DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Selecting the Lunar Orbiter Contractor
[70] The final decision on which of the five proposals to choose rested with NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. The Langley SEB recommended that NASA select Boeing. Thompson passed his center's recommendation on to Seamans. Yet Seamans had to be convinced not only that the proposal's technical approach was the best, but also that its management arrangements and estimated costs were better than those of the other bidders. Boeing seemed to meet two o f the three criteria, but its cost figure was substantially higher than that of the next nearest bidder Hughes.

Seamans had to find an absolute justification for selecting the highest priced bid in order to defend the choice before Congress if called on to do so. That absolute factor turned out to be a technical detail of major significance for the success of the Lunar Orbiter Program.

[71] Dr. Trutz Foelsche, a Langley scientist working in the field of solar radiation hazards, had been conducting experiments whose results demonstrated that even small doses of radiation from solar particle events were "of major importance for such sensitive devices as, e.g., photo-emulsions or ordinary photographic films, which are an important tool in some space missions. This is especially true for instrumented probes, when the vehicle itself generally provides shielding only on the order of l g/cm2 or less from a large solid angle."20 Foelsche's data, based upon the largest solar event groups of the 1954-1964 sunspot cycle, showed that high-speed films did not receive sufficient protection even when shielding around the film was increased up to 10 grams per square centimeter. (See chart on the following page for Foelsche's data.) 21

Foelsche presented his findings to Dr. Thompson and the Source Evaluation Board before the final selection of the Lunar Orbiter contractor. The Langley SEB made a presentation to Dr. Seamans and senior OSS staff members at NASA Headquarters in November 1963. Following this, Seamans met with NASA Administrator James E. Webb and NASA.....

[72] (GRAPHIC)

(Upper Limits of Doses on Surface and in Center of Film Sphere Surrounded by Additional Shields for Largest Solar Event Groups of On Sunspot Cycle 19M-1964.)


[73].... Deputy Administrator Dr. Hugh L. Dryden. The three conferred and agreed that Seamans would meet separately with representatives from each of the five companies in order to develop a better understanding of each proposal's 22 technical aspects.22

Dr. Seamans arranged for each bidder to brief him and Earl D. Hilburn, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Industry Affairs together with several members of the Langley Source Evaluation Board. The briefings took place in Washington over a week-long period. The data on radiation hazards to film enabled Seamans to question each bidder from a position of strength about the problem of film damage in their systems due to a possible solar particle event during the thirty-day mission which an orbiter would have to carry out.

The two bidders who had proposed spin-stabilized spacecraft necessarily had to rely on high-speed film and fast shutter speeds to compensate for image-motion. Two other bidders also had their photographic systems designed to employ high-speed films. When asked directly what would happen in the event of a solar flare, they had to [74] admit that their film would incur significant damage.

Only the Boeing-Eastman Kodak system was designed to use a very low speed, insensitive film (ASA @ 1.6) which, with minimal shielding, would not be endangered by sudden discharges of high-energy radiation from the Sun or during transit through the Van Allen belts.

Seamans concluded with confidence that the Boeing proposal definitely offered NASA advantages and safeguards which the other proposals did not. He concurred with Langley's recommendation that NASA choose Boeing as the contractor, and this decision opened the next phase of the program.