NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
E. "Ed" Smylie
Interviewed by Carol Butler
17 April 1999
Butler: Today is April 17, 1999. This oral history is with Ed Smylie
at the Marriott in Bethesda, Maryland. The interview is being conducted
for the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, by Carol Butler,
assisted by Rebecca Wright.
Thank you for joining us today.
Thank you for inviting me.
To start with, let's talk about how you became involved with NASA.
How did you find out about the opportunity? How was the interview?
Along those lines.
I was working for Douglas Aircraft [Company, Inc.] in Santa Monica,
California, at the time that NASA was formed. That was probably a
little bit after NASA was formed. This was in the late fifties, early
sixties. I was working in environmental control for the DC-8 airplane,
ended up there because my brother worked there. When I finished my
master's degree at Mississippi State, I went to California to work
for Douglas, a fantastic engineering organization, a very, very good
company. I was very happy there, but when they announced the Apollo
Program, Douglas was late getting into the competition. They teamed
with G.E. [General Electric Company], lost to North American [Aviation,
Inc.], and it appeared that Douglas would have no significant role
in the Apollo Program. I very much wanted to be a part of it.
Also they announced the move to Houston [Texas]. I had worked in Houston
when I first graduated from college for almost two years. That's where
I met my wife. She was from Texas. So we decided that maybe we would
try to join NASA [Manned Spacecraft Center] in Houston.
NASA was building up very rapidly. They announced interviews in Los
Angeles in, I guess it was early '62 or late '61. I went to interview.
The person who interviewed me was the manager of the NASA resident
office in St. Louis [McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, Missouri]. For
the life of me, I can't remember his name. Anyway, he interviewed
Within a week or two, I received an officer to go to St. Louis or
go to Houston to work in what was then called the Life Systems Division
[LSD]. I, of course, chose Houston because that's where we wanted
to go. I knew none of the people there, had not met any of them, but
I moved to Houston and reported to the Lane Wells Building, one of
the satellite facilities that we had in Houston at the time. We'd
not built the Center yet. I met Dick [Richard S.] Johnston and Ed
[Edward L.] Hayes and Jim [James V.] Correale [Jr.]. Stan [Stanley
C.] White was the division chief at the time, Doctor. Dick was his
deputy. Ed was running, I guess, all of the environmental control
They told me I was going to be head of the JSC Environmental Control
Section, and my office was down the hall, laboratory on the left,
and sent me down there. I still didn't know anybody. Walked in the
door, Joe [H. J.] McMann came over and shook my hand and said, "May
I help you?" I said, "I'm your new boss." That's how
I joined NASA.
That's quite a story.
And Joe still tells that story. So it was a start. Right away I got
involved in the Mercury Program. John Glenn's flight was about two
weeks later, I think. I got there—when was John's flight? February
the 12th, something like that?
February 20th. I joined February 12th. So I got to see John's flight
and got involved in a controversy among two of my employees about
who was going to sit on the control console. I had to decide that.
They told me that was my job to make that decision. I hadn't even
met one of them.
What a way to start.
That's the way we ran the agency in those days. They just told you
you had to go do it. So that's how I joined and started.
Did you go down to the Cape [Canaveral, Florida] and watch his launch?
No, I watched it from Houston. Frank [H.] Somonski [Jr.] was our guy
on the Control Center, on the console, for the Environmental Control
System [ECS] at the Cape. That was before they had formed the Chris
[Christopher C.] Kraft [Jr.] Flight Ops [Operations] Directorate,
and most of the people on consoles came out of engineering. Shortly
after that, they did form the Mission Operations Directorate to become
the responsibility for conducting missions, and Frank had to make
a choice as to where to go, and he decided to stay in engineering.
So they would pull people from engineering, then, to make up that
mission operations team?
Right. There was a core group under Chris that were missions operations
folks, but on the individual consoles it was largely people from engineering.
But then they established that as a separate discipline, flight control,
in a separate organization. It worked very well over all these years.
As you came in, in the midst of the Mercury Program and, as you said,
Apollo had already been announced, what were your immediate duties
in the brief span of time you did work on the Mercury Program?
I did work on Mercury all the way through all the flight program.
That was run by Kenny [Kenneth S.] Kleinknecht, a very simple management
format where we had regular meetings and he established action items,
and every week we got together and went over our action items and
how well they were being accommodated. It was a relatively small program,
actually. One man could run it pretty much. Kenny ran that program
We had some problems with the ECS that had to be worked. It was a
very simple manual open-loop system. There was almost no data available
to the crew or to the ground as to how the systems performed, and
it was a very manual operation. The suit cooling was on the basis
of boiling water in vacuum with a little valve and you just had to
guess at where to set that valve. It only took just a fraction of
a degree to change the way that it operated. We were measuring the
suit duct temperature, which was a very inaccurate way for him to
At one of the meetings in St. Louis I suggested we put a thermocouple
on the dome of the heat exchanger, which is the same way that your
home air-conditioner works, to control what's called super heat. We
did that. I've forgotten which mission we first put it on, but that
worked very, very well for the rest of the Mercury Program. Frank
and I have a patent on that. No, we don't, not on that, a separate
The water separator to collect condensate was a sponge, and every
now and then you'd hit a switch to compress the sponge and supposedly
push the water off into the tank. The sponge didn't seem to be collecting
any water, any condensate. Frank and I developed a—we surmised
that the water was bypassing that sponge and it was clinging to the
duct wall in zero gravity, so we put a wick in a little device that
would pass water but not air, and put that in line. Lo and behold,
it collected the condensate and we were able to wick it off into a
tank. We have a patent on that. Not that it's worth anything, but
we have a patent.
Oh, sure it is.
So that worked. That was interesting in the way we did business in
those days, because we showed that to John [F.] Yardley, who was the
McDonnell guy responsible for Mercury, and he said, "Let's try
it." We built it in my shop. I put it in my briefcase, took it
to the Cape, handed it over to a McDonnell technician. They ran some
tests that I supervised, and we put it in. I mean, that was it.
That would take a year to do in the current way that we manage programs.
In the first place, putting anything in a system, that's a contractor's
responsibility, the contractor would say, "Okay, it's your system
now. We're no longer responsible for it." That didn't happen
That's great. Helped get what needed to be done, done.
For the twenty-four-hour mission, we had to add a lot of expendables.
We had to increase the lithium hydroxide [LiOH], we had to add oxygen,
had to add water. We finally got a working CO2 [carbon dioxide] sensor
in that mission. I remember that after the hold, that CO2 absorber
was buried out in the spacecraft, to change it, probably a much delayed—Kenny
Kleinknecht called me in. I think Kenny and Deke [Donald K.] Slayton
and me and maybe Bill [William M.] Bland [Jr.] were in the meeting,
and Kenny says, "Do we have enough to make the mission?"
And we had run many, many tests on those kind of systems and I said,
"Yes, I think we have enough to make the mission." Kenny
said, "Okay. Let's go." That was the meeting. And we made
it, just barely.
That's the important part, that it was made.
On the last orbit, the CO2 level started going up. Our CO2 sensor
We probably could not have made another revolution with that system,
but we made exactly—but a lot of things were running out about
then, so it was time to end that mission, and we did make the twenty-four
hours. That's probably about it on Mercury. I was not involved in
suit development. That was really behind us by the time I arrived,
and it was pretty much an offshoot of a Navy pressure suit. Didn't
have any real requirements on it other than being able to operate
pressurized in a confined environment just like an airplane cockpit,
so it was not significantly different, I don't think, but I wasn't
involved in it at that time.
Looking back a little bit, actually before you arrived at NASA, Yuri
Gagarin had been the first man in space, and Alan [B.] Shepard [Jr.]
had gone up into space. When you heard about those events, what were
your thoughts at the time?
Frankly, I don't remember about Gagarin, what I thought. I know I
was there and I know it happened, and I was probably excited about
it, but I just don't remember.
Alan Shepard I do remember. I was at Douglas. We were all gathered
around a drafting board with a small radio, listening to it. I was
very, very excited and pleased about it. But that didn't affect anything
about what I would do until [President John F.] Kennedy announced
going to the moon and the move to Houston was now decided, and Douglas
not involved. I decided I had to go somewhere else. I still have a
lot of friends at Douglas, by the way.
Oh, good. That's good to hear, that you have those connections. When
you did hear Kennedy's announcement or challenge to go to the moon
by the end of the decade and return, just after Alan Shepard's flight,
little space flight experience and knowing the technology of the time,
obviously you were interested in being involved in the program, but
what did you think about the possibilities of meeting that goal?
I was a young engineer and just wanted to be there and help make it
happen. I guess I didn't give a lot of thought as to whether we could
or couldn't. I just assumed we could, and went down there.
Good assumption. It paid off for you.
Moving into Gemini, I know you said you were only involved very briefly
on Gemini. What was your involvement on that?
Jim [James A.] Chamberlin was running the Gemini Program, and he had
a small project office at that interface with McDonnell. Jim didn't
feel that he needed or wanted a lot of in-depth engineering support
from an engineering organization, and we, frankly, were interested
in Apollo, so we really didn't do a whole lot. We got called in occasionally,
or sometimes we pushed our way in, in a consulting role, with the
person who Jim Chamberlin held responsible for the ECS, but very little
involvement with McDonnell.
Of course, the suits were part of Crew Systems' responsibility. We
changed the name somewhere along the line. In the sixties, having
an acronym LSD wasn't all that great, so we changed it to Crew Systems
somewhere along the line.
[Laughter] Good choice.
Anyway, Jim Correale was primarily the Gemini suit person and kept
up with that part of the program. That was GFE [government furnished
equipment] from the division, but I wasn't really involved in it.
I was not into the suit business yet. That came later in Apollo. Of
course, the division was deeply involved in the EVA [extravehicular
activity], EVA planning, but again that was Jim Correale and Dick
Johnston, not me.
We had divided up the work about that time. Jim was division assistant
for Gemini, I was division assistant for Apollo. I worked Apollo exclusively.
Jim worked Gemini exclusively, other than when we thought there was
some synergism or overlap between our activities. So the things that
we learned on Gemini EVA were very important to Apollo and did transfer
over in terms of how you do particularly zero-G EVA, not lunar EVA.
So we learned a lot. In fact, the Apollo Program benefited in a lot
of ways from the Gemini Program, but mostly in the areas of docking
and flight control and things of that sort, not so much in ECS, although
a lot in the EVA. But my involvement in Gemini was quite minimum.
Thank you for that, overview of the Gemini, at least. So in Apollo,
you first became involved with that just about as you were starting?
Yes, pretty close. It was sort of transition from Mercury into Apollo.
I don't know exactly when and how that all happened. It was just sort
of a natural changeover from Mercury to Apollo. I don't know what
the percentages were over time, but we had to do both at the same
What were your roles and responsibilities during your work on the
Apollo Program, or at least initially to start with?
Well, initially it was environmental control system for the command
module [CM] and, a little later, the lunar module [LM], and then very
early on involved in what we ended up calling the extravehicular mobility
unit, or EMU, which is a combination of the suit and the backpack.
We started that program off to build a prototype. I don't think we
had any idea how large that program was going to become, because our
first contract was just to build a single prototype, was under a million
We had no specification. The only spec we had was Kennedy saying,
"Go to the moon and come back." I remember us trying to
evaluate proposals. Me and Dick and Matt [Matthew I.] Radnofsky and
Walt [W.] Guy and Jim Correale and Ted Hayes sitting around saying,
"What are we supposed to do with this system? Does it get out
on the moon, look up at the Earth and get back in? Does he walk around?
Does he have to walk? Does he have to pick up any samples?" Nobody
had told us. We didn't have any specification of what to do on the
moon, and we were off developing a system. So we made it all up.
Worked pretty well.
Over time, you know, we began to get experiments, tools, and so forth,
so over time the specification developed, but at the start there was
nothing. We had to make it up. The proposals we got from that initial
procurement, I may not remember all of them, but they were teamed
in a way that the best suit proposal and the best portable life [support]
system [PLSS] proposal were on different teams. Being, I guess, not
all that conversant with procurement policy and how you did things,
we picked the best PLSS and the best suit and told them to get together
and make a new team. That didn't work very well. We eventually had
to split it up. We became the integrating contractor, and we had a
suit contractor at ILC [International Latex Corporation] and a PLSS
contractor [United Technologies] Hamilton Standard. That's another
story that would take another two hours to tell.
