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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo 13: Gordon Cooper vs. Alan Shepard

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Author Topic:   Apollo 13: Gordon Cooper vs. Alan Shepard
robsouth
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From: West Midlands, UK
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posted 03-17-2009 05:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cooper or Shepard for Apollo 13?

Fra Mauro
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posted 03-18-2009 08:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is very accurate. It should be noted that several books have pointed out that Cooper didn't train as hard as NASA would have liked. Any Apollo research should include Andrew Chaikin's book.

robsouth
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posted 03-18-2009 04:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would love to see a comparison for each astronaut during each assignment, prime and backup, as to how many hours they spent in the sims. I would find that a really interesting piece of information.

WAWalsh
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From: Cortlandt Manor, NY
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posted 03-18-2009 04:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The account seems to have all the facts, but also seems to lean a little heavily in Gordo's favour. Some of this seems fair, as it does appear that he got the short end the stick in getting bumped from Apollo 13/14. That said, I recall reading several different accounts that equated his assignment as back-up commander of Gemini 12 with a deadend assignment (conflicting with Grissom and Schirra moving on to the Apollo program) and a red flag suggesting management dissatisfaction with Cooper's approach to things. Likewise, as much as Cooper resented Shepard pulling "rank," it has always seemed strange that he did not battle for a later mission. If he really wanted a Moon mission and if all other things were equal, one would expect Cooper to be able to bump Dave Scott and get command of Apollo 15 (or even Apollo 17 over Cernan).

Tom
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posted 03-18-2009 04:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What I could never understand about the whole "Cooper situation" is... if Slayton didn't think Cooper was up to commanding a lunar mission, why would he assign him as backup CDR on such a critical lunar test flight?

If, for any reason, Stafford couldn't fly on "10", was Slayton confident enough in Cooper's abilities, or would he delay the mission until Stafford (or someone else) was ready?

robsouth
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posted 03-18-2009 05:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Stafford's book, "We Have Capture", Slayton wasn't sure of Cooper's abilities to command Apollo 10 and asked Stafford to stay healthy and on the prime crew.

This newspaper article from April 20th 1969 is rather revealing.

WASHINGTON - Contrary to popular supposition, Leroy Gordon Cooper, is neither dead nor hiding in Argentina. He is alive and well in the astronaut program. Questions as to Cooper's condition and whereabouts came to the fore the other day when he was again passed over for a prime-crew assignment in Project Apollo. If anyone deserved a crack at flying around the moon, Cooper did. But that didn't happen. For Apollo 8, NASA picked Gemini veteran Frank Borman. Apollo 9 went to an astronaut selected later, James McDivitt, as did Apollo 10 (Thomas Stafford) and Apollo 11 (Neil Armstrong). Cooper was named back - up commander for Apollo 10, but had no first-team assignment. When Conrad was chosen April 10 to command the second moon-landing mission, the snub to Cooper seemed to many people intentional. Perhaps it was. He has been in and out (mostly out) of the good graces of his bosses at Houston's Manned Spacecraft Center for several years partly because -- let's face it -- Gordo rubs people the wrong way. Will Cooper's Apollo 10 backup team get the prime assignment for Apollo 13, or will the pattern be changed? And, if it is changed, will NASA explain why -- or, as is quite likely, deny that any such pattern ever existed?"

Delta7
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posted 03-18-2009 05:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tom:
What I could never understand about the whole "Cooper situation" is... if Slayton didn't think Cooper was up to commanding a lunar mission, why would he assign him as backup CDR on such a critical lunar test flight?

If, for any reason, Stafford couldn't fly on "10", was Slayton confident enough in Cooper's abilities, or would he delay the mission until Stafford (or someone else) was ready?


My feeling is that it was because Slayton needed to name a backup, and there was simply no one else available. Schirra was retiring; Eisele was in the position that would normally rotate into that slot (Apollo 7 CMP), but it's pretty apparent that Slayton didn't have the confidence in him to hand him that assignment. Slayton might have been of the mind to give Cooper the chance to prove himself when he assigned him to Apollo 10, and I kind of suspect that had Cooper really put his nose to the grindstone and done a good job (and not mouthed off about racing cars on the side), he might well have gotten Apollo 13, with Shepard serving as backup CDR and going on to command Apollo 16.

