NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Carol Butler
12 April 2000
Butler: Today is April 12, 2000. This oral history with Tony Calio
is being conducted for the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project.
Carol Butler is the interviewer, and is being assisted by Kevin Rusnak.
We are at Mr. Calio's home in McLean, Virginia.
Thank you so much for allowing us to come here today and to talk to
you about your experiences in the space program.
It's my pleasure to be interviewed, and I think the project you're
talking about is a great project, and I wish you success with its
implementation and completion.
I hope it does keep going, because there's a lot we can still learn.
There is. There's a lot to learn, and a lot of interesting people
that made it all happen.
To begin with, if maybe you could tell us about how you became interested
in the sciences. You majored in physics, and how your interest then
grew and led to you becoming involved in aviation and the space program,
I was trying to go back in my mind as to what triggered all of this,
and you're not going to believe this, I guess, but my father and my
mother took me to the World's Fair in 1939 in New York. The General
Motors exhibit was talking about the future of the country and the
future of the world, and they talked about being able to travel from
New York to London in ninety minutes, and they were going to do this
in the year 1999. I kept asking my father if I was still going to
be around in 1999 to see that happen, never thinking that I'd be involved
in any part of it. But I just thought that was really intriguing,
in ninety minutes. It would take us an hour and a half to go to Atlantic
City. I lived in Philadelphia then, so I just couldn't imagine how
that could happen.
So that got me interested pretty much in what makes things work, and
I couldn't make up my mind as to whether I wanted to study physics
or chemical engineering, and I finally decided physics was the right
field, because for physics you could do all sorts of things. You really
had to understand nature and how it operates. So that should be able
to help you work your way through all of the sciences and engineering.
So that's how I ended up in the physics side. And there was that little
thing in the back of my head about going to London in ninety minutes.
[Laughter] It kept pushing on me.
But strangely enough, I started out in nuclear physics, and after
I served in the Army, I went to work for Westinghouse Atomic Power
Division in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I was part of the team
that developed and put in the first land-based nuclear power reactor
in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.
But unfortunately, the funding for those kinds of applications programs
really went south, and so I was trying to figure out what would be
equally as exciting. At that point in time, I was connected with a
fellow I worked for when I was in the Army. When I was in the Army,
I was in the Chemical Corps. I was assigned to Fort Dietrick [Maryland],
which was a biological warfare center. So I've been in a lot of this
crazy stuff for almost all my life. Never by choice, but just by accident.
So we decided to see if we could open up our own company, and that's
how we started Mount Vernon Research Corporation. I came out of Westinghouse,
and we started here in Alexandria, Virginia. What we did at first
was what we used to call buck physics, which was sort of the beginning
of the period when support contractors would help the government solve
some of their problems. So there was a myriad of small little start-up
companies here, and I guess in a roundabout way, up in 28 in Boston,
so we started our company, and what we were doing at the time was
building scientific instrumentation for the first rocket programs.
We worked for a fellow by the name of Dr. Chubb, who was an ultraviolet
astronomer out of the Naval Research Laboratory, and we were building
all of those little ion chambers and sensitive devices to measure
the ultraviolet radiation in the upper atmosphere. He [was] associated
with [Dr. James A.] Van Allen and how the early belts were discovered.
So we were building a lot of that instrumentation.
We sort of got a strange notion in our heads. The other fellow, my
partner at the time, he was part of [the] atomic energy program—I'm
trying to remember the name of the activity—down in Los Alamos
[New Mexico]. So he had a lot of experience in nuclear diffusion,
and with my background with Westinghouse and where I went to school
at the University of Pennsylvania, I was responsible for developing
vacuum chambers and being able to get charged particles through these
various tubes. So we thought, hey, we had a skill nobody else had.
The Applied Physic Laboratory up here in Maryland had a contract to
build Transit, which was the first navigational satellite. So they
wanted a space environmental simulation chamber to be built to test
these satellites before they launched them, so we decided to go into
that business. Now, here are two physicists who had no practical experience
with their hands, trying to go into a manufacturing business. If at
the end, you ask me what I've learned: don't do something like that.
[Laughter] Because we started out and we were doing fine, and we built
these chambers for Applied Physics Laboratory. We were one of the
few companies in that kind of business at the time. This was 1958,
At that point in time, the Langley Research Center [Hampton, Vriginia]
found out about us, and they wanted us to build a vacuum chamber that
would test instruments that would go through a shake table. They still
had to have a vacuum, and you had to have a simulation of vacuum and
solar radiation. We built that.
Then we—you're going to like this one—we won a major contract
with Hughes Aircraft Company to build the environmental simulation
facilities for Surveyor, which was one of the first spacecraft to
land on the Moon, and we built that chamber. It was the first chamber
Hughes Aircraft Company ever had. It was strange that I ended up working
for Hughes when it was all over. Hughes was the company that sort
of broke our back. We couldn't grow fast enough. At that point in
time we had grown, doesn't sound like much now, to a million dollars'
worth of business in one year for a handful of us, and that was more
than we could handle. So we finally ended up selling out.
At that point in time, I didn't want to get out of the space business.
I was hooked. The question of whether you're in engineering or science
or what have you, or the instrument side or the spacecraft side, there
was a lot of opportunities at that point in time. So I applied to
NASA for a job, and I was selected to join NASA.
That was another strange happening, because I was hired by, at that
time it was the technology group for NASA here at [NASA] Headquarters
[Washington, DC], and they were committed to design and build an electronic
research center. So I was put on a task force here to come up with
the requirements, the design requirements for such a center, and that
was to take place in Boston, Massachusetts. My specific job at that
point in time was to try to understand what kind of measurements would
be made in such a laboratory, what would you need, and then to translate
those into architectural requirements.
So my past experience somehow led me into that and allowed me to do
that job. So I joined NASA and we sold the—at that time—gee,
I was trying to think of his first name—it was Captain Kelly
who was the head of that operation, a naval flier, who was also a
graduate from Draper Laboratories. He had his Ph.D. in guidance and
control. So he was our team leader. We defined what would happen,
and we sold it to Congress. So then I went up as a task force to start
the operation in Boston.
I guess to make a long story short, I guess we got tied up in the
wrong situation, because, first, the concept didn't make it. When
you really stop and think about it, what they were going to do was
take all the electronics research out of all the existing centers
and put it in this Boston center. They, in turn, would then provide
all the research and development that was necessary for the development
centers to do their job. It's like taking a typewriter, or taking
these things away from somebody who was really developing the work.
At any rate, they brought in another fellow from the outside, who
at the time was an executive for Philco [Philadelphia Storage Battery
Company] to run the new center, and cost just got out of hand. We
had a budget of about 60 million dollars, in which we had to build
these facilities. This is now back in 1963, '62, '63, which at that
time was a lot of money. But things got out of hand, where it was
something like 150 to 160 million when the architects got finished
with the design. So the project, unfortunately, collapsed of its weight.
They built one building, which was another peculiarity. The architect,
who at the time was Edward Durrell Stone, he was great for his minarets.
So here we are in a back bay of Boston on blue clay, and he was going
to build these thirty-story buildings with the guidance and control
labs on them for tables that were supposed to be stabilized for inertial
guidance systems and the like. I mean, it was a real Donnybrook, because
the work they'd have to do to make those platform stable was what
cost so much money. It would have been a much better thing if they
put that tower on the side and make a slab out of it and that long
one-story building. It was still on blue clay, which shifts all the
time, was very difficult to set up guidance laboratories.
At any rate, unfortunately, the project collapsed of its own weight,
and at that time I then was asked to come back to NASA Headquarters.
I was picked up by an interesting group. It was called the Manned
Space Science Division. They talk here about science and engineering.
NASA was really bifurcated at the time. There was a manned group and
there was the unmanned satellite groups.
The unmanned satellite groups were the ones that did most of the science
at the Goddard Space Flight Center [Greenbelt, Maryland], JPL [Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California]. The research centers
like Langley and Lewis [Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio] supported
both the manned and the unmanned, but more the unmanned activities
with most of the science being done there. So some of the early work
that was being done was the first atmospheric explorers and all of
the work that Jim Van Allen did on developing the understanding of
Van Allen Belts. They worked through the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Space science, as it was developing then, was pretty much being developed
out of those two organizations, the planetary at JPL and the earth-oriented
stuff out of Goddard. There was sort of a schism in the operation.
At that time, Homer Newell was the head of space science, was very
focused on advancing space science. George [E.] Mueller was the head
of the manned space program. There was really quite a dispersement
of views as to what was important and how it was to be done. We were
put in place to straddle those two operations in trying to get science
on the manned program. That was my job at the time.
You asked me about what was I trying to do. In Headquarters in Instrumentation
and Systems Integration Branch, that was the whole thing, was to try
to get the right kind of science defined into the instrumentation,
and then to get that put into the program planning associated with
the manned missions. Headquarters is a planning operation.
You asked me the distinction between the field centers and Headquarters.
Headquarters, your job is to put the program plans together in concert
with the field centers, in concert with, which isn't always the easy
thing to do, and then to sell it to the agency, then to OMB [Office
of Management and Budget], and then finally to Congress. It's what
the agency wanted to do.
So that was a very difficult task. The reason for it was, and in retrospect
it was the right approach, when you went into the manned program,
the objective was very clear. Our objective was to get a man on the
Moon and bring him back safely before the end of the decade. It had
nothing to do with science. It had nothing to do with what do you
do when you get there and things of that sort. The manned side was
very well focused on that, and mostly engineers, and rightly so. I
say that in retrospect, because being in the middle of all that sometimes
I had a fight. I don't want to use the word fight; that's the wrong
word. I'd negotiate both sides. It was very difficult because people
were pretty much locked on to what they thought was most important.
At any rate, we started to do some work in inputting instrumentation
on the Gemini Program, right towards the end of the Gemini Program.
We were able to get some scientific instruments on board. At the time,
I guess the general view by the science community and the National
Academy of Sciences—I think at that time they didn't have an
Academy of Engineering; I think it was the Academy of Sciences—was
looking at Apollo and the money that was being spent on Apollo, and
here we were going to go to the Moon, and what were the plans for
what we were going to do when we got there? And what was this going
to do to contribute to the advance of science? That didn't come down
I guess right about that time we had the Apollo  fire, and, rightly
so, a lot of good people were really hurt by that. Not only the astronauts
that were killed [Virgil I. "Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Edward
H. White II], but also people like Joe [Joseph F.] Shea and others
who were so instrumental in the early developments were essentially
moved aside. I think Joe took the blame personally for what had happened.
So there was a lot of tension as to what we did next on the program.
At that time George [M.] Low was the deputy under Mueller in Headquarters.
I think that the timing is right. Just about then he went down to
Houston [Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas] to become deputy
director under Bob [Robert R.] Gilruth. Then subsequently he became
Apollo program manager. That was a very, very tense time in NASA.
They were really trying to understand how all this happened.
Unfortunately, I guess you never had the opportunity to talk to George
Low. He was a [brilliant] man. He had great skills and was an excellent
manager. So was Joe Shea. I don't mean to knock Joe about that either,
he was as well. But ultimately George went in there and he ran the
program with an iron hand, with a velvet glove.
At that point in time I was asked—they brought a fellow in,
they figured they'd better do something about science, and they brought
a fellow in to head up the Science Directorate. Initially that was—come
on, Tony—and I worked for him for a couple of years. I'll think
of his name. Boy, I just blanked out.
Was that Mr. Hess?
Yes, okay. Thank you. Wilmut [N.] Hess. Right. Wilmut Hess, another
brilliant man. But he was a theoretician, and he was a particles and
field scientist, not a geoscientist. But they brought him down here
to be the director.
I don't know exactly how it all happened, but at that time I was in
the planetary program, and the lunar orbiter was under us as well.
So the first planning that we did for the lunar orbiter and the first
mapping of the Moon was under this major program. So I was involved
in some of it from a Headquarters programmatic standpoint, not from
a hands-on doing it at the center. I think because of that, I was
recommended to go down there as Hess' deputy. Hess was very science-focused,
not project or instrumentation-focused. Hess was not a program manager,
but a brilliant scientist. As far as he was concerned, he was doing
science for science sake, and not necessarily within the confines
of what the parameters were governing the Apollo Program.