Well, hopefully you can break that down.
But we eventually made it.
What were some of the specifications on the suit? Can you give us
little details about what were things that you looked for in selecting
Let me think about that a little bit. Let me go back even a little
earlier, the fact that there were no specifications. I think the first
RFP [request for proposal] probably was one or two pages long, so
to build us a suit and a backpack that would work for a couple of
hours and could walk around in, whatever. I don't know. I don't remember.
But what happened over time is that it was clear that we were going
to become essentially the third contractor. Crew Systems had become
the third contractor in the Apollo system. There was the command module,
the lunar module, the EMU.
A man named Joe [Joseph P.] Loftus [Jr.] in the Apollo Program Office
suggested that we needed to develop a top-level spec and have a contract
with the Program Office on what we were going to do. Joe, coming out
of the Air Force, was familiar with an Air Force project management
system that we adapted and had G.E. support helping me with some of
the configuration management and documentation and so forth. I enlisted
Joe Fernandez [phonetic], who was leading that G.E. effort, to help
me develop the spec, so we worked with the Project Office and with
our people over probably a month or six weeks or maybe longer to develop,
in effect, a specification as to what that system would do, and got
the Apollo Program Office to sign off on it.
So from then on, we operated in a contract mode with the Project Office.
If they wanted us to do something different, they had to process a
change to their spec. If we thought we had to do something different,
we had to go to them and process a change to that spec. I don't have
a copy of that spec. I assume it's around somewhere in the archives.
I'm sure it is.
But that made it a much more businesslike proposition, even made it
easier to work with the astronauts, because they always had things
they wanted to have done or changed, which was fine. Most of the time
what they wanted to have done was the proper thing to do, but it put
the discipline in that if you changed that spec, you had to process
the documentation to do that. So you knew what the baseline was all
It was a work in progress all the time, because, as you know, the
first foray on the moon with Neil [A. Armstrong] and Buzz [Edwin E.
Aldrin, Jr.] was very short. Turns out we had more capability and
we were retaining more contingency than we needed, and we were able
to continually increase the time on lunar surface and the number of
EVAs. We added an extra water tank. I think we added extra lithium
hydroxide over time, more oxygen. We increased the contingency capability
and were eventually able to do seven hours. We reached the point where
it was a workday. You couldn't go any more than that. When you get
up to seven or eight hours, that's about as long as anybody can work,
especially under those conditions.
And we eventually got it there. Then we had the interface with the
lunar rover, where we were now much, much further away, so we had
to increase contingency capability and we developed the buddy system,
at George [M.] Low's suggestion, where if we had a system malfunction,
you would connect the two astronauts together and they would share
the system on the way back to the lunar module. So all of that was
developed between the first EVA and the last foray on the moon.
Very versatile that the suit you would be able to just, without making
very major changes, be able to help it grow to meet the needs.
You can rely on it.
That's great. As you were working with the suit, the EMU, you were
also involved with the environmental control system, as you said,
in the command module.
Right, and the lunar module.
And the lunar module.
The lunar module came a little later, but not much later.
What were those systems and the needs, and how did you evolve those?
A lot of it was heritage, of course, from Apollo—I mean from
Mercury and Gemini, although I believe Gemini used molecular sieves
for CO2 removal and we used lithium hydroxide in both the command
module and the lunar module, a chemical that reacts with CO2 to form
lithium carbonate and water, is the reaction… There [were]…
differences between the command module and lunar module, [the] number
of people, amount of time, and the means of heat rejection. The command
modules had radiators for which we were responsible in the Crew Systems
Division, and the lunar module used water boilers. The water boiler
in Mercury, as I mentioned earlier, was sort of marginal in being
able to control it and operate it.
We developed, with Hamilton Standard, something called a porous plate
heat exchanger, which actually sublimated water rather than boiling
it, through a porous plate. It's worked much, much better. So that
was a new development. It was strictly experimental. I funded a couple
of research activities at Rice University [Houston, Texas] to try
to theoretically describe the performance, which we were never able
to adequately do, so we based it strictly on experimental results
with that system, which made Dr. Gilruth a little nervous. He tried
to get me to explain that several times. I never could, to his satisfaction.
But it worked.
The radiator was a special problem in the command module ECS, because
translunar and transearth, you're out of Earth orbit, and the spacecraft
can get quite cold on one side and quite warm on the other. We came
up with what we call the barbecue mode, so the spacecraft continually
rotated all the way to the moon and back, to try to even out the temperatures.
Even so, in low heat rejection loads, the radiator got quite cold.
I believe—I'm sure it was Walt Guy that probably came up with
the initial idea of what we called a freeze-thaw radiator, that just
let it freeze, and it would freeze selectively and, therefore, reduces
capability to reject heat. When you got more heat in, it would thaw
out and would begin to work again. That was another one that was hard
to describe theoretically, but we were finally able to, and made that
work. I give Walt a lot of credit, and the people at Ling-Temco-Vought
[Inc.] at the time. I guess it was still Ling-Temco-Vought then. That
was the radiator contractor, and they kept that business all the way
through the Shuttle Program. They still do radiators for the Shuttle,
and will probably be doing radiators on Mars some day.
It's their specialty.
Those were the major differences, I think, in the means of heat rejection.
Most other systems and things were common. I tried to make the lithium
hydroxide canisters common between the command module and lunar module.
We had two separate contractors, AiResearch [Division, Garrett Corporation]
and Hamilton Standard, and two separate prime contractors, North American
and Grumman [Aircraft Engineering Corporation]. It was just too hard;
couldn't make it happen. It was okay, turned out okay. It was a matter
of system optimization. Grumman and Ham Standard insisted that their
approach to the design of the canister was lighter weight, and weight
was a very, very large problem on the lunar module.
I tried to get the suit hoses common so we could take the suit hoses
from command module to lunar module when we went over, and not have
to put suit hoses in the lunar module. Couldn't make it happen, for
probably good reason. Those were some of the things we were trying
to do in those days to get commonality and reduce cost and reduce
weight. But it all worked out.
The role in ECS development was different from the EMU. The EMU, we
were the contractor. The government furnished equipment, we contracted
for and we delivered to the Program Office. In the ECS world, we were
support to the Project Office. It was a very important role that we
signed off on all of the qualification of the system that both North
American—I keep wanting to say Rockwell [International Corporation]—North
American and Grumman, neither of which exist anymore, it's now Northrup
[Grumman Corporation] and Rockwell—Boeing [Company].
But we had a lot of input, a tremendous amount of support. I spent
a lot of time at Downey [North American] and a lot of time at Grumman
at [Bethpage] Long Island [New York], interfacing with my peers, who
were responsible for developing the system. Generally very much a
team relationship. We were not directors [with them] responding to
direction; it was more of very much a team relationship in how we
got that job done between ourselves and those two contractors. It
was a good relationship.
Everybody was just working together?
I think we made some good contributions to the work. I think that
the radiator, as it developed, was primarily due to the work that
we had done, that North American implemented and agreed with eventually.
But our role was support for the Project Office and not responsibility
for "delivering" the system.
With the command module there were two different—there was the
Block I and the Block II. Was there a difference in the environmental
control system for those between the two different blocks or was it
significant if there was?
If it was significant, I don't remember what it was. I know there
was a Block I and Block II spacecraft, but the only real change I
can remember was in the urine collection system which had nothing
to do with Block I and Block II, it was just another one of these
sponge devices, some that didn't work on Mercury, and I insisted we
get rid of it, and finally succeeded in getting rid of it, and put
in what we use in airplanes, just dumped it overboard and not try
to collect in a sponge. Managed to get rid of that.
I'm sure there were some other changes, and that's the reason I tried
to call Frank Somonski, to ask him what they were, but I didn't get
hold of him.
Hopefully you can get a hold of him later, and if so, we can add in
a few little paragraphs.
You've mentioned a few of the different aspects of the ECS, the urine
collection, the lithium hydroxide, and so on. It may be good here
to do just a general review, if we could, of all the different aspects
of the ECS, what that entailed, each of the steps, if that would work
for you. [Laughter] I know that might be asking a lot.
That's sort of hard to describe in words, without viewgraphs. [Laughter]
NASA can't give a briefing without a viewgraph machine.
But in both systems there were essentially two loops in the environmental
control system, one for the cabin and one for the suit. In the cabin,
it was mostly a heat exchanger and a fan that just absorbed the cabin
heat and rejected it either to the radiators or to the sublimators
in the lunar module, and circulated air in the cabin. Very simple
In the suit loop was where we had the lithium hydroxide to absorb
the CO2 produced by the crew members and a heat exchanger to collect
the metabolic heat. This is when the crew is in their suits, hooked
up with hoses to this closed loop that absorbs CO2, condenses out
the metabolic moisture produced by the crew, and collects the heat.
That's metabolic heat that is produced by the crew member. It also
isolates the crew member from the cabin, so if you get a cabin depressurization,
you can pressurize that loop and pressurize the suit, and the crew
member is protected. So it was a contingency in case of a loss of
cabin pressure. But those were the primary functions, was to reject
heat, collect CO2 and reject it, or collect it, and to collect condensate
and get rid of it.
The other functions that we were involved in, like biomedical instrumentation,
measuring the crew EKG [electrocardio graph] and other factors that
the doctors wanted to measure when we developed that hardware, those
electronic systems, over time, that we used in both Apollo command
module and the lunar module. A lot of crew equipment. The survival
gear we were responsible for, life rafts, all the stuff that we had
if they landed in the jungle and had to survive for some period of
time, or landed in the ocean and had to leave the spacecraft and get
in a raft, was all the equipment that we provided directly to the
Early on we had the food responsibility. That was later transferred
to the medical directorate. Initially, all the medical—when
I first joined the agency, when Stan White was division director,
division chief, that was all one part, medical and equipment. Later
they formed the medical directorate under Chuck [Dr. Charles A.] Berry,
and some things like the food were there. It was considered more of
a medical thing than it was something for us engineers to worry with.
There were probably a lot of other things, but I don't remember what
they were right now.
Well, that's a good overview, and I'm sure there's a record of what
Yes, there's a stowage list.
As the Apollo Program was moving along and the initial command module
being used was the Block I and was going to be used for Apollo 1 (AS-204)
with Ed [Edward H.] White [II], [Virgil I.] Gus Grissom, and Roger
[B.] Chafee, were you involved with any of the training for the crew
or then, when the accident happened, any of the investigation following?
Turns out for that year I was not there. I was at MIT [Massachusetts
Institute of Technology] in the Sloan Program. I went there in June
of '67. The fire was in January of '6, I think.
Yes, that's correct.
I was at MIT. I called Dick and said, "I'll leave here and come
back." He wouldn't let me, made me stay at MIT to finish the
Sloan Program, so I didn't get back until June, after that fire. So
a lot of the recriminations that went on in the congressional testimony
and all of that, I was not involved in. So when I came back in June,
most of that was behind us, and the work that was going on then was,
"Let's get on with the program." So there wasn't a whole
lot of recriminations going on at that point as to who was responsible
or what happened, and I don't think we ever knew or will know exactly
I got involved in the redesign. Frank [F.] Borman was running a task
force at Rockwell, and they sent me out there for—I guess it
was to North American, sent me out there for about six weeks. I really
worked with Eberhard Rees, who was the technical person running that
redesign effort. Eberhard, I think, at the time was deputy director
of Marshall [Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama], and one of
the Germans, a wonderful, wonderful man. I think—in fact, I'm
sure that he died last year.
So I spent about six weeks out there. We really didn't do a whole
lot, I don't think, in environmental control systems, except tighten
up specifications, tighten up testing procedures. A lot of materials
changes. A lot of what went on was hatch redesign and materials changes
and procedure changes, particularly pre-launch procedure changes.
That's another thing I tried to call Frank about because I don't remember
exactly what we did, but our biggest concern was 100 percent oxygen
at 14.7 psi. We had to be at 100 percent at 5 psi when we got to the
moon, or else we had a terrible problem of pre-breathing before we
could go out on the moon. So I'm pretty sure we launched with a mixed
atmosphere, but I don't remember the details. At launch, I think we
had a 60-40 atmosphere in the command module to reduce the fire danger,
but how we got to 100 percent oxygen, I don't remember.
