Shea was the son of an Irish mechanic for the New York City subway system, who group up in a working-class neighborhood of the Bronx. Enlisting in the navy during World War II, the service found he had a mathematical aptitude that was off the scale. They sent him for an in-depth engineering education at the University of Michigan, with post-graduate duties at Dartmouth, then MIT, before he finally moved to Bell Labs in 1950. By then he had a doctorate in engineering and a reputation for combining technical brilliance with managerial competence.
Shea was an aesthete, a jogger, a near-teetotaler, and a believer in formal system engineering with no aviation background, At the time the aerospace industry was dominated by macho two-fisted hard-drinking, hard-driving ex-pilots. In 1959 General Motors decided to muscle into the new booming missile-and-space business. They hired Shea to head up development of inertial navigation systems, incongruously within their AC Spark Plug division. Shea won the contract for the Titan 2 ICBM guidance system, developed it on schedule and within budget within two years. He was snapped up by TRW in the fall of 1961, but then NASA asked him if he wanted a key role in Kennedy's quest to land an American on the moon. Shea answered the call, despite the tremendous cut in salary. In October 1963 he was put in charge of overseeing, on NASA's behalf, the Apollo spacecraft development program at North American's plant in Downey, California.
Two prior NASA managers had burned out in the constant combat between NASA and its subcontractor. The two teams had very different engineering philosophies, and especially different ideas about liability for costly engineering changes dictated by NASA. Shea also clashed with the North American managers, especially Harrison Storms. But eventually Shea managed to stem the flood of unnecessary change orders on the NASA side, and reached a tense accommodation with Storms on the North American side. He managed to bring the Apollo spacecraft to readiness for its first manned flight only five months late to its original plan, a tremendous accomplishment.
But then the Apollo fire happened. Shea took the event personally, and collapsed mentally. Heads would roll, and after the dust had settled, the leading players selected to take the fall were Shea and Storms, the two men actually most responsible for the program's success.
Shea was bumped up to a do-nothing job at NASA headquarters, and left NASA in 1967 for an executive position at Polaroid. A year later, he moved to Raytheon, where he fulfilled a variety of senior executive positions until 1990. In retirement, he worked as an adjunct professor at MIT until 1995.
The launch vehicle required was a single Saturn C-5, consisting of the S-IC, S-II, and S-IVB stages. To provide a maximum launch window, a low earth parking orbit was recommended. For greater reliability, the two-stage-to-orbit technique was recommended rather than requiring reignition of the S-IVB to escape from parking orbit.
The current concepts of the Apollo command and service modules would not be altered. The lunar excursion vehicle (LEV), under intensive study in 1961, would be aft of the service module and in front of the S-IVB stage. For crew safety, an escape tower would be used during launch. Access to the LEV would be provided while the entire vehicle was on the launch pad.
Both Apollo and Saturn guidance and control systems would be operating during the launch phase. The Saturn guidance and control system in the S-IVB would be "primary" for injection into the earth parking orbit and from earth orbit to escape. Provisions for takeover of the Saturn guidance and control system should be provided in the command module. Ground tracking was necessary during launch and establishment of the parking orbit, MSFC and GSFC would study the altitude and type of low earth orbit.
The LEV would be moved in front of the command module "early" in the translunar trajectory. After the S-IVB was staged off the spacecraft following injection into the translunar trajectory, the service module would be used for midcourse corrections. Current plans were for five such corrections. If possible, a symmetric configuration along the vertical center line of the vehicle would be considered for the LEV. Ingress to the LEV from the command module should be possible during the translunar phase. The LEV would have a pressurized cabin capability during the translunar phase. A "hard dock" mechanism was considered, possibly using the support structure needed for the launch escape tower. The mechanism for relocation of the LEV to the top of the command module required further study. Two possibilities were discussed: mechanical linkage and rotating the command module by use of the attitude control system. The S-IVB could be used to stabilize the LEV during this maneuver.
The service module propulsion would be used to decelerate the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Selection of the altitude and type of lunar orbit needed more study, although a 100-nautical-mile orbit seemed desirable for abort considerations.
The LEV would have a "point" landing (±½ mile) capability. The landing site, selected before liftoff, would previously have been examined by unmanned instrumented spacecraft. It was agreed that the LEV would have redundant guidance and control capability for each phase of the lunar maneuvers. Two types of LEV guidance and control systems were recommended for further analysis. These were an automatic system employing an inertial platform plus radio aids and a manually controlled system which could be used if the automatic system failed or as a primary system.
