LUNAR IMPACT: A History of Project Ranger

Part II. The New Ranger

Chapter Seventeen - RANGER 7: A CRASHING SUCCESS

All of Rangerís participants "very clearly understood" that personnel changes were likely in Pasadena and Washington should Ranger 7 also fail, and the Hilburn Boardís contentions be proved accurate. The tension was correspondingly magnified, and the pressure to succeed now "was unbelievable." 1

REWORKING RANGER 7

In New Jersey, efforts at reworking Rangerís television system encountered an unexpected snag. For Ranger Block III, JPL had virtually relied on RCA as an extension of its Systems Division. For space-borne television applications, RCA was the acknowledged expert. 2 RCAís Astro-Electronics Division was designated the "subsystem supplier," and, subject to JPL approval and acceptance, authorized by contract to design, fabricate, test, and deliver all of the television subsystems and associated ground support equipment for Ranger. In Hightstown, New Jersey, JPL television project engineer Donald Kindt and two assistants had monitored the work, concentrating on the subsystem's functional performance. The impact of Ranger 6 and the investigations that followed, however, radically changed attitudes on all sides. At JPL, Schurmeier established a special "task team" to conduct a detailed review of the RCA design changes planned for the television subsystem, and "of the TV subsystem [proper] to assure ourselves that there are no other areas of major concern." 3

A special deputy was assigned to assist Kindt as the JPL engineers in residence at Hightstown swelled from three to approximately twenty-five. RCA likewise multiplied the engineers at work on a subsystem suddenly in the public limelight, and its Astro-Electronics Division Ranger Chief Bernard Miller acquired a deputy as well. 4 RCA leaders brought in more "specialists, even got people from their Princeton Research Laboratory, which was separate from Hightstown, and put them on, eliminated the car pools which took people home at 4:30, and really turned to." The project also created a special interlocking RCA-JPL problem/failure reporting procedure, requiring the signature of Kindt as well as the RCA reliability representative on every television problem or failure analysis report. 5 Finally, NASA Headquarters dispatched a special team of engineers to Pasadena to oversee the testing of the Ranger 7 spacecraft at JPL. "I will expect these NASA representatives," Oran Nicks instructed Cunningham, "to write their own reports and not reassign to JPL personnel any tasks relating to their monitoring functions." 6 Careers hinged on the next flight, and all the participants would settle for nothing less than double-checking each other.

As recovery plans jelled, Schurmeier rescheduled the flight of Ranger 7 for the lunar launch window of June 27 through July 2, 1964, which, along with modification of the television subsystem and the basis for a spacecraft test program, was approved by Headquarters. 7 But the launch of Rangers 8 and 9 had to be postponed six months or more. NASA had committed two Mariner C spacecraft for flight during the Mars launch opportunity in the fall of 1964. They held priority, and they were to occupy the Atlas-Agena launch facilities at Cape Kennedy from August through November. Then, on March 27, 1964, quality control personnel at RCA opened one of the sealed electronic modules in the modified Ranger 7 television subsystem. Inside, the inspectors found a small polyethylene bag containing 14 screws and a lock washer.

RCA began an investigation immediately, and submitted the findings to Schurmeier in Pasadena four days later. This incident, the RCA security office reported, was an accidental one caused by the pressures of working around the clock in three shifts seven days a week on the camera electronics. 8 But others in the RCA project office, including supervisors, argued that this kind of "accident" was highly improbable. From their point of view, a bag of screws simply could not have slipped through the inspection process undetected. They believed that even though there was no direct evidence, the incident had to be an act of sabotage - with all that that implied for the preceding television failure. To make matters worse, the quality control records for this module in the twelve-hour period when it was sealed were missing.

If sabotage of the project could be established, all the Ranger 7 television hardware would have to be reopened and thoroughly reinspected, which would delay the flight at least a month and increase project costs some $500,000. 9 And only four weeks remained before Mariner C would claim the launch facilities at the Cape. Any delays, furthermore, would work to the benefit of the Soviet lunar program. No Soviet lunar missions had been recorded since Luna 4 in April 1963. NASA and JPL expected another launch momentarily, and credit for the first closeup pictures of the moonís surface would belong to the first nation to take them. A decision had to be made about the television subsystem - soon.

