LLTV as the Key to Landing Assignments

94 views
Skip to first unread message

Stuf4

unread,
May 27, 2001, 3:59:59 AM5/27/01
to
I would like to say hello to everyone.
I am new to Usenet and this is my first post:


* A HISTORICAL EMPHASIS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LLTV *

At the beginning of June 1969, there were a total of ZERO astronauts trained
to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong was able to finish training in time for
Apollo 11, but he had no fully trained backup. Not Jim Lovell. Not Buzz
Aldrin. Some speculate as to whether Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan could have
made the first lunar landing on Apollo 10. But even if they were given the
proper hardware (with the proper software) they were not trained either.

This particular training had been deemed so important that there had even been
plans to operate the training vehicle at KSC to optimize proficiency prior to
launch. The training I am referring to is the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle.
The Apollo program had a serious bottleneck that is not emphasized in any
historical account I have ever researched. There was more than a 13-month
period where no astronaut flew the LLRV/TV, from Armstrong's crash in LLRV#1
on 6 May 68, through LLTV#1's JP-4 tank explosion incident on 27 Aug 68, and
Joe Algranti's crash of LLTV#1 on 8 Dec 68 (that led to wind tunnel testing at
Ames) until more than a week after the flight readiness review (chaired by
Gilruth) on 31 May 1969. Armstrong completed LLTV training on 16 Jun 69, only
one month before the launch.

On 25 Jun 69, Dean Grimm was fired as program manager, but this didn't end
the problems as one of the legs on LLTV#2 collapsed on 14 Jul 69. Bell
Aerospace's maintenence responsibilites were terminated on 1 Sep 69. Also,
a third vehicle was destroyed on 1 Jan 71, leaving only one LLRV and one LLTV.

There were two distinct modes of flight for the LLTV. The basic mode was with
the engine gimbal locked. But in the gimbaled lunar sim mode, the engine was
kept pointed downward which allowed the vehicle to tilt at the greater angles
necessary in the reduced lunar gravity to achieve similar rates of translation.
The original proposal was for both CDRs and LMPs to have 11 fixed-gimbal
checkout flights and 29 flights in the lunar sim mode. But after the crashes,
the training requirements were scaled back to reduce the risk. At the end of
Apollo 12, just 8 astronauts had flown 88 LLRV/TV flights with only 28 of those
in lunar sim mode. The training requirements were later specified at 11
initial qualification flights and 11 flights in the lunar sim mode for the CDR
only. Aldrin was the only person to fly the LLRV/TV and then fly as LMP. But
with the 28 lunar sim flights going primarily to Armstrong and Conrad, neither
Aldrin nor Lovell were fully trained to land Apollo 11. Scott, as backup CDR
on Apollo 12, did not complete his training until 24 Apr 70, 5 months after
Apollo 12 splashed down. Alan Bean (and all subsequent LMPs) never flew the LLTV.

It was back in Dec 66 that three crews were selected for LLTV training. These
were Borman/Anders, Armstrong/Aldrin, and Conrad/Williams. At the time, Conrad's
crew was backing up Borman's and Armstrong's crew was not officially assigned.
There were several assignment changes that would be forced on Deke Slayton,
but this was the short-list of candidates to make the first landing.

The order that Slayton prefered these three crews is not entirely clear. But
way back at the beginning of the LLRV/TV program, it was Neil Armstrong who was
the one chosen to be the CB representative. Armstrong's involvement goes back
at least as early as the LLRV-DEI (Design Engineering Inspection) of 13 Aug 64
(Both Armstrong and Charlie Bassett were invited by the FRC director, Paul
Bickle, to this meeting). First flight of the LLRV occurred on 30 Oct 64.

~

Facts were collected primarily from the Woodson Research Center at Rice University
(boxes 44, 45, 46, 51, 52 and 53) with the assistance of Joan Ferry, 713-348-2586

Terrell Miller

unread,
May 27, 2001, 1:07:29 PM5/27/01
to

"Stuf4" <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2cf0acb0.01052...@posting.google.com...

> I would like to say hello to everyone.
> I am new to Usenet and this is my first post:

<snip a pretty damn good first effort :) >

>Aldrin was the only person to fly the LLRV/TV and then fly as LMP. But
> with the 28 lunar sim flights going primarily to Armstrong and Conrad,
neither
> Aldrin nor Lovell were fully trained to land Apollo 11. Scott, as backup
CDR
> on Apollo 12, did not complete his training until 24 Apr 70, 5 months
after
> Apollo 12 splashed down. Alan Bean (and all subsequent LMPs) never flew
the LLTV.

This was probably a combination of two things: the difficulties with the
LLTV program that you described, and the evolution of the mission rules.
There really would not be a reason for the LMP (despite the name) to know
how to land his craft. If teh CDR was for some reason unable to do so, the
situation was by definition so hazardous that an immediate abort would be
called for, not a continued landing attempt. So if Armstrong had become
incapacitated after PDI or if his controls somehow locked up, Aldrin
wouldn't even try to land, he'd just fly the LM back to rendezvous with the
CSM. And a LMP wouldn't need to ever set foot in a LLTV to be able to train
for that, he'd just need time in the LM simulators.

> It was back in Dec 66 that three crews were selected for LLTV training.
These
> were Borman/Anders, Armstrong/Aldrin, and Conrad/Williams.

I'm a little puzzled by this. Borman's planned Apollo 3 mission was an
Earth-orbit LM checkout, and at the time nobody knew how many of what became
the C, D, E and F missions would be required before the first landing, so to
give LLTV assignments to crews who were not guaranteed to need them seems a
bit odd.

Also, consider that in December '66 Aldrin had just rolled off a Gemini
assignment that was originally a dead-end backup slot for GT-X, and that his
first Apollo assignment was as BCDR (not BLMP) for A8, and it seems strange
that he'd have been paired with Armstrong for lunar-lander training in 1966.
(Only ways this would make sense would be a) because with the cancelled E
mission/move to C-prime without a LM that Aldrin's navigation expertise
would have been better served backing up the middle seat, so he temporarily
switched specialties, and/or b) Deke's pre-AS204 policy that the CMP on
early Apollo missions had to have flown before, which Fred Haise had not, so
Aldrin was forced to become the BCMP much as Collins was for A3).

Pete Conrad's crew (originally Gordon and Williams until CC died and was
replaced by Al Bean) wasn't even on the schedule for the first 3 (Earth
orbit) Apollo flights, so it would make more sense to consider them for
later landing missions, so the Conrad/Williams LLTV assignment makes more
sense.

--
Terrell Miller, Ordo Pantheris
terrel...@mindspring.com

"If organisms face the same old perils continuously, they blunder into a
1-way genetic cul-de-sac and lose their ability to adapt to new dangers"
-Pierre Ouellette


Stuf4

unread,
May 27, 2001, 2:39:52 PM5/27/01
to
> a third vehicle was destroyed on 1 Jan 71, leaving only one LLRV and one LLTV.

CORRECTION:

The third crash occurred on 29 Jan 71 (with MSC pilot Stu Present).

*

This did not end the program since the training was considered essential.
Cernan flew the final flight on 13 Nov 72.

Other facts: Armstrong crashed on his 21st flight in the LLRV. At that time,
Conrad had 13 LLRV flights. Then there was the 13 month break. Armstrong's
first flight in the LLTV (first flight since his ejection) was on 14 Jun 69
and he got 8 flights (6 lunar sims) in 3 days (14 t/o & landings) for a total
of 29 LLRV/TV flights. Conrad resumed flights on 9 Jul and completed
his training on 26 Oct 69 with 14 flights since the break, for a total of
27 LLRV/TV flights.


~ CT

Stuf4

unread,
May 28, 2001, 2:45:18 AM5/28/01
to
> Terrell Miller:

"There really would not be a reason for the LMP (despite the name) to know
how to land his craft."

But 3 LMPs did start the training. It was apparently decided, at that point
in time at least, that the CDR should be a "redundant component" in order to
avoid having to abort a landing.

> TM:


"So if Armstrong had become incapacitated after PDI or if his controls

somehow locked up, Aldrin wouldn't even try to land..."

I would like to know what Aldrin's plan actually was if Armstrong had been
taken out of the loop. Buzz did have some training in the LLRV. It would be
interesting to learn how these scenarios played out in the simulator.

> TM: (re: Aldrin)
"...his first Apollo assignment was as BCDR (not BLMP) for A8..."

The post-fire crews were assigned with Armstrong-Lovell-Aldrin backing up
Borman-Collins-Anders on AS-505. Aldrin only switched to BCMP (never a CDR)
in the summer of 68 as fallout from Collins' neck surgery.

> > CT:

"These were Borman/Anders, Armstrong/Aldrin, and Conrad/Williams."

> TM:
"...nobody knew how many...missions would be required before the first landing..."
"...to give LLTV assignments to crews who were not guaranteed to need them
seems a bit odd."

I have my own ideas on how these crews were chosen, but I am still trying to
gather more evidence.

