SP-4310 Way Station to Space

 

- Chapter 6 -

Testing Saturn

 

 

[93] A New Task Force

The final push toward readiness for static-testing the big Saturn V rocket stages was well under way in early 1965. New leaders and thousands of additional helpers arrived to rush the lunar landing project through its Mississippi way station. Long before the last booster rocket's red glare was seen, the new space complex began changing direction. This change was led by innovative NASA test site manager Jackson Balch, who teamed with concerned politicians to take drastic steps to save the testing installation from oblivion in the Hancock County swamp.1

 

Shifting Into High Gear

The schedule slippages in both the Mississippi test site construction phase and the manufacturing of the Saturn V second stage (S-ll) at Seal [94] Beach, California, caused von Braun, his Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) engineers, and NASA Headquarters managers to reassess the entire S-ll test program.2

The reassessment began in December 1964 and continued until February 1965. After a three-month review, von Braun recommended to Major General Sam Phillips, director of the Apollo program, the reworking of the Sell test program plans to make up for some of the slippages. Phillips then set into motion a series of shortcuts designed to get the Sell program back on track. These shortcuts caused significant changes at the Mississippi facility, including transfer of the All-Systems Test Stage (S-IT-T) with its Ground Support Equipment (GSE) from Seal Beach to the facility.3

In order to slingshot the test facility into operation, the MSFC decided to accelerate the entire program in Mississippi. Marion Kent was sent down from the MSFC by von Braun to inform the local residents of the NASA change of plans. A well-known and respected administrator, Kent advised local community leaders of an increase in new personnel as the test site moved into a "new phase of operation." Captain Fortune invited community leaders from Picayune, Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Pass Christian, Long Beach, and Gulfport, Mississippi, and from Slidell, Louisiana, and members of the local media to a meeting in the unfinished Engineering end Administration Building (Bldg. 1100).4

Rumors that a big acceleration was in the making increased interest in and attendance at the community meeting. A few days before, NASA held a "technical meeting" to review the S-II situation and get "their ducks in a row." Eberhard Rees, Karl Heimburg, Captain Fortune, and other MSFC officials were present at the technical meeting, as were some 90 persons representing GE, North American Aviation (NAA), Boeing, the Corps of Engineers, and several subcontractors.5

[95] The scheduled community meeting and national headlines about Soviet successes no doubt fueled the rumor mills. The day before the community meeting. Charlie Nutter, editor of the Picayune (Mississippi) Item, ran a page one story with a headline that read "It's Go, Go, Go At MTO!" The story stated that the lunar landing program was suddenly shifted into "very high gear." Nutter concluded that the "go button" had been mashed down hard and that "all systems [were] go from Washington to Devil's Swamp in Mississippi."6

Actually, the acceleration was the result of months of investigation by von Braun's MSFC group and NASA Headquarters managers. Certainly, the long-range objective was to beat the Soviets to the Moon, but the recent Soviet progress was not the reason for the rush to get the Mississippi site into operation. Instead, the immediate rush was an attempt to get the lunar landing program back on schedule. The community leaders anticipated the meeting with great apprehension, because they were already experiencing a boom of immense proportions, with 40 new permanent families arriving every day. The possibility of an even greater population acceleration was a matter of deep concern.7

Captain Fortune's community meeting at the bustling test facility was intended to announce one of the fastest community expansions in the country, similar to those experienced in and around cities housing defense plants during World War II. At the last minute, however, NASA Headquarters had not completed its review of the new MSFC activation plan that outlined when the influx of new personnel would begin arriving. The community meeting went ahead as planned, with Kent and Captain Fortune "winging it" with the data they had.8

Most of the community leaders and local media came to the meeting believing they would learn reliable details of the rumored acceleration timetable. Some even anticipated that new programs beyond Apollo, such as "Nova," might be announced by Kent. An accomplished speaker with a pleasing personality, Kent acknowledged that plans were not quite complete, and [96] the "numbers" would be announced in a "couple of weeks, around May 1." He indicated that the number of permanent personnel would be increased, with additional personnel brought in to speed up the testing program.9

Kent spent his time at the meeting showing community growth charts. presenting results of his impact area studies, and making personal observations on community needs. At the time of the meeting (17 April 1965), the test facility personnel count was 3,48(). Before the meeting was adjourned Captain Fortune showed slides depicting the $100 million construction that was under way and said that he wanted to "dispel rumors in the communities about further land acquisitions." He stated that the government paid more than $16 million for purchase of the fee area land and the buffer zone easement, a figure higher than had been anticipated. In tact, the total land acquisition cost was $21.5 million. Area residents continued to remain sensitive about additional lands that NASA might seek to meet the needs of an accelerated program.10

NASA announced on 6 May 1965 the initiation of an accelerated program for testing the S-II rocket. The readiness of the Mississippi facility, and, specifically, the first of the two S-II test stands (A-2). was considered by NASA a "pacing item" for the entire Apollo/Saturn V program. The new employment projections were also announced. Fifteen-hundred new engineers and technicians would arrive for work at the facility within two months, placing the total population at 5,501 by 1 July 1965-a 37 percent increase in personnel. NASA also stated that it was reorganizing several groups at the MSFC that were involved with planning, construction, and general activation of the Mississippi site. With this reorganization, however, there came an unexpected, major shakeup in the management of the developing installation.11

NASA was careful in its news release not to highlight the significant slippages that led to a newly developed management program. Rather. NASA emphasized that the Mississippi facility had "[entered] the final phase of preparation" and thought that an increase in the number of persons working at the site ''[would] result mainly from the movement into the area of a greater [97] number of employees who [were to] install equipment and operate the facility." The new employees were called "Activation and Operation (A&O)" personnel. NASA referred to those engaged in work generally carried out by the Corps as "Construction and Installation (C&I)" personnel. For a time, both types of workers would be employed at the site.12

The increase in personnel was overwhelming to the weary onsite NASA team that had to plan and provide additional workspace, "roads and commodes," and administrative support. To say the least, community leaders were in a state of shock when they heard they must prepare for hundreds of additional "permanent residents coming to their communities. However, NASA did promise some relief. Their projections suggested that the A&O and C&l workloads would hit their peaks by 30 December 1965. Then there would be a steady drop of C&I employees after that, until the base stabilized with 3,165 A&O personnel by 30 June 1967. By that date, the Sell and S-IC rocket testing would be routine. NASA's projection proved to be extremely accurate. The total site population hit its peak a bit earlier than predicted, with 6,114 workers on site in August 1965 and 4,701 actual workers onsite in December 1965.13

NASA announced that Fortune would continue as manager of the Mississippi Test Operations (MTO), "pending organizational arrangements" necessary to carry out the increased scope of activation and operations. NASA also assigned Jackson Balch, assistant to the MSFC assistant deputy director, (technical) to the MSFC Industrial Operations organization and gave him the dual titles of MTO Site Manager and head of the MTO Task Force.14

