SETBACK AND RECOVERY: 1967
Lunar Science and Exploration: Santa Cruz, 1967
Following the pattern set by OSSA and the Space Science Board, Hess organized a summer study in 1967 to discuss lunar exploration. On July 31 more than 150 scientists and NASA officials met on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz to provide the expert advice NASA would need to conduct an effective lunar exploration program. The stated objectives of the conference were to prepare detailed science plans, establish an order of priority for lunar investigations, and recommend major programs to develop instrumental and technological support for the advancement or lunar exploration. Eight disciplinary working groups* were organized, each focusing on a different field within the range of scientific interest in the moon.
Unlike the Woods Hole and Falmouth conferences of 1965, which dealt with broader questions of lunar science, [see Chapter 3] the Santa Cruz conference concentrated on specifics. Hess tasked the working groups to prepare working papers on particular aspects of lunar exploration: the scientific requirements for lunar surface mobility and mission duration; the scientific use of lunar orbital flights; the scientific utility of planned major hardware items; and mission profiles for trips to the craters Alphonsus, Aristarchus, and Copernicus. Working groups were to study both manned and automated systems and to combine both modes of exploration to optimize the scientific return. They were to consider how to use current spacecraft and systems with minimal modification, or major hardware items already under consideration, not devise new systems that would require substantial development.29
Hess opened the conference by summarizing the results of the past two years' work. By way of assessing its own progress in attaining the goals laid out by the Falmouth conference, MSC had tabulated the recommendations made at Falmouth and the extent to which they had been implemented in a document called "Falmouth Plus Two Years, or How Much Nearer is the Whale to the Water?"** According to this tabulation, which Hess used in his summary, only 9 percent of the Falmouth recommendations for Apollo had been rejected (after consideration); 55 percent had been implemented and 8 percent tentatively accepted. Only 6 percent had not yet been acted on. The rest were in various stages of planning or implementation. For post-Apollo recommendations, no action had been taken on 29 percent, 9 percent had been implemented, and 62 percent were in various stages of study.30
After two weeks of discussion the working groups made individual reports and produced a consolidated set of recommendations. [see Appendix 3] On several points all the groups substantially agreed. For manned exploration the most immediate need was to extend the 500-meter (0.3-mile) range of an astronaut on foot to more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) by means of some kind of surface mobility aid. Some favored a wheeled vehicle; others preferred a one- or two-man rocket-propelled flying vehicle, which would enable the astronauts to take samples over a wider area and to explore peaks and valleys that a wheeled vehicle could not reach. All the working groups agreed on the need for long unmanned traverses on the lunar surface, for which a dual-mode "local scientific survey module" was necessary. Besides carrying the lunar explorers from place to place, this module would be capable of unmanned operation directed from earth, traveling across the surface from one Apollo landing site to another. Along the way it would deploy several small geophysical instruments and collect samples for return by the next manned mission. An unmanned vehicle somewhat like this was being considered, but the Santa Cruz conferees favored their own version, which was more sophisticated.31
To support longer stays on the moon, the scientists recommended that NASA develop the capability to launch two Saturn Vs per mission: one to carry the crew, the other, unmanned, to transport a modified lunar module carrying additional expendable supplies and scientific instruments*** To supplement the more flexible manned missions they proposed, the working groups recommended that a network of geophysical stations be established on the moon using improved Surveyor spacecraft or similar instrumented modules. Other recommendations for improving Apollo's scientific return included increasing the quantity of lunar samples returned to 250 pounds (110 kilograms), modularizing the experiment package so that instruments could be more easily interchanged to meet the scientific requirements of each mission, and developing the capability to deploy instrumented satellites in close orbit around the moon.32
In spite of MSC's efforts to be responsive to experimenters' needs, the scientists at Santa Cruz evidently felt that communication between investigators and engineers still left much to be desired. They recommended that a project scientist, preferably someone involved in the experiment, be assigned to each experiment to make sure that scientists and engineers understood each others' needs and limitations.33
Turning to the question of astronaut participation in lunar exploration, the Santa Cruz conference conceded the primacy of piloting skills in the choice of Apollo crews, but strongly recommended that the second criterion for crew selection be ability in field geology. On the later, more complicated scientific missions, the conference considered that "the knowledge and experience of an astronaut who is also a professional field geologist is essential." As far as astronaut training was concerned, the conferees insisted that "in the interest of maintaining career proficiency, astronauts should be provided time to engage in some form of research activity within their professional fields [emphasis in the original in both cases]."34 The latter point was particularly important. NASA was about to announce the names of a second group of scientist-astronauts and the conference was sending a message to MSC that this group should, from the start, be scientists first and pilots second.
