Part 2 (O)

Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight

October 1 through October 21, 1968


October 1-2

The Apollo Crew Safety Review Board held its fourth meeting at MSC. Discussions centered chiefly on Saturn V engine-out abort situations and the ability of the CSM to withstand structural loads imposed by such vehicle failures. In fact, however, it was unlikely that any problem would be experienced, because of a controlled S-IC engine shutdown. Loads because of catastrophic engine failure greatly exceeded spacecraft capability, but the Board ruled such an occurrence as remote and accepted it as a flight risk. Also, evaluation of testing results demonstrated that overall loads because of pogo vibration were not a problem. Board Chairman William C. Schneider reported that, in general, action items assigned to MSC as a result of the Apollo 7 review had been satisfactorily closed.

Ltr., Schneider to distr., "Minutes of Fourth Meeting on October 1-2, 1968, at the Manned Spacecraft Center," Oct. 11, 1968.

October 2

George E. Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, wrote MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth to reemphasize the operational philosophy for the Apollo 7 mission. That flight, Mueller said, was the first in the manned program - including Mercury and Gemini programs - to employ fully the "open ended" mission concept. Rather than the Gemini process, in which a series of missions verified the spacecraft design for 3, 6, and ultimately 14 days, with Apollo 7 the first flight was to verify the CSM, evaluating the vehicle via telemetry through each successive mission step. Also, to ensure maximum return from the mission, primary and secondary objectives would be completed as early in the flight as possible (approximately two-thirds of those objectives to be completed by the end of the first day and more than 90 percent by end of the second day). Mueller emphasized the importance of the agency's emphasizing this open-ended mission concept during public announcements of Apollo 7's flight plan and objectives.

Ltr., Mueller to Gilruth, Oct. 2, 1968.

October 3

Senior management from NASA Hq. and the three manned Centers conducted the Apollo 7 flight readiness review at KSC. Crew, space vehicle, and all supporting elements were ready for flight. Countdown-to-launch sequence had started on October 6, and flight preparations were on schedule for launch readiness at 11:00 a.m. EDT on October 11.

OMSF, NASA Hq., to NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - October 7, 1968," Oct. 7, 1968.

October 4

MSC spacecraft and mission planning experts met to discuss mission techniques for the D mission, specifically the rendezvous exercise. Because of the slow progress in reviewing a draft of the D Rendezvous Mission Techniques document, Apollo Data Priority Coordinator Howard W. Tindall reported that the Center's effort in this area needed to be strengthened. Participants did identify exactly what spacecraft equipment had to be working at the start of each segment of the rendezvous exercise. A general principle was that the CSM must at all times be prepared to rescue the LM. Participants therefore insisted on having a redundant capability in the CSM for all crucial operations. This rescue capability by the CSM provided an adequate backup for each possible LM system failure except braking. This general philosophy, stated Tindall, "seemed to provide the best tradeoff between crew safety and assurance of meeting mission objectives." Memo, Tindall to distr., "D Rendezvous Mission Techniques," Oct. 10, 1968.

October 7

In preparation for the flight of Apollo 8, NASA and industry technicians at KSC placed CSM 103 atop the Saturn V launch vehicle. The launch escape system was installed the following day; and on October 9 the complete AS-503 space vehicle was rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and moved to the launch pad, where launch preparations were resumed.

Memo, George E. Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Flight, to Acting NASA Administrator, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - October 14, 1968," Oct. 14, 1968.

October 7

Ralph H. Tripp, LM Program Manager at Grumman, forwarded his company's plan for control of configuration changes on the LM. The need for such a formal statement had been discussed at a meeting in Bethpage on September 25 between ASPO Manager George M. Low; his deputy for the LM, C. H. Bolender; other Apollo engineers from Houston; and Tripp, LM Program Director Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., and others from Grumman. Grumman's ground rules set forth explicit guidelines governing change approval levels, specifically those changes which the contractor might make without obtaining prior specific approval from NASA (defined as "compatibility changes" that did not have significant cost, weight, performance, schedule, or safety effects) - although Grumman must continue to inform MSC of these changes as they occurred.