However, on 10 June 1965, von Braun announced that Fortune had been assigned the task of ''[evaluating] modes of cooperation between the main elements of the government-industry Saturn rocket team." Von Braun said, "Captain Fortune's task in Mississippi has been rewarding and challenging. His new mission, to point out areas where the cooperation within the successful government team can be made even more effective for future uses of our Saturn super-rocket, is equally as challenging."15

Von Braun was accurate in his assessment of Fortune, but perhaps Fortune's greatest contribution came as an excellent good will ambassador for [98] NASA during the MTO's formative years in Mississippi. The gentleman captain made many lasting relationships with leaders on the Gulf Coast, with the state government at Jackson, Mississippi, and with the important Mississippi congressional delegation. Jackson Balch said on one occasion that Fortune was charged with developing good community relations in the area, and "he did just that for a period of three years."16

 

The Balch Era Begins

The appointment of Jackson Balch as NASA's MTO site manager and head of the new MTO Task Force ushered in a unique era in NASA's bureaucratic history. Balch's tenure was one of great triumphs and grim tragedies, described by his closest associates as "the best of times. . . the worst of times." From the testing of giant Saturn rocket stages that sent Americans to the Moon, Balch led men and women on a 10-year quest to accomplish an "impossible dream" by creating a crossroads of science that became respected across the country and as far away as the Soviet Union.17

Before Balch retired, as many as 18 federal and state scientific agencies were sharing ideas, projects, and laboratories at the testing facility. These agencies were engaged in exploration of sciences dealing with space, oceans, and the Earth. Governmental, political, and scientific leaders came to study and participate in the new-wave research and development facility on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Before the multiagency installation could be born, Balch and his staff resorted to extraordinary measures. They enlisted the aid of Senator Stennis and other powerful politicians, community leaders, and members of the press to help accomplish their goal of a multiagency installation.18

Balch, born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, the son of a prominent educator and diplomat, was invariably seen at the Mississippi site wearing one of his favorite. conservative, multicolored school ties. Balch grew up and...

 


[
99]

Jackson M. Balch, a native of Huntsville, AL, and assistant to Dr. Wernher von Braun, was named manager of the Mississippi Test Operations in 1965.

Jackson M. Balch, a native of Huntsville, AL, and assistant to Dr. Wernher von Braun, was named manager of the Mississippi Test Operations in 1965. Known as the architect of the SSC multiagency concept, Balch served as manager/director until 1975. (SSC Portrait File-97-030).

 

...was educated in several foreign countries, giving him an international flair in his mannerisms and his thought processes. He received a bachelor of arts degree with a major in civil engineering from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. He was very proud of his undergraduate degree and said Trinity provided him access to a "liberal education" with an emphasis in engineering. He then received a master of arts degree from the University of North Carolina and completed graduate studies in industrial engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most NASA managers of his era held degrees in engineering, with a smaller number having majors in the various sciences. Few, however, had as broad (liberal) an education as Balch.19

Balch was well-prepared for the formidable task as MTO manager. He had served as an aide-de-camp to General Douglas McArthur near the end of World War II. At the time von Braun named him to the post in Mississippi, he was a colonel in the Alabama National Guard and a Commanding Officer of the 142nd Signal Group in Huntsville. He was proud of his military education, especially his studies at the War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Balch said he learned a great deal about "intelligence" work at Maxwell.20

[100] Roy Estess, one of Balch's most trusted staff members who later became director of the Mississippi facility, described Balch as a "strategic thinker and a tactician." Estess, in offering an excellent description of Balch's management style, states that "while he was an engineer, he didn't think that way. As he was fighting the war to save this place, he would set up dominoes all over the room, one at a time. And you [would] look out there and say, 'Why is he doing that. That domino makes no sense out there. It's not connected anywhere.' And we'd go along for six or eight months and we'd see him set [up] these things, and all of a sudden one day he'd push them over, and every one of them would tall down." Further evidence of Balch's military approach can be found in the fact that he heavily relied on Major General John Medaris, one of his military mentors, whom he asked to serve as a management consultant on several occasions.21

In addition to Balch's cosmopolitan education and his military background, he gained invaluable experience serving in top management positions with the Army and with NASA at Huntsville. Balch served under Medaris as deputy chief of the Research Projects Office at the Army Ordnance Missile Command. He joined NASA as an assistant to Heimburg in MSFC's Test Division and was appointed assistant deputy director, Technical Division, under von Braun.22

Balch moved his wife Janet and their six children from Huntsville to an antebellum home overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in historic Pass Christian, Mississippi. This move represented a big step for Balch and his family. As a result, he brought a new, determined commitment to the MTO that was destined to play a significant role in the direction and history of the Mississippi space center.23

The need to ready the Mississippi facility for Apollo testing was so crucial to America's lunar landing program, NASA pulled out all stops and authorized von Braun to temporarily send his finest personnel to Mississippi as part of the new MTO Task Force. This included the chiefs and directors of contracts, legal, labor relations, communications, administration, facilities, and [101] technical support. Heimburg, Tessman, and a host of other key MSFC personnel joined the Task Force for extended temporary duty at the Mississippi site. Von Braun took these steps to strengthen the Task Force for three primary reasons: (1) to put complete decision-making ability on site, thus stopping all conflicts in the chain of command: (2) to provide Balch with the very best advice that the MSFC had to otter; and (3) to expedite formation of a strong organization to complete construction of the site and monitor testing of the Saturn rockets.24

 

Unique MTF Organization Created

At the same time, activation phase manager Gordon Artley, who accomplished similar tasks for the Air Force, continued to move out with his organization, using innovative techniques in contracting and budgeting to bring in the hundreds of new personnel needed by the support and stage contractors-GE, NAA, and Boeing-to complete installation and activation of the test stands and to begin testing the S-II and S-IC Saturn rocket stages. In the new organization, Artley was named assistant to the manager for activation, but, for all practical purposes, Artley was "in charge" of the activation phase. The first charter, developed in 1965, stated that Artley was to "[activate] the Mississippi Test Facility within approved policies and management decision of the manager." Balch, in conjunction with the MTO Task Force and General O'Connor, the MSFC Head of Industrial Operations, and with von Braun's constant attention, directed most of his efforts into structuring an operational organization.25

Balch told historian Roger Bilstein that during the activation phase, the construction and testing activities merged to the point that the first test firings were conducted while construction was still under way. At the time, Balch observed that "we're sure this is the only way to do it, but for the next year we'll be riding with one toot on each of two galloping horses."26

[102] The onsite Task Force corrected a small, but annoying, administrative matter when it announced, 6 June 1965, that the MSFC's MTO would be known in the future as the MSFC Mississippi Test Facility (MTF). This, apparently, was a victory over proponents of the MTO designation. The confusion over the names had been such that the local newspaper ran a humorous story commenting about the bureaucratic haggling over the site's name. The story said, "NASA's MTO now should be known as NASA's MSFC MTF, but don't fret, it's still in Hancock County at Gainesville." The MSFC announcement of the official name change also included a name change for the Michoud plant, changing it to the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) to make the sister components compatible in name, as well as organizational channels. However, many other changes of greater significance were in the making with the new onsite Task Force deeply engaged in its mission.27

As the Corps turned over more facilities to Artley's activation team, the installation and checkout of the technical systems needed for testing the Saturn rocket stages increased the team's workload. Hundreds of engineers and technicians began arriving to swell the MTF workforce. In June 1965, NASA announced that 4,619 workers were on site, a number that was "on schedule" with the projections made in the 6 May 1965 announcement. A breakdown of personnel figures showed GE, most involved with activation work, with 1,146 employees. NAA, with more S-II test team members on site, had 333 people. NASA, with Balch and his onsite Task Force, had 84 civil service workers on its permanent employee list.28

The activation and operation personnel came in so fast that NASA simply had no place for them. The buildings on the site were being rapidly completed, but the large numbers of personnel were not expected when NASA planned its administrative and laboratory space. As it turned out, this dilemma for NASA proved to be a plus for the business sections of at least three nearby communities. GE leased a garment plant in Picayune and placed 450 management and clerical workers in the 50,000-square-foot facility.