But anyway, I came back in June, didn't have a job, and Max [Maxime
A.] Faget hadn't decided what he wanted me to do. He was all involved
in the redesign and was not focused on that, so I got an office next
to Dick—and kicked somebody out and took the office next to
Dick, and said, "Nobody talks to Dick till they talk to me."
What was happening, morale was very bad. I think what was happening
is that nobody was taking Dick any solutions; they were just taking
him problems. He was getting pretty harried. I don't know whether
he admitted that when you talked to him or not, but I could see that
it was really having a hard time, because nobody was giving him the
kind of support he needed. So I got in between and said, "We
don't go see Dick until we have a recommendation as to what to do
and not a problem to be solved." So that ended up being my job,
because nobody gave me one.
Well, it seems like it was a good job to move into.
So the big effort, though, was developing fire-retardant materials.
Started off as fireproof, but fire-proof in 100 percent oxygen's impossible.
Stainless steel will burn at 100 percent oxygen if you give it enough
heat. So we were working on fire-retardant.
If you look at the Block I spacecraft, there was Velcro everywhere.
If a fire started anywhere, it would progress everywhere because there
were no fire breaks. So a lot of what we did was just be sure that
we got discipline in there, that if a fire started, that it ran out
of fuel very quickly. So you didn't have concentrations of things
that would burn. We developed materials that were quite fire-retardant.
Teflon-coated fiberglass that we use, I guess, to this day, throughout
the spacecraft was very, very difficult to get it to burn. That was
used to cover almost everything, including the life support system.
So that was a lot of the work that was going on, was materials work.
Matt Radnofsky and his team deserve a lot of credit for being able
to bring new materials so quickly into being.
I guess about August of 1968, I began working with the man at North
American who was responsible for the arrangement inside the command
module, and was—mostly command module. Lunar module was a little
simpler, although we did build a lunar module test vehicle and set
fires in it to be sure that it wouldn't progress, and the same with
the command module.
I can't remember the name of the guy at North American that I worked
with, but he and I developed some material to go to a change board,
and he and I got up and said, "We can't make this thing fireproof.
We can only make it fire-resistant, and we've got to decide that's
what we're going to do and get on with it."
Gilruth agreed with that, and that's when we really began to make
progress and began to come together, because up until that time, I
think people were still focused on fireproof and not fire-retardant
and fire-resistant, and being sure we didn't have concentrations of
material that would burn and spread throughout the spacecraft. That's
about it, I guess, on Apollo 1.
Sounds like you made some significant changes that worked out in the
Had a lot of people working on that.
You mentioned that at the time, of course, that morale was pretty
low, but it must have been good to see Apollo 7 go up and work so
well and be so successful.
Oh, yes. Yes, we were back on track.
What did you think when you heard the decision to then send Apollo
8 to the moon right at the end of 1968, with only that one Apollo
7 been before?
The way I heard about that was, Frank Borman came into my office and
said, "We've got to change all of the production schedules, because
we're changing me," from whatever mission he was on, "to
Apollo 8, and I need my suit sooner." So that's how I found out
about Apollo 8 going to the moon. You know, I just said, "Okay,"
and I sat down and wrote a change order. I got Joe Fernandez, I guess,
to write it, and I took it over to George Low and got him to sign
it, and I sent it up to ILC and we started building suits to a different
schedule. So that's how I heard about it. I thought it was wonderful.
That was one of the high points of the program, especially doing it
Do you remember watching and listening as they were going around the
moon on Christmas Eve?
Oh, yes. I was in the Control Center. I was not in flight control,
so I was up in the VIP area, watching it. I remember every bit of
Quite an accomplishment.
For the missions as they were building up, were you involved at all
with training for the astronauts, like suit issues and ECS issues?
Personally not a whole lot. We had a large support function for training
because a lot of the training was done in their suits. So what we
instituted was a mission manager concept, and I had a mission manager
for each mission. His responsibility was to support the training,
particularly the EVA training, not so much the training in the simulators,
but the EVA training, which there was a lot of. His job was to be
sure that the training suits were ready and the training PLSS's were
ready and available for training, to go with the crew wherever they
went, and keep that equipment ready and available, to report any problems,
to solve any problems we had. So we had a large support function in
The only thing that I initiated, I guess, before Apollo 11 was I did
not think that the crew, Neil and Buzz, had ever gone through a complete
start-to-finish mission simulation on the moon, like they were going
to be doing on the lunar surface, operating all of the experiments
and everything. I suggested to George Low that I would like to see
that done, that we go down to the Cape and we set up all the experiments,
that we put the crew in their training suits, training PLSS's, and
have them go through the whole mission. And we did that. Buzz and
Neil went through it from start to finish, and I was there and stayed
through that whole thing. Lasted several hours. So that was the only
training that I personally was involved in. I think that was a very
useful thing to do.
Basically a dress rehearsal for the mission.
A dress rehearsal of everything they were going to do on the moon.
We also went through some contingency things with them, for me to
be sure that they understood how to do the contingencies, and they
We had one change in the system shortly before Apollo 11. On Apollo
9, which was the only EVA that we did with that system before going
to the moon, we had a problem. The liquid cooling garment circulation
pump cavitated, and we were not getting circulation. We discovered
the reason for that was that in the reduced atmosphere we were getting,
oxygen was going through the tubing into the water stream and causing
gas to build up, oxygen to build up in the pump, and therefore to
quit pumping. So we had to find a way to get rid of that gas, because
we knew it was going to be there.
Actually, I think Langley Research Center [Hampton, Virginia] came
up with a material that would pass gas but not water, and we built
what we called a water-gas separator, that we bring back here by the
back. The idea was that when the ground could see that it appeared
that that pump was cavitating, in danger of cavitating, that we would
get the crew to, in fact, burp this thing. Had to push a little button
that would let the gas out. I had to call Neil and Buzz in on a Saturday
morning and explain to them that they had a new task to do on the
moon, which was to burp the water separator. If you listen to the—I
think if you listen to the transcript of that mission, you hear that
every now and then. The capcom [capsule communicator] would tell them
to burp the water separator. It worked for every mission. I have one
of those, and it's got two little connections on it and makes a very
nice pen holder.
Ah, very good. You've talked about EVA and the training for that,
and you also mentioned that in Gemini they had had several difficulties
with EVA and that helped in Apollo to learn. What were some of the
tools and techniques used in the Apollo EVA training? Did you use
the pool, the KC-135?
Used the KC-135. The pool is only useful—in the case of the
135, it was only useful for zero-G, not for lunar surface. So to any
degree that that was used, it was for the EVAs that were done out
of the command module. I at the moment don't remember whether we did
a lot of that kind of training. We did learn about handholds and things
of that sort on the command module, for command module EVA. That was
primarily to get experiments out of the service module and bring them
back to the command module. T.K. [Thomas K. "Ken"] Mattingly
[II], I think, did that. I don't remember how many others. Of course,
there was the EVA that [Russell L. "Rusty"] Schweickart
did on Apollo 9, but that was, I don't think, a very successful EVA.
And we did have the problem with the cavitated pump. But it did give
us the information we needed.
For the lunar surface training, Langley developed a one-sixth-G simulator
that, I think, was a counterweight-type system that was used some
to simulate one-sixth-G. We developed in the centrifuge, which doesn't
exist anymore, it's now a big swimming pool, but centrifuge had this
arm that went around and around, so we developed a way to use a sling
to support an astronaut at an angle, and you put an angle in the centrifuge
so that in this sling the normal force on this incline was one-sixth-G.
They could walk all the way around the centrifuge, just walk as long
as they wanted to, all the way around, essentially walking at one-sixth-G.
That was to give them a feel for how the system would perform in terms
of the amount of traction they had and so forth at one-sixth-G. So
that was used quite a bit. Other one-sixth-G training I don't recall.
A lot of the training was in places like volcano-type places that
might simulate closely the terrain on the moon, but that was only
one-G, not one-sixth-G. So the only two, one-sixth-Gs [trainings]
I remember was the one at Langley and the one that we did in the centrifuge
You mentioned that you were involved with the dress rehearsal training
for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for Apollo 11. When they actually
went and did the EVA, do you remember where you were and what you
were thinking at the time?
I was still in the VIP viewing room in the Control Center, watching
it all, for the mission. George Low was running the program at the
time, and he was there. Of course, we landed on the moon and they
were actually going to go out, and George turned to me and said, "Are
you ready?" I said, "Of course I'm ready." [Laughter]
You'd worked all that time and you were ready to see it.
Well, when you think about it, is there anything that I would have
done, that I haven't done, before these guys do this? And I couldn't
think of anything, so I figured we were ready.
Wasn't anything else to do.
Must have been rewarding to see it all come through as well as it
And the system worked.
The system worked and you met Kennedy's goal, his challenge. As the
missions went on, Apollo 12 was pretty successful, especially from
a standpoint with your division, and then there was Apollo 13 that
had quite a few challenges with the explosion in the oxygen tank.
What was your involvement with that and bringing the crew back?
Well, I guess that was our fifteen minutes of fame. I think that was
on April 14th or April 13th, I guess, that it happened.
My recollection, in fact, I actually went back to some notes on this
one. About one o'clock on the 14th, 1 AM on the 14th, we had realized
that we had to do something about CO2. My first baseline solution,
and I think the one that Mission Control was carrying, was to continue
to operate the command module suit loop thing, had the hoses extended
into the lunar module to absorb CO2.
That probably would have been a power problem in the command module,
because we're the ones who shut the command module down. I think me
and Jim Correale and probably Dick [Richard E.] Mayo concluded that
there was a way we could probably use the command module canisters
in the LM, and our first thought was to use the liquid-cooled garment
and the tape, liquid-cooled garment bag, plastic bag and the tape,
to tape the command module canister on the suit outlet hose in the
LM, just blow the air through. That was what we were working towards.
Somebody, I'm not sure who, suggested that it would be better to put
it on the suit inlet hose because you get warmer air and moister air,
which makes the chemical work better. That was a better solution,
They said that would suck the bag down against the canister and block
the flow, and that's when we came up with the EVA cue card from the
flight plan to form an arch. So that's what we began to work toward.
Early that morning I called both Downey and Kennedy and asked for
some canisters to be sent so we could test that. We found them at
the Cape, chartered an airplane. Grumman chartered an airplane, I
guess, or North American did, and flew them up, and we had them that
afternoon. I got Art [H.] Hinners, who ran our test division, to begin
to set up a test to test that.
In the meantime, we began to work procedures. I think Correale and
I built one. We began to develop procedures, and we got hold of T.K.
[Mattingly]. T.K. was busy doing other things, and he assigned Tony
[Anthony W.] England to work with us on developing procedures to send
up to the crew on how to build this thing.
We got the test going, proved that it would work, and I believe—I've
forgotten what day, whether it was the 14th or 15th, that we instituted
it in the lunar module. The CO2 level was about seven and a half millimeters
by then, which was getting up to the range that you could get concerned
about, and in thirty minutes it dropped to three-tenths of a millimeter,
so it didn't take long to solve the problem.
Our plan was, we were going to need four of those to do the job, and
we had two, one on each suit loop, and we were going to have to build
two more. Harley [L.] Stutesman suggested that why don't we just tape
the other two onto the first two and not try to build more of them,
but that will probably work. We tried that in the test and it worked,
so that's what they did. So we didn't have to build the other two;
we just took the tape and taped the second one onto the first one.
It all worked. We had other things to worry about, water and power,
oxygen, but the big one was lithium hydroxide.
It must have been quite a challenge to develop procedures that you
could just read up to the crew and have them understand what to do.
It was pretty straightforward, even though we got a lot of publicity
for it and [President Richard M.] Nixon even mentioned our names.
I always argued that that was because that was one you could understand
nobody really understood the hard things they were doing. Everybody
could understand a filter. I said a mechanical engineering sophomore
in college could have come up with it. It was pretty straightforward.
But it was important.
And we were pretty proud to have been able to do it. If you read the
book and look at the movie, it sounds like I did all of that. I went
back and looked at the list of people that I identified were involved,
and there was probably sixty people involved in one way or another.
