Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

By Gerard J. Degroot | Go to book overview

12
Merry Christmas from the Moon

On May 6, 1967, at a dinner to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the first American in space, Alan Shepard signaled that it was time to resume the race:

Much has … been said about the cause and effects of the fire. In this
case, perhaps too much. … All of us here tonight jointly share the re-
sponsibilities for the human frailties which are now so apparent—and
for the insidious combination of materials and equipment which was
so devastating in their behavior. …

The time for recrimination is over. We have digested enough his-
torical evidence. There is much to be done. Morale is high. Vision is
still clear.

And I say, let's get on with the job.1

The problem was not quite as simple as Shepard suggested. The fire put the space program seriously behind schedule. “The whole capsule had to be rewired,” George Mueller remembered. “And of course that took time and energy and effort. Just simply getting everybody going in the same direction at the same time was a major challenge.”2 “We weren't just looking for fire hazards,” Joe Gavin recalled. “We went back and looked at every single system.”3 Rebuilding the capsule was perhaps the easiest part. Rebuilding morale was much more difficult. “There was a whole year where nobody was willing to take any risk whatsoever,” Mueller reflected. “I had to take the lead in convincing people that it was safe to fly and that we really couldn't afford not to take some risks, that there wasn't any way to fly any of these things without risk.”4

In the past, NASA had employed “incremental testing”—what Gene Kranz called “small, baby steps.”5 If going to the Moon was like climbing a ladder, each rung was meticulously tested before being used to advance to the next. But, after the fire and the inquiry, there wasn't time for that. Mueller had earlier proposed “all-up testing,” or running

-223-

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Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1: Fly Me to the Moons 1
  • 2: Slaves to a Dream 12
  • 3: What Are We Waiting For? 29
  • 4: Sputnik 45
  • 5: The Red Rocket's Glare 61
  • 6: Muttnik 79
  • 7: Rocket Jocks 100
  • 8: Before This Decade is Out 121
  • 9: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 153
  • 10: Lost in Space 183
  • 11: Sacrifices on the Altar of St. John 205
  • 12: Merry Christmas from the Moon 223
  • 13: Magnificent Desolation 233
  • 14: Nothing Left to Do 255
  • Notes 271
  • Bibliography 289
  • Index 293
  • About the Author 321
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