Ltr., Tripp to Low, "Configuration Change Control, LM Program," Oct. 7, 1968, with encl., "Configuration Change Control - Ground Rules," Oct. 7, 1968.

October 7

In compliance with Apollo Program Directive 29 of July 6, 1967, ASPO Manager George M. Low informed Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that "the private umbilical connection between the astro- communicator and the astronauts, the private administrative telephone connection via the umbilical cable to the astronauts, and the private aeromed communications in the MSOB [Manned Spacecraft Operations Building] will be recorded during all hazardous spacecraft tests. The recording will be placed in the hands of the Director of Flight Crew Operations, who will keep this recording for a period of 30 days following mission completion. After that time the recording may be destroyed."

Ltr., Low to Phillips, Oct. 7, 1968; TWX, Phillips to Low, "Recording of Voice Communications at KSC," Sept. 30, 1968.

October 9

Members of the MSF Management Council considered scientific experiments and surface extravehicular activities (EVA) for the first Apollo lunar landing mission. They decided to go ahead with development of three proposed experiments, the passive seismometer, laser reflector, and solar wind collector. They made no commitment to fly any of the three, however, pending development schedules and a clear understanding of timelines required for their deployment during the EVA portion of the mission. Other issues examined by the Council still were unresolved: one versus two-man EVA, use of television, and timeline allocations for EVA trials and development by the crew. During the discussions, ASPO Manager George M. Low recommended attempting television transmission via the Goldstone antenna (although the operational procedures would further burden an already heavily constrained mission). The erectable antenna would also be carried and used if the landing site and EVA period precluded sight of the Goldstone antenna. Charles W. Mathews and others from Washington voiced concern that the EVA timeline did not allow sufficient time for learning about EVA per se in the one-sixth-gravity environment of the moon. The astronaut must perform some special tasks, but must also have some time for personal movements and evaluation of EVA capabilities in order to build confidence toward a fairly complex EVA exercise during the second landing mission. Low asked his chief system engineering assistant, Owen E. Maynard, to incorporate these operational decisions into the Apollo mission planning and to define mounting of the television camera and its early use in the mission.

Memo, Low to Maynard, "First G mission science package," Oct. 9, 1968.

October 9

NASA Apollo Mission Director William C. Schneider reported completion of all action items pertinent to Apollo 7 assigned by Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips as a result of recommendations by the Apollo Crew Safety Review Board on May 27, 1968. These actions had included qualification of critical subsystems; a review of the AS-205 launch vehicle test history; a review of Saturn IB 205 and CSM 101 functional interfaces; a manned test readiness review, which was completed at KSC on August 28; and issuance of an Emergency Actions Summary Document containing emergency and contingency situations and appropriate procedures for pad operations, which had won approval on September 27.

Memo, Schneider to Flight Readiness Review Secretariat for Apollo, "Crew Safety Review Board Action," Oct. 9, 1968.

October 10

Because of the continuing problem of hardware changes, Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips revised policies and procedures for control of changes for AS-503 and subsequent missions. Level II Configuration Control Boards, said Phillips, would have authority to implement several categories of engineering changes: mandatory changes to ensure crew safety or mission success, changes that would substantially reduce workload or checkout time at KSC, and changes to improve the probability of launch and to reduce the possibility of launch delays or scrubs, based on engineering analysis and failure history. Phillips admitted that other essential changes might be needed that did not fulfil these criteria, but such "down-the-line" changes must be held to an absolute minimum, he told ASPO Manager George M. Low. All changes that affected deliveries or launch schedules, on the other hand, must still be submitted to the Level I CCB for approval before implementation. These revised procedures, Phillips believed, would produce the control of changes needed to ensure an operationally suitable Apollo space vehicle, yet allow the secondary-level CCB to exercise "tough and critical judgment" of the change decision process, to allow needed flexibility within the overall program.

