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  Doing the Impossible: George E. Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program

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Author Topic:   Doing the Impossible: George E. Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program
cspg
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posted 02-08-2012 02:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Doing the Impossible - George E. Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program
by Arthur L. Slotkin
Apollo was known for its engineering triumphs, but its success also came from a disciplined management style. This excellent account of one of the most important personalities in early American human spaceflight history describes for the first time how George E. Mueller, the system manager of the human spaceflight program of the 1960s, applied the SPO methodology and other special considerations such as "all-up" testing, resulting in the success of the Apollo Program. Wernher von Braun and others did not readily accept such testing or Mueller's approach to system management, but later acknowledged that without them NASA would not have landed astronauts on the Moon by 1969. While Apollo remained Mueller's priority, from his earliest days at the agency, he promoted a robust post-Apollo Program which resulted in Skylab, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. As a result of these efforts, Mueller earned the sobriquet: "the father of the space shuttle." Following his success at NASA, Mueller returned to industry. Although he did not play a leading role in human spaceflight again, in 2011 the National Air and Space Museum awarded him their lifetime achievement trophy for his contributions.

Following the contributions of George E. Mueller, in this unique book Arthur L. Slotkin answers such questions as: exactly how did the methods developed for use in the Air Force ballistic missile programs get modified and used in the Apollo Program? How did George E. Mueller, with the help of others, manage the Apollo Program? How did NASA centers, coming from federal agencies with cultures of their own, adapt to the new structured approach imposed from Washington?

George E. Mueller is the ideal central character for this book. He was instrumental in the creation of Apollo extension systems leading to Apollo, the Shuttle, and today's ISS and thus was a pivotal figure in early American human spaceflight history.

  • Springer, October 7, 2012
  • Softcover, 280 p. 20 illus. in color.
  • ISBN 978-1-4614-3700-0

hermit
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posted 02-09-2012 10:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It will enter the editing phase later this month and should be submitted for layout by the end of March.

hermit
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posted 03-30-2012 03:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This book has been edited and is about to go for layout, so is on track for publication in the third quarter of the year.

hermit
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posted 05-07-2012 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The book is nearly through proof-checking.

hermit
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posted 05-12-2012 05:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a Facebook page for it.

hermit
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posted 06-02-2012 02:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The publisher has changed the title/subtitle from George E. Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program: Doing the Impossible to Doing the Impossible - George E. Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program

GoesTo11
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posted 06-02-2012 06:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All Up would have been a great title.

the clocks running
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posted 06-03-2012 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the clocks running     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"All Up" would be an awesome title! All Up testing was a key strategy in hitting the end of the decade moon landing goal.

GoesTo11
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posted 06-03-2012 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It wasn't until I read Murray and Cox's Apollo that I really understood how radical a concept going "all up" was at the time George Mueller introduced it... it wasn't merely bold, it challenged at a fundamental level the assumptions and philosophies long held by so many of the program's engineering minds about the process of flight testing hardware.

Going to "all up" testing and sending Apollo 8 to the moon were the two biggest rolls of the dice in the program. And, to keep with the gambling analogy, it recalls going "all in" in a poker game. Which is pretty much what it was.

Arthur Slotkin
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posted 06-04-2012 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arthur Slotkin   Click Here to Email Arthur Slotkin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mueller considered his greatest contribution to Apollo the program management system he introduced, a modified version of the air force system program office methodology. In addition to the program management system, he introduced other management innovations. After receiving the Disher/Tischler study, he realized he had to change the traditional step-by-step approach to flight testing and adopted all-up testing, a method first used in the Minuteman Program. Like most ideas, he did not invent all-up testing, although he used it to speed up Saturn development, shaving years off of the schedule.

hermit
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posted 08-20-2012 06:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just received my copy - looks good.

garymilgrom
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posted 09-03-2012 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a well written book backed by excellent research. Kudos to Mr. Slotkin for the work.

The book covers Mueller's career at NASA where he made major contributions to Gemini as well as Apollo, then skims over his career after leaving NASA. As the book itself states it's not a biography.

There are many behind the scenes anecdotes and the interaction between top managers Webb, Seamans and Muelller plus their underlings like Shea and Philips are surprising to me for their highly political nature.

One criticism - Mueller is known as a strong advocate of Apollo follow on programs. Early in the book the author makes the point Mueller believed in these but failed to put them in place. However that doesn't stop a great deal of space being devoted to said projects. We read of speeches, budgets and meetings plus moon bases and Mars fuel depots all while knowing these programs went nowhere. While there is value in understanding Mueller thought he was building a capability, not a one-trick pony; the value of devoting so much space to these never-achieved items is debatable to me.

Another area that could be improved is graphics. The management layers and relationships were complex at best and some simple organization charts would go a long way at explaining these.

