LUNAR IMPACT: A History of Project Ranger

Part I. The Original Ranger

Chapter Eleven - IN THE COLD LIGHT OF DAWN

The mushrooming Cuban missile crisis quickly diverted public attention from the failure of Ranger 5. Ranger project participants, nevertheless, felt keenly the blow of the abrupt and unexpected ending of the original Ranger flights. Project scientists had learned from the gamma-ray measurements on these missions of the existence of a cosmic gamma-ray flux, but nothing about the moon, 1 which remained just as remote an object of scientific inquiry as ever. Project engineers had failed in five flights to demonstrate the capabilities of the JPL Ranger spacecraft.

These distressing results increased tension and provoked conjecture at NASA and JPL. Had too many experiments been heaped on Ranger, forcing the scientific cart before the engineering horse? Or did this automatic machine and its associated systems possibly represent too ambitious and rapid an advance in technology? Or had the spacecraft system been designed and tested improperly? Or was it truly a victim of the sterilization program? Whatever the answers, one thing was clear: a reappraisal of the entire effort had to be made, and so, on October 20, Homer Newell told Pickering.

THE RANGER INQUIRY AT JPL

On October 22, his eye on the evaluation of Ranger by Headquarters, Pickering formed his own special assessment committee at JPL. The members, senior personnel not associated with Ranger, were to investigate the project, contrast its operation with that of the Mariner R project, and submit to him any recommendations for change by November 12. The JPL committee conducted extensive interviews with Ranger and Mariner R as well as technical division personnel, and submitted a seven-page, sharply critical report to Pickering.

The report declared that the weight-limited Ranger Block II spacecraft, like the Mariner R spacecraft, did not possess redundant engineering features sufficient to guarantee flight operations after a partial failure. Successful operation had depended upon the proper function in series of numerous components, and the failure of any one among them would have disabled the machine. The detailed excellence of subsystem engineering and hardware found on Mariner R, they asserted, had not been achieved on Project Ranger. With adverse effects for both Ranger and Mariner R, the report continued, engineers assigned to flight projects from the technical divisions often lacked the required experience; in many instances, their section chiefs were unresponsive to the needs and directives of the project offices. Moreover, the committee investigators judged the section chiefs to be "quite unfamiliar with either the project management or the details of the subsystems developed and furnished by their sections." The whole arrangement left the integrity of JPL spacecraft "heavily dependent on the inspiration, skill, and attention of individual cognizant engineers. Little if any evidence of review of the work of these engineers by responsible section chiefs was discovered."

The report also called attention to errors of detailed design and hardware assembly common throughout the project, errors compounded by personnel turnover, by attempts of the undermanned project office to delegate direction of the technical sections to representatives of the Systems Division, and by inadequate procedures for design veriflcation, inspection, and failed-parts reporting. They considered Project Manager Burke, moreover, to have spent excessive amounts of time negotiating matters of space science, the launch vehicles, and launch operations with NASA Headquarters and Air Force personnel when he should have been attending to the JPL spacecraft. He had, furthermore, consistently stressed meeting schedules, and the hurry-up atmosphere engendered in beating the Soviets to the moon had reduced further the "motivation to pursue details which could lead to engineering excellence." Curiously, the JPL committee paid little attention to heat sterilization, its implications for component reliability, or to the differences in performance between the sterilized Ranger and the unsterilized Mariner R spacecraft. 2

On the basis of its findings, the committee concluded that Rangers 6 through 9 could not be expected to perform any more successfully than Rangers 3 through 5 unless JPL took "specific and forceful action":

  1. Further flights should be delayed until the Laboratory named a new manager for Project Ranger, completed a thorough spacecraft design review, introduced new inspection, testing, and project management procedures, and provided a revised plan and schedule to top management.
  2. The Ranger 6 flight should be abandoned, and that spacecraft converted to a Design Evaluation Vehicle to be used for testing purposes.
  3. Plans for the Ranger 10 through 14 spacecraft should be modified to reflect the changes made in the design of Rangers 6 through 9.

