Born: 1926. Died: 1984-01-01. Birth Place: Austria.
Official NASA Biography
George Michael Low was born George Wilhelm Low on June 10, 1926, near Vienna, Austria. His parents were Artur and Gertrude Burger Low, small business people in Austria. With the German occupation of Austria in 1938, four years after Artur Low's death, his family emigrated to the United States. In 1943, Low graduated from Forest Hills High School, Forest Hills, New York, and entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His education was interrupted by the war and from 1944 to 1946, in which he served in the U.S. Army. While doing so, he became a naturalized American citizen, and legally changed his name to George Michael Low.
After military service Low returned to RPI and received his Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering degree in 1948. He then worked at General Dynamics (Convair) in Fort Worth, Texas, as a mathematician in an aerodynamics group. Low returned to RPI late in 1948, however, and received his Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1950. In 1949, he married Mary Ruth McNamara of Troy, New York. Between 1952 and 1963, they had five children: Mark S., Diane E., George David, John M., and Nancy A.
After completing his M.S. degree, Low joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as an engineer at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio (later the Lewis Research Center). He became head of the Fluid Mechanics Section (1954-1956) and Chief of the Special Projects Branch (1956-1958). Low specialized in experimental and theoretical research in the fields of heat transfer, boundary layer flows, and internal aerodynamics. In addition, he worked on such space technology problems as orbit calculations, reentry paths, and space rendezvous techniques.
During the summer and autumn of 1958, preceding the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Low worked on a planning team to organize the new aerospace agency. Soon after NASA's formal organization in October 1958, Low transferred to the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he served as Chief of Manned Space Flight. In this capacity, he was closely involved in the planning of Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.
In February 1964, Low transferred to NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas (now the Johnson Space Center), and served as Deputy Center Director. In April 1967, following the Apollo 204 fire, he was named Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (ASPO) where he was responsible for directing the changes to the Apollo spacecraft necessary to make it flight worthy.
George Low became NASA Deputy Administrator in December 1969, serving with Administrators Thomas O. Paine and James C. Fletcher. As such, he became one of the leading figures in the early development of the Space Shuttle, the Skylab program, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
He retired from NASA in 1976 to become president of RPI, a position he still held at his death. He died of cancer on July 17, 1984.
Members of the new Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight were nominated by the Ames, Lewis, and Langley Research Centers, the High Speed Flight Station (HSFS) (later Flight Research Center), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Office of Space Flight Development OSFD), and the Office of Aeronautical and Space Research (OASR). They were: Alfred J. Eggers, Jr. (Ames); Bruce T. Lundin (Lewis); Laurence K. Loftin, Jr. (Langley); De E. Beeler (HSFS); Harris M. Schurmeier (JPL); Maxime A. Faget (STG) ; George M. Low of NASA Headquarters OSFD) ; and Milton B. Ames, Jr. (part-time) (OASR).
The first meeting of the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight was held at NASA Headquarters. Members of the Committee attending were: Harry J. Goett, Chairman; Milton B. Ames, Jr. (part-time); De E. Beeler; Alfred J. Eggers, Jr.; Maxime A. Faget; Laurence K. Loftin, Jr.; George M. Low; Bruce T. Lundin; and Harris M. Schurmeier. Observers were John H. Disher, Robert M. Crane, Warren J. North, Milton W. Rosen (part-time), and H. Kurt Strass.
The purpose of the Committee was to take a long-term look at man-in-space problems, leading eventually to recommendations on future missions and on broad aspects of Center research programs to ensure that the Centers were providing proper information. Committee investigations would range beyond Mercury and Dyna-Soar but would not be overly concerned with specific vehicular configurations. The Committee would report directly to the Office of Aeronautical and Space Research.
The national booster program, Dyna-Soar, and Project Mercury were discussed by the Research Steering Committee. Members also presented reviews of Center programs related to manned space flight. Maxime A. Faget of STG endorsed lunar exploration as the present goal of the Committee although recognizing the end objective as manned interplanetary travel. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters recommended that the Committee:
Director Robert R. Gilruth met with members of his STG staff (Paul E. Purser, Charles J. Donlan, James A. Chamberlin, Raymond L. Zavasky, W. Kemble Johnson, Charles W. Mathews, Maxime A. Faget, and Charles H. Zimmeman) and George M. Low from NASA Headquarters to discuss the possibility of an advanced manned spacecraft.
