On With Lunar Exploration

Pleased by the results of Apollo 11, scientists called for scientific goals to take priority on subsequent missions. Those goals, stated by the Santa Cruz summer study in 1967, included extending the Apollo landing zone to cover more of the moon's surface, increasing the time the astronauts could remain on the lunar surface, and providing mobility aids to enable the astronauts to cover more ground in the time available. [see Chapter 7 and Appendix 3] The scientists also noted the desirability of gathering data from lunar orbit, either by deploying an independent lunar satellite from the command and service module or by using sensors mounted in the CSM. Four working groups had found good reasons to use the moon-orbiting CSM for scientific purposes.* 7

As soon as Apollo 11 was safely down in the Pacific, Mueller directed the manned space flight centers to shift their efforts to lunar exploration. The manned space flight organization had long agreed in a general way that the scientists' goals were the primary justification for continuing the lunar landing program and had, in fact, begun studying the changes implied in those goals as soon as the Santa Cruz conference was over. Improved mobility was the most urgent need for the scientific missions. The conferees at Santa Cruz had called for both a lunar flying unit and a surface-traversing vehicle. Since both vehicles were likely to require extensive development, the Manned Spacecraft Center's Lunar Exploration Project Office had begun technical discussions with several contractors in the fall of 1967.8 After a year spent in defining requirements, MSC awarded two seven-month preliminary definition contracts for a flying unit in January 1969. Marshall Space Flight Center let study contracts in April for a dual-mode surface vehicle, which could be remotely controlled from earth after the astronauts left the moon.9

Equally high on the priority list for exploration missions was extending the time astronauts could stay on the moon. Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company, the lunar module contractor, had made some preliminary studies on modification of the lander for that purpose in 1967.10 Life-support systems and electrical power were enough for only 36 hours on the surface; longer stays would require hardware changes. Propulsion systems would have to be upgraded to carry the scientific equipment and mobility module to be taken on exploration missions. In March 1969, MSC directed Grumman to define the changes necessary to allow the lunar module to stay three to six days on the moon, with their cost and schedule impacts.11

Planning for lunar-orbital science began in May of 1968, when Wilmot Hess, acting on a request from the Lunar Exploration Office in Headquarters, asked the Apollo spacecraft program office to look into the question of placing a scientific payload in the service module.12 MSC commissioned North American Rockwell, the spacecraft contractor, to study the effects on cost and schedule of adding scientific instrumentation to the spacecraft as early as Apollo 14.13 As that study drew toward a dose without discovering any major difficulties, MSC established a panel to review the operational implications of making scientific observations in lunar orbit and to identify the scientific activities that could be conducted during a lunar exploration mission.14

By early 1969 MSC had concluded that a package could be developed in time to fly on Apollo 14 in the last half of 1970 and had compiled a tentative list of instruments for evaluation by the Space Science and Applications Steering Committee. Director Robert Gilruth sent Headquarters the center's procurement plan, which provided for MSC to procure the instruments and deliver them as government-furnished equipment to North American to be integrated into the service module. Early approval and provision of the necessary funds by Headquarters were essential to meeting the projected schedule.15

In early April the Office of Space Science and Applications approved a group of experiments for the first phase of the lunar-orbit science project.16 Apollo Program Manager Sam Phillips wanted more specific information before granting final approval and releasing funds, however.17 The proposal was discussed in detail by Mueller's Management Council on May 7, after which Mueller gave MSC the authority to proceed - but on Apollo 16 rather than Apollo 14. Details of integrating the experiments into the service module remained to be settled, as did the exact mode of operation of each experiment, and this would take time.18

On June 30 Headquarters sent Houston a list of lunar-orbital experiments for Apollo 16 through 20, with authority to continue North American's integration effort and begin procurement of experiments. Assignment of experiments to specific flights could not yet be made, because the list was subject to revision during the summer. Total cost of the project was not to exceed $55 million.19

The manned space flight organization worked steadily from 1967 onward to lay the foundations for scientific exploitation of the Apollo systems, but the effort was often overshadowed by preparations for the first lunar landing. With NASA's encouragement, the Santa Cruz conference that summer had called for a maximum effort. The scientists' recommendations had been carefully considered, and by mid-1969 many of the most important ones were on their way to realization. It seems clear that if manned space flight had enjoyed the assurance of a high level of support, the lunar scientists would have gotten more. As it was, lunar exploration had to proceed with little more than had been projected by mid-1969: limited extension of the duration of exploration missions, a limited increase in the range of operations on the lunar surface, and a few lunar-orbital sensors.

* This option had been available since 1964, when engineers defining the Block II service module had arranged its systems so that one sector was left empty to accommodate scientific instruments. Courtney G. Brooks, James M. Grimwood, and Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft, NASA SP-4205 (Washington, 1979), p. 140. The Santa Cruz planners had envisioned one or two lunar-orbit missions devoted entirely to photography and remote sensing, as then-current plans for Apollo Applications provided.

7. 1967 Summer Study of Lunar Science and Exploration, NASA SP-157 (Washington, 1967), pp. 163-73, 229-33, 324, 358-59.

8. Andre J. Meyer, handwritten notebooks III-VI (late 1967 to early 1969), in JSC History Office files. Besides being involved in other advanced project planning, Meyer headed the Apollo Explorations Project Office at MSC.

9. Mueller, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - January 6, 1969," "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - April 21, 1969."

10. Wilmot N. Hess to AA/Director, "Summary OSSA Senior Council Meeting," Apr. 30, 1968; John D. Hodge to PA/Office of Program Manager, MSC, "Lunar Exploration Support," June 4, 1968, with encl., "ELM [extended lunar module] - Development."

11. MSC, draft statement of work, "LM Modification Study for Extended Lunar Staytime," rev. 28, Feb. 1969; Mueller, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - March 4, 1969."

12. Lee R. Scherer to MSC, attn. Wilmot N. Hess, "Subsatellite on Apollo Lunar Missions," May 3, 1968; Hess to Mgr., Apollo Spacecraft Program Off., "CSM Lunar Orbiting Science Study," May 10, 1968.

13. J. J. Eslinger to Apollo CSM Engineering Supervision, North American Rockwell Corp., Project Memorandum #3, "Apollo Scientific Experiments Program (ASEP)," Feb. 27, 1969.

14. MSC, "Weekly Activities Report, Science and Applications Directorate, January 20-27, 1969."

15. Robert R. Gilruth to Mueller, "Lunar Exploration CSM Orbital Science, Phase I," Mar. 27, 1969.

16. John A. Naugle to Gilruth, TWX, Apr. 4, 1969.

17. S. C. Phillips to Gilruth, TWX, subj.: CSM Phase I Orbital Science, Apr. 21, 1969.

18. William E. Stoney, Jr., to MSC, attn.: J. P. Loftus, "CSM Orbital Science Missions," May 15, 1969.

19. Phillips to MSC, attn.: R. Gilruth, TWX, subj.: Authority to proceed with SM orbital experiments for Apollo 16 through 20, June 27, 1969.

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