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and later on expect the barrel is going to continue to be full, or even half-full. The fact of the matter is some day you might even find it empty, and so I certainly am in accord with NASA's rather novel approach to creating new scientists and engineers in the more sophisticated scientific disciplines as technology evolves or progresses. However, the JPL-Cal Tech relationship is considerably different from your normal university program, and I think that is one of the reasons that caused us to ask so many questions.

Mr. WEBB. Since you mentioned the press conference, Mr. Chairman, maybe you would permit me to make this observation :

I was trying to state as clearly as I could the situation as I saw it when asked a question, and when I was told in the press conference that JPL was on trial-which I denied-I spoke of these relationships such as we have discussed here. It later came to my attention that a good many people thought that I had more or less gratuitously stated a good many things unnecessarily about the relationship. On the other hand, I have a letter here I can read to you from the chairman of the board of Cal Tech which relates to the news conference. It might be well to have it in the record, but the point is that he says he agrees, basically, with what I stated to the press as to the objectives of our two organizations.

Mr. KARTH. Yes, sir; if you would like to read it, Mr. Webb.

Mr. WEBB. Well, I think it is rather interesting, because it is not always easy for either this committee or for NAŠA to handle these matters with television cameras on the launching pad, or the full glare of publicity on every management exasperation which occurs in these kind of activities.

Mr. KARTH. I have been in that spot on many occasions myself. I can appreciate it.

Mr. WEBB. We appreciate very much the method by which you have handled this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and we think it is a real contribution toward good government and the effective workout of these kinds of relationships. I, for one, appreciate it.

This is a letter from A. O. Beckman, chairman of the board of the California Institute of Technology, but not signed in that capacity— it is on his own company stationery. I did ask if he had any objection to my making it known to the committee and he said not; it was merely a personal note.

DEAR MR. WEBB: Mr. Hilburn kindly sent me a transcript of your news conference of April 16, 1964.

I think your answers to the question concerning the NASA-JPL relationship were most appropriate. As you pointed out, the important objective is to achieve success, not to find scapegoats, in the very difficult jobs that NASA and JPL have undertaken. Success demands effective utilization of the best skills available in both organizations, and the degree of success can readily be diminished if the atmosphere of mutual confidence and cooperation is disturbed by distorted news stories that tend to exaggerate selected minor problems and fail to stress adequately the many successes already achieved in spite of the tremendous technical difficulties involved in the outer space program. The progress being made in improving the working relationship between JPL and NASA is most encouraging. We are doing all we can at this end, and there is every reason to believe that problems of the past will not continue.

I am looking forward with pleasure to seeing you again next week.

Sincerely yours,


I think this is an indication to the committee of the atmosphere within which we are trying to work out these problems.

Mr. KARTH. One final question, as far as I am concerned, Mr. Webb.

It seemed to me that as the hearings progressed, the word "schedule" had been mentioned so often that perhaps there had been adopted a policy of "shoot and hope" to a minimal degree, as it was so vigorously expressed in the Kelley report.

I wonder if you would comment on that.

Mr. WEBB. Yes, sir; I would say that is the kind of unfortunate phrase that makes it unwise, in my view, to charge a committee with going fully and objectively into a problem and giving top management a thoroughgoing statement of all they find, and then to permit this material to become the basis for oversimplified expressions like


I think that never has it been JPL's philosophy, or NASA's, to shoot and hope. Our problem is very different than that of the military services, where they have the problem of a production line as well as that of developing a test program that proves they can have a reliable booster and weapon system.

Their requirement for both of these permits them to have a philosophy where they move rapidly into flight testing than is possible with the very large and very complex machines like Ranger that we are developing.

There was in the early days, in my view, unwise criticism of the military services on the basis that they were making a lot of shots, because the vehicles were coming off the production line. This was the wisest and best way to do the job and it proved effective.

Mr. KARTH. Of course their situation was somewhat unique. They were to make thousands of them, perhaps, which may be the cheapest way.

Mr. WEBB. It may be the cheapest way. This is the way Hitler developed his aircraft industry: He took airplanes off the production line and broke them up, and never flew them, in order to learn how to make airplanes.

Mr. KARTH. When we have 5 or 10, or 15 at the most, the situation is quite different.

Mr. WEBB. I think that kind of expression has never and does not now represent the view of either JPL or NASA. I don't think anyone could go through the process of examination of these activities without realizing that every effort by able and sincere men has been made to achieve success, but that there is no ideal solution. We are attempting the almost impossible.

Mr. KARTH. Would you say that any attempt to adhere to a schedule has in any way adversely affected reliability of the Ranger vehicle? Mr. WEBB. Mr. Chairman, if you had unlimited time, you could make the argument that you could do better and achieve more reliability, but you would then always face the fact that you might never fly, because the increasing competence and state of the art always permits you to take the thing apart and put in some new device that might be a little better than the one in there.

What we have followed is a balance between the necessity to fly and get the data and develop the technology that permits you to do better

science, and the desire to have every flight work, and, I think, overall our flight record has been excellent. I think JPL's record has been outstanding. I think when you look at the troubles we have had with Ranger and compare the successes where one Mariner flight might be worth a very large number of some other type of flight, you can only say that these men have used every bit of care that they possibly could, and that they have realized that if in testing, for instance, they should destroy a spacecraft, you may well destroy a vehicle that would have worked, so we have a very hard decision at all points here.

My view is that the schedules have been pretty hardboiled, they have not been unrealistic, and we have slipped them when it was necessary to gain some real advantage by doing so and JPL knows that. We have never insisted that a schedule be met if in their judgment or ours it was unwise. We have both agreed on the flights.

Mr. KARTH. Are there any further questions?

I want to thank you very much, Mr. Webb and Dr. Seamans. We may submit some questions to you in writing that may have escaped the committee members at this meeting, and if we do we would sincerely request that you respond to them.

Mr. WEBB. We would be happy to come back, or answer your questions at any time, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. KARTH. Thank you very much. The subcommittee is adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 12.23 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned.)

NO. 205



27 MARCH 1964




Copyright 1964

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology



This is the final report by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the RA-6 investigation that was initiated on 2 February 1964 to investigate the reason for the failure in the Ranger 6 mission, and to establish measures to reduce the possibility of such failures in future flights.

The mission of the Ranger 6 flight was to obtain high resolution television pictures of the lunar surface. The RA-6 Spacecraft was launched from Cape Kennedy, AMR, on an Atlas D/Agena-B vehicle on 30 January 1964. Impact with the lunar surface occurred at 09:24:33 GMT on 2 February 1964. The primary objective of the mission was not attained, since no television pictures were received.

The investigation was unable to determine a single simple failure that would account for all of the events. However, the most plausible failure mechanism was the destruction of the transmitter high voltage supplies during an inadvertent turn-on while the spacecraft was in a critical pressure environment. This conclusion was prompted by the unscheduled appearance of telemetry signals on Channel 8 for 67 seconds following booster engine cutoff.

All possible conditions that could have contributed to the cause of failure were investigated and diagnosed. Recommendations related to the area of investigation were made to remedy these potential fault conditions on future flights. The primary recommendation involves a modification of the TV subsystem control circuitry to prevent unscheduled turn-on during the critical phase of flight.

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