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Saturn V
Saturn V
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
On the porch of the LM
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Astronaut James McDivitt photographed inside Command Module during EVA
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Apollo 9
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Lunar Module 3 attached to Saturn V third stage
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Astronaut Russell Schweickart photographed during EVA
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
View of docked Apollo 9 Command/Service Module and Lunar Module
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Apollo 9 Lunar Module in lunar landing configuration
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Apollo 9 Lunar Module in lunar landing configuration
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Apollo 9 Lunar Module in lunar landing configuration
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Lunar Module ascent stage photographed from Command/Service Module
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
Near vertical view of thunderhead over South America as seen from Apollo 9
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Apollo 9
Apollo 9
North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York area as seen from Apollo 9
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shooting rockets into space . . . presents difficulties of so fundamental a nature, that we are forced to dismiss the notion as essentially impracticable.

   ---Sir Richard van der Riet Wooley, British astronome


Apollo 9
 

McDivitt
Schweickart
Scott
Date: 3 March 1969 11:00 GMT. . Landing Date: 13 March 1969. Flight Time: 10.04 days. Flight Up: Apollo 9. Flight Back: Apollo 9. Call Sign: Gumdrop/Spider. Backup Crew: Bean, Conrad, Gordon, Location of Capsule: Michigan Space Center, Jackson, MI. Program: Apollo. Firsts: First manned test of the Lunar Module. First test of the Apollo space suits. First manned flight of a spacecraft incapable of returning to earth.

Apollo 9 (AS-504), the first manned flight with the lunar module (LM-3), was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, on a Saturn V launch vehicle at 11:00 a.m. EST March 3. Originally scheduled for a February 28 liftoff, the launch had been delayed to allow crew members James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart to recover from a mild virus respiratory illness. Following a normal launch phase, the S-IVB stage inserted the spacecraft into an orbit of 192.3 by 189.3 kilometers. After post-insertion checkout, CSM 104 separated from the S-IVB, was transposed, and docked with the LM. At 3:08 p.m. EST, the docked spacecraft were separated from the S-IVB, which was then placed on an earth-escape trajectory.

On March 4 the crew tracked landmarks, conducted pitch and roll yaw maneuvers, and increased the apogee by service propulsion system burns.

On March 5 McDivitt and Schweickart entered the LM through the docking tunnel, evaluated the LM systems, transmitted the first of two series of telecasts, and fired the LM descent propulsion system. They then returned to the CM.

McDivitt and Schweickart reentered the LM on March 6. After transmitting a second telecast, Schweickart performed a 37-minute extravehicular activity (EVA), walking between the LM and CSM hatches, maneuvering on handrails, taking photographs, and describing rain squalls over KSC.

On March 7, with McDivitt and Schweickart once more in the LM, Scott separated the CSM from the LM and fired the reaction control system thrusters to obtain a distance of 5.5 kilometers between the two spacecraft. McDivitt and Schweickart then performed a lunar-module active rendezvous. The LM successfully docked with the CSM after being up to 183.5 kilometers away from it during the six-and-one-half-hour separation. After McDivitt and Schweickart returned to the CSM, the LM ascent stage was jettisoned.

During the remainder of the mission, the crew tracked Pegasus III, NASA's meteoroid detection satellite that had been launched July 30, 1965; took multispectral photos of the earth; exercised the spacecraft systems; and prepared for reentry.

The Apollo 9 CM splashed down in the Atlantic 290 kilometers east of the Bahamas at 12:01 p.m. EST. The crew was picked up by helicopter and flown to the recovery ship U.S.S. Guadalcanal within one hour after splashdown. Primary objectives of the flight were successfully accomplished.

Danger: First flight of a crew in a spacecraft with no means to return to earth if rendezvous and docking with the Apollo CSM with its capsule failed.

Official NASA Account of the Mission from Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft, by Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson, published as NASA SP-4205 in the NASA History Series, 1979.


For the 19th flight of American astronauts into space, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, representing the new administration of Richard Nixon, sat in the firing control room viewing area on 3 March 1969. He and other guests listened to the countdown of the tall Saturn-Apollo structure several kilometers away at the edge of the Florida beach. Fully recovered from their stuffy heads and runny noses, McDivitt, Scott, and Schweickart lay in the mixed-atmosphere cabin of CSM-104. Breathing pure oxygen through the suit system, they tried to adjust an inlet valve that seemed to have two temperature ranges - too hot and too cold. That was their only problem. Less than one second after its scheduled 11:00 a.m. EST liftoff time, Apollo 9 rumbled upward.

In Houston, where more than 200 newsmen had registered to cover the mission, Flight Director Eugene F. Kranz and Mission Director George H. Hage watched the displays on their consoles while McDivitt and CapCom Stuart Roosa called off the events of the launch sequence. There were the usual vibrations but, on the whole, the Saturn V's S-IC stage gave the crew what McDivitt called "an old lady's ride" - very smooth. The big surprise came when its five engines stopped thrusting. Feeling as if they were being shoved back to the earth, the astronauts lurched forward, almost into the instrument panel. The S-II second stage engines then cut in and pressed them back into the couches. Everything went well until the seven-minute mark, when the old pogo problem popped up again. Although the oscillations were greater than those of Borman's flight, McDivitt's crew lodged no complaints. At 11 minutes 13 seconds from launch, the S-IVB third stage kicked itself and the two spacecraft into orbit 190 kilometers above the earth.

Upon reaching the orbital station, the trio remembered Borman's warning against jumping out of the couches too quickly and flitting about in the weightless cabin. The men avoided sudden head turns, made slow deliberate movements, took medication - and still felt dizzy. But they were able to go about their duties, checking instruments and extending the docking probe. After more than a circuit, 2 hours 43 minutes into the mission, Scott lit the pyrotechnics that separated the command and service modules from the S-IVB stage and began one of the critical steps in the lunar-orbit concept. He fired the thrusters and pulled the command ship away, turned the ship around, fired again, and drew near what he called the "big fellow." Then he noticed that the command module's nose was out of line with the lander's nose. Scott tried to use a service module thruster to turn left, but that jet was not operating. The crew then flipped some switches, which started the thruster working, and at 3 hours 2 minutes the command module probe nestled into the lunar module drogue, where it was captured and held by the latches.

After docking, McDivitt and Schweickart began preparing for their eventual entry into the lunar module. First, they opened a valve to pressurize the tunnel between the two spacecraft. With Scott reading the checklist aloud, McDivitt and Schweickart removed the command module hatch and checked the 12 latches on the docking ring to verify the seal. Next they connected the electrical umbilical lines that would provide command module power to the lander while the vehicles were docked. McDivitt checked the drogue carefully and found no large scars. Meanwhile, Schweickart glanced out the spacecraft window and failed to see the lunar module in the darkness, which scared him. "Oh, my God!" he exclaimed, "I just looked out the window and the LM wasn't there." Scott laughed and said it would be "pretty hard [not to] have a LM out there . . . with Jim in the tunnel." McDivitt put the hatch back in place until time to transfer into the lander. About an hour later, an ejection mechanism kicked the docked spacecraft away from the S-IVB. Apollo 9 backed away, and the Saturn third stage, after firing twice, headed for solar orbit.

McDivitt's crew then turned to another trailblazing task - firing the service module propulsion system. Astronauts had in the past used one vehicle to push another into higher orbit, but never a craft as big as the lander. Some six hours into the mission, they made the first test burn, which lasted five seconds. Flight controllers in Houston considered this the most critical of the docked service module engine firings. Scott must have agreed with them, because he exclaimed, "The LM is still there, by God!" The engine had come on abruptly, McDivitt later said; with the tremendous mass, however, acceleration was very slow - it took the whole 5 seconds to add 11 meters per second to the speed. Sixteen hours after this short burst, a second propulsion system ignition, lasting 110 seconds, included gimbaling (or swiveling) the engine to find out whether the guidance and navigation system's autopilot could steady the spacecraft. The autopilot stilled the motions within 5 seconds.

