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INVESTIGATION OF PROJECT RANGER
MONDAY, APRIL 27, 1964
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND ASTRONAUTICS,
The subcommittee met at 9:20 a.m., in room 214-B, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Joseph E. Karth, a member of the subcommittee, presiding.
Mr. KARTH. The meeting will come to order.
This morning the NASA Oversight Subcommittee will begin 4 days of open hearings on the Ranger project and related matters. We are very happy to welcome Dr. Homer Newell, NASA's Director of Space Science and Applications, as our leadoff witness. Dr. Newell is a highly respected member of NASA's top management. As a result of his regular appearances before the authorization subcommittee which I have had the privilege of chairing for the last 3 years, we have come to know Dr. Newell well, and we value his friendship.
Project Ranger is only one of many programs which fall within Dr. Newell's jurisdiction. All these programs are complex and sophisticated; they advance the state of the art; and the members of this subcommittee recognize that a certain number of failures are to be expected.
I am pleased to say that most of the projects of the Office of Space Science and Applications have turned out to be highly successful. The Ranger project, however, appears to have encountered an unusual number of difficulties, and it is our purpose during these hearings to explore the reasons for the difficulties. It has been an expensive program, and it is hardly an overstatement to say the results so far have been disappointing.
I would like to say at the outset that it is not our purpose to attempt to second guess the scientists and engineers who have worked hard and long on this frustrating project. While we intend to review the technical deficiencies that may have existed, I think it is fair to say that our primary interest has to do with problems of management.
Everyone is familiar with the authorization and appropriation procedures of the Congress, whereby the overall program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the forthcoming year is considered in some detail. Today, this subcommittee is performing a somewhat different function, generally referred to as the legislative oversight function. There can be no doubt that one of the major responsibilities of the Congress is the vigilant review of performance by the Administration. In point of fact, the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 expressly directs each standing committee of the two
Houses of Congress to exercise continuous watchfulness over the activities of the various departments and agencies of the Government. The subcommittee is glad to note that NASA has taken it upon itself to look into the Ranger program on two occasions. The results of these investigations which appear in the reports of the so-called Kelley and Hilburn committees will be reviewed broadly during the present hearings, together with recommended changes. The subcommittee is especially interested in knowing whether, and to what extent, the recommendations contained in these reports have been carried out. A second area of interest goes to the question of the unique relationship which has existed, and continues to exist, between NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The subcommittee wishes to examine management organization and procedures; sound management of JPL is essential, since JPL will, for many years to come, have heavy responsibilities for the lunar and planetary exploration program, of which the Ranger project is but one part. The subcommittee recognizes that there are certain historical reasons for JPL's unusual association with NASA. It is our purpose, however, to consider whether this particular organizational structure which may have been adequate in the past continues to be satisfactory.
Lastly, the subcommittee recognizes that while hindsight is always 20-20, especially on technological matters of this kind, foresight in advancing the state of the art is something else. Therefore, it is not the intent of this subcommittee to deal harshly with anyone; on the contrary, we hope and trust that when this investigation is completed, it will be described as fair and objective. We hope to be able to glean the facts, and in a constructive manner be helpful to all concerned, including the taxpayers of this country.
At this point, too, I think I should like to submit for the record a letter that I received, which was written on April 22, iust last Thursday. The letter is from Mr. Webb, and signed by Dr. Dryden, apparently in Mr. Webb's absence.
DEAR MR. KARTH: As you know, NASA has taken the position with both Chairman Anderson and Chairman Miller that to release the recent internal investigative report on Ranger VI flight would be unwise and not conducive to the most effective workout of our problems with the Ranger program. The report represents the views of an internal NASA review group, but it is only one working document. It is not a definitive agency position. Neither all the program managers, nor the full staff at JPL, nor the RCA company has had an opportunity to examine the report, and its character, which makes it effective for our internal use, may preclude this. Further, we are in the midst of the complex process of setting up a technical program plan to carry out the remainder of the Ranger flight missions. We hope that this plan will be submitted to us within the next several weeks, although we cannot be sure of this.
For these reasons, the Ranger VI report should not become a basis for either conclusion or action by the Subcommittee on NASA Oversight and should not be made available publicly. However, I most certainly want to do what I can to help the committee and you as its acting chairman. Therefore, I have instructed Mr. Richard Callaghan to make the report itself and its background available to you personally. He will arrange for Mr. Hilburn, Deputy Associate Administrator for Industry Affairs and the chairman of the recent review board, together with Mr. Edgar M. Cortright, Deputy Associate Administrator. Office of Space Science and Applications, to bring you a copy of the report and discuss it with you in as much depth as you feel necessary but with the understanding that they will not leave the report with the committee. In this way, I hope you will be sufficiently aware of its contents without causing unnecessary difficulties in the work out of our current efforts.
