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Author Topic:   Apollo 2 crew assignments (Block 1 spacecraft)
Tminus8
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posted 09-17-2013 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a thought: the Block 1 Apollo 2 crew selected in July 1966 was Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham, backed-up by Frank Borman, Thomas Stafford and Michael Collins.

Given the huge respect in which Stafford seems to have been held (making him a suitable commander) and the test pilot and rendezvous experience of Collins (making him an obvious command module pilot candidate, along with John Young, James Lovell, David Scott, and Richard Gordon) is it possible that Deke Slayton never intended this crew to fly together?

Could their assignment to this crew have been made to simply allow them to gain Apollo experience as soon as possible with the thought that Borman's crew could eventually be Borman, Collins and Anders (Anders having previously been penciled in to this position)?

Tom
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posted 09-17-2013 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to add to that... the original Apollo 2 backup crew was Borman, Bassett and Anders. That became Borman, Stafford and Collins following Bassett's death and the assigning of Anders to backup Gemini 11 with Armstrong.

Delta7
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posted 09-18-2013 08:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe in Slayton's autobiography "Deke" he refers to the Borman, Stafford, Collins crew as a potential lunar landing crew...

Tminus8
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posted 09-18-2013 01:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A small correction - Deke Slayton refers to the Borman-Bassett-Anders crew as a potential lunar landing crew. Still can't understand why Stafford would fly as a CMP and Collins as a LMP (particularly given the limited number of potential CMPs).

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-18-2013 06:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was strictly a case where Slayton needed individual astronauts with certain skills at a certain time — as in June/July 1966. Stafford himself looked at his spot compared to Borman and went, hey, haven't I flown twice?

But you could ask the same question about Young — why was he assigned as a CMP after having flown GT-III and X? And the answer would be the same: Slayton needed a rendezvous-experienced astronaut for a CMP spot, and for whatever reason thought Stafford a better choice for commander... just as he thought Borman a better choice for commander vice Stafford.

Please forget the notion that Slayton was selecting temporary crews. If he put someone in a spot, announced the team, and saw them commence training, it meant that he planned for them to operate as a unit.

Tminus8
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posted 09-23-2013 04:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Respect your thoughts Mr. Cassutt, but this still seems odd to me as the Apollo 2 back-up crew was later split up anyway. The selection of Borman, Stafford and Collins would leave Young, Conrad and Armstrong as likely early Apollo commanders and Lovell, Gordon and Cernan as likely CMPs and yet it appears that Stafford was more highly rated (from actual later assignments) than Young, and Collins was more highly rated (again from later assignments) than Cernan.

Young could have been assigned to the back-up crew of Apollo 2 (instead of Stafford) at the same time as Collins (July 66) thereby causing no delay to crew training.

Tom
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posted 09-23-2013 05:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You mention that Stafford was "more highly rated" than Young and that Collins was rated higher than Cernan.

That would seem to make sense in that Stafford was actually assigned to a mission prior to Young (Gemini 3 - Shepard and Stafford), and Collins was assigned to a flight crew ahead of Cernan. Collins would have also flown before Cernan if not for the untimely deaths of See and Bassett.

Skylon
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posted 09-23-2013 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Keep in mind also, Cernan was also tied up with Gemini longer than Collins - since he was assigned to backup GT-12.

Additionally, Tom Stafford, was originally Slayton's pick for Gemini 3. He was moved to GT-6 since Young was seen as a better personality match for Gus Grissom, and also Stafford emerged as the strongest of the Group 2 guys on rendezvous.

Stafford always struck me as maybe a shade underestimated by his peers, and it maybe only became apparent later how capable he was. Mike Collins described him as presenting the demeanor of a school teacher - which would not have been a bright star in an astronaut office filled with colorful characters. But his work clearly must have impressed Slayton and Shepard to recognize his abilities.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-23-2013 09:12 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:
Young could have been assigned to the back-up crew of Apollo 2 (instead of Stafford) at the same time as Collins (July 66) thereby causing no delay to crew training.
Well, not quite: Stafford was plugged into Apollo in June 1966 and began studying up on the CMP at Downey then. Collins didn't come along until later. Yes, Slayton could have simply waited and put both Young and Collins with Borman, but he didn't, and that may be a result of a) availability, b) estimate of abilities [the Borman crew was a likely lunar lander team] or c) personal compatibility, not a small issue. Collins and Stafford both knew Borman well. Young, not so much. (Note that it was Young who fit well with Grissom, not Borman.)

