Kuiper trots off to do Very Important Science Things™
We’re jumping around a bit, but this context is going to help Apollo make sense. One of the Very Important Science Things we had to figure out was how exactly we were going to land on the Moon and how we were going to get back off. ? Until June 1962, this was a little up in the air. 3 ideas had been proposed:
? Direct Ascent: Fire one HUGE (bigger than Saturn V) rocket at the Moon, Jules Verne-style. All the astronauts land together and lift off in the same spacecraft.
? Earth Orbit Rendezvous: Fire 2-3 Saturn V rockets into Earth orbit and put pieces of our spacecraft together before heading to the Moon. Astronauts land together and leave part of their spacecraft behind.
? Lunar Orbit Rendezvous: Fire 1 Saturn V containing command & lunar modules into Earth orbit, then proceed to the Moon. En route, flip command module around and dock it to the lunar module. Once you get to lunar orbit, two astronauts land in the LM while one stays in the CM orbiting the moon. Part of the LM stays on the moon and part of it lifts the two astronauts back off. They meet back up with their buddy in the CM and head home for their ticker tape parade!*
The Lunar Rendezvous idea was scary. Remember that this was before Gemini, so no one had ever done a rendezvous or a spacewalk before (or even spent a full week in space.) However, NASA Langley engineer John Houbolt was convinced it was their only path to success. He argued to management that it would end up being simpler and cheaper. He also pointed out that a separate lunar module could serve as a lifeboat if needed (which ended up saving Apollo 13 later on.)
After 2 years of not being taken seriously, John sent letters to his boss’s boss’s boss’s…you get the idea. He even asked, “Do we want to go to the moon or not??” Rather than firing him, associate administrator Bob Seamans passed the letters (& John’s detailed proposals) along. In June 1962, Wernher von Braun got on board and the rest is history.
As a result, John was invited to watched the Moon landing from Mission Control, where he got a personal thanks from von Braun.
(* after 2 weeks of quarantine)
Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BymLdEQlJLj/