New Directions

NASA had long since begun to lay plans for lunar flights, although throughout 1960 it had tended to focus on flying around, rather than landing on, the Moon. A new direction in NASA thinking surfaced at the quarterly meeting of the Space Exploration Program Council (SEPC) on 5-6 January 1961. The council was a NASA device for smoothing out technical and managerial problems at the highest level. Its members were the heads of the field development centers and Headquarters program offices,* 2 with the Associate Administrator serving as chairman.3 The January meeting was the first presided over by Robert Seamans in his new assignment, and it marked a decisive turning point in the manned space flight program. The first day was devoted to manned lunar landing.

The meeting began with a series of presentations arranged by George Low, Chief of Manned Space Flight in the Office of Space Flight Programs, to provide "a 'first cut' at a NASA Manned Lunar Landing Program."4 Low, an early advocate of orbital staging techniques as an alternative to the Nova direct approach, made sure that the council heard about Earth orbit and lunar orbit rendezvous as well as direct ascent.** 5 The next step was setting up a study team to devise a more complete plan. [29] This the council did, naming Low its chairman. Unable to agree on the best approach, the council simply asked for "an answer to the question 'What is NASA's Manned Lunar Landing Program?'"6

The Low Committee began its work a week later.*** Low himself drafted its report, revised it on the basis of comments from other members, and submitted it to Seamans early in February.7 The report set out the two themes that came to dominate NASA lunar-mission planning throughout 1961. First, Low argued that both orbital operations and large boosters were going to be needed in the long run. NASA must include Nova-class boosters in the national space program, but "orbital operation techniques must be developed as part of the space program, whether or not the manned lunar landing mission is consider." Second, he insisted that, barring unforeseen problems, rendezvous "could allow us to develop a capability for the manned lunar mission in less time than by any other means."8

In Space Task Group, the question of rendezvous took a different form. It was seen as one of several classes of missions around which a follow-on Mercury program might be built. This was one of the subjects at a meeting on 20 January 1961 between Director Robert Gilruth and his chief lieutenants.**** Max Faget, aided by his Flight Systems Division staff, led the discussion and outlined hardware and booster requirements for several possible types of missions.9 Two broad classes came in for particular attention: one was labeled extended time in orbit, the other was rendezvous.

Extended time in orbit covered two possible missions. The first was an 18-orbit manned Mercury mission based on augmented capsule and environmental control systems. The standard Atlas but Gilruth suggested that the group think about using an Atlas-Agena. Atlas-Agena was a two-stage vehicle. The Atlas, which served as first stage, was a product of the Astronautics Division of General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego, California, and the Agena was built by the Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, Sunnyvale, California. Agena development began in 1957 under the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division. [30] An improved model, Agena B, with a restartable engine and larger propellant tanks, entered development in June 1959 and flew on 12 November 1960.10 Atlas might or might not have enough power to carry aloft the capsule modified for the mission; but if a primate were to pave the way for a manned mission of 7 to 14 days, then Atlas was clearly lacking. It could not lift the required weight.

Atlas was even more doubtful for rendezvous missions. Faget and his colleagues discussed two types, which differed chiefly in their targets. Both used Mercury capsules modified to make them maneuverable, but the target in the first instance was Saint; in the second, an as-yet-undeveloped space laboratory. Discussion centered on the need for a much "refined capsule with better operational and maintenance capabilities, better door, better wiring, possibly a bi-propellant control system, etc." All this meant weight, more than an Atlas could lift. But the basic objection to the rendezvous mission was that it "might be considered too hazardous for a one-man operation."11

Whatever their merits, all these possibilities were too vague. Before proposing a Mercury follow-on program to NASA Headquarters, STG had to be "more specific with regard to particular flights needed, funding, management, etc." This was the task assigned to Faget,# who had only a week to complete it before a scheduled visit to STG on 26-27 January by Abe Silverstein, head of Space Flight Programs in NASA Headquarters. The meetings with Silverstein resulted in a shift in focus to "the question of capsule redesign to speed up check-out and maintenance."12

With a good deal more work clearly needed, Gilruth turned to James A. Chamberlin. Canadian-born and trained at the University of Toronto and the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, Chamberlin had been working in aeronautical engineering and design since 1939 for several Canadian firms. By March 1959 he had become chief of design for AVRO Aircraft, Inc., of Toronto, where he worked on the CF-105 Arrow, an advanced interceptor aircraft.13 When that project was canceled, NASA was able to recruit Chamberlin and several of his colleagues.14

