,” 18 March 1964; LEM PO, “Accomplishments,” 19-26 March 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Electrical Power Generation Section (PGS) Configuration,” 23 March 1964; William E. Rice to Chief, PPD, “Report on visit to Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, . . . to attend the Third LEM Fuel Cell Assembly Quarterly Progress Review,” 13 July 1964; [Grumman], ” 'All Battery' Investigation,” 4 Nov. 1964; Clinton L. Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: James C. Cozad,11 Dec. 1964; Grumman Report No. 25, LPR-10-41, 10 March 1965, pp. 1, 20; E. J. Merrick to Edward B. Hamblett, Jr., “Work Order S64-08, Apollo Electrical Systems Support Survey of Batteries for LEM Application,” 30 Oct. 1964, with enc.; Arturo B. Campos, “Lunar Module Electrical Power Subsystem,” AER TN S-337 (MSC-05815), review copy, April 1972.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-7. The “Sub-Prime” and the Radar Problem

    Grumman contracted with Aerospace Communications and Controls Division of Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Burlington, Massachusetts, for engineering support, radars, an inflight test system, and components of the stabilization and control system. RCA, the “sub-prime” contractor, was also to design and manufacture ground checkout equipment for these items. Although the two companies had worked together for years, the Grumman-RCA experience with the lunar module was fraught with difficulties. Electronics components became a pacing item in the development of the lander's subsystems, causing unhappiness at NASA Headquarters and culminating in an investigation by the General Accounting Office.31

    The extremely complex stabilization and control system was the source of much of the trouble. Design had to await definition of mission requirements and planning. To complicate matters further, Grumman did not buy the total system but merely procured parts, through RCA, from Minneapolis-Honeywell, which supplied similar items to North American for the command module. There was some commonality of parts, but the lander hardware had to be repackaged, often causing lengthy delays. Communications gear was purchased from Collins Radio and Motorola in the same manner. Tiring of this roundabout way of doing business, Houston finally decided to speed things up by supplying the television camera, originally intended for development by RCA, as government-furnished equipment. In mid-1964, the Westinghouse Electric Company was asked to submit a bid for the camera. 32

    RCA's role was further cut when inflight maintenance was canceled. At the outset of the program, the crews had been expected to perform basic repairs to electronics equipment in the lander, as well as in the command module, using spare parts stowed aboard the spacecraft. By mid-1963, Houston Flight Operations Director Christopher Kraft was arguing that the crewmen simply would not have time to repair faulty hardware during lunar module operations. Thomas Kelly was convinced that inflight maintenance would degrade reliability instead of improving it. This was probably true, since the electronic spares would be subjected to cabin humidity even when stowed. When George Mueller took over as manned space flight chief in Washington, he also had reservations about the plan. Inflight maintenance was deleted from the program and the crew was to rely on operational displays and the caution and warning system to detect malfunctions. Redundancy would be “wired in,” with duplicate or backup components the crew could switch to, and all electronics inside the cabin would be hermetically sealed to protect against moisture and contaminants.33

    Radar, tied into the guidance and navigation system, was one of the hardest pieces of the lunar module to qualify. Two sets would be used, one for landing, the other for rendezvous. Under its blanket subcontract for electronics, RCA was to design the system, manufacture the rendezvous radar, and buy the landing subsystem. After evaluating proposals from four bidders, RCA picked Ryan Aeronautical Company, developer of landing radar for Surveyor.34

    Development of the lunar module radar was not expected to be difficult, since no technological breakthrough was demanded for either system. Integrating these sets with the guidance and navigation system, however, was another matter. There were also problems in properly placing and insulating the antennas. Getting the precise ranging accuracy needed and overcoming the weight increases that resulted from meeting these requirements probably posed the biggest problem of all. A happy medium between optimum weight and desired reliability was elusive, and progress was practically nil.

    During the final quarter of 1964, the chief of guidance and control in Houston warned Shea that the radar program was having trouble with weight, accuracy, reliability, thermal characteristics, and costs. Shea and William A. Lee, chief of MSC's Apollo Operations Planning Division, began to think about omitting the rendezvous radar from both the command and lunar modules. Lee believed these units were doubly redundant, since rendezvous could be performed by the command module pilot with the aid of data relayed by the Manned Space Flight Network. Donald G. Wiseman, an instrumentation and electronics specialist in Houston, thought rendezvous could also be conducted by the lunar module crew, using ground, optical tracking, and S-band and VHF communications equipment ranging information in place of radar. Although not everyone agreed that the system should be eliminated, work was started on the development of an optical tracker.35


    31. Lang TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Brackett, 13 June 1962; MSC news release 63-143, 28 Aug. 1963; Holmes to Dir., Proc. and Supply Div., “Selection of RCA for LEM Electronic Subsystems Procurement,” 21 June 1963; Frederick A. Zito to Gaylor, “Utilization of RCA Engineering Assistance on the LEM Program; Comments on,” 2 April 1963; Rector to Decker, “Review of GAEC Proposed Utilization of RCA Engineering Assistance on LEM Program,” 16 April 1963, with enc.; Donald G. Wiseman to Dep. Chief, Instrumentation and Electronic Syst. Div. (IESD), “Trip to GAEC,” 18 March 1964; Zito to Gaylor and Small, “Termination of RCA Engineering Assistance on the LEM Program, . . . Comments on,” 27 July 1964; Porter H. Gilbert and Henry W. Flagg, Jr., interview, Houston, 8 April 1970; Comptroller General, “Review of Procurement of Lunar Module Radars,” report to Congress, B-158390, 17 April 1968.

    32. Minneapolis-Honeywell, “Apollo Stabilization and Control by Honeywell,” brochure, ADC 330 5/15, July 1969; Gene T. Rice to Rector, “C/M and LEM stabilization and control system interface,” 27 Aug. 1962; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report no. 5, for period ending 30 Sept. 1963, pp. 28-29; Lang TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: George J. Vecchietti and Daniel A. Linn, 17 March 1964; Ralph S. Sawyer to Mgr., ASPO, “LEM/CSM Communication Subsystem Commonality,” 22 Dec. 1964; Clinton Taylor and Rector TWX to North American and Grumman, Attn.: Cozad and Mullaney, 10 Nov. 1964; Decker to Actg. Mgr., ASPO, “TV,” 24 July 1963; Grumman Report no. 11, p. 18; ASPO Weekly Management Report, 28 May-4 June 1964.

    33. Shea TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 25 Oct. 1963; Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to Mgr., LEM Admin. Off., “Comments on LEM Maintenance Plan, GAEC Report LPL 635-1, dated May 15, 1963,” 2 July 1963; David W. Gilbert to Mgr., ASPO, “Implementation of Built-in Redundancy for Spacecraft Sub-systems,” 30 Oct. 1963; Henry P. Yschek to North American, contract change authorization no.213, 9 June 1964; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Lunar Excursion Module Recommendation Concerning LEM Emergency Detection,” 3 June 1964; J. Danaher to LEM Syst. and Subsyst. Eng., “LEM Caution and Warning Subsystem Operating Philosophy,” 30 Sept. 1964; Rector to LEM Contr. Off.,”Request for PCCP—Hermetic Sealing of All Electrical Electronic Equipment within LEM Cabin,” 13 Nov. 1964, with encs.

    34. Piland to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Minutes of Radar Coordination Meetings,” 25 March 1963, with enc., abstract of Meeting No. 2 of Technical Coordination Group on LEM Radar, 5 Feb. 1963, with encs.; Owen S. Olds to MSC, Attn.: Maynard, “Lunar Landing Radar System,” 23 April 1963; David Gilbert to Dep. Mgr., ASPO, “LEM Radar,” 1 May 1963; J. R. Iverson to MSC, Attn.: Robert E. Lewis, 21 May 1963; Lewis to Dep. Mgr., LEM, “Grumman RCA Make or Buy Recommendation for Rendezvous and Landing Radars,” 8 Aug. 1963; Richard F. Broderick, memo for record, “Evaluation of proposals for the LEM Landing Radar,” 29 Nov. 1963, with enc.; Lewis to Mgr., ASPO, “Apollo Rendezvous Radar Transponder,” 2 Dec. 1963, with enc.; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Contractor Responsibilities for Rendezvous Radar Transponder and Landing Radar,” 21 April 1964, with encs.; idem, TWX, 11 Dec. 1964; Patrick Rozas and Allen R. Cunningham, “Lunar Module Landing Radar and Rendezvous Radar,” AER TN S-311 (MSC-05251), review copy, November 1971.

    35. Wayne Young to G&N Contr. Off., “Section 2.1.6 Landing and Rendezvous Radar of the May 22, 1964, revision of the Statement of Work, Navigation and Guidance Systems (CM and LEM) development,” 8 June 1964; LEM PO, “Problems,” 9-15 July 1964; Aaron Cohen to Chief, Ops. Planning Div. (OPD), “CSM Rendezvous Radar,” 15 Oct. 1964; William Lee to Chief, OPD, “Potential deletion of the CSM rendezvous radar,” 19 Oct. 1964; Slayton to Chief, OPD, subj. as above, 27 Oct. 1964; Sawyer to Chief, OPD, subj. as above, 17 Nov. 1964; Robert C. Duncan to Chief, OPD, “CSM rendezvous radar,” 28 Oct. 1964; Wiseman to Chief, IESD, “Meeting on LEM/CSM rendezvous,” 9 Dec. 1964; Wayne Young TWX to MIT, Attn.: Trageser, 10 Dec. 1964.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-8. Guidance and Navigation

    Guidance and navigation was the most difficult of all the lander's subsystems to develop, both technically and managerially. Development started off simply enough but turned into a complicated tangle. MIT and Houston officials wanted to use the basic command module arrangement in the lander to avoid developing an entirely new system. After Grumman was selected in November 1962, the contractor, the center, and MIT had tried to work out a configuration for the lander. In the middle of 1963, Houston asked Headquarters for permission to to procure lunar module guidance through existing agreements with MIT, AC Spark Plug, Kollsman, Raytheon, and Sperry. When Washington refused, time was lost in negotiating new contracts.36

    The biggest delay came from a dispute over whether to use the MIT unit in the lunar module. Grumman's refusal to accept MIT's word about the reliability of its system sparked the controversy. Lunar module manager James L. Decker in Houston shared this skepticism and asked Grumman to look into a more advanced system than the three-gimbal platform (pitch, yaw, and roll referencing system) MIT used. Meanwhile, David W. Gilbert, in charge of navigation and guidance in Shea's office, insisted on getting the MIT unit into the lunar module. Grumman was caught between the two opposing factions. Neither of the Houston officials could get the other to change his mind—and the chasm deepened. Top management in Houston and in Washington then stepped in. Bellcomm would study the options, consult with all parties to the argument, and recommend a solution. In due time, NASA decided to stick with MIT and announced its decision, based on Bellcomm's findings, on 18 October 1963.

    But the announcement did not completely clear the air, and some rather strained feelings developed between Grumman and MIT. Early in 1964, however, the contractors recognized the necessity of working together on the areas where development progress affected both the lunar module and its guidance system. Set down in formal Interface Control Documents, agreements on these points would govern all future actions by both parties. At the end of February, Rector reported 29 meetings between the contractors (with 200 more to go, at this rate, he said) and 55 documents drafted, but almost no concessions by either party. In April, Manned Spacecraft Center managers realized that they would have to intervene to break up the logjam. At a two-day meeting in Bethpage on 25 and 26 June, Shea did just that. After scrutinizing the documents, he mediated the differences and forced the contractors to cooperate.37


    36. Trageser, interview, Cambridge, Mass., 27 April 1966; J. Dahlen et al., “Guidance and Navigation System for Lunar Excursion Module,” MIT R-373, July 1962; Robert G. Chilton, interview, Houston, 30 March 1970; Decker to Apollo Proc., Attn.: James W. Epperly, '“Source Selection,” 29 May 1963; Brackett to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “Proposed Procurement Plan for Apollo Lunar Excursion Module Navigation and Guidance Systems and Associated Ground Support Equipment,” 28 June 1963; Holmes to Brackett, “Additional Information Justifying Recommending Approval of the Proposed Procurement Plan for Apollo LEM Navigation and Guidance Systems and Associated Ground Support Equipment,” 3 July 1963, with enc.; James C. Church to Mgr., ASPO, “LEM Guidance and Navigation Contracts,” 25 Oct. 1963.

    37. David Gilbert, interview, Houston, 16 Dec. 1969; Gilbert, “A Historical Description of the Apollo Guidance and Navigation System Development,” 31 Dec. 1963, with encs., Chilton to Proc. Off., “Selection of a contractor for Apollo guidance and navigation system development,” 1 Aug. 1961, “Justification for Non-competitive Procurement, LEM Guidance System,” signed by James E. Webb, 1 Aug. 1963, and Gilbert, “ASPO Guidance and Control Systems Office Comments Relative to the Adequacy of the Existing G&N System Configuration for the LEM,” 2 Aug. 1963; Robert P. Young note to Webb, 20 Aug. 1963; Gavin and Trageser interviews; NASA, “NASA Negotiates for Development of LEM Guidance and Navigation System,” news release 63-234, 18 Oct. 1963; LEM PO, “Management Accomplishments, Problems, and Plans—LEM,” 20 Feb. 1964; LEM PO, “Problems,” 16-22 April 1964; Rector to Maynard, “Outstanding actions from Systems Engineering,” 10 April 1964; MSC, Action Documentation, Form 934, with problem stated and action needed described by Rector and disposition noted and signed by Lewis, 15 June 1964; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 23 June 1964; minutes of NASA Coordination Meeting with MIT and Grumman, No. L7A, 25-26 June 1964; Jesse F. Goree, telephone interview, 8 April 1975.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch6-9. Mockup Reviews

    At various stages of lunar module design, mockup reviews were conducted to demonstrate progress and ferret out weaknesses. These inspections were formal occasions, with a board composed of customer and contractor officials and presided over by a chairman from the Apollo office in Houston. Usually present were top management personnel from the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight in Washington and from the field centers, as well as a number of astronauts. The vehicle was thrown open for inspection, and the astronauts were expected to climb in, out, over, and around, to get a feel for the craft.

    The first of these reviews, on “M-1” (a wooden mockup of the crew compartment), took place 16-18 September 1963. In general, the cockpit layout was acceptable, although the locations of some equipment and the arrangement of controls and instruments still had to be settled. The astronauts liked the visibility through the triangular, canted windows and the standup crew positions; but they wanted the instrument panel changed so both flight stations would have identical displays. 38

    TM-1 and engines

    TM-1 mockup of the lunar module with propulsion system models. The TRW version of the descent engine (left) won the development contract. The model of the ascent engine (center) submitted by Bell Aerospace Corp. subsequently competed with Rocketdyne's version, and both companies later participated in the development.


    About six months later, 24-26 March 1964, Grumman showed its second model, “TM-1,” a wooden representation of a complete vehicle. Again attention centered on the cockpit arrangement: support and restraint systems, equipment layout, lighting provisions, location of displays and controls, and general mobility within the cabin and through the hatches. On this occasion, a number of changes were suggested. After evaluation and approval by the review board, these modifications were incorporated into the TM-1 to make up a “design freeze” for constructing an all-metal model, the final review mockup.

    TM-1 was far more than just a means to get to the next, more advanced, mockup, however. For several months, Grumman designers used it to study astronaut mobility and spacecraft-spacesuit interfaces. Astronauts and company personnel got into and out of suits inside the cabin, practiced stowing and recharging backpacks, and checked out suit hose connections with the spacecraft's environmental control system. 39

    The most important mockup review, in October 1964, centered on “M-5" —a remarkably detailed model of a complete spacecraft, including some actual flight equipment inside the cockpit. Even before the inspection, its prospects for success were discussed in a senior staff meeting at Houston on 2 October. Comparing Grumman's planned M-5 review with a review held a few days before on the Block II command module at North American, which one official considered “a good display for a salesman [but] a poor engineering tool,” Max Faget said that, in his opinion, North American representatives should go to Grumman to “see what a mockup should look like.” M-5 was the product of two years of configuration studies and the lessons of two previous inspections.

    Formal review of M-5 led off with an examination on 5 and 6 October by the astronaut corps. On the following day, MSC Director Gilruth and virtually all the management, engineering, and Apollo leaders from Houston descended on Grumman to inspect the cabin, electrical wiring, plumbing, flight controls, displays, radars, propulsion systems (ascent, descent, and reaction control), environmental control system, communications system, structures and landing gear, and stowage for scientific equipment. No piece of the vehicle escaped the review party's scrutiny and evaluation. The Mockup Review Board * met on 8 October, examined the 148 proposed changes, and approved 120 of them. These were mostly minor, and none forced any major redesign. M-5 marked the culmination of the configuration definition.40


    * Board members were Maynard, Rector, Faget, Kraft, and Donald Slayton from Houston and R. W. Carbee and Kelly from Bethpage.


    38. “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of M-1 Mock-up Lunar Excursion Module, September 16, 17, and 18, 1963,” MSC LEM-R-63-1; Slayton to Mgr., LEM Eng. Off., “Requirement for Dual Flight Controls and Displays in the LEM,” 27 Nov. 1963; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report no. 5, p. 3.

    39. MSC, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of TM-1 Mock-up, Lunar Excursion Module, March 19-26, 1964”; MSC, ASPO Management Report for 16-23 April 1964.

    40. M. Scott Carpenter, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meetings, 2 Oct., p. 2, and 9 Oct. 1964, p. 1; MSC, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of M-5 Mockup, Lunar Excursion Module, October 5-8, 1964”; Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Board Report for NASA Inspection and Review of M-5 Mockup, Lunar Excursion Module,” 19 Nov. 1964.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-1. Searching for Order

    1965

    For the most part, 1965 was a good year for manned space flight. Gemini astronauts flew five missions, all successful, one lasting two weeks and including the world's first rendezvous in space. A series of unmanned flights banished many old specters of doom: three Pegasus satellites proved micrometeoroids were not as hazardous in near-earth space as some had prophesied, and two Ranger spacecraft, before crashing on the moon, sent back pictures that gave some assurance that Surveyor and Apollo could safely fly to and land on the lunar surface. Apollo's eventual success seemed certain, but first all its far-flung pieces had to be brought together in some semblance of order. For Apollo, therefore, 1965 was a trying, yet fruitful, year.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-2. Program Direction and the Command Module

    Administrator James Webb knew that the futures of NASA and Apollo were interlocked and that the agency's peak in appropriations and manpower would probably be reached in 1965 and 1966. But neither he nor the other NASA officials who spent six months each year justifying financial needs before the Bureau of the Budget and Congress could predict just when funding requirements would taper off. On one hand, only $5.1 billion of the $5.25 billion authorized for fiscal 1965 had been spent; on the other, there were indications that the $5.2 billion in the fiscal year 1966 authorization might not be enough. Apollo funding was more than $2.5 billion in 1965 and would exceed $3 billion in each of the next few years. The spacecraft alone accounted for a third of this, $1 billion a year.1

    Almost as soon as he joined NASA, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George Mueller had argued before Congress, the budget bureau, and his superiors that cost and schedule factors were intertwined: slowing the pace—and many asked, why the hurry?—meant stretching both time and payrolls. To hold costs down, Mueller believed in pushing, although not sacrificing, performance, reliability, and quality, continually admonishing his field centers to “get today's work done today—and some of tomorrow's work also.” But the drive for order needed more than Mueller's prompting. On 15 January 1965, Apollo Program Director Samuel Phillips issued an “Apollo Program Development Plan.” Besides serving as a general reference, this document, in its 17 subdivisions, specified how the Apollo objectives would be reached, how performance and proposed changes would be evaluated, and how these changes, after approval, would be implemented. Its first section, Program Management, laid out the responsibilities for all participants in a pie-shaped chart, sliced to show each major piece of the program and the organization—industry or NASA (MSC, Marshall, Goddard, Kennedy, or Headquarters)—assigned to implement these duties. Other sections dealt with such items as scheduling, procurement, data management, configuration management, logistics, facilities, funds and manpower, and systems engineering. This directive pulled together, in one place, all the parts of Apollo and explained how the decisions to integrate them would be made.2

    Mueller had revived the dormant Panel Review Board in late 1964, * hoping to get a tighter rein on configuration control management of the spacecraft and launch vehicles and to speed up the manufacture and qualification of flight vehicles. Houston had established a Configuration Control Panel in 1963, but spacecraft development was in such a fluid state that panel authority was limited. By late 1964, however, ASPO Manager Joseph Shea was able to set up a stronger, more effective, Configuration Control Board to review and manage changes in the spacecraft.3

    After much correspondence between Washington and Houston, Shea issued a Configuration Management Plan, outlining his board's responsibilities and limitations and the functions of each of the program offices under his jurisdiction in carrying out the dictates of the board. But having a plan did not immediately turn the tide. Even after the document was published, Shea and his lieutenants tried in vain to stem mounting weights and slipping schedules. During a briefing at North American in April, Shea felt, as he had earlier, that engineering was getting out of hand and slowing progress on both Block I (earth-orbital) and Block II (lunar-orbital) command modules. Block I spacecraft 004 and 007 would be three and six weeks late leaving the factory, and North American had completed only 526 of nearly 4,000 engineering drawings for Block II. Dale D. Myers, NAA Apollo Program Director in Downey, assured Shea that the company was beginning to catch up on its workload. Nevertheless, Myers reorganized his engineering department into six divisions reporting to his chief engineer, H. Gary Osbon: systems engineering (under Norman J. Ryker, Jr.), project engineering (Ray W. Pyle), vehicle systems (J. J. Williams), control systems (S. M. Treman), ground support equipment (D. K. Bailey), and planning and operations (C. V. Mills). 4

    Configuration control was a major factor in bringing order to Apollo, but there had to be some way to gauge how well it worked. In mid-August, Mueller and Phillips identified a series of reviews, inspections, and certifications that would be key checkpoints for Apollo:

    1. Preliminary Design Review (PDR)—to review the basic design during the detailed design phase;
    2. Critical Design Review (CDR)—to check specifications and engineering drawings before their release for manufacture;
    3. Flight Article Configuration Inspection (FACI)—to compare hardware with specifications and drawings and to validate acceptance testing (FACI could be repeated to make sure that any deficiencies had been corrected; it would also be repeated on every vehicle that departed significantly from the basic design);
    4. Certification of Flight Worthiness (COFW)—to certify completion and flight-qualification of each vehicle stage or spacecraft module;
    5. Design Certification Review (DCR)** —to verify the airworthiness and safety of each spacecraft and launch vehicle design (DCRs would include all government and contractor agencies with major parts of the programs and would formally review the development and qualification of all stages, modules, and subsystems);
    6. Flight Readiness Review (FRR)—a two-part review before each flight, held by the mission director in Washington, to confirm the readiness of hardware and facilities (the mission period would then begin with the commitment of support forces around the world).
    These six checkpoints charted the course for the step-by-step flow of hardware from drawing board and shop floor to flight-ready vehicles at the launch site.5

    While Headquarters was working on configuration control and the review plans, command module weight kept getting out of hand. Caldwell Johnson reminded Max Faget in August that, more than a year and a half earlier, he had pointed to weight control as the single most difficult technical problem. To “keep [the] spacecraft on its diet,” Johnson proposed putting pressure on the subsystem managers to begin a rigorous system of checks and cross-checks down through the subsystem level. Faget passed Johnson's suggestions along to Shea, who, already aware that he had a fat spacecraft, was also being bombarded with warnings about the lack of reliability in Block I. Owen G. Morris, Shea's Chief of Reliability and Quality Assurance, listed 71 possible failure points that North American had evidently done nothing to eliminate. Morris was not the only one to raise the reliability issue. Shea's old adversary in the mode selection, Nicholas Golovin of the President's Science Advisory Committee, wrote that he had heard of 50 items that accounted for “perhaps 95 percent of the unreliability of the Apollo system.” 6

    CM cutaway

    Cutaway views show the interior of the command module (for clarity, the center couch is not shown).


    Not all the story was bleak, however. In November attention centered on a three-week Critical Design Review for the Block II command module. This event followed reviews of the lower equipment bay and upper deck in February; the guidance and control systems, crew compartment, and docking system in March; the extravehicular mobility unit in April; internal lighting displays and side access hatch in June; and the spacecraft-lunar module adapter in June and August. The major result of all these reviews was an entirely new inspection article called, in engineering shorthand, “EM3” (for engineering manufacturing module mockup), which demonstrated that North American was making progress toward a finished Block II design.

    Alan Kehlet, North American's Block II project manager, and assistants Gerald R. Fagan and Louis W. Walkover made the contractor's presentation. Kehlet explained that the Critical Design Review was a formal, technical review of the Block II spacecraft as reflected in the program specification. The general format of the briefing was: “This is what the spec says it's supposed to look like or supposed to do from a functional standpoint, and this is what the design is.”

    Before Fagan and Walkover launched into discussions of each individual system, Kehlet told his listeners that NASA must shoulder some of the blame for schedule slips at North American:

    This is the status of our vehicles in manufacturing. . . . You can see we are about four weeks behind in 2TV-1 [the Block II thermal-vacuum test article] and primarily [because of a] lack of secondary bond details. . . . The reason we're having trouble with secondary bond details is [that] we are having trouble defining the wire routing in certain areas. The reason we're having trouble with defining the wire routing is because the schematics came out late. And the reason schematics came out late was somebody didn't define their system. And NASA and the [North American] project office get blamed for that. So it's a chain event. . . .7

    For several months, Shea had been critical of Block II progress. He had complained in June that engineers, besides trying to develop the spacecraft, had adopted a stance of “as long as we are making the necessary changes, we might as well introduce these [others].” Therefore he asked the subsystem managers in Houston and Downey, who were causing some of the problems, to review both Blocks I and II and eliminate any unnecessary changes. There were plenty of subsystem or component problems to wrestle with, Shea knew, without constantly redesigning the lower equipment bay to fit changing components. In all fairness, however—and Shea knew this—the subsystem managers at North American and the Manned Spacecraft Center were caught in the trap of changing concepts. For example, the cancellation of onboard maintenance in favor of redundant or backup systems in the event of a malfunction resulted in modified parts and subsystems that would no longer fit in the equipment section.8

    But sometimes a change was dictated by troubles that cropped up in supposedly uncomplicated areas. One such nagging problem that arose in 1965 was how to keep the command module windows clean. A fiber glass cap with a cork ablator, called a boost protective cover, was attached to the escape tower and fitted atop the spacecraft to protect the windows during tower jettisoning. When tests showed that the cover would crack and the plumes from the escape tower would deposit soot on the windows and possibly cause other damage, North American bonded Nomex (a nylon material strengthened with Teflon) between the fiber glass and cork layers of the cover to reinforce it. 9

    And in areas where problems were expected to arise, they did. Two of the tanks—one holding oxidizer and propellant for the command and service module's reaction control thrusters (with which the spacecraft was steered) and the other housing reactants for the fuel cells that provided electrical power—were in trouble. The Bell Aerospace Systems Company furnished North American with “positive expulsion RCS tanks,” a system that forced propellant and oxidizer into the firing chambers where the fluids would ignite on contact. The oxidizer tanks kept failing, and Bell kept trying to fix them in an apparently disorganized manner. Eventually, the trouble was traced to the oxidizer, which had too little nitrous oxide in the nitrogen tetroxide, causing stress corrosion (or cracking) in the tanks. When the nitrous oxide was more carefully specified and controlled, the tanks stopped failing. The hydrogen and oxygen fuel-cell-reactant storage tanks, tucked in a service module bay, were also developing cracks. By August, Shea was worrying whether Beech Aircraft, who supplied them, would be able to diagnose and solve the problem in time for the early flights. With the aid of Langley Research Center, the trouble was traced to a reaction of the nitrogen tetroxide to the titanium used for the oxidizer tanks and tubing. Beech simply installed stainless steel components, and the problem ended.10

    Shea found that the penchant for unnecessary changes in Block II was shared by some of the guidance and navigation system developers. On a visit to Honeywell in May 1965, he learned that 50 percent of the stabilization and control circuitry was new, 30 percent was slightly modified, and only 20 percent was identical with Block I wiring. Although he conceded that many of the changes were warranted, Block II had been used to justify nonessential circuits, as well. Shea believed that the Apollo office was inviting trouble; the changes had reached a point where more time would be lost in trying to eliminate them. Pressure was applied to make sure that North American kept its associate contractors on both the spacecraft and guidance and navigation systems up to date on changes; interface control documents would be used to prevent this kind of problem in the future. 11


    * See Chapter 5. Members of the review board were Mueller and Phillips (NASA Headquarters), George Low (Houston), Eberhard Rees (Marshall), and Rocco Petrone (Kennedy).

    ** The first DCR had been conducted on Gemini III on a one-time basis; Mueller was so impressed with the results that he continued the practice for all future missions.


    1. NASA Program and Special Reports Div., “Pocket Statistics: History,” January 1971 (issued semiannually), pp. E-2 through E-4; Congress, An Act to authorize appropriations to [NASA]: Public Law 89-53, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 28 June 1965; Congress, An Act making appropriations . . . for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1965 . . . : Public Law 89-128, 89th Cong., 2nd sess., 16 Aug. 1965.

    2. OMSF Apollo Program Office, “Apollo Program Development Plan,” NPC C500, MA 0001000-1, 15 Jan. 1965.

    3. Kennedy Space Center, minutes of Panel Review Board Meeting 64-1, 28 Jan. 1964; Joseph F. Shea memo, “Configuration Control Board,” 1 Dec. 1964; Aubrey L. Brady, secretary, minutes of Configuration Control Board Meeting no. 1, [13 Jan. 1965], with enc.; J. Thomas Markley to Gordon J. Stoops, “Critique of First CCB Meeting,” 15 Jan. 1965. For a discussion of what configuration management really is, see Andrew Hobokan to Mgr., LEM, “Configuration Management,” 15 July 1965.

    4. MSC, “Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Configuration Management Plan,” 1 March 1965, Revision B, 15 March 1965; North American, “Shea Briefing—April 15, 1965”; North American organization announcement, H. Gary Osbon and Dale D. Myers to Apollo Engineering Supervision, “Apollo Engineering Reorganization,” 30 April 1965, with attached organization charts.

    5. OMSF, “Sequence and Flow of Hardware Development and Key Inspection, Review, and Certification Checkpoints,” Apollo Program Directive No. 6, 12 Aug. 1965.

    6. Maxime A. Faget to Mgr., ASPO, “Apollo spacecraft weight control,” 30 Aug. 1965, with encs., Caldwell C. Johnson to Dir., MSC, 29 Jan. 1965, and to Asst. Dir., Engineering and Development (E&D), 9 Aug. 1965, subj. as above; Clinton L. Taylor to North American, Attn.: James C. Cozad, “Control-display criteria for crew safety and mission success,” 8 Jan. 1965; Owen E. Maynard to Mgr., ASPO, “Single Point Failures,” 17 Feb. 1965; Osbon to MSC, Attn.: Taylor, “Single-Point Failures in Controls and Displays,” 5 Aug. 1965; Shea memo, “Apollo Spacecraft Failure Reporting and Corrective Action Follow-up and Display,” 27 Oct. 1965; Owen G. Morris memo, “NAA Single Point Failures,” 1 Oct. 1965; R. Wayne Young to Grumman, Attn.: Robert S. Mullaney, “Single Point Failures,” 22 Nov. 1965; Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips to Wernher von Braun et al., 31 Aug. 1965, with enc., Nicholas E. Golovin to members and consultants, Space Technology Panel, “Letter to General Phillips and Questions to NASA for the Houston Meeting (October 14-16, 1965),” 27 Aug. 1965, with encs.; Phillips to von Braun et al., 15 Sept. 1965, with enc.

    7. Maynard memos, “Critical Design Review of Block II CSM,” 29 Sept., 1 Nov., and 10 Nov. 1965; Taylor to North American, Attn.: Cozad, “Block II Critical Design Review No. 1, Part I, Lower Equipment Bay and Forward Compartment,” 4 Feb. 1965; Maynard memo, “Design Review of CM Lower Equipment Bay and Forward Compartment,” 12 Feb. 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, 10 March 1965; Robert C. Duncan to Young, “1965 NASA-DOD Apollo Guidance and Control Systems Design Review,” 4 March 1965; Maynard to Robert D. Langley and Lawrence G. Williams, “Design Review of Docking System,” 18 March 1965; Maynard memo, “Apollo Controls and Displays,” 6 April 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, 13 April 1965; Maynard to Chief, Guidance and Control (G&C) Div., “Block II CSM Crew Compartment and Docking System Critical Design Review,” 15 April 1965; Maynard memo, “Design Review of Block II CM Crew compartment and docking system,” 15 April 1965, with encs.; Charles R. Haines memo, “Review of RID's from Block II Crew Compartment and Lighting Critical Reviews,” 10 Sept. 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, 21 April 1965; Maynard memos, “Design Review of CM Block II SLA,” 4 June 1965, with enc., and “Spacecraft LEM Adapter Critical Design Review,” 5 Aug. 1965, with encs.; “Critical Design Review for the Black II Spacecraft LEM Adapter, 12-13 August 1965”; MSC, “Apollo Block 2 Critical Design Review (CDR),” transcript of proceedings, 16 Nov. 1965; Maynard memo, “Block II CSM CDR Board Review, 6-10 December 1965,” 6 Dec. 1965; Jon H. Brown to David D. Ewart, “Quick Look Report on the Critical Design Review (CDR) of the Block II Engineering-Manufacturing Mockup Module (EM3),” 21 Dec. 1965; Taylor to North American, Attn.: Cozad, “Block II CSM Critical Design Review (CDR),” 30 Dec. 1965.

    8. Shea to all Subsystem Mgrs. and to Chief, SED, “Changes between Block I and Block II spacecraft,” 5 June 1965.

    9. Williams to Chief, SED, “Boost Protective Cover Status,” 27 Jan. and 5 Feb. 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad,12 Feb. 1965; Taylor to North American, “Implementation of action items for Boost Protective Cover Status Review Meeting,” 12 Feb. 1965, with enc., abstract of Boost Protective Cover Status Review Meeting, 2 Feb. 1965; Oscar O. Ohlsson to Chief, SED, “Boost Protective Cover Status,” 4 March 1965; Williams to Chief, SED, “Boost Protective Cover (BPC) status,” 11 March 1965; Maynard to Chief, Structures and Mechanics Div. (SMD), “Minutes of NASA/NAA Review of Boost Protective Cover Problem Areas at NAA,” 7 May 1965, with encs., minutes, 23 April 1965, and Daniel A. Nebrig memo, “NASA Action Items Resulting from AFRM 009 DEI Board Meeting,” 28 April 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, “Pad Abort and Boost Protective Cover Presentations to MSC,” 7 June 1965; Maynard to Chief, SMD, “Action Items Resulting from Boost Protective Cover Problem Area Review at MSC June 11, 1965,” 15 June 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, “SC009 DEI, RFC009-A-37,” 4 Nov. 1965; Williams, telephone interview, 30 April 1975; Robert L. Dotts, “Spacecraft Heating Environment and Thermal Protection for Launch through the Atmosphere of the Earth,” Apollo Experience Report (AER), NASA Technical Note (TN) S-350 (MSC-04942), review copy, July 1972.

    10. James C. Church to Chief, Program Control Div. (PCD), “Bell Review Report (C&SM Positive Expulsion RCS Tanks),” 21 Jan. 1965; B. Darrell Kendrick to Chief, Propulsion and Power Div. (PPD), “Trip to Bell Aerosystems Company (BAC) on July 14 and 15, 1965, regarding S/M F (S/N 26) RCS Tank Shell Failure,” 26 July 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 3 Aug. 1965; Ralph J. Taeuber and Dwayne P. Weary, “Command and Service Module Reaction Control Systems,” AER TN S-336 (MSC-06808), review copy, November 1972; Phillips to Dir., Research Div., OART, NASA, “Compatibility of Titanium Propellant Tanks with Nitrogen Tetroxide,” 7 March 1965; Shea TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, 9 April 1965; Shea to William E. Rice, “Beech Aircraft status of cryogenic storage system,” 16 Aug. 1965; Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: Cozad, 19 Aug. 1965; William A. Chandler, Robert R. Rice, and Robert K. Allgeier, Jr., “The Cryogenic Storage System,” AER TN S-321 (MSC-04713), review copy, November 1972.

    11. Shea to Duncan, “Visit to Minneapolis Honeywell,” 10 May 1965; Taylor TWXs to North American, Attn.: Cozad, 18 Aug., 13 Sept., and 27 Sept. 1965.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-3. Lunar Module Refinement

    Lunar module activities also focused on configuration control, schedules, and funds in 1965. J. Thomas Markley, program control chief, directed the Apollo engineers to be more conservative in their proposals to the Configuration Control Panels. Changes in the spacecraft must correct design flaws, not improve hardware. But stemming the flow of changes in the lunar module was not an easy matter; many were required because of its mission. 12

    LM probe sensors

    Probe sensor on lunar module landing gear, to alert astronauts that touchdown on the lunar surface was imminent.


    An example was the installation of frangible probes on the base of each foot pad to tell the crew the lander was a meter and a half above the surface and to switch off the descent motor. If the motor were still firing when the craft touched down, the engine nozzle would be damaged, landing stability might be affected, and the ascent stage might be impaired by debris kicked up by the engine exhaust. 13

    One configuration issue, a carry-over from 1963-1964, remained unresolved throughout 1965—whether to substitute an optical tracking system for the complex, heavy, and expensive rendezvous radar. In February 1965, the Configuration Control Board deleted the radar from the command module and added flashing lights to the lander. If the lone crewman in the command ship had to perform the rendezvous, he would use onboard optics, a ranging capability, and the VHF communications link between the spacecraft, which would also act as backups if the lander's radar failed.14

    In mid-March, Cline W. Frasier of the Guidance and Control Division suggested replacing the rendezvous radar in the lander with an optical system, as well. Consisting of a star tracker in the lunar module, a xenon strobe light on the command module, and a hand-held sextant for the lander's pilot, the substitute would offer two advantages: a weight reduction of 40 kilograms and a cost saving of 30 million. 15

    The Apollo office, hesitant to take such a step, decided to pursue parallel development. In mid-April, Grumman was instructed to design the lander to accept either system and to slow down RCA's radar development program. Radar-tracker studies at the Manned Spacecraft Center would be completed by September, and a contractor would be selected to design the tracker. William A. Lee in Shea's office protested holding back RCA; the delay would force the deletion of the radar from the first and second landers, to be used on earth-orbital missions. This, said Lee, would be a violation of the all-up concept of flying only complete spacecraft. Changes in the radar program would be justified, he concluded, solely

    by the implicit assumption that we will cancel the program eventually. The logic of this is very questionable, since it clearly says that the money being spent on this program is being wasted deliberately. We should either pursue the radar in a manner which would permit its use on the LEM, or we should cancel it. I can find no middle ground. . . . The small number of earth-orbital LEM flights can be justified only if we adhere rigorously to the ground rules of all-up flights and qualification prior to flight. It is too early in the LEM program to consider compromising these requirements, and to do so for budgetary reasons will almost certainly prove to be false economy. 16

    In August, Houston amended its contract with AC Electronics to include the optical tracker as government-furnished equipment. Grumman grumbled but kept the spacecraft design flexible. Two months later, MSC's Assistant Director for Flight Crew Operations Donald Slayton objected to the tracker because of its limitations in determining range and range-rate (approaching and departing speeds) data and the lack of experience in using the instruments. If an immediate choice had to be made, Slayton said, choose the radar. At the end of the year, Mueller, Shea, and Robert C. Duncan set up what they called a “rendezvous sensor olympics” to be completed in the spring of 1966. If either system lagged, the decision would be obvious; if both were successful, Duncan's division would recommend a choice; if both failed, there would be a lot of work ahead.17

    The optical tracker's lighter weight was attractive, since weight was an important factor in 1965. The lander had gained even more weight during the early months of the year than the command and service modules. In May, Shea persuaded Mueller to approve an increase in lander weight to 14,850 kilograms, including crew and equipment. In June, Harry L. Reynolds warned Owen Maynard that it would be difficult to keep the spacecraft below even that figure. All that summer, the warnings continued. Caldwell Johnson wrote Shea in August that the lander might get too heavy to do its job. The next month Shea asked Houston management for help in solving the problem. He also formed a Weight Control Board (headed by himself to act on reduction proposals.18

    Really worried now, Grumman launched a two-pronged attack known as “Scrape” and “SWIP.” Scrape meant just what the word implies, searching the structure for every chance to shave bulk off structural members. But SWIP Super Weight Improvement Program was Grumman's real war against weight.