After the committee submitted its report on November 14, Pickering learned that one member had refused to endorse the recommendation to replace the project manager, arguing that Burke could not be held entirely responsible for the conditions prevailing at JPL and NASA. Still, Burke's job was clearly in question. 3

THE KELLEY BOARD INVESTIGATION

On postlaunch day, October 19, in the NASA Office of Space Sciences, Homer Newell had reacted to the loss of Ranger 5 by instructing Oran Nicks to compose a board of inquiry of individuals not presently associated with Ranger. Besides determining the cause for the failure of Ranger 5, the board was to review all operations of the project and the potential reliability of future spacecraft. 4 "The next day Newell explained his decision to Pickering and asked for "JPL's full cooperation." The board, he continued, would report in time to decide whether Ranger 6 should be launched as scheduled in January 1963 or delayed "to introduce necessary changes." 5 Some changes, the wording implied, were indeed necessary.

On October 29, 1962, Newell named and established the Ranger Board of Inquiry. Its Chairman, Albert J. Kelley, was to return by November 30 recommendations "necessary to achieve successful Ranger operation," including but not limited to changes in management procedure, systems, components, testing, quality control, reliability assurance, and operational procedures. 6 In a separate memo to Kelley, Lunar and Planetary Programs Director Nicks stressed the importance for science, Apollo, and the nation's prestige of Project Ranger and hence, the serious nature of the investigative assignment. 7

Kelley, a former commander in the Navy with an ScD in instrumentation, directed the Electronics and Control Division in NASA's Office of Advanced Research and Technology and had chaired the Agena B Coordination Board during the latter half of 1960. He knew Project Ranger and was widely respected at Headquarters and JPL. The Board members appointed, with Kelley represented a number of important NASA Headquarters offices and field installations, as well as one business firm.* During the next three weeks the Kelley Board, as it came to be called, set about an exhausting schedule of conferences and interviews with Ranger participants from coast to coast. The first stop on October 30 was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

* Other members: John M. Walker, also of the Office of Advanced Research and Technology; Herman Lagow, Goddard Space Flight Center; John Foster, Ames Research Center; Francis B. Smith, Langley Research Center, Frederick J. Bailey, Manned Spacecraft Center; John Hornbeck, President, Bellcomm Incorporated; Arthur H. Rudolph, NASA Office of Manned Space Flight; and James Koppenhaver, NASA Office of Programs. NASA Ranger Program Chief and Program Engineer, Bill Cunningham and Walter Jakobowski, served ex officio to assist the Board.

The JPL staff that met the Board hardly displayed its usual self-confidence, its accustomed readiness to consider no job too big or too complex to accomplish. One long-time JPL hand recollected the common laboratory attitude: "We were good and we knew it, and we did not hesitate to request permission [of NASA] to take on another child while still nine months pregnant" Previously, in fact, the easy self-assurance and esprit exhibited by employees of the Laboratory had. often irritated NASA personnel, who saw themselves patronized as tyros in the field of rocketry and astronautics. 8 Now, for the first time, JPL had failed to deliver in a key applied research and development program. And now it had to suffer the further humiliation of an investigation by a NASA board Of inquiry.

On November 30 the Kelley Board submitted its report to the Office of Space Sciences. Kelley himself presented an oral summary of findings and recommendations-they were supported unanimously-to Newell and his staff on December 5, 1962. 9 While the investigation had not been confined to JPL operations, the principal focus of the assessment was the JPL spacecraft. With attachments and appendices, the Board's final report was ten times longer, and, although similar in many respects, even more critical than JPL's own investigation.

Clearing the scientific experiments of any direct culpability in Ranger's failures, the Board fastened on the Ranger spacecraft itself, especially the extent to which it was based on the design of a planetary machine. Tlae members considered such a design not "optimum for lunar missions," but rather "more flexible and complicated... Ranger is sufficiently complex, and its mission sufficiently demanding, that a high order of engineering skill and fabrication technology is required in its design and construction to make it work successfully." That high order, they observed, had not been achieved. Consequently, "the present hardware comprising Rangers 6 through 9, as was the case of Rangers 3 through 5, is unlikely to perform successfully." Going further, the Board indicted JPL's entire approach to the project. The fast-paced, high-risk Ranger undertaking smacked of the military method of research and development, where actual shakedown flights substituted for data on a vehicle's performance that should be obtained in elaborate ground tests. Proving the spacecraft technology was crucial, but the tests should be conducted on the ground and not in flight. Board members labeled this practice as a "shoot and hope" approach. 10

