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On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet. 1958-1978

[100] During the financial belt-tightening related so the fiscal 1965 budget, there was growing pressure from Congress, the Bureau of the Budget, and the White House to hold down costs. Congressional concerns became particularly strong following the failure of Ranger 6 to transmit any of its prescribed 3000 pictures of the lunar surface before it crashed into the moon on 2 February 1964. The representatives on Capitol Hill told Webb and his associates that no more failures would be tolerated.
Phased Project Planning
Joseph Karth, acting chairman of the House Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, was particularly bothered by the apparent weakness of the managerial chain between NASA Headquarters and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Karth and other congressmen were rightly worried, since JPL was responsible for several key projects in addition to Ranger-Lunar Surveyor and the planetary Mariners, with Voyager likely to be the lab's next big project. Over the years, Karth and his staff had seen instances of JPL management resistance or reluctance to accept organizational and procedural changes recommended by NASA Headquarters. The Ranger 6 failure gave everyone-congressmen, NASA managers, JPL staffers-the opportunity to reflect on the need for better program management in general and closer liaison between NASA managers and the California Institute of Technology-JPL team in particular. 37 One of the tools Administrator Webb chose to strengthen his managerial control over all new projects was Phased Project Planning.* This scheme played an especially important role in the subsequent life and death of Voyager.
In mid-July 1964, Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., advised that all "new projects should be planned on a phased basis with successful contracts for advanced studies, program definition, prototype design, and flight hardware and operations." Phased development would [101] permit projects to "evolve in an orderly manner with maximum realism." 38 Voyager was one of about half a dozen new projects on which the headquarters staff experimented with the new procedure months before the official guidelines were promulgated in October 1965.
After nearly three years of advanced Voyager studies by JPL and others, the NASA managers took the initial steps in December 1964 to place the planetary project on the phased track to a 1971 mission to Mars. The decision came after four months of hectic conferences in Washington, during which Mariner-Mars 69 was approved (12 August), agonized over (September through October), and terminated (20 November). The prolonged debate was the result of Homer Newell's belief that a 1969 mission was necessary to satisfy the scientific community and Congress but, knowing that fiscal year 1966 funds for both Mariner-Mars 1969 and Voyager 1971 were not likely so be appropriated, NASA finally canceled Mariner-Mars 69 in an attempt to preserve Voyager. No one is as happy with the compromise. 39 Donald F. Hornig, President Johnson's special assistant for science and technology, was dismayed over the loss of yet another Mars launch window in 1969. Seamans assured him that, if at all possible, some kind of flight, perhaps a Mars flyby that would test the basic 1971 Voyager without a lander, would be attempted in 1969. Still, the associate administrator noted that the money for Voyager was going to be tight, Four flights, two in 1971 and two in 1973, were expected to cost $1.25 billion. With that kind of price tag, a 1969 mission might have to be dropped in favor of less expensive test flights. 40
While various persons continued to express unhappiness about the loss of another Mars opportunity, Seamans signed the project approval document for Voyager on 16 December 1964. During that same week, Don Hearth, slated to become Voyager project manager at headquarters, submitted his suggestions for the Voyager office in Washington. 41 Voyager was officially on its way. The first external step was the announcement on 15 January 1965 of requests for proposals from industrial contractors to work under JPL's direction on the preliminary design, phase IA of the phased program. 42
The 22 January proposers conference at JPL was attended by 113 representatives from 28 companies. Three months later, after an elaborate source selection process, three firms were selected so make 90-day preliminary design studies: the Aerospace Division of the Boeing Company, Seattle; the Missile and Space Division of General Electric, Valley Forge; and TRW Space Technology Laboratories, Redondo Beach, California. 43 As the contractors began their work, Seamans, Newell, and other top NASA managers went to the Congress to explain Phased Project Planning, their hopes for Voyager, and their projections for its cost. The fiscal 1966 appropriations hearings proved as difficult as those of the preceding year.
President Johnson on 25 January 1965 recommended a $7.114-billion space budget for fiscal 1966. Of this amount, NASA would receive [102] $5.26 billion, the Department of Defense $1.6 billion, the Atomic Energy Commission $236 million, the Weather Bureau $33 million, and the National Science Foundation $3 million. Of the NASA request, $43 million was earmarked for Voyager, Associate Administrator Seamans labeled the budget austere, but he said that the chances of landing Apollo's first crew on the moon on schedule were still good. He said that the $43 million, to be spent on further defining the Voyager orbiter and lander, would allow the agency to meet its milestones-a Mars flyby test of the spacecraft in 1969 and complete missions in 1971 and 1973. 44
In testimony before Congress, Seamans, Newell, and Cortright explained phased planning and its applications to Voyager. Such planning gave design engineers the chance to refine project details incrementally, while the agency's managers maintained the big picture with all its critical milestones clearly delineated. Implicit in phased project planning was the assumption that the process would allow choice of the best technological alternatives. But phased planning seas a double-edged management tool. By clearly delineating important decision points, it could be used to force the redirection or termination of a project. For Voyager it did both. 45
As the contractors worked on the first phase (3 May to 30 July), several factors came to the attention of NASA managers that affected the execution of phase IB, an in-depth study of the lander. Once again, the agency was called on to tighten its programmatic belts; the budget request for $5.26 billion yielded an appropriation of $5.175 billion for fiscal year 1966.

