Part 3 (A)
Man Circles the Moon, the Eagle Lands, and Manned Lunar Exploration
October 23, 1968 through November 1968
LeRoy E. Day, Apollo Test Director, NASA Hq., informed Apollo Program
Director Samuel C. Phillips of two failures of LM propellant tanks
during testing, a problem that might have significant program impact on
LMs 6 and 7 and subsequent vehicles. The particular tanks in question
were those manufactured by Allison Division of General Motors but
reworked under separate contract by Airite Division of Sargent
Industries. The two tanks, lightweight SWIP II models slated for LM-6
and subsequent vehicles, had suffered small cracks in the welds. So
far, said Day, the weld process used in manufacture of the tanks was
"highly suspect." Cryogenic proof-testing probably would be
required to validate the tanks and to give confidence in the tank
welds. Meantime, he said, the problem was receiving high-level
attention both at Grumman and in Houston.
Memo, Day to Apollo Program Director, "LM Descent Propellant Tank
Failures," Oct. 23, 1968.
Howard D. Burns, Chief of the Saturn V Test Management Office at MSFC,
sent to Apollo launch operations officials at KSC a list of requirements
for retesting the Saturn V following a lightning strike on the vehicle
while on the pad. These requirements were to be included in the next
revision of the overall test and checkout requirements documents at KSC.
(Burns' action came largely as a result of discussions at the AS-503
Crew Safety Review Board meeting at KSC on August 20-21, 1968.) Burns
recommended that KSC prepare a contingency plan specifying various stage
and launch vehicle test and checkout procedures that would satisfy
MSFC's requirements. The most immediate assessment must be the overall
safety of the launch vehicle. Electronic and electrical components
headed the list of specific hardware systems to be assessed.
Ltr., Burns to KSC, Attn: A. G. Smith, "AS-503-10 Launch Vehicle
Test and Retest Requirements Following a Lightning Strike on the Saturn
V Launch Vehicle/LUT/MSS," Oct. 24, 1968, with encl., same
In a memorandum for the record, MSC's Apollo LM Program Manager C. H.
Bolender reviewed results of the receiving inspection performed on LM-4
at KSC on October 21. Only 59 valid "crabs" were reported, 44
of them by Grumman's receiving personnel. None of the discrepancies
noted involved major hardware damage or serious procedural faults.
Significant progress had been made in reducing receiving discrepancies
between LM-3 and LM-4. This improvement Bolender attributed to the
addition of surveillance inspectors at Grumman and to the emphasis
being placed on quality control by the resident ASPO personnel at
Memo for Record, Bolender, "Review of LM-4 Receiving Inspection at
KSC," Oct. 26, 1968.
MSC Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Manager George M. Low deleted the
requirement for a short static-firing of the Apollo 8 service module
reaction control system on the pad before launch (the so-called
"burp" firing). He took this move in line with a
recommendation from NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips and
in light of the nominal performance of the RCS during the Apollo
7 flight. By thus eliminating the burp firings - and not
allowing any contact of the system's hypergolic propellants - the
spacecraft could be maintained in a loaded condition through the
December and January launch windows and gain the maximum launch
flexibility for the Apollo 8 flight. (Decisions not to static-fire the
RCS systems on spacecraft following 103 had been made some time
TWX, Phillips to Low, "Apollo 8 Pre-Launch Burp Firing," Oct.
25, 1968; ltr., Low to Phillips, Oct. 28, 1968.
NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips officially designated
the AS-504 and AS-505 missions as Apollo 9 and Apollo 10.
TWX, Phillips, NASA Hq., to KSC, MSFC, and MSC, "Apollo Mission
Designations," Oct. 31.
The Configuration Control Board had decided in favor of an informal
crew log for each Apollo spacecraft, ASPO Manager George M. Low
informed MSC Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. Slayton. The
log would be an unofficial document kept by consulting pilots at the
spacecraft contractor plants during checkout and test of the vehicles
and by the flight crew support team at KSC. Although not intended to
replace other, more formal procedures for recording hardware
discrepancies, the log would contain such items as switching anomalies,
meter bias, and what Low termed "bona fide 'ghosts'" which
had no reasonable engineering explanation, as well as audible and
visual "idiosyncrasies" in spacecraft operation.