A report on a projected manned space station was made to the Research Steering Committee by Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., of the Langley Research Center. In discussion, Chairman Harry J. Goett expressed his opinion that consideration of a space laboratory ought to be an integral and coordinated part of the planning for the lunar landing mission. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters warned that care should be exercised to assure that each step taken toward the goal of a lunar landing was significant, since the number of steps that could be funded was extremely limited.
A discussion on the advanced manned spacecraft program was held at the Langley Research Center with members of STG and Langley Research Center, together with George M. Low and Ernest O. Pearson, Jr., of NASA Headquarters and Harry J. Goett of Goddard Space Flight Center. Floyd L. Thompson, Langley Director, said that Langley would be studying the radiation problem, making configuration tests (including a lifting Mercury) , and studying aerodynamics, heating, materials, and structures.
The first NASA-Industry Program Plans Conference was held in Washington, D.C. The purpose was to give industrial management an overall picture of the NASA program and to establish a basis for subsequent conferences to be held at various NASA Centers. The current status of NASA programs was outlined, including long-range planning, launch vehicles, structures and materials research, manned space flight, and life sciences.
NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden announced that the advanced manned space flight program had been named "Apollo." George M. Low, NASA Chief of Manned Space Flight, stated that circumlunar flight and earth orbit missions would be carried out before 1970. This program would lead eventually to a manned lunar landing and a permanent manned space station. Additional Details: here....
The fourth meeting of the Space Exploration Program Council was held at NASA Headquarters. The results of a study on Saturn development and utilization was presented by the Ad Hoc Saturn Study Committee. Objectives of the study were to determine (1) if and when the Saturn C-2 launch vehicle should be developed and (2) if mission and spacecraft planning was consistent with the Saturn vehicle development schedule. No change in the NASA Fiscal Year 1962 budget was contemplated. The Committee recommended that the Saturn C-2 development should proceed on schedule (S-II stage contract in Fiscal Year 1962, first flight in 1965). The C-2 would be essential, the study reported, for Apollo manned circumlunar missions, lunar unmanned exploration, Mars and Venus orbiters and capsule landers, probes to other planets and out-of- ecliptic, and for orbital starting of nuclear upper stages. Additional Details: here....
In a memorandum to Abe Silverstein, Director of NASA's Office of Space Flight Programs, George M. Low, Chief of Manned Space Flight, described the formation of a working group on the manned lunar landing program: "It has become increasingly apparent that a preliminary program for manned lunar landings should be formulated. This is necessary in order to provide a proper justification for Apollo, and to place Apollo schedules and technical plans on a firmer foundation.
"In order to prepare such a program, I have formed a small working group, consisting of Eldon Hall, Oran Nicks, John Disher, and myself. This group will endeavor to establish ground rules for manned lunar landing missions; to determine reasonable spacecraft weights; to specify launch vehicle requirements; and to prepare an integrated development plan, including the spacecraft, lunar landing and takeoff system, and launch vehicles. This plan should include a time-phasing and funding picture, and should identify areas requiring early studies by field organizations."
At the second meeting of the Manned Lunar Landing Task Group (Low Committee), a draft position paper was presented by George M. Low, Chairman. A series of reports on launch vehicle capabilities, spacecraft, and lunar program support were presented and considered for possible inclusion in the position paper.
James A. Chamberlin, Chief, Engineering Division, Space Task Group (STG), briefed Director Robert R. Gilruth, senior STG staff members, and George M. Low and John H. Disher of NASA Headquarters on McDonnell's advanced capsule design. The design was based on increased component and systems accessibility, reduced manufacturing and checkout time, easier pilot insertion and emergency egress procedures, greater reliability, and adaptability to a paraglide landing system. It departed significantly from Mercury capsule design in placing most components outside the pressure vessel and increasing retrograde and posigrade rocket performance. The group was reluctant to adopt what seemed to be a complete redesign of the Mercury spacecraft, but it decided to meet again on June 12 to review the most desirable features of the new design. After discussing most of these items at the second meeting, the group decided to ask McDonnell to study a minimum-modification capsule to provide an 18-orbit capability.