    Grumman project engineer Thomas J. Kelly led a SWIP team of a dozen experts in structures, mass property, thermodynamics, and electronics, whose task was to second-guess the whole design. This same team had recently and successfully shaved weight off the F-111B aircraft, and it knew what a tough job it was up against. When the SWIP campaign started, the engineering design was 95 percent complete. So designers pored over already approved drawings, looking for ways to lighten the craft. Grumman also pressured Houston officials to keep all government-furnished equipment for the lander within the specified weights. And Bethpage scrutinized parts supplied by its subcontractors and insisted that these weights be reduced wherever possible. Weekly reports and monthly meetings between Bethpage and Houston turned into forums for airing suggestions for further reductions and discussions of what had been done. The first such review, held at Grumman on 3 September, revealed that 45 kilograms had already been whittled from the structure by Scrape. The more extensive SWIP plan was outlined— what had been started, what was planned, and what would be expected by way of evaluation and cooperation from Houston's Apollo subsystem managers.19

    By the end of 1965, Scrape and SWIP had pruned away 1,100 kilograms, providing a comfortable margin below the control weight limit. One of the more striking changes to come from this drive for a lighter spacecraft was the substitution of aluminum-mylar foil thermal blankets for rigid heatshields. The gold wrapping characteristic of the lander's exterior saved 50 kilograms.20

    Many of these weight-reducing changes made the lander so difficult to fabricate, so fragile and vulnerable to damage, that it demanded great care and skill by assembly and checkout technicians. Structural components took on strange and complex shapes, requiring careful machining to remove any excess metal—a costly and time-consuming process even after vendors had been found who would make these odd looking parts.* 21


    * Arnold Whitaker described how the fabrication group was caught in the squeeze between manufacturing requirements and schedule pressures. At a program management meeting he said that “one of the fellows in manufacturing came in [with] a light cardboard box. . . . He said, 'I'll show you why everything's late.' And he dumped out a whole box of machined parts . . . , very complex fittings [too thin to be even] reasonably heavy sheet metal—but it wasn't any sheet metal, it was a complex machined fitting. And he said 'Man, we never built parts like this before in any quantity like this and every fitting on the LEM looks like this.' “


    12. Markley memo, “CCB/CCP Actions,” 23 June 1965.

    13. Richard Reid, “Simulation and Evaluation of Landing Gear Probe for Sensing Engine Cutoff Altitude During Landing,” Internal Note MSC-IN-65-EG-10, 15 March 1965; MSC Quarterly Activity Report for Assoc. Admin., OMSF, NASA, for period ending 30 April 1965, pp. 67-68; Grumman Reports no. 30, LPR-10-46, 10 Aug., p. 18, and no. 33, LPR-10-49, 10 Nov. 1965, p. 15.

    14. Maynard to Chief, Instrumentation and Electronics Div. (IESD), “Requirement for VHF ranging capability' between CSM and LEM,” 15 Feb. 1965; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Dep. Dir., Apollo Prog., “Request for revision to Apollo System Specification . . . ,” 19 Feb. 1965; Shea to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Functional and design requirements for LEM tracking light,” 15 March 1965; Shea to George E. Mueller, 20 April 1965.

    15. Cline W. Frasier, “LEM Rendezvous Radar vs. Optical Tracker Study,” MSC, 16 March 1965.

    16. William F. Rector III to LEM Contracting Officer, “Request for CCA—Integration of PNGS With Optical Tracker into the LEM Ascent Stage,” 14 April 1965, and “Request for Contractor Direction, Rendezvous Radar Transponder (RR/T) Schedule Revision—LEM-2 Constraint vs. LEM-1,” 19 April 1965; Shea to Mueller, 28 April 1965; Young TWX to AC Spark Plug, Attn.: Hugh Brady, 28 April 1965; William A. Lee to Mgr., ASPO, “Proposed reduction in LEM radar expenditure,” 11 May 1965.

    17. Aubrey Brady, minutes, Configuration Control Board Meeting no. 17, 23 Aug. 1965; George C. Franklin to RASPO Mgr., Bethpage, “Light, LEM external tracking, evaluation of contract proposals,” 27 Aug. 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM Action Item L-29,” 30 Aug. 1965; Shea to Phillips, 31 Aug. 1965; Warren J. North to Chief, G&C, “LEM Exterior Tracking Light, LSP 340-409,” 2 Sept. 1965; Young to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Selection of Rendezvous Radar or Optical Tracker for LEM Navigation Requirement,” 1 Oct. 1965; Donald K. Slayton to Mgr., ASPO, “LEM rendezvous requirements,” 14 May 1965, and “LEM optical tracker,” 1 Oct. 1965, with enc., “Evaluation of LEM Optical Tracker in LEM Mission,” n.d.; Maynard to Asst. Mgr. ASPO, “Incorporation of Direct Range Measurement Earth Orbital,” 14 Dec. 1965, with enc., Frasier to Chief, G&C, “Direct range measurement in the LEM with LORS,” 4 Nov. 1965; Duncan to Asst. Chiefs, E&D and Project Mgmt., “Competition of radar and optical tracker system for the LEM,” 20 Dec. 1965.

    18. Johnson to Shea, “CSM Weight predicted growth,” 10 March 1965, with enc.; Ohlsson to Chief, Systems Engineering Div. (SED), “Comments on spacecraft weight status analysis,” 7 April 1965; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Dir., Apollo Prog., “Revised LEM Control Weights,” 26 May 1965; Young to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Revised delta-V budget and LEM control weight,” 4 June 1965; Harry L. Reynolds to Chief, SED, “LEM Weight Control,” 25 June 1965; Maynard memo, “Weight reduction changes,” 18 Aug. 1965; Maynard to LEM Subsystems Mgrs., “LEM mass properties data,” 20 Aug. 1965; J. Leroy Bullard to Chief, SED, “Weight Control Program,” 20 Aug. 1965; Lee memo, “Review of LEM weight status and recovery plans,” 30 Aug. 1965; Maynard to Mgr., ASPO, “Apollo principal technical problems,” 10 Sept. 1965; Shea memo, “Weight Control Board,” 13 Sept. 1965, and “Apollo Weight Control Program,” 13 Sept. 1965, with enc., “Apollo Weight Control Plan,” n.d.

    19. Thomas J. Kelly, “Apollo Lunar Module Mission and Development Status,” paper presented at AIAA Fourth Annual Meeting and Technical Display, AIAA paper 67-863, Anaheim, Calif., 23-27 Oct. 1967, p. 9; Maynard to LEM Subsystems Mgrs., “LEM Super Weight Improvement Program (SWIP),” 23 Nov. 1965, with enc., Kelly memo, subj. as above, 16 Sept. 1965; Lee memo, “GAEC SWIP Program Review,” 20 Sept. 1965, with enc., minutes, Grumman weight reduction effort, “SWIP,” 3 Sept. 1965; Mullaney, interview, Bethpage, N.Y., 2 May 1966; Arnold B. Whitaker, interview, Bethpage, 12 Feb. 1970; Kelly, interview, Bethpage, 7 Dec. 1971.

    20. Lee to Thermo-Structures Br., Attn.: James A. Smith, Jr., “LEM weight reductions in the area of thermal control,” 8 Sept. 1965; Grumman Report no. 33, p. 1; Kelly and Mullaney interviews.

    21. Donald B. Sullivan to LEM Contract Engineering Br. (CEB), “Manufacturing Comments on the LEM Program Schedule 33A,” 7 April 1965; Whitaker interview.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-4. The LEM Test Program: A Pacing Item

    Houston reviewed Grumman's testing program during 1965 to make sure it covered everything from small components to the big test articles. On 15 April Grumman began test-firing the ascent engine at White Sands. Propulsion testing was also being conducted at Bell and STL. Although engine firing programs were behind schedule, Houston expected better performance shortly.22

    Six lunar test articles LTAs formed the backbone of the ground test program. Bethpage shipped LTA-2 to Huntsville for vibration testing to see if it could withstand launch pressures, and LTA-10 to Tulsa, to check its fit in the adapter. LTA-1 was a “house” spacecraft, used to iron out problems during fabrication, assembly, and checkout. Three more LTAs were under construction: LTA-8 for thermal-vacuum testing in Houston and LTAs 3 and 5 for combined structural shakings, vibrations, and engine firings.23

    Flight test plans for the early production landers were flexible to accommodate schedule differences with the command module. LEM-1 naturally received the lion's share of attention, since Grumman had to get it ready for an unmanned “LEM-alone” mission (Apollo-Saturn 206A). LEM-1 would have to be ready at least three months before the Block II command module, however, or its first mission would be part of a test of the combined spacecraft.24

    But Grumman was moving slowly. In the spring of 1965, John H. Disher of NASA's Washington Apollo office told Shea he believed LEM-1 would be a year late, making the lander a pacing item. Many factors contributed to LEM-1's inertia, but ground testing topped the list. And the trouble in ground testing was getting equipment ready to make the tests. Grumman's old bugaboo—ground support equipment (GSE)—had reared its ugly head. The significance of GSE shortages was not lost on Washington. At a program review on 20 April, Mueller told Houston managers to identify all lander GSE, along with the date it would be needed, as “sort of a thermometer” to bring the weaknesses in the system to Grumman management's attention.25

    In mid-May, Grumman officials looked at possible launch dates for the first vehicle but could decide nothing definite because of a pinch in fiscal year 1966 funding. Hardware production had to be cut back in an attempt to absorb some of the loss. In July, Houston directed Bethpage to delete LTA-4, a vibration test article, and two flight test articles (FTAs). To replace the FTAs, two LTAs would be refurbished when they finished ground tests. After trials with scale and full-sized models had been run at Langley and elsewhere, Houston also canceled a landing gear test model as an unnecessary expense. 26

    Grumman, at a program review on 6 July, then asked NASA to relax the rules on qualification testing and to permit delivery to the Cape of vehicles not fully equipped. Shea rejected this suggestion, ordering his subsystem managers to make sure that only all-up landers left the Grumman plant. Problems with some of the subsystems were a factor in this request. Bell in particular was having trouble with the redesigned injectors and tank bladders for the ascent engine, and manufacturing problems were harassing Hamilton Standard's environmental control system. Subsystem manager Richard E. Mayo asked Donald Sullivan (head of a manufacturing unit in the Apollo office) to find out what was wrong. When he visited the Windsor Locks plant, Sullivan noted that, although Hamilton Standard was turning out high-quality parts, good solid management in assembling and integrating the system was lacking.27

    Electrical and electronics gear, where design changes persisted throughout 1965, was also lagging. The abort sensor assembly (part of the abort guidance system), for example, was redesigned to incorporate continuous thermal control, a programmable memory for the computer, and a data-entry-display assembly. In mid-August R. Wayne Young, who had succeeded William Rector as the lander's project officer, ordered Grumman project manager Robert Mullaney to stop making changes if the present system could do the job.28

    Program spending began to equal schedules in importance. Just as the lander got rolling toward flight hardware production, it was caught in the budgetary squeeze imposed by Congress. Grumman had to shoulder most of the burden in holding expenses down. Expenditures had risen dramatically—from $135 million in fiscal 1964 to an estimated $350 million for 1966—as Apollo funding reached its crisis during spring and summer 1965. Grumman's fiscal discipline lagged in technical problem-solving, subcontracting, and cost and schedule performance. To push the contractor toward a solution, Houston decided it was time to convert Grumman's cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to an incentive agreement. With incentives to meet and penalties to face if they were not met, Grumman could be expected to overcome these deficiencies. 29

    The drive for incentive contracting had started in Washington in 1962, when NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans and John H. Rubel of the Department of Defense discussed the possibility of converting NASA contracts; defense procurement had called for incentive contracting, whenever possible, for some time. The use of incentives rather than a fixed fee, a turnabout in government dealings with industry, was controversial. Critics pointed to lengthy delays in negotiations that tied up engineers who otherwise could be working on program hardware and a “worsening of government-industry relations by causing contractual bickering.” Seamans and Mueller disagreed, insisting that incentives placed more responsibility on the contractor. It did take time and talent to work out the provisions, but it promised better performance.30

    NASA had made only modest headway in this conversion during 1963 and 1964, but the agency intended to revamp the spacecraft contracts in 1965. Mueller wrote MSC Director Gilruth in April, stressing that incentives must reflect schedules, cost, and performance, in that order. To pave the way for incentive negotiations, Houston had to clear up a number of unresolved contract change authorizations, which would be reviewed by a board made up of Houston and Bethpage officials. The review began in mid-March and ended in April with participants deadlocked.31

    Houston and Bethpage kept trying to work out the individual contract changes, but there was still no agreement in early June, after three weeks of negotiations. Gilruth and Shea then discussed the impasse with E. Clinton Towl, president of Grumman, and decided that it was pointless to convert the contract at that time. Houston did impose a LEM Management Plan on Grumman, hoping to control cost, schedules, and performance. Until the last quarter of the year, Grumman would be allowed to spend only $78 million, which was less than the contract costs estimated during the unsuccessful review. If Grumman could stay within this limit for a quarter, however, negotiations for the incentive contract could resume.32

    In the interval Grumman concentrated on bringing its subcontractors into line and converting its agreements with them into incentive contracts, trying to demonstrate satisfactory control of the program. In September, Grumman submitted a proposal for contract conversion to NASA. Negotiations lasted until December and culminated in a contract with enough incentives to spur the contractor to maintain costs and schedules and to meet performance milestones. This arrangement, announced in February 1966, carried the lander program through 1969 at a cost of $1.42 billion. North American's incentive contract was also negotiated (at an estimated $2.2 billion) during the latter half of 1965.33


    22. Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Test Program Review,” 7 April 1965; Maynard memos, “LEM Test Program Requirements Review,” 27 April 1965, with enc., and “Plan for the LEM Test Requirements Review,” 15 July 1965, with enc.; Young memo, “LEM Subsystem Development Test Logic Reorientation/Certification Test Program Requirements Review,” 15 July 1965; Shea, Weekly Activity Report, 25-31 July 1965; MSC, “Presentation to the Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, Committee on Science and Astronautics, House of Representatives,” February 1966, p. 15; Grumman Report no. 27, LPR-10-43, 10 May 1965, p. 1.

    23. Calvin H. Perrine to Asst. Mgr., ASPO, “LEM Structural dynamic analysis and test program,” 21 Sept. 1965, with encs.; MSC, “Presentation to the Subcommittee,” p. 15.

    24. Lee memo, “Apollo Mission 206A (LEM Only Mission),” 8 Jan. 1965; SED, MSC, “Mission Requirements for Apollo Spacecraft Development Mission 206A (LEM 1),” MSC Internal Note 65-PL-1, Rev. A, 11 May 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Mission Requirements for Apollo Spacecraft Development Mission 206A . . . ,” 2 June 1965.

    25. Lee memo, “ASPO Action Items from the MSF Program Review, April 20,” 21 April 1965; William M. Speier to Edward B. Hamblett, Jr., “[Systems Engineering] efforts regarding integration of GSE with CSM and LEM vehicles,” 22 March 1965; LEM CEB, “Accomplishments,” 2-1 April I965.

    26. Perrine memo, “Trip to GAEC, May 13 and 14, 1965.” 17 May 1965; Shea, Weekly Activity Report, 6-12 June 1965; Young to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “Requirements for GAEC substitute hardware on Saturn Apollo Missions 501 and 502,” 9 July 1965; Grumman Report no. 31, LPR-10-47, 10 Sept. 1965, p. 1; Perrine memo, 21 Sept. 1965; James L. Neal to Grumman, Attn.: John C. Snedeker, “Substitute hardware on Saturn Apollo Mission 501 and 502 (Action Item L-17),” 18 Oct. 1965; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Deletion of TM-5 from LEM Ground Test Program,” 23 Dec. 1965.

    27. Shea to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “LEM Development Program Requirements,” 15 July 1965; Shea to LEM Subsystem Mgrs., “Subsystem Qualification and Delivery Schedules,” 31 July 1965; Duncan to Mgr., ASPO, “Subsystem Qualification and Delivery Schedules,” 23 Aug. 1965; Shea memo, “Subsystem qualification and delivery schedules for Block II,” 23 Aug. 1965; LEM CEB, “Accomplishments,” 1 Sept. 1965; Sullivan to Stoops and Young, “Manufacturing Problems with the LEM ECS,” 11 Aug. 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 16 Aug. 1965; Sullivan to Richard E. Mayo, “Comments on Hamilton Standard's Manufacturing Effort on the LEM ECS,” 1 Sept. 1965.

    28. Rector to LEM Apollo Procurement, “Review of GAEC Subcontract No. 2-24485-c with STL, Abort Guidance Section,” 24 Feb. 1965; Markley memo, “Assignment of Chief, LEM Contract Engineering Branch and Chief, G&N/ACE Contract Engineering Branch, Apollo Spacecraft Program Office,” 4 May 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 13 Aug. 1965.

    29. Senate Committee on Aeronautics and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966: Hearings on S. 927, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 840; Church to Chief, PCD, “Major NAA/GAEC Subcontractors—Cost Comparisons,” 8 Jan. 1965.

    30. William D. Putnam, NASA Historical Staff, notes on interview of Robert C. Seamans, Jr., 20 July 1967; S. Peter Kaprielyan, “NASA Management at the Crossroads,” Aerospace Management 1 (Summer 1966): 8-9; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1965 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 9641 (Superseded by H.R. 10456), 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 59-60.

    31. Church to Chief, PCD, “Potential Apollo Incentive Contracting,” 30 Oct. 1964; Mueller to MSFC and MSC, Attn.: von Braun and Robert R. Gilruth, “Prenegotiation Arrangements for Incentive Conversions of Major Systems Contracts,” 8 April 1965; Mueller, “Statement . . . before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Monday, June 12, 1967,” pp. 1-2; Quarterly Activity Report, 31 July 1965, p. 25; “LEM 1965 Program Review Implementation Plan, January 30, 1965,” MSC, pp. 1-3; Markley to LEM Program Review team leaders, “GAEC Program Review,” 15 March 1965.

    32. “Statement,” pp. 1-2; Quarterly Activity Report, 31 July 1965, p.25; LEM CEB, “Accomplishments,” 15 and 19 May 1965; E. Clinton Towl to MSC, Attn.: Neal, “Negotiation of Contract Change Proposals,” 17 June 1965; Young memo, “Telecon from Mr. John Snedeker to Messrs. Wayne Young and Tom Markley on June 17, 1965, regarding GAEC position on CCA Negotiations,” 13 July 1965; Young to LEM Subsystem Mgrs., “LEM Contract Status,” 26 July 1965.

    33. Markley memo, “Technical Support for LEM Incentive Contract Negotiations,” 5 Nov. 1965; Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Snedeker, 15 Dec. 1965; MSC news release 66-14, 15 Feb. 1966; NASA, “Apollo Spacecraft Major Contract Is Converted,” news release 66-15, 21 Jan. 1966.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-5. The Manned Factor

    While various organizations struggled to get the spacecraft through the development phase, human factors experts concentrated on the progress of the spacesuit and the selection of astronauts. For some time, the suit had met turmoil, schedule delays, and technical problems. Early in 1962, Houston had forced a marriage between Hamilton Standard (for a portable life support system) and the International Latex Corporation (for the suit). Hamilton Standard managed the whole system, known as the extravehicular mobility unit. From the beginning, the arrangement proved unworkable.

    Apollo suit—1965

    The 1965 version of the Apollo spacesuit and backpack. Changes were made before man eventually stepped out of the spacecraft onto the lunar surface.


    Just how unworkable was revealed in the spring of 1964, when prototype suits used in the command module mockup review turned out to be incompatible with the Apollo spacecraft cabin. NASA officials had to fall back on Gemini suits for Block I earth-orbital flights. This substitution gave Hamilton Standard and International Latex a chance to straighten out their problems, but borrowed time did not spell progress. Early in 1965, Hamilton Standard announced that its system manager for the backpack had begun in-house work on backup components for the suit (such as helmets and suit joints). The company had thus become a competitor of its own subcontractor. In February, Hamilton Standard reported that it intended to cancel the International Latex contract, citing poor performance, late deliveries, and cost overruns. Houston concurred.

    Houston had also started some remedial actions. In January, David Clark Company, maker of the Gemini suit, had received a contract for backup development of an Apollo Block II suit. After six months, Houston would compare David Clark's suit with what Hamilton Standard, aided by B. F. Goodrich Company, was turning out. International Latex, informed that it was not being considered in the competition, nevertheless asked permission to submit an entry. When Crew Systems Division tested the three suits in June, International Latex had by far the best product.34

    In mid-September, Gilruth and Low told Mueller and Phillips that Hamilton Standard would continue to manufacture the backpack. To eliminate the integration problems of the past, Houston would manage the total system and International Latex would develop the suit under a separate contract. This arrangement was agreeable to NASA Headquarters.35

    The other major activity in human factors was the expansion of the astronaut corps. During 1962 and 1963, NASA had selected the second and third groups of pilots. These 23, the Gemini generation, with the original seven formed the basic pool for Apollo crews. In 1965, a new breed, called “scientist-astronauts,” joined the ranks in training at Houston. NASA Headquarters hoped to mollify some of the scientific grumblers and to strengthen its ties with the scientific community by emphasizing Apollo's potential contribution to science—not only from the instruments that would send back information from the moon but from the men who would fly them there. Surprisingly, some of the drive to enlist these scientist-crewmen came from engineering-oriented Houston.

    Robert B. Voas, human factors assistant to Gilruth and a key figure in setting up procedures for selecting Mercury pilots, had conferred with NASA Director of Space Sciences Homer Newell in Washington in 1963 about Houston's views on scientists for the space program. Voas later met with Eugene M. Shoemaker (of Newell's office), Joseph Shea, and George Low to discuss the most appropriate specialties. With an eye to lunar-surface, long-duration, and earth-orbital activities, the quartet agreed that the disciplines needed were geology, geophysics, medicine, and physiology.

    At this September 1963 meeting, Voas emphasized that Houston wanted qualified pilots, but Shea saw no need for any previous flying experience. Why not take this opportunity to introduce methods for selecting and training nonpilots? In the end, the consensus was that candidates with flying backgrounds would be given preference but that applications from otherwise qualified men who lacked this training would be accepted. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) should be asked to help recruit and select scientists for the program. Administrator Webb approved the recommendation. 36

    Harry H. Hess of NAS agreed in April 1964 to have his Space Science Board define appropriate scientific qualifications (age and physical criteria would be Houston's responsibility). Hess established an ad hoc committee, which submitted its report to Newell in July. In October, NASA announced that it was looking for astronauts with scientific training. For the first time, the selection criteria did not include a requirement for test pilot proficiency. Selectees who were not qualified pilots would be taught to fly after they joined the program. More than 1,000 applications had been received by December; 400 of these were forwarded to Hess's board in February 1965 for academic ranking.37

    In June, NASA announced that 6 scientist-astronauts had been chosen from 16 nominated by the science board. In the group were one geologist (Harrison H. Schmitt), two physicians (Duane E. Graveline and Joseph P. Kerwin), and three physicists (Owen K. Garriott, Edward G. Gibson, and F. Curtis Michel). Two of the men, Kerwin and Michel, were qualified jet pilots, but the others were not. These four reported to Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, on 29 July for a year of flight training before joining their colleagues in Houston.38

    Gilruth wanted another team of pilot-astronauts, and he sent Slayton to Washington to argue the case before Mueller on 15 January 1965. Mueller was cool to the idea, but he later told Gilruth that he might bring another group on board in the fall. On 10 September, NASA announced it would recruit a fifth set of astronauts to ensure “an adequate number of flight crews for Project Apollo and future manned missions.”39


    34. Richard S. Johnston to Shea, “Block II Apollo suit program,” 7 and 25 Jan. 1965; Johnston to Gen. Research Procurement Br., Attn.: Ace C. Wilder, Jr., “Apollo EMU procurement package,” 2 March 1965, with encs., esp. enc. B, “EMU Program Plan and EMU Statement of Work Bidding Instructions”; Gilruth to Chief, Procurement and Contracts Div., “Justification for noncompetitive procurement,” 2 March 1965; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Mueller, “Extravehicular Mobility Unit subcontractor change,” 18 March 1965; Faget to Mgr., ASPO, “Crew Systems Division recommendation on establishment of suit wear criterion,” 18 March 1965; Slayton to Chief, Crew Systems Div., “Apollo Suit Critique, CM CDR April 26-29, 1965,” 11 May 1965; Melvyn Savage to Dir., Apollo Prog., “Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Development,” 10 Sept. 1965; Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Mueller, “Procurement plan for the Apollo Extravehicular Mobility Unit and EMU ground support equipment development and fabrication,” 20 Sept. 1965.

    35. Savage to Dir. Apollo Program, 10 Sept. 1965; Gilruth to NASA Hq., 20 Sept. 1965; NASA, “NASA to Negotiate for Apollo Suit, Support System,” news release 65-346, 5 Nov. 1965.

    36. Robert B. Voas to Gilruth, 6 May 1963, with enc., Voas, “A Proposal for the Selection of Potential Scientist Crew Members,” 25 April 1963; Voas for Dir., MSC, “Meeting with Drs. Eugene Shoemaker, Joseph Shea, and Mr. George Low regarding scientist-astronaut selection on September 4, 1963,” 13 Sept. 1963, With enc.

    37. Homer E. Newell to Harry H. Hess, 16 April 1964; Newell to Hess and Frederick Seitz, 19 Aug. 1964; Newell to Gilruth, 19 Aug. 1964, with enc., “Suggested Public Announcement of the Scientist-Astronaut Program”; NASA, “NASA to Select Scientist-Astronauts for Future Missions,” news release 64-248, 19 Oct. 1964, and “NASA Reports Some 900 Persons Interested in Scientist-Astronaut Program,” news release 64-315, 16 Dec. 1964; Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Mueller, “Astronaut selection,” 6 Jan. 1965, with encs., “Schedule of Astronaut Selection” and “Pilot Selection Criteria”; idem, “Selection of scientists astronaut candidates,” 4 Feb. 1965; MSC, “Astronaut Selection and Training,” NASA Facts [1971].

    38. NASA, “NASA Selects Six Scientists-Astronauts for Apollo Program,” news release 65-212, 28 June 1965; MSC, “Scientist Astronaut Press Conference,” 29 June 1965.

    39. Gilruth letter, 6 Jan. 1965; Mueller to Gilruth, 25 Jan.1965; MSC, “NASA to Select Additional Pilot-Astronauts,” news release 65-79, 10 Sept. 1965.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-6. Portents for Operations

    While Phillips and Shea worked on Apollo spending, schedules, mission assignments, and crew selection, Wernher von Braun and his Marshall Space Flight Center colleagues launched a series of three satellites that calmed many of the fears about micrometeoroid hazards of manned space flight in earth orbit. Astronomers had warned about the dangers of space dust to extended spacecraft flights, but Project Mercury had encountered no insuperable difficulties. With Gemini plans for manned spacecraft spending as much as two weeks in space, however, it was imperative that NASA have data from unmanned missions.

    NASA's Office of Advanced Research and Technology and Marshall laid plans for a vehicle called “Pegasus” and hired the Fairchild Stratos Corporation to build it. By 1964, preliminary designs had been completed and ground testing begun. After considering various shapes, even some resembling parasols, Fairchild adopted a simple flat wing that would deploy in orbital flight to a span of 30 meters and expose 80 times more surface—a total of 700 square meters—than any previous detector in orbit.40

    The last three Saturn I launches—numbered, in an odd sequence, 9, 8, and 10,* and called Saturn-Apollo (SA) or Apollo-Saturn (AS), depending on which documents (Marshall or Manned Spacecraft Center) were read—carried both Pegasus satellites and boilerplate (BP) Apollo spacecraft. SA-9 (or AS-103) was launched from the Cape on 16 February, tossing its two payloads into separate orbits. During its fourth revolution, the Pegasus registered its first micrometeoroid hit; two weeks later the count reached only a score; and by May the total was not more than 70. When the other Pegasus missions, launched on 23 May and 30 July, encountered as little orbital debris, Apollo engineers were more confident that micrometeoroids would cause few problems in earth orbit to the thin-skinned service module and much less to the command module wrapped in its protective heatshield cocoon.41

    Pegasus provided near-earth data to Apollo; another unmanned vehicle, Ranger, gave a view of the ultimate goal—the moon. After many failures and in July 1964 one resounding success, Ranger ended with two sterling flights, one in February and one in March 1965—much to the relief and credit of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the parent organization. Ranger VIII, aimed at the moon's equatorial zone in the Sea of Tranquillity, transmitted more than 7,000 pictures before it crashed. Engineers and scientists had an opportunity to study features no more than 30 centimeters in size. Ranger IX, heading for the crater Alphonsus, made the three-day trip with scarcely a course correction. Telemetry from this vehicle, translated and fed through commercial television, gave the public its first close-up view of the moon.42

    Manned space flight was a beehive of activities in 1965, with the Gemini program recording five outstanding missions. The Soviet Union had twice flown its multimanned Voskhod spacecraft—in October 1964 and March 1965—and the United States was eager to rejoin the competition. On 23 March after a 22-month hiatus in American manned flight, Virgil Grissom and John Young, in a three-orbit flight aboard Gemini III fired their spacecraft thrusters and changed their orbit. For the first time, man was truly controlling a spacecraft and its direction and speed in space. But this was only a spacecraft qualification flight. More ambitious missions were ahead for Gemini, to test the abilities of the astronauts in space and ground crews in the control center and around the worldwide tracking network in preparation for Apollo.

    The next two Gemini missions, IV and V, were stepped increases in endurance, four days and eight days, each flight with its individual flavor. James McDivitt and Edward White flew a four-day mission 3-7 June that featured extravehicular activity and a practice rendezvous with the second stage of their launch vehicle. White, using a hand-held jet gun, propelled himself through space and floated at the end of a snakelike eight-meter tether with considerable aplomb. ** The attempt to maneuver up to the spent booster stage was not so successful, however, causing some exponents of rendezvous to worry about the future. But little more than two months later, 21-29 August, Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad embarked on an eight-day voyage and successfully carried out a “phantom rendezvous,” catching an imaginary moving target set up by the flight controllers. Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden wrote President Lyndon Johnson that the success of Gemini V, clearing the way for a two-week endurance test, “has assured us of man's capability to travel to the moon and return.”43

    Although Dryden did not live to see it (he died on 2 December), the year ended with the most exciting and ambitious space flight up to that time. Known to many as the “Spirit of '76,” the concurrent flight of two manned Gemini spacecraft proved the feasibility of both long-duration flight and rendezvous. It began with the launch of Gemini VII, piloted by Frank Borman and James Lovell, on 4 December. Eleven days later, Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford flew Gemini VI-A to a rendezvous with their orbiting compatriots to cap a banner year in space.44

    Gemini's successes, although answering important questions, spawned some unwelcome suggestions for Apollo. White's spectacular extravehicular operation touched off plans for a similar exercise in the first manned Apollo flight; Shea vetoed that idea in a hurry. An even grander scheme pitted Gemini against Apollo. LEO, for “Large Earth Orbit”—all the way around the moon—was championed by Charles Mathews and André Meyer of the Gemini office and subsequently endorsed by Gilruth and Mueller. Since LEO could put Americans in the vicinity of the moon earlier than Apollo, it would be a big leap forward in the space race, which still loomed large in the minds of many people. Four Russian Luna missions had unsuccessfully attempted soft landings during 1965, demonstrating that the Soviet Union was still interested in the lunar target. Seamans vetoed LEO, believing Apollo needed no more competition. But Congress got wind of the plan and started asking questions. When Representative Olin E. Teague wanted to know if there would be any advantages to such a mission, Webb answered that it would be expensive and would still not guarantee success in beating the Russians to a lunar landing. Apollo was operating on a thin margin of resources as it was; if Congress wanted to spend more money, he told Teague, “I believe it would be in the national interest to [give it to] the Apollo program.”45

    So Gemini and Apollo were not to be rivals. Then could they perhaps assist each other? Howard W. Tindall, Jr. (whose specialty was mission planning and whose “Tindallgrams” achieved local fame), did not think so.*** They shared the mutual objectives of rendezvous, docking, and long-duration flight, but hardware and mission planning were so different and the respective managers were so busy trying to meet schedules that they could seldom afford the luxury of keeping abreast of each other's program. 46

    Apollo also had some operational successes in 1965—none as spectacular as the Gemini flights but one at least more breathtaking than expected. Several dozen newsmen gathered at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on 19 May to watch Mission A-003, an abort test of a boilerplate spacecraft at an altitude of 35,000 meters. At 6 that morning, the Little Joe II ignited and rammed its payload skyward. A few seconds after liftoff, a fin-vane at the base of the booster stuck and started the 13-meter-tall spacecraft-booster combination spinning like a bullet. Twenty-six seconds into the flight and still on a true course, the vehicle started coming apart. The abort-sensing system signaled the launch escape tower rocket to fire and pull the spacecraft away at an altitude of 4,000 meters. While newsmen watched the fluttering remains of the Little Joe II, BP-22's parachutes lowered it gently to the desert floor. Apollo had another answer: the launch escape system worked in a real abort situation. 47

    Little more than a month later, on 29 June, the launch team in New Mexico prepared to test an abort off the pad. The year before, a similar test had proved the escape tower rocket could jerk the spacecraft safely away from an exploding launch vehicle. But both the spacecraft and its escape system had since gained weight. In the second test, the rocket pulled the spacecraft higher in the air and farther downrange than expected.48

    F-1 engine being prepared

    The F-1 engine at upper left, one of five fitted into the Saturn V's S-IC first stage, being prepared at the Rocketdyne plant in California for shipment to the Michoud launch vehicle assembly plant in Louisiana.


    S-IC stage being moved

    An S-IC stage at Michoud, 27 June 1965, is removed from its vertical assembly tower. After installation of wiring and components, this ground test version—the first in the Saturn V development program—would be shipped by barge to Marshall Flight Center in Alabama.


    Perhaps one of the more heartening events during 1965 was the static-firing at the Mississippi Test Facility of the S-IC, the first stage of the Saturn V. The five F-1 engines, burning for six and a half seconds, produced the designed 33.4 million newtons (7.5 million pounds) of thrust, as much power as five Saturn Is lashed together. Going on up the Saturn V stack, the S-II second stage was static-fired in April and the S-IVB third stage in August, with excellent results. 49 Although the Saturn I, with its ten straight launch successes, had already proved the clustered-stage concept, Mueller and his staff breathed easier after the Saturn V tests.

    First S-IC arrives at Marshall

    Marshall Director Wernher von Braun (at the microphone) held a brief ceremony 26 September 1965, accepting the first flight S-IC.


    S-IC-T test firing

    S-IC-T is fired for 2 1/2 minutes at Marshall in an August 1965 ground test.


    Only solar radiation remained a worry of first rank at the end of 1965. During the year, a Solar Particle Alert Network was set up to study sunspots and to develop some techniques for predicting solar storms, so Apollo crews could take protective action against dangerous doses of radiation. The cyclical nature of sunspot behavior was, fortunately, fairly well understood. By using existing observatories and adding a few more (one at Houston), NASA intended to plan Apollo missions to avoid the periods of greatest solar activity. 50

    A new hazard discussed with increasing frequency during the year was the danger of back contamination from pathogenic organisms aboard a returning lunar spacecraft. The possibility of contaminating other planets during space exploration had long been recognized; now the risks of returning materials to the earth after exploratory voyages had to be faced. The United States Public Health Service was brought in to advise NASA on care of lunar samples and crews. Sharing the apprehensions, Congress hastily authorized the construction of a special quarantine facility in Houston. The Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory, hurriedly built during the next two years, was one of the most elaborately safeguarded biological facilities in the world. 51

    Another indication that the operational phase of Apollo was approaching was Mueller's creation in July of a Site Selection Board to recommend lunar landing areas. Gilruth sent William Lee and William E. Stoney, Jr., to serve on this board, as well as on the Ad Hoc Surveyor Lunar Orbiter Utilization Committee (which Gilruth believed belonged in the same basket, anyway). The next month, John E. Dornbach's Lunar Surface Technology Branch compiled lists of candidate sites. In October, NASA announced that ten areas had been selected and that they would be photographed by Lunar Orbiter cameras during 1966. 52

    Picking sites and building a facility to handle samples and crews on their return to earth were good starts toward operations, but some communications and control systems problems remained to be ironed out. Early in its planning, NASA had seen the need for a “real-time computer complex” (RTCC) for instantaneous information on and control of manned space missions. Located at Goddard during all of Mercury and the early part of Gemini, the complex linked 17 ground stations around the globe and permitted observers to monitor manned flights on virtually a continuous basis. In addition, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo needed digital applications in six other areas: premission planning and analysis; space flight simulations to aid manufacturers and astronauts; launch operations, so data could be instantly checked and analyzed; physiological monitoring of crewmen in flight, using biosensors; postflight mission analyses, so data on each flight could be catalogued and filed for future reference; and in the arena of worldwide testing, known to NASA by the fishy-sounding acronym CADFISS, for computer and data-flow integrated subsystems.

    MCC, Houston

    Mission Control Center, Houston.


    MOCR during Gemini V

    The mission operations control room during the Gemini V flight in August 1965. The room is in the windowless part of the building.


    MSC, aerial view

    Manned Spacecraft Center during the mission. Mission Control is at the center, just to the right of the multistory building under construction.


    After lengthy technical and administrative arguments, NASA moved the computer complex to Houston to form an “integrated mission control center.” The center would have four main duties: processing global signals for display to flight controllers, computing and sending antenna-aiming directions to the global tracking stations, providing navigation information to the spacecraft, and simulating all mission data for personnel training and equipment checkout. By spring of 1965, Houston's computer complex was nearly ready, with five IBM 7094 model II computers on the line. Flight Director Chris Kraft assured Mueller the complex would be ready to control Gemini IV in June, and he was right. In September, a supplemental Univac 1230 was added to the complex, and plans were laid to replace the 7094s with new IBM 360 model 75s. Although the 7094s remained in service until 1968, modifications and upgrading provided a daily capacity of 80 billion calculations.53

    Besides the enormous ground-based complexes, American industry had developed small computers for aeronautics and astronautics. While MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory was developing the Apollo guidance and navigation system, a major part of which was the onboard computer, throughout the computer industry there were breakthroughs in technology, based on microminiaturization, transistors, integrated circuits, thin-film memories, high-frequency power conversion, and multilayer interconnection boards.

    Mercury had flown without onboard computers, but Gemini needed a digital computer and visual displays to control ascent, rendezvous, orbital navigation, and reentry. IBM delivered the first computer for a Gemini spacecraft in 1963, but NASA had been shopping around for a computer source for Apollo even earlier. In May 1962, NASA and MIT had selected Raytheon. Drawing on MIT's experience with Polaris missiles and nuclear submarines, Raytheon produced a general-purpose prototype by mid-1965.

    The first Block I computer embodied significant advances over other computers. But it was soon discontinued because NASA decided to delete inflight maintenance and because the design was not satisfactory in either malfunction detection or packaging. The next, or Block II, version corrected these weaknesses. Weighing 31 kilograms and consuming only 70 watts of power during normal operation, the Block II “brains" incorporated redundant systems and had the largest memory of any onboard spacecraft computer to that time (37,000 words). 54


    * SA-9 was the last of the eight S-1 first stages built by Marshall; SA-8 was the first built by Chrysler at the Michoud facility in Louisiana. Chrysler needed more time to develop its stage, so SA-9 flew first.

    ** Soviet Cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov had taken the world's first space walk when he left the confines of Voskhod II on 18 March 1965.

