SP-4208 LIVING AND WORKING IN SPACE: A HISTORY OF SKYLAB

 

3. APOLLO APPLICATIONS: "WEDNESDAY's CHILD".
 
Initial Plans and Budget.
Seeking New Justification.
AAP vs. MOL.
Center Roles and Missions.
Presidential Approval.

 

 

[40] While von Braun's engineers dealt with the technical problems of the S-IVB workshop, Mueller and his Headquarters staff applied themselves to planning and funding problems. They had much to encourage them in the summer of 1965. Edward White had capped the second manned Gemini mission in June with a spectacular space walk, rekindling public interest. Progress in the Apollo program was equally satisfying: the last three Saturn Is were launched in less than six months, and work moved along rapidly toward the first Apollo-Saturn IB flight in early 1966. Even the Soviet advances during the previous year had their bright side. The three-man Voskhod 1 mission the previous October and Aleksei Leonov's excursion outside Voskhod 2 in March helped NASA's budget through the executive branch and Congress with only minor reductions. The agency's appropriation for fiscal 1966 would keep Gemini and Apollo on schedule.1

But there were portents of trouble as well. America's involvement in Vietnam increased sharply in 1965; as the U.S. assumed a combat role, troop commitments rose from 23 000 to 184 000. At home, the Watts riot in August revealed deep-seated unrest among urban blacks. That summer President Johnson announced his intent to stay within a $100 billion budget while funding the new Medicare and War on Poverty programs. His Great Society put budgetary pressures on established programs, including the space effort. Apollo Applications became an early casualty when the White House declined to support it adequately in fiscal 1967. While the shortage of money was a principal reason, administration critics considered AAP overly ambitious and ill-conceived. Mueller was undeterred, and his faith seemed to be confirmed when Johnson expressed firm support for a large post-Apollo program in the fiscal 1968 budget.2

 

INITIAL PLANS AND BUDGETS

 

The Apollo Applications Program Office started off on the run with a detailed planning guideline for the manned spaceflight centers. The first flight schedule, one of hundreds to be cranked out over the next four years, called for 13 Saturn IB and 16 Saturn V flights. Four of the [41] missions were scheduled to fly excess hardware from the lunar landing program; the remaining 25 represented new Saturn-Apollo purchases. The missions fell into four categories (earth orbital, synchronous, lunar orbital, and lunar surface) and two phases. The first 8 missions would employ a standard Apollo command-service module for 14-day flights; on later missions an extended Apollo would allow flights of 45 days.3

A major new challenge was the integration of experiment payloads. Integration entailed fitting the spacecraft and experiment hardware together-ensuring the two were compatible mechanically, electrically, and in all other ways. It also involved grouping experiments so that the operation of one would not distort another's results. The program office divided payload integration between the two manned spaceflight centers at Houston and Huntsville. Houston handled all experiments in the Apollo command-service module, the biomedical-behavioral experiments relating to the astronauts, and experiments for advanced spacecraft subsystems. Lunar surface work, astronomy-astrophysics, and the physical sciences went to Huntsville. The flight schedule gave Houston primary responsibility for 17 missions, including the initial flight that focused on earth resources. Marshall would integrate 12 mission payloads, among them the final 2 flights destined for lunar exploration.4

With planning guidelines on their way to the field centers, the Headquarters staff turned to briefings for the congressional space committees. During the previous year, several congressmen had expressed concern about the future of America's space programs. The space committees, chaired by Sen. Clinton Anderson and Rep. George Miller, were well disposed toward NASA's programs and realized that unless a new manned program started in 1966, NASA faced a period of inactivity after the lunar landing. The chairmen publicized NASA's plans and boosted them if possible. Their concern coincided with George Mueller's. Facing a tough battle in getting his AAP budget request through the Johnson administration' Mueller needed all the congressional support that he could muster.5

On 23 August, Mueller gave Anderson's committee a broad view of program objectives, experiments, and proposed flight hardware. The testimony indicated a change of emphasis. Whereas NASA officials had previously played up the technological aspects of earth-orbital operations, AAP placed more attention on space science. The AAP office had identified 150 experiments, grouped by general field of interest and experiment area. Nearly half that number were classified as "space Science/applications''' including 24 medical experiments to test the physiological effects of extended stays in space. The scientific community's interest in the moon accounted for 35 lunar-surface experiments.i 6

[42] The hearings revealed differences among NASA's leaders regarding the scope of AAP. Mueller was eager to push ahead with the program envisioning 29 flights between 1968 and 1971; Webb and Seamans spoke more of AAP as an interim program for the early 1970s. Mueller's plan called for an annual production and launch of 6 Saturn IBs,6 Saturn Vs, and 8 Apollos; Webb and Seamans seemed less concerned about the exact numbers. According to Mueller, the differences represented an attempt by his superiors to play down the costs. Other NASA officials have suggested that Mueller's enthusiasm for AAP far exceeded his bosses'.7

