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

 

4. A SCIENCE PROGRAM FOR MANNED SPACEFLIGHT.
 
Science in Space to 1965.
Organizing for Manned Space Science.
Scientists and Man in Space.
Solar Observatories in Orbit.
Experiments for the Workshop.
More Advice from the Scientific Community.

 

 

[57] In his press briefing on 26 January 1967, George Mueller described an Apollo Applications Program with a large scientific component. Most of that scientific work had been defined only in the preceding year; late in 1965, Marshall Space Flight Center's space science director had noted to von Braun, "The list of scientific experiments available for early AAP flights is remarkably short." 1 Although NASA had assembled a long list of scientific studies for an earth-orbiting laboratory (pp. 18, 77), only three experimentsi were actually under development.

Considering the tenuous state of AAP at the time, that was hardly surprising. But since AAP missions would use hardware that was already moving into production, while scientific projects existed mostly on paper, experiments demanded attention-especially after Mueller ordered acceleration of the orbital workshop project in December 1965. Early in 1966 Headquarters began canvassing the field centers for experiments that had been developed enough to be flown early at minimum additional cost.

The fact was that experiments were new to manned spaceflight. The Office of Manned Space Flight and its field centers, loaded with Saturn and Apollo work, had little time to give to peripheral concerns, while the Office of Space Science had only recently worked up real interest in the manned program The two offices would have to learn to work together; and because they had different histories, objectives, and approaches to their work, there would be some lost motion while they learned.

 

SCIENCE IN SPACE TO 1965

 

In the U.S., scientific research in space began with the postwar V-2 flights and continued with orbiting satellites, the first of which ([58] Explorer 1) went into orbit on 31 January 1958. Under the auspices of NASA's Office of Space Sciences (OSS), researchers in astronomy and space physics gathered vast quantities of data and designed increasingly sophisticated instruments to push the frontiers of knowledge still further.2 NASA's Office of Applications moved forward with communications, navigation, and weather satellites. From 1963 to 1971 the two offices were combined as the Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA), which by 1965 had a well organized program encompassing launch vehicles, a tracking and data-acquisition network, a center responsible for science and applications programs (Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.), and a clientele of scientists. OSSA also supported university research programs and provided research fellowships for individual graduate students. By FY 1965 this support had reached a level of $46 million-small compared to what some agencies spent on research, but nonetheless significant to the academic community.3

The chief of OSS and later OSSA was Homer E. Newell, who came to NASA in 1958 from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, where he had been coordinator of the science program for the Vanguard satellite project. A mathematics Ph.D., Newell had investigated radio propagation and upper-air phenomena before becoming involved in satellite work. In 1961 he was appointed director of the Office of Space Sciences, responsible for all of the space agency's science programs.ii 4

In that position Newell had to balance the appetite of scientists for research support against the funds provided by a generally practical-minded Congress. Space research, though it had a long jump on manned spaceflight, was neither as glamorous as the manned programs nor as obviously practical as, say, medical research. Newell found this regrettable, because he felt that the exploration of the solar system was potentially more comprehensible to the average citizen than some other sciences.5 But an unmanned satellite, crammed with miniaturized electronics, silently transmitting measurements from orbit to other instruments on the ground, was not something to stir the imagination. From that standpoint, not even some of OSS's dramatic "firsts"-photographs of the earth from orbit or of the moon from its surface-could match the challenges of manned spaceflight: human challenges, easily understood, which naturally drew the lion's share of public attention.

The technological challenges of Apollo drew the lion's share of NASA's research and development funds, too. In FY 1960, before the first manned Mercury flight, OMSF got 45.5% of those funds to OSS's 34.6%; four years later the proportions were 69.7% and 17.6%. Scientists often complained about what they saw as a disastrous imbalance in [59] NASA's priorities. It took years to convince some of them that Apollo was a national goal whose importance was not determined by its scientific value.6

Committed to a broad scientific program, OSS was much less single-minded than OMSF. By its very nature, scientific research is less goal-oriented than engineering. Programs in astronomy or space physics are intrinsically open-ended, although individual projects usually have limited objectives within a larger framework. Constrained by funds rather than time, scientists who worked with OSS were content with a more deliberate pace than the one that prevailed in OMSF. They also accepted a lower degree of reliability in their launch vehicles than manned spaceflight could afford, because in the long run that policy produced more scientific results for the money.7

Manned spaceflight was different. The problems defined by Apollo were mostly engineering problems, and OMSF was staffed largely by engineers, from George Mueller on down. Driven by the time deadline for accomplishing the manned lunar landing, they were interested only in answers to their specific and usually immediate questions. The manned programs drew on results from OSS's work-for information about the radiation environment in cislunar space, for example-but OMSF engineers were not interested in conducting that kind of research unless the information was not otherwise available.8

The one thing OMSF could not tolerate was operational failure. From the beginning, the survival of the astronaut and the completion of all mission objectives were the primary concerns. Elaborate test programs ensured that every part of a manned spacecraft or its booster met rigorous standards of safety and reliability. Every test, every inspection was thoroughly documented for possible analysis in case of failure. It was one thing if a Delta booster failed and an astronomy satellite was lost; it was something else again if a Titan exploded with two men in its Gemini spacecraft.

 

ORGANIZING FOR MANNED SPACE SCIENCE

 

America's first manned space program, Project Mercury, was an engineering and operational program that had no plans for science until late in the program. Little time or money could be spared for activity that did not contribute directly to the lunar landing. After the first orbital mission, when it appeared that scientists wanted to conduct some experiments in orbit, MSC Director Robert Gilruth formalized procedures to ensure that experiments were properly conceived and integrated into the mission. He established a Mercury Scientific Experiments Panel (later the MSC In-Flight Experiments Panel), made up of representatives of 11 MSC divisions and program offices plus an ex officio member from [60] OSS's Manned Space Sciences Division. The panel's job was to review and evaluate proposed experiments, taking into account scientific merit, relevance to manned spaceflight, impact on the spacecraft, and operational feasibility.9 Though the directive establishing the experiments panel stated that "the Center encourages the development of worthwhile investigations," MSC acquired a reputation for being uninterested in scientific experiments, if not downright hostile toward them. Some scientists complained that the paperwork required to prove the experiments safe and reliable made them too expensive; some simply felt that engineers did not understand scientific investigation. For their part, engineers found the scientists somewhat casual about schedules, changes, and the impact of their experiments on operations. Still, the two groups found enough common ground to get a few simple visual and photographic observations performed on the Mercury flights.10

Those experiments were of small importance in themselves, but they showed that man could make useful observations from orbit. Determined to do better in Gemini, Homer Newell in 1963 established a Manned Space Sciences Division to work with the Space Sciences Steering Committee (the OSSA review board for experiments), scientific investigators, and MSC's experiment coordinators to bring together the scientific and engineering objectives of NASA. Its director reported both to Newell and to his OMSF counterpart, Brainerd Holmes. For the time being OMSF made no organizational changes for experiment management; it was left to the In-Flight Experiments Panel in Houston.11