    *** Some Apollo engineers did not agree with Tindall. James C. Church thought Apollo might learn something about program control from Gemini, and Calvin H. Perrine wanted some expert advice on ground test programs from the office that had just gone through that experience. Duncan believed the Gemini sextant might be modified for use on Apollo. Rolf W. Lanzkron and Joseph P. Loftus, Jr., were anxious to learn anything they could from the crews that they might apply to Apollo. And H. B. Graham of North American, who made a comparison of Apollo and Gemini checkout procedures, assumed that further study might show some of the Gemini measures applicable to Apollo.


    40. John Beltz, Roger Bilstein, and Mitchell Sharpe, “The Saturn Project: A Technological History of the Apollo Saturn Launch Vehicles,” comment ed., 2 Jan. 1973, pp. 676-720; Lee B. James memos, “Project Name for MMC,” 3 and 13 Aug. 1964; Perrine to Maynard, “Meteoroid protection for LEM and Block II,” 28 Aug. 1964; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Mueller, “Apollo spacecraft requirements for definition of the micrometeoroid hazard,” 15 March 1965.

    41. Leo L. Jones and A. Ruth Jarrell, “History of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, from January 1 through December 31, 1965,” 1, April 1968, pp. 32-33; NASA, “Project: Pegasus-Saturn I,” press kit, news release 65-38, 11 Feb. 1965; Edward R. Mathews TWX to NASA Hq. et al., “SA-9 Apollo Flash Report No. 1,” 17 Feb. 1965; Mueller and Raymond L. Bisplinghoff to Admin., NASA, “Pegasus A/SA-9 Saturn I Flight Mission, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 19 Feb. 1965, with enc.; NASA, “Pegasus I Relays Data on Meteoroid Hazards in Space,” news release 65-68, 26 Feb. 1965; NASA, “Project: Pegasus II (SA-8),” press kit, news release 65-151, 6 May 1965; Mueller and Bisplinghoff to Admin., NASA, “Pegasus II/SA-8 Saturn I Flight Mission, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 21 June 1965, with enc.; NASA, “Project: Pegasus C,” press kit, news release 65-232, 14 July 1965; “Pegasus III Launch Caps NASA's Saturn I Program,” NASA news release 65-253, 30 July 1965; Mueller and Bisplinghoff to Admin., NASA, “Pegasus III/SA-10 Saturn I Flight Mission Post Launch Report No. 1,” 16 Aug. 1965, with enc.

    42. R. Cargill Hall, Project Ranger: A Chronology, JPL/HR-2 (Washington, 1971), pp. 531-32; G. P. Callas to Maynard, Robert E. Vale, and John E. Dornbach, “Bellcomm report, 'Ranger VII Photo Analysis—Preliminary Measurements of Apollo Landing Hazards' C. J. Byrne,” 22 April 1965, with enc., Bellcomm technical memorandum 65-1012-2, subj. as stated; NASA, “Project: Rangers C & D,” press kit, news release 65-25, 4 Feb. 1965; NASA, “Ranger IX to Send World's First Live Moon Photos,” news release 65-96, 23 March 1965.

    43. A. A. Leonov, “The First Egress of Man into Space,” paper presented at XVIth International Astronautics Congress, Athens, 13-18 Sept. 1965, NASA TT F-9727, October 1965; Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA SP-4203 (Washington, 1977), chaps. X, XI; Hugh L. Dryden, “Significance of Gemini V Accomplishments,” Cabinet report to the President, 11 Sept. 1965.

    44. Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans, chap. XII; Jerome C. Hunsaker and Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Hugh Latimer Dryden, 1891-1965, reprinted from Biographical Memoirs 40 (New York and London, 1969).

    45. Ohlsson to Chief, SED, “Block I extra-vehicular activity,” 15 April 1965; Lanzkron to Chief, SED, “EVA requirements for—012,” 22 June 1965; Maynard to Lanzkron, “EVA in Block I,” 29 July 1965; Olin E. Teague to James E. Webb, 18 Aug. 1965; Webb to Teague, 10 Sept. 1965.

    46. Howard W. Tindall, Jr., to Chief, Mission Planning and Analysis Div., “Can Gemini contribute to Apollo?” 8 Jan. 1965; Church to Chief, PCD, “Program Control Operations Research,” 25 Jan. 1965; Perrine to Chief, SED, “Gemini Ground Test Program Experience,” 29 Nov. 1965; Duncan to Mgr., ASPO, “Air Force Gemini Space Sextant,” 15 Feb. 1965; Lanzkron to Chief, Flight Crew Support Div., “Debriefing of GT-4 flight crew,” 13 July 1965; Joseph P. Loftus, Jr., to Helmut A. Kuehnel, “Questions for GT-5 debriefing,” 17 Aug. 1965; H. B. Graham, “Spacecraft Checkout: Apollo vs Gemini,” 16 Feb. 1966.

    47. MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-003 (BP-22),” MSC-A-R-65-2, 28 June 1965; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Spacecraft Flight Abort Test, Mission A-003, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 24 May 1965, with enc.; “Apollo Abort System Dramatically Tested,” North American's Skywriter, 21 May 1965.

    48. MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission PA-2 (BP-23A),” MSC-A-R-65-3, 29 July 1965; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Spacecraft Pad Abort Test, Mission PA-2, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 2 July 1965, with enc.

    49. Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4006 (Washington, 1966), pp. 188, 198, 368, 373.

    50. Maynard to Mgr., ASPO, “Apollo Radiation Reliability Goals,” 14 Jan. 1965; Gilruth to C. Gordon Little, 27 July 1965; Little to Gilruth, 6 Aug. 1965; Adm. W. Fred Boone memo for record, “Meeting to Discuss an Air Weather Service Plan for a Solar Observing and Forecasting Network,” 16 Aug. 1965; Henry E. Clements to Asst. Dir., Flight Ops., “Status of Solar Particle Alert Network (SPAN),” 17 Aug. 1965; Arthur Reetz, Jr., ed., Second Symposium on Protection against Radiations in Space, NASA SP-71 (Washington, 1965), held in Gatlinburg, Tenn., 12-14 Oct. 1964; Reetz and Keran O'Brien, eds., NASA SP-169 (ANS-SD-5) (Washington, 1968).

    51. M. Scott Carpenter, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 26 Feb. 1965, p. 2; Maynard to Asst. Mgr., ASPO, “Lunar Surface Contamination,” 14 Sept. 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 30 Nov. 1965; Johnston to Mgr., Gemini Prog. Office, and Chief, Center Medical Off., “Biologic contamination of the lunar surface,” 14 Dec. 1965; William E. Stoney, Jr., to Chief, Eng. Div., “Support information for FY 67 C of F Project—Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 30 July 1965; Orr E. Reynolds memo for record, “Summary of meeting between representatives of [NASA] and the Public Health Service, July 31, 1965,” 17 Aug. 1965; James C. McClane, Jr., memo for record, “Funding for development contracts necessary for Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 24 Sept. 1965, with enc.; Walter W. Kemmerer, Jr., and Elbert A. King memo for record, “Summary of a meeting between representatives of [NASA], Public Health Service and the Department of Agriculture, MSC, Houston, Texas, September 17, 1965,” 30 Sept. 1965; Lawrence B. Hall memo for Dir., Manned Space Flight Prog. Control, “Quarantine Requirements—Lunar Landing Program,” 4 Nov. 1965; Low [Faget] draft letter to Lt. Gen. Frank A. Bogart, 5 Nov. 1965; Webb to William H. Stewart, 20 Nov. 1965; Slayton to E&D, Attn.: McClane, “Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 20 Nov. 1965; Col. Jack Bollerud to Dir., MSF Field Center Development, “Public Health Service Proposed Congressional Statement in Support of NASA Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 14 Feb. 1966, with enc.; Bogart TWX to MSC, 1 July 1966; Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee, Independent Offices Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1967: Hearings on H.R. 14921, 89th Cong., 2nd sess., 1966, pp. 839-40; McClane et al., “The Lunar Receiving Laboratory,” MSC brochure, 25 Oct. 1966.

    52. NASA, “Apollo Site Selection Board,” Management Instruction (NMI) 1152.20, 6 Aug. 1965; Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Mueller, “Establishment of Apollo Site Selection Board,” 29 July 1965; Newell to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Members of Ad Hoc Surveyor Orbiter Utilization Committee.” 22 June 1965; Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn.: Newell, subj. as above, 29 July 1965; Gilruth to Mueller, 5 Aug. 1965; NASA, “NASA Selects 10 Potential Photo Areas for Lunar Orbiter,” news release 65-335, 20 Oct. 1965.

    53. Allan E. Gamble, “Terrestrial, Lunar, and Celestial Companions: The Support of Manned Spaceflight by Computers” (term paper, University of Houston, 1 May 1972); MSC, “Statement of Work for Real Time Computer Complex,” May 1963; NASA, “Mission Control Center at Houston to Handle GT-4, Subsequent Manned Flights,” news release 65-119, 9 April 1965; Earl D. Hilburn for Assoc. Admin. for Manned Space Flights, “Computing Equipment Requirements,” 14 July 1965; Everett E. Christensen to James C. Elms, “Effect of Further Delay in RTCC Computer Decision,” 27 Sept. 1965; Seamans to Assoc. Admin., OMSF, “RTCC Computer Requirements for Project Apollo,” 7 Oct. 1965; Mueller to Gilruth, 21 Oct. 1965, with enc.. Seamans to Assoc. Admin., OMSF, “Procurement Plan for Revision of Real-Time Computer Complex, MSC,” 19 Oct. 1965.

    54. Gamble, “Terrestrial, Lunar, and Celestial Companions,” pp. 9-15; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Summary report of the Apollo guidance computer failure history,” 21 June 1965, with enc.; North American Space Div., Public Relations Dept., Apollo Spacecraft News Reference, rev. ed. (Downey, Calif., 1969), p. 244.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch7-7. The Course and the Future

    Two major questions faced NASA planners during 1965. Was Apollo on course, at what was essentially its midpoint, to meet the goal of a lunar landing before the end of the decade? And what should follow Apollo in the manned space flight arena?

    To find the answer to the first question, the House Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, led by Teague, set up a special staff in June to assess schedules, funding, and spacecraft management. After three months of probing, a staff study published under the title Pacing Systems of the Apollo Program identified seven bottlenecks in Apollo. For the lander, pacing systems were the descent engine, rendezvous radar, weight growth, and ground support equipment; for the command and service modules, they were engineering drawing releases, subassembly delivery and certification, and tooling and fabrication of the heatshield. The subcommittee concluded that NASA was applying its resources effectively to these problems and the program was progressing on schedule.55

    NASA leaders, meanwhile, were worrying about what would come after Apollo, in view of the rising demand for dollars for human resources on the domestic front and military commitments abroad, particularly in Southeast Asia. Out of this concern came a new Headquarters program office called Apollo Applications (AAP), headed by David M. Jones, an Air Force major general assigned to NASA. Mueller had two objectives in setting up this office: preserving the Apollo team and using the hardware to get some pay-offs in science and earth resources.

    To Houston this was evading the issue. In a lengthy letter to Mueller, MSC Director Gilruth manifested “deep concern that . . . a critical mismatch exists between the present AAP planning, the significant opportunities for manned space flight, and the resources available for this program.” Speaking both for himself and his deputy, George Low—who as much as anyone within NASA had helped chart the course for Apollo—Gilruth proposed that “the next major step in manned space flight should involve a large permanent manned orbital station,” which would be “an operational step leading to man's exploration of the planets.” As structured, he said, AAP would simply maintain the status quo in the production and flight of Saturn-Apollo hardware. “Merely doing this, without planning for a new program, and without doing significant research and development as part of AAP, will not maintain the momentum we have achieved.”56

    Thus the total climate of opinion surrounding Apollo had altered. No longer did the moon seem the all-important—and all-consuming—goal it had been. Other objectives in the new ocean of space were taking shape. But conditions were not ripe: 1966 would be a year of progress for existing manned space flight programs, not a curtain-raiser for any major new projects. In one more flight, Little Joe II would complete its series of Apollo tests; after five more missions, which made orbital flight routine, Gemini would phase out and Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor would phase in; and Saturn and Apollo vehicles would taste the first fruits of success.


    55. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Pacing Systems of the Apollo Program: Staff Study, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, pp. 1, 6, 11, 12.

    56. Maj. Gen. David M. Jones to Apollo Executives, “Apollo Applications Goals,” 22 Nov. 1965.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-1. Moving toward Operations

    1966

    By 1966 Apollo had lost much of the emotional support of Congress and the public that had welled up five years earlier in the wake of the Soviet Vostoks. The drop was reasonable, since the successes of the Gemini and Saturn I programs had led many Americans to believe the space race with Russia had been won. Moreover, domestic and foreign commitments, made primarily in 1965, to President Johnson's “Great Society” and to Southeast Asia had placed more demands on tax dollars than had been foreseen. For fiscal 1967, NASA submitted a budget request of $5.58 billion, the President cut it to $5.012, and Congress chopped it to $4.968. Apollo came through virtually unscathed; but its follow-on, Apollo Applications, felt the weight of the Budget Bureau's ax.1

    Apollo funding

    Apollo program funding through fiscal 1967, on a 1966 chart. “Uprated Saturn I,” a name that did not stick, is the Saturn IB launch vehicle.


    Obtaining funds for space exploration might be becoming more difficult, but most NASA officials had no time to worry about future programs. Apollo boilerplate flight tests had ended, and production spacecraft would soon fly atop the Saturn IB. Manned Spacecraft Center Director Robert Gilruth told Chris Kraft, Director for Flight Operations in Houston, to get his people started on the job ahead.

    By January 1966, Kraft's group had drafted a preliminary “operations plan.” In February it distributed a more complete version that pinpointed the responsibilities and functions of everyone connected with flights, beginning with Director Gilruth. The plan listed 19 specific documents, ranging from the “mission directive” prepared by Joseph Shea's Apollo office to the “postflight trajectory analysis" compiled by Kraft's own directorate, that would be essential in conducting a mission. Kraft also named John Hodge as flight director for AS-202 and AS-203. Kraft, himself, would direct AS-204, the first manned mission in the program.* 2


    * Glynn S. Lunney had already been assigned to direct AS-201, scheduled to fly 26 February 1966.


    1. Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1966: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4007 (Washington, 1967), pp. 23-24, 286, 328; NASA, “Transcript of Dr. [Joseph F.] Shea's Closing Remarks to the Apollo Industrial Team Seminar, October 29, 1966”; Robert F. Freitag, NASA OMSF, to Robert R. Gilruth, Dir., MSC, 25 March 1966, with enc., MSF Staff Paper, “Cost of Manned Lunar Landing,” n.d.

    2. George E. Mueller, NASA OMSF, to Gilruth, 20 Jan. 1966; George M. Low, Dep. Dir., MSC, to James C. Elms, OMSF, 25 March 1966; MSC Flight Ops. Div. (FOD), “Manned Spacecraft Center Apollo Program Development Plan,” January 1966; Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC, memo, “MSC Apollo Operations Plan,” 3 Feb. 1966, with enc., FOD, “Manned Spacecraft Center Apollo Operations Plan,” February 1966; Kraft memo, “Assignment of Flight Directors,” 23 March 1966.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-2. Qualifying Missions

    Before starting Apollo-Saturn IB launches, however, the operations people had to clean up one outstanding matter in New Mexico. NASA had hoped to finish the Little Joe II abort qualification program by the end of 1965, but on 17 December the Flight Readiness Board refused to accept the booster and canceled a launch set for the next day. A month later, at 8:15 on the morning of 20 January 1966, the last Little Joe II headed toward an altitude of 24 kilometers and a downrange distance of 14 kilometers. Then, as designed, the launch vehicle started to tumble; the launch escape system sensed trouble and fired its abort rocket, carrying the command module away from impending disaster. All went well on Mission A-004-the launch, the test conditions, the telemetry, the spacecraft (Block I production model 002), and the postflight analysis. The spacecraft windows picked up too much soot from the tower jettison motor, but the structure remained intact. Little Joe II was honorably-retired, its basic purpose—making sure the launch escape and earth landing systems could protect the astronauts in either emergency or normal operations—accomplished. 3

    After the last Little Joe flight, the scene shifted to Florida, where a Saturn IB, the first of the uprated vehicles ** slated to boost manned flights into earth orbit, was ready. AS-201 did not get a lot of publicity, but Dale Myers and his North American crew considered its spacecraft CSM-009 their “teething" operation:

    It . . . proved out our procedures, our checkout techniques, and proved that this equipment [fitted] together. . . . And we got lined up so we [were] able to handle operations both at the Cape and [in Downey]. Although spacecraft 009 had some problems in flight . . . we got what we were looking for from the primary objective, . . . real good data on our heatshield, which we just can't get any testing on in any other way.4

    The Saturn IB first stage, assembled by Chrysler and with its eight H-1 engines built by Rocketdyne, had been erected on Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy in August 1965. Command and service module 009 was hoisted atop the booster on 26 December. Between those dates, the new S-IVB stage built by Douglas, with its single Rocketdyne J-2 engine, had been mated to the first stage, checked out, and fitted with an 1,800-kilogram “instrument unit,” or guidance ring, made by IBM Federal Systems Division. The top third of the stack—the spacecraft-launch vehicle adapter, the cylindrical service module, the conical command module, and the pylon-shaped launch escape tower—had been North American's responsibility. Once they were stacked together, NASA assumed control. It took two pages to list AS-201's test objectives, but NASA's main aims were to check the compatibility and structural integrity of the spacecraft and launch vehicle and to evaluate the spacecraft's heatshield performance as the vehicle plunged through the atmosphere. 5

    Spacecraft 009 assembly began in October 1963 and continued throughout 1964, with the inner-shell aluminum-honeycomb pressure vessel taking shape concurrently with the stainless-steel-honeycomb outer shell and its ablative heatshield. By April 1965, 009 had reached the test division at Downey, where it spent the summer. After a review at the factory on 20 October, NASA's Apollo engineers approved the spacecraft for shipment to Cape Kennedy. Three months of servicing and checkout followed before AS-201 was ready for its voyage.

    On 20 February 1966, launch technicians at the Cape began a three-day countdown, fully expecting some of the spacecraft's systems to delay the launch. But weather turned out to be the chief problem, causing two postponements. At 5:15 on the afternoon of the 25th, the countdown resumed. Three seconds before ignition—at 9:00 the next morning—a computer signaled that pressure in two helium spheres on the Saturn IB was below the danger line. The count was recycled to 15 minutes before launch and stopped. Discussions waxed hot between Huntsville and Cape engineers. Since no one could be sure how serious the problem really was, the mission was scrubbed at 10:45. Deciding that the drop in pressure was probably caused by either an excessive flow of oxygen in the checkout equipment or leakage in the flight system, Wernher von Braun's Saturn team recommended advancing the ground pressure regulator to maintain a higher pressure in the spheres. Kurt Debus' Cape crew agreed, and the launch was back on the track by 10:57.6

    Apollo-Saturn 201mission

    Apollo-Saturn 201 mission, 26 February 1966: launch, recovery (swimmers have attached a flotation collar, a device used in the Gemini and Mercury programs), and two views of the heatshield.


    At 11:12 a.m. 26 February, AS-201's first stage ignited and drove the combined vehicles up to 57 kilometers where, after separation, the S-IVB took over, propelling the payload up to 425 kilometers. The second stage then dropped off, and the spacecraft coasted in an arc, reaching a peak altitude of 488 kilometers. At the zenith, the service module engine fired for 184 seconds, hurtling the command module into a steep descent. After a 10-second cutoff, the rocket engine fired again, for 10 seconds, to prove it could restart. The two modules then separated. The command module, traveling at 8,300 meters per second, turned blunt end forward to meet the friction caused by the growing density of the atmosphere.7

    Both booster and spacecraft performed adequately. From liftoff in Florida to touchdown in the South Atlantic, the mission lasted only 37 minutes. The spacecraft was recovered by the U.S.S. Boxer two and a half hours after splashdown. AS-201 proved that the spacecraft was structurally sound and, most important, that the heatshield could survive an atmospheric reentry.

    There were several malfunctions, mostly minor. Three were serious. First, after the service propulsion system fired, it operated correctly for only 80 seconds. Then the pressure fell 30 percent because of helium ingestion into the oxidizer chamber. Second, a fault in the electrical power system caused a loss of steering control, resulting in a rolling reentry. And, third, flight measurements during reentry were distorted because of a short circuit. Although Mueller agreed that the mission objectives had been met, these three problems would have to be corrected.8

    The service module engine received instant attention. North American's Robert E. Field and Aerojet-General's Dan David (the engine's Apollo manager) ordered an analysis of what had gone wrong. The engine had operated well enough to finish the mission, but Field and David had to be sure that the Block II engine (undergoing ground testing) would not run into a similar situation during a lunar mission. They learned that a leak in an oxidizer line had permitted helium to mix with the oxidizer, causing the drop in temperature and pressure.

    For all of Houston's insistence on redundancy, this was one major system that had no backup. And it was a vital system. Because of the lunar-orbit rendezvous decision, it had a variety of jobs: midcourse corrections on the way to the moon, lunar-orbit insertion, and transearth injection (placing the spacecraft on the homeward path) on the return voyage. Weight penalties forbade a second propulsion system; the service module engine had to carry its own built-in reliability. 9

    To allow time for studying and solving propulsion system problems and to prevent program delays, NASA managers shuffled the launch sequence. Since AS-203 was not scheduled to carry a payload, it would be flown before AS-202. Billed as a launch vehicle development flight, the third Saturn IB was to place its S-IVB stage in orbit for study of liquid-hydrogen behavior in a weightless environment. ** On 5 July 1966, AS-203 was launched from Kennedy to insert the 26,500-kilogram second stage into orbit. Ground observers monitored the S-IVB by television during its first four circuits, watching the 8,600 kilograms of liquid hydrogen remaining in its tanks. Despite some turbulence, the S-IVB appeared capable of boosting the astronauts on a flight path to the moon.10

    Mission AS-202 was twice as complicated as AS-201. It would last 90 minutes, reach an altitude of 100 kilometers, and travel two-thirds of the way around the world. Launched on 25 August, AS-202 had a host of objectives, but the focal interest was service module engine firings. With clockwork precision, the motor fired four times, for a total operating time of 200 seconds. After a steeper reentry than expected, the command module was plucked from the Pacific Ocean near Wake Island by the recovery forces ten hours after liftoff and placed aboard the U.S.S. Hornet. On the carrier, specialists found that the heatshield and capsule had come through reentry admirably. 11


    ** The Saturn IB first stage differed from that of the Saturn I in that its eight engines had been uprated from 5.8 million to a total of 7.1 million newtons (from 1.3 million to 1.6 million pounds of thrust).

    ** Langley Research Center made another study of liquid-hydrogen behavior under zero gravity during 1966. On 7 June, Wallops Island crews launched a two-stage Wasp (Weightless Analysis Sounding Probe), carrying a 680-kilogram scale model of an S-II fuel tank. For seven minutes of weightless flight, television cameras mounted on a transparent tank transmitted data back to Wallops that added to the confidence of Houston engineers in launching AS-203 the following month.


    3. Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Spacecraft Flight Abort Test, Mission A-004,” 1 Dec. 1965, with enc., and “Apollo Spacecraft Intermediate Altitude Abort Test Mission A-004, Postlaunch Report No. 1,” 26 Jan. 1966, with enc.; MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Apollo Mission A-004 (Spacecraft 002),” MSC-A-R-66-3, 15 April 1966; Milton A. Silveira, MSC, to Pinkney McGathy, “Program close out Little Joe II,” 29 Oct. 1965; General Dynamics, Convair Div.,”Little Joe II Test Launch Vehicle, NASA Project Apollo: Final Report,” 1, GDC-66-042, May 1966, pp. 1-18, 1-19, 8-1.

    4. House Committee on Science anti Astronautics, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Apollo Program Pace and Progress: Staff Study, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1967, pp. 705-06.

    5. NASA, “NASA to Launch First Unmanned Apollo/Saturn,” news release 66-22, 1 Feb. 1966, and “Project: Apollo Saturn 201,” press kit, news release 66-32, 9 Feb. 1966; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Saturn Flight Mission AS-201,” 15 Feb. 1966, with enc.; MSC, “Post-launch Report for Mission AS-201 (Apollo Spacecraft 009),” MSC-A-R-66-4, 6 May 1966, pp. 2-1, 3-1, 3-2.

    6. MSC, “Postlaunch Report for AS-201,” pp. 12-4 through 12-6; Melvyn Savage to Dir., Apollo Prog., “A/S 201 Hold,” 3 March 1966.

    7. MSC, “Postlaunch Report for AS-201,” pp. 2-4, 5-6.

    8. Ibid., p. 11-1; Owen E. Maynard TWX to James E. Webb and Gilruth, “MSC Flight Status (3-Day) Report for Apollo Spacecraft Mission AS-201 (SC-009),” 1 March 1966; NASA. “First Apollo Saturn Flight Objectives Achieved,” news release 66-51, 7 March 1966; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Saturn Flight Mission AS-201, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 8 March 1966, with enc.

    9. Aerojet-General, “Dan David, Manager, Apollo Program, Space Systems Division, Liquid Rocket Operations, Aerojet-General Corporation,” biography, April 1964; Cecil R. Gibson, Neil A. Townsend, and James A. Wood, “History of the Apollo Service Propulsion Sub-system,” January 1970.

    10. NASA, “Saturn IB Launch Schedule Is Revised,” news release 66-78, 4 April 1966; “Apollo Saturn Set June 30 at Cape Kennedy,” news release 66-142, 4 June 1966; and “Project: Saturn Apollo Uprated Saturn (Second Mission),” press kit, news release 66-157, 21 June 1966. Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo-Saturn Flight, Mission AS-203,” 22 June 1966, with enc., and “Apollo-Saturn Flight Mission AS-203, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 15 July 1966, with enc.; NASA, “WASP Launch Tests Hydrogen Fuel Sloshing,” news release 66-147, 7 June 1966.

    11. Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo Saturn Flight, Mission AS-202,” 19 Aug. 1966, with enc., and “Apollo Saturn Flight Mission AS-202, Post Launch Report No. 1,” 1 Sept. 1966, with enc.; Clarence A. Syvertson, ARC, to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth, “Preliminary examination of Apollo Command Module on Flight Mission AS-202,” 22 Sept. 1966, with enc., Glen Goodwin to Dir., Ames Research Center, “Preliminary Report on Apollo Spacecraft Flight AS-202 Recovery Operation,” 20 Sept. 1966; MSC, “Postlaunch Report for Mission AS-202 (Apollo Spacecraft 011),” MSC-A-R-66-5, 12 Oct. 1966.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-3. Troubles and Troubleshooters

    Saturn IB flights, for the most part, ran smoothly in 1966. Unfortunately, this was not true for all of Apollo. Early in the year, NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel Phillips and a cadre of analysts completed a survey of vehicles and management at North American, after several months of probing into activities at Downey, Seal Beach, and El Segundo. Phillips' group noted that organizational and personnel weaknesses were hampering the contractor's attempts to meet command and service module schedules, but the biggest problem was the S-II second stage of the launch vehicle, which threatened to block the chances of flying an all-up vehicle on the first Saturn V launch.

    S-II stage

    Saturn's S-II stage


    S-IVB stage

    Saturn's S-IVB stage


    Despite two successful ground tests, on 29 December 1965 and 12 January 1966, the S-II was behind schedule and in trouble. North American realized this and hired a new manager, Robert E. Greer, a retired Air Force general, to get S-II development back on the track. By spring, Greer and his troops had gone to the Mississippi Test Facility, near the Pearl River north of New Orleans, to begin an intensive ground test program. For 15 seconds on 23 April, the five J-2 liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen engines roared into action, producing the designed thrust of 4.5 million newtons (one million pounds). 12

    J-2 engines

    J-2 engines at the Rocketdyne plant in California. Five of these engines propelled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, were used in the Saturn V's S-II second stage, and one was used in its S-IVB third stage (the S-IVB was also the second stage of the Saturn IB).


    Three more firings were attempted—on 10, 11, and 16 May—but the engines were cut off too soon by faulty instrumentation. In two more tests, on the 17th and 20th, the engines fired for 150 and 350 seconds. The next scheduled 350-second test, on 25 May, met problems when fire broke out in two places on the S-II. Three days later, while the stage was being removed from the stand, a liquid-hydrogen tank exploded, injuring five persons and damaging the test stand. 13

    Saturn V rollout

    The first Saturn V rollout, from the VAB, 25 May 1966.


    Although it was a gloomy day in Mississippi, 25 May 1966 was still a milestone for Saturn V. Two states away, in Florida, NASA ceremoniously rolled out its 2,700-metric-ton, diesel-powered, steel-link-tread crawler-transporter loaded with the 111-meter-tall, 196,000-kilogram * Apollo-Saturn vehicle. Just before this impressive mass began moving at a snail's pace away from the Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans said: “I for one questioned whether a vehicle the size of Apollo Saturn could get out to the pad . . . or not.” It could.14

    However well the rollout augured for Apollo's eventual success, right then the S-II stage was in trouble. NASA Manned Space Flight Director George Mueller began sending weekly assessments of S-II progress to J. Leland Atwood, warning the president of North American that the S-II stood a good chance of replacing the lunar module as the pacing item in Apollo. But Atwood already knew it. That was why he had hired Greer—to bring the S-II more attention at a higher level of management.15

    Mueller also told Atwood that Phillips, on his return from the West Coast, had pointed out problems with the spacecraft. Both earth-orbital (Block I) and lunar-orbital (Block II) versions of the command module were being plagued during manufacturing by late hardware deliveries from subcontractors and vendors. The most troublesome had been the environmental control unit being developed by AiResearch. Phillips had chided the subcontractor by letter for its poor performance. In October Atwood admitted to Mueller that this system was the most serious threat to meeting spacecraft schedules for the first manned Apollo flight. 16

    Phillips' troubleshooting set a pattern for Apollo in 1966; many managers and subsystem managers found themselves dealing, often full-time, with the difficulties in getting qualified vehicles to the launch pad. One of the Houston managers who spent a lot of time trying to straighten out some subsystem that was in trouble was Rolf W, Lanzkron. Phillips had asked Shea to send Lanzkron to General Electric in late 1965 to help get the manufacturer of the ground checkout equipment onto the right path. While Lanzkron was there, GE's general manager for the program, Roy H. Beaton, commented in a letter to Phillips:

    As you might well guess he beat the living h—- out of us, . . . spurring us on to more effective utilization of our previously mammoth efforts. Despite the bruises, we feel that we are a far more effective organization now as a result of his leadership. 17

    And Lanzkron traveled elsewhere. On one occasion he went to Phoenix, where the Sperry Company was having a hard time with the guidance and navigation gyroscopes. For several years, Sperry had been using a commercial detergent, one that many housewives use for washing dishes, to remove grease from the gyro's bearings. Suddenly something went wrong—the grease was not coming off. Baffled at first, Lanzkron and Sperry's own troubleshooters finally discovered that Procter and Gamble had changed its product to include an additive that was supposed to make it better for dishwashing.

    It may have helped the housewife, but the “improved” product certainly hindered the cleaning of the bearings. 18 Solving the gyro problem was a minor achievement in getting systems ready for flight. Over in the state of New York, however, more complex technical, financial, and managerial problems would demand the attention of many, many troubleshooters.


    * Dry weight—fully loaded with fuel and oxidizer, it weighed 2,766,000 kilograms.


    12. Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., to J. Leland Atwood, NAA, 19 Dec. 1965, with enc.; North American news release N-2, 25 Jan. 1966; NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1966, pp. 14, 147.

    13. Phillips to Dep. Admin., NASA, “S-II All-Systems Static Firings,” 17 May 1966, and, same subj., 25 May 1966, with enc., “S-II All-Systems Static Firing Information”; George F. Esenwein, NASA Hq., to Dir., Apollo Test, “May 25, attempted S-II-T full duration static firing,” 26 May 1966, with enc.; Savage note to Phillips, “Flash report from Mr. Savage,” 27 May 1966, with enc., Esenwein to Dir., Apollo Test, “S-II-T Status,” 27 May 1966; Leo L. Jones, “A Brief History of Mississippi Test Facility, 1961-1966,” comment ed., MSFC Hist. Off., 24 March 1967, pp. 75-77.

    14. NASA, “Rollout Ceremony, Saturn V Facility Vehicle (500-F),” press conference, 25 May 1966.

    15. Mueller to Atwood, 23 Feb. 1966, with enc., “S-II Stage Weekly Assessment,” and 31 March 1966; Atwood to Mueller, 17 Oct. 1966.

    16. Phillips to Atwood, 19 Dec. 1965; Phillips datafax to Shea, 12 Oct. 1966, with enc., Phillips, draft letter to Gen. Mark E. Bradley, 12 Oct. 1966; Atwood to Mueller, 17 Oct. 1966.

    17. Roy H. Beaton, GE, to Phillips, 27 Jan. 1966.

    18. Shea memo, “Apollo Spacecraft Program Office and Kennedy Space Center Management Interface,” 23 March 1966; Savage to Dir., Apollo Prog., “High-lights of KSC Visit by Lanzkron and Savage on March 21-23, 1966,” 25 March 1966, with enc.; Ivan D. Ertel, MSC Hist. Off., notes on interview with Rolf W. Lanzkron, Houston, 12 Jan. 1972.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-4. Lunar Module

    By 1966, the lunar module had achieved some degree of maturity. Grumman had brought the lander out of the design phase and was trying to move it in the production line. But there were indications that the contractor was going to have problems. Control of in-house costs was fairly efficient; the company's chief difficulties lay in overruns by its subcontractors. R. Wayne Young, MSC's lunar module project officer, estimated that by the end of June Grumman would spend $24 million more than its allotted funds. Moreover, since late 1965 Grumman's scheduling position had been shaky, with delays indicated virtually across the board.19

    In light of these severe overruns, Houston sent representatives to Bethpage to discuss cost-reduction measures. This conference produced a list of items to either be reduced or chopped from the major subcontractors. Meetings were then held with project manager at each of the subcontractor plants to ram through cutbacks in requirements and manpower. The reviews, lasting a month and a half, culminated in tightened test procedures and performance requirements. To make sure that cost-reduction measures were enforced, Grumman switched from quarterly to monthly meetings with its subcontractors, inviting the appropriate Houston subsystem manager to attend. 20

    Despite these actions, lunar module costs had not leveled off by late spring. In-house cost control and forecasting had also begun to deteriorate, aggravating the problems already encountered. Against this backdrop, Gilruth met with Grumman's new president, Llewellyn J. Evans, to discuss cost control and management of subcontractors. At Evans' request, Gilruth sent a management analysis group to diagnose and recommend ways to remedy the company's weaknesses. The NASA Management Review Team, headed by Wesley L. Hjornevik of Houston, was composed of members from both Houston and Washington.21

    Hjornevik's team assembled at Bethpage in June. After a ten-day review, the team reported its findings to company corporate officers and NASA officials. Looking upon the Hjornevik team as a “personal management analysis staff,” Evans promptly carried out most of its recommendations on program management, costs, subcontractor control, and ground support equipment. To make sure all orders were followed and all decisions were relayed speedily to operating organizations, Grumman installed Hugh McCullough at the head of a Program Control Office. George F. Titterton moved from his vice-presidential suite to the factory building that housed most of the spacecraft's managerial and engineering staff, thus ensuring a high degree of corporate-level supervision.22

    To bring about the kind of cost forecasting and control that NASA wanted, Grumman adopted “work packages”—breaking the program down into manageable segments, with strict cost budgets, and assigning managers to ride herd on each package. By linking tasks to manpower, program managers could better judge and control work in progress. This approach was a real departure from the commodity-oriented approach used by Grumman until that time. Shea watched these operations closely and on 19 September expressed his belief to Evans that the work packages could control costs and might even effect some modest reductions. In the next two months, however, costs still exceeded budgets in some areas. Unless discipline were enforced, Shea warned Titterton on 18 November, the work packages could turn into so many worthless scraps of paper rather than effective management tools.23

    Hjornevik's team also discovered that no one person had been assigned responsibility for overall subcontract supervision. As a result, this whole area suffered from splintered authority. Grumman appointed Brian Evans to the newly created position of Subcontract Manager, reporting directly to Program Director Joseph G. Gavin, Jr. Evans then assembled a staff of project managers and assigned each to a major subcontract, with jurisdiction over costs, schedules, and technical performance. The strengthened structure was a welcome tonic; hardware deliveries improved and subsystem qualification moved ahead. Titterton also instituted quarterly meetings with presidents of the major subcontractor firms, similar to those held by Mueller for NASA's prime Apollo contractors.24

    The weaknesses in ground checkout equipment, which had been a millstone around the contractor's neck since the early days of the program, had developed because Grumman leaders simply had not recognized the immensity of the task. In February 1966 Phillips had pointed out to Shea that this equipment had paced the start of propulsion system testing at White Sands, had hampered in-house activity at Bethpage, and threatened to delay operational readiness of checkout and launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. * Shea replied that Grumman had put checkout equipment engineering and manufacturing on a 56-hour work week and was adding manpower to do the job.25

    Despite Shea's reassurances and Grumman's attempts at remedial actions, the system failed to improve measurably. Grumman had made progress in engineering design, which was about 80 percent complete; the bottleneck was in fabrication. Phillips and Mueller became thoroughly alarmed. They suggested that Grumman purchase components for the system from General Electric and other vendors who were having more success in the field. Subsequently, Grumman did put a variety of ground support items up for competitive bid.26

    At Bethpage, the Hjornevik team's difficulty in assessing the ground support equipment problem hinged on the fact that Grumman did not have a coordinated plan. The team suggested that Grumman devote more attention to specific areas such as deadlines for drawing releases, an intensified production effort, and a daily status review by program management. Llewellyn Evans named John Coursen to oversee ground-support-equipment manufacturing and set aside a separate building for the fabrication workers, whose numbers had grown considerably. Procurement was also strengthened, with Robert Brader heading a staff of a dozen purchasing people. And, finally, a “GSE command post” was established to track day-by-day progress. 27

    Actions at Bethpage were complemented by moves in Houston. In mid-July, Wayne Young appointed a team to meet with Grumman every month to assess status and tackle problems. At the end of the summer, with the last Gemini flight mission scheduled before the end of the year, Charles Mathews and William Lee shipped some surplus Gemini checkout items to Bethpage.28 Collectively, these measures brought a dramatic turnaround in Grumman's checkout equipment progress. As Gavin later observed: “The tide was turned in midsummer. We were effectively on schedule in mid-october.” 29

    Successfully overhauling management practices and fighting rising costs were commendable accomplishments, but the lunar module faced problems in other areas that were equally dangerous to Apollo. Downey and the command module had been the big technical worry during 1965, Shea said at a meeting in San Augustine, Texas. The lander, which had begun the program a year late, must not be allowed to stumble into the same pitfalls. Echoing Shea's sentiments, William Lee commented that Apollo would be in deep trouble if the lunar module followed the pattern of Gemini and the command module.30

    A significant hurdle vaulted about mid-1966 was the final solution of the long-overdue radar-optical-tracker question, the last of the lander's subsystems to be settled. Engineers in the Manned Spacecraft Center's Apollo office and in Robert E. Duncan's Guidance and Control Division had promoted an “olympics”—a contest that pitted the radar against the tracker—and performance trials took place in the spring of 1966. After tests and presentations by competing contractors RCA and Hughes Aircraft Company, a review board chose the RCA radar. Although both systems could be developed within the same time and cost ($14 million), the radar had more operational flexibility than the less versatile tracker. The radar was heavier, but the weight had little influence on the choice, because of Grumman's weight-reduction program of the previous year.

    Perhaps the decisive factor in the selection was the outspoken preference of the astronauts. When asked by Duncan to support the olympics, Donald Slayton stated forthrightly: “The question is not which system can be manufactured, packaged, and qualified as flight hardware at the earliest date; it is which design is most operationally suited to accomplishing the lunar mission.” In light of recent experience, Slayton and Russell L. Schweickart, the astronauts' representative on the evaluation board, believed that mission planning should make maximum use of Gemini rendezvous procedures and orbital techniques. This should include, they said, “an independent, onboard source of range/range rate information . . . with accuracy on the order of that provided by the existing LEM rendezvous radar.” So Grumman, which had slowed down radar development, shifted RCA back into high gear.31

    The lunar module engines, too, were still having technical troubles, troubles that seemed to defy solution, although none of them were grave enough to threaten eventual success. For the descent engine, these included rough burning; excessive eroding of the combustion chamber throat; burning of the throttle mechanism pintle tip, where fuel and oxidizer met and combustion began; and difficulty in getting presumably identical engines to operate alike.

