From the moment the lunar landing was proposed as the primary goal of manned space flight, NASA officials and outside scientists debated the qualifications of the people who would land on the moon. Scientists urged that at least one of the crew should be a scientist with enough experience to assess the significant features of the landing site quickly and accurately and to collect samples with discrimination. Those responsible for mission operations and crew training insisted that mission success and crew safety could be assured only if every crew member were a skilled pilot, preferably a test pilot, able to complete a mission alone if that unlikely situation should ever arise. Once the many unknowns in lunar landing operations were better understood, it might be considered safe to take along a person with different qualifications.1
Finding crew members who combined the experience of a scientist with the skills of a test pilot proved impossible. For the first five years, during the experimental and developmental phase of the Apollo program, piloting experience took precedence over scientific training as a requirement for admission to the astronaut corps. Later, as missions devoted largely to scientific operations were contemplated, scientists were admitted and trained as pilots.
1. MSC's philosophy of astronaut selection and training was well summarized in a memo by Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., of MSC's Flight Operations Division in late 1962. Commenting on an article in a national magazine, wherein it was speculated that future astronauts might be computer experts rather than test pilots, Kraft wrote, "It is our feeling that you must use people who are adapted to taking action should emergencies develop and who are well trained in this category. We feel that you can then take this type of individual . . . and give him the necessary training in the other fields such as navigation and guidance, geology, etc. The primary need is for spacecraft control, at least in the programs presently planned (Gemini and Apollo), and these people can be trained to accomplish the explorations presently envisioned [emphasis added]. When you get to the point of conducting experiments in space, such as you would do in the Space Station, . . . we would probably use engineers and scientists who were experts in a given field. However, the people responsible for control of the vehicle ferrying these types of experts to and from the Space Station, and the people on board the Space Station responsible for emergency action will probably still be in the same category as test pilots." C. C. Kraft, Jr., to A. M. Chop, "Article on Astronaut Selection in November 7 issue of Time Magazine," Nov. 8, 1962. This basic philosophy has been followed for 20 years, right down to the operational flights of the Shuttle orbiter.