David Takemoto-Weerts

unread,
May 28, 2001, 11:08:15 AM5/28/01
to
Incidentally, LLRV #2 is currently displayed at the Dryden
Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. I didn't see it at a tour of Dryden
in 1996, but it was shown to us on a tour last month (April). More info
at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/LLRV/index.html

David Takemoto-Weerts
Davis, CA

Henry Spencer

unread,
May 28, 2001, 10:46:11 AM5/28/01
to
In article <2cf0acb0.01052...@posting.google.com>,
Stuf4 <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>...Neil Armstrong was able to finish training in time for
>Apollo 11, but he had no fully trained backup. Not Jim Lovell...

It was fairly clear by then that, realistically, the main purpose of the
backup crews was to get future prime crews into training early. Had it
actually been necessary to bring the Apollo 11 backup crew forward as
prime crew, the launch would certainly have been delayed. Indeed, it was
almost delayed as it was, not because of hardware problems but to give
more time for crew training.
--
When failure is not an option, success | Henry Spencer he...@spsystems.net
can get expensive. -- Peter Stibrany | (aka he...@zoo.toronto.edu)

Henry Spencer

unread,
May 28, 2001, 10:50:09 AM5/28/01
to
In article <9ercks$ukd$1...@slb5.atl.mindspring.net>,

Terrell Miller <terrel...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>> It was back in Dec 66 that three crews were selected for LLTV training.
>> These were Borman/Anders, Armstrong/Aldrin, and Conrad/Williams.
>
>I'm a little puzzled by this. Borman's planned Apollo 3 mission was an
>Earth-orbit LM checkout, and at the time nobody knew how many of what became
>the C, D, E and F missions would be required before the first landing, so to
>give LLTV assignments to crews who were not guaranteed to need them seems a
>bit odd.

Bear in mind that Borman was Slayton's private #1 choice to fly the first
landing, to the point that Slayton intended to ignore the crew rotation if
necessary to put Borman into that slot. (That plan got scuttled when
Borman made it clear that he meant it about retiring after one Apollo.)

What's puzzling is that McDivitt -- Slayton's private #2 choice for the
landing -- wasn't on the list. But he may have been tied up trying to get
the first LM into shape for Earth-orbit testing.

Justin Wigg

unread,
May 28, 2001, 8:32:49 PM5/28/01
to
"Stuf4" <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2cf0acb0.0105...@posting.google.com...

> > TM:
> "So if Armstrong had become incapacitated after PDI or if his
controls
> somehow locked up, Aldrin wouldn't even try to land..."
>
> I would like to know what Aldrin's plan actually was if Armstrong
had been
> taken out of the loop. Buzz did have some training in the LLRV. It
would be
> interesting to learn how these scenarios played out in the
simulator.

I'd find it hard to believe that if either the CDR or LMP were
rendered unconscious or incapacitated somehow, that the landing would
still go ahead.
--
He who laughs last... | Justin Wigg - Hobart, AUSTRALIA
...thinks slowest. | Reply: justi...@yahoo.com


Greg D. Moore (Strider)

unread,
May 28, 2001, 10:47:41 PM5/28/01
to

"Justin Wigg" <justi...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:9euqlc$1ev6m$1...@ID-71863.news.dfncis.de...

> "Stuf4" <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
> news:2cf0acb0.0105...@posting.google.com...
> > > TM:
> > "So if Armstrong had become incapacitated after PDI or if his
> controls
> > somehow locked up, Aldrin wouldn't even try to land..."
> >
> > I would like to know what Aldrin's plan actually was if Armstrong
> had been
> > taken out of the loop. Buzz did have some training in the LLRV. It
> would be
> > interesting to learn how these scenarios played out in the
> simulator.
>
> I'd find it hard to believe that if either the CDR or LMP were
> rendered unconscious or incapacitated somehow, that the landing would
> still go ahead.

There was if I recall at least one black zone where an abort was not
possible. If I'm remembering correctly, that's a case where they might have
wanted to be able to land.

Justin Wigg

unread,
May 28, 2001, 10:54:53 PM5/28/01
to
"Greg D. Moore (Strider)" <moo...@greenms.com> wrote in message
news:h5EQ6.91569$f85.13...@typhoon.nyroc.rr.com...

> There was if I recall at least one black zone where an abort was
not
> possible. If I'm remembering correctly, that's a case where they
might have
> wanted to be able to land.

Yes, there was a "dead man's zone" during the final approach.
However, as the name implies, it was a short period where the LM was
so low that is the DPS engine quit, the LM would fall and impact the
lunar surface before the ascent stage engine could be ignited. From
memory, I believe it was below 200ft.

So there is no landing possible in that situation...

John Geenty

unread,
May 29, 2001, 3:29:23 AM5/29/01
to
>I'd find it hard to believe that if either the CDR or LMP were
>rendered unconscious or incapacitated somehow, that the landing would
>still go ahead.

What about a systems malfunction where the Cdrs controls either go dead, or
some aspect of flight control fails during decent, would not the LMP have to
take over then? Obviously such a failure would most likely lead to an abort,
but if the LMP took over quickly and there was no loss of control of the LM
itself, would a landing still go ahead in certain conditions?


Joseph Nebus

unread,
May 29, 2001, 7:27:04 AM5/29/01
to
"John Geenty" <Jo...@geenty.freeserve.co.uk> writes:

>What about a systems malfunction where the Cdrs controls either go dead, or
>some aspect of flight control fails during decent, would not the LMP have to
>take over then? Obviously such a failure would most likely lead to an abort,
>but if the LMP took over quickly and there was no loss of control of the LM
>itself, would a landing still go ahead in certain conditions?

Well, I haven't got the flight rules memorized -- I am content
to bask in reflection of the glory of Henry -- my hunch is, in the
scenario you just posed, there's no way they'd continue the flight.

The overall rule for determining whether to abort a flight was,
roughly, "if the worst thing you can imagine happening next is still
survivable, continue; if it isn't, come home right away." So let's
say we're on the original Apollo 15, five miles above the surface, and
CDR Cooper's panel goes dead. Nimble-footed LMP Engle quickly switches
the controls over and resumes control. They radio back to Capcom
Dougherty and ask what to do now?

Flight Director Steve Bell talks it over with his staff quickly.
CMP's controls are gone. The worst thing that could image happening
next? LMP's controls dying too. Is this survivable? No. Sadly, Cooper
and Engle are ordered to abort, rendezvous with CMP Eisele, and head home.


Of course, specific circumstances might change things -- if this
were, let's say, Apollo 19 and the last of the Saturn V's that this was
happening on, and if the failure were of only one or two buttons on the
CMP's controls, or if Grummond was convinced the astronauts could very
easily fix it themselves by delivering the right Fonzie bop. Barring
good reason to think the CMP's console wasn't dead, though, I would
expect the landing to be aborted.

Joseph Nebus
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

OM

unread,
May 29, 2001, 1:52:32 PM5/29/01
to
On 29 May 2001 07:27:04 -0400, neb...@rpi.edu (Joseph Nebus) wrote:

>I am content to bask in reflection of the glory of Henry

...Oh boy, here we go again. Now we'll be getting submissions for the
"I Basked In The Glory of Henry Spencer" swim trunks and bikinis.


OM

-----= Posted via Newsfeeds.Com, Uncensored Usenet News =-----
http://www.newsfeeds.com - The #1 Newsgroup Service in the World!
-----== Over 80,000 Newsgroups - 16 Different Servers! =-----

Justin Wigg

unread,
May 29, 2001, 8:09:55 PM5/29/01
to
"John Geenty" <Jo...@geenty.freeserve.co.uk> wrote in message
news:9evj4v$h6f$1...@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk...

> What about a systems malfunction where the Cdrs controls either go
dead, or
> some aspect of flight control fails during decent, would not the LMP
have to
> take over then? Obviously such a failure would most likely lead to
an abort,
> but if the LMP took over quickly and there was no loss of control of
the LM
> itself, would a landing still go ahead in certain conditions?

As Joseph stated, I think they would abort. When you've lost
redundancy, it pays to get *very* cautious.

Interestingly, when the CDR and LMP from the original Apollo 15
backup/Apollo 18 prime crew (Gordon & Schmitt) were training in the LM
simulator, the simsups failed the CDRs flight controls to give Schmitt
some stick time. What did Gordon do? Pushed Schmitt out of the way
and took over the LMP controls himself before not so quietly
instructing the simsups to never try that again.

Now, this was with the non-fighter-jock Schmitt at the LMP post. I
wonder if Engle, Duke, Irwin, Mitchell, Haise, Bean or Aldrin would
have received the same treatment?

Ed Hengeveld

unread,
May 30, 2001, 1:53:10 AM5/30/01
to
tdad...@yahoo.com (Stuf4) wrote in message

> The Apollo program had a serious bottleneck that is not emphasized in any
> historical account I have ever researched.

Read my article on this very subject in the December 1992 issue of
"Spaceflight" (a publication of the British Interplanetary Society).
The title is "Lunar landing training was touch and go". An edited
version was printed in Quest a few years later.