The Kelley Board also judged Ranger's beat sterilization program to have contributed measurably to the poor performance of the spacecraft. "Even on a system especially designed to withstand sterilization, this practice would no doubt degrade performance... On marginally designed equipment, as in the case with some parts of the present Rangers, the performance degradation due to sterilization can be extremely serious. Under these circumstances the Board doubts whether a program of testing and inspection to find weak or failed parts, and then replacing them, will even lead to a high confidence that the spacecraft [Rangers 6 through 9] will be capable of completing the lunar photographic mission successfully." 11

Besides the sterilization problem and the deficiencies in spacecraft design, construction, system test, and checkout, the Board also determined that:

  1. JPL had improperly organized spacecraft system management for large, long-term projects such as Ranger.
  2. The spacecraft did not possess sufficient redundant engineering features to ensure reliable operation. Success hinged "entirely on the perfect execution of every event in a long sequential chain."
  3. Network drills conducted prior to Ranger flights were inadequate, and the effectiveness of the deep space tracking stations was impaired by poor voice communication channels.
  4. The Atlas-Agena launch vehicle had demonstrated such a poor record of reliability that "current estimates place the probability of a successful launch no higher than 0.5," or fifty percent.
  5. Poorly stated and improperly understood, mission objectives added "complexity damaging to mission success." At any one time the project was supposed to (a) deliver a payload to the lunar surface in support of Project Apollo; (b) carry out extensive scientific experiments; (c) be essentially nonmagnetic so as not to interfere with the scientific experiments; (d) be biologically sterile to avoid contaminating the moon with earth organisms; and (e) develop technology useful to planetary missions. 12

The Board's primary recommendations correspond to these findings:

  1. Project management should be strengthened to provide adequate staffing in the JPL project office and clear-cut lines of responsibility and authority at JPL. Extraneous duties of the Project Manager, such as serving as Deputy Director of the Lunar Program, should be eliminated, and new procedures for design review, design change control, testing, and quality assurance introduced.
  2. Heat sterilization of all Ranger components should be abandoned immediately. NASA should also reexamine all other methods of sterilization to determine the need for them and their effectiveness.
  3. To ease the JPL workload, an industrial contractor should be assigned to fabricate Ranger 10 and all subsequent Ranger machines.
  4. The assignment of further new flight projects to JPL, they suggested, also could be withheld until the Laboratory resolved the Ranger situation to NASA's satisfaction.
  5. The job of procuring and launching Atlas-Agena vehicles for the space agency should be assigned entirely either to NASA or to the Air Force. Whatever the choice, NASA had to institute more and improved prelaunch inspection and monitoring of these launch vehicles.
  6. The objectives for Project Ranger should be restated, and all other activities not directly related to these objectives (e.g., sterilization and the development of technology for planetary missions) should be eliminated. 13

Within a few days of its submission at Headquarters, JPL received the classified final report. The disquisition was much farther-reaching and more severe than officials at JPL-or even NASA-had expected it to be. The JPL staff resented the implication in the "shoot and hope" indictment that the Ranger spacecraft were substandard at the time of delivery and that NASA had accepted them on the outside chance that they might work when launched. They also found unfair that the report ignored the facts that a race to the moon had required fast-paced schedules, or that large environmental facilities for ground testing did not exist, or that in 1960 NASA itself had accepted Project Ranger as a high-risk enterprise. Still, notwithstanding the wide latitude for action reserved to JPL under the terms of the NASA contract with Caltech, Headquarters did control the JPL purse strings and could enforce any of the recommendations by withholding further space flight projects from the Laboratory. Certainly there would have to be a prolonged delay in the flight of Ranger 6, and major changes in the conduct of unmanned lunar projects. On every side in Project Ranger, past sins of omission and commission had come home to roost. And most of them, it seemed, were to be found perched above the door of the JPL Project Office. 14

NEW MANAGEMENT AND NEW OBJECTIVES

On Friday afternoon, December 7, 1962, a secretary hurriedly left the Lunar Program Office, her face a mask of grief. "The Lunar Program..." she wept, "Cliff is out. Jim Burke too."

