Interviewee: Dr. Robert Seamans

Interviewer: Martin Collins

Location: Dr. Seamans' office, MIT

Date: December 15, 1988


MR. COLLINS: This morning we want to initiate a discussion of NASA-DOD relationships, and perhaps include some of NASA's relationships with other agencies as well. In understanding this relationship, there are a lot of complexities, and it seems essentially after the mandate by Congress and the President for there to be two types of space activities, civilian and military, it was pretty much left up to NASA, DOD and the services to decide how these responsibilities would be divied up. There were some guidelines, but there were not precise guidelines on how to do this. Did it seem that the only way to do this was for the two agencies to work it out themselves, or could there have been some other mechanism?

DR. SEAMANS: Well, I suppose there was one other mechanism, and perhaps it was what was intended in the original enabling legislation, namely, to use the Space Council for this purpose. But in fact, there were so many interfaces between NASA activities and DOD activities that I think it really had to be done by those that were directly involved, at various levels in the two organizations, with oversight taking place through the Space Council, but even more important, oversight by the Congress. One way of judging how many different interfaces existed would be to take a look at the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, which was split up into a wide variety of committees, and I can't quite remember them all, but there was a launch vehicle committee and a manned space committee and a scientific experiments committee and the aeronautics committee and so on.

COLLINS: Let me just interject here, I have a list of these that I can refer to. The Manned Spacecraft Panel, the Unmanned Spaceflight Panel, Launch Vehicle Panel, Spaceflight Ground Environment Panel, Supporting Space Research and Technology Panel and the Aeronautics Panel.

SEAMANS: Right. That checks out according to my recollection. I'm glad to say that I remembered at least some of them. In any event, this wasn't arrived at easily. Keith Glennan came back to NASA Headquarters one day, I guess it must have been mid-September, looking at the dates I have in front of me, effective date of agreement September 13, 1960, and I remember how pleased he was that he'd been able to work with Tom Gates and I guess Herb York was still there, I'm not positive of that, but anyway worked out an understanding of the different panels, not committees, that would be looking at at least--in a systematic way, at least a large number of the interfaces that had to exist between NASA and the Department of Defense.

COLLINS: The date September 13, 1960, you're referring to the formal establishment of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board.


COLLINS: Was this viewed as the principal vehicle for sorting out NASA and DOD interests?

SEAMANS: Yes. It certainly was in Keith's mind, and what it did was to establish the Deputy Administrator, Hugh Dryden, and the head, I think it was Assistant Secretary of DDR&E, as the co-chairmen of the AACB, and then they in turn specified who the co-chairmen of the various panels would be, and so there then was a way of getting at a lot of the issues without having sort of de nova each time trying to figure out who in the Department of Defense to work with. Working with the Department of Defense, as seen from NASA, was not easy, because you weren't sure whether to deal at the Secretary of Defense level or with one of the services, and with the services you weren't always sure whether to deal with the headquarters of the Air Force or the systems command or go out and work with say the ballistic missile division on the launch vehicle problem. There needed to be some more systematic way of getting at these issues.

    Now, that's not to say that once the AACB came into existence, everything was resolved. By no means. But at least there was a framework for thinking about all of these interfaces. And Hugh Dryden and I guess it was Herb York ended up as the first co-chairmen. I can't remember the exact date, but some time after we embarked on the lunar program, Jim Webb felt that it would be better if I became one of the chairmen, because I was involved in the management of the NASA activities. I ended up working really more with John Rubel, who was acting for Harold Brown who took Herb York's place. And let me just jump ahead just a moment and say that some of the situations we ran into didn't neatly fit into the framework of the AACB in which case sometimes John and I ourselves would negotiate, or we'd put together a couple of ad hoc groups to carry out negotiations.

    But when we got into the tough issues, like how to operate at the Cape, and whether or not NASA should have its own downrange facilities or not, issues like that, or who was going to operate the ships that were going to be doing the tracking of Apollo--these were really hard negotiations, with considerable amount of emotion behind them, and would end up with a document that John and I almost had to have lawyers working with us on it, and that finally ended up with the signatures of Robert McNamara and James Webb on them. So there was a considerable stress and strain, when you got right down to these agreements as to who was going to do what, and of course it got into who was going to be responsible for the funding, and it got into personalities as well, as we'll probably discuss here this morning.

COLLINS: What was the nature of your working relationship with John Rubel? Previously when we discussed the decision to proceed with Apollo, we discussed a little bit about the NASA-DOD interaction in that period, and you had some contact with John Rubel with that decision. With respect to the AACB, how did your relationship go?

SEAMANS: I would say that I had what to me was a good relationship with John Rubel. First of all, I liked him personally. I found that even though we'd argue and he was pretty tough, maybe he thought of me the same way, but it was always interesting to try to work things out with him. He was sort of a free spirit, and we'd have a pretty lively time. Sometimes in those days the adjudicator on these things would be OMB. It would end up as Willis Shapley. And so, it wasn't always a painful experience, but it was one where you sort of had to keep your hands in your pockets. That was the feeling I had, I had to watch out, be careful not to give away the family jewels or the family store kind of relationship.

COLLINS: I guess one thing that would be useful to sort out is that you refer to questions of the launch facilities and control of the tracking operations. Sorting those kinds of questions, which are basically support and facility questions, from questions of programmatic responsibility. I guess this would include the Merritt Island issue, in the case of support and facility interactions, it's a little more difficult for me to see the intensity of DOD feelings about how these sorts of things fell out with NASA. Could you address that?

SEAMANS: Yes. First let me take care of one whole area that doesn't enter into this to any great extent, and that's the relationship with the Corps of Engineers. It was obvious that NASA had more than a full plate, and that we had to obtain assistance where we could from groups, be they inside or outside of the government, in a very major way, and one of the real really difficult problems we knew would be the acquisition of land and the building of large structures, and Jim Webb, I don't know how he came to this view, but as far as I was concerned, right out of his head said, "It's got to be the Corps of Engineers. They're the ones who are the most experienced." I think we've discussed this a little in the past. I can't remember whether it was General Cassidy who was the head of the Corps at that time, but whoever it was operated out of a sort of a temporary structure somewhere. He wasn't even in the Pentagon.

    Jim and I went over to see him, and worked out an arrangement such that the Corps would take on the responsibility for buying Merritt Island, for the construction at the Cape, for the contracting for the Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Center, for the Mississippi Test Facility, and perhaps some others, but those were the three big ones, and it was possible to do that because at that time the Corps of Engineers had some manpower flexibility. I got into this in ERTA wanting the Corps to help, and they were under a very tight manpower constraint, so that if they took on something that helped ERTA they couldn't do something else. But in this particular case, at least as far as I know, the Corps had the flexibility, and they took on this job and did it very effectively, and that never entered into the AACB kind of discussions or discussions that I had with Rubel. It was as though the Corps were a separate entity, almost not even part of the Department of Defense. Now, undoubtedly somewhere along the line, something was said to McNamara about it, but it wasn't obvious to me that that was any kind of a DOD-NASA problem.