At NASA Headquarters, the first meeting was held of the Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group, attended by NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Ira H. Abbott, Don R. Ostrander, Charles H. Roadman, William A. Fleming, DeMarquis D. Wyatt (part-time), and George M. Low (in place of Abe Silverstein). This Headquarters Group, appointed by Seamans, was to coordinate problems that jointly affected several NASA Offices, during the interim period while the manned space flight organization was being formed. Members of the steering group included NASA program directors, with participation by Wernher von Braun of Marshall Space Flight Center, Robert R. Gilruth of STG, and Wyatt and Abraham Hyatt of NASA Headquarters, as required. Fleming acted as Secretary of the Group. A list of decisions and actions required to implement an accelerated lunar landing program was drawn up as a tentative agenda for the next meeting:
Space Task Group (STG), assisted by George M. Low, NASA Assistant Director for Space Flight Operations, and Warren J. North of Low's office, prepared a project summary presenting a program of manned spaceflight for 1963-1965. This was the final version of the Project Development Plan, work on which had been initiated August 14. Additional Details: here....
NASA announced the appointment of Joseph F. Shea as ASPO Manager effective October 22. He had been Deputy Director (Systems) in OMSF. George M. Low, OMSF Deputy Director (Programs), would direct the Systems office as well as his own. Robert O. Piland, Acting Manager of ASPO since April 3, resumed his former duties as Deputy Manager.
NASA assigned George M. Low to the position of Deputy Director of MSC. He would replace James C. Elms, who had resigned on January 17 to return to private industry. Although Low continued as Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at NASA Headquarters until May 1, he assumed his new duties at MSC the first part of February.
The possibility of doing more than the previously planned stand-up form of extravehicular activity (EVA) was introduced at an informal meeting in the office of Director Robert R. Gilruth at Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Present at the meeting, in addition to Gilruth and Deputy Director George M. Low, were Richard S. Johnston of Crew Systems Division (CSD) and Warren J. North of Flight Crew Operations Division. Johnston presented a mock-up of an EVA chestpack, as well as a prototype hand-held maneuvering unit. North expressed his division's confidence that an umbilical EVA could be successfully achieved on the Gemini-Titan 4 mission. Receiving a go-ahead from Gilruth, CSD briefed George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Mannned Space Flight, on April 3 in Washington. He, in turn, briefed the Headquarters Directorates. The relevant MSC divisions were given tentative approval to continue the preparations and training required for the operation. Associate Administrator of NASA, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., visited MSC for further briefing on May 14. The enthusiasm he carried back to Washington regarding flight-readiness soon prompted final Headquarters approval.
MSC Deputy Director George M. Low advised NASA Hq of Houston's planning schedule for follow-up procurement of Apollo spacecraft for the AAP. Based upon the most recent delivery schedules for the last several command and service modules and lunar excursion modules for Apollo, contract award for those vehicles was scheduled for July and August 1966. In accordance with a 14 July directive from Headquarters, MSC was preparing a procurement plan for the extended CSM and the LEM derivatives covering both the final definition and development and operational phases of AAP. Approval of this plan by Headquarters, Low stated, was anticipated for mid-December, while award of contracts for the program definition phase was set for late January 1966. The contract award date for actual development of the extended CSM was slated for October 1966, while that for the LEM derivatives was postponed until mid- 1967 (in line with revised funding directives from Washington).
MSC Deputy Director George M. Low recommended to Maxime A. Faget, MSC, that, in light of Air Force and Aerospace Corp. studies on space rescue, MSC plans for a general study on space rescue be discontinued and a formal request be made to OMSF to cancel the request for proposals, which had not yet been released. As an alternative, Low suggested that MSC should cooperate with the Air Force to maximize gains from the USAF task on space rescue requirements.
George M. Low expressed his reservations about the validity of planning a synchronous-orbit mission for AAP. In a note to Maxime A. Faget, Low commented on the recent interest in such a mission and voiced his own doubt concerning either the need for or the desirability of such a flight. Low stated that such things as synoptic views of terrain or weather phenomena could be done just as well from low Earth orbit using mosaic techniques. Moreover, low orbits afforded simpler operations, much greater payload capabilities, and minimal radiation hazards. Low asked Faget to have his organization prepare an analysis of low Earth-orbit versus synchronous- orbit operations in preparation for upcoming AAP planning discussions in Washington at the end of the month.