At mid-month, Schurmeier, who had expanded the investigation of the bag of screws incident, sent his deputy, Gordon Kautz, to Hightstown for a final evaluation. Kautz reviewed all the records and personally interrogated the RCA project participants. "It looked like sabotage...," Kautz later mused, "[but] I had the inherent and intuitive feeling that we didn't have any saboteurs there...I made an assessment that this was indeed an accident - the people were so fatigued back there that this had occurred." As Congress prepared to investigate Project Ranger on April 22, Kautz told Schurmeier his findings and opinion. After a long telephone conversation, Schurmeier agreed that the Ranger 7 television hardware should not be reopened and reinspected. Work was to proceed on schedule. 10

ON THE TRAIL OF RANGER 6

All the same, the fact remained that no one at NASA, JPL, or RCA really understood why the television cameras on Ranger 6 had failed to work. The mystery remained a topic of concern inside the project and out. Cartoonist Chester Gould dispatched detective Dick Tracy and the mechanical genius Diet Smith to the moonís Sea of Tranquility in Smithís "space coupe" to find the answer for themselves (Figure 81).


 

Fig. 81. Dick Tracy Investigates, With Note From Burke to Schurmeier

(Created by Chester Gould © Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate)


Alighting beside debris in the crater formed by Ranger 6, Diet Smith exclaimed: "Itís easy to see why the cameras failed. They were never turned on - look." Holding aloft a tangle of wires, the bemused detective replied: "People won't believe us." Erroneous as the account was, Life magazine remarked, "millions of Americans didnít find it unbelievable at all." 11 Another popular rumor held that NASA and JPL officials had forgotten to take the dust covers off the television camera lenses.

The turn-on of the television subsystem during ascent through the earthís upper atmosphere haunted the JPL project office. Far more painful than Gould's mocking cartoon, however, were the allegations contained in the Hilburn Board report, and its presumption "that two or more failures must have occurred within the spacecraftís TV subsystem." 12 That assertion directly contradicted opinion at JPL and RCA. Even though the formal Ranger 6 investigations had failed to uncover any certain cause, something was responsible, and Schurmeier was determined to know what it was. On March 23, a few days after NASA issued the Hilburn report, he directed the Launch Vehicle Systems Section to continue with the investigation at JPL. 13

Maurice Piroumian, an electrical engineer who had migrated to America from France after World War II, was placed in charge. Suspicions by this time had shifted from the command switch and electronics within the television subsystem to the male pins contained in the external umbilical connector on the Agena nose fairing. This cluster of pins permitted different elements of the television subsystem to be exercised and monitored on external power by means of a plug and extension cord linking the spacecraft to the launch complex. The spacecraft switched to internal power when the plug was pulled away at liftoff, and a small door then swung closed over the pins and latched mechanically. But the pins had been placed very close together, and a "hot" pin connected to the televisionís battery was located 6.4 millimeters (0.25 inch) away from the pin of the sensitive television command circuit. Twenty volts were present on the battery pin, and only 3 volts were needed to actuate the television command circuit and step the switch. The inadvertent turn-on, the engineers now reasoned, had been caused by something bridging the gap between these two pins (Figure 82 ).


 

Fig. 82. Exposed Pins in the Agena Umbilical Connector


During the next few months, Piroumian and his team of JPL engineers, working closely with others at RCA, concentrated on finding that mechanism. Tests were conducted to see if the umbilical door could have warped during the ascent so as to cross the pins, or, in the overcast above the Cape, if electrostatic charge and discharge could have occurred on the surface of the nose fairing, or whether a shock wave of sufficient force to ionize gas had been produced during the staging of the Atlas launch vehicle.

Of the three hypotheses, the shock wave theory was perhaps the most intriguing. It was propounded by Alexander Bratenahl, a physicist in JPLís Space Sciences Division, who had tied it to the peculiar manner of staging of the Atlas launch vehicle. 14 Struck by the simultaneity of the staging sequence and the television turn-on, Bratenahl reasoned that the two events had to be closely linked. Telescopic movie films of other Atlas flights showed a large white cloud momentarily envelop the rockets during main-stage engine shutdown and separation.

