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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo Soyuz Test Project crew selection

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Author Topic:   Apollo Soyuz Test Project crew selection
schnappsicle
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Posts: 116
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 07-10-2012 06:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm reading Tom Stafford's book "We Have Capture" and I noticed a few slight differences between his recollections and those of Deke Slayton's, particularly in regards to the crew selection process involving the ASTP crew. As I remember, Slayton said he went to Kraft and submitted himself as CDR with Stafford and Brand completing the crew. Slayton claims it was Kraft who talked him into accepting second place behind Stafford. I have no doubt that that's what happened. But, Stafford says it was him and Slayton with him (Stafford as commander) getting to choose between Swigert, Brand and McCandless. Stafford wanted Swigert, but Swigert was eliminated after admitting to carrying unauthorized covers on Apollo 13. That's when Stafford chose Brand.

Has anyone read or does anyone know the precise sequence that took place here? I realize the crew selection process is a closely guarded secret, but since they both wrote about it, I thought maybe there's a definitive timeline out there somewhere, or at least one that can be pieced together from all the known sources.

Skylon
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Registered: Sep 2010

posted 07-10-2012 09:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To clarify, Slayton's recollection is Kraft asked him to submit his ASTP recommendation, with the full understanding Kraft had final say - Tom Stafford was not on this proposed crew. The crew he submitted was Slayton, Swigert and Brand. Slayton felt Swigert deserved another shot after being thrown into Apollo 13 at the last minute, and with everything going to hell on the mission. However, before the crew was finalized it was clear Swigert would not be on ASTP, for the reasons you stated. Brand he felt was the best choice of those who had not flown from the 1966 group.

Slayton then goes on to state he was called into Kraft's office after Apollo 17 splashed down to find Stafford and Brand there, and they were then told that they would be the ASTP crew.

Fra Mauro
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Posts: 1017
From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 07-13-2012 06:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kraft makes no mention of the crew selection in his book.

moorouge
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Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 07-13-2012 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You'll find a full explanation in "The Partnership - A History of ASTP" by Edward Ezell and Linda Ezell. It's available as a pdf file for free download. NASA reference is SP-4209.

alanh_7
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Posts: 889
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 07-15-2012 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have always thought the ground work was unknowingly laid for Stafford to lead the mission when he attended the Soyuz 11 crew funerals. The Russians knew and respected him, when he represented NASA during that tragic period.

Scott was taken out of the running with the letter cover deal following Apollo 15 and with many of the other experienced Apollo commanders either retired or moved to the shuttle program it always made sense.

I cannot remember for sure but I think Deke even said in his book that he put his name in to command but suspected it was not going to happen as he had never completed a backup roll on the Apollo spacecraft and the NASA leadership wanted an experienced commander. There were not many more experienced than Tom Stafford.

Brand always made sense to me since he had worked backup and support rolls on Skylab and also worked the Skylab 3 rescue plan.

Of course in my mind there has never been an astronaut who deserved to be assigned a flight more than Deke.

I took a long look at my George Bishop print of the ASTP crew that I had Vance Brand complete a few years back. Happy Anniversary ASTP.

Henry Heatherbank
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Posts: 146
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 07-16-2012 05:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't it much simpler? I always thought Stafford got the nod because, in such a high profile rendezvous/docking mission, NASA needed an experienced rendezvous/docking veteran. With many of the Apollo "old heads" moving on, Stafford was the clear choice (especially over Slayton), given his relevant experience on every prior mission (GT VI-A, GT IX-A, Apollo 10).

NASA could not afford to abort the ASTP mission because of a failed rendezvous/docking attempt. That would have been a major technical AND political embarrassment, given Nixon's push on Detente at the time.

Jay Chladek
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Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 07-16-2012 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Soyuz 11 funeral participation wasn't the only factor in Stafford's favor as he spent about a year on the Houston side of one of the joint US/USSR working groups (which would meet when delegates met to hash out more details) to help iron out the procedures from rendezvous and docking. At the time of Soyuz 11, high level talks between NASA and Soviet space officials had been taking place for over a year.

Representatives from both countries were taking part in the working groups for close to two years before the formal announcement for ASTP was made as they were hashing out whether the mission was even possible and how best to carry it out. The crews had to be selected not long after the ASTP announcement due to the long training time needed (especially in language studies). In Brand's case that caused a minor complication since he was selected for ASTP even before the Skylab missions flew and wouldn't be available for much of the early training until after his backup Skylab duties were completed (including the rescue CSM studies for Skylab 3).

In Stafford's case, he didn't think he would fly again, which is why he had moved over into astronaut management (the office Al Shepard left when he began his Apollo 14 training) and he was happy with that. But yes, his experience with rendezvous and docking, plus the Soviets knowing of him from his working group participation and his high profile appearance at the funeral for the Soyuz 11 crew were all factors in him getting the nod. It was still something of a surprise to Stafford though, given he wasn't expecting to fly anymore after Apollo 10.

cosmos-walter
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Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-16-2012 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by schnappsicle:
Stafford wanted Swigert, but Swigert was eliminated after admitting to carrying unauthorized covers on Apollo 13.
James Lovell took 50 covers in his PPK on Apollo 13 to the Moon. These covers were carried in Lovell's PPK. John Swigert became crew member one day before launch. Thus he was not involved in these covers. I never heard he himself took covers on Apollo 13.

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

posted 07-16-2012 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The way I've heard it told was that it wasn't flown covers but signed stamp blocks that got Swigert in trouble, leading to his replacement on ASTP.

Slayton questioned Swigert (as he had the other astronauts) about the stamp block deal (organized by Sieger, the same German dealer who orchestrated the Apollo 15 unauthorized covers) and Swigert initially denied his participation.

cosmos-walter
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Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-16-2012 04:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, this makes sense. Thus the problem was rather, that he initially denied than that he signed the souvenir sheets for Eyermann.

Jay Chladek
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Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 07-16-2012 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In Swigert's case as I understand it, it was initially denying involvement in the stamp blocks that got him into trouble more than the blocks themselves. Swigert did come clean about it after a couple days, but NASA management (not sure if Deke was still involved in astronaut selection at that point since he was going to become an active crew) felt the original denial was something they couldn't ignore.

That doesn't necessarily mean that management wouldn't have scrubbed Swigert anyway even if he had come clean from day one with total honesty about the stamp blocks in the aftermath of the Apollo 15 "witchhunt" as it seemed to become. But we will ultimately never know.

All times are CT (US)

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