The crewmen grew more and more confident that they could handle their machines. And that was a good thing, since they next had to make a 280-second burn, to produce an added velocity of 783 meters per second. This lightened the service module's fuel load by 8,462 kilograms and made it easier to turn the vehicles with the reaction control jets. The firing also altered the flight path and raised the apogee of the orbit from 357 to 509 kilometers, to provide better ground tracking and lighting conditions during the rendezvous. Scott later reported that they had the sensation that the docked vehicles were bending slightly in the tunnel area, but the maneuver produced oscillations only one-third to one-half as large as they had expected from training. As the big engine fired, McDivitt commented, "SPS . . . is no sweat." The astronauts were growing so used to the propulsion system that they hardly mentioned its fourth burn. Perhaps they were thinking of their next trailblazing chore, when two of them would crawl into the lunar module and check out its systems.

After they woke in the morning and ate breakfast, McDivitt and Schweickart put on their pressure suits. Schweickart suddenly vomited. Fortunately, he kept his mouth shut until he could reach a bag. Although he did not feel particularly nauseated, both he and McDivitt became slightly disoriented when getting into their suits. For a few seconds, they could not tell up from down, which gave them a queasy feeling. Scott, already dressed, removed the command module hatch, the probe, and the drogue from the tunnel so his colleagues could get into the lunar module. Schweickart slid easily through the 81-centimeter tunnel, opened the lunar module hatch, and went next door in the first intervehicular transfer in space. After he had flipped all the necessary switches, Schweickart reported that the lander was certainly noisy, especially its environmental control system.

McDivitt followed Schweickart into the lunar module an hour later. Within a brief time, a television camera had been unstowed and their activities were being beamed to the earth. Then they shut themselves off from Scott by closing their hatch while he was sealing himself off from Spider. A key event in lunar missions would be the deployment of the landing gear. A second or two after Schweickart pushed the button, the lunar module's legs sprang smartly into place. After the vehicles separated, the lunar module would flip over so the command module pilot could make sure all four legs were in the proper position.

Then Schweickart was sick again, and McDivitt asked for a private talk with the medical people. Although the news media were quickly informed of Schweickart's problem, this request for a "private" discussion was like waving a red flag, causing repercussions and a spate of unfriendly stories. On this second occasion, the impulse to vomit came on just as suddenly as as it had earlier, while Schweickart was busy flipping switches. Afterward, he felt much better and moved around the cabin normally, but he had lost his appetite for anything except liquids and fruits for the remainder of the voyage.

As soon as he was sure the systems were operating properly, McDivitt asked Scott to put the command module into neutral control, so he could check out the lunar module's steering system. McDivitt then operated the small thrusters to get the docked vehicles into the correct position for firing the lunar module's throttleable descent propulsion system. Seconds after starting the large descent engine, McDivitt shouted, "Look at that [attitude] ball; my God, we hardly have any errors." Twenty-six seconds later, at full thrust, he reported that errors were still practically nonexistent. In fact, things were going so smoothly that halfway through the 371.5-second exercise, the commander felt hungry - not an uncommon sensation with him. So he ate before crawling back into the command module. Schweickart stayed behind to shut everything down and straighten up the cabin before joining the others in Gumdrop. The lander appeared to be a dependable machine.

After Schweickart had vomited on two occasions, McDivitt was doubtful that the lunar module pilot would be able to handle his chores outside the spacecraft. The commander recommended to flight control that this exercise be limited to cabin depressurization. Flight control agreed that the extravehicular activity would consist of one daylight period, with Schweickart wearing the portable life support system and the lunar module umbilical hoses, and with both the lunar module and command module hatches open. On the fourth day of flight, working his way into the lander to get it ready, Schweickart felt livelier than he had expected. By the time he had put on the backpack, McDivitt was ready to let him do more - to stand on the porch at least. Flight control told the commander to use his own judgment. So McDivitt fastened Schweickart to the nylon-cord tether that would keep him from floating away from the spacecraft.

Once Schweickart had entered this "third spacecraft," to become essentially a self-contained unit, flight control ran a communications check with PLSS, as they first called him. The four-way conversation - between Spider, Gumdrop, PLSS, and the Houston control center - was much clearer than they had expected. Lunar module depressurization also went smoothly. Schweickart could tell that his backpack was operating, since he could hear water gurgling while he watched his pressure indicator. He was quite comfortable. McDivitt had to use more force than he had anticipated to turn the hatch latch handle and more strength to swing the hatch inside. He was very careful to keep the door pushed back, fearing it might stick closed, leaving Schweickart outside.

Once the lunar module hatch was opened, Scott pushed the command module hatch outward. Schweickart, who now called himself Red Rover because of his rust-colored hair, enjoyed the view and did so well outside on the platform in the golden slippers that McDivitt decided to let him try out the handrails. Hanging on with one hand as he moved about, he took photographs and found that the handholds made everything easier than it had been in simulation, even in underwater training. He did not go over and visit Scott in the command module, but both pilots retrieved experiment samples from the spacecraft hulls. Scott and Schweickart also took pictures of each other, like tourists in a strange country. Originally scheduled to last more than two hours, the extravehicular period ended in less than one, partly because they did not want to tire Schweickart after his illness and partly because they had plenty to do to get ready for the next day's pathfinding activity, the key event of the entire mission: the separation and rendezvous of the lunar module and the command module. With the door closed and their life-sustaining outside equipment off, McDivitt and Schweickart recharged the backpack, tidied up the cabin, and returned to the command module.

On both occasions when they had transferred to the lander, the pilots had been behind the schedule. On 7 March, they got up an hour earlier than usual. They also obtained permission from flight control to move into the lunar module without helmets and oxygen hoses, which made it easier to go through the checklist and to set up the module for the coming maneuvers. Soon both spacecraft were ready. When Scott tried to release the lunar module, however, it hung on the capture latches. He punched the button again and the lander dropped away. McDivitt watched the widening distance between the two craft. Spider then made a 90-degree pitch and a 360-degree yaw maneuver, so Scott could see its legs.

After drifting around within 4 kilometers of the command module for 45 minutes, McDivitt fired the lunar module's descent propulsion engine to increase the distance to nearly 23 kilometers. The motor was smooth until it achieved 10-percent thrust. When McDivitt advanced the throttle to 20 percent, the engine chugged noisily. McDivitt stopped throttling and waited. Within seconds, the chugging stopped. He accelerated to 40 percent before shutting down and had no more problems. McDivitt and Schweickart checked the systems and fired the descent engine again, to a 10-percent throttle setting; this time it ran evenly. As they moved off in a nearly circular orbit 23 kilometers above the command module, they had no trouble seeing Gumdrop, even after the distance stretched to 90 kilometers. From the command module, Scott could spot the lander as far away as 160 kilometers with the help of a sextant. Estimating distances was difficult, but the radar furnished accurate figures.

This new orbit, higher than that of the command ship, created the paradox associated with orbital mechanics of speeding up to go slow. Being higher above the earth (i.e., farther out from it) than the command module, the lander took longer to circle the globe. Spider gradually moved away, trailing 185 kilometers behind Gumdrop. To begin the rendezvous, McDivitt and Schweickart flipped their craft over and fired the thrusters against the flight path to slow their speed enough to drop below the command module's orbital path. Below and behind the command module, they would begin to catch up. They fired the pyrotechnics to dump the descent stage and leave it behind. The firing produced a cloud of debris and caused their blinking tracking light to fail. McDivitt commented that staging was "sort of a kick in the fanny . . . but it went all right." The distance between the lander and the command module soon shortened to 124 kilometers. McDivitt blipped the ascent engine for three seconds to circularize their orbit and begin a chase that would last for more than two hours. As the gap between the two craft narrowed, McDivitt spotted a very small Gumdrop at 75 kilometers.