A lot of contractors. There were probably thirty or forty contractors
that set up that test to run it. So it takes a lot of people to do
something like that.
And make it work.
You mentioned that you were working at 1 AM at one point on this.
Can you tell us about the atmosphere at the time and how you ran things?
Did you just grab sleep on the fly? Were you at the Center the whole
First I heard about it on the radio at home and went out to the Center.
Don [Donald D.] Arabian—Don's sort of a wild man, but also very
smart and able to generate a lot of activity—had set up a war
room, and we all gathered there and were going through what all the
things were that we had to worry about, what the problems were, and
what had to happen and so forth. Don was sort of running that and
was handing out action items. I don't really recall whether we decided
the CO2 was a problem or we just looked at expendables in general
at that point, but that's what we did probably from the time I got
there around 10:30 until I went back to the division around 1 AM,
and began to look at the problem in detail.
My short recollection is that—and Jim Correale was there—is
that sometime in the middle of the night, I said, "Jim, you stay
here. I'll go home and sleep for two or three hours and I'll be back,"
so I was back at 6:30—I guess I probably went home at 4:00—and
sent Jim home for a little while. So he and I sort of worked back
and forth the rest of the time. It had reached a point, by the time
we got the test going and so forth, that it was one of just grinding
Maybe a little human interest thing, Fred [W.] Haise lived three doors
from me. The press was camped all over his doorstep. We had woods
behind our houses. Fred, Jr., and my son were good friends. We took
Fred, Jr., over the fence, brought him down to my house, and kept
him for three days, and kept my son out of school.
That must have been nice for the family to know that he was being
taken care of and not having to worry about the press.
I took Fred out to the Center and showed him the test we were running,
to make him comfortable his dad was going to be okay.
They couldn't leave the front door without facing the press.
You said there were other issues, of course. Were there any specific
ones that you'd like to approach?
I had people in what was called Building 45, which supported the Mission
Control, and we were just carefully watching the expendables, use
of oxygen, water. Power was somebody else's responsibility, but we
were using a lot of the power, so it was a matter of carefully monitoring
that. But it turned out that we did have enough, so it was something
you had to keep an eye on, but turned out to be okay. I think other
things, power in particular, were much more difficult to manage, rather
than what we were doing. So our main one was the CO2.
And all the systems did pull together and everybody made it work and
brought the astronauts back safely.
Yes. I guess the other concern we had was whether the command module
would fire up again after it had been cold-soaked for three days,
but it did.
Were you involved in any of the tests on that?
Your division worked closely with the EECOM [Electrical and Environmental
Command Officer] in Mission Control, is that correct?
How did that relationship work? Would they call on you for assistance
at certain times?
Yes, they would call on us. They had worked their procedures pretty
well. They did more procedures work, actually, than we did. We were
engineering support. Primarily I was in the Project Office, a little
less so to the EECOM, because by the time I got to the EECOM, it was
a developed system. I think the working relationship was generally
pretty good. I guess from time to time we got to the point where we
figured they had more people working the problems than we did, and
we felt we were undermanned and they were overmanned. But actually
it all worked out all right. I don't recall any significant incidents
or problems between ourselves and them.
As the rest of the missions progressed, Apollo 14, 15, 16, 17, in
fact, in later ones, they began to add, as you mentioned before, the
longer time and the lunar rover. How did your role evolve, or were
there certain incidents for any of the missions that really stand
Well, we go back to even before Apollo 11, there was a lot of concern
about whether the suit-PLSS combination really would be able to perform
on the moon all the things that we wanted to do. We just didn't know,
because you really couldn't determine that on Earth. The scientists
and mission planners really wanted to be able to do more than we had
planned for Apollo 11, and there was this unknown as to whether we'd
be able to with the system that we had, with the amount of mobility
and so forth.
So to back up what we were doing, the Project Office agreed to fund
two backup suit developers to develop a higher mobility system, and
we [contracted one to] AiResearch and one to [a] Division of Litton
Industries in Beverly Hills, actually, to develop…prototype
suit[s] that would produce better mobility than the suits we were
getting from ILC. And they did. The suits really did produce improved
mobility. They were heavier, they were bulkier. There was a significant
problem in stowing them in the command module. After we had done Apollo
11, we realized that [the ILC] suits would do the job that we needed
Another element of the mobility suit was competition between a more
mobile suit with a more capable PLSS versus a lunar rover, so there
was competition there between which we would proceed with. At a meeting
in Washington [D.C.] somewhere along the line, we made the decision
to go with the lunar rover, which I supported, that that was the right
thing to do, and so we decided the ILC suit was adequate, combined
with the lunar rover, to do everything we needed to do. So we did
not proceed with those suits that AiResearch and Litton had developed.
That came back again in Skylab as a possibility to use those in Skylab,
but we never did.
A thing that people maybe don't realize is the number of constraints
that we were working with, with the suit. As you recall, they put
on the suit in the suit room before they got in the command module,
and so that suit had to operate as a backup in the command module
and you had to be able to wear it three across in the command module,
you had to stow it in the couches, outside the envelope of where the
couches would go on the land landing, and had to interface with the
lunar module, the lunar surface. It had so many constraints and interfaces,
more interfaces than almost any other thing in the program that we
had to design to. It wasn't just lunar surface we were designing for.
We were designing for that whole spectrum of things they had to do.
The new suits that we developed at AiResearch and Litton would have
been a real problem to stow on the command module, the couches, because
if the command module landed on land or even a hard landing on water,
those couches would have to compress the stress into the space below
the couches, so you couldn't have anything under there that was in
that envelope. It was very hard to get those suits into that envelope.
That was the main thing against the hard suit. We'd have loved to
have a hard suit on the moon. Couldn't get it there.
One change we made between Apollo 7 and Apollo 11—yes, Apollo
11—we had a joint up here in the arm between the elbow and the
shoulder which allowed you to move your arm this way [a hammering
type motion that allows the elbow, upper arm and shoulder to rotate].
It's hard to describe audibly. Wally Schirra was convinced that he
couldn't operate in the command module with three guys side by side
with that joint, because it added an inch or so on each side. So we
had to take it out. So the baseline going to the moon was without
When the Apollo 11 crew was announced, I called all my guys in and
said, "What's the one thing we can do for this crew to make their
job easier?" And Charlie [Charles C.] Lutz said, "Put that
joint back in." It was really too late. We had qualified it.
So I went to George Low and to Neil with a proposal that we put the
joint in one of their suits. They had two flight suits, a flight suit
and a backup suit. Put it in one of them and not in the other one.
We proceeded to qualify that joint, and if you qualified it, they
would use it. If we didn't, they would use the backup suit. That's
what we did, and we qualified it. All the flights from then on, everybody
but Wally could operate in the command module with that joint. You
know, Wally didn't need it. He wasn't going to go on the moon. He
didn't need that joint. So we got it back in.
I've forgotten where we were in this discussion.
No, that's fine. We're moving right along. As you were looking at
the suit issues and for functioning on the moon and working on the
moon, you also were involved somewhat in developing the tools, is
that correct, that they would use?
Not a whole lot. Maybe more than I remember. We had a group under
[William E.] Feddersen that was involved. He was a psychologist involved
in tool design to some extent. We certainly were involved in evaluating
tools. I believe the Flight Crew Support Division was more involved
in the actual tool development than we were at that time. I think
if you look at the Crew Systems today, there's much more involvement
in tools than we were at the time. But we were very much involved
in evaluating them, being sure that they interfaced.
The glove was always the big problem with the suit, and still is to
this day. It was the most difficult design problem because you've
got to provide thermal protection. It makes them very bulky. And the
fact that they're pressurized makes it difficult to grasp things.
So tools had to be developed that could be operated with those bulky,
very awkward gloves. Every time I try to do anything in the yard with
gloves on, I think about those guys trying to do that on the moon
with those gloves.
Quite a challenge.
There were concerns about—in fact, as the Apollo mission was
being planned, no one really knew what the lunar surface was going
to be like, whether it was going to be firm, whether it was going
to be soft and they'd sink into it, the composition or any of that.
There were also issues about contamination, whether the astronauts
could bring back germs. Were you involved in any of those discussions
or in the plans for them to come back and wear the BIGs [biological
isolation garments] and the trailer to stay in isolation?
I guess we did. Come to think of it, I'm not sure. The back contamination
suits that they put on in the command module before they came out
of the command module and into the van on board the carrier, there
was concern about contaminating the moon, that some scientists were
quite concerned about, and the fact we were leaking oxygen out of
the suit, possibly germs onto the moon, we were going to contaminate
We had people trying to come up with ways to put the suit in a bubble
so that the stuff that leaked out didn't get on the moon. I mean,
it got pretty wild. So, a lot of wild things going on that we had
to damp down. There was one scientist didn't like the silicon tips
we had on the gloves because that was going to contaminate the rocks
that they were picking up. That was one place where my spec helped
me. George Low sent it to me to resolve, and I send him a note back
and I said, "Silicon is about as nonreactive as anything I can
come up with. And I said if you want me to do something else, process
a change to my spec." He dropped that. [Laughter] He dropped
But back contamination, back to the Earth, other than the procedures
and, I think, the back contamination suit that they had to put on,
and keeping the suits in quarantine at least on Apollo 11—I
don't know when we quit doing that, exactly.
I think it was after 14.
We couldn't get to the suits. Well, we had to send people in to get
the suits, in between. No, I don't recall a whole lot of effort in
Were there any other aspects on the lunar Apollo missions that you
were involved in or that we haven't touched on at this point?
Let's see. Which mission was Alan [L.] Bean on? Twelve?
Twelve. Apollo 12.
I think when Apollo 12—just a small incident in how fast my
guys were picking up on things. I believe it was Alan, getting ready
to go EVA. Pete [Charles C. Conrad, Jr.] was already on the moon.
We had what was called breakthrough in the sublimator, began to get
water running out, and he noticed it and said, "We've got water."
We were afraid we had a failure in the PLSS. I was in Building 45.
No, I was in the MOCR [Mission Operations Control Room], what's called
the MOCR, which is in between Building 45 and Mission Control.
Harley Stutesman called from Building 45 and said, "Bean has
kicked the door shut on the LM." I said, "How do you know
that?" He said, "The pressure's going up in the LM."
Of course, the pressure went up and the sublimator began to malfunction.
I passed that word to the guy running the MOCR, and he said, "How
do you know?" While I was explaining to him how I knew, Alan
Bean said, "Oh, the door's been kicked shut." He opened
the door and everything was okay.
Then we had to worry about how much water had we lost. It turns out
at Hamilton Standard they had a PLSS in an altitude chamber running
the same sequence that Bean was running, so we simulated what we thought
had happened and measured the amount of water we'd lost, because we
didn't have a well defined indicator, and determined that it was okay.
We could complete the mission. We hadn't lost enough water to cause
a problem. So that was one on Apollo 12.
[Apollo] 13, we've already talked about. [Apollo] 14, Alan Shepard.
Yes, we had a problem with the suit before 14, had nothing to do with
his flight suit, but we discovered on some of the suits that the bladder,
we were seeing cracking similar to what you used to see on tires in
California from ozone. We were getting these hairline cracks, and
we didn't know what was causing it. We mounted a big research effort
on that. I think we called in DuPont [E.I. du Pont de Nemours and
Company] and we had every chemical company in the country helping
us worry about that.
We discovered part of the formulation of that bladder was natural
rubber. Jim [James W.] McBarron [II] might remember this better than
I do. But we thought it might have been copper from some of the vats
being used at ILC to mix this stuff. Turns out that wasn't it. It
was actually there wasn't any copper there. It was actually copper
that was in the rubber that came from Indonesia that was causing the
problem, and it was a treatment we could make that would solve the
We also discovered, or examined all the suits for Apollo 14, and they
were okay, so they had not reached a point where we had to worry about
it. But I went down to the Cape to explain that all to Shepard, that
everything was okay. He wasn't particularly interested. He wanted
to know if we were going to get his razor ready. He had come up with
a wind-up razor because we couldn't use an electric razor. I don't
know where he got it from. We had to qualify it to be able to fly
it. We had to run it through outgassing to be sure it was safe. That
was his big concern, were we going to get his razor ready. We got
I guess since you were telling him the suits were okay, then he said,
"Well, if they're okay, then fine. Let's have my razor."
