The Secret of Apollo
This book builds on historical research I carried out over the last seven years and also on my own history and values. I did not begin with the intention of studying systems management or systems engineering, subjects familiar to me from my background in the aerospace industry. In fact, I made some effort at the start not to do so, to avoid my own biases. Originally, I wanted to use my aerospace experience but also to separate myself somewhat from it so as to look at the history of the aerospace industry from a more detached standpoint. I eventually decided to investigate more closely the Spacelab program, a joint effort of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). This seemed a good choice because I knew something of space technology but little about manned laboratories or ESA.
Spacelab looked like a good case of technology transfer from the United States to Europe. Yet I found little novelty in Spacelab’s hardware technology, and neither did the Europeans. So why were they interested in this project? They wanted to learn howto manage the development of large, complex space systems — that is, the methods of ‘‘systems management.” Soon I encountered the “technology gap” and “management gap” literature, the pervasive rhetoric about “systems,” and the belief in the Apollo program as a model for how to solve social as well as technical problems. This was a worthy topic, particularly because no other historian had investigated it.
Systems approaches emphasize integrative features and the elements of human cooperation necessary to organize complex activities and technologies. Believing that humans are irrational, I find the creation of huge, orderly, rational technologies almost miraculous. I had never pondered the deeper impli
cations of cooperative efforts amid irrationality and conflict, and this project has enabled me to do so.
I owe a debt of thanks to many. At the History Office at NASA headquarters, Roger Launius, Lee Saegesser, and Colin Fries were helpful in guiding me through the collections. Julie Reiz, Elizabeth Moorthy, and Michael Hooks provided excellent service at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory archives, declassifying numerous documents for my rather diffuse research. At the European Community archives at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, Gherardo Bonini located numerous documents and provided many records I would not have otherwise noticed, sending some to me later when I found that I needed more information. The Technical Information and Documentation Center at the ESA’s European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) opened its doors (literally) for me, allowing me to rummage through storerooms full of documents, as well as its collection of historical materials. ESTEC’s Lilian Viviani, Lhorens Marie, Sarah Humphrey, and director Jean – Jacques Regnier were all extremely helpful. John Krige, who headed the European Space History project, provided travel funding to visit the EUI and ESTEC archives. I am particularly grateful for his help and trust in me, because he jump-started my research when it was in its very early stages.
In 1998 and 1999 I performed related research for the Air Force History Support Office, contract number F4964298P0148. This provided travel funds and support for my graduate student Phil Smith. I am grateful to Phil for doing much of the ‘‘legwork’’ to dig up archival materials in the Boston area and at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Chuck Wood in the Space Studies Department of the University of North Dakota encouraged me in this work, and I appreciate his understanding and support for this research among my other faculty duties. I thank Cargill Hall, Rich Davis, and Priscilla Jones for their efforts on my behalf in the History Support Office. Harry Waldron at the Space and Missile Center was extremely helpful in gathering further materials on ballistic missiles.
Also providing funding for my research was the University of Minnesota Research and Teaching Grant and Dissertation Fellowship program. The professors at the University of Minnesota with whom I studied from 1992 to 1997 taught me much of what it means to be a historian. David Good and George
Green introduced me to the literature of economic and business history. Ron Giere inspired me to consider philosophical and cognitive issues and to recognize the value of theory, not just for philosophy, but for history as well. Ed Layton and Alan Shapiro stressed the importance of thorough research. Roger Stuewer’s kindness and concern brought me to Minnesota to begin with, and his courses in the history of nuclear physics were important for my understanding of the European background of large-scale technology development. Robert Seidel helped me to write with more conciseness and clarity and to see several implicit assumptions that I had made. My adviser, Arthur Nor – berg, prodded me to keep moving and to maintain a steady focus on the core issues — the concerns that led me to this project. He kept bringing the ‘‘big picture’’ questions to my attention.
A few scholars significantly influenced my thinking. Joanne Yates’s approach in Control Through Communication formed an important early model for my work. James Beniger, Ross Thomson, Theodore Porter, Tom Hughes, and Daniel Nelson all influenced this research as well. John Lonnquest and Glenn Bugos performed recent research on the air force and navy that directly links to mine.
A number of scholars have reviewed this manuscript, either as a whole or in articles derived from it, and given me significant feedback that has helped in various ways. These include Alex Roland, Harvey Sapolsky, John Krige, John Staudenmaier, Roger Launius, Tom Hughes, R. Cargill Hall, John Lonnquest, my committee at the University of Minnesota, and the anonymous reviewers with Technology and Culture, History and Technology, History of Technology, Air Power History, the Air Force History Support Office, and the Johns Hopkins University Press. The anonymous Johns Hopkins University Press reviewer gave me excellent critiques. I owe to him or her the insight that concurrency is not really a management method but rather a strategy that requires a strong management method to succeed.
To the extent that this work succeeds, I owe all of these people who helped me along the way. Any flaws that remain are my own.
Finally, I must thank my wife, Diane, and my two sons, Casey and Travis, for being patient with me through this long and arduous process. Only as I look back now do I realize how difficult it has been.
I sincerely hope that this work helps others recognize that the ‘‘systems’’ in which we all take part are our own creations. They help or hinder us, depending upon our individual and collective goals. Regardless of our feelings about them, they are among the pervasive bonds that hold our society together.