About an hour after the ascent engine firing, McDivitt and Schweickart lit off their spacecraft's thrusters. "It looks like the Fourth of July," McDivitt commented, and Scott responded that he could see them very clearly. When the thrusters stopped, however, Spider, without its tracking light, was hard for Scott to spot. At that point, remembering the problem they had breaking away, McDivitt told Scott to make sure the command module was ready for docking. As he approached the other craft, the commander turned his machine in all directions so Scott could inspect its exterior. More than six hours after leaving the command module, McDivitt settled the lander firmly back into place and then reported, "I have capture." The 12 latches on the docking ring caught the lunar module and held it fast. Another stretch of the trail to the moon had been blazed. The lunar module could leave the command module, find its way back to it, and dock safely.

Even before crawling back into the command module, McDivitt said he was tired and ready for a three-day holiday. Another 140 hours would pass before touchdown in the Atlantic, but the crew had achieved more than 90 percent of the mission objectives. There were still things to do, such as making more service module engine burns (a total of eight throughout the flight) and jettisoning the ascent stage. Ground control radioed a firing signal to park the lunar module in a 6,965- by 235-kilometer orbit. The crew watched the departing craft a while and then settled down to the more mundane tasks of checking systems, conducting navigation sightings, and taking pictures.

After 151 revolutions in 10 days, 1 hour, and 1 minute, Apollo 9 splashed safely down in the Atlantic, northeast of Puerto Rico, on 13 March 1969, completing a 6-million-kilometer flight that had cost an estimated $340 million. Less than an hour later, the crew was deposited, by helicopter, aboard the carrier U.S.S. Guadalcanal. Then the debriefings and celebrations began. At a ceremony in Washington, with an address by Vice President Agnew, lunar module development leaders Carroll Bolender of the Manned Spacecraft Center and Llewellyn Evans of Grumman were given the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and NASA Public Service Award, respectively. NASA officials were stimulated by the path-breaking voyage of Apollo 9. They were now ready for the final rehearsal, a mission that would take Apollo back to the vicinity of the moon.


Apollo 9 Chronology

  • - 1965 August - Radiation levels predicted for Apollo LEM-3 crew Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Grumman completed an analysis of radiation levels that would be encountered by the LEM-3 crew during their earth orbital mission. Grumman advised that doses would not be harmful. To lessen these levels even further, the contractor recommended that during some parts of the mission the two astronauts climb back into the CM; also, the planned orbit for the LEM (556 by 2,500 km (300 by 1,350 nm)) could be changed to avoid the worst part of the Van Allen Belt.

  • 1965 Dec 17 - Proposal rejected that the Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) on Apollo LEM-3 be deleted Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.

    The MSC Systems Development Branch rejected a proposal that the Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) on LEM-3 be deleted for the following reasons:

    1. LEM-3 would be the first full-weight LEM launched on a Saturn V vehicle.

      This would be the only chance of obtaining necessary information about the responses of LEM during launch.

    2. The AS-503 mission would offer the only opportunity of obtaining information on the characteristics of a fully loaded, mated LEM and CSM prior to attempting a lunar landing.
    3. Three LEMs with DFI were considered the minimum number acceptable in the program to provide flexibility in flight planning and ability to accommodate the loss of LEMs 1 or 2 without a major impact on the program.
  • 1966 Jul 20 - Apollo mapping and survey system (M&SS) Spacecraft: Apollo LMSS. Nation: USA.

    MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth informed MSFC Director Wernher von Braun that for the past two years MSC had studied the use of the mapping and survey system (M&SS) in conjunction with the Apollo program.

    The system objective would be lunar mapping and landing site certification, and management responsibility was assigned to the MSC Experiments Program Office. System parameters had been established and a decision made to configure the M&SS hardware and supporting systems in a cylindrical container. The container - a "payload module" - would be carried in the spacecraft-LM adapter in place of the LM during the boost phase of flight. The payload module would have docking capability with the CSM like the LM's and, in the docked mode, would map and survey the moon in a programmed lunar orbit.

    The M&SS experiment had already been funded by NASA OMSF and would support five possible flights beginning with AS-504. Gilruth forwarded a statement of work and requested MSFC to study it and furnish MSC a cost estimate, technical proposal, and management plan by July 29.

  • 1966 Nov 9 - Feasibility and cost tradeoffs of real-time television coverage of Apollo missions Nation: USA.

    NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller reported on technical feasibility and cost tradeoffs of real-time television coverage of Apollo missions.

    Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., had requested an evaluation during a July 8 program review. Highlights of the report were:

    • Lunar missions would be the most complex attempted in manned space flight. Even with optimum training, astronaut capabilities would be heavily taxed and availability of real-time TV coverage could provide an opportunity in trouble-shooting spacecraft anomalies or in performing scientific experiments.
    • To transmit TV video to Mission Control Center in Houston, scan conversion from the Apollo format to the standard commercial format would be required as well as a communications capability. For the lunar mission, implementation at Goldstone and Madrid would provide 62- to 91-percent TV coverage with an estimated initial investment of $500,000 and an operating cost of $1,200,000 per year, based on four seven-day missions per year with 8 to 14 hours a day possible coverage for each station.
    • The most optimistic minimum procurement and installation time for the first unit would be 10 months and, to provide real-time TV for the first lunar mission, the system should be exercised at least one mission before AS-504. Mueller recommended approval for additional equipment and communication services necessary for live TV coverage from the Goldstone, Calif., and Madrid, Spain, stations.
    Seamans approved the proposal on November 17, with the following condition, which was later transmitted to MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth: "Before NASA commitments of any sort are made to the networks for Apollo capsule TV coverage, the plans and procedures must be approved by the Administrator."
  • 1967 Oct 13 - Apollo Spacecraft Configuration Control Board reins in changes Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    In an effort to keep a tight rein on changes made in spacecraft, the Apollo Spacecraft Configuration Control Board (CCB) established ground rules.

    • All changes on CSMs 101 and 103 and LM-3, no matter how small, would now be considered by the Senior Board only and not by any of the panels.
    • Only mandatory changes would be considered for CSMs 101 and 103 and LM-3.
    • Final implementation of all changes must be concluded within 30 days after a contract change authorization was written, and no change in implementation would be allowed without a new review by the MSC CCB.
    • No changes would be made on LM-6 and subsequent LMs and CSM 107 and subsequent CSMs unless they were also on LM-5 and CSM 106 or unless the Senior CCB made a special exception to this rule. The purpose was to make certain that the configurations of the mission simulators and the Mission Control Center could be stabilized.
    • Board members would generally be chairmen of subsidiary Configuration Control Panels and would not delegate this chairmanship. Thus Donald K. Slayton would chair the Simulator Panel, Maxime A. Faget would chair the panel that passed on government furnished equipment items, and probably Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., would chair the Software Control Panel (the last position had not yet been decided).
    An additional step to gain a better understanding of the configuration baseline was taken by appointing Jesse F. Goree responsible for configuration management.
  • 1967 Oct 28 - Ground rules for Apollo extravehicular activity Nation: USA.

    The following ground rules were established for extravehicular activity planning. The EVA transfer would be demonstrated and thermal-degradation samples retrieved during the AS-503/103/LM-3 (Apollo 8) mission. No other pre-lunar-landing mission would include planned EVA exercises. The first lunar landing mission would be planned with two EVA excursions.

  • 1967 Oct 30 - Actions on Apollo television cameras reported Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Actions on television cameras were reported by ASPO Manager George M. Low to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips.

    • During the Apollo spacecraft redefinition effort; a decision was made to fly the Block I TV camera in the CSM and the Block II TV camera in the LM. It was also decided that the CSM onboard TV camera could not be used for monitoring hazardous tests.
    • In recent weight-saving exercises, those decisions were reexamined and a conclusion was reached that no TV camera would be carried in the CSM. This would not only save four kilograms directly but would also reduce the required stowage space and reduce the overall weight by minimizing the number of required containers.
    • A decision was made to stow the Block II TV camera in the descent stage during the lunar mission. There would still be a requirement for checking out the lunar TV camera in earth orbit to ensure that it would work on the lunar surface. For that reason, it was planned to carry the camera in the ascent stage on the LM-3 mission, and in the descent stage on subsequent vehicles.
    Low said, "Our present plans for TV in Apollo spacecraft call for the use of facility cameras to monitor hazardous testing on the ground. There will not be any television equipment in the Command Module on any flight."
  • 1967 Dec 9 - Competing Apollo LM ascent engine qualification dates provided Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    MSC ASPO Manager George M. Low reminded NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that at a meeting three weeks previous MSC had presented a Bell Aerospace Corp. qualification completion date for the LM ascent engine of March 28, and a Rocketdyne Division, North American Rockwell, completion by May 1, 1968.