So I went down and went to work for him as his deputy. At that time,
the way we set it up is, "I don't want to have anything to do
with the project. I don't want to have anything to do with the instrumentation.
Calio, that's all yours. You get those things done, and I'll work
with the outside scientific community," because he was one who
was looked at from the National Academy as being an outstanding scientist.
We were in the process of developing requirements for lunar sample
analysis. We were building a lunar sample receiving laboratory, etc.
So Bill took the sample receiving lab and the outside scientific community.
I took the instrumentation, and I sat on George Low's board for the
Configuration Control Board. That's how George managed the program.
That board was very powerful. George chaired it, Chris [Christopher
C. Kraft Jr.] sat on it for operations, Deke [Donald K. Slayton] sat
on it for the flight crews, and Max [Maxime A.] Faget for engineering,
myself for science. Who did I miss? Both of the sub-elements, the
orbiter and the lander program managers were on it as well. I missed
somebody and I don't remember who. Somebody else I'm not seeing. George
ran the Apollo Program through those of us who were on the board.
As an aside, we always had board meetings on Friday. They'd always
start at eight o'clock in the morning, and they would never finish
until everything was done, and it didn't make any difference if it
was six o'clock, nine o'clock, midnight or what have you. Once a month
we would travel to the contractors and hold the board meetings there.
One day at Rockwell [International Corporation] and another day at—
Grumman [Aircraft Engineering Corporation]?
Grumman. Thank you. Grumman and Rockwell people were on the board
as well. So that's where I got a lot of discipline and learned a lot
from George. George used to have eight o'clock stand-up meetings every
Monday morning. So you had five minutes to tell him the status of
your part of the responsibility of the program, and you'd better get
it straight. And I mean that in a very loving way. George was warm
and gentle to everybody, but he meant business, and you had to get
your job done, and he held you personally accountable for it.
I was thirty-seven years old at the time. That was a heck of a lot
of responsibility for a thirty-seven-year-old person. We were all
young at the time. We were all kids, so to speak. I'm seventy now,
so I guess I look back at that and say if there's anything that's
probably bothersome today is we aren't giving young people the opportunities
we had when we started.
At any rate, I get off on a track, and I didn't mean to do that.
That's all right.
Back to Bill Hess and the beginning of the directorate. So put that
in place, and now in the meantime, we had two other factions going
on for science within the center. There were a couple of engineers
who realizing the importance of science, but weren't connected to
the scientific community and were trying to do science. That turned
out to be a real fiasco, unfortunately.
That, of course, muddied the waters, because the third faction we
had U.S. Geological Survey with the likes of people like—come
on, Tony—Gene [Eugene] Shoemaker, brilliant astrophysicist.
He had started an astrophysics lab at Flagstaff, Arizona, with the
notion that that group would be the group who would call for the science,
direct the science, develop the science requirements and the implementation
of the scientific experiments on board the manned missions. So they
had been set up and started.
We got into a bureaucratic mess, I guess is the best way to describe
it, because there was another, I guess a fourth component. There were
the geo types who were more interested in not just the geological
exploration as you would in field geology, but with the chemistry
and physics for the moon. They wanted to have a say about this as
well. So you had all these scientific schisms going on. At the same
time, you were trying to figure out who was responsible for really
training the astronauts, deciding where we went on the Moon and making
sure the instrumentation was in place and working at the right time
and for the right amount of money.
Hess took on the responsibility that was his, was within the center.
Bob Gilruth supported that. So consequently, we were starting to build
a wall between ourselves and [the] U.S. Geological Survey. There were
people like Gordon [A.] Swann and Bill [William H.] Muelberger and
a few others who worked for the survey, who were isolated at the time.
That conflict really grew and was not a good environment. That didn't
help the program, took a lot of energy away from the focus of what
everybody was doing.
The group that was the engineering group sort of slowly faded away,
and it was at Houston at the Johnson Space Center [formerly Manned
Spacecraft Center] , slowly faded away into the sunset and we built
a new directorate. We also had the responsibility then of making sure
that we understood what had to be done with the Lunar Receiving Laboratory,
because the concern was back contamination. CDC, you're familiar with
CDC [Centers for Disease Control]. On trying to specify how we handle
all this and what were the appropriate incubation periods, how long
you have to keep the astronauts in the facility, etc, etc. Then also
on handling of lunar materials, how do you handle them, there are
specifications built for how you manage to take the rocks and put
them in these containers, that would be self-contained and wouldn't
be opened until they were back into the laboratory and the seals broken
inside the hoods so everything was contained.
In the early days, that caused all sorts of problems. First of all,
the crews didn't understand why the hell they had to sit in that place
for twenty-one days. That went over like a lead balloon, let me tell
you. [Laughter] Especially when you look at all the training they
had to go through that really took the majority of your time, and
then finally when they get the mission over, and it was all over,
those guys sitting in that crazy facility for twenty-one days. Well,
but they did it. Of course, we had to administer that. That didn't
go over too well.
You asked what was the relationship between science and engineering.
It was apprehensive. [Laughter] Those engineers didn't trust us, and
the science community, they weren't sure that the requirements [we]
were [levying on them] truly needed to be done. But at any rate, Bob
Gilruth was very supportive of what we were doing. Chris at the time
was on the fence. At that time, when I first went in, of course, Chris
was just the head of flight ops and Bob was the head of the center.
Then right shortly after that, of course, Chris became the center
I grew very close to Chris even before he became the center director.
He was very supportive of me. I never, except in one instance, I never
had any difficulties with Chris. He was always very supportive of
what I was trying to do. He wasn't very happy with Wilmut Hess, because
Hess would never try to give him an explanation for what it is he
was doing. Understanding Chris, Chris always wanted—"Hey,
I'll do whatever you guys want me to do, but I want to understand
what I'm doing and why I'm doing it."
As I said earlier, Bill was science for science sake and "Just
do it because I told you to do it. I'm the scientist. You're the engineer."
So that didn't go over very well. [Laughter] Finally, Bill left in
a real uproar, unfortunately.
Then there was a big opening at the time and Chris and Bob Gilruth
said, "Well, are you going to try it?"
I said, "Well, I'll give it a shot. I don't know if I can run
this operation or not."
Chris said, "You can do it. You can do it." So that's how
I was put in as then the head of science. I never looked at myself
as a scientist for science sake. I've always looked at myself as somebody
who would try to apply science. I guess if I had to do it over again,
I should have been an engineer, but I wasn't. I'm more a program manager
than anything else. That's how it developed over the years.
George was very supportive of me, George Low, and Chris. So I really
had the power base of the center behind me. So what I had to do was
see if I could get all these scientists to try to work together. I
knew I could never reach out to them. I didn't have the credentials
that they had. So I established a team called the Four Horsemen. They
were made up of Jerry [Gerald] Wasserburg at Caltech; Bob Walker,
Washington University at St. Louis; Paul [Gast], Columbia University.
Let's see, who was the fourth? Jim [James] Arnold, University of California-San
Diego. They were world-renowned geoscientists, geochemists, geophysicists
and the like, and they became my advisory council. They were the ones
that helped me on the science side to establish a relationship with
the scientific community, and sort of became defenders of what I did
and helped me put the plans together. I was the guy at the switch,
and tried to develop a relationship with the center, and realizing
I had to get the center to understand what we're doing and why.
You asked me at the end what was one of the things that I feel that
I helped accomplish, and that was to try to bring forward and finally
make the remaining Apollo missions useful for science and yet not
in conflict with engineering. So I was more of an implementer in all
of that. Again, it was incoming from other people, the engineering
side doing their thing, and the Four Horsemen in doing the science
Now, that created a little bit of conflict, too, because U.S. Geological
Survey wasn't very happy with the Four Horsemen. As a matter of fact,
there was a competitor at Caltech by the name of Leon [T.] Silver—and
all these people, believe me, are great in their own right. I'm not
knocking any one of them. But Silver and Wassberg were constantly
at odds with each other, and that didn't go over very well, because
Lee wanted to train the astronauts. He was more of a field geologist,
whereas Jerry was a geochemist. I don't think they ever got things
straightened out, but at least we got it to a point where we could
ultimately work together.
I guess on the first few crews, Neil [A. Armstrong] was beautiful
to work with on Apollo 11. I'll come back to that, because we had
a little few difficulties with that, as we were planning it.
Apollo 12. I've got a story to tell you with Apollo 12 that will never
quit, with Pete [Charles C.] Conrad. You may have heard the story.
Thirteen, of course, Jim [James A.] Lovell [Jr.], that was very unfortunate.
I guess at that point in time is where I got close to Jim [James A.]
McDivitt, because Jim had taken over the Apollo Program from George.
I think it was at 13. I think it was 13, I think. I don't remember
exactly. But Jim took over the program, and there was another outstanding
Then Apollo 14 we had the clown. Boy, trying to explain when we were
fighting for time on the Moon, a guy pulling out a golf club and trying
to hit a Moon rock like a golf ball. Oh, God, did it come down on
me. The scientific community was ready to rip me to pieces. [Laughter]
But that was [Alan B.] Shepard [Jr.], and Shepard was Shepard.
You asked, make a comment about Apollo 15. That's what I was trying
to lead into in that segment. That was Dave [David R.] Scott. Dave
Scott had something in his head, by golly, he was going to make science
work on this mission, and he really applied himself and the crew.
At that point in time, too, I think we were trying to figure out who
had what responsibility, and although we never finally documented
it, the center people, for other reasons that I'll come back and tell
you why in a minute, divided the activities.
The training of the crew from a field geology standpoint, this really
was the best team to do it, Lee Silver and Muelberger and all that,
and Dave Scott made that happen. Our group was more the analyst. What
do you do with the stuff when you get it? What are the requirements
for taking it, and things of that sort. We were the chemists, the
physicists and the magnetics guys and all that, trying to understand
what do you do with the Moon substances once you got them back. Dave
was instrumental in making that happen. He really applied himself
very hard, and the crew, to bridge that gap. He did a great job.
Well, let's see, that was 15. Mike [Michael] Collins was his—Mike
Collins—what's his name? Not Mike Collins. Mike Collins flew
on 11. Who was 15?
Jim [James B.] Irwin?
No, the next one. The third one.
[Alfred M.] Worden. Al Worden.
Al Worden. That's 15? Who's 16?
Sixteen was [John W.] Young, [Thomas K.] Mattingly, and [Charles M.]
Okay. There's where it is. Okay, Charlie Duke. Charlie Duke picked
up the grail on 16. Young was an engineer. But Duke thought, "Hey,
I'm going to follow in the footsteps of Dave Scott," and he did.
He took up the mantle in that respect and became very well trained
in what he had to do.
Of course, 17 was Jack [Harrison H.] Schmitt. That was another side
issue, I guess. Jack and I used to really go at it, both of us being
very pragmatic, but it all worked out in the end.
So what happened on 15, 16 and 17 was really the responsibility of
Dave Scott, I think, in turning that around and getting the crews
to pay more attention to what they were doing on the Moon for science
sake. U.S. Geological Survey was brought in to train them, so they
got good field training, and our people did the analysis and talked
about the samples and the instrumentation and all that stuff. So it
separated itself out, not necessarily in a quiet friendly way, but
it did finally work its way through.
I guess we had a few disasters in the meantime. Paul Gast was one
of the Four Horsemen. I really wanted somebody at the center who would
be there all the time and could understand the problems of the center
from a scientific standpoint, and not to be just like advisory groups,
because they would tell me some things sometimes. They couldn't understand
why I couldn't get them done, but the politics of the situation wouldn't
allow it to happen. So Paul came to work for us from Columbia as the
head of lunar science, and, very sadly, got cancer in a couple of
years and died. That was traumatic for all of us. We never could replace
Mike [Michael B.] Duke, who was then the curator under Paul, took
over and did a masterful job. You asked me a question, who did I look
to on the science side. There were people like Mike Duke, Paul Gast,
people who worked in the receiving laboratory, who had their head
screwed on right and did the right job at the right time. I guess
Mike's still there, I think. Isn't he, Mike Duke?
