[v] Wallace H. Tucker's The Star Splitters is the story of a space science project. It traces, literally from before the word "go," the many elements of a major and highly successful space program: NASA's High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO) Program. Astronomers began to dream about the research they would ultimately do with HEAO back in the mid-sixties. Today, 20 years later, some of those same astronomers are still writing papers on the results of that research. You will learn how a science project is conceived, funded, and managed, and you will experience with the HEAO team the emotional ups and downs and the frustrations and rewards that go with participation in such a venture. Dr. Tucker, a lucid writer as well as a distinguished scientist, brings alive the human drama along with the significance of the discoveries made with HEAO.
You will learn much about our universe from this book-from the creative violence that spawns new galaxies, planets, and ultimately you and me, to the nature of the galaxies' missing mass. The scientific discoveries on the three HEAOs greatly exceeded the anticipation of the astronomers. While the team of scientists, instrument and spacecraft makers, and NASA engineers and managers were confident of success prior to the launches, there was no way they could predict what the delicately aligned telescopes would detect as they probed across the sky.
HEAO was an outstanding technical as well as scientific accomplishment. Once through its initial growing pains it was brought in on schedule and within cost. This was a particularly significant achievement because a major effort to reduce costs was made in the HEAO Program. The cost per pound of scientific instrumentation for the HEAO instruments was 40 percent below the NASA average up to that time. HEAO demonstrated a new concept of building, testing, and flying one set of "protoflight" hardware, where previously NASA had built structural models, thermal models, prototype systems for integration, and finally the actual flight hardware. For HEAO only one set of hardware was built which was then assembled, tested, and flown. The integrity of this approach was reflected in the excellent orbital performance.
The magnificent scientific and technical accomplishments of HEAO are a tribute to the quality and outstanding teamwork of the scientists, engineers, and managers at NASA Headquarters, the Marshall Space Flight Center, TRW, and the many university and government laboratories involved in HEAO.
This book, then, is dedicated to all the men and women in government, university, and industry who contributed to the success of HEAO.
It's good reading!
JOHN E. NAUGLE
NASA Associate Administrator, 1975-1977