    MSC at that time had expressed confidence that the Rocketdyne program could be accelerated to be completed in mid-March and be competitive to the BAC date, permitting a selection to install the best engine on LM-3.

    During the interim, program reviews had been conducted at both Bell and Rocketdyne. The Bell program had been accelerated to complete qualification by February 9, 1968, by conducting qualification and design verification testing in parallel. While a greater risk would be incurred, both Grumman and NASA agreed to the procedure to expedite the Bell program. The Rocketdyne program could not be accelerated to complete qualification by February because of an uncertainty as to the performance of its engine, but qualification testing was expected to be completed by March. Anticipating that the only change would be a pattern modification, Rocketdyne was already manufacturing injectors to support an accelerated program.

  • 1968 Jan 5 - Review of the LM ascent engine backup program Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Apollo Special Task Team (ASTT) Director Eberhard F. M. Rees, Martin L. Raines, and Ralph Taeuber of MSC, and J. McNamara, North American Rockwell, visited Rocketdyne Division to review the status of the LM ascent engine backup program.

    The presentation was made by Steve Domokos.

    The group was favorably impressed and felt that there was every indication that the Rocketdyne injectors would meet the LM requirements. ASTT recommended that MSC establish a board, chaired by the Chief of the Propulsion and Power Division and including one MSFC propulsion engineer, one MSFC manufacturing specialist, and other MSC personnel as required to provide a recommendation to ASPO of the ascent engine for LM-3.

  • 1968 Jan 11 - Concern over configuration control of Apollo flight hardware Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Nation: USA.

    CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht wrote his counterpart at North American Rockwell, Dale D. Myers, to express concern about NR's seeming inability to implement configuration control of flight hardware and ground support equipment.

    Some progress had been made recently, Kleinknecht observed, but many steps still had to be taken to achieve effective configuration management on the CSM. The MSC chief pointed especially to North American's inability to ensure that final hardware matched that set forth in engineering documents, a weakness inherent in the separate functions of manufacturing: planning, fabrication, assembly and rework. MSC recommended a check procedure of comparing part numbers of installed equipment to the "as designed" parts list. "In short," Kleinknecht concluded, "I think that we should tolerate no further delay in establishing a simple 'as built' versus 'as designed' checking function, beginning with and including the first manned spacecraft."

    North American began a more nearly complete engineering order accountability system, which provided an acceptable method of verifying the "as designed" to the "as built" configuration of each spacecraft. This system was planned to be applicable by the Flight Readiness Review on spacecraft 104 and on subsequent spacecraft at earlier points.

  • 1968 Feb 26 - Stress corrosion and window problems in the Apollo LM resolved Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Stress corrosion and window problems in the LM had been resolved, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller advised the Administrator in his weekly progress report.

    By a thorough analysis of the entire structure of the spacecraft, a team of engineers at Grumman had determined that widespread stress corrosion on the vehicle was highly unlikely. Also, inspection of more than 1,400 individual parts on exposed surfaces of lunar module test article LTA-3 and LMs 3 through 8 had failed to discover a single instance of stress corrosion cracking, and thus no major changes would be made to the structure of the spacecraft.

    Regarding the window problem (a window had blown out during a routine pressure test of LM-5 on December 17, 1967), Mueller stated that the windows on the LM were made from the strongest glass ever used on manned spacecraft. The most important factor, he said, was to avoid scratches on the window surface. Accordingly, Grumman and MSC had instituted a new acceptance test procedure to be conducted at Bethpage immediately before installation, after which the windows would remain fully protected. The LM-5 window failure had been caused by a defect in the body of the glass. Grumman subsequently planned to pressure-test all LM windows at 17.2 newtons per square centimeter (25 pounds per square inch). Normal operating pressure was 4.0 newtons per sq cm (5.8 psia).

  • - 1968 March 6-7 - Design Certification Reviews of Apollo Apollo CSM 101 and LM-3 Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Design Certification Reviews of CSM 101 and LM-3 were held at MSC. Significant program-level agreements reached included validation of a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen cabin atmosphere during launch; reaffirmation of the February 6 Management Council decision that a second unmanned LM flight was not required; and the conclusion that, in light of successful static firing of the 102 service propulsion system and subsequent analysis, a static-firing of the 101 system was not required.

  • 1968 Mar 19 - Suggestion of added Apollo spacecraft delivery delays rejected Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Nation: USA.

    ASPO Manager George Low emphatically rejected North American Rockwell's suggestion of added spacecraft delivery delays.

    Responding to a February letter from North American CSM Program Manager Dale D. Myers - suggesting further slips in delivery of 2TV-1 and spacecraft 101, 103, and 104 - Low reminded Myers that at the close of the Configuration Control Board meeting on February 23 he had cited a mid-April target for delivery of CSM 101. Since that time, Low said, KSC had been actively preparing for an early summer launch based on that mid-April delivery, and circumstances therefore made that date most important. Moreover, North American must deliver CSM 103 by the end of June 1968 in order to ensure meeting Apollo's end-of-the-decade goal. He reminded Myers that he had pursued this point on several occasions with him and with William Bergen. They both had told Low that they had found ways to deliver 103 within that time frame, and Low now suggested that this target date be made a firm commitment in the official Apollo schedules. At the earliest possible date, Low concluded, MSC and North American must establish firm contractual baselines for delivery schedules. Until then present delivery dates remained valid. He admitted that some schedule slips had resulted from NASA-dictated changes and that the schedules should be adjusted accordingly. The remaining delays, however, Low attributed directly to the company's inability to meet projected commitments. The contract was changed to call for an April 1968 delivery for CSM 101 and a June 1968 delivery for CSM 103.

  • 1968 Apr 27 - Delays in Apollo CSM and LM delivery dates Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Nation: USA.

    ASPO Manager George M. Low explained to the Apollo Program Director the underlying causes of slips in CSM and LM delivery dates since establishment of contract dates during the fall of 1967. The general excuse, Low said, was that slips were the result of NASA-directed hardware changes. "This excuse is not valid." He recounted how NASA-imposed changes had been under strict control and only essential changes had been approved by the MSC Level II Configuration Control Board (CCB).

    For early spacecraft (CSM 101 and 103 and LM-3), the CCB had agreed some six months earlier that only flight safety changes woul be approved. To achieve firm understandings with the two prime spacecraft contractors regarding the responsibilities for schedule slips, Low had asked MSC procurement expert Dave W. Lang to negotiate new contract delivery dates based on changes since the last round of negotiations. These negotiations with North American Rockwell were now completed. (Talks at Grumman had not yet started.) Despite a leniency in the negotiations on early spacecraft, Low said, results clearly indicated that most schedule delays were attributable to North American and not to NASA. On 2TV-1, for example, delivered two months late, analysis proved that less than three weeks of this delay derived from customer-dictated changes. The situation for CSM 101, though not yet delivered, was comparable. Moreover, a similar situation existed within the LM program: LM-3 would be delivered some five weeks behind the contract date, with only two of those weeks caused by NASA changes. Despite this attempt to set the record straight regarding schedule slippages, Low stressed that he did not wish to be over critical of the contractors' performance. Because schedules over the past year had been based on three-shift, seven-day-per-week operation, little or no time existed for troubleshooting and "make work', changes that inevitably cropped up during checkout activities.

  • 1968 May 28 - Apollo LM ascent engine problem resolved Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    NASA and Grumman officials met to resolve the issue of the injector for the LM ascent engine.