Ed Hengeveld

Peter Smith

unread,
May 30, 2001, 8:52:23 AM5/30/01
to
"Justin Wigg" <justi...@yahoo.com> wrote...
> <snip> What did Gordon do? Pushed Schmitt

> out of the way and took over the LMP controls himself
> before not so quietly instructing the simsups to never
> try that again.
>
> Now, this was with the non-fighter-jock Schmitt at the
> LMP post. I wonder if Engle, Duke, Irwin, Mitchell,
> Haise, Bean or Aldrin would have received the same
> treatment?

The sims were mainly done in shirtsleeves. In the real situation,
suited up and strapped down, the 'push LMP out of the way' option would
not be so easy...

- Peter


Stuf4

unread,
May 31, 2001, 2:11:56 AM5/31/01
to
> > CT:

"The Apollo program had a serious bottleneck that is not emphasized in any
historical account I have ever researched."

> Ed Hengeveld:

"Read my article on this very subject..."


It was several years ago that I researched the LLTV. Your article was like
an oasis in the desert of publications on the topic. But I was frustrated
by its lack of punch in conveying the criticality of the LLTV program.

Armstrong describes the LLTV as "very worthwhile" and he is quoted as saying
"...I'm very pleased that I've had the opportunity to get some flights in it
here just before the Apollo 11 flight". The article quotes Conrad saying,
"This is...the frosting on the cake as far as simulations are concerned."
I totally agree with the article when it talks about six flawless moon landings
where "The LLRV and LLTV programmes were absolutely essential to this record of
success." But this statement following the choice of quotes seems thoroughly
deflated. Frosting on the cake?!? These are very weak words that fail to
convey that LLTV training was INTEGRAL to the success of Apollo.

Armstrong himself tells how the LLTV was the ONLY training device that gave
him the confidence to maneuver around the boulder field at Tranquility Base.
If he hadn't learned how to fly the LLTV during those critical lunar sim
flights, Apollo 11 would quite possibly have ended in an abort or crash landing.
Conrad also gives heavy credit to his LLTV training for giving him the skill
to fly a precision landing, a major objective for Apollo 12 that would be
necessary for future landing sites.

Armstrong and Conrad paint a clear picture of LLTV training at this meeting
that was held after Conrad's return (Chris Kraft makes a plug for future
autoland capability, but the argument for the LLTV overrides him):

LLTV-FRRB 12 Jan 70, chaired by Gilruth
(distilled from over 12 pages of audio tape transcripts)

Conrad:
"...we are banking our whole program on a fellow not making a mistake on his
first landing. To build that confidence, I feel, we should continue to fly
the LLTV."
"...there is no replacement for that type of training."
"I could leave the Langley simulator out of it completely."
"If I were to go again tomorrow...I would fly the LLTV as close to flight
as practical..."
"I understand the problem of flying close to flight, but you only get one chance."
"I got the decided impression we might abort out of a possible landing situation
that could be avoided by a man having a little bit more confidence that you
would get out of Langley and the LMS but not having had the LLTV."

Armstrong:
"I agree with...all the points Pete's made."
//
"Our problem was getting into a small area. I felt that we would never find a
spot that was good enough to land in. That's a kind of problem that's impossible
to duplicate in the LMS, or in the LLRF. It's even that difficult to do in the
LLTV unless you sort of play the game to yourself, as you fly into a touchdown
area and you say no, I don't want to land there -- I want to land over there."

Gilruth:
"...it would give a real feeling of confidence."

Armstrong:
"It is the only device we've had."
//
"...you have to fly about half dozen lunar sims before you have really seen
everything that's happening. You are flying through it, but it's flying you
for awhile, unless you fly three flights, or beginning to fly it, by the time
you fly half dozen flights, you're flying the vehicle, going where you want to
go..."
//
Kraft:
"...if when you have this auto mode, I think it's going to make you feel a lot
more comfortable about landing sites."
//
McDivitt:
"Chris, that auto mode is not doing us much good. These guys just got through
discussing those auto modes and the complications in flying straight down with
it."

It is at this meeting where the decision is made to make completion of
LLTV training mandatory for all subsequent flights despite the high risk.


~ CT

Ed Hengeveld

unread,
Jun 1, 2001, 3:52:58 AM6/1/01
to
> It was several years ago that I researched the LLTV. Your article was like
> an oasis in the desert of publications on the topic. But I was frustrated
> by its lack of punch in conveying the criticality of the LLTV program.


I admit that I had to do my research from this (the wrong) side of the
ocean, without access to all the important documents. JSC helped me a
great deal, but I was still somewhat limited in my scope of the entire
program. That is why your additional information is very interesting
to me.

I approached Pete Conrad at the time, who gave me the address of
program manager Dean Grimm. When I wrote to Grimm I never received a
reply. This makes sense when I read in your info that he was fired
from the program...

Ed

Stuf4

unread,
Jun 1, 2001, 6:04:42 PM6/1/01
to
> Ed Hengeveld:
"I approached Pete Conrad at the time..."

Ed, were you able to get any more info from Pete Conrad on assignment
selection?

After Armstrong finished LLTV training, it was Conrad, not Lovell, who
was the next priority for the LLTV before the launch of Apollo 11.
This is a very strong indication that Conrad was the real backup for
Armstrong. I wonder if the backup plan was to swap in Conrad's whole
crew.

Your article also touches on the topic of how Armstrong and Conrad got
to be first and second. This is the area I would really like to
explore. The concensus in the history of Apollo seems to be that
Armstrong's assignment to Apollo 11 was more luck of the rotation than
calculated grooming and planning.

I refuse to accept that.


~ CT

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 1, 2001, 7:27:32 PM6/1/01
to
I've found the LLTV material to be fascinating and most informative.
However--

>[snippage] Your article also touches on the topic of how Armstrong and Conrad


got
>to be first and second. This is the area I would really like to explore. The
concensus in the history of Apollo seems to be that Armstrong's assignment to
Apollo 11 was more luck of the rotation than calculated grooming and planning.

>I refuse to accept that.

You're welcome to your opinion, but I have it straight from Deke Slayton, both
verbally and in writing, that after the Apollo fire he expected the crews
commanded by Borman, McDivitt or Stafford to have the best chance to make the
first landing. Conrad was definitely the next most likely candidate after
those four, especially if you had to make such a prediction in the summer of
1968.

In fact, the novelist Allen Drury (THRONE OF SATURN) was doing research at MSC
at this time, and was told by Slayton then that if Drury had to lock in a name
for the first man on the moon, it should be Conrad. (Drury's book was
published after Apollo 11, and he had time to change it to Armstrong.)

It's tempting to look at various astronaut technical assignments -- Armstrong
as lead for the LLTV, for example -- as hard and fast pointers to later flight
assignments, but it can be misleading. Frank Borman was given the lead for the
Block II command module in 1967-68 -- he didn't fly the first Block II mission.

Given that Armstrong was coming to Apollo relatively late -- indeed, at the
same time as Conrad, post Gemini-11 -- putting him on the LLTV was a natural
choice. The LM effort was being spearheaded by McDivitt, the CM would be
Borman. Stafford wound up as point man for the troubled software after the
fire (with Conrad as his deputy). Armstrong had more extensive experience with
funky vehicles like the LLRV/TV than the other guys, and was familiar with the
NASA development approach.

Armstrong was a much stronger candidate to be first on the Moon than many
astronauts, but in no way was he annointed. (Remember, also, that when he was
named commander of Apollo 11 there was no guarantee it would be the first
landing attempt.)

Michael Cassutt, co-author of DEKE!


Terrell Miller

unread,
Jun 2, 2001, 11:52:53 AM6/2/01
to
"Stuf4" <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2cf0acb0.0105...@posting.google.com...

> > TM: (re: Aldrin)
> "...his first Apollo assignment was as BCDR (not BLMP) for A8..."
>
> The post-fire crews were assigned with Armstrong-Lovell-Aldrin backing up
> Borman-Collins-Anders on AS-505. Aldrin only switched to BCMP (never a
CDR)

...my bad <g>

> in the summer of 68 as fallout from Collins' neck surgery.

The only way that makes sense, though, is if it jibes with the first
scenario we looked at: by that time it was clear that LM-3 wouldn't be ready
in time, and by early August George Low had dusted off his plan to send A8
to teh moon, so Slayton figured he needed Aldrin's expertise backing up
Lovell, not Anders. Also, Haise probably wasn't as up to speed as he would
have been if he'd been in teh rotation all along, so instead of inheriting
the BCMP slot, he got the less rigorous BLMP spot.

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 2, 2001, 2:02:02 PM6/2/01
to
Terrell Miller noted, re the Apollo 9 (later 8) backup crew--

>The only way that makes sense, though, is if it jibes with the first scenario
we looked at: by that time it was clear that LM-3 wouldn't be ready in time,
and by early August George Low had dusted off his plan to send A8 to teh moon,
so Slayton figured he needed Aldrin's expertise backing up Lovell, not Anders.