    Design engineers at the Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW) Systems Group** made several changes in the pintle tip, the most significant being a switch to columbium to improve thermal characteristics. Other revisions included removing a turbulence ring around the interior of the chamber and realigning the flow pattern of the fuel that cooled the sides of the chamber wall. Although qualification testing was delayed six months, the problems seemed to be solved.32

    Ascent engine technical problems were more fundamental. Bell was plagued by fabrication and welding difficulties and by severe gouging in the ablative lining of the thrust chamber. The injector, which had been fitted with baffles to combat combustion instability encountered during the shaped-charge bomb testing, was also a culprit. After an engineering review and resulting design revisions, including strengthening of the weld areas, Houston suggested that Bell begin work on a backup model. That would be expensive, but something had to be done. Subsequently, an improved injector demonstrated better burning characteristics. Late in 1966, however, another worry cropped up.

    At a Manned Spacecraft Center senior staff meeting on 4 November, Max Faget reported two instances of unstable combustion: one, during a firing test at White Sands, with a flat-face injector; the second at Bell, during a bomb test for design verification of a supposedly improved, baffled model. In both tests, damages had been extensive. At this point in the program, with the first two flight vehicles already late for delivery, these failures were ominous. 33

    Schedule difficulties for the lunar module were nothing new, of course. Grumman had been under the gun from the very beginning, when the mode selection made the lander a late starter in Apollo. But during the summer and autumn of 1966, schedules became crucial. In July, every vehicle on the production line through LM-4 was late. Moreover, because of tardy deliveries by vendors, a serious bottleneck was shaping up in the assembly of LM-1. By late November, however, the earlier remedial actions seemed to be having some good effect and this continual slippage appeared to have slowed. At a briefing for Olin Teague's congressional Subcommittee on NASA Oversight in Houston on 6 October, Shea had said that he expected the first lunar module to be shipped early in 1967.34

    By the end of the year, LM-1 and LM-2 were in the test stands at Bethpage, and LM-3 through LM-7 were in various stages of fabrication and equipment installation. But the coming of the new year did not yield the progress Shea had looked for the previous October. Toward the end of January, it was revealed that LM-1 would not reach the Cape in February, as expected.35 In short, the moon landing might be delayed because the lander was not ready. But the mission planners could not wait for the Apollo engineers to iron out all the problems. They had to plan for a landing in 1969 and hope that the hardware would catch up with them.


    * After attending a lunar module status review at Bethpage on 18 May, Harold G. Russell, Special Assistant to Phillips for Operational Readiness, expressed his mounting concern about Grumman's chances for meeting the operational readiness dates for facilities at the Cape. The company was reporting delays of two and a half months in support of LM-1, but, Russell told Phillips, “from an analysis of the GAEC internal reporting system (if they really have such a system), the slippages may be worse than they are reporting. I seriously question the GAEC management visibility into their critical problem areas.”

    ** In 1966, TRW's Space Technology Laboratories (the familiar “STL") was renamed TRW Systems Group.


    19. R. Wayne Young to Aubrey L. Brady, MSC, “Status of LEM-1 Critical Design Review (CDR) and Status of GAEC Configuration Management,” 4 Feb. 1966; John B. Lee, recorder, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meetings, 18 March, p. 3, and 29 April 1966, p. 4; Young to Prog. Control Div., “GAEC Funding Situation,” 28-March 1966, with enc.; Robert A. Newlander to Walter J. Gaylor, MSC, RASPO-Bethpage, “LEM Progress Report October 1965 to March 1966,” 15 April 1966.

    20. MSC, LEM Contract Engineering Br. (CEB), “Accomplishments,” 2 March, 9 March, 13 April, and 27 April 1966; Young to Grumman, Attn.: Robert S. Mullaney, “GAEC Major Subcontractor Program Review; Confirmation of GAEC and NASA/MSC Agreements on Areas of Cost Reduction,” 21 April 1966; Young memo, “LEM Subcontractor Review Meeting,” 25 April 1966, with enc., Mullaney memo, “LEM Program Cancellation of Future Subcontractor Quarterly Program Review Meetings and Institution of Regularly Scheduled Monthly Meetings which will include Cost and Manpower Reviews and Discussion of Qualification Status,” 12 April 1966.

    21. Mueller, prepared statement for Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, exec. sess., 12 June 1967, pp. 2-3; Frank X. Battersby to Chief, Apollo Proc. Br., “Weekly Activity Report, BMR Bethpage, Week Ending June 24, 1966,” 29 June 1966.

    22. Mueller statement, pp. 3-4, 6-7; Young memo, “LEM Management Meeting,” 11 July 1966; Battersby to Chief, Apollo Proc. Br., “Weekly Activity Report, . . . July 1, 1966,” 6 July 1966, and “Weekly Activity Report, . . . July 8, 1966,” 12 July 1966.

    23. Mueller statement, pp. ii, 7, 8; William A. Lee memo, “GAEC Work Package Review.” 30 Aug. 1966, with enc.; Shea to Titterton, 19 and 28 Sept. and 18 Nov. 1966.

    24. Mueller statement, pp. 5-7; Battersby to Chief, Apollo Proc. Br., “Weekly Activity Report, . . . August 12, 1966,” 17 Aug. 1966; Battersby memo for file, “Minutes of the Afternoon Session of the Grumman Subcontractors Senior Management Meeting, September 20, 1966,” 21 Sept. 1966.

    25. Phillips to Shea, 21 Feb. 1966; Shea to Phillips, 30 March 1966; Col. Harold G. Russell to Phillips, “Site Activation for LEM-1,” 23 May 1966.

    26. Mueller note to Phillips, 1 April 1966; Phillips note to Mueller, 6 April 1966; Phillips to Assoc. Admin., OMSF, “Utilization of G.E., Boeing, etc. for Subcontracting of LEM GSE,” 5 May 1966.

    27. Mueller statement, p. 5; Battersby to Chief, Apollo Proc. Br., 6 July 1966; “Manned Spacecraft Program Review, August 23, 1966, Apollo Spacecraft: Dr. Shea,” briefing charts; John Coursen, interview, Bethpage, N.Y., 8 Dec. 1971.

    28. Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, “GSE Meetings at GAEC Bethpage,” 18 July 1966; William Lee to Mgr., Gemini Prog., “Transfer of Gemini aerospace ground equipment to Lunar Module,” 30 Sept. 1966.

    29. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1968 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 4450, H.R. 6470 (Superseded by H.R. 10340), pt. 2, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1967, p. 647; Mueller statement, p. 5; Coursen interview.

    30. MSC, “Presentation Made at Apollo Program Planning Seminar, San Augustine, Texas, October 14, 15, 16 and 17, 1966.”

    31. MSC Quarterly Activity Report for Assoc. Admin., OMSF, for period ending 31 July 1966, p. 55; Robert C. Duncan to Chief, Astronaut Off., “Request for support: Evaluation Board for LORS—RR 'Olympics,'“ 25 Jan. 1966, with enc., Young to Grumman, “Rendezvous Radar Testing,” 25 Jan. 1966; Donald K. Slayton to Chief, Guidance and Control Div., “LORS—RR 'Olympics,'“ 1 Feb. 1966; Slayton to Mgr., Apollo Prog., “Requirements for Apollo rendezvous,” 5 April 1966; MSC news release 66-38, 2 June 1966; James L. Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Elmer W. Laws, “Contract . . . with RCA for Rendezvous Radar Transponder,” 1 June 1966.

    32. Joseph G. Thibodaux, Jr., to Mgr., Apollo Prog., “LEM descent engine program,” 27 June 1966; House, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Pace and Progress, pp. 1147-51.

    33. Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Laws, “Redesign Review of APS Injector Back Up,” 11 Aug. 1966; House, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Pace and Progress, pp. 1153-54; John Lee, minutes of MSC Senior Staff Meeting, 4 Nov. 1966, p. 1; MSC White Sands Weekly Management Report, 13-19 Oct. 1966.

    34. MSC, LEM CEB, “Accomplishments,” 6 July, 14 Sept., 23 Nov. 1966; Newlander to John H. Johansen and Lewis R. Fisher, MSC, “Status and Scheduling of LM-1,” 2 Aug. 1966; MSC, “Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, House of Representatives, October 6, 1966.”

    35. Phillips to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “LM Status Report,” 30 Dec. 1966; Shea memo, “ASPO Schedule Bulletin No. 2,” 25 Jan. 1967.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-5. Plans and Progress in Space Flight

    In mid-1966, Phillips asked Shea to set up a three-day symposium to review the status of Apollo. At this 25-27 June conference, Phillips requested that the 75 NASA and contractor experts consider carefully such subjects as command and service module maneuvers, lunar module descent and ascent, lunar landing sites, and the length of the visit to the lunar surface.

    Shea opened the discussions by listing 23 steps, or rules, in design and operational philosophy (see accompanying list) that had evolved since the lunar-orbit rendezvous decision in 1962. Owen Maynard, deliberately simplifying the many complexities of a lunar mission, described nine plateaus, of which he said:

    It is useful to think of the lunar landing mission as being planned in a series of steps (or decision points) separated by mission “plateaus.” . . . The decision to continue to the next plateau is made only after an assessment of the spacecraft's present status and its ability to function properly on the next plateau. If, after such assessment, it is determined that the space craft will not be able to function properly, then the decision may be made to proceed with an alternative mission. Alternate missions, therefore, will be planned essentially for each plateau. Similarly, on certain of the plateaus, including lunar stay, the decision may be made to delay proceeding in the mission for a period of time. In this respect, the mission is open-ended and considerable flexibility exists. 36

    These plateaus, representing the amount of energy expended in going from one step to the next, were widely used by the Apollo engineering team to map the pathway to the moon's surface and back again. The plateaus were, logically, (1) prelaunch, (2) earth parking orbit, (3) translunar coast, (4) lunar orbit before lunar module descent, (5) lunar module descent, (6) lunar surface stay, (7) lunar module ascent, (8) lunar orbit after rendezvous, and (9) trans-earth coast. Breaking the journey into these segments, with identified stopping places, made the Apollo mission seem less complex and fearsome to the planners.

    Near the close of the session, Shea commented that all stages of the Saturn V were at Kennedy, preparing for a flight test during 1967; that both the first Block II command and service modules and the lunar module should fly that same year; and that the time for the first lunar mission was rapidly closing in. Shea urged everyone at the meeting to review and comment on current plans and progress. 37

    It was also time to get an active experiments program under way. Mueller reminded Gilruth that, because of the limitations of 1966-1967 funding, NASA should generate as many of the experiments as possible, instead of relying on contractors. On 14 February 1966, however, Robert O. Piland's Experiments Program Office (established at MSC in the summer of 1965) was asked by Homer Newell, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications, to contract for the development of an Apollo lunar surface experiments package (ALSEP). The following month, the Bendix Systems Division of Ann Arbor, Michigan, received a $17-million contract to produce four ALSEP units. Bendix was a good choice, having worked with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on experiments for the unmanned lunar exploration program. 38

    Getting started on what to take to the moon was fine; getting the facility ready to handle what was brought back from the moon was also important. Houston had to develop a new kind of facility, the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Its two major jobs would be to protect against back contamination from the moon and to keep the lunar samples as isolated from earthly pollution as possible. Meeting these quarantine and control requirements resulted in greater construction costs than initially estimated, but the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences had been adamant in its demands that no expense should be spared:

    The introduction into Earth's biosphere of destructive alien organisms could be a disaster of enormous significance to mankind. We can conceive of no more tragically ironic consequence of our search for extraterrestrial life.39

    A conference of experts, sponsored by the board in July 1964, had reaffirmed the potential hazards of back contamination and recommended preventive measures. The following year, planning sessions among NASA, the Public Health Service, the Department of Agriculture, and the Army Biological Laboratories mapped out a construction plan and set up precautionary procedures.

    Thus, by February 1966, George Low of NASA and James L. Goddard of the Public Health Service had presented Congress with a case for the construction of a lunar sample and quarantine facility with six functions:

    1. Microbiology tests of lunar samples to demonstrate to a reasonable degree of certainty the absence of harmful living organisms returned from the lunar surface;
    2. Biologically isolated transport of the astronauts and persons required to have immediate contact with them between the recovery area and the quarantine facility;
    3. Biological isolation of the astronauts, spacecraft, and other apparatus having a biologic contamination potential, as well as personnel required by mission operations to have immediate contact with these people and this equipment during the quarantine period;
    4. Biological isolation during all operations on the samples that must be carried out during the quarantine period;
    5. Biologically isolated processing of onboard camera film and data tape that had been exposed to a potentially contaminating environment;
    6. Performance of time dependent scientific tests where valuable scientific data would be lost if the tests were delayed for the duration of the quarantine period.40
    Shortly after congressional approval of the laboratory, Headquarters reluctantly agreed that Houston should manage the design and development of the laboratory without the aid of the Corps of Engineers. Mueller wrote Gilruth on 13 May 1966 that the facility must be ready by November 1967 at a cost not to exceed $9.1 million. Gilruth and Low established a policy board, headed by Faget, and placed Joseph V. Piland in charge of construction. A contract was awarded, ground was broken, and building began in August.41

    During 1966, planners of Apollo's upcoming operational phase studied the results of other programs for information that might be useful. Perhaps the two they scrutinized most carefully were Gemini VIII, which proved that one vehicle could find another in space and safely dock with it, and Surveyor I, which showed that a craft could land softly on the moon without sinking into the soil—at least in the area of Oceanus Procellarum.

    Neil Armstrong and David Scott rode Gemini VIII into orbit on 16 March to chase an Agena target vehicle already in flight. An onboard radar acquired the target when the two vehicles were 332 kilometers apart, and the crew members saw the Agena when they were 140 kilometers away. Six hours into the flight, Armstrong and Scott, after inspecting the Agena closely, nudged the nose of their spacecraft into the docking cone, recording the first docking of two vehicles in orbit. Twenty-seven minutes later, Scott's instruments told him that the spacecraft was not in the planned attitude. The docked vehicles then began to gyrate. Armstrong steadied the two craft with the thrusters, and Scott hit the undocking button. Almost immediately, the spacecraft started spinning at the rate of one revolution per second. Armstrong had to use the reentry control system* to straighten out his vehicle. With the help of the flight controllers in Houston and along the Manned Space Flight Network, the crew made a safe emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean—rather than in the Atlantic, as planned.42

    Even before Gemini had chalked up the world's first docking, the successful rendezvous of Gemini VI-A with VII the previous December had affected the thinking of Apollo mission designers. The inability of the Saturn IB to toss the command and service modules and the lunar module into orbit together had forced planners to consider “LM-alone” flights. Gemini's successful dual missions suggested that it might be possible to launch a crew aboard a command module to hunt down a lunar module launched by a different Saturn IB. Two of the crewmen would then transfer to the lander and carry out an earth-orbital operation previously planned for a Saturn V flight.

    Although the dual flight for Gemini had been greeted with enthusiasm, the proposal for an Apollo tête-à-tête met with resistance. John D. Hodge, Kraft's chief lieutenant in the mission control trenches, said there would be problems in simultaneously tracking four booster stages and in operating two mission control rooms. Planning continued, anyway, and Howard Tindall started working up flight rules— such as which launch vehicle would go first, the one with the command and service modules (AS-207) or the one with the lunar module (AS-208). A spate of “Tindallgrams” ensued. By May, Tindall agreed with Hodge about the complexity of the proposed mission.43

    While planning proceeded on mission AS-207/208, which seemed to be gaining favor in Washington, the Soviet Union announced on 4 April that Luna 10 was in lunar orbit—a space first. As the Russian spacecraft sent back information on its voyage around the moon, the United States made its own unmanned lunar exploration spacecraft ready for flight. Surveyor I, launched by an Atlas-Centaur from Cape Kennedy on 30 May for a 63-hour trip, was programmed to land softly on the moon to test bearing strength, temperatures, and radar reflectivity and to send television pictures back to the earth. With only slight midcourse corrections, Surveyor I flew straight to its target. On 2 June, the vehicle fired its braking rockets, slowing its speed from 9,650 kilometers per hour to 640. Four meters above the surface of the crater Flamstead, it was moving at a mere 5.6 kilometers per hour. The three footpads touched safely down within 19 milliseconds of each other.

    During the next two weeks, more than 10,000 detailed pictures were transmitted to the Goldstone antenna and processed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They showed rubble scattered over the surface in the Ocean of Storms region. The Surveyor craft scanned the horizon and sky better than had been anticipated; its pictures of the stars Sirius and Canopus gave triangulations for its exact location; and its solar cells, radars, computers, and test gear all worked well. The craft did not encounter either hard or porous rock; nor did it find a moon covered by a thick layer of dust. It landed, instead, on a surface composed of finely granulated material with particles that adhered to each other and not to the spacecraft. After all the doubts and waiting, Surveyor I demonstrated that a lunar module could land safely on the moon and that its pilots could get out and walk on the surface. 44


    Major Considerations in the Design of the First Lunar Landing Mission

    1. The first Apollo lunar mission will be “open ended,” to capitalize on success and keep going as long as possible.
    2. Launch will take place on [one of] only three days of any given month.
    3. Lighting conditions on the moon at the time of arrival will be a major launch day constraint.
    4. The mission will be flexible enough to land at any one of three selected landing sites.
    5. Forthcoming information from the first two Orbiters and Surveyor landers will govern site selection.
    6. The spacecraft will carry the maximum propellants and consumables that the Saturn V can handle.
    7. A slow roll rate will avoid thermal extremes on the spacecraft.
    8. The Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) will be the primary source of navigation data, with onboard navigation as a backup.
    9. The service propulsion system will use the lunar module descent engine as a backup.
    10. The spacecraft will travel on a free-return trajectory.
    11. Landmark sightings by the onboard systems will reduce uncertainties about altitude and tie the MSFN to the moon.
    12. Landings will be made in three types of areas—one general and two specific.
    13. The crew will be integral to the whole mission, particularly in site selection and landing maneuvers.
    14. The first mission will have an 18-hour staytime and two joint excursions by the crew.
    15. The LM will use a concentric flight plan for rendezvous with the CSM after liftoff from the moon.
    16. If necessary, the CSM will be capable of rescuing the LM by descending to a lower orbit for rendezvous and docking.
    17. The prime recovery zone will be in the Pacific Ocean.
    18. There will be a continuous abort capability throughout the mission.
    19. There will be at least five places during the mission where the spacecraft can “mark time” to change mission planning in case of trouble.
    20. Redundant and backup systems will be available for most major systems; significant exceptions are environmental control, electrical power, and service propulsion systems.
    21. Continuous communications between spacecraft and ground will be possible, except when the craft is behind the moon or in a thermal roll condition.
    22. Design will incorporate reasonable precautions against contamination of either the earth or the moon
    23. Major concerns still remaining are unforeseen environmental effects, calibration of guidance and navigation system, means of realistic simulation of lunar landing under the earth's gravity, and possibility of overloading crew workload.
    From Manned Spacecraft Center, “Apollo Lunar Landing Mission Symposium: Proceedings and Compilation of Papers,” 25-27 June 1966


    * A separate set of thrusters, used to orient the spacecraft for and to control it during reentry. Mission rules required the landing of the craft as soon as possible after they were fired.


    36. Phillips to MSC, Attn.: Shea, 6 April 1966; MSC, “Apollo Lunar Landing Mission Symposium: Proceedings and Compilation of Papers,” 3 vols., 1, 25-27 June 1966, unpaged.

    37. MSC, “Apollo Lunar Landing Symposium.”

    38. Mueller to Gilruth, “MSF Experiments,” 20 Jan. 1966; Homer E. Newell, NASA Hq., to Dir., MSC, Attn.: Mgr., Experiments Prog. Off. (EXPO), “Authorization to Procure Space Science and Applications Investigations for Apollo Lunar Missions,” 14 Feb. 1966; John T. Holloway to Dir., MSC, “Development of Experiments for the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP),” 14 April 1966; NASA, “Bendix Named to Manufacture Lunar Package,” news release 66-63, 17 March 1966; A. P. Fontaine to Gilruth, 18 Feb. 1966.

    39. Willis B. Foster, NASA Hq., to MSC, Attn.: John M. Eggleston, “Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 23 Oct. 1964; Col. Jack Bollerud, NASA OMSF, to Dir., MSF Field Ctr. Dev., “Public Health Service Proposed Congressional Statement in Support of the NASA Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 14 Feb. 1966, with enc., “Statement by John R. Bagby, Assistant Chief, Communicable Diseases Center, Public Health Service, on the containment of lunar samples, astronauts, and support personnel.”

    40. Gen. Frank A. Bogart, NASA OMSF, to Dep. Dir., Space Medicine, OMSF, “Formulation of PHS-NASA working relationships re lunar sample receiving,” 11 Jan. 1966; J. Gordon Griffith datafax to NASA Hq., Attn.: Angelo P. Picillo, “Project No. 7235, Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory,” 4 March 1966, with enc.; Bagby statement.

    41. Bogart to Low, 25 March 1966; Mueller to Gilruth, 13 May 1966; MSC, “Establishment of a Lunar Receiving Laboratory Policy Board and . . . Program Office,” Announcement 66-57, 9 May 1966; MSC, “Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Building 37: Apollo Mission Operations,” preliminary, 9 Dec. 1966; MSC, “Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Building 37: Facility Description,” preliminary, 9 Dec. 1966; MSC, “Lunar Receiving Laboratory Briefing,” 29 June 1967; J. C. McClane, Jr., et al., “The Lunar Receiving Laboratory,” MSC brochure, 25 Oct. 1966.

    42. MSC, “Gemini Mission Report, Gemini VIII,” MSC-G-R-66-4, 29 April 1966, pp. 1-1 through 1-4; [Ivan D. Ertel], Gemini VIII: Rendezvous and Docking Mission, MSC Fact Sheet 291-E (Houston, April 1966), p. 4; Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA SP-4203 (Washington, 1977), chap. XIII.

    43. John D. Hodge, MSC, to Tech. Asst., Apollo, “Simultaneous launch for AS-207 and AS-208,” 4 Feb. 1966; Howard W. Tindall, Jr., MSC, memo, “Apollo AS-207/208 rendezvous mission planning,” 24 Feb. 1966, with enc.; J. Thomas Markley, MSC, memo, “Program changes and revision to GSE requirements at KSC,” 11 March 1966, with enc.; Tindall memos, “Comments on the AS-207 208 Preliminary Spacecraft Reference Trajectory,” 16 May 1966, “AS-207/208 operational rendezvous,” 18 May 1966, “Apollo spacecraft computer program development newsletter,” 31 May 1966, “Apollo spacecraft computer program—or a bucket of worms,” 13 June 1966, and “Somebody up there likes us!” 5 July 1966; James D. Alexander, MSC, memo, “Description of the AS-207/208A mission,” 19 July 1966, with encs.

    44. Phillips TWX to MSFC, MSC, and KSC, “Saturn IB Dual Launch,” 8 March 1966; Markley memo, “Work to Be Done,” 7 March 1966; R. L. Wagner note to Phillips, “[Bellcomm] Working Note—Use of Gemini Software for Apollo,” 25 April 1966; NASA, “Mission Operations Plan, Apollo-Saturn 207/208,” OMSF mission operations directive 11, M-D MO 2200.041, 16 June 1966; NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1966, pp. 122, 126-27, 129, 203-04; JPL, “Surveyor A Press Conference,” 2 June 1966; NASA Hq., “News Conference: Scientific Results of the Preliminary Findings of Surveyor I,” 16 June 1966; Homer E. Newell, “Surveyor: Candid Camera on the Moon,” National Geographic 130, no. 4 (October 1966): 578-92; NASA, Surveyor: Program Results, SP-184 (Washington, 1969).

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-6. The Astronauts and the Gemini Experience

    Because of the heavy workload in Gemini and the upcoming missions in Apollo, Robert Gilruth had convinced George Mueller the previous year that he needed more astronauts. On 4 April 1966, NASA announced that 19 new flight candidates had been selected, bringing the roster up to 50.* Donald Slayton presided over the corps, selecting and training the crews that were flying Gemini missions almost bimonthly.

    Preparations for Gemini IX, the second mission scheduled for 1966, began the year in tragedy when its prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, crashed their aircraft into the building at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation that housed the mission spacecraft. Both were killed. Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan took over their duties. On 17 May, an Atlas booster attempted to put an Agena target vehicle into orbit for Gemini and failed. NASA launched a substitute vehicle, called the augmented target docking adapter, on 1 June. Stafford and Cernan were ready to follow, but problems with their guidance system and computer forced them to wait two days before Gemini IX-A was launched to start the chase. Once they caught up, they found that the launch shroud had stuck to the substitute target, making it look, as Stafford said, “like an angry alligator.” Although hopes for a second docking in space were dashed, Stafford and Cernan carried out rendezvous maneuvers in a variety of ways and Cernan spent two strenuous hours outside of the spacecraft, trying in vain to ride an astronaut maneuvering unit. Apollo mission planners examined these flight results closely, looking for better operations and training procedures, especially for extravehicular activity.45

    Six weeks after the Stafford-Cernan flight, on 18 July, John Young and Michael Collins pushed off aboard Gemini X to rendezvous with a pair of Agenas, one launched for their own mission and the other left in orbit by Gemini VIII. They had trouble making the initial rendezvous and used too much fuel; but, once hooked up to their Agena, they found both high-altitude flight, to 763 kilometers, and a meeting with the second Agena fairly simple. Using a hand gun, Collins had such a successful period outside the spacecraft that some NASA officials believed most of the extravehicular problems had been overcome.46

    But on 12 September, with Charles Conrad at the helm of Gemini XI, Richard Gordon found that moving about in space was as difficult as Cernan had said. Gordon became totally exhausted trying to hook a line between the spacecraft and target vehicle so the two craft could separate, spin, and produce a small amount of artificial gravity. He managed to finish the job, but at great physical cost. Nevertheless, Gemini XI expanded manned space exploration to a distance of nearly 1,400 kilometers above the earth to demonstrate that Apollo spacecraft could travel safely through the trapped radiation zones on their way to the moon. More importantly, perhaps, the crew carried out a first-orbit rendezvous, to simulate the lunar module lifting off the moon to meet the command module in lunar orbit, and made the first computer-controlled reentry. Conrad checked his onboard data with mission control, cut in his computer, and flew in on what amounted to an automatic pilot—much as Apollo crews would have to do to hit the narrow reentry corridor on their return to earth. 47

    In the Gemini finale, NASA was intent on eliminating some of the mystery of why man's work outside his spacecraft was so difficult. In preparation for this, the astronauts began underwater training, which simulated extravehicular activity more closely than the few seconds of weightlessness that could be obtained during Keplerian trajectories in aircraft. The pilot-controlled maneuvering unit was canceled after Gordon's difficulties, so the Gemini XII crew could concentrate on the “fundamentals” of extravehicular movements. When James Lovell and Edwin Aldrin left the ground on 11 November, this was really the chief objective of their mission. By this time, crew systems personnel had attached enough rails and handholds here and there about the spacecraft to give Aldrin a relatively easy five hours of work outside the spacecraft.48

    Gemini made major contributions to Apollo and to the astronauts. Flight control and tracking network personnel learned to conduct complex missions with a variety of problems, and mission planners understood more about what it would take to land men on the moon. Rendezvous was demonstrated in so many ways that few engineers remembered they had ever thought it might be difficult. Perhaps the biggest gain for the astronauts was that 16 of the 50 had flown, operated controls, and performed experiments in the weightlessness of space.

    Apollo astronauts, however, would rely more on simulators than on Gemini experience. There were, or soon would be, three sets of these trainers—two at Cape Kennedy and one in Houston—modeled after the command module and the lunar module. The simulators, constantly being changed to match the cabin of each individual spacecraft, were engineered to provide their riders with all the sights, sounds, and movements they would encounter in actual flight. Slayton had told George Mueller that the crews would need 180 training hours in the command module simulator and the flight commander and lunar module pilot an additional 140 hours in the lunar module trainer—about 80 percent more training time than the pilots of the early Gemini flights had required.49


    * The 19 candidates were Vance D. Brand, John S. Bull, Gerald P. Carr, Charles M. Duke, Jr., Joe H. Engle, Ronald E. Evans, Edward G. Givens, Jr., Fred W. Haise, Jr., James B. Irwin, Don L. Lind, John R. Lousma, Thomas K. Mattingly II, Bruce McCandless II, Edgar D. Mitchell, William R. Pogue, Stuart A. Roosa, John L. Swigert, Jr., Paul J. Weitz, and Alfred M. Worden. Actually this fifth set brought the total selected to 55, but the number on active status had been reduced for a variety of reasons: John Glenn had resigned to pursue a political and business career; Scott Carpenter had returned to duty in the Navy; and Charles Bassett, Theodore Freeman, and Elliot See had been killed in aircraft accidents.


    45. MSC news release 66-22, 4 April 1966; MSC, “Gemini Program Mission Report, Gemini IX-A,” MSC-G-R-66-6, n.d., pp. 1-1 through 1-3, 4-1; [Ertel], Gemini IX-A: Rendezvous Mission, MSC Fact Sheet 291-F (Houston, August 1966); Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans, chap. XIV.

    46. MSC, “Gemini Program Mission Report, Gemini X,” MSC-G-R-66-7, August 1966, pp. 4-1 through 4-11; [Ertel], Gemini X: Multiple Rendezvous, EVA Mission, MSC Fact Sheet 291-G (Houston, September 1966); Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans. chap. XIV.

    47. MSC, “Gemini Program Mission Report, Gemini XI,” MSC-G-R-66-8, October 1966, pp. 4-1 through 4-3; [Ertel], Gemini VI Mission: High Altitude, Tethered Flight, MSC Fact Sheet 291-H (Houston, October 1966); Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans, chap. XV.

    48. Shea to R. E. Newgood, 24 Oct. 1966; MSC, “Gemini Program Mission Report, Gemini XII,” MSC-G-R-67-1, January 1967, pp. 4-1 through 4-5; Ertel, Gemini XII Flight and Gemini Program Summary, MSC Fact Sheet 291-I (Houston, December 1966); Hacker and Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans, chap. XV.

    49. Mueller to Gilruth, 26 March 1966.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch8-7. Preparations for the First Manned Apollo Mission

    For a time, the mission called AS-204 had two flight plans. AS-204A, manned by Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee, * was “to verify spacecraft crew operations and CSM subsystems performance for an earth-orbit mission of up to 14 days' duration and to verify the launch vehicle subsystems performance in preparation for subsequent operational Saturn IB missions.” The flight would be in the last quarter of 1966 from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy. AS-204B, on the other hand, would be an unmanned mission with the same objectives (except for crew operations), to be flown only if spacecraft and launch vehicle had not qualified for manned flights. And there were doubts. Gas ingestion in the service module propulsion system in AS-201 and the resulting erratic firing had caused some misgivings, although these had been somewhat allayed by AS-202. 50

    As in early Mercury and Gemini manned flights, stress was laid on engineering and operational qualification rather than on experiments— whether medical or scientific. In December 1966, with only 9 experiments assigned to AS-204, 30 operational functions had a higher priority. And even then Slayton complained that the crew was not getting enough time in the new simulation and checkout facilities because of the experiments. Despite his arguments, the second Apollo crew (Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, with Frank Borman, Stafford, and Collins as backups), announced on 29 September, was scheduled for a heavier workload of experiments. 51 As technical troubles came to the fore, however, emphasis on experiments shifted.

    012 CSM

    Command module 012 and service module 012 in workstands at the North American Aviation plant, Downey, in 1965.


    Factory Checkout

    The chart shows the factory checkout workdays (1966).


    North American should have shipped spacecraft 012 from Downey to Kennedy in early August, but “eleventh hour problems associated with the Command Module Environmental Control Unit water glycol pump failure resulted in a NAA NASA decision to replace the ECU with the unit from SC 014.” The Customer Acceptance Review revealed some environmental control items that still needed to be corrected, but NASA allowed North American to ship 012 to Florida on 25 August anyway. Once it arrived, John G. Shinkle, Apollo Program Manager at Kennedy, complained about the amount of engineering work that still had to be done. More than half of it, he said, should have been finished before the spacecraft left the factory.52

    CM 012 arrives

    CM-012—“Apollo One"- arrives at Kennedy Space Center, 26 August 1966.


    Apollo 1 crew check comms

    Astronauts Grissom (left), Chaffee, and White check the communications headgear in preparation for what was to have been the first manned Apollo flight—Apollo-Saturn 204, scheduled for 21 February 1967.


    While flight-preparation crews were having problems, Grissom, White, and Chaffee were finding bottlenecks in training activities. The chief problem was keeping the Apollo mission simulator current with changes being made in spacecraft 012. At the Cape, Riley D. McCafferty said, there were more than 100 modifications outstanding at one time. Grissom, McCafferty later recalled, would “tear my heart out” because the simulator was not keeping up with the spacecraft. Eventually, the first Apollo commander hung a lemon on the trainer. 53

    Getting the spacecraft to the Cape did not really improve conditions. The environmental control unit needed to be replaced again, which held up testing in the vacuum chamber. AiResearch shipped the new unit from its West Coast plant to Kennedy on 2 November. Within two weeks, it was installed and testing was begun. It was then returned to California for further work. By mid-December, the component was back in Florida and in the spacecraft. Meanwhile, the service module had been waiting in the vacuum chamber for the command module. While it was sitting there, a light shattered, and falling debris damaged several of the maneuvering thrusters.54 But this was not the only cause for worry about the service module.

    On 25 October at the North American factory, the service module for spacecraft 017 was undergoing routine pressure tests of the propulsion system's propellant tanks when the tanks suddenly exploded. No one was injured, but North American and NASA engineers were baffled as to the cause for the next few weeks. The tanks had not been overpressurized, test procedures had not been relaxed, and no design deficiencies were apparent; yet the fuel storage tank had failed with a bang. Since the service module for spacecraft 012 had been through identical tests, Shea was vitally concerned with unraveling this riddle before Grissom and his group flew.

    William M. Bland and Joseph N. Kotanchik were sent from the Manned Spacecraft Center to Downey to help North American hunt for the trouble, and Houston set up a parallel test to verify the results. They learned that the methanol (methyl alcohol employed as a test pressurant fluid caused stress corrosion (or cracking) of the titanium alloy used for the propellant tanks. Replacing the methanol with a fluid that was compatible with titanium would eliminate this problem. In the meantime, the tanks were removed from service module 012 and found to be free of any dangerous corrosion.55

    In September, Mueller reminded Gilruth of the upcoming Design Certification Review. Board membership would, he said, include himself, Gilruth, von Braun, and Debus. The group met on 7 October and agreed that the space vehicle conformed to design requirements and was flightworthy, provided several deficiencies were corrected. Phillips sent the list to Lee B. James at Marshall, Shinkle at Kennedy, and Shea at the Manned Spacecraft Center, urging speedy clearance. Shinkle had already registered his complaints about spacecraft 012; now he added that Houston should insist on better spacecraft being shipped to the Cape. He pointed out the major problems that had been found: a leak in the service propulsion system, problems with the reaction control system, troubles in the environmental control unit, and even design deficiencies in the crew couches that required North American engineers to travel from Downey to the Cape to correct them. 56

    In early December, NASA reluctantly surrendered its plans for launching the first manned Apollo flight before the end of 1966. Mueller and Seamans then reshuffled the flight schedule, delaying AS-204 until February 1967 and scrubbing the scheduled second mission. Experimenters who had planned to place their wares aboard Schirra's spacecraft were brushed aside. Following AS-204, NASA planned to fly the lunar module alone and then a manned Block II command and service module, No. 101, in August 1967 to rendezvous with unmanned LM-2, the LM being lofted into orbit by a Saturn IB in a mission dubbed AS-205/208.

    If everything went well, NASA hoped to get two crews besides Grissom's spaceborne before the end of 1967, with at least one riding a Saturn V. Replacing the Schirra team as the second Apollo flight crew were James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart (backed by Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan) for a workout of the command module and lander in earth orbit. To fly the Saturn V mission, AS-503, NASA picked Frank Borman, Michael Collins, and William Anders (with Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Clifton Williams as backups); they would ride the spacecraft into orbit and out as far as 6,400 kilometers above the earth.57

    After all this flight shuffling, the Apollo program seemed to be in fair shape at the end of 1966. North American had finished the last of the manufacturing work on the earth-orbital version of the command and service modules on 16 September and could now concentrate on improving the lunar-orbital spacecraft.58 The lunar module still had problems, but Grumman was making headway in resolving them. The pathway to the moon appeared to be clearing, as NASA stood on the threshold of Apollo manned space flight operations.


    * NASA announced 21 March 1966 that these three astronauts would fly the first manned Apollo mission.


    50. William Lee memo, “Initial Mission Directive for Mission 204,” 29 Jan. 1965; Maynard to Apollo Trajectory Support Off., “Revisions to Apollo Mission 204A objectives and mission requirements,” 22 April 1965, with enc.; John H. Boynton to Asst. Dir., Flight Ops., “Definitions for various mission profiles,” 4 Aug. 1965; TRW Systems, “Mission Requirements for Apollo Spacecraft and Saturn Launch Vehicle Development, Mission Apollo Saturn 204B,” 2132-H001-RU-000, 3 Sept. 1965; MSC, FOD, “Apollo Flight Operations Plan: AS-204A,” 1 Dec. 1965; NASA, “Mission Operations Plan, Apollo-Saturn 204,” OMSF mission operations directive 4, M-D MO 2200.019, 7 Dec. 1965; Shea memo, “Back-up Missions for Apollo,” 12 Jan. 1966; anon., mission 204B outline notes, 14 April 1966; NASA, “Apollo Program Flight Mission Directive for Apollo-Saturn 204A Mission,” OMSF Apollo program directive 20, M-D MA 1400.043, 15 July 1966; MSC, “Gemini and Apollo Crews Selected,” news release 66-20, 21 March 1966.

    51. Abstract of Meeting on Experiments for the Apollo AS-204 Mission, 12 May 1966; EXPO, “Apollo Earth Orbital Experiments,” 1 Aug. 1966; Hodge memo, “Flight Control Experiments Operations Plan for AS-204,” 18 Oct. 1966, with enc.; Maynard memo, “Objective Priorities for Mission AS-204,” 23 Dec. 1966; Slayton memo for Mgr., EXPO, “AS-204 Medical Experiments,” 20 Jan. 1966; NASA, “Second Crew Named for Apollo Flight,” news release 66-260, 29 Sept. 1966.

    52. MSC, CSM CEB, “C and SM Schedules Engineering Report,” 19 Aug. 1966; Lanzkron memo, “NAA CARR Action Responses—CSM 012,” 4 Oct. 1966, with encs.; Brig. Gen. Carroll H. Bolender to Phillips, NASA routing slip, with enc., Bolender memo for record, no subj., 11 Oct. 1966; Lanzkron to Mgr., ASPO, “EO's on Spacecraft 012,” 8 Nov. 1966.

    53. Riley D. McCafferty, interview, Cocoa, Fla., 15 Nov. 1969; Slayton to CSM Contracting Officer, “Acceptance of Apollo Mission Simulator No. 2,” 12 Aug. 1966.

    54. Edward R. Mathews and Hugh E. McCoy TWXs to NASA Hq. et al., “Daily Status Report, AS-204, dated October 27, 1966,” 28 Oct. 1966, and “Daily Status Report, AS-204, dated October 28, 1966,” 29 Oct. 1966; Lanzkron TWX to KSC, Attn.: Maj. Gen. John G. Shinkle, 28 Oct. 1966; Phillips to Assoc. Admin., NASA, “CSM ECS Status as of 28 October 1966,” 1 Nov. 1966; Phillips to Mueller, no subj., 1, 2, and 15 Nov. 1966; James F. Saunders, Jr., to Chief, Apollo Spacecraft Test, “012/AS-204 KSC activity for 12/16/66,” 16 Dec. 1966, with annotations by Phillips and LeRoy E. Day, 18 Dec. 1966.