[103] Across the Pearl River in Slidell, Louisiana, NAA rented two floors of a new Office building and located 80 employees there. Special cleaning of the cryogenic valves was done in a warehouse in Gulfport until space became available at the site.29

 

Anatomy Of A Rocket Team

The new employees formed an unusual team, with members coming from all walks of life and all parts of the country. The NASA employees were largely from the Deep South and the majority of personnel in the NASA-MTF group had roots in Mississippi and returned to their home state when given the opportunity. Many had been employed at the MSFC in Huntsville, and they kept their eyes on the Mississippi project when it first materialized.30

GE brought together technical and managerial personnel from such areas as Lynn, Massachusetts, and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. NAA imported most of its test people from their West Coast aerospace complex near Los Angeles. Many of these employees were reluctant to leave their California lifestyle and had to be lured to Mississippi with special bonuses referred to as "Swamp Pay." Boeing brought engineers from the Seattle, Washington, vicinity. These personnel were joined by numerous local hires from Louisiana and Mississippi. Senator Stennis insisted that local people be hired for as many jobs as possible. When this diverse crew began working together, a professional respect for each other developed and helped forge an unusual and highly effective space team.31

The small NASA civil service management group that directed the hybrid government-contractor team was never expected to become a large organization similar to the MSFC, the Johnson Space Center, or the Kennedy Space Center, but an "extension" of the MSFC Test Division, with support from various offices and laboratories in Huntsville. Heimburg never wanted another test organization to compete with the MSFC. In addition, NASA was pleased [104] to tell the Congress that, nationally, the Space Agency did "about 90 percent" of its business with private industry."

The function of the NASA-MTF group was officially stated in a new charter developed by Balch and the MSFC Task Force and signed by von Braun. The charter placed the MTF directly under O'Connor's MSFC Industrial Operations organization. The charter stated that the purpose of the MTF was to "organize, manage, and coordinate MSFC responsibility at the Mississippi Test Facility in the management and direction of stage and support contractors' performance of assignment, developmental. and acceptance testing, checkout, refurbishment, and service support programs." The directions contained in the charter clearly placed the management of the MTF under Balch and his new NASA-MTF organization. Furthermore, the document gave the MTF control of "the complete activation of the site to include its initial integrated operations." 33

Balch went to the chalkboard on numerous occasions to brief official visitors on his version of the MTF management concept. He lectured that "We have provided a government-owned, contractor-operated place [the MTF] for the stage contractors [ NAA and Boeing I to bring their product and demonstrate it to NASA, according to strict, government contract specifications. The General Electric Company, our stage contractor, furnishes technical and base support and gathers the data. NASA monitors these tests, analyzes the data, and issues flight worthiness certificates if the stage performs according to its contract specifications. It is at this point that NASA, on behalf of the government, accepts the product. This is why we call what we do acceptance testing."34

In addition to NASA and its support and stage contractors, there were 30 prime- and 250 sub-contractor companies during the summer of 1965 getting ready for the first test. On the critical A-2 test stand, where the S-II rocket was to be tested, there were 20 different companies engaged in a variety of work.35

The workers, toiling both day and night on the construction and activation of the facility, were not the only personnel with a keen interest in timely completion of the MTF. NASA Administrator Webb brought his advisory [105] consultants to view the progress; with the group of aerospace giants was national space hero, Colonel John Glenn-the first American to orbit the Earth on 20 February 1962. Others in the Webb group were Dr. Arthur Raymond' Rand Corp.; General Charles P. Cabell, United States Air Force; Dr. C. Stark Draper, head of the aeronautics and astronautics department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); General James McCormack, vice-president, MIT; John D. Young, deputy associate administrator, NASA Headquarters Administration; Brian Duff, public affairs office, NASA Headquarters; Harry Gorman, deputy director, MSFC Administration; and Bart J. Slattery, Jr., director of Public Affairs, MSFC. Others who joined the important visitors were Dr. George Mueller, associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF); von Braun; and General O'Connor.36

As the prestigious group was about to walk out to an open area atop the 300-foot-tall S-IC test stand, a typical coastal thunderstorm produced a shower of lightning bolts all around the structure. The ominous display from the heavens prompted von Braun to quip, "Maybe we shouldn't all go out together with all this lightning around-the leadership of America's space program is up here!''37

The focus of the space flight program was on the work frantically under way at the MTF. The pressure was felt by the workers, as well as the managers, as they pushed on toward the first rocket test to prove the site's operational status. In missile program terminology, the first static engine test was referred to as the "long pole" or the principal structure supporting the schedule for the lunar landing program.38

 

Hardware Arrives, Countdown Starts

NASA-MTF Manager Jackson Balch went public in a press conference on 10 August 1965 and set 2 January 1966 as the date for the first static firing of a Saturn rocket stage at the site. Balch qualified the date of the first firing [106] by calling the feat a ''hair-raiser." Artley took advantage of a target date for the test-firing and placed ' countdown clocks" (signs that were changed daily) all over the site as constant reminders of his activation team's task.39

The arrival of the first "space hardware" on 28 June 1965 was another stimulus for the workers rallying toward the first test. The hardware was built by NAA at the NASA Seal Beach, California. plant; it came in the form of a curious-looking, huge steel spool called the Sell simulator, or "fit-up fixture." The simulator had the same dimensions, weight, and attachment fittings as a "real" Sell rocket stage. For use to check out the test stand operational capability, it would also be used for a dress rehearsal by the workers to prepare for the Saturn rocket test-stage arrival. Indeed, the simulator's arrival by barge was the first use of the huge navigation lock, and it proved the feasibility of the 7.5-mile canal system. The NASA "Navy" personnel operating the marine systems-tugs, propellant and stage barges, lock, and canal-proved they had the expertise they needed.40

Two setbacks from the "school of hard knocks" occurred in the late summer and tall of 1965-Hurricane Betsy slammed into the Mississippi-Louisiana Gulf Coast on 10 September 1965. and a fixed crane on the A-2 test stand was ripped off during a load test, even before the Sell simulator could be mounted for checkout.41