Yes and no. Slayton had a firm rule at that time (indeed, through the first
manned test of the LM) that any CMP, prime or backup, had to be
flight-experienced. Aldrin was it.

>Also, Haise probably wasn't as up to speed as he would have been if he'd been
in teh rotation all along, so instead of inheriting the BCMP slot, he got the
less rigorous BLMP spot.

The conclusion is correct, but the assumptions are wrong. Haise was not only
"up to speed," he was considered to be one of the astronaut office's
specialists in the lunar module. And while the CMP job had its own special
demands, I don't think it's fair to say it was "less rigorous".

Michael Cassutt

Stuf4

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 12:13:23 AM6/3/01
to
> >CT:

"seems to be that Armstrong's assignment to Apollo 11 was more luck
of the
rotation"
"I refuse to accept that."

> Michael Cassutt:
"...I have it straight from Deke Slayton, both verbally and in


writing,
that after the Apollo fire he expected the crews commanded by
Borman,
McDivitt or Stafford to have the best chance to make the first
landing."


It was several years ago that the "Why Armstrong?" question first
wedged in my brain. Your post forced me to reexamine the
semi-satisfying answers that I settled on at the time. Last night I
got wound up to stay awake the entire night reanalyzing this issue.
One problem I had is that if Borman or McDivitt was a top choice then
why crew them with rookies? By sunrise I had worked out rudimentary
charts that, to my surprise, fit quite well with Deke's words. Here's
what I came up with:

SUMMARY OF MAJOR CREW CHANGES
(only showing Gps1,2&3)
No LM/
Apollo2 CNX AS-204 Fire neck surg
SEP 66 DEC 66 MAY 67 AUG 68

1-GriWhiCha 1-GriWhiCha - - - N-1 Failures
2ASchEisCun - - - C-SchEisCun C-SchEisCun
3- T B D 2BMcDScoSch D-McDScoSch C'BorLovAnd
4(McDScoSch) 3-BorColAnd E-BorColAnd D-McDScoSch 21 Feb 69
?(BorStaCol) ?(SchEisCun) F(StaYouCer) F(StaYouCer)
6- T B D 5(StaYouCer) ?(ConGorBea) !(Arm*Ald**) 3 Jul 69
(ConGorWil) ?(ArmLovAld) ?(ConGorBea)
(+11 more) 71
unassigned (ArmLovAld) 72
(Cooper) (Cooper) (Cooper)
(Bean)

? = Possible first landing attempt
! = Slayton has a good idea that this may be the first landing attempt


CREW RANK BY POST-GEMINI EXPERIENCE

TEST PILOTS in CAPS TOTAL TOTAL ASSIGN CDR/
(crew after 1 flt) RDZ FLTS FLIGHTS CYCLES BCDR + = b/u assig
will add exp
GRISS WHITE chaff 0(0-0-0) 3(2-1-0) 5(3-2-0) 1/2
MCDIV SCOTT schwe 1(0-1-0) 2(1-1-0) 2(1-1-0) 1/0
SCHIR EISEL cunni 1(1-0-0) 2(2-0-0) 4(4-0-0) 1/1
(SCHIR EISEL cunni) 1(1-0-0) 5(3-1-1) 7(5-1-1) 2/1
-BORMA COLLI ander- 2(1-1-0) 2(1-1-0) 5(2-2-1) 1/1
CONRA GORDO WL/BN 2(1-1-0) 3(2-1-0) 6+(3-2-1) 1/1++ (+Bean BCDR)
xBORMA STAFF COLLIx 4(1-2-1) 4(1-2-1) 7(2-3-2) 2/1
ARMST LOVEL aldri 4(1-2-1) 4(1-2-1) 9+(3-4-2) 2/3+
STAFF YOUNG cerna 4(2-1-1) 5(2-2-1) 8+(3-3-2) 2/0+
(MCDIV SCOTT schwe) 4(1-2-1) 5(2-2-1) 5(2-2-1) 2/0
(BORMA COLLI ander) 5(2-2-1) 5(2-2-1) 8(3-3-2) 2/1 (w CSM/LM flt)


By this ranking, weighing rendezvous experience higher than total
flight experience and higher than primary or backup crew assignment
cycles (*and ignoring a lot of other factors*), the Borman, McDivitt
and Stafford crews come out with the highest experience levels (after
Apollo 8 and 9 are flown).

*****

But there are still several pieces to the puzzle that don't fit so
well. It's hard to imagine that Deke's recollection of these
important crew decisions are inaccurate for any reason. Nevertheless,
here are the issues that I don't have satisfying answers to:

One popular theory is that Armstrong was first because he was a
civilian. Slayton outright denies this, but in one of Michael
Collins' books, he speaks of the interview process and he shares that
he expects Armstrong to be selected because of all of the civilians,
he has the best qualifications. This indicates that Collins knows
that NASA is specifically looking for a civilian. If this is true,
then what would be the reason? There may have been interservice
rivalry that pressured NASA to select some balance of Air Force, Navy
and Marines (why the Army never got in on the act is another question
I have never gotten answered - I would think that a helicopter test
pilot would be an valuable background for the LLTV and LM) but why
would NASA specifically want a civilian?

Everyone in Group 2 had gone to Test Pilot School except for the two
civilians, Armstrong and See (Armstrong did attend the civilian
National Test Pilot School AFTER he retired from NASA). Yet they are
both selected as commanders in the "sweet spot" of the Gemini
rendezvous missions. The only other rookie commanders in the class
were Borman and McDivitt, both graduates of TPS AND the new Aerospace
Research Pilot School and neither of those missions were scheduled as
rendezvous.

Cunningham and Schwickert are the civilians in Group 3, but they get
passed over for Gemini missions. They were hired with no flight test
background whatsoever (like four others in their class). Schweickert
seems less qualified than others as Slayton's pick on the first flight
test of the LM. It is possible that if Schweickert rotated to LMP for
the first landing mission that the decision could have been made for
the LMP to walk first (I am not convinced by Aldrin's story about the
hatch hinging one particular way. After all, they were scheduled for
a sleep period before the EVA. Upon working around from their
sleeping positions, I don't imagine that it would have been too
difficult a task to switch sides before going out).

And when Haise rose to the head of his class and gets their first
Apollo slot, did being a civilian help him get ahead of his seven
other ARPS/TPS classmates?

Back to Armstrong, how is it that he can fly into two near-fatal
mishaps, Gemini 8 and LLRV#1, and still get assigned as an Apollo CDR?
No matter how sanitized the accident boards may have been, I imagine
that Slayton questioned Armstrong's actions.

*****

There are so many angles. When they are all examined, I will probably
decide to just take Slayton at his word.


~ CT

Dave Michelson

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 12:35:58 AM6/3/01
to
Stuf4 wrote:
>
> This indicates that Collins knows that NASA is specifically
> looking for a civilian.

I suggest that you're reading too much into the remark. IMHO, Collins
was expressing the opinion that *if* a civilian is accepted, it will
likely be Armstrong "because of all of the civilians, he has the best
qualifications".

This does not indicate that NASA is specifically looking for a civilian.

--
Dave Michelson
dmich...@ieee.org

John Geenty

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 7:20:05 AM6/3/01
to
> Everyone in Group 2 had gone to Test Pilot School except for the two
> civilians, Armstrong and See (Armstrong did attend the civilian
> National Test Pilot School AFTER he retired from NASA).

I was under the impression that onw of the entry requirments for Group 2 was
that they had to be test pilots. I didn't think it was possible to be a test
pilot without attending test pilot school. If it is possible without Test
pilot school, what is the point of asking for test pilots, any Joe soap
could claim to have the qualifications. And given Armstrong's work at
Edwards on the F-100, F-101 and F-104, X-20 and X-15, everyone else seemed
to think he was a test pilot. Did he really never attend a test pilot
course?

>Yet they are
> both selected as commanders in the "sweet spot" of the Gemini
> rendezvous missions. The only other rookie commanders in the class
> were Borman and McDivitt, both graduates of TPS AND the new Aerospace
> Research Pilot School and neither of those missions were scheduled as
> rendezvous.

The first five Gemini missions were regarded by Slayton as needing hand
picked crews, the five after that being more or less identical. McDivitt was
given GT4 since Slayton wanted a 62 astronaut with some early command
experience. Borman was given GT7 (one of the most dreaded assignments) since
it was felt he could tough out a long duration mission. Armstrong and See
actually missed out on the early missions and by the time they flew had the
best of the '63 astronauts with them. It was only due to the changes with
GTA-6 that Armstrong's flight becomes the first docking in space. The real
'sweet spot' flights of Gemini, as far as test pilots were concerned were
GT3 and GTA6, both taken by Mercury guys. True, many would have probably
prefered GT8 over a duration flight, but it still meant that by the time
they flew, Armstrong and See were last in line of their group and would miss
out both on a second Gemini mission and the early Apollo flights. They
hardly had the best deal. And its worth remembering that Deke had real
concerns about See and only gave him GT9 since he didn't think Elliot could
handle an EVA on GT8. Its also fairly clear that Slayton had no plans for
See beyond a deadend backup slot at the end of Gemini, he wasn't being
groomed for anything.