Tminus8
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posted 09-24-2013 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes but why then change things after the fire to Borman, Collins and Anders and Stafford, Young and Cernan? Why not simply set out the crews as before with the Conrad and Armstrong crews added along with Young, Cernan, Anders. (These being the 18 men chosen by Deke for the lead-up to the first landing):

  • Apollo 7 (CM only) Schirra, Eiselle, Cunningham
  • Apollo 8 (LM Test) McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
  • Apollo 9 (High EO) Borman, Stafford, Collins
  • Apollo 7 Back-Up Young, Cernan, Anders
  • Apollo 8 Back-Up Conrad, Gordon, Williams
  • Apollo 9 Back-Up Armstrong, Lovell, Aldrin
You see now suddenly we are back to my point that Young is ranked above Stafford and Cernan above Collins in terms of their positions in the crews. In reality after the fire the crews actually looked more like what one would have expected i.e. Borman, Collins, Anders and Stafford, Young, Cernan (Stafford above Young and Collins above and ahead of Cernan).

Could Deke have had these crews in mind all along but picked Borman's original crew as an expediency to get men who were available (and knew each other well) into Apollo training as soon as possible fully intending them to back-up Schirra's Block 1 mission but then to split them up for Block 2? Could he have already decided that Borman and Anders were a well matched pair as were Stafford and Cernan having flown together on Gemini 9?

dtemple
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posted 09-24-2013 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dtemple   Click Here to Email dtemple     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I haven't thought this all the way through - will leave that to others. That said, I suggest considering Collins' bone spur for which he had to have surgery. How does that figure into your question?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 09-25-2013 09:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We're getting pretty deep into the speculative woods here with a few too many assumptions and unverifiable assumptions. To take this in some order:

"Why change things after the fire?" Because one of Deke's leading candidates for command of the first landing mission — Grissom — was gone. It made sense to Deke to give Stafford command of his own potential landing crew then.

"Could Deke have had these crews in mind all along?" This, I seem to recall, was your original question... and it's possible. But Deke had several variations in mind at various times. What he had done in 1964 was lay out a tentative crewing plan that would give him six qualified Apollo commanders and six qualified Apollo CMPs by late 1968 or early 1969, when he expected to assign the first landing team.

Who-would-fly-with-whom kept changing. The only constants were these: Borman was going to be the lead for Apollo CM, McDivitt was going to be the lead for Apollo LM, meaning they would be at the top of the list of those half a dozen commanders. Grissom was on it and at one point I'm sure Schirra was, too. Armstrong and Conrad were always on it. Stafford made his way to it. By summer 1968, there were really only five candidates. I don't believe that Deke ever considered Young a prime candidate to command the first lunar landing mission...

"Could he have already decided that Borman and Anders were a well-matched pair?" Possibly, but according to Anders himself, he was pretty sure Deke intended him to fly with Armstrong, especially since they served on the GT-XI backup crew together.

I'll go back to my point, up-thread, which is based on my own work with Slayton himself: he did not assign crews on a temporary basis. If he put them together, he expected them to train and then fly that way until circumstances forced a change. He expected Armstrong-See to be the GT-VII prime crew until EVA issues forced him to shift See to the next mission.

The only exception to this is the AS-204 backup crew as it existed between November 1966 and late January 1967: given the demands of Block II missions, and Schirra's likely departure from the astronaut office, Slayton did not expect Schirra-Eisele-Cunningham to fly together, but that was a decision forced on him by the cancellation of AS-205.

Tminus8
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posted 09-25-2013 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great point about the loss of Grissom from the original six Apollo commanders.

With regard to Armstrong/Anders, this pairing was put together after the loss of See and Bassett in February 66 (when it seems to me there were very limited options for the back-up crews for Gemini 11 and 12 - Anders wasn't originally down to fly in Gemini) whereas the Borman/Anders pairing was put together earlier. Could it be Bill Anders assumed he would fly with Armstrong simply because of their Gemini 11 pairing. I recall from Armstrong's authorised biography speculation that Armstrong was paired with Aldrin because of the six commanders Armstrong's personality most closely matched Aldrin's.

