Committees at Work

To begin upgrading NASA's tentative planning from circumlunar flights to lunar landing missions, Seamans on 2 May set up an ad hoc group led by William A. Fleming of Headquarters.* The task was reminiscent of that given to George Low's committee earlier in the year, but the Fleming team was to place more emphasis on the landing stage than Low's group had. Since Seamans had given him little time to complete the study, Fleming settled on direct flight as the way to reach the moon. For the final approach to landing, his group concluded, a stage weighing 43,000 kilograms would be needed, with 85 percent of that being the fuel load.1

Once Fleming had selected the direct route, Seamans realized that he needed more options, so he formed a second committee, headed by Bruce Lundin from the Lewis Research Center, to study the choices. The eight-man committee** looked at rendezvous, mostly earth-orbit rendezvous, in which two or more vehicles would link up near the home planet and journey to the moon as a unit, and lunar-orbit rendezvous, which required a single vehicle to fly to the moon, orbit that body while one of its sections landed on the surface and returned, and then travel back to earth.

Lundin's group believed that rendezvous offered two attractions: deciding on launch vehicle size - Nova or several proposed versions of an advanced Saturn - would not restrict future growth; and rendezvous would permit lunar landings to be made with smaller boosters, using rocket engines already under development. The Lundin team favored earth-orbit rendezvous, with two or three of the advanced Saturns. They considered it safer, although they conceded that lunar-orbit rendezvous would require less propellant and, in theory, could be done with a single Saturn C-3, one of the versions under consideration.2

NASA officials gathered on 10 June 1961 to hear what both Fleming and Lundin had to report. Although the audience asked a few questions after each presentation, it was obvious that neither committee had made real progress. They did root out some difficulties that lay ahead and present some suggestions on how a lunar landing might be made. But, actually, little could be done at the time, and they knew it, since NASA did not know how much money Congress intended to appropriate.3


* The Fleming Committee, composed of about 20 members from both Headquarters and the field centers, concluded that "it is not unreasonable to achieve the first attempt of a manned lunar landing in 1967 provided there is a truly determined National effort." Reaching this goal would depend on the development of an adequate launch vehicle.

** Lundin's team consisted of Alfred Eggers (Ames), Walter J. Downhower (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) , Lieutenant Colonel George W. S. Johnson (Air Force) , Laurence Loftin (Langley) , Harry O. Ruppe (Marshall), and William J. D. Escher and Ralph May, secretaries (NASA Headquarters).


1. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Dir., Space Flight Prog., et al., "Establishment of an Ad Hoc Task Group for Manned Lunar Landing Study," 2 May 1961; George M. Low, interview, Washington, 1 May 1964; John M. Logsdon, "NASA's Implementation of the Lunar Landing Decision," NASA HHN-81, August 1969, pp. 9-11; Abraham Hyatt to Assoc. Admin., NASA, "Manned Lunar Landing and Return Attempt in 1967," 8 May 1961; Seamans and Hyatt to James E. Webb and Hugh L. Dryden, "Status of planning for an accelerated NASA Program," 12 May 1961; NASA, "A Feasible Approach for an Early Manned Landing," pt. 1, "Summary Report of Ad Hoc Task Group Study" [Fleming Report], 16 June 1961, passim, but esp. pp. 8-9, 27, 95-96.

2. Seamans to Dirs., Launch Vehicle and Adv. Research Progs., "Broad Study of Feasible Ways for Accomplishing Manned Lunar Landing Mission," 25 May 1961; Bruce T. Lundin et al., "A Survey of Various Vehicle Systems for the Manned Lunar Mission," 10 June 1961, passim, but esp. pp. 4, 13-16, 26.

3. John I. Cumberland to Dryden et al., "Notes on June 10, 1961 Task Force Report," 13 June 1961; Lundin to Seamans, 12 June 1961. See also "Composite Notes on June 22, 1961 Meeting with Administrator and Deputy Administrator concerning Manned Lunar Landing, Communications, Meteorological, and University Support Programs," n.d.


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