Personnel attached to JPL's Project Ranger and Lunar Program Office had discussed and speculated on the pending changes. Burke, on his own, had already ordered an immediate halt to the heat sterilizing of all Ranger flight hardware. 15 The flight of Ranger 6 had been postponed indefinitely. Revised procedures for testing, design control, and quality assurance were in the offing. So were a design review of the complete Ranger spacecraft and changes in the management relationships between JPL's Project Office and the technical divisions that supported it. But few had guessed that Burke and Cummings would be relieved of command.

Five days later, Deputy Director Brian Sparks and a delegation of JPL officials met with Newell's representatives at NASA Headquarters to review the findings of the Kelley Board and settle upon a course of action. Systems Division Chief Schurmeier and Spacecraft System Manager Wolfe represented the Project Office for JPL, while Burke waited outside the room. Heat sterilization and secondary scientific experiments had become controversial in NASA's unmanned lunar program. Hammering out new project objectives and guidelines in this and a final meeting on December 17, the participants agreed to (1) eliminate all secondary sky science and communications experiments approved by the Space Sciences Steering Committee for flight on Rangers 6 through 9; (2) discontinue heat sterilization of Ranger components and terminal sterilization of the spacecraft with ethylene oxide gas, and replace Ranger hardware previously heat sterilized; (3) displace the development of technologies for the planetary program to a byproduct and not an objective of Project Ranger; (4) postpone the flight of Ranger 6 until JPL and NASA were satisfied that the launch vehicle and the spacecraft would succeed.

JPL, on its part, would accord Ranger the highest priority of any flight project underway at the Laboratory. It would conduct a complete design review of the Ranger spacecraft, inventory sterilized and unsterilized hardware, introduce changes in project management, testing, and quality assurance practices, and prepare detailed project organization charts, a project recovery plan, and recommendations for phasing in an industrial contractor for subsequent Ranger spacecraft. NASA would fund all of these changes, which would obviously cause a major increase in the project's final cost. Finally, and most important to the future of the project, it was agreed that Rangers 6 through 9 would have a single objective: to acquire pictures of the lunar surface "significantly better" than those obtained from the earth, and of the greatest possible benefit to Project Apollo and the scientific community. Although a definition of "significantly better" remained to be worked out, in the event of any dispute in which "the scientific objectives are found to compromise the information needed for the manned program, every consideration will be given to meeting the Office of Manned Space Flight needs." 16

While Newell, Cortright, Sparks, and Schurmeier Put the finishing touches on the Ranger reprogramming at NASA Headquarters, Mariner 2 flashed past the planet Venus. During December 14 the craft radioed to earth scientific findings of the temperature and properties of the Venus atmosphere and surface. With all of Mariner's objectives attained, the world-wide acclaim boosted sagging morale at the Laboratory and provided Pickering a welcome if brief respite from the repercussions of the Ranger investigation. A few days later, on December 18, Pickering announced the replacements for Burke and Cummings. Robert Parks would direct the Lunar and Planetary Programs at the Laboratory (Figure 62). Reporting to him as the new Ranger Project Manager would be Harris M. Schurmeier. 17


 

Fig. 62. JPL Lunar and Planetary Program Director Robert Parks


It was with mixed emotions that Schurmeier, universally known as "Bud," succeeded his Caltech classmate and friend as Manager of Project Ranger. The two men had been undergraduates, naval aviators, and graduate aeronautical engineers together. Both had come up to the Laboratory from Callech in 1949, lived a few houses from one another, and shared skiing, sailing, and soaring in Southern California. But whatever Schurmeier 's personal reservations about replacing Burke, he rapidly established himself as the Project Manager on the job. Inquisitive and determined, he possessed a hard streak of common sense, a fine feeling for making decisions at the proper moment, and an ability to use the talents of those who worked with him to the best advantage. As the former Chief of JPL's Systems Division, where the diverse elements of Ranger were reconciled, Schurmeier was familiar with the task at hand (Figure 63). 18