That was quite an effort to figure out what was causing the problem.
I may not have it exactly right. If you talk to Jim McBarron, see
if he remembers it exactly right. But it was something like that.
We'll ask him about that, because that's a good example of the intricacies
of how every system has to—even from back in the rubber in Indonesia,
it all has to fall together and meet the specifications to work out.
Apollo 15 was the first lunar rover, I believe. It was a good mission.
I don't remember any particular events on 15. [Apollo] 16, of course,
John [W.] Young and there's the back flip. That was exciting. I'd
just as soon he hadn't done that. [Apollo] 17 was a good mission.
I don't remember anything other than it just being a really good mission.
We never had a really significant discrepancy on any of the missions
for the suit or the backpack. They always did what they were supposed
to do, and we never had anything come up that caused a great deal
of anxiety or even any design changes after the mission.
That's good. I think that's probably nice to know that everything
had worked so well to build up to it, and then it worked so well on
the mission. That shows that everybody was able to pull together and
they knew what they were doing to make it all work.
We'll take a brief break here. [Brief Interruption]
As the Apollo missions came to an end, did you have any thoughts on
the program ending, or were you looking forward to the next task with
It was very much in parallel with what was going on with the Apollo
Program, as I recall. We were involved primarily, again, for the suits
and the support to the EVAs on Skylab and a lot of crew equipment
and experiments, Skylab experiments. So [unclear], not so much with
the ECS, environmental control system or Skylab was closer to the
Gemini system, I guess, than to the Apollo system, in that it used
The manager for that at Marshall was a man named George [D.] Hopson.
As far as I know, George is still at Marshall. The last time I talked
to him, he was, although it's been close to a year since I did talk
to him. We had a pretty good relationship with George, and we did
provide technical support to Marshall in the development of the ECS,
not unlike, but maybe a little more arm's length than what we did
on the command module and the lunar module for the Project Office,
because this was a Marshall program, not a JSC [Johnson Space Center,
Houston, Texas] program. To some degree, George welcomed our help,
and we provided it willingly. And he's a good friend. In fact, I worked
with him on one of the programs since Skylab, and most recently under
contract with George, actually.
We did support crew training. By then Marshall had a swimming pool
to do crew training in. We had the mission manager approach same as
we had in Apollo to support the crew training at Marshall. There was
so much interaction between JSC and Marshall, that we actually had,
I think, a Lockheed Electra that flew back and forth between Marshall
and JSC every day, because there was so much traffic. So you could
go to Marshall anytime to work with them, and there were a lot of
people going back and forth.
When the Skylab was launched and they lost the thermal shield, we
were probably at JSC the first to know, because we'd been working
with Marshall so closely. My manager, a guy named Larry [E.] Bell,
was my interface with Marshall. He worked for me. He came in my office
and said, "I just had a call from Marshall and they've got a
big problem," and described what it was. They began to ask about
ways to deploy a thermal shield, and we went to the mockup in Building
9 and measured where the airlock was, and began to build a thermal
shield almost before anybody else knew when the thing was happening,
because we were the ones that had all the capability to build fabric
things in the System Division. So we were well on our way as that
In my view, other than it was not a condition that put crew in danger,
the Skylab recovery was an equally significant event as was Apollo
13, in being able to pull that off in less than two weeks and salvage
Quite an accomplishment.
What we decided in Crew Systems, it turns out wrongly, was that because
of the buildup of heat in the workshop, that there would be outgassing
to the extent that they would have to depressurize the workshop before
deploying a shield. So we began to develop a shield that was like
a reverse umbrella, that they would depressurize the workshop, open
the airlock, push this thing out through the airlock, let it deploy,
close it up, and repressurize it. So we were not designing an umbrella
that would fit inside the airlock, but we developed one in a couple
of days. I don't remember the exact schedule. This is one I didn't
take notes on. In fact, a historian came to me and wanted to interview
me in the middle of it all, and I said, "I don't have time. You
can follow me around," and that ended that. I probably shouldn't
have done that, but that's what happened.
Well, you had to concentrate on the job.
We built something we thought would work under those conditions. We
tested it, and the umbrella we made, or the canopy, we punched holes
in because in atmosphere it would not deploy properly unless it didn't
have a lot of air resistance. So we had all these holes in it, and
we deployed it and it worked.
So I went over to Building 1 and got George Low and [Dr. Robert R.]
Gilruth, George [E.] Mueller, [Wernher] von Braun, everybody who was
anybody, to come see the solution, and they all marched over to my
building, and they deployed it, and it tore itself all to pieces.
They all turned around and left. I said, "Wha' happened, guys?"
They said, "Well, we thought the deployment spring was not strong
enough. We put in a stronger spring."
So we kept working for a while, but in the meantime they determined
that they would not have to repressurize the workshop and that Max
Faget was working on a design, who was my boss, that would fit inside
the airlock, and you would deploy it out and it would unfold. It had
all these pieces. Max called me over and said, "You've got to
stop what you're doing and support this one." I said, "Okay,"
so I did. We supported that one, that development, because we were
the ones that built the canopy to go on it.
One event I recall was we needed some quick disconnects. I forget
whether that was the one I was developing or the one that Max was
developing, but in any case, in the middle of the night, I think it
was Art Hinners came in and said, "We need these quick disconnects."
It was a Saturday night. He said, "We can't get anybody to answer
at the company."
I said, "Well, go to the library, open the library, go to Standard
& Poors [S&P], look up the company, find out who the president
is, and call his home."
They did. They called his home, got a babysitter. He was at a black-tie
dinner at his country club, and we called him out at the country club,
You did what had to be done.
He went and opened his factory in the middle of the night, either
built the parts or gathered the parts, I don't know which, but the
next day he arrived with a sackful of them.
Turns out we didn't use them. I don't know if we ever paid him for
Oh, my goodness.
But that was happening throughout industry. I think the whole U.S.
industry that was able to contribute was ready to contribute. No matter
what you asked for, you could get it.
Harley Stutesman, who was working for me, chartered a Learjet on his
own authority. He was a branch chief. That Learjet went all over the
country. We didn't use it as much as the rest of the program used
it to move stuff from one place to another to get that built. But
we moved all of the people from ILC who built space suits, all the
people, we moved a lot of the sewing machines and a lot of the equipment,
set it up in the centrifuge, moved the people down from Delaware,
and built the canopy to go on that system. Pete [Conrad] and—I've
forgotten who else was on that mission. Joe [Joseph P.] Kerwin?
I believe so.
Anyway, whoever he was, went up and deployed the canopy and it worked.
Later, Marshall deployed a different one in a different way, that
was a little bit better solution than the one we developed over a
ten-day period. That one saved the mission. I think it's a story in
That was one where we probably lost a whole lot less sleep than we
did on Apollo 13. A whole lot more sleep. Excuse me. In fact, Charlie
Lutz, we thought, was going to collapse, and we rented a hotel room
across the street and made him go over and go to bed, wouldn't even
let him go home. We weren't sure he was going to make it. He was directing
that whole business with the canopy.
A lot of dedicated people.
So we had a lot of involvement with Skylab, but not so much in the
ECS, more in the suits, the EVA, and the recovery from the loss of
the thermal shield.
Were you at all involved in looking at a modified command module for
a rescue ship and doing any modifications on how that would support
so many people?
No, don't even recall that.
There wasn't a lot done.
I don't recall that.
You mentioned the suits, that you were involved on the Skylab suits.
Was there any significant difference between those and what was used
on the Apollo missions?
They were pretty much the Apollo suits. Again, there was a move to
use either the AiResearch or Litton suit in Skylab, but we had a production
setup at ILC, we had an experienced crew, we had a qualified suit,
and we had everything in place. There was not enough advantage to
change suits to go through setting all that infrastructure up at either
AiResearch or Litton, and then build a suit. We didn't have a production
line, we didn't have inspection, we didn't have all the things, infrastructure,
it takes to produce things that we had at ILC, so we just stuck with
that. The EVA and Skylab was much, much simpler than what you had
to do on the moon, so it was pretty much, as I recall, the Apollo
suit. I don't remember changes, if there were any.
I don't believe there were any significant ones. As Skylab was actually
in progress, there were discussions that came up about a joint mission
between the United States and Soviet Union for Apollo-Soyuz [Test
Project, ASTP]. At what stage did you become aware of the program,
and how did your role begin and then evolve?
I guess there was an initial visit to Moscow by a few people. I think
I got involved on the second trip, though it might have been the first.
I really don't know for sure. But since it was clear there was going
to be a significant atmosphere and environmental control system interaction
and interface between the command module and the Soyuz, I got called
into it almost from the very beginning.
I made an early trip to Moscow with Chris Kraft and Gilruth, Glynn
[S.] Lunney, Caldwell [C.] Johnson, four or five other people, probably.
It was a fairly small group. For the initial discussions, even before
there was an "approved project." It was exploratory as to
whether we thought we could do it or not. So I was involved from the
beginning, pretty much, in developing both the designs and the procedures
for carrying out crew transfer between the Soyuz, which was a 14.7
Earth atmosphere, and the command module with 5 psi, 100 percent oxygen,
and how do you match those two environments, which led to the docking
module, which allowed us to make that transfer from one to the other.
The interface with the Soviets, from an engineering and technical
point of view, I thought worked very well. I was blessed with working
with an individual on the Russian side that was very open, very smart,
very candid, and we developed a very professional and friendly relationship
over the life of the time that I was involved. I left before it actually
took place, which he didn't like. It demoralized him when I left.
In fact, I think he left the program. I don't know whether it was
because of that or not. He was so independent-minded that I always
wondered whether the Soviets wouldn't just tick him off because he
was so independent.
There was the atmosphere and there was the nonflammable fire-retardant
issue, where they didn't worry about that; they just used what they
used because, number one, they had sea-level atmosphere and, second,
they just didn't worry about it. When we told them the cosmonaut could
not come into the command module without dealing with that problem,
we agreed to send them materials that they could evaluate, which we
did. But on the next visit, they had their own that they had developed.
I guess they just didn't want to admit that they couldn't do it, so
they had materials that were okay.
They operated under a system where they were not nearly as free to
share information with us as we were free to share information with
them, and it really amounted to anything that they gave us had to
go through some security apparatus before they could give it to us,
so it slowed things down and made it more difficult. I mentioned the
independence of the guy I worked with. He would just tell me what
it was he couldn't give me and until he got it approved, but then
he would tell me what it was going to be. So he and I worked together
In fact, he was the one that told—they had a mission failure
where they lost cosmonauts because of depressurized spacecraft, and
he told me, on my second visit, took me out and showed me all the
mockup, what had happened.
That is very open.
It was months later before they gave us a report that told us what
had happened, and it was the same thing he had told me.
You mentioned that you and he worked together very well. Were there
cultural differences that even with others of the team that you really
noticed or that made things challenging at times?
The food wasn't very good. [Laughter] Cultural differences.
Did you work primarily through translators?
Oh, yes. He spoke no English. I had studied Russian to try to learn
some Russian, but I'm not good at languages and it's a very difficult
language. So I learned enough to be able to ride the Metro and recognize
a restaurant from a liquor store and things like that, but I couldn't
carry on a conversation. So, yes, we had a translator. I had Natalie
Latter [phonetic] as my translator—interpreter is the right
word. She made sure that I understood that, that she's an interpreter,
not a translator. Later I had a different one, Marie—I can't
remember her name—who was also very good. Natalie was outstanding.
She had interpreted for Khrushchev and Kennedy. That's how good she
Must have been nice to know you could really depend on that.
An example of her being an interpreter was, a Russian gave a long
speech one time about—somebody asked him a question and he spoke
for maybe two minutes. When he finished, Natalie said, "He said
[Laughter] That's great.
I think then she went back and gave some of what he said.
But cultural differences, of course there were cultural differences,
difference in the government. My counterpart was a Communist, but
I think he was a Communist by convenience, rather than by any real
belief in it. He was a philosopher. He talked a lot about—"philosopher"
is not quite the right word. He was very interested in management,
wanted to know how we managed, compared to how they managed. He had
been a tank commander in World War II and had fought the Germans.