Memo, Low to Slayton, "Spacecraft crew log," Nov. 7, 1968.
ASPO Manager George M. Low asked Rocco A. Petrone, Launch Operations
Director at KSC, to set up a special task team to review all paperwork
and to inspect visually all hardware, to ensure proper spacecraft
deployment during the Apollo 8 flight. Apollo 8 contained a novel set
of mechanical and electrical interfaces (CSM, LTA-B lunar module dummy,
launch adapter, and Saturn V vehicle), Low observed. Furthermore,
concern about these complex interfaces had increased because one of the
adapter panels on Apollo 7 had not opened properly. What
Low - as well as MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth - desired foremost was
to preclude repetition of another situation such as had occurred during
the Gemini IX mission, when the shroud panels covering the
Agena target vehicle had only partially deployed and had produced the
"angry alligator" that forced cancellation of docking plans
on that earlier flight.
Ltr., Low to Petrone, Nov. 8, 1968.
The Apollo Crew Safety Review Board met to assess land landing of the
CSM in the area of the launch site if a flight were aborted just before
launch or during the initial phase of a flight. In general the Board was
satisfied with overall planned recovery and medical operations. The only
specific item to be acted on was some means of purging the interior of
the spacecraft to expel any coolant or propellant fumes that might be
trapped inside the cabin. The Board was also concerned about the
likelihood of residual propellants trapped inside the vehicle even after
abort sequence purging, a problem that MSC secured assistance from both
the Ames and Lewis Research Centers to solve. At the Board's suggestion,
MSC's Crew Systems Division also investigated the use of a helmet liner
for the astronauts to prevent head injury upon impact. Finally, the
Board recommended continued egress training with fully suited crews,
including some night training.
Memo, David B. Pendley, MSC Flight Control Div., to ASPO Manager,
"Land landing in the launch site area," Nov. 18, 1968.
ASPO Manager Low asked Aaron Cohen, one of his staff assistants, to
lead an investigation to determine detrimental effects of moisture on
the strength of the bonded covering of the launch adapter structure.
His action stemmed directly from a presentation the same day by James
A. Chamberlin to the Structures Advisory Board explaining the adapter
failure on Apollo 6. Moisture in the adapter not only
raised the pressures generated by heating during the boost phase of the
flight through the atmosphere, but it also weakened the structural
bonding either directly or by hampering venting through the holes in
the honeycomb material. Low asked Cohen to take precautions that no
water be allowed to enter the adapter. All joints in the material
should be sealed with a waterproof tape even before the countdown
demonstration test and should remain on the vehicle throughout the
flight, so that the adapter would absorb no moisture even if it rained
during the final count before launch. On the other hand, the tape must
then withstand boost phase heating and must not impair spacecraft
separation and panel jettisoning. (North American Rockwell, in
compliance with CCBD, August 10, 1968, Master Change Record 7727,
modified the SLA panels by drilling vent holes in the inner skin of the
panels of all subsequent SLAs to allow release of moisture during
ascent. These holes were to be kept sealed until immediately before
launch to avoid collection of moisture in the honeycomb.)
Memo, Low to Cohen, "Verification of spacecraft/LM adapter,"
Nov. 13, 1968.
Martin L. Raines, MSC's Manager at the White Sands Test Facility,
recommended to ASPO Manager George M. Low that he issue official
direction to the two spacecraft contractors, North American Rockwell
and Grumman, governing the phasedown of operations at the engine test
site. Early action was needed, Raines said, for proper contractual
action on the phasedown and for proper disposition of equipment and
supplies. This action signaled the end of the long and difficult
supportive development effort to prove out the Apollo spacecraft rocket
engines for flight.