 

Fig. 63. RL Ranger Project Manager Harris Schurmcier


The task itself was formidable, with morale a shambles and the project in disarray. The sterilized and unsterilized components of Rangers 7 through 9, in various stages of assembly, had to be separated and identified. Rangers 10 through 14 were now to be assigned to an industrial contractor. Prior flight plans and firm schedules had evaporated. Burke elected to remain with JPL and on the staff in the Ranger Project Office. "That eased the transition in command considerably," Schurmeier recalled, "and much of what we accomplished in succeeding months I owe to Jim. He was absolutely dedicated to making Ranger work, and he had what it took to stay and help when another would have turned his back and walked away."

Early in 1963, shortly after William Pickering and a Mariner 2 float had lead the Rose Parade through the streets of Pasadena, Schurmeier, his assistant Gordon Kautz, Burke, and Spacecraft System Manager Wolfe took the first steps to right the overturned project. They composed a Ranger System Design Review Board of JPL engineering Section Chiefs to evaluate the spacecraft, find any weak points in the system and subsystem designs, and recommend changes to eliminate them and to improve reliability. Burke could applaud the ground rules Schurmeier issued to guide members of the board. Chief among them: "A few TV pictures of the moon, better than those taken from earth, is the only mission objective. No advanced development experiments or additional scientific instruments will be carried!" 19

The elimination of the eight sky science experiments from Rangers 6 through 9 had released 22.5 precious spacecraft kilograms (50 pounds) which the project engineers could use to incorporate redundant engineering features. Schurmeier intended that every possible measure would be taken to increase the reliable performance of all Ranger components. No longer to be geared for success on razor-thin margins of weight and power, the spacecraft was to be able to achieve its picture-taking objective even in the event of a partial failure in flight.

Schurmeier wanted the design review and other measures completed and evaluated by the end of January. He also instructed Patrick Rygh, Ranger's Flight Test Director, to identify the steps necessary to improve space flight operations. Similar orders were dispatched to Hans Hueter's launch vehicle team in Huntsville, and a detailed evaluation of the Atlas-Agena booster began. In New Jersey, Bernard P. Miller, RCA's Ranger manager, evaluated the television payload and proposed improvements in those areas where testing indicated weaknesses, or where the design had been compromised to meet the extremely tight Ranger schedules. Ranger 6, converted to a design evaluation vehicle, started to undergo extensive testing. JPL engineers microscopically reinspected all Ranger flight hardware for possible weaknesses in workmanship and packaging. 20 Once more, in the project and program offices around the country, things began to hum.

Changes in management and operating practices at JPL assisted the work of Schurmeier's Project Office. Pickering sharply curtailed the feudal independence of JPL's technical divisions. Section Chiefs could no longer transfer their personnel from one assignment to another without the consent of the affected project manager. The divisions also lost their prerogative to set and maintain separate standards for quality assurance and flight acceptance testing of components; new, Laboratory-wide standards were established. To ensure that these standards were met, Pickering combined the functions of quality assurance and reliability in a single office under the direction of Brooks T. Morris. With these actions and control over design changes strengthened, JPL's Section Chiefs found themselves involved directly in project activity and held accountable for any poorly designed or malfunctioning equipment produced by their engineers. Finally, Pickering announced that Ranger enjoyed the highest priority of any flight project at the Laboratory. Hereafter, Schurmeier could be sure of the authority he needed to command action at JPL. 21

At NASA Headquarters, Newell and his deputy Cortright completed their own planning for the new Ranger and, on December 19, publicly announced the changes. 22 They also furnished Congressman Joseph E. Karth, now Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Space Sciences and Advanced Research and Technology that approved authorizations for Newell's office, more of the detail on the findings and recommendations of the Kelley Board. And they sent final instructions on the plans for Ranger to Pickering at the end of the month. 23 Most of the trauma for project engineers, at least, was over.

