Part 2 (I)

Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight

February 1968


February 2

Eberhard F. M. Rees, Apollo Special Task Team Director at North American Rockwell, reported to ASPO Manager George M. Low on the need for audits of equipment supplied from vendors to the spacecraft contractor. Significant hardware failures and nonconformances had been discovered after delivery of equipment from the vendors to Downey, Rees stated, and NASA must take strong steps to upgrade the quality of workmanship at the vendors' locations.

Ltr., Rees to Low, Feb. 2, 1968.

February 3

ASPO Manager George M. Low advised Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that, in accordance with an action item resulting from the spacecraft environmental testing review at MSFC on January 10, he was reexamining the design, fabrication, and inspection of all interconnecting systems of the spacecraft to determine what further steps might be taken to ensure the integrity of those systems. Low had requested William Mrazek of MSFC to direct this effort, using a small task team to review the design of all spacecraft wiring and plumbing systems, their fabrication, and quality assurance and inspection techniques.

Ltr., Low to Phillips, Feb. 3, 1968.

February 5

A Senior Flammability Review Board meeting at MSC reached a number of decisions on the CSM. Attending were Robert R. Gilruth, chairman; George M. Low, Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Aleck C. Bond, Maxime A. Faget, Donald K. Slayton, Charles A. Berry, and Rodney G. Rose, all of MSC; Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq.; William B. Bergen and Dale D. Myers, North American Rockwell; and George Stoner, Boeing (nonvoting observer).

Several previous action assignments were reviewed:

  1. Component level Flammability Test Program - North American reviewed the results of its material identification and test program, the component test program, and the boilerplate 1,250 tests. These tests had provided the basis for design decisions on selection and application of CM nonmetallic materials.
  2. Boilerplate 1224 configuration comparison to CSMs 2TV-1 and 101 - North American presented the comparison and the Board decided that the boilerplate configuration was representative of the "worst case" configuration, considering both 2TV-l and 101.
  3. Internal ignition rationale - ignition rationale for the boilerplate 1224 tests was presented to the Board. Nichrome wire ignitors were used with the ignitor wire embedded in potting. In some locations a Ladicote cover was applied over the potting and ignitor. The Board pointed out that the ignition techniques were not really representative of actual operating conditions and were indeed overly severe.
  4. Crew communications umbilical - North American was evaluating a fluorel crew communications umbilical as well as fluorel oxygen umbilicals. A Beta sleeve over the oxygen and crew communications umbilicals would also be evaluated for its operational acceptability by the Crew.
The Board presented a review of test results. In the tests at pressure of 4.3 newtons per square centimeter (6.2 pounds per square inch) in a 95-percent oxygen atmosphere, there were 38 ignitions in boilerplate 1224. Of these,5 produced fires large enough to require further consideration. In tests at 11.2 newtons per sq cm (16.2 psia) in a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent nitrogen atmosphere, there were 31 ignitions. Of these, 4 produced fires large enough to require further consideration.

The Board concluded that the material changes made in the CM had resulted in a safe configuration in both the tested atmospheres. The Board agreed "that there will always be a degree of risk associated with manned space flight," but the risk of fire "was now substantially less than the basic risks inherent in manned space flight."

Among decisions reached were:

  1. the CSM 2TV-1 and 101 coaxial cable configuration would be tested in the 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent nitrogen atmosphere;
  2. material improvements and testing would be continued and changes would be phased in, pending the availability of proved materials; and
  3. action would be taken to be prepared to use a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen prelaunch atmosphere in CSM 101.
A final decision would be made at the Design Certification Review on March 7.

Minutes of the "Senior Flammability Review Board Meeting, Building 2 - Room 966, February 5, 1968," sgd. Robert R. Gilruth, Feb. 23, 1968.

February 5

Homer E. Newell, NASA Associate Administrator, told MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth that at the last meeting of the Lunar and Planetary Missions Board the subject of astronaut activity on the lunar surface had been taken into consideration. The following motion had been generally endorsed by all members of the Board but tabled for formal action with the request that comments of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate be made on the motion and returned to the Board for further consideration: "It is proposed that during lunar EVA it be regarded as general practice and a requirement on the astronauts to utilize fully the voice channel from them to each other and to earth. What is intended is almost incessant talking, describing all actions and thoughts as they occur, but without devoting much additional concentration or interrupting any actions for that purpose. Such talk will have the advantage of increasing the information available should any hazardous situation arise, and therefore increase crew safety; secondly, it will be a major source of information of scientific importance, and the record of such talk will be most helpful to the astronauts themselves as well as others to re-enact the activities later and so better understand the record and the observations obtained."

