A Double Workload

Apollo 9 gave the Kennedy launch preparations team its first opportunity to simulate the launch of a lunar landing mission all the way through liftoff. (Apollo 8, with only the command and service modules aboard, represented just half the spacecraft preparation task.) This time - in addition to checking, stacking, and rechecking the multistage Saturn V - the team had to get two spacecraft ready for flight and launch them. The beehive of activities, employing thousands of persons, grew more frenzied as hardware for several missions began arriving regularly from the factories. For example, before Apollo 8 left its launch pad on 21 December 1968, all the pieces of Apollo 9 and some of the parts for Apollo 10 were already in Florida.

LM-3 arrived from Bethpage in June 1968. By the end of September four altitude chamber tests of the ascent stage had been run, to check the environmental control system and the operation of many components under simulated vacuum conditions of space. During this time, engineers and technicians examining the descent stage found dimples (small depressions formed during welding) in the oxidizer lines. Since the dents were within accepted limits, they caused no problems. Elsewhere, other workers were stacking the S-11 stage on top of the S-IC in the huge Vehicle Assembly Building.11

The ascent and descent stages of the lander were then joined, tested, and taken apart again. When inspectors found cracks in the ascent stage engine, a heavier engine was substituted. The command module and the service module arrived from Downey the first week in October, and the North American Cape team, even with all its experience, had trouble fitting them together. When the attitude-control-thruster quad sets were attached to the service module, a cracked quad was found. While that was being evaluated, the command module and the lunar module were brought together for a docking test. The command module was then moved to the altitude chamber for tests similar to those the lunar module had undergone, and the lander was hauled into a hangar for the installation of such components as the rendezvous radar, antennas, and pyrotechnics. From time to time, the command and service modules, the lunar module, or the launch vehicle were either a few days ahead of or behind the schedule. In mid-December, however, Mueller told Paine that all vehicles were on time.12

On 3 January, the big stacked vehicle lumbered on its carrier out of the assembly building and crawled toward Launch Complex 39. While flight simulations, linked with the control center in Houston, and all the normal jobs at the pad - cabin leak checks, electrical power tests, and component operations, among others - were going on, some engineers were working on technical problems that had cropped up during previous missions. One was the fogging spacecraft windows, particularly the round one in the hatch door. Samples of contaminants from CSM-101 and CSM-103 were studied, and the hatch window from 101 was tested by subjecting it to the hot and cold extremes met in space. Some thought a better method for curing the glass might eliminate the fogging, but others, analyzing the residue from thruster firings, were not at all sure that the space environment was the problem. If firings from the reaction control thrusters (which steered the spacecraft) were smudging the windows, there might never be a solution.13

As the work progressed, the accumulated information was fed into the management reviews. The certification review, which covered all flight hardware (including suits), was held at NASA Headquarters on 7 January. Flight readiness reviews were later conducted for each of the vehicles - command and service modules, lunar module, and Saturn V - and then confirmed before Apollo Director Phillips. On 28 February, all hardware problems had been solved, all questions answered. Everything was ready for flight - except the pilots. All three astronauts had head colds.* 14

* And this despite elaborate precautions taken to isolate the crewmen and protect them from whatever virus might be making the rounds during the last few days before launch. This launch was the first to be delayed by crew illness. Since the mission simulators had been able to provide training for only the prime crew the last month before Apollo 9 was scheduled for launch, the backup crew was not ready to fly on 28 February.

11. Mueller Report, 7 Oct. 1968; Low TWXs to KSC, Attn.: Roderick O. Middleton, "LM-3 Descent and Ascent Engine Inspection," 23 Sept. 1968, and "LM-3 Descent Engine Propellant Line Inspection for Cracks and Dimples," 26 Sept. 1968; Clarence C. Gay, Jr., Weekly Activity Report for 25 Sept.-1 Oct. 1968.

12. Mueller Reports, 14 and 28 Oct., 18 Nov., and 16 Dec. 1968.

13. Seaton, Weekly Status Reports, 3 and 24 Jan. 1969; Owen E. Maynard to Mgr., ASPO, "Spacecraft window fogging," 29 Jan. 1969.

14. Seaton, Weekly Status Reports, 10 Jan. and 28 Feb. 1969; Phillips letter, "Apollo 9 Mission Delta Design Certification Review," 10 Jan. 1969; Brendle, minutes of meeting, CSM 104 FRR Board, 24 Jan. 1969; Phillips to Apollo 9 FRR Board, "Confirmation of Flight Readiness for the Apollo 9 Mission," 2 March 1969; Williard. R. Hawkins et al., "Biomedical Evaluation of the Apollo 9 Mission," MSC Internal Note 70-DD-03, December 1970, pp. 1-1, 9-1, 10-1; Mueller to Gilruth, 23 Dec. 1968, with enc., OMSF policy statement, "Control of Communicable Disease and Injury in Flight Crews"; MSC, "Apollo 9 Crew Technical Debriefing," 20 March 1969, pp. 12-5, 12-6.

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