SPACE SCIENCE AGAINST THE WALL

But many scientists affiliated with the project were angry. Rangers 6 through 14 were all programmed by NASA to fly television cameras to take pictures of the moon's surface. None would carry nonvisual planetary experiments such as gamma-ray spectrometers and seismometers that might yield data on the chemical composition and internal structure of the moon. Prominent among the discontented planetary scientists was the Nobel Laureate Harold Urey, a Ranger television experimenter, and prime instigator of NASA's lunar exploration program. In late October 1962, Urey wrote to Newell to complain about the "enormous emphasis on TV photography... I understand the importance of TV photographs from the engineering standpoint, but I do think they have small scientific value." So did a number of other planetary scientists, who wrote the White House, the NASA administrator, and the Ranger Program Office to say so. 24

Wherever the protests were sent, they eventually made their way to the beleaguered director of Space Sciences, Homer Newell. For all Newell's past determination to maintain a program for space science, he recognized that space science was in no bargaining position now, not after the persistent flight failures on the one side and, on the other, the hard engineering requirements of the manned lunar landing. Newell responded to the planetary scientists by patiently explaining the situation in Project Ranger. The best designed experiments, he told Harold Urey, were useless if the spacecraft failed to deliver them to their target and transmit the results back to earth. Besides, Newell added, putting the best face he could on the matter, a close-up look at the moon would be of "real scientific consequence." In the future, Newell told Urey along with all the other scientific dissenters from the pro-Apollo emphasis, he hoped-and expected-that NASA would reestablish a program better balanced in the interests of planetary science. 25

Since Project Ranger's inception in late 1959, both engineers and space scientists had acted forcefully to see that their views prevailed. Lacking a consensus on what aspects of the project needed to be accomplished first, they had sought to do everything at once. Engineers had compromised reliability by attempting to fashion simultaneously a new-generation launch vehicle as well as a sterilized planetary spacecraft, by conducting test and flight operations without adequate facilities, and by compressing everything into an extremely tight schedule to "beat the Russians. " Burke, moreover, had not insisted on accountability and uniform procedures of quality control from the JPL technical divisions, nor had JPL Director Pickering supported him enough in his project dealings with the technical chiefs or with NASA Headquarters. In Washington, Homer Newell and his lieutenants had added mightily to the difficulties by insisting that ambitious scientific objectives be met while the technology was under development, by equating Burke's objections essentially with attempts to thwart policy decisions, and by vigorously adding experiments over the project manager's valid technical protests.

Both groups had lost. Ranger 5 proved an agonizing personal defeat for James Burke and his engineers, and a decisive programmatic defeat for Homer Newell and space science. The aftershock of that failure, in fact, would reverberate inside the space agency for years to come. Without exception, every single unmanned lunar spacecraft launched thereafter in the 1960s would fly first in support of Apollo, and second in the interests of planetary science. 26


Chapter 10  link to the previous page        link to the next page  Chapter 12

Chapter Eleven - Notes

The hyphenated numbers in parentheses at the ends of individual citations are catalog numbers of documents on file in the history archives of the JPL library.

1. "An analysis of scientific measurements made by instruments on the Ranger 3 lunar spacecraft shows that the intensity of gamma rays in interplanetary space probably is as much as ten times higher than anticipated... " NASA News Release 62-212, October 15, 1962. Published results in " Letters to the Editor, " Journal of Geophysical Research, Volume 67, No. 12, November 1962, pp. 4878-4880; and "Detection of an Interstellar Flux of Gamma Rays," Nature, Volume 204, No. 4960, November 21, 1964, pp. 766-767.

2. Heat sterilization, in fact, was not even mentioned in the text of the JPL report, though it appears in passing in an attachment, under questions asked of those interviewed: "B. Does sterilization cause problems? Some problems had occurred, but most interviewees were not very positive about the connection." JPL document, "Ranger RA-5 Failure Investigation, Report of JPL Failure Investigation Board," November 13, 1962, Attachment, "Secretary's Summary of the RA-5 Failure Investigation Board Activities," p. 2 (2-459). The outspoken Hastrup, however, does not appear among those JPL personnel listed as interviewed. See " One More Time" in Chapter 10 of this volume.

3. "Ranger RA-5 Failure Investigation, Report of JPL Failure Investigation Board," pp. 2, 6.