Table 14

NASA Budget Summary, Fiscal 1963 to 1966 (in billions)


Budget Request











1965 a








Source: NASA, "Back-up Book-FY 1976, Hearings," sec.6.
a Includes $141 million supplemental request; the appropriation includes a supplement of $74.5 million.

Voyager, as a new start, was vulnerable, but other projects such as the adaptation of the Centaur to the Saturn IB were also at risk, since such development diverted money away from the completion of the Saturn V, Apollo's powerful booster.
The unfavorable budget was trouble enough without the additional bad news brought by the radio occultation experiment aboard Mariner 4 . 46 The Martian atmosphere was much less dense than previously estimated. [103] All proposals for landing capsules had to be thrown out as new aerodynamic analyses were performed based on the much lower pressure range (4-7 millibars, rather than the earlier estimates of 10-30 millibars).
The latest Mariner findings also jeopardized use of the Saturn IB launch vehicle, on technical grounds, adding to its financial difficulties. Given the 3000-kilogram weight limit for the spacecraft, much of the scientific payload would have so be sacrificed to provide the lander with additional means for slowing its descent through the thin Martian atmosphere. No master which approach to the problem was taken-larger aeroshell, braking rockets, larger parachutes-it would mean too much weight for the Saturn IB. The larger Saturn V could provide the extra booster power, but it was seemingly too powerful and too costly to be realistic.
Voyager Capsule Advisory Group
As early as March 1965, Oran Nicks and the Lunar and Planetary Program Office had begun plans for a Voyager Capsule Coordination Group to control studies being conducted at JPL and at the Ames and Langley Research Centers. 47 After preliminary meetings at which the centers exchanged information on their capsule activities, Homer Newell set up a panel of experts** to advise Don Hearth, Nicks, and the space science office on two basic questions:
1. Is the Martian atmosphere and surface sufficiently well known at this time to permit the design of a survivable capsule so be included in the 1971 operational Voyager mission, or will the design of such a capsule have to be based upon the results of a non-survivable atmospheric probe and/or other measurements to be made during the 1969 opportunity?
2. If the Voyager Program is to proceed on the basis of a survivable capsule in 1971, what general size and type of capsule should be selected? 48
The concern at NASA Headquarters over the safe landing of Mars capsules was not totally spontaneous. For a number of months, this topic had been discussed throughout the U.S. space community. During the American Astronautical Society Symposium on Unmanned Exploration of the Solar System in early February 1965, the disagreements over priorities in Mars exploration bubbled to the surface. Some of the symposium participants wanted the 1969 atmospheric probe reinstated. Alvin Seiff, chief of the Ames Vehicle Environment Branch, was the leading proponent of an 11-kilogram Mars atmospheric probe. Others thought that 1971 was too early for a landing.
Implicit in this disagreement was a difference of opinion about the kinds of landers to be used and the best time to land the first life detectors. Whereas Seiff and his colleagues at Ames favored hard-landers, or "crashers," [104] Langley designers wanted soft landers. Between them were men like Gil Levin, who wanted to get on with biological investigations at the very earliest opportunity, and Temple W. Neumann, program engineer for the NASA-sponsored automated biology laboratory being developed at the Aeronautics Division of Philco. Neumann told the symposium participants that a biology laboratory could be hard-landed as part of a 1971 Voyager mission without prior detailed mapping of the Martian surface. 49 He too, was ready to proceed.
Bruce Murray, a planetary astronomer at the California Institute of Technology and chairman of the Cal Tech-JPL planetary exploration study group, argued for a more evolutionary approach. At the Denver symposium, Murray remarked on the need for large-scale photographic mapping of Mars before landers could be safely deposited on the surface. Finding a satisfactory site, landing a craft there, and interpreting the biological instrument results would require a great deal of work and several hundred times more photographs than the 20 or so expected from Mariner 4 . 50
Gil Levin, the father of the biological sampler Gulliver, put his finger on another recurring concern when he noted that the Soviet Union would probably beat the United States to a Mars landing. In addition to capturing yes another first in the international space sweepstakes, Levin feared that the Soviet Union would contaminate the Martian surface. He reported that the Soviet Academy of Sciences did not appear to have an interest in completely sterilizing its spacecraft, pulsing the American program in an awkward position. The NASA team wanted to reach Mars ahead of the USSR so it could be certain of examining an undisturbed, uncontaminated planes, but NASA needed more time to develop its own sterilization techniques.