The MSC Director of Flight Operations prepared an information staff paper for Gilruth that said the proposal had been evaluated by the Directorate, and the "marginal utility to be gained by such a practice is questionable" because "constant talking would involve a real time process of separating significant data from trivia." The Flight Operations Directorate "does not believe that crew safety will be enhanced by constant talking. . . . In summary . . . our present astronaut talking requirements are sufficient to satisfy the scientific world and provide sound operational support. . . ."

Ltr., Newell to Gilruth, Feb. 5, 1968; Information Staff Paper No. 99 to Director, MSC, from Director of Flight Operations, "Lunar EVA Procedures," Apr. 16, 1968.

February 8

Grumman President L. J. Evans wrote ASPO Manager George M. Low stating his agreement with NASA's decision to forego a second unmanned LM flight using LM-2. (Grumman's new position - the company had earlier strongly urged such a second flight - was reached after discussions with Low and LM Manager G. H. Bolender at the end of January and after flight data was presented at the February 6 meeting of the OMSF Management Council.) Although the decision was not irreversible, being subject to further investigations by both contractor and customer, both sides now were geared for a manned flight on the next LM mission. However, Evans cited several spacecraft functions not covered during the LM-1 flight that would have to be demonstrated before attempting a lunar mission, notably control by the primary navigation and guidance system of the descent propulsion system burn as well as control of stage separation and firing of the ascent propulsion system. To demonstrate these functions fully, he said, some modifications in mission plans for the next two manned flights might be necessary.

Ltr., Evans to Low, Feb. 8, 1968.

February 14

James P. Nolan, Jr., Chief of Plans, NASA OMSF, wrote Mission Operations Director John D. Stevenson describing a potential post-reentry fire hazard in the command module. A hazard might result from incomplete mixing of pure oxygen in the cockpit with normal air after landing, which could produce pockets of almost pure oxygen in closed cabinets, equipment bays, wire bundles, and interstices of the spacecraft. (Two test chamber explosions and fires had occurred at Douglas Aircraft Co. under similar conditions during the early 1950s, he advised.) Nolan suggested that the potential fire hazard be critically reviewed, including possible additional chamber flammability testing. Several weeks later, Stevenson informed Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that he had discussed Nolan's ideas with MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, ensuring attention by the Flammability Review Board. He reported that MSC was planning an additional series of chamber tests to determine whether such a fire hazard actually existed.

Memos, Nolan to Director, Mission Operations, NASA, "Post Reentry Fire Hazard in the Command Module," Feb. 14, 1968; Stevenson to Apollo Program Director, same subject, Feb. 26, 1968.

February 14

In discussing the results of a manned test with MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low mentioned that a single 45-degree motion of the abort handle was required to initiate a launch abort in Apollo. Gilruth voiced concern that an abort could be caused by a single motion. Low asked Donald K. Slayton for comments on the subject. Slayton replied March 1 that "this item had also been a concern of the flight crews during the early design of the system." But he said: "The handle forces to actuate the abort sequence have been subjectively evaluated and are considered high enough to prevent inadvertent actuation. Additionally, the outboard rotation (counter clockwise) was chosen over an inboard rotation (clockwise) as being the more unnatural of the two motions. . . . Crew training for launch aborts in the Dynamic Crew Procedures Simulator has not shown this design to be a problem."

Memos, Low to Slayton, "Apollo Command Module abort handle," Feb. 14, 1968; Slayton to Manager, ASPO, "Apollo Command Module abort handle," Mar. 1, 1968.

February 14

NASA Hq. asked MSC's support for the effort under way by the Software Review Board (created at Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips' request several weeks earlier) to reexamine software requirements for the lunar mission. A specific concern of the Board (which included representatives from the major support contractors, IBM, TRW, and Bellcomm) was the level of sophistication and complexity inherent in the present MIT computer programs. To understand better the possibilities of carrying out the lunar mission using the present computer system but with much simpler programming, Mueller asked the Board to examine the feasibility, cost, and schedule implications of carrying out the mission using about half the fixed and erasable memory of the computer and otherwise trading off program simplicity for minor increases in propellant requirements.

Ltr., George E. Mueller, NASA OMSF, to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, Feb. 14, 1968.

February 15

Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips wrote ASPO Manager George M. Low setting forth a strategy for announcing selection of a prelaunch atmosphere for the spacecraft. Because the decision undoubtedly would draw much public attention, Phillips said, it was important that the decision be based on comprehensive study and be fully documented to explain the rationale for the decision both to NASA's management and to the general public. Foremost, he said, that rationale must include a clear statement of physiological requirements for the mission and for aborts. Secondly, it must also cover flammability factors in cabin atmosphere selection. Finally, the decision rationale must explain engineering factors related to hardware capability and crew procedures, as well as operational factors and how they affected the choice of atmosphere during prelaunch and launch phases of the mission.

Ltr., Phillips to Low, "Pre-launch Atmosphere," Feb. 15, 1968.

