DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Problems at JPL
[23] The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was encountering increasing problems with the Ranger Program which further influenced the progress of the Surveyor Program. The problems and the added pressure of the Apollo Program's newly introduced priorities gave increased support to the move to define and establish criteria for an Agena-class lunar orbiter program within the Office of Lunar and Planetary Programs.

[24] In pursuit of his responsibilities with the authorized Surveyor Orbiter and without the knowledge of the Scherer group's findings, Clifford I. Cummings, JPL Lunar Program Director, informed Oran W. Nicks on October 26 that JPL was planning to undertake another study of the Surveyor Orbiter and its mission. He stated that JPL desired to spend $1.5 million of its FY 1963 budget to do this work, and he included in his memorandum to Nicks a proposed plan of study for a lunar orbiter spacecraft.23

Nicks immediately answered the JPL request with a letter to Cummings in which he outlined the numerous study efforts already performed or in the process of completion. He pointed out the concern of NASA Headquarters about the growing disparity between the status of the Surveyor Program at JPL and that of the Centaur Program. He informed him that Headquarters had already proceeded to examine the feasibility of an Agena-class orbiter. Thus an additional study would not serve.

The difficulties encountered in the first four Ranger missions in 1961 and 1962 and the great effort made to [25] obtain a launch vehicle which Lunar Orbiter would later use kept the Jet Propulsion Laboratory totally committed to the Ranger and Surveyor Programs. NASA Headquarters, meanwhile, approached Floyd L. Thompson, Director of the Langley Research Center, early in 1963 about the possibility of taking on a lunar orbiter project.