Although the presentations to the two committees were well organized, AAP obviously needed more work. NASA's systematic approach to increased flight times was missing. The agency's rule of thumb had been to double the longest previous flight when testing man's endurance in space, but AAP's 14- and 45-day missions were set by hardware constraints rather than medical considerations. AAP's experiment package resembled a long shopping list. The House staff report noted that only three of the experiments had actually been assigned to the program. The report criticized NASA on other counts: "At no time did any NASA witness say how much the Apollo Applications program would cost, nor did any witness define the parameters of the program or set out exactly what the program would seek to accomplish." The criticism was not entirely justified, since Mueller had told the Senate group that parameters and costs for AAP would be established during the project definition phase; AAP was not an "approved" program, although he hoped for a decision soon.8

In the FY 1967 budget request, NASA's preliminary estimates for a full-scale AAP program totaled $450 million, with over $1 billion being required the following year. Bureau of the Budget officials, thinking in terms of $100 million for AAP in FY 1967, were taken aback. They agreed, however, to listen to arguments for $250 million. Mueller considered the compromise figure insufficient and set out to increase it. His first task was winning over NASA's top administrators. To do so, Mueller marshaled five arguments:

 

1. If Gemini had given America any advantage in the space race, it was slim at best and could disappear if funding was inadequate.

2. The scientific and technological communities, in conjunction with NASA, had identified several hundred experiments for AAP; a $450 million program would include only half of what was needed for 150 of the most promising.

3. While the esprit de corps of NASA's manned spaceflight team was well known, a slowdown in the program would lower morale.

4. The Bureau of the Budget's proposal represented poor economic policy since it would cause significant unemployment and leave [43] America's Apollo investment largely unused from 1968 through 1971.

5. It also represented poor political strategy. The resulting unemployment and misuse of the Apollo investment could become a political issue in 1968.9

 

The arguments failed to convince Seamans. On 15 September he recommended a $250 million budget; Webb subsequently concurred.ii

If that battle ended in a draw, a more difficult one lay ahead: getting the $250 million request through the Bureau of the Budget. Work on several program options during the next few weeks would ultimately prove to be an exercise in futility. In November, NASA presented the Budget Bureau with two funding levels for FY 1967: a desired $5.76 billion and a minimum of $5.25 billion. The bureau countered with $5.1 billion, slightly below the agency's FY 1966 appropriation. Budget officials reduced manned spaceflight's share by $222 million; and since Apollo was inviolable, AAP absorbed the loss. Webb appealed the decision at the LBJ ranch in December but to no avail. In the administration's final budget request, NASA's $5.012 billion included $42 million for AAP-just enough to keep some options open.10

 

SEEKING NEW JUSTIFICATION

 

The Budget Bureau's lack of enthusiasm for AAP was shared by the Senate space committee. On 27 January 1966 Senator Anderson told Administrator Webb his committee saw merit in building a post-Apollo program around a major new goal rather than "loosely related scientific experiments." They were concerned that the extended use of Apollo hardware might stunt the growth of new technology. Because many AAP goals might be attained earlier by DoD's Manned Orbiting Laboratory, he urged close coordination with the Air Force. Given the likelihood of excess Apollo hardware, the committee supported initial planning and experiment work, but would not fund additional launch vehicles and Spacecraft. "The Committee expects additional justification and specific recommendations for the Apollo Applications Program if such a program is to proceed.''11

[44] Having anticipated attacks on AAP objectives, Mueller turned to members of the immediate Apollo family for help. He asked senior managers from the major Apollo contractors to evaluate five AAP goals:

 

1. Explore and utilize world resources for the benefit of mankind;

2. Define and develop the operational capabilities for the next generation of space vehicles beyond the Saturn-Apollo systems;

3. Expand man's knowledge of the near-earth and lunar environments;

4. Increase the security of the United States through space operations;

5. Develop a capability to provide a livable, usable environment for man to operate effectively in space for one year.

 

The executives generally favored the first goal because of its public appeal, but saw serious difficulties in implementing such a program. One responded, "A laudable objective but we do not know how to do it. Beyond the purview of MSF." Most feared that goal four would confuse the American public as to the roles of NASA and DoD. While the other objectives drew varying levels of support, no consensus emerged. Mueller concluded that, "just as there is no 'average U.S. citizen,' there also appears to be no 'average Apollo executive.' "12