Ltr., Phillips to Low, "Change Policies and Procedures," Oct. 10, 1968.

October 11-22

Apollo 7 (AS-205), the first manned Apollo flight, lifted off from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy Oct. 11, carrying Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham. The countdown had proceeded smoothly, with only a slight delay because of additional time required to chill the hydrogen system in the S-IVB stage of the Saturn launch vehicle. Liftoff came at 11:03 a.m. EDT. Shortly after insertion into orbit, the S-IVB stage separated from the CSM, and Schirra and his crew performed a simulated docking with the S-IVB stage, maneuvering to within 1.2 meters of the rocket. Although spacecraft separation was normal, the crew reported that one adapter panel had not fully deployed. Two burns using the reaction control system separated the spacecraft and launch stage and set the stage for an orbital rendezvous maneuver, which the crew made on the second day of the flight, using the service propulsion engine.

Crew and spacecraft performed well throughout the mission. During eight burns of the service propulsion system during the flight, the engine functioned normally. October 14, third day of the mission, witnessed the first live television broadcast from a manned American spacecraft. The SPS engine was used to deorbit after 259 hours 39 minutes of flight. CM-SM separation and operation of the earth landing system were normal, and the spacecraft splashed down about 13 kilometers from the recovery ship, the U.S.S. Essex, at 7:11 a.m. EDT October 22. Although the vehicle initially settled in an apex-down ("stable 2") attitude, upright bags functioned normally and returned the CSM to an upright position in the water. Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham were quickly picked up by a recovery helicopter and were safe aboard the recovery vessel less than an hour after splashdown.

All primary Apollo 7 mission objectives were met, as well as every detailed test objective (and three test objectives not originally planned). Engineering firsts from Apollo 7, aside from live television from space, included drinking water for the crew produced as a by-product of the fuel cells. Piloting and navigation accomplishments included an optical rendezvous, daylight platform realignment, and orbital determination via sextant tracking of another vehicle. All spacecraft systems performed satisfactorily. Minor anomalies were countered by backup systems or changes in procedures. With successful completion of the Apollo 7 mission, which proved out the design of the Block II CSM (CSM 101), NASA and the nation had taken the first step on the pathway to the moon.

TWX, William C. Schneider to distr., "Apollo 7 Mission, Mission Director's 24-Hour Report," Oct. 22, 1968; memos, George E. Mueller to Acting Administrator, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - October 14, 1968," Oct. 14, 1968, and "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - October 21, 1968," Oct. 21, 1968.

October 16

Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips ordered that the Saturn IB program be placed in a standby status pending any future requirements for Apollo or the Apollo Applications program. Phillips' action signaled the shift in Apollo to the Saturn V vehicle, effective with AS-503.

TWX, Phillips to distr., "Saturn IB Program Planning," Oct. 16, 1968.

October 17

Dale D. Myers, Apollo CSM Manager at North American Rockwell, wrote ASPO Manager George Low on the policy question of contractor and subcontractor support of the current Apollo flight program and potential follow-on activities. Support for such activities, Myers said, "can be seriously jeopardized if we permit . . . experienced, specialized personnel and unique facilities to become irretrievably lost to the program." He emphasized in particular the case of Aeronca, Inc., of Middletown, Ohio, manufacturer of stainless steel honeycomb panels that formed the structure of the CSM heatshield. Without some sort of sustaining activity, manufacturing skills and capabilities at Aeronca - and numerous other subcontractors and vendors - would rapidly wither. Myers earnestly solicited Low's views on the subject of subcontractor capability retention. In Low's response, he indicated that immediate action was being initiated to establish capability retention for the three most critical sources, Aeronca, Beech, and Pratt and Whitney, and a plan of action was being prepared for others.