Prior to the fire would John Young have been the first (or one of the first) post landing commanders or would he still have served as a CMP first I wonder.

Tom
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posted 09-25-2013 05:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
If he put them together, he expected them to train and then fly that way until circumstances forced a change.
Michael, I understand what you're saying about Slayton's crew assignments.
However, I always wondered about the Gemini 7 back-up crew. What were the circumstances that prevented White and Collins from moving on to Gemini 10 together?

I'm sure he could have had John Young assigned with Grissom (and Chaffee) on the first Apollo instead of Ed White, being they flew together previously on Gemini 3. Thank you.

Tminus8
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posted 09-26-2013 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tminus8     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The way I see it Tom, is that circumstances changed when Deke Slayton decided Elliot See wasn't capable of carrying out the proposed EVA on Gemini 8. To ensure he had a seat in Gemini he made him Gemini 9 commander. The original crew selections I believe were going to be:
  • Gemini 8 —  Armstrong/See — Conrad/Gordon
  • Gemini 9 — Young/Scott (prob) —  Stafford/Bassett (prob)
  • Gemini 10 — White/Collins — Lovell/Aldrin or Cernan
  • Gemini 11 — Conrad/Gordon — Armstrong/Bean or Aldrin
  • Gemini 12 — Stafford/Bassett — See/Williams or Bean
It was Ed White who lost out in the changes and Gene Cernan who possibly gained along with Lovell and Aldrin (after the tragic deaths of See and Bassett).

With See picked to be the Gemini 9 commander it was either Young or White for the command of Gemini 10 and Slayton clearly thought that Young was a better candidate for an early Apollo CMP and would therefore benefit more from flying a rendezvous mission.

schnappsicle
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posted 09-27-2013 08:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Mr. Cassutt, there's just way too much speculation and thought going into this discussion. What we do know is we had 31 great missions (Freedom 7 through ASTP) flown by 43 of the best pilots in the U.S. Armed Forces who risked their lives for the sake of their country. History has told us that regardless of who Deke put in what seat, they all represented themselves and their country with class and dignity. Together, they did a most remarkable job under very difficult circumstances. The fact that we didn't even hear about most of the Shuttle missions is a tribute to the knowledge gained by America's pioneering astronauts.

To paraphrase Aslan, "You can never know what might have been."

Delta7
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posted 09-27-2013 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tminus8:
It was Ed White who lost out in the changes and Gene Cernan who possibly gained along with Lovell and Aldrin (after the tragic deaths of See and Bassett).

With See picked to be the Gemini 9 commander it was either Young or White for the command of Gemini 10 and Slayton clearly thought that Young was a better candidate for an early Apollo CMP and would therefore benefit more from flying a rendezvous mission.


White was assigned to Grissom's crew only after Eisele injured himself and was temporarily out of commission. One thing both men had in common was their area of specialty as assigned earlier by Slayton, namely the Attitude and Translational Control Systems. It's possible that Slayton wanted someone with that specialty on the first flight of the spacecraft, and that's why he pulled White out of Gemini and put him on Apollo 1. Just a thought...

Paolo P
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posted 05-13-2014 04:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paolo P     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
The only constants were these: Borman was going to be the lead for Apollo CM, McDivitt was going to be the lead for Apollo LM, meaning they would be at the top of the list of those half a dozen commanders. Grissom was on it and at one point I'm sure Schirra was, too. Armstrong and Conrad were always on it.
This is interesting because one thing that always struck me as odd in "Deke" is that Armstrong doesn't get a mention in the early Apollo planning and was on the dead-end Gemini back-up slot (by implication 'time marking slots' as intended for See and filled by Cooper) until after the fire and the 9/8 back-up slot opened.

Another thread covers this where Mr. Cassutt states that he believes Armstrong would have got the original Apollo 4, so maybe I just read too much into the Gemini 11 back-up assignment?

carmelo
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posted 05-19-2014 12:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
I don't believe that Deke ever considered Young a prime candidate to command the first lunar landing mission.
This is very interesting; why?

Tom
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posted 05-19-2014 04:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only candidates Deke considered for commander of the first lunar landing (post Jan. '67) were Borman, McDivitt, Armstrong and Conrad.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 05-20-2014 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Add Stafford to the list of post-January 1967 first landing commanders.

