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Lunar Surface Experiments

Early in 1964 the Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA) began to define the Apollo lunar science project more narrowly. Rather than issue a request for experiment proposals to the scientific community at large, which was the usual procedure for soliciting experiments, Newell and his manned space flight counterpart George Mueller agreed that initially a few selected scientists should be called upon to identify the most important experiments within the areas agreed on by the Sonett committee and the Iowa summer study. A representative of Headquarters's Manned Space Science Division and the chairman of the Space Science Board then compiled a list of experts who met on January 30 to begin the process.27 The first investigations agreed on by this planning group comprised geology (field geology, petrography and mineralogy, and sample collection), geochemistry, and geophysics (seismology, magnetic measurements, heat-flow measurements, and gravity measurements). For each area the group suggested several prominent scientists to work out detailed experiment plans.28 In April the first Apollo science planning teams, groups of experts in subdisciplines of the earth sciences, began meeting to define more specifically the lunar surface experiments and instruments. Later, teams would be established for lunar atmospheric studies and biosciences.29

At Houston, meanwhile, mission planners had started defining the lunar landing mission in detail. In late 1963 the first set of operational ground rules was established, listing mission objectives and constraints and identifying critical points where a flight might have to be aborted or diverted to an alternate mission in case of failure of some essential system. Using these ground rules and the latest available weight and performance data for the launch vehicle and spacecraft, planners then prepared the "reference trajectory," a detailed description of the mission from liftoff to splashdown.* For planning purposes the reference trajectory listed 10 landing sites within a zone 85 miles (137 kilometers) wide and 1,480 miles (2,380 kilometers) long stretching along the equator on the moon's visible side. It assumed that the lunar landing module would stay on the moon for 24 hours.30

Science and mission planning came together in mid-June of 1964 when Houston hosted a lunar landing symposium to give each group a look at the other's preliminary plans. MSC representatives presented their concepts of a lunar landing mission, described the two spacecraft and what they could be expected to carry to and from the moon, and outlined the current astronaut training course. Members of the Apollo science planning teams sketched out their tentative plans for surface activities and experiments. After four days of discussion, both groups went home to refine their concepts.31

The June symposium defined the operational bounds within which the lunar science planning teams had to work, and after five more months of deliberation the planning teams' report went to the Office of Space Science and Applications. Distributing the report for comment, Headquarters noted that its recommendations would eventually become the basis for a lunar exploration science program definition document on which final instrument and experiment designs would be based. First, however, OSSA was planning to have the report discussed at another summer study, scheduled for 1965.`32

As the planning teams saw it, the ultimate objective of the lunar science program was simply the same as that of all science: to add to human knowledge. More specifically, lunar studies could lead to a better understanding of the solar system and its origin, of primary forces that shaped the earth, and of geological processes whose effects have been obscured on earth by erosion and other secondary processes not operating on the moon. (Making the obligatory gesture toward practical results, the report mentioned that lunar studies "may have direct bearing towards more intelligent search for mineral resources on Earth," though it did not specify how.) The larger objectives, however, could scarcely be met in the short times the early Apollo missions would stay on the lunar surface. Really productive lunar studies required more time on the moon, greater mobility for the astronauts, and logistic support.33

For the approved Apollo missions the planning teams stressed field work, sampling, and emplacement of instruments, all planned to yield the maximum information in the time available. Instruments relaying data by telemetry were preferred for measurement of gravity, magnetism, magnetic phenomena, and seismic studies. The geochemistry and bioscience planning teams emphasized the importance of bringing back the greatest possible weight of lunar material in the form of carefully selected and documented samples for laboratory study. Eugene Shoemaker's field geology team stressed visual observation and panoramic photography from the lunar module, followed by surface traverses during which the astronauts would collect samples, emplace instruments, and describe the important geologic features of the landing area. Both the geology and geophysics teams listed the tools and instruments that should be taken along, as well as preliminary estimates of weight, volume, power, and telemetry requirements. The report included tentative operations plans for several lunar surface missions, taking into account operational constraints and certain contingencies that might require changing plans during the mission.34 With these recommendations in hand, Headquarters and MSC began making plans for managing the experiments. In mid-January 1965 Houston's Space Environment Division appointed interim coordinators for lunar surface experiments.35 At the end of the month manned space flight director George Mueller conducted a program review at which he called for a series of studies to evaluate several program management alternatives for Apollo science, from experiment development to handling of lunar samples.36 Discussions between Headquarters and MSC continued during the spring; Newell's Office of Space Science and Applications continued to hope for the establishment of a separate science organization at Houston.37 Progress was slowed somewhat by OSSA's apparent difficulty in working out its internal lines of authority.38