In the February 1966 issue of Astronautics and Aeronautics, columnist Henry Simmons likened the floundering Apollo Applications Program to Wednesday's child, "full of woe." He acknowledged as sound the reasons for an ambitious program: the need to keep the Apollo organization intact and secure an adequate return from the huge Apollo investment. FY 1967 budget cuts suggested, however, that NASA might have to accept a smaller program, limited to the hardware left over from the lunar landing. The development of sophisticated experiments and the procurement of additional Saturns and Apollos seemed unlikely. According to Simmons, space scientists were particularly unhappy with AAP, considering many of its experiments "make-work." Deferral of AAP funding had probably prevented an "outright rebellion in the scientific community, and possibly an internal explosion within NASA as well." Simmons faulted AAP on two counts: NASA's failure to measure the worth of manned versus unmanned space science; and, if manned flights were "cost-effective," the agency's reluctance to fly earth-orbital missions on the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Nevertheless, Simmons concluded that NASA had no alternative but to press on with AAP in some form. Otherwise, its Apollo team would scatter to the four winds.13

AAP's future looked no better from inside NASA, where key officials held serious reservations. Simmons's reference to a possible "internal explosion" probably overstated the case, but there was considerable resentment of AAP in the Office of Space Science and Applications. There [45] was also strong opposition to the program within the manned spaceflight family, most of it emanating from Houston. MSC officials had questioned basic aspects of AAP since its inception and, during the winter of 1965-1966, voiced their objections on several occasions. In March 1966, Robert Gilruth formalized his center's opposition in an eight-page letter to Mueller

Gilruth agreed with the basic intent of AAP: the continued use of Apollo to conduct scientific work in earth orbit and on the moon. NASA had failed, however, to tie the program to a "definite goal or direction for the future of manned space flight." MSC considered that the unrealistically high launch rate being planned was dictating "that we select missions and experiments that can be done by a certain time, rather than those that should be done." As a result, space technology was not being advanced. AAP's timing and content should therefore be oriented more toward NASA's next major program after Apollo.14

Houston strongly opposed AAP's proposed modifications to Apollo hardware. In particular, changing the lunar module upset center engineers. They considered its interior unsuitable as either a laboratory or a lunar shelter. Converting the lunar module to a space laboratory involved the removal of many subsystems and the installation of new ones for which it had not been designed. Gilruth concluded that the proposed uses of the lunar module "represent modification of the very expensive special-purpose vehicle for use in places where another module would be more suitable." Gilruth considered AAP a possible detriment to the Apollo program. Support of the proposed launch rate would require additional trainers, simulators, and operational equipment. Since little AAP money was available, Gilruth feared the possible use of Apollo funds. Already the many changes in AAP plans, caused mainly by the lack of funding, had diverted management's attention.15

Having laid out Houston's objections to AAP, Gilruth proposed an alternative. NASA should define its manned spaceflight goals for the next two decades; he recommended a permanent, manned orbital station and a planetary spacecraft. AAP could then be organized in support of these goals, and Apollo hardware used for tasks that involved no redesign. He noted that his recommendations were more in line with available funds Gilruth's closing remarks summed up NASA's dilemma in early 1966:

These recommendations are prompted by a deep concern that at this time a critical mismatch exists between the present AAP planning, the significant opportunities for manned space -tight, and the resources available for this program.... AAP, as now constrained, will do little more than maintain the rate of production and flights of Apollo hardware. Merely doing this, without planning for a major program, and without doing significant research and development as part of AAP, will not maintain the momentum we have achieved in the manned space flight program.16

[46] Mueller's response is not recorded. However, subsequent AAP developments show little impact from Gilruth's letter. The program office pursued a course generally antithetical to MSC's views, and Houston would raise objections on subsequent occasions.

 

AAP vs. MOL

 

Mueller's efforts to groom AAP as Apollo's heir were jeopardized by claims of the rival Manned Orbiting Laboratory (pp. 15- 19). Although NASA officials spoke of the two as unrelated programs, members of Congress and the executive branch considered them competitors. In fact, NASA and the Air Force supported each other at a technical level, while competing for political support. The programs interacted in a number of ways: Houston provided support to the Gemini portion of MOL, NASA and Air Force personnel worked together on joint panels and coordinated experiments of mutual interest, and each agency lent key officials to the other. In shaping its post-Apollo plans, NASA gave frequent consideration to MOL's merits; Webb and other agency officials displayed a surprising objectivity toward NASA's use of MOL. It was difficult, however, for the Office of Manned Space Flight to view the Air Force program with charity. AAP and MOL were vying for limited space funds, and it was unlikely that both would survive. AAP might have fared no better in MOL's absence, but the competition seemed financially detrimental.17

