Max Faget’s position was that considering the difficulty of the job, if each mission was successful half the time, it would be well worth the effort. But Gilruth thought that was too low. He want a 90% mission success ratio and a 99% ratio for Astronaut safety. Walt Williams who was currently running the Mercury program believed that astronaut safety needed to be limited to only 1 failure in a million which was 99.9999%.
…From the information they gathered on the existing technical problems, Disher and Tischler concluded that prospects were only one in ten that Apollo would land on the moon before the end of the decade….
“The contractor role in Houston was not very firm. Frankly, they didn’t want us. There were two things against us down there. Number one, it was a Headquarters contract, and it was decreed that the Space Centers shall use GE for certain things; and number two they considered us (meaning GE) to be Headquarters spies.” Edward S. Miller of General Electric.
During 1962, NASA faced three major tasks: first the mode selection and its defense (covered in episodes 106-109), second keeping North American moving on the command and service modules (covered in episode 110) and third finding a contractor to develop the separate landing vehicle required by that approach. Which we will cover today in episode 111.
The Apollo contract specified a shirt-sleeve environment. For this reason, North American was told not to include in its design a hatch that opened by explosives, like Mercury’s. An accidentally blown hatch in space would cause an instant vacuum and certain death for an astronaunt not wearing his pressure suit.
Max Faget thought the first stage of the moon rocket should use four solid-fueled engines, 6.6 meters in diameter. He reasoned these could certainly accomplish whatever mission was required of either the Saturn or Nova, and it would be more cost effective. Faget said it made good sense to use cheap solid fuels for expendable rockets and more expensive liquid fuels for reusable engines. Faget called the individual solid rocket ‘the Tiger.’
We left off last week after Buzz Aldrin’s third and final EVA. The hard work for the Gemini 12 mission was now complete. Even with the problems with the radar, the Agena main engines, and the fuel cells, Gemini XII as a whole had gone very well…
In space, Jim and Buzz began to wonder if everything had been shut down too soon. For 25 minutes, with one brief exception, they heard nothing from the ground. The Ascension Island tracking station had the wrong acquisition time, so its communicators had not talked with the astronauts…