Levin's remarks were sparked by Homer Newell's statement that only rugged experiments and small capsules that could withstand existing sterilization procedures would be flown at first. Initial studies had indicated that the larger and the more complicated the lander, the greater the technical difficulties of sterilization. Components and assemblies had to be developed that could withstand sterilization temperatures (135°-150°C) and still perform satisfactorily after months in the cold void of space. By early 1965, the Josh Lederberg-Elliott Levinthal team at Stanford was realizing that the biggest problem facing the multivator life detector was the creation of chemical compounds that would not be rendered useless when heated to such extreme temperatures. On the other hand, the radioisotopes used in Gulliver were not heat-labile (subject to breaking down when heated). Levin was ready to send a Gulliver to Mars, but other experimenters needed more time. 51
Amid the controversy over the timing and nature of Mars capsules and landers, the formation of the Voyager capsule advisory group was a prudent act, as the initial scientific results from Mariner 4 confirmed. Turning to the [105] questions posed by Newell when he established the panel, group chairman John Naugle reported at the end of August that new observations, including the Mariner occultation experiment, indicated that the lower limit for the surface pressure was in the region of 10 millibars. Furthermore, "in view of the agreement between the ground based and occultation studies, it appeared to the group thatŠthe information that could be obtained from a 1969 atmospheric probe would not warrant its inclusion in the Voyager program." The 1969 atmospheric mission was eliminated once and for all. 52
The new atmospheric data raised questions of equal significance about the possibilities of safely landing a capsule in 1971. At NASA Headquarters, Newell and his associates decided to postpone the scheduled request for proposals on the preliminary design of landing capsules until "the implications of the apparent low Martian surface pressure are determined." 53 While delaying the next step of the phased project plan gave the NASA managers time to think, it also helped to blunt the momentum necessary to the survival of such projects.
Saturn IB-Centaur vs. Saturn V
After several weeks of study, accompanied by many leaks to the news media, NASA Headquarters officials announced in mid-October 1965 that development of the Saturn IB-Centaur would be terminated and that Voyager would be launched with the 33 360-kilonewton (7.5-million- pound-thrust) Saturn V booster. 54 The decision had a number of cascading results. First, since Saturn V was not scheduled to fly until 1967 and the early production was assigned to Apollo, there would be no 1969 Voyager test flight. The 1971 lander mission would have to be delayed until 1973, and the 1971 flight opportunity would be dedicated to an orbiter mission without a lander. Second, morale suffered. Within NASA and contractor circles, people were discouraged by another two-year postponement. Congressional and press reactions were equally gloomy. But more telling was the effect Saturn V had on the space science budget. Total costs for a rescheduled project based on the large Saturn soared, and some estimates ran as high as $2 billion. Greater costs in a period of tightening agency budgets did not argue well for the survival of Voyager. 55
Since Voyager planners had resisted the use of the Saturn V launch vehicle for several years, the switch came as an unpleasant shock to many. During 1964, JPL had commissioned General Electric to study the possible use of the Air Force Titan IIIC or NASA's Saturn V in place of the Saturn IB-Centaur. 56 In evaluating these and other studies, Ed Cortright concluded that the Titan IIIC-Centaur launch vehicle would not be powerful enough. Whereas Saturn IB-Centaur could boost a 2700-kilogram payload. Titan-Centaur could lift only 1270 kilograms. NASA planners were also hesitant so use the Titan because it was an Air Force booster. In addition to pursuing the basic principle of not becoming involved with too many [106] different launch vehicles, Webb, Dryden, and Seamans-after their experiences with Atlas-Centaur-wished to stay clear of military boosters. And although using the Titan IIIC would have saved about $10 million per Voyager launch, the dollars spent on Titan would have diverted money from the development of the Saturn family while purchasing an inadequate launch vehicle for Voyager. 57
Whereas the Titan IIIC-Centaur combination was not powerful enough for Voyager, Saturn V was too powerful. In February 1963, Don Hearth had sold Webb that the 18000-kilogram payload capacity of Saturn V was 6.6 times that needed for first Voyager flights. "In addition," he noted, "we recognize that Apollo will place heavy demands on the Advanced Saturn launch vehicle during the time period of interest for Voyager." 58 By mid-1965. Saturn V was still too big for Voyager, unless two were flown at the same time, but the desire to keep that launch vehicle in production beyond the first lunar missions made it appear more practical for use in the planetary program.