Chamberlin joined STG in April 1959; by August he had become acting chief of the Engineering and Contract Administration Division.15 For the next year and half, he directed STG's technical monitoring of Mercury development and production. When, on 1 February 1961, Gilruth assigned him to work on an improved Mercury, Chamberlin remained titular chief of what had since become the Engineering Division [31] but turned over most of his organization's administrative, technical, and operational matters to his assistants, André J. Meyer, Jr., and William M. Bland, Jr.16 Chamberlin himself went to St. Louis in mid-February; during the next months he actually worked from an office in the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation plant two or three days a week.17

STG's change in status at the beginning of 1961 may have sparked its renewed pursuit of a post-Mercury program. Although located at Langley Research Center in Virginia, STG belonged administratively to Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. This clumsy arrangement served no very useful purpose, since the Space Task Group was largely self-directed in any case. So NASA Administrator Keith Glennan announced on 3 January 1961 that STG was henceforth an independent field element, charged not only with managing Mercury but also with planning and carrying out programs "in the general area of manned space flight."18 This was more hope than fact, however; Mercury was still the only approved program, and independence was largely formal. STG stayed at Langley, on which it still depended for much of its support, both technical and administrative.

The union with Langley was the next to go, for a number of compelling reasons: the threatened impact on Langley research of a full-fledged development effort, the strain of fitting a much expanded STG into already cramped Langley quarters, the chance to spread NASA more widely across the country, and the need to move before new programs had progressed to the point where moving would disrupt them.19 These reasons anticipated, rightly as it proved, the President's lunar landing decision. Where to move was settled during the summer of 1961, after a special committee visited 19 possible sites.## 20 Houston won the prize, and the booming space agency joined forces with the booming city.

That massive expansion, which saw the tripling of both the manned space flight program and the center in charge of it, had been well prepared. NASA's first two years had seen most of the relevant issues raised, many of the answers suggested. Nothing had been decided beyond recall, but the channels were carved into which later events flowed. In the first half of 1961, some channels broadened, others dwindled and vanished. Before the summer was over, a far larger, far more complex, and far more costly manned space Right program emerged. An enormous lunar project had joined Mercury and a third project stood in the wings, justified by the needs of Apollo but growing out of the technology of Mercury.

* NASA Headquarters had been reorganized in December 1959, largely in anticipation of the transfer of Wernher von Braun's Development Operations Division from the Army. The major change was the establishment of a new program office, the Office of Launch Vehicle Programs, which assumed jurisdiction over the Huntsville facility (later the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center) as well as substantial launch facilities at Cape Canaveral. This launch facility, the Missile Firing Laboratory, was combined with NASA's Atlantic Missile Range Operations Office (a liaison group between NASA and the Air Force) in June 1960 to form the Launch Operations Directorate, a semi-autonomous unit of Marshall. Director of the new Headquarters office was Don R. Ostrander, a Air Force major general who had been acting head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense unit responsible for Saturn. Ostrander's staff consisted of some 25 people from the Office of Space Flight Development, which now became the Office of Space Flight Programs, still directed by Abe Silverstein. Ira Abbott's Office of Aeronautical and Space Research now became the Office of Advanced Research Programs. In March 1960 NASA established a fourth technical program office under Clark T. Randt, the Office of Life Sciences Programs. Albert F. Siepert's Office of Business Administration changed neither its name nor its function during this period.

** In October 1960, Low had formed a small working group to lay out a preliminary program for manned lunar landing. This group comprised Eldon Hall (Office of Launch Vehicle Programs), Oran W. Nicks, and John H. Disher (both of the Office of Space Flight Programs). At the SEPC meeting in January 1961, Maxime Faget (Space Task Group) spoke on Apollo, Melvyn Savage (Office of Launch Vehicle Programs) on direct ascent, Wernher von Braun (Marshall Space Flight Center) on Earth orbit rendezvous, and John Houbolt (Langley Research Center) on lunar orbit rendezvous.

*** Other members of the Low Committee were Eldon Hall, Max Faget, John Houbolt, Oran Nicks, Alfred Mayo (Office of Life Sciences Programs), Earnest O. Pearson, Jr., and Heinz H. Koelle (Marshall).

**** Associate Directors Charles Donlan and Walter C. Williams; Flight Systems and Flight Operations Division chiefs Max Faget and Charles Mathews, respectively; assistant Engineering Division chief William M. Bland, Jr.; and special assistant Paul Purser.