Joseph F. Shea, MSC Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Manager, was appointed NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, with responsibility for technical aspects of the program.
George M. Low, MSC Deputy Director, would succeed Shea as ASPO Manager. Changes were to be effective April 10.
Confirming an October 27 telephone conversation, ASPO Manager George M. Low recommended to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that the following LM delivery schedule be incorporated into official documentation: LM-2, February 5, 1968; LM-3, April 6, 1968; LM-4, June 6, 1968. Subsequent vehicles would be delivered on two-month centers. The dates had been provided by Grumman during the last Program Management Review.
Spacecraft 017 (recovered after flight on the Apollo 4 mission) arrived in Downey, Calif., and was inspected by Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low and others from MSC. Its condition was much better than anticipated, considering the severe heating it had been subjected to. Maximum erosion was between 2.5 and 7.6 millimeters.
Grumman President L. J. Evans wrote ASPO Manager George M. Low stating his agreement with NASA's decision to forego a second unmanned LM flight using LM-2. (Grumman's new position - the company had earlier strongly urged such a second flight - was reached after discussions with Low and LM Manager G. H. Bolender at the end of January and after flight data was presented at the February 6 meeting of the OMSF Management Council.) Although the decision was not irreversible, being subject to further investigations by both contractor and customer, both sides now were geared for a manned flight on the next LM mission. Additional Details: here....
In discussing the results of a manned test with MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low mentioned that a single 45-degree motion of the abort handle was required to initiate a launch abort in Apollo. Gilruth voiced concern that an abort could be caused by a single motion. Additional Details: here....
ASPO Manager George M. Low explained to the Apollo Program Director the underlying causes of slips in CSM and LM delivery dates since establishment of contract dates during the fall of 1967. The general excuse, Low said, was that slips were the result of NASA-directed hardware changes. "This excuse is not valid." He recounted how NASA-imposed changes had been under strict control and only essential changes had been approved by the MSC Level II Configuration Control Board (CCB). Additional Details: here....
Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations, expressed concern to ASPO Manager George M. Low over the escalation of E-mission objectives; the flight now loomed as an extremely complex and ambitious mission. The probability of accomplishing all the objectives set forth for the mission, said Kraft, was very low. He did not propose changing the mission plan, however. "If we are fortunate," he said, "then certainly the quickest way to the moon will be achieved." Kraft did suggest caution in setting mission priorities and in "apply(ing) adjectives to the objectives." Additional Details: here....
In the continuing effort to reduce costs while still maintaining a balanced and viable program, ASPO Manager George M. Low recommended to NASA Hq. that CSM 102 be deleted from the manned flight program. He estimated total savings at $25.5 million (excluding cost of refurbishment after the current ground test program). In addition, he said, during the static structural test program at North American Rockwell, CSM 102 would be subjected to loads that would compromise structural integrity of the vehicle for manned flight.
On August 12 Kraft informed Low that December 20 was the day if they wanted to launch in daylight. With everyone agreeing to a daylight launch, the launch was planned for December 1 with a "built-in hold" until the 20th, which would have the effect of giving assurance of meeting the schedule. LTA (LM test article)-B was considered as a substitute; it had been through a dynamic test vehicle program, and all except Kotanchik agreed this would be a good substitute. Grumman suggested LTA-4 but Low decided on LTA-B.
Kleinknecht had concluded his CSM 103-106 configuration study by August 13 and determined the high-gain antenna was the most critical item. Kraft was still "GO" and said December 20-26 (except December 25) offered best launch times; he had also looked at January launch possibilities. Slayton had decided to assign the 104 crew to the mission. He had talked to crew commander Frank Borman and Borman was interested.
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. Additional Details: here....
Phillips and Paine discussed the plan with Webb in Vienna. Webb wanted to think about it, and requested further information by diplomatic carrier. That same day Phillips called Low and informed him that Mueller had agreed to the plan with the provisions that no full announcement would be made until after the Apollo 7 flight; that it could be announced that 503 would be manned and possible missions were being studied; and that an internal document could be prepared for a planned lunar orbit for December.
