Encyclopedia Astronautica
1967.03.07 - Impact of the Apollo 204 accident on schedules


During a House Committee on Science and Astronautics hearing on NASA's FY 1968 authorization, NASA Administrator James E. Webb replied to questions by Congressmen John W. Wydler, Edward J. Gurney, and Emilio Q. Daddario about the impact of the Apollo 204 accident on schedules for accomplishing the lunar landing.

During a House Committee on Science and Astronautics hearing on NASA's FY 1968 authorization, NASA Administrator James E. Webb replied to questions by Congressmen John W. Wydler, Edward J. Gurney, and Emilio Q. Daddario about the impact of the Apollo 204 accident on schedules for accomplishing the lunar landing. Webb said:

"As the man asked by President Kennedy and later by President Johnson to take the responsibility for this program, I have provided to you information showing the need for the 12 Saturn l-B's and the 15 Saturn V vehicles, and have stated that if we could get the kind of developed performance out of these vehicles on the early flights that would give us confidence that we could turn some of the earlier flights loose to go to the Moon, we might do this earlier than later.

"I have stated that if it took all 15 Saturn V's to complete the mission, it would not be done in this decade.

"Now the charts that you have seen this morning show that we are going to exercise the Apollo Command Module, the Service Module, and the Lunar Excursion Module around the Earth with the Saturn I-B vehicle, and that we will be doing this in this year and next year.

"It also shows that if we can fully test out and be very sure of the performance of the Saturn V vehicle with all of the equipment that is riding on it, we would put men into the third or more likely the fourth vehicle. Now that vehicle will have on it everything necessary to go to the Moon. But I cannot tell you today that it will be turned loose to the Moon even if everything on it is perfect, because my judgment as Administrator is that we are going to exercise this equipment around the Earth more than that before we start for the Moon.

"On the other hand, if everything is working perfectly, it would be logical to start; whether we get halfway and come back, I don't know. But many people who are very optimistic have assumed that because you plan now before any large rocket has ever flown to put all the equipment on the fourth flight that you are going to completely succeed and therefore you will in fact turn that loose to the Moon next year.

"I do not believe so, and have so stated time and time again, publicly and to this committee.

"I would like to say one other thing. In order to mobilize this effort to make everything fit together, we have prepared schedules that have target dates on them, and the target date for flying the fourth Saturn V has been in the summer or early fall of 1968. So many people have said, 'What is the earliest time you could go, isn't that really your target?' Well, obviously we want to go as soon as we can, and obviously if everything worked perfectly, this vehicle would be fully equipped to go. But my own judgment is that if we get this done by the end of 1969, we will be very, very fortunate; that the chance that we will do so, the odds that we will do so, the possibility of doing all the work necessary is less this year than it was last. And I testified at this table last year that it was less at that time than it had been the previous year. So we have had in my judgment some accumulation of difficulties which make the problem of doing it in this decade more difficult. But it is still not out of the picture, and shall I say, not impossible, although almost impossible to think of a 1968 date."

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