Hurricane Betsy caused major damage and killed 76 people. Although the MTF escaped the wrath of the storm, 100-mile-per-hour winds scattered any construction equipment not tied down. The MTF was used as a shelter by some 350 Hancock County residents who found their NASA hosts accommodating and the strongly built facilities a sate haven from the hurricane. The NASA-MTF became a valued member of the Gulf Coast Civil Defense Team with its availability of communications and heavy emergency equipment.42

Shortly after Hurricane Betsy blew inland, leaving destruction, death, and debris in her wake, the first Saturn stage rocket arrived. The NAA all-systems, [107] second-stage test vehicle, the S-II-T. arrived on site 17 October 1965 after a 4,000-mile, 14-day ocean voyage from Seal Beach, California. The "T-Bird," as the test team called the stage, was the largest liquid hydrogen rocket ever built. The big barrel-looking Saturn V second stage was 81.5 feet long and 33 feet in diameter. The test stage simulated the real rocket in every respect and was built to prove the design and integrity of the rocket under maximum static test conditions. Another mission for the S-II-T was to check out the A-2 test stand and its supporting technical systems.43

A harbinger of hard times ahead for the NASA-contractor team involved the S-II-T when it was placed on the dock at the MTF for the first inspection. The rocket was rotated in its towing carriage as part of a rudimentary preliminary test. Workmen standing around could hear "clanks and clinks" as foreign objects sealed within the rocket stage were loosely tossed about. When the stage was opened and inspected, over 400 foreign objects were found, sealed inside at the manufacturing plant. This discovery signaled additional work ahead before the rocket stage could be tested.44

The jet-powered tugboat, the Clermont, was completed just in time to push the S-II-T the two miles from the stage storage and checkout dock to the A-2 test stand. Designed at the MSFC Test Laboratory and built for NASA at Southern Shipbuilding Corporation in Slidell, Louisiana, the tug was 69 feet long and provided a steady push for its expensive cargoes with a 1,000-horsepower turbine engine weighing only 450 pounds. The unique tugboat was also designed to serve as a fireboat for the test stands, propellant barges, and storage tanks. The Clermont was named after Robert Fulton's first successful steamboat built 200 years earlier.45

 

Test Managers

With the S-II-T safely installed in the test stand, NASA began recruiting key personnel to direct the testing of the Saturn V stages and to be MTF managers. On 4 November 1965, Balch announced six key appointments to his [108] newly organized NASA-MTF group. Henry Auter, who had already gained Balch's confidence as a "strong right arm," was to continued serving as the NASA-MTF deputy manager: and he would be in charge of the Projects Control Office.46

Another appointment in Balch's NASA-MTF group, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick A. Frech, was appointed assistant manager for construction and activation. A graduate of West Point and Harvard, Frech served as area engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers at Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee. Waldo H. Dearing brought an impressive Army management background as credentials to head up the NASA-MTF Management Support Office. Two engineers familiar with the MTF were selected to direct the Mississippi rocket-testing project offices, Robert A. Bush and Myron L. Myers. Bush was the Sell facilities manager in Huntsville, and Myers was the S-IC facilities manager at the MSFC. Both men guided the testing at the MTF through many difficult moments during the Saturn V testing years.47

Roy Estess was another engineer who joined the Balch organization during the winter months before the first static-firing test. Estess, a native Mississippian from Tylertown, was working for the Air Force at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. Glade Woods, a college acquaintance. announced that he was going to work for NASA at the MTF and suggested that Estess, too, should "take a look." As an enticement to recruit Estess, Woods volunteered that NASA was "going to the Moon." The excitement of the lunar voyage was intriguing during the Apollo era and served as a recruiting tool for numerous engineers and technicians who joined the group.48

Estess visited the site and talked to Robert ''Bob" Bush, Myrl Sanders. and Doug Howard. Estess then volunteered with two other Air Force employees. John Ivey and James Coward, to take "transfers" to join the MTF quality engineering organization. Furthermore, James Taylor, a former Air Force employee working for GE, also went to work for NASA in quality engineering.49

[109] These NASA-MTF engineers worked in the Saturn V test complex, right beside their contractor colleagues on the test stands and in the blockhouses. The intimate working relationships forged between the NASA and contractor employees during the "get it up and get going" Saturn testing days promoted development of close-knit allegiances. Engineers and technicians not only worked together. they also shared concerns and participated in social endeavors in their communities. Because of the MTF's remote location, a large number of workers commuted together in carpools, and the hours on the road were often spent discussing problems from work. These informal dialogues promoted individual respect and mutual understanding.50

Such close government-contractor relationships did not exist at the larger space flight centers where large civil service stasis controlled and directed contractor work. William Eaton, the MTF GE manager, once observed, 'We are all focused on the Moon-we can look up and see it. The Moon is a tangible object for everyone to rally around." These relationships improved with the adverse circumstances the team experienced while preparing for and testing the Saturn stages.51

This egalitarian organization helped expedite the work and solve many technical problems that arose before the first S-II-T static test. However, relationships at top management levels were not always genial. Beyond the slippages and schedule changes affecting the Sell program, the MSFC believed technical and managerial problems were festering at NAA Headquarters and at the manufacturing plant at Seal Beach. True, the S-II presented major challenges: reduction of stage weight, new welding techniques, and solving persistent problems associated with the insulation of the stage's liquid hydrogen tank. These problems, according to top MSFC management' were on a collision course leading right to the A-2 test stand. Von Braun, obviously deeply concerned, extracted promises from NAA President J.L. Atwood to make major managerial changes at the highest levels of his company.52

The tenacious General O'Connor did not end his crusade to correct the S-II situation by simply alerting his MSFC bosses. He elevated the problem [110] to NASA Headquarters where a special ''Tiger Team" was assembled and sent to investigate. General Sam Phillips, Apollo program director, headed the team. The ad hoc committee findings resulted in a thorough, but searing, document that became widely known as the ''Phillips Report." The weighty document contained serious criticisms of NAA's performance in a wide range of areas, including management, contracting, engineering, manufacturing, and reliability-quality control. The document also contained earlier investigations by Colonel Sam Yarchin, Sell program manager.53

Eberhard Rees, the MSFC deputy director, apparently even more alarmed by the crisis at Seal Beach, prepared to take drastic steps to correct the S-11 problem. He wrote a blistering 13-page memorandum on 8 December 1965 that stated, 'the first manned lunar landing may slip out of this decade, considering, for instance, the present status of the Sell program." In an additional seven-page memo marked "sensitive" that was limited to only von Braun, Phillips. and Rees's own personal file, Rees prophetically wrote. "I do not want to elaborate on the possibility that we might lose the S-II-T stage by explosion and heavy damage to the only [S-II] test [stand] we have so far...time delay in this case would be exorbitant." Rees advised that if NAA's performance did not improve in 1966, "NASA [would have] to resort to very drastic measures." He pointed out that the government owned the plant at Seal Beach, and serious consideration should be given as to whether further S-IIs should be contracted with NAA.54

No doubt all of this upper management turbulence affected the broad picture and ultimate performance of the S-II stage. But, the MTF engineers were not aware of most of their boss's bickerings, and they plunged ahead to accomplish the immediate goal-static-testing the S-II-T. Glade Woods, NASA engineer said, "The NASA team was pulling for a common cause, as well as the contractors. There was certainly a sense of teamwork and mission that motivated everyone. . .we were doing everything we could to stay on schedule."55

