NASA Adjustments for Apollo

In mid-1962, Washington program planners spelled out in detail the interrelations of Apollo and the total space program. The agency's unmanned satellites and space probes, especially Ranger and Surveyor, would have to focus on the lunar mission, since the most pressing need was for accurate information about the space environment such as meteoroid and radiation hazards and the lunar surface.66 Subordination of unmanned scientific programs to the manned programs brought considerable criticism during the next few years.

NASA leadership was confronted during the summer and fall of 1962 with the dual tasks of informing Congress of the status of Apollo and of fitting its fiscal plans to the lunar-rendezvous approach. Defending Apollo's budget request for fiscal 1963 before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on 10 August 1962, Webb and Low reiterated that technical considerations had been important in choosing that approach, but so had costs. Lunar rendezvous for Apollo, although not lessening the agency's needs for the upcoming year, would be cheaper in the long run. But NASA must get started on both the lunar vehicle and a C-IB version of the Saturn booster, Webb pointed out, to develop and test rendezvous procedures in earth orbit before attempting them in lunar orbit.67

In late 1962 and early 1963, financial resources for NASA were uncertain, particularly the funds needed for development of the lunar module. Houston needed to know when the money would be available. On 9 October, Holmes asked Seamans to request a supplemental appropriation from Congress, but Seamans refused. For the next year and a half, the fiscal 1963 and 1964 funds, set at $2.058 billion and $3.402 billion, would cover research and development and construction of facilities. This should be enough, Seamans said, to keep on schedule and meet a 1967 landing date.68

On 21 November 1962, Webb, Holmes, and others met with the President to explore the possibility of an Apollo landing earlier than 1967 and to discuss NASA's budget. Kennedy asked the Administrator for a policy statement on the priority of the moon landing within the overall civilian space effort. On 30 November, in a lengthy letter, Webb replied: "The objective of our national space program is to become pre-eminent in all important aspects of this endeavor and to conduct the program in such a manner that our emerging scientific, technological, and operational competence in space is clearly evident." Apollo, the largest single project within NASA, consuming three-fourths of the agency's resources, was "being executed with the utmost urgency" and was expected to "provide a clear demonstration to the world of our accomplishments in space."

Although it had the highest priority within NASA, the manned lunar landing program alone would not achieve superiority in space, Webb continued. "We [must] pursue an adequate well-balanced space program in all areas. . . ." He advised against canceling or curtailing space science and technology development programs merely to funnel these funds to Apollo, although that money, some $400 million, was just the additional amount needed by Apollo for 1963. NASA's top officials were concerned, he said, that attempts to get a budget supplement might jeopardize appropriations for coming years and possibly leave the agency open to charges of cost overruns and poor management. "The funds already appropriated," Webb affirmed, "permit us to maintain a driving, vigorous program in the manned space flight area aimed at a target date of late 1967 for the lunar landing."69

Although a steady flow of money during the succeeding years was essential to the success of Apollo, it was not the major concern in late 1962. The lunar module contractor had been selected, but there was still a lot of work to be done. And the lander was, potentially, the pacing item - the factor that would determine when the United States might land astronauts on the moon.

66. Shea to all Hq. Dirs. and all Center Dirs., "Technological Data Required for Support of Project Apollo," 15 June 1962, with enc.; William H. Pickering to Seamans, "Ranger Project activities in support of manned lunar flight program," 15 Aug. 1962; Seamans to Pickering, 24 Sept. 1962; Oran W. Nicks memo for record, "Ranger Project Activities Discussion on 11 October 1962," 15 Nov. 1962; R. Cargill Hall, Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger, NASA SP-4210 (Washington, 1977), chap. 2 through 15.

67. Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee, Independent Offices Appropriations, 1963: Hearings on H.R. 12711, 87th Cong., 2nd sess., 1962, pp. 870-77.

68. Bothmer, OMSF Staff Meeting, 5 Oct. 1962; Seamans to Dir., OMSF, "Guidelines for Preparation of Detailed Fiscal Year 1964 Budget Estimates - Section II," 9 Oct. 1962.

69. Webb, desk calendar of appointments, November 1962; NASA, "Preliminary History of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, November 1963-January 1969." 15 Jan. 1959, pp. I-49 through I-52; Richard Witkin, "Apollo Speed-up Is Being Weighed," New York Times, 1 Dec. 1962, p. 3; "In Earthly Trouble," Time, 23 Nov. 1962, p. 15; Webb, to the President, 30 Nov. 1962.

Previous Page Next Page Table of Contents