In late February Newell and Mueller met to formulate policy for managing and funding science experiments in manned space flight. An afternoon's discussion produced agreement on a division of responsibility only slightly different from that adopted by Newell and Brainerd Holmes two years earlier [see Chapter 2]. Newell's Office of Space Science and Applications would publicize the science opportunities in the manned programs, solicit experiment proposals, and make the initial selection. After further evaluation, which would include constructing a "breadboard" model of the instrument to demonstrate its feasibility, OSSA would select experiments and experimenters and arrange for construction of prototype instruments. Mueller's Office of Manned Space Flight would then develop flight-qualified instruments, integrate them into the spacecraft, work the experiments into the flight plan, and collect the data produced in flight. OSSA would arrange for distribution, analysis, and dissemination of the data. Deputies for Newell and Mueller formalized details of this agreement later in the year.39

MSC and OSSA worked for several months on a procurement plan for Apollo's lunar surface experiments, submitting it to Mueller in May 1965. Mueller decided that a two-phase procurement was advisable, the first phase to better define the instrument package and the second to build the instruments. Several contractors would be selected to conduct the definition studies and one of them would be picked to build the instrument package.40 In June Houston sent out requests for proposals to conduct six-month definition studies for a lunar surface experiments package. Nine companies responded, and three** were selected in early August.41

* The reference trajectory was one of the most important mission planning documents. It enabled flight planners to evaluate the effect of changes in spacecraft weight, propulsion capability, mission requirements, etc., on every phase of the mission. An initial reference trajectory was often based on many assumptions, but as test data and operational experience accumulated, the trajectory was updated.

** Houston Division of Bendix Corp., Ann Arbor, Mich.; Space-General Corp., El Monte, Calif.; and TRW Systems Carp., Redondo Beach, Calif.

27. Foster to Mize, "Weekly Activities Report," Jan. 10, 1964; "Minutes: Manned Space Science Working Group of the Space Sciences Steering Committee," Jan. 30, 1964; Foster to SS/Dir. of Sciences, "Weekly Activities Report," Feb. 12, 1964.

28. Fryklund to Members, Manned Space Science Working Group, Space Science Steering Committee, "First Group of Suggested Apollo Investigations and Investigators," Feb. 3, 1964; Fryklund to chmn., Space Sciences Steering Committee, "Preliminary definition of Apollo investigations," Feb. 13, 1964.

29. Fryklund to John M. Eggleston, "Integrated Apollo Science Program," Mar. 25, 1964; Fryklund to Assoc. Adm., SSA, "Integration of Apollo Science Program," Mar. 26, 1964; "Minutes, Manned Space Science Working Group of the Space Sciences Steering Committee, 26 March 1964," Apr. 9, 1964.

30. E. L. Durst to Chief, Flight Operations Div., "Project Apollo, Operational Ground Rules for the Lunar Landing Mission," Oct. 23, 1963; MSC, "The Development of an Apollo Lunar Landing Mission Reference Trajectory," Internal Note 64-OM-12, May 1964.

31. MSC, "Contributions of MSC Personnel to the Manned Lunar Exploration Symposium, June 15 and 16, 1964," no date; D. A. Beattie, E. M. Davin, and P. D. Lowman to Dir., Manned Space Science Div. and Chief, Lunar and Planetary Science Branch, "Supplemental Recommendations and Comments on 'Apollo Scientific Investigations,'" July 6, 1964; Fryklund to Dir., MSC, "Action Items and Positive Results from the Apollo Science Meeting," July 6, 1964.

32. Davin to multiple addressees, "Request for comments on the attached lunar surface science programs definition document for the approved Apollo missions," no date [Dec. 1964].

33. OSSA, "Apollo Lunar Science Program: Report of Planning Teams," part I, Summary (Dec. 1964), pp. 4-9.

34. Ibid., part II, Appendix.

35. Eggleston to Staff, "Establishment of interim coordinators for scientific equipment," Jan. 14, 1965.

36. Foster to multiple addressees, "Report of Program Plans and Status," Feb. 1, 1965.

37. Foster to Assoc. Adm., MSF, "Matters to discuss with Joe Shea in regard to science experiments," Apr. 1, 1965.

38. Maxime A. Faget to Foster, "Grants or contracts to potential principal investigators for lunar surface experiments," May 11, 1965, with encl., "Chronology [of background information]."

39. Richard J. Allenby to Mueller and Newell, "Minutes of Newell-Mueller Meeting of 23 February 1965," Apr. 19, 1965, with encl., "Memorandum of Agreement between Office of Manned Space Flight [and] Office of Space Science and Applications, Scientific Interfaces."

40. B. A. Linn to the record, "MSF Procurement Plan for Lunar Surface Experiments Package," June 3, 1965; Mueller to MSC, attn. Dave Lang, "Request for Approval of Procurement Plan for Lunar Surface Experiments Package," June 7, 1965.

41. NASA release 65-260, "Three Firms Selected to Design Apollo Lunar Surface Package," Aug. 4, 1965.

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