DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
NASA Cost-Reduction Efforts
[107] Faced with the necessity to increase the rate of finding during the development and testing phases of the Lunar Orbiter Program, both the Langley Lunar Orbiter Project Office and the Headquarters Program Office initiated policies to reduce unnecessary costs wherever possible.
Learning from the Boeing-subcontractor negotiating experiences, NASA Headquarters and Langley continued to pursue the policy of keeping contract changes to an absolute minimum. The funding experiences of the second half of 1964 had made the managers of the Lunar Orbiter Program very cost conscious. The frequent meetings to discuss funding problems had improved communications between Langley and NASA Headquarters while they had also fostered a keen awareness by Boeing and NASA management of the implications and pitfalls in the Lunar Orbiter contract.
Besides the strictest limitations on changes, Lunar Orbiter could be spared undue expenses in another specific area: the planned need for redundant spacecraft to back up each flight spacecraft in the event of a failure before the launch. Originally the plans had called for the backup spacecraft, but after extensive consideration the Project Office at Langley concluded that direct substitution of one spacecraft for another between two launch [108] windows, should the first spacecraft fail, was highly unlikely since the failure would probably necessitate an investigation of the other spacecraft.20
In addition to this, storage problems at Cape Kennedy and the necessity of maintaining the back-up spacecraft in mission-ready condition during preparation of the flight spacecraft presented no real guarantee of mission success but added extra costs to the program. Indeed the whole philosophy of spacecraft substitution seemed questionable, especially in a situation where every dollar counted. Scherer pointed out to Nelson in a memorandum that the earlier Pioneer and Surveyor programs had originally made provisions for back-up spacecraft but had later eliminated them. The Lunar Orbiter Program, by doing the same, could save a substantial sum of money.21
Elimination of the need for back-up spacecraft was not the only way savings could be made. The spacecraft delivery schedule proved to be another item for cost reduction. The spacecraft were scheduled to arrive at the Cape Kennedy facilities more rapidly than they could be launched. They would require storage space there, and this was very limited. As planned, spacecraft #8, the [109] last flight spacecraft, would arrive a full six months before its launch date; this would require that a "baby-sitter" keep it company for that length of time, clogging vital test and storage facilities. Scherer maintained that if changes were made in the delivery dates of the fifth through the eighth spacecraft, the storage vans and test teams could be reduced and money diverted for use elsewhere.22
One other item which Scherer explained to Nelson was the possibility of reducing costs by economizing on redundant recording equipment which the Lunar Orbiter Program would employ at each site of the Deep Space Network to record incoming data from the spacecraft. Comparing data-acquisition requirements of the Mariner Program with those of Lunar Orbiter, Scherer pointed out that Mariner had only two recording apparatuses per site, one of which served ad a back-up. The Lunar Orbiter Program planned to have three or more, which seemed to be wasteful redundancy. He suggested to Nelson that he review the program's needs for so much recording equipment and, wherever possible, reduce or eliminate unnecessary extra equipment.23
[110] If funding difficulties for FY 1965 placed a major constraint on initial program operations, they also enhanced the performance of each task force engaged in the program, and the process of overcoming them educated Langley and Headquarters management as well as Boeing officials about the increasing complexity of the whole undertaking. It was clear by the beginning of 1965 that Boeing had originally underestimated the costs of the major subcontractors. The delays in signing both Eastman Kodak and RCA had made themselves felt in the area of development and procurement. Indeed, throughout the program the photographic subsystem would remain the pacing item, arriving late and at the Cape Kennedy facilities rather than at Boeing. Fortunately for Lunar Orbiter, NASA and Boeing personnel successfully circumvented the problems caused by the tardiness in signing the subcontractors to final contracts.24