Personnel at General Dynamics Astronautics, the Atlas manufacturer, informed the physicist that 112 kilograms (250 pounds) of liquid oxygen were released into the atmosphere when the oxygen lines were severed upon jettisoning the main stage engines. Bratenahlís preliminary calculations indicated that this much liquid oxygen dumped into the upper atmosphere could possibly have generated a blast wave whose mechanical force could "buckle the umbilical door and momentarily short the pins activating the command switch," or whose "ionization effects could have produced a high conductivity region around the pins permitting the shorting." Bratenahl transmitted this supposition, endorsed by Hans Liepmann of Caltechís Aeronautical Department and Robert Mackin of JPLís Space Sciences Division, to Schurmeier in late May. 15

On June 29, Piroumianís investigators presented their findings to the JPL project office. Schurmeier learned that, regrettably, all of the hypotheses had been disproved. Though most RCA and JPL investigators favored the electrostatic charge and discharge thesis, the experimental evidence was inconclusive. The decrease in the dielectric strength of air with altitude made it highly unlikely that appreciable spacecraft voltage could build up at the very high altitude where the turn-on had occurred. Theoretical calculations prepared by James Kendall, Jr., Bratenahlís colleague in the Fluid Physics Section, had proved the shock wave theory false. Lacking a positive cause after weeks of fruitless study, Schurmeier terminated the investigation. 16 Apparently the failure of Ranger 6 was to be relegated to that category of glitches that appear once but can never be duplicated again in the laboratory.

Most scientists and engineers have experienced the tantalizing suspicion that the solution to a problem must lie hidden in the data at hand, and that disquieting state now afflicted Bratenahl. As Ranger 7 proceeded toward its launch, he set aside other duties and pushed on with the investigation alone. He obtained more movie film and had the frames enlarged. Careful restudy of the Atlas separation sequence revealed brilliant luminous flashes sparking within the white cloud of liquid oxygen surrounding the rocket. Another call to General Dynamics in mid-July, and the physicist had his answer.

What he had at first believed to be a shock wave was in fact a powerful detonation flash wave. The severing of the main-stage Atlas engines spilled not only 112 kilograms (250 pounds) of oxidizer into the atmosphere but 67 kilograms (150 pounds) of kerosene as well. The sustainer rocket engine, burning all the while, ignited the vaporized mixture, which rapidly moved forward over the missile at a rate of 180 meters (600 feet) per second. "The spherical shape of the flash wave advancing against a Mach 3.5 flow," Bratenahl observed, "suggests considerable energy in whatever is going on in the flash, otherwise the wave would be badly distorted by this high-velocity flow field." And since the umbilical door was mechanically latched rather than hermetically sealed, and normally bowed outward, there was ample room for the plasma to enter and short the pins. The sequence of Ranger 6 events strongly implied that this was exactly what had happened: The Atlas engines had separated at 140.008 seconds after liftoff; the television subsystem had turned on at 140.498 seconds, coinciding with the advance of the flash wave. A subtle design error in an umbilical connector had cost the project Ranger 6. 17 Were the project still interested, Bratenahl added almost as an afterthought, a few relatively inexpensive experiments could be conducted to confirm this hypothesis. 18

Having satisfied his intellectual curiosity, Bratenahl took his time with the report. The importance of his findings - discrediting as they did the allegations of the Hilburn report - escaped him completely. So did the anxiety that beset other scientists and engineers on the project. Thus, instead of bothering Schurmeier, he sent the memorandum to the Space Sciences Project Representative, Charles Campen, who was busy with preparations to receive and process Ranger 7ís lunar photographs. Delivered shortly after the flight of Ranger 7, Bratenahlís memorandum got buried on Campenís desk, disappeared in the turmoil which followed, and was all but forgotten. 19

PREPARING TO GO AGAIN

When the Congressional hearings drew to a close on May 4, 1964, Schurmeier took stock of the projectís expanded test program and of plans to launch Ranger 7. The spacecraft, returned to JPL from Cape Kennedy, had had its electrical system altered for the RCA payload. The television subsystem, modified, tested, and accepted by the project office, had arrived a few days earlier. 20 Plans for additional spacecraft testing had been outlined during the hearings, but the details remained to be worked out. With the launch set at the end of June, barely seven weeks remained to establish acceptable procedures and conduct the tests. That schedule was too tight. On May 11, Schurmeier requested a delay of four weeks - a move calculated to consume all of the time left before the Mariner Project claimed Launch Complex 12 at the Cape. Homer Newell approved the delay immediately. 21 Now no margin for error and subsequent recovery was available. Should another serious problem be encountered, all of Rangerís flights would be postponed indefinitely.

