Space News
space history and artifacts articles

Messages
space history discussion forums

Sightings
worldwide astronaut appearances

Resources
selected space history documents

Websites
related space history websites

  collectSPACE: Messages
  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Launching scientist-astronauts to the moon

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Launching scientist-astronauts to the moon
carmelo
Member

Posts: 856
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 03-04-2015 11:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In your opinion, in order to a more depht scientific exploration of the moon, had Dr. Michel fly on Apollo 16 (and Harrison Schmitt on 17)?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 31812
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-04-2015 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think Michel would have been available for Apollo 16. He decided to leave NASA in 1969; the Apollo 16 crew wasn't decided until 1971.

Of course, NASA could have chosen from its other scientist-astronauts, as the National Academy had urged.

Tykeanaut
Member

Posts: 1966
From: Worcestershire, England, UK.
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 03-04-2015 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There seemed to be a definite reluctance to choose scientist-astronauts, even if the cancelled missions had gone ahead. Was it a loyalty issue with Deke Slayton I wonder?

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 832
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 03-05-2015 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Loyalty in the sense that he favored astronauts in the test pilot/military mold, yes. Even though some (like the late Dr. Michel) had Air Force piloting experience, maybe he was leery of anyone with an MD or Ph.D after his name (Buzz Aldrin notwithstanding).

Everyone has an inherent bias, and it takes time for them to change his/her views - or not. Perhaps if Skylab had been reboosted and more crews (with scientist-astronauts aboard) had been assigned to fly to it, Slayton would have realized every astronaut, no matter the background, has a role to play in spaceflight.

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-05-2015 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When Michel resigned from NASA in 1969, he wrote an op/ed piece in Newsweek criticizing the lack of scientist-astronauts in Apollo flight assignments, citing the just-announced Apollo 13 and 14 crew assignments as proving his assertion.

I think Deke and others in NASA management looked at the Apollo flights as primarily piloting-oriented as opposed to scientific expeditions. They felt the need for two experienced pilots whose flying instincts had been instilled over the course of a career spent flying high-performance jet airplanes, as opposed to individuals whose flying experience was secondary to their scientific careers. Test flying experience was highly preferable, which most of the lunar crew members had.

Even though Michel had flown jet fighters, he was primarily a scientist, who had given up flying jets before he became an astronaut. Harrison Schmitt's eventual assignment to a flight was political as much as anything; indeed if Deke had had his way Joe Engle would have been the LMP on Apollo 17 and Schmitt likely would have left NASA without having flown.

moonguyron
Member

Posts: 77
From: Salado, Texas, USA
Registered: Jan 2011

posted 03-05-2015 11:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moonguyron   Click Here to Email moonguyron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As proof of inherent bias, I have six dioramas based on the six landings on the moon with each of the 12 astronauts in 1:6th scale. However there are only 11 astronauts.

Apollo 17, titled "The Last Footprint," shows only Cernan as he makes his last footprint and steps onto the LM footpad; the rationale being that Schmitt has already ascended into the LM. So this allowed me to simultaneously be both historically accurate and eliminate Schmitt. First because he took the place of the guy who should have been there, X-15 pilot Joe Engle, and because being an ex-Air Force pilot myself... well here my argument gets a bit thin.

As we know Schmitt did a remarkable job. But it just shows how old habits die hard.

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 832
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 03-05-2015 12:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And Gen. Engle, being the professional (and gentleman) that he is, I'm sure was very disappointed but by all indications was not overtly bitter or angry about the outcome. He did make history in the shuttle program by being the only astronaut to manually pilot a winged craft from reentry thru landing twice (X-15 and Columbia/STS-2). It may not be a moon landing, but it is a feather in any pilot's cap.

carmelo
Member

Posts: 856
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 03-06-2015 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Back then had Slayton (and Shepard) too much power?

p51
Member

Posts: 1216
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 03-06-2015 06:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To me, the bottom line is this:

You're tasked with picking the best crews to GO TO THE MOON. You're a former test pilot yourself, as is almost all the other people you ever seriously considered for space flight.

What's the motivation to send a geologist up there, knowing it's your backside in the fire if something goes wrong and there's any perception that someone with test pilot training could have saved the day. And then, you have two dead men on the surface with no way to return the bodies to Earth.

What fool would take the risk if they didn't have to? No, you'd send the people who have a track record of staying calm when things go very bad.

Paolo P
New Member

Posts: 7
From: Edinburgh UK
Registered: Jul 2013

posted 03-07-2015 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paolo P     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Going to the moon 40 years ago remains an amazing achievement, and required a singular national effort, pushed the technology and has not been repeated. It was not a normal event and was only done six times. Indeed, spaceflight 'just' to LEO remains difficult.