On the plus side are two strong points. This is the first book that successfully explains for me the difference between the management of a center and the management of the program at that center.

Further I've never realized the distinction between building a product like Apollo for the purchaser (in this case the US nation, through Congress, via top Apollo political management) versus building the product for the user (in this case the astronauts and flight controllers via top Apollo technical management).

As can be seen Apollo was a complex program on multiple levels over many years. This book does a good job of giving the political background on the program while concentrating on one of the most important personalities in the program.

Jay Chladek
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posted 09-04-2012 04:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there anything in the book that covers Mueller's involvement with the creation of the Apollo Applications Program? That was at least successful in getting off the ground as Skylab and Mueller pushed heavily for it while directly clashing with Webb on certain matters related to AAP versus Apollo.

hermit
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posted 09-04-2012 05:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, AAP features heavily.

garymilgrom
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posted 09-04-2012 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jay, the "Apollo follow-on programs" became known as AAP. However, even though nearly half the book is devoted to Mueller's support of AAP, Skylab is never mentioned by name.

I don't have the book in front of me to check the index but that's my recollection. Caveat - after a while I started skimming through the AAP sections as they were so numerous and extensive.

Mueller, perhaps exclusively at the time, believed the nation was building "a capability in space" that included landing on the moon as one very small part. He thought we'd have a permanent moon base in the 70's followed by space stations used as way points for trips to Mars in the 80's. Obviously none of this was funded.

hermit
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posted 09-04-2012 09:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
Skylab is never mentioned by name. I don't have the book in front of me to check the index but that's my recollection. Caveat - after a while I started skimming through the AAP sections as they were so numerous and extensive.
Skylab is in the index.

Arthur Slotkin
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posted 09-13-2012 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arthur Slotkin   Click Here to Email Arthur Slotkin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When first planning the book I met with Mueller and he convinced me that there were three programs going at the same time — Gemini, Apollo and advanced programs. Initially called the Apollo Extension System, then the Apollo Application Program and finally it was reduced to Skylab. By skimming the AAP references, the previous commenter missed a good story and did not learn about Mueller's contributions to the shuttle and the international space station. I suggest he go back and read it this time.

Arthur Slotkin
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posted 09-16-2012 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arthur Slotkin   Click Here to Email Arthur Slotkin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would be interested in hearing other reactions to the book.

Arthur Slotkin
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posted 02-12-2013 06:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arthur Slotkin   Click Here to Email Arthur Slotkin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Several interesting reviews of the book have been published about Doing the Impossible. See the latest issue of QUEST, the journal of spaceflight history and The Space Review, October 2012.

tfrielin
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posted 03-09-2013 04:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm three quarters of the way through this book and it's a very well-done job re Muller's management contributions to Apollo — indispensable, in a word.

Only factual error I've spotted so far is calling SA-7 a suborbital flight (p.65) It was orbital, placing a boilerplate CSM into orbit (as were all Saturn 1 Block II flights — orbital, that is).

Discussion of AAP I could use more of--it was the crucial follow-on that failed and in doing so doomed further use of the Saturn/Apollo infrastructure, an unrecoverable loss. We'll never see the like of the Saturns again, for sure.

For my (rather jaundiced) take on AAP see my article in the January 2007 issue of Spaceflight magazine: "The Future of Manned Spaceflight: The View From 1966".

Addendum: Just finished the book a good job all around on Mueller's management contributions to Gemini/Apollo/AAP. Only other error (p.265) is stating all-up testing commenced in 1968 with AS-501, when it actually was 1967. We'll just call that a typo--anyone who's seen a work in print gets his share of those.

hermit
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posted 03-10-2013 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hermit   Click Here to Email hermit     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tfrielin:
Only factual error I've spotted so far is calling SA-7 a suborbital flight (p.65) It was orbital, placing a boilerplate CSM into orbit
Art - I guess I should have spotted that — dmh

quest
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posted 03-16-2013 12:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for quest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you've read Arthur Slotkin's excellent book, 'Doing the Impossible: George Mueller and the Management of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program,' more than 20 pages of additional material from Arthur Slotkin's private interviews can be found in the Volume 20 #1 issue of 'Quest: The History of Spaceflight'.

If you already don't get this publication, spacehistory101.com has details. Also, there is a collectSPACE member special.

Kite
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posted 04-26-2013 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Took some time to read but well worth the effort. I didn't realise that there was a certain amount of tension between George Mueller and James Webb but it appears to me that Mueller was absolutely essential to reach the goal of landing on the Moon in the Kennedy time limit. Probably not appreciated at the time by the general public but I'm sure it was by those close to the project.

The book is very thorough and I liked the way the notes are on each page which saves constantly turning to the back for reference.

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