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  Wernher von Braun's "Monday notes" and memos

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Author Topic:   Wernher von Braun's "Monday notes" and memos
Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-13-2008 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the same spirit as the Tindallgrams, Wernher von Braun's 'Monday notes' are now receiving new attention. The Huntsville Times reports:
Every day this week, Mike Wright is reading the mind of the late Dr. Wernher von Braun during the crucial period when he oversaw virtually every detail of the effort to put U.S. American footprints on lunar soil.

Wright, the chief historian for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, is working in a gray room in the National Archives Southeast Region near Atlanta, putting thousands of pages of von Braun's "Monday notes" into a computer.

Every week, as von Braun oversaw the development of the Saturn V moon rocket, he got a set of short reports from the engineers and administrators under him.

He would read them, write in the margins, sign a "B" and the date, then send them back. They came to be known as the "Monday notes," Wright said, and have been hailed as a model of effective communication and management for big projects like Apollo.

A full collection of the notes from those years, complete with von Braun's comments and instructions, would detail the history of America's space program in a unique and valuable way, Wright said. But no such compilation was thought to have survived.

Since von Braun left Marshall in 1970, thousands of boxes of the center's records have gone to the National Archives Southeast Region for posterity. Regional Administrator James McSweeney said a set of what was thought might be the famed notes was uncovered as archivists pored though materials to help mark NASA's 50th anniversary this year.

Wright emphasized that work on the papers is just beginning, and they won't be organized for use by researchers or curious students for some time.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 08-13-2008 07:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Keep in mind that about 35 of von Braun's senior associates, managers, and chief engineers of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center had their own "returned" working papers received back from the famed rocket pioneer for their review of his comments and suggestions.

Every week each of the 35 would write a one-page summary report. Those 35 pages were submitted to von Braun each Friday.

Usually by Tuesday morning the center director had read all of them and had written in pencil his comments, suggestions and directives on the margins, and if needed, elsewhere on the pages. His initial "B" was a trademark notation that he wrote on each page after he had reviewed it.

Then, as explained by one of his close working associates of Peenemunde beginnings -- Ernst Stuhlinger -- each note was copied 35 times so that each writer received not only his own annotated page back, but also the pages of all his colleagues.

Every week the "Monday Notes" gave von Braun a comprehensive picture of the status of each project, of each laboratory, and of each major office enabling him to interact with each element in his organization.

Joel Katzowitz
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Posts: 326
From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 08-21-2008 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a number of original von Braun hand notated papers from the Stuhlinger collection. My working papers are from the years 1961, 1962, and 1967.

One of the fascinating things about these papers, aside from the obvious glimpse into the process of developing rockets, is the social aspect. There is commentary on many issues of the day including racial integration and politics.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-25-2009 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA is asking for assistance as to how best to inventory and understand von Braun's notes.
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the historic first moon landing, NASA is seeking ideas from the public, academia, and industry about how to analyze and catalog notes from spaceflight pioneer Wernher von Braun into an electronic, searchable database or other system.

Von Braun was the first director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and a key figure in the development of the Saturn V rocket and NASA's Apollo program. NASA has a full collection of "Weekly Notes" von Braun wrote during the 1960s and 1970s. These notes were used to track programmatic and institutional issues at Marshall, and are considered by many historians to be a valuable source of data.

NASA has issued a request for information (RFI) and is looking for concepts that will provide an innovative resource for agency engineers and scientists, as well as researchers in academia and industry.

Request for Information Regarding the Weekly Notes of Dr. Wernher Von Braun

Respondents are requested to provide information that addresses how NASA should proceed with all or any subset of the following:

  1. How should NASA catalogue the Weekly Notes? Do you have specific ideas on how to implement the approach or strategy?

  2. What format(s) should the Weekly Notes be available in?

  3. How should the Weekly Notes be indexed?

  4. What timeframe do you expect this work to require?

  5. What other strategies or approaches do you recommend that NASA pursue that would contribute to successful cooperation between NASA and other entities to create a successful and useful product from the Weekly Notes? Could these notes form the basis for understanding management best practices? Could engineering design and operational considerations be derived from these notes? Could these notes form the basis for formal classroom training?

Apollo Redux
Member

Posts: 346
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Registered: Sep 2006

posted 06-26-2009 08:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo Redux   Click Here to Email Apollo Redux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
Every week the "Monday Notes" gave von Braun a comprehensive picture of the status of each project, of each laboratory, and of each major office enabling him to interact with each element in his organization.
Another fine example of the legendary, almost cliche, German precision.

Very interesting.

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