Rounding out the summary recommendations of the conference, the working groups outlined in some detail a sequence of missions to follow the first few Apollo landings: (1) manned orbital flights around the moon to obtain better photographs of proposed landing sites and study the surface with remote sensors, (2) single-launch manned missions, and (3) dual-launch manned missions. Three exploration missions were sketched out. One would send two men to the crater Copernicus for three days, exploring and sampling the crater floor and its central peaks with the lunar flying unit. The second, a six-day voyage to the Aristarchus region, required a dual Saturn V launch carrying an unmanned lunar-traversing vehicle. This mission would explore the "Cobra's Head," a curious crater lying at the head of the sinuous rille known as Schroeter's Valley. Finally, plans were outlined for a seven-day mission to crater Alphonsus employing most of the exploration aids recommended by the working groups. Scientific objectives were spelled out in some detail for each site, and the conference report recommended that all these mission proposals be given immediate detailed analysis to test their practicability.35
As important as its scientific recommendations was the mechanism the conference set up for effecting them. Near the end of the second week Hess established a Group for Lunar Exploration Planning (GLEP)**** to work continuously with NASA mission planners to incorporate as many of the Santa Cruz recommendations as possible into the remaining Apollo and Apollo Applications missions.36 For the next few years GLEP and MSC planners would meet periodically to examine and refine mission plans.
Santa Cruz gave the Manned Spacecraft Center as much material for study as it could have wanted, and Houston's planning groups began studying its recommendations within weeks of its conclusion. Toward the end of September Elbert King summarized the Santa Cruz proceedings for MSC's lunar missions planning board. The board's reaction to the conference's primary recommendations was not especially sanguine. Neither the lunar flying unit - considered vital by the scientists - nor the local science survey module was much more than a concept at the time, and both would take considerable time to reach operational maturity. Max Faget, MSC's director of Engineering and Development, agreed that both vehicles were desirable but was not optimistic about either cost or schedule. Since the Santa Cruz conferees had suggested that lunar exploration be deferred until the flying unit was developed, the whole program could be held up if it ran into difficulty . In the discussion it was pointed out that Marshall Space Flight Center had studied similar mobility aids and was not convinced that a remotely controlled surface vehicle was feasible. Marshall was currently exploring a smaller lunar roving vehicle that could carry little more than the two astronauts and some scientific equipment. The lunar missions planning board did not settle the question of surface mobility at this meeting. Although it agreed on the necessity to extend the range of the astronauts' exploration, the board was not too keen on starting to work on either of the vehicles suggested at Santa Cruz. Faget guessed that the long-range vehicle could cost as much as $250 million to develop.37
On November 16 and 17 OSSA's Lunar and Planetary Missions Board, which was responsible for advising NASA management on the overall balance between lunar and planetary programs, met at Houston to review lunar exploration plans. Hess presented the status of MSC's plan, the elements it should contain, and how it was to evolve. Board members were clearly uneasy, for they asked Hess to review the plan again before submitting it to Headquarters for approval.38 Three days after the Houston meeting, on request of the Lunar and Planetary Missions Board, Associate Administrator# Homer Newell sent Robert Gilruth a motion passed by the board to guide MSC's discussions with the Group for Lunar Exploration Planning. While the board found most of the Santa Cruz report acceptable in principle, it requested that the Group for Lunar Exploration Planning review that report "in light of the severe fiscal constraints currently in effect." The board suggested that to reduce the cost of lunar exploration, some of the manned landings could be replaced by unmanned, automated, and mobile exploration systems launched by Saturn Vs, and asked GLEP to submit a few examples of programs at different budget levels.39
* The working groups and their chair persons were: Astronomy, L. W. Frederick, Univ. of Virginia; Bioscience, Melvin B. Calvin, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Geochemistry, Paul W. Gast, Columbia Univ.; Geodesy and Cartography, Charles Lundquist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; Geology, Alfred H. Chidester, U.S. Geological Survey; Geophysics, Frank Press, Mass. Institute of Technology; Lunar Atmospheres, Francis Johnson, Southwest Center for Advanced Studies; Particles and Fields, D. J. Williams, Goddard Space Flight Center.
