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  Apollo 1 and 2 backup crew flight assignments

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Author Topic:   Apollo 1 and 2 backup crew flight assignments
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Posts: 1
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 09-06-2013 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Something puzzling me: In his autobiography, Deke Slayton states that the original Apollo 1 back-up crew (McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart) would fly the first LM mission (Apollo 3) and that the original Apollo 2 back-up crew (Borman, Bassett, Anders) would fly the first Saturn V mission (Apollo 4).

Surely this breaks the well-established three flight rotation system doesn't it? Any thoughts?


Posts: 146
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 09-07-2013 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slayton felt the early Apollo crews needed to be hand-picked. McDivitt from day one was pointed at the first LM mission and Borman at the Saturn V. This hand-picked nature later got relaxed for Apollo because the mission objectives kept changing, and like Gemini, it became better to have a well trained pool capable of any mission.

There were also a lot of Astronauts still working Gemini, and a push to start flying Apollo possibly in late 1966. It reads like Apollo may have developed a tighter rotation than Gemini (backup, skip one, then fly).

Also, in the book you are citing, Slayton makes clear, by this point Slayton saw no "moral or technical reason" to preserve the rotation for Apollo. The rotation in Gemini was designed to give guys the necessary experience to get plugged into key roles for Apollo. The sooner someone flew Gemini, meant the earlier Slayton wanted someone on an Apollo crew. He was ultimately intending to shatter the rotation, and assign Gus Grissom the first landing, and even after Gus's death considered rotating Borman's Apollo 8 crew to Apollo 11.

Ultimately, aside from Alan Shepard on Apollo 14, Slayton ended up with no reasons to break the rotation. And I suppose it was just the delays in the Apollo program that led to the re-establishment of the three flight rotation system - mainly the Apollo 1 fire.

Michael Cassutt

Posts: 264
From: Studio City CA USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 09-08-2013 04:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Tminus8:
Surely this breaks the well-established three flight rotation system doesn't it? Any thoughts?
Skylon has made several valuable points to answer you, but I would also suggest that you are confusing a handy tool with a rule. For example, Slayton originally planned to use a two-flight rotation for Gemini, but realized that each mission really required six months of crew training... and with a launch every two months, and given the nature of the schedule as it grew more solid in mid-1964, he settled on the pattern we saw.

Apollo was a more complicated matter. First: you have to think of Block I and Block II as different programs. At one point there were four manned Block I flights on the schedule; by late 1965, however, they had been reduced to two. So Slayton named crews for AS-204 and 205, with backups for both... planning to rotate them to the first Block II missions.

Second, Slayton knew there would be a gap of many months between the end of Block I and the beginning of Block II, allowing for, say, McDivitt's crew to have more like a year of training for its prime crew assignment on what you call Apollo 3 after being released from backing up Grissom on 204. The same with Borman's crew on 'Apollo 4',

(It also meant that Slayton was free to slot Grissom as a Block II commander, which would allow him a good shot at the first manned landing attempt. I would slightly disagree with Skylon's comment that Deke promised Grissom the first lunar landing. What he promised Grissom was the opportunity.)

Apollo wound up with a three-flight rotation by circumstance -- because, post-fire, with Apollo 7 launching in October 1968, it became apparent to Slayton that missions would be flying every 2-3 months... and crews needed that half-year. (They were able to accomplish this only because by summer 1968 they had been in Apollo training for almost two years to begin with. And even then, Slayton was worried that six months would not be enough for Armstrong's crew to truly prepare for the first landing....)

Michael Cassutt
co-author of DEKE!

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