JPL engineers and NASA personnel ironed out details of the test program for Ranger 7 in mid-May. Besides a "no wire" test, they approved a minimum wire test of Ranger 7 at JPL inside a thermal vacuum chamber. Also, procedures to qualify and conduct a full-power test of the television subsystem with Ranger 7 fully fueled at Cape Kennedy were established. 22 All of this activity would be monitored by the team of NASA engineers appointed earlier by Oran Nicks.

Making doubly certain that the test standards expected were in fact met, Newell created a special ad hoc group to determine Ranger 7ís flightworthiness, authorize its shipment to the Cape, and, finally, approve the launch. Termed the Ranger 7 "Buy-Off" Committee, which meant the acceptance of the vehicle for flight, its membership bespoke the importance Headquarters accorded this mission. Chaired by Newell, the committee consisted of Edgar Cortright, Oran Nicks, Herman LaGow - representing the Hilburn Board - Robert Garbarini, a Newell troubleshooter and director of engineering for the Office of Space Science and Applications, and Francis Smith, Assistant Director of the Langley Research Center. 23 On June 15 and 16, NASAís Buy-Off Committee convened in Pasadena; after a review of the records, the committee members determined that Ranger 7 and its modified television subsystem had met or exceeded established acceptance criteria. The committee authorized JPL to ship Ranger 7 to Cape Kennedy to begin the final round of testing. 24

Rangerís experimenters, meanwhile, chose a lunar target for Ranger 7. Maxime Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development at the Manned Spacecraft Center, had recommended flying Ranger 7 to the identical Ranger 6 impact site so that the freshly-made crater might be observed and the moon's surface hardness extrapolated from the craterís depth. 25 But lighting conditions at that location were no longer acceptable. Using the Willingham-Rindfleisch "figure of merit" scheme, Gerard Kuiper and his experimenter associates selected a target 11 degrees south of the lunar equator, along the northern rim of the Sea of Clouds. Shadow contrast here would be optimum for picture taking; what was more, this little-known mare region appeared suitable for manned landings, and it was traversed by fascinating rays from the crater Copernicus. Apprised of the target, Apollo officials in the Office of Manned Space Flight offered no further comment. 26 Newell approved the selection, and in early July the Ranger experimenters reconvened at JPL to participate in a final series of television tests employing the Ranger proof test model.

The flight hardware had already begun final tests at Cape Kennedy. Ranger 7 completed a second "no cables" test on July 6, whereupon it was moved to the launch complex and mounted atop the Atlas-Agena launch vehicle for countdown tests. Three days later NASAís Buy-Off Committee reconvened at the Cape. After an all-day meeting, committee members agreed that Ranger 7 and its launch vehicle were "flight ready." 27 They authorized the project leaders to proceed toward a launch on July 27, the first opportunity in the five-day launch period. By July 26, all of the Right machinery at the Cape was deemed ready, and so was the new nerve center of the Deep Space Network.

For the first time, command and control would be exercised from the Space Flight Operations Facility at JPL 28 - a three-story, bunker-like, rock and concrete edifice that concealed spacious and functional quarters. Rangerís Space Flight Operations Director Rygh took pride in the new control center and its large operations hub, known as the net control area. Blackboards, pinboards, and makeshift telephone links had disappeared. Instead, teletype printers displayed Ranger's encoded telemetry. Keyboard tape perforators and tape readers interpreted, verified, and dispatched commands. An operations voice control system provided a "hands off" talk and listen capability on the communications nets. Rear projection screens positioned before the controllers displayed pertinent information. Closed-circuit television was available for viewing other data, and for face-to-face discussions with Ranger's experimenters, and guidance and flight analysis teams in nearby rooms (Figure 83). 29


 

