Taking Science to the Moon
The technical achievements that permitted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), other government agencies, and their contractors to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s promise of ‘‘landing a man on the moon and returning him safely’’ have often been described. Most previous authors have included anecdotes that enhance our appreciation of how Project Apollo was successfully accomplished, although many are retold at second or third hand. Several movies such as The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 showed both true and fictional accounts of the spirit and engineering skills that characterized the entire project, focusing primarily on the major or well-known participants.
A story that has not been completely told, however, is how a small band of somewhat anonymous NASA staffers, allied with scientists inside and outside government, struggled to persuade the management of NASA to look beyond the initial Apollo landing and reap a scientific harvest from this historic undertaking. Here is that story as seen through the eyes of a participant based at NASA headquarters—a pack rat who kept many of the internal memos, reports, photos, and notes that document that ten-year struggle. It highlights the contributions of many of those who worked with me during the Apollo program. Some of them have received little public recognition for their efforts. I hope that this insider background will give readers a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to many of Project Apollo’s scientific achievements, which have enriched our understanding not only of the Moon but, more important, of the small planet we call Earth.