The Saturn IB-Centaur combination was considered a diversionary project by many managers, diverting monies that could be used for the larger booster. Seamans wrote White House officials in late 1965 so that effect: "Š the development cost of combining Centaur with Saturn IB would peak in FY 1966, 1967, 1968, while relatively little vehicle development effort is required to use Saturn V." Although the first flight of the advanced launch vehicle was still two years away, Seamans noted that "the projected cost of one additional Saturn V for 1971 and later Voyager flights is probably about equal to two Saturn IB Centaurs." As the year ended, the NASA managers believed that Saturn V was "a technically feasible and economic vehicle for Voyager [launching two spacecraft on one vehicle], with as great a probability of mission success as separate launches of smaller vehicles." 59 Management's acceptance of Saturn V was not enthusiastically received throughout the agency.
Newell's "space science people were sort of horrified at the thought of using Saturn Vs." 60 There was no absolute certainty that two spacecraft could be launched by one of the big boosters at about the same cost as two Saturn IB-Centaur combinations. There was surely less flexibility. If budgets tightened further, at least one flight could be made at each opportunity with the smaller vehicle. With Saturn V, two very large spacecraft were required for each launch.
At JPL and elsewhere, the launch vehicle switch was viewed with some suspicion. JPL staffers "felt Headquarters used the finding of [new data on the Martian atmosphere] as a rationalization for concepts they were already 'enamored of' such as out-of-orbit landing and mammoth scientific payloads, without adequately considering either the feasibility of some reasonable alternatives or the effects at the project level." There was also the belief that Webb had decided to force Saturn V on Voyager to maintain the Saturn production line and keep the Marshall Space Flight Center team "happy [107] and working." Many persons at the project working level were afraid that headquarters did not understand how disruptive the decision could be for Voyager. 61
Angered and dismayed because it had not been properly consulted about the decision, the JPL team believed there were several explicit reasons for not using Saturn V. Although launch vehicle cost was usually a small part of a planetary mission cost, the team feared use of the Saturn V would make the program too costly because increased payload capability would "escalate the cost of the spacecraft." It also would be too big a technological leap over the Mariners. And it might lead to a program "too big for JPL to handle alone or perhaps even to oversee." 62
If the change from Saturn IB-Centaur to Saturn V was bad news in Pasadena, the cancellation of the 1971 Voyager mission was worse. On 22 December 1965, a little more than two months after the October launch vehicle decision, Homer Newell's office notified JPL that there would be no 1971 mission. On the 22d, NASA announced publicly that Voyager would not fly until 1973. To replace the 1971 orbital Voyager, the agency planned a 1967 flight to Venus using the Mariner 4 backup spacecraft modified for this new purpose. In 1969, a pair of heavier Mariner-class craft would be launched by Atlas-Centaur boosters, In 1973, after passing up the 1971 opportunity, two identical Voyager craft would be launched to Mars by a single huge Saturn. According to this plan, both spacecraft would orbit Mars and release large landing capsules that would search for evidence of Martian life. Under the revised phased plan. capsule procurement would begin in late 1966 or early I967. 63
The 22 December 1965 decision was more than just another delay; it was the death knell for Voyager. In a published interview, Hearth admitted that work on Voyager spacecraft would "go on a low back burner basis for the next year and a half to two years before [it was picked] up again." 64 JPL would continue design work on landing capsules with support from Langley and Ames, but the next phase of the procurement cycle would be delayed "for some time."
The immediate reason for canceling the 1971 flight was slack of funds, NASA had hoped to obtain $150 million in the 1967 budget with which to start hardware development for Voyager, but the Bureau of the Budget slashed the $5.6-billion overall request to $5.012 before it went to Capitol Hill, Since Apollo and Surveyor were reaching critical periods in their maturation, the planetary program took the greatest cuts. Voyager was allocated only $10 million. As Webb subsequently informed Sen. Clinton P. Anderson, chairman of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, "The President specifically rejected the initiation of the Voyager program in the FY 1967 budget. In his consideration of the requirements of the space program for FY 1967, the President specifically included limited funds to permit continued study of the Voyager system aimed toward a 1973 Mars landing mission."
[108] Looking back, Homer Newell concluded that NASA could not have managed two large programs simultaneously-there was just not enough money for the moon and the planets. 65
For the next 22 months, Voyager continued at a reduced pace. The paperwork multiplied for all concerned, but the avalanche of correspondence and reports was misleading, for the agency's money and enthusiasm went elsewhere. Some dollars were reprogrammed to begin work on the 1967 Mariner flyby and the twin 1969 Mariner Mars flybys. NASA could finally fall back on Mariner missions launched by Atlas-Centaur, since that vehicle was approaching flight readiness. To all concerned, it was apparent that in times of tight budgets it was easier to rely on existing and proved hardware, like Mariners, than to take the step up to more advanced technology. 66