Presidential approval of MOL in August 1965 proved less a boon than expected, and the Air Force's Space Systems Division continued to want for money. By the fall of 1965, the launch vehicle for MOL had been selected: a Titan IIIC with strap-on solid-fuel boosters. At the same time a launch complex at the Western Test Range in California was designed. In November Air Force officers prepared a position paper on the proposed expansion of the Satellite Control Facility at Sunnyvale, California, a move opposed by congressional critics who thought the military should use Houston's mission-control center. Shortly after the new year, bulldozers began clearing ground for the launch facility at Vandenberg AFB. By June 1966 the long-lead-time items for the launch vehicle were on order.18

Before August 1965, NASA and DoD had worked out matters of common interest through ad hoc groups or through the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board and its panels. MOL's approval prompted new arrangements to handle the substantial increase in coordination. By mid-October Mueller and Gen. Bernard Schriever, head of Air Force Systems Command, had signed the first agreement covering experiments. During the following year, a series of joint agreements defined relationships at the working level. Coordination between top-ranking officials was assured with the creation in January 1966 of the Manned Space Flight Policy Committee. Membership included Seamans, Mueller [47], Newell, and their DoD counterparts. In congressional testimony, program officials maintained a common front: MOL and AAP were independent, serving unrelated but worthy goals.19

The NASA-DoD position failed to convince those critics in Congress and the Johnson administration who wanted to unite the two programs. On 27 January 1966, legislators from both houses took aim at the NASA program Senator Anderson's letter to Webb that day recommended use Of MOL; in the House, the Military Operations Subcommittee concluded three days of hearings on Missile Ground Operations with some caustic remarks about overlapping programs. A subsequent report called AAP ''unwarranted duplication" and an unapproved program that "could cost from $1 to $2 billion a year." The subcommittee cited the support of "eminent space scientists" for a joint program and concluded that a merger would save billions of dollars. Furthermore, the military should run the show.20

For several years, the Budget Bureau had questioned the need for separate earth-orbiting laboratories. In discussions on the FY 1968 budget, bureau officials supported a common program, with NASA flying experiments on MOL missions or at least using the cheaper Titan III rocket. In September the President's Scientific Advisory Committee joined the chorus of critics. The committee was unhappy with the spentstage concept; the extensive construction it required early in the mission would likely distort the medical results. Its report concluded that NASA should examine MOL closely before committing large sums to AAP. 21

NASA's response to the criticism was twofold: it asked Douglas Aircraft to evaluate MOL's usefulness in meeting early AAP objectives, and it began a detailed in-house comparison of the two programs. The Office of Manned Space Flight's first consideration was the use of Titan for AAP. Even NASA officials admitted that the Saturn IB was an uneconomical launch vehicle; its costs per launch were roughly twice those of the Titan III. By using the Air Force rocket, NASA could save about $15 million per mission. The OMSF team found the Titan-Apollo combination technically feasible, although the payload in low orbit might drop by 10%. Far more important was the time and money needed to integrate the Titan and Apollo. OMSF estimated that systems integration, launch facility modifications, additional checkout equipment, and two qualification flights would take at least 3 1/2 years and cost about $250 million. At that rate, use of the Titan would delay the first AAP mission by two years and require 17 launches before the savings surpassed the initial costs of conversion Changing launch vehicles would also render useless all the work accomplished on the Saturn workshop. The telling point, however, was the large cost of combining the Titan and Apollo systems.22

OMSF found equally good reasons for not conducting its AAP program aboard the Air Force laboratory. The basic MOL configuration was inadequate to meet AAP goals, while a DoD proposal for a larger MOL [48] would take four years to develop and cost an additional $480 million in facility modifications. Even then, OMSF calculated that, to achieve the same results, an uprated MOL program would cost more annually than the Saturn IB and Apollo. Armed with these figures, NASA officials, in testifying at congressional hearings, held out for an independent Apollo Applications Program.23

 

CENTER ROLES AND MISSIONS

 

During NASA's brief history, tasks in manned spaceflight had been clearly defined: von Braun's team in Huntsville had responsibility for launch vehicles, Robert Gilruth's engineers directed spacecraft development from Houston. The two organizations first worked together on the Mercury-Redstone flights. Gemini was largely MSC's show, with the Air Force providing the Titan launch vehicle and Houston holding the operations in close rein. Apollo was too big for one center, but its work load divided into reasonably distinct areas: Saturn launch vehicle, Apollo spacecraft, launch operations (Kennedy Space Center), and communications (Goddard Space Flight Center). Several jurisdictional disputes arose, along with scores of minor disagreements; but by and large, parochial interests were subordinated to the lunar landing.