He's working through Lunar and Planetary Institute right now. But
still associated, yes.
Yes. Well, he was the curator at the time. Other people, Jack [W.]
Small. You asked about ALSEP [Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package].
Jack Small left the center at a very early time period, but he was
one of the people who was on the project management side and was responsible
for bring ALSEP together. That couldn't have happened without Jack
and people like Dick Mock. Dick Mock isn't there anymore, I don't
think. John [G.] Zacaro, I don't think he's there anymore. All of
those folks, the last three fellows I talked about were the fellows
that were the program managers. They got the instrumentation together
and got it on the spacecraft and met all the spacecraft requirements
and the like, which was no easy task.
As you have probably heard by now, or understand by now, getting stuff
on the spacecraft you have to really consider weight and cost and
time, etc., and time and weight are very precious. We used to have
a rule of thumb that it would take you 10 dollars to put something
on and 10,000 to take it off. [Laughter] So we had to be very careful
of what we put on. Time and space were limited on Apollo and there
were a lot of unknowns. We tried to do as many engineering tests as
we could, but there's still a lot of unknowns. A lot of the work was
done, I think, not just from an engineering standpoint of testing
everything, but on the belief within the system that the individuals
who stood up and said they're ready to fly, they knew they were ready
to fly. George was responsible for that. So when you went through
final review for whether we go or not, you had to stand up and he
held you personally responsible for making sure what you delivered
would work right, not jeopardize the crew.
So that's sort of an overview of the situation at the time. I guess
I got crossed a little wise with Bob Gilruth, the fact that the scientific
community wanted to continue to fly Apollo, and we had more spacecraft
and launch vehicles in the pipeline. I took on the role of trying
to get those to stay alive. I think that's the first time, first and
only time, I ever got Bob Gilruth upset with me, because I can remember
him telling me, "What's the matter with you? [Do] you want to
continue to fly this program until you kill some more astronauts?"
I didn't realize until then how heavy Apollo 4 [Apollo 1 fire] rested
on his shoulders. He never wanted another incident like that. So we
stopped at 17. We could have gone to 20. There are a lot of little
anecdotes that fit into all that.
Let me come back to the beginning again. I guess Bill Hess left. Then
there was a question about who should take over the Lunar Receiving
Laboratory. At that time life sciences and physical sciences were
separated. I don't know how they are now. But Chris put them together,
because Chuck [Charles A.] Berry, I think, left at that point in time,
and a fellow by the name of Dick [Richard S.] Johnston took over the
Life Sciences Directorate and he became a part of ours. Then Dick
took over the final development of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
The Lunar Receiving Laboratory turned out, in some cases, to be a
spur under some people's saddle from the standpoint of the costs and
restrictions that were associated with it. The original head of the
laboratory was a fellow by the name of P. R. [Persa] Bell. Oak Ridge
Y12, excuse me. That's where my partner was, too, Oak Ridge Y12, that
developed the diffusion processes and the like. P. R. Bell was there,
too. P. R. Bell helped build the Oak Ridge facilities. A brilliant
man, too, but a very strange fellow in how he'd go about doing things.
So the general notion was more requirements were getting in than really
had to be done to meet the criteria for satisfying the CDC, and that
created a lot of problems.
Bill was a great supporter of—well, he brought P. R. in, as
a matter of fact, to build the facility. So when Bill left, P. R.
was there for a little while longer, and then finally Dick Johnston
took over to manage the facility and bring it home and make it work
the way it finally worked. That ties off that end. The Receiving Laboratory
had its ups and downs. I think in many respects it did a good job.
I guess with Apollo 12, that was our first spill, when all the doors
closed, etc., the crew was inside. As a matter of fact, we had a couple
of scientists inside. Golly, I can't remember his name. We had a world-renowned
geochemist in there from the University of California-San Diego [Chris
Frondell]. I said, "Oh, my God, he's going to be locked up there
for twenty-one days." So I got on the telephone. This was Apollo
12, Pete Conrad's mission. The scientists went in to debrief the astronauts
on what they saw on the Moon and how they saw it. I can't remember
his name. So I picked up the phone and talked to him, and I said,
"Gee, I'm sorry, what happened."
He said, "Don't be sorry about what happened, just get us a case
of Scotch in here and everything will be all right." [Laughter]
As it turned out, we got the case of Scotch in there. He and the astronauts
had a great time. He had quite an experience with those days until
we could recover from the spill.
Of course, Pete Conrad was a character to begin with. There was another
little anecdote with Pete that caused me a great deal of anguish,
as well, from the scientific community. When the astronauts were on
the surface and they were going to pick up a rock, before they did
that, they were supposed to take pictures of it from various angles
to be able to understand how the filets were up against the rocks,
because of the question of the solar wind and how the solar wind would
affect the materials on the lunar surface. So they could separate
out the charged particles as to what was causing what to happen. Then
they were to pick up the rock, take a picture of the rock, take a
picture of the hole they left.
Pete came ding-donging along and he kicks the rock, takes a picture
of it. [Laughter] He did this a couple of times. He was taught not
to do that, but Pete didn't do that. Oh, when the scientific community
heard about that, they came down on me like a ton of bricks. I had
people come down from the National Academy, looking at how badly that
the science was being run on the Apollo. Oh, jeez, it was unbelievable.
That's when the notion that—Wilmut had started the concept of
a consortium. Who [was] next door? Who's Duke working for now?
Lunar Planetary Institute.
Lunar Planetary Institute. Bill Hess had started discussions at that
time with Dean Gordon at Rice University on the establishment of this
institute right next door, and the fact that this would be a place
where visiting scientists could come and have a repository of all
this information without necessarily coming on the center, and that
institute would also help in developing requirements in the analysis
of what we would do on the Moon and how we did it. That has a [whole
set of] stories of its own.
So at that point in time, after Pete did this, there was a great push
then for this institute to be established, because these yo-yos in
Houston didn't know what they were doing. We had this committee come
down, and then they finally backed off. Then they put in a fellow
by the name of Joe Chamberlain to head up the institute. Joe and our
people didn't get along too well, nor did I with him. So I took him
on, unfortunately, which caused another investigation as far as the
academy was concerned, because Joe Chamberlain was a world-renowned
scientist, and who's this turkey down here in Houston who's going
to tell him what to do. So we were investigated again by the academy.
So these things used to go on and off. You asked the question about
my relationship with people. I'm a very pragmatic, was very pragmatic
at the time. I was focused on getting the job done. You're either
going to help me to do it, or you're going to step aside and I'll
get it done anyway. So that wasn't very bright, in retrospect. I did
not necessarily try to develop satisfactory relations with people,
because I had this notion in my head that there are those who help
and those who won't. I don't want to waste my time with those who
won't. So I was a Quick Draw McGraw, in a sense, and I finally developed
a relationship with people. They either loved me or hated me; there
was nobody in the middle. So that's the reputation I developed. "Don't
get Calio angry with you, because he'll take you out of the system."
And that was not necessarily a very smart way to handle things. I
guess I was not very diplomatic, nor did I see at the time the importance
of stopping and training the folks or getting the folks to understand
what we were trying to do. Instead, I pushed them aside. That was
Yes, that sort of ended up with the institute situation. They changed
out Joe Chamberlain. They finally put in somebody else. There was
a fellow by the name of Gene Simmons. They brought him down from MIT
[Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. He was supposed to be with
the staff of Gilruth to watch this guy Calio to make sure I didn't
do anything crazy, or Paul Gast to do anything absurd, as far as science
was concerned. That turned out to be nothing, because Gene really
never really engaged or made an impact as far as what we did.
I'm trying to figure who then went over to the Lunar Science Institute
after Chamberlin left. I can't remember it. I can't remember who that
was. At any rate, that ties off another little aspect of it.
Let's go on back and talk about the instrumentation. Our job was to
determine where we [went] on the Moon, what we did when we got there,
development of the instrumentation that went on board, training the
astronauts, and the subsequent analysis of the data to see that it
was analyzed and published. Three, that was my charter. Now, my charter,
that was the charter of the directorate that had to be done in concert
along with other people.
At the time, there was a group in Washington that supported Headquarters,
it was called Bellcomm [Inc.]. It was like the SI, the systems integrator
concept. They sat on the side, did all the analysis, etc., etc., and
advised—let's see, when George left, General [Samuel C.] Phillips,
Phillips, came in as the Headquarters program director, George being
the one in the field center. They used to advise Phillips. I guess
after Phillips was Rocco [A.] Petrone, one of the program directors
So in concert with Bellcomm we did a lot of the analysis to determine
where we [went] on the Moon, picking of the sites, what was most interesting,
what was most interesting from a scientific standpoint based on a
whole set of criteria. The Four Horsemen helped me a lot on that.
So did the [U.S. Geological] Survey weigh in on that? I guess—he's
dead now too, Hal Masursky was one of the major people in the Survey
who really got involved in the lunar planning activity. But ultimately
Bellcomm would develop the final papers and submit them to Headquarters
for approval. The head of that operation at the time was Noel [W.]
Hinners, who ultimately went to work for NASA, became head of science
there. I ended up as his deputy later.
At any rate, so that's how we decided where we went on the Moon. The
astronauts played a little part in it. Dave Scott played a lot in
his part of why [we]—I guess went to the Apennine on [Apollo]
15, and David was very active with that. So that's how that part of
the job was done.
To come back to Apollo 11, the instrumentation that was defined at
the time was done by an outside scientific group that helped define
what should go on ALSEP, the geophysical measurements and making sure
that we did all that properly. Poor David and that drill. We had to
drill a core, and, God bless him, I thought we were going to lose
him. He tried to drill on 15. I remember at the time they were losing
their electrolytes because of what was happening, and at night their
heart rates went way down. Boy, he worked so hard with those suits
trying to make that drill work on the surface of the Moon.
Back to 11. I'm sorry. I'm drifting out of some of these other things.
That's all right.
So the Apollo Lunar Sample Analysis Planning Group put together the
concept for ALSEP. We went out on a bid for that. I guess the contract
was awarded to—God, come on, I can't remember the name. It'll
pop into my head later on [Bendix]. Who went off to develop all the
instrumentation and then put it all together. Jack Small was the program
manager on the government side and did a great job in trying to bring
it all together.
Now, we were supposed to put ALSEP out on Apollo 11. However, at that
point in time, and as a matter of fact, [we had] only been training
Neil and—excuse me for the names slipping out.
That's all right. Buzz [Edwin E.] Aldrin [Jr.]?
Buzz Aldrin. Buzz, on what had to be done there, and also training
Mike Collins as to what would be done on the orbital stuff, because
the other thing we were talking about doing was actually putting instruments
in the command module. Well, that didn't happen until very late. A
lot of it happened in Skylab.
You were asking about the Skylab. Skylab we ended up putting some
instruments that should have flown on Apollo, on Skylab, which turned
out to be pretty good as far as some of experiments were concerned.
We did some good work there.
At any rate, there was concern about the life support system, the
inability of the life support system to regenerate itself in the time
available for the crews, and weren't sure of the workload and how
much BTUs [British Thermal Units] they'd be chewing up when they were
actually doing their things on the Moon. So George finally made a
decision that we were going to cut the stay time on the Moon shorter
to make sure we had sufficient margin in the life support systems,
the portable life support systems that the astronauts were carrying,
which said ALSEP would not deploy, and that decision was made about
a year before we were going to fly.
So George said to me, "Well, figure out what you can do with"
I forget how much time we had on the Moon. That was the highest priority
was time on the surface, surface time. That led the whole thing. So
we came up with a notion of putting these lunar laser reflectors out,
so that once those reflectors were put on the Moon then with their
radio, with the laser beaming from the Earth, we could do some very
important things relative to the Earth. As a matter of fact, we learned
how much the San Andreas Fault was moving and things of that sort,
because we had a good point out there we could laze off of.
