The Trailblazers

1969: First Half

Apollo's successes in the seventh and eighth missions augured well for a manned landing on the moon during 1969. But program executives were not complaisant about even these demonstrations of the command and service modules and the Saturn V. Nor did they exhibit any tendency to depart from a systematic step-by-step plan and to stampede toward a lunar landing earlier than scheduled, although President Kennedy's deadline year had arrived.

Frank Borman's Apollo 8 crew in its flight near the moon had met no major obstacles, but the need for trailblazing missions had not lessened. Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George Mueller in Washington wrote Center Director Robert Gilruth in Houston after Apollo 8 to remind him, "It is essential that we not rest on our laurels, for we have yet to land on the moon." Gilruth foresaw few chances for resting. Only three days of the new year had passed when John D. Stevenson, Director of Mission Operations in Washington, projected five Apollo flights for 1969, with launches on 28 February, 17 May, 15 July, 12 September, and 10 December. This schedule was essentially the same race-with-the-decade timetable outlined a year earlier.1

1. George E. Mueller, NASA OMSF, to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC Dir., 23 Jan. 1969; John D. Stevenson TWX, "MSF Mission Operations Forecast for January 1969," 3 Jan. 1969.

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