 

Under the Headquarters administrative structure worked out after the Apollo decision in 1961, OSSA had responsibility for all the agency's science programs, but OMSF had full control of manned flights. Thus OMSF had the money for experiments in the manned program, but OSSA was supposed to oversee them. It was an awkward arrangement, but though Newell pointed out the difficulty to Associate Administrator Robert Seamans, Seamans would neither change it nor reallocate experiment funds to OSSA after Congress had approved the budget. In mid-1963 deputies for Newell and Holmes signed an agreement meant to define a workable relationship. OSSA was to solicit, evaluate, and select experiments for flight and develop experiment hardware to the "breadboard" stage.iii OMSF then would select a center to develop the flight hardware, contract with experimenters and equipment developers, and carry the experiment through testing and development to flight. OSSA would also plan and develop the science training program for astronauts, but OMSF would conduct it. The arrangement was workable, if not ideal [61] for either office, and early in 1965 Newell and George Mueller renewed it with only minor changes.12

In August 1963 Newell formally initiated the Gemini science program, sending out 600 letters to scientists describing the spacecraft and mission plans and soliciting proposals for experiments. A Panel on In-Flight Scientific Experiments then screened about 100 proposals, rejecting those having little scientific value or poor flight feasibility and passing the rest to the Manned Space Science Division of the Space Sciences Steering Committee. After the proposals were reviewed by appropriate disciplinary subcommittees within OSSA, the steering committee recommended 12 experiments to OMSF for flight on the Gemini missions. 13

Meanwhile Brainerd Holmes was encountering complications with NASA's agreement to fly Air Force experiments on Gemini spacecraft whenever possible. The involvement of DoD made the program complicated and sensitive enough that Holmes sent several OMSF observers to participate in Houston's review of experiments; the In-Flight Experiments Panel would report its recommendations to Headquarters, and the joint NASA-Air Force Gemini Program Planning Board would assign experiments to flights. Holmes also prescribed priorities for Gemini experiments: first, NASA experiments directly supporting the objectives of Apollo (including medical experiments); second, DoD experiments; third, other experiments.14 Since most scientists' experiments fell into the third category, they had reason to feel that they were being tolerated but not very strongly encouraged.

After taking over from Holmes in the fall of 1963, George Mueller decided to tidy up the experiments operation and at the same time get all the strings firmly in Headquarters' hands-an arrangement he much preferred. One of his first proposals was to set up a board under OMSF to coordinate all manned spaceflight experiments. After discussion with OSSA, where some objected that the proposed board's charter usurped too many of OSSA's prerogatives, Mueller issued a directive establishing a Manned Space Flight Experiments Board on 14 January 1964.15 The new board, with an executive secretary and a full-time staff in Washington, would conduct the staff work necessary in coordinating the experiments. The directive established four categories of experiments (scientific, technological, medical, and DoD) and the channels through which they came to the board. Each sponsoring office solicited proposals evaluated them, and forwarded them to the experiments board; the staff sent them to the appropriate OMSF program office (Gemini or Apollo for a determination of flight feasibility; and the board approved or disapproved each experiment for flight. If it could not agree unanimously Mueller made the final decision. The board gave each experiment a priority ranking within a master list; Mueller assigned each approve experiment to one of the centers for development.16

[62] The Manned Space Flight Experiments Board effectively superseded MSC's In-Flight Experiments Panel, but Houston retained the important function of assessing feasibility. In March 1964 Gilruth consolidated his center's machinery for reviewing experiments under an Experiments Coordinating Office in the Engineering and Development Directorate. This office drew support from Flight Operations, Flight Crew Operations, the Gemini and Apollo program offices, and center medical programs, all of which were concerned with technical or operational feasibility. Each experiment was assigned an MSC technical monitor to work with the principal investigator and see the hardware through development.17

Thus by the time its second program started, OMSF had the organizational machinery to solicit, evaluate, and develop experiments. Scientists disliked the cumbersome bureaucratic system, especially the detailed documentation it required; but NASA had to make certain that experiments were scientifically worthwhile, that they would work in flight, that the crews knew how to operate them, and that they would not jeopardize a mission or an astronaut. On the whole the system worked; its main features were retained during the rest of the manned spaceflight program.

Experimenters learned their trade in the Gemini program, where scientific research became a part of manned spaceflight. On the 10 Gemini flights 111 experiments were performed: 17 scientific, 12 technological, 8 medical' and 15 DoD;iv 36 investigators from 24 organizations participated. The official assessment of results was, "The experience gained from the Gemini Experiments Program has provided invaluable knowledge and experience for future manned space-flight programs." Unofficially, many of those involved agreed that the results were comparatively unimportant as science; the chief value of the experiments was in working the kinks out of the experiment-management routine.18

Getting experiments on board the spacecraft was not as straightforward as the system implied. Scientists, astronauts, flight planners, and spacecraft engineers all had to learn as they went. Time, and some failures, taught them how to design experiment hardware, assure its reliability and flightworthiness, engineer it into the spacecraft, integrate it into the timeline, and train the crews to operate it. Much of the traditional scientist-engineer antipathy can be read into the stories told by participants. Scientists chafed under the inflexible requirements of the engineers, who found scientists blithely unconcerned about such details as schedules and last-minute changes. The cooperation displayed by astronauts varied, to say the least; some took the experiments seriously, but others considered them a nuisance (and said so). When it was over, scientists and spacemen understood each other better and, for the most part, professed satisfaction with the results.19

[63] Gemini gave medical investigators their first chance to answer some crucial questions that had been raised by the Mercury flights, during which the medics' principal task had been to support flight operations. While Mercury had allayed many of the fears expressed in the 1950s, it had also produced evidence that weightlessness had potentially serious effects on the circulatory and skeletal systems. Gemini's longer flights offered the chance to monitor physiology more extensively and to conduct some inflight medical experiments.20 As in Mercury, managers in Gemini were primarily interested in medical certification that weightless flight was safe-at least for eight days, the anticipated length of a lunar landing mission Medical researchers, however, aware of the marked individual differences among crewmen, wanted as much data as they could get, to give their conclusions a better statistical base. After the eight-day flight of Gemini 5 in August 1965, pressures mounted to discontinue the medical studies, which cut deeply into training and flight time.v Gemini 7 (4-18 Dec. 1965) was the last flight to conduct more than one medical experiment.