As for Young and why Slayton didn't have him on the same list... no idea. Lovell wasn't on it, either.

David C
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posted 05-20-2014 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suspect that Lovell lost out to Borman as a result of character. I get the impression that Borman didn't make a good follower and hence was in a sort of commander or nothing position. Obviously Deke couldn't afford to have such a capable guy doing nothing. Lovell was capable of leading or following and hence got stuck with the CMP role.

I think that Young's tenure as Chief Astronaut raises questions about his leadership that were probably apparent to Deke at an earlier stage.

Deke was also very seniority aware, not quite sure how the relative seniority of naval and air force astronauts within the same selection groups worked out.

Pure speculation on my part of course.

Skylon
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posted 05-21-2014 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Borman had also been working Apollo longer than Lovell, and had been assigned to an Apollo flight before Lovell moved over from Gemini. It's clear McDivitt and Borman were ranked highest by Slayton of the Group 9 guys.

Slayton called Lovell "a capable guy who could be assigned to any mission" in "Deke!" which says to me he ranked Lovell as someone who he could rely on for any job. Mike Collins commented in his book that he felt Lovell was stronger on the PR-side of things than the technical end (though I would say that is an extremely relative statement considering the company he is being compared too). Basically it sounds like others may have stood out more than Lovell, but Slayton had total faith in him flying any mission, in any capacity.

I think Young was in a similar vein as someone Deke felt he could turn to, for any assignment.

To be honest, I feel like Slayton may have felt the "Nine" were so capable that he probably ranked them in clusters:

  • McDivitt and Borman (on top)
  • Conrad, Armstrong and Stafford ("second tier", good candidates for commanding lunar landings, I think Deke felt them nearly interchangeable, and Collins considered them some of the "rendezvous heavy weights" in the Astronaut Office).
  • Young and Lovell (solid and dependable, only a notch below the preceding three).
  • White (I think Slayton's opinion may have declined after Gemini 4, but who can say where he would have gone had Apollo 1 been successful)
  • See

David C
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posted 05-22-2014 01:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Borman had also been working Apollo longer than Lovell, and had been assigned to an Apollo flight before Lovell moved over from Gemini. It's clear McDivitt and Borman were ranked highest by Slayton of the Group 9.

Mmm, I think you're looking at things from too late a stage. These "rankings" had been largely decided before Gemini even flew. My view is that McDivitt was possibly ranked higest, hence his rookie Gemini command and subsequent lead position on the LM - a completely new spacecraft concept to operate in an unknown environment. McDivitt also had management potential that had been recognised during his time at Edwards.

Armstrong was probably next (or equal with McDivitt) with his test background (particularly the X-15), hence another rookie Gemini command and being heavily involved in the "how to land on the Moon" question and simulators. Test pilot input on that job was much more critical that on boosters - Borman's area of expertise.

Borman's flight test credentials were not as strong as those of McDivitt and Armstrong, and Borman was only assigned his command because Gus turned down Deke's first choice for Borman as Grissom's crewmate. You can bet Deke and Gus had a talk about that. The CSM lead initially would have been perceived as a less important job than the LM, being to an extent just a bigger longer range version of what McDonnell had already done. Of course the fire later changed that.

quote:
To be honest, I feel like Slayton may have felt the "Nine" were so capable that he probably ranked them in clusters:
  • McDivitt and Borman (on top)
  • Conrad, Armstrong and Stafford ("second tier . . .

Borman may initially (1963/4) have ranked equal with or lower than Conrad, (but still higher than Stafford), who knows? Stafford was ranked below Conrad as mentioned by Michael, again he had a weaker flight test record.

I suspect that an initial list for Group 2 made around 1963/4 would have looked more like:

  • McDivitt and Armstrong.
  • Conrad and Borman.
  • Stafford and Lovell.
  • Young.
  • White and See.

Later experience raised both Borman's and Stafford's relative rankings.

Delta7
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posted 05-22-2014 06:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm curious as to why Ed White's standing went down as a result of Gemini 4. Was it his initial ignoring of the command to terminate the EVA? Or were there other issues? I seem to recall another astronaut (Mike Collins?) describing White as one of the odds-on favorites among his peers to be first on the moon, early on in his training.

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