The service module would provide the prime propulsion for establishing the entire spacecraft in lunar orbit and for escape from the lunar orbit to earth trajectory. The LEV propulsion system was discussed and the general consensus was that this area would require further study. It was agreed that the propulsion system should have a hover capability near the lunar surface but that this requirement also needed more study.
It was recommended that two men be in the LEV, which would descend to the lunar surface, and that both men should be able to leave the LEV at the same time. It was agreed that the LEV should have a pressurized cabin which would have the capability for one week's operation, even though a normal LOR mission would be 24 hours. The question of lunar stay time was discussed and it was agreed that Langley should continue to analyze the situation. Requirements for sterilization procedures were discussed and referred for further study. The time for lunar landing was not resolved.
In the discussion of rendezvous requirements, it was agreed that two systems be studied, one automatic and one providing for a degree of manual capability. A line of sight between the LEV and the orbiting spacecraft should exist before lunar takeoff. A question about hard-docking or soft-docking technique brought up the possibility of keeping the LEV attached to the spacecraft during the transearth phase. This procedure would provide some command module subsystem redundancy.
Direct link communications from earth to the LEV and from earth to the spacecraft, except when it was in the shadow of the moon, was recommended. Voice communications should be provided from the earth to the lunar surface and the possibility of television coverage would be considered.
A number of problems associated with the proposed mission plan were outlined for NASA Center investigation. Work on most of the problems was already under way and the needed information was expected to be compiled in about one month.
(This meeting, like the one held February 13-15, was part of a continuing effort to select the lunar mission mode).
Recommendations of the board were not binding. If a Center Director decided against a board recommendation, he would, however, discuss and clear the proposed action with the Director of OMSF.
When the Panel Review Board assumed its duties, the Space Vehicle Review Board was abolished.
Maxime A. Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Assistant Director for Flight Operations Donald K. Slayton, Assistant Director for Flight Crew Operations Wesley L. Hjornevik, Assistant Director for Administration Joseph F. Shea, Manager, Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Charles W. Mathews, Manager, Gemini Program Office and G. Merritt Preston, Manager, MSC Florida Operations.
The ASPO Manager's proposal resulted from experience that had arisen because of unfortunate terminology used to designate the extra fuel. Originally the fuel budget for various phases of the mission had been analyzed and a 10 percent allowance had been made to cover - at that time, unspecified - contingencies, dispersions, and uncertainties. Mistakenly this fuel addition became known as a "10% reserve"! John P. Mayer and his men in the Mission Planning and Analysis Division worried because engineers at North American, Grumman, and NASA had "been freely 'eating' off the so-called 'reserve'" before studies had been completed to define what some of the contingencies might be and to apportion some fuel for that specific situation. Mayer wanted the item labeled a "10% uncertainty."
Shea recommended also that the capacity of the LEM descent tanks be sufficient to achieve an equiperiod orbit, should this become desirable. However, the spacecraft should carry only enough propellant for a Hohmann transfer. This was believed adequate, because the ascent engine was available for abort maneuvers if the descent engine failed and because a low altitude pass over the landing site was no longer considered necessary. By restricting lunar landing sites to the area between ±5 degrees latitude and by limiting the lunar stay time to less than 48 hours, a one-half-degree, rather than two-degree, plane change was sufficient.
In the meantime, Shea reported, his office was investigating how much weight could be saved by these propellant reductions.
The Block II design arose from the need to add docking and crew transfer capability to the CM. Reduction of the CM control weight (from 9,500 to 9,100 kilograms (21,000 to 20,000 pounds)) and deficiencies in several major subsystems added to the scope of the redesign. Additional Details: here....
Shea had asked MSC's Maxime A. Faget to be chairman of a committee to accomplish the review, and would also ask the following individuals to serve: C. H. Lambert, W. F. Rector III, and J. G. Thibodaux, all of MSC; L. F. Belew, MSFC; M. Dandridge and J. A. Gavin, Grumman; I. A. Johnsen, Lewis Research Center; C. H. King, OMSF; Maj. W. R. Moe, Edwards Rocket Research Laboratory; and A. O. Tischler, NASA Office of Advanced Research and Technology.
