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  Astronauts reply to Alan Shepard's command (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Astronauts reply to Alan Shepard's command
Fra Mauro
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posted 05-13-2019 10:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Besides Gordon Cooper, is it known what other astronauts didn't like Alan Shepard getting an Apollo command without having to serve on a backup crew?

Tom
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posted 05-13-2019 05:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With the exception of Deke Slayton, Shepard's two crew mates and his back-up crew, I don't recall any other astronaut being a fan of the decision.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 05-14-2019 03:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about McDivitt turning down (refusing?) the LMP slot under Shepard on Apollo 13, before the switch to allow more training time for Shepard.

Blackarrow
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posted 05-14-2019 10:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are a few of us (you know who you are!) who were present at Autographica in Birmingham, England, in May, 2010, when McDivitt was asked what he had thought about being offered the position of LMP in Alan Shepard's Apollo 13 crew. His reply was choice, and unrepeatable on this forum.

Bearing in mind that the two-time mission commander with over two weeks in orbit, who had test-flown the first LM in orbit, was being asked to be third in command on Apollo 13, his refusal should have been expected by Slayton and Shepard. In modern parlance: What were they thinking?

dom
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posted 05-14-2019 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To me McDivitt's response was just stupid. He actually gave up a chance to walk on the Moon because of a bruised ego. Surely he should have realised it was his chance to "babysit" Shepard. He would have gotten some satisfaction from that!

(By the way, I have huge respect for McDivitt as a person.)

ManInSpace
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posted 05-14-2019 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ManInSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For many of the astronauts, achieving a Command position was very important.

Cernan declined Slayton's offer of the LMP slot on Apollo 16; even when Deke told him that there was no guarantee he would get the 17 assignment. When Slayton asked him if he was actually "turning down a chance to walk on the moon?"; he responsed "no" but simply that he had earned the opportunity to command a mission of his own.

Kite
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posted 05-14-2019 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes Geoffrey, we know who we are! Can confirm what you say.

I seem to recall that Dave Scott in his autobiography saying that before the end of Apollo 9 that McDivitt was tired after his two space voyages and was going to retire. Understandable but a pity as I think he would have been a great commander of a landing mission.

ashot
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posted 05-14-2019 04:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ashot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
Surely he should have realised it was his chance to "babysit" Shepard.
I always wondered: had McDivitt agreed to be an LMP in Shepard's crew, would this keep Shepard's crew for Apollo 13 or they would have moved to Apollo 14 no matter what?

Blackarrow
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posted 05-14-2019 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
...because of a bruised ego.
Dom, it wasn't a matter of "bruised ego." It was a matter of ordinary human self-respect.

The history of our species is full of examples of people who turned down apparently wonderful opportunities because the price was too high. As ManInSpace points out, Gene Cernan turned down the opportunity to be back-up LMP on Apollo 13 (which would have put him on the Moon with John Young on Apollo 16).

That was not "bruised ego" because Cernan knew John Young was above him in the pecking order. Cernan needed to hold out for his own command. He got it - but only because Mike Collins turned down back-up CDR on Apollo 14.

I do not have a military background, but I think I understand Cernan's point of view, and I think I understand why a senior astronaut could not accept a junior position, in spite of the opportunity it afforded.

What we don't know is whether Shepard would have agreed to be LMP to McDivitt as CDR. That would have been a more logical arrangement. Do I even need to ask if it would have been acceptable to Shepard? Again, it would not have been a matter of "bruised ego."

Mike Dixon
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posted 05-14-2019 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can understand why Jim turned it down, particularly given two previous commands and flawless flights with three spacecraft.

David C
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posted 05-15-2019 01:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So do I. And the attitude that someone's stupid because they don't think like you is, in my opinion, one of the problems of this world. I get the impression that McDivitt wasn't one of those astronauts who warmed to geology. He didn't feel like dedicating another year or so of his life to walking on a dusty pile of rocks babysitting a guy he didn't particularly respect. Perhaps I would have, but then I didn't have to put up with Shepard for eight years, so maybe I wouldn't have. I've done my share of babysitting and have derived little satisfaction from it.

McDivitt did want to move into management which is what he was doing. Why move out again?

dom
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posted 05-15-2019 04:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fair point. I had failed to factor in their military backgrounds — where chain of command is all important. What seems stupid to us makes perfect sense when looked at from that angle.

But I wish he had accepted the assignment. The background story of any Shepard/McDivitt crew would have made fascinating reading!

Skylon
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posted 05-15-2019 05:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
McDivitt didn't totally oppose the idea of Shepard commanding his own mission. He felt that Shepard should serve a stint as a backup commander first. Something not totally unreasonable. That way Shepard would earn his spot by working in the trenches a bit.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 05-15-2019 05:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ashot:
...or they would have moved to Apollo 14 no matter what?
In my view, they would have stayed on Apollo 13 and not made the switch to Apollo 14, which would have been a cruel twist for McDivitt given the events that transpired.