That turned out to be a very successful experiment, very simple. The
principal investigator for that was a fellow by the name of Carl Alley
from the University of Maryland, and a fellow by the name of Fowler.
Both, they were just so difficult to get along with. They were as
eccentric as could be. But at any rate, we persevered and got it done.
Then there was a question of a few samples that Neil and Buzz could
collect. That was going to become very important, because we never
knew if we were ever going to get back again or not. So that sample
mission was planned.
So the whole first mission was completely revamped, in that ALSEP
was not put on board. Now, of course, that caused a lot of rumble
in the outside community, because they were counting on getting this
station in place. As a matter of fact, we were finally going to put
a whole bunch of these out, so we could do a lot of geodynamic work
on the Moon.
Am I doing what you wanted to do?
Absolutely. Doing well.
We finally got over that, and that caused another investigation. I
don't know how many investigations there were from the National Academy
figuring out whether we were doing the right thing or not. Especially
after Wilmut left, there was this great tension, because why did this
outstanding scientist leave this center? He used to take the notion
that people in the center didn't even know how to spell science, let
along carry it out. So, of course, that created all sorts of problems,
too. So, at any rate, it cascaded.
We got ALSEP on board, I guess, on Apollo 12. Everything went pretty
well there, except for Pete kicking the rocks. [Laughter]
Thirteen was the sad mission. As a matter of fact, when 13 was over,
[Jim Lovell] came in as my deputy for space science in the directorate.
He stayed there for about a year or so. Talk about a fish out of water.
[Laughter] Poor Jim didn't quite know what to do with that job, but
again, he was there to try to ameliorate some of the issues between
the science and the flight crews and the like.
But Deke was always very supportive, tried to do what he could do,
so Deke was never negative about the science aspects. Just different
astronauts had different views of science and the like.
Let's see, 14, I don't think we had any difficulties, other than them
playing golf on the Moon.
Fifteen got very, very much improved by Dave and what they did. As
I say, he did an outstanding job on the Moon, and we were really concerned
about his health at the time.
Sixteen, 17, Charlie Duke did a good job. He was well-trained. Of
course, Senator [Harrison] Schmitt did his thing as well, being a
So that's about pretty much what happened on the missions. What am
Also brought up the point when McDivitt took over, things were just
as good as ever. Jim was a very dedicated fellow, very bright, very
capable, had the same discipline that George had, and kept it within
the program, and he really continued the program. I guess there was
one funny thing that happened in Apollo 11. Right before it happened,
I mean, God, right before it happened, it was a nightmare. So many
things had to be done, and we weren't sure they were done. Somebody
brought up the notion that the pyrophoricity of the lunar surface
once you expose it an atmosphere of oxygen. George called me in one
day, and I guess it was about three months before launch, and said,
"This guy is bringing this up. You got to go do analysis with
your community and tell me whether we're safe or not, okay? I can't
ignore what this person is saying."
So off we went. [Laughter] Boy, I tell you, again people helped me
tremendously, and so we did the final analysis to show that—we
got some the best scientists in the community to do the analysis.
We got it done and submitted it to George, which we said we didn't
think there was a problem associated with it. So that took care of
that. But, boy, try to get all that done while we were trying to change
around the mission at the last minute and not screw up Neil and Buzz
with what we were trying to do. Boy, they were two dedicated guys,
all three, Mike Collins, too. I mean, they were really working all
the time and really had their hearts in it.
Let's see, as far as Apollo is concerned.
Were the results from the missions what you expected?
Yes. As a matter of fact, what we were concerned about—well,
of course, understanding the age and the constituency of the Moon
was one of the biggest issues, not that it was going to be made out
of blue cheese, but try to figure out what all the structures were,
what was granitic, what wasn't, what was volcanic, what wasn't. There
were some of these concepts about how the impacts were formed and
created the rays and indeed, the way they thought they were. They
were, and we were able to date the Moon somewhere about four and a
half million years. Things of that sort.
The question of lifeforms on the Moon. We had a team, Al Burlingame
out of the University of California-Berkeley, were doing some of the
experiments and microbiology associated with it, geomicrobiology,
to determine whether there was any lifeforms that could be existing
on the Moon, because everybody said there could be lifeforms there.
At that point in time, we didn't find any. Of course, the soil was
very rich, so if you ever got it into an Earth atmosphere, it would
flourish as far as the nutrients were concerned.
We had people from Zurich. Johannes Geiss from Berne, Switzerland,
an outstanding solar physicist, he got to understand what the solar
particle distribution was on the surface of the Moon and the impact
of that. The sun and the Moon surface, let's see. Jerry [Wasserburg]
and his geochemistry team were able to put together a structure of
how the Moon was really built up. That was beyond my comprehension
in some of this material. But a lot of good papers came out of it.
Of course, everybody was looking for a Nobel Prize. [Laughter] I think
that was one of the driving forces in some of this contention. We
had a thousand scientists on the program, outside scientists, over
a hundred different universities worldwide. Trying to manage that
was—well, that's where I got an honorary degree from Washington
University at St. Louis, an honorary doctorate of science degree,
because I was able to keep all these balls [in the air] at one time.
I wouldn't take any nonsense from anybody, no matter whether they
were a scientist or they were an engineer. I had a mission. As I said,
I was very pragmatic. I wasn't as polished as George. George could
do it with gentleness. I wasn't that way, unfortunately. So, but we
got it done, and that was pretty important.
Let's see, what else? What other questions?
Were there any surprises in the results that you found?
I'm trying to remember. The age was one of the things that was surprising,
I think, and finding some of the rock types, the breccias and the
orthocites, anorthocites on the Moon was interesting from a geological
standpoint, because they're here on the Earth. So the question is
how was the Moon formed and all that stuff. Brought up all those questions,
and I don't think anybody's ever really answered that, except the
way it's been explained in the past. No lifeforms. That was a big
thing, too. I guess the question of water on the Moon, was there any
water on the Moon, and I guess they're convinced there is some, but
it's a question of how do you mine it, because it's transformed in
People talk about going back there, and what's the back side of the
Moon look like. Probably no different than the front side of the Moon,
but scientists, of course, want to know what's on the back side. The
notion of putting a station up there or putting people up there to
live on the Moon, I wouldn't want to do it. I don't say that as—I
mean, I would love to have been an astronaut. I mean, I lived vicariously
through them. But the notion of going up there, and I'm a pretty gutsy
guy, to go up there and try something like that, live on the Moon,
I don't know why you'd want to go do that. I guess there are people
who would like to do that. It's a very hostile environment. The temperature
changes from day to night are extreme. So it's nice to look at. Let's
go someplace else.
Of course, when I came back and finished the—when Apollo and
Spacelab was over, I was a little burned out, and I asked Chris if
I could go to school. I always wanted to go to business school. So
he said, "Go ahead and apply." So I applied to Stanford,
[for] a [Sloan] fellowship, and they accepted me, and Chris sent me.
So I went to school for a year after the Skylab. That was during the
Apollo-Soyuz [Test Project] mission and the start-up of Shuttle. So
I was very fortunate.
I thought I'd go back to the center when I got out of Stanford, I
didn't. As a matter of fact, when I left—oh, gosh, what was
his name, fellow that took over the directorate? He was an astronaut.
He flew Skylab. Owen [K.] Garriott. Owen took over the directorate
at the time. So I missed that interval U.S. Space Station. The Space
Station, I wasn't involved. I was off at school.
As I say, Chris was very good to me. So was Bob Gilruth. But when
Chris became center director, he was very good, very supportive. Of
course, George [W. S. Abbey] was his aide at the time. At times George
would get pretty unpopular with some of us in the directorates, because
George would come down. I guess one time, I don't know, he gave one
of my people a hard time and chewed him out. I went up there and chewed
George out, and five minutes later I was in Chris Kraft's office,
and Chris sat me down in a chair and he says, "Young man, you
do that one more time and you'll be out of this center." For
one year—one year—it took me to win back the graces of
Chris Kraft. [Laughter]
Well, at least you were able to.
Well, yes, Chris was more forgiving, I think, than most people. …I
don't think George has ever forgotten me about that, because George
and I were always at it because of the positions we were in. As I
said, I never tried to become diplomatic about how to work some of
these problems. I was a bull in a china shop; I just put my head down
and charged. George at the time may have been just about the same
way. I'm sure George has mellowed in time, and certainly so have I.
But that was the only time that I can ever think of ever getting quite
crosswise with the center management for the whole eight or nine years
that I was there. They were always very, very supportive of what I
was doing, realized the difficulties I was having with trying to balance
the science and the engineering side. All of them were very helpful,
Deke and George Low and Chris Kraft, the whole crowd.
Do you think that from the experiences you had in Apollo, trying,
as you said, in balancing the science, the engineering, the operations,
and that, of course, was throughout the Apollo Program, and Skylab
was more science-oriented, do you think that future programs might
experience similar difficulties, or did you kind of see NASA moving
toward more of the—
I saw a significant change. But as I say, I don't take credit for
that. I think Dave Scott, if anybody, should be credited for that
in that he, the position that he was in, was very influential in how
he could have taken on that task. Okay? This is not being disrespectful
to either one of them, as far as Pete Conrad and Alan Shepard were
concerned, they were flight jocks. Okay? Their attitude was entirely
different. "I'll fly this thing. We're going to make it work,"
and all that stuff, but Dave really took on the mantle, and he was
instrumental in making that change take place with the flight crews,
and I think later on with the Skylab and the Shuttle. Of course, where
you have the mission specialist and the like, where you have an integrated
scientist with the team you have a better interaction of science and
engineering and it works much better. Yes, so the change was significant,
very significant, by the end of Apollo and the beginning of Skylab.
Now, the Shuttle is a horse of a different color. I didn't work on
the Shuttle. I was away at school when it was being developed. When
I was finished school, I thought I was going to go back to Houston
at that point in time.
When Paul Gast died, I tried to hire Noel Hinners from Bellcomm to
take him down to replace him [Gast], because my relationship with
that team was very, very good, and I thought Noel was outstanding.
It turned out Noel wanted to come down, but he finally said no. Well,
the reason he said no is because John [E.] Naugle, who was then the
Associate Administrator for Space Science, told Noel he was going
to bring him in as the head of space science. I didn't know that at
the time. So Noel then became the Associate Administrator for Space
Science at Headquarters.
So when I was finished with school and ready to go back to Houston,
Noel said, "No, come on to Washington and be my deputy."
So we switched the relationship we were originally going to have,
and I did, and I came back to Headquarters, which I thought I would
never do. I'm not a Headquarters type, didn't think I was. At any
rate, I did come back as Noel's deputy for about a year, year and
At that time Bob [Robert A.] Frosch was the administrator of NASA,
and this was during the [James E.] Carter administration. Bob was
very keen on expanding the science and applications part of NASA.
So when Chuck [Charles W.] Matthews left, he asked me if I would become
the Associate Administrator for Space Applications in Headquarters.
That's when I took over that job, and that was remote-sensing communications,
etc. That got my link to NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration],
because in space applications, the director of that operation was
responsible for making sure that all the spacecraft that were built
for NOAA were managed in an appropriate way. My job was managing Tiros
and the geostationary satellites that were being built through Goddard
to NOAA. So that's how we finally slide into that.
So I became the Associate Administrator for Space Applications. Then
when [Ronald R.] Reagan won, and Bob Frosch left, let's see, at the
time, [Alan M.] Lovelace was the Deputy Administrator. He became the
Acting Administrator, and I guess I was one of the most traveled [and]
senior people in the general schedule. So I became the Acting Deputy
Administrator of NASA during that period of time when the Shuttle
was first launched, but I had very little to do with it.
Then with the changing of administrations, Lovelace was out, and Al
really wanted to become Administrator of NASA, but, unfortunately,
that didn't happen, because Jim [James M.] Beggs got it. I wanted
to become the same thing, and I didn't get it either, as the deputy.
Hans [M.] Mark came back and became the Deputy Administrator of NASA
at the time.