Mission Guidelines and Management Assignments
From January through September 1966, the JPL Voyager seam under Don Burcham's direction prepared more than a dozen Voyager project estimates. Each of these lengthy documents detailed alternative missions and the technological and scientific tradeoffs required to execute a planned series of four Voyager flights for 1973,1975, 1977, and 1979. These estimates were given to the JPL managers, she Voyager capsule advisory group. and the space science office team during a series of reviews from July through October. In mid-September, Voyager Project Estimate 14 was presented to Newell and his staff. This document, called a "feedback VPE'' because it included many space science office recommendations, was approved in a revised set of Voyager project guidelines sent to JPL by Newell on 5 October. But some of the modifications of the plan upset JPL. The big change was that headquarters wanted the lab to examine the pros and cons of launching two orbiter-lander combinations that carried different-rather than identical-experiment payloads, with the possibility of a direct-entry landing instead of delivering the lander from an orbiting bus. 67
In an attempt to secure approval for the development of the capsule systems (phase B of the procurement plan). JPL managers made their VPE-14 presentation to Associate Administrator Seamans on 17 October 1966. 68 But before any action was taken on phase B. considerable discussion on the best management arrangement for Voyager had intake place during the winter months. When finally signed on 27 January 1967, the project approval document for phase B called for a Voyager Program Management Office to parallel the Lunar and Planetary Program Office within Newell's Office of Space Science and Applications. Like Apollo, the Mars project had grown enough in size, duration, and cost to be called a program. 69
Other changes proposed in the approval document were more significant, and from the JPL point of view revolutionary. Von Braun's Marshall Space Flight Center would be established as the management organization for both the Voyager spacecraft and the Saturn V launch vehicle. JPL and [109] Langley would work together on the development of lander systems and report to Marshall. This plan was never executive because a disaster in the Apollo program diverted NASA's attention from planetary missions. On 27 January, the day the project approval document was signed, a flash fire killed three astronauts during a test of the Apollo 204 spacecraft. The tragedy profoundly unsettled the American space program. As the agency investigated the awesome fire, Webb decided in early February to delay assigning responsibility for Voyager Interim Project Office in Pasadena. Oran Nicks would be program director and Hearth his deputy and acting project manager. The California office would be abolished once the project was assigned to another center. 70
In discussing these changes with Webb and Seamans, Newell remarked that the transfer of project management from JPL to the Interim Project Office had been made because the next nine months were critical in preparing Voyager for its 1973 launch date. He also noted that they must "continue to draw heavily upon the existing project management team in JPL during the transition." Hearth's team of 77 persons began operation in a downtown Pasadena bank building on 20 March 1967. 71
In Washington, meanwhile, Seamans, Newell, Cortright, and Nicks were explaining the agency's Voyager decisions to Congress. After the Apollo fire, the congressmen tended to be even sharper in their questioning, and they no longer accepted as readily the rationale of a race with the Soviet Union for first place on Mars. Representative Karth questioned the wisdom of assigning Voyager tasks to different organizations. Pursuing rumors that JPL was being deprived of Voyager management so that Marshall would be certain to have an adequate workload in the post-Apollo period. Karth asked if the split in responsibility had come about "as a result of certain" NASA centers running out of work for the future. He did not really expect the NASA officials to answer such a question in the affirmative, but he confessed that the new arrangement appeared suspect after "some 5 or 6 years of experience with the Voyager program." Ed Cortright responded that it would not be in the government's interest to enlarge JPL, a contractor, at a time when the agency's centers were likely to be cut back, especially when Marshall had personnel available from a phased-down Saturn program and Langley had pertinent, valuable skills develop from its management of Lunar Orbiter. 72
Several years later, a Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration team studied the Voyager management shift and, while reflecting something of a JPL bias, questioned NASA's judgment:
....as of the middle of 1967, the Voyager Program had an unusual and complex management structure. Much of the actual work was still being done at JPL, which was technically a contractor associated with OSSA [Office of Space Science and Applications], even though its official role..... 