    Now, getting back to really what you are asking about, in the programmatic area, and you can almost think of the range as a program--I mean, it wasn't a satellite, but down at the Cape you had say the photographic laboratory, was NASA going to go ahead and put up another photographic laboratory so that you'd have two, one at Cape Canaveral and one on Merritt Island? Or could NASA expect that the Air Force which operated the Cape would process all the film that would be coming from all the different ground stations and everything, and would they do it effectively, on time? Could that eventually end up as a bottleneck?

     Well, you can imagine that the Air Force wanted to handle that program. They didn't want to have NASA almost a competing photographic effort. On the other hand, the NASA people weren't at all sure that they wanted to have to worry about say a Polaris shot or a Minuteman shot or something having a priority on film going through that processing lab, when there might be some kind of a special Saturn test going on. And I don't even remember now which way that one did come out.

    But that would be just one of 50 items that would have to be negotiated, in working out how the Kennedy Center, as it came to be known, the NASA center down there would "interface" with the Atlantic Missile Range which came under the Air Force. And NASA, we were always in a position, if we felt we had to do it ourselves, of looking as though, you know, we were trying to build up our own empire, we weren't making use of--the DOD would try to make it look as though we were trying to build up an empire rather than trying to make use of existing government facilities which would then be more efficient because you'd have the old scale factors working in our favor, you'd have more work going through one place, so the idea was, unit costs would go down and economies of scale would take place.

COLLINS: Were these the kinds of arguments that the Air Force would make with NASA when they sat down for negotiations?

SEAMANS: You'd better believe it. I'll tell you. Now, it wouldn't always come out quite that badly, but that would be the backup kind of thing that John Rubel would bring to me, at least, if he felt that we were being too recalcitrant, in agreeing to let the DOD handle certain of the functions that our people felt they had to handle if they were going to go to the moon.

COLLINS: Was this type of position on the part of DOD or the Air Force due to budgetary considerations? If two such facilities were to be supported, then obviously there would be budget competition. And then the other part of it would be, if the DOD or Air Force had the facility and NASA used it, then DOD or the Air Force would be in a better position, should their fortunes change, vis-a-vis the manned space flight program.

SEAMANS: Yes, that's a good point. It wasn't just a question of whether you had one or two, it was also a question of how you'd reimburse. And there was always the question say in something like a photo processing plant, whether if--supposing there was just one there and it was operated by the Air Force, would we reimburse the Air Force for what we would call the readily identifiable incremental costs? Or would we pay for the pro-rated share of the whole operation? And we were continually arguing on this point, as to how the reimbursement would take place, and McNamara felt very strongly that the funding for whatever function we're talking about should be sort of pro-rated so you could see what it was really costing to carry out whatever function you're talking about.

    We were much more of a mind to pay the incremental costs. We'd say, "The DOD is there anyway, you've got that processing plant there, why should we suddenly be subsidizing, in effect, the work that you've got going on anyhow?" And you can get into finer grained detail even than that on these kinds of issues. So obviously some of it did revolve around budgets and funding. In a lot of cases, we were going up defending say--the Apollo ships was a big issue, and then we were transferring those funds over to the DOD, and we weren't always very happy about having it work that way.

COLLINS: Do you recall how the reimbursement question worked out for some of these things? Did the end result fall more to NASA's point of view of the DOD point of view?

SEAMANS: I think that on that one, my impression is we made our views pretty well stick. And it wasn't always just NASA missions either. When COMSAT came along it was also the question of how they should reimburse both NASA and the DOD, and should that be pro-rated or should that be on an incremental cost basis? I believe that it came out on the readily identifiable incremental costs. Otherwise you had a mare's nest of accounting, to try to figure out, and you also had the person who was getting the service not really knowing how much it was going to cost, because the costs would be determined not just by say what NASA was doing or COMSAT was doing but DOD was doing. If they had a lean period, then NASA would have to absorb more of what was a total cost. And so you tend to get whipsawed that way. Anyway, these were issues that I can't stress enough were very difficult to deal with.

COLLINS: Would the procedure for this sort of thing come that some particular panel of the AACB would begin to work on the details of these issues?

SEAMANS: Well, you might even find that it had sort of almost dropped out of the AACB, to the point where it was Kurt Debus who ran the Kennedy Center, and Lee Davis who ran the Atlantic Missile Range, they would be negotiating this. I think on paper you might find that they were also both on the panel of the Facilities something or other of the AACB, but it would really be those two organizational entitities arguing this out. And they would hammer it away. Of course, they realized that the more they could work together, the more they could be on their own rather than having interference, you might say, from Washington. And so they didn't like to have a lot of unresolved things that would suddenly come to Washington. But they'd finally reach the point where they'd say, you know, can't work it out, so at that point it would flilsh up to John Rubel and myself.

COLLINS: To what degree on these kinds of lower level decisions, if you will, the nitty gritty operational interrelationships, would these come to the attention of Congress or the National Space Council? To what degree did they tend to involve themselves in these kinds of questions?

SEAMANS: I would say that it really didn't come to the Space Council. The Space Council really wasn't an effective management tool. They looked at some policy issues and so on, and Ed Welch who was the--what was he called? Was he secretary of the AACB?


SEAMANS: Of the Space Council. And he was a good person. The kind of thing he would get into would be, let's say, if we're going to have an isotope power supply, and there's a question of, if you had a rocket failure, what would be the probability that that isotope power supply would fall on Johannesburg? And the State Department was in a frenzy over it. Those are the kinds of things that Ed would tend to get into and negotiate and so on. But not the nitty gritty of who pays for the film processing down at the Cape. But the Congress, particularly the NASA committees, were really interested in this. I would think the Armed Services Committee had such a tremendous plate full of big projects and things to worry about that it was much more the Tiger Teagues and the--particularly the House Science and Astronautics Committee and its subcommittees that would get into this, and of course they were all very supportive of NASA.

COLLINS: And I assume that their point of view was to try to encourage an arrangement that was favorable to NASA.

SEAMANS: Favorable to NASA, yes, exactly. Maybe you want to look at a couple more of these.


SEAMANS: It says here--

COLLINS: Let me just for the record say what we're referring to here. This is a memorandum dated June 21, 1965, from C.J. George, executive secretary of, I'm not sure what organization he's affiliated with, but this is to Ed Welch listing the interagency agreements dealing with space programs between NASA and other agencies.

SEAMANS: I note here that January 16, '61, so Keith Glennan is still there, space surveillance capability, this is still I guess a classified area, but you know, clearly it's a Department of Defense function, but there was word going on there that over time it was felt to be important by NASA for, call it remote sensing, and that's a program that's been growing over time, and one of the real issues was how over time some of that technology and operational capability could find its way into the hands of geologists, oceanographers, etc. etc., and I guess this is the first agreement that I'm familiar with at least that was starting to get into how to handle that very, very touchy area, and it was properly a very touchy area.