Let's see, before I get into the rest of it. What else didn't I cover
on the—oh, yes, there is an important aspect. You asked me what
else we did besides lunar science. I inherited an Air Force when I
was at Johnson [Space Center]. [Laughter] A ragtag group of people.
Unbelievable. We ended up with a—excuse me—I guess there
were two rifts I had with Gilruth. The second one was flying a U-2.
Bob considered it a very unsafe aircraft. I had my little Air Force,
I had a U-2, I had a WB-57 [Canberra] in that operation. We started
a remote-sensing group. I was convinced that there could be some good
mining of technology in the application of remote-sensing arena. How
can we use space to remove the required data about the Earth and do
something about Earth management and environmental sciences and the
So I got a lot of support from the center to do that. We used it as
a ruse to train the astronauts [laughter] on how to take pictures
out of an aircraft, which they did, but I then had my own flying team,
and so we developed all sorts of instruments that we flew on the WB-57,
pretty high-altitude aircraft, and flew [on] the U-2. We had a [Lockheed]
Constellation as well.
So we were really coming along with remote sensing, and as a matter
of fact, we not only got into the instrument side, but we also got
into the analysis side. I brought in the guy from Purdue. Golly, my
memory's going. I can't remember his last name. His first name was
Bob. He ran the remote-sensing group there for us, and he was trained
at Purdue, and was a pretty smart guy.
We used to do the analysis of the data. What we were trying to do,
the first experiments were trying to see if we could assess the agricultural
production of wheat worldwide, first building models of wheat production
in the United States, and started to build computer models to be able
to do this, and built up a whole remote-sensing team.
The CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] got intrigued by what we were
doing, because they were doing it, too. They were using different
techniques than we were using. I was convinced at the time that digital
techniques were the only way to do it, and that this notion of photo
and imagery analysis was okay for now, but that was going to be a
technology that was going to pass us by. We really had to go digital.
We had to build charged-coupled arrays, we had to be able to really
separate out the different frequencies. If you're going to try to
recognize something, there were only four ways you can recognize it:
what's it look like now, what's its size, what's its color, and what's
its polarization. If you can measure all those, then you should be
able to tell what's on the surface of the Earth.
So I brought in another guy, from Willow Run, the University of Michigan,
to work in that operation as well, and we were doing great. We were
doing so well that NASA decided—well, it wasn't NASA again,
it was the U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Geological Survey thought
they wanted to put up a remote-sensing satellite, an Earth remote-sensing
satellite. So they went forward in one of their budgets to do that
and OMB said, "No way. There's only one space agency and that's
NASA. If you want one of those satellites, you're going to have to
go to NASA to get it done." So that, of course, helped the U.S.
Geological Survey again.
So they did, and then Chris got involved in this, son of a gun, and
it was the right decision, but at the time I was really emotionally
attached to it as well. The agency was going to decide who would build
the first, it was called ERTS [Earth Resources Technology Satellite]
at the time—George Low was here as a deputy, as the Deputy Administrator—which
subsequently became LANDSAT.
I wanted to build it in Houston, and Chris said, "No deal. We're
not going to focus on anything else but manned space flight down here."
I said, "Come on, we established this whole thing. We know what
we're doing. We've got a good team. Let's do it."
They put it in Goddard Space Flight Center. Oh God, I was crushed.
I really wanted to build that satellite and fly that mission. At any
rate, that didn't happen. Consequently, Goddard, of course, has built
up a great remote-sensing capability today. I think that—I don't
know what's happening in Houston. I believe they've probably atrophied
at this point in time, because there was no other support for it.
But we established a very vital program for the agency I think that
was important. We did a lot of the pioneering work. Talk about a ragtag
team, flying these airplanes with these instruments hanging all over,
it was really funny. God, and Gilruth used to say, "One of these
days, Calio, you're going to kill those people." [Laughter]
Well, luckily nothing went wrong.
No, we were very fortunate. Touch wood. We were very fortunate. So
that was another thing I did there, and I enjoyed it as well. That's
what really also got me into the applications bit when I came up here.
Bob Frosch was familiar with what I had done in Houston, and knew
I had a background in communications, remote sensing and the like,
and so when the applications job came open, then he offered me that
Before we go any further, if we could pause a moment to change our
Sure. Sure. Okay. [Brief Interruption]
Anything else to really talk about before I go into the Headquarters
business? I was a thorn in Headquarters' side. In communicating with
the scientific community, I had developed a good relationship with
them through the use of the Four Horsemen. So when we were trying
to go out with notifications to the scientific community, people at
Headquarters always screwed it up. [Laughter] I started in Headquarters
and then went to Houston, and I think Noel did this as my penance,
but I'd come back in Headquarters, because what I used to do is, I
said, "Just do me a favor. We'll prepare all the documentation
down here and get this situation straight and right. We'll leave the
signature titles open, and we'll just send you all the letters you
can send to the scientific community. We're not usurping your authority,
but you can't keep screwing things up."
So Noel says, "Okay, you're that smart, you come on up here and
straighten it out." So that's sort of another thing that was
stuck under Noel's craw as far as he was tired of some of the people
in the lunar program that worked for him doing battle with Calio,
and so he got rid of that situation.
How was working at Headquarters in a science arena different than
working, for example, at Johnson, at the Manned Spacecraft Center?
Well, your role in Headquarters [is not] an implementing role, in
a sense. The way it's structured has always been, I think, a difficult
problem for NASA. What is the role of a program manager in Headquarters
vis-a-vis a program manager in a field center? When I was up here
as Deputy Administrator for a while, I tried to straighten that out.
I tried to get rid of the role of program manager in Headquarters.
In Headquarters, the responsibility is to do the planning, in concert—in
concert—with the folks in the field center, so that there is
good integrity, whether it's scientific or engineering, integrity
in the mission that's being proposed, and what we're asking the taxpayers
to—what we want to build and why we want to build it. Then you've
got to sell that the agency, and you've got to sell it to OMB, and
you've got to sell it to Congress. So that's the role of Headquarters.
The role of the field center then is to implement what has been approved.
Now, what went in the front may not necessarily be what came out of
the back, because of OMB's twisting and turning, and the agency, and
Congress. So finally what you get, and the role of program manager
in Headquarters, is to make sure the people in the field center understand
what was approved in the budget, and what we were permitted to do
and what we weren't permitted to do.
Now, you got different responses from different places. As far as
Goddard Space Flight Center was concerned, what they proposed they
were going to implement, the hell with what happened in the process.
[Laughter] Okay? So that always became a very difficult task, what
was the role of the manager in Headquarters vis-a-vis the manager
in the program. That was tough.
At Johnson, it was quite different. They were pretty much aligned
with our manned space flight operation here in Headquarters, so they
understood that what was approved by Congress is what they implemented.
So you had that little difference that was occurring between the science
organizations and the engineering organizations.
But I pretty much defined the role of Headquarters, and sometimes
they aren't responsible for the implementation of the program. They're
responsible for making sure that the program is carried out according
to the specifications approved by the Congress and implemented into
the program plans. It's up to the center to make sure that happens.
And there's where the conflict comes, if there's a deviation from
that, who's responsible and where does it lie ultimately. So that's
really the difference. So in Headquarters, you paper-push. I mean
this in the right way. And at the field center you contractor-push.
Now, that brings up another interesting point. In Houston, I've always
felt, when I was on the inside—I don't know if that's true on
the outside or not—we were an integrated team between the civil
service and the contractors. It wasn't, "I'm telling you what
to do and I'm responsible," etc. The arms and legs of the implementation
of whatever was done was done by both civil service and contractor
I think the greatest advocate of that was Chris Kraft. Flight ops
at the time was you couldn't tell, we all wore the same badges. I
don't know what they do now. As a matter of fact, George Low, when
he was down there, got rid of the color code. We used to have yellows
and greens and blues and reds to tell everybody—now everybody
has the same red badge. But at different centers it's different, it's
An interesting aspect about it when I got into industry, I went back
and worked for NASA. We won a major program there, and it's impossible
to work with these people. I mean, they're constantly expecting you
to do things that's not in the contract. "We've changed the requirements.
We want you to jump in and fix them," etc. I used to ask the
people that I worked with, "My God, was I that bad when I was
in the government? [Laughter] These people should be taken out in
the back lot and shot."
But it's just interesting, I just never felt that way in Houston.
Now, maybe I was kidding myself. Philco was the name of the company,
I think, that built—Bendix, I'm sorry. Bendix [Corporation]
built ALSEP. I always felt we were in this together, you know, we
sink or swim together. It was not a question of—but you never
were in there doing it. I mean, the boulder was not on your back,
in one respect. Now, when I worked for industry, the boulder's there.
I mean, you have to deliver the product. You're not shuffling papers,
pal, you've got to make sure something happens at the end.
I don't think in some places in NASA that is respected with the contractors.
I think George understood it: with Rockwell and Grumman, we were a
team. I think Chris did with IBM and some of the other folks there,
PHILCO. You know, they're the people that taught me, so I had that
instilled in my head. I think it's different [all] over NASA, how
that's handled, and the contractor relationships.
The difference between NOAA and NASA, NASA provides the tools in which
to do the job. NOAA does the actual application of those tools to
develop the finished product, helpful to the citizens, to the country,
i.e., weather forecasts, nautical maps, fishery management and the
like. In NOAA there is not the relationship with the contractors that
I saw at the Johnson Space Center. It's more like what you have at
Goddard. That's not very satisfying in some respects. The contractor's
there to do the bidding, and the government can change its mind.
NOAA had the attitude, I think Jim [Dr. D. James Baker], the current
administrator, has changed it somewhat, that they pretty much worked
in an ivory tower. They were in the university complex. They weren't
working for the government, when you look at some of the people who
were developing some of the early forecast models for weather and
for the early ocean circulation models for the ocean. So, to me, those
are the differences.
The agencies and within the agencies, the difference is between the
various components of the civil servants and the contract employees.
None of this would work if it wasn't for the contract employees. I'm
not saying that because you're a contract employee. I mean, that's
the way it is. You don't feel the burden until you have to—you,
responsible for delivering that product. I talked about George Low
holding me responsible for standing up as to whether we go or not.
I knew it wasn't me; it was that contractor team, had they done their
job and we worked collectively to get that job done. Now, when I went
to industry, boy, that monkey's right on your back. Nobody's going
to take it off. So, to me, those are the differences that exist.
I don't know why I went off on that tangent, but at any rate—
How did the opportunity arise for you to move over to NOAA? You had
mentioned that at Headquarters you were working on meteorological—
When I was made the Associate Administrator for Applications, there
my responsibility then was to develop remote-sensing space communications.
At that time we were doing also processing in space, what kind of
experiments are you uniquely qualified to do in space, like growing
crystals and some of the other things, not life sciences, but geophysical
and geochemical processes that could take place that would be enhanced
because you are in a zero-G environment or the environment of space.
I was responsible for the technology transfer program, too, to be
sure we documented what was applicable in space. In those days, boy,
we were really, really struggling to try to get a brass ring. Everybody
was looking for the follow-on to an equivalent of the COMSAT, the
notion of communication, space communication satellites. We were looking
for it in remote sensing and it wasn't there, and I still don't think
it's there. People think it is, but it isn't anymore.
So I was responsible for providing, through NASA to NOAA, the weather
satellites, both the geostationary satellites and the polar orbiters.
When I got in there, we were just in a process of a block change on
design. It was RCA [Radio Corporation of America] who was building
it. Okay? We went through that block change fairly effectively. Tiros
and the Air Force meteorological satellites were both built by RCA
at the time. So there was a slight difference in those two spacecraft,
and up until three years ago, there were certainly two separate programs,
DMSP [Defense Meteorological Satellite Program] and NOAA's program.
They finally pulled them together. I guess they worked on about three
different task groups as to whether they should be pulled together
or not. I guess I was the rebel in the outfit. I couldn't see, because
I figured once NOAA had agreed that it could be done, the Air Force
would take over, and that's exactly what has happened, and that's
where they are as far as the satellite development is concerned, because
there's a new program called NPOESS [National Polar-orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellite System]. It's a joint program between the
Air Force and NOAA and NASA.