February 19

Meetings of the Software Task Force had brought out the lack of a formal requirement that the Change Control Board (CCB) consider how hardware and software changes might affect each other, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Flight Mueller told Apollo Director Phillips. Mueller asked Phillips if he would consider a program directive requiring such assessments before changes could be approved. On March 2, ASPO Manager George Low wrote a note to Flight Operations Director Chris Kraft concerning the same problem. Low believed "our CCB Manual required that any changes requiring or affecting more than one panel (e.g., your software panel and Kleinknecht's CSM panel) should come to the Apollo spacecraft CCB." Kraft replied April 12 that he concurred. Kraft said that "various MSC organizations are represented on my Software Control Board [SCB]. These representatives identify related impacts on other functional elements of the program during the discussion of change actions in the . . . meeting. Also, we have taken action to assure integrated assessment of software and spacecraft changes prior to presentation to the SCB. . . . T. F. Gibson, Jr., Flight Operations Directorate, and J. F. Goree, Jr., ASPO, have resolved working arrangements to assure . . . the disciplines called for by the Configuration Management Manual are carried out. I understand that the Change Integration Group in ASPO will critique proposed change actions to either software or spacecraft hardware and identify associated impacts. . . . Changes involving interfaces between the software and spacecraft hardware, or other functional elements of the program, would then be brought to your CCB for disposition of the . . . change as prescribed by the Configuration Control Manual. . . . I feel . . . this formal change integration function is appropriate as a check and balance. . . ."

Memo, George E. Mueller to Samuel C. Phillips, "Software Task Force Meetings," Feb. 19, 1968; informal note, Low to Kraft, Mar. 2, 1968; memo, Kraft to Low, "Software and spacecraft change integration," Apr. 12, 1968.

February 19

MSC Deputy Director George S. Trimble, Jr., recommended to Apollo Program Director Phillips that OMSF issue a definition for the end of the Apollo program. Trimble pointed out that parts of MSC planning would be clearer if there were a specified set of conditions which, when satisfied, would mark the termination of the Apollo program and the start of the lunar exploration program. He said: "It is recommended that the accomplishment of the first lunar landing and safe return of the crew be defined as the end of the Apollo Program. This will give a crisp ending that everyone can understand and will be the minimum cost program. The Lunar Exploration Program, or whatever name is selected, will have a definable whole and can be planned and defended as a unit. . . . The successful termination of the Apollo Program should not be dependent on the successful deployment of ALSEP, EVA on the lunar surface, photos, soil samples or other experiments. Such objectives should not be mandatory for the first landing mission." Trimble added that he had discussed these points with NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller and it was his understanding that Mueller not only agreed but also planned to include similar material in his congressional testimony in defense of the budget.

Ltr., Trimble to Phillips, Feb. 19, 1968.

February 19

ASPO Manager George Low appointed Douglas R. Broome to head a special task team to resolve the problem of water requirements aboard the Apollo spacecraft. For some six months, Low noted, numerous discussions had surrounded the question of water purity requirements and loading procedures. Several meetings and reviews, including one at MSC on January 16 and another at KSC on February 13, had failed to resolve the problem, and Low thus instructed Broome's team to reach a "final and definite agreement" on acceptable water specifications and loading procedures. Much unnecessary time and effort had been expended on this problem, Low said, and he expected the team "to put this problem to rest once and for all."

Memo, Low to distr., "Apollo water requirements," Feb. 19, 1968.

February 20

Reflecting the climate of scientific thinking at his Center, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth responded to inquiries from Homer E. Newell, NASA Associate Administrator, concerning vocal communications during exploration of the lunar surface. While he termed continuous talking undesirable, Gilruth stated an astronaut's running comment would in effect form a set of field notes that a geologist might ordinarily keep during a field exercise. This normal vocal narrative, he told Newell, would keep ground control informed of mission progress and would ensure a maximum scientific return from the flight.

Ltr., Gilruth to Newell, Feb. 20, 1968; memo, Wilmot N. Hess, MSC Director of Science and Applications, to Special Assistant to the Director, "Astronaut activity on lunar surface," Feb. 19, 1968.

February 20

MSC informed NASA Hq. that a reaction control system (RCS) engine ruptured at Marquardt Corp. the previous night during a heater integration test within a normal duty cycle run. This was a development test; the cause of the rupture was unknown at the time of the report. A second RCS failure occurred at Marquardt March 6 during a rerun of the LM heater integration tests. The rerun series started March 2. No facility damage or personnel injuries were reported from either incident. Investigation was under way at Marquardt by both NASA and Marquardt engineers to determine the cause of the failures and the effect on the program.

TWXs, George M. Low, MSC, to NASA Hq., Attn: Director, Apollo Program Office, Feb. 20, 1968, and Mar. 6, 1968.