Was a very good friend.
Did you have the opportunity to—either while you were in Russia
or while he was in the United States, to visit each other's homes?
I never visited his home. I think his wife was in an asylum. I'm not
sure. He never admitted to that. But we did go to the home of one
of his employees who worked with us. It was a team. We were invited
to their home, their apartment, for dinner one night, which was very
nicely done. He was a young engineer, probably three or four years
out of college, had a small apartment and a baby, about three or four
rooms, but comfortable, in one of those nondescript big apartment
buildings that you see in Moscow.
We had the whole team to my home in all one visit, served them a Southern
meal—fried chicken, all that kind of stuff. They really appreciated
that. But mostly we went to restaurants for meals.
What was their reaction to coming to Houston and America? Was there
anything that they were surprised at, that they expressed to you?
Yes. In those days, when you look at film of Moscow these days, I
saw one the other day of the Gum Department Store with all
of these Western, Gucci and so forth, signs. When I was in Gum
in 1971, it was miserable. I mean, it was depressing to go in those
big department stores. They come to the United States, and their favorite
was K-Mart. I mean, look at everything you could get a K-Mart. They
spent all of their exchange rubles for dollars on buying stuff at
K-Mart to take home. Yes, they were amazed.
Moscow was very dark. Fly out of Moscow at night in those days and
look down, and you saw nothing. The streetlights were the old flat
pancake type, with a light bulb in the middle which shone down and
made a little spot about the size of this desk. That was the light
in Moscow. They came here, and all the parking lots and everything
is all lit up. My guy was sort of insulted by it all. "You guys
are using up all the world's resources." [Laughter]
That's an interesting perspective.
Yes. He didn't appreciate it at all, and the amount of oil that we
were burning to keep all those lights going.
That's interesting. Wow.
But from a technical side of view, from a technical point of view,
we worked well together. I don't know who gained more from it one
way or the other. It was a political thing anyway, is what it was
all about. They probably learned more from us than we did from them.
So I don't know. It was fun. It was a lot of fun.
Was there any anticipation that it might lead to future projects?
We hoped that it would, but it didn't. I guess we couldn't come up
with anything that made a whole lot of sense. Nobody was ready to
go back to the moon, nobody was ready to mount a big planetary mission.
I guess [the] Afghanistan [conflict] came along. We just never got
anything more going. I guess even in the middle of all of that, there
was still the bio satellite activity that was going on sort of in
the background nobody knew much about, but we were flying experiments
on bio satellite, the Russian missions that came out of Ames. So we
never quit doing some things together, but the big manned thing, no.
That was not in the cards at that time. The political environment
wasn't right from the beginning of the program. We were doing Shuttle
and weren't doing Space Station. Space Station might have been logical,
but we weren't doing Space Station. We were doing Shuttle.
When Deke Slayton had the opportunity to fly on Apollo-Soyuz after
he'd been selected as one of the original Mercury astronauts and had
been grounded, first, had you had any interaction with him? Then when
he did get a chance to fly, what was the general reaction around the
The reaction was elation that he finally got a chance to fly. I had
worked with Deke during the Apollo Program. Deke was running the Astronaut
Office since he couldn't fly, and so he was the one I worked with
on primarily suit schedules, who was going to be the crew.
Crew selection was quite secret. We had to know who was going to fly
long before anybody else needed to know, because we had to build suits.
He had to tell me, and we had to assign code names to the suits in
development or in production, although they had to go there to get
fitted, so there were people at ILC that knew who the crew was going
to be. It was one of those things where sometimes we knew before the
crew member knew that they were going to be on the mission. So it
was a very close relationship where Deke would share with me, and
we would have to assign code names and get it through and get production
started. So, yes, I had a lot of interaction with Deke, but by the
time he was assigned to [Apollo-Soyuz], I was in Washington by then
and was on my way. So, yes, we were very happy that he got to fly,
thought he deserved it. But I didn't deal with him on that particular
mission a whole lot.
Talking about Deke Slayton, and you've talked about some of the other
people that you've worked with up to this point. Are there any particular
people that just had such outstanding characteristics that made your
job easier or that you really depended on or interacted closely with?
You ask about astronauts. We always had an astronaut assigned for
suit development. Astronauts got assigned different areas to worry
about, and we always had one that worked with us, interaction with
the Astronaut Office on development of the suits and backpacks. Started
out to be Mike [Michael] Collins was the first one that I recall.
John Young, T.K. Mattingly. There probably were others, but those
are the three that I remember. I don't think Mike stayed with us a
real long time. He was very useful, very helpful. John and T.K. worked
at it harder than anybody. I mean, they were in the suits, they helped
do the qualifications, they contributed to the design. They were very
thorough. Two of the hardest working people I ever saw, particularly
T.K., although John was equally as hard working. John was a lot of
fun because he has a very dry sense of humor, and he would write these
memos to us. I wish I'd kept a whole set of them. One about where
it took three hands to do the zipper lock on the suit, and on your
third hand you do such and such. I wish I still had that memo.
T.K. was through, but very serious. To him it was a very serious job.
And always had a lot of good ideas. I worked with T.K. on a lot of
things since then. In fact, he worked for me at Grumman for a couple
of years on Space Station. So I think both John and T.K. are outstanding
Others on Apollo-Soyuz, Glynn Lunney. I think Glynn Lunney made Apollo-Soyuz
happen. I'm not sure we could have done it without him. He had the
right temperament and the right attitude and the right way of dealing
with the Russians, knowing when to be, I guess, gentle with them and
when to be confrontational. We needed to be confrontational with them
a lot. I think he pulled it off. I learned a lot from him.
George Low, of course, made Apollo happen. Without George Low, I don't
know that we could have done Apollo. They were the people that everybody
recognizes, like Gilruth. I think people like Chris Kraft is another
one, Dick Johnston, and people that worked for me. That was an incredible
team of people. I said somewhere in the middle of it all that my job
was not to motivate this crew, but to hold them back and be sure that
they thought things through before they did it, because they were
ready to go.
Walt Guy, Harley Stutesman, Charlie Lutz, Frank Samonski, Dick Mayo.
It's a lot longer list than that, that were just all self-starters,
you know. They didn't ever come in and say, "What should we do?"
They came in and said, "This is what we should be doing."
They made it happen.
A good team of people.
Matt Radnofsky, who's not with us anymore, and, of course, Correale
and Hayes. When I got to be division chief, Jim was my deputy and
he was outstanding in that he was—to some degree I was the good
guy, he was the bad guy, and when somebody came in, he was the guy
that just gave them fits about what they were proposing. Sat and listened
to all the arguments and here's the point, counterpoint. We made a
good team. So, yes, it's an unending list. I wouldn't know where to
That's a good team of people, and everybody worked together to pull
it all off.
You mentioned that you were in Apollo-Soyuz for a while, but that
you had moved on before Apollo-Soyuz actually flew, and you had moved
on to NASA Headquarters [Wasington, D.C.]. What were your roles there
and your duties?
I'm not sure how the idea of me going to Headquarters arose. I think
somewhere along the line I talked to Max Faget about doing something
different. I wasn't sure I wanted to be division chief for thirty
years. George Low had gone to Headquarters and probably I had worked
more with George than Max during the Apollo Program, because George
was running the Apollo Program. Max was not terribly interested. He
was interested. I don't want to give the wrong impression. Max was
the big spacecraft guy, and I was over here doing something different,
so he was going to let me do my thing. So I worked with George more
than I did with Max.
I guess George may have suggested me to somebody at Headquarters,
but, anyway, I had a call to interview for this position at Headquarters,
and I went up and talked to Roy Jackson and interviewed, talked to
George Low and two or three other people, and came back home.
One Sunday, actually, I think it was either a Saturday or a Sunday,
I was out fishing in Galveston Bay with my wife and another couple,
and the weather got bad and we came in. I called home to see if the
weather was okay at home, and my son said that I had a call from Roy
Jackson at Headquarters on Sunday afternoon. I called him back from
a pay phone, and he offered me the job as Deputy AA [Associate Administrator]
for Space Technology in Headquarters.
So we moved up there. When I arrived and went in to see Roy, he said,
"Welcome to Headquarters. I'm going back to Northrup [Corporation]
in two weeks." [Laughter]
Oh, my. [Laughter]
It wasn't something he wanted to do; it was something Northrup demanded,
because he was going to lose a lot of benefits if he didn't go back
to Northrup. So he left, and a guy named Ed Kilgore, who was his deputy,
took over as an acting, and I worked for Ed.
My job was space technology across the board, so it was a whole new
world for me, because I had to worry about propulsion and guidance
and control, navigation, materials, in fact, everything but what I
was used to, because the responsibility for space suits and environmental
control was in a different code. So that I didn't have, which was
what my whole background was. So I had to learn very fast about other
technologies. In fact, this was in November, and in January I was
testifying on the Hill, defending the budget.
Quick on-the-job training.
So it was a real learning experience, because I didn't know anything
about the political world. I was talking about technologies that I
was learning about on the fly. I was in the budget world, which I'd
never been in before to any great degree, advocating new programs,
working with Langley, Ames [Research Center, Moffett Field, California],
Lewis [Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio], and Dryden [Flight Research
Center, Edwards, California], which were Centers I had not spent a
lot of time working with, learning all about them. It was great. I
really enjoyed it, did it for a little over three years.
Ed Kilgore went back to Langley, I guess, is what happened to Ed,
and we got Bruce Holloway in as acting associate administrator. Bruce
was a four-star general who had been assigned to NASA, actually, after
he retired. He retired from the Air Force. He was head of SAC, which
is one of the really big jobs in DoD [Department of Defense], Strategic
Air Command. He had retired, and he came to NASA as actually the interface
between NASA and DoD. He ran a small office that sort of took care
of any interaction between ourselves and the DoD, particularly in
the classified world. They assigned him and asked him to come over
and run the office—they didn't think I was ready for it, and
they were right—until they could find somebody to take over
the job. So he was there for a while, and he was wonderful, a wonderful
man. I really enjoyed working with him, particularly because of his
background and experience. He was a P-40 pilot in Burma. He was an
original Flying Tiger. So he went from Flying Tigers to head of SAC,
[to a] sort of a low-level job, comparatively, in NASA. But a really
They hired Al [Alan M.] Lovelace to come in as the associate administrator.
Al came from the DoD, was head of laboratories, another really interesting,
great guy to work with and work for. I worked for Al for the rest
of the time I was there, until he was selected as deputy administrator
and they made me acting administrator. By then they decided maybe
I could carry on. They didn't quite give me the job; they made me
acting. So I did it for one budget cycle, I guess. Had both aeronautics
and space technology, so now I had to learn all about aeronautics.
I had told Al that three years at Headquarters was about enough, because
I felt you began to do the same thing over again after three years,
and I would like to go back to the Center. So I was actually at RPI,
reviewing some programs they were doing—Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute [Troy, New York].
And I was at the airport, flying home, and had a call over the loudspeaker
at the airport that I had a phone call, and I got on the phone and
it was Al offering me the job as deputy director at Goddard [Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland]. So that's when I went out there
and went to work for Bob [Robert S.] Cooper. Cooper came from the
DoD, actually from Lincoln Labs, was his real background, and they
felt they needed somebody in the deputy director job that understood
NASA and could help Bob get acclimated to the NASA environment and,
I think, to some degree to keep him under control. So I worked out
there for about three years with Bob again, in a different environment,
because we had everything from launch vehicles to scientific experiments,
to spacecraft, engineering, the whole network, another new experience
for me. I spent three years there.
Went back to Al after three years and said, "Okay, it's time
for me to consider coming back to Headquarters. I've been doing that
for three years." So the space tracking and data job came open
and he gave it to me, and I went back to Headquarters and sort of
took TDRS [Tracking and Data Relay Satellite] with me, because TDRS
was a Goddard program, tracking and data relay satellite program,
which turned into a real mess for us, a very challenging program which,
like the history of the EMU, is another book you could write on tracking
data relay satellite.