> Cunningham and Schwickert are the civilians in Group 3, but they get
> passed over for Gemini missions. They were hired with no flight test
> background whatsoever (like four others in their class). Schweickert
> seems less qualified than others as Slayton's pick on the first flight
> test of the LM.

Both Cunningham and Schwickert had both been military pilots, they certainly
weren't civilians in the true sense of the word (as in England or Schmitt).
Their lack of test pilot background was made up by better academic
qualifications, something planned for in the hiring process. The Group 3
guys were basically split in two. The first group with test pilot experience
(Scott, Bassett, Collins, Gordon and Cernan who is odd man out) were given
the Gemini slots to prepare them for work as Apollo CMPs where they would
have to fly solo. The engineering and research guys were seen as better used
on the development side of Apollo and as support for a Cdr in the LM. When
the McDivitt/Scott/Schweickert crew was put together at the end of '65 they
had been following Group 3 astronauts for several years and clearly it was
felt that Rusty was more than up to the task.

>It is possible that if Schweickert rotated to LMP for
> the first landing mission that the decision could have been made for
> the LMP to walk first (I am not convinced by Aldrin's story about the
> hatch hinging one particular way. After all, they were scheduled for
> a sleep period before the EVA. Upon working around from their
> sleeping positions, I don't imagine that it would have been too
> difficult a task to switch sides before going out).

The whole idea that NASA was planning to have a civilian made the first
steps doesn't fly for me. If that was what they really wanted, they would
probably have stuck Armstrong on an early Gemini mission and put in directly
into Apollo after that so that he could be in line for an early mission.
Slayton had no problem placing the Borman or McDivitt crew into the first
landing spot if either of them had accepted it. He even offered A11 to
Borman's crew following A8. Its also worth remembering that if Grissom had
lived, he would almost beyond doubt have commanded the first landing.

> And when Haise rose to the head of his class and gets their first
> Apollo slot, did being a civilian help him get ahead of his seven
> other ARPS/TPS classmates?

Well, obviously I don't know what was going on in Slayton's head, but he
never mentions the civilian part as being important. All I've ever read or
heard about Fredo simply states he was one of, if not the, top guy in his
class. He knew the LM like the back of his hand and Deke had no concerns
about making him BLMP for Apollo 8 and Apollo 11. Fredo would also have been
the first guy in his class to get a command on A19, but I don't think its
due to civilian status. Brand, Lind and Swigert were civilians too and it
didn't help them get into prime spots.

> Back to Armstrong, how is it that he can fly into two near-fatal
> mishaps, Gemini 8 and LLRV#1, and still get assigned as an Apollo CDR?
> No matter how sanitized the accident boards may have been, I imagine
> that Slayton questioned Armstrong's actions.

Grissom's problems on MR-4 didn't stop him getting GT3 and then Apollo 1 as
well as a possible first landing. In many ways I think Armstrong's actions
on GT8 probably enchanced his reputation, since he saved the mission and got
the ship back safely. It wasn't pilot error, it was a malfunction. GT8 also
didn't stop Dave Scott's career either. Many of the astronauts got into
problems on the ground, involving helicopter crashes, sports accidents, and
it never did them any harm.

> There are so many angles. When they are all examined, I will probably
> decide to just take Slayton at his word.

There is a temptation I think to believe that it was a plan to get Armstrong
on the moon first, due to the fact that he seems to come out of nowhere to
take the grand prize. Many of the other astronauts seem to be mentioned as
early candidates for the first landing, Grissom, McDivitt, Conrad, Borman,
Stafford...nobody mentions Armstrong who in many ways was the least
experienced CDR. But when you look at the details, it seems almost
impossible to plan to put anyone one person on the moon first given all the
accidents and twists dealt by fate. Lets face it, without the Apollo 8/9
swap in the bottom half of '68 Pete Conrad would have been first man on the
moon with his all navy, all military crew.


Terrell Miller

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 11:19:10 AM6/3/01
to
"Stuf4" <tdad...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2cf0acb0.01060...@posting.google.com...

<snip>


> that NASA is specifically looking for a civilian. If this is true,
> then what would be the reason?

Several possible political reasons. First, NASA was trying like hell to keep
their independence and not get pushed around by the Pentagon. Second, there
was the need to demonstrate that America's space program (as opposed to the
Sovs) was a totally peaceful and public thing, and having a few civilian
astros was part of that.

> There may have been interservice
> rivalry that pressured NASA to select some balance of Air Force, Navy
> and Marines

Definitely. Just in the first group alone you have three USAF (Grissom,
Slayton, Cooper), three USN (Shepard, Schirra, Carpenter) and a Marine
(Glenn). Group 2 was again pretty even: 4 USAF (McDivitt, White, Borman,
Stafford), 3 USN (Young, Lovell, Conrad), and 2 civilian (Armstrong and
See). Same for Group 3: 6 USAF (Bassett, Aldrin, Collins, Eisele, Scott,
Freeman), 4 USN (Gordon, Bean, Cernan, Chaffee), a Marine (Williams), and 3
civvies (Schweickart, Anders, Cunnungham). Definitely looks like they were
trying to make each branch as happy as possible.

> (why the Army never got in on the act is another question
> I have never gotten answered - I would think that a helicopter test
> pilot would be an valuable background for the LLTV and LM)

Remember that the first three groups were selected by October of 1963, a
long time before Gemini even. We hadn't done anything more than send one man
at a time up into LEO, with no ability to maneuver. Nobody had a really
clear idea what would be required to succeed in spaceflight, let alone a
lunar landing. It was felt that piloting jets was the closest experience in
terms of rigorous training and mission complexity. Helo drivers have always
gotten less acclaim than they deserve (takes a lot more physical
coordination than fixed-wing, for starters), but again the thinking was that
it was better to take jet pilots and train them to fly helos (if necessary)
than the other way around. Landing on the moon is a crucial part of the
journey, but first you have to get there, and to handle all the spacecraft
systems, NASA felt that jet jocks were a safer bet.

<snip>


> both selected as commanders in the "sweet spot" of the Gemini
> rendezvous missions. The only other rookie commanders in the class
> were Borman and McDivitt, both graduates of TPS AND the new Aerospace
> Research Pilot School and neither of those missions were scheduled as
> rendezvous.

GT-IV was. McDivitt tried to rendezvous (but not dock) with his Titan
booster, which was when NASA collectively learned that orbital mechanics are
entirely different from flying an aircraft rendezvous. McDivitt just pointed
the nose of his Gemini at the booster and fired his thrusters, and couldn't
quite figure out why he was getting further away from his target.

<snip>


>It is possible that if Schweickert rotated to LMP for
> the first landing mission that the decision could have been made for
> the LMP to walk first (I am not convinced by Aldrin's story about the
> hatch hinging one particular way. After all, they were scheduled for
> a sleep period before the EVA. Upon working around from their
> sleeping positions, I don't imagine that it would have been too
> difficult a task to switch sides before going out).

The LM was cramped to begin with. Now imagine two guys in bulky spacesuits
(which they wore the whole time between entering and leaving Eagle) in
microgravity trying to maneuver around each other and not poke a hole in the
cabin walls. Not likely. I'd imagine that anytime one of the crew was doing
anything more than working on his side of the cabin, then the other guy
would have to be as still as possible and concentrate on staying out of the
way. Possible, but that introduces too many variables.

Couple other reasons why Aldrin didn't go out first: even though NASA was a
civilian agency and the Astrinaut Office scrupulously avoided a lot of the
military trappings, there was still an ingrained belief in the chain of
command. Going over the boss's head (which is what Aldrin did) is a very
serious thing, and I'd imagine Buzz pissed off quite a few people. Also,
bear in mind that NASA was a very pragmatic, mission-focused organization. I
can imagine people being a little suspicious of Aldrin's interest in the
spirituality of the first landing. Neil wasn't the type to wax mystical and
philosophical about the mysteries of the cosmos and God's Eternal Verities,
but maybe they worried that Buzz would get a little carried away in front of
a large percentage of the human race.

> Back to Armstrong, how is it that he can fly into two near-fatal
> mishaps, Gemini 8 and LLRV#1, and still get assigned as an Apollo CDR?
> No matter how sanitized the accident boards may have been, I imagine
> that Slayton questioned Armstrong's actions.

As others have mentioned, Armstrong didn't "fly into" anything. He had
nothing to do with the stuck thruster on his Gemini or the malf on the
flying bedstead. If anything, he earned credit for keeping calm and
surviving both accidents.

Terrell Miller

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 11:26:44 AM6/3/01
to
"Michael Cassutt" <cas...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:20010601192732...@ng-fz1.aol.com...

> In fact, the novelist Allen Drury (THRONE OF SATURN) was doing research at
MSC
> at this time, and was told by Slayton then that if Drury had to lock in a
name
> for the first man on the moon, it should be Conrad. (Drury's book was
> published after Apollo 11, and he had time to change it to Armstrong.)

