This was a preliminary step to plans agreed on by NASA Administrator James E. Webb, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller, MSFC Director Wernher von Braun, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, and Low. Rees was to head a special task group, to be stationed at Downey and concerned largely with planning control and feedback; engineering, development, and design; manufacturing and assembly, manufacturing methods, and process control; quality assurance and reliability; and procedures, configuration control, etc.
Rees recalled that his assignment, as spelled out by Webb, was mainly to support MSC on manufacturing problems. Accompanying Rees on the survey trip from October 24 to November 3 were Jerald R. Kubat of the Apollo Program Office, NASA Hq., and two MSFC associates of Rees, Jack Trott and E. D. Mohlere. Rees met with RASPO Manager Wilbur H. Gray and ASPO CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht and with top North American officials. Discussions were held with RASPO personnel on configuration control, quality assurance, manufacturing problems, and the environmental control system in preparation for a trip to AiResearch. "Finally we reviewed the so-called Problem Assessment Room of NAR."
Before offering some recommendations for consideration, Rees pointed up a need for a considerably intensified program of subcontractor penetration and quality review, to include in-process inspections in critical processes or in assembly of critical components. He recommended that
- he lead the task team, reporting to Kleinknecht since he felt the team should support and not only advise and consult;
- all actions be executed with the contractor by RASPO;
- the size of the group be 20 to 25 persons and the task length about six months; and
- the team not involve itself in any design activities or new "inventions," but see to it that all problems be made visible and resolved according to the time schedule with follow-up actions and feedback.
Rees also listed a number of areas of possible improvement, among which were:
"Intensified exploration looking toward modularization in order to reduce impact of restricted work conditions in the capsule, although, according to my opinion, NAR has already taken steps in the proper direction and made improvement."
"Development of highly responsive communications system that will permit immediate revelation to management of manufacturing anomalies discovered on the shop floor."
"NAR quality control was, in my opinion, somewhat erratic. In some cases, jobs were over-covered, in others, coverage was missing."
"Returning to the matter of the communication link between shop and responsive levels of management, two examples will serve to illustrate the point. The S/C 101-RCS (reaction control system) quarter panel fastener hole mismatch was initially reported on January 9 within a shop loop. It did not get management attention until late October. Impact on other S/C requires attention. Again, the S/C 020 heat shield required grinding to remove interference with the umbilical. This, too apparently applied to other spacecraft. . . ."
Speaking of the field of controls and prompt display of problems, Rees said: "I feel that the so-called 'Problem Assessment Room' is a good beginning but that it requires much refinement. For example, it currently does not inform management of repetitive non-conformances or developing trends. Also, I learned that the previously mentioned improperly fitting RCS panel did not show on the board. The reason given was that it was not displayed because no solution to the problem had yet been developed. It would appear to me that such a condition would eminently qualify a problem for display."