    Chief NASA Apollo spacecraft program officials present included Director Samuel C. Phillips and MSC's ASPO Manager George M. Low and LM Manager C. H. Bolender; Grumman LM directors and engineers included LM Program Director Joseph G. Gavin. Several alternatives seemed feasible: continue the program with the existing Bell Aerosystems Co. engine and injector; furnish Bell Aerosystems Co. engines to Rocketdyne to be mated to the Rocketdyne injector; or ship Rocketdyne injectors to Bell for installation in the engine. After what Low termed "considerable discussion," he dictated the course to be followed:

    • The LM ascent engine would comprise Bell's engine with the Rocketdyne injector. Rocketdyne would be responsible for delivery of the complete engine, and would thus become a subcontractor to Grumman. (Bell could either remain as subcontractor to Grumman or become a subcontractor to Rocketdyne.)
    • An engine with the Rocketdyne injector would be immediately installed in LM-3, as well as in LM-4 and LM-5, with minimum schedule impact.
    • Grumman was to proceed forthwith on contract negotiations with Bell and Rocketdyne to cover these procurements.
    • Rocketdyne was to continue qualification on the present injector design, and engine firings at White Sands Test Facility in support of LM-3 were to use the Rocketdyne injector.
    Grumman participants at this meeting, as Low almost casually phrased it, "indicated that they would interpose no objections to this set of decisions." After long months of technical effort and almost agonizing hardware and managerial debate, the issue of an ascent engine for the LM was settled.
  • 1968 Jun 3 - Test to detect toxic hazards inside Apollo spacecraft Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    ASPO Manager George Low advised Apollo program officials at KSC that, to collect adequate data for evaluating any potential toxicological hazard inside the spacecraft, collection of gas samples of the cabin atmosphere must be made for 12 hours during the unmanned altitude chamber test with all systems operating. Low asked that this requirement be included in the spacecraft test procedures. Narrative: (Purpose of a total CSM 101 and LM-3 toxicological evaluation was to verify that no toxic contaminants were given off by the nonmetallic materials used in the crew compartments.).

  • 1968 Jun 10 - Important Apollo events Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    In his weekly progress report to the NASA Administrator, Deputy Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller cited several important Apollo events during the first week of June.

    1. On June 1, technicians at MSC completed thermal-vacuum testing on LTA-8 to support LM-3, including 45% hours of manned testing. All spacecraft systems functioned normally, and preliminary results indicated that all significant test objectives had been realized.
    2. Engineers and technicians at KSC completed receiving inspection of CSM 101 on June 3. That inspection revealed fewer discrepancies than had been present on any other spacecraft delivered to the Cape. Pre-mate inspection of CM 101 also was completed, as were leakage and functional tests on the electrical power and reaction control systems. SM 101 was in the altitude chamber being prepared for combined systems testing.
  • 1968 Aug 7 - Apollo Review Board certifies the design of Apollo LM-3 Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    The Apollo Design Certification Review (DCR) Board convened at MSC to examine LM-3 further for proof of design and development maturity and to assess and certify the design of the LM-3 as flightworthy and safe for manned flight. This Delta review was identified as a requirement at the March 6 LM-3 DCR. The Board concluded at the close of the Delta DCR that LM-3 was safe to fly manned with the completion of open work and action items identified during the review.

  • 1968 Aug 8 - Test and checkout problems for Apollo AS-503 and AS-504 Nation: USA.

    ASPO Manager George M. Low and several members of his staff met at KSC with Center Director Kurt H. Debus, Launch Operations Director Rocco A. Petrone, and KSC Apollo Program Manager R. O. Middleton to discuss test and checkout problems for AS-503 and AS-504.

    They collectively agreed that only mandatory changes - i.e., changes for flight safety or to ensure mission success - could be made once the spacecraft reached KSC. (Changes that would speed the KSC checkout flow also were permitted.) Furthermore, two separate work packages would be prepared for each spacecraft customer acceptance readiness review board. The first package comprised normal work to be performed at KSC on all spacecraft. The second included special work normally done at the factory, but which for that specific vehicle was being transferred to the Cape (installation, retesting, etc.). The group also reviewed recent Apollo checkout experiences - especially test failures and open items - in an effort to improve these areas for subsequent missions.

  • - 1968 August 9 - November 12 - Decision that Apollo 8 should be a lunar orbital mission Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.

    ASPO Manager George M. Low initiated a series of actions that led to the eventual decision that AS-503 (Apollo 8) should be a lunar orbital mission.

    Events and the situation during June and July had indicated to Low that the only way for the "in this decade" goal to be attained was to launch the Saturn 503/CSM 103 LM-3 mission in 1968. During June and July the projected launch slipped from November to December, with no assurance of a December launch. Later, Low recalled "the possibility of a circumlunar or lunar orbit mission during 1968, using AS-503 and CSM 103 first occurred to me as a contingency mission."

    During the period of July 20-August 5, pogo problems that had arisen on Apollo 6 seemed headed toward resolution; work on the CSM slowed, but progress was satisfactory; delivery was scheduled at KSC during the second week in August and the spacecraft was exceptionally clean. The LM still required a lot of work and chances were slim for a 1968 launch.

    On August 7, Low asked MSC's Director of Flight Operations Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to look into the feasibility of a lunar orbit mission for Apollo 8 without carrying the LM. A mission with the LM looked as if it might slip until February or March 1969. The following day Low traveled to KSC for an AS-503 review, and from the work schedule it looked like a January 1969 launch.

    August 9 was probably one of the busiest days in George Low's life; the activities of that and the following days enabled the United States to meet the "in this decade" goal. At 8 :45 a.m. he met with MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth and told him he had been considering a lunar orbit mission. Gilruth was highly enthusiastic. At 9:00 a.m. Low met with Kraft and was informed that the mission was technically feasible from ground control and spacecraft computer standpoint. (A decision had been made several months earlier to put a Colossus onboard computer program on the 103 spacecraft.)

    At 9:30 a.m. Low met with Gilruth, Kraft, and Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. Slayton, and they unanimously decided to seek support from MSFC Director Wernher von Braun and Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips. Gilruth called von Braun and, after briefly outlining the plan, asked if they could meet in Huntsville that afternoon. Low called Phillips, who was at KSC, and asked whether he and KSC Director Kurt Debus could participate and a meeting was set up for 2:30.

    Present at the 2:30 p.m. meeting at MSFC were von Braun, Eberhard Rees, Lee James, and Ludie Richard, all of MSFC: Phillips and George Hage, both of OMSF; Debus and Rocco Petrone, MSFC; and Gilruth, Low, Kraft, and Slayton of MSC. Low outlined the hardware situation and told the group it was technically feasible to fly the lunar orbit mission in December 1968, with the qualification that Apollo 7 would have to be a very successful mission. If not successful, Apollo 8 would be another earth-orbital mission. Kraft made a strong point that to gain lunar landing benefits Apollo 8 would have to be a lunar orbital rather than a circumlunar mission. All were enthusiastic. Phillips began outlining necessary events: KSC said it would be ready to support such a launch by December 1; MSFC felt it would have no difficulties; MSC needed to look at the differences between spacecraft 103 and 106 (the first spacecraft scheduled to leave earth's atmosphere) and had to find a substitute for the LM. The meeting was concluded at 5:00 p.m. with an agreement to meet in Washington August 14. This would be decision day and, if "GO," Phillips planned to go to Vienna and discuss the plan with Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller and NASA Administrator James E. Webb (who were attending a United Nations Conference). Preliminary planning would be secret, but if and when adopted by the agency the plan would be made public immediately.

    Still on August 9, in another meeting at MSC at 8:30 p.m., Low met with Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, George Abbey, and C. H. Bolender of MSC, and Dale Myers, North American Rockwell. Bolender left immediately for Bethpage, N.Y., to find a substitute for the LM; and Myers left for Downey, Calif., to get the CM going.