The Gemini missions dispelled the major concerns about weightlessness on short flights, but also indicated some trends that could become serious on long-duration flights. The questions left unanswered at the end of Gemini provided the rationale for the medical program on AAP: How does the body adapt to weightlessness? How long do the changes continue? What countermeasures might be effective? 21

 

SCIENTISTS AND MAN IN SPACE

 

The early scientific satellites were small, built to be launched on available boosters, and relatively inexpensive. They were also remarkably successful. Scientists who flew payloads in the early days accepted the limitations, since they were offset by comparatively low cost, which made more flights possible. President Eisenhower's science advisers saw no compelling reason to hurry into manned spaceflight. From the scientific point of view, manned flight was far too expensive for the results it might return, which seemed to be almost nil. The Soviets' apparent attempts to acquire prestige by launching the first man into space did not disturb this view. The President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) belittled the significance of man in space, advised against being drawn into a race with the Russians, and steadfastly backed the space science [64] program as the more valuable phase of space exploration. That was also the phase in which the United States was leading and could maintain its lead.22

John Kennedy understood the wider appeal of manned spaceflight and determined to put the U.S. ahead in all phases of space exploration; but his science adviser, Jerome Wiesner (a member of PSAC from its inception in the Eisenhower days), tried to change the new president's mind. A task force headed by Wiesner reported on 12 January 1961 that the emphasis on Project Mercury was wrong; instead, NASA should play down Mercury's importance and find ways "to make people appreciate the cultural, public service, and military importance of space activities other than space travel."23 Beset with problems, Mercury offered the U.S. Iittle chance of surpassing the Soviets at an early date.

NASA, however, had its own outside consultants to provide scientific advice-the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences,vi created in 1958. The Space Science Board took a different view of long-range policy for the space agency. A month after Wiesner's report, the board urged that plans for early expeditions to the moon and the planets be based on the premise that man would go along. "From a scientific standpoint," the board said, "there seems little room for doubt that man's participation . . . will be essential, if and when it becomes technologically feasible to include him." The board saw little difference in the scale of effort needed to send man on space explorations and that necessary to approach his capabilities with instruments. There was no mechanical substitute for trained human judgment.24

Kennedy's decision to commit the nation to Apollo established the dominance of technology over science in NASA's programs. Scientists immediately objected to the space program becoming, as one astronomer told Sen. Paul Douglas of Illinois, "an engineering binge instead of a scientific project." Space scientists, justifiably proud of the sophisticated instruments they had developed, were disappointed that the public did not appreciate the scientific leadership they represented.25 Many scientists took the Wiesner-PSAC view to the public in the period following the Apollo decision, but they were fighting a losing battle. Acceptance of "man on the moon in this decade"-and Congress emphatically had accepted it-dictated an engineering program to develop launch vehicles and spacecraft that dominated NASA's budget and the public's attention until it was completed. Scientists who opposed it underestimated the [65] fascination that this gargantuan technology held for the media and the public.

The Space Science Board's attitude was different. Accepting the Apollo goal, the board worked for the best scientific program that could be achieved within the Apollo framework. vii It had endorsed manned lunar and planetary exploration in 1961; and the next year, in its first summer Study undertaken at NASA's request, it reaffirmed that endorsement. Ninety-two academic and industrial scientists participated in the 1962 summer study, which was principally concerned with the state of the unmanned program and NASA's plans for its future. But there was a working group on "Man as a Scientist in Space," and the role of man received more attention than might have been expected. The report noted that man's judgment and ability to evaluate a total situation far exceeded anything machines could do, and concluded that a scientifically trained man was essential to adequate exploration of the moon and the planets. The working group recommended that Ph.D. scientists be recruited for training as astronauts as soon as possible, preferably in time to be included in the first crew to land on the moon.viii Meanwhile astronauts already in the program should be given as much scientific training as possible.26

The working group's conclusions took into account the replies to a questionnaire the Space Science Board had sent to space scientists a few months before, seeking their opinions on the role of scientists in Apollo. The responses reflected the view that each flight should include at least one crewman who was a scientist first and an astronaut second. The man who landed on the moon should be an expert who could collect samples quickly but with great discrimination. Scientist-astronauts should be allowed to continue their professional scientific development; hence the respondents hoped that astronaut training "would not involve too large a fraction of their time," perhaps only a part of each year. (This seemingly cavalier attitude toward the skills required of astronauts may have been only naive, but it was matched by the astronaut office's view of scientists. That view, pithily summarized by a NASA official a few years later, was that "it is easier to teach an astronaut to pick up rocks than to [66] teach geologists to land on the moon." Reconciling these views took time.) 27

The summer study did not look beyond Apollo, giving only brief consideration to earth-orbiting laboratories. The report commented only that "the time phasing and form of such a laboratory needs further study." The primary role for an orbiting laboratory seemed to be in biological studies, although it would likely be useful as a base for modification, maintenance, and repair of orbiting satellites. Astronomers believed that telescopes should not be mounted in manned orbiting stations, since the motion of the occupants would disturb the alignment of the instruments.28

Although the report accepted the necessity for science to take second place in Apollo for the time being, it contained clear evidence that some scientists were unhappy with the lunar landing program and had not been reluctant to say so. Noting that considerable confusion existed about the Apollo mission and its proper justification, the report's authors urged NASA to justify Apollo's cost in terms of the scientific capability it would provide after the technological goal had been achieved. At the same time they called on scientists to recognize that the Apollo goal grew out of many considerations, most of them nonscientific, and to accept that as something they-and NASA-had to live with.29

Within a year scientists who had feared Apollo's fiscal appetite found their apprehensions well grounded. Preliminary consideration of NASA's FY 1964 budget in the fall of 1962 almost led to the sacrifice of unmanned science programs. Only a convincing argument from Administrator James Webb persuaded the president to leave them alone.30 When NASA went to Congress in the spring of 1963 asking for $5.71 billion, talk of budget cuts became common. Webb and his lieutenants held out, however, insisting that the 1970 goal could not be met on a smaller budget. Whether from a belated realization of the magnitude of the Apollo commitment-at least $20 billion-or because of the sudden sharp increase in NASA's budget request, critics raised questions about the nation's priorities, calling the lunar program a technological stunt that would cost far more than it was worth. During the spring and summer a number of respected scientists (most of them not connected with the space program) added their voices to the chorus of objections.

Philip H. Abelson, editor of Science (the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), touched off the scientists' protests with an editorial on 19 April 1963. Examining the justifications that had been advanced for Apollo, Abelson found them inadequate. Its propaganda value was overrated. The prospect of military advantage was remote. "Technological fallout" could never recover more than a fraction of the project's cost. As for scientific return, Abelson saw practically none, especially since no scientist was likely to be in the first [67] crew to reach the moon. Unmanned probes, each costing perhaps 1 % of the price of an Apollo mission, could return more and better data. Furthermore, they could provide information needed in the design of a manned landing vehicle.ix In sum, he could find no justification for the high priority given to Apollo. 31

Abelson opened the door for a crowd of critics. For the next month or so, "Scientist Blasts Moon Project" could have been used as the headline for many a news story. Nobel Prize winners volunteered their condemnation Defenders of Apollo replied, and a full-dress debate was on. NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden accused Abelson and others of setting up a straw man to knock down: "No one in NASA," he said, "had ever said the program was decided upon solely on the basis of scientific return." An aerospace magazine offered the opinion that the critics ("an esoteric wing of the scientific community") were unhappy because engineers were successfully pursuing goals that scientists considered unseemly. Light noted scientists (three Nobel laureates among them) acknowledged Dryden's point and called Apollo "an important contribution to the future welfare and security of the United States." 32