Memo, Raines to ASPO Manager, "WSTF Phasedown Plan," Nov. 19,
Howard W. Tindall, Jr., Chief of Apollo Data Priority Coordination
within ASPO, reported an operational system problem aboard the LM. To
give a returning Apollo crew an indication of time remaining to perform
a landing maneuver or to abort, a light on the LM instrument panel
would come on when about two minutes worth of propellants remained in
the descent propellant system tanks with the descent engine running at
25-percent thrust. The present LM weight and descent trajectory were
such that the light would always come on before touchdown. The only
hitch, said Tindall, was that the signal was connected to the
spacecraft master alarm. "Just at the most critical time in the
most critical operation of a perfectly nominal lunar landing mission,
the master alarm with all its lights, bells, and whistles will go
off." Tindall related that some four or five years earlier,
astronaut Pete Conrad had called the arrangement "completely
unacceptable . . . but he was probably just an Ensign at the time and
apparently no one paid any attention." If this "is not
fixed," Tindall said, "I predict the first words uttered by
the first astronaut to land on the moon will be 'Gee whiz, that master
alarm certainly startled me.'" Tindall recommended either
rerouting the signal wiring to bypass the alarm or cutting the signal
wire and relying solely on the propellant gauges to assess flight time
Memo to distr., Tindall, "LM DPS low level light fixing,"
Nov. 22, 1968.
In a memorandum for the record, ASPO Manager George M. Low summarized
results of November 19 and 22 meetings on procedures for astronaut
training runs with the Apollo extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) under
simulated space conditions. The runs would be in the two vacuum test
chambers of the Center's Space Environment Simulation Laboratory. MSC
Director Robert R. Gilruth had attended the meetings. Training runs were
always to be preceded by a run also under altitude conditions and using
a gas umbilical from the life support system of the facility itself.
Although connected to the crewman, the facility umbilical would not be
used as a gas supply under normal test conditions. For the final
training run, the astronaut would wear a complete flight-configured EMU
without any other link with the facility. Although several participants
objected that training runs using the EMU alone ran greater risk than
normal in chamber tests, the decision to conduct the exercises using the
all-up flight configuration was reaffirmed.
Memo for Record, Low, "EMU activities in the SESL," Nov. 22,
NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller
reviewed for NASA Acting Administrator Thomas O. Paine the development
of the Apollo service propulsion system (SPS) engine. (Earlier, Paine
had asked whether the SPS engine had ever failed to fire during all of
this developmental program.) Mueller reported that a review of the test
history showed that no complete flight-configuration engine had ever
failed to fire. In fact, during the entire development program
(comprising some 3,200 engine starts and more than 90,000 seconds of
firing time ) only four engines had failed to start. In all of these
cases, the cause of the ignition failures could be traced to faulty
ground support equipment or to inadequate or improper operational
procedures. No engine failure could be attributed solely to the SPS
engine itself. Mueller's response to Paine - with obvious overtones for
the upcoming Apollo 8 circumlunar mission - bespoke a supreme confidence
in the safety and reliability of the all-important main engine of the
Memo, Mueller to Acting Administrator, "Response to Question on
Apollo Service Propulsion System Engine," Nov. 22, 1968.
The LM-11 midsection assembly collapsed in the assembly jig during the
bulkhead prefitting stage of construction at Grumman. The structure
buckled when the bulkheads, which had just been prefitted and drilled,
were removed to permit deburring the drilled holes. Jig gates that were
supposed to hold up the assembly were not in position, nor was the
safety line properly installed. The structure was supported by hand.
Damage to the skin of the structure was not severe, although a small
radius bend was put in one of the upper skins.
Memo, Samuel A. Gentile, Bethpage RASPO Contracting Officer, to distr.,
"Report of Damage of LM-11 Midsection Assembly during
Manufacturing Phase, this date," Nov. 27, 1968.
The need to flight-test manual control of the light LM ascent
configuration had been discussed at the October 15 MSC Flight Program
Review, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth informed NASA Apollo Program
Director Samuel C. Phillips. There was an implication that a control
problem could exist for this configuration. Gilruth said he had stated
that MSC should be able to establish manual control handling qualities
of the LM through proper simulation and be confident about the adequacy
of the control system.
Subsequently, Gilruth had reviewed the operating characteristics of the
LM control system and the status of the simulation program related to
manual control of the light ascent stage during docking. He said that
the most demanding requirement for precision manual attitude control was
the docking maneuver. Docking control had been simulated extensively at
MSC, Grumman, and LaRC using functional representation of the control
system and these simulations established the capability of docking the
LM well within the specified docking criteria. In addition, other LM
control tasks had been simulated at MSC and Grumman, and the LM was
found to have satisfactory handling qualities for all manual control
Ltr., Gilruth to Phillips, "Manual Control of the Light Lunar
Module Ascent Configuration," Nov. 27, 1968.