Reading 'Deke' it is clear that Slayton viewed the landings as a job for skilled pilots and his view of the shuttle crews was that more than four was unnecessarily risky. His crew selections were based (personal preferences and politics aside) on who he thought was best to pilot the missions and who was next in line, the scientists being at the back in both these regards.

moonguyron
Member

Posts: 77
From: Salado, Texas, USA
Registered: Jan 2011

posted 03-07-2015 12:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moonguyron   Click Here to Email moonguyron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Political correctness and politics was rearing its ugly head even then.

Chuck Yeager was appointed to run the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1962 (whose name had just been changed from the USAF Flight Test School; getting rid of that nasty word "test"). Their job was to produce "astronauts for NASA and the Air Force." Yeager was under great pressure and was chastised for not recommending any minorities.

His characteristic response was as soon as they send me someone qualified I'll recommend them. And he stuck to his guns. But alas the last of a dying breed. Political correctness now rules the day.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 31812
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-07-2015 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Choosing to fly scientists has nothing to do with political correctness, but rather a matter of priorities.

There are still those today who argue that Apollo went to the moon for science, but if that was truly the case, then more than one geologist would have flown, let alone been selected for the astronaut corps to even be eligible to fly. But Apollo was not a science-driven program; it was politically-motivated, which is a large part of why it came to such a quick end.

datkatz
Member

Posts: 117
From: New York, NY
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 03-07-2015 03:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Quite true, Robert.

Skylon
Member

Posts: 196
From:
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 03-07-2015 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it boiled down to Slayton being confident you could get the spacecraft on the Moon, even in a situation that was far from nominal, and get home. In assigning Schmitt, Slayton also seems to have considered when he felt the landing procedures and training would be mature enough to assign somebody who was not a professional pilot — for him that was Apollo 18.

If up to Slayton alone, he probably would have ranked Gerry Carr, Jack Lousma and Don Lind ahead of Schmitt, but I'm sure Slayton felt enough pressure to put him ahead of those three and on 18 in his place, and ultimately ahead of Joe Engle.

carmelo
Member

Posts: 856
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 03-08-2015 11:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But which was the sense to select a group of scientist-astronauts in 1965? Why choose those guys and then leave to ground? (Yes, maybe in mid 60s there was too much astronauts for too few seats, but this is another story.)

Also a AAP flight is not a joke (maybe in a AAP mission the pilot astronauts were two and in a Apollo mission on LEM only one "true" pilot?).

Tykeanaut
Member

Posts: 1966
From: Worcestershire, England, UK.
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 03-08-2015 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with carmelo, why choose any scientist-astronauts? Or was the intention to put them on later Apollo flights?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 31812
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-08-2015 01:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even before Apollo began flying, NASA's leaders were looking at how to extend the program, or at least the use of the hardware, beyond the politically-driven moon landings by focusing on science. As "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (SP-4214) explains:
For any serious scientific work the crews in the spacecraft would have to include some scientists trained as astronauts rather than astronauts trained as scientific observers; and early in 1964 selection of scientists for the astronaut program began.
That's not to say that NASA had any designs on using the scientists for anything more at first than tutors for the pilot astronauts.
In the fall of 1965 Headquarters's Manned Space Science Division commissioned a study group to look into the matter of astronaut training. After some weeks of discussion with MSC officials, the group concluded that the astronaut training program was much too short on science. More scientist-astronauts should be brought in as early as possible, to provide more scientific resources for the manned space flight program. The scientist-astronauts should be used as in-house tutors for other astronauts who wanted to improve their scientific background.

schnappsicle
Member

Posts: 246
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 03-10-2015 07:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Kennedy so aptly put it, the sole purpose of Apollo was to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth. In order for that to be accomplished, it was imperative that pilots fly the first landing missions. I doubt anyone would disagree with Deke's crew selection for those first lunar landings. All we're really talking about here are the last three missions, which came after NASA had gained complete confidence in its manpower, system, and hardware.

The Apollo 13 mission was a very lucky break for NASA as it gave the crews that followed ample time to gain valuable geological experience. While it could be argued that the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 astronauts were not as qualified as a "professional geologist," I've never heard anyone complaint about the rocks those men collected, or the way they were collected.

On page 272 in his book, "To A Rocky Moon", the author, Don Wilhelms, goes as far as citing Dave Scott's commentary during his standup EVA as "the best geological description by an astronaut on the moon." Very high praise from a trained geologist. The book also compliments the other Apollo crews, especially Armstrong, who did excellent work selecting a large variety of rocks in a very short time. Wilhelms also states what many of us have heard, that the last three Apollo crews received what was equivalent to a Master's degree in geology before their flights. That includes the CMPs who made some amazing observations from lunar orbit. So basically, you had six scientists land on the moon, not just one.