The brouhaha swirling around Apollo and its scientific importance could not escape congressional notice. In June, before resuming deliberations on NASA's budget, the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee scheduled two days of hearings on the subject and invited 10 prominent scientists to testify. Senators heard little they could not have read in their newspapers; scientists had the same reservations about Apollo as other concerned citizens (plus one or two of their own) and had the same axes to grind as other lobbyists.x They argued that many goals were more worthy of $20 billion than a moon landing: aid to education, social programs, medical research, the environment, improving the cities-even support for other areas of science. Harry H. Hess, chairman of the Space Science Board, and Lloyd V. Berkner, its first chairman, presented the familiar NASA point of view. On one point, at least, the witnesses generally agreed: in some situations the presence of a scientifically trained observer would be worth the cost of getting him there.33

Criticism from the scientific community died down somewhat as the summer ended. Abelson continued to snipe at Apollo from time to time but by early 1965 he was ready to give up his campaign. If people wanted [68] the moon explored, he told an interviewer, it was all right with him, provided "the public realizes it is chiefly for fun and adventure and not because some great contribution is being made to science." The heart had gone out of the scientific opposition, and as Daniel Greenberg wrote, "with Lyndon Johnson wholeheartedly for going to the moon and with most of the capital investment for that project already paid for, it is going to take more than a few dissents to inspire Congress to toy with Apollo." 34

The effect of this opposition on plans for the first lunar landing was nil. Its effect on NASA policies became apparent only later. When it appeared that Apollo would succeed, lunar scientists (who wanted to make sure the right things were done on the moon) and MSC engineers (who began to see scientific exploration as the best justification for additional lunar landings) saw that they needed each other and worked toward accommodation. From Apollo 12 on, relations between lunar scientists and the Houston center consistently improved.35

Events of 1964 indicated that the Space Science Board had been listening attentively to the debate of 1963. When President Johnson asked James Webb for a new look at space goals, NASA asked the board to reexamine its 1961 statement and consider what should follow Apollo. The board had always supported NASA on the question of man in space-its 1961 statement, in fact, had been ahead of the agency on the question of manned space science-but now it backed away from strong endorsement of manned projects. In its report of 30 October 1964 setting forth national goals in space for 1971-1985, the board affirmed the basic goal of exploring the moon and the planets, but relegated manned exploration to second place. It named Mars as the target for intensive unmanned exploration; while that was under way, the solution of biomedical problems should be pursued "at a measured pace, so that we shall be ready for manned [Mars] exploration by 1985." OSSA's space science program should be continued, and in some areas expanded. The board urged a balanced and flexible scientific research effort, able to respond to unexpected opportunities. Money should be spent where the probability of scientific return seemed greatest. Such a program, using Apollo-developed hardware and operational capability, would ensure a steady flow of scientific dividends from space even if Apollo met with unforeseen delays. Lunar exploration and manned orbital stations warranted "significant programs, but are not regarded as primary because they have far less scientific importance." An earth-orbiting station was more important for developing operational techniques than for scientific work.36

Late in 1964 NASA asked the Space Science Board to convene another summer study, this time to consider post-Apollo programs in space research-specifically planetary exploration, astronomy, and manned space science. Participants met at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in June and July 1965 to formulate their recommendations. The summer study [69] report generally agreed with the Space Science Board's policy statement Of the previous October, but found more justification for man's participation in space research. Most of the report consisted of suggestions for improving OSSA's unmanned science programs. It endorsed the exploration of Mars as the principal goal for the immediate future. As to policy, NASA should aim for a balanced program. The distinction between manned and unmanned space science was artificial; for any given investigation the mode should be chosen to give the best scientific results. Again the scientists emphasized the need to train more scientist-astronauts, suggesting that scientific knowledge would become more important than piloting skills as the manned program matured. Of particular interest to AAP planners was an endorsement of a solar telescope mount for the Apollo service module (see below) and the strong recommendation that an earth-orbiting laboratory was needed to study man's response to the space environment.37

George Mueller and Homer Newell made what they could of the advice of the Woods Hole study when they testified before congressional committees in the spring of 1966. Mueller saw the orbital workshop as an important step toward the long-term space station-a low-cost way to gain experience before flying a six- to eight-man laboratory. Newell was gratified that the proposal for a telescope on the Apollo spacecraft found favor, but otherwise the report called for a more ambitious program than OSSA would be able to support. In fact, budget cuts had already forced OSSA to cancel the Advanced Orbiting Solar Observatory (AOSO), a project the summer study had enthusiastically endorsed.38

 

SOLAR OBSERVATORIES IN ORBIT

 

The loss of AOSO was keenly felt, because study of the sun was one of OSSA's major activities. Already two Orbiting Solar Observatories (OSOs) had been launched, with gratifying results. The OSOs collected data on solar radiation, especially those wavelengths (ultraviolet and x-ray) that do not penetrate the atmosphere. AOSO was to have been much bigger, with better stabilization and pointing accuracy, higher resolution, the ability to detect and respond to transient events such as solar flares, and 10 times as much data-storage capacity. The $167.4-million project had called for four AOSOs to be launched through 1971, providing coverage of the period of maximum solar activityxi expected in 1969. By July 1965 conceptual design studies had been completed and the contract for the prototype was being negotiated.39

[70] Severe cuts were made in NASA's budget requests during 1965, however. OSSA was reduced by 16%, from $783.2 million in FY 1966 to $661.4 million in its FY 1967 request. Hard choices had to be made. Many projects were cut back, but AOSO had to be canceled, because its funding requirements were particularly high in the upcoming fiscal year.40 The OSOs would continue, and although they might take on some of the work that AOSO would have done, they could provide neither the quality nor the quantity of data that the second-generation observatory was designed to gather.

Homer Newell was worried as 1966 began, not so much for the loss of AOSO as for the survival of a significant space-science program. He could hardly help remembering the close call that space science had had only four years before, and he saw the same pressures building again. Early in the new year he sought help from Gordon MacDonald of UCLA, who had served on both the President's Science Advisory Committee and the Space Science Board and was an active supporter of OSSA's programs. Newell wrote him that the accomplishments of space science once again were in danger of being overshadowed by the glamour of manned spaceflight. With the nation committed to Apollo and money getting harder to come by-Vietnam was starting to make substantial demands on the nation's resources-space science would suffer. If scientists did not demand support for a first-class research effort, Congress would not give it. Budget cuts already made with little protest from scientists were fostering an attitude that the programs were less important than OSSA had said. Manned space science needed outside support too. The volume and weight capabilities being developed in Apollo were enormous, and academic scientists had not come close to making full use of them. Without high-quality proposals from outside, "there is a strong tendency [in OMSF] to get experiments just to have experiments to fly." Newell's staff was trying hard to keep the manned program scientifically respectable, but help was needed. He urged MacDonald to speak out, to testify before congressional committees if he could, and to "prod and needle some of your colleagues to do the same.'' 41 Newell was having to rally space scientists to their own cause; the vigorous protests of 1963 were not heard in 1966.

