Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.08.14 - During a key meeting of Apollo senior figures - top NASA management first approached regarding an Apollo 8 lunar mission in December - reaction: negative.


Participants in the August 14 meeting in Washington were Low, Gilruth, Kraft, and Slayton from MSC; von Braun, James, and Richard from MSFC; Debus and Petrone from KSC; and Deputy Administrator Thomas Paine, William Schneider, Julian Bowman, Phillips, and Hage from NASA Hq. Low reviewed the spacecraft aspects; Kraft, flight operations; and Slayton, flight crew support. MSFC had agreed on the LTA-B as the substitute and were still ready to go; and KSC said they would be ready by December 6.

While the meeting was in progress, Mueller called from Vienna to talk to Phillips. He was cool to the proposed idea, especially since it preceded Apollo 7, and urged Phillips not to come to Vienna, adding that he could not meet with the group before August 22. The group agreed they could not wait until August 22 for a decision and agreed to keep going, urging again that Phillips go to Vienna and present their case.

At this point Paine reminded them that not too long before they were making a decision whether to man 503, and now they were proposing a bold mission. He then asked for comments by those around the table and received the following responses:

von Braun - Once you decided to man 503 it did not matter how far you went.

Hage - There were a number of places in the mission where the decision could be made, minimizing the risk.

Slayton - Only chance to get to the moon before the end of 1969.

Debus - I have no technical reservations.

Petrone - I have no reservations.

Bowman - A shot in the arm for manned space flight.

James - Manned safety in this and following flights enhanced.

Richard - Our lunar capability will be enhanced by flying this mission.

Schneider - My wholehearted endorsement.

Gilruth - Although this may not be the only way to meet our goal, it enhances our possibility. There is always risk, but this is in path of less risk. In fact, the minimum risk of all Apollo plans.

Kraft - Flight operations has a difficult job here. We need all kind of priorities; it will not be easy to do, but I have confidence. It should be lunar orbit and not circumlunar.

Low - Assuming Apollo 7 is a success there is no other choice.

After receiving this response, Paine congratulated them on not being prisoners of previous plans and said he personally felt it was the right thing to do. Phillips then said the plan did not represent shortcuts and planned to meet with Mueller on August 22. He reiterated Mueller's reservations, and then agreed to move out on a limited basis, since time was critical.

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