Possibilities for conflict were more numerous with AAP. While Apollo offered something for everyone, post-Apollo appeared less promising, especially for Huntsville. There would be no successor to the Saturn V for at least a decade, and the Saturn IB would be phased out in 1968 unless AAP got under way. When Mueller seized upon the wet workshop as an inexpensive approach to long-duration flights, Marshall's future brightened perceptibly, and no doubt the center's needs had weighed heavily in Mueller's decision. The choice, however, rankled Houston officials who viewed space stations as their rightful prerogative. The wet workshop altered MSC-MSFC relations; they were now competitors as well as collaborators.24

In another agency, the headquarters might have dictated a division of effort; but NASA's field centers enjoyed considerable autonomy. Historically, the NACA centers had pursued their work independently. During the rapid growth of manned spaceflight in the early 1960s, OMSF lacked the manpower to supervise the centers closely. A plan to contract with General Electric Company for that purpose had been rebuffed by the field centers. In identifying U.S. space achievements with Houston, Huntsville, and the Cape, the American public strengthened the centers' position. Despite Mueller's efforts to direct the manned space program from OMSF, the centers still displayed much independence in 1965.25

AAP's planning guideline of August 1965 assigned integration tasks to the centers in line with Apollo duties: Houston was given spacecraft [49] responsibilities and Huntsville the launch vehicle. After informal discussions with center representatives, Mueller amended the assignments in September Besides developing all standard and modified spacecraft, MSC would direct astronaut training, mission control, and flight operations. In addition to its launch vehicle responsibilities, Marshall would integrate experiments into the lunar module.26

Since lunar-module development was under Houston's purview, the decision represented a significant step away from Apollo assignments and upset some people in Texas. On 14 October 1965 the Houston Post reported, "Marshall May Take 2nd Apollo Control." Quoting an OMSF spokesman' the article stated that Huntsville would integrate AAP payloads and Headquarters would probably manage the program. The Post acknowledged that mission control and astronaut training would remain in Houston. The article caused a minor tempest. Rep. Olin Teague, the Texas Democrat chairing NASA's oversight subcommittee, looked into the matter. Until the air cleared, OMSF officials treated the issue discreetly.27

Initial proposals of roles and missions were understood to be tentative. Before formalizing them-including Huntsville's responsibility for the lunar module-Mueller sought to convince Webb and Seamans that his proposals were appropriate. It was easy to demonstrate that the entire responsibility for payload integration would be too great a burden on any one center. Splitting the LM integration work between Houston and Huntsville would exceed MSC's 1968 personnel limit while leaving Marshall with excess people. Dividing the LM responsibility also resulted in duplication of mock-ups and support equipment. Placing the entire LM payload integration in Huntsville, however, would keep both centers below their personnel ceilings. Further, activity at both centers would increase under Mueller's proposal. He assured his bosses that Marshall had the proper mix of engineering skills to handle LM integration. Webb approved the division of responsibilities with one proviso: Huntsville's program office was to have the title "LM Applications" or "LM Integration Office" rather than "Apollo Applications." The administrator wanted to make clear that NASA's "manned flight program activity is not shifting its center of focus but rather that we are using effectively all our available resources."28

Huntsville quickly seized the opportunity, opening an Experiments and Applications Office in mid-December. In March 1966 Leland F. Belew,iii MSFC's former manager for Saturn engines, became director of [50] Marshall's Saturn-AAP Office (Webb's proviso apparently being for gotten). Belew and other AAP engineers were embarked on an eight-year enterprise.29

Payload integration was among the first items of business. By May, Marshall had given parallel, one-year, $1-million contracts to Lockheed and the Martin Company of Denver. The contractors were to examine experiment hardware, installation and integration of equipment, crew requirements, launch facility requirements, tracking, and mission analysis. In September the two companies conducted independent reviews of OMSF plans for flights 1-4. The following month Belew enlisted Martin's aid in more detailed planning of the spent-stage mission, while Lockheed's team provided a similar service for the Apollo telescope mount missions. Huntsville had earlier considered payload integration without contractor support, but the Lockheed and Martin work convinced them otherwise. In November 1966, Marshall began preparing a work statement for an integration contract.30

AAP organization at Houston proceeded at a slower pace. Officials there had little enthusiasm for AAP and less for the proposed use of the lunar module. In light of Grumman's problems with the lunar landing mission, Houston considered AAP requirements an untimely diversion. Mueller's recommendation that Marshall integrate payloads into the lunar module raised few objections, but his subsequent suggestion that Marshall supervise LM modifications for AAP encountered strong opposition: it seemed to threaten MSC's responsibility for flight safety. In fact, Gilruth considered any use of the LM in AAP "so unsound technically and financially that it [could] seriously weaken the National program." Mueller, in turn, accused MSC of nonsupport. Gilruth insisted that his center was providing AAP with "a very large engineering and management effort." He argued that MSC's delay in establishing a program office had not harmed AAP; indeed, it would be difficult to set up an AAP office until Headquarters defined the program. He still believed AAP lacked specific goals.31