Meanwhile, OSSA was doing what it could. In September 1965 the Physics and Astronomy Section had moved to establish a foothold for astronomy in manned spaceflight. A six-month contract to study the feasibility of installing a telescope mount in the Apollo service module was awarded to Ball Brothers Research Corporation of Boulder, Colorado, a long-time designer and builder of instruments for OSSA pro grams. The study was to determine whether astronomical instruments or a manned spacecraft could be stabilized enough to gather good data ant whether man would be useful in making observations from orbit. Called [71] at first the Apollo telescope orientation mount, the device soon became known simply as the Apollo telescope mount or ATM.42

The key features of the ATM were provision for control and adjustment by the astronauts and use of photographic film to record data.xii It could not replace AOSO, because AOSO had been designed to observe the sun continuously for 9 months while the proposed ATM flights were limited to 14 days. But after AOSO was canceled, the ATM became the only possibility for observing the solar maximum with high-resolution instruments OSSA thus had an important scientific project in need of a vehicle at the same time OMSF was looking for important scientific experiments to fly in the Apollo Applications Program. Newell and Mueller began talking about combining the two early in 1966.

As the program offices discussed ATM, a number of points had to be settled. Management was one. Goddard Space Flight Center was experienced in astronomy programs and had directed the Ball Brothers study, but the OMSF centers were more experienced in integration on manned vehicles. Toward the end of January Newell's office asked Langley, Marshall, Goddard, and MSC to submit proposals for managing the ATM project. Three proposals were received-Langley could not spare the resources to support the project-and after reviewing them OSSA decided to leave the project at Goddard. With that question settled, Newell asked Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans for approval of the project, citing the need to get started immediately: only two and a half years remained before the 1969 solar maximum. The project approval document Newell submitted noted that the instruments were compatible with several locations in the spacecraft, but specifically mentioned the service module's experiments sector as the current concept.43

Mueller, however, was committed to using the lunar module as an experiment carrier, and he wanted the ATM mounted there. At an AAP status review on 8 April 1966, Newell, Mueller, and their technical experts reviewed both proposals for Seamans. OSSA argued that mounting the ATM in the service module was cheaper and more certain of success; it required fewer changes to the spacecraft; and it could meet the scientifically important 1968 launch date. Against that only a single 14-day mission was possible, because the service module burned up on reentry. OMSF asserted that the lunar module-ATM combination would require less money immediately; it could be left in orbit and reused and subsequent use of the lunar module as a laboratory would be facilitated by the experience gained with the ATM. On the other hand the lunar craft was totally untried and its production was lagging. Neither option seemed clearly preferable, and Seamans asked for more details. He....

 


[
72]

A mockup of the Apollo telescope mount installed in the lunar excursion module, January 1967. The combination was never built. MSFC A49627.

A mockup of the Apollo telescope mount installed in the lunar excursion module, January 1967. The combination was never built. MSFC A49627.

 

....was reluctant to approve the project immediately, because he could see no way to fund the ATM's FY 1967 requirements and thought it unwise to start a competition in industry until the agency could follow up with immediate development. Meanwhile he approved two more studies by Ball Brothers, one to study automatic operation of the ATM if it could be left in orbit after a manned mission, the other for studying adaptation of the ATM to the lunar module.44

Mueller saw a Marshall-based ATM project as the solution to several problems, but he was already getting objections from within his own organization. A strongly worded letter from Robert Gilruth (pp. 45-46) was on his desk while the project was being discussed with Seamans; the MSC director objected both to the use of the lunar spacecraft as a laboratory and the assignment of integration to Huntsville. Ignoring Houston's protest, Mueller went ahead. He decided on 18 May that the entire ATM system, except for the telescopes themselves, would be designed, built, and integrated into the lunar module at Marshall. On 8 June Huntsville planners started talks with the lunar module's prime contractor, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, and shortly thereafter MSC authorized Grumman to study the compatibility of the ATM with the lunar module. OSSA objected to a mission assignments document issued in June by the AAP office, because the orbital altitude and inclination, proposed launch dates, and operational plans did not agree with OSSA's intentions.45 Again, Mueller pressed on.

Newell and Mueller met with Seamans several times in June and July, seeking his signature on their competing project approval documents. On 11 July the three agreed that the entire ATM project, experiments and all, should be transferred to Marshall for development. This decision resulted from a growing feeling at Headquarters that it was best [73] not to divide responsibility for such a complex project, and Goddard could not manage the whole package alone.46 After that, it was a safe bet that Mueller's plan would be adopted. He continued to give Seamans technical data, including the results of tradeoff studies comparing various locations for the ATM and recommending that it be mounted on the lunar module.

In Houston during the Gemini 10 mission (18-20 July 1966), Mueller asked MSC officials to comment on those studies. In response, the Houston staff agreed that all the ATM work should be assigned to Marshall, but maintained that selection of the lunar module as the experiment carrier would forfeit all the benefits gained by that assignment. Instead' Marshall should design and build a special structure to carry the ATM and its supporting systems-a "rack" that could be launched inside the CSM-LM adapter. In orbit the crew would operate the solar telescopes from the command module. Up to 30 days of observation could be conducted if the mission used an Extended Apollo spacecraft. MSC calculated that modifying the lunar module as Mueller proposed would cost at least $100 million more than a rack and might take two or three years longer.47

MSC's managers also objected to Mueller's proposed plan for operations, which required the Apollo spacecraft to rendezvous with the separately launched telescope mount. Two crewmen would move into the solar observatory, which then separated from the CSM. After conducting 14 days of solar observations, the ATM vehicle rejoined the Apollo craft and the two crewmen returned to the command module. If the second rendezvous could not be accomplished, however, the ATM crew had no way to get home. This risk MSC absolutely could not justify for such a mission. On safety considerations alone, Houston "could not support the proposed Apollo Applications LM/ATM approach." 48

Other factors contributed to MSC's opposition to Mueller's plan. The summer of 1966 was a particularly trying time for the lunar-module project Grumman was experiencing severe technical and management problems, and the MSC program office had its hands full trying to find a way out of two years of serious difficulties. They did find a way, in spite of Mueller's insistence on complicating their problems by bringing in another project and another center. Eventually MSC's Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager asked Mueller directly why he continued to back the lunar-module laboratory in the face of all its technical drawbacks; were not his motives at least partly political? Mueller's reply was that they were not partly political but completely political."49 The necessity to hold the Marshall team together, combined with the need to avoid anything that looked like a major new project, left him little maneuvering room.