    55. Markley to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “ASPO Weekly Project Status Report to MSF,” 26 Oct. 1966; Frank J. Magliato, NASA Hq., note to Webb and Robert C. Seamans, Jr., “Test Failure of Service Module 017,” 26 Oct. 1966; Robert R. Ridnour, MSC, RASPO-Downey, TWXs to MSC et al., “Status Report Number One, Test Failure Investigation of SM 017,” 27 Oct. 1966, and “Status Report Number Two, Test Failure Investigation of SM 017,” 28 Oct. 1966; Shea TWX to NASA Hq. et al., “Interim Problem Bulletin (Telegram),” 2 Nov. 1966; Lanzkron TWX to KSC, Attn.: Chief, Manned Spacecraft Off., 14 Nov. 1966; Lanzkron TWX to KSC, Attn.: Shinkle, 14 Nov. 1966; William M. Bland, Jr., MSC, RQ&A, to Mgr., ASPO, “Report on trip to KSC, November 14, 1966,” 15 Nov. 1966; Shea briefing for Webb et al., [15 Nov. 1966]; Phillips to Mueller, 15 Nov. 1966; Shea to Kurt H. Debus, KSC, 25 Nov. 1966; anon., “Summary of Damage to SC 017 Service Module,” [December 1966]; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Test Investigation for Service Module 017 Tank Failure,” 16 Feb. 1968; Joseph N. Kotanchik to Dep. Mgr., Apollo Reliability and Quality Assurance, “Preliminary Report by GAO on their look at S/C 017 Tank Failure,” 4 June 1968; Bland to Mgr., ASPO, “Preliminary Report by GAO on their look at S/C 017 Tank Failure,” 7 June 1968, with enc., “Summarization of Audit Findings on Review of Explosive Failure of the Apollo Spacecraft 017 Service Module under the Apollo Program at North American Rockwell Corporation, Space Division,” n.d.

    56. Shea memo, “Design Certification Review for Spacecraft 012,” 24 June 1966; Mueller to Gilruth, 2 Sept. 1966; Phillips letter, “AS-204 Design Certification Review,” 12 Oct 1966, with enc.; Phillips to MSFC, MSC, and KSC, Attn.: Lee B. James, Shea, and Shinkle, “AS-204 Design Certification Review,” 20 Oct. 1966; Shinkle, KSC, to MSC, Attn.: Shea, 4 Nov. 1966, with encs.

    57. Everett E. Christensen TWX, “MSF Mission Operations Schedule Forecast for November 1966,” 18 Nov. 1966; Phillips TWX, ["Apollo Program Directive No. 4F (Interim)"], 16 Nov. 1966; Christensen TWX, “MSF Mission Operations Schedule for December 1966,” 8 Dec. 1966; Shea to Phillips, 8 Dec. 1966; William O. Armstrong, interview, Washington, 24 Jan. 1967; [Mueller] to Seamans, “Apollo Program Adjustment,” 7 Dec. 1966, with enc.; NASA, “NASA Names Crews for Apollo Flights,” news release 66-326, 22 Dec. 1966.

    58. House Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Pace and Progress, pp. 1137-1219.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch9-1. Tragedy and Recovery

    1967

    Nestled beside an umbilical tower, surrounded by a service structure, and encased in a clean room at Cape Kennedy's Launch Complex 34, spacecraft 012 sat atop a Saturn IB on Friday morning, 27 January 1967. Everything was ready for a launch simulation, a vital step in determining whether the spacecraft would be ready to fly the following month. During this “plugs out” test, all electrical, environmental, and ground checkout cables would be disconnected to verify that the spacecraft and launch vehicle could function on internal power alone after the umbilical lines dropped out.1

    By 8:00 that morning, a thousand men, to support three spacesuited astronauts—Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee—were checking systems to make sure that everything was in order before pulling the plugs. In the blockhouse, the clean room, the service structure, the swing arm of the umbilical tower, and the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, this army of technicians was to go through all the steps necessary to prove that this Block I command module was ready to sustain three men in earth-orbital flight. Twenty-five technicians were working on level A-8 of the service structure next to the command module and five more, mostly North American employees, were busy inside the clean room at the end of the swing arm. Squads of men gathered at other places on the service structure. If interruptions and delays stretched out the test, as often happened, round-the-clock shifts were ready to carry the exercise to a conclusion. Throughout the morning, however, most of the preparations went smoothly, with one group after another finishing checklists and reporting readiness.

    After an early lunch, Grissom, White, and Chaffee suited up, rode to the pad (arriving an hour after noon), and slid into the spacecraft couches. Technicians sealed the pressure vessel inner hatch, secured the outer crew access hatch, and then locked the booster cover cap in place. All three astronauts were instrumented with biomedical sensors, tied together on the communications circuit, and attached to the environmental control system. Strapped down, as though waiting for launch, they began purging their space suits and the cabin atmosphere of all gases except oxygen—a standing operating procedure. 2


    1. Much of this chapter is based on Report of Apollo 204 Review Board to the Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Washington, 1967), Floyd L. Thompson, chairman, 5 April 1967, with appendixes A through G (hereafter cited as RARB). Also basic are Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo Accident: Hearings, 8 parts, 90th Cong., 1st and 2nd sess., 7 Feb. 1967 to January 1968, and House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Investigation into Apollo 204 Accident: Hearings, 3 vols., 90th Cong., 1st sess., 10 April to 10 May 1967. See also Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo 204 Accident: Report, 90th Cong., 2nd sess., 30 Jan. 1968, S. Rept. 956.

    2. RARB, pp. 4-1 to 4-8, and append. D, pp. D-6-1 to D-6-86.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch9-2. Stalked by the Spectre

    For almost a year, the Grissom crew had watched its craft go through the production line, test program, and launch pad preparations. After participating in a multitude of critiques, reading numerous discrepancy reports, and going through several suited trials in the spacecraft in altitude chambers at Downey and the Cape, Grissom's group had learned almost all the idiosyncrasies of spacecraft 012. The astronauts knew, if not every nut and bolt, at least the functions of its 88 subsystems and the proper positions for hundreds of switches and controls inside the cockpit. They also knew that the environmental unit had been causing trouble. Indeed, Grissom's first reports on entering the cabin were of a peculiar odor—like sour milk.* 3

    As all traces of sea-level atmosphere were removed from the suit circuit and spacecraft cabin, pure oxygen at a pressure of 11.5 newtons per square centimeter (16.7 pounds per square inch) was substituted. The crew checked lists, listened to the countdown, and complained about communications problems** that caused intermittent delays. The men could speak over four channels, either by radio or telephone line, but the tie—in with the test conductors and the monitors was complicated and troublesome. Somewhere there was an unattended live microphone that could not be tracked down and turned off. Other systems, Grissom's crew noted, seemed to be operating normally. At four in the afternoon, one shift of technicians departed and another came on duty.

    Near sunset, early on this winter evening, communications problems again caused a delay, this time for ten minutes, before the plugs could be pulled. Thus, the test that should have been finished had not really started, and an emergency egress practice was still to come. The crew was accustomed to waiting, however, having spent similar long hours in trouble-plagued training simulators. About 6:30, Grissom may have been thinking about the jest he had played on Riley McCafferty by hanging a lemon on the trainer.4

    Donald Slayton sat half a kilometer away at a console in the blockhouse next to Stuart Roosa, the capsule communicator. *** On the first floor of the launch complex, Gary W. Propst, an RCA employee, watched a television monitor that had its transmitting camera trained on the window of the command module. Clarence A. Chauvin, the Kennedy Space Center test conductor, waited in the automated checkout equipment room of the operations building, and Darrell O. Gain, the North American test conductor, sat next door. NASA quality control inspector Henry H. Rogers boarded the Pad 34 elevator to ride up to the clean room. There, at the moment, were three North American employees: Donald O. Babbitt, pad leader; James D. Gleaves, mechanical technician; and L. D. Reece, systems technician. Reece was waiting to pull the plugs on signal. Just outside on the swing arm, Steven B. Clemmons and Jerry W. Hawkins were listening for Reece to call them to come and help. All of these men and several others in the vicinity at 6:31 heard a cry over the radio circuit from inside the capsule: “There is a fire in here.”5

    Stunned, pad leader Babbitt looked up from his desk and shouted to Gleaves: “Get them out of there!” As Babbitt spun to reach a squawk box to notify the blockhouse, a sheet of flame flashed from the spacecraft. Then he was hurled toward the door by a concussion. In an instant of terror, Babbitt, Gleaves, Reece, and Clemmons fled. In seconds they rushed back, and Reece and Clemmons searched the area for gas masks and for fire extinguishers to fight little patches of flame. All four men, choking and gasping in dense smoke, ran in and out of the enclosure, attempting to remove the spacecraft's hatches.

    Meanwhile, Propst's television picture showed a bright glow inside the spacecraft, followed by flames flaring around the window. For about three minutes, he recalled, the flames increased steadily. Before the room housing the spacecraft filled with smoke, Propst watched with horror as silver-clad arms behind the window fumbled for the hatch. “Blow the hatch, why don't they blow the hatch?” he cried. He did not know until later that the hatch could not be opened explosively. **** Elsewhere, Slayton and Roosa watched a television monitor, aghast, as smoke and fire billowed up. Roosa tried and tried to break the communications barrier with the spacecraft, and Slayton shouted furiously for the two physicians in the blockhouse to hurry to the pad.6

    In the clean room, despite the intense heat, Babbitt, Gleaves, Reese, Hawkins, and Clemmons, now joined by Rogers, continued to fight the flames. From time to time, one or another would have to leave to gasp for air. One by one, they removed the booster cover cap and the outer and inner hatches—prying out the last one five and a half minutes after the alarm sounded. By now, several more workers had joined the rescue attempt. At first no one could see the astronauts through the smoke, only feel them. There were no signs of life. By the time firemen arrived five minutes later, the air had cleared enough to disclose the bodies. Chaffee was still strapped in his couch, but Grissom and White were so intertwined below the hatch sill that it was hard to tell which was which. Fourteen minutes after the first outcry of fire, physicians G. Fred Kelly and Alan C. Harter reached the smoldering clean room. The doctors had difficulty removing the bodies because the spacesuits had fused with molten nylon inside the spacecraft.

    ECS harness

    The environmental control system's instrumentation harness after the command module 012 fire that took the lives of Grissom, White, and Chaffee on 27 January 1967.


    As anguished officials gathered, the pad was cleared of unnecessary personnel, guards were posted, and official photographers were summoned. All through the night, physicians labored to complete their grim task. After the autopsies were finished, the coroner reported that the deaths were accidental, resulting from asphyxiation caused by inhalation of toxic gases. The crew did have second and third degree burns, but these were not severe enough to have caused the deaths. 7

    Most persons who had been connected with the space program in any way remember that the tragedy caught them by surprise. In six years of operation, 19 Americans had flown in space (7 of them, including Grissom, twice) without serious injury. Procedures and precautions had been designed to foresee and prevent hazards; now it was demoralizing to realize the limits of human foresight. Several other astronauts had died, but none in duties directly associated with space flight. Airplane crashes had claimed the lives of Elliot See, Charles Bassett, and Theodore Freeman. These were traumatic experiences, but the loss of three men during a ground test for the first manned Apollo flight was a more grievous blow.

    Memorial services for the AS-204 crewmen were held in Houston on 30 January, although their bodies had been flown north from Kennedy for burial. Grissom and Chaffee were buried in Arlington National Cemetery and White at the Military Academy at West Point. Amid these last rites, a similar tragedy took the lives of two men in an oxygen-filled chamber at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. Airman 2/c William F. Bartley and Airman 3/c Richard G. Harmon were drawing blood samples from rabbits when a fire suddenly swept through the enclosure. The spacecraft and chamber tragedies pinpointed the dangers inherent in advanced space-simulation work.8

    The accident that took the lives of Grissom, White, and Chaffee was heartrending, and some still insist totally unnecessary; but NASA had always feared that, in manned space flight, danger to pilots could increase with each succeeding program. Space flight officials had warned against undue optimism for years, pointing out that any program that large inevitably took its toll of lives—from accident, overwork, or illness brought on by the pressures of such an undertaking. Man was fallible; and a host of editorial cartoons reiterated this axiom for several months after the fire. One, by Paul Conrad in the Los Angeles Times, showed the spectre of death clothed in a spacesuit holding a Mercury spacecraft in one hand, a Gemini in the other, and with the smoldering Apollo in the background. It was captioned, “I thought you knew, I've been aboard on every flight.”9

    While preaching the need to promote quality workmanship, NASA managers had relied on their contractors to invoke effective measures. NASA executives knew they had tried to inspire the whole Apollo team to strive for perfection, but the haunting question now was: Had they tried hard enough? Every company and organization had a management scheme to increase personal motivation by giving recognition to faultless performance. North American had its “PRIDE” program, standing for “Personal Responsibility in Daily Effort,” and NASA had “MFA” for “Manned Flight Awareness.” The NASA program also featured what was called the “Lunar Roll of Honor”; the first lunar landing party would carry a microfilm listing 300,000 names, honoring the exceptional service of those who had aided significantly in the achievement. After the fire, the idea was dropped. Just as it became obvious how difficult it was to fix the blame for failure, it would later be come apparent that it would be equally hard to pinpoint responsibility for success. 10

    In Washington on the day of the accident, an Apollo Executives' Conference was in session, attended by NASA leaders James Webb, Robert Seamans, and George Mueller and by top Gemini and Apollo corporate officials, to mark the transition from two- to three-man space flight operations. That morning the conferees had been invited to the White House to witness the signing of a space treaty. President Johnson described this event as the “first firm step toward keeping outer space free forever from the implements of war.” Later, as the tragic news from Pad 34 spread, the executives considered disbanding. Administrator Webb, however, decided to carry on; Mueller would stay in Washington and Seamans and Samuel Phillips would go to the Cape. The next day, Mueller reported the first few meager facts to the meeting and then gave a paper that Phillips had intended to present. Ironically, Phillips had listed troubles with quality assurance among the top ten problems faced in Apollo.11


    * More than a week earlier, in an altitude chamber test at the Cape, the crewmen had complained that their eyes had smarted when they plugged the suit circuit into the environmental control unit.

    ** Earlier in January, Douglas Broome of the Apollo office in Houston had recommended using heavier wire in the communications systems. The size North American had installed in spacecraft 012, he said, was too flimsy and too subject to damage.

    *** Both Slayton and Joseph Shea had thought of joining the crew in the spacecraft to participate in the test so they could get more feel for actual operations. This was not an unusual procedure, but the time for the scheduled launch was too near. Instead, Shea had flown back to Houston, and Slayton had elected to sit with the CapCom and watch.

    **** After the loss of Grissom's spacecraft in Mercury, when a faulty mechanism blew the hatch prematurely, Space Task Group designers had gone from an explosive to a mechanically operated hatch. This practice continued in Gemini and Apollo.


    3. Ibid.; Maj. Gen. John G. Shinkle, KSC, to NASA Hq., Attn.: Dir. Apollo Prog., “Your Request for Results of CSM 012 Altitude Chamber Testing,” 19 Jan. 1967.

    4. Douglas R. Broome, Jr., to Mgr., ASPO, “Communications Cables for Spacecraft 012 and Block II Spacecraft,” 23 Jan. 1967; William J. Cromie, “Apollo's Crew Not Pleased with Craft,” Houston Chronicle, 30 Jan. 1967; “Problem-Plagued Apollo Worried Grissom,” Houston Post, 13 March 1967; Riley D. McCafferty, interview, Cocoa, Fla., 15 Nov. 1969.

    5. RARB, append. B; “Apollo Tragedy Almost Claimed a Fourth,” Washington Post, 12 Feb. 1967; “The Ten Desperate Minutes,” special report in Life, 21 April 1967, pp. 113-14.

    6. RARB, append. B, passim, but especially pp. B-39, B-59 through B-63, B-161; append. D, pp. D-12-24 to D-12-29.

    7. Ibid., append. B, p. B-162, and D, pp. D-11-23, D-11-25.

    8. Phil Casey, “Grissom and Chaffee Are Buried in Arlington, White at West Point,” Washington Post, 1 Feb. 1967, pp. A-1, A-4; “Science and Space: Apollo's Final Seconds,” Newsweek, 13 Feb. 1967; Thomas O'Toole, “Oxygen Fire Kills 2 At Space School,” Washington Post, 1 Feb. 1967, A-1; William Hines, “Interpretation: 2 Oxygen-Fed Disasters Endanger Space Plans,” Washington Evening Star, p. 1, 1 Feb. 1967.

    9. Lee D. Saegesser, “Cartoons on Space: 1963-1968,” NASA Historical Div., October 1968, unpaged.

    10. Earl Blount, interview, Downey, Calif., 29 Jan. 1970; Albert M. Chop file on “Lunar Roll of Honor,” consisting of correspondence from 27 July 1966 to 26 May 1967; George E. Mueller TWX to KSC, MSC, and MSFC, Attn.: Kurt H. Debus, Gilruth, and Wernher von Braun, ["Cancellation of Lunar Roll of Honor"], 14 May 1967.

    11. Typescript of Gemini Apollo Executives joint meeting, Washington, 27-28 Jan. 1967 chart, “Apollo Program: Top Ten Problems (Jan. 1967)”: funding, S-II deliveries, LH2 tank cracks, LM deliveries, Block II deliveries, S-IVB 503 failure, LM ascent engine overshoot, stress corrosion, quality assurance and personal errors, and program software saturation; Dept. of State, “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” TIAS 6347, United States Treaties, 18: 2415; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4008 (Washington, 1968), p. 23.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch9-3. The Investigation

    After the fire, amid all the grief and the shock that it could have happened, a thorough fact-finding investigation was conducted. Webb and Seamans asked Floyd L. Thompson, Director of Langley Research Center, to take charge of the inquiry. Thompson and Seamans met at Kennedy at noon on 28 January for a brief session with other Headquarters, Houston, and Cape officials and then adjourned to Complex 34 to see the scene of the accident.12

    Seamans returned to Washington that evening, consulted with Webb, and drafted a memorandum formalizing the AS-204 Review Board with Thompson as chairman. Members were astronaut Frank Borman and Max Faget of the Manned Spacecraft Center, E. Barton Geer of Langley Research Center, George W. Jeffs of North American, Franklin A. Long of Cornell University and the President's Science Advisory Committee, Colonel Charles F. Strang of the Air Force Inspector General's office, George C. White of NASA Headquarters, and John J. Williams of Kennedy Space Center.

    The board quickly established tight security at Complex 34, impounded documents pertaining to the accident, and collected eyewitness reports. News media representatives swarmed in to cover the story, and their unofficial investigations and semifactual innuendos filled newsprint and airwaves throughout the following weeks. Many looked for quick answers and simple explanations, but by 3 February it was obvious to NASA officials, at least, that no single cause for the accident could be isolated immediately. Seamans and Thompson set up 21 panels to assist the review board. When he realized that full-time participation was expected, Long asked to be excused. He was replaced by Robert W. Van Dolah, an explosives expert from the Bureau of Mines. In other personnel actions, Seamans asked Jeffs to serve as a consultant rather than as a board member and George T. Malley, chief counsel at Langley, to act as legal advisor.13

    Anticipating public clamor for answers and reforms, if not postponement of Apollo, NASA officials asked leading members of Congress to hold off on a full-scale investigation until the review board finished its report. Senator Clinton P. Anderson, Chairman, agreed to call the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences into executive session only, for its early investigations. And Representative George P. Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, said Olin Teague's Subcommittee on NASA Oversight would not begin hearings until the Thompson Board had submitted its report. Many newsmen charged that the full story would never be known, since most of the board members were NASA employees; others conjectured that Apollo might be grounded altogether. Meanwhile, the Apollo 204 Review Board went systematically about its business. 14

    Seamans returned to Florida on 2 February to prepare a preliminary report for Webb. Although this was made public just a few days later, accusations still swirled that the NASA investigation could not be impartial since it was a probe of the agency by itself. There were also sensationalistic charges such as those in Eric Bergaust's book, Murder on Pad 34, a year and a half later. Bergaust said that NASA, even while denying that it was in a space race, had nevertheless placed speed above safety.15

    But there was plenty of evidence that meeting schedules was not the whole story. “We're in a risky business,” Grissom himself had said in an interview several weeks before the fire, “and we hope if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” He was later quoted as saying, “Our God-given curiosity will force us to go there ourselves because in the final analysis only man can fully evaluate the moon in terms understandable to other men.”16

    Congressional leaders did not entirely share the views and misgivings of the press. In a bipartisan move, Senators Anderson and Margaret Chase Smith arranged for publication of the executive hearings of 7 February with Seamans, Mueller, Charles A. Berry (Houston's medical director of manned space flight), and Richard Johnston (spacesuit and life support systems expert). This openness of congressional deliberations helped to defuse media criticism about the objectivity of the ongoing investigation.17

    CM-012 disassembly—heatshields

    CM-012 was disassembled for the investigation; the crew compartment heatshield (foreground) and aft heatshield are displayed at right above.


    CM parts laid out

    CM parts were studied and catalogued in the Pyrotechnics Installation Building at Kennedy Space Center.


    Spacecraft 014, nearly identical to 012, was shipped from California to Florida. There the Thompson Board and its panels had the vehicle dismantled for comparison with the remains of 012, which was being taken apart and every piece studied and analyzed. Thompson took advantage of the background and experience of his board members, assigning some to monitor several of the panels. While technicians worked around the clock for the first few weeks, the board held daily recorded and transcribed sessions to consider the findings. Strang was an effective vice-chairman, drawing on his background as an inspector to organize proceedings and prepare comprehensive reports. Van Dolah, the mining explosives expert, had only one panel—origin and propagation of the fire—to monitor, emphasizing the importance of finding that answer. Thompson reserved a single panel, medical analysis, for himself.

    Faget had the heaviest load of panels: sequence of events, materials review, special tests, and integration analysis. Borman drew the teams on disassembly, ground emergency provisions, and inflight fire emergency provisions. Williams monitored the spacecraft and ground support equipment configuration, test procedures review, and service module disposition. George White, quality and reliability chief from Headquarters, was responsible for investigations into test environments, design reviews, and historical data. An associate of Thompson's from Langley, Geer handled the groups on the analysis of spacecraft fractures, the board's administrative procedures, and the safety of the investigation operations themselves. Strang was left with the panels taking statements from witnesses, handling the security operations of the inquiry, and writing up the final report.

    When Seamans made a second preliminary report to Webb, on 14 February, it was clear that the fire was indeed a fire, and not an explosion leading to a fire. Physical evidence indicated that the conflagration had passed through more than one stage of intensity before the oxygen inside the cabin was used up. By mid-February, the work of tearing down the command module had reached a point where a two-shift six-day week could replace round-the-clock operations.

    On the day of the scheduled launch of AS-204, 21 February, the board gave a preliminary briefing to George Mueller and a dozen other top NASA officials in preparation for a major briefing of Seamans. Thompson told Seamans the next day that 1,500 persons were directly supporting the investigation—600 from government and 900 from industry and the universities—and that the board planned to complete its report by the end of March. Although the history of the fire after it started had been minutely reconstructed, the specific source of ignition had not been—and might never be—determined. On 25 February, Seamans prepared a memorandum for Webb, listing early recommendations by the board that the Administrator could present to Congress:

    That combustible materials now used be replaced wherever possible with non-flammable materials, that non-metallic materials that are used be arranged to maintain fire breaks, that systems for oxygen or liquid combustibles be made fire resistant, and that full flammability tests be conducted with a mockup of the new configuration.

    That a more rapidly and more easily operated hatch be designed and installed.

    That on-the-pad emergency procedures be revised to recognize the possibility of cabin fire.18

    The astronaut member of the Thompson Board assured NASA's top officials that he would not have been afraid to enter the Grissom crew's spacecraft that January day. Working with the board, however, Borman and everyone else had come to realize the substantial hazards that had been present but not recognized before the fire. 19

    As its final report was being put together, the review board recognized that there had been ignorance, sloth, and carelessness, but the key word in all the detailed information was “oversight.” No one, it seemed, realized the extent of fire hazards in an overpressurized oxygen-filled spacecraft cabin on the ground, according to the summary report the board issued on 5 April:

    Although the Board was not able to determine conclusively the specific initiator of the Apollo 204 fire, it has identified the conditions which led to the disaster. . . : 1. A sealed cabin, pressurized with an oxygen atmosphere. 2. An extensive distribution of combustible materials in the cabin. 3. Vulnerable wiring carrying spacecraft power. 4. Vulnerable plumbing carrying a combustible and corrosive coolant. 5. Inadequate provisions for the crew to escape. 6. Inadequate provisions for rescue or medical assistance.

    Having identified the conditions that led to the disaster, the Board addressed itself to the question of how these conditions came to exist. Careful consideration of this question leads the Board to the conclusion that in its devotion to the many difficult problems of space travel, the Apollo team failed to give adequate attention to certain mundane but equally vital questions of crew safety. The Board's investigation revealed many deficiencies in design and engineering, manufacture and quality control.20

    The Thompson Board report came to almost 3,000 pages; divided into 14 booklets, it made up a stack about 20 centimeters high. The six appendixes were: (A) the minutes of the board's own proceedings; (B) eyewitness statements and releases; (C) the Operations Handbook for spacecraft 012; (D) final reports of all 21 panels; (E) a brief summary of management and organization; and (F) a schedule of visible evidence.

    But even before the board issued its report, its conclusions were essentially already public. For instance, a month after the fire Mueller had admitted to Congress that, after six safe years of manned flight experience, it was now obvious that NASA's approach to fire prevention had been wrong. Minimizing the possibility of ignition had not been enough. Safeguards against the spreading of any fire must also be developed. Since it would be nearly impossible to design equipment that would protect the crews both on the ground and in space, * any nonmetallic, and perhaps flammable, materials would have to be carefully screened. In particular, the “four Fs”—fabrics, fasteners, film, and foams—required further investigation. Wiring, plumbing, and packaging must be reevaluated, even if it meant reviving the old debate about a one- versus two-gas environmental control system.21

    As they delved deeper into the reasons behind the tragedy, NASA officials were confronted by some “skeletons in their closet.” Senator Walter F. Mondale raised the question of negligence on the part of management and the prime contractor by introducing the “Phillips report” of 1965-1966. The implication was that NASA had been thinking of replacing North American. But the charges were vague; and, for the next several weeks, no one seemed to know exactly what the Phillips report was. In fact, Webb at first denied that there was such a report. (See Chapter 8.) Mondale also alluded to a document by a North American employee, Thomas R. Baron, that was critical of the contractor's operations at the Cape.

    Baron was a rank and file inspector at Kennedy from September 1965 until November 1966, when he asked for and received a leave of absence. He had made observations; had collected gossip, rumor, and critical comments from his fellow employees; and had written a set of condemnatory notes. He had detailed, but not documented, difficulties with persons, parts, equipment, and procedures. Baron had observed the faults of a large-scale organization and apparently had performed his job as a quality inspector with a vengeance. He noted poor workmanship, spacecraft 012 contamination, discrepancies with installations, problems in the environmental control system, and many infractions of cleanliness and safety rules.

    Baron passed on these and other criticisms to his superiors and friends; then he deliberately let his findings leak out to newsmen. North American considered his actions irresponsible and discharged him on 5 January 1967. The company then analyzed and refuted each of Baron's charges and allegations. In the rebuttal, North American denied anything but partial validity to Baron's wide-ranging accusations, although some company officials later testified before Congress that about half of the charges were well-grounded. When the tragedy occurred, Baron was apparently in the process of expanding his 55-page paper into a 500-page report.

    When his indictments were finally aired before Teague's subcommittee, during a meeting at the Cape on 21 April, Baron's credibility was impaired by one of his alleged informants, a fellow North American employee named Mervin Holmburg. Holmburg denied knowing anything about the cause of the accident, although Baron had told the committee that Holmburg “knew exactly what caused the fire.” Holmburg testified that Baron “gets all his information from anonymous phone calls, people calling him and people dropping him a word here and there. That is what he tells me.” Ironically, Baron and all his family died in a car-train crash only a week after this exposure to congressional questioning.22

    Beyond the Phillips and Baron reports, however, recollections of events and warnings during the past six years made each Apollo manager wonder if he had really done all in his power to prevent the tragedy. In March 1965, for instance, Shea and the crew systems people in Houston had wrestled with the question of the one- or two-gas atmosphere and the likelihood of fire—most of the studies were, admittedly, based on the possibility of fire in space—and concluded that a pure oxygen system was safer, less complicated,and lighter in weight. The best way to guard against fire was to keep flammable materials out of the cabin. Hilliard W. Paige of General Electric had, as a matter of fact, warned Shea about the likelihood of spacecraft fires on the ground as recently as September 1966; and, just three weeks before the accident, Medical Director Charles Berry had complained that it was certainly harder to eliminate hazardous materials from the Apollo spacecraft than it had been in either Mercury or Gemini.23

    Although the Senate committee had begun its hearings while the board investigation was in progress, the House subcommittee waited until the final report was ready. By then, the Senate had touched on most of the major issues. As expected, the exact cause of the fire in spacecraft 012 was never determined, but the analysis of all possibilities led to specific corrective actions that eventually satisfied Congress. Throughout the hearings, Borman, still wearing two hats—as an astronaut and as a member of the Apollo 204 Review Board—was very effective. In the course of his testimony, Borman reiterated that the cause of the fire was oversight, rather than negligence or overconfidence. Fire in flight, he said, had been a matter of grave concern since the early days of aviation and the subject of numerous studies. But the notion that a fire hazard was increased on the ground by the use of flammable materials and an overpressure of pure oxygen had never been seriously considered.

    On one occasion, when astronauts Walter Schirra, Slayton, Alan Shepard, and James McDivitt had expressed their confidence in NASA's future safety measures, Borman answered a congressman's doubts by saying:

    You are asking us do we have confidence in the spacecraft, NASA management, our own training, and . . . our leaders. I am almost embarrassed because our answers appear to be a party line. Everything I said last week has been repeated by the people I see here today. The response we have given is the same because it is the truth. . . . We are trying to tell you that we are confident in our management, and in our engineering and in ourselves. I think the question is really: Are you confident in us?24

    When Borman made a plea on 17 April to stop the witch hunt and get on with Apollo, both NASA and North American had responded to the criticisms of the Thompson Board and of Congress. Top-level personnel changes were direct outgrowths of the charges of negligence and mismanagement: Everett E. Christensen at NASA Headquarters resigned as Apollo mission director; George Low replaced Shea as Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager in Houston; and William D. Bergen (formerly of the Martin Company) took over from Harrison Storms as president of North American's Space and Information Systems Division. Bergen brought with him two associates from Martin: Bastian Hello to run the Florida facility for North American and John P. Healy to manage the first manned Block II command module at Downey. Healey was expected to set precedents in guiding a nearly perfect spacecraft through the factory.25

    Most North American officials weathered congressional criticism and pointed out that they agreed, in part, with the formal findings and recommendations of the Thompson Board.** But North American objected to the word “chronic” in describing problems with the environmental control system and defended its electrical wiring practices as functional rather than beautiful. Concurring that the fire probably started from an electrical spark somewhere near the environmental unit, the manufacturers also agreed with NASA on why the fire spread:

    Not withstanding this emphasis on the potential problems created by combustibles in the spacecraft, it can be seen in retrospect that attention was principally directed to individual testing of the material. What was not fully understood by either North American or NASA was the importance of considering the fire potential of combustibles in a system of all materials taken together in the position which they would occupy in the spacecraft and in the environment of the spacecraft.`26

    Leland Atwood and Dale Myers used charts to emphasize to Congress the changes that the company intended to make in both construction and test operations. North American would assign a spacecraft manager and a personalized team to each vehicle, appoint an assistant program manager whose only concern was safety, place additional controls on changes made during modification and checkout phases, and assign personal responsibility to specific inspectors. The company would also revise its fabrication and inspection criteria; expand its quality standards, issuing a handbook with better visual aids; install more protected wiring and plumbing; and insist upon additional major inspections. Myers then discussed fire-related hardware changes: the new unified hatch, materials reevaluation, fluids and plumbing reassessment, electrical system improvements, revised on-the-pad operations, and flammability tests.27

    CM two-hatch system

    The command module's two-hatch system (above) was replaced by the single crew hatch, with emergency features as shown in the drawing (below)


    unified hatch


    In Houston, Faget's engineering and development activity ran all sorts of tests on materials and components, and Robert Gilruth sent Borman with a Houston “tiger team” to Downey in mid-April. *** The astronaut was to make on-the-spot decisions on contractual changes for the unified hatch, better wiring and plumbing techniques, and other improvements that had been planned even before the accident. Borman's tiger team watched closely, lending its assistance when necessary, as North American engineers went over the spacecraft piece by piece.28

    What had happened to the command module, obviously, could just as well happen to the lunar module. Immediately after the fire, Thomas J. Kelly and a host of Grumman workers began a comprehensive review of materials in the lunar lander. Low sent Robert L. Johnston, a materials expert, to help Kelly's group. Grumman replaced nylon cloth in the spacecraft, relying mostly on Beta fiber (an inorganic substance developed by the Corning Glass Works, that would not catch fire nor produce toxic fumes). Perhaps the most important application of this material was as “booties” around circuit breakers, to lessen the possibilities of electrical shorts. In other areas, Grumman worked on its forward hatch, to ensure a crew exit within 10 seconds; the environmental control system; and a cabin and exterior pressure equalization system. All in all, the changes would add a three- to four-month delay in deliveries to the schedule trouble the lander was in even before the fire. Phillips sent a group headed by Roderick O. Middleton of Kennedy to look into Grumman's quality control and inspection procedures. Middleton's audit team completed its report in mid-May, giving Grumman generally good marks in the manufacturing process.29

    harness inspection

    The CM wiring harness goes through x-ray inspection.


    CM-101 tool accounting

    In the stand at North American, an electrical installer for CM-101—now scheduled for the first manned Apollo flight—carefully replaces tools in an accountability kit. (A wrench had been found embedded in the electrical wiring of CM-012, when it was taken apart after the fire.)


    In Washington, on 9 May, Webb was again called on the carpet by the Senate committee. The Phillips report was again a major subject for debate, this time in a context that made it appear that the NASA-North American relationship was in danger of becoming a political football. The very next day, however, congressional questioning began to wind down. As Congressman John W. Wydler put it:

    Essentially the story of the Apollo accident is known to the American people. We have admissions and statements about the things that NASA . . . and . . . North American Aviation [were] doing wrong. . . . But I want to say this to you, Mr. Webb. Over the past few years . . . I probably have been one of the most critical members on this committee of NASA. . . . It appeared to me . . . that you have had it too easy for your own good from this committee. This is not a criticism being directed at you or the Space Agency, but a criticism being directed inwardly at the Congress and this committee. I feel right now that you got less criticism than you deserved [in the past, but now] you are getting more criticism than you deserve. I don't intend to add to it for that reason.

    Wydler did not really stop there, of course, but the investigation did begin to fade away. NASA and North American began implementing the technical recommendations. To some degree, the accident actually bought time for some pieces of Apollo—the lunar module, the Saturn V, the guidance and navigation system, the computers, and the mission simulators—to catch up with and become adapted to the total configuration.30

    Meanwhile, on 23 April 1967 the Soviet Union announced the launching of Vladimir M. Komarov aboard a new spacecraft. Soyuz I appeared to be functioning normally at first. On its second day of flight, however, the craft began to tumble, and Komarov had to use more attitude fuel than he wanted to get the ship under control. He tried to land during his 17th circuit but could not get the proper orientation for retrofire. Komarov succeeded in reentering on the 18th revolution, but his parachute shroud lines entangled. The cosmonaut was killed on impact. So both Soyuz I and Apollo 1 put their programs through traumatic reassessments. No one found any consolation in a “rebalanced" space race. In fact, Webb took the occasion to emphasize the need for international cooperation by asking: “Could the lives already lost have been saved if we had known each other's hopes, aspirations and plans? Or could they have been saved if full cooperation had been the order of the day?”31


    * In August 1966, three fire extinguishers, weighing only 5.7 to 6 kilograms, were evaluated for spacecraft 012 and subsequent flights. The extinguisher selected would be stowed on liftoff for the first manned flights. On later missions, it would be mounted in brackets. All three used Freon FE 1301, a most efficient extinguishing agent on the ground. Under space conditions, however, the chemical worked more slowly, required a higher level of saturation of the flammable materials, and, even worse, generated a gas that might, in sufficient quantities, prove fatal to the crew. Other chemicals would of course be tested, but this would take time.

    ** The widows of Grissom, White, and Chaffee sued North American for negligence in spacecraft manufacture. In 1972, out-of-court settlements to the three totaled $650,000.

    *** Members of the tiger team were Douglas Broome, Aaron Cohen, Jerry W. Craig, Richard E. Lindeman, and Scott H. Simpkinson.


    12. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to James E. Webb, “Report on Apollo 204 Review Board Discussions,” 3 Feb. 1967, reprinted in RARB, pp. 3-47 to 3-50.

    13. Seamans to Webb, “Further report on Apollo 204 Review Board Activities,” 14 Feb. 1967, and “Interim report of the Apollo 204 Review Board,” 25 Feb. 1967, reprinted in RARB, pp. 3-51 through 3-59. For the establishment of the investigation team, see ibid., pp. 1-5 to 1-13 and 3-1 to 3-7.

    14. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo Accident, pt. 1, p. 1; RARB, p. 3-62; “Apollo Probe to Be Public,” Baltimore Sun, 31 Jan. 1967; “Space Program Goes Underground,” Houston Chronicle, 3 Feb. 1967; William Hines, “Washington Close-Up: NASA Probe Value Doubtful,” Washington Evening Star, 9 Feb. 1967.

    15. ["Interim Report of Apollo 204 Review Board"], 22 Feb. 1967; “Text of the Report by Official of NASA on the Fatal Apollo Spacecraft Fire,” New York Times, 5 Feb. 1967; Erik Bergaust, (New York: Putnam, 1968), p.212. NBC presented a television broadcast on 5 April, “Crossroads in Space,” narrated by Frank McGee, that was critical of all facets of NASA and Apollo, according to an article by Harriet Van Horne in the New York World Journal Tribune, 6 April 1967.

    16. “Space: To Strive, to Seek, to Find, and Not to Yield . . . ,” Time, 3 Feb. 1967; Virgil “Gus" Grissom, Gemini: A Personal Account of Man's Venture into Space, ed. Jacob Hay (New York: Macmillan, 1968), p. 175.

    17. Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 1.

    18. RARB, pp. 3-23, 3-47 to 3-59, 5-2.

    19. Ibid., p. 3-62.

    20. Ibid., p. 5-12.

    21. Ibid.; House Subcommittee, Investigation, 1, pp. 10-12, 17, 277-352; Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 3, pp. 192-266, pt. 4. pp. 307-13; William M. Bland, Jr., to Head, CSM Contract Eng. Br., “Allocation of Space for Installation of Fire Extinguishers Aboard SC 012 and Subsequent Manned Apollo Flights,” 17 Aug. 1966; William L. Gill memo, “Evaluation of Freon 1301 fire extinguishing agent in 5 psia O2,” 31 Aug. 1966, with enc., Andris A. Staklis, subj. as above, 22 Aug. 1966.

    22. Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 2, pp. 125-27, 130, 131, pt. 3, pp. 228-30; Samuel C. Phillips to J. Leland Atwood, 19 Dec. 1965, with encs.; Thomas Ronald Baron, “An Apollo Report,” [ca. January 1967]; typescript, North American's rebuttal to the Baron report, [ca. January 1967]; House Subcommittee, Investigation, 1, pp. 379-84, 483-501; William Hines, “Apollo Had Poor Parts, Ex-inspector Charges,” Washington Evening Star, 23 March 1967; Howard Benedict, “20,000 Failures Preceded the Tragedy of Apollo 1,” Washington Post, 12 March 1967; “NAA Apollo Critic Dies in Car Accident,” Space Business Daily, 8 May 1967; “Apollo Critic, Wife, Daughter Killed in Crash,” Atlanta Constitution, 29 April 1967.