February 26

The LM Descent Engine Program Review was held at TRW Systems, Redondo Beach, Calif., reviewing the overall program status, technical and manufacturing problems, and program costs. Program status reports showed that 28 engines had been delivered in the LM descent engine program to date, including all White Sands Test Facility engines and engine rebuilds and all qualification test and flight engines; 9 WSTF engines and 12 flight engines remained to be delivered. Grumman indicated all engine delivery dates coincided with the vehicle need dates.

Ltr., C. H. Bolender, MSC, to NASA Hq., Attn: Edgar M. Cortright, "LM Descent Engine Program Review at TRW Systems on February 26, 1968," Mar. 11, 1968.

February 26

Stress corrosion and window problems in the LM had been resolved, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller advised the Administrator in his weekly progress report. By a thorough analysis of the entire structure of the spacecraft, a team of engineers at Grumman had determined that widespread stress corrosion on the vehicle was highly unlikely. Also, inspection of more than 1,400 individual parts on exposed surfaces of lunar module test article LTA-3 and LMs 3 through 8 had failed to discover a single instance of stress corrosion cracking, and thus no major changes would be made to the structure of the spacecraft.

Regarding the window problem (a window had blown out during a routine pressure test of LM-5 on December 17, 1967), Mueller stated that the windows on the LM were made from the strongest glass ever used on manned spacecraft. The most important factor, he said, was to avoid scratches on the window surface. Accordingly, Grumman and MSC had instituted a new acceptance test procedure to be conducted at Bethpage immediately before installation, after which the windows would remain fully protected. The LM-5 window failure had been caused by a defect in the body of the glass. Grumman subsequently planned to pressure-test all LM windows at 17.2 newtons per square centimeter (25 pounds per square inch). Normal operating pressure was 4.0 newtons per sq cm (5.8 psia).

Memo, Mueller to NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator, "Manned Space Flight Report - February 26, 1968."

February 27

The Flight Readiness Review Board for CSM 020, lunar module test article 2R (LTA-2R), and spacecraft-LM adapter 9 (SLA-9) met at KSC. Concern was expressed over the loss of parts and materials in the CSM. North American Rockwell reported that a search had been made for 38 man-hours and was terminated when it was felt that damage might result. A data-storage equipment item had failed at the vendor and was later installed on spacecraft 020. The "belt was off its associated pulley" and because of this and other open failures the equipment was replaced. The chairman noted that there was no reason why a device with belts could not be made without belt failure.

"Minutes of Meeting, The Flight Readiness Review Board, CSM 020/LTA-2R/SLA-9, February 27, 1968," submitted by H. L. Brendle, Secretary, approved by Robert R. Gilruth, MSC Director.

February 28

MSC Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. Slayton wrote Wilmot N. Hess, Director of Science and Applications, regarding priorities between scientific objectives and mission operations in Apollo mission planning, specifically for activities on the lunar surface. Slayton acknowledged that scientific priorities had to be included within an overall mission plan. However, those priorities must inevitably be adjusted by operational factors such as difficulty and duration of activities to maximize success of the mission. Flight planning for surface operations on the first Apollo landing mission, Slayton said, had followed guidelines laid down by ASPO Manager George M. Low on September 18, 1967 (reflecting an MSC Directors' consensus as voiced at a September 15 briefing on lunar surface activities):

Deployment of the ALSEP during the first EVA operation, he continued, appeared precluded by safety considerations (no objective ranked higher than the astronauts initial familiarization with 1/6 gravity). Should 1/6 gravity operations turn out to be simpler and less time-consuming than anticipated, ALSEP unloading might be possible; but Slayton stated that EVA experience during the Gemini program dictated a much more conservative plan.

Memo, Slayton to Hess, "Apollo lunar surface operations planning," Feb. 28, 1968.

February 29

In response to action required by the CSM 2TV-2 and CSM 101 Wire Board in October 1967, Dale D. Myers, CSM Program Manager at North American Rockwell, submitted to MSC results of a wire improvement study for the umbilical feedthrough area for the lower equipment bay. Myers stated that substantial improvements in wiring appearance in the lower equipment bay had been made even before the Wire Board's ordered study and that further improvements of any significant nature could not be made without major structural changes (which would be intolerable from the standpoint of mission schedules). Thus, Myers recommended against further changes in wiring in the lower equipment bay. Further, as installation procedures and wire protective measures had improved, the occurrence of wiring damage had been progressively reduced. This same rationale, Myers affirmed, applied to other harness areas inside the spacecraft. (This study by North American completed action items generated at the Wire Board meeting.)

Ltr., Myers to MSC CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Feb. 29, 1968, with encl., "Summary Report on Block II Command Module Wiring Improvement Study."

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