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  Apollo crew assignments after Apollo 1 fire

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Author Topic:   Apollo crew assignments after Apollo 1 fire
Tminus8
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posted 09-11-2013 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Immediately before the fire the assigned Apollo crews were:
  • Apollo 1 -
    Grissom-White-Chaffee
    Schirra-Eisele-Cunningham

  • Apollo 2 -
    McDivitt-Scott-Schweickart
    Stafford-Young-Cernan

  • Apollo 3 -
    Borman-Collins-Anders
    Conrad-Gordon-Williams
By this stage, Bean had been transferred to the Apollo Applications Program and Slayton, Carpenter, Glenn, Shepherd and Cooper were all unavailable/out of favour.

With many insiders believing that Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham would not rotate to 'Apollo 4' (possibly a lunar orbit/lunar landing dress rehearsal) is it possible that this mission would have been flown by Armstrong, Lovell and Aldrin (a very experienced crew) or would Stafford's crew have got the nod?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-11-2013 09:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's all speculation, but my hunch is more like Armstrong, Aldrin and Cunningham backed up by Grissom, Lovell and Eisele.

garymilgrom
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posted 09-11-2013 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After Apollo 7's success (Apollo 1 in your list) it was decided a repeat mission (Apollo 2 in your list) was unnecessary. So as Michael said, it's complete speculation.

Delta7
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posted 09-11-2013 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually the repeat of Apollo 1 was cancelled in late 1966. That's when its prime crew of Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham was reassigned as the backup crew for Apollo 1, replacing McDivitt, Scott and Schweikart who became the new prime crew of Apollo 2 (which was switched to a manned test of the LM).

When the post-fire schedule came out there was no plan to repeat Apollo 7. That would have become necessary only if Apollo 7 had failed to achieve its main objectives.

garymilgrom
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posted 09-11-2013 04:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for your correction I did not know that.

Tminus8
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posted 09-17-2013 01:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for your replies.

Mr. Cassutt are you speculating that the first landing attempt could possibly have been made by Gus Grissom and Donn Eisele? This surprises me as I got the impression from various books that, with respect, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham were less well thought of by many in the programme (amongst some very high achievers), and given their lack of rendezvous experience.

Could Gene Cernan not have been held back (following his Gemini 9 and back-up Gemini 12 assignments) to become Grissom's LMP (given his experience) with his place in turn being taken by Al Bean perhaps.

  • Apollo 1 Grissom, White, Chaffee
    Backup Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham

  • Apollo 2 McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
    Backup Stafford, Young, BEAN (Then Apollo 5)

  • Apollo 3 Borman, Collins, Anders
    Backup Conrad, Gordon, Williams (Then Apollo 6)

  • Apollo 4 Armstrong, Aldrin, Cunningham
    Backup Grissom, Lovell, CERNAN (Then Apollo 7)
Any thoughts anyone?

robsouth
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posted 09-17-2013 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Following a successful Apollo 1 flight by Grissom's crew, the following crew assignments would probably have seen many changes in the flight order to accommodate the progress of the hardware. This is all speculation but my take on it from a December 1966 stand point is this. If Apollo 1 had flown, then Grissom would have found himself without a crew because Slayton was moving White and Chaffee to the AAP.

The first LM test flight was McDivitt's mission so depending on the progess with the LM they might have had their mission put back. Its unlikely that Schirra's crew or a crew commanded by Grissom would have flown the first LM test flight. Its entirely possible that Schirra's crew might have flown Apollo 2 in some sort of Block II test flight, its hard to see where else they could have fitted into the type of missions that followed.

Borman could fly Apollo 3 on a high earth orbital CSM mission with McDivitt taking up Apollo 4 to test the LM in earth orbit.

Stafford would get Apollo 5 on a possible LM lunar test leaving Apollo 6 as a possible last chance to test everything with a Conrad crew or the first lunar landing crew.

Conrad's crew was not in Slayton's mind for the first landing attempt, he had them down as a possible LM test flight or one of the lunar landings following the first landing.