At some point in the Apollo 10 training process (probably the "Tiddlywinks" comment), it came to be that Stafford would have had to break both legs for Cooper to fly Apollo 10. Even then it might have been questionable.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-18-2009 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the main bit about Slayton assigning Gordo Apollo 10 backup was to throw him a small bone and see what he would do with it. Apparently he didn't do enough it seems. I think Gordo could have flown a good mission given his knack for getting in and doing the job well when the going got tough. But Apollo and the first flight of the LM in Lunar Orbit do demand a certain amount of systems training and studying. If anything even with Al Shepherd getting Apollo 14 and the schedule stretching out due to the redesign work needed after 13 came home, he still needed a really good systems guy at his right hand in the form of Ed Mitchell. And this is also coming after the experience gained on Apollos 10, 11, 12 and 13 (albeit not a landing experience in 13's case). On Apollo 10, Gordo wouldn't have had that experience and even the lessons digested from Apollo 9 would have quite been fully taken in given that both flights were seperated by about two months. If anything, the training for 9 and 10 had to take place in parallel.

Chaikin's book makes mention of the attitude that Gordo seemed to have of something akin to "heck with simulator time, get me in the craft and I'll fly it." Given the unknowns with flying a new craft in Lunar orbit and all the associated bits thrown in, if I were in management I would have also been concerned if a backup commander assigned to a test flight which was critical to the success of the first lunar landing had not been turning in a solid performance on the ground prior to that flight.

Fra Mauro
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posted 03-18-2009 10:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I still think that Cooper would have been a beeter choice to fly Apollo 7. I am not critical of Schirra's job but I feel that Cooper's personality would have been better suited for the long duration flight.As for a lunar flight, I feel badly for Gordo but it seemed that he wanted a flight on his terms(sim time and racing cars).While it's interesting to talk about what might have been, Shepard did a good job of flying on Apollo 14 (ok, he was a poor geologist!) I would have liked to have seen Bill Anders get another flight instead.

Delta7
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posted 03-19-2009 07:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's also important to point out that Cooper didn't lose Apollo 13 simply because Shepard wanted a flight sooner rather than later. It seems apparent that Slayton made the decision to replace Cooper on Apollo 13 early on, before Shepard became available. He had discussions with Jim McDivitt about doing just that. I think other possibilities were Tom Stafford, and John Young moving up from backup CDR, had Shepard's operation to cure his Meuniere's Syndrome failed or never happened. The bottom line is that Cooper lost Apollo 13 primarily because of Cooper, not Shepard.

Delta7
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From: Ossian IN USA
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posted 03-19-2009 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's interesting to speculate what would have happened if Shepard had NOT been available to replace Cooper. Personally, I think McDivitt would have taken a pass in order to move into management, and Stafford wasn't really motivated to go back to the moon.

One possible scenario: Young is named as Apollo 13 CDR (with 3 missions under his belt, not far-fetched), with Cernan as backup. Lovell, of course, is named as Apollo 14 CDR, with Bill Anders as backup. The line-up looking something like:

Apollo 13: Young, Roosa, Mitchell/Cernan, Evans, Duke (I keep Cernan and Evans together because the 2 were buddies from pre-NASA days and likely paired by Slayton for that reason);

Apollo 14: Lovell, Mattingly, Haise/Anders, Swigert, Engle.

Anders stated years later he would have stayed around for another flight if it meant walking on the moon, but wasn't interested in simply orbiting the moon again as CMP. The question would be if Slayton were inclined to promote him to CDR, and that's simply a guess on my part.

mjanovec
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posted 03-19-2009 11:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
It's interesting to speculate what would have happened if Shepard had NOT been available to replace Cooper.

It's quite possible that Slayton might have moved Lovell up a mission in the rotation and given him A13 in that circumstance...since he was next in line after Cooper in the rotation.

robsouth
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posted 03-19-2009 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If Gordo Cooper had knuckled down and really put in a top job as backup commander and didn't ruffle too many feathers in the management then Apollo 13 would have been his. Unfortunately he didn't.

ejectr
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posted 03-19-2009 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Or maybe the opposite is true. Let's not forget what happened to Apollo 13.

Lou Chinal
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posted 03-19-2009 09:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's remember the whole Cooper situation started with Gemini. Slayton had no plans to fly Cooper after MA-9. He got Gemini 5 by accident, Grissom was supposed to get that flight.

On April 9th 1959, Slayton could not believe that Cooper had also been selected. "He was from engineering". Slayton always thought Cooper was in over his head.

-Lou

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