“I would like to reiterate once more that it is absolutely mandatory that we arrive at a definite mode decision within the next few weeks. . . . If we do not make a clear-cut decision on the mode very soon, our chances of accomplishing the first lunar expedition in this decade will fade away rapidly.” Wernher Von Braun June 7, 1962.
Langley’s brochure for the Golovin Committee described Lunar landers of varied sizes and payload capabilities. There were illustrations and data on a very small lander that was able to carry one man for 2 to 4 hours on the moon. There was an “economy” model that could two men for a 24-hour stay. The third model was called the “plush” module, it would carry two men for a 7-day stay on the moon. Weight estimates for the three craft, without fuel, were 580, 1,010, and 1,790 kilograms, respectively…
The mode that Apollo would use to land on the moon was the most studied, analyzed, and debated decision made for the lunar landing program. There were four main choices Direct-ascent, Earth-Orbit Rendezvous, Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous, and Lunar Surface Rendezvous.
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.’
In May 1961, NASA was not really prepared to direct an enormous Apollo program designed to fly its spacecraft to the moon. New and special facilities would be needed and the aerospace industry would have to be marshaled to develop vehicles not easily adapted to production lines, but at this point no one had even decided just what Apollo’s component parts should be or how they should look.
In January 1960, President Eisenhower directed NASA Administrator Glennan to accelerate the Super Booster Program that had recently been assigned to NASA. This order ensured the transfer of the von Braun group from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to NASA, and it gave Glennan the launch vehicle development and management capability that he needed.
Deputy Administrator Seamans wanted a mission review board created to study:
(1) Corrective measures for the Atlas-Agena failure
(2) The guidance update problem that delayed the launch two days
(3) The shroud incident
(4) The suit environmental control difficulties
Armstrong eased Gemini VIII toward the target at a barely perceptible speed of 8 centimeters per second. Then Armstrong gleefully reported, “Flight, we are docked!” For a brief moment, the flight controllers in Houston did not realize they had really accomplished docking. Then pandemonium broke loose…