After I got back to Headquarters, we had to work out a way to restructure
that program to be a NASA program rather than a commercial program,
at least effectively a NASA program, which we did, and were able to
pull it off and it was a big success. That was probably the major
job at NASA Headquarters, was to make success out of TDRS, but also,
which I was equally proud of, was to increase the capability of the
Deep Space Network [DSN, operated by Jet Propulsion Laboratroy (JPL),
Pasadena, California] to support the Voyager mission on the way out
We succeeded in expanding the large antennas from sixty-four meters
to seventy meters. We put in new thirty-[four]-meter antennas at all
the sites and put in low-temperature receivers, worked out a way to
array the Goldstone antenna with the very large array in New Mexico
to increase the capability of the DSN and to array the antennas in
Australia with Parks, which was an astronomical telescope, to increase
the sensitivity and were able to get full advantage of the Voyager
mission. I felt that JPL did a very good job on that. My job was to
sell Congress on doing it, which we were able to do, and carry out
I had a deal with Jim [James M.] Beggs that after we got the first
TDRS up and operating, I could retire. Got delayed because of the
problem on the first TDRS when the IUS [Inertial Upper Stage] blew
up and it took us a while to get into the correct orbit, but after
that was done, I retired. And that was NASA. Although I have not gone
entirely; they've still got me on a working group back with Crew Systems
Division. I was just down there [in Houston] two weeks ago, reviewing
the programs, with still some of the people that I hired. They're
now learning the program.
It's good to keep the experience that everyone has and keep applying
it to current mission.
As you were at Headquarters, especially the first time you were at
Headquarters and you said you were involved in new technologies for
you in the propulsion and so forth, this was all for the Space Shuttle,
is that correct?
Space Shuttle was a piece of it, but, no, we were looking out beyond
the Space Shuttle. There were very advanced programs, although we
did revector a lot of our work toward Space Shuttle in those areas
where we thought Space Shuttle really needed help. So it was a mix.
It was not entirely Space Shuttle. Some of it was looking out beyond
What were some of those systems, if you could tell us in general?
Well, sticking with the Shuttle for a minute, Max Faget came to me
somewhere in the Shuttle development period and suggested that the
Shuttle represented a very good test bed for advance technology, and
that we should find a way to use the Shuttle not only as an operational
vehicle, but as a vehicle to advance technology both for the benefit
of technology and also for the benefit of the Shuttle. I thought that
was a pretty good idea and started a program called the Shuttle Experiments
Program at Headquarters, got JSC to assign a manager.
I set up working groups across the four research centers to come up
with experiments that we could run on the Shuttle and do advance technology.
That turned into a pretty good program. One was to put an infrared
camera in the vertical stabilizer of the Shuttle aimed at the top
of the Shuttle so that during reentry you could get a very accurate
measure of what the temperature field was like and find out from that,
number one, how close did it conform to wind tunnel and other experimental
data and theoretical data, to modify our design procedures, and also
if we discovered that we could remove some of the insulation, that
we could do that. Langley ran that program.
I made a deal with Mike [Michael S.] Malkin, who was running the Shuttle
Program at the time, to put wiring into the Shuttle to support that
experiment. He paid for it, and we paid for the experiment and we
paid for the modifications to the vertical tail to install that camera.
That experiment was run long after I left and, I think, was very useful.
Another one which was a little more speculative was to try to measure
what's called the windward-side temperatures at the bottom of the
Shuttle. That was an Ames experiment. Ames had an aircraft with an
infrared telescope in it that they used to do astronomy, and we devised
an experiment where the airplane would fly in an area where they could
use the telescope to view the Shuttle during entry and, from that,
measure the temperature field on the windward side of the Shuttle
during entry. I'm not sure how well that one worked, because that
was very difficult to get the airplane in the right place and get
the measurements. I really don't know. But that was one of the experiments
we were trying to do.
Another one was air data. The Shuttle didn't have a very good air
data system, and we sponsored an experiment to measure what the actual
parameters were of the shock waves and the air that was flowing over
the Shuttle during entry. So it was a hypersonic research vehicle
and we'd run experiments. So that was one thing that we sponsored.
We sponsored a lot of work—off of the Shuttle now for a moment—and
there might have been some other experiments that I don't remember,
ion engines. Ion engines are just now being used operationally. There's
this deep space [Deep Space 1] something mission flying now that JPL
sponsored, using ion engines. We were doing ion-engine research at
Lewis Research Center back in the seventies. We had a mission planning
activity in the science directorate. They wanted to go to Mars, and
an ion engine is perfect for a Mars mission. It's really the very
best way to do it. We tried to initiate an ion engine project office
to look at ion engines for a Mars mission, and just couldn't get the
money to do it. But we did keep the ion-engine work going, which,
by the way, is Dan [Daniel S.] Goldin's background. That's what he
did in Lewis. That was either before or after my time. I don't remember
him at Lewis, but that's what he was doing at Lewis.
We were working very closely with the Air Force on what they called
the Space Test Program, where they had a real program to test advance
technologies, which we didn't have. We had no good way to, in space,
test the technology we were working on. So I got a very close relationship
with a colonel named Johnny Brooks in the Air Force laboratory world,
and he and I traveled once a quarter to either a NASA facility or
a DoD facility to get updated on what they were doing, with the idea
being that we would eliminate duplication and develop cooperative
programs. Out of that grew a number of things that we were able to
do together, and one was to fly an ion engine on the DoD spacecraft.
Unfortunately, their program got canceled before we were able to do
We had a program at Ames called HMAT, Highly Maneuverable Aircraft
Technology, which was an unmanned small aircraft that was to test
really advance technologies on high maneuverability for like a fighter
aircraft, and we needed an engine. Johnny got me an engine, for nothing,
to put on that aircraft. So there was a lot going on, cooperation
between ourselves and DoD back then. I hope it's still going on.
We developed a joint composite program. Composites was very important
in those days. It was a fairly new technology. We didn't know much
about how to test it, didn't know much about how to be sure that when
you built a composite part, that it didn't have voids in it. So we
were doing a lot of work on composites. That was part of the Shuttle
experiments program, was to develop a composite flap with the Shuttle
and test it. It could save a lot of weight. We developed a composite
program with Boeing, I believe, to build some composite parts and
fly it on commercial airplanes, some of the noncritical pieces like
some of the flaps they use when they're trying to slow down on landing,
which, if it broke, it didn't matter, to get experiments from composites.
So there was a very large, both between ourselves and the DoD, composites
Even in those days we were working on GPS [Global Positioning System]
receivers, because GPS was a program just starting. We had the idea
that there ought to be a low-cost GPS receiver for general aviation,
so we started a program to do that, which turned out was unnecessary.
I mean, it was such a useful thing to have, the industry just did
it. They didn't need NASA fiddling around with it, but we didn't know
that in 1973. And there was no GPS. It was on the drawing boards.
The only real big project we started back in those days, I guess,
was something called LDEF, Long-Duration Exposure Facility. I presented
that. That was a Langley project. They were advocating it. I took
it on to get it through Congress, the OMB [Office of Management and
Budget] and Congress, and did. That program got approved and it eventually
flew long after I left.
I mean, most of the things I worked on in '73 through '76 happened
five or ten years later. They didn't happen while I was there. And
that's the way advanced technology is. In most cases, it's the person
in Headquarters who advocates it themselves and won't be around when
it happens, because those things have such a long lead time. They
stay there a long time, but nobody stays in those Headquarters jobs
for a long time, at least not at that level. In fact, when I was acting
administrator, associate administrator, I told—it was Frank
Panarada was my administrative guy, and I said, "I need some
history on this place. How about putting up in the conference room
a picture of all the associate administrators of Aeronautical Space
Technology so we'll have this historical perspective?" He came
back a week later and said, "Well, we don't have enough wall
space to put them all up." [Laughter]
[Laughter] Oh, my.
Because people had gone through there so fast. In fact, Jim Beggs
had that job for a while. So people move through there real fast,
and it hasn't slowed down.
Those are the ones I think of off the top of my head that we worked
on during that three-year period.
Certainly some significant ones.
There was a big emphasis, which Lovelace really ran and I just sort
of was around helping out when I could, but it was his baby, that
was back when we had the big energy crisis and energy savings became
the mantra. We even had an energy role in OAST, which eventually grew
into an associate administrator of its own for energy and answered
to Jack Schmidt. But anyway, aeronautical commercial aircraft energy
efficiency became the thing to work on, and so there was
a very large program on aircraft energy efficiency, both from an aerodynamics
point of view, from an engine point of view, and we had joint programs
with Boeing and Douglas [Aircraft Company, Inc.], jointly funded by
NASA and by those companies to develop—and with G.E., Pratt
& Whitney [a United Technologies Corporation Company], on developing
energy-efficient engines, energy-efficient aircraft, revisiting boundary
layer control, all kind of things to make aircraft more energy efficient,
which paid off in the long run.
The energy efficiency sort of went away as being important in itself,
but from an operating point of view, energy efficiency is extremely
important to the airlines, so a lot of that work did end up in the
engines and in the aircraft, and, along with composites, was a piece
of that, because composites makes airplanes lighter, better navigation,
just the whole spectrum of aircraft operations. From an energy efficiency
point of view, it was important. It was paramount then and is still
important, although NASA is now concentrating on safety in the current
program is the big thing, safety and air traffic control. Those are
the two things, to increase aircraft capacity and to increase safety,
which is getting to now, rather than then in our history.
History leads us up to now. What happens now is all based on what
happened then. It must be interesting for you to see this variety
of projects that you were pursuing here. Like you said, they happened
five, ten years later. Must be interesting when they do follow through.
Yes, it's very satisfying to see them actually happen.
And be successful.
And be successful. Right.
As deputy director at Goddard, you mentioned that again you went into
a job where it all changed for you, where you had to learn new tasks
and things. If you could give us an overview of what some of those
projects and roles were.
At Goddard. Well, I arrived the week that the TDRS contract was signed
with Space Com, and so right away we got involved in TDRS, which was
an experience in itself, because it was an entirely different way
of doing business. Theoretically we had contracted for service. We
were not on the spacecraft, we were not on the ground station. We
would require data that the contractor would provide as a result of
building that system. So they were to raise the capital to build the
system, and we didn't start paying them until they began to deliver
data. So there were no progress payments.
But it got a little bit colored as being a privately funded venture
by the fact that we used the Federal Financing Bank to provide the
funds, rather than Chase Manhattan or some investment bank. The reason
for that was, we got a lower interest rate by going through the Financing
Bank and got congressional legislation to do that. This all happened
before I arrived, but that was the mechanism by which this system
was to be built, was that the contractor, when they needed money,
would go to the Federal Financing Bank, draw down money, develop the
system, build it, deliver it, begin to deliver data. We would start
paying them and then they would pay the Federal Financing Bank back
and take their profit.
That was the theory, and that was pretty much the way we were doing
it, except we immediately ran into all kinds of problems, that the
spacecraft weight grew and we couldn't launch it on the Atlas, it
had to go to the Titan or the Shuttle, and Shuttle wasn't available.
We didn't know when the Shuttle would be available to launch it, so
we carried a Titan back up, and that was costing a lot of money. It's
a story in itself. If I tried to tell that whole story, we'd be here
till tomorrow, so I've got to stop somewhere.
Hopefully that's a story that some day can be recorded.
Well, in a way it has been. Bob Aller [phonetic], who succeeded me
in Headquarters, did a TDRS lessons learned symposium, and it's documented.
A lot of it is documented. If you want to pursue any of that, you
can talk to Bob Aller. I've got a copy of that, I think, of that TDRS
lessons learned, because I participated in it.
But to make a long story short, we eventually restructured that program
so it had a commercial service element in it that was going to be
used both for commercial service and to provide data to NASA. We eventually
had to get rid of the commercial service, and that was the big deal,
was to get rid of that commercial service part of it so it became
dedicated to NASA use, for several reason. One is, we now had a classified
program on it, which I guess is known, but I can't talk about a whole
lot, was using it rather than just NASA. And it was essential to the
Shuttle. If TDRS didn't work, Shuttle didn't work. So we decided we
have to have more control over it, so we did all that and took it
over, in effect, although it was still theoretically a commercial
program. Actually, when NASA and OMB began to play games with the
Federal Financing Bank financing—how did that work? Well, I
won't get into that.
So that was one program, and that spanned both Goddard and Headquarters,
because I took that with me when I went back to Headquarters. I didn't
take it with me, but I assumed the Headquarters responsibility when
I went back to Headquarters.
