[vii] This book about exploring machines is the result of the vision of the late Frank "Red" Rowsome, Jr., Head of NASA's Technical Publications Section. It began as a partnership; I was to provide a manuscript, and he was to make it presentable. Red had many years of technical writing experience, and he specialized in explaining technical subjects simply and clearly. Furthermore, he knew the facts, the people, and incidents we were to write about almost as well as I.
Soon after we began to work on the project Red died, leaving me with unforeseen doubts and decisions. I knew that our plans for sharing with others had been compromised, but by this time I was fired with enthusiasm. After reviewing the guidance Red had given me, and with encouragement from NASA officials, I pledged my best to honor our commitment.
In the planning stages, Red and I had many discussions about the form of the book; however, the final result is necessarily my interpretation. To help you understand what the book is, let me tell you what it is not.
It is not a history. Many of the events discussed are history, but this account is far from complete and coherent. On the other hand, it contains no fiction that I am aware of, and all of the characters, places, and incidents are real-at least as I saw reality. The accounts are largely personal and are therefore limited to my viewpoint or to the views of acquaintances who shared their experiences with me.
It is not a scientific report, although it is an attempt to share some exciting technical aspects of space flight with persons who are keenly interested' including those who have little formal training in technical subjects. I hope the book will also be enjoyed by those who are technically trained, especially those who understand the difficulties of explaining complex space missions and machines.
Although the subject of the book is automated lunar and planetary spacecraft, there are many references to people, and many accounts are written in the first person. It is not, however, an autobiography or biography [viii] of a person or a spacecraft. The people, machines, and incidents are blended in an informal manner, in the hope that the interactive processes involved in creating and deploying spacecraft will be viewed in perspective.
The accounts of the missions, the coverage of the technical subjects, and most of all, the recognition of persons involved, are incomplete. Pangs of conscience stab me often when I see or remember a friend who was overlooked; many would have been worthy subjects for examples not cited. I am sure my colleagues will be reminded of more interesting events I might have used.
Red and I believed that the lunar and planetary spacecraft were the first sophisticates of a new age of machines and that people would want to know more about how they were created, how they worked, and what they did. So many activities occurred in such a few years that memories were becoming blurred, and might soon be erased completely, unless someone tried to write them down. We were fortunate to have been a part of those special events, and we felt obligated to share them, if possible.
I hope you will accept the book as an account of the men, machines, and events as one person saw them, and that you will forgive oversights of deserving people and shortcomings of technical explanations and accounts. The effort will have been worthwhile if enjoyment is realized from revisiting the era when exploring machines reached out to other worlds as peaceful envoys of inquisitive, creative man.