4. Cited in United States Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1964 NASA Authorization, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Space Sciences and Advanced Research and Technology, 88th Congress, 1st Session on H.R. 5466, 1964, No. 3, Part 3a, p. 1606.

5. Letter from Homer Newell to William Pickering, October 20, 1962 (2-264).

6. NASA memorandum from Homer Newell to Albert Kelley, subject: "Review of Ranger Spacecraft, " October 29, 1962 (2-2470f).

7. NASA memorandum from Oran Nicks to Albert Kelley, subject: Review of Ranger Spacecraft, " October 29, 1962 (2-2470e).

8. Considering this aspect of the JPL equation, James Van Allen, the renowned sky scientist and long-time friend of William Pickering, observed: "They have tremendous esprit at JPL; it's almost offensive. It's like the Marines." Cited in "Space Exploration: Voyage to the Morning Star," Time, March 8, 1963, p. 79; see also the letter from William Pickering to T. Keith Glennan, November 20, 1958 (2-407a); and William H. Pickering in Space Science Seminar (JPL Publication 30-10. Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, August 28, 1959), Part 1: "General Introduction," p. 16.

9. NASA memorandum from Albert Kelley to Homer Newell, subject: "Ranger Board of Inquiry, Final Report," December 5, 1962.

10. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "Final Report of the Ranger Board of Inquiry, " November 30, 1962, p. 5. (2-2463).

11. Ibid., p. 4.

12. Condensed from ibid., pp. 6-11.

13. Condensed from ibid., pp. 12-15.

14. See "A Planetary Machine for Space Science " in Chapter Three of this volume. For the most part, Pickering and his JPL associates concurred with the NASA report, but they took strong exception to items that were overlooked, and to those findings that seemed to hold the Laboratory accountable for events it did not control. The delay in creating a Ranger Program Office at NASA Headquarters, for example, was not mentioned, nor was the fact that JPL had urged NASA to place further Ranger spacecraft with an industrial contractor only to have that recommendation turned down. Objections were also registered over some of the proposed details for testing future spacecraft. See JPL " Comments on the Ranger Investigation," February 7, 1963 (2-460a); also JPL Interoffice Memo from Eberhardt Rechtin to Brian Sparks, subject: "Discussion of Rebuttal to Kelley Report," February 20, 1964 (2-415).

15. JPL Engineering Change Order No. 3703 initiated by S. Rubinstein, October 25, 1962 (2-1325).

16. NASA Memorandum for the Files from William Cunningham, subject: "Ranger Program Objectives," December 21, 1963 (2-375); TWX from Homer Newell to Robert Parks, December 21, 1962 (2-1336); letter from Homer Newell to William Pickering, December 31, 1962 (2-316); letter from William Pickering to Edgar Cortright, December 28, 1962 (2-329).

17. JPL Announcement No. 85 from William Pickering to All Personnel, subject: "Establishment of Lunar and Planetary Projects Office," December 18, 1962 (2-268); JPL Announcement No. 86 from William Pickering to All Personnel, subject: "Ranger Project," December 18, 1962 (2-269).

18. See "Organizing for Ranger: JPL and Headquarters" in Chapter Two of this volume; also, "Ranger's Man on the Ground: Harris McIntosh Schurmeier, "The New York Times, July 31, 1964, p. 6.

19. Harris M. Schurmeier and Allen E. Wolfe, "Ranger Design Program, December 17, 1962, p. 1 (2-2073).

20. Harris M. Schurmeier, untitled JPL document regarding review of Ranger activities, April 22, 1964 (2-1850).

21. William H. Pickering, "Objectives of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," February 15, 1963 (2-965); JPL Interoffice Memo No. 110 from Brian Sparks to Technical Division Chiefs, subject: "Division Project Organization," April 4, 1963 (2-1591); JPL Interoffice Memo No. 177 from William Pickering to Senior Staff, Section Chiefs, and Section Managers, subject: "Charter for Quality Assurance and Reliability Office," April 9, 1963 (2441); also James D. Burke, "Recommendations on Ranger," December 18, 1962 (2-1700).

