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  Dr. George Mueller: Apollo hero, shuttle "father"

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Author Topic:   Dr. George Mueller: Apollo hero, shuttle "father"
DChudwin
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From: Lincolnshire IL USA
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posted 06-26-2011 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dr. George Mueller is turning 93 on July 16. The average citizen has no idea who he is, but more than Neil Armstrong or Chris Kraft or Wernher von Braun, Dr. Mueller is largely responsible for meeting President Kennedy's deadline of landing a man on the Moon in the 1960's.

When he was named head of manned spaceflight in September, 1963, the management of the U.S. space effort was fragmented. The heads of NASA' centers did not always work together and there was organizational confusion. Mueller's great contribution was to change the lines of responsibility so that the center directors reported directly to him. Each center then had a program office which interacted with smaller program offices at NASA Headquarters. Mueller's management diagram was the foundation of successfully organizing Apollo with a clear-cut command structure. His official title was Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight and he was based at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Mueller had a reputation for being a tough and determined manager.

Mueller's second great contribution was the notion of "all up testing." He felt that it was more effective to test all systems together because testing individual components only would not indicate the success or failure of the entire machine. This was counter to the practices of Wernher von Braun and his group, but Mueller eventually prevailed. Hence, the first test of the Saturn V was the entire rocket (unmanned) rather than individual stages (such had been done for the Saturn 1). "All up testing" sped up the schedule and made a landing by 1969 possible.

Mueller also was the "father" of the space shuttle in the sense that he was an early and strong proponent of a reusable space launch system to get humans to low earth orbit. He argues that the problems with the shuttle as developed was that it is only partially reusable and thus has had the liabilities of high cost and overhead.

Mueller was also an early proponent of what was originally called the Apollo Applications Program. Due to lack of funding, AAP was pared down to Skylab.

Throughout his career, Mueller is a visionary who always thought about the next steps in space exploration.

Dr. Mueller left NASA in 1969 to return to private industry. More recently he was involved with Kistler, a failed attempt at a commercial space rocket.

There was an excellent interview with Mueller in Air & Space magazine this year.

I personally interviewed Dr. Mueller in July, 1969 when I covered the Apollo 11 launch from Florida -- more on that interview in another post.

GoesTo11
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posted 06-27-2011 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The extended discussion of Dr. Mueller's shepherding of the manned spaceflight program, and his essentially dictatorial (but necessary) implementation of all-up testing, in Charles Murray & Catherine Cox's Apollo was the first inkling I had of how critical a figure he was to America's victory in the race to the Moon. It's been remarked that von Braun was the only non-astronaut in the program to become a household name...in a just world, Dr. Mueller's would have been as well.

DChudwin
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posted 06-28-2011 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 1968-69 I was a freshman at the University of Michigan and worked on the Michigan Daily, among the foremost college newspapers. I was one of the only student reporters who had any interest in science and space, so when the target date for Apollo 11 was announced I asked the senior editors about covering the launch. They approved the idea-- provided I paid all my own expenses.

I queried a number of youth-oriented publications and found a taker in the rather obscure American Red Cross Youth Journal. They would pay me $125 for an article and pictures. Now this doesn't seem like a lot, but this was 1969 and my round-trip air fare from Chicago to Melbourne was only $94.50 and my stay at the Sea Missile motel was $56.36 for 7 nights (I still have the receipts).

How I managed to get press credentials from NASA is a whole other story, but a friend and I flew to the Cape on July 13, 1969 (on the same plane as Mrs. Rose Cernan). We went straight away to the NASA News Center for the event located in Cape Canaveral. One could sign up for tours, briefings, and interview opportunities arranged by the NASA Public Affairs Office.

Because many of the press had already arrived, there were not too many interview slots still open. However, I was happy to see an opening with Dr. George Mueller for the afternoon of July 15, the day before the scheduled launch. Mueller, then NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, would be meeting individually with reporters for 20 minute interviews in his hotel room.

I do not know how many reporters he spoke to that afternoon, but after trouble locating his room we found him talking to some Japanese journalists. We waited in the room until they were finished and then started questioning Mueller about our future in space and how it would affect young people (I had just turned 19).

Dr. Mueller, who was celebrating his 51st birthday the next day, was wearing black glasses, a long-sleeve white shirt and tie. He was focused on the questions and had a serious demeanor about him. His answers were clear and coherent-- one could tell he was familiar with being interviewed. He was clearly passionate about the future of space exploration.