Mueller and Gilruth discussed their views frankly in mid-April, and a week later Gilruth appointed his deputy director, George Low, as Houston's "point of contact" for AAP. Houston's AAP Office opened for business on 6 July 1966. Other center duties occupied much of Low's time, however, and his deputy was left to take the lead in many AAP matters. 32

MSC officials feared a loss of authority in areas other than the lunar module. Some saw the broad scope of Marshall's payload integration tasks as raising fundamental questions about MSC's role in mission planning and flight operations. Others feared a dilution of MSC's control of astronaut training. The latter issue led to an agreement between the two centers that astronauts would train with particular experiments [51] during integration work at Huntsville, but that Marshall "would not in any way establish an 'Astronaut Training Center.'"33

Some progress was made toward settlement of the roles and missions question in early 1966 when OMSF and the two centers divided responsibility for the spent-stage mission. Huntsville would design the workshop, implementing an experiment program that incorporated items from MSC and other sources. Houston's Gemini office would direct work on the airlock module. The agreement covered only one mission, however, and disputes on other AAP roles continued to surface.34 Mueller sought to resolve the differences at the August session of OMSF's Management Council, a three-day hideaway meeting at Lake Logan, North Carolina.

The deputy directors of the three manned spaceflight centers (Low, Eberhard Rees of Marshall, and Albert Siepert of Kennedy) started with the assumptions that a space station represented a logical goal between early AAP missions and complex planetary flights and that any space station design could be modular, with a command post, a mission module, and one or more experiment modules. The command module, providing guidance, navigation, control, and communications for the station, would be developed by MSC. MSFC would be responsible for the mission module in which the crew lived, slept, and performed some experiments. Both centers would work on experiment modules. The Lake Logan accord applied the space-station model to AAP, defining the Apollo command-service module and airlock moduleiv as a command post, the orbital workshop as a mission module, and the Apollo telescope mount as an experiment module under Marshall's direction. Although the agreement gave Huntsville the primary role in early AAP launches, it reaffirmed Houston's responsibility for flight operations, astronaut activities, life-support systems, and medical research.35

Gilruth and von Braun signed the Lake Logan agreement in late August, but the Houston Post continued to hold out. On 10 October a front-page article by Jim Maloney was headed, "don Braun a Persuasive Voice-Some MSC Tasks Being Moved." While praising Huntsville's rocket work, Maloney viewed the payload integration and Apollo telescope mount assignments as encroachments on Houston's spacecraft role.

"Where are those who should argue that you can't break up the group that developed the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo and should develop the Spacecraft for Mars and beyond?" The Post article brought new congressional[52] inquiries for Mueller to answer. His response, focusing on the August agreement, apparently satisfied NASA's congressional committees, but not Maloney, who in subsequent articles attacked the spentstage mission through unidentified MSC sources and accused the center leaders of kowtowing to headquarters. Maloney overstated the problem, but his fears were shared by some engineers. The Lake Logan agreement was a convenient formula, but did not eliminate the competition between centers for post-Apollo work.36

 

PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL

 

The Johnson administration had deferred decision on AAP in 1965, hoping for better times the following year. Instead, matters grew worse. Troop strength in Vietnam increased from 184 000 to 385 000 and the costs of war soared from $6 billion to $20 billion. President Johnson believed that he could defend U.S. interests in Southeast Asia without sacrificing Great Society programs-as critics said, that he could have both guns and butter. Many congressmen disagreed, however, and landslide Republican victories in 1966 indicated widespread dissatisfaction.37

Johnson's troubles were to a large extent NASA's, a fact readily appreciated by James Webb. At a management review shortly after the election, Webb spoke about the hard times. Space programs were under increasing attack, the critics focusing on Apollo's size and the possibility of large post-Apollo programs. At the Bureau of the Budget, officials were pressing Webb to eliminate the last five Saturn Vs from the Apollo program. The bureau had little enthusiasm for AAP, and Webb doubted that the administration or Congress would approve the program until NASA established definite goals for it. Webb admonished his managers not to push Apollo-Saturn hardware, but to emphasize national needs that could be met with the Apollo capability. Internal considerations such as NASA's desire to keep the Apollo team in business were important, but should be left out of the sales pitch. He warned against center parochialism. Continued divisiveness within the agency could seriously harm post-Apollo programs. He urged his associates not to underestimate the severe conditions facing AAP.38