Ltrs., Myers to Low, Oct. 17, 1968; Low to Myers, Nov. 15, 1968.

October 17

Two NASA investigation boards had reported that loss of attitude control caused the May 6 accident that destroyed lunar landing research vehicle No. 1, NASA announced (see May 6 and May 16). Helium in propellant tanks had been depleted earlier than normal, dropping pressure needed to force hydrogen peroxide propellant to the attitude-control lift rockets and thrusters. Warning to the pilot was too late for him to take necessary action for landing. The boards called for improvements in LLRV and LLTV design and operating practices and more stringent control over flying programs. No bad effects on the Apollo lunar landing program had been found and no changes were recommended for the LM.

NASA Release 68-182, "LLRV Accident Report," Oct. 17, 1968.

October 18

David B. Pendley, Technical Assistant for Flight Safety at MSC, recommended to ASPO Manager George M. Low an official policy position for landings on land. Pendley stated that despite all efforts by the Center's Engineering and Development Directorate to develop a safe land-landing capability with the CSM, the goal could not be attained. The best course, he told Low, was to accept the risk inherent in the fact that a land landing could not be avoided in an early launch abort-accept the risk openly and frankly and to plan rescue operations on the premise of major structural damage to the spacecraft. "If we do not officially recognize the land landing hazard," Pendley said, "this will place us in an untenable position should an accident occur, and will further prejudice the safety of the crew by continuing a false feeling of security on the subject."

Memo, Pendley to Low, "Land landings," Oct. 18, 1968.

October 19

NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips apprised Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller of recent program decisions and planning for extravehicular activities (EVA) on the first Apollo lunar landing mission. Primary objective on that first flight, Phillips said, had from the inception of the program been a safe manned landing and return. However, in light of current schedules, mission planning, and crew training activities, the agency must now commit itself to a definite scope for EVA activities on the first flight. After thorough review of the mission, a tentative EVA outline had been drawn up at the end of August and distributed to the Centers and Headquarters offices for comment. On September 11 the Manned Space Flight Management Council reviewed the proposed EVA scheme and criticisms and approved a formal EVA mission plan:

Memo, Phillips to Mueller, "Extravehicular Activities for the First Lunar Landing Mission," Oct. 19, 1968.

October 21

MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth formally constituted an Operational Readiness Inspection Committee to inspect the Lunar Receiving Laboratory to demonstrate its suitability to accomplish its mission. John D. Hodge of MSC was appointed Chairman of the ORI and Peter J. Armitage, MSC, Executive Secretary. Other members were Aleck C. Bond, John W. Conlon, D. O. Coons, Joseph P. Kerwin, Paul H. Vavra, and Earle B. Young, all of MSC; E. Barton Geer, LaRC; A. G. Wedum, Ft. Detrick, Md.; and Donald U. Wise, NASA Hq.

Memo, Gilruth to distr., "Operational Readiness Inspection of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory," Oct. 21, 1968.

October 21

While the flight of Apollo 7 was still in progress, ASPO Manager George M. Low ordered that CSM 101 be returned to Downey as quickly as possible at the end of the mission to begin postflight testing as quickly as possible. Therefore, no public affairs showing of the spacecraft could be permitted.

Memo, Low to Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, "Spacecraft 101 postflight activities," Oct. 21, 1968.

October 21

Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller summarized launch preparations for the near-term missions Apollo 8 and Apollo 9. Hurricane Gladys had interrupted work on the Apollo 8 spacecraft and launch vehicle and work was now about two days behind schedule. (Because winds from the storm did not exceed Apollo design values, however, Apollo 8 remained at Pad A and was not returned to the assembly building.) Checkout of LM-3 and CSM 104 for Apollo 9 were on schedule. The CSM had been stacked and would undergo combined systems tests shortly. Ascent and descent stages of the lander would be joined immediately after docking tests had been completed.

Memo, Mueller to Acting Administrator, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - October 21, 1968," Oct. 21, 1968.

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