Houston's objections could not be completely ignored at Headquarters [74], however, and on 2 August OMSF recommended that Seamans approve a derivative of the MSC suggestion. Reexamination of funding requirements and manpower resources at Marshall now indicated that the optimum procedure was to contract for some $60-million worth of major components of the LM-ATM system and to use Marshall personnel for selected development tasks. Mueller said that the 1968 launch date could be met, given immediate approval and initiation of work. Opinion in OSSA was not too hopeful of launching the ATM in time to observe the sun during its period of maximum activity, but that office nevertheless seconded Mueller's call for immediate approval.50

On 29 August 1966, five days after the Senate completed congressional action on NASA's FY 1967 appropriation, Seamans signed Mueller's version of the ATM project approval document, authorizing development of one set of instruments for flight on the second Apollo Applications mission. Noting that several important details were undefined, Seamans asked to be kept informed of major decisions made during the project definition phase. The next three months were spent in working out the ATM design and operating mode, culminating in the orbital cluster based on the multiple docking adapter (pp. 36-39). Experimenters, who had been waiting four months to go ahead with building their instruments, were now free to do so. Design of the AOSO instruments had not gone very far when that project was terminated, and OSSA had kept them alive, hoping to find a way to use them. The Goddard ATM team had kept interest alive by organizing a betting pool on the date Seamans would sign the project approval document. The development schedule to get the instruments on the ATM was now very tight, but neither Goddard nor the experimenters could help that.51

Although the waiting was bad for the experiments schedule, it provided time to settle some basic questions about the mount. Besides the issues discussed already, there was the problem of stabilizing the ATM to the degree required. The main purpose of the project was to get the superior resolution that film could provide, and for this it was essential that the mount be extremely stable. Specifications called for holding the telescopes' alignment within ±2.5 seconds of arc for 15 minutes at a time-equivalent to keeping the ATM pointed at the bridge of a man's nose, a kilometer away, without allowing it to drift as far as the pupil of either eye. Some experimenters did not believe this could be accomplished. Conventional attitude-control thrusters could not handle such requirements, so at the May AAP review Mueller decided to use gyroscopes as the basic means of stabilizing the ATM. Research at Langley had produced prototypes of "control moment gyros" with 90-centimeter rotors, large enough to stabilize a vehicle the size of the ATM. More work would be required to qualify these for long-term reliability in space, and both Langley and Marshall set about it.52

[75] Three days after Seamans approved the project, four agencies were notified that their experiments had been selected for ATM. On 6 September the contracts were transferred from Goddard to Marshall; on the 19th the basic ATM program was approved by the Manned Space Flight Experiments Board. Marshall's compatibility studies for the LM-ATM hardware and mission, presented at the board meeting, showed an experiments canister 1.5 meters in diameter and 3.3 meters long, carrying the instruments on a cruciform spar that divided the canister into quadrants. The canister could be mounted on a rack attached to the ascent stage of the lunar module. The estimated weight was within the capability of the Saturn IB with a comfortable margin.53

The five instruments, capable of recording the sun's spectrum from visible light to high-energy x-rays, constituted a coordinated approach to solar research never before attempted. Few laymen would recognize any of the instruments as a telescope, although all but one could record images of the sun (or small regions of it) on film. The Naval Research Laboratory's two ultraviolet instruments could photograph the entire sun or selected small areas, using wavelengths that revealed the composition of the area under study. American Science and Engineering of Cambridge,....

 


Cross section through the telescope mount canister, showing the cruciform spar and instruments.

Cross section through the telescope mount canister, showing the cruciform spar and instruments.

 

[76] ....Massachusetts, was building an x-ray instrument to record detailed images of solar flares and to monitor the sun's x-ray output. The High Altitude Observatory at Boulder designed a white-light coronagraph which, by blocking the intense light from the sun's disk, could photograph the much fainter corona. The only non-photographic instrument was Harvard College Observatory's ultraviolet spectrometer and spectro-heliometer. It complemented NRL's instruments, but used photoelectric detectors and telemetered the readings to the ground. Thus it was the only instrument that could be operated remotely while the ATM was unmanned, although in that mode it lacked fine-pointing control, which was a function of the crew.54

Marshall's compatibility study turned up nothing to prevent scheduling the ATM for launch in the fourth quarter of 1968. There were some doubts that two of the instruments could be delivered six months before launch as required, but it was "intended that schedule incompatibilities be overcome during contract negotiations." The question of power for the module was still moot; planners spoke of an array of solar cells to generate up to three kilowatts of electricity. With the approval of the ATM instruments, AAP's largest and most complex scientific project was ready to get under way. Marshall's AAP office, as manager Lee Belew said, then "turned on a systems design effort that was for real."55

 

EXPERIMENTS FOR THE WORKSHOP

 

ATM deserved all the attention it got, but the workshop needed more than a set of solar telescopes to justify it. After so much talk of the importance of man in orbital science, it nevertheless turned out to be hard to find experiments that required man's participation and effectively used the workshop's large volume. The problem was graphically stated by Wernher von Braun in May 1965, when he noted that the optimistic schedule being proposed by Mueller would, if implemented, make it possible to put 970 metric tons of payload into a 225-kilometer orbit every year. A single Saturn V could orbit all of NASA's previous payloads at one time-and then some.56

Early in 1966 Mueller told the centers that funds for the experiment program would be short. They could not use contractors to develop experiments as they had done in the past, but would have to do it themselves. He suggested using off-the-shelf, commercially available components wherever possible. Von Braun passed the word along at Marshall, reminding his staff that their concern extended beyond the workshop: it would have to be filled with experiments. Huntsville and Houston then began preparing lists of things they would like to see done in the workshop.57

After the February 1966 AAP review, Robert Seamans directed [77] OMSF to include the experiments in these periodic examinations of the program's status. By March, 3 experiments were actually under development, 10 were being considered by the Manned Space Flight Experiments Board, and another 13 were ready to be submitted to the board. Eleven were in the definition phase, 108 were being planned for definition studies, and 72 were waiting for the process to begin. Since an experiment typically required 32 months from inception to flight readiness, the outlook for a substantial program of experiments for a 1968 workshop was not good. Money was the major problem, aggravated by inadequate manpower at the centers and the division of responsibility between OSSA and OMSF. Seventeen biomedical experiments had been identified, but work statements defining center responsibilities for them had not yet been written. The ATM, to which OSSA was giving top priority, was a promising project; but it needed $19 million, for which no source had been identified.58

Within OMSF the responsibility for early phases of experiments lay with E. Z. Gray's Advanced Manned Missions Office, and Mueller now urged that office into action. Gray responded by naming Douglas Lord chief of the Experiments Division and charging him with assembling a coherent set of experiments for the workshop. After preliminary discussions with experiments offices at Houston and Huntsville, Lord called on the centers in mid-May to submit a list of experiments they could make ready, along with priorities, development funding plans, and schedules, to present to the experiments board at its July meeting. A month later nothing had been received. When proposals did come in, Gray was not happy with them, and he minced no words in a message to von Braun and Gilruth on 28 June: "It is evident that the proposed workshop experiments do not constitute a reasonable program." For example, no experiments had been proposed to assess the habitability of the spent stage and provide design parameters for space stations. Several of the experiments did not really require the workshop; others needed little or no participation by the crew. "In my estimation," he concluded, "we have not faced up to the problem of defining a useful set of experiments which can be developed in our in-house laboratories and subsequently conducted in the workshop."59

