The samples returned by Apollo 11 were just becoming available to experimenters when Apollo 12 was launched, and while those scientists eagerly awaited them, many in the scientific community expressed discontent with NASA's management of the lunar exploration program. Some of their dissatisfaction stemmed from specific actions of the manned space flight organization and the scientists' perception of their significance, some of it from disagreement with the priorities of the program. Much of it, however, seems to have had a much more elusive origin.

Scientists had for years bewailed the priority given to test pilots in selecting crews for lunar exploration. Their distress was temporarily alleviated by the selection of two groups of scientists for training as astronauts, but flight assignments remained a sore point. Those scientists most closely associated with planning the missions understood that the capability to land on the moon and return had to be developed first and accepted MSC's contention that test pilots were best suited by experience to deal with the uncertainties of developmental flights. Even they, however, expected that scientists would be assigned to missions very soon after the first successful lunar landing.

Crews for the first two landing missions had been named in January and April of 1969 without producing an outcry from the scientists. Early in August, however, the announcement of selection of the next two crews for lunar exploration did provoke a response. The Apollo 13 crew included James A. Lovell, Jr., commander, Fred W. Haise, Jr., lunar module pilot, and Thomas Mattingly II, command module pilot. Their backups were John W. Young, John L. Swigert, Jr., and Charles M. Duke. For Apollo 14, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., was named commander, Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot, and Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, backed up by Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Joe H. Engle.50 Not one of the 13 scientist-astronauts was included.* Worse yet from the scientists' point of view, seniority - which hitherto had seemed to be one of Deke Slayton's primary criteria for crew appointments - appeared to count for nothing when the first class of scientist-astronauts acquired it: of the 12 crewmen named, only Lovell, Young, Shepard, and Cernan had been in the program longer than they.**

This alone might not have been cause for alarm on the part of scientists had it not been followed shortly by the resignation of several men occupying positions of some prominence in NASA's science program. At Headquarters, Dr. Donald U. Wise, Lee Scherer's deputy in the Lunar Exploration Office, left to take an academic appointment. Dr. Elbert A. King, Jr., a prime mover in establishing the lunar receiving laboratory at Houston and first curator of lunar samples, announced he would resign to become head of the geology department at the University of Houston. The astronaut corps lost one of its scientist members when F. Curtis Michel resigned to return to teaching and research at Rice University. Finally, Wilmot Hess, first director of Science and Applications at MSC, left to become director of research at the Environmental Science Services Administration laboratories at Boulder, Colorado.

Each man had his own reasons for leaving NASA, and their near-simultaneous departure seems to have been only coincidental. (King, for example, had made a commitment to the University of Houston more than a year earlier.51) Still, all but Hess - who declined to discuss his resignation with the press - expressed some dissatisfaction with the status of science in manned space flight programs. Michel's main reason was to return to research, but he stated his disappointment that NASA had shown "no serious intent to fly scientist-astronauts." King likewise professed a desire to spend more time in research, which he found very difficult to do in an administrative position, and warned that NASA had not yet convinced the scientific community that it "will put together a program that will truly emphasize science." Wise discussed his choice somewhat reluctantly, expressing concern that criticism from the scientific community would intensify science's problems: "With enough screams [from scientists]," he feared "we will fly only five missions instead of ten - this would be the real tragedy." He too pointed out (among other problems) "a lack of understanding of scientific goals at the management level in NASA."52

Hess's resignation was perhaps the most serious of all in the eyes of outside scientists, because he had been brought to MSC specifically to give the Houston center some scientific respectability. [see Chapter 6] He had, however, found little support from center management and no understanding of the proper role of science. His plans to establish a credible research program at MSC, which included a substantial increase in the number of research scientists, had been thwarted by agency - wide cuts in civil-service positions - the result of budget cuts which had not been anticipated when he came to Houston. Apparently seeing little hope of improvement, he had opted for a more promising environment.53