The Committee should
During November, however, Hamilton Standard and Crew Systems Division (CSD) engineers advised the Instrumentation and Electronic Systems Division (IESD) that the PLSS's power requirements had increased to about 200 watt-hours. (CSD had jurisdiction over the PLSS, including battery requirements; IESD was responsible for the charger.) Hamilton Standard placed most of the blame on the cooling pump motor, which proved far less efficient than anticipated, as well as on the addition of biosensor equipment. ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea, reviewing the company's explanation, commented that "this says what happened . . . but is far from a justification - this is the type of thing we should understand well enough to anticipate." "How can this happen," he wondered, ". . . in an area which has been subjected to so much discussion and delay?"
Representatives from Grumman and Hamilton Standard, meeting at MSC on December 17, redefined PLSS battery and charging requirements, and Grumman was directed to proceed with the development of the battery charger. This episode was accompanied by some sense of urgency, since Grumman had to have firm requirements before the end of year to prevent a schedule slippage.
Shea said he would meet with C. Stark Draper on January 14 and discuss with him "where we stand with respect to the MIT work of the past and our concerns for the future." During the week of January 18, MSC would send 14 teams to MIT to meet with their counterparts, and the following week a review board, chaired by R. C. Duncan of MSC, would go over the work of the individual MIT-NASA teams in depth and agree upon the program for 1965. The 14 teams would be: Reliability and Quality Assurance, Field Operations, Documentation and Configuration Management, Systems Assembly and Test, Guidance and Mission Analysis, Simulation, Ground Support Equipment, Optics, Inertial Systems and Sensors, Computer, Radar, Training; Terms, Conditions, Rates and Factors; and Statement of Work Integration.
Shea felt that the review would give MIT a clearer understanding of their part in the guidance, navigation, and control system development. He recommended that Phillips discuss the general nature of the program review with George E. Mueller and Robert C. Seamans, Jr., so they would both understand ASPO's objectives.
Phillips forwarded the letter to Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller along with his comments on the proposal. He said, "I think it is a good plan and that the results will be beneficial to the program. I urge your support should it become necessary."
The ASPO Configuration Management Plan was being revised to reflect the action. The newly formed CCP's authority would be restricted to review of end item hardware (including ground support equipment configuration changes) to determine if the change was mandatory in the conduct of tests at KSC, and the approval of the contractor's plan for making the mandatory change to specific Apollo hardware end items at KSC.
In light of recent failures of almost all titanium tanks planned for use in the Apollo Program when exposed to nitrogen tetroxide under conditions which might be encountered in flight, the matter was deemed to be of utmost urgency.
A preliminary meeting was scheduled at NASA Headquarters on December 16 and one responsible representative from each of the prime contractors and subcontractors was requested to be present. Prior to the December 16 meeting, it would be necessary for each organization to complete the following tasks:
In a letter to ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea, Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips said, ". . . I do not think further pressure is in order. However, in a separate letter to Lee Gossick, I have asked that he give his personal attention to the strict adherence to test procedures, up-to-date certification of instrumentation, and care and cleanliness in handling of test hardware."
Shea had written to Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., Grumman Vice President and LEM Program Manager, in April concerning cost escalation. He had said "A significant amount of the planning for your contract is based upon management commitments made to us by Grumman . . . (and) your estimates have helped significantly (and indeed are still changing) and currently significantly exceed the amounts upon which our budget has been based." In another letter, in September, to Grumman President L. J. Evans, Shea remarked: "The result of our fiscal review with your people last week was somewhat encouraging. It reconfirmed my conviction that Grumman can do the program without the cost increases which you have been recently indicating, and, depending on how much difficulty we have with the qualification of our flight systems, perhaps even with some additional cost reduction."
In a November letter to Titterton, Shea again referred to work packages and reaffirmed that permission to exceed approved monthly levels should be granted only by the LM Program Office. He said, "Unless this discipline is enforced throughout the Grumman in-house and subcontract structure, the work packages could turn out to be interesting pieces of paper which contain the information as to what might have been done, rather than the basis for program management."
Required leak check operations were also requested at a maximum pressure of 142 newtons per sq cm (206 psia), with a design limit of 186 newtons per sq cm (270 psia). The test fluids would be compatible with the titanium alloy at the test pressures. The test would be conducted in the Altitude Test Stand, where adequate protection existed for isolating and containing a failure. MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth approved the request the same day.
George M. Low, MSC Deputy Director, would succeed Shea as ASPO Manager. Changes were to be effective April 10.