Lord then took a team to the centers, "beating the bushes . . . to find low-cost experiments." "We hadn't put a lot of money into defining experiments,'' Lord recalled later, "so you really had to go out and try to find them, and there were not a lot." Von Braun said that "the complex system for getting experiments approved was so terrible it didn't matter how many we could find because we couldn't get them through the system anyway," at least not in time for a late 1968 flight. Still, Lord and his crew spent six months pressing the centers to devise experiments and getting them evaluated. 60

[78] Experiment reviews were held at Houston and Huntsville in August 1966. Twenty-four experiments, mostly engineering exercises, were scrutinized; 8 were rejected, 13 accepted, and 3 withdrawn or combined with others. Top priority was given to a "Habitability/Crew Quarters" experiment, with both centers participating. Other experiments aimed at determining how effectively astronauts could repair and maintain equipment, investigating the flammability of materials in zero gravity, and evaluating spacesuits and extravehicular mobility aids. Eleven of these were approved at the September experiments board meeting, on condition that funds for their development could be found. The board reminded both centers to keep costs down by using in-house facilities and manpower as much as possible.61

Rather surprisingly, considering that they had always been a prime justification for workshop-type missions, the medical experiments were slow to get started. Other activities were taking up all the available manpower at Houston, where that work was centered. The medical results of Gemini were still under evaluation and 16 medical experiments were being developed for earth-orbiting Apollo missions. Planning the Apollo experiments, evaluating the Gemini data, and conducting ground-based supporting research taxed the understaffed Medical Research and Operations Directorate at MSC. Similarly Houston's Crew Systems Division, which would have an important role in the development of medical experiments, was working at capacity on life-support and environmental-control systems, among other things.62

The most important medical studies for the first 28-day mission could nonetheless be defined, and at the September meeting of the experiments board OMSF's Office of Space Medicine presented three proposals. Two-Metabolic Activities and Cardiovascular Assessment- would measure the response of the muscular and circulatory systems to zero gravity, providing inflight data by telemetry. The third, Bone and Muscle Changes, was a continuation of the Gemini M-7 experiment (n., p. 63), requiring pre- and postflight measurement of calcium in bones and collection of urine samples in flight for later analysis. The board approved the medical experiments with the understanding that detailed plans would be provided later. It also concurred in a recommendation that a physician-astronaut be included in the crew of the first workshop mission. xiii 63

The next board meeting, in November, was a busy one, mostly occupied with AAP experiments. Two medical, four technological, and six scientific experiments were approved, subject to the usual condition that funding be found. By now the first workshop mission was beginning to be a bit crowded; the crew would not have enough time to carry out all the [79] approved experiments. Another problem was posed by a proposed artificial gravity experiment; maneuvering fuel was insufficient to spin the cluster while maintaining a reserve to bring the command module out of orbit, should that be required. These two items pointed up the difficult: of integrating a group of diverse experiments with the operational requirements of the mission. A group at Marshall responsible for experiment integration was finding it a headache-especially since the experiments were changing every two months and the spacecraft was still being defined. 64

At that same meeting the board moved to deal with the related problem of experiment priorities. Sponsoring agencies established priorities for their experiments, but it was up to the board to work out an integrated list. First priority in November went to habitability, followed by the biomedical studies and crew mobility and work capability experiments. An artificial gravity experiment was in last place. These priorities were not binding and would be adjusted as the roster of experiments grew. The board would continue to wrestle with the priority problem for another full year.65

At the end of 1966, only 2 experiments were definitely assigned to specific missions. Thirty-one, including the ATM and the medical group, were approved and tentatively assigned; 19 were approved and awaiting assignment to a flight. With the adoption of the cluster concept and the definition of the first four launches (two missions)-a process completed only in December-the experiment program solidified considerably. By February 1967, all of the tentative assignments had been made definite, 8 more experiments had been scheduled, and several new ones had been proposed and approved.66

By the time George Mueller presented AAP to the press on 26 January 1967, the program was, as he indicated, making a substantial start in manned orbital science. The medical experiments on the first mission would help determine what man could do and how long he could function in zero gravity; the ATM experiments were expected to settle many questions about man's usefulness as a scientist and (it was hoped) gather solar data of unprecedented quality; and the many smaller experiments would yield information useful to space technology and operations. Neither comprehensive nor perfect, the workshop and ATM missions were, scientifically speaking, a start.

 

MORE ADVICE FROM THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

 

While OMSF was hammering out the details of its first post-Apollo project, the President's Science Advisory Committee was considering its answer to the question, "Where do we go in space from here?" Through 1966, 24 members of PSAC's panels on space science and space [80] technology examined the nation's space program. Their report, mainly concerned with broad policy recommendations, also contained several specific criticisms of AAP that were less than welcome just as Mueller was about to go to Congress to campaign for the FY 1968 budget.

The PSAC report, published on 11 February 1967, generally paralleled that of the Space Science Board's 1965 Woods Hole study in endorsing exploration of the moon and planets as the most profitable near-term activity for space research. PSAC, however, asserted that for the 1970s a major goal with a definite deadline was inappropriate. The question was "not so much 'What major endeavor will best provide a basis for expanding our space technology and operational capability?' but 'What are the most advantageous ways to exploit this great capability for the achievement of the national purposes . . . ?"' PSAC favored a balanced program based on the expectation of eventual manned exploration of the planets. This would entail a strongly upgraded planetary program, full exploitation of the ability to explore the moon, qualification of man for long-duration space operations, advancement of technology on all fronts, and the use of earth-orbital operations for the advancement of science, particularly astronomy. Such a program would aim at answering the basic questions that were, in PSAC's estimation, the most challenging goals of space exploration: Is there life elsewhere in the universe? What is the origin of the universe? How did the solar system evolve?67

Proceeding from philosophical questions to specifics, PSAC examined NASA's plans and offered some suggestions. Its statement of a broad approach for NASA in the 1970s seemed to coincide with the stated purposes of AAP, but the scientists called for a different emphasis. Any Apollo-Saturn hardware not needed for the first two lunar landings should be used for extensive lunar exploration, not AAP. Beyond currently programmed vehicles, PSAC favored limiting Saturn production to four Saturn Vs per year and some minimum but unspecified number of Saturn IBs. The report compared the Saturn IB unfavorably with the Titan, which the Air Force intended to use to launch its Manned Orbiting Laboratory; the Titan was half as expensive but had the same payload capacity.68

The PSAC report revived the issue of a permanent earth-orbiting space station, considering it a requirement for qualifying man for long stays in space. Besides that, a station would provide a place to study the reaction of many life forms to zero gravity and to do research in many scientific disciplines and space technology. The report recommended sending up the first module of a permanent station in the 1970s. As a step toward the functions of a space station, the AAP orbital workshop was acceptable, but with reservations. Citing recent experience with extravehicular activity, the report was dubious regarding the "extensive construction efforts" required by the wet-workshop scheme and argued [81] that such activity might compromise the medical data that should be gathered early in the mission. Rather than risk that, PSAC suggested that NASA should help to fund MOL if that would accelerate the acquisition of biomedical information. It also urged the Air Force to pay more attention to biomedical research in the MOL program.69