    And it's an area where the press will always say, you know, "Heavens, the Russians know what we're doing, why shouldn't the U.S. public know?" And the point is that the Russians knew to some extent what was going on, but they were never really sure of what the intent of all the satellites were. They certainly did not have any conception of the precision of the various measurements that were being made, and it was important to keep it classified for that reason. And also in those days it was important to keep it classified so that there wouldn't be an open confrontation in the world arena over satellites going overhead and what right do either the Russians or the United States have to fly over country X and take pictures of what's going on? Or whatever the surveillance mechanism is. Anyway, that's--

COLLINS: Let me interject a comment. There was kind of a change in philosophy as the Kennedy Administration came on board, especially through McNamara. Pretty much through the end of the Eisenhower Administration, the names of programs and their certain general characteristics were often bandied about in the trade press and public press, the media, but as you moved into the early sixties a decision was made that you don't even talk about the names of things.

SEAMANS: And Joe Charyk was the guy who put that into effect, incidentally, as the Under Secretary of the Air Force. He was in charge of that program, and until then I guess there was a UN treaty that indicated that you'd indicate to the UN what the various flights were, what their purposes were, and so on. Well, that was changed, by McNamara, working through Joe Charyk, and there was an announcement of that, that henceforth the military satellites would just be given numbers. You just say, number 61 is going up, period. That's all you say about it. Or, went up. And I think we did tell the international community even after that what the orbital parameters were. We thought that was important. Otherwise there'd be all this stuff up there and nobody would know whether it was U.S. or Russian and it might scare the devil out of somebody, cause false moves, you might say.

COLLINS: Do you recall in this early period the kind of general outlines of the understanding between NASA and DOD, on how techology might be transferred, what sorts of things guided that kind of decision?

SEAMANS: Well, that technology was not transferred, and anyway the only issue there--I was one of the few in NASA who was cleared for all this, and so was kept fully knowledgeable of what was going on, and the only question was, to what extent would some of the data from some of these flights be made available? And to what extent would the data be call it blurred, so that people looking at it couldn't tell whether the resolution was 50 feet or five feet or whatever it was, you know. And then in turn, having to get a certain number of scientific people cleared at least to know that this kind of information was becoming available, even though they would not be told how good it was. In general, the results were better than anybody realized.

COLLINS: It doesn't seem to me that this kind of technology had great relevance for NASA at this time. You had to map the moon. That was your biggest kind of survey effort.

SEAMANS: Yes. It really wasn't a very difficult problem. That was not one of the trouble some areas that we've been talking about this morning. Much more troublesome was this matter that's down here for August 9, '61, "Project for Synchronous Satellite Communication Experiment, Project SYNCOM." I can't give you all the background on satellite communication, but the big project that the DOD had was Project Advent that the Army was running, and it was one of these sort of monsters. It wasn't a very good project. It wasn't run very well. And they had all kinds of troubles with it. The closest thing that NASA had was the ECHO balloon--you know, just a great big balloon up there and you can bounce stuff off it and communicate that way, but that's hardly a communication satellite. It was not a repeater.

    And then over time, in the Eisenhower Administration we wanted to put in, Keith Glennan wanted to put in 10 million dollars to get started on an active satellite communication system, and couldn't get it through. Eisenhower felt that it ought to be in the private sector, felt that a company like ATT ought to finance it, but they ought to have reimburse NASA for what would be the support work, and so ten million was put in there in that last Eisenhower budget.

    As soon as Webb came in, one of the first, almost the first time I met Senator Kerr, just the three of us talking about this, Jim said, "This ought to be a government function. The government at least ought to have funds in there so that they can make sure that things move along aggressively." And Kerr agreed, and the very first change that Kennedy made after he became President included that ten million dollars. And then, and I've got the papers here, incidentally, where I signed jointly with Kappell, who was then head of ATT, an agreement that we would support their Telstar project. But before we did that, we had a competition, and RCA won with the Relay, and that was government financed, and then in turn since AT&T didn't win it, we signed an agreement with them, and that's the one I'm talking about, that we would launch their satellite which was called Telstar. RCA had the Relay.

    Well then all the time in the wings was Hughes Aircraft with this concept of something in synchronous orbit. ATT felt very strongly that you could never get away with synchronous satellites because of the time delay, and it would bother people on the phone, and ultimately to provide good service you had to have low flying satellites where the human being would not be conscious of the time delay. But at that time, the complexity of 20 satellites and trying to keep track of them all and get the right ground antenna looking at the right satellite and all of that seemed too immense, and the SYNCOM looked very attractive. But the DOD also thought well, maybe that ought to be a DOD project. So anyway we finally negotiated, I believe with the help of the Congress and so on, this project for a synchronous satellite communication experiment, Project SYNCOM, and we had enough funds, thanks to finally going ahead with Apollo, and all of a sudden the funding for these kinds of things was no longer a real issue. I think we had something like 50 million dollars we could put right into that project.

COLLINS: A kind of piggyback phenomenon?

SEAMANS: Yes. Once you've got the money rolling in, it's a lot easier to find, you know, relatively modest amounts of money. I don't think we justified it at that time on the basis of Apollo. It just seemed to make good sense, and I don't quite know why we had to have an agreement with the DOD that we were going to do it. I guess it was a question of who's going to do it, so you had to have an agreement, it was going to be a NASA project. So all of a sudden, in less than a year's time, NASA had gone with essentially no communication satellite project to a very major endeavor, with the Telstar and the Relay and then the SYNCOM, and those who were involved in satellite communication projects in the DOD were not very happy.

COLLINS: Was part of the agreement with DOD somehow the turning over of the technological results of this activity for--

SEAMANS: No, I don't think they had to, I think we proceeded entirely on using the technology that was coming from the different companies. It did not involve, to my knowledge at least, picking up a lot of the old Advent technology to do it. There could have been some of that, I don't even remember who the contractors was for Advent. Okay then there are a couple down here on the National Launch Vehicle Program, that's a conference, but the one that, let's see, the Very Large Launch Vehicle--there's one here called the Very Large Solid Propellant Motor Program. It says conference. Then there's one on Integrated National Launch Vehicle Program Conference. But the one I'm looking for is something, I think it's called the Large Launch Vehicle Program.

COLLINS: You're thinking of the so-called Webb Gilpatrick agreement?

SEAMANS: Well, what I'm thinking of is that we carried out a joint study with the Department of Defense of a variety of large launch vehicles, and you had the whole class of the Saturns and the Novas, and then there were also the various Titans and the Titans with strap-on solids. The idea was that you know, we had been using really ballistic missiles for our launch vehicles, and all of a sudden, we were getting into the development of special boosters, launch vehicles, for the lunar program, and on the one hand, and this is something Webb was always very conscious of, if we're going to develop something for say the Apollo or lunar program, let's be sure that we're not overlooking a good bet for the Department of Defense. It could be that perhaps by adding another 5 percent to the project, you'd come up with something that would have greater utility than just developing it for the NASA objectives.