AAP appeared much healthier by mid-December, at least to George Mueller. In a meeting of OMSF staff and center representatives, Mueller acknowledged that a few months earlier most outsiders had viewed AAP as "little more than a bill of goodies," and there had been serious doubts about man's role in space science. At August briefings, neither the Budget Bureau nor the president's scientific advisers had shown interest in a post-Apollo program. Since then, however, Webb's emphasis on the workshop cluster as a low-cost means of long-duration flight and effective science (particularly solar astronomy with the telescope mount) had improved AAP's standing with the administration.39

[53] The best evidence for that new standing lay in NASA's FY 1968 budget proposal for AAP. Several aspects of the program still troubled Budget Bureau officials: its lack of clear goals, possible duplication with the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the merits of manned versus unmanned missions for space science, and the timing of AAP flights and Apollo missions; but the administration was not looking to end manned spaceflight. After lengthy debate, NASA's AAP request had been pared from $626 million to $454 million. While the reduction meant a slowdown, the figure represented the first large sum set aside for AAP. More important, the decision reflected Lyndon Johnson's formal commitment to AAP. As his budget message said, "We have no alternative unless we wish to abandon the manned space capability we have created." 40

During the mid-1960s, AAP was frequently described as a bridge between Apollo and NASA's next major manned program. When President Johnson approved AAP in a time of severe funding problems, it became a bridge over troubled waters. For 18 months the AAP office had struggled for recognition. The program had first been deferred and then scaled downward. By August 1966 supporters had feared for its life. Following Johnson's approval, there again seemed to be a reasonable chance of success. (Mueller remained the optimist: AAP's 1966 schedule called for 37 flights through 1973 at a cost of $7 billion.) Still needed was firm public and congressional support. A major opportunity to get it came with the release of the budget message in January 1967.41

Robert Seamans sketched the outlines of AAP funding at NASA's FY 1968 budget briefing on the 23d. NASA was seeking $263.7 million for additional Saturn-Apollo hardware (four Saturn IBs and four Saturn Vs per year), $140.7 million to cover experiments, and $50.3 million for mission support. The amount for mission support pointed up the short time remaining before the first AAP mission in June 1968. In the question-and-answer period, Mueller provided further details. NASA planned to launch its orbital workshop in mid-1968 and follow with a solar observatory (the telescope mount) six months later. Revisits to the workshop would come in 1969. Administrator Webb emphasized the latter point: "This budget makes the transition from the time when we had to count on sending up things, and using them once, to where we expect basically to park large systems in orbit and go back and use them time after time."42 AAP had been sold to the president largely from this standpoint.

Press representatives asked for a more detailed presentation on AAP, and Mueller obliged on 26 January. AAP plans showed considerable maturity, compared to a presentation in August 1965. The earlier schedule had seemed a loose collection of individual missions, filling the gap between Apollo and the next major program. In the intervening 18 months, the orbital cluster had become a focal point for program activities....

 


[
54]

AAP 1 & 2, Orbital Configuration, a briefing chart used at NASA Headquarters in March 1967. ML67-6426.

AAP 1 & 2, Orbital Configuration, a briefing chart used at NASA Headquarters in March 1967. ML67-6426.

 

....and a test bed for future space stations. During the briefing, Mueller referred to the cluster as an embryonic space station.43

Mueller concentrated on the four AAP flights that were considered firm. The first mission consisted of two launches: an Apollo command-service module followed by the workshop, airlock, and multiple docking adapter. The workshop would remain in a 51 0-kilometer orbit for at least three years. After linking their spacecraft with the docking adapter astronauts would occupy the spent stage for 28 days, twice the length of the longest Gemini flight. Four days were allotted for construction of the rudimentary two-story workshop in the spent S-IVB stage. The bottom floor would serve as living quarters, with fabric curtains separating areas for sleeping, food preparation, waste management, and exercise. Similar partitions would divide work stations on the upper level. The airlock, under development by McDonnell Corporation, would provide the oxygen and nitrogen for a shirtsleeve atmosphere, electrical power, and most of the expendables for the 28-day mission. The newsmen seemed impressed by the size of the workshop, perhaps mentally contrasting it with the narrow confines of Gemini and Apollo. One reporter asked if the workshop equaled the space of an average ranch house. Mueller replied: "A small ranch house. The kind I can afford to buy."44