    23. Joseph F. Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Apollo atmosphere selection,” 8 March 1965; R. Wayne Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Robert S. Mullaney, 23 May 1966; Clinton L. Taylor TWX to North American, Attn.: James C. Cozad, 25 May 1966; Gill to Chief, Apollo Support Office, Attn.: Donald F. Hughes, “Comparison of fire hazard in 95 +/- 5% oxygen at 21.0 versus 14.7 psia,” 11 Aug. 1966; Hilliard W. Paige to Shea, 30 Sept. 1966; Shea to Paige, 5 Dec. 1966, with enc., Bland to Mgr., ASPO, “Comments on Mr. H. W. Paige's letter to you concerning the fire hazard in our spacecraft,” 23 Nov. 1966, with enc., “Apollo Spacecraft Non Metallic Materials Control Program,” n.d.; Charles A. Berry to Dep. Dir., MSC, “Management Program for Control of Hazardous Spacecraft Materials,” 4 Jan. 1967.

    24. James B. Skaggs memo, “Apollo Weekly Status Report,” 14 April 1967; House Subcommittee, Investigation, 1, especially pp. 436-47. See also Karl Abraham, “NASA Paid for Report Warning of Fire Hazard,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 8 Feb. 1967; Neal Stanford, “Fire Danger Considered Before Apollo Decision,” Christian Science Monitor, 9 Feb. 1967.

    25. NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967, p. 39; “Key Personnel Changes,” MSC Announcement 67-51, 7 April 1967; “Apollo Chief Shifted to Washington,” Washington Post, 6 April 1967; Jim Maloney, “NASA Job Changes,” Houston Post, 6 April 1967; “Former Apollo Chief's Whereabouts a Mystery,” Washington Evening Star, 12 April 1967; Mitchell Gordon, “Echoes of Apollo: A Spacecraft Tragedy Sends Tremors Through North American's Ranks,” Wall Street Journal, 23 June 1967; William B. Bergen, interview, El Segundo, Calif., 2l June 1971; Beirne Lay, Jr., Earth-Bound Astronauts: The Builders of Apollo-Saturn (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971), pp. 124-37.

    26. House Subcommittee, Investigation, 1, pp. 175-76.

    27. Ibid., pp. 141-57.

    28. George M. Low to Dir., Engineering and Development (E&D), “Test Request—Proposed Block II Flame Retardant Coatings,” 14 April 1967; Richard S. Johnston to Dir., E&D, “Fire detection system development,” 17 April 1967; Robert R. Gilruth to Mgr., White Sands Test Facility, “Flammability tests of non-metallic spacecraft materials,” 20 April 1967; Kenneth S. Kleinknecht memo, “Block II redefinition, command and service modules,” 27 April 1967, with enc., subj. as above, 24 April 1967; “Configuration Management Plan for the Block II Redefinition,” 8 May 1967, signed by Frank Borman and Wilbur H. Gray; Kleinknecht memo, “Block II redefinition, command and service module,” 8 May 1967, with enc., “Task Team Block II Redefinition, Command and Service Modules,” 5 May 1967; Low memo, “Nonmetallic Materials Selection Guidelines,” 8 May 1967, with enc., J. W. Craig and M. W. Steinthal, subj. as above, n.d.

    29. Thomas J. Kelly, “Apollo Lunar Module Mission and Development Status,” paper presented at AIAA 4th Annual Meeting and Technical Display, AIAA paper 67-863, Anaheim, Calif., 23-27 Oct. 1967, pp. 11-12; Low memo for record, “NASA-GAEC meeting, May 9, 1967,” 11 May 1967; Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 6, pp. 546-48; Robert G. Button to Roy M. Voris and Gil Perlroth, “Suggested Project—LM Flammability,” 8 Dec. 1967; Maxime A. Faget to Owen E. Maynard, “Beta booties on the LM circuit breaker panels,” 7 Nov. 1967; Phillips TWXs to MSC et al., 14 April and 1 May 1967; Phillips to MSC and KSC, Attn.: Gilruth and Debus, “Audit of Apollo Lunar Module Quality and Inspection Operations,” 18 May 1967, with encs., Phillips TWX to MSC et al., 1 May 1967, and Capt. Roderick O. Middleton et al., to Phillips, subj. as above, 17 May 1967, with enc.

    30. Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 6; House Subcommittee, Investigation, 1, p. 544; “Astronauts Aided by Apollo Delays,” Detroit News, 24 March 1967; “High Hopes for the Moon Shot,” Business Week, 15 April 1967; “Saturn 5 Defects lay Delay Apollo Even More,” Houston Post, 24 May 1967; Howard W. Tindall, Jr., memo, “In which is described the Apollo spacecraft computer programs currently being developed,” 24 March 1967.

    31. NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967, pp. 124-25; William Hines, “Soviet Moon Date Imperiled,” Washington Evening Star, 24 April 1967; Arthur Hill, “Parachute Trouble Grows with Weight of Spaceship,” Houston Chronicle, 24 April 1967; “Russian Cosmonaut Killed,” Houston Post, 25 April 1967; Julian Scheer TWX to all NASA elements, ["Webb's statement on Komarov's death"], 24 April 1967; Edward Clinton and Linda Neuman Ezell, The Partnership: A History of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, comment edition, June 1976, Chap. III.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch9-4. The Slow Recovery

    Within days after the Thompson Board's report, more than a thousand of those at the Manned Spacecraft Center who were working directly in support of the formal investigation began making suggestions for meeting the board's recommendations. Materials selection, substitution, and stowage inside the command module were thoroughly restudied; and all cloth parts made of nylon were replaced by Beta fiber, teflon, or fiber glass. These substitutes were chosen after more than 3,000 laboratory tests had been run on more than 500 different kinds of materials.32

    Of immediate importance was the new unified hatch—unified meaning that the complicated two-hatch system was redesigned into a single hatch. The new component was heavier than the old, but it would open outward in five seconds, had a manual release for either internal or external operation, and would force the boost cover cap out of the way on opening. It could also be opened independently of internal overpressure and would be protected against accidental opening by a mechanism and seal similar to those used on Gemini.

    The management of all industrial safety offices within NASA was revamped, with responsibilities flowing directly to the top at each location. At the launch center, fire and safety precautions were upgraded and personnel emergency preparations were emphasized as never before. Also, at the launch complex itself, a sliding wire was added to the service structure to permit a rapid descent to the ground. Reliability and test procedures were more firmly controlled, making it difficult to inject any last minute or unnecessary changes.

    At the Manned Spacecraft Center, full-scale flammability testing continued, first to try to duplicate the conditions present on 27 January and then to find ways to improve the cabin atmosphere and the environmental control system. The tests led to replacing all aluminum oxygen lines that had solder joints with stainless steel tubing that used brazed joints. Aluminum tubing solder joints that could not be eliminated from the coolant system were armored with sleeves and seals wherever exposed. NASA decided to keep the water-glycol coolant fluid (covering it with flame resistant outer insulation) and added emergency oxygen masks for protection from smoke and fumes. 33

    At NASA Headquarters, Webb directed Mueller to revamp and reorganize the major supporting and integrating contractors to put more pressure on North American, as well as on those manufacturing the other Apollo vehicles. Boeing was given a technical integration and evaluation contract, to act as a watch dog for NASA; and General Electric was told to assume a much greater role in systems analysis and ground support. 34

    The contract situation with North American had reached a peculiar stage even before the fire. The cost-plus-incentive-fee contract NASA had negotiated with North American in October 1965 had expired on 3 December 1966. In late January 1967, the legal status of relations was in some doubt. The objectives of the incentive contract had been to reverse the trend of continuing schedule slips, to get Block I vehicles delivered from the factory, to speed up Block II manufacturing, and to bring costs under control. Progress had been made on all fronts by the end of 1966; the flights of Block I spacecraft 002, 009, and 011 had been 80 percent successful, Block II work had moved along, and the cost spiral had stopped.

    Despite the fire, John J. McClintock, chief of the Apollo office program control division, advocated in April 1967 that NASA negotiate a follow-on incentive contract, placing heaviest emphasis on flight performance and quality and less on schedules. North American's business negotiators had already conceded that no incentive fee could be expected for spacecraft 012. The closeout cost for the Block I series was set at $37.4 million. This meant that the learning phase of Apollo had cost $616 million. Furthermore, North American agreed that there would be no charge for changes resulting from the AS-204 accident —such as the wire harnesses, environmental control system improvements, and the unified hatch. Changes that would enhance mission success or operational flexibility—changes in the reaction control system, revised inspection criteria, or features to increase mission longevity—would cost money.35

    After the uncertain days of February, NASA officials began to sense that a recovery from the tragedy was under way. Drawing together, workers at all NASA centers, representing a vast amount of technical strength, recovered their morale through hard work more rapidly than might have been expected. Much of Apollo's chance for recovery rested on the fact that the Block II advanced version of the command module was well along in manufacturing and that most of its features were direct improvements over the faults of the earth-orbital Block I. Moreover, the Saturn V, after experiencing difficulties in the development of its stages, seemed on the track now.

    By early May, Webb and his top staff were looking for ways to show Congress that Apollo was on the road to recovery. Mueller proposed flying a Saturn V as soon as possible. Phillips stressed the building and delivery of standard vehicles. Any modifications of support missions other than the lunar landing (such as Apollo Applications) should, he and Mueller agreed, be entirely separate from the mainstream of Apollo. Moreover, the science program in Apollo should be carried strictly as supercargo.36

    At the time of the accident, the flight schedule had listed a possible lunar landing before the end of 1968. After the impounding of material evidence and the halting of oxygen chamber testing until the investigation was over, that Apollo schedule was obviously no longer valid. Several weeks after the fire Seamans told Mueller to scrap all official flight schedules for manned Apollo missions, using only an internal working schedule to prevent avoidable slips and cost overruns. By March, Mueller had told Seamans that NASA could commit a Saturn V to a mission. In June Low said he believed that the spacecraft had turned the corner toward recovery, since the changes related to the fire had been identified and were being made. Even if everything went perfectly, however, more than 14 months would be needed for complete recovery. * 37

    To make certain of stronger program control in the future, Low decided that all proposals for changes would have to pass an exceedingly tough configuration control board before being adopted. He asked George W. S. Abbey, his technical assistant, to draft a strongly worded charter for the control board. Low next announced that he, Faget, Chris Kraft, Slayton, Kenneth Kleinknecht, William Lee, Thomas Markley, and Abbey (as secretary) would meet for several hours every Friday. When medical and scientific affairs were on the agenda, Berry and Wilmot N. Hess would join the group. Low himself would make all final decisions, and his new board members had the authority to ensure that his decisions were carried out.38

    If Apollo had seemed complicated before the fire, it appeared even more so afterward. If it gave an impression of being hurried in late 1966, it gathered still more momentum in late 1967. If an extreme level of attention had been given to aspects of crew safety and mission success before the deaths of Grissom and his crew, it rose yet higher after they were gone. But among the Apollo managers there were still nagging fears that something might slip past them, something might be impossible to solve. By mid-1967, however, they were so deep in their work that they could not avoid a growing confidence.

    Atwood said the biggest mistake had been locking the crew inside the spacecraft and pumping in oxygen at a higher than sea-level pressure. There was no way to eliminate fire hazards under such conditions. So NASA and North American substituted a nitrogen-and-oxygen atmosphere at ground level, replacing the nitrogen gradually with pure oxygen after launch. Bergen, who had taken over the leadership of North American's Downey division from Storms, moved into the factory while recovery work was going on. He made a practice of appearing on the plant floor, walking around asking questions, during each of the three shifts. Some of the workers wondered if he ever slept. During visits to Downey, Low was often to be seen watching plant activities on Saturdays. Many doubted, Bergen later said, that the recovery could be made in a reasonable time because “everything had come to a screeching halt.” Bergen credited Gilruth's assignment of Borman and his group and Healey's performance as manager of spacecraft 101 as the keys to getting the command module back into line.39

    NASA's leaders, after reviewing the progress, decided that it was time for a flight demonstration to prove that the bits and pieces of Apollo had been picked up and were being put back together. Apollo-Saturn Mission 501, with command module 017, was set for early autumn of 1967. If the first flight of the Apollo-Saturn V combination was successful, the rest would follow in due course. 40

    As early as 9 May 1967, Houston proposed four manned missions—one with only the command and service modules, the other three with all the vehicles—before any attempt at a lunar landing. Headquarters in Washington believed that the lunar-landing mission might be possible on the fourth manned flight, which Houston thought was unrealistic— “all-up” should not mean “all-out.” Kraft warned Low that a lunar landing should not be attempted “on the first flight which leaves the earth's gravitational field”:

    There is much to be gained from the operations which could be conducted on the way to and in the vicinity of the moon. The many questions of thermal control away from the earth's environment, navigation and control during translunar flight, communications and tracking at lunar distances, lighting conditions and other flight experiences affecting astronaut activities in the vicinity of the moon, lunar orbit and rendezvous techniques, the capability of the MSFN to provide back-up information and many other operating problems will be revealed when we fly in this new environment. It would be highly desirable to have had this experience when we are ready to commit to a lunar landing operation, thereby allowing a more reasonable concentration on the then new problems associated with the descent to the lunar surface.41

    Deputy Administrator Seamans and his aides made a swing around the manned space flight circuit in June, visiting Kennedy, Huntsville, Mississippi Test, Michoud, and Houston. In the course of the tour, Seamans observed a definite upsurge of confidence within the Apollo team, although there were still worries. For example, at Kennedy, with planning predicated on a six-week checkout of the Apollo-Saturn in the Cape facilities and launch during the seventh week, there was some feeling that the schedule for the launch of Apollo 4 ** was extremely tight. Huntsville was still worried about the S-II stage of the launch vehicle, which had gone through a rather tough year of testing in 1966. And Houston, as a result of fire-related changes, was fighting the age-old problem of fattening spacecraft. On top of this, the lunar module was still having ascent engine instability problems, also left over from the preceding year. 42

    The next month, in July, Mueller and an entourage visited the North American plant at Downey*** to see what the contractor had done about the Thompson Board's recommendations. As they walked around the manufacturing area, Mueller seemed generally pleased with progress.43 Within a very few months, that progress was to be demonstrated in a very satisfactory manner.


    * During fiscal 1970 budget hearings before the House space committee, Congressman James Fulton asked George Mueller on 11 March 1969 to give a “statement in the record of the actual cost in dollars . . . and actual delay caused . . . by the Apollo 204 fire. . . .” Mueller's submitted reply said, “The estimated additional direct cost to Apollo . . . resulting from the Apollo 204 accident is $410 million, principally in the area of modifications to the spacecraft. The accident delayed the first manned flight test of the Apollo spacecraft by approximately 18 months.”

    ** Grissom's crew had received approval for an “Apollo 1” patch in June 1966, but as the time for the launch approached NASA Headquarters was leaning toward calling that mission “AS-204.” After the accident, the widows asked that Apollo 1 be reserved for the flight their husbands would never make. Webb, Seamans, and Mueller agreed. For a time, mission planners in Houston called the next scheduled launch “Apollo 2.” In March 1967, Low wrote to Mueller, suggesting that, for historic purposes, the flights should be called “Apollo 1” (AS-204), “Apollo 1A” (AS-201), “Apollo 2” (AS-202), and “Apollo 3” (AS-203). In April, Julian Scheer, Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, notified the centers that the NASA Project Designation Committee had approved the Office of Manned Space Flight recommendation of “Apollo 4” for the first Apollo-Saturn V mission (AS-501), but there would be no retroactive renaming of AS-201,—202, or—203. Much correspondence followed, but the sequence of, and reasoning behind, mission designations has never been really clear to anyone.

    *** In May, North American's Space and Information Systems Division in Downey had been renamed simply the “Space” Division, to reflect its major mission.


    32. Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 7, pp. 553-83; NASA, “NASA Contracts for Beta Fiber Study for Apollo,” news release 67-90, 14 April 1967.

    33. Senate Committee, Apollo Accident, pt. 7, append. 1 through 3.

    34. MSC, “Exhibit A, [Boeing TIE Contract] Technical Work Scope,” 16 and (approved) 17 May 1967; William H. Lohse datafax transmission to MSC, Attn.: Edward R. Mathews, “Boeing letter contract,” 31 May 1967; NASA, “Boeing-NASA Sign Contract for Integration,” news release 67-161, 16 June 1967; George H. Stoner bulletin for Boeing Aerospace Gp. dist. “B” and Corporate Hq. dist. “DDO,” “Apollo Technical Integration and Evaluation Assignments,” 26 June 1967; MSC, “Proposed Strengthening of GE Support,” 15 May 1967; Low to Dir., MSC, “General Electric Company Long Range Plan,” 26 May 1967; NASA, “GE Awarded Contract for KSC Support,” news release 67-158, 14 June 1967.

    35. J. Thomas Markley memo for record, “Contract Changes,” 30 March 1967; MSC, “NASA Working Group Thoughts on NAS 9-150 Extension,” 18-19 April 1967; John R. Biggs to Webb, no subj., 21 April 1967, with encs., Bernard Moritz to Dir., Procurement, “MSC request to extend Apollo Contract NAS 9-150 with North American Aviation, Inc., by Letter Amendment,” 28 Oct. 1966, and George J. Vecchietti to Moritz, subj. as above, 27 Oct. 1966, with encs., Vecchietti to MSC, Attn.: Dave W. Lang, “Request for Approval to Issue Letter Amendment to North American Aviation in accordance with Article 1 (b) of Contract NAS 9-150 (Apollo),” n.d., and Shea draft letter to Harrison A. Storms, Jr., n.d., John G. McClintock to Mgr., ASPO, “Briefing: CSM Incentive Contract,” 27 April 1967, with encs.

    36. Thomas E. Jenkins memo for record, “Apollo Programming Meeting, April 27, 1967: Attendees: Webb, Seamans, [Willis H.] Shapley, Mueller, [DeMarquis D.] Wyatt, [Lee B.] James, Skaggs, Phillips, [William A.] Fleming, [David] Williamson [Jr.], von Braun, [Charles W.] Mathews, [Raymond A.] Kline, [Frank J.] Magliato, [Richard L.] Callaghan, [Col. Lawrence W.] Vogel, [Bernhardt L.] Dorman, Scheer, [William E.] Lilly, Shea, [Paul G.] Dembling, [Harold B.] Finger, Vecchietti and Jenkins,” 28 April 1967; idem, “Apollo Programming Meeting, May 3, 1967,” 3 May 1967; Seamans memo for record, “Apollo Program Decisions unmanned flights of the 1/204, CSM 017/501, and CSM 020/502,” 1 May 1967; Biggs memo for record, “Apollo Reprogramming Meeting, May 4, 1967,” 4 May 1967; “Apollo Post-Accident Recovery Program: Webb Review, May 3-4, 1967,” copy of handwritten document, 4 May 1967.

    37. Seamans to Assoc. Admin., OMSF, “Official NASA Apollo Schedules for Manned Missions,” 16 Feb. 1967; Low memo for dist., “Apollo Program Review,” 5 June 1967, with encs.; Carl R. Liebermann to Dir., Apollo Prog., “Minutes of Apollo Program Meeting at MSC on 2 June 1967,” 7 June 1967, with enc.; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 1970 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 4046, H.R. 10251 (Superseded by H.R. 11271), pt. 2, 91st Cong., 1st sess., 1969, pp. 183, 185.

    38. Low memo, “Apollo Configuration Control Board,” 17 June 1967.

    39. Frank H. Samonski, Jr., and Elton M. Tucker, “Apollo Environmental Control System,” proposed technical note, October 1970; Blount interview; Bergen to James, 6 Nov. 1967; Bergen, interview, Downey, 15 May 1969; Atwood, interview, El Segundo, 16 July 1970.

    40. Statements by Webb, Seamans, and Mueller on Apollo Reprogramming before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA special release, 9 May 1967, p. 10.

    41. Rodney G. Rose to John P. Mayer, Henry E. Clements, and Jerome B. Hammack, “Proposed Apollo Flight Program,” 9 May 1967, with enc., “Apollo Flight Program,” May 1967; Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to Mgr., ASPO, “Requested comments on Apollo Flight Program Definition,” 1 June 1967.

    42. Carl R. Praktish to Seamans, “Report covering visits to KSC, MSFC, MTF, Michoud, and MSC—June 26-June 28, 1967,” 24 July 1967; John Coursen to C. William Rathke, LM engineering memo, “Weight Increases to the LM Attributable to Actions Following the KSC Accident,” 8 September 1967; Low memo for record, “Apollo weight changes,” 29 Sept. 1967, with encs.; Lt. Gen. Frank A. Bogart to Gilruth, 23 June 1966; Seamans to Mueller, “Apollo Saturn Nomenclature,” 6 Jan. 1967; Low to Donald K. Slayton, “Apollo 204 patch,” 20 Jan. 1967; Phillips to Dep. Assoc. Admin. (Mgmt.), NASA, “Apollo Mission Designations,” date illegible; Mueller to Seamans, “Apollo/Saturn Nomenclature,” 9 Feb. 1967; Scheer to Seamans, no subj., 17 Feb. 1967; James to Phillips, no subj., 22 March 1967; Mueller TWX to KSC, MSFC, and MSC, “Apollo and AAP Mission Designation,” 25 March 1967; Low to Slayton, “Designation of Apollo spacecraft,” 31 March 1967; James to Col. M. L. Seccomb, “Action Item,” 20 April 1967, with enc., Low to Mueller, 30 March 1967; Manfred von Ehrenfried to Chief, Mission Ops. Div., “Apollo 2 IVA Activity Consideration,” 24 Feb. 1967, and “Apollo 2 Mission Planning (S/C 101),” 28 Feb. 1967; Mueller TWX to KSC, MSFC, and MSC, “Apollo and AAP Mission Designation,” 28 April 1967; Low memo, “System for numbering Apollo spacecraft,” 1 May 1967; Phillips note to Mueller, 4 May 1967; Phillips TWX to MSC, MSFC, and KSC, Attn.: Gilruth et al., “Apollo Launch Schedule,” 9 May 1967; Scheer to Bart J. Slattery, Jr., et al., no subj., 17 July 1967; George R. Morgall to Eugene M. Emme, NASA History Div., 4 Oct. 1969; Emme to Morgan, 9 Oct. 1969; Morgan to Low, 11 Oct. 1969; Low to Morgan, 29 Oct. 1969.

    43. Mueller notes on his visit to North American on 8 July 1967 to review CSM and S-II program status; Low to Phillips, 14 July 1967; R. E. Carroll TWX to NASA Hq. et al., “Redesignation of S&ID as Space Division,” 9 May 1967.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch9-5. Apollo 4 and Saturn V

    AS-501 in VAB

    Apollo 4: Command module 017 and Saturn 501 are assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building, Kennedy Space Center.


    Birds, reptiles, and animals of higher and lower order that gathered at the Florida Wildlife Game Refuge (also known by the aliases of Merritt Island Launch Annex and Kennedy Space Center) at 7:00 in the morning of 9 November 1967 received a tremendous jolt. When the five engines in the first stage of the Saturn V ignited, there was a man-made earthquake and shockwave. As someone later remarked, the question was not whether the Saturn V had risen, but whether Florida had sunk.

    AS-501 on Pad 39A

    The spacecraft stack at Launch Complex 39 is poised for the first Saturn V mission and first use of LC 39. The umbilical tower on the launch pad to the left of the spacecraft feeds fuel and electricity to the launch vehicle-spacecraft combination. The mobile service structure to the right may be moved to enclose the spacecraft with an office-workshop compartment and other work levels.


    Apollo-Saturn mission 501, now officially Apollo 4—the first all-up test of the three-stage Saturn V—was on its way. On its top rested spacecraft 017, a Block I model with many Block II features, such as an improved heatshield and a new hatch. The aim of the mission, in addition to testing the structural integrity and compatibility of the spacecraft-launch vehicle combination, was to boost the command and service modules into an elliptical orbit and then power-dive the command module (in an area over Hawaii) into the atmosphere as though it were returning from the moon to the earth. Apollo 4 also carried a mockup of the lunar module. Weighing more than 2.7 million kilograms when fully fueled with liquid oxygen and a kerosene mixture called RP-1, the Saturn V first stage generated 7.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.44 The flight went almost exactly as planned, and the huge booster rammed its payload into a parking orbit 185 kilometers above the earth. After two revolutions, the S-IVB third stage propelled the spacecraft outward to more than 17,000 kilometers, where it cut loose from the S-IVB and started falling earthward. Then the service module fired, to send the spacecraft out to 18,000 kilometers for a four-and-a-half-hour soak in the supercold and hot radiation of space. Telemetry signals noted no degradation in cabin environment. With the spacecraft nose pointed toward the earth, the service module engine fired again. When the spacecraft reached the 122,000-meter atmospheric reentry zone, it was blunt-end forward and traveling at a speed of 40,000 kilometers per hour.

    Seamen on the U.S.S. Bennington the prime recovery ship in the Pacific, watched the descending spacecraft, with its parachutes in full bloom, until it landed 16 kilometers away about nine hours after its launch from Florida. Swimmers jumped from helicopters to assist in the recovery of spacecraft 017, which took about two hours. Technically, managerially, and psychologically, Apollo 4 was an important and successful mission, especially in view of the number of firsts it tackled. It was the first flight of the first and second stages of the Saturn V (the S-IVB stage had flown on the Saturn IB launch vehicles), the first launch of the complete Saturn V, the first restart of the S-IVB in orbital flight, the first liftoff from Complex 39, the first flight test of the Block II command module heatshield, the first flight of even a simulated lunar module, and so on. The fact that everything worked so well and with so little trouble gave NASA a confident feeling, as Phillips phrased it, that “Apollo [was] on the way to the moon.”45

    Even before spacecraft 017 had set out on its trip, the Manned Spacecraft Center was working hard on how to get Apollo to the moon before 1970—only a little more than two years away. On 20 September, Low and others met with top manned space flight officials in Washington to present the center's plan, the key features of which were the need for additional lander and Saturn V development flights and the incorporation of a lunar orbital flight into the schedule. Owen Maynard presented plans for scheduling seven types of missions that would lead step by step to the ultimate goal. He described these steps, “A" through “G,” with G as the lunar landing mission.

    Phillips asked that the group consider carefully both the pros and cons of flying an additional Saturn V flight. Wernher von Braun and Low favored the flight—von Braun, because he felt the launch operations people would need the experience, and Low, because he believed that data from several flights would be needed to make certain that the big booster was indeed ready for its flight to the moon. Against these opinions, Phillips cited the tremendous workload an added flight would place on the preflight crews at Kennedy, and Mueller reminded the meeting of the already crowded launch schedule for 1968. An additional lunar module mission would be flown only if LM-1 were unsuccessful.

    Most discussion centered on the insertion of a lunar orbital flight into the schedule. Houston wanted “to evaluate the deep space environment and to develop procedures for the entire lunar landing mission short of LM descent, ascent and surface operations.” Mueller remarked that he regarded the lunar orbit mission as just as hazardous as the landing mission. But the Texas group argued that they had no intention of flying the vehicle closer to the moon than 15,000 meters. They pointed out that the crew would not have to train for the actual landing, but it would give them a chance to develop the procedures for getting into lunar orbit and undocking and for the rendezvous that the lunar landing crew would need. Mueller said, “Apollo should not go to the moon to develop procedures.” Low reminded him that crew operations would not be the main reason for the trip; there was still a lot to be learned about communications, navigation, and thermal control in the deep space environment.46 Although a final decision on the lunar orbital mission was not made until later, Maynard's seven-step plan was generally adopted throughout NASA.

    Plenty of wrinkles remained to be ironed out, but by the end of 1967 Apollo seemed to be rounding the corner toward its ultimate goal, despite the most tragic event that manned space flight had so far encountered.

    Basic Missions

             Mission                           Launch
    Mission  Number  Objective                 Vehicle  Trajectory  Duration
    =======  ======  =========                 =======  ==========  ========
    A        4+6     Launch vehicle,           Saturn   16,600-km   About 
                     spacecraft development,   V        apogee      8.5
                     lunar-return entry                             hours
                     velocity
    
    B        5       Lunar module development, Saturn   Low         About
                     propulsion and staging    IB       elliptic    6 hours
                                                        orbit
    
    C        *       Command and service       Saturn   Low earth   Up to
                     module evaluation crew    IB       orbit       11 days
                     performance
    
    D        *       Lunar module evaluation   Saturn   Low earth   Up to
                     command and service       V or     orbit       11 days
                     modules crew performance  dual IB
                     combined operations
    
    E        *       Command and service       Saturn   High        Up to
                     modules lunar module      V        earth       11 days
                     combined operations                orbit
    
    F        *       Lunar mission deep        Saturn   Lunar       Up to
                     space evaluation          V        orbit       11 days
    
    G        *       Lunar landing
    

    * Mission number dependent on success in steps A and B.


    44. “Saturn Blastoff Is Rated among Noisiest Events,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 10 Nov. 1967; Robert H. Boulware and Texas M. Ward, “Apollo 4 Flight Plan, Rev. A,” MSC, 11 Sept. 1967; NASA, “Project: Apollo 4,” press kit, news release 67-275, 27 Oct. 1967; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 4 Mission (AS-501),” 24 Oct. 1967, with enc.; MSC, “Apollo 4 Mission Report,” MSC-PA-R-68-1, January 1968.

    45. NASA, Apollo 4 press kit, p. 2; MSC, “Apollo 4 Post Launch Press Conference,” 9 Nov. 1967.

    46. Gilruth to Mueller, 19 Sept. 1967; Albert P. Boysen, Jr., memo for file, “Notes of Apollo Flight Program Review at NASA Headquarters on September 20, 1967, Case 310,” 24 Nov. 1967, with enc., subj. as above; Low memo, “Mission development and planning,” 25 Sept. 1967; Phillips to MSC, MSFC, and KSC, Attn.: Gilruth, von Braun, and Debus, “Apollo Spacecraft Flight Test Program Review Apollo Mission Assignments,” 14 Dec. 1967.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-1. Race with the Decade

    1968: First Half

    NASA officials faced 1968 with some satisfaction and a little trepidation. Apollo 4 the previous November had been a triumph, but the Apollo team might have to do just as well six times in 1968 and five in 1969. That string of successes seemed to be a necessary prelude to a timely lunar landing.1 Against this backdrop of mounting schedule pressures, a spate of technical problems cropped up. The most worrisome were those connected with the lunar module. It had grown too fat again and still had problems with metal cracking and with the ascent engine during test firings. Combined, these faults played havoc with delivery schedules and posed a definite threat to achieving Apollo's mission within the decade.

    The command module also had some unresolved worries, although North American had made good progress in its redefinition and qualification. Flammability testing and the question of cabin atmosphere on the pad and at launch carried over into the new year, as did the difficulties in getting systems to the spacecraft production line at Downey. 2


    1. Ralph E. Gibson, NASA Hq., TWX, “Apollo/Saturn Schedule,” 4 Nov. 1967; NASA, “Apollo/Saturn Schedule,” news release 67-282, 3 Nov. 1967.

    2. Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, CSM Mgr., ASPO, MSC, to Mgr., ASPO, “Notes and comments resulting from visit of Dr. George E. Mueller to North American Rockwell Corporation on November 13 and my activities during period from November 13 through 16, 1967,” 17 Nov. 1967.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-2. Worries and Watchdogs

    Tardy deliveries by subcontractors were among the bigger stumbling blocks that North American faced in putting the command and service modules together. Eberhard Rees, an expert in manufacturing management from Marshall Space Flight Center, was lent to George Low, Apollo program manager at the Manned Spacecraft Center, to solve fabrication problems. In the later months of 1967, Rees visited North American and soon realized that cooperation between the prime contractor and the subsystem suppliers was not close enough. North American engineers, he said, should spend more time at the subcontractors' plants while subsystem assemblies were in critical stages of fabrication. He also recommended that North American borrow some inspectors from General Electric to help conduct vendor surveys, specification reviews, and test failure assessments.3

    The subsystem situation came to the attention of George Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at Headquarters, when he visited Downey late in 1967. Mueller on his return to Washington asked Edgar M. Cortright, his deputy, to go to the major companies, review the status of hardware, and see if the condition could be improved.4

    During January and February 1968, Cortright traveled to nine Apollo subcontractors. He was impressed with people, equipment, and facilities but not at all pleased with hardware or schedules. Cortright found that neither North American nor Grumman knew enough about the status of their subcontractors' work to be able to forecast deliveries with any degree of accuracy. The subcontractors, Cortright also said, should be more aware of the importance of their systems in the total program— they should not just deliver their products to the dock in Downey or Bethpage and walk away. He was upset about failures in electronic parts, especially when he found that the subcontractors were doing their best to solve their problems by themselves by trial and error. Low asked the Houston subsystem managers to look into these deficiencies and correct them.5

    Just the barest hint of something wrong with electrical parts, anything that might be a fire hazard, captured the immediate attention of special guardian groups. Spacecraft wiring and materials, cabin atmospheres, and crew safety were the subjects of many meetings. Third-party groups, such as a Senior Flammability Board, a Materials Selection Review Board, and a Crew Safety Review Board, were set up to ensure extra safeguards.

    Late in 1967, Houston Director Robert Gilruth led a contingent of NASA officials to a meeting with William Bergen and his staff at North American* to discuss flammability problems of the coaxial cable in the command module. Under particular scrutiny was spacecraft 101, slated for the first manned Apollo mission. After visually inspecting the vehicle and watching motion picture films of tests, the group concluded that 23 meters of the coaxial cable might be flammable. There were several options on what to do about it—replace it, wrap it with aluminum tape, partially wrap it to provide fire breaks, or leave it alone. Since other spacecraft wiring and electrical equipment might be damaged during replacement, even with extreme care, they decided it would be safer to fly 101 essentially as it was, with the exception of one bundle that would be wrapped.** 6

    No sooner had one NASA group acted than another demanded a defense of what had been done. Aleck C. Bond, speaking for the Houston Materials Selection Review Board, queried Low about the cable. Low pointed out that the decision had been made at the highest Apollo management level of both North American and NASA. He also reminded Bond that, in the NASA system of checks and balances, the board did not approve changes. It only recommended approval or disapproval. Low then required that all deviations be assessed by his Configuration Control Board and forwarded to Apollo Program Manager Phillips in Washington for final review.7

    Most of the Flammability Board's attention focused on cabin atmosphere at the launch site, which also affected materials selection. Established in September 1967, with Gilruth as chairman, the board directed several series of tests under a variety of atmospheric mixtures and pressures for pad operations. Thirty-eight tests had been completed by 7 January 1968. In the middle of the month, a second series began, using principally a 60-per-cent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen mix (normal atmosphere is 21 percent oxygen and 78 percent nitrogen, with traces of other gases). This series ended on 25 January, and evaluations began.

    Max Faget, whose engineers in Houston ran many tests for Gilruth's board, said they used pure oxygen at a higher than normal pressure on the pad to check for air leaks from the cabin. After the Apollo 204 fire, everyone was aware that this was dangerous. They then ran pure oxygen tests at one-third the pressure (which simulated orbital conditions). With cabin fans off and no other means of spreading the flames, they found that fire would not propagate as rapidly in space. So Faget's group agreed that if they could make the spacecraft safe on the ground, it would be safe during flight.

    But there was no way to put 100-percent-fireproof materials in the spacecraft, especially in the electrical system. Many persons began campaigning for a two-gas atmosphere, with a higher concentration of nitrogen than oxygen. Use of this mixture would have required completely rebuilding the spacecraft to withstand the pressures of a sea-level atmosphere. The command module could withstand only about half that pressure in space, and the lunar module even less. Moreover, a mixed atmosphere in space would complicate the environmental system— Faget said the system “would get confused and would put too much nitrogen in the cabin, a very insidious thing because there was no way to detect [it].” The astronauts would just get sleepy—and die. Another complication was that a switch back and forth from the two-gas system in the cabin and the 100 percent oxygen in the hoses connected to the suits might give the crew aeroembolism, or the bends.

    So the question was twofold: How much nitrogen was needed on the pad to prevent fire? And how much oxygen was needed during launch while the cabin pressure relief valve was venting? Tests revealed that a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen mixture at a pressure of 11.2 newtons per square centimeter (16.2 pounds per square inch) on the pad would result in 1.4 newtons (2 psi) in orbit after venting, which would give a partial pressure of oxygen compatible with the oxygen atmosphere and pressure in the suits. The cabin pressure would be lower at first, but the mixture would be breathable and it would sustain life. In fact, by the time the craft reached orbit, Faget said, the cabin mixture would actually be about 80 percent oxygen. And there was a bonus in this arrangement beyond the safety factor: no structural changes were needed in the spacecraft to accommodate this combination of oxygen and nitrogen.8

    Low promised Phillips a decision on the prelaunch atmosphere in time for spacecraft 101's Design Certification Review. A third set of tests, using boilerplate 1224, confirmed conclusions drawn from the second series. Gilruth's Flammability Board met on 4 March and recommended the 60/40 mixture for the launch pad. On 7 March, Mueller's Certification Board accepted this recommendation. In April, NASA's medical group, expressed “enthusiastic approval of the . . . decision to adopt the 60/40 atmosphere.”9

    For a while there was a good deal of discussion about the lunar module cabin atmosphere on the launch pad. Low recommended 100 percent oxygen for the LM, since there was no crew and little electrical power in the vehicle during launch. Moreover, the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, which held the lander, was filled with nitrogen, reducing flammability hazards to almost nothing. This procedure, Low pointed out, would save some of the lander's oxygen supply, as well as minimizing crew procedures in changing the mixture to pure oxygen after launch. Marshall, however, objected, because any oxygen escaping from the lander during the launch phase might come in contact with hydrogen leaking from the S-IVB into the adapter and start a fire. Houston conceded that the advantages of launching the lunar module with pure oxygen had to give way to Huntsville's concerns; the atmosphere in the lander's cabin at launch would not exceed 20 percent oxygen. 10

    Another set of watchdogs, formed to consider manned operation of the machines, was the Apollo Crew Safety Review Board. Since Gilruth's team mas investigating “spacecraft fire safety and air-on-the-pad,” the new group, at its first meeting in March 1968, began looking for problems that might be missed by other specialized committees. Led by John Hodge in Houston, the board concentrated on operations—all activities from the time the crew boarded the spacecraft through the launch phase— searching for weak links and hazards. One big worry that had to be faced was the possibility of a Saturn engine shutting down on the pad or during the launch trajectory.11

    The Hodge Board was not the only group worrying about a Saturn V engine malfunction. Major General David M. Jones, Commander of the Eastern Test Range, reminded KSC Director Kurt Debus that the launch vehicle would remain over the Cape area for almost two minutes. Jones wanted the vehicle to move out over water as quickly as possible. Debus told Phillips what Jones had asked, adding that the launch azimuth should not be tampered with, since a wide range would be needed for a lunar launch. Phillips turned to Marshall for an answer, and the launch vehicle engineers modified the pitch program so the vehicle would head eastward sooner after launch than originally planned. 12

    Although the Saturn V may have been the key vehicle for escaping the earth's gravity for the lunar trip, the keystone in the arch leading to the surface of the moon itself was the lunar module. At least, that was the way the Flight Operations Division in Houston viewed LM-1's upcoming trial in earth orbit.13 And the path to the launch pad for that craft had been a long and arduous one.


    * On 22 September 1967, North American Aviation and the Rockwell-Standard Corporation had merged into a single company, North American Rockwell Corporation, which was then divided into two major elements—the Commercial Products Group and the Aerospace and Systems Group. For consistency and brevity, this history will refer to the latter as “North American.”

    ** Since they were not as far down the production line as 101, spacecraft 103 through 106 would have their coaxial cables removed and wrapped, which should not take longer than five days. Later spacecraft would be fitted with coaxial cables that met nonmetallic materials guidelines.