    So for that reason, he always wanted to have the DOD take a look at what was going on, to make sure we weren't overlooking a good bet. On the other hand, the DOD said, "We've got this stable, are we sure that we need to have a whole new development? Maybe we've already got coming along what you guys in NASA need." And you're talking about, you know, very large sums of money, and the Congress obviously was interested in this. I can assure you the OMB or the Bureau of the Budget was interested in this. So I suggested to Webb and to Rubel, let's just take a look at how this appears to be coming out, and not just from the standpoint of what the various configurations are, but how well we think they might perform, and what kind of reliability we may expect to get out of them and so on


SEAMANS: So out of all this, these studies, and as I remember it, Nick Golovin was also involved, and he had worked for NASA, and by then he was working for Jerry Wiesner, and he was very interested in this whole matter of reliability studies. And this is the business of trying to assign to every component in the system a reliability figure. Then if you know how the elements are connected together, you can just mathematically work out what the total reliability of the system is. And he put great credence in these kinds of reliability studies. He tried to put this into effect when he was at NASA, and there was tremendous resistance to these kinds of studies, and so anyway, he left NASA. He was on his own for a short while and then Jerry Wiesner hired him, and that incidentally led into some of the problems that we later had getting approval from the White House on going ahead with lunar orbit rendezvous, because Golovin's kind of system reliability studies indicated that we'd made the wrong choice. But anyway, as a result of this sort of joint study effort, a lot of churning around, a lot of effort expended, but out of it all finally came I think a pretty unanimous view that we had to have a bigger vehicle than was going to come out of any military development, and that it should be along the lines of the Saturn that was in preliminary design at that time by the Marshall Center.

COLLINS: You mentioned earlier this interest of Mr. Webb, if you could add 5 percent somehow and make it serve additional capabilities, did that apply in the case of Saturn development?

SEAMANS: Well, I think he always kept asking the question. He asked the question again with regard to the lunar rendezvous versus earth orbit rendezvous. He specifically asked McNamara to sort of review this and see whether, if we stuck with the earth orbit rendezvous, it might have more value to the Department of Defense than lunar rendezvous, where they clearly weren't going to have many operations around the moon for quite a while. But the Department of Defense, they didn't even come up with anything that indicated that it made much difference to them.

COLLINS: It takes us in a slightly different path, but one of the issues, one of the reasons that the Air Force was interested in participation in the Gemini program is this question of rendezvous. And capabilities.

SEAMANS: That's different. That really wasn't quite on the same point. Let me get to Gemini in just a minute. You might say, the hurdle that NASA got over by the process of these kinds of studies, and on that Large Launch Vehicle Study, this was something that was formally set up. The terms of reference for the study were the documents signed by Rubel and myself. Then you know, the report came in, and from that I guess you'd say we were all aboard, that the thing to do was keep going with the Saturn for the Apollo mission.

    There were some other overtones to it. For example, the use of the large solids was something that really didn't interest NASA at that time, but it really did interest the Department of Defense. Rapid reaction basically. And Ros Roswell Gilpatric had that almost as an assignment, to make sure that there was a good large solid motor program, and it came up in the very first discussions that we had with McNamara, Gilpatric, Rubel, myself, Webb and Abe Hyatt. They wanted to have that responsibility in the DOD, to develop the large solids. There was never any argument about that one. I know some of the agreements in here are on that issue. Here it is, "The Very Large Solid Propellant Motor Program." They built an enormous rocket motor, you know, that they tested.

COLLINS: So these subsequent agreements about specific programs, Saturn, the solid rockets, came out of this earlier--

SEAMANS: Yes. A follow-on.

COLLINS: To the general agreement that--you did indeed discuss these things and confer about them.

SEAMANS: Yes. Okay, now, this whole business of the Gemini and the rendezvous and the sort of, let me see if I can think it through. When McNamara came in as Secretary of Defense, there already was a so-called Dyna-Soar Project. This was a Boeing project. It really wasn't quite orbital, but so close there's no reason it couldn't have been kicked into orbit. I think the idea was, you'd take off and go in near orbit conditions to the point where you could actually view, either look down and view things, or you could probably come alongside a satellite and view it, and McNamara--I don't know how he happened to get really interested in this, but he actually called me one weekend at home, and said that he was leaving I think the next day which was Sunday to go out. Let's see, the plan was that he would like to first go to Houston, and review our plans for the Gemini, and then he wanted to go and look at the Dynasoar Project, and would I accompany him? I said I would. Obviously I kept Mr. Webb informed.

     We started off, and damned if the weather wasn't so bad around Houston that we couldn't land there, so we just kept going. So we arrived a day sooner at Boeing than they expected us, and needless to say, that was a very interesting visit out there, because Boeing was smart enough to know that they were in some jeopardy with Dyna-Soar, and everything was very friendly and so on. William Allen I guess, was the president then, and he tripped all over himself to be nice to McNamara. I guess Gene Zuckert was along, the Secretary of the Air Force, and we spent a half a day there in Seattle, and then we took off and went right to Houston, where the weather had cleared, and McNamara was very, very interested in the Gemini. You know, he felt that that was a really "it used modern technology, it was going to be a very useful program"and about two days later, they cancelled Dyna-Soar.

    Then the question was, what should the role of the DOD be in this Gemini project? And Gemini had been initiated by NASA using the Titan vehicle, which had a lot more zing than the Atlas, so that you could have a bigger capsule. You could have two people aboard. You could have, you know, up to a couple of weeks of flying time, and you'd have something that would be maneuverable, so that we'd start getting some experience with the orbital mechanics and those sorts of matters, ahead of the time we'd be able to get it with Apollo, because you couldn't get Apollo up till you had the Saturn, and obviously if you looked at the timing on it, we could get Gemini up three or four years sooner, and it could be used for training and all kinds of things. And it worked out that way. I mean, it really fitted in beautifully between Mercury and Apollo and gave real continuity to the manned flight program.

    Another one of these joint agreements was worked out, and it established a joint committee between NASA and DOD, and MacMillan who had taken Joe Charyk's place as the Under Secretary of the Air Force, Brock MacMillan was the DOD member and I was the other member or the other co-chairman. And the thing we really set out to look at was, how might the Gemini also be useful to the DOD? The kind of thing Jim Webb was interested in. Can you do something a little more and be more valuable to the country? It turned out that the first thing we got into was really not that at all.

    The first thing we got into was that the Titan was okay for putting warheads into orbit, but it was not very good for pilots riding in a capsule because it had this chugging kind of aso-called pogo kind of vibration, where it was so violent that it would be something that would be possibly quite harmful to the astronauts. Obviously they wouldn't be able to be very effective during the time when this vibration was going on. So we spent quite a bit of time, and this turned out to be very, very useful to NASA because we were making use of a Titan that was still somewhat in development, and with Brock MacMillan as the Under Secretary of the Air Force right there and bringing in the people who were running that Titan project, and asking why the devil were we having these problems.