Astronomy was taken to be the scientific field most ready for exploitation in the post-Apollo period; hence PSAC's astronomy group reviewed the ATM plans-and found them gravely flawed: "From a conceptual point of view this is the wrong way to carry out a man-supported astronomy project in earth orbit." Man's role in AAP was only to operate the instruments, and "it makes no intrinsic difference whether he is 10 feet or 100 feet from the instruments . . . which he manipulates through electrical signals." A microwave control link between the Apollo spacecraft and a free-flying ATM would be better. Still better would be a worldwide communications network, so that the operator could be on the ground. "The heaviest demands on the man [in the ATM project] are to do things which ideally should be done on the ground . . . or by electromechanical systems . . . which do not have to override the angular momentum of the man's movements." The best jobs for a man in orbit were repair, maintenance, and adjustment of the instruments; but because of the short development time, the ATM instruments were not being designed to allow repair and adjustment.70

OMSF was trying to please the science community by striving for a 1968 launch of the ATM, but this schedule and the resulting pressure on instrument development drew severe criticism. The period of maximum solar activity was rather broad; by 1970 the frequency of solar flares-one every couple of days at the maximum-would probably still be high enough to justify the mission. NASA's rush to meet a 1968 launch date put unwarranted pressure on two of the instruments and might force compromises in the whole ATM design and operational procedures.71

The report concluded that the ATM was certainly not ideal, but its cost was within reason, and to astronomers anxious to fly some kind of high-resolution instruments ATM was a great deal better than nothing. PSAC recommended postponing the launch for a year, however, and using the time to redesign the ATM, get rid of its basic faults, and relieve the hard-pressed instrument makers. The astronomers concluded:

. . . the proposed mode does not take us down the developmental path which we foresee for earth orbital astronomy.... It will very likely demonstrate dramatically the disadvantages of overconstraining the man physically while overburdening him mentally and doing both over a 1-month period with relief only during periods of sleep. Thus, we urge that the mission be conducted primarily for the value of the scientific return and that all mission parameters be optimized to that objective.

[82] And, having talked with some experienced astronauts, the scientists were wary of the complexities of mission operations. They urged that experimenters and mission astronauts work out an acceptable method of managing the experiments during flight.72 Evidently they had heard that all communications with orbiting spacecraft had to go through the CapComxiv-an arrangement which in their opinion could not possibly work for an astronomy mission.

The report seemed to have something for everyone, advocates and critics alike. It was lukewarm toward the workshop mission and negative about details of the ATM, but recommended that both proceed. The report drew little public notice, but when Homer Newell went before the House Subcommittee on Science and Applications he found that Chairman Joseph Karth had read it carefully, underlined many passages, and could quote extensively from it. Karth and Newell engaged in a long colloquy as to whether PSAC favored the solar astronomy mission; Karth argued the negative, but Newell, producing clarifying letters from panel members, read it as a qualified endorsement. George Mueller, perhaps feeling that the best defense is a good offense, took the report's broad recommendations and, without waiting to be asked, showed Congress that AAP was working to achieve them. In response to written questions submitted for the record, he refuted PSAC's criticisms of the ATM.73

Less than a fortnight before the PSAC report was published, NASA and the space program were shaken by the fatal fire in an Apollo spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center.74 Among other consequences of the fire, the impact of the report was masked. Events would outstrip both the report and NASA's reaction to it; and for the next 18 months, AAP would be subjected to stresses far more taxing than adverse scientific criticism.

 


i Experiment, as NASA uses the term, refers to any exercise whose purpose is to gather Scientific or engineering data, and also to the equipment used for that purpose.

ii In Oct. 1967 Newell became associate administrator, NASA's third-ranking official. He retired in 1973.

iii A breadboard experiment is a working model containing all the components of the flight model but not permanently assembled. It is put together to prove that the experiment works and to allow easy modification during design studies.

iv Many of the experiments were repeated on several flights.

v Pre- and post-flight medical measurements were not so troublesome, but inflight experiments were Something else. One experiment (M-5, Bioassay of Body Fluids) required collecting and returning urine samples, even worse was M-7, Mineral Balance, which required strict control of diet and collection of all feces and urine before, during, and after flight. It was done only once, on Gemini 7. For one astronaut's comments on the Gemini medical experiments, see Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1974), pp. 145-48.

vi The Academy is a private, unofficial body chartered by Congress in 1863; its purposes are to advance the cause of science generally and to advise the government on scientific matters when requested. Membership is a mark of eminence in research second only (perhaps) to the Nobel Prize, though many first-rank scientists are not members. Daniel S. Greenberg, "The National Academy of Sciences: Profile of an Institution," Science 156 (1957): 222-29, 360-64, and 488-93, idem, The Politics of Pure Science (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1967), pp. 12-15.

vii According to one knowledgeable science journalist, the SSB could do little else. Concerning the board's role in advising NASA, Daniel Greenberg wrote, "Early in the relationship NASA made it clear . . . that it was not the least bit interested in the Board's view on whether there should be a manned space program.... For a variety of reasons ... there was to be a large-scale space Program, and if the Board wished to provide advice on its scientific components, NASA would be pleased to consider it." Science 156 (1957): 492

viiiThe first scientist-astronauts were recruited in 1965, the second group in 1967. Of 17 scientists recruited, plus one who qualified as a pilot, only one (a geologist) went to the moon, on the last mission. Three others flew in Skylab. Astronauts and Cosmonauts, Biographical and Statistical Data, report prepared for the House Committee on Science and Technology, June 1975.

ix This, of course, was done. Surveyor, Ranger, and Lunar Orbiter missions assured the feasibility of landing, provided useful data for the design of the lunar landing module, and certified the sites chosen for Apollo landings.

x Lee DuBridge, an experienced scientific adviser to government, bluntly made one point that Others usually mentioned more delicately. If NASA's budget were cut, he said, the agency might shift funds from its Sustaining University Program to Apollo-something that DuBridge, president of Caltech, felt would be a great mistake.

xiThe sun's overall activity, measured in terms of radiation and magnetic effects, varies in a period averaging 11 years from one maximum to the next.

xii Film was not normally used in unmanned satellites because of the difficulty of recovering from orbit. For some purposes, however, astronomers preferred film to electronic detectors because of its superior resolving power. On a manned mission film could be brought back by the crew.

xiii Only one was then in the astronaut corps, Lt. Comdr. Joseph P. Kerwin, USN, later scientist-pilot on the first Skylab mission.

xiv The "capsule communicator"-the only person who talked directly to crews in orbit. Everything passed up by radio had to be cleared through flight operations officers and then communicated by the CapCom.


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