Some here have wondered why select six scientists in 1965 only to land one on the moon? The answer is quite simple. Only one of the six was a geologist. The others were physicians and physicists, who were hired for what eventually became Skylab.

As for crew selections, Deke submitted his list to NASA HQ in Washington, who approved every crewmember for every mission except one. They rejected Slayton's selection of Engle for the Apollo 17 mission. It was NASA HQ who selected Schmitt for Apollo 17, not Slayton. Deke's only decision after that was whether to move the entire Gordon crew to Apollo 17 or just Schmitt. History shows he chose the latter.

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-10-2015 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always wondered why NASA selected only one geologist in the 1960s. Selecting at least two would have made more sense and I doubt would have been a challenge to find another qualified one. If Schmitt had perished in a T-38 accident or had otherwise become unavailable there would have been no geologist to send to the moon. Sending a physicist who specialized in the study of stars or an astronomer whose specialty was Mars would not have made as much sense.

I presume if Michel had stayed with the program there was an excellent chance that he would have flown as Science Pilot on Skylab 3 or 4.

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-10-2015 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by schnappsicle:
As for crew selections, Deke submitted his list to NASA HQ in Washington, who approved every crewmember for every mission except one.
There was one other instance where NASA HQ did not rubber stamp Deke's selection. That of Alan Shepard as Apollo 13 CDR. Subsequently Deke re-submitted him as Apollo 14 CDR and it was approved.

spaced out
Member

Posts: 2770
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 03-10-2015 11:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My impression was always that the training given by NASA made the non-scientist astronauts (all expert CDRs and LMPs) extremely competent field geologists, and likewise the training given to expert field geologist Schmitt made him an extremely competent Lunar Module Pilot.

In terms of geological exploration some crews stand out maybe - Scott in particular took the geological aspect of the mission extremely seriously - but all made a serious effort to learn about lunar geology.

I certainly feel sorry for Joe Engle, but for me getting a lunar geologist to the lunar surface marked the pinnacle of the Apollo program. And sadly also the end of it.

MCroft04
Member

Posts: 1356
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 03-10-2015 04:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Without disrespect to any of the non-scientist astronauts who traveled to the moon, (and I may be biased) I have never bought into the argument that they received the equivalent of a masters degree in geology. Perhaps they trained for the equivalent number of hours.

I've talked to at last 3 maybe 4 of them who made it clear they were trained to be geologic observers. That is a long ways from being a geologist who could interpret what they observed.

If the only reason we went to the moon was to beat the Russians, then why do it 6 times? I could understand 2 landings, maybe 3 to prove we could do it whenever we wanted to. Clearly the J missions were targeted to do science, and to not have sent a geologist would have been a travesty.

Skylon
Member

Posts: 196
From:
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 03-10-2015 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
I always wondered why NASA selected only one geologist in the 1960s. Selecting at least two would have made more sense and I doubt would have been a challenge to find another qualified one.

I've often wondered this to - and frankly in "Deke!" it's indicated that's what the Astronaut Office would have preferred. Slayton's initial stance when accepting scientists was geologists for lunar missions and physicians for long duration flights made sense - and he hoped for candidates to be gathered in each of those fields. The NAS felt that was too exclusionary, and the selection committee went for a broader pool of scientists.

I'm also guessing since only one other geologist (Tony England) was selected during the Apollo era - I suppose it was indeed that hard, but it wasn't just about finding someone qualified, they had to be motivated.

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-11-2015 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tony England was a geophysicist which is somewhat different from a geologist. And I'm not sure his area of expertise was the moon. Schmitt specialized in lunar geology and he was particularly qualified to do on-site analysis to determine what samples to collect. England's background would have been more theoretical as opposed to being a "field geologist" imo.

carmelo
Member

Posts: 856
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 03-11-2015 12:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the Apollo program continued until Apollo 19, Schmitt would be put on the last flight (19)?