[110] (The September 1966 JPL Voyager Project Estimate-14 briefing gave a profile of the planned orbital operations of the Voyager spacecraft. 1-The Voyager craft approaches the point of insertion into orbit of Mars. 2-After orientation of the orbiter (capsule), the lander in its aeroshell (canister) separates from the orbiter. 3-The orbiter and lander continue around the planet, 4, 6, 9-The orbiter is turned to achieve the attitude of communications with Earth. 5-A retrorocket impulse alters the velocity of the lander by 275 meters per second, causing it to deorbit. 7, 8-One to three hours after deorbit, the propulsion unit on the lander canister is released and the canister is oriented for final approach to the Mars surface. VPE-14 Project Study, September 1966.)
....was much reduced. Two [Office of Advanced Research and Technology] centers, Ames and Langley, were involved in capsule work with Langley being given responsibility for the capsule bus system. Kennedy and Marshall, two [Office of Manned Space Flight] centers, were also on board,... On top of this structure was the [Voyager Interim Project Office] an arm of OSSA but staffed from the centers, and of course there was the program office at Headquarters in Washington. 73
Voyager Terminated
The viability of the new management arrangements became a topic only for conjecture because Voyager was canceled in 1967 (see appendix B [111] for a summary of Voyager project highlights, 1966-1967). The cancellation was only one of a series of interlocking circumstances, which taken together remind us that 1967 was an unhappy year for the United States at home and abroad. Foremost among the problems facing the nation was the war in Southeast Asia. More than a half million Americans were on military duty in Vietnam. By 1967, nearly 25 000 had died in a conflict that was costing taxpayers at home $2 billion monthly. With each new expenditure in Vietnam, the Johnson administration was faced with a growing budgetary deficit, which forced the president to reduce nondefense expenditures and raise taxes. If no other factors had conspired to undermine the planetary projects NASA wanted to pursue, the cost of the Vietnam war alone would have diminished the chances for a big Mars mission. But other factors did also conspire against Voyager.