    I mean, it was just very fortuitous that we set this mechanism up really for another purpose, and over time that problem was not completely resolved but it was minimized so that--and it also, incidentally, gave us some valuable experience on this pogo thing that was useful when we got the Saturn. Okay. But then the question was, were there interesting experiments that could be run with the Gemini that would be useful to the DOD? And if there were classified experiments, how the devil were we going to handle it? And I think we only had one experiment and it was not successful, from the standpoint of either the knowledge that came out of it, and certainly the public affairs side of it was very unsatisfactory. That's the Questar Camera.

    The question was, you know, what can a man do in space from call it a reconnaissance standpoint that might be valuable? Everybody said, you know, interesting to have a man up there because if something comes along that you hadn't anticipated, the satellite isn't programmed to take it, but the man sees it and he snaps it. Is that really a valid assumption or not? And they had this, it's a hand-held, I guess it was a commercial camera. It had very high resolution. And the DOD did not want to have it known that this experiment was being run. But you know, everything else was unclassified, and it was very hard to keep this separate and distinct. As I remember it, the press sort of over time figured out what was going on. And poor old Brock MacMillan caught a lot of hell for all of that. It didn't bother NASA any but it did bother him. I don't think we ever did release any pictures that were taken with that camera, and I'm not sure they showed very much anyway.

COLLINS: Going back to your trip with MacNamara, what was his express purpose for this two stop excursion?

SEAMANS: I think he was trying to find a rationale for killing the Dyna-Soar, basically. But I think he found it easier to deal with a problem if he could point to the military that, we're not going to have the Dyna-Soar but there's this other project coming along that's going to be more helpful to you than Dyna-Soar would have been. Then of course there was a question of whether there would be a Blue Gemini or not, so called, and there was talk of that but it never materialized.

    Now, whether a certain number of these vehicles would be made available to the Department of Defense, just the way right now the Shuttle's being made available--you see how difficult that is for NASA, by the way, right now, to run those projects, to control them, you know, properly off bounds, and not have anybody know about what's there, and you can see how the press are all the time making snide remarks about, "The Russians know what's going on, why can't the U.S. public," it's the same damned argument we had twenty years ago. But then over time of course you ended up with the MOL coming along, the Manned Orbital Laboratory sort of grew out of this, as a way for getting at this issue of, does a man really have value up there from a military standpoint? And I can't remember the exact timing on when the MOL was started, but it was right in this same period, and it seemed to be a reasonable thing to do. Again, it was a way that you could feel that what NASA was doing, the technology was being made available to DOD.

COLLINS: I guess, what were the formal and informal feelings about Air Force interest in doing these two programs? What was your position on this?

SEAMANS: I think my position was that there might very well be some useful things that could be done, but that it's pretty hard to run it jointly, as we sort of found from the MacMillan debacle, and so, fine, we did not look at the MOL as a threat to NASA. You could think of it that way, that if they're going to have a laboratory up there, then that will sort of cut NASA off from taking the next step beyond Apollo. But it was a very limited program. ...

COLLINS: Resuming after a brief pause. To what extent do you think McNamara may have been using NASA in a political sense to deal with the Air Force? There was some indication that he felt that Air Force R&D programs, interests in space, were something that he needed to control in some degree. Was there ever a sense in your mind that NASA was sort of being employed by MacNamara as a means of dealing with some of his problems with the Air Force?

SEAMANS: I'm absolutely sure of it. Although he never told me he was doing that. But it seemed quite obvious that that's what was going on. During this trip that we've just been talking about, Seattle to Houston and back, when the Dyna-Soar was cancelled on the one hand, and where he paid a visit to what is now the Johnson Space Center, at least I had the feeling that what we were able to show him at that time--this is when Jim and I were still fairly preliminary. As I remember, we did not have a complete mockup, for example, he could look at. That he was quite willing to accept our plans as almost a sure thing. It turned out, it did come out that way.

    But he was not as, I didn't think, as questioning of NASA and what NASA was doing as he was dealing with the Air Force and Boeing, where he was asking really really tough questions. I think he wanted to have, I guess what I'm saying, the NASA program succeed, and he wasn't particularly interested in trying to show what flaws he might have been able to pick up. He just sort of accepted it and listened to it and said, "This is very interesting. I congratulate you. It's going well." Where his demeanor out in Seattle was quite antagonistic, in some ways. I mean, he was very polite with individuals, but he was pretty tough. He was capable of, you know, really cutting people down to size. If he wanted to, he could be really tough in a meeting. So it seemed to me that's what was going on, but that is somewhat speculation.

COLLINS: Sure. To take this speculative just a little bit further, to what extent was his support for the Blue Gemini and later MOL?

SEAMANS: I don't think his support for the Blue Gemini was really there at all. As I remember, I don't think that, did it ever really get off the ground? I don't think so. But his support for the MOL was real. I mean, he really did, now, that was program that was discussed by the Space Council. I happen to remember that. And his presenting it, and it obviously was a highly classified project. At the time that it was initiated, I think it had validity to run the experiment as I've described it, to see what value there was to having a man up there. As time went on, after McNamara left, the interest in the project became less, and partly because of dollars, but partly because other technologies had moved ahead more rapidly than expected.

COLLINS: The basic reconnaissance--

SEAMANS: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: I guess I see a bit of a discrepancy between a more or less perfunctory interest in Blue Gemini and a stronger interest in MOL.

SEAMANS: Well, the Blue Gemini was just a question of ordering three more, let's say, of the Gemini. We had 12, okay, make it a 15 Gemini program, and you paint three of them blue and say, "Okay, fellows, see what you can do with it." To the Air Force. Instead of doing that, you say you're going to have a 10 foot in diameter can that's going to sit on the nose of the Titan with the Gemini up in front of that so the boys can come home, but they can go back into this can and they've got some large enough camera equipment in there, they can really do something interesting. Then it has a real objective, whereas what you can do with just that small Gemini capsule, not much more than what we were doing anyway. I can't think of any valid Air Force experiment other than that camera which wasn't good enough to prove anything anyway.

COLLINS: So it was a question of the MOL concept being more appropriate to military purposes.

SEAMANS: Yes. Yes. It was valid, I think.

COLLINS: Was there any other consideration? The Saturn technology would be used to place up some kind of larger system. Why rely on Titan as a launch system?

SEAMANS: Well, I'm not quite sure of my timing. The Titan 3, I can't quite remember whether the Titan 3 whole complex was started as part of MOL, or whether it sort of came along in parallel with it, but it was there, and it was clearly a quick reaction system. I mean it had the large solids and the hypergolic fuels and I think it was more appropriate than the great big Saturn would have been. If it had proved out--if the use of the man had proved out, I think in the Titan 3 complex and the Titan 3 vehicle they really had something that made sense from a military standpoint and I really don't think the Saturn would have been appropriate for that.

COLLINS: What I'd like to do is get your comments on a few more of these if you want to make comments about it.

