Guidance and Navigation

Guidance and navigation was the most difficult of all the lander's subsystems to develop, both technically and managerially. Development started off simply enough but turned into a complicated tangle. MIT and Houston officials wanted to use the basic command module arrangement in the lander to avoid developing an entirely new system. After Grumman was selected in November 1962, the contractor, the center, and MIT had tried to work out a configuration for the lander. In the middle of 1963, Houston asked Headquarters for permission to to procure lunar module guidance through existing agreements with MIT, AC Spark Plug, Kollsman, Raytheon, and Sperry. When Washington refused, time was lost in negotiating new contracts.36

The biggest delay came from a dispute over whether to use the MIT unit in the lunar module. Grumman's refusal to accept MIT's word about the reliability of its system sparked the controversy. Lunar module manager James L. Decker in Houston shared this skepticism and asked Grumman to look into a more advanced system than the three-gimbal platform (pitch, yaw, and roll referencing system) MIT used. Meanwhile, David W. Gilbert, in charge of navigation and guidance in Shea's office, insisted on getting the MIT unit into the lunar module. Grumman was caught between the two opposing factions. Neither of the Houston officials could get the other to change his mind - and the chasm deepened. Top management in Houston and in Washington then stepped in. Bellcomm would study the options, consult with all parties to the argument, and recommend a solution. In due time, NASA decided to stick with MIT and announced its decision, based on Bellcomm's findings, on 18 October 1963.

But the announcement did not completely clear the air, and some rather strained feelings developed between Grumman and MIT. Early in 1964, however, the contractors recognized the necessity of working together on the areas where development progress affected both the lunar module and its guidance system. Set down in formal Interface Control Documents, agreements on these points would govern all future actions by both parties. At the end of February, Rector reported 29 meetings between the contractors (with 200 more to go, at this rate, he said) and 55 documents drafted, but almost no concessions by either party. In April, Manned Spacecraft Center managers realized that they would have to intervene to break up the logjam. At a two-day meeting in Bethpage on 25 and 26 June, Shea did just that. After scrutinizing the documents, he mediated the differences and forced the contractors to cooperate.37


36. Trageser, interview, Cambridge, Mass., 27 April 1966; J. Dahlen et al., "Guidance and Navigation System for Lunar Excursion Module," MIT R-373, July 1962; Robert G. Chilton, interview, Houston, 30 March 1970; Decker to Apollo Proc., Attn.: James W. Epperly, '"Source Selection," 29 May 1963; Brackett to Assoc. Admin., NASA, "Proposed Procurement Plan for Apollo Lunar Excursion Module Navigation and Guidance Systems and Associated Ground Support Equipment," 28 June 1963; Holmes to Brackett, "Additional Information Justifying Recommending Approval of the Proposed Procurement Plan for Apollo LEM Navigation and Guidance Systems and Associated Ground Support Equipment," 3 July 1963, with enc.; James C. Church to Mgr., ASPO, "LEM Guidance and Navigation Contracts," 25 Oct. 1963.

37. David Gilbert, interview, Houston, 16 Dec. 1969; Gilbert, "A Historical Description of the Apollo Guidance and Navigation System Development," 31 Dec. 1963, with encs., Chilton to Proc. Off., "Selection of a contractor for Apollo guidance and navigation system development," 1 Aug. 1961, "Justification for Non-competitive Procurement, LEM Guidance System," signed by James E. Webb, 1 Aug. 1963, and Gilbert, "ASPO Guidance and Control Systems Office Comments Relative to the Adequacy of the Existing G&N System Configuration for the LEM," 2 Aug. 1963; Robert P. Young note to Webb, 20 Aug. 1963; Gavin and Trageser interviews; NASA, "NASA Negotiates for Development of LEM Guidance and Navigation System," news release 63-234, 18 Oct. 1963; LEM PO, "Management Accomplishments, Problems, and Plans - LEM," 20 Feb. 1964; LEM PO, "Problems," 16-22 April 1964; Rector to Maynard, "Outstanding actions from Systems Engineering," 10 April 1964; MSC, Action Documentation, Form 934, with problem stated and action needed described by Rector and disposition noted and signed by Lewis, 15 June 1964; Rector TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 23 June 1964; minutes of NASA Coordination Meeting with MIT and Grumman, No. L7A, 25-26 June 1964; Jesse F. Goree, telephone interview, 8 April 1975.


Previous Page Next Page Table of Contents