JPL engineers also outlined these plan for landing Voyager. At about 6100 meters, the craft would be traveling 140-335 meters per second, depending on the density of the Martian atmosphere. To slow the lander canister, braking rockets would fire. At about the same time, the inertial guidance system and the radar altimeter would be activated to control the final approach. At a slant range of 610 meters, the lander would be pyrotechnically separated from the aeroshell. By this time, the craft would have slowed to 15-105 meters per second. At 25 meters from the surface, it would stabilize at 1.5 meters per second firing the terminal descent engines. The engines would shutdown at 3 meters to prevent undue alternation of the terrain. At touchdown, the lander would be traveling 3-8 meters per second. VPE-14 Project Study, September 1966.

[Whole page112] The Voyager lander proposed in September 1966 for 1977-1979 landings on Mars was quite similar to the Viking lander that would reach the Red Planet in 1976. Similar elements included the tripod landing gear, large direct-link high-gain antenna, smaller relay antenna, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. The 1966 design already had a boom soil sampler and a television camera, but the scientific experiments would need more definition for a biological mission. The plan across the legs of the Voyager lander was nearly twice that of the Viking. Proposed weight was about twice that of Viking. VPE-14 Project Study.

[113] There were the growing costs of Apollo, escalated further by the fire. As one reporter deduced, "The explosive spacecraft fire that killed three Apollo astronauts Šmay seriously delay unmanned spacecraft space projects as well as those involving man." The Apollo setbacks would cost more money-money that had been earmarked for Voyager and other planetary projects. The Office of Space Science and Applications had asked for $695 million for 1968 (an increase of $88 million over 1967) to provide funds for Voyager ($71.5 million). Now, noting that the orbiter-lander project had been "on NASA's back burner for about three years as a result of one budgetary crisis after another," the newspapers reported that the proposed 1973 landing date was "no longer realistic in view of the added costs likely to be imposed as a result of the Apollo accident." 74
A secondary budget problem for Voyager was growing cost projections within the program itself. In House and Senate hearings, NASA representatives were questioned about the total estimated cost for Voyager. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine asked Webb for his best total cost figure. He responded with $2.2 billion for research and development through fiscal 1977. On top of that were "administrative operations costs-that is the salaries of our civil service personnel,'' as well as $40 million for facilities and $35 million for two additional 64-meter radar tracking antennas for the Deep Space Network, which could be used for other projects, too. 75 Voyager's growing price tag and the general record of NASA's cost predictions prompted Representative Karth to lecture the space agency's managers, noting that over the years, when project failures and budget overruns had occurred, NASA had used a by now too familiar excuse-youth and inexperience, Karth believed that the committee had been very understanding, but it would not excuse or accept any more mistakes. "We have grown up now, He added that the Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications would "pay particular attention" to Voyager. "If it is authorized and moneys are appropriated by the Congress, I would hope that we will set a different standard by which to gauge ourselves and to which we testify before committees that are responsible for raising the money for the program." 76
When Congress considered the NASA authorization bill in June 1967, the House and Senate committees both made deep cuts in the agency's requests (table 16). While sustaining the pace of the Apollo program, the House reduced the Voyager budget by $21.5 million and the nuclear rocket [114] development program by $24 million. An additional $75 million was cut from Apollo Applications, which had been established to provide follow-up activities in the manned program once the first lunar expeditions had been achieved. The Senate denied NASA its entire Voyager request and cut $120 million from Apollo Applications, but authorized the entire amount for NERVA (nuclear engine for rocket vehicle application). Senate Anderson and his colleagues on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee believed that Voyager should be further postponed because the project would use too much of the space science budget. Whereas 21 space science missions were planned for 1967, the number would decrease to 13 in 1970 and to only 2-the Voyagers-in 1973. "It is clear, therefore, that to have a varied mission space flight program in the early 1970's comparable to that now existing in OSSA there would have to be a substantive increase in funding for that Office." 77 Additional dollars would not be forthcoming, and NASA would have to reevaluate its space science activities. In late June, a joint House-Senate Conference Committee worked out a compromise budget that restored $42 million to Voyager for 1968. Excluded from NASA's budget altogether were funds for the proposed Mariner 1971 with the atmospheric probe. 78

(An automated biological laboratory was developed by Philco Aeronutronic Company to study the possibility of a hard-landing entry probe to make simple assays of the Martian environment. One of several studies for Voyager in the mid-1960s, it grouped science instruments that could be programmed for numerous experiments. None of the projects was flown, but they provided understanding of extraterrestrial biology detectors.)



[115](The Voyager spacecraft-orbiter and lander-was built on technology evolved from several NASA programs. And, though never flown, Voyager orbiter and lander designs provided a substantial foundation for the Viking teams.)
Though far from lavish, the funds suggested for Voyager would have been sufficient to begin basic development of the orbiter for a 1973 flight, but this was just the authorization, The appropriation still had to be moved through Congress. Between June and August 1967, while the NASA appropriations were being finalized, riots or violent demonstrations associated with the civil rights movement occurred in 67 American cities. Combined with the unpopular, costly war in Vietnam, the summer of disorder-the third since the burning of Watts in 1965-forced congressional attention to concerns more pressing than sending spacecraft to Mars. 79 At the end of July, as Webb was resolutely refusing to choose between Apollo Applications or Voyager, a Harris survey indicated that the American public no....