Delta launch vehicle was ours at Goddard at the time. We were launching
a Delta about once a month, about twelve a year. I had to sign the
flight readiness review, okay to go launch, on every launch, so I
had to review that program fairly regularly, although we had a whole
organization to do that and they came in and briefed me in about an
hour, did we think it was okay to launch or were there things needed
to do. But by the time it got to me, it was okay to launch. I mean,
they had worked out all the problems. All they had to do was go through
what they had done and we would okay it.
We had one experience that is interesting, which I guess is all right
to put in the record. We had a Delta on the pad at the Cape, ready
to launch, and we were doing a countdown demonstration in which you
went through the whole countdown, except the pyros [pyrotechnics]
were not armed, which are the things that destroy the spacecraft if
something goes wrong. Right in the middle of the countdown, we got
a command destruct signal came in from somewhere, which, if the pyros
had been armed, would have blown it up. So we shut down everything,
and [Robert S.] Cooper and I, who was [Goddard Space Flight] Center
director, got involved. "Wha' happened?" We couldn't find
any source of it.
Actually, we finally doped what happened, although I don't think they
ever admitted it, but there was an Air Force tracking ship in port,
and that ship had the capability to send that signal. We think that
a new commander was being toured on this ship and briefed on what
all the ship could do, and normally what they do, if they're testing
that signal, is, it goes into what's called a dummy load. It doesn't
go anywhere; it just goes into a resistor that's right there on the
ship. And then somebody hit that button on the ship, and we think
that's what happened.
But we were worried about Soviet submarines off the coast, and all
kind of things like that. "Where did this come from?" So
a few days later, we felt we understood the problem, had figured it
out, and it was okay to launch.
Wow. What a situation.
And we launched it. But that was an interesting time, figuring out
what happened there. That whole story about "Wh' happened?"
I don't think was ever formally known or admitted to or actually figured
out that that's what happened, it's only we can assume that that's
what happened, because it didn't come from us and we don't think it
came from a Russian submarine. [Laughter] But we did worry about that.
We lost a couple of Deltas here in my tenure, where a solid rocket
booster burned through. In fact, when the Challenger [51-L]
accident occurred, that was assumed that's what had happened, but
it wasn't exactly what happened, but similar to what happened to the
two Deltas. Solid rockets is an art rather than a science. You pour
this propellant and if you end up with a void somewhere, when the
rocket burns up to that void, it creates like a torch because of that
void, and then burning starts going horizontally and burns through
the case. That happened on a couple of Deltas where we had to go in
and modify the way we built some rockets. It's always a worry. A lot
of effort on nondestructive testing to figure out of you've got voids
in the propellant.
Science programs, [Hubble] Space Telescope, instrumentation. The instruments
were ours. The project was Marshall's. That was one of those experiences
of a big program being run by two Centers, all of the problems that
go with that, that we had to work through. We submit our budget to
Marshall, Marshall submits the budget to Headquarters, we hope the
same way we submit it, but not always. Working with them. And we had
to do the ground system for Space Telescope at Goddard, and the network.
There's a tendency in all programs, not peculiar to Hubble, where
when the flight spacecraft gets into dollar problems, they start stealing
money from the ground system to solve the flight system problems.
Did it in Space Station, did it in Shuttle, did it in everything.
So I don't want to blame Marshall for being different; that's just
what they did. They would cut our budget for development of ground
system to solve a spacecraft problem or, conversely, they would take
a function of what was to be done on the spacecraft, and rather than
do it on the spacecraft, push it off to the ground system to solve,
which would raise our cost. So we had to go through all of that.
We ended up, I think, with a much less than optimum system for Hubble
because of all of that, which I think as Hubble has developed and
they've gone through repair missions, they've slowly gotten it back
to optimum. I think it's getting very close to being the right system
that it should have been from the start, had not we had money problems
that we had. It's not peculiar to Hubble. It's the way program solve
Let's see. Hubble. International Ultraviolet Explorer [IUE] was an
interesting, good program because of an international program between
us and ESA [European Space Agency]. We had two Control Centers, one
at Goddard and one in Spain, and the spacecraft was in high elliptical
orbit, so for half the orbit we controlled it, and the other half
Spain controlled it.
It was the first spacecraft in which we had some elements of what
we call today telescience, in that the astronomer could come to Goddard
and he took over control of the telescope. He sat in a little Control
Center separate from the spacecraft Control Center, and he pointed
the telescope, took his observations, not unlike he would do at Palomar
[Observatory, California]. So we felt that was sort of a breakthrough
in the way you ran scientific missions.
Also a good international program and the biggest in-house project
Goddard had ever done, because we built that spacecraft in-house,
and it was a big spacecraft, half the size of this room, and was very
successful. Still operating, I think. I'm not sure. I think we've
turned over complete responsibility to ESA, and I think they're still
running it out of Spain. I'm not real sure about that. A very good
The Network, Science, Applications, LANDSAT, was going on then. The
big thing was development [of the thematic mapper] for LANDSAT [D],
with Hughes [Electronics Corporation]. I talked to Hughes once a month
in Santa Barbara [California]. That was a nice place to go. We eventually
moved a lot of the meetings to Los Angeles. A big instrument, very
complicated instrument, very difficult, always behind schedule. G.E.
was developing the spacecraft. A lot of time in Valley Forge [Pennsylvania]
interacting with G.E. on getting LANDSAT [D] done. That was the big
applications program, the big science program, Space Telescope, and
I guess IUE. There were a lot of others.
The network was controlling about twenty satellites, so we had a big
function in controlling and getting data from around the world because
we didn't have TDRS, so we had ground stations all over, all the way
around the world, Ascension Island, Spain, Australia, Guam, Hawaii,
California, Alaska. I can't remember where they all were. Bermuda
and Chile. I guess that's most of them. I guess that about covers
it. We had one in Botswana for a while, mainly for Shuttle, I believe.
We had to put one in Dakaar for the landing in Africa if the Shuttle
had to abort.
Engineering was, of course, the big effort at Goddard, but it supported
a lot of the programs. We were doing some advanced technology for
our own missions. Applications, science, engineering, programs, network,
launch vehicles. I guess that about covers it.
A little bit of everything.
A little bit of everything. Well, that was one thing that we used
to say, is that we had the scientists, so we could conceive an experiment
for the scientists, build the instrument, build the spacecraft or
get it built or manage it, launch it, have the network to support
it, collect all the data, have the scientists to write the report.
So we had it from beginning to end. Still got all of that at Goddard
except the Delta launch vehicle. We went somewhere else to get the
That's a pretty good system.
Yes. Some great scientists out there. In fact, I just saw in yesterday's
paper, they just discovered a solar system around a star in Andromeda,
and Steve Marin [phonetic] was talking about that. Steve was a young
astronomer at Goddard, and I guess he's now running the American Astronomical
Society. I don't know whether he's doing that or whether he's still
at Goddard or not. I think he's still at Goddard. AAS is a professional
society position. But maybe not. Maybe he's left and is on there full
time. He was one of our young astronomers.
That's pretty neat to see that follow-through.
Yes. I guess that sort of covers Goddard.
Looking back over your career with NASA, what was your greatest challenge?
Well, I guess the challenge of making it to the moon in the time period
we made it and having to invent things that didn't exist because there
had never been a requirement for it within that time frame, and put
together both the contractor and the government team to pull that
off was the biggest challenge. It was both a technical and a management
challenge, and I think we made significant progress in both.
The technical challenge was the most fun to be able to accomplish
that and to maintain the discipline to be sure that we did enough
to be able to accomplish the mission and not overreach and try to
do too much. It was the old cliche that better is the enemy of the
good. We had to know when we had it good enough and stick with it
and have the discipline to stick with it, and not have somebody talk
us into taking the next leap. That was part of the management challenge,
and the rest of the management challenge was just the size of that
team and the geographic dispersion of it and trying to bring it all
I think the leaders that put that together that way did it in a way
that ensured its success, because the philosophy they adopted—and
I guess it was people like Gilruth and George Low and von Braun, they
were able to divide that job up in a way that would minimize interfaces,
so that you could do your job and you had the minimum number of external
things to worry about, that you had to satisfy between Marshall and
JSC, for instance. I think George Low used to say there were ten wires
that went between the command module and the Saturn, and that was
the interface, the physical interface. So we took that on as a management
strategy that we'd work it out so that you can do your job and not
worry about somebody else's job any more than you absolutely have
I think that was a management technique that helped make it successful,
and I think the lack of that has been one of the problems with Space
Station, that the management challenge of Space Station has been immensely
more difficult than the technical challenge of Space Station. In many
ways, Space Station ought to be easy technically, but management-wise,
it is a horrendous problem, with all the nations and the Russians
and all the contractors and all the Centers. I worked on it for two
years at Reston [Virginia], and the management challenge was the challenge.
Hopefully that challenge can eventually be met.
I think they're going to get there. I talked to Gretchen yesterday,
and even though she's leaving, she thinks they're going to get there.
That's good to hear.
The other one, I guess, was TDRS.
That was a challenge.
Certainly. In reflecting on the challenges, what was your greatest
Same thing. Challenges go with accomplishments. We made it to the
moon on time, having that system work without failure, and getting
the first TDRS up and working, especially after it went in the wrong
orbit. There was another satellite that just happened to, I think
on the same launch vehicle.
I don't know how to call anybody to find out whether it was a similar
I believe they're looking into that now, how it will impact the future
In the wrong orbit. It sounded like it was on the same upper stage,
but I don't know.
When you were in college or beginning your career, would you have
ever expected where it would lead you?
No, not at all. I had no idea. When I finished college, I just needed
to make some money and get independent. Actually, I was supposed to
go in the Air Force because I had an ROTC [Reserve Officer Training
Corps] commission and was supposed to go to Wright-Pat [Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio], which I think I would have enjoyed,
but earlier I had spent a year in the Navy on a one-year enlistment,
and even though they had sent me orders to go to Wright-Pat and I
was not seriously looking for a job, all of a sudden I got a telegram
from the DoD, from the Air Force, saying that, "We have noticed
that you're a veteran, and therefore you don't have to report."
So they canceled my orders.
I had to go find a job right quick. [Laughter] But I'd done some interviews,
so I went to the Ethyl Corporation, actually, in Baton Rouge [Louisiana],
and worked for them for about eighteen months. Sort of boring. I was
in Houston and I went back to college and got a master's degree, and
that's how I ended up at Douglas.
But, no, I had no idea, and first began to think about things like
that when I was at Douglas because working on a brand-new airplane
is about as exciting to a young engineer as anything they could do.
So I began to think in those terms. I think if NASA had not gone to
Houston, I don't know whether I would have joined NASA or not. I don't
know. But Houston was one of the draws, because I'd lived there and
liked it. My wife was from Texas. That's where I met her, although
we're divorced. But that was where I met her. We moved back to Texas.
Are there any last thoughts that you have for us on this? Anything
that you wanted to say any last things about? Or anything we didn't
I think you've covered about everything. The only thing I might say
is that I still have a lot of regard for NASA, still am involved.
I have served on about five or six or seven—I don't know what
the count is—different working groups and committees, reviewing
NASA programs or helping review NASA programs. The first one after
I left the agency was for Jim Beggs, on Shuttle management, ran a
Shuttle operations management study, which was a lot of fun. And I
served on the Federal Lab Review, that happened under Johnny Foster
a few years ago. I was on the NASA Council. I resigned from that several
years ago, mainly because my dad was living with me, was in ill health,
and I just couldn't spend the time. More recently, they asked me to
come back to serve on a working group on advanced life support technology,
which I'm doing. So I stay involved with NASA and hope to stay involved
as long as I seem to be useful.
I'm sure you'll be able to be useful to NASA for many years to come
I hope so.
I want to thank you for joining us today.
Thank you for the opportunity. I'm very pleased to do that. This has
been fun also. You really tested my memory. I don't remember what
happened thirty, forty years ago. I sometimes wonder if it really
was the way you remember it or if you remember it the way you would
like it to have been. So I hope I didn't get too much of that in there.
I think you did just fine. I know it is certainly a challenge to try
and look back that far and remember details, but I think we've got
a good amount of information here today.