Fig. 83. Net Control Area in the New Space Flight Operations Facility


By July 26, the Deep Space Network completed the last net integration and operational preparedness tests. Everything was again ready. But the confidence of early Ranger days was missing, displaced by an unspoken, gnawing anxiety. Had every conceivable test been made? Had contingencies for every mischance been devised? Ranger participants had thought all possibilities of failure eliminated before. Failure this time would mean certain disaster for Ranger, with profound repercussions for JPL and NASA. Virtually every project engineer and scientist harbored his own particular concerns for this mission, including especially Gordon Kautz, beset by second thoughts over the recommendation to proceed without reinspecting all of the electronic modules in the RCA television subsystem. "That recommendation," Kautz recalled looking back over a legion of flight project choices, "was the most significant one I ever made." 30

THE FLIGHT OF RANGER 7

Newsmen from around the world gathered at the JPL auditorium for the launch of Ranger 7 - three days ahead of the scheduled lunar impact. There, closed-circuit television permitted them to view the activity in the nearby control center. George Nichols, replacing Downhower as the voice of Ranger 7, kept the newsmen posted on the status of launch operations at Cape Kennedy. Across the country, in the marble and glass NASA Headquarters building in Washington, the small sixth-floor auditorium was again equipped to receive Nichols' account for assembled officials and visiting dignitaries.

At 6:47 am EDT on July 27, 1964, countdown for the launch of Ranger 7 began. Newsmen were apprised of steady progress to meet the day's launch window, which extended from 12:32 to 2:42 pm. Schurmeier monitored events from the new control center at JPL, while project engineer Wolfe replaced him at the Cape. The project manager, it had been decided, could ill afford to spend any time on a plane returning to the West Coast after the launch when he might well be needed for important decisions. Fifty-one minutes before liftoff, Atlas personnel called a hold to replace a faulty telemetry battery. After an hourís delay the count resumed, but halted again when engineers detected a malfunction in the Atlas ground guidance equipment. This problem was not so easily resolved, and at 2:20 pm George Nichols told his audiences: "We are sorry to announce the launch for July 27 has been scrubbed." Though the weather at Cape Kennedy remained favorable for another launch attempt the next day, the unexpected postponement seemed a bad omen.

On Tuesday morning, July 28, the countdown recommenced at Launch Complex 12 and proceeded smoothly. Exactly at 12:50 pm EDT, just a few seconds into the launch window, Altas 250D roared to life and, slowly gathering momentum, bore Ranger 7 upward into clear Florida skies (Figure 84).


 

Fig. 84. Launch of Ranger 7


When the Atlas mainstage engines shut down and were jettisoned a few minutes later, the booster was enveloped by the resultant detonation wave. Rangerís telemetry continued without perturbation; the television subsystem appeared to be safe and operating properly. Above Antigua, Agena B 6009 separated from the Atlas and ignited its engine, inserting the craft into the prescribed elliptical earth orbit. Shortly thereafter the tracking station on Ascension Island reported all was well as the vehicle arced eastward over the South Atlantic. At 1:20 pm, over the West Coast of South Africa, the Agena engine fired again, injecting the spacecraft onto its lunar trajectory. The deep space station at Johannesberg reported separation of the spacecraft from its carrier rocket: Ranger 7 was on its way to the moon.

As flight controllers set to work determining the trajectory and comparing it to the one desired, Ranger 7 extended its solar panels and high-gain antenna, and acquired the sun and earth. Later in the afternoon, Pickering, Parks, and Schurmeier met with newsmen to answer questions and inform them personally of the mission's progress. The launch vehicles, Pickering said, had placed Ranger 7 on a very accurate trajectory which, if no adjustments were made, would cause the spacecraft to graze the leading edge of the moon and impact on the backside. Commands for the midcourse maneuver, to correct the flight path toward the target in the moonís Sea of Clouds, were to be radioed to Ranger at 3:00 am PDT the following morning. Though many hours still remained before this mission was over, the JPL officials were now willing to concede a 50-50 chance of success. "But the memory of the letdown in the final minutes with Ranger 6," Richard Witkin reported in the New York Times, "was too fresh for anyone here to feel very confident." 31