Webb approves Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission for December - but no public announcement until after a successful Apollo 7 flight. Phillips and Hage visited MSC, bringing the news that Webb had given clear-cut authority to prepare for a December 6 launch, but that they could not proceed with clearance for lunar orbit until after the Apollo 7 flight, which would be an earth-orbital mission with basic objectives of proving the CSM and Saturn V systems. Phillips said that Webb had been "shocked and fairly negative" when he talked to him about the plan on August 15. Subsequently, Paine and Phillips sent Webb a lengthy discourse on why the mission should be changed, and it was felt he would change his mind with a successful Apollo 7 mission.
George M. Low, ASPO Manager, set forth the rationale for using LTA-B (as opposed to some other LM test article or even a full-blown LM) as payload ballast on the AS-503 mission. That decision had been a joint one by Headquarters, MSFC, and MSC. Perhaps the chief reason for the decision was Marshall's position that the Saturn V's control system was extremely sensitive to payload weight. Numerous tests had been made for payloads of around 38,555 kilograms but none for those in the 29,435- to 31,750-kilogram range. MSFC had therefore asked that the minimum payload for AS-503 be set at 38,555 kilograms. Additional Details: here....
Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips formally notified ASPO Manager George M. Low at MSC and Saturn V Program Manager Lee B. James at MSFC of changes in the Apollo Program Specification. As agreed on during the MSF Management Council meeting on August 6, the Apollo payload interface was set at 46,040 kilograms (with a flight geometry reserve of 137 kilometers per hour). Also, the present spacecraft loading philosophy allowed a total spacecraft weight of 46,266 kilograms for lunar missions having less than maximum flight geometry requirements. Additional Details: here....
Apollo 7 - flown October 11-22 - far exceeded Low's expectations in results and left no doubts that they should go for lunar orbit on Apollo 8. At the November 10 Apollo Executive meeting Phillips presented a summary of the activities; James gave the launch vehicle status; Low reported on the spacecraft status and said he was impressed with the way KSC had handled its tight checkout schedule; Slayton reported on the flight plan; and Petrone on checkout readiness. Petrone said KSC could launch as early as December 10 or 12. Phillips said he would recommend to the Management Council the next day for Apollo 8 to go lunar orbit. Additional Details: here....
ASPO Manager George M. Low apprised Program Director Samuel C. Phillips of MSC's plans for television cameras aboard remaining Apollo missions. With the exception of spacecraft 104 (scheduled for flight as Apollo 9), television cameras were to be flown in all CMs. Also, cameras would be included in all manned LMs (LM-3 through LM-14).
NASA had canceled the Apollo 20 mission and stretched out the remaining seven missions to six-month intervals, Deputy Administrator George M. Low told the press in an interview after dedication of the Lunar Science Institute (next to MSC in Houston). Budget restrictions had brought the decision to suspend Saturn V launch vehicle production after vehicle 515 and to use the Apollo 20 Saturn V to launch the first U.S. space station in 1972.
George M Low became Acting Administrator of NASA until a successor could be chosen to replace Thomas O. Paine who had resigned to return to General Electric Company. Low served in that capacity until the appointment of James C. Fletcher as NASA Administrator in March 1971.
Acting NASA Administrator George M. Low discontinued the quarantine for future Apollo flights to the moon beginning with the Apollo 15 mission. The decision was based on a recommendation of the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination (ICBC). The ICBC would continue as an active body, however, at least until the results of the last Apollo lunar mission were reviewed. Biomedical characterization of returned lunar samples would also be continued.
James C. Fletcher was sworn in as NASA Administrator at a White House ceremony. Fletcher decided to push for Congressional approval of the stalled space shuttle program, but found that would only be forthcoming if the US Air Force agreed to participate. In order for that to happen, NASA would have to incorporate the USAF requirements for the shuttle that it had so far ignored (greater payload, higher cross-range). In another attempt to share the cost of the shuttle with other nations, previous NASA Administrator Thomas Paine had already tried to obtain international partners. But the only remnants of that effort were the Canadian robotic arm for the shuttle, and the European Space Agency Spacelab module. Neither represented a significant amount of the total program cost.
President Nixon had nominated Fletcher for the position on March 1, and the Senate had confirmed the nomination on March 11. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator, had been Acting Administrator since the resignation of Paine on September 15, 1970.
NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low and Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D. Myers met and decided there was no foreseeable mission for CSMs 115 and 115a; funds would not be authorized for any work on these spacecraft; and skills would not be retained specifically to work on them.