    On the following day there were still no obvious insurmountable problems that might block the plan. Kleinknecht was studying the differences between spacecraft 103 and 106, where the high-gain antenna might be a problem. It seemed possible to use LM-2 to support the flight, but Joseph Kotanchik, MSC, suggested flying a simple crossbeam instead of a LM in the event the pogo oscillation problem remained and pointed out that even if pogo was solved the LM would not be needed. Low called Richard and Hage, who agreed with Kotanchik but still wanted mass representation to avoid possible dynamic problems. Low then called William Bergen, of North American, who was not too receptive to the plan.

    On August 12 Kraft informed Low that December 20 was the day if they wanted to launch in daylight. With everyone agreeing to a daylight launch, the launch was planned for December 1 with a "built-in hold" until the 20th, which would have the effect of giving assurance of meeting the schedule. LTA (LM test article)-B was considered as a substitute; it had been through a dynamic test vehicle program, and all except Kotanchik agreed this would be a good substitute. Grumman suggested LTA-4 but Low decided on LTA-B.

    Kleinknecht had concluded his CSM 103-106 configuration study by August 13 and determined the high-gain antenna was the most critical item. Kraft was still "GO" and said December 20-26 (except December 25) offered best launch times; he had also looked at January launch possibilities. Slayton had decided to assign the 104 crew to the mission. He had talked to crew commander Frank Borman and Borman was interested.

    Participants in the August 14 meeting in Washington were Low, Gilruth, Kraft, and Slayton from MSC; von Braun, James, and Richard from MSFC; Debus and Petrone from KSC; and Deputy Administrator Thomas Paine, William Schneider, Julian Bowman, Phillips, and Hage from NASA Hq. Low reviewed the spacecraft aspects; Kraft, flight operations; and Slayton, flight crew support. MSFC had agreed on the LTA-B as the substitute and were still ready to go; and KSC said they would be ready by December 6.

    While the meeting was in progress, Mueller called from Vienna to talk to Phillips. He was cool to the proposed idea, especially since it preceded Apollo 7, and urged Phillips not to come to Vienna, adding that he could not meet with the group before August 22. The group agreed they could not wait until August 22 for a decision and agreed to keep going, urging again that Phillips go to Vienna and present their case.

    At this point Paine reminded them that not too long before they were making a decision whether to man 503, and now they were proposing a bold mission. He then asked for comments by those around the table and received the following responses:

    von Braun - Once you decided to man 503 it did not matter how far you went.

    Hage - There were a number of places in the mission where the decision could be made, minimizing the risk.

    Slayton - Only chance to get to the moon before the end of 1969.

    Debus - I have no technical reservations.

    Petrone - I have no reservations.

    Bowman - A shot in the arm for manned space flight.

    James - Manned safety in this and following flights enhanced.

    Richard - Our lunar capability will be enhanced by flying this mission.

    Schneider - My wholehearted endorsement.

    Gilruth - Although this may not be the only way to meet our goal, it enhances our possibility. There is always risk, but this is in path of less risk. In fact, the minimum risk of all Apollo plans.

    Kraft - Flight operations has a difficult job here. We need all kind of priorities; it will not be easy to do, but I have confidence. It should be lunar orbit and not circumlunar.

    Low - Assuming Apollo 7 is a success there is no other choice.

    After receiving this response, Paine congratulated them on not being prisoners of previous plans and said he personally felt it was the right thing to do. Phillips then said the plan did not represent shortcuts and planned to meet with Mueller on August 22. He reiterated Mueller's reservations, and then agreed to move out on a limited basis, since time was critical.

    On August 15 Phillips and Paine discussed the plan with Webb. Webb wanted to think about it, and requested further information by diplomatic carrier. That same day Phillips called Low and informed him that Mueller had agreed to the plan with the provisions that no full announcement would be made until after the Apollo 7 flight; that it could be announced that 503 would be manned and possible missions were being studied; and that an internal document could be prepared for a planned lunar orbit for December.

    Phillips and Hage visited MSC August 17, bringing the news that Webb had given clear-cut authority to prepare for a December 6 launch, but that they could not proceed with clearance for lunar orbit until after the Apollo 7 flight, which would be an earth-orbital mission with basic objectives of proving the CSM and Saturn V systems. Phillips said that Webb had been "shocked and fairly negative" when he talked to him about the plan on August 15. Subsequently, Paine and Phillips sent Webb a lengthy discourse on why the mission should be changed, and it was felt he would change his mind with a successful Apollo 7 mission.

    Apollo 7 - flown October 11-22 - far exceeded Low's expectations in results and left no doubts that they should go for lunar orbit on Apollo 8. At the November 10 Apollo Executive meeting Phillips presented a summary of the activities; James gave the launch vehicle status; Low reported on the spacecraft status and said he was impressed with the way KSC had handled its tight checkout schedule; Slayton reported on the flight plan; and Petrone on checkout readiness. Petrone said KSC could launch as early as December 10 or 12. Phillips said he would recommend to the Management Council the next day for Apollo 8 to go lunar orbit. Following are the reactions of the Committee members:

    Walter Burke, McDonnell Douglas - the S-IVB was ready but McDonnell Douglas favored circumlunar rather than lunar orbit;

    Hilliard Paige, GE - favored lunar orbit;

    Paul Blasingame, AC - guidance and navigation hardware was ready, lunar orbit;

    C. Stark Draper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - we should go ahead;

    Bob Evans, IBM - go;

    George Bunker of Martin, T. A. Wilson of Boeing, Lee Atwood of North American, Bob Hunter of Philco-Ford, and Tom Morrow of Chrysler - lunar orbit.

    At the Manned Space Flight Management Council Meeting on November 11 Mueller reported that the proposal had been discussed with the Apollo Executive Committee, Department of Defense, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), and the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). STAC had made a penetrating review and reacted positively and PSAC was favorably disposed toward the plan but made no firm recommendation.

    After a series of meetings, on November 11 Paine said Apollo 8 was to go lunar orbit. The decision was announced publicly the following day. Low's initiative had paid off; the final decision to go to the moon in 1968 was made with the blessings of all of NASA's decision-makers, the Apollo Executive Committee, STAC, and PSAC.

  • 1968 Sep 25 - Apollo LM ascent engine to use Rocketdyne injector Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    The LM ascent engine to be flown in LM-3 and subsequent missions would incorporate the Rocketdyne injector, Apollo Program Director Phillips informed ASPO Manager Low. The engine would be assembled and delivered by Rocketdyne under subcontract to Grumman.

    MSC was authorized to inform those concerned of these decisions but would not issue contractual direction until an agreed course of contractual action had been approved by NASA Hq. Two days later, on September 27, Phillips advised Low that MSC was authorized to take all proper contract actions to implement the decision to contract with Grumman for ascent-stage engines assembled by Rocketdyne with the latter's injector.

  • 1968 Sep 25 - Concerns over quality coverage of Apollo spacecraft testing Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Nation: USA.

    NASA Resident ASPO Manager Wilbur H. Gray at Downey told Dale D. Myers, North American Rockwell CSM Manager, that NR quality coverage of spacecraft testing no longer provided NASA with confidence in test results and that NASA Quality Control would return to monitoring test activities in and from the ACE (acceptance checkout equipment) control room. Gray charged that North American had progressively backed away from contractually agreed steps of the November 30, 1967, Quality Program Plan, and that these actions had affected test readiness, testing, and trouble shooting to the point that test acceptance could not be accepted with any reasonable assurance. Gray said that - unless North American responded by immediate reinstatement of the procedures which, as a minimum, were those that worked satisfactorily on CSMs 103 and 104 - NASA formal acceptance of operational checkout procedures would be discontinued and contractual action initiated. An annotation to George Low from Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC's CSM Manager, indicated the letter had been written with the concurrence and at the suggestion of Kleinknecht.