So who would get Apollo 6? Well it probably wouldn't have been Grissom, Lovell, Eisele because Eisele was a CMP so wouldn't have been chosen as a LMP and he would probably have been moved over to the AAP after Apollo 2. Its true that Aldrin moved from being a CMP on the backup crew for Apollo 8 to being the LMP on Apollo 11 but this was possible because he had already served as a LMP on the Apollo 9 backup crew. Eisele was a CMP specialist.

Some say that Grissom would have been found a crew, possibly Lovell and Armstrong, but this would have meant slotting him into the rotation and not knowing which would be the first landing attempt this would have meant having him on standby just to step into the prime slot.

robsouth
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posted 09-17-2013 07:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If breaking the rotation was a possibility then the most likely to get the nod would have been one of the already flown Apollo crews.

Slayton had it in mind to rotate one of the more experienced Apollo crews back to the front of the of the line so it most likely would have been offered to Borman's, McDivitt's or Stafford's crew.

It makes sense to use an experienced crew and as much as Slayton might have wanted Grissom to make the first landing, he learnt the hard way that there is no room for being sentimental when choosing crews following his choice of See for Gemini 9.

Another possibility would be to have Conrad's crew fly Apollo 5 on a LM lunar orbit mission and have Stafford's crew make the first landing attempt.

Norman.King
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posted 09-18-2013 01:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Norman.King   Click Here to Email Norman.King     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Had Apollo 1 successfully flown in February 1967, how would the delays in the development of the LM affected the schedule? (After all, the LM was only just ready to fly in March 1969.)

robsouth
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posted 09-18-2013 07:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The delay in the progress of the LM would have meant that McDivitt's crew would be moved back to possibly Apollo 3 or 4. This would leave Apollo 2 open for a possible Block II test flight utilising Schirra's crew. If further CM tests were required, then maybe Slayton could have called upon Cooper to command Apollo 3 with Borman taking Apollo 4 on a CSM high orbit mission and McDivitt on Apollo 5 with the LM. Its all speculation but fun.

The one thing that I do doubt is Slayton assigning Grissom to a dedicated spot as the first moon walker. The crew machinations required to pull this off would have been too complicated.

Delta7
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posted 09-18-2013 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
The one thing that I do doubt is Slayton assigning Grissom to a dedicated spot as the first moon walker. The crew machinations required to pull this off would have been too complicated.
I personally don't think that's too far-fetched. Slayton could simply have selected a crew, dedicated to making the first landing and commanded by Grissom. You have them train for that mission with a backup crew and then insert them into the rotation at the appropriate time. I also think Grissom would have had a say in the composition of his crew but with the final decision being Slayton's.

One scenario: Apollo 1 flies in February 1967. Slayton tells Grissom the first landing mission is his but no public announcement of a crew yet. The Apollo 2 & 3 prime and backup crews are tied up in training for their respective flights well into 1968 because of LM not being ready to fly. Among the other astronauts available the crew of Grissom, Lovell, Aldrin emerges as the first landing crew, with Armstrong, White, Chaffee as backups.

robsouth
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posted 09-18-2013 11:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For the Grissom dedicated 1st lunar crew scenario to work, at some point Slayton would have to take the whole astronaut team into a meeting room and explain that they all had to like it or lump it that this was the chosen crew and that all other assignments had to fit in with it.

So to carry this scenario forward, its March 67, White and Chaffee are moved to AAP, Grissom is matched up with a new CMP and LMP. The schedule has Apollo 7 as the first lunar landing. Do you assign Grissom's crew to the backup crew for Apollo 4 and follow the rotation or keep them aside ready to take over as the prime crew for Apollo 7? If its the latter, when do you officially asign them to the mission? Following the completion of Apollo 5 or Apollo 6? And when would you start training them?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-18-2013 06:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Returning to this thread late, I tend to agree with Rob South's scenario: Slayton said he was eager to give Grissom a shot at the first lunar landing. There was NO WAY he would simply have created a Grissom crew and inserted that team into the rotation. Grissom would have been given an experienced CMP and very possibly an LMP like Eisele (who was originally the #3 person on Grissom's AS-204 crew, remember) and put in a backup spot that would rotate to a seventh or eighth manned Block II Apollo, those being the most likely first landing attempts.