Since the NASA-MTF engineers and their contractor counterparts were engaged in the same endeavor. the demanding task was equally arduous for [111] the builders of the S-ll hardware. Roscoe Nicholson, North American-Rocketdyne engine manager, shook his head as he remembered the "hectic" days and long hours of work preceding the first test. "You had to work together' or everything would come unglued," Nicholson said, "The system (government-contractor) worked well because people understood it had to work well! I never noticed a lot of bickering between the government and contractor force. Sometimes you would have a friendly competition over certain things, but you had to work together."56

The long, "ungodly" hours took their toll on the workers and their families, and tempers got a "little short." Nicholson recalled, "You just had to go home and get a good night's sleep and come back and forget it the next day." The motivation factor that Gordon Artley believed was so important, and the sense of national pride to beat the Soviets to the Moon that William Eaton spoke of, were major reasons for the ultimate success of the MTF team. Woods said that the feeling of patriotism associated with the "Moon race" was foremost on everyone's mind.57

 

Fire In The Bucket

Engineers on the MTF test team uncovered numerous technical problems while preparing the S-II-T for its first test. Correcting these problems delayed the static firing months beyond the previously announced 2 January 1966 date. Some problems were traced back to the manufacturing plant at Seal Beach where workers had trouble with the unusually long welding runs and the exterior insulation for the liquid hydrogen tank. Artley recalled that much of the work preparing the stage for testing at the MTF was accomplished in severe adverse conditions while the rocket was erected on the A-2 test stand. The workers tried to protect the rocket from the weather during the Mississippi winter by covering their work areas on the stand with huge sheets of plastic. They erected arc lights and portable heaters to allow around-the-clock work in cold temperatures. "The kind of work we were doing was supposed to have been completed in the environmentally [112] controlled manufacturing plant." Artley said. "and here we were working on the stage in the wind, rain, and cold. with the high Mississippi humidity."58

Despite adverse working conditions, the MTF NAA engineers and technicians, and their counterparts with NASA, continued to prepare the S-II-T for its first trial run. The stage had been the center of NASA's attention since its installation on the A-2 test stand 19 October 1965. The nagging problem of tank insulation had been a major concern for the NASA and NAA personnel. Proof-pressure tests of the insulation ended in February without failures, and final checkout of insulation repairs and pressurization of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks were finished the last week in March 1965. Trial tanking and detanking using liquid nitrogen occurred 29-30 March. Personnel completed the liquid hydrogen tanking test 16 April with only minor problems. With the final checkouts complete, excitement was building all over the test facility, at the MSFC, NASA Headquarters, and on the West Coast, where the builders of the Sell rocket were anxiously following the last-minute progress.59

The day of the first static test approached and Robert Bush, NASA S-II stage manager, remembered that the site was a "beehive" of activity. "They [the manufacturers] had put so many interlocks into the ground control system to protect us, we had a hard time getting by them to conduct the test," Bush observed. Tom Baggette, the NAA Sell test conductor, remembered that the test team was very tired, "running around the clock" preparing for the test. "Our management was concerned and wanted to limit our work," he said. "but we wanted to get started, to get the firing off."60

The long-awaited countdown began in the early morning hours of 22 April with a planned countdown of seven hours leading to a 2:00 p.m. ignition of the one-million-pound-thrust rocket. The Central Control Building (Bldg. 1200) with its 90-foot observation tower was the center of activity for those outside the Test Control Center (TCC), where the NAA team was conducting its countdown. The TCC blockhouse was only 1,200 feet from the A-2 test [113] stand, but had concrete and steel walls three feet thick to protect the test team, should a major explosion occur. The Central Control Building was 7,500 feet from the A-2 test stand, an ample distance for unprotected persons.61

Most of the test observers gathered in the Central Control Building to witness the historic static firing. A number of "official" visitors from the MSFC, NASA Headquarters, and the West Coast were present. Balch invited a select list of community leaders, and a large number of local and national press representatives came to witness and record the test. The media were well aware that the Sell was the pacing item in America's lunar landing plans, and that the MTF held the key. Television monitors were installed in the 90-foot observation tower of the Central Control Building.62

The many glitches the engineers feared began to crop up, causing hold after hold in the countdown. Roy Estess recalled that the test crew was locked inside the TCC for 25 hours during the test. As the countdown extended into the night, many visitors gave up and left. The visiting engineers, who had vested interests in the design and manufacture or in the test procedures, stayed on, catching a few minutes sleep during the holds on couches in the Central Control Building. "Red Crews," made up of expert engineers and technicians, were called to go out on the test stand to work on components. The work was performed under very hazardous conditions, as the test stage was loaded with 371,000 gallons of volatile liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.63

The test team worked all night trying to complete the first test. Dawn came on 23 April with a heavy mist seeping in from the river and hanging over the test site. The A-2 test stand was barely visible from atop the Central Control Building tower. Finally, Baggette was heard calling out the terminal count "5-4-3-2-1-lgnition!" At 7:33 a.m., a loud "crack" burst the still air and a bright red and orange flame lit up the stand as the flammables in the engine area ignited. An NAA observer called out, "We have tire in the bucket!" The ignition noise was followed by a low rumble. similar to a freight train.64

A loud cheer went up in the blockhouse as the tired workers heard Baggette clearly counting upward. "Mainstage 4-5. . .10-11-12-13-14-15." as...

 


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A giant plume of vapor billows skyward during the first static firing of the Saturn V second stage prototype (S-II-T) on 23 April 1966 at the Mississippi Test Facility.

A giant plume of vapor billows skyward during the first static firing of the Saturn V second stage prototype (S-II-T) on 23 April 1966 at the Mississippi Test Facility. The test duration was 18 seconds. (SSC-66-150).

 

...the big rocket stage rumbled through 15 seconds of mainstage static-testing. The S-II-T performed well on its first run: the A-2 test stand and the supporting facilities demonstrated their readiness; and Mississippi officially entered the Space Age.65

Seven other tests were conducted with the S-II-T, including one 354-second, full-duration static firing on 20 May. More than 1,100 measurements were recorded by the GE data team during the May test, and the Sell-T's tour outboard engines were gimballed during the firing. Von Braun joined the team for the test, proclaiming it "vital" to the Apollo program.66

Von Braun was also present for another test, but was disappointed when the firing was postponed and he had to leave at midnight. While waiting for [115] the test, von Braun took note of some deficiencies in the onsite accommodations for entertaining public and media visitors and he recommended changes to Balch. Von Braun told Balch that he should have colorful and exciting exhibits in the lobby of the Central Control Building, depicting the lunar landing and its benefits.67

Von Braun also noted the static-testing countdown was audible only to the engineers in the tower, with no adequate way for public visitors to follow the proceedings He told Balch, "Jack, always remember, it pays to advertise!" Shortly afterward. von Braun sent his best artists and modelmakers down to the MTF to design and build exhibits for the Central Control Building. Several thousand dollars were spent for the public benefit in extending the wiring that carried the countdown voice to all parts of the building. Von Braun's efforts in 1966 were the beginnings of a public visitor's center in the Central Control Building.68