    Myers replied: "I regret that NASA feels any lack of confidence in current test results. . . . For the past year, there has been a constant improvement program carried out in Test Quality Assurance to (1) perform quality evaluation and acceptance of test results in real time and (2) upgrade the test discipline to be consistent with good quality practice. I believe that this improvement program has been effective and is evidenced by the current efficiency of test and expedient manner in which test paper work is being closed out. While there is naturally some cost benefit experienced from the successful improvements, cost never has been placed as a criteria above quality. . . .

    "Again, I want to emphasize that the CSM Program has not nor will not intentionally place cost ahead of quality. . . . The procedures which worked satisfactorily on CSM 103 and 104 are being improved to provide better test discipline and more effective Quality Assurance coverage. Test progress on CSM 106 to date indicates a greater test effectiveness and a greater confidence in test results than any previous CSM's."

    Myers, North American Rockwell CSM Manager, that NR quality coverage of spacecraft testing no longer provided NASA with confidence in test results and Gray charged that North American had progressively backed away from contractually agreed steps of the November 30, 1967, Quality Program Plan, and that these actions had affected test readiness, testing, and trouble shooting to the point that test acceptance could not be accepted with any reasonable assurance. Gray said that - unless North American responded by immediate reinstatement of the procedures which, as a minimum, were those that worked satisfactorily on CSMs 103 and 104 - NASA formal acceptance of operational checkout procedures would be discontinued and contractual action initiated. An annotation to George Low from Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC's CSM Manager, indicated the letter had been written with the concurrence and at the suggestion of Kleinknecht.

    Myers replied: "I regret that NASA feels any lack of confidence in current test results. . . . For the past year, there has been a constant improvement program carried out in Test Quality Assurance to (1) perform quality evaluation and acceptance of test results in real time and (2) upgrade the test discipline to be consistent with good quality practice. I believe that this improvement program has been effective and is evidenced by the current efficiency of test and expedient manner in which test paper work is being closed out. While there is naturally some cost benefit experienced from the successful improvements, cost never has been placed as a criteria above quality. . . .

    "Again, I want to emphasize that the CSM Program has not nor will not intentionally place cost ahead of quality. . . . The procedures which worked satisfactorily on CSM 103 and 104 are being improved to provide better test discipline and more effective Quality Assurance coverage. Test progress on CSM 106 to date indicates a greater test effectiveness and a greater confidence in test results than any previous CSM's."

  • 1968 Oct 21 - Launch preparations for Apollo 8 and 9 Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller summarized launch preparations for the near-term missions Apollo 8 and Apollo 9.

    Hurricane Gladys had interrupted work on the Apollo 8 spacecraft and launch vehicle and work was now about two days behind schedule. (Because winds from the storm did not exceed Apollo design values, however, Apollo 8 remained at Pad A and was not returned to the assembly building.) Checkout of LM-3 and CSM 104 for Apollo 9 were on schedule. The CSM had been stacked and would undergo combined systems tests shortly. Ascent and descent stages of the lander would be joined immediately after docking tests had been completed.

  • 1968 Oct 31 - AS-504 and AS-505 missions officially designated as Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 Nation: USA.

    NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips officially designated the AS-504 and AS-505 missions as Apollo 9 and Apollo 10.

  • 1968 Dec 15 - Final countdown for the launch of Apollo 8 Nation: USA.

    Final countdown for the launch of Apollo 8, the second manned Apollo mission, began on schedule at KSC. Significant launch preparation events included the "wet" countdown demonstration test on December 10, three days of flight simulations, an operational review, and launch site recovery exercises. Mission preparations were on schedule for launch on December 21. Launch preparations were also on schedule for the next two flights, Apollo 9 and 10.

  • 1968 Dec 16 - Potential uses for television aboard Apollo CSM and LM Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips asked ASPO Manager George M. Low for comments on potential uses for television aboard all Apollo spacecraft (both CMs and LMs).

    Although plans called for TV cameras in both spacecraft for the F and G missions, on the combined CSM-LM earth-orbital D mission only the LM was to contain a camera. Phillips asked Low to assess the feasibility and schedule impact of including a TV camera on the D-mission CSM as well (CM 104), thus employing television on all the remaining Apollo spacecraft. In particular, the Apollo Director sought Low's advice on the feasibility and usefulness of television transmissions for engineering, operations, scientific, and public information purposes.

  • 1968 Dec 24 - Plans for television cameras aboard remaining Apollo missions Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    ASPO Manager George M. Low apprised Program Director Samuel C. Phillips of MSC's plans for television cameras aboard remaining Apollo missions. With the exception of spacecraft 104 (scheduled for flight as Apollo 9), television cameras were to be flown in all CMs. Also, cameras would be included in all manned LMs (LM-3 through LM-14).

  • 1969 Jan 3 - Mission preparation for Apollo 9 continued on schedule Nation: USA.

    Mission preparation for Apollo 9 continued on schedule. Rollout of the space vehicle from the Vehicle Assembly Building, KSC, began. Mission Control Center simulations checkout, which began at MSC on December 20, 1968, was proceeding on schedule. Also, a series of thermal vacuum tests was completed, with the Apollo 9 crew using extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) flight equipment. Wind up of these tests completed the required EMU testing for the Apollo 9 flight.

  • - 1969 January 15-17 - Final flight program for Apollo 9 verified Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.

    The final flight program for Apollo 9 was verified; the emergency egress test with the prime and backup crew was conducted; and the software integration test between the lunar module and Mission Control Center, MSC, was completed on January 15.

    On January 16 the Saturn V/Mission Control Center-Houston integration testing was conducted. Additionally, a critical design review of the Launch Complex 39 slide wire system was conducted on January 17. Launch preparations for Apollo 9 continued to proceed on schedule.

  • - 1969 January 19-22 - Apollo 9 flight readiness test Nation: USA.

    The Apollo 9 flight readiness test began on January 19 and was successfully completed January 22, in preparation for a February launch. A one-day delay in the testing was caused by a loss of air conditioning for the RCA-110A computer. The hatch and side windows of the spacecraft were being modified to overcome the fogging effect experienced during the Apollo 8 mission.

  • 1969 Jan 24 - Apollo CSM Flight Readiness Review Board Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Nation: USA.

    The CSM Flight Readiness Review Board convened at MSC. Martin L. Raines presented the Reliability and Quality Assurance assessment and pointed out the improvement in discrepancy reports between spacecraft 101, 103, and 104 and concluded that 104 was better than 103 and ready to fly. George M. Low noted that the CSM Review had been outstanding.

  • - 1969 January 24-29 - Tests completed for the Apollo 9 launch Nation: USA.

    The following tests were completed in preparation for the planned February Apollo 9 launch: all Mission Control Center data system integration tests, MSC preflight readiness test, KSC launch readiness test, and MSFC preflight test. In addition, recovery training exercises were conducted aboard the U.S.S. Guadalcanal, the prime recovery ship for Apollo 9.

  • 1969 Jan 31 - Aluminum fittings replaced in Apollo lunar modules Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    About 30 small aluminum brackets and fittings were replaced or reinforced in Apollo lunar modules to rule out the possibility of cracking from stress corrosion.

    Stress corrosion monitoring began in December 1967 when small cracks were discovered in LM landing gear struts. Nine fittings were replaced in LM-3, scheduled for the Apollo 9 mission, and six fittings were repaired in LM-4, scheduled for the Apollo 10 flight. About 25 fittings were being replaced on LM-5 and LM-6 and 8 fittings on each of these vehicles were being reinforced.

  • 1969 Feb 3 - 12-month plan for Apollo missions Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    NASA Hq. released a 12-month forecast of manned space flight missions, reflecting an assessment of launch schedules for planning purposes. Five flights were scheduled for the remainder of 1969:

    • Apollo 9 - February 28, SA-504, CSM 104, LM-3; manned orbital; up to 10 days' duration; Atlantic recovery.
    • Apollo 10 - May 17, SA-505, CSM 106, LM-4; manned lunar mission, Pacific recovery.
    • Apollo 11 - SA-506, CSM 107, LM-5; manned lunar mission; up to 11 days' duration; Pacific recovery.
    • Apollo 12 - SA-507, CSM 108, LM-6; manned lunar mission; up to 11 days; Pacific recovery.
    • Apollo 13 - SA-508, CSM 109, LM-7; manned lunar mission; up to 11 days' duration; Pacific recovery.
  • 1969 Feb 22 - Apollo 9 countdown began Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    The Apollo 9 countdown to launch began, with launch scheduled for liftoff February 28. The 10-day flight would mark the first manned earth orbital flight of the lunar module, the first Apollo spacewalk, and the first manned checkout, rendezvous, and docking operations of the complete Apollo spacecraft. The Apollo 9 mission would be open-ended, allowing the mission plan to progress from one step to the next on the basis of real-time success.