Yet one more scientist was to separate himself from Apollo. Eugene Shoemaker, who from the very early days had been a vigorous advocate of science on Apollo [see Chapter 2], had actively participated not only in program planning but also in developing geologic methods for the astronauts to use on the moon. Now he excoriated the program. Speaking to a Pasadena luncheon group in early October, he expressed his strong opposition to the post-Apollo plans recently presented by the President's Space Task Force - specifically the proposal to send humans to Mars. The only justification of that mission, he said, was "to build big, new systems in space." Apollo was that kind of system, built "primarily for the sake of building a big system," and it had turned out to be hopelessly inadequate for scientific purposes. The spacecraft and the mission mode were designed to engineering and operational requirements, and the system was all but useless for any other purpose. As a result, now that it was possible to send humans to the moon, the system could be used for practically nothing else, because the engineers had not considered any purpose for Apollo except to demonstrate that people could go to the moon and return safely. Everything the Apollo 11 astronauts had done, Shoemaker said, including sample collection, could have been done sooner and more cheaply by unmanned spacecraft. It was time to redesign the spacecraft and the space suits, provide surface mobility, and adapt the missions to the tactics of field geology - the only activity that would make the most of humans' inherent superiority to machines.54

Shoemaker's criticisms were not entirely without merit, although it was far too late to make the changes he called for, and they were reported in a local paper and then widely circulated by the wire services.55 Still, it was easy to discount them as the complaints of a discontented participant whose ideas had not been allowed to determine the course of the program. Over the years, Shoemaker's early influence on Apollo science had been gradually preempted by laboratory-oriented scientists (geochemists, geophysicists, petrologists, mineralogists) many of whom would scarcely classify field geology (Shoemaker's own specialty) as a science at all.56

Defections by these highly visible scientists in the space agency were - as no doubt some of them had intended - critically noticed by science's advocates in the press. A New York Times editorial quoted Elbert King's contention that "there's not enough sympathy with, or understanding of, scientific objectives at the higher levels of NASA." The Times editorialist noted that "everything man has learned in this last eventful month about both the moon and Mars makes it plain that scientific objectives must enjoy much higher priorities in NASA's future efforts."57 The Washington Post went further, asserting that Hess's resignation was likely to signal the scientific community that the goal of Apollo was simply "to improve on the techniques of space flight instead of setting the mission of each flight primarily to maximize the yield of basic scientific data. . . . It makes only a little sense to go back to the moon again and again simply to improve our method of getting there. . . . The scientists of space . . . have been forced into the back seat of the manned space program. It is time now to make them the navigators. The choice of missions ... should be largely in their hands."58

Whether these editorials reflected a bias in favor of the intellectual elegance of pure science or merely gross ignorance, they overlooked some basic facts about Apollo's limited capabilities. Maximizing the yield of scientific data required improving the techniques of manned space flight. Apollo 11 overshot its aiming point by five miles (eight kilometers), and even the Washington Post would likely have agreed that it made no sense to commit scientific missions if they could not reach their targets. Nonetheless, progress toward scientific exploration was too slow to suit some critics, and they evidently felt that their only recourse was to take their case to the public.

The more subjective concerns of scientists were equally important but considerably less easy to understand and more difficult still to implement. King's charge that NASA management did not sufficiently understand or sympathize with scientific objectives (whatever that meant) was seconded by others. Fred L. Whipple, one of the country's foremost astronomers and a member of George Mueller's Science and Technology Advisory Committee, put it to Mueller in early August 1969 in a letter calling attention to the lamentable situation at Houston. "I have yet to talk to a scientist connected with the Apollo project," he wrote, "who feels that he is really welcome there by the engineers. The atmosphere . . . is not hostile but it certainly is negative." In 26 years of working with engineers, Whipple said, he had often had disagreements but had "never encountered the negative type of attitude that persists at the MSC." He had personally heard an astronaut say, in effect, that if only they could put all the scientists in a cage, then the engineers and astronauts could get on with the program. Clearly this was not a milieu in which a scientist could work effectively.59

Later in the year, but in response to the same events, Alex J. Dessler, head of the Space Physics and Astronomy department at Rice University, commented on the discontent of the space scientists. In spite of the fact that American space science was recognized as the most productive in the world, and space science was relatively better supported than many other fields of science, the discontent of space scientists was widespread and growing more intense. Dessler noted that their attitude, though in some sense incongruous, was important, because Congress was sure to listen if a number of prominent space scientists began to condemn the Apollo program. Scientists evidently felt that they had no effective advocate at a high level in NASA - in contrast to the engineers, who were quite well represented by George Mueller at the head of a program office. Even when the scientists got what they wanted, Dessler said, they felt frustrated at "the appearance of condescension on the part of the engineers . . . the scientists sometimes feel they are being thrown a bone to shut them up."60

Both Whipple and Dessler suggested similar solutions to the problem. Whipple thought that much of the misunderstanding arose from NASA's desire to justify Apollo on scientific grounds, something he believed could not be done. Manned space flight, which he supported, had its own reasons for being, but they were not necessarily scientific. He suggested that the only way MSC could gain the support of scientists was to put a scientist of high repute, acceptable to both outside critics and the engineers and astronauts with whom he worked, in a position "in which [he] has a major role in all of the decisions made with regard to the operation of the Center." Dessler saw a need for a similar scientific heavyweight at Headquarters; scientists had had no such advocate since Hugh Dryden.*** For the manned space flight program to be acceptable to the scientific community, apparently, scientists had to be in undisputed command.