As it stands now, the program manager sits in NOAA. Boy, it's a small
world. I ended up working for him as a contractor when he was in the
Air Force. He's a retired colonel from the Air Force. So he's now
in NOAA running the development of that new polar orbiting satellite
systems for both the military and civil use.
Let's see. I told you I wanted to become the Administrator in NASA.
I really wanted that in the worst way. It was good that I didn't get
it, because I couldn't have done some of the things that the Reagan
administration wanted done in the reduction of government costs. I
did believe in that very strongly. But I had worked in every element
of NASA you could think of in the eighteen years I was there, and
so I knew an awful lot of people. I don't think I could have done
what had to be done at the time. I think they went overboard, but
I mean, we really had to focus on what was absolutely necessary and
what wasn't, and take out the things that were not necessary, because
there was a lot of pork in some of that stuff, as well, and the same
is true for NOAA…
…But at any rate, we had a joint program between Navy, NOAA,
and NASA, which I was really gung-ho about. We got it into the first
year. Admiral Williams, who was a three-star, was the guy in the Navy
for us. Johnson, Dave Johnson, was the NOAA guy, and I was the NASA
guy. We got it started and I thought it's exactly what the Navy needs.
When they're going out on a field maneuver or things of this sort,
you want to know what the weather's going to do, because you may run
into some pretty difficult situations you hadn't anticipated unless
you had some of these measurements.
Well, it got curtailed in the Reagan administration. The first year
out, it got bumped because of the fellow who became the Secretary
of the Navy [John Lehman], was trying to build a 600-ship Navy, and
money he was spending on his base, as far as he was concerned, wasn't
necessary, so he took it out.
But during that process for the year or two before that, I mean, those
three agencies became very close. So when the administrator of NOAA
was then picked, Dave Johnson suggested why didn't he get me with
my space background into NOAA as the deputy to the administrator.
I didn't know Secretary [Malcom] Baldrige at the time at all. I've
always been a Republican all my life, and I had been striking for
a job in the Reagan administration, but I was going after NASA.
But at that time I'd also worked a lot with Hughes. Bud Wheelon, who
was then the president and chairman of Hughes Aircraft Company, who
sat on the Defense Science Board, put in my name for C3I [Command,
Control, Communications, and Intelligence] because of all the stuff
I was doing in remote sensing. I never finished that story. That was
an interesting story. When I turned him down, the White House actually
asked me if I would consider the job, and I said, "No, I don't
want to go there. I want to stay with NASA." Well, of course,
that didn't happen.
But then when NOAA came along, and I said, well, I wasn't going to
get C3I, I turned down C3 I. I had gotten the White House angry with
me. So, yes, okay, I'd like to become deputy, which was a political
appointment at the time. So I went in and talked to John Byrne, who
was the administrator, and he said, "Yes, you're the kind of
guy we need," and so he hired me. I didn't know Secretary Baldrige
at all. As it turned out over the years I developed a very close relationship
with him, to the point we were like two brothers. His death just blew
So I went to work as a deputy, and again it was back to the Wilmut
Hess-Tony Calio relationship in NASA. John Byrne was an oceanographer
from the University of Oregon. So he had all the scientific connections.
I didn't have any scientific connections. I was the implementer. So
that's the way we started off. After three years, John didn't want
to stay anymore, and I did, and the Secretary did want me to stay,
so he asked me to stay on.
I wanted to quit after the first term, but there was a big conflict
going on at the time on the commercialization of LANDSAT. Unfortunately,
the Deputy Secretary of Commerce had some discussions with COMSAT
management about where this program should go, and it was supposed
to go on a competitive basis. That got into the hands of some people
in Congress, and so Secretary Baldrige really got under the gun about
what was going on here, what was this all about, because Secretary
Baldrige was a businessman all of his life, in manufacturing. He was
taught as a schoolteacher. He started out as a schoolteacher, and
so he knew nothing about satellites or things of that sort.
So he asked me to stay on beyond the second term of Reagan, because
we were on the Hill [Capitol Hill, Washington DC] and we were under
fire from the Congress on what was happening here, what was the shady
business going on within the department. So I stayed with the Secretary
and that was one of the things, of course, that bonded us, was I was
there when he needed me, and had the kind of knowledge that was needed
at that point in time. We got through that very well. As a result,
we established some very good relationships with some people on the
Of course, the Secretary was a master in presentation. I mean, he
was slow, deliberate, conscious, and a very capable salesman. He was
very good. And he was also a great teacher. So [I] ended up staying
for seven years until he died, or was killed in a rodeo. He was a
commercial rodeo rider.
That's another funny anecdote. To be a commercial rodeo rider, you
have to win prize money every month. You can't just go along like
a—and so he was a calf roper, and every Wednesday afternoon
he had a friend that had a ranch over here in Middleburg, and so he
used to call me Wednesday morning and said—when I first got
there, I didn't know what to do. He used to call me on Wednesday morning
and says, "Well, you're running the weather service. What the
hell's the weather going to be in Middleburg this afternoon?"
"I don't know what the weather's going to be."
"Well, find out." [Laughter]
So finally we got that straightened out, too. I had to report every
Wednesday morning to tell him what the weather—what was going
to happen in Middleburg. So he used to go over there and practice.
He was a real cowboy. He used to smoke Marlboro cigarettes. He had
a basket behind him, and he used to have these long matches. So he
used to take out his Marlboro and strike his match and throw it behind
him, hit that basket every time. [Laughter] He used to wear hand-tooled
belts, and on formal occasions he had silver-tipped alligator boots
he'd wear. [Laughter] Oh, he was something.
Actually, he threw a, for the President—excuse me. Before he
came in as Secretary of Commerce, he was the chairman and CEO of Scoville
Manufacturing Company. So he was a man who had made his fortune in
industry, and he loved it. He loved coming in at that point. He used
to ask me, "Calio, you did it wrong. Why are you working for
a living in the government? You can't do that. You've got to make
your money first, and then come into the government and enjoy it."
At any rate, he threw a big rodeo for everybody in the department
and the White House, out here at the Capital Center one day, which
he paid for, and it was funny to watch him out there roping and stuff.
He was great.
The reason it was so devastating to me was the relationship that we
had built. It was a very strange one, in a sense that we never really
spoke much to each other, but we communicated immediately. I mean,
when he just said a few words to me as to what had to be done, I knew
what had to be done, and the same way when I responded to him. He
liked that, because he had a very interesting policy. If you couldn't
write a letter on one page on what had to be done, he didn't want
it. He didn't want a volume. "Tell me what the problem is, tell
me what you're doing to fix it, and then if I want anything more information
and background, I'll ask you." And when you spoke to him, you
had to do the same thing. In the three minutes you had to tell him
what the whole situation was and what you were going to do about it.
It was magnificent. It was unbelievable. He really did a great job
in making that really work.
So we had developed a very, very good relationship. We didn't have
to spend much time with each other, but when we did, it was very productive.
The thing that was so devastating to me is, we had a meeting on the
Hill, we had to go talk to a couple of congressmen—a couple
of senators rather, the day before he was—well, it was a Friday
he was leaving for San Francisco, where he was going to go into a
rodeo contest. So we drove up together and we spoke to the senators
and we came out. It was a very successful meeting. He says, "Well,
just go back and write up a short note about it, and then when I come
back on Tuesday, we'll talk about what the next steps ought to be."
When he was out there in San Francisco, a horse bucked on him. He
used to wear these silver buckles, and the horse came back and the
horn of the saddle went into his stomach and crushed his internals,
and he died. [Calio sighs.] At any rate—
Well, it's fortunate that you were able to have such a good relationship
Oh, yes. He was super. I mean, here's a good example. I was running
roughly half the agency. NOAA was about half the size of the Department
of Commerce. When I finally got in there as Administrator and he brought
me up to Under Secretary, as a matter of fact, made that an Under
Secretary post, I asked him why he'd done it. He said, "I don't
know anything about your business. You take care of that half of the
department, and I'll take care of my half." That's the way we
A good example is there was something that came up that Senator [Robert
William] Packwood wanted, and so he sent me up to cut this deal, cut
a deal with Packwood, which I did. Then I came back and wrote up what
was I was doing and gave him a few-minute pitch of what was happening,
and he was okay. Then I had to go off—in NOAA, you're involved
in a lot of environmental things. Did an awful lot of traveling in
NOAA, on ocean dumping and just a whole bunch of things. I was off
in Paris on one of these things shortly thereafter. In the middle
of the night the phone's ringing, and it's the Secretary. He says,
"Well, Packwood wants to renege on the deal. This is what he
wants to do. Let's talk this through." So we talked it through
and what we ought to do, and he went ahead and did it. Now, here's
the Secretary of a Department. I'm just one of the weenies down there.
To reach down and to get my views before he made a decision, I mean,
how many guys would do that? Their egos would get in the way. He was
superb. Absolutely superb. An unbelievable man. And he was a schoolteacher.
I finally got him to sail on boats, too. It was an interesting thing.
He served in World War II, he served in the Pacific, and he was a
shave-tail second lieutenant. When they shipped him over to the Pacific,
he was in the hull of a boat with his company of men, and they had
some terrible seas and he got so sick, it was unbelievable. So when
they had the big deal with the Statute of Liberty [200 year celebration]
up there, the Navy had asked me if we knew the depths of the water
around there, and so if we would organize how all the big ships would
come in, because the Kennedy came in and the equivalent French carrier
came in and all of that. So I was involved.
So we had one of our biggest ships out there as well, and so I said
to the Secretary, "Why don't you come on board and spend a couple
days with us." "Not me. I'm never going back on another
ship." [Laughter] Well, he did it. I got to his wife, and she
wanted to do it, and so she talked him into it and he did it. He had
a ball. He had an absolute ball. But he didn't go anywhere without
that life vest. [Laughter] It was funny to watch him.
We had these little water taxis that would take you from boat to boat,
which he loved. He was asked to go over to the Kennedy, and we got
him over there, and so that was a lot of fun.
Okay. Let me come on back. Went way afield on that one. Where are
Oh, no, it's good to hear about the different people, and it's interesting
how so many people have such different backgrounds.
Oh, I've been an awfully lucky fellow. I've had great bosses. It sure
makes life a lot different.
It certainly does.
They have treated me well, and I've developed good relationships with
them, even though I've been, as you probably have heard, a pretty
rough character to some of my people. When I told you about that,
nobody is in the middle of the road, [they] either love me or hate
So we got in to NOAA because of my background in the past in developing
weather satellites. Then once I was in NOAA, then I worked there,
worked in the flight projects mostly. Then when John left, John Byrne
left, the administrator, he became president of Oregon State University,
and I was moved up to become the administrator.
I loved working for NOAA in the sense that they cover everything.
They go from the bottom of the sea to the stars in the skies and the
weather. It was a very fascinating job. The Weather Service was fun
to work with. The Weather Service suffers from a very unique situation
with respect to them and contractors. [They're going to] do everything
themselves. Everything. One of the things that I did in concert with
the Director of the Weather Service was to get the Weather Service
to move to a position where their job was to define what it is they
had to measure and develop predictive tools to be able to give the
country the assessments of what the weather was going to do. They
didn't have to be communication experts. They didn't have to be satellite
experts. They didn't have to be all this in the chain. So I finally
got them to the point where we should be hiring meteorologists and
nothing more. We don't need communication technicians. We don't need
communication. Buy that as a service from contractors.
It took a while, but we finally did that. So now they are focused
on meteorologists, with one exception, and that exception is a reasonable
one. They have a geodynamics laboratory at Princeton University where
they develop the new models for weather forecasting. So they're right
on the forefront of computer technology and how you build these seventeen-layer
But at any rate, I think weather forecasting has improved in the last
decade. I think in some respects with Dick Halgren, who then the Director
of the Weather Service, and some of his people and ourselves, we got
the Weather Service turned inside out to they're doing what they're
supposed to be doing. They're developing predictive tools and predicting
weather, and not worried about how the product gets to them or gets
out of there or anything of that sort. So we have contractors do that.