I hope you will keep in mind that the timing of these subcommittee hearings is unfortunate in that the factors of morale and program execution are both deeply involved and there are very real dangers that both may be seriously affected. Nevertheless, I can assure you that NASA officials will cooperate fully in the hearings and provide the best answers we have to your subcommittee. With much respect, and trusting that you will understand our difficulties in this matter, I remain, sincerely yours.
There are two comments I would like to make about the letter.
For these reasons the Ranger VI report should not become a basis for either conclusion or action by the Subcommittee on NASA Oversight
is a sentence with which I personally have some disagreement. I think that all of the reports, or all of the investigations, regardless of who has conducted the investigation, should be a matter for this subcommittee's consideration, and could become a basis for conclusion for action by the subcommittee.
Secondly, I would like to take exception to the language, and let me again read it, found on the second page of the letter.
I hope you will keep in mind that the timing of these subcommittee hearings is unfortunate
I would like to point out to the members of the subcommittee and to the NASA people here represented that while Mr. Webb may feel that these subcommittee hearings are unfortunate, the action that precipitated these hearings, in all probability, are the letters that Mr. Webb addressed to both of the chairmen of the full committees; namely, Senator Anderson of New Mexico, and Chairman Miller of this committee, from California.
I might further state that, subsequent to the Ranger VI failure, I did have an opportunity of discussing it with Chairman Miller, and that we both recognized that Ranger had had some difficulties in the past and that certain technological difficulties in a program of this magnitude were something that might be expected. For those reasons, we did not expect that the Oversight Committee would be asked to make a review of the program. However, after the Webb letter, it was hardly reasonable to expect that, with the kind of criticism contained in the letter, a congressional investigation was not in the best interests of the country and the Congress. I say it was difficult for us to conclude that this was not the case. So I as one who had been selected by the chairman to be the acting subcommittee chairman do not rise in my own defense, because I have merely, as I have indicated, been selected by the chairman to carry on this task.
I do rise in defense of Chairman Miller, because I feel that this language is not necessary, that it is certainly not telling the whole story, and it is critical of the chairman who has probably been as understanding of the problems that are normally inherent in a program of this size, kind, and magnitude, as any man in or out of Congress. Mr. HECHLER. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. KARTH. Mr. Hechler.
Mr. HECHLER. I would simply like to support the remarks made by the acting chairman of this subcommittee. It seems to me that the timing of these hearings are highly propitious, and I am certain they are going to fulfill a constructive purpose to carry out the responsibilities of Congress and of this committee.
Mr. KARTH, Thank you, Mr. Hechler.
With that, I think we can welcome Dr. Newell to the committee and his deputy, Mr. Cortright.
I see that you have a prepared statement, Dr. Newell. If you would care to follow the prepared statement or if you would want to summarize it, you may do as you wish. Probably, for the beginning of the hearings, it might be well if you did read through the entire text and submit it to the subcommittee.
STATEMENT OF DR. HOMER E. NEWELL, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR SPACE SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS, NASA; ACCOMPANIED BY EDGAR M. CORTRIGHT, DEPUTY ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR SPACE SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS,
Dr. NEWELL. I will be glad to do as you wish, Mr. Chairman. With your permission, however, I would like to interpolate a few introductory remarks.
The purpose of my statement is to provide a general background for more detailed discussions which will come later. In particular, this afternoon, Mr. Nicks and those testifying with him are prepared to go into considerable detail for the subcommittee on both the management and technical aspects of the Ranger program. They will review in detail the recommendations of the Kelley report, and the actions which were taken as the basis for meeting those recommendations. Furthermore, they will review in detail the recommendations of the Hilburn report, and discuss actions that are proposed to be taken or are under review in connection with those recommendations.
Moreover, it should be pointed out that the Kelley report and the Hilburn report are in a sense non-routine-type reports. It is customary for the Office of Space Science and Applications, and for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the case of any flight mission, whether a success or a failure, to review it very carefully to determine the details. of what went on in order to profit the utmost from what could be learned.
In the case of the Ranger VI flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has put together a very particular report covering their own technical review of the Ranger VI failure. This report goes into detail on all aspects of the flight, on the testing, on the possible or likely causes of failure to obtain pictures, and comes forth with recommendations to make sure that the next Ranger flight will have a maximum chance of
This report, dated March 27, 1964, can be made available to members of the subcommittee if you so wish.
Mr. KARTH. I think the subcommittee would be interested in reading the review, Dr. Newell, and if you would make it available to us, we may consider having it printed in the hearings, or at least in the report of the subcommittee.
Dr. NEWELL. We will be glad to do that, Mr. Chairman. (This material is included in app. A, pp. 247-457.)
Mr. KARTH. I might say, Dr. Newell, that in answer to your preliminary statement that it is difficult for me to understand that, when a program gets into the problem areas that the Ranger program has