DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Congressional Criticism of Contractor Choice
[83] While the Office of Space Science and Applications, the Langley Research Center, and the Boeing Company proceeded to work out the fine points of the Lunar Orbiter contract, some congressional criticism over NASA's choice of contractors rumbled down from Capitol Hill to NASA Headquarters. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, NASA had decided to choose the Boeing proposal "because it offered the greatest assurance of mission success," and although the Seattle firm's price tag was seemingly the most expensive (approximately $60 million) "the firm won the contract because of the high reliability factor in spacecraft design approach."10

As satisfying as this may have been to NASA and Boeing, it struck a dissonant chord with Congressman Earl Wilson of Indiana. Wilson questioned NASA's selection of Boeing's more expensive bid over that of the Hughes Aircraft Company which would have cost supposedly half as much. The Space Science Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, chaired by [84] Congressman Joseph Karth of Minnesota, joined Wilson and questioned NASA spokesmen extensively about their choice of Boeing. Despite their criticism NASA succeeded in convincing the Congressmen that "Boeing's proposal was selected because of its three-axis system rather than the spin-stabilized system suggested by Hughes."11

Although one approach was not necessarily better than the other, the three-axis system greatly reduced the technical difficulties involved in the photographic system. Moreover, the Boeing proposal had a far superior technical approach to obtaining the necessary photographic data and a greater inherent likelihood that it would reliably do just that. This had been the determining factor in the evaluations of the five bidders' proposals, Langley evaluators had employed the philosophy that the price of a proposal was secondary to the quality of the technical design and the management program which the bidder offered. In both respects the Boeing bid had been judged superior.