# Faget was assisted by Mathews, Bland, and Kenneth S. Kleinknecht (Gilruth's technical assistant).

## Locations surveyed were: in Louisiana, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Bogalusa; in Texas, Houston, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Liberty, and Harlingen; in Florida, Tampa and Jacksonville; in California, Los Angeles, San Diego, Richmond, Moffett Field, Berkeley, and San Francisco; and, in Missouri, St. Louis.

2 Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 NASA Organization Charts, 29 Dec. 1959, ibid., p. 340, and 4 April 1960, ibid., p. 343. (Washington, 1966), pp. 115-16, 123-27;

3 Ibid., pp. 148-53.

4 Minutes, Space Exploration Program Council (SEPC), 5-6 Jan. 1961, p. 2.

5 SEPC minutes, p. 1; memo, George M. Low to Dir., Space Flight Programs, "Manned Lunar Landing Program," 17 Oct. 1960.

6 SEPC minutes, p. 3.

7 Ibid.; Low, "A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing," draft, 16 Jan. 1961; memo, Low to Assoc. Adm., "A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing," 24 Jan. 1961, with enclosure, "A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing," draft, 20 Jan. 1961; memo, Low to Assoc. Adm., "Transmittal of Report Prepared by Manned Lunar Working Group," 7 Feb.1961, with enclosure, "A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing," prepared by the Lunar Landing Working Group, January 1961.

8 "A Plan for Manned Lunar Landing," January 1961, pp. 8, 9.

9 Paul E. Purser, "Notes on Capsule Review Board [CRB] Meeting, January 20, 1961," with enclosure, "Follow-on Mercury Missions," n.d.

10 Ibid., p. 1; R. Cargill Hall, "The Agena-Booster Satellite," presented at American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics, Boston, Mass., 2 Dec. 1966, pp. 21-24; U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics and Subcommittees Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, 1961 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 10246, 86th Cong., 2nd sess., 1960, pp. 317, 345-46; U.S. Congress, House, Subcommittee on Independent Offices of the Committee on Appropriations, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1961: Hearings, 86th Cong., 2nd sess., 1960, pp. 221, 236, 239, 497-98.

11 Purser, "Notes for CRB, Jan. 20, 1961," p. 2; also pp. 15-16 above.

12 Ibid.; memo, Purser to Robert R. Gilruth, "Log for week of January 23, 1961," 30, Jan. 1961; Purser, "Notes on Visit of Dr. Silverstein, January 26 and 27, 1961," n.d., with enclosure, "Discussion Items for Visit of Dr. Silverstein, January 26 and 27, 1961"; Purser, "Action Items from Meeting with Dr. Silverstein on January 26 and 27, 1961," p. 2.

13 MSC Form 499, "Biographical Data [on James A. Chamberlin]," 19 June 1967.

14 Memos, Purser to Gilruth, a series of weekly logs covering March, April, and May 1959.

15 Memo, Gilruth to staff, "Organization of Space Task Group," 3 Aug. 1959.

16 Purser, "Log," 30 Jan. 1961; André J. Meyer, Jr., interview, Houston, 9 Jan. 1967.

17 "Early History of Project Gemini," no author, n.d. [Purser notes on bottom of page that this information came from McDonnell]; Chamberlin, interview, Houston, 9 June 1966.

18 Administrators Briefing Memorandum, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Adm., "Space Task Group Functions and Staffing," 30 Nov. 1960, with enclosure, memo, Abe Silverstein to Assoc. Adm., "Separation of Space Task Group from Goddard Space Flight Center," 18 Nov. 1960, with 3 enclosures; NASA General Management Instruction No. 2-2-7, "Functions and Authority - Space Task Group," 1 Jan. 1961; NASA/STG News Release, "Space Task Group Becomes Separate NASA Field Element," 3 Jan. 1961.

19 "Manned Spacecraft Development Center: Organizational Concepts and Staffing Requirements," STG, 1 May 1961, with 3 enclosures; a second study, untitled and undated, adds a fourth enclosure, "Summary of Planning on Location of a Manned Spacecraft Development Center."

20 Robert B. Merrifield, "Men and Spacecraft: A History of the Manned Spacecraft Center (1958-1969)," [1972], pp. 3-22 through -30; James M. Grimwood, Project Mercury: A Chronology, NASA SP-4001 (Washington, 1963), p. 147.

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