    3. NASA, “James Webb NASA Management Changes Press Conference,” 12 Oct. 1967; Eberhard F. M. Rees to George M. Low, “Brief survey of CSM at NAR, Downey,” 17 Nov. 1967; Ivan D. Ertel and Roland W. Newkirk with Courtney G. Brooks, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, vol. 4, January 21, 1966-July 13, 1974, NASA SP-4009 (Washington, 1978) ; George W. S. Abbey, ASPO Staff Meeting, 24 June 1968.

    4. Mueller, NASA OMSF, to Edgar M. Cortright and Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, no subj., 16 Dec. 1967.

    5. Cortright TWX to Low and Rees, 29 Jan. 1968; Cortright memo for record, “Apollo subcontractor review,” 12 March 1968; Cortright to James C. Elms, “Visits to Apollo subcontractors,” 13 March 1968; Low to William M. Bland, Jr., “Approval of certification test requirements,” 26 April 1968; Low to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Apollo subcontractor review,” 30 April 1968; MSC Weekly Activity Report for week ending 17 Nov. 1967,

    6. MSC news release 68-3, 27 Jan. 1968; Low to Phillips, 7 March 1968; Low memo for record, “Command Module coax cable flammability considerations,” 19 Dec. 1967, MSC, “CSM 101 Coax Cable Ignition Source Study,” TDR 68-053, 1 March 1968; MSC, Apollo Spacecraft Program Quarterly Status Report no. 23, 31 March 1968, p. 13; NAR, North American Rockwell Corporation A First Look, brochure (Calif., September 1967); Kleinknecht to Mgr., ASPO, “Command module coax cable decisions relative to spacecraft 103 and subsequent,” 9 Jan. 1968.

    7. Aleck C. Bond to Mgr., ASPO, “Unilateral approval of Apollo spacecraft materials usage deviations,” 26 Dec. 1967; Low to Bond, “Approval of spacecraft materials usages deviations,” 6 Jan. 1968; Abbey to Paul E. Purser, “Status of actions taken on the AS-204 Review Board report,” 7 Feb. 1968.

    8. Low to William B. Bergen, 19 Sept. 1967; Robert R. Gilruth, chm., Senior Flammability Review Board Meeting, 13 Jan. 1968; MSC news release 68-1, 15 Jan. 1968; Apollo Weekly Status Report for week ending 26 Jan. 1968, p. 1; Richard W. Bricker, “Report to Flammability Test Review Board: Results of BP-1224 Apollo Command Module Mockup Flammability Test in 60 Percent Oxygen/40 Percent Nitrogen at 16.2 PSIA Total Pressure,” Apollo working paper, review copy, 26 Jan. 1968; Maxime A. Faget, interview, Houston, 22 Nov. 1976.

    9. Low to Aaron Cohen, “Spacecraft 101 DCR,” 7 Feb. 1968; Gilruth, Senior Flammability Review Board Meeting, 4 March 1968; NASA OMSF Report to the Admin., NASA, signed by Mueller (hereafter cited as Mueller Report), 11 March 1968; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 23, pp. 8-9, 34; Jerry W. Craig to Chief, Systems Engineering Div., “Review of BP 1224 test data with I. Pinkel and R. Van Dolah,” 19 April 1968; Low to Phillips, 2 May 1968, with enc., Robert W. Van Dolah to Craig, 26 April 1968.

    10. Low to Dir., Flight Crew Ops., “Oxygen in the LM at launch,” 28 Nov. 1967; Low to Phillips, Rear Adm. Roderick O. Middleton, KSC, and Arthur Rudolph, MSFC, 22 April 1968, with enc.; Rudolph to MSC, Attn.: Low, “LM Cabin Atmosphere,” 17 May 1968, with encs., Charles C. Wood to Charles T. Boone, Jr., “Revised Spacecraft/IU/S-IVB Interstage,” 7 May 1968, and Boone to MSC Mechanical Panel Cochairman, Attn.: Lyle M. Jenkins, “LM Cabin Atmosphere,” n.d.; Low to MSFC, Attn.: Lee B. James, “LM cabin atmosphere,” 29 June 1968.

    11. John D. Hodge, chm., minutes of Crew Safety Review Board Meetings, 13 March, 20-21 March, 27-29 March, 9-11 April, 16-18 April, 24-26 April, and 21 May 1968; Phillips to MSC, KSC, and MSFC, Attn.: Low, Middleton, James, and William Teir, “Apollo Crew Safety Review Board,” 17 June 1968.

    12. Bass Redd to Mgr., ASPO, “Analysis of a Saturn V pitch program modification (S-tilt), proposed as an aid to reducing the land impact probability after a low altitude launch escape vehicle (LEV) abort,” 13 Dec. 1967; Middleton to MSFC, Attn.: Mgr., Saturn V Program Office, “Saturn V Range Safety Problem,” 7 Feb. 1968; Kurt H. Debus to Phillips, 8 Feb. 1968; Phillips to MSFC, Attn.: Rudolph and Teir, “Apollo Lift-off Hazards,” 11 Dec. 1967; Phillips to Debus, 26 Feb. 1968.

    13. MSC Flight Control Div., “AS-204/LM-1 Mission Operations Review,” 15 Nov. 1967, p. 3.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-3. Apollo 5: The Lunar Module's Debut

    A 1966 schedule called for LM-1 to be delivered to Cape Kennedy on 16 November of that year, but the craft ran into difficulties in manufacturing (see Chapter 8) and the months slipped by. Changes after the command module fire (see Chapter 9) caused further delays, and LM-1 did not arrive in Florida until 27 June 1967 (three months beyond its original launch date). John J. Williams, a veteran of both Mercury and Gemini, headed a 400-man spacecraft operations activity at Kennedy Space Center. When the spacecraft arrived, Williams' men made sure that it met specifications and then watched the contractor during test, maintenance, and modifications to see that systems and equipment worked.14

    Super Guppy

    The Super Guppy Aero Spaceliner, billed as the “largest airplane in the world,” delivered many space vehicles from factories to the Kennedy Space Center launch site.


    Super Guppy delivers LM-1

    In late June 1967, the Super Guppy opened to deposit Lunar Module 1 at KSC in preparation for the Apollo 5 mission.


    The launch vehicle for the LM-1 mission was the one that would have boosted the ill-fated Grissom crew into orbit. Saturn IB 204 had been at the Cape since August 1966. When it was taken down from Launch Complex 34 in March 1967, the launch preparation crew, under the direction of Rocco Petrone, inspected the booster for corrosion or any other damage it might have sustained during its long stay on the pad and then erected it on Launch Complex 37, getting it in place on 12 April.15

    LM-1 mating

    Ascent and descent stages, forming Lunar Module 1, are mated with the spacecraft-lunar module adapter in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building at KSC in November 1967. Because its mission was earth-orbital flight, LM-1 had no landing gear.


    LM-1 hoisted to SA-204

    At right below, LM-1 inside the adapter is hoisted to the top of Saturn launch vehicle 204.


    The Apollo stack for this mission was 55 meters high, but it looked stubby, since the launch escape tower and the command and service modules mere missing. LM-1—legless, because it would burn up on reentry (it had no heatshield) and therefore needed no landing gear— rested inside the spacecraft-lunar module adapter. 16

    Twenty-five priorities, monitored by 17 specialists, would put the vehicle through its paces to make sure that it was safe for crew operations. Three items at the top of the list pertained to fire-in-the-hole (FITH) requirements, or tests to check structural effects, staging dynamics, and stability during a simulated lunar abort. (FITH simply meant firing the ascent stage engine while it was still attached to the descent stage.) Other objectives included operating the descent and ascent propulsion systems, starting and stopping each to simulate phases of the lunar landing mission. 17

    By late fall and early winter of 1967, most of the mission documents were ready. Mission Director William C. Schneider, who had played this same role in the Gemini program, issued the mission rules on 28 November, ladling out responsibilities and spelling out what would be done in almost every eventuality. As the final testing on the vehicles progressed toward launch, flight readiness reviews were held at the Cape and in Washington. In the first few days of the new year, Mueller wrote Administrator James Webb that the launch would take place “no earlier than” 18 January 1968.18

    Rocco Petrone's launch team had difficulty loading the propellants, mainly because of procedural troubles, and small irritants such as clogged filters and ground support equipment problems further hampered the start of the mission. A simulated launch demonstration ended on 19 January, and the 22-hour countdown to launch began on 21 January. Back in Houston, lead flight director John Hodge and his chief assistant, Eugene F. Kranz, listened from the mission control center to the activities at the Cape launch center and waited patiently to take over direction of the flight once Apollo 5 cleared the pad. 19

    Just before dark, at 5:48 on the afternoon of 22 January, after several hours' delay because of equipment problems, Apollo 5 lifted off. The powered phase of booster flight was uneventful, and LM-1, still attached to the S-IVB stage, went into orbit about 10 minutes into the flight. In less than 45 minutes, its attitude control engines pulled LM-1 away from the S-IVB. After checking out the spacecraft for two revolutions, ground control signaled the descent engine to fire for 38 seconds. Four seconds later, LM-1's guidance system sensed that the vehicle was not going fast enough and stopped the engine. The cutoff was a planned feature—in a manned flight, it would give the crew time to analyze the situation and decide whether the engine should be restarted to continue the mission. Under normal conditions, the burn would have started with full tank pressurization and would have reached the proper velocity within four seconds. For this mission, however, the tank was only partially pressurized and it would have taken six seconds to reach the required speed. Because of the premature cutoff, the flight controllers moved to a planned alternate mission.

    Ground control sent a switch-off signal to the guidance computer and cut in a mission programmer to command the lander's maneuvers. The descent engine was fired twice more (once for a full 33 seconds). There were two ascent engine firings, one for the fire-in-the-hole abort maneuver. Mueller reported to Webb that all primary objectives had been achieved. LM-1 reentered the atmosphere, and its fiery remains plunged into the Pacific several hundred kilometers southwest of Guam on 12 February.20


    14. Charles D. Benson and William Barnaby Faherty, Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations. NASA SP-4204, 1978, pp. 435-37.

    15. Ibid., p. 435; Willis H. Shapley to Mueller et al., “Saturn IB Nomenclature,” 2 Dec. 1967.

    16. MSC, “Apollo 5 Mission Report,” MSC-PA-R-68-7, 27 March 1968, pp. 13-30, 13-57; NASA, “Apollo 5 First Lunar Module Test in Space,” press kit, news release 68-6, 11 Jan. 1968.

    17. TRW Systems, “Apollo 5 Mission Requirements: 204 LM-1 'B' Type Mission, LM Development,” SPD7-R-002, rev. 5, 4 Dec. 1967; Apollo 5 press kit, pp. 2-4.

    18. William C. Schneider to MSC and KSC, Attn.: Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., and Rocco A. Petrone, “Apollo 5 Mission Rules,” 28 Nov. 1967, with enc.; Capt. Chester M. Lee to Dir., Apollo Prog., “Apollo 5 (SA-204/LM-1) Status,” 11 Dec. 1967; Gilruth memo, “LM-1 MSC Flight Readiness Review,” 1 Dec. 1967; MSC, “LM Headquarters Flight Readiness Review,” 3 Jan. 1968; Mueller to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 5 Mission (SA-204/LM-1),” 5 Jan. 1968, with enc.

    19. Mueller Report, 15 Jan. 1968; MSC, “Mission Status Report,” Apollo News Center release 2, 20 Jan. 1968; Benson and Faherty, Moonport, p. 437; MSC, “Flight Controller for Apollo 5,” Apollo News Center release 1, 19 Jan. 1968.

    20. Phillips to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 5 Mission (SA-204/LM-1) Post Launch Report #1,” 12 Feb. 1968, with enc., and #2, 25 March 1968; Mueller to Webb, no subj., 23 Jan. 1968; Mueller Report, 22 Jan. 1968; MSC, “Apollo 5 Mission Report,” pp. 1-1, 1-2, 6.12-1; John D. Stevenson to Mueller and Cortright, “Decay of Apollo 5 Lunar Module,” 12 Feb. 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-4. The LM: Some Questions, Some Answers

    Following Apollo 5, it appeared likely that one of the six flights planned for 1968 might be canceled. Fewer flights should mean a better chance of landing a crew on the moon within the decade. After reading a preliminary version of the mission report, Phillips wired the three manned space flight centers not to plan a second unmanned lunar module mission. Shipment of LM-2 and its Saturn IB booster to the Cape was delayed, pending an assessment by George Mueller's Certification Board. On 6 and 7 March, the board agreed there was no reason for another unmanned lunar module flight. The first lunar module to carry men would be launched by a Saturn V later in 1968. 21

    The lander still had hurdles to clear, however, before anyone would be allowed to ride it in space. Ascent engine instability, for example, had been a matter of concern from August 1967 to June 1968. When Mueller and Phillips visited the builder of the engine in the summer of 1967, they agreed that Bell had a good chance of solving fuel-injector problems and getting a stable engine ready for the first manned lander. Nevertheless, NASA had hired Rocketdyne to develop an alternate injector, sending Cecil R. Gibson from the Houston center to work with Bill Wilson at Rocketdyne. This contract lasted for about a year, and Gibson and Wilson successfully stayed on schedule, held down costs, and got the job done.22

    One question that arose was whether a new and improved injector should be flown in a manned lander without a thorough revalidation test program. Joseph G. Thibodaux (Gibson's boss and chief of the Propulsion and Power Division in Houston, who had been asked to head a team to evaluate the injector) believed that it would be safe, so long as fuel did not enter the firing chamber before oxidizer. An Agena engine that had allowed the fuel to go first in the Gemini program had exploded during 1965.23

    Grumman and NASA officials met on 29 April to discuss the status of the injector. They were not happy with what they had discovered during visits to the subcontractor plants. Bell had been lax in configuration control, and Rocketdyne was having trouble getting engines to start and then to run smoothly. For some time, NASA Headquarters had considered asking Rocketdyne and Bell, even though they were competitors, to pool their knowledge to get the best possible injector. Rocketdyne might send its injector and some of its personnel to the Bell test cell for checkout. Although hesitant at first, because this might slow down Bell's work, Houston told Grumman to coordinate this combined testing, calling on specialists from both subcontractors for help. 24

    As time passed, Phillips and Low began to worry more and more about what would happen if the Rocketdyne injector were picked. How much testing would have to be done to make certain that a Rocketdyne engine was safe enough for a crew to fly on LM-3? And how long would it take?25

    Numerous trips were made to Bell by NASA officials, trying to get a grip on the problem. In May, after one visit, Low wrote: “If stability were the only criterion for acceptance, then a decision to select the Rocketdyne engine would have been clear. However, the Rocketdyne engine has also some short-comings, which are not yet completely understood.” Low also believed that, if Rocketdyne were picked, it would take some “extraordinary efforts to integrate the new engine into the LM.” That same month, a group led by Phillips of NASA and Joseph Gavin of Grumman met to discuss the alternatives they faced: (1) to use the Bell engine and Bell injector, (2) to ship Bell engines to Rocketdyne for fitting with Rocketdyne injectors, or (3) to send Rocketdyne injectors to Bell for installation in the Bell engine. Low finally decided to use a Bell engine and a Rocketdyne injector, with the entire assembly being put together and furnished by Rocketdyne.26

    At 17 and 19 June program reviews at Rocketdyne and Bell, respectively, Low learned that qualification tests were progressing with such excellent results (the engine had gone through 53 good tests) that an end to qualification by mid-August seemed possible. 27 Success now appeared certain, but the race with the decade was becoming very close.

    Although the ascent engine was the most serious lander problem, there were others that created worries. For example, a window blew out of LM-5 during a test. On another occasion, a window fractured during a 72-hour high-temperature test. Corning Glass Works immediately began improving the panes, producing what Mueller called the strongest windows ever put in a spacecraft. And Grumman instigated a series of pressure tests to qualify the new windows.28 All this took time.

    Still another area that raised a red flag of concern was the discovery of stress corrosion cracks in the lander's aluminum structural members. This meant replacements and still more lost time, which angered George Mueller. He reminded Gilruth that these aluminum tubes (made of an alloy called “7075 T6") had caused problems in the past. Mueller could not understand why the cracks had not been noticed earlier. He wanted a “stress corrosion team” to find out why detection had failed and to figure out how to prevent a recurrence. Gilruth replied that there was no need for a special team. Stress corrosion surveys had been conducted in 1964, but the job simply “was not handled properly on the last go-round.” Low then asked Joseph Kotanchik, a Houston structures expert, to investigate the overall stress corrosion problem and to look into all equipment furnished by suppliers to the prime contractors to make sure no problems were lurking in any of these systems.29

    By mid-February 1968, Grumman had inspected six landers (LM-3 through LM-8), examining more than 1,400 different components. Some parts were buried so deeply in the structure that they could not be reached. When no major cracks were found in the accessible areas, Grumman assumed that the problem was not as bad as NASA thought. Grumman did strengthen any parts not yet assembled by replacing the 7075 T6 tubes with 7075 T73, a heavier alloy. By the end of the month, Mueller told Webb he was no longer worried about stress corrosion. 30

    Another nagging problem in the lander was broken wiring. Brigadier General Carroll H. Bolender, Manned Spacecraft Center's lunar module manager, received the impression when visiting the Cape that the wiring was in poor shape in LM-2 and not much better in LM-3. Bolender told his resident Apollo spacecraft representative at the Grumman plant in New York to emphasize to Grumman's engineering team the need to assist manufacturing in the wiring of the spacecraft. Some improvement came from this move, but not much. During an inspection of LM-3, several broken wires were discovered, apparently caused by carelessness during rework after testing. Toward the end of April 1968, fixtures were installed to protect vulnerable wire bundles and technicians were ordered to be more careful when working in the confined spacecraft areas, easing the problem to a certain extent. But the lander's schedule was getting tighter and tighter.31

    And the vehicle was steadily getting fatter. Reductions were urged, but reducing diets in 1968 were nothing like those in 1965, when 1,100 kilograms were shaved from the lander. NASA used the incentive contract as a lever to get Grumman moving on weight reduction, starting the second quarter of 1968 with the goal of cutting 22 kilograms off the ascent stage and 68 off the descent stage.32

    All in all, the chances for launching a manned lunar module during 1968 seemed very slim in June of that year. And Saturn V, the launcher, was still giving program officials some anxious moments.


    21. Minutes, LM-2 Flight Requirement Meeting, 26 Jan. 1968; Phillips TWX to MSC et al., 29 Jan. 1968; Abbey, ASPO Staff Meeting, 29 Jan. 1968; MSC news release 68-5, 30 Jan. 1968; Phillips TWX to MSC et al., 12 Feb. 1968; Walter A. Pennino TWX to all NASA centers, 16 March 1968.

    22. MSC news release 67-48, 2 Aug. 1967; Phillips to Low, 16 Aug. 1967; William G. Gisel to Gilruth, 20 Nov. 1967, with enc., Gisel to Phillips, 20 Nov. 1967; Low to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Ascent engine program plan,” 9 Dec. 1967; Phillips TWX to Low, 27 Dec. 1967; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 21, for period ending 30 Sept. 1967, p. 18; Faget interview.

    23. Quarterly Status Rept. no. 22, for period ending 31 Dec. 1967, p. 28; Martin L. Raines to Mgr., ASPO, “Trip Report—Rocketdyne January 5, 1968,” 8 Jan. 1968; Brig. Gen. Carroll H. Bolender, LM Mgr., MSC, to Mgr., ASPO, “Ascent engine,” 25 Jan. 1968; Joseph G. Thibodaux, Jr., to Dir., E&D, MSC, “Action item from OMSF Management Council,” 4 March 1968, with enc., “Use of a New Injector in the Ascent Engine on LM-3,” nd.; Low to Phillips, 27 March 1968, with enc., [Thibodaux], “Use of a New Injector in the Ascent Engine oil LM-3,” n.d.

    24. Minutes of Ascent Engine Meeting, signed by Bolender for NASA and Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., for Grumman, 29 April 1968; Low to Bolender, “Design freeze of ascent engine,” 1 May 1968; Phillips to Low, 6 May 1968; Low to Bolender, “Bell ascent engine,” 11 May 1968; Cortright to Phillips, “Interchange of information between Bell Aerospace and Rocketdyne,” 21 March 1968; Phillips to Cortright, “Interchange of information between Bell Aerospace and Rocketdyne,” 2 April 1968; Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “Ascent engine,” 27 Jan. 1968; Ralph H. Tripp TWX to MSC, Attn.: Gilruth et al., “LM Ascent Engine Proposed Test of the Rocketdyne Engine in the Bell Test Facility,” 1 May 1968; Gavin, draft letter to MSC, Attn.: Low, “Proposed Evaluation of Bell and Rocketdyne Injectors for the LM Ascent Engine,” n.d.; Low to Bolender, “Ascent engine selection,” 15 March 1968.

    25. Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “LM-3 APS Engine Change Out Schedule Impact,” 15 March 1968; Low to Phillips, 30 March 1968; Phillips to Low, 16 April 1968.

    26. Low to H. J. McClellan, 18 May 1968; Low memo for record, “Ascent engine injector,” 31 May 1968; MSC news release 68-41, 4 June 1968; Ertel and Newkirk, Apollo Spacecraft Chronology, 4.

    27. Mueller Report, 21 June 1968.

    28. Quarterly Status Rept. no. 22, p. 29; Low to Joseph N. Kotanchik, “CSM/LM Structural Review,” 21 Dec. 1967; Low TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “Replacement of Windows on LM-1,” 28 Dec. 1967; RASPO/Bethpage Weekly Status Report, 4 Jan. 1968; James J. Shannon TWX to C. William Rathke, “Pressure Test of LM Windows,” 16 Jan. 1968; Low to Bolender, “Actions resulting from Saturday's meeting,” 19 Feb. 1968; Mueller Report, 26 Feb. 1968; Owen G. Morris to Mgrs., ASPO and LM, “Docking window failure,” 6 May 1968; Orvis E. Pigg and Stanley P. Weiss, “Spacecraft Structural Windows,” Apollo Experience Report (AER), NASA Technical Note (TN) S-377 (JSC-07074), review copy, July 1973.

    29. Low to Edward Z. Gray, 20 Dec. 1967; Low to Kotanchik, 21 Dec. 1967; Phillips to Assoc. Admin., OMSF, “LM Stress Corrosion", 27 Dec. 1967; Mueller to Gilruth, 8 Jan. 1968; Low to Kotanchik, “Stress corrosion,” 15 Jan. 1968; minutes of GAEC/MSC Meeting at MSC on 17 Feb. 1968 Low to Dale D. Myers, 21 Dec. 1967; Gilruth to Mueller, 18 Jan. 1968; Low to Gray, 20 Dec. 1967, with encs., William F. Rector III to Grumman, Attn.: Robert S. Mullaney, “Stress Corrosion,” 12 Oct. 1964, and Rathke to MSC, Attn.: Rector, “Stress Corrosion,” 30 Oct. 1964.

    30. Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “Stress Corrosion Review,” 25 Jan. 1968; Shannon TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Rathke, “LM Landing Gear Stress Corrosion Investigation,” 29 Jan. 1968; Stress Corrosion Review Progress Report, 16 Feb. 1968; Low to Bolender, 19 Feb. 1968; Mueller Report, 26 Feb. 1968; Stanley P. Weiss, “Lunar Module Structural System,” AER TN S-345 (MSC-04932), June 1972.

    31. Low to Bolender, no subj., 16 Feb. 1968; Bolender to Low, interoffice routing slip, 17 Feb. 1968; Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “Wiring,” 28 March 1968, and “Wire problem on LM-3,” 15 April 1968.

    32. J. C. Stark, interoffice memo, to Llewellyn J. Evans (Grumman President), George F. Titterton, and R. Hutton, “LM Weight Status Report,” 29 Jan. 1968; Low to Evans, 20 March 1968; Owen E. Maynard, chm., LM Weight Reduction Task Force Meeting, 29 March 1968; Abbey, ASPO Staff Meeting, 29 Jan. 1968; Configuration Control Board Meeting, 5 April 1968; “LM Hardware Weight Reductions: Initial Submittal,” Grumman, 5 April 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-5. Apollo 6: Saturn V's Shaky Dress Rehearsal

    Planned LC-39

    Apollo's lunar missions were not launched from Cape Kennedy. Launch Complex 39, where Saturn Vs were launched, was on Kennedy Space Center grounds. (Launch Complexes 34 and 37 were on the Air Force Eastern Test Range, on the Cape itself.) Of the three launch areas planned for Complex 39 and shown in the 1965 drawing (the three right-hand areas above), the one at the extreme right, Area C, was not constructed; Areas (or Pads) A and B were built and used for all Saturn V launches.


    The success of Apollo 4 gave good reason to believe that the Saturn V could be trusted to propel men into space. But NASA pushed on with its plans for a second unmanned booster flight, primarily to give the Pad 39 launch team another rehearsal before sending men into deep space on the Saturn V.

    Getting Apollo 6 to the launch pad was a lengthy process. The S-IC first stage of the Saturn V arrived at Kennedy Space Center * on 13 March 1967. Four days later it was on a mobile launcher in the cavernous assembly building, awaiting the S-II second stage—which did not get to Kennedy until May. On 6 February 1968, a Tuesday morning, a crawler carrying the whole Apollo stack on its platform edged out of the building into a wind-driven rain and headed slowly down a track to the launch complex, five kilometers away. En route, trouble with communications circuits forced a two-hour wait. When communications were restored, the crawler resumed its snail's pace. At 5:00 that afternoon, the rain stopped, and the Apollo stack arrived at the launch area an hour later.33

    Although the spacecraft itself had no primary objectives to accomplish, a Block I version (CSM-020) with many Block II improvements (such as the new hatch) was allocated to the mission. Kleinknecht, the command and service modules manager in Houston, was pleased with the machine that North American sent to Kennedy, although he was upset when he learned that the protective Mylar film that covered the spacecraft during shipment was flammable. In engineering terms, it was a clean spacecraft. Only 23 engineering orders were outstanding (as opposed to the hundreds listed for spacecraft 012 only a year and a half earlier), and most of these were the kind that the spacecraft operations people at Kennedy normally handled anyway.34 The spacecraft had no last-minute problems, but the mission planners did.

    In November 1967, the idea of putting a camera in the window of the spacecraft to take some earth resources photographs had been explored in a review for Mueller at North American. John Mayer's MSC mission planners were hit hard by the late inclusion of the camera. Because Apollo 6 was unmanned, all the flight trajectory data had to be correlated with the photographic aims and a computer program had to be developed and fed into the onboard computer. After many careful checks, the mission planners decided that there might be a chance during the first orbit and part of the second to get some pictures of the area from Baja California to Texas.35

    Apollo 6 had been scheduled for the first quarter of 1968, but several brief postponements slipped it past that date. On 15 January, Mueller wrote Webb that the tank skirt of service module 008 had split during structural testing. The skirt on spacecraft 020 was strengthened to prevent a similar mishap. Then, after the stack had been trundled down the path to the launch area on a rainy day, water seepage was found in the Saturn's S-II stage, and some parts had to be replaced. And, finally, the countdown-to-launch practice did not end until 29 March.36

    At 7:00 a.m. on 4 April 1968, Saturn V 502 rose thunderously from its Florida launch pad to boost Apollo 6 (AS-502) into orbit, but that was nearly the last normal thing the big rocket did. For the first two minutes, the five huge engines in the first stage roared, shook the ground, and belched fire evenly. Then there were thrust fluctuations that caused the vehicle to bounce like a giant pogo stick for about 30 seconds. Low-frequency modulations (known as the pogo effect) as high as +/-0.6 g were recorded in the command module, which exceeded design criteria (0.25 g was the upper limit permitted for manned flight in Gemini). Except for the bouncing and the loss of a piece of the panel in the adapter, the first stage did its job, however.

    Very shortly after the second stage ignited, two of its five J-2 engines stopped. The other three engines had to fire longer to compensate for this loss of power. The second stage did not reach the desired altitude and velocity before its fuel gave out and it dropped away. To reach the required speed, the S-IVB third stage also had to burn longer than planned, putting the spacecraft into an orbit of 178 by 367 kilometers, instead of a 160-kilometer circular orbit.

    Mission Director Schneider and Flight Director Clifford E. Charlesworth left the vehicles in a parking orbit for two circuits of the earth while system checks were performed, operational tests were conducted, and several attitude maneuvers were carried out. Then flight control tried to restart the S-IVB, to simulate translunar injection, but the third stage refused to answer the call. The next step was to separate the command and service modules from the now useless S-IVB.

    While Apollo 6 had been whirling around the earth, the spacecraft's special 70-millimeter camera had been clicking away, getting some spectacular color stereo photographs. ** These were later found to be excellent for cartographic, topographic, and geographic studies of continental areas, coastal regions, and shallow waters.

    Mouth of Colorado River

    Mouth of the Colorado River and Gulf of California were photographed from the Apollo 6 spacecraft 220 kilometers above on 4 April 1968. Baja California is at the left, and the Mexican state of Sonora, showing the Sonoran Desert, is to the right of the river's mouth.


    Following the system checks and the photography, controllers turned to an alternate mission. The service module engine was fired for 442 seconds,*** which exceeded lunar mission requirements, to produce the simulated translunar injection maneuver. Apollo 6 shot out to 22,200 kilometers. Although the spacecraft had enough altitude for a good simulation of an Apollo spacecraft returning to the earth from the moon, the service module engine no longer had sufficient fuel to give it the correct speed for its dive. The command module reached a velocity of 10,000 meters per second, about 1,270 less than planned, and splashed down in the Pacific, missing its predicted impact point by 80 kilometers. The spacecraft was hauled aboard the U.S.S. Okinawa to complete its 10-hour mission.37

    On 9 April 1968, a NASA news release declared that preliminary data on Apollo 6 indicated that the spacecraft had done its job well. Mueller and Phillips, however, concluded that the overall flight had not been a success.

    Apollo was not top international or even national news in April 1968, even though this flight was a major step in the program to land men on the moon. President Johnson had announced 31 March that he did not intend to seek reelection, hoping that this action would expedite the ending of the war in Southeast Asia. And on 4 April, the day of the flight, Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights leader of international stature, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. About the only explaining that NASA had to do, therefore, was to the congressional committees on space activities, who seemed satisfied with what they heard.38

    But the Apollo team did not need a round of public criticism in April 1968. With the decade nearing its end, pressures were already exceedingly heavy. In the alphabet game of reaching the “G” (or lunar landing) mission, NASA had flown only two “A” missions (Saturn V unmanned) and one “B” (Saturn IB with an unmanned lunar module). Now Huntsville had to find out why the Saturn V's S-IC first stage bounced, why the S-II second stage turned off two of its engines, and why the S-IVB third stage refused to fire a second time. Meanwhile, Houston had to determine exactly how much shaking the lander could stand and why a large piece of the spacecraft-lunar module adapter had blown out during launch. Without satisfactory answers, the Saturn V might have to make a third unmanned flight.


    * During Apollo 6 activities, a small intercenter irritation surfaced. Although almost everyone referred to the whole Florida launch layout as “the Cape,” Albert Siepert, Deputy Director for Kennedy Space Center Management, wrote Wesley Hjornevik in Houston to point out that Launch Complex 39 was situated entirely within the geographical boundaries of the entity known as the “Kennedy Space Center, NASA.” Noting that the widespread use of “the Cape” was a nostalgic hearkening back to Mercury and Cape Canaveral, Siepert nevertheless maintained that “NASA report writers ought not to confuse geographic proximity to the Cape as the same thing as being on it.” However that may have been, the terminology “launched from the Cape . . .” continued to be used by the news media—and the present authors.

    ** The camera photographed sections of the United States, the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, and the western Pacific Ocean. This camera had a haze-penetrating film and filter combination that provided better color balance and higher resolution than any photographs obtained during the Mercury and Gemini flights.

    *** If the S-IVB had made its second burn, the service module engine would have fired for only 280 seconds.


    33. NASA, “Project: Apollo 6,” press kit, news release 68-54K, 21 March 1968, p. 7; MSC, “Discussion of Information Regarding Apollo Launch Date,” Announcement 68-43, 18 March 1968; Mueller to Gilruth, 9 Jan. 1968; Benson and Faherty, Moonport, p. 437; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 23, p. 50; Albert F. Seipert to Wesley L. Hjornevik, 19 April 1968.

    34. Phillips to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 6 Mission (AS-502),” 20 March 1968, with enc., pp. 40-41; Phillips TWX to MSC, MSFC, and KSC, Attn.: Low, Rudolph, and Middleton, 15 Nov. 1967; Phillips to MSFC et al., “Apollo 6 and AS-503 Unmanned CSM Assignments,” 12 Dec. 1967; Walter S. Fellows letter, “AS-503/BP-30 Mission Directive,” 2 Feb. 1968; Kleinknecht to Myers, 13 Feb. 1968; Kleinknecht to Mgr., ASPO, “Information on new work and normal flow work planned for CSM 020 at KSC,” 17 Nov. 1967; Kleinknecht to Mgr., ASPO, “Notes and comments,” 17 Nov. 1967; Low to George H. Hage, 18 Nov. 1967.

    35. Kleinknecht to Mgr., ASPO, “Notes and comments,” 17 Nov. 1967; B. E. Sabels, “Earth Resources Aircraft Program Test Site Coverage by Expected AS-502 Color Photography—Case 630,”Bellcomm working paper, 29 Jan. 1968; Richard G. Terwiliger, summary of meeting to discuss Apollo 502 mission's earth-oriented photography, 29 Jan. 1968; John R. Brinkmann, recorder, minutes of February meeting of the Camera Development Review Board, 7 Feb. 1968.

    36. MSC news release 68-10, 20 Feb. 1968; MSC, anon., “Apollo Spacecraft Progress,” [ca. February 1968]; Mueller Reports, 15 and 29 Jan., 5 and 12 Feb., and 25 March 1968.

    37. MSC, “Apollo 6 Mission Report,” MSC-PA-R-68-9, June 1968, pp. 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2, 10-1; JSC, “Apollo Program Summary Report,” JSC-09423, April 1975, p-p. 2-26, 2-27; Phillips to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 6 Mission (AS-502) Post Launch Report #1,” 18 April 1968, with enc.; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 24, 30 June 1968, pp. 3-5; Mueller Report, 8 April 1968; Kraft memo, “Flight Control Planning for Apollo 6,” 21 Feb. 1968, with enc.; Jerome B. Hammack to Dir., Flight Ops., “Apollo 6 preliminary recovery information,” 5 April 1968; Mueller for Admin., NASA, “Apollo 6 Mission Assessment,” 15 April 1968; Sabels, “Apollo 502 Color Photography of Earth Resources—Case 710,” abstract of Bellcomm rept., 6 May 1968; Sabels, “Preliminary Evaluation of AS-502 Color Photography of Earth Resources, Case 340,” abstract of Bellcomm rept., 19 July 1968; John L. Kaltenbach, comp., “Science Report on the 70-Millimeter Photography of the Apollo 6 Mission,” NASA S-217, review copy, May 1969, p. ii, iii, 1-5.

    38. MSC news release 68-30, 9 April 1968; Phillips to Admin., NASA, “Apollo 6 Mission (AS-502) Post Launch Report #2,” 27 Dec. 1968, with enc., “NASA Mission Objectives for Apollo 6,” signed by Phillips 13 Dec. and by Mueller 27 Dec. 1968; Benson and Faherty, Moonport, pp. 440-43; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1969: Report on H.R. 15856, 90th Cong., 2nd sess., 20 May 1968, pp. 4-14.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-6. Pogo and Other Problems

    The pogo bounce had been observed (although to a much smaller degree) on Apollo 4, so its appearance during Apollo 6 did not come as a complete surprise. Also, five years earlier, in 1963, pogo had threatened to end the Gemini program when the Titan II suffered this phenomenon on launch after launch. Its apparent cause was a partial vacuum created in the fuel and oxidizer suction lines by the pumping rocket engines. This condition produced a hydraulic resonance— more simply, the engine skipped when the bubbles caused by the partial vacuum reached the firing chamber. Sheldon Rubin of the Aerospace Corporation had finally suggested installing fuel accumulators and oxidizer standpipes, to ensure a steady flow of propellants through the lines. This had solved the Gemini launch vehicle problems, and NASA had this background experience to draw on when the Saturn V began having pogo troubles.* 39

    Pogo on Apollo 4 had been measured at one-tenth g, much less than the one-fourth g set as the upper limit in Gemini. The lower oscillation was probably the result of carrying just “a hunk of junk,” to simulate lunar module weight, on the earlier flight. But a test article flown on Apollo 6 had the shape and weight of a real lander in the adapter. This change in mass distribution coupled back into the fuel system problem and increased the pogo oscillations. The mission analysts later discovered that two of the Saturn engines had been inadvertently tuned to the same frequency, probably aggravating the problem. (Engines in the Saturn V cluster were to be tuned to different frequencies to prevent any two or more of them from pulling the booster off balance and changing its trajectory during powered flight.)

    The rocketeers at Huntsville first wanted to know from Houston whether a crew could have withstood the vibration levels on Apollo 6. If so, the next Saturn V flight could be manned, even without a pogo cure. Low informed Saturn V Program Manager Arthur Rudolph that these levels could not be tolerated. Marshall also asked whether the emergency detection system could be used to abort the mission automatically if such high vibrations again occurred. During Apollo 6, the system had cast one vote for ending the mission. Had it cast a second vote, abort would have been mandatory. Low and chief astronaut Donald Slayton did not want to use the system in an automatic pogo abort mode. Low met with George H. Hage, Phillips' deputy, and they decided on the immediate development of a “pogo abort sensor,” a self-contained unit that would monitor and display spacecraft oscillations. From what the sensor told him, a spacecraft commander could decide whether to continue or stop the mission. 40

    Marshall Space Flight Center pulled an S-IC stage out of Michoud Assembly Facility, brought it to Huntsville, and erected it in a test stand. By May, Huntsville, Houston, and Washington Apollo officials were ready to attack the pogo problem. Hage agreed to head the activity until Eberhard Rees could finish his task on the command module at Downey and take over. At one time during the pogo studies, Lee B. James (who had replaced Rudolph as the Huntsville Saturn V manager) said, 1,000 engineers from government and industry were working on the problem.41

    Out on the West Coast, at the rocket engine test site at Edwards Air Force Base, Rocketdyne started testing its F-1 engine in late May. In the first six tests, helium was injected into the liquid-oxygen feed lines in an attempt to interrupt the resonating frequencies that had caused the unacceptable vibration levels. In four of the six tests, the cure was worse than the disease, producing even more pronounced oscillations. The Saturn V people at Marshall also tried helium injection, but their results were decidedly different. No oscillations whatsover were observed. Tests using the S-IC stage's prevalves as helium accumulators were then conducted at both Edwards and Marshall. The prevalves were in the liquid-oxygen ducts just above the firing chambers of the five engines and were used to hold up the flow of oxygen in the fuel lines until late in the countdown, when the fluid was admitted to the main liquid-oxygen valves in preparation for engine ignition. The prevalves were modified to allow the injection of helium into the cavity about 10 minutes before liftoff; the helium would then serve as a shock absorber against any liquid-oxygen pressure surges.

    What had happened to the S-II and S-IVB stages, with two of the five J-2 engines shutting down in one case and the single J-2 engine refusing to start in the other, was more of a mystery than pogo. During tests at Arnold Engineering Development Center, at Tullahoma, Tennessee, engineers discovered that frost forming on propellant lines when the engines were fired at ground temperatures served as an extra protection against lines burning through. But frosting did not take place in the vacuum of space; the lines could have failed because of this. Also, in the line leading to each of the engines was an augmented spark igniter. Next to the igniter was a bellows. During ground tests, liquid air, sprayed over the exterior to cool it, damped out any vibrations. Vacuum testing revealed that the bellows vibrated furiously and failed immediately after peak-fuel-flow rates began. These lines were strengthened and modified to eliminate the bellows. 42

    Another item noticed by the flight control monitors during the boosted flight of Apollo 6 (and later confirmed by photographs) was that a panel section of the adapter that housed the lander had fallen away just after the Saturn V started bouncing. The controllers had been amazed that the structural integrity was sufficient to carry the payload into orbit. James Chamberlin in Houston discovered that thermal pressure (and therefore moisture) had built up in the honeycomb panels during launch; with no venting to allow the extra pressure to escape, the panel had blown out. A layer of cork was applied to the exterior of the adapter to keep it cooler and to absorb the moisture, and holes were drilled in the adapter panels to relieve the internal pressure if heat did build up inside on future launches. 43

    Although Marshall was responsible for stability and dynamic structural integrity throughout the boost phase, the Manned Spacecraft Center could not afford to sit on the sidelines and watch while its sister center wrestled with these problems. Houston had to get an Apollo payload stack together for structural testing. On 16 May 1968, Low and James decided to use a “short stack” (the S-IC stage would be left out at this time but could be incorporated later). ** Astronaut Charles Duke was sent to Huntsville to keep information flowing between the centers, and Rolf Lanzkron was assigned by Low to manage the spacecraft dynamic integrity testing, which was satisfactorily completed on 27 August with no major hardware changes found necessary.44


    * The Gemini launch vehicle engines were hypergolic, that is, its oxidizer and fuel burned on contact to produce thrust. Since the Saturn first stage (S-IC) engines were cryogenic, the propellant and oxidizer needed an igniter to produce burning—and no one expected a similar pogo problem with the larger booster.