Here is one excerpt from my 1969 interview (more to follow). In it, Dr. Mueller takes a visionary approach to the future of travel to the moon. It is ironic that 42 years later so little of this dream has been accomplished.

"New Worlds for Tomorrow" by David S. Chudwin. American Red Cross Youth Journal Nov. 1969 vol. 46, pp. 22-25

Question: What are the most important space advances this technology will provide for members of my generation?

Mueller: Without doubt, the key to all future manned and unmanned space activities will lie in reducing the cost of carrying out activities in space. We are studying an advanced transportation system that would drastically cut the cost of going from here to the moon.

Specifically, we a looking at a re-useable set of space vehicles that will permit us to go from the surface of the earth into earth orbit, to rendezvous with a space station and transfer cargo, and return to earth. The same vehicles could then be used to repeat the process with a new cargo.

To carry that capability one step further, there ought to be a second re-useable vehicle which could go from earth orbit into lunar orbit, rendezvous and transfer cargo to a space station in lunar orbit, and pick up cargo and return it to the earth orbital station.

A third set of vehicles would travel from the space station in lunar orbit to the surface of the moon and return to the lunar space station.

Question: Is public transportation to and from the moon possible in the next 20 to 30 years?

Mueller: With the transportation system I have described, we think we can reduce the cost of sending a cargo to the moon and back from the present rate of $100,000 per pound to approximately $200 per pound. That is a tremendous improvement. Therefore, it is not inconceivable that a person could afford a round trip to the moon once during his or her lifetime.

DChudwin
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From: Lincolnshire IL USA
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posted 07-02-2011 07:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is the second part of my interview with NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George Mueller on July 15, 1969 -- the afternoon before the Apollo 11 launch. The interview took place in his Cape Canaveral hotel room, with some NASA public affairs folks also present. In this segment Dr. Mueller talks about his visions of a lunar base, and living and mining on the moon.

But first some more background about Dr. Mueller. First, he pronounces his name "Miller." Second, ironically his birthday is July 16, 1918 -- exactly 51 years before the launch date of Apollo 11 (quite a birthday present).

Finally, while getting his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, he worked for Bell Labs and was active in research on radar, television tube technology and other electrical engineering issues. After teaching for a while at Ohio State, he later headed the Electronics Laboratory at what would become TRW.

NASA Administrator James Webb persuaded him in 1963 to take a major pay cut to join NASA as Associate Administrator to direct the manned spaceflight program. He left NASA in 1969 to return to industry.

Here then is more of my interview from the American Red Cross Youth Journal:

Question: What do we hope to learn from exploring the moon?

Mueller: Our early geological exploration will seek to relate the history of the moon to that of the earth to see if they have a common origin. Also, we hope to trace the history of the moon in relationship to the solar system.

Eventually, however, we hope to use the moon as a place to live -- not only for our own citizens but for all mankind. It has a land area much like that of earth, and it is only three days away, which, with today's technology, is much closer than our country was to Spain when North America was first colonized.

Question: How would these colonies be established?

Mueller: We would probably put a space station in lunar orbit and use it as a mobile base. If you go into polar orbit around the moon, you will be able to pass within 60 miles of every point on the surface of the moon every 2 weeks. All you need, then, is a vehicle to fly down to the surface of the moon and back up again in much the same fashion as our lunar module. When we have completed our early phase of intended exploration of the moon and found a place on the moon where we could build a base, we will simply go down and build it.

Question: How would the base be supplied?

Mueller: Water is probably the most valuable single resource we will have to find on the moon. With water, in some form, and nuclear energy, we will be able to produce all that is necessary to sustain life permanently.

One of the things that we will attempt to do on some of the flights that follow Apollo 11 will be to explore areas next to some of the lunar rills [valleys]. These rills were created when meteors hit the surface of the moon, melting the ice that was underneath the surface. The melted ice created huge lakes that drained over the soil of the craters. Rivers ran down and eroded canyons about the size of our Grand Canyon. We hope to find rather large supplies of water down at the bottom of these canyons, probably in some form of permafrost under the surface.

Question: In what other ways would you use a lunar base?