This attitude was not new; even in the unmanned space science program, scientists contended for influence in shaping NASA's programs and felt they did not have enough. Homer Newell, as associate administrator for the Office of Space Science and Applications from 1963 to 1967, had dealt with them time and again. In retrospect he wrote, "Scientists are a contentious lot, . . . and the tremendous opportunities of the space program inspired them to more intense dispute than usual." Much of the tension in the space program, Newell said, "stemmed from the scientists' presumption of special privilege, which at times Congress found irritating."61 That presumption, sometimes verging on arrogance, was unmistakable in the complaints aired during the summer of 1969, and, like Congress, Apollo's engineers could hardly help finding it imitating. By their own lights, the engineers were doing their best to facilitate scientific exploration of the moon within the limitations of a very complex technology that offered many chances for catastrophic failure. They were reluctant to take extreme risks - as by landing at a site for which they had inadequate data simply because it looked more interesting to the scientists.

The general malaise of the times may also have contributed to this somewhat vague but strongly felt sense of impotence on the part of scientists. For the first time in some years the value of pure research, long extolled by spokesmen for science, was in question. The college generation of young Americans, including many science students, grew concerned for the earth's environment. They often indiscriminately attributed its deterioration to both inhumane science and mindless technology. They also disparaged the academics' devotion to research - most particularly research subsidized by the military - as the major function of the university, demanding more attention to teaching. A small group of radical students forcibly brought these concerns to the attention of scientists late in 1969 at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. The normally sedate proceedings were disrupted by hecklers, organized demonstrations, and rump sessions, to the considerable distress of the Scientific community.62

Whatever the origins of the space scientists' unhappiness, their public clamor for more science on Apollo did not go unheeded. George Mueller wrote to MSC Director Robert Gilruth in early September 1969, urging him to give this problem his personal attention. After listing the steps already taken to support the science program within a steadily declining personnel ceiling, Mueller cautioned that

we will certainly detract measurably from the success of Apollo 11, and the missions yet to be flown, unless we meet the challenge [of providing] the support required in the science area.
Noting that "some members of the scientific community are impatient and as you know, are willing to air their views without necessarily relating those views to what is practicable and possible," he stated that
it is our policy to do the maximum science possible in each Apollo mission and to provide adequate science support. . . . we must assure ourselves and the world of science that we are making those adjustments which will provide steadily increasing and effective support for the science area.63
It remained to be seen whether the impatient scientists would be mollified by the "adjustments" Mueller promised.

* Mitchell held a Ph.D., but it was in engineering (astronautics and aeronautics), not one of the Natural sciences.

** However, three of the scientists had spent a year learning to fly, and all five had begun their astronaut training after the next class of pilots, which included all the rest of the Apollo 13 and 14 crews, had been selected.

*** Hugh L. Dryden, director of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) from 1947 to 1958, achieved his reputation through basic research in aerodynamics conducted at the National Bureau of Standards. His election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1944 attested to his stature among his peers. Although he was not active in research after taking over NACA, Dryden's skills as a research administrator during difficult times earned widespread respect in the agency. He was appointed deputy administrator of NASA in 1958, remaining in that post until his death in 1965. Some pioneer space scientists remember him with something approaching hero worship.

50. Thomas O'Toole, "Veteran Astronauts Lovell, Shepard to Lead '70 Moon Flights," , Aug. 7, 1969. A month earlier a Houston paper had run an unconfirmed story that Shepard, Roosa, and Mitchell would be the crew for Apollo 13, with Lovell, Mattingly, and Haise manning 14 (Arthur Hill, "Alan Shepard Will Command 3rd Moon Team," Houston Chronicle, July 3, 1969). This may have been the cause for George Mueller's overriding Slayton's choice for these crews - the only instance in which Headquarters reversed Slayton's selections [see note 13, Chap. 5]. Shepard had been off the active list until May 1969, serving meanwhile as head of the Astronaut Office ("Mercury's Shepard rejoins flight group," MSC Roundup, May 16, 1969). The report that he had been named to the first mission scheduled after he returned to active status would have considerably upset the scientist astronauts. In the course of an interview unrelated to this book, one of them commented off the record to the present author, "the test pilots ran the astronaut office and flew their friends." True or not, such a perception would have been hard to refute after this crew selection.