(The only reason Slayton weighed the idea of turning around Borman's Apollo 8 crew on 11 was because training time for July 1969 was short, Borman's team would have proven itself on all the operational, navigational tasks up to and including lunar orbit, and could have concentrated their training on landing.)

Tminus8
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posted 09-25-2013 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Still surprised by the suggestion that Donn Eisele might have become Grissom's LMP with a shot at the first lunar landing or that Walt Cunningham may have flown as an early LMP when other more experienced men would have been available e.g. Ed White (allowing Aldrin to take a LMP slot), Roger Chaffee or even Al Bean (after his Gemini back-up rendezvous experience).

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-27-2013 03:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tminus8:
Still surprised by the suggestion that Donn Eisele might have become Grissom's LMP with a shot at the first lunar landing or that Walt Cunningham may have flown as an early LMP when other more experienced men would have been available e.g. Ed White (allowing Aldrin to take a LMP slot), Roger Chaffee or even Al Bean (after his Gemini back-up rendezvous experience).
Just to be picky, why surprised? Bean was really on the outs with Shepard, for one, and only made it into the Apollo rotation after Williams' death in October 1967. Slayton had originally assigned Eisele to Grissom's Apollo 1/204 crew, so Grissom obviously wanted Eisele or approved of him.

Cunningham would have been a logical choice for LMP on a CDR Grissom CMP Lovell team, too, but not as natural a fit.

As for White and Chaffee in these circumstances, with two AAP missions still in the offing, I think they'd have wound up commanding the backup crews (with Cooper commanding the first flight, Bean the second, and some 1966 pilots from the AAP branch serving as the pilots: Engle, Lousma, Pogue, McCandless).

Tminus8
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posted 09-28-2013 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Surprised because both would have been rookies at the time and also because Deke Slayton stated he would try out the original Apollo 1 crew (Eisele and Chaffee) who he thought might be weaker and they wouldn't as things turned out have had the opportunity to convince him otherwise prior to the selection of the Armstrong and Grissom crews (Apollo 4).

Also Mike Collins in his autobiography refers to the difficulties of working with the Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham crew. He says that Cunningham "bitched constantly" and Eisele "didn't quite understand what was going on half the time."

Skylon
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posted 09-29-2013 07:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tminus8:
Also Mike Collins in his autobiography refers to the difficulties of working with the Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham crew. He says that Cunningham "bitched constantly" and Eisele "didn't quite understand what was going on half the time."

To say nothing of his comments about Schirra (it seemed pretty clear Mike Collins was not Wally's biggest fan). Cunningham, Collins is a bit less clear on his views of, as he described him as complex - alternating between "genuine warmth and outright hostility."

That said, the 205 crew in general were not happy campers, and rightfully - they were treated like a step-child of 204. Slayton mentions the crew shot off a pretty sharp memo at how planning for the flight was not proceeding well. There didn't seem to be any clear objective, and they just seemed to be a dumping ground for experiments. Slayton and Cunningham both felt Schirra's heart was never in 205. Both noted a change however in Schirra's mentality when the assignment changed to the first post-fire mission.

Donn Eisele on paper looks like he had the potential to be a star in the Astornaut Office. He was a a test pilot and ARPS graduate: those guys (in group 3 and 5) seemed to all rank high on Slayton's list - except Eisele. It always seemed to me he got lost amidst some really type-A personalities in the Astronaut Corps who were more outstanding personalities, and frankly, just better at their jobs. That said, given that background I would not be surprised if Slayton gave him a shot at the LMP seat.

Walt Cunningham I think, personally, Slayton ranked at the bottom of the group 3 Astronauts. He was stuck with 205 from the get-go, assigned to an area of specialty in the astronaut office that Mike Collins called "the short-end of the stick" - Electrical and Sequential, non-flight experiments. Deke also could have just as easily turned him into backup CMP for Apollo 10 - but he turned to Eisele instead and sent Cunningham packing to AAP. I don't think Cunningham had a serious shot at a lunar landing, but if Apollo 7 had been "mutiny free" I think Walt would have had a more serious crack at a Skylab flight.

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