Just as the new test team was beginning to enjoy some success in the static firing of the S-II-T, a terrible accident occurred, injuring six workmen, destroying the rocket stage, damaging the test stand, and threatening the entire Apollo program. After a 196-second test on 25 May, the NAA test team put the S-II-T through a series of tests, checking anomalies that were observed during the static firings. As part of the postfiring checkouts, several subsystem tests were conducted involving pressurizing liquid hydrogen tanks with helium. On 28 May, at the conclusion of one of these tests, a tank pressure-sensing line, disconnected for purposes of the test, was not reconnected by the NAA crew. Another crew came on duty and pressurized the tank for the next test. As a result of undetected overpressure, the tank ruptured and was demolished. Six NAA technicians on the stand received minor injuries and were treated at Crosby Memorial Hospital in Picayune, Mississippi. Another workman on the stand escaped injury Damage to the test stand was considered minor, occurring mostly to the metal siding and the propellant and instrumentation lines. The accident [116] did. however, result in the total destruction of the tankage above the liquid oxygen tank's lower bulkhead.69

The accident occurred on a Saturday afternoon during the Memorial Day weekend. The S-II-T accident became major news across the nation, with the Sunday New York Times displaying a graphic picture of an "empty" A-2 test stand at the MTF. NAA's Harrison Storms was not able to notify von Braun until Tuesday. Storms reached von Braun's wife in Huntsville; she later said the NAA president was sobbing as he talked to her. Von Braun was spending the long weekend at a lake resort near Huntsville. The next day von Braun told Robert Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, that he saw nothing basically wrong in the Sell design, but that the Sell problems could be traced to management, procedure, and human error. Von Braun blamed the accident on NAA's Space and Information Systems Division (SISD), saying, "The whole thing is NAA-SISD."70

The S-II-T accident may have proved to be a blessing in disguise, since the tank ruptured at a pressure well below design limits. It could have happened later while the Saturn V vehicle was in flight. Von Braun asked Dr. Kurt Debus, director of Kennedy Space Center, to head up an investigative board to study the S-II-T rupture. The board released its findings on 1 September 1965 with a number of recommendations. The board found that the tank ruptured at a pressure of 23 psia. That degree of pressure alone should not have burst the tank-it was, according to the report, "well below the design-allowed pressure of 38 psia, as verified by previous pneumostatic and proof tests." This conclusion led to the investigation of other areas of possible weakness, establishing that the tankage was already under considerable strain from a structural viewpoint due to an ill-fitting, liquid hydrogen fill-and-drain line connection to the stage. Tiny cracks were revealed in the liquid hydrogen feedlines near the rupture area. Inspection of other manufactured stages in production revealed additional minute cracks, leading to considerable delays because of repair and modification work. The good news from the investigation revealed that the basic design of the Sell stage was sound. The report read, ''Evidence does not indicate that the failure of the S-II-T resulted from an overall structural design [117] deficiency." The board then recommended changes covering NAA's work and test procedures.71

 

A Town Meeting

When the trauma of the Sell incident died down, Balch turned his attention to the communities around the MTF. Balch previously said the MTF was "overexposed in the media and community. He strongly objected to the practice of issuing frequent reports of workforce buildup and where personnel were living. He referred to this public information release as "the body count." Even though the local media demanded these reports, Balch directed Mack Herring (PIO) to give the reports "only when you absolutely have to." Bay St. Louis continued to lag behind Picayune in the number of employees choosing to live there. Only 470 of the 3,200 MTF permanent personnel lived in Hancock County. Civic leaders complained to Balch and Stennis that Hancock County and Bay St. Louis were not getting a "fair shake." Leo Seal, Jr., a strong supporter of NASA and a lifetime Bay St. Louis resident, urged Balch to give a "straightforward" talk to the people of his hometown. Seal, president of Hancock Bank, was a member of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and the NASA-originated Mississippi-Louisiana Planning Commission. Balch scheduled what he called a "town meeting" at the Bay High School gymnasium. It was obvious that Balch felt a strong sense of responsibility for the communities surrounding the MTF site, and he expressed this responsibility many times. In fact, he stressed the federal government's duty to live up to its "promises."72

Seal served as master of ceremonies for the town meeting, and Balch told of the "growing pains" of his hometown of Huntsville. Balch explained the problems the town suffered from its long relationship with the government, dating from the location of a chemical arsenal there in 1941. He pointed out that the current local population was 11,000 and that Huntsville's population was 150,000.73

[118] Balch angered some Bay St. Louis residents when he candidly said, "Your schools have a long way to go. That's a shortcoming my people have found." He touched on other areas; "The price of real estate is unbelievably high, and you need modern zoning that is enforced." Balch also brought up the need for a "modern, nationally recognized motel." However, on the positive side, Balch congratulated the mayor and people of Bay St. Louis for their courage to pursue the sewage and water project, "despite the inconvenience." Balch humorously commented that his car got stuck in Bay St. Louis's torn up streets. "I had to call a garage wrecker [tow truck], and then we both got stuck. Finally, we got a bulldozer to get us out." He also made note of the citizens' foresight in building the Stennis International Airport in Hancock County. He promised stable growth "during the next three or tour years of rocket testing." Balch said NASA felt considerable responsibility for Hancock County, observing that the site was built on "your land," and "we are living on your tax dollars." Much of Balch's guiding philosophy was expressed in the town meeting. Indeed, his sincere feeling of responsibility for the people of Hancock County and the other communities was one the major reasons for his untiring efforts to search for future missions for the MTF.74

 

Propulsion And Power Politics

The ripples of the town meeting and the S-II-T tank rupture continued to dominate the thoughts of NASA and its community friends as the MTF prepared for arrival of the S-ll-1, the first "real" flight stage to be tested at the developing site. Balch found that he had many helpers handling the problems associated with the Sell. The S-II-T incident sent shock waves all the way to the top echelons of the space program, with NASA and NAA managers giving the situation their highest priority. Artley was in charge of activation, which included testing the S-II-T. After Artley moved from the MTF to Kennedy Space Center to continue his work in activation, Auter took over the test manager's job. Auter knew that he had capable leadership in his program managers, Bush for the Sell and Myers for the S-IC. Auter, Bush, and Myers were supported by the best rocket-testing personnel in the country from the [119] MSFC and the West Coast. With this supporting cast, the creative Balch set out to secure the future of the site for his personal satisfaction, the MTF employees, and the surrounding communities.75