SEAMANS: Well, I'll give you a couple of quick ones here. We talked about agreement concerning the Gemini program. There were always agreements coming along on Thor and Agena and those launch vehicles. One of the interesting one was the loan of two LSDs for transport of Saturn stages. This is a question of how to bring the Saturn 2, for example, around from California through the Canal to the Mississippi Test Facility, and also how to take vehicles from Marshall and from the Michoud plant as well as the S 2 stages around to the Cape, and a lot of debate about that, and the question of whether a special vehicle should be built. The Germans at one time wanted to hang these things underneath dirigibles and fly them across the country. But the Navy had these LSDs and what came to be called the "roll on, roll off " method of transportation. Nothing very complicated about it. Obvious thing for the Navy to do, to support NASA.

    I guess I would just say that as these various tasks were added to the DOD, McNamara more and more was looking for reimbursement, and it was more and more sort of concern that, you know, he was trying to justify the carrier task force and so on, and yet when NASA put up an Apollo or something he'd have to deploy the carriers over there, and there was a little bit of ambiguity, how important are these to the military if they can become available for the civilian program as well as cost quite a bit of money to move them around, and why shouldn't NASA have to pay? We never did, but that became a stickier wicket as time wenton.

    The instrumentation ships were--that was a vicious argument. These were the three ships that were built, not built, they were refitted, I guess they were Liberty Ships and they were refitted right over here in Quincy by General Dynamics, and they were--there was lots of really good technology on those ships. You know, big tracking dishes. And they plus the aircraft, I don't see the aircraft mentioned here but there was also an agreement on taking what I guess were tankers, C-135s and putting big noses on them so that they could have antennas up front, deploy them around so that there wouldn't be any blind spots, so that when Apollo was going to go around the earth the first one or two times before being injected towards the moon, that you'd never be out of wide band communication.

    That was one of the major decisions that was made on the Apollo program, that we would not have individual sites around the world which we'd have to man with all kinds of experts, but rather there'd be one central place, and then in turn there would be broad band communication on a worldwide basis, to Houston. And that meant, if you look at the globe and where you could stick things and so on, that you had to have these ships. The question was, should the ships be thought of as part of the military range system, either the Atlantic or the Pacific ranges, or should they be NASA ships run by NASA? And that's when, I think we made the right decision, although we died hard on it, the extent to which there would be, we would do all the paying and they'd run them. But we finally signed an agreement on that.

    Another one here, relationship concering geodetic satellite programs, geodosy is extremely important in--when you target ballistic missiles that are using inertial guidance and so on, to what extent is the guidance going to be influenced by anomalies in the earth, and even more important, where are the targets really with respect to the launch point? At the same time, we felt that there were valid scientific purposes for geodetic satellites, and we did work out an agreement with the DOD on the use of geodetic satellites for peaceful purposes. That was important, not only in studies of the earth but in studies of the moon.

COLLINS: Right. Do you recall some examples of NASA geodetic satellites? I guess I'm blanking on specific examples.

SEAMANS: I don't think we actually had our own satellites. You know, it's a question of having satellites in very precise orbits, and then of making ground measurements. It's more a question of the release of the data and things of that sort, that I think came into this issue.

COLLINS: So in a sense you were utilizing the military capability for your purposes.

SEAMANS: Yes. Relationships. Relationships concerning geodetic satellite programs. Manned Lunar Mapping and Survey Program, I guess that was really to enlist the support of, the was it the Army Map Service or something, to make the maps of the moon. Early Gravity Gradient Tests for Defense Communication Satellite Program, that tied in with this whole geodetic business. It's not just a question of where things are, but the gravity vector is not always right towards the center of the earth. I think we've probably done a pretty good job. I notice they've got something here on the XB 70. Using it for some test purposes. Of course, we lost, I guess one of our best test pilots when he got too close to the B-70. He got in the wake of the wing, and it flipped him right up inside, and Joe Walker was killed, a top X-15 pilot.

    One of the things that comes through here again and again is the utilization of military personnel in NASA, the assignment of people and so on, and that certainly was important to the program. When George Mueller took over from Brainerd Holmes, he came in with the all-up systems test, that was one thing. He started right off on that, and he was right. That was a big step. And the other was that we did not have sufficient management capability in NASA, and the only way we were going to get it was to get assignment of some very key Air Force people. And he named them. He'd been working enough at TRW, he knew who the Sam Phillips were and the Joneses and the various other people that we got, and so thanks to George, as well as thanks to Jim Webb, for getting Bozo McKee, who was in the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, agreement, we got individuals who came in and I don't know if we could have done the project without them.

COLLINS: In the early period, there was some concern expressed that this importation of Air Force personnel would in some sense subvert the NASA organization. Was there ever any feeling among?

SEAMANS: Yes. I think the NACA types were concerned. You didn't have that with the Jet Propulsion Lab, and you didn't have it in a lot of Goddard, because that came from the Navy, and you really didn't have that feeling at Marshall, because they were used to working with Medaris and so on. And Webb just wouldn't listen to it. He'd say, "Look, this is important from a national standpoint. This is good training for key military people so that they'll know what went on in the program. So whatever spinoff comes out of this that is valuable to the military, will be much more readily usable by having had the people in NASA." So I don't think that ever was a serious problem.

COLLINS: One question that I'm interested in is the kind of management contribution that these Air Force personnel brought, especially to the Apollo program. Having had experience in various Air Force, especially the ballistic missile activities. What's your sense of the kind of style or approaches that they may have brought to this, that augmented, redirected, complemented the NASA approach?

SEAMANS: Well, they were just plain used to working on big projects. Big dollar projects with many different elements, and they were used to making the tough trade-off decisions. I knew Sam Phillips when he was running Minuteman, and one of the, I remember one of the things I was involved in as an advisor to the Air Force was the matter of whether they could make the inertial guidance system work properly or not, and obviously that's very key to the success of the Minuteman, and Sam Phillips had to decide whether they continued with the guidance system they were working on, or whether they sort of embarked on a whole new development, and hold up the project for the length of time that would take, and I remember Sam dug right in and he said, "We're going to make this system work, period." You know. And he was right. I mean, he made it work. But it takes that kind of --it takes a lot of guts, when you get into a hole like that, just exactly what was required after that Apollo fire. How do you? You do not panic. You take a look at what the odds are, going different routes, and make your play and stick to it.

COLLINS: So it wasn't so much a question of particular management approaches, but just the experience of dealing with something big.

SEAMANS: Well, I guess I have to say that's an oversimplification, because there are some tools that they were familiar with, you know, using the charts and the PERT charts and the--the whole concept of a workaround is something that say a Sam Phillips was used to doing. You've got a plan for bringing along quite a few different elements in parallel, and then all of a sudden one element doesn't come along the way it's supposed to. You've got some trouble. Then what do you do with the program? Do you just hold everything else and wait, put all the steam you can on the delayed part of the program? Sometimes you do that. I mean, but, sometimes you're not going to be able to do it, for whatever reason, and that's when you say, "Okay, let's go ahead with the flight around the moon before we test the lunar module in earth orbit."