Early Wednesday morning, on July 29, the coded maneuver commands were transmitted to Goldstone in the Mojave desert and relayed to Ranger 7. At the appointed hour the spacecraft responded, rolling and pitching into the desired attitude. Rangerís midcourse engine ignited at 3:27 am PDT, slowing the spacecraft and correcting its course to bring it down on the moon at a planned 21 degrees West Longitude, 11 degrees South Latitude, in the Sea of Clouds. At JPL pleased flight controllers awaited the tracking data that would be used to predict the precise point of impact. A few hours later Pickering, Parks, and Schurmeier met again with newsmen in the JPL auditorium. Ranger 7ís midcourse maneuver had gone flawlessly, the elated project manager announced; "there have been no anomalies whatever from launching up to now." The craft, he said, would crash almost exactly on target at 6:25 am PDT Friday morning. Would the television cameras work this time, a newsman asked. "Very definitely," Schurmeier responded. "It is still a long time until Friday," Pickering hastened to interject, but he agreed that the worst hurdles were over, and the odds for success had improved measurably, perhaps to 80-20 instead of 50-50. 32

Cruise operations continued without a hitch on Thursday, with telemetry confirming Ranger 7s health. Project experimenters, led by Gerard Kuiper, had by now convened in the experimentersí room at the JPL control center, where they watched flight controllers nearby, and kept their fingers crossed. Newell, Cortright, and Nicks boarded a plane for Pasadena, there to join Pickering, Schurmeier, and Cunningham for the final phases of the mission. In Washington, others would "listen-in" at JPL inside the auditorium at NASA Headquarters. Lunar impact, Washington time, would occur at a respectable 9:25 am, and a number of Congressmen had indicated their intention to join NASA officials and reporters on this occasion. With James Webb on a long-delayed vacation overseas, George E. Simpson, NASA Assistant Deputy Administrator, agreed to host this gathering on the East Coast.

Rangerís engineers and scientists, on duty or off, got little sleep Thursday night. By 6:00 am PDT on Friday morning, July 31, Newell, Cortright, and Pickering had taken their places in the visitorsí gallery in the Space Flight Operations Facility. Below and in front of them, flight controllers at their consoles monitored Ranger 7ís incoming telemetry. Directly beneath them in a small project office, Schurmeier and Rygh supervised the final events in the life of Ranger 7. Unlike the preceding flight, the television cameras were to begin warmup twenty minutes before impact instead of eighteen, and the period for warmup had been halved, from three minutes to ninety seconds (Figure 85).


 

Fig. 85. Newell, Pickering, and Cortright Confer at the Flight Control Center early on July 31, 1964


As Ranger 7 neared the moon, the attitude of the spacecraft with respect to the surface was determined to be acceptable for picture taking. As before, Kuiper advised Schurmeier that Rangerís experimenters wished nothing done to jeopardize its chances. Schurmeier agreed; no terminal maneuver to improve picture resolution would be attempted. At 6:07 am, George Nichols informed tense newsmen and JPL employees packed into the auditorium that the command to warm up Rangerís two full-scan television cameras had been radioed to the spacecraft. Ninety seconds later he reported excitedly: full video power "strong and clear" on the full-scan cameras. Applause erupted from the audience. In the control center, standing behind. the flight controllers with Kautz and NASAís director of physics and astronomy programs John Naugle, Cunningham was ecstatic. "Itís too soon," Kautz warned. These pictures would be no better than the ones obtained from earth-based telescopes. Naugle nodded, yes, wait.

They did not have long to wait. The command to warm up the four partial-scan cameras equipped with telephoto lenses quickly followed at 6:10 am. Another ninety seconds, and Nichols relayed the news from Goldstone: full video power was reported on the partial-scan cameras. Inside the auditorium, applause turned to cheers (Figure 86).


 

Fig. 86. Cheering


Thereafter, Nichols raced to keep pace with what looked to be burgeoning success: "Twelve minutes before impact, excellent video signals continue ... Ten minutes . . . no interruption of excellent video signals. All cameras appear to be functioning ... all recorders at Goldstone are Ďgoí... Seven minutes ... all cameras continue to send excellent signals Five minutes from impact... video signals still continue excellent. Everything is Ďgo,í as it has been since launch... Three minutes... no interruption, no trouble... Two minutes... all systems operating. Preliminary analysis shows pictures being received at Goldstone... One minute to impact... Excellent..., Excellent... Signals to the end... IMPACT!" The hum of Rangerís chromatic telemetry inside the auditorium abruptly ceased at 6:25 am PDT. The soft hiss of space static that replaced it was drowned by the roar of approval from newsmen and employees alike. Papers in the air; amid the shouts of many, a few openly wept. (Figure 87). 33


 

Fig. 87. And Weeping


At the Space Flight Operations Facility, controllers abandoned their consoles for handshakes, backslapping, and more papers in the air. It was bedlam. Rygh left the project booth and made his way through the jubilant throng to a colleague, Bert Dickinson, who, probably more than anyone else, knew the meaning of every Ranger telemetry measurement. They shook hands silently. "I was," Rygh recalled, "emotionally choked up, and I donít get that way often." "For Bud and Jim Burke, Gordon Kautz, and those of us who had lived Ranger for so long, it was kind of a spiritual happening." 34 For all the Ranger leadership, no other space flight mission at JPL would quite duplicate the sensation.