    ** The stack comprised an S-IVB forward skirt, launch vehicle instrument unit, spacecraft-lunar module adapter, LM-2, a service module, a Block I command module, and the launch escape system from boilerplate 30.


    39. MSC, “Apollo 6 Mission Report,” p. 1-3; MSC, “Apollo 4 Mission Report,” MSC-PA-R-68-1, January 1968, p. 5.1-8; Scott H. Simpkinson, telephone interview, 28 Aug. 1975; Barton C. Hacker and James I. Grimwood, On the Shoulder of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA SP-4203 (Washington, 1977), p. 136.

    40. Simpkinson interview; Boone to MSC Mechanical Panel Cochm., Attn.: Jenkins, “Spacecraft (structure/man) limits for longitudinal oscillations on the manned AS-503,” n.d. [ca. April 1968]; Low to Rudolph, KSC, 22 April 1968; Hodge, minutes of Fifth Apollo Crew Safety Review Board Meeting, 16-18 April 1968; Low to Hodge, “Apollo Crew Safety Review Board activities,” 23 April 1968; Low to Maynard, “POGO abort sensor,” 22 May 1968; Armistead Dennett, minutes of Pogo Sensor Planning Meeting, 3 June 1968; minutes of 24th Crew Safety Panel Meeting, 19 June 1968.

    41. Mueller Report, 29 April 1968; Low memo for record, “Management meeting on POGO,” 18 May 1968; Abbey, ASPO Staff Meeting, 20 May 1968; MSC news release 68-50, [ca. 18 July 1968].

    42. Mueller Reports, 15 April, 31 May, 7, 14, and 21 June, 8, 15, and 22 July 1968; 24th Crew Safety Panel Meeting; MSC release 68-50; Charles I. Duke, Jr., to Mgr., ASPO, “POGO activities,” 12 July 1968; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1968: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4010 (Washington, 1969), p. 135; NASA Nineteenth Semiannual Report to Congress, January 1-June 30, 1968 (Washington, 1969), pp. 18-19.

    43. “Apollo 6 Review,” 21 April 1968; Low presentation, “Manned Space Flight Management Council Review, Apollo Spacecraft Program,” 7 May 1968; Low to Seymour C. Himmel, 14 Nov. 1968; MSC, “Review of AS-502 Structural Anomaly Activities,” 27 June 1968; McClellan to Low, 1 July 1968; Donald D. Arabian to Low, “Summary of SLA Anomaly,” 8 Oct. 1968; MSC, “Apollo Anomaly Status,” PT-ASR-6, 1 Oct. 1968; JSC, “Apollo Program Summary Report,” p. F-4.

    44. Low to Phillips, 25 May 1968, with encs., “Apollo Space Vehicle Dynamic Integrity,” MSC Announcement 68-67, 21 May 1968, and “Management of MSC Space Vehicle Dynamic Integrity efforts,” MSC Announcement 68-69, 24 May 1968; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 25, 30 Sept. 1968, pp. 6, 7, 9; Low to Bolender and Kleinknecht, “Anticipation of pogo fixes,” 3 May 1968; Low TWX to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, “POGO Dynamic, Static and Other Structural Tests,” 15 June 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch10-7. The Outlook

    At midyear 1968, chances for landing on the moon within the decade were still touch-and-go. It did seem likely that NASA would have to fly only five, instead of six, preparatory flights that year, but one of these might have to be another unmanned Saturn V. Not knowing exactly what would follow the third mission of the year (a manned Saturn IB launch) caused some extra planning. For example, the Kennedy spacecraft preparation team had to prepare both a boilerplate and a qualified production command module for the next Saturn V shot, since the choice for launch depended on the outcome of the pogo investigations. Mission planners in Washington also revived the plan for launching two Saturn IB missions to give both the North American and the Grumman spacecraft a workout in earth orbit, if another unmanned Saturn V had to be flown.45 Even this plan was tentative, however, as the delivery date for LM-3 was still not firm.

    On the brighter side of the ledger at mid-year was North American's work in getting CSM-101 ready for the first manned Apollo mission. Although the contractor was late in shipping the craft from its California factory to the Florida launch site, improvements in the fabrication of this machine indicated that future spacecraft should be on time. After a traumatic and pressure-packed 18 months, North American was finally delivering satisfactory, flight-ready hardware. When 101 arrived at the Cape on 30 May, the receiving inspectors found fewer discrepancies than on any spacecraft previously delivered to Kennedy.46

    Mueller had told the Senate space committee in February 1968 that the first manned Apollo mission would be flown in the last quarter of the year.47 In June, this still seemed feasible.


    45. Phillips TWX to MSFC, KSC, and MSC,”AS-503 Launch Preparations,” 9 April 1968; James TWX to MSC, Attn.: Low, “AS-503 Unmanned Contingency Payload Considerations,” 28 May 1968; NASA, “Launch Readiness Flight Planning schedule,” 11 June 1968; Teir to OMSF, Attn.: Phillips, “Saturn IB Dual Launch Capability,” 23 May 1968, with encs.

    46. Low to Phillips, 3 June 1968; ASPO Rept., 7 June 1968; Phillips to Low, 24 June 1968; Bergen to Low, 3 May 1968; Low to Bergen, 7 May 1968; Low to Dave W. Lang, “North American award fee,” 11 May 1968; Bernhardt L. Dorman memo, “Appraisal of NR activities for award fee determination,” 22 May 1968.

    47. John E. Riley to Low, “Mueller testimony to Senate Space Committee on Budget Authorization,” 28 Feb. 1968; Mueller to Morton E. Henig, 23 May 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch11-1. Tastes of Triumph

    1968: Second Half

    The interval between the manned flights of Gemini and Apollo was less than two years (November 1966 to October 1968), about the same as that between Mercury and Gemini (May 1963 to March 1965). But before Apollo flew, the days were filled with more trauma, troubleshooting, and toil. Asked by a former college classmate to give an address, Houston Apollo manager George Low replied that he could not—he was already spending so much time with Apollo that his own family hardly saw him. That was only a slight exaggeration. For more than a year, his staff meetings had been crammed full of items that needed his personal attention. Every Friday without fail there were spacecraft configuration control meetings, leaving only Saturdays to visit the Downey and Bethpage plants to check on progress.

    Shortly after midyear 1968, the feeling of dashing from one problem to another started to fade. George Mueller, manned space flight chief in Washington, was told at a monthly management council meeting that North American's command module 103 was moving through checkout operations at such an excellent pace that it would almost certainly be able to make a manned Saturn V mission before the end of the year. 1

    Now that such a flight seemed probable in 1968, there was sobriety, as well as elation, among Apollo workers. Apollo 7, they knew, would be the last of the Saturn IB missions in mainline Apollo. Saturn IB vehicles 206 through 212 were released to a follow-on Apollo Applications Program, although that project was faring none too well in Congress for fiscal 1969 money. Thus, ironically, even before the first astronauts lifted off the ground in Apollo, a problem in worker morale began to surface.* Low commented:

    There has been increasing concern by the people in [the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office], as well as others at the center, about what we will do after we land on the moon. In light of recent budget decisions, many of our people are concerned about the future of [the Manned Spacecraft Center].2

    But the members of the Apollo team who were working on the lunar module had little time to think about the future. Mueller and his deputy, Samuel Phillips, told Grumman officials in July that the launch vehicle and the command module were in good shape but too many changes were still being made in the lunar module. Unless Grumman speeded up its work considerably, it was going to be far-behind everyone else. 3

    When LM-3, listed as the first to be manned, reached the Cape on 14 June, the receiving inspectors found more than 100 deficiencies. Many were major. After more than a month of inspecting, checking, and testing, George C. White, reliability and quality assurance chief at NASA Headquarters, reported 19 areas—including stress corrosion, window failures, and wire and splice problems—that Mueller's Certification Review Board would have to consider. Charles Mathews, former Gemini manager in Houston and now working for Mueller in Washington, made a quick trip to Florida. In Mathews' opinion, the work that Rocco Petrone's launch operations team at Kennedy Space Center would have to do was far beyond what should have been required. 4 This lack of a flight-ready lunar module forced Apollo planners to try for some short cuts on the route to the moon.


    * Morale problems among agency workers arose at different points in the Mercury and Gemini programs. Mercury ended abruptly in June 1963 (after six manned flights). Most of the personnel simply moved on into Gemini or Apollo positions. Gemini suffered its morale drop after eight of its ten manned flights, and the scramble for new jobs in mid-1966 was more frantic than it had been three years earlier. The problems of hiring and firing in industry for short-term programs such as space and weapon system projects have never really been resolved. And the same is essentially true for federal agencies.


    1. Configuration Control Board Meeting, 5 April 1968; George W. S. Abbey, ASPO Staff Meetings, MSC, 8 April, 20 May, 12 Aug., 9 Sept., 2 Dec. 1968; William B. Bergen, North American, to George M. Low, MSC, 3 May 1968; Low to Bergen, 7 May 1968; Samuel C. Phillips, NASA OMSF, to Low, 21 May 1968.

    2. Assoc. Admin., NASA OMSF, memo, “MSF Planning Guidelines #1,” 14 June 1968, with enc., “Manned Space Flight Base Plan,” 14 June 1968; George E. Mueller, NASA OMSF, to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, Dir., 22 Jan. 1969; William F. Moore memo for record, “House Floor Action on FY 1969 NASA Authorization,” 3 May 1968; Paul P. Haney memo, “Budget action,” 19 July 1968; Low to George S. Trimble, Jr., “Personnel management evaluation,” 5 Sept. 1968; Mueller to Gilruth, 2 Oct. 1968.

    3. Carroll H. Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “Dr. Mueller's visit to GAEC on July 17, 1968,” 19 July 1968; anon. memo to Lunar Module Team, no subj., 21 July 1968.

    4. MSC, Apollo Spacecraft Program Quarterly Status Rept. no. 24, 30 June 1968, p. 2; Joseph M. Bobik to Chief, KSC Apollo Spacecraft Office, “LM-3 Receiving Inspection,” 18 July 1968; Bolender memo) for record, “LM-3 certification status” 26 June 1968; Bolender to Mgr., ASPO, “Critique of LM-3 receiving inspection at KSC,” 26 June 1968; George C. White, Jr., NASA Hq., to MSC, Attn.: Mgr., Reliability and Quality Assurance, “LM-3 DCR Areas of Concern,” 2 Aug. 1968, with enc.; minutes of LM-3 Delta Design Certification Review (DCR), 7 Aug. 1968; Low to Bolender and Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, “Chuck Mathews review of KSC activities,” 14 Sept. 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch11-2. Proposal for a Lunar Orbit Mission

    Almost as soon as NASA adopted an alphabetical stairway for reaching the moon in progressive flights (see Chapter 9), with the seventh, or G, step representing the ultimate goal, mission planners had begun looking for ways to omit a letter. In late 1967, when the ABC-scheme evolved, Low and Flight Operations Director Christopher Kraft had pushed for a lunar-orbital mission as soon as possible to learn more about communications, navigation, and thermal control in the deep space environment.

    In the spring of 1968, Apollo officials in Houston were trying to upgrade the E mission (operating the command module and the lander in high-earth orbit) into something called E-prime, which would move the mission to the vicinity of the moon. But by August Gilruth and others had concluded that LM-3 would not be ready for flight that year. This finding left NASA with two excellent command modules, 101 and 103, but no lunar module companions. Low had already recognized this likelihood in July, after Kennedy found the many deficiencies in LM-3. If a lunar module could not be manned in 1968, he reasoned that Saturn V 503 and CSM-103 might be used for a circumlunar or lunar-orbit flight. Low kept his own counsel for a while, waiting for the Saturn V pogo problem to be resolved.

    On 7 August, Low asked Kraft to work out a flight plan for such a mission during 1968. Then the Houston manager, accompanied by Carroll Bolender, Scott Simpkinson, and Owen Morris, went to the Cape on 8 August to talk with Phillips, Kennedy Director Kurt Debus, Petrone, and Roderick Middleton about the status of Saturn V 503. The Cape contingent believed it could launch the big Saturn in January 1969. 5

    Back in Houston the next day, 9 August, MSC Director Gilruth had hardly entered his office before Low began telling him his ideas for a lunar-orbit mission. Gilruth, too, was enthusiastic, and he and Low started calling Washington, Huntsville, and the Cape to set up a meeting that same afternoon at Marshall. Low next talked to Kraft, who said the mission was feasible from a ground control and spacecraft computer standpoint. Gilruth, Low, Kraft, and Flight Crew Operations Director Donald Slayton then boarded a plane for Huntsville. At 2:30, they were joined by Debus and Petrone from Kennedy and Phillips and George Hage from Headquarters. Making an even dozen were the Marshall hosts, Wernher von Braun, Eberhard Rees, Ludie G. Richard, and Lee James.

    Low said that a lunar-orbit mission, if it could be flown in December, might be the only way to meet the fast-approaching lunar landing deadline. This remark sparked a lively discussion. The talk was mostly about what each of the NASA elements would have to do to make the mission possible in the time remaining. Debus and Petrone considered Kennedy's workload and concluded that they could be ready by 1 December; von Braun, Rees, James, and Richard reported that they had nearly solved the pogo problem; and Low and Gilruth talked about the differences between command modules 103 and 106 (the first spacecraft originally scheduled to go to the moon) and what to use as a substitute for the lander.

    Even as he joined in the discussion, Apollo Program Director Phillips had been taking notes. He said they should keep their plans secret until a decision was made by NASA's top officials. In the meantime, while gathering whatever information was needed, they would use the code name “Sam's Budget Exercise” as a cover. The conferees would meet in Washington on 14 August—“Decision Day.” Administrator James Webb and Mueller would be in Vienna attending the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at that time. If the Washington meeting decided in favor of the lunar-orbit mission, Phillips would fly to Austria to sell the idea to Webb and Mueller.6

    In Houston at 8:30 that evening, Low met with spacecraft chiefs Kenneth Kleinknecht and Bolender, technical assistant George Abbey, and North American Apollo manager Dale Myers. Kleinknecht began studying the differences between spacecraft 103 and 106, Bolender left for Bethpage to find a substitute for LM-3, and Myers went back to Downey to make sure that command module 103 was moving along and to oversee any changes Kleinknecht recommended. Joseph Kotanchik, structures expert in Houston, could not see any reason for Bolender's trip to Bethpage; a simple cross-beam could be used for weight and balance, he said. But Kotanchik found himself alone in this position. The others believed that a true facsimile should be carried, and Low decided on a lunar test article.

    Early on Monday morning, 12 August, Kraft told Low that the target date would have to be 20 December if they wanted to launch in daylight. If the flight had to be terminated for any reason shortly after launch, good visibility was necessary for recovering the spacecraft. In the meantime, Slayton had been thinking about which crew to pick for the flight. Frank Borman's team had been training for a high-altitude mission. Slayton talked with Borman over the weekend and decided to propose that crew at the meeting in Washington.7

    The 12 men who had gathered in Huntsville were joined by William Schneider and Julian H. Bowman when they met with Deputy Administrator Thomas O. Paine* at Headquarters on Wednesday,14 August. Low reviewed spacecraft status, Kraft discussed flight operations, and Slayton talked about flight crew preparations. Von Braun reported that the Saturn would be ready for the launch, and he and Rees agreed that Low had made a good selection of a stand-in for the lunar module. Debus and Petrone said the Cape could launch the Saturn V by 6 December.8

    After listening to the plotters, Paine decided to play devil's advocate. Not too long ago, he said, you people were trying to decide whether it was safe to man the third Saturn V (503), and now you want to put men on top of it and send them to the moon. The Deputy Administrator then asked for comments. This is what he heard:

    Von Braun: Once you decided to man 503, it did not matter how far you went.

    Hage: There are a number of places in the mission where decisions can be made and risks minimized.

    Slayton: It is the only chance to get to the moon before the end of 1969.

    Debus: I have no technical reservations.

    Petrone: I have no reservations.

    Bowman: It will be a shot in the arm for manned space flight.

    James: Manned safety in this and following flights will be enhanced.

    Richard: Our lunar capability will be advanced by flying this mission.

    Schneider: The plan has my wholehearted endorsement.

    Gilruth: Although this may not be the only way to meet our goal, it does increase the possibility. There is always risk, but this is a path of less risk. In fact, the minimum risk of all Apollo plans.

    Kraft: Flight Operations will have a difficult job here. We need all kinds of priorities—it will not be easy to do, but I have confidence. But it should be a lunar orbit and not a circumlunar flight.

    Low: Assuming Apollo 7 is a success, there is no other choice.9

    So ended the round table vote, by the men who managed the day-to-day details of the Apollo program, to commit the first crew to fly to the moon. Paine was impressed, but he was only the first of the three top men who had to be convinced. Webb and Mueller would not be so easy to sell. In fact, when Mueller called Phillips from Vienna during the meeting and learned of the plan, he was not receptive. He urged Phillips not to come to Vienna. By the next day, 15 August, he had warmed to the idea, but he wanted Phillips to keep it quiet until after Apollo 7. Webb was shocked by the audacity of the proposal and was inclined to say no immediately. After talking with Phillips and Paine, however, he asked for more information.

    Paine called Willis H. Shapley, Julian Scheer, and Phillips in to draft a text for Webb. Paine's cable to Vienna on 15 August underlined his complete support and included an item-by-item schedule of necessary actions. The cable also contained a draft of a statement for Webb to make in Vienna and a draft of a press release to be issued in Washington. Altogether, the cablegram covered seven typewritten pages.10

    After discussing the proposal with Mueller, Webb cabled Paine on 16 August that he believed it unwise for any announcement to originate from Vienna. Webb told his deputy to plan for the lunar-orbit flight but to make no public statement about it. In other words, NASA could not talk about anything but an earth-orbital mission. Webb also asked Paine to notify the White House and the President's scientific advisers about any drastic changes in mission planning. This was not what the planners had asked for, but it was certainly more than Webb had given them the previous day. Now they had to figure out how to stay within the constraints set by the Administrator and still get everything ready for a lunar-orbit mission if approval came later. Phillips called Low, saying he would be in Houston the next day to decide how to handle the situation.11

    Phillips and Hage arrived in Houston on 17 August and met with Gilruth, Low, Kraft, and Slayton. The Apollo program leader from Washington said that Webb had given him clear authority to prepare for a 6 December launch, to designate it as a C-prime mission, and to call it Apollo 8. He then ticked off what else had been authorized: they could assign Borman's crew to the flight, equip and train it to meet the 6 December launch, and speak of the flight as earth-orbital while continuing to plan for a lunar orbit. The plotters were well aware, and Phillips reemphasized it, that a successful command module qualification flight in earth orbit by Apollo 7 was the key to the first lunar flight's being approved for 1968.12 Now Houston had to train crews to fly that mission, as well as the others that would follow.


    * After being first Associate and then Deputy Administrator of NASA for more than seven years, Robert Seamans (who originally intended to stay only two years) resigned on 2 October 1967 and left the agency on 5 January 1968. On 31 January, President Lyndon Johnson announced the nomination of Paine, a General Electric official, to replace Seamans. Paine was confirmed by the Senate on 5 February and sworn into office on 25 March.


    5. Low to Owen E. Maynard, “Apollo Flight Test Program,” 21 May 1968, with enc.; Harold E. Granger to Tech. Asst., ASPO, “E' Mission,” 7 June 1968; Jones W. Roach to Actg. Chief, Flight Control Div. (FCD), “Manpower Impact of Simultaneous E and E' Mission Planning,” 21 June 1968; Milton E. Windler to Actg. Chief, FCD, “Impact on FCD of adding an E lunar orbital mission planning effort,” n.d., with encs.; Rodney G. Rose memo, “Mission E Prime Task Force Report,” 12 July 1968, with enc.; Low to Dir., NASA Hist. Off., “Comments on History of NACA and NASA—Continued,” 29 Sept. 1975, with encs., “Special Notes for August 9, 1968, and Subsequent,” pp. 1-2, and “Special Notes for November 10 and 11, 1968”; Jay Holmes, telephone interview, 10 Jan. 1969; Gilruth to Mueller, 1 May 1968, with enc.; LM-3 Delta DCR, 7 Aug. 1968; Low memo for record, “Report of meeting at KSC,” 10 Aug. 1968.

    6. Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” pp. 2-4; MSFC meeting for Gilruth, 9 Aug. 1968, with enc.; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1968: Chronology On Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4010 Washington, 1969 , pp. 189-90.

    7. Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” pp. 4-6; Joseph N. Kotanchik to Dir., Engineering and Development, and Mgr., ASPO, “Use of a LM, LTA-B or other unit in SLA of AS-503,” 26 Aug. 1968; Low to Kotanchik, “Use of LTA-B fr AS-503,” 27 Aug. 1968.

    8. Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” pp. 6-7; minutes of Meeting to Review Technical Feasibility of AS-503 CSM Only Mission, Washington D.C., 14th Aug 1968; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4008 (Washington, 1968), p. 288; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1968, pp. 26, 32, 68.

    9. Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” pp. 7-9.

    10. Ibid., pp. 7, 9-10; Thomas O. Paine, NASA Deputy Admin., cablegram to James E. Webb, Admin., 15 Aug. 1968.

    11. Webb telegram to Paine, 16 Aug. 1968; Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” p. 10.

    12. MSC, minutes of meeting on C Prime Mission Guidelines, 17 Aug. 1968; “Gen. Phillips Notes on C Prime Mission Guidelines, 17 August 1968”; “Mr. [George H.] Hage's Notes from C Prime Mission Mt'g @ MSC, 17 August 1968: Actions Required to Go to Moon”; Low, “Special Notes for August 9,” pp. 10-12.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch11-3. Selecting and Training Crews

    Early in 1961, Robert B. Voas at the Manned Spacecraft Center had written a paper on how pilots should train for a lunar mission and what they should do during the flight. Because of the hostile environment and the inability to return quickly to safety, Voas said, crews had to be prepared to stay with their ships and keep the protective systems operating. That made good sense. Moreover, since modifications were made in spacecraft systems almost until time of launch, a crew would have to follow its specific spacecraft through step-by-step testing in the factory and through preparations for flight at the launch site.

    Crew tasks in flight included steering the space ship, but this was not a constant duty. Steering was needed mainly during launch, lunar maneuvers, and earth reentry and landing. Navigating the ship from the earth to the moon and back required high-speed automatic computing, during which the crew would choose data fed into the computer and verify the results on the navigation system displays. In addition, the crew would make optical sightings, orient trackers on selected stars, and navigate manually, using prepared tables and a simple computer. The astronauts would maintain a continuous check on subsystems, which meant one crewman keeping watch while the others slept. This chore might include such things as switching to a redundant system if a component failed and keeping the ground informed on mission status. During early flights, scientific activities on the moon would be limited to observing systems (a primary task of a test pilot, anyway) and conducting some medical and biological experiments. Equipment for astronomical and lunar surface studies would consist of whatever could be carried to the moon and set up fairly easily by pressure-suited astronauts. Crew positions were to be commander pilot, navigator copilot, and engineer-scientist. (In June 1967, these titles were changed to commander, command module pilot, and lunar module pilot.) * 13

    In 1966, before the Apollo 204 fire, a number of astronauts were assigned to crew positions in Apollo. On 21 March, Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee (backed up by James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart) were picked to man the first flight. On 29 September, Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were named for the second flight, with backups Frank Borman, Thomas Stafford, and Michael Collins. Up to that point, keeping track of assignments was not difficult, but it soon changed. If the Grissom group circled the earth for up to 14 days, why should Schirra's crew do the same thing? So Schirra's flight was canceled in December, and his team was assigned as backup for Grissom's. McDivitt's and Borman's crews soon had new assignments. The McDivitt trio (backed by Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan) drew the second flight, a complex dual mission with two launch vehicles (Saturn IBs 205 and 208) that entailed putting the command module and lunar module through maneuvers in earth orbit. Borman's threesome, with William Anders replacing Stafford (who now had a command of his own) and Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Clifton Williams backing them, snared the first manned flight scheduled to be launched by a Saturn V. Borman's launch vehicle would be 503, the third in the series. At the end of 1966 this was the pilot assignment picture.14

    Immediately after the fire in January 1967, Webb canceled all crew assignments. On 9 May, however, as NASA began to recover from the tragedy, he told the Senate space committee that Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham (with Stafford, Young, and Cernan as backups) would fly the first manned Apollo mission.** Schirra's group, Webb told the senators, was on its way to the Downey plant “to start a detailed, day-by-day, month-by-month association with Block II spacecraft No. 101.”15

    Shortly after the Apollo 4 flight, on 20 November 1967, NASA announced the names of two more crews. McDivitt's team, with new backups Conrad, Gordon, and Alan Bean,*** would still fly the earth-orbital command and lunar module mission they had been given the previous year. The support team was Edgar Mitchell, Fred Haise, and Alfred Worden. Borman's crew again drew the high-altitude maneuvers, but the backups were now Neil Armstrong, James Lovell, and Edwin Aldrin, with a support team of Thomas Mattingly, Gerald Carr, and John Bull.16

    In November 1967, therefore, flight crew appointments seemed to be be set for all of 1968 and part of 1969, but 1968 was an eventful year for men as well as machines. The major change, of course, was the proposal to attempt a lunar-orbit mission on the second manned Apollo flight. NASA planners reasoned that Borman's crew was already training for operations with the command module as far as 6,400 kilometers from the earth. The astronauts would have to stretch that distance to nearly 380,000 kilometers, but they would not have the lunar module to complicate their training. On the other hand, McDivitt's group appeared to have a tremendous task, training to put the lander through its paces for the first time.

    Collins, in his book Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys, said that Slayton asked McDivitt if he wanted to fly the circumlunar (or lunar-orbit) mission, but McDivitt turned it down. He and his crew had spent hundreds of hours learning to handle the lunar module, and he would rather not see that time wasted. The crews would have to exchange command modules, though. Spacecraft 103, on which the McDivitt team had been training, would be ready for a flight in 1968 and 104 would not. Scott complained about that, since as command module pilot he had been living with his machine and knew its characteristics well. Collins, who had been similarly occupied with 104, had other, more personal, worries.17

    In the summer of 1968, two astronauts with flight assignments came up with medical problems that stimulated another rash of changes. Collins, from Borman's team, needed surgery to remove a bone spur from his spine. Lovell moved from the backup team to take over from Collins, Aldrin switched from lunar module to command module pilot on the backup team to replace Lovell, Haise shifted from the support group on McDivitt's team to backup lunar module pilot in Borman's group in place of Aldrin, and Jack Lousma joined McDivitt's support team as a substitute for Haise. So Collins' bone spur started a whole round of musical chairs in flight positions. And the game continued when Borman lost a member of his support team. Bull resigned from the corps because of a pulmonary problem, and Vance Brand filled his seat. 18

    Schirra's Apollo 7 group had remained intact. For almost a year, the group had stayed with the spacecraft in California. When the spacecraft moved to Florida in June 1968 for launch preparations, the crew followed. The astronauts had not devoted all their time to CSM-101, however. During the six months before launch in October 1968, they had spent nearly 600 hours in the command module simulator, operating the 725 manual controls and reacting to simulated emergencies and malfunctioning systems. They had also been in the spacecraft during an altitude chamber test, checked out the slide wire for a launch pad emergency escape test, crawled out of a model spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico to practice recovery, listened to briefings on systems and experiments, visited the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina and the Griffith Planetarium in California for celestial navigation training, worked with the crew systems people in getting their suits and supporting equipment ready, and studied mission plans and other documentation.19

    Apollo CM simulator

    The Apollo command module mission simulator (right) at Manned Spacecraft Center, where Apollo astronauts practiced for their missions. Another simulator was at Kennedy Space Center.


    Schirra's team also received the benefit, through briefings or written reports, of the activities of other astronauts who were studying, participating in, or training on specific pieces of the Apollo systems. For example, before CSM-101 left the factory at Downey, it went through a test to make sure that its systems performed properly and in harmony. Astronaut John Young attended this session and noted that, in some instances, the computer, inverters, pumps, fans, and radios were in his opinion operated longer than was either necessary or good for the equipment. He also found that, when deficiencies were uncovered, everything stopped while discrepancy reports were written on the spot. On the positive side, however, Young thought the crew checklist for time-critical sequences was excellent. From there he went on, item by item, finally concluding “that S/C 101 is a pretty clean machine.” Schirra, McDivitt, and Borman all were given copies of his report.20

    recovery practice

    Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham (left to right) practice climbing out of the spacecraft into a life raft, to perfect recovery procedures.


    The Schirra crew had practiced getting out of the spacecraft in the Gulf to simulate recovery, but Lovell, Stuart Roosa, and Charles Duke made a more extensive test to find out how they and the craft would fare if recovery were delayed as much as 48 hours. They especially wanted to see how quickly the spacecraft could right itself if it flipped over in the water with its nose down—the “stable II" position. (“Stable I” was the normal upright position.) So Lovell and the others were tossed into the water upside down. They had no trouble getting to the manual control switch that signaled three air bags to inflate and turn the ship over. During the ensuing hours, the crewmen were cool enough, but water sometimes splashed in through a postlanding air vent. They used the urine-collection hose to vacuum the water from the cabin deck and dump it overboard. All in all, they agreed, the craft was seaworthy enough for a prolonged wait until recovery. 21

    2TV-1 in space chamber

    Command and service modules 2TV-1 in the space environment simulation chamber at Manned Spacecraft Center. Hinges for the huge door to close the chamber are at extreme left. Astronauts Kerwin, Brand, and Engle spent a week in this craft under operational space conditions in 1968.


    Two days on the water might be a contingency exercise, but a week in the vacuum chamber was not. Except for weightlessness, the Space Environment Simulation Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center could reproduce most of the conditions of space. In a test vehicle called “2TV-1” (which, except for some flight-qualified equipment, was identical to Schirra's CSM-101), Joseph Kerwin, Vance Brand, and Joseph Engle looked for things that might be wrong with the craft. They found the vehicle satisfactory in most respects, but they still managed to fill 14 pages with comments. They noted particularly that the water lines sweated and drops puddled on the cabin deck. Otherwise the environmental system kept them comfortable. The test group went on to discuss communications (some headsets worked fine, others did not), the rest periods (the men slept well) , the water (they advised not drinking it for two hours after chlorination), and the food (some of the package seams split). All the astronauts received copies of this paper.22

    In addition to their flight training, the Apollo 7 crews had to exercise to keep physically fit, to guard themselves against illness, and to fly their T-38 jet aircraft from place to place to maintain proficiency in high-performance machines. Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham had been doing this detailed work, with only an occasional night off to see a soccer match or some other sports event, for more than a year. CSM-101 had spent even longer getting ready for its voyage.


    * There had been other names for the crew positions. In 1966, for example, when the Grissom and Schirra crews were in training, the terminology was command pilot, senior pilot, and pilot.

    ** An innovation for Apollo manned flights was the support crew. For Apollo 7, this would be John Swigert, Ronald Evans, and William Pogue. Perhaps their most important duty was coordinating and maintaining the Flight Data File, which included the flight plan, checklists, and mission ground rules, making sure that these were kept up to date and that the other crews were informed of changes. The support crews used the simulators to work out procedures, especially for emergency situations. Thus, when the prime and backup teams trained on the simulators, procedures were ready and they could devote their time to mastering then. In countdown tests, the support crews set up the cockpit, making sure that all switches were in the proper positions. Swigert, Evans, and Pogue also stood by during spacecraft tests on the pad, to assist the prime or backup crew to get out in case of emergency.

    *** Clifton Williams, the third member of McDivitt's backup crew, had been killed in a T-38 aircraft crash on 5 October 1967 and was replaced by Bean.


    13. [Robert B. Voas, STG], “Preliminary Material for the Selection and Training of Astronauts for Advanced Space Flights, for publication in Aerospace Engineering,” 31 Oct. 1961; Donald K. Slayton memo, “Block II Apollo flight crew designation,” 29 Nov. 1966; Col. Frank Borman to Dale D. Myers, “Crew Nomenclature,” 31 May 1967; Low memo, “Apollo crewmen designations,” 14 June 1967; MSC news release 66-72, 29 Sept. 1966. See also Robert R. Gilruth and L[ee] N. McMillion, “Man's Role in Apollo,” Aerospace Engineering 21, no. 9 (1962): 42-48.

    14. MSC, “Gemini and Apollo Crews Selected,” news release 66-20, 21 March 1966; MSC release 66-72; MSC news release 66-110, 22 Dec. 1966; Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1974), p. 267.

    15. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo Accident: Hearings, 8 parts, pt. 6, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1967, pp. 463-64, 517; “Webb Names Crew For Manned Apollo,” MSC Roundup, 12 May 1967; MSC release 67-22, 9 May 1967; John J. Van Bockel, telephone interview, 17 Oct. 1975; Borman to Myers, “Plan for Flight Crew Support Team Duties and Responsibilities during Spacecraft Checkout,” 14 June 1967, with enc.

    16. NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967, p. 350; MSC news releases 67-67, 20 Nov., and 67-58, 5 Oct. 1967.

    17. MSC, “Gen. Phillips Notes, 17 August 1968”; Collins, Carrying the Fire, pp. 296-97.

    18. Collins, Carrying the Fire, p. 288; MSC news releases 68-53, 22 July, 68-54, 23 July, 68-60, 8 Aug., and 68-48, 16 July 1968; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 25, 30 Sept. 1968, p. 57.

    19. NASA, Nineteenth Semiannual Report to Congress, January 1-June 30, 1968 (Washington, 1969), p. 29; Borman to Myers, “Flight Crew Participation in OCP's,” 15 June 1967; JSC, Apollo Program Summary Report, JSC-09423, April 1975 (published as NASA TM-X-68725, June 1975), p. 6-1; NASA Astronauts, NASA EP-34 (Washington, October 1967), p. 40; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 25, p. 57; MSC news release 68-57, 31 July 1968; Quarterly Status Rept. no. 24, p. 1; Low to Julian Scheer, NASA Hq., 10 July 1968; Richard W. Underwood to Chief, MSC Photographic Technology Lab., MSC, “Apollo VII crew briefing for Experiments S005 and S006,” 20 Sept. 1968; Warren J. North to Chief, Procurements and Contracts Div., “Sole source justification for procurement of services and utilization of the Griffith Planetarium for Apollo flight crew celestial training,” 22 April 1968, with enc.; MSC, “Establishment of Crew Systems Resident Office at KSC,” Announcement 68-88, 27 June 1968; Low to NASA Hq., Attn.: William C. Schneider, “Apollo 7 suit planning,” 10 Aug. 1968; Richard S. Johnston to Nisson Finkelstein, 5 July 1968.

    20. Kleinknecht to Scott H. Simpkinson, “Critique of spacecraft 101 integrated test (OCP-0131),” 14 May 1968, with enc., John W. Young memo for record, “Recommendations resulting from participation in OCP-0131 Integrated Systems Test in S/C 101,” 29 April 1968.

    21. Slayton to Dir., Flight Ops., “Crew report on 48-hour recovery test of spacecraft 007 on April 5-7 1968,” 12 April 1968, with enc.

    22. MSC news release 68-42, 10 June 1968; Joseph P. Kerwin, Vance D. Brand, and Joseph H. Engle memo, “Crew Report,” 2 July 1968.

    Chariots For Apollo, ch11-4. Apollo 7: The Magnificent Flying Machine

    CSM-101 started through the manufacturing cycle early in 1966. By July, it had been formed, wired, fitted with subsystems, and made ready for testing. After the fire in January 1967, redefinition forced changes, mainly in the wiring, hatch areas, and forward egress tunnel. It was December before the spacecraft came back into testing. CSM-101 passed through a three-phase customer acceptance review; during the third session, held in Downey on 7 May 1968, no items showed up that might be a “constraint to launch.” North American cleared up what few deficiencies there were (13) and shipped the craft to Kennedy on 30 May.23

    Low had spent a lot of time thinking about a flight to the moon before 1968 ended, but Apollo 7 still was given his close attention. He probably worried about that flight more than those that followed because the earlier attempt to get a crew skyborne had ended in disaster. After rereading the evaluations of the fourth, fifth, and sixth missions, Low asked Simpkinson, one of his chief troubleshooters, to make up a “worry list” of things that might have been overlooked. He also asked John Hodge's Crew Safety Review Board to question all the “judgment decisions” that separately had made good sense, making sure that the sum of them still did. Aaron Cohen, who reviewed them for Low, concluded that, individually and collectively, these decisions had been sound. Out at North American, Dale Myers was doing the same soul-searching, looking specifically at the 137 changes that had resulted from the spacecraft 012 fire.24

    All this care paid off. At the Flight Readiness Review on 20 September, Myers reported that CSM-101 was “a very good spacecraft.” Walter J. Kapryan of Kennedy said the launch preparations people agreed.25 Now it was up to the flight crew to prove them right.

    In October 1968, Schirra, a veteran of both Mercury and Gemini, found himself facing a situation similar to some he had encountered in previous Octobers. In 1962, his Mercury-Atlas 8 mission had been a six-orbit engineering test to see if Mercury's legs might be stretched to a full day's flight; three years later his Gemini VI had been an engineering test to attempt the first rendezvous with a second vehicle in space.

    The primary objectives for Apollo 7, also an engineering test flight, were simple: “Demonstrate CSM/crew performance; demonstrate crew/space vehicle mission support facilities performance during a manned CSM mission; demonstrate CSM rendezvous capability.”

    Phillips wrote Webb that these objectives could be met within 3 days but that the mission would be open-ended up to 11 days “to acquire additional data and evaluate the aspects of long duration manned space flight.” This did leave some time for taking pictures of weather and terrain that might be of interest to the scientific community. 26

    One piece of equipment got aboard Apollo 7 and all subsequent manned flights in spite of the insistence of most engineers that it was not needed and the ambivalence of the test-pilot-oriented crews. This was the television camera. Ever since September 1963, when NASA had first directed North American to install a portable camera in the spacecraft, that device had been going in and out of the craft as though it were caught in a revolving door. Wrestling with the constant problem of overweight, many engineers viewed television cameras only as nice things to have. On occasions when kilograms, and even grams, were being shaved from the command module, the camera was among the first items to go. There were those, however, who persistently argued for the inclusion of television.

    NASA personnel in charge of public information activities—Julian Scheer in Washington and Paul P. Haney in Houston—naturally favored the use of television, but there was one management-level engineer in the Houston Apollo office who agreed with them. In the spring of 1964, William A. Lee wrote:

    I take typewriter in hand to plead once more for including in-flight TV. . . . Since [it] has little or no engineering value, the weight penalty must be assessed against a different set of standards. . . . One [objective] of the Apollo Program is to impress the world with our space supremacy. It may be assumed that the first attempt to land on the moon will have generated a high degree of interest around the world. . . . A large portion of the civilized world will be at their TV sets wondering whether the attempt will succeed or fail. The question before the house is whether the public will receive their report of this climactic moment visually or by voice alone. 27

    Four springs later, following more trips through the revolving door, television became part of Apollo when Phillips told Low to install a camera on CSM-101.28

    Apollo 7 launch vehicle

    Apollo 7, first manned Apollo flight, 11-22 October 1968. The Saturn IB