    At the time you do that, and that's a very major change, you have to reconstitute the program on the computer, in effect, to see what the new program, what the--how that will come out from the time standpoint, with the expected delays and all these elements, and what it's going to do to the cost and all of that. So you're not dealing with a static program that you can sort of nail to the wall and come hell or high water, you're going to do everything in the same order. You've got to have the imagination, if you will, to look at alternatives, when things don't go as they were programmed to go. And Sam and the people who run those big projects almost do that intuitively. And it's not just a question of figuring out, that's the best thing to do is to put it across and get the different elements to change their plans and to sell it in effect to large groups of people, get them to know they're supposed to do something that's different.

COLLINS: Is there an example of anyone at NASA who didn't have experience in military programs, who showed this kind of capability?

SEAMANS: George Low. Without any question. You know, George Low came right out of the Lewis mold. Abe Silverstein. And so on. And ended up, when Joe Shea left, going down and running that part of the program, down at Houston, in effect going from, originally he and Joe Shea were in Headquarters sort of overall kind of responsibility. Joe Shea goes down to Houston. Then all of a sudden you've got George Low down there. I guess we had George Low down there as the deputy. But that was quite a different job than being the guy to run that spacecraft project. Hands on day to day dirty detail, the kind of thing we're talking about. And he, I think, that was one of the problems with particularly at the time that Brainerd was in charge.

    Brainerd was that kind of a person, because he came from the BMEWS Project at RCA which is the same kind of big dollar, many element, you've got to get all the stuff up the Tule during the six week period each year when the ice leaves enough of a gap to ram some ships in there and all that. And he and Bob Gilruth came from mighty different backgrounds, Brainerd and Bob Gilruth, and he in effect came to Webb and me and said, "Gilruth's gotta go, he can't hack it." Well, there was no way that we were going to fire Bob Gilruth, I can assure you, because, you know, he was the symbol, he was the spiritual leader of the manned program. At the same time we had to bolster the management down there, and that's where George Low came in and Joe Shea and the others. And Bob Gilruth never became that kind of a manager. He was the manager that sort of saw the big picture from a conceptual standpoint, what kind of a capsule. He worried and worried and worried about the safety of the astronauts. They were in effect almost his children. You know, just a superb human being. But very very different perspective on how to get things done than say a Sam Phillips.


COLLINS: We were just discussing the differences in management approaches using Bob Gilruth and Brainerd Holmes as examples of I guess a NACA style and a military or industry approach. I wonder if we could be a little bit more specific about what the differences were. Gilruth you characterize as very adept at the conceptual elements of the technical endeavor. How does this differ from what Brainerd Holmes brought?

SEAMANS: Well, Bob for example ran, what was it called, the Pilots Aircraft Division of Langley. And that was an operation where rockets were used to fire models of airplanes up into the atmosphere, and in some cases to turn them around and drive them back into the atmosphere at very high velocities, compared to what you could at that time do in wind tunnels or could actually do in full scale flight. And that's a program where you sort of proceed at a measured pace, where you run a flight, from that you get some data, you see that, I don't know, maybe you want to change a wing or you want to add another instrument, so a few months later you have the new model you want to test, because you didn't recover those vehicles, and you have the extra instrument in there and you run some more tests, and over time by this process you learn a great deal about supersonic aerodynamics and configurations that are stable and ones that are unstable and so on.

    And that's the kind of program you can go on, there's no specific end goal, you're learning about supersonic aerodynamics. It's very important and it takes a very unusual and gifted person to manage that kind of a project. But it's a very different kind of project than say the installation of multi-billion dollar antennas up at a latitude of 80 degrees north on a rapid time scale where the whole project is to be completed in two and a half years, where you can't run things one at a time, where lots and lots of things have to proceed in parallel, where you have to conceive of the total configuration from the preliminary design phase, and then start building all the stuff and testing it, and where you hope you're going to be smart enough to have most of the equipment fit together, but you know damn well it's not all going to come alive the way it's supposed to, and hence you've got to have backups, you've got to be smart about what things are most delicate or sensitive or uncertain, and have backups. You have to readjust schedules and dollars and everything to finally achieve this goal in this very limited period of time. Same kind of situation that we had in the ballistic missle, where that was a crash project to develop a ballistic missile capability in this country.

COLLINS: We're digressing a little bit, but for the NACA people who were placed into this new situation, was there any active effort on the part of NASA administration to introduce them or educate them in the kinds of skills that were required to do this different kind of work?

SEAMANS: Well, first of all, I think we felt that although we had to have this management capability that I've described, project management capability, we didn't want to give up the other. The other was also important to what we were doing, and really what we wanted was to have both kinds of effort proceeding along. We did run some "training programs." We brought in Harbridge House, which is tied in with the Harvard Business School. I think I can remember giving some talks at some of the--they'd go down to say Williamsburg, take over in the middle of winter or some time when it wasn't a very popular place to be, take over part of the inn there and run these kinds of programs. And I think there was some value in it. But you don't develop a Sam Phillips by that mechanism. The guy's got to have had the experience. You can't just pick it up from case studies.

COLLINS: That's a very good point. Okay. Well, let's return to the DOD-NASA discussion. I want to get a little clearer sense of what your appreciation was of the external factors that shaped the NASA-DOD interaction. I guess one important one is the role of OMB. I wonder whether we might sort of pick a few examples in which OMB played a role, at least to your knowledge, in sorting out how either reimbursing issues or programmatic responsibilities were assigned.

SEAMANS: I'll try to do that. First, one thought that bears on this. The work that I did in the Draper Lab was primarily for the Department of Defense. The media project I did here was Department of Defense. The projects at RCA were Department of Defense. I'd also been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Air Force. I think I had a fair understanding of how the Department of Defense operated their development programs, and understood reasonably well what was really important from a military standpoint in development, and perhaps more than some of those who were in NACA-NASA, although there was an awful lot of very good cooperative work between NASA--between NACA and the DOD.

    So in carrying out these negotiations, it was not completely arms-length. I think I understood some of the things John Rubel was trying to do and some of the problems he had. But even so, there were times when it was pretty damned exasperating. And I guess in part I wasn't sure that some of the things that McNamara was trying to do, I concurred with. I'm talking now about the reimbursement and some of that. I felt that that would tend to subvert the development or the testing. He wanted to have NASA charge say the Air Force for testing on a completely full cost basis. Well, if we did that, the Air Force would never come around and ask us to do any testing, even though from a national standpoint that might have made the most sense, because it would appear, the cost would be unreasonable.

    So there were times, and I'm having a little trouble thinking of the specifics, when John and I would go over and we, just the three of us, with Shapley being the third person, would discuss these. Sometimes, I'm trying to remember, I'm not sure of this, I know at least sometimes, we were called over. It wasn't a question that I was looking for help or something. It was being told to come over and explain, you know, my position, and Rubel the same. He was told to come on and explain his position. It wasn't that Shap and I had our arms around each other and we were fighting the DOD. Shap was very very good at at least appearing to be impartial. But as a result of that process, and I can't give you, I wish I could give you chapter and verse of some cases where as a result of that, finally sometimes almost by magic, there would be agreement. When it was not being achieved otherwise. And to what extent Shap would get in touch with the comptroller over in the DOD or something, I never knew all the things that went on, I'm sure. But that was the real world. Let me say that. Whereas the Space Council and some of these things were not really the real world. I mean, you could set an overall policy, but when you get down to it, the nitty gritty real world involved OMB.