The other issue in terms of ‘the military chain of command’ attitude; not only would it have been unacceptable to McDivitt to be subordinate to Shepard in terms of spaceflight experience, but (as Blackarrow points out) also to a rookie Group 6 CMP selected into the astronaut ranks 4 years after McDivitt. Completely unacceptable to a military person in McDivitt’s circumstances in 1969/70.

Blackarrow
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posted 05-15-2019 08:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is an interesting addendum to this discussion: after flying on Apollo 8 as a LMP without a lunar module, Bill Anders turned down the offer of CMP, flying with Jim Lovell on what would be Apollo 13. According to Gene Cernan, Anders wanted to walk on the Moon, and knew that "promotion" to CMP on Apollo 13 would mean he would probably have to wait until Apollo 19 (if there was one!) to walk on the Moon. He didn't really relish the idea of orbiting the Moon again (how could you top Apollo 8 EXCEPT by landing on the Moon?).

My question is therefore: was he ever offered the option of being Shepard's LMP? If not, why not? If so, do we know why he turned it down? I don't get the impression mission experience would have been an issue (both had flown one mission and Shepard was senior) and it would have given Anders the chance to do what he had been trained to do (fly in a LM) and to get his boots dirty.

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 05-15-2019 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Didn't Shepard specifically request that Ed Mitchell be his LMP? He was after all something of a LM specialist and when asked why he wanted Edgar, Shapard is reputed to have said "because I want to get home."

Fra Mauro
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posted 05-15-2019 10:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shepard certainly is a polarizing figure. I don't think he ever would have chosen anyone on his crew that might have had more experience than himself. Anders seemed to get the short end of the stick. Even if he flew 13, would he have been a third lunar flight on 19?

Blackarrow
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posted 05-15-2019 12:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick Mulheirn:
Didn't Shepard specifically request that Ed Mitchell be his LMP?
Yes, he and Slayton chose Mitchell (who won the Group 5 peer review) but only AFTER McDivitt turned them down. My question was whether Anders was ever considered BEFORE Mitchell.

Skylon
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posted 05-17-2019 10:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think the timing worked out in Anders favor for the idea of him flying with Shepard. Wikipedia states that Anders announced his plans to leave the Astronaut Office in early 1969. It likely may have been before Slayton and Shepard started discussing who would fly on Apollo 13.

I always get the solid impression that once someone told Slayton they were leaving, he never retorted with "Well, if you stay you could fly on..."

Also, Anders also would have an extremely tight training cycle for that scenario, going from a CMP on 11, to a LMP on 13.

Tom
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posted 05-17-2019 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Getting back to options McDivitt had for getting a lunar mission...

I'm sure if he really wanted to command a lunar landing mission he could have. I think the problem was that he wanted to fly with his former Apollo 9 crew mates, but that wasn't an option. I don't think NASA was ready to have Rusty Schweickart flying again so soon and Dave Scott was assigned his own crew backing up Apollo 12 and flying on "15".

Blackarrow
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posted 05-17-2019 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Wikipedia states that Anders announced his plans to leave the Astronaut Office in early 1969.
I can't see any reference in Wikipedia's entry on Bill Anders to his "early 1969" announcement. If it was in "Reference 5" that is now a "404: Not found."

moorouge
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posted 05-18-2019 01:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It may not be relevant but the 1975 edition of my booklet 'Manned Spaceflight' lists his current position as unknown, nor does it give a date for his leaving NASA.

A E Andres
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posted 05-18-2019 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for A E Andres     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We just passed the 50th anniversary of the public announcement that Anders would become Secretary of the National Space Council after Apollo 11. Chet Huntley reported in on the NBC evening newscast on May 16, 1969 as part of his preview of Apollo 10 and a report on the large numbers of NASA and affiliated contractors preparing to leave the space program in 1969.

carmelo
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posted 05-18-2019 11:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
To me McDivitt's response was just stupid.
I agree. Walking on the moon is more important that every matter of "precedence."

Hell, we are talking to be one of very few human on the moon... Absurd!!

oly
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posted 05-19-2019 02:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not everyone will agree with this, In many interviews that Armstrong gave following his Apollo 11 flight, he reiterated that the flight, especially the landing, was more important to him than the feat of walking on the moon.

Some have speculated that he spoke like this because he was the consummate engineer/test pilot, and performing the landing was the goal set down by Kennedy. Or perhaps the thought of standing outside, in the vacuum of space, wearing a fabric spacesuit secured by zippers, may have been daunting.

