Part 2 (O)
Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight
October 1 through October 21, 1968
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
Ltr., Schneider to distr., "Minutes of Fourth Meeting on October
1-2, 1968, at the Manned Spacecraft Center," Oct. 11, 1968.
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
Ltr., Mueller to Gilruth, Oct. 2, 1968.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Ltr., Low to Phillips, Oct. 7, 1968; TWX, Phillips to Low,
"Recording of Voice Communications at KSC," Sept. 30,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The first mission would include a single EVA period of up to three
hours. Training experience and simulations would form the basis for a
decision on one- versus two-man EVAs during the period.
- The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package and the Lunar Geology
Investigation experiment would not be carried aboard the flight. Lunar
soil samples would be collected. Also, other candidate experiments would
be considered for inclusion on the flight.
- Television would be carried aboard the flight, both for operational
and public information benefits.
- A paramount objective on the first landing would be to assess
limitations and capabilities of the astronauts and their equipment in
the lunar surface environment, to enhance the scientific return from the
second and subsequent missions. (MSC was to structure detailed test
objectives and experiments to satisfy this goal.)
- And MSC would recommend to Headquarters (including cost and schedule
impacts) hardware changes that would lengthen the EVA time available for
scientific investigations during subsequent flights.
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.
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.
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.