Mueller: Mining would be possible. Diamonds could be transported down, and so could gold. When meteors hit the moon not only do they dig holes, but they also affect their landing site with very high temperatures and pressures. The facts surrounding the formation of minerals through very high temperatures combined with very high pressure are well known. If we know the base material of a particular area, we can predict what kind of minerals might be found.

mikej
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posted 07-05-2011 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dr. Mueller is scheduled to be at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Space Exploration Celebration on August 26.

He's been at several of the previous Saturn/Apollo Reunions, and celebrated an early birthday during the 2009 ribbon cutting for the USSRC's "The Force" exhibit.

DChudwin
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From: Lincolnshire IL USA
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posted 07-12-2011 09:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is the third and final segment of my July 15, 1969 interview with NASA Associate Administrator George Mueller as published in the Nov. 1969 American Red Cross Youth Journal.

But first some background information. I was 19 years old at the time, a student at the University of Michigan, and at Cape Canaveral representing the Michigan Daily and the College Press Service. While some teens and college students (including myself) supported the space program, there were many in my generation who at that time feared technology and believed that money spent on Apollo should have been used to help the poor. This was during the Vietnam and civil rights conflicts and many young people felt NASA was part of the hated "military-industrial complex."

While I felt then (and now) that these views were mistaken, I set aside my own opinions to voice to these concerns in my questions to Dr. Mueller:

Question: A number of young people are turned off by the space program. They see it as a purely military effort and as part of a vast technology that is overwhelming them. Yet many say that the space program is helping to create a new type of world. Is this new world of technology good? How will it affect us nationally and individually?

Mueller: Certainly I think you have to take a more fundamental view of the situation than looking simply at the space program of the United States; because, in carrying forward this program, we have wrapped up and put to use in a very short period the progress of many generations of people. The impact of this program has been very great, indeed, and there is little doubt that man's landing on the moon will greatly affect us all.

The moon offers us many new areas to explore and hopefully to benefit by, and tomorrow's flight will have a profound effect on our society, whether we like it or not.

Question: Why do some people oppose this venture?

Mueller: Such opposition reminds me of the opposition raised to the opening of our West. If you look back in history, you find that the great majority of people who were comfortably settled in our Eastern Coastal plan termed the westward expansion "folly" and those who moved west "escapists."

Question: A friend of mine called the space program a celestial circus.

Mueller: Your friend is unwilling to accept the fact that the world we live in tomorrow is going to be far different that the one we were brought up in. We are being challenged to react to the change; and in that sense what many are doing is rejecting change. It amazes me that young people--who are supposed to be the ones who seek change--fail to recognize that they themselves are so conservative.

One of our problems, as I see it, is that the psychological impact of man's first step onto the moon is very hard for most people to bear. They are awed by the event; they are somewhat frightened by its implications; they are uncertain about its effect on their futures. People in general do not like uncertainty; they resist change; and they do not like new adventures. It is the minority that explores and pioneers.

Question: But what is this change doing to us?

Mueller: It is not doing anything to you. It is doing many things for you. But it is requiring us to adapt to the changing environment in which we live.

Whenever technology advances, it gives us the capability of improving the overall productivity of our society, thereby creating, hopefully, more goods and services to be shared among our people. Science and technology and its application to our everyday lives are at the root of the wealth we so often argue about distributing.

Years ago, most of us were poorer by a factor of two that those on today's welfare rolls in terms of what we ate and how we lives. In a very real sense, the science and technology we are talking about have created the great wealth that makes it possible for some among us to actually question the need for work.

DChudwin
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posted 07-13-2011 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Dr. George Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, answering questions from reporters in his Cape Canaveral hotel room on July 15, 1969.

Dr. George Mueller (3rd from left) with NASA center directors Wernher von Braun, Kurt Debus and Robert Gilruth at press briefing before Apollo 11.

DChudwin
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posted 07-16-2011 07:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A very Happy Birthday to George Mueller, who turns 93 years old today. As noted above, his leadership as NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight was a major factor in achieving the goal of landing men on the Moon by the end of the 1960's.

Unfortunately, the two other managers who also had important roles in the success of Apollo-- Sam Phillips and George Low-- are no longer with us.

DChudwin
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From: Lincolnshire IL USA
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posted 09-16-2011 08:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I sent a copy of our 1969 interview and two copies of the photo from the Apollo 11 1969 press briefing to Dr. George Mueller about two weeks ago. The photo (see above) shows Mueller with Drs. von Braun, Debus and Gilruth.