COLLINS: Yes. What kind of, since this is general, not dealing with specific examples, what kinds of questions did Shapley kind of bring to you and John Rubel to try to bring some clarity to a situation?

SEAMANS: Well, it wasn't just dollars. If we were trying to negotiate something on the Gemini, you know, he'd want to know what the experiments were. Say, I wouldn't be--sometimes the DOD would suddenly get very mysterious, you know, some things that they felt that they needed to do on the Gemini, when the Brock MacMillan thing existed, but sometimes it sort of leapt out from Brock MacMillan's hands and it was up at John Rubel's, and we'd be over there with Shap, and he'd say, "I don't think I've heard of anything, John, about any particular manned experiment, so what do you really have in mind? What do you really think you're going to do?" kind of question. And sometimes John would sort of blow soap bubbles. So that would settle that issue. He didn't really have anything.

    The OMB professionals, in those days, were really good at asking questions about substance, as well as about dollars, and they were very good at sometimes pressing on one side and sometimes on the other, and their overall objective was to get the costs down. I mean, that's really what--and that's what I always called the ratchet principle of--I think I mentioned this before. I actually ended up with an article in a newspaper about this once, how you were ratcheted down. They'd ratchet down the program sometimes, and of course that would take dollars off. Or they wouldn't try to touch the program but they'd say, "It's too expensive, you've got too much overhead, you can do with fewer people" or something, and ratchet you down that way. And that was the kind of technique that would be used. It wasn't so much that Shap was trying to get us to sign the agreement, but to sign the agreement you had to have an understanding about what the programs really were.

COLLINS: Another consideration, I don't know whether it enters into this at all, is the so-called health of the aerospace industry, sort of deciding what programs would be executed, which ones would be dropped back. To what degree did that play a role if at all in your deliberations with John Rubel?

SEAMANS: Well, John Rubel felt very strongly about this, and I think even some of it ended up in that document that we signed that particular weekend in May, but his original report was just larded with that kind of thing, and it was along the lines that we cannot afford the luxury of a completely free enterprise system, that what we end up with are let's say too many companies with the capability let's say to design, develop and manufacture airplanes; that there's a critical mass that you have to have in any one company to be effective, so much better you have five virile vigorous companies than ten none of whom has a critical mass, and that it's the job of the government to make the decision as to which five exist. And you do that by not giving the others contracts.

    Now, that's a pretty tough thing to face up to. And I would have to say that neither, that at no time when I was in NASA did we play that game, of trying to winnow out the companies that way. We felt that each time we had a procurement decision to make, that we'd try to do it on, and I repeat this many, many times, what's in the best interest of the government from the standpoint of this one project? Not try to be God to the whole industry. Now, this could mean however that you would rule out a company from getting it if they had such a tremendous load already that you couldn't visualize how they could take on another without interfering with some things they were already doing, and we tried to, before letting a very major contract, to contact the Department of Defense and make sure that there wasn't something--it looked all right, but you didn't know. Maybe North American or some company was about to get another big contract which we wouldn't know about in NASA, to anticipate that. And Jim Fletcher did that with me when I was in the Air Force, when he called me about the Shuttle contract. But John Rubel was willing to play God. I guess McNamara felt he could too.

COLLINS: With the buildup of Apollo, there were clearly additional dollars to infuse into the aerospace industry.


COLLINS: Was there ever any discussion between NASA and DOD about, well, we're supporting this company for this kind of DOD activity, would it be nice to see NASA put some money over here because we're not putting money there, something like that?

SEAMANS: Not that I'm aware of.

COLLINS: Dividing up the pie.

SEAMANS: Not that I'm aware of. I know for myself, I did not want to get into the position of divvying up that pie. That's so loaded with, you know, that's such a dynamite kind of thing to do. I don't think Jim Webb ever had a meeting with McNamara where, say, "Okay, boys, you make sure Grumman stays alive, we'll make sure Boeing does," or something. In electronics--well, it's really in the aerospace industry that you really would have that, because the electronics companies and so on had enough other business that it wasn't so important. But except maybe for things like inertial navigation, which are quite specialized and had no then commercial value, they do now but didn't then.

    Before we break here, let me just bring up one thing you mentioned earlier that we haven't discussed, and that's, we've spent a fair amount of time on the DOD relationship, but there were other important ones. I guess the next one in importance I would single out the--what is now called NOAA, the Weather Bureau, and we had some really tough negotiating with Herb Holliman. I'm not sure whether you and I have discussed that or not.

    Just to oversimplify, you know, Herb Holliman didn't like the idea that we, NASA, had the responsibility for putting up the TIROS's and the NIMBUS's and really, we were really deciding what configuration, whether it would be spin stabilized or earth stabilized, and we made the decision what instruments to put on and so on, and yet the reason we were doing it was to get information for weather forecasting and that was his responsibility, and he tried to take at one point, he made a real power play to take that, take over the development responsibility away from NASA, and we had a real set-to with Elmer Staats as the adjudicator, and Jim and myself, and as I remember, the Secretary of Commerce was very--didn't really appear on the scene, this was Herb Holliman, and this is, you know, ultimately NOAA was formed and so on and that was really all Herb's doing.

    We had a lesser altercation with, let's see, Interior, a guy named Pakorah was in charge of the geological and the earth resource and that kind of thing. He started making announcements about how earth resource satellites were--how important they were going to be to the Department of Interior, because he had no security clearances, he knew nothing about the troublesome area he was stepping into, and I remember going over and talking to the Under Secretary of Interior whose name I forget at the moment. He ended up in charge of ConEd. Wonderful guy to work with, and he sort of stemmed the tide there.

    Transportation was another one. When Jeeb Hallaby? was running the FAA, is what he was running, and he invited us over one day to point out that we weren't doing all the R&D that was needed for the development of air travel, and that he was going to set up a research operation to take that over from us. That's another one of these rather interesting sessions.

COLLINS: Similar to DOD, though, it's a question of where the boundaries were a little bit ambiguous. About who should be doing what.

SEAMANS: Oh yes. There's some validity, incidentally, in all of these, to the non-NASA point of view, I might say. Let's see, were there any others? Those are the ones that come to mind. You know, we finally did set up, I guess it was called an associate administrator or assistant administrator for external affairs. You know, and it was Jake Smart was one of the guys. Admiral Boone was the first guy I think we had in that position, and then Jake Smart, to be truly sensitive to the needs of all of these other parts of government.

COLLINS: You want to break off here?

SEAMANS: Yes, I think so. I just want to be sure for the record that we have that.

Seamans 9 || Seamans 11

Rev. 09/06/96

© 1996 National Air and Space Musuem