God, I'd forgotten about that one! The most negative, depressing, cynical
novel I've ever read, with teh possible exception of "Bonfire Of the
Vanities". Yecch.

> Armstrong was a much stronger candidate to be first on the Moon than many
> astronauts, but in no way was he annointed. (Remember, also, that when he
was
> named commander of Apollo 11 there was no guarantee it would be the first
> landing attempt.)

Or indeed, when he was named BCDR of A9/8.

Henry Spencer

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 1:42:13 PM6/3/01
to
In article <9fd6kl$p48$1...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk>,
John Geenty <Jo...@geenty.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
>...Lets face it, without the Apollo 8/9

>swap in the bottom half of '68 Pete Conrad would have been first man on the
>moon with his all navy, all military crew.

In fact, Michael Collins observed, at the time the Apollo 11 crew was
selected, that 11 had only about a 50% chance of being the first landing
attempt. He thought there was a slight possibility that NASA might try to
hurry things along and have 10 land, and a very good chance that the LM
would make enough trouble that the landing would be postponed to 12.

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 6:20:00 PM6/3/01
to
Stuf4 and others have raised a bunch of great points here, and I'm going to try
to respond, though it will be piecemeal:

(The charts came out a little funny in my newsgroup reader, so I'll have to
take a look at them after re-formatting....)

>One problem I had is that if Borman or McDivitt was a top choice then why crew
them with rookies?>

They weren't crewed with rookies. Borman had the very experienced Stafford and
the GT-10 veteran Collins as CMP on both crews. McDivitt had GT-8 vet Scott on
his. The LMP slots (Collins, Anders, Schweickart) didn't require flight
experience at this time, according to Deke's working rules.


By sunrise I had worked out rudimentary charts that, to my surprise, fit quite
well with Deke's words.

>One popular theory is that Armstrong was first because he was a civilian.

Slayton outright denies this, but in one of Michael

Collins' books [snippage]..

As is noted further down the threat, I think you're reading too much into
Collins' statement. NASA made a point of opening up the astronaut selections
to civilians for 1962, and there were, I believe, only 5 civilians who made it
to the group of 32 (or so) finalists. NASA had originally wanted to select
astronauts from a much broader pool than the military test pilot group imposed
by Pres. Eisenhower. This was a first step away from that stricture.

>There may have been interservice
>rivalry that pressured NASA to select some balance of Air Force, Navy

>and Marines [...]

At some point in the selection process it always came up, certainly, though
usually above Slayton's level. As in someone from H.Q., knowing that NASA
needed to keep the services happy and supportive, reminding Deke to make sure
he didn't ignore the Navy, for example.

>[...] (why the Army never got in on the act is another question I have never


gotten answered - I would think that a helicopter test pilot would be an
valuable background for the LLTV and LM) but why would NASA specifically want a
civilian?

Slayton didn't want anyone who wasn't a fighter pilot -- again, not to fly the
mission. (Logic certainly suggests that a helicopter pilot would indeed have a
natural affinity for lunar landings.) Astronauts were selected as much for
their skills as development test pilots as for any perceived skills on a future
mission. After all, most of the career was training and support work, not
flying in space. Going back and forth between Houston, St. Louis, Boston and
the Cape without having to rely on commercial transport was one of the tangible
reasons Slayton favored fighter pilots. (There were undoubtedly intangibles,
too.)

NASA was a civilian agency; its predecessor, N.A.C.A., used its own small group
of test pilots. Call it institutional bias. (Don't forget that all of the
military astros were detailed to NASA for three years at a time, and could have
been yanked away in the middle of a program, had the Pentagon so desired.)

>Everyone in Group 2 had gone to Test Pilot School except for the two

>civilians, Armstrong and See (Armstrong did attend the civilianNational Test


Pilot School AFTER he retired from NASA). Yet they are both selected as
commanders in the "sweet spot" of the Gemini rendezvous missions. The only
other rookie commanders in the class were Borman and McDivitt, both graduates
of TPS AND the new Aerospace Research Pilot School and neither of those
missions were scheduled as rendezvous.>

See was originally assigned as a pilot; he only got "promoted" to commander of
GT-9 because Slayton harbored doubts about his ability to withstand the
physical rigors of EVA. It was hardly a "sweet" spot.

Borman and McDivitt were expected to fly early Gemini missions, move into
Apollo CSM and LM development, and gain rendezvous experience in early Apollo
missions.

>Cunningham and Schwickert are the civilians in Group 3, but they get passed
over for Gemini missions. They were hired with no flight test background
whatsoever (like four others in their class). Schweickert seems less qualified
than others as Slayton's pick on the first flight
test of the LM. It is possible that if Schweickert rotated to LMP for
the first landing mission that the decision could have been made for the LMP to
walk first (I am not convinced by Aldrin's story about the hatch hinging one
particular way. >

I cannot imagine a scenario in which an astronaut office under Slayton and
Shepard would have allowed Schweickart to take the first steps on the Moon.
Schweickart and Cunningham were considered, along with Aldrin, to be "quasi"
scientists, and assigned development jobs that fit that under appreciated role.
Aldrin got assigned to Gemini rather than Apollo because of his knowledge of
rendezvous.

<[...] After all, they were scheduled for a sleep period before the EVA. Upon


working around from their sleeping positions, I don't imagine that it would
have been too difficult a task to switch sides before going out).

Mission planning had a sleep period preceding EVA, but nobody expected the
astronauts to wait.

>And when Haise rose to the head of his class and gets their first Apollo slot,
did being a civilian help him get ahead of his seven other ARPS/TPS classmates?

No. Haise and Mitchell seem to have ranked about the same as LM specialists,
with Irwin and for a while, Bull, close behind. If Haise had any advantage
being a civilian, it was that because he was a NASA employee prior to joining
the astronaut office, he had less of an adjustment to make to the agency's way
of doing business.

>Back to Armstrong, how is it that he can fly into two near-fatal
>mishaps, Gemini 8 and LLRV#1, and still get assigned as an Apollo CDR?
> No matter how sanitized the accident boards may have been, I imagine
>that Slayton questioned Armstrong's actions.

Not really. He gave Armstrong comand of Apollo 11 when he had a total time in
space of about 8 hours, much less than either of his crew mates. Had Deke
harbored doubts about Armstrong's abilities, he would have been insane to
entrust the first landing -- or any Apollo mission -- to him.

Michael Cassutt

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 6:27:47 PM6/3/01
to
John Geenty noted:

>I was under the impression that onw of the entry requirments for Group 2 was
that they had to be test pilots. I didn't think it was possible to be a test
pilot without attending test pilot school. If it is possible without Test pilot
school, what is the point of asking for test pilots, any Joe soap could claim
to have the qualifications. And given Armstrong's work at Edwards on the F-100,
F-101 and F-104, X-20 and X-15, everyone else seemed to think he was a test
pilot. Did he really never attend a test pilot course?

As you say, any Joe Soap could claim to be a test pilot -- if you're hired as a
test pilot by an aircraft company, that's what you are.

That's why Slayton and others reviewed the applications. Some commercial or
government test pilot work qualified, some did not. Armstrong had been hired
by N.A.C.A. in the 1950s as a flight test engineer, had become a test pilot
with the agency, and by 1962 had worked in that capacity for six years or so.
He had not graduated from a test pilot school, but that wasn't a requirement.

Michael Cassutt

OM

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 8:50:05 PM6/3/01
to
On 03 Jun 2001 22:27:47 GMT, cas...@aol.com (Michael Cassutt) wrote:

> Armstrong had been hired
>by N.A.C.A. in the 1950s as a flight test engineer, had become a test pilot
>with the agency, and by 1962 had worked in that capacity for six years or so.
>He had not graduated from a test pilot school, but that wasn't a requirement.

...And the fact that he *did* fly the X-15 may have had something to
do with it, no? :-)

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 3, 2001, 11:54:17 PM6/3/01
to
To continue with Stuf4's chart--

>SUMMARY OF MAJOR CREW CHANGES (only showing Gps1,2&3)
> No LM/
> Apollo2 CNX AS-204 Fire neck surg
>SEP 66 DEC 66 MAY 67 AUG 68
>
>1-GriWhiCha 1-GriWhiCha - - - N-1 Failures
>2ASchEisCun - - - C-SchEisCun C-SchEisCun
>3- T B D 2BMcDScoSch D-McDScoSch C'BorLovAnd
>4(McDScoSch) 3-BorColAnd E-BorColAnd D-McDScoSch 21Feb69
>?(BorStaCol) ?(SchEisCun) F(StaYouCer) F(StaYouCer)

>6- T B D 5(StaYouCer) ?(ConGorBea) !(Arm*Ald**) 3Ju 69
> (ConGorWil) ?(ArmLovAld) ?(ConGorBea)

I chopped off the bottom third of this, because the spacing in my newsreader
made it hard to understand.