Medical concerns headed the list of experiments on the first mission. Physiological tests included a vectorcardiogram and studies of metabolic activity, bone and muscle changes, and the vestibular function. The crew would also conduct 18 engineering and technology experiments, ranging from a test of jet shoes to an investigation of how materials burned in space. The jet shoes, developed at Langley Research Center, resembled skates with gas jets attached. In the closed confines of the workshop, astronauts could safely evaluate their use as maneuvering aids for future [55] extravehicular activity. Since this would be the first of many lengthy flights, several experiments evaluated aspects of crew comfort such as Sleeping arrangements, getting in and out of suits, and the habitability of the workshop.45

Three to six months after the first mission, the second would be launched for a 56-day stay in orbit. One Saturn IB would carry a manned Apollo plus a supply module. Another would lift the telescope mount. By any measure' the solar apparatus was complex. The telescope canister measured two meters in diameter by nearly four meters in length and weighed a ton; it housed a dozen delicate instruments.v For most observations, the telescope mount would be attached to the workshop; but under certain conditions, the crew might tether it a short distance from the cluster. Normal operations would require one astronaut; the other crewmen would eat, sleep, or perform other experiments. Mueller described the package as "the most comprehensive array of instruments that has ever been assembled for observing the Sun." NASA hoped to have it in operation by early 1969 when sunspot activity peaked.46

Although plans beyond the first two missions were indefinite, Mueller briefly reviewed the total program. Four crews would visit the cluster in 1969 to conduct new experiments and more solar observations. Specific experiments for these flights were as yet undefined, but likely payloads included earth-resource cameras and weather instruments. In 1970 NASA would launch a second Saturn IB workshop, followed by another telescope mount in January 1971. Through resupply and crew-transfer flights, NASA hoped to achieve a year-long mission by 1971. Plans to monitor the effects of space included a 1970 launch of an Apollo biomedical laboratory. The first lunar-mapping flight was set for December 1969; two-week visits to the moon would follow in 1971. Anticipating large logistical requirements, planners were scheduling two Saturn V launches for each extended mission on the moon. (Much of the equipment later used for Apollo lunar exploration, such as the rover, was under consideration for AAP.) In late 1971 NASA would launch the first of two Saturn V workshops. Four Apollo flights were programmed to visit each of these laboratories. It was, as a NASA official noted, "quite an ambitious program." 47

During FY 1967 and FY 1968, the AAP Office expected to initiate seven major projects: the airlock and workshop, the telescope mount, a lunar mapping and survey system, Apollo modifications for long-duration flights, a lunar shelter based on the lunar module, experiment payloads, and an Apollo land-landing capability. The last project would permit the reuse of Apollo spacecraft, thereby supplementing the savings [56] of workshop revisits. Three years earlier, Houston had ruled out land recovery for Apollo because the problems of braking the craft's descent had outweighed its advantages. The AAP Office believed the land-landing feature worthwhile, however; besides permitting reuse, it would allow the Apollo to carry six men. In a soft landing, astronauts' couches would require less space to absorb shock.48

The positive tone of the presentation was, perhaps, more important than the content. What George Mueller had sought for 18 months seemed now within his grasp. But events would prove otherwise-the next two years would confirm that AAP was, indeed, Wednesday's child.

 


iUntil Dec 1967, when a Lunar Explorations office was established under Apollo, lunar exploration was assigned to AAP.

iiAAP's early funding is a confusing matter. Since it was not a recognized program, the initial work came under Advanced Missions and subsequently Apollo Mission Support. A separate AAP line item did not appear until FY 1968. In addition to the appropriations for AAP ($26 million in FY 66 and eventually $71 million in FY 1967), experiment funds also came out of OSSA and OART NASA's operating budget for FY 1966 showed $51.2 million for AAP, including $40 million for experiments and $8.5 million for space vehicles. AAP's share of the FY 1967 operating budget increased to $80 million, of which $38.6 million went to vehicle hardware and $35.6 million to experiments. NASA Budget Briefings for FY 1966 through FY 1968.

iiiBelew was born in Salem, Mo., in 1925. He received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in l 950 and went to work for the Redstone Arsenal the next year. He transferred to NASA along with the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in 1960. In 1975 he became deputy director of the Science and Engineering Directorate at MSFC.

ivIn the next 18 months, the workload at MSC increased while that at Marshall declined. When Headquarters proposed to move the airIock contract to MSFC, Gilruth agreed and added that MSFC should also manage systems engineering for the entire cluster, including the lunar module (by that time manned rendezvous with the LM had been dropped). He even offered to provide MSFC with formal training in crew systems. Gilruth to Mathews, "Proposed Management Responsibilities-Apollo Applications Program," 29 Mar. 196.3. Someone annotated the file copy in the Houston AAP office: "the giveaway."

vThe telescope mount will be described in detail in the next chapter.


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