Race with the Decade

1968: First Half

NASA officials faced 1968 with some satisfaction and a little trepidation. Apollo 4 the previous November had been a triumph, but the Apollo team might have to do just as well six times in 1968 and five in 1969. That string of successes seemed to be a necessary prelude to a timely lunar landing.1 Against this backdrop of mounting schedule pressures, a spate of technical problems cropped up. The most worrisome were those connected with the lunar module. It had grown too fat again and still had problems with metal cracking and with the ascent engine during test firings. Combined, these faults played havoc with delivery schedules and posed a definite threat to achieving Apollo's mission within the decade.

The command module also had some unresolved worries, although North American had made good progress in its redefinition and qualification. Flammability testing and the question of cabin atmosphere on the pad and at launch carried over into the new year, as did the difficulties in getting systems to the spacecraft production line at Downey.2

1. Ralph E. Gibson, NASA Hq., TWX, "Apollo/Saturn Schedule," 4 Nov. 1967; NASA, "Apollo/Saturn Schedule," news release 67-282, 3 Nov. 1967.

2. Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, CSM Mgr., ASPO, MSC, to Mgr., ASPO, "Notes and comments resulting from visit of Dr. George E. Mueller to North American Rockwell Corporation on November 13 and my activities during period from November 13 through 16, 1967," 17 Nov. 1967.

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