Perhaps being in the Apollo 8 command module on a lunar round trip, with no lifeboat should anything fail, becomes a psychological challenge that some would rather not repeat. Without knowing the mindset of Anders, nobody could guess what influences helped form his decisions.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 05-19-2019 03:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the question of the extraordinary risk, Mike Collins comments on this in "Carrying The Fire." He spoke of the Apollo missions being a "daisy chain" of potentially catastrophic failure points, and after Apollo 11 he more or less felt he’d push his luck about as far as he should. No doubt this influenced his decision not to get back into the rotation for Apollo 14 backup CDR and then Apollo 17 CDR. So they all had their "limits."

ea757grrl
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posted 05-19-2019 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by oly:
Without knowing the mindset of Anders, nobody could guess what influences helped form his decisions.

I can't emphasize this point enough. Those of us who have never been astronauts can't fully understand what kind of commitment, both in terms of time and in terms of personal sacrifice, a crew assignment can be. We can read about it, we can look through the oral histories and so forth, but it's not the same as experiencing the demands it put on their lives and their families. Others may have had other things they wanted to do in life, and realized that one or two years committed to mission preparation was one or two years they'd never get back (in the military, in private enterprise, or in life itself).

Many of us look at spaceflight through the eyes of enthusiasts and we can't understand why someone would willingly pass up a chance to fly again. But we weren't that someone in that moment having to weigh the benefits versus the costs and risks. In the end, it's their decisions about their own lives and what mattered to them at that time, and I respect that, just as I would hope an onlooker would respect the decisions I've made in my own life and career.

canyon42
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posted 05-19-2019 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always felt that Slayton did an excellent job of balancing the assignments throughout his time in that role — with the one exception of naming Shepard to command Apollo 13 with no backup experience needed. And offering McDivitt the "opportunity" to be Shepard's subordinate (and yes, technically Roosa's subordinate as well) was insulting, whether he intended it that way or not. In that one instance, Slayton made a decision that I think was clearly influenced by personal factors, and it deserves to be criticized.

I've always wondered if any of the higher-ups seriously considered not only pushing that crew back to 14 but actually denying the crew entirely, insisting that they serve as the back-ups for 13 instead.

Mariner1824
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posted 05-19-2019 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mariner1824     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ea757grrl:
In the end, it's their decisions about their own lives and what mattered to them at that time, and I respect that, just as I would hope an onlooker would respect the decisions I've made in my own life and career.
Very eloquently put indeed. We can wonder and try to imagine; and we can certainly discuss known facts and share information —  but I would agree with ea757grrl and respectfully suggest that there is no place on collectSPACE for judgement or criticism.

My tuppence-worth? I think every single astronaut in Mercury, Gemini and Apollo contributed something to the eventual success of the Programme; whether they made one flight or several. And some astronauts, like Jim McDivitt who became Programme Manager, arguably made as big an impact afterwards in ground ops as they did in flight.

ashot
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posted 05-19-2019 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ashot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by canyon42:
And offering McDivitt the "opportunity" to be Shepard's subordinate (and yes, technically Roosa's subordinate as well) was insulting, whether he intended it that way or not.
Offering McDivitt LMP position (somehow below CMP), in my opinion, does not look too different from Slayton offering Cernan to be backup LMP for Apollo 13 (with Swigert being CMP.)

It seems to me that Slayton just wanted to give McDivitt an early landing slot (perhaps realizing that McDivitt is not going to stay active long enough.) It is also known that McDivitt accepted the idea of another Apollo flight, but as CDR and with his Apollo 9 crew. I still wonder, had Lovell rejected the idea of flying on 13 (after Shepard moving to 14,) would Slayton then offer 13 to McDivitt?

quote:
...with no backup experience needed.
For AS-204 and 205 both Grissom and Schirra were assigned to prime crews without backing up an Apollo mission. Had Slayton have more astronauts available (free from Gemini and fitting his experience criteria) both McDivitt and Borman would had likely also ended up to prime crews of Apollo without serving a turn as a backup.

Shepard was Slayton's original choice for first Gemini, thus, very likely, first Apollo, too. So, Slayton was very confident in Shepard to say the least. Also, many of challenging Gemini missions were flown by rookie commanders - and not because there was nobody with flight experience available.

It's is also important to remember that Slayton definitely had trouble in "selling" Cooper to NASA management. It is still somehow strange that after backing up the dead-end Gemini 12, Cooper agreed to back up again (Apollo 10), [perhaps in a hope to finally get his own flight]. If my memory serves me correct, the only other known similar situation of that era was Fred Haise (Apollo 8 and 11), but in that case the reason was a bit different.