  • 1969 Mar 3 - Apollo 9 Flight Crew: McDivitt, Schweickart, Scott, Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Payload: Apollo CSM 104. Mass: 36,511 kg. Nation: USA. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V. Duration: 10.04 days. Perigee: 203 km. Apogee: 229 km. Inclination: 32.6 deg. Period: 88.6 min.

    Apollo 9 (AS-504), the first manned flight with the lunar module (LM-3), was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, on a Saturn V launch vehicle at 11:00 a.m. EST March 3. Originally scheduled for a February 28 liftoff, the launch had been delayed to allow crew members James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart to recover from a mild virus respiratory illness. Following a normal launch phase, the S-IVB stage inserted the spacecraft into an orbit of 192.3 by 189.3 kilometers. After post-insertion checkout, CSM 104 separated from the S-IVB, was transposed, and docked with the LM. At 3:08 p.m. EST, the docked spacecraft were separated from the S-IVB, which was then placed on an earth-escape trajectory. On March 4 the crew tracked landmarks, conducted pitch and roll yaw maneuvers, and increased the apogee by service propulsion system burns.

    On March 5 McDivitt and Schweickart entered the LM through the docking tunnel, evaluated the LM systems, transmitted the first of two series of telecasts, and fired the LM descent propulsion system. They then returned to the CM.

    McDivitt and Schweickart reentered the LM on March 6. After transmitting a second telecast, Schweickart performed a 37-minute extravehicular activity (EVA), walking between the LM and CSM hatches, maneuvering on handrails, taking photographs, and describing rain squalls over KSC.

    On March 7, with McDivitt and Schweickart once more in the LM, Scott separated the CSM from the LM and fired the reaction control system thrusters to obtain a distance of 5.5 kilometers between the two spacecraft. McDivitt and Schweickart then performed a lunar-module active rendezvous. The LM successfully docked with the CSM after being up to 183.5 kilometers away from it during the six-and-one-half-hour separation. After McDivitt and Schweickart returned to the CSM, the LM ascent stage was jettisoned.

    During the remainder of the mission, the crew tracked Pegasus III, NASA's meteoroid detection satellite that had been launched July 30, 1965; took multispectral photos of the earth; exercised the spacecraft systems; and prepared for reentry.

  • 1969 Mar 3 - Apollo 9 LM (Ascent) Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Payload: Apollo LM 3 Ascent Stage. Nation: USA. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V. Perigee: 227 km. Apogee: 6,935 km. Inclination: 28.9 deg. Period: 164.7 min.
  • 1969 Mar 3 - Apollo 9 LM (Descent) Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Payload: Apollo LM 3 Descent Stage. Mass: 14,525 kg. Nation: USA. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V. Perigee: 249 km. Apogee: 259 km. Inclination: 33.6 deg. Period: 89.6 min.
  • 1969 Mar 6 - EVA Apollo 9-1 Flight Crew: Schweickart, Scott, EVA Type: Stand-Up External Vehicular Activity. EVA Duration: 0.032 days. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, A7L. Nation: USA.

    Tested Apollo spacesuit.

  • 1969 Mar 7 - Accomplishments of the space program summarized Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    In a report to the Administrator, the Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight summed up the feeling of accomplishment as well as the problem of the space program: "The phenomenal precision and practically flawless performance of the Apollo 9 lunar module descent and ascent engines on March 7 were major milestones in the progress toward our first manned landing on the moon, and tributes to the intensive contractor and government effort that brought these two complex systems to the point of safe and reliable manned space flight.

    The inevitable developmental problems that plagued the LM propulsion system were recurring items in our management reporting, and the fact that essentially all major test objectives were met during last Friday's flight operations is an outstanding achievement. The earth orbital simulations of the lunar descent, ascent, rendezvous, and docking maneuvers, taking Astronauts McDivitt and Schweickart 114 miles (183.4 km) away from the CSM piloted by Dave Scott and safely back, were a measure of the skill of the Apollo 9 crew and the quality of the hardware they were flying."

  • 1969 Mar 13 - Landing of Apollo 9 Return Crew: McDivitt, Schweickart, Scott, Nation: USA.

    The Apollo 9 CM splashed down in the Atlantic 290 kilometers east of the Bahamas at 17:01 GMT. The crew was picked up by helicopter and flown to the recovery ship U.S.S. Guadalcanal within one hour after splashdown. Primary objectives of the flight were successfully accomplished.

  • 1969 Mar 24 - Apollo 10 would be a lunar orbit mission Spacecraft: Apollo LM. Nation: USA.

    NASA announced that Apollo 10, scheduled for launch May 18, would be a lunar orbit mission during which two astronauts would descend to within 15,240 meters of the moon's surface.

    The decision followed reviews of technical and operational data from the Apollo 9 earth-orbit mission. The prime crew would be astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, spacecraft commander; John W. Young, command module pilot; and Eugene A. Cernan, lunar module pilot. Backup crew members were L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and Edgar D. Mitchell. With the exception of the actual landing, the mission plan was the same as for the lunar landing mission. Stafford and Cernan were to enter the LM, separate from the CSM, descend twice to within 16 kilometers of one of the preselected landing sites, and then rendezvous and dock with the CSM. Because of propellant limitations in the ascent stage, landing and subsequent liftoff from the moon would be impossible.

  • 1969 Mar 28 - Apollo astronauts thrown forward during Saturn V S-IC/S-II stage separation Nation: USA. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.

    Following a report by the Apollo 9 astronauts that they were thrown forward in their seats and had to grab their arm rests for support during the S-IC/S-II stage separation, an evaluation working group were studying the problem.

    Preliminary results indicated that the separation transients were a dynamic characteristic of the Saturn V vehicle; that the measured accelerations were within predicted range and below design limits; and that the separation sequences were normal. Conclusions were that similar separation dynamics could be anticipated on future Saturn V flights.

  • 1998 Apr 5 - From the Earth to the Moon is released. Nation: USA.

    Based on the success of the film Apollo 13, Tom Hanks was able to raise $ 68 million to film a television mini-series covering the entire Apollo program. The Apollo 13 episode marked the third fictionalised telling of the tale, this time concentrating on the media handling of the flight and the changing nature of television news.

    The twelve episodes covered different aspects of the Apollo program:

    • "Can We Do This?" portrayed the origins of Apollo and its Mercury and Gemini predecessors
    • "Apollo 1" told the story of the tragic fire and the subsequent finger-pointing
    • "We Have Cleared the Tower" portrayed the intense preparation for Apollo 7
    • "1968" put Apollo 8 into historical context against the events of that turbulent year
    • "Spider" followed the design, building, and testing of the lunar module up through the flights of Apollo 9 and 10,
    • "Mare Tranquilitatis" illustrated the deeper considerations behind the Apollo 11 moon landing
    • "That's All There Is" portrayed the camaraderie of the Apollo 12 crew
    • "We Interrupt This Program" showed an indifferent media galvanized by the events of Apollo 13
    • "For Miles and Miles" followed Alan Shepherd's return to the manned program
    • "Galileo Was Right" showed the geology training of the Apollo 15 astronauts and the effect it had on their lunar exploration
    • "The Original Wives Club" provided the program as seen through the wives of the second group of astronauts
    • "La Voyage Dans La Lune" contrasted Georges M�li�s' 1902 film with Apollo 17
    Based on a summary written by Kathy Li
 
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