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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
unfortunately become involved in, how a subcommittee of this kind can do its job without being thoroughly familiar with all of the reports and all of the studies that have been made, whether they have been made in-house or out-of-house, under NASA supervision or under JPL supervision, or whatever other acting group might be involved in making a review or investigation.
As I stated in my opening remarks, this is one of the responsibilities of the Congress. The fact of the matter is that over the years, the Congress has changed quite considerably. Congress at one time, in my opinion, was a branch of the Government that not only conducted oversight reviews of administration actions but also initiated legislation through their own efforts. This is no longer the case in my opinion.
The executive branch of the Government, almost without exception, now initiates legislation, and the Congress either acts or doesn't act on it. The difference is that the Congress no longer, or to a much lesser degree, initiates the legislative action that it takes, but rather acts on legislative proposals that have been submitted to it by the executive branch of the Government. Therefore, in my opinion, the legislative oversight function of the Congress becomes more important today than it ever was, and probably is its primary function as a branch of the Government.
I would hope that the executive branch of the Government would appreciate the responsibilities of Congress, not only with respect to the general welfare of the country, but also to the taxpayers of this country.
Dr. NEWELL. Mr. Chairman, it is the hope of the Office of Space Science and Applications that the review we will provide for you will give you all the details of both the Kelley and Hilburn reports and of the other reports that have been drawn up, and that when we are finished here, you will feel you have received all the material that you do need in order to consider the Ranger situation in proper and true perspective.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, Project Ranger constitutes the first real attempt by this country to gather information about the lunar surface by means of automated spacecraft. As such, this project has received considerable attention and has been closely followed by Congress, the public, and the press.
However, in view of the nature of these hearings and the fact that some of you have not had the opportunity to be briefed on Project Ranger, my opening statement will attempt to summarize the objectives, history, current status, and future of this important project.
Project Ranger originated in December 1959, and project management was assigned by NASA to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates under the overall management of the California Institute of Technology. The headquarters office having cognizance over the lunar and planetary program effort, and hence the Ranger program, was initially the Office of Space Flight Program headed by Dr. Abe Silverstein. This Office was reconstituted in 1961 as the Office of Space Science under my direction. Dr. William Pickering has been the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory throughout the entire course of the project. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports to me.
The primary objective of the Ranger program has been to make direct observations of the moon. From the scientific point of view, these measurements have great value in understanding the nature and origin of the moon and of the solar system. In addition, Ranger will play an important role in the support of Project Apollo. The responsibility of locating a safe landing site for the Apollo spacecraft is a grave one. It is necessary to determine the nature of the lunar surface and its environment. This includes knowing the degree of roughness, surface slopes, bearing strengths, the presence and depth of any dust layer, the action of the dust layer under disturbing forces, and other physical properties of the surface.
In addition, we must determine whether the moon is subject to seismic tremors which could disturb the spacecraft. The radiation environment and possible presence of micrometeoroids must also be investigated.
The specific role of the Ranger in this total scientific and technological task of exploration in advance of manned landings is to spot check the widely divergent theories on the nature of the lunar surface and thus narrow down the possibilities which we must be prepared to encounter. This will permit us to concentrate our ground-based studies, our design developments, and our flight program on investigating the most likely conditions and sites to be encountered on the moon. I cannot overemphasize the extent of our ignorance as to the true nature of the lunar surface. Our earth-based telescopes cannot resolve objects smaller than about 1,000 feet in size, which is a stark illustration of this point.
A secondary but nevertheless very important objective of the Ranger program is to develop the technology of lunar spacecraft and operations with such spacecraft. This involved the development of adequate guidance and control techniques to permit precise flight to the moon as was accomplished with Ranger VI. It further required development of attitude stabilization, advanced telecommunications and antenna pointing, celestial reference systems, terminal maneuver capability, and advanced scientific instrumentation. In addition, sophisticated techniques of real time tracking, data acquisition, and command under circumstances of rigid time constraints were required. All of these areas bear importantly on more advanced missions to follow Ranger.
The scope of Project Ranger can be understood by referring to
This presents the schedule for the unmanned lunar projectsRanger, Surveyor, and Orbiter. Ranger was initially approved within NASA as a five-flight program with plans for additional flights as the systems were definitized.
The first two of these five are now referred to as block I. These flights were designated as developmental test flights and were designed to exercise both the new Atlas-Agena in its parking orbit and dual burn mode, and the spacecraft bus in its cruise mode. The trajectories were intended to be highly eccentric earth orbits extending to lunar distances but not approaching the moon itself. Because of the long stay times in cislunar space the spacecraft carried a number of scientific instruments to study the space environment. In both of these flights, the Agena stage of the launch vehicle failed to execute the second burn which left the Ranger spacecraft in low earth orbit for which it was not designed. As best we could determine, both spacecraft performed properly under these conditions, although they were not subjected to a true test.
The next three Ranger flights, now referred to as block II, were the first operational missions with the Ranger. These flights were designed to land seismometer capsules on the lunar surface where they would survive and telemeter information to earth for up to a month. In addition, the spacecraft were equipped with gamma ray spectrometers to measure natural radioactivity of the lunar surface and with approach television systems to obtain lunar photographs at least 10 times better than those obtainable from earth. In these three flights, there was one launch vehicle failure and three spacecraft malfunctions. In 1962 a total of 14 Ranger flights had been approved. As many as 10 additional Ranger flights were considered at one stage of the planning process although subsequent funding problems did not permit execution of such an ambitious program. Prior to cancellation of blocks IV and V the Ranger plans were as follows:
(1) Block III, the current block-four flights of the basic spacecraft carrying a high-resolution television payload;
(2) Block IV-three additional flights of the basic spacecraft including improved high-resolution television payloads;
(3) Block V-five flights of the same basic spacecraft, carrying advanced landing capsules.
It should be emphasized that all of the Rangers were designed to operate with the same basic spacecraft "bus." This is illustrated in figure 2, p. 8 which was presented to the Congress in 1962 hearings as