Balch was not the only person who wanted to make sure the future of the testing facility was secure. Senator Stennis, a frugal man who did not believe in waste of any kind, was proud of the NASA facility in his home state and wanted it fully utilized. Like Balch, Stennis felt the MTF represented a national investment. In August 1966, Stennis asked William Eaton (GE manager) and Balch for a comprehensive community impact study. The document contained educational as well as economic impact information. The impact data illustrated that the MTF represented a "$315 million public investment," a dollar figure higher than any previously released by the Fortune or Balch NASA-MTF management groups. The report to Stennis also stated the installation became "operational" with the first testing of the S-II-T on 23 April 1966. Balch forwarded the document to Stennis through Harry Gorman (MSFC). This chain of command was required by MSFC management instructions for all congressional correspondence. Balch wanted his MSFC bosses to know of Stennis's strong MTF interest. Stennis proudly released the information to newspapers all over his home state. The study included data on contracts, personnel, technical data, educational profiles, and public information on taxes and municipal spending.76

While the "good news" about the NASA facility was spreading around the state, and the testing operations were beginning to start, Balch invited Stennis for an "inspection visit" to show the site's readiness to participate in America's space program. The Sell-l arrived at the MTF dock on 13 August 1966, but numerous modifications were needed before installing it in the A-2 test stand on 17 October. The rocket stage was test-fired on I December for 363 seconds, a full-duration test since this was the length of time it would operate in flight.77

 


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U.S. Senator John C. Stennis (left) is captured in a moment of levity in the Sell Test Control Center with officials of the Mississippi Test Facility in December 1966. Pictured with Stennis, from left, are Tom Bagette and Gerry Wilson of North American Aviation, MTF Director Jackson Balch, and Meryl Sanders of NASA (SCC-66-4691).

U.S. Senator John C. Stennis (left) is captured in a moment of levity in the Sell Test Control Center with officials of the Mississippi Test Facility in December 1966. Pictured with Stennis, from left, are Tom Bagette and Gerry Wilson of North American Aviation, MTF Director Jackson Balch, and Meryl Sanders of NASA (SCC-66-4691).

 

On 6 December 1966, Senator Stennis visited the MTF. This visit marked the beginning of a unique relationship between Balch and Stennis that resulted in a change in the direction of the MTF-from a purely rocket-stage testing facility into a multiagency scientific research center. Behind closed doors, Balch told Stennis that "NASA [had] no plans for the facility beyond the Apollo program." William "Bill" Spell, Stennis's aide for military affairs, had accompanied Stennis to the MTF, and Stennis directed him to release pictures and television clips to the state news media showing the Senator visiting the test complex. Balch arranged for a number of Mississippi engineers to greet the Senator at several workstations. These engineers included Henry Auter, Myrl Sanders, and Wayne Mooneyhan, NASA; Will Barrentine, GE; and Tom Baggette, NAA. Seeing fellow Mississippians in important positions pleased the Senator.78

[121] After the meeting with Stennis, Balch entered an important note in his "significant actions" log that stated Stennis "showed concern about future utilization of [the] MTF and community commitments." At the time, Stennis was a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Appropriations Committee' and the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee. He was also chairman of the Preparedness Investigation Subcommittee that conducted the "missile gap hearings, which set off the early alarms of the Soviet space exploration advantage. Stennis held a press conference before leaving the test site and complimented the workers, declaring them "some of the best trained and most conscientious workers I have ever met at any installation." Stennis also promised that he would discuss the future of the MTF with the "highest NASA officials' to make sure "the investment we have made in this fine installation is used fully and completely." The theme of "full utilization" was to become the battle cry of Balch and Stennis as they jointly pursued future programs for the site.79

 


Notes

1. Maria Watson, "Balch Recalls Progress At Hancock Test Facility Site," The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Daily Herald (henceforth referred to as The Daily Herald), 24 July 1975; "Ellender Proposes Science Setup To Operate At NASA Mississippi Test Facility," Picayune (MS) Item (henceforth referred to as Picayune Item), 2 April 1970.

2. Leo L. Jones, "A Brief History Of Mississippi Test Facility, 1961-1966, comment draft, (Huntsville, AL: MSFC History Department, 1967), pp. 48-50, Stennis Space Center Historical Records Collection at Stennis Space Center, MS (henceforth referred to as SSCHRC); See also Roger E. Bilstein's Stages To Saturn, A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles, for excellent discussion of technical development of the S-II and S-IC rocket stages and management interchanges between NAA and MSFC officials. For specific references to this part see "Crisis At Seal Beach," pp. 222-233.

3. NASA News Release, 8 April 1965, SSCHRC; "Coast Towns Near Test Site Experiencing Booms," The (Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger (henceforth referred to as The Clarion-Ledger).

4. "Mississippi Test Facility Development Plans And Schedules," Auter Working Papers, unnumbered, SSCHRC; "It's Go, Go, Go At MTO," the Picayune (MS) Item (henceforth referred to as the Picayune Item), 15 April 1965; NASA Release, 8 April 1965, pp. 1-2, SSCHRC.

5. "Coast Groups Invited To Test Site For Report," The Daily Herald, 5 April 1965.

6. Ibid.

7. "MTO Official Predicts Hike In Personnel," The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 22 April 1965; "Alert Given For Big Upward Push At Mississippi Test Site," The Slidell (LA) Times, 22 April 1965.

8. "Speed-Up," The (Bay St. Louis, MS) Sea Coast Echo (henceforth referred to as the The Sea Coast Echo), 22 April 1965; "Step-Up In MTO Personnel Seen To Close Schedule Gap," The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune (henceforth referred to as The Times-Picayune), 17 April 1965.

9. NASA News Release, 6 May 1965, SSCHRC.

10. Ibid.; "Manpower/Population Trend (1963-1991), February 1991, SSCHRC; "MSFC-MTF Personnel Strength," Management Support Office, 27 December 1965, SSCHRC.

11. NASA News Release, 6 May 1965, SSCHRC. See also Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, for discussion of the MSFC's Industrial Operations Division, p. 269.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. "MTF Chief Awarded New Appointment," The Daily Herald, 10 June 1965.

15. Ibid.

16. Leo W. Seal, Jr., interview by Henry C. Dethloff, Gulfport, MS, 23 July 1991; Leo Seal, Jr., interview by Mack Herring, Gulfport, MS, 27 September 1994; Roy Baxter, Jr., interview by Mack Herring, Pearlington, MS, 5 January 1995; Maria Watson, "Balch Recalls Progress At Hancock Test Facility," The Daily Herald, 24 July 1975.

17. Watson, "Balch Recalls Progress," 24 July 1975.

18. NASA-MSFC Public Affairs "Balch Biography," ud; NASA-NSTL "Balch Biography," SSCHRC.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Roy Estess, interview by Henry L. Dethloff, Mississippi Oral History Program Of The University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 444, 18 June 1991, SSCHRC; Roy Estess, interview by Mack Herring and Ms. Myron Webb, SSCHRC, 7 July 1995, on audio tape awaiting transcription, SSCHRC.

22. NASA-MSFC Biography.

23. NASA-MSFC Biography.

24. "Balch Meets Press," The Sea Coast Echo, 12 August 1965.

25. Leo L. Jones, "A Brief History Of The Mississippi Test Facility, 1961-1966," comment draft, MSFC History Office, 24 March 1967; Wernher von Braun, "Charter Mississippi Test Facility, Industrial Operations," MSFC Management Manual, 27 October 1965, SSCHRC.