** A footnote to the title identified the whale as "Neobalaena shoemakerensis." At Falmouth Eugene Shoemaker, impatient with the lack of progress toward defining Apollo's scientific goals, had compared efforts "to make something happen, like getting some science on Apollo," to trying to push a beached whale back into the ocean. "If you push very hard you make a dent in the whale, but as soon 'is you stop pushing, [the dent] comes right back out again," leaving the whale right where it was. E. M. Shoemaker interview, Mar. 17, 1984. When the laughter had died down, an unidentified Headquarters participant topped the joke with the comment, "Gene, you ought to try pushing that whale off the the beach from the inside." H. H. Schmitt interview, May 30, 1984.
*** A logistic support system based on the Saturn V had been in NASA's plans ever since the lunar-orbit rendezvous decision in 1962, It was part of the price OMSF paid von Braun for his support of lunar-orbit rendezvous, and was to be designed and built by Marshall Space Flight Center, which had no major development responsibilities after Saturn V. See Brooks, Grimwood, and Swenson, Chariots for Apollo, p. 81.
**** Members were chairman Wilmot N. Hess, Maxime A. Faget, Harold Gartrell, Elbert A. King, Jr., Harrison H. Schmitt, and William T. Stoney, all of MSC; Richard J. Allenby, OSSA; James R. Arnold, Univ. of California, San Diego; Melvin B. Calvin, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Philip E. Culbertson, OMSF; Paul W. Gast, Columbia Univ.; Richard Jahns, Stanford Univ.; Francis Johnson, Southwest Center for Advanced Studies; Charles Lundquist, Smithsonian Geophysical Observatory; Frank Press, Mass. Institute of Technology; Nancy Roman, OSSA; Eugene M. Shoemaker, U.S. Geological Survey; and Donald J. Williams, Goddard Space Flight Center.
# In August Newell had been appointed Associate Administrator, NASA's third-ranking officer, succeeding Robert C. Seamans, Jr., who had moved up to the post of Deputy Administrator after the death of Hugh L. Dryden in December 1965. John E. Naugle succeeded Newell as Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications.
29. 1967 Summer Study of Lunar Science and Exploration, NASA SP-157 (Washington, 1967), pp. 3-6.
30. Anon., "Falmouth plus two years or how much nearer is the whale to the water?" no date [c. Aug. 1966].
31. 1967 Summer Study of Lunar Science and Exploration, pp. 9-11.
32. Ibid., pp. 12-13.
33. Ibid., pp. 18-19.
34. Ibid., p. 19.
35. Ibid., pp. 19-29.
36. Ibid., p. 4.
37. Minutes of the Lunar Mission Planning Board, Sept. 28, 1967.
38. Robert R. Gilruth, TWX to Hqs., subj. "OSSA Activities - Weekly Report," Nov. 30, 1967.
39. Homer E. Newell to Gilruth, Nov. 20, 1967.