So that was a major step forward.
We also developed new techniques like the NEXRAD radars. Some of the
radar systems the Weather Service had were archaic. They were 1957
radar systems and they were coming apart at the seams. So getting
new radars in place was important, and the other thing that was important,
[although] a little late, how do you integrate all this together so
that all this information can be digested by the meteorologists and
productive and put into productive use? Satellite data, ground data,
ocean data, and all that stuff. So we developed the what was called
AWIPS 90, late, but it's there. Now it's working, and you can see
the results of it.
Another thing I was struck with was, why do we only have a three-day
forecast? Why couldn't we have a five-day forecast? Why couldn't we
understand climatology and what was happening over the long haul with
respect to the Earth? I mean, everybody's talking about the greenhouse
effects and all these things. Well, what's their fundamental basis
for all this? I mean, some guys in our research labs say, hey, the
Nile overflowed every three or four hundred [years], I forget what
it was, you know, so you always had some of this stuff reoccurring.
The difficulty is, we didn't have good scientific data that spanned
the time that we were looking at with respect to climatic forecasts.
So I got involved in that and trying to push the climatic research
program, which I did. We had excellent people both inside the government
and outside, contractors and in the universities, which got extended
into a large oceans program, because the ocean is the storehouse of
a battery for all this energy. So how does this transfer take place
between the atmosphere and the oceans? Why does the El Niño
take place and all of that? All that was just being uncovered at that
point in time. What was happening to the ozone layers and Antarctica
and things of that sort?
So I guess one of the things that I looked to [is], I was instrumental,
just a catalyst for some of these things happening, like being able
to go for longer-range forecasts and better understanding of what's
happening in the air-sea interaction, what's happening in the oceans,
So that was pretty fascinating. I got involved in fisheries. Didn't
know a doggone thing about them. Fishery management is a very difficult
task in this country with respect to the laws that are in place, and
how do we protect the fish that is a renewable resource? How do we
protect the U.S. fishermen? How do we manage the relationships internationally
with some of the people who like to fish in U.S. waters? The richest
waters, as far as fishery is concerned, is off of the Alaska coast.
Consequently, I got very close to Senator [Theodore F. "Ted"]
Stevens, because the Japanese and the Russians and a few other countries
were fishing up there. Their techniques are a little different than
some of the things we do in the United States. They have long-line
techniques, which means those lines that are a mile long or so, get
broken, all these hooks, of course, get caught by the fish in a nonproductive
way, etc., etc., etc., and so you have all sorts of things happening
with respect to fisheries management that takes place that the general
public doesn't really know much about, but the fishing industry does.
We rely very heavily on the fishing industry, and it's a tough business.
A tough business. We've fished out the North Atlantic, not just [due
to] U.S. fisheries. It's very sad what has happened [there] with respect
to swordfish and a few other of large game fish that we used to be
able to catch there.
The tuna industry. I used to keep a lot of lawyers busy when I was
in NOAA, because I took a real interest in the fisheries activity.
I guess one of the reasons was when I was a little boy, I actually
used to go out on the fishing boats out of Sea Isle City, New Jersey
and fished on those boats as a commercial fisherman. The local fishermen—my
uncle took care of me. So I took an interest in the fisheries.
When tuna fishermen, they sight on the spinner dolphin. Spinner dolphin
are on the surface. Right underneath them are the tuna. So there's
restriction about taking dolphin. So when I was in there, a couple
times we closed up a tuna fishery, just because they were taking too
many dolphin. And how did I know that? We put observers on the ships,
etc. So in some respects we had to strike a balance between protecting
the environment, protecting the dolphin, as well as catching tuna.
And the fishing in Alaska is a nightmare, because the Japanese and
the Russians at the time would fish in U.S. waters without permits.
I actually used to go out on some of the flights to oversee that,
and that was an exciting part. The Coast Guard flies the Aleutian
Chain all the time and patrols that for the fishery management activities,
and so I used to go out on a couple of those flights.
NOAA also provides landing charts for the aircraft. They shoot all
of the airports for clearances and things of that sort. So that was
another thing that was a lot of fun. We used to go out with them while
they were taking the data for putting together the aeronautical charts,
and actually went up to Alaska and landed on the icebergs and everything
else up there.
NOAA was a much more rewarding job for the administrator than I think
NASA is for the administrator, because you have to live vicariously
through everybody else. This way you could go experience the things
Then the satellite business in NOAA was changing, too. The big problem—you
asked what was the challenges. The challenges were the battle of the
budget, making sure what you do is an important thing to do and the
right thing to do, and then to make sure you get the right amount
of the funds to do it.
I think [Daniel S.] Goldin [NASA Headquarter's Administrator] has
cut back too far. I was really pretty happy to see him go into that
job, because finally here was somebody who was coming in who had business
experience and had the monkey on their back, had to deliver spacecraft,
etc., and he would know and understand what that part of the business
was like. But, boy, he's made a mess of the place. You know this cheaper,
faster, better, etc., has really come back to haunt him, because I
think he really cut in too deep on what had to be done, and cut back
too sharply. That's unfortunate, because I think that NASA has suffered
because of it.
I'm sure when you finally get to Chris, he could wax most philosophically
on that. Because I had dinner with him, oh, a couple years ago, and
he said then, "Jeez, Tony, don't—when NASA was formed,
it was a reincarnation of the aviation industry from NACA, and out
of it sprung a new agency called NASA. It had a new vitality."
And he thinks the same thing has to happen to NASA today; it has to
be reborn into something else. I guess he has some very unique notions
about that. I was not in at the very, very beginning, from the '58
to '63 time frame. Chris was, so he saw that formation. So when you
get to talk to him, see if you can get him to give you some of his
ideas and philosophy.
We'll do that.
Okay. What else did we not cover?
Well, looking back over your time with NASA and with NOAA, was there
one thing in particular that sticks out in mind, like a most significant
moment or discovery or challenge in the space science area for you
during that time?
No, I think I pretty much talked [to it:] the notion of bringing engineers
and scientists together was a very vital part. I think NASA's gone
a long way to bridge that gap. I think in the future, at least on
the manned side, I think we shouldn't see those problems develop.
You just reminded me of something. I don't know whether I want to
talk about it or not.
I may edit this out.
I guess I have a philosophical difference about the development of
the Space Station. I guess this was developed between myself and Secretary
Baldrige. We were convinced—we convinced ourselves, put it that
way, that if this country were willing to go forward with the Space
Station, that it could be supported by private industry, as long as
there was an anchor tenant. If that anchor tenant was NASA, then we
could make it happen. We looked forward to industry stepping up and
doing it in consortium, several companies, with the understanding
that in time, this anchor tenant would be buying space to do the kinds
of things—the development that's necessary. NASA's a development
organization, okay, and it should stay there, and it should pioneer
new ways of doing things from an engineering standpoint and manned
missions, as well. I mean, the astronauts ought to be—the guys
who fly it ought to be a mixture of government and private contractor
When the notion of the Space Station was brought forward by Jim Beggs
to the president at the Cabinet meeting, I was there with Secretary
Baldrige, and we disagreed with Jim Beggs. We thought putting it forward
as a NASA program would—NASA wasn't really building the Space
Station anyway—was really diverting NASA's thoughts and direction
and energy, and that we really ought to sell it as a combined consortium
and let industry step forward and build it, and we'd buy time and
space on it.
We actually made that pitch to President Reagan. I did it for Secretary
Baldrige. It wasn't my idea. It was Secretary Baldrige's, because
he was also convinced that space is here to stay. Man in space is
here to stay. We ought to look at space as a commercial venture and
not the government venture. He convinced me that that was the right
thing to do. [Laughter] So I put the pitch together and made the pitch
to the domestic council. I went down in flames.
At the time, the President's science advisor was—I can't remember
his name [Jay Keyworth]. He was also at the same place with us. But
people had already gotten to the President, as far as Jim Beggs was
concerned. The President approved. We move forward on the Space Station.
Because I was also concerned that what the Space Station was, from
an internal NASA standpoint, what the Space Station was going to do
is what it did. It's taken all the money and more, than what the original
I guess I learned that on Apollo. I mean, George [Low] was one of
the most tight-fisted fellows I ever met in my life. He got blood
out of a stone. To try to keep those costs on Apollo within range
was a very difficult task. The Space Station, the way it was structured,
with all the people, who's responsible, what belly button do you push
and say this guy is responsible for making the thing work, wasn't
going to happen.
At any rate, it [the Space Station] got approved. I think that was
a major mistake, and it has taken a lot money from the other parts
of the agency. I'm not saying manned space flights should be done
away with in that process, not at all. They should be a part of that
consortium. But [we're] not there, and I don't know what's going to
happen at this point in time. I really don't.
I guess I was still in Houston at the time when Apollo was coming
to an end, and I guess it was Chris that said it to me, we were talking
about going to Mars, and he said, "We're not going to have any
technical problems in going to Mars. The question is putting it all
together and make it happen as a concept that this is what we're going
to do. The technology is not going to stop us."
We used to have a saying that we used to overestimate how fast we
could do things in the short term, but underestimate how quickly we
could get to something in the long term. I think Chris was absolutely
right. I mean, we can do all these things. The question is, we've
got to have the philosophical background and the political clout to
make some of these things happen. Technology is not the stumbling
block. So not that we went down in flames. That doesn't bother me
so much as I think it was the wrong thing as far as the country was
concerned, and the way it was put together. Boy, we're probably going
to spend a hell of a lot more money this way than if we had given
it to industry to develop, and NASA become a major tenant. There would
have been other government agencies who would also become tenants.
Talk about our part in the agricultural assessments. When I was down
at Houston, we had our techniques for doing agricultural assessments.
CIA had theirs. I was convinced we could do it with computers and
with physical techniques, and not through just photo interpretation,
etc., that ultimately we would be better with man out of the loop
as far as an interpreter, but more in the loop as far as an analyst
Now, what is all this mean? We did our work in concert with the CIA.
At the time we stumbled a lot, because the computing power that we
had was terrible. I mean, we flew Apollo. That computer in there has
more power than what we flew in Apollo. So at the time it didn't work
out that well. But now with telecommunications and computer capabilities
that exist today, it's a cinch to do it digitally. Everything is done
digitally. That's the right way to go. But at the time, we stubbed
our toe because we were not as good at using computer techniques for
doing crop forecasts from the remote-sensing data than the CIA was
in using their photo interpretation techniques.
So there's another little anecdote that goes into all this, because
I think if a space station ultimately—CIA would become a very,
or the other parts, the intelligence department, the intelligence
people would become a very important part of a space station. That
gets us into a whole other arena that I didn't want to talk about.
But I think it's vital, it's important to get some of this stuff out
on the table, so that we know when somebody's doing something to us,
rather than doing it in a spooky way.
Okay. Let's see. You asked me a question and I went off on that tangent.
That's all right. I think we've covered most everything I have. I
was going to ask Kevin if he had any questions.
Yes, I guess I did have a couple, just real quick ones.
Going back to the beginning, I was curious to hear a little bit more
about your work on the first nuclear reactor when you were working
Let's see. When I got out of the Army, I applied for a job at Westinghouse,
and I was put in a team that had just finished the development of
the second core for the Nautilus submarine. Okay? So these were a
bunch of engineers, and my job with the land-based station was with
a very specific group. We had the engineers who designed the land-based
power station, but there were no rules in engineering to tell them
how to design one. We had the theoreticians over here on the other
side who could tell us all about nuclear physics and how chain reactions
work, etc., but we had no link between the two. And our team was set
up to be that link.
We would go to the scientific group—that's where I got started
in all this crazy stuff. We would go to the scientific people, and
they would tell us what parameters we should be measuring, what we
should be looking for, etc. Then we would go and work with the engineering
group. My first tasks were with a critical facility, which was a full-scale
mock-up of a nuclear power station. We used to map the neutron densities
that would take place through the reactor and where the hot spots
were, where they weren't, where did we have to cool down the nuclear
reactions and the like, and how do we do that? We used to put these
wands in the core. They were cadmium or boron or things of that sort,
so they would become activated when the nuclear reactor would run.