This looks logical, but isn't necessarily what was under discussion. For
example, Baseline SEP 66 should read:

# Prime Backup Type of Mission
1-GriWhiCha McDScoSch Block I
2-SchEisCun BorStaCol Block I
3-McDScoSch Block II w/first LM
4-BorStaColl Block II w/LM
5-Gri w/CMP-LMP

The three-flight rotation that Deke developed for Gemini was never really
intended to carry beyond that program: it only came about because a Gemini
mission seemed to require 6 months of specific crew training, and the missions
were being launched every two months.

Think of the Block I missions as anomalies, and consider that McDivitt's crew
was going to fly that first LM no matter what. And that Grissom was unlikely
to be offered, or accept, a backup spot. Which is why the DEC 66 lineup is
more likely:

# Prime Backup Type of Mission
1-GriWhiCha SchEisCun Block I
2-McDScoSch StaYngCer Block II w/first LM
3-BorColAnd ConGorWms Block II w/LM
4-GriLovEis ArmWhiBean Block II w/LM

Or something like that.

It's an amusing game, but there is a limit to how close you can ever come. I
became privy to a lot of Deke's thinking, but by no means all of it. And there
were larger scheduling questions that would have affected all of the Apollo
crew assignments.

Michael Cassutt


OM

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 3:54:17 AM6/4/01
to
On 04 Jun 2001 03:54:17 GMT, cas...@aol.com (Michael Cassutt) wrote:

>I chopped off the bottom third of this, because the spacing in my newsreader
>made it hard to understand.

...Thank you! I was just about to start lining things up so they made
sense and reposting it.

># Prime Backup Type of Mission
>1-GriWhiCha SchEisCun Block I
>2-McDScoSch StaYngCer Block II w/first LM
>3-BorColAnd ConGorWms Block II w/LM
>4-GriLovEis ArmWhiBean Block II w/LM

^^^
|||

...I guess this brings us to Eisele's fate in the "no A1 fire" ATL.
Michael, what's your take on Eisele's overall performance prior to the
fire? Was his slacking off occurring before A1, or do we see this only
after the shakeups caused by the A1 shock and his subsequent divorce?
Considering the time frame, I'm doubtful Eisele would have been in the
CMP slot at least due to his divorce situation.

John Geenty

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 5:18:02 AM6/4/01
to
> ...I guess this brings us to Eisele's fate in the "no A1 fire" ATL.
> Michael, what's your take on Eisele's overall performance prior to the
> fire? Was his slacking off occurring before A1, or do we see this only
> after the shakeups caused by the A1 shock and his subsequent divorce?
> Considering the time frame, I'm doubtful Eisele would have been in the
> CMP slot at least due to his divorce situation.
>
> OM

I think another important point for consideration in an ATL setting with no
Apollo 1 fire, is the fate of Wally Schirra. Deke seems to have made it very
clear that he had no intension of advancing Wally's crew to a Lunar landing
slot, they were only set to fly a CSM test. With the original Apollo 2
cancelled, he was left backing up Grissom. Given the fact that Gus was
almost certainly going to advance directly to another prime slot, and that
his crew wasn't in line for any other Apollo flight, would Wally have just
retired after the BCDR job? A couple of sources I've read have suggested
that Wally was pretty bored with it all after GT6, so would he be happy
waiting for an Apollo flight later on down the line in the distant future,
maybe after yet another backup job? Personally I think Schirra would have
simply retired after A1 and the only guy to fly Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
would have been Gus Grissom.

John

Darkhop Sr.

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 10:03:13 AM6/4/01
to
Michael Cassutt wrote:

> Michael Cassutt, co-author of DEKE!

Hey, I just bought that book on Saturday. Almost 3/4 done
already. Great stuff.

(Sorry for this near-nothing post, but it's not often you
get to read a good book and tell the author you enjoyed it.)


/JSH
http://www.darkhop.com/
"You fall out of your mother's womb, you
crawl across open country under fire, and
drop into your grave." --Quentin Crisp

John Geenty

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 11:11:03 AM6/4/01
to

>Which is why the DEC 66 lineup is
> more likely:
>
> # Prime Backup Type of Mission
> 1-GriWhiCha SchEisCun Block I
> 2-McDScoSch StaYngCer Block II w/first LM
> 3-BorColAnd ConGorWms Block II w/LM
> 4-GriLovEis ArmWhiBean Block II w/LM
>
> Or something like that.
>
> It's an amusing game, but there is a limit to how close you can ever come.

I totally agree with what you say about ALT crew assignments being a
guessing game, especially prior to AS204 fire, but educated guess work can
be made (but some of us are more educated and informed than others, I for
one can only go on what I've read and heard from others). I always assumed
that working off the assignments as of January 1967, the following would
likely happen.

1 - Grissom/White/Chaffee - Schirra/Eisele/Cunningham - Block 1CSM 012 Test
(Earth Orbit)
2 - McDivitt/Scott/Schweickart - Stafford/Young/Cernan - Block II 101/LM3
Test (Earth Orbit)
3 - Borman/Collins/Anders - Conrad/Gordon/Williams - Block II 103/LM4 Test
(High Earth Orbit)
4 - Stafford/Young/Cernan - Grissom/Lovell/Chaffee - Block II 104/LM5 Test
(Lunar Orbit)
5 - Conrad/Gordon/Williams - Armstrong/Aldrin/Cunningham - Block II 106/LM6
Test (Lunar Orbit)
6 - Grissom/Lovell/Bean - White/Eisele/Bean - Block II 107/LM7 Test (Lunar
Landing Attempt)

Obviously much of this is open to debate and is very subjective. But from
what Collins writes in Carrying the Fire, right up to the middle of '67
everyone still considered that at least four different methods of CSM/LM
rendezvous needed to be tested;

1) LM Above or Below
2) Primary or AGS guidance
3) Abort stage alone or Decent stage attached
4) Small or large Delta H

Obviously some of these may well have been cut out and done in one go, but
thats how the situation looked in 1967. Even assuming that only two of these
were tested in Lunar Orbit, that is still four tests of the LM prior to a
landing attempt. Its also clear that Grissom would have been the Cdr of the
landing mission. Whether he would have served backup to bring him up to
speed on the LM or if he would have simply rotated to another prime slot is
difficult to say. My main problem is what to do with the Schirra crew. Deke
obviously didn't want them on a landing and didn't consider the crew to be a
top notch bunch. Without their dull and fairly easy CSM 014 flight, would
they have moved forward to LM mission? I personally don't think so, I'm not
even sure Schirra would stick around after Apollo 1 and might retire early.

If they do move forward onto say Apollo 4/5 and a LM test in Lunar Orbit, it
doesn't change much. It just means that Conrad's crew would probably end up
with the second landing mission again and the skip two rotation would be
established.

If this all sounds very confusing and academic, it probably is *s* but it
can be a really fascinating "what if?".


OM

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 12:50:33 PM6/4/01
to
On Mon, 4 Jun 2001 16:11:03 +0100, "John Geenty"
<Jo...@geenty.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

>6 - Grissom/Lovell/Bean - White/Eisele/Bean - Block II 107/LM7 Test (Lunar
>Landing Attempt)

...Here's another monkey wrench to throw in the works: IIRC, the
post-A1(*) autopsy of Ed White turned up a heart condition that would
have grounded him. Was the condition such that it could have been
detected after a successful A1 launch, and thus removing him from
flight status?

OM


(*) If it wasn't a tragedy, that almost sounds like a setup for a
steak sauce gag. Blah.

Interim Books

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 1:17:54 PM6/4/01
to
On 2 Jun 2001 21:13:23 -0700, tdad...@yahoo.com (Stuf4) wrote:
>By this ranking, weighing rendezvous experience higher than total

[snippage]

>But there are still several pieces to the puzzle that don't fit so
>well.

The selection process was *not* done by some scientific equation.
There are many factors tangible and intangible that go into making
such a selction.

D.

-------
Visit our search engine! http://www.interimbooks.com/pagescout/
-------

Interim Books | 322 Pacific Ave | Bremerton, WA | 98337
fair...@hurricane.net | (360) 377-4343 | http://www.interimbooks.com/


Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 2:09:34 PM6/4/01
to
OM asked--

>Michael, what's your take on Eisele's overall performance prior to the fire?
Was his slacking off occurring before A1, or do we see this only after the
shakeups caused by the A1 shock and his subsequent divorce? Considering the
time frame, I'm doubtful Eisele would have been in the CMP slot at least due to
his divorce situation.

From my limited, years-after-the-fact knowledge, Eisele was considered a solid
if unspectacular candidate for flight and only started slipping around the time
of Apollo 7 -- obviously it was related to his personal problems.

MC

OM

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 4:40:26 PM6/4/01
to

...Then by the time of the "A5" landing, it's questionable if Eisele's
solidity would still be intact. The hints I've seen so far tend to
lead towards a possible "Survivor Syndrome" having been the trigger
that sent his marraige and his career down the tubes. Had A1 flown, I
can see a fair possibility of Eisele being the CMP, but probably not
as solid as you're suggesting. Again, we'll never really know.