22. However, they made no mention of the personnel turnover at JPL- NASA News Release No. 62-268, subject: "Ranger Improvement Program," December 19, 1962 (2-934). That fact was reported - quickly enough by the aerospace trade journals. See, for example, -Successive Failures Precipitate JPL Shakeup," Aviation Week and Space Technology

Volume 77, December 24,1962, p. 17.

23. Letter from Edgar Cortright to Joseph Karth, December 28, 1962, as reprinted in U.S. Congress, 1964 NASA Authorization, pp. 1596-1598; and letter from Homer Newell to William Pickering, December 31, 1962 (2- 316).

24. Letter from Harold Urey to Homert-Newell, October 24, 1962 (2-2300). A few days later geologist Frank Press, the Ranger seismometer experimenter and Director of Caltech's Seismological Laboratory, submitted a statement to Newell and to Donald Hornig on the President's Scientific Advisory Committee, which he said represented "the view held by many planetary scientists." It recommended that NASA at least acknowledge scientific parity for the nonvisual lunar experiments by immediately including three more scientific capsule packages in Project Ranger: We are aware of the competition between capsule experiments and TV experiments. We are also informed about demands of the Apollo program on the Ranger series. We have heard the argument that the Ranger capsule faces a lower probability of success because of the complexity of the landing maneuver. We feel, however, that information concerning the physical state and constitution of the moon is of tremendous scientific importance ... and also of high pertinence to the Apollo program.

If NASA considered the Ranger capsule missions vital when the unmanned lunar exploration program began, Press and his cohorts thought it senseless to discontinue them now. "Frankly speaking we cannot justify in our minds the almost exclusive emphasis on TV in the remaining Ranger series in view of the uncertain quality of the pictures and the limited scientific and engineering results that Ranger TV will provide. " Letter from Frank Press to Homer Newell, October 22, 1962 (2-691). Taken together, all of the unhappy planetary scientists who wrote and called and cabled NASA Headquarters urged a rethinking of the priorities and objectives of the unmanned lunar program. Cf., letter from G. H. Sutton, for M. Ewing and others, to Homer Newell, October 23, 1962; letter from Harold Urey to James Webb, October 29, 1962, cited in a letter from Hugh Dryden to Harold Urey, November 14, 1962 (2-2330); letter from James Arnold to Homer Newell, October 30, 1962 (2-1527a); cable from James Arnold to Homer Newell, October 31, 1962 (2-1527b).

This sentiment was by no means universal, however. Other planetary scientists referred visual imaging over nonvisual experiments, and were Pleased with the television emphasis placed upon the future Ranger missions. Of these, Ranger experimenters Eugene M. Shoemaker and Gerard P. Kuiper were the most influential spokesmen. See the letter from Gerard Kuiper to James Burke, December 4, 1962 (2-2166).

25. Letter from Homer Newell to Harold Urey, November 5, 1962, pp. 1-2 (2-2299); see also United States Congress, House, Committee on Appropriations, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1962, Hearings before the Subcommittee, 87th Congress, 1st Session, 1961, Part 2.

In May 1961 Lloyd V. Berkner, Chairman of the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences, had proudly lauded the high-water mark attained by space science before the first National Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Virtually every American space mission to date had been directed to scientific pursuits, and the results were impressive. Harold M. Schmeck, Jr., "US. Held Leader in Space Science," The New York Times. May 28, 1961, p. 15. But the intervening approval of Project Apollo and the first manned Rights of the Mercury earth-orbiting spacecraft had long since captured popular attention and fired hopes for surpassing the Russians. Taken together with the unmanned lunar flight failures, and despite Newell's general optimism, in little more than one year's time the fortunes of space science had unquestionably nosedived.

26. Explorer 35 (Interplanetary Monitoring Platform E), though placed in lunar orbit on July 22, 1967, supported eight sky science experiments to "obtain scientific data at lunar distances on the characteristics of the interplanetary plasma and the interplanetary magnetic field," and was not directed to explore the moon for either planetary science or Project Apollo as a primary goal. NASA Mission Objectives for the IMP-E Mission, NASA Archives S-861-57-06. Because of its selenocentric orbit, the flight is sometimes referred to as a "lunar mission." See also "Sky and Planetary Science in Chapter One of this volume.

 


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