This was a power-type full mock-up, but we never took it to power,
we just took it to zero power.
Then after the run was over, we'd go in with Scott air packs and all
those crazy things. I've had four children since I worked there, and
they're beautiful children. We had no idea what we were going to do
to ourselves, but we used to climb into these things. They used to
keep good tabs on us as far as blood counts and all those things are
concerned. They had some notions as to what the medical plateaus were
that we could reach, as far as radiation doses were concerned.
So we pulled these wands, these foils out, and measured them and so
we were able to map the neutron density in the cores, so we could
then take this data back to the theoreticians and ask them whether
this was the right thing or not. So we would analyze the performance
of the reactors based upon the theory that was being generated by
the scientific group. We were constantly bringing new information
to the engineering people as they were developing, they continued
developing this station.
So we were writing what we called the PRW cookbook, pressurized water
reactor cookbook. So we were writing a book on how you build the nuclear
reactor and [what] all the criteria and the parameters were associated
with it. So it was a great team to work with. I mean, we got to work
As a matter of fact, we finally got the configuration that we were
going to ultimately use. Duquesne Power and Light was the electric
company that was going to operate this. The overseer of the whole
operation was General [Hyman] Rickover on the Naval Reactors Board.
We were responsible for the start-up of that nuclear reactor and the
training of all the Duquesne Power and Light people.
I was selected to ride shotgun when we brought the fuel elements from—we
built them in West Mifflin, part of Pittsburgh which is just south
of—this is in Allegheny County. But to get up to Shippingport
it was about 150 miles, so we had to transport all these fuel elements
up there, and the scientists had to go with every convoy, because
if there were an accident and a truck would fall into a lake or a
pond, you could set off a reaction, because these were water-cooler
reactors, and they slowed the neutrons down by the water. So I was
selected as riding shotgun on these convoys, was one of my first tasks
after we were finishing the analysis.
Then I was actually on the start-up team. I was just one of the team
members that worked with the Naval Reactor Boards who were the "Rickover
Rockets," we used to call them. They were Navy officers who were
going into the nuclear sub groups. They would oversee the whole government
operation, when we were training Duquesne Power and Light Company.
So the interesting part about it is, we had worked all the critical
facilities. I mean, we worked the full-scale mock-ups, so how you
pull the rods out of the core, and how you get the core started up,
and what happens when you get a hot spot, and things of that sort.
We knew what to do. Not by any other means than by empirical techniques.
We learned the bad way, unfortunately.
So we trained these crews. It was interesting, because at that point
in time then we had to sit behind the operator and, boy, that was
one of the most difficult things we ever did, was sit behind the operator
as they were doing something. We had to tell the Naval Reactor Board
person to tell the Duquesne Light and Power person what to do. [Laughter]
That what they were doing was wrong. Oh, God, that was frustrating,
but we had to work through that chain.
It was a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, I was in graduate school
at the time at Carnegie Tech. I had to drop out of graduate school,
because up in Shippingport in the wintertime it snows a lot, so there
were a lot of times we never got out of the facility. So I ended up
staying there six or seven, eight days at a time. But I was young
and fearless and it was great.
We brought it up to power. As a matter of fact, they've had three
or four cores put in it. I still believe it was the right thing to
do. I think we have to conserve our—find new ways for generating
electricity and power. We are a great consumer of electricity. Nuclear
power is one of the ways, not the only, for augmenting fossil fuels
and the like. I know it's a great controversy. I was on the other
end of it when I got into NOAA, what do you do with the waste material,
deep-sea bed disposal and things of that sort. I was on a U.N. [United
Nations] commission to figure out how we handle ocean dumping of nuclear
materials and the like. It was interesting to be on that side of it.
In the early days, we also had to write the safeguard manuals for
how do you safely operate a reactor. Westinghouse was very responsible.
I take my hat off to them at that time for how they handled it. We
did everything very conservatively.
Oh, God, this brings back memories. [Laughter] One day Rickover was
coming through, and I was working at my desk. I forget what I was
calculating. At those times we didn't have computers yet, and so I
was doing all these transport calculations using a Freidan calculator,
and sticking a number of coefficients into my equations and stuff.
I was busy working. I didn't even see the entourage walk in. Rickover
walked over to me and bent over in my ear and said, "Young man,
do you know what you're doing?" I think there was a wet spot
on the seat when I stood up and answered him. [Laughter] Jeez. Oh,
God. [Laughter] That was unbelievable. So that was a lot of fun.
Our first computer was a 650, IBM 650, and, we thought. manna from
heaven. By golly, get rid of these Marchands and Freidans. Freidans
made calculators. We actually had a machine that would do all the
computations for us. Well, that was another whole learning experience,
because there'd be nothing worse than you work all day getting the
run ready that you'd submit to the batch processing that they run
at night, and you come back and find out the next morning it was dumped
in five minutes because of an input error. Oh, God. There was a whole
day's worth of work that was lost because we screwed up on how to
use the computer. So then we learned. I learned about computers.
We had the 650 behind that. The 750, rather; 650, 704. Then we got
into all the 9600s and everything else. They sent me off to computer
school for a while to learn how to program these things. So that was
another interesting experience.
Unfortunately, that whole area went south because of the concern that
people had about nuclear power. Because the next project that I was
supposed to work on was called the A1W, and that was the first nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier that we were going to develop. That was a different
kind of a reactor. I was really enthusiastic about it.
What we developed were the pressurized water reactors. We used to
work with super-heated steam to go into the turbines and the like,
but we used to super-heat the water in a nuclear reactor, okay, through
the neutron interactions. That was a little dangerous in a sense that
not only did you have your nuclear problem, but you also had high-pressure
problems. We used to work at 500 psi [pounds per square inch], so
folks were pretty nervous about that, especially in a submarine.
So we were going to what was called a pebble bed, where we'd actually
have a boiler, so it wouldn't operate any higher than 212 degrees,
but you'd transfer the energy in different ways on that. So I was
really excited about doing that. Then the whole project went south.
Government cut out the money. The Naval Reactor Board didn't get the
money, and I thought, "Jeez, what did I do? I picked the wrong
field." So then I went back and thought, "Well, what do
I do with this?"
At that point in time is when, and I had mentioned earlier, I'd worked
in Fort Dietrick in [their] biological warfare. That was a great experience,
too. What our job was at that point in time—I'm glad they've
closed it all up, because, boy, that's scary stuff. From a physical
standpoint, if you take an agent, how do you take a biological agent
and have it arrested in such a way or dormant, then take it out in
the field, and then activate it? What do you have to do?
So we used to use processes called lyophilization process, freeze-dry.
You can freeze-dry agents and hold them in a freeze-dried state and
they're dormant. But then when you get them in atmosphere and you
start putting water into them, then they become viable agents. How
are you sure you're controlling—being a physicist now—how
do you control that distribution of those agents if you wanted a selective
group that you wanted to effect, okay, so that you don't have your
own troops affected by it? That was scary stuff. I'm glad they closed
that place down.
So that's one of the things I did there was—and we used to work
with an organism called E. coli. E. coli is not—the species
we worked with was not detrimental to your health, but you knew when
you got it, because you got dysentery. [Laughter] That's a hell of
a way to know whether you're successful or not. [Laughter]
At any rate, I was in a very unique operation, as a matter of fact.
It was mostly civilians up at Fort Dietrick. I was in a platoon of
people that were all scientists who all had experience outside before
they went in the Army. This was during the Korean War. There's another
war story, because I was in the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper
and got pulled out to go to this operation. I didn't want to be a
paratrooper, but I got to be one. I was drafted into the Army. I spent
the time in Fort Dietrick in that facility as—well, we were
working as lab assistants to the scientists in the lab. It was a rather
unique experience, but I would rather have spent it in another part
of the Army, like intelligence, where I spent the rest of my life
instead of something like that. [Laughter]
But I worked with a guy who had Y12 experience. He came from Oak Ridge.
Just at the time I was looking around for what to do with the nuclear
stuff, now that we'd seemed to have reached a stone wall, he got in
touch with me and said he was now out of working for the Army at Fort
Dietrick and he was working for American Machine and Foundry Company
as a contractor. That is the same thing we were all doing here, and
did I want to come to work with him. His ultimate notion was to go
out in business for himself, but did I want to come in and they could
hire me in American Machine and Foundry Company, which I did, and
went to work for them for a couple years, responsible for developing
nuclear instrumentation for the Navy as a contractor.
Then Pat and I decided to put our own company, and I gave you the
war story on that one, and we did it. I don't know, things just always
seemed to fall into place at the time I needed them. Life is strange
that way. They come from places and in ways that you never think they
were going to come. I never thought I—as a matter of fact, when
I went to work for NASA, I thought I had to change my whole approach
to life, because we were delivering these chambers, and even though
I was the executive vice president, I'm—guys later said to me,
in recent years, "There's no problem that's too small for Calio
to solve." [Laughter]
I mean, I can't sit in an office. I had to be out in the field working
these things. I went to Los Angeles, worked with a construction crew
in putting the whole thing together, starting up the whole development,
worked with the engineers in the design. When we used to run in these
chambers, used to do them twenty-four hours a day, there were many
days I'd work twenty-four hours. People would come back to work and
they'd find me sitting out there either asleep in a chair or taking
some measurements on a test chamber, etc.
I had come to the conclusion my life had become a gun-barrel approach.
I was looking through a very small diameter, because I lost a lot
when I lost the company. I had not paid attention to my children and
my family. We divorced, and that was not a very pleasant time, it
all sort of collapsed at one time.
So I thought, well, I always wanted to go to work for NASA, anyway,
now that it was a changing point for me. So I applied and got the
job. That's why at the time I was ready, willing, and able to go to
Houston, because I was not married at the time. Things just happened
that way. [How did] I got off on that one?
There was another interesting one, too, on a Baldrige situation, talking
about having confidence in people that worked for you.
Jeez, wow, what time is it. Four o'clock?
You're kidding me.
Holy smokes. I'll let you people go. There was an issue at the time
when they were first commercializing the launch vehicles, which agency
should have responsibility for it, Department of Transportation for
the licensing of companies, Department of Transportation or Department
of Commerce. The Secretary said to me, "That's an issue on the
Domestic Council, so [I] want us to put together a pitch, and I think
we should do it."
I said, "Come on, boss. What do you want to do that for? We don't
have that kind of expertise, and we're not responsible for transportation.
It's just another vehicle."
"I just want to do it. I don't believe that Department of Transportation
will do a good job. I think it's a commercial responsibility."
"Yes, sir." I said, "You're just pouring good money
I got a lecture from him on being a quitter. He said, "What's
the matter with you? You're a quitter."
I said, "I'm not a quitter. You know that."
He said, "Well, I want the President to know that everybody sitting
around that table is not in agreement with him that th[is] should
go with the Department of Transportation. Now, once he makes a decision,
we'll do it, but in the meantime, he's got to know where everybody
around that table is. None of this managing by mediocrity."
So I put the pitch together. So the week before we were ready to go
over and have the meeting, he got wrapped up in something, and so
I didn't get a chance to brief him as much as I normally did. So we
were coming down to the day and something else happened and he said,
"Well, bring the pitch with me, and as we're going over in the
car, and you tell me what I'm supposed to say in this pitch."
So we're going over in the car, and it isn't very far from the Commerce
Department to the White House. It must have been a fifteen-minute
ride. So we're getting out of the car, and he said, as we were walking
up to the side of the West Wing, he says, "You know, you know
that stuff better than I do. Why don't you pitch it."
I thought, "Oh, my God, I can't believe he did that to me."
[Laughter] But that's the kind of man he was and I learned a lot.
I learned a lot. So that's a good note.
Well, it certainly sounds like you've had a very interesting career
and you've learned a lot all along the way.
Yes. Well, not enough.
We thank you so much for sharing all of that with us.
Okay. Hope it helps.