I received a signed and inscribed photo back today, along with a signed typewritten letter:

First, let me thank you for the notes, the picture and the copy of our interview some forty odd years ago. I am particularly pleased with the transcript of our interview since I didn't have any record of it in my files. It is too bad the grand plan we proposed then was never implemented.
Dr. Mueller, who is now 93, was really one of the main architects of the Apollo program, and it was a thrill to hear from him again.

bwhite1976
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posted 09-19-2011 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bwhite1976   Click Here to Email bwhite1976     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was reading this post and went and read the NASM Oral History transcript with Dr. Mueller that was recorded between 1986-1989 and I did not know that he was from St. Louis and that his Mother's side of the family was from my hometown Belleville, IL. He mentions that he still had cousins in Belleville ( as of 1986 of course) in the Oral History. I am wondering if any of those cousins or family members are still in Belleville, or if they have any idea that one of their family members was one of the driving forces of the Apollo Program.

I read also that he went to Normandy High School in St. Louis. This coincidentally, is where my wife used to teach for a time. I can guarantee that there is not one reference to him in that school as it is a disaster zone essentially today. If true that would be a shame, since he is probably one the most influential alumni that school has yet produced.

Jay Chladek
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posted 09-21-2011 09:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
George Mueller also made another important contribution, one that is often overlooked. He was also essentially the father of Apollo Applications (Skylab). He started work on the project in 1965 as he knew that if the foundations weren't laid at that point, then after the Apollo lunar missions there would be a huge gap between Apollo and what would come after and the team of engineers and the infrastructure would likely be broken up.

He fought for a lot of things on AAP and got them pushed through, even when James Webb regarded AAP more as a slush fund of sorts to keep work on Apollo going. Granted the budget cuts in 1968 when AAP became its own official program meant that the grand plans for multiple flights and many different science flights would be pruned as there were no Saturn boosters being built to fly them. But without George Mueller, what eventually flew as Skylab likely never would have flown. And Skylab had A LOT of questions to answer about spaceflight before work on a more permanent station could begin.

DChudwin
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posted 07-16-2012 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A very Happy Birthday today to Dr. George Mueller, who turns 94. Dr. Mueller is a great space pioneer who made vital contributions to Apollo, Skylab and the space shuttle as NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned SpaceFlight during the key years of 1963-69.

Fezman92
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posted 07-16-2012 08:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Happy Birthday Dr. Mueller. Many more happy returns. You are truly one of the many unsung heroes of our space program. I have tried to find out where he lives so I could send a simple 'thank you' letter for years.

dogcrew5369
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posted 07-18-2012 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dogcrew5369   Click Here to Email dogcrew5369     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First of all, happy birthday Dr. Mueller! Second, I hope someone can help me with a question I've held since the mid '90's. I took a business math class in college back then and my teacher was Edgar Mueller. He was a smart, genius level mathematician who previously worked on the ISS program in Houston. He even talked about hanging out with astronauts and such. I hate I never got up the nerve to ask him questions about his history, but I am hoping to get an answer here. Does anyone know if this fellow would be related to Dr. George Mueller or has anyone even heard of him? I think he was in his 30's back in 1995. Seems ironic.

eurospace
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posted 07-20-2012 01:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for eurospace   Click Here to Email eurospace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mueller is a very cpmmon name in Germany. Actually, THE most common name of all.

dogcrew5369
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posted 07-20-2012 02:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dogcrew5369   Click Here to Email dogcrew5369     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yeah, probably just a coincidence, but I've always wondered.

DChudwin
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posted 07-15-2013 10:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A very Happy Birthday to the remarkable Dr. George Mueller who turns 95 years old on July 16.

Dr. Mueller, who lives in Washington State, was NASA's associate administrator for manned spaceflight from 1963 until 1969. He played a pivotal role in the development of the Apollo, Skylab and shuttle programs.

He is one of the unsung heroes of the Space Age.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-16-2013 04:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fascinating insight in the interview with Dr. Mueller - thanks for posting it. Intentions and possibilities are great, but the hard fiscal/political/technological reality of realising goals is something else!

mach3valkyrie
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posted 07-16-2013 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Happy Birthday to Dr. Mueller!

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