51. Marti Mueller, "Trouble at NASA: Space Scientists Resign," Science 165 (1969):776-79.

52. Ibid.

53. Wilmot N. Hess, interview with Robert Merrifield, Nov. 7, 1968, transcript in JSC History Office files; John Noble Wilford, "Moon Scientists Seek Place in the Sun," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1969; Gilruth to Mueller, Sept. 2, 1969.

54. Eugene Shoemaker, "Space - Where Now, and Why?" Engineering and Science 33(1) (1969): 9-12.

55. "Geologist to Quit Apollo Project; Weak Scientific Effort Charged," New York Times (UPl), Oct. 9, 1969.

56. Harold Urey, who during this period continually criticized NASA's choice of lunar landing sites, wrote off geologists as "mostly . . . a second-rate lot. . . . [Geology] is descriptive, and very often [geologists] do not learn more than the most elementary things about chemistry and physics." Urey to Mueller, Oct. 7, 1969. Of Shoemaker, Urey said, "Gene is one of the few capable people who has had a prominent part in advising NASA, though he has had a very rigid geological point-of-view. . . . I do not agree with him in some ways, but his general criticism of the lack of good scientific advice is correct." Urey to Paine, Oct. 9, 1969. Urey and Shoemaker had both worked on Project Ranger.

Shoemaker's criticism deeply affronted some in NASA, who felt it could only do the program harm; see Homer E. Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Days of Space Science, NASA SP-4211 (Washington, 1980), pp. 292-93. To this day Shoemaker insists that his intent was grossly mis-understood: "What I was trying to do," he told the author, "was to get people to focus on something they were losing on this thing, but I never got the point across." He and a few others thought the point was, "let's make the astronaut himself an instrument of scientific discovery," which could not be done by slavishly following preplanned operations. "The sample scientists didn't give a damn, frankly, whether the astronauts discovered something or not; they were going to discover something with the samples that came back, you see. * * * As far as I'm concerned, the kinds of things you could discover, by human observer, under the constraints of Apollo, . . . [have not] been touched. If you could get me a spacecraft tomorrow, I've got the whole program . . . in my head, . . . and it's still there [on the moon]. All you need to get me is a hand lens and a shovel. . . . There's three and a half billion years of history in three meters [10 feet] of dirt . . . on the lunar surface, and . . . we haven't even touched it yet." Shoemaker interview, Mar. 17, 1984. Since Shoemaker did not make this point central to his public remarks, it is not surprising that his former colleagues in NASA were affronted.

57. "Scientists vs. NASA," unsigned editorial in the New York Times, Aug. 12, 1969.

58. "Before We Start to Mars," unsigned editorial in the Washington Post, Aug. 8, 1969.

59. Fred L. Whipple to George E. Mueller, Aug. 1, 1969.

60. Alex J. Dessler, "Discontent of Space-Science Community," Oct. 30, 1969, paper written for unknown purpose, copy in box 075-36, JSC History Office files.

61. Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere, pp. 213, 221-22. The fact was that no eminent research scientist was willing to give up research for a career (or even a year's tenure) as a research administrator; yet Whipple, Dessler, and other scientists continued to urge NASA to find such a person to manage the science programs. See Newell, chap. 12 ("Who Decides?"). A similar problem arose in the life sciences program; see John A. Pitts, The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned Space Program to 1980, NASA SP-4213 (Washington, 1985), passim.

62. John Lannan, "Money, Space, Environment Dominate Scientists' Parley," Washington Evening Star, Dec. 27, 1969; "Scientists Hit Threat to Cut 4 Apollo Flights," Boston Sunday Globe, Dec. 28, 1969; "Technology Misused, Radicals Charge," Washington Post, Dec. 29, 1969. An expression of the plight of science in 1969 and the evil effects of military-sponsored research is found in "Support of Science on the University's Own Terms," by Gerard Piel (publisher of Scientific American), Science 166 (1969): 1101.

63. Mueller to Gilruth, Sept. 3, 1969.

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