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-11-2015 01:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Schmitt would have flown on Apollo 18 with Dick Gordon and Vance Brand. Apollo 19 would have flown with Haise, Pogue and Carr.

calcheyup
Member

Posts: 80
From:
Registered: May 2014

posted 03-11-2015 02:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for calcheyup     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MCroft04:
Clearly the J missions were targeted to do science, and to not have sent a geologist would have been a travesty.
I think this point certainly has it's merits. The counter to that, in my mind, is as follows:

Contrary to public opinion, flying to the moon, performing long EVAs, and returning home safely was anything but a routine exercise. As has been mentioned already, the amount of things that could go wrong between liftoff and splashdown were countless, and as we saw with Apollo 13, things can go from absolutely nominal to a life-and-death struggle in a heartbeat. I can sympathize with those who, at the end of the day, wanted the best pilots with a vast swath of experience handling emergencies and "less-than-ideal" circumstances on those flights. Science is and always will be secondary to the safety of the astronauts. From Mercury on through, there are numerous examples of situations that were handled with cold-blooded nerves of steel. Cooper's re-entry. Heck, prior to that, Carpenter's re-entry. Schirra's Gemini launch day. Armstrong's incident with the Agena. Stafford and Cernan's near-unrecoverable situation in lunar orbit (although they did bring that emergency on themselves, they also did pull their bacon out of the frying pan). Apollo 13.

Those are just a few (of many) off-the-cuff, and more noteworthy, examples that we, luckily, will never know what would have happened if experienced test pilots weren't up there handling them.

I'm not saying your point is not valid - that if we are going to assume the risk and make those trips, why not send someone who can seriously evaluate the scientific aspect of it; I understand and respect that sentiment. I'm just interceding with my own views on why I sympathize with the crews Slayton sent.

p51
Member

Posts: 1216
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 03-11-2015 03:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
If Schmitt had perished in a T-38 accident or had otherwise become unavailable there would have been no geologist to send to the moon.
You just answered your own question. If Schmitt couldn't have gone, well, Engle would have gotten to walk on the Moon after all. And who in the astronaut office would have been saddened by that scenario? NO ONE.

Anyone who's ever worked for the government can see the plan there, in that without a backup and something goes wrong they can honestly say, "Hey, we were going to send Jack to the Moon, but..."

MCroft04
Member

Posts: 1356
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 03-11-2015 10:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's assume several scenarios. Apollo 13; had Schmitt been the LMP instead of Haise, would they still have returned safely? Mission control played a huge role in getting them home safely, so I contend that yes they would have returned home as heroes.

Had Schmitt been the co-pilot on Gemeni 6, would anything have changed. I contend no. Wally would have made the same decision.

Could Schmitt have brought Aurora home safely? Doubtful. But then again it is unlikely that NASA would have sent a geologist on a Mercury mission.

Anyway you slice it, NASA had to eventually send a geologist to the moon. And Schmitt was the perfect scientist astronaut to send to the moon. Well, except for me of course

calcheyup
Member

Posts: 80
From:
Registered: May 2014

posted 03-12-2015 12:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for calcheyup     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Your point is taken.

My point was not that "Insert Schmitt into these situations and _____ happens" at all, however. Those were just examples of the kind of things that go wrong in spaceflight. There are literally thousands of other scenarios that not only didn't happen, but we haven't even pondered, that could have occurred in a lunar landing mission, that you would have wanted handled by someone who has been in life-and-death situations before.

Quite simply, there is no substitute for experience. Especially when it comes you situations where one choice you live, and one choice you die.

MCroft04
Member

Posts: 1356
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 03-12-2015 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Your point is well taken; experience trumps. But we live in a world where taking risks is necessary to make progress. I suggest that it was worth the risk of something going wrong to get a geologist on the lunar surface.

For example, Cernan has said many times that he would not have found the orange soil that Schmitt found on Apollo 17. Maybe a pilot astronaut would have found it (Apollo 15 found green soil). But Schmitt was looking for geologic anomalies and did make a wonderful discovery. His on the moon interpretation was not correct, but those soils are unleashing amazing discoveries today with the advent of new analytical techniques.

Who knows what the next geologist who goes to the moon will find? Unfortunately I will not be here to hear it.

calcheyup
Member

Posts: 80
From:
Registered: May 2014

posted 03-12-2015 02:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for calcheyup     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MCroft04:
I suggest that it was worth the risk of something going wrong to get a geologist on the lunar surface.
Yep, and that's the other end of it. I agree with this, for the most part; at some point, the risk becomes acceptable when stacked against the possible benefits. I was just trying to postulate a valid counterpoint to those who think the crews should have been more scientist-astronaut laden.

carmelo
Member

Posts: 856
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 03-12-2015 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
Schmitt would have flown on Apollo 18 with Dick Gordon and Vance Brand.
When 18 and 19 crews were announced When Schmitt were in the back crew of Apollo 15, Apollo 18 was already gone?

Delta7
Member

Posts: 1265
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-12-2015 07:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gordon, Brand and Schmitt were announced as the Apollo 15 backup crew in early 1970. Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled in Sept. 1970.

All times are CT (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | The Source for Space History & Artifacts

Copyright 1999-2015 collectSPACE.com All rights reserved.


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





advertisement