...Now, about Ed White's heart problem...?

Michael Cassutt

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 6:10:48 PM6/4/01
to
>..Now, about Ed White's heart problem...?

Well, if it only turned up in an autopsy, and was missed in White's annual 1966
Air Force medical (usually done around the pilot's birthday, though I'm just
making an assumption here), I doubt it would have had any effect at all. That
is, it wouldn't have been found, White would have continued on with his
astronaut career.

Michael Cassutt

Stuf4

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 6:16:20 PM6/4/01
to
> MC:

"Had Deke harbored doubts about Armstrong's abilities,
he would have been insane to entrust the first landing
-- or any Apollo mission -- to him."

Maybe not. Consider this person's background: a failed spacewalk, a
crew-coordination switch error that could have resulted in the loss of
the LM, and then he flew his helicopter into the water while showing
off in front of a crowd of boaters (demonstrating gross lack of
judgment and discipline along with negligence - he almost drowned
because he didn't wear his inflatable vest). After these major
screw-ups, Slayton still chose Gene Cernan to command Apollo 17. On
top of this, nobody on the entire crew had any flight test background!
Every other mission in the entire history of the US space program has
had at least one test pilot on board. And all commanders (Mercury,
Gemini and Apollo) were test pilots except for this one mission.
Engle had been the crew's test pilot, but Slayton was directed to put
a (the) geologist on the last landing mission.

It is inconceivable that Slayton had also been directed to put a
civilian on the first landing mission?

He denied it to his death, but consider Slayton's willingness to
mislead the public. One example from Cernan's book is where Slayton
tried (more than once) to get Cernan to fabricate a story about engine
failure to justify his helicopter crash. When we try to reconstruct
history, it is not enough to think, "well this person said so, so it
must be true". The words must fit with the facts.

So to analyze the "civilian first" theory, let's look at the
alternatives:

GRISSOM? Leapfrogged Gemini with no rendezvous flight and his Apollo
1 assignment was not going to correct that deficiency in experience.
This leads me to conclude that when astronauts say that he would have
been the first, it is more eulogy than reality.

SCHIRRA? Flew the first rendezvous, but Slayton crewed him with two
rookies for a CSM-only Apollo. The writing was on the wall, so he
quit.

COOPER? Grounded due to discipline problems (his selection as
Stafford's backup seems insignificant - the only other people
available were Eisele, Cunningham and the new groups).

(Overall comment for Group 1: They were hired to do a "monkey's job".
Not all of them even graduated from college and none of them had any
master's degree. Subsequent groups were hired specifically with
Apollo in mind.)

STAFFORD? Given command of the most highly experienced crew put
together, but he misses the boat with the first LLTV class chosen in
Dec 66. Does this indicate that Slayton had "dress rehearsal" in mind
when he put Stafford's crew together? Serious problems in the LLTV
program become the drastic limit on who Slayton can send on the first
landing mission and I don't think that Stafford was considered. He
stays active, but never gets another LM. Is this Slayton's penalty
for his switch error with Cernan that could have resulted in their
loss?

BORMAN? He appears to make the short list in Dec 66 when selected for
LLTV training. But then he is chosen as primary in the fire
investigation and this puts his training behind Armstrong and Conrad.
I think that if Slayton wanted Borman on the first landing then
someone else would have been put on the investigation. There is talk
about turning his crew after Apollo 8, but I have two major problems
with this: Training for C' did not involve the LM. This puts them
way behind the other crews. More importantly, Borman's physiological
problems (a significant unknown at the time) made him unassignable (by
my read) and I think this is his primary (unspoken) reason for
retiring. When I hear Slayton talk about offering Borman the first
landing, I think "Trojan horse". I can see it possibly having been
offered as an incentive when Slayton asked him to take the first
piloted Saturn V into lunar orbit, but I expect that any such offer
would be considered void by his SAS.

McDIVITT? Finished Gemini without rendezvous experience and gets
crewed with a rookie non-test pilot. After his CSM/LM checkout
mission, he should be in good shape for a landing assignment, but he
is not in the first cut for the LLTV. After Apollo 9, he quits to
join management!

YOUNG and LOVELL? "Demoted" from CDR status to pack experience into
Stafford's and Armstrong's (later, Borman's) crews.

CONRAD? Well qualified, but not given a highly experienced crew with
either rookies Williams or Bean. Selected for LLTV in Dec 66. He is
in good position to be first, but when 8 and 9 are switched, Slayton
decides to switch backup crews as well. It is logical for Slayton to
keep Conrad as backup to McDivitt, but it could have easily been
decided that Conrad would stay fixed as backup to the second Apollo
crew. Barring any setbacks, this deliberate action by Slayton keeps
Conrad from getting the first shot at landing.

ARMSTRONG? A top candidate from day one of the LLRV/TV program.
Flies first docking mission, but after the malfunction, he makes the
mistake of undocking instead of analyzing the thruster problem while
attached to the Agena. This error costs the mission and almost the
crew. Selected for first LLTV class and given command of an
experience-packed crew. Crashes the LLRV - the problem is blamed on
the hardware (does "loss of helium in the attitude control system"
sound vaguely parallel to Cernan's "engine failure"?). After two
major mishaps, I would guess that Slayton would have reservations
about Armstrong. But Armstrong stays in the lineup and gets switched
as the Apollo 8 backup. This firmly places him in the rotation to get
the first landing attempt. There was no "luck" involved in Slayton's
decision. And, as far as I can tell, there was no luck involved when
Armstrong was given the LLRV/TV program back in 1964.

The importance of the civilian aspect of NASA is imbedded in its
foundation. Until I get more evidence to the contrary, I will not
dismiss the idea that this was a significant factor in Armstrong being
chosen.


~ CT

OM

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 6:59:08 PM6/4/01
to
On 4 Jun 2001 15:16:20 -0700, tdad...@yahoo.com (Stuf4) wrote:

>> MC:
> "Had Deke harbored doubts about Armstrong's abilities,
> he would have been insane to entrust the first landing
> -- or any Apollo mission -- to him."
>
>Maybe not. Consider this person's background: a failed spacewalk, a
>crew-coordination switch error that could have resulted in the loss of
>the LM, and then he flew his helicopter into the water while showing
>off in front of a crowd of boaters (demonstrating gross lack of
>judgment and discipline along with negligence - he almost drowned
>because he didn't wear his inflatable vest).

1) The failure has never, ever, been attributed to Cernan having
screwed up. Anyone who understands the situation would know better.

2) IIRC, there was some mention that the switch setting was not on the
checklist, hence the omission.

3) Finally, he's a figher jock. Expecting a fighter jock not to show
off in front of civilians is like expecting a high-priced defensive
tackle to meet a higher-priced thug-turned-basketball icon at a strip
club and proceed to spend money and eventually get thrown in jail with
the rest of the thugs and dope dealers.

>It is inconceivable that Slayton had also been directed to put a
>civilian on the first landing mission?

...It's not inconceivable at all, even though it didn't happen. This
is one of those situations where circumstance and the related evidence
simply don't give the true story.

>He denied it to his death, but consider Slayton's willingness to
>mislead the public. One example from Cernan's book is where Slayton
>tried (more than once) to get Cernan to fabricate a story about engine
>failure to justify his helicopter crash. When we try to reconstruct
>history, it is not enough to think, "well this person said so, so it
>must be true". The words must fit with the facts.

...Ah, the old "Tell one lie, and you're always a liar" bit. There's
holes in that bucket, son. Sure that's not a sieve?

>GRISSOM? Leapfrogged Gemini with no rendezvous flight and his Apollo
>1 assignment was not going to correct that deficiency in experience.
>This leads me to conclude that when astronauts say that he would have
>been the first, it is more eulogy than reality.

...I'll give you credit for this point with one exception: McDivitt
was also a Gemini one-shot with no docking experience. I suspect that
had McDivitt not pulled off the A9 docking, then things might have
been different with regards to Gus. On the other hand, he was *Gus*.

>SCHIRRA? Flew the first rendezvous, but Slayton crewed him with two
>rookies for a CSM-only Apollo. The writing was on the wall, so he
>quit.

...Yes, but was the writing on the wall in Wally's own handwriting?
Remember, he'd been mumbling about retirement after he'd come back
from GT-6A.

>ARMSTRONG? A top candidate from day one of the LLRV/TV program.
>Flies first docking mission, but after the malfunction, he makes the
>mistake of undocking instead of analyzing the thruster problem while
>attached to the Agena. This error costs the mission and almost the
>crew. Selected for first LLTV class and given command of an
>experience-packed crew. Crashes the LLRV - the problem is blamed on
>the hardware (does "loss of helium in the attitude control system"
>sound vaguely parallel to Cernan's "engine failure"?).

...Have you ever *watched* the LLRV crash? It becomes obvious from
watching the chain of events that it was a vehicle failure, based on
the way it behaved visibly prior to crash.

Stuf4

unread,
Jun 4, 2001, 9:27:04 PM6/4/01