26. Bilstein, Stage To Saturn, p. 74.

27. NASA-MTF News Release, 1 July 1965; "Name for Static Testing Site About As Long As Trip To The Moon," The Daily Herald, 15 June 1965; The name "Mississippi Test Facility" would continue until the installation was renamed the "NASA National Space Technology Laboratories," and given full field installation status on 14 June 1974. The "Mississippi Test Operations" name was dropped for good on 1 July 1965, eliminating a great deal of administrative confusion.

28. "Picayune Continues To Lead As Preference For MTO Employees," Picayune Item, 15 June 1965; "Projected Personnel Count Met At MTF," The Sea Coast Echo, 24 June 1965.

29. "GE Moves One Group To Picayune Plant," Picayune Item, 17 June 1965; "MTF Opens New Opportunities For State Education, Youth," Picayune Item, 17 June 1965.

30. Harry H. Gorman to John C. Stennis, ""Background and Economic Impact Of The NASA Mississippi Test Facility," ud, SSCHRC.

31. Gilda Perkins, "Swamp Pay Lured Workers," The Slidell (LA) Times, 27 April 1975.

32. Karl Heimburg, interview by Dr. Charles Bolton, Mississippi Oral History Program of the University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 399, 6 March 1992, pp. 15-16, SSCHRC.

33. Von Braun, "Charter Mississippi Test Facility," 27 October 1965.

34. Jackson Balch, audio tape, 6 June 1967, SSCHRC.

35. NASA-MTF News Release, 19 June 1965, SSCHRC.

36. NASA-MTF News Release, 5 August 1965, SSCHRC; NASA-MTF News Release, 26 August 1965, SSCHRC.

37. Von Braun related the humorous quip to the author as the group was about to walk out into the open atop the S-IC test stand on 10 August 1965.

38. I. Jerry Hlass, "Way Station To Space," video, 25 October 1991, SSCHRC.

39. "Balch Hints At Great Growth In Test Facility General Area," The Sea Coast Echo,12 August 1965; Don Brown, "A Giant Stirs To Life," The Birmingham (AL) News (henceforth referred to as The Birmingham News)," 8 August 1965; "Saturn Test Stand-A-2," photo, The Birmingham News, 8 August 1965.

40. NASA-MTF News Release, 28 June 1965, SSCHRC; Missiles And Rockets, vol. 7, Washington, DC, 12 July 1965, p. 24, SSCHRC; The Marshall (Huntsville, AL) Star (henceforth referred to as The Marshall Star), vol. 6, no. 7, July 1965.

41. "Damage Reported Slight At MTF," The Sea Coast Echo, 23 September 1965.

42. NASA-MTF News Release, 17 October 1965, SSCHRC.

43. Baggette, interview by Herring.

44. Ibid.

45. NASA-MTF News Release, 21 October 1965, SSCHRC; NASA-MTF Press Release, 3 January 1965, SSCHRC; "Tugboat In Service At Test Site," The Daily Herald, 21 October 1965.

46. NASA-MTF News Release, 4 November 1965, SSCHRC; Henry Auter was included in Balch's personnel announcement, although Auter had worked with the facility since its inception; NASA News Release, 4 November 1965, SSCHRC.

47. Ibid.; Robert "Bob" Bush had the difficult task of serving as S-II stage program manager at the MTF dealing with the technical and administrative problems that arose during the test period.

48. Estess, interview by Dethloff; E.G. "Glade" Woods, interview by Dr. Charles Bolton, Mississippi Oral History Program of the University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 435, 1 December 1992, p. 5, SSCHRC.

49. Estess, interview by Dethloff.

50. Woods, interview p. 5, SSCHRC.

51. Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, pp. 222-225.

52. Ibid., p. 227.

53. Woods, interview, p. 5; Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, pp. 222-225.

54. Ibid.

55. Roscoe Nicholson, interview by Dr. Charles Bolton, Mississippi Oral History Program of the University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 404, 20 April 1992, pp. 5, 11, SSCHRC; Woods, interview by Bolton, p. 5.

56. Nicholson, interview.

57. Ibid:; Woods, interview by Bolton, pp. 5-6.

58. Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, p. 222; Jack Manerian, interview by Mack Herring, Bay St. Louis, MS, 1 October 1995; Artley, interview by Mack Herring; Manerian told the author that a number of the workers at the Seal Beach plant "were cooking hamburgers" before they were hired by North American to work in the plant that was building the S-II rocket, indicating that they lacked experience in missile manufacturing.

59. Jones, "A Brief History Of The Mississippi Test Facility," pp. 74-75.

60. Robert "Bob" Bush, interview by Mack Herring, SSC, 25 October 1991; Baggette, interview.

61. I. Jerry Hlass, "Search For A Role For A Large Government Test Facility," (master's thesis, Washington, DC: George Washington University, June 1971), pp. 7-13, 18.

62. Baggette, interview.

63. NASA-MTF News Release, 23 April 1966, SSCHRC; Baggette, interview.

64. Ibid.

65. Edwin R. Ling, Sr., The Space Crescent: The Untold Story (Huntsville, AL: The Strode Publishers, 1984), p. 146; W.E. Howard and Barney Arender, S-II MTF Stage History Summary, 11 December 1970; NASA-MTF News Release, 20 May 1966, SSCHRC.

66. Ibid.; Gimbaling of the engines gave directional control to the Saturn V vehicle during flight.

67. Wernher von Braun was a most observant man. He noticed the antiquated speaker systems in the Central Control building, the cold, opera-house appearance of the big lobby, and most of all the lack of "Space Age" displays and artwork. Von Braun, known for his knack for communications and public relations, made comments to Mack Herring, the PIO, about these deficiencies and promised to "put a bug in Jack Balch's ear" to spiffy up the Central Control building because a large number of influential visitors were entertained there. He sent Gerd Debeek, his chief model- maker, and Harry Lange, a talented artist, to design and build exhibits for the building and the observation tower.

68. Ibid.

69. NASA-MTF News Release, 28 May 1966, SSCHRC.

70. Ibid.; Ling, The Space Crescent, pp. 150-153; Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, pp. 229-230; Manerian, interview.

71. Ibid.; Baggette, interview.

72. "Balch Tells Bay Needs And Risks," The Sea Coast Echo, 24 March 1966.

73. Ibid.

74. Ibid.

75. Bilstein, Stages to Saturn, pp.229-230; Artley interview.

76. Balch to Gorman/Gorman to Stennis; "Background and Economic Impact of the NASA Mississippi Test Facility," undated economic study; "Stennis Reports Test Site Impact," The Daily Herald, 12 July 1966.

77. Howard and Arender, "S-II MTF Stage History," 11 December 1970. The S-II-T incident focused the entire space agency's attention on the S-II-1. With the MTF alive with experts in rocketry, Balch began turning his attention more and more to the future of the MTF. NASA had "dreams" but no concrete plans beyond the Apollo program. The fact that no new programs were scheduled for the MTF beyond the last rocket test in 1970 was disturbing for Balch.

78. NASA-MTF News Release, 6 December 1966, SSCHRC.

79. "Significant Actions Changing MTF Utilization," Balch files, 1966.


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