Altidude
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posted 05-19-2019 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Altidude   Click Here to Email Altidude     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it really is more simple than that. Yes, skill and proficiency are always a plus, but this is still real life and sometimes who you know is as important as what you know. I feel that each class was a fraternity of sorts. They looked after each other and each other’s accomplishments was shared by the members. So, Shepard was up to the task and therefore was assigned to represent the original seven.

carmelo
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posted 05-21-2019 09:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can be Shepard assigned as LMP in a Apollo landing flight with more experienced astronaut as CDR? Remember that Slayton was pilot of docking module on ASTP, with Stafford as CDR and Brand as CMP.

ashot
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posted 05-22-2019 05:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ashot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion, if you apply "Slayton" approach, he always treated astronauts based on their seniority selection-wise. Which means that more senior astronaut cannot be under command of later selected one. All crews selected by Slayton were exactly like that. The ASTP crew proposed by Slayton (with himself as a commander) is just another illustration.

All this is to say that in a crew selected by Slayton, one can hardly expect Shepard to be a lunar module pilot to someone selected after 1959. This leaves only Cooper as possible commander, if all this makes sense at all, given the fact that Shepard was considered one of the very tops in his 1959 group - way higher than Cooper.

carmelo
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posted 05-22-2019 10:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In yours opinion if Slayton had back to flight status in the same period of Shepard, he would self-assigned a lunar landing mission (Apollo 13 for Big Al, Apollo 14 or 15 for Deke)?

ashot
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posted 05-23-2019 03:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ashot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's a classic "what if" scenario, so we will never learn the truth. However, on a formal basis he promised the landing to prime and backup crews of Apollo 7 to 9 (the word which he kept, by the way). Other than that, he did not have "landing-ready" crews he promised a landing to.

As we see, all the later selected crews included two rookies (which was absolutely unimaginable for earlier Apollo crews, when not only flight experienced, but a docking experienced CMP was a must, and in two cases even the LMP was flight experienced). So, with this new series of flight assignments, if Slayton was cleared for flight, I assume he would definitely want to be on one of those landing missions.

Skylon
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posted 05-23-2019 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If Slayton could have assigned himself to a prime crew for Apollo I think his ego could handle being say, being Command Module Pilot instead of Commander. I am sure CDR would be preferred, but one thing that struck me, regarding ASTP was a comment in "Deke!" that there was no way he was going to wait all those years and not fly the spacecraft. He wanted to be at the controls, and indeed he was on ASTP for the un-docking/re-docking test.

The CMP's responsibilities would probably appeal to Slayton (transposition and docking, re-docking and re-entry - lots of "stick" time) a lot more than the LMP's — who was essentially a flight engineer.

Experience aside, he would likely also realize concerns about his heart condition could flare up over the idea of him moon-walking. If on a J-series flight, the stand-up EVA conducted by the CMP was comparatively short.

I just can't imagine Gilruth, Kraft or anyone above them being okay with Slayton as a rookie CDR for a landing.

oly
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posted 05-23-2019 07:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
I just can't imagine Gilruth, Kraft or anyone above them being okay with Slayton as a rookie CDR for a landing.
Why not? If somebody like Slayton, an original Mercury 7 astronaut, with years or experience and exposure to all the different training that Apollo astronauts were undertaking, were declared fit to fly medically, and, were selected as any member of a three person crew, what grounds for objection could be put forward?

Surely all crew members would get the adequate training and simulator time to work the problems that NASA could envision, and would be declared ready for flight before launch. And at any time prior to launch a medical issue were to arise, NASA could pull the single or whole crew from the roster.

David C
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posted 05-23-2019 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would think one reason for the assertion is the fact that they rejected him as a rookie CDR for ASTP.

Skylon
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posted 05-24-2019 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That is one point. Also, Alan Shepard got rejected for Apollo 13, and placed on Apollo 14 because his management experience (which would have been roughly equal to Slayton's) was not considered adequate to put him on the next flight in line. The powers above Slayton wanted him to have extra training time to make up for his time out of the training cycle.

Shepard ultimately could likely be more easily "justified" as a CDR than Slayton because he was America's first Astronaut, and a candidate for the first Gemini flight and that gave him a lot of capital with the NASA brass. Also, even though it was only 15 minutes, he had a spaceflight under his belt. Slayton did not. The complexities of an Apollo mission seemed to dictate that it was probably a good idea to have one veteran crew member who had flown at least once.

I say "justified" because to an extent their is an illogic to crew assignments. Oly is certainly right that there is no reason three qualified rookies couldn't fly a successful lunar landing.

Tom
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posted 05-25-2019 07:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Though I hate to say it, in most organizations, "politics" is a reality. If having one of the original 7 astronauts go to the Moon was important, they had a candidate who paid his dues... Cooper. I don't for one second believe that Deke Slayton would assign him as back-up CDR on such a complicated mission if he didn't think he was capable of flying it.


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