NASA and JPL project leaders soon left the net control area and adjourned to the experimentersí room, where the elated scientists eagerly awaited delivery from Goldstone of the first closeup pictures of the moon. Rangerís past trials, the frequent differences between scientists and engineers, even institutional relationships and the Congressional investigation, all were forgotten. Several cases of champagne that Schurmeier had purchased for the flight of Ranger 6 were broken open now, and together engineers and scientists toasted Project Ranger. Whatever their individual feelings at that moment, they could be sure of one thing: Ranger 7 was a resounding, a crashing success. 35


Chapter 16  link to the previous page        link to the next page  Chapter 18

Chapter Seventeen - 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. Interview of Gordon Kautz by Cargill Hall, December 17, 1971, p. 6 (2-2246); and interview of Edgar Cortright by Cargill Hall and Eugene Emme, March 4, 1968, p. 10 (2-762).

2. Interview of Kautz by Hall, December 17, 1971, p. 4 ( 2-2246).

3. JPL Interoffice Memo from Harris Schurmeier to Distribution, subject: "Organization for Special Efforts on TV Subsystem, " February 27, 1964 (2-1830).

4. JPL Interoffice Memo from Donald Kindt to Distribution, subject: "Assignment of Ranger TV Subsystem Project Engineer Deputy," March 20, 1964 (2-1835).

5. Interview of Kautz by Hall, December 17, 1971, P. 5 (2-2246); and JPL Interoffice Memo from Harris Schurmeier to Ranger Block III Project Distribution List, subject: "AED/JPL Failure Report System for the IN Subsystem," March 25, 1964 (2-1836).

6. NASA memorandum from Oran Nicks to William Cunningham, subject: "Test and Operations Program for Ranger Spacecraft," March 19, 1964 (2-392).

7. TWX from Harris Schurmeier to Seymour Himmel, et al., March 11, 1964, p. 2 (2-1833); and Official NASA Flight Schedule of April 14, 1964, p. I (2-968).

8. Letter from R. E. Hogan to Harris Schurmeier, subject: "Ranger Camera Electronics Unit 103 8 Investigation, " April 23, 1964, p. 1 (2-1851).

9. Interview of Kautz by Hall, December 17, 197 1, p. 9 (2-2246).

10. Ibid.; and TWX from Harris Schurmeier to William Cunningham, subject: "Bag of Hardware Incident," June 11, 1964 (2-2606).

11. Chester Gould, Washington Post, May 21, 1964, p. C 11; and Jim Hicks, "Many a Slip 'Twixt Earth and Moon-and Measles Too," Life, August 14, 1964, p. 36a.

12. See "A Public Accounting" in Chapter Sixteen of this volume.

13. "Ranger Launch Vehicle Integration Summary," rough draft of JPL ED333, December 27, 1964 (2-2080).'

14. See "Planning the Ascent" in Chapter Six of this volume.

15. JPL Interoffice Memo from Alexander Bratenahl to Harris Schurmeier, subject: "A Possible Cause of the Accidental Turn-on of the RA-6 TV," May 26, 1964 (2-923).

16. JPL Interoffice Memo from Maurice Pirournian to Distribution, subject: "Presentation on Ranger Investigations Concerning Launch to Injection Environment," June 25, 1964 (2-1865).

17. Again, as in the case of Ranger 4 (see "One More Time" in Chapter Ten of this volume), mechanical and electrical reactions in the strange environment of space had not been foreseen. 18. JPL Interoffice Memo from Alexander Bratenahl to Charles Campen, subject: "Current Thinking on Effects of Booster Separation as Cause of Accidental Turn-on of RA-6 TV, July 30, 1964 (2-2084).

18. There is no entry 18 in the text.

19. As Bratenahl later explained "Schurmeier already had fixed the problem with the positive lock-out of the television subsystem [during ascent through the atmosphere], so I was certain Ranger 7 would work. Besides, it seemed improper to bother him at such a busy time. " Interview of Alexander Bratenahl by Cargill Hall, August 25, 1970 (2-2192); see also, JPL Interoffice Memo from Robert Mackin to Robert Meghreblian, subject: "Electrostatic Charging of Launch Vehicles During Ascent" February 2, 1965 (2-2085).

20. NASA memorandum from William Cunningham to Edgar Cortright, subject: "Ranger 7 Television Subsystem Redesign, Rework, and Test at RCA, May 6, 1964, p. 4 (2-1856).

21. TWX from William Pickering to Homer Newell, subject: " Ranger 'B' Schedule," May 11, 1964 (2-1858a); TWX from Homer Newell to William Pickering, May 12, 1964 (2-1858b).

22. TWX from Harris Schurmeier to William Cunningham, May 18, 1964 (2-1859); TWX from Harris Schurmeier to William.Cunningham, May 20, 1964 (2-1860); and TWX from Homer Newell to William Pickering, May 21, 1964 (2-2452).

23. NASA memorandum from Homer Newell to Distribution, subject: "NASA Buy-Off for Ranger 7, " May 25, 1964 (2-1727).

24. Oran W. Nicks, " Report of OSSA Buy-off Committee on Ranger, B Spacecraft Preshipment Meeting of June 15-16, 1964, " attachment to the NASA memorandum from Homer Newell to Robert Seamans, subject: "Actions Taken by OSSA in Response to the 'Final Report' of the Ranger VI Review Board," July 25, 1964 (2-1971b); and letter from Homer Newell to William Pickering, June 17, 1964 (2-157).

25. NASA memorandum from Maxime Faget to Willis Foster, subject: "Estimated Size of Ranger 6 Impact Crater and Recommendations for Subsequent Ranger Flight Missions," March 13, 1964 (2-393).

26. Interview of Thomas Vrebalovich by Cargill Hall, June 11, 1974, p. 6 (2-2465).

27. NASA memorandum from Homer Newell to Robert Seamans, subject: "Ranger B Status Review, " July 10, 1964 (2-2471c).

28. See "Space Flight Operations" in Chapter Five of this volume.

29. Nicholas A. Renzetti, Tracking and Data Acquisition for Ranger Missions 6-9 (JPL TM 33-275. Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, September 13; 1966 ), p. 47.

30. Interview of Kautz by Hall, December 17, 1971, P. 9 (2 - 2246).

31. Richard Witkin, " Ranger 7 on Course for & Moon, " The New York Times, July 29, 1964, p. 13; also, Dave Swaim, "Jet Lab Personnel on Watch: Tension Grows at Blastoff, " Star News [Pasadena], July 28, 1964, p. 1; and Marvin Miles, "U.S. Spacecraft Heading for Impact with Moon," Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1964, Part I, p. 1.

32. "Ranger 7 Glides on Target: JPL Believes Success Near, " Star News [Pasadena], July 30, 1964, p. 1; Richard Witkin, "Ranger 7 Re-Aimed for Moon's Bull's-Eye, " The New York Times, July 30, 1964, pp. 1, 4; and Marvin Miles, "Perfect Strike for Moon Shot Seen," Los Angeles Times, July M, 1964, Part I, p. 1.

33. Nichols' recounting as cited in Marvin Miles, Ranger Gets Spectacular Photos," Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1964, Part 1, p. 3.

34. Telephone interview of Patrick Rygh by Cargill Hall, January 21, 1975.

35. Ranger 7 mission events and performance as described in Space Programs Summary No. 37-29, Volume I for the period July 1, 1964, to August 31, 1964 (Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, December 15, 1964), Part 1: "Mission Description and Performance"; Ranger 7 Log, compiled November 4, 1964 (2-2431 ); and Raymond L. Heacock, Bernard P. Miller, and Harris M. Schurmeier, The Ranger VII Mission (Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, n.d) (2-1798); Renzetti, Tracking andj Data Acquisition for Ranger Missions 6-9; Space Flight Operations Memorandum, Ranger 7 (Engineering Planning Document 242. Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, October 12, 1964).


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