Table 15 [whole page116]

Voyager Projected Costs
(in millions)

Date of Estimate


Projected Cost

8 Mar. 1963

Four flights with SIB-Centaur


7 Aug. 1964

Two flights with SIB-Centaur


Dec. 1964

1969 test flights, and orbiter-landing capsule mission in both 1971 and 1973 with SIB-Centaur


14 Dec. 1969

Four flights with SIB-Centaur


Project Operating Plan 65-1

1969 test flights, and orbiter-landing capsule missions in both 1971 and 1973 with SIB-Centaur (JPL estimate)


Mar.-Apr. 1965

Above missions reviewed by Office of Space Science and Applications; kept earlier estimate pending completion of project definition


10 May 1965

Above missions


Sept.-Oct. 1965

1969 test flights deleted, 1971 landing changed to capsule test, one 1973 mission and launch vehicle changed to Saturn V (headquarters)



JPL estimate for one 1973 flight and 1971 capsule test


Dec. 1965

Landing capsule flights deferred until 1973 and 1975:

JPL estimate


Hearth estimate


End of Jan. 1966

1973 and 1975 Voyager estimate (Office of Space Science)


25 Oct. 1966

1973 and 1975 lander missions; cost for spacecraft and lander without launch vehicle


18 Apr. 1967

1973 and 1975 lander missions with cost of launch vehicles ($400 million); does not include operations costs or $40 million for facilities or $55 million for additions to Deep Space Network


SOURCE: House Committee on Science and Astrautics. 1964 NASA Authorization, hearings before Subcommittee on Space Sciences and Advanced Rescarch and Technology, 88/1, pt. 3(a). Mar -May 1963, p. 1621; Donald P. Hearth, "Voyager Cost Estimates," memo for record, 7 Aug 1964: Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Donald F. Hornig, 14 Dec. 1964; Hearth to Oran W. Nicks, "FY67 Funding Requirement for Voyager." 10 May 1965 Hearth, "History of Voyager Cost Estimates," memo for record, 15 Feb.1966 and Hearth, "Estimates of Voyager System Comractors Costs," memo for record, 25 Oct. 1966; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1968, hearings, 90/1, pt. 1, Apr. 1967, p. 30.


Table 16 [117]
NASA Fiscal 1968 Budget
(in millions)







Apollo Applications

$ 454.7

$ 454.7






$ 347.7

$ 315.5











Nuclear rockets program










Total NASA budget











SOURCE: NASA, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1967: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4008 (Washington, 1968), pp. 17-18, 192, 194-95, 237, 320: and NASA, "Chronological History, Fiscal Year 1968 Budget Submission, " 8 Nov. 1967.

....longer supported large expenditures on Space. Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh voiced the public's concern: "What will it profit this country if weŠput our man on the moon by 1970 and at the same time you can't walk down Woodward Avenue in this city without some fear of violence," Cavanagh and others thought "our priorities in this country [were] all out of balance." 80
Considering the political climate, Voyager still might have survived, but only if NASA were very careful about how it promoted its planetary program. Unfortunately, the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston chose the first week of August 1967 to send 28 prospective contractors a request for proposals so study a manned mission to Venus and Mars. 81 While not the first such investigation to be suggested, in the summer of 1967 proposing a "Planetary Surface Sample Return Probe Study for Manned Mars/Venus Reconnaissance/Retrieval Missions'' for 1975-1982 was a grave mistake. 82 The request infuriated Congressman Karth, who had been fighting an uphill battle to preserve Voyager. He told one reporter that he was "absolutely astounded," especially in view of repeated congressional warnings against "new starts. Very bluntly, a manned mission to Mars or Venus by 1975 or 1977 is now and always has been out of the question-and anyone who persists in this kind of misallocation of resources at this time is going to be stopped." 83 While such advanced study proposals were commonplace [118] among most government agencies, the timing of Houston's request could not have been worse, since previous exercise of this kind sponsored by the Office of Manned Space Flight centers in Houston and Huntsville had been billed as logical extensions of the Voyager missions. This cast Voyager in the role of a "foot in the door" for manned flights to the planets-flights that would cost billions of dollars.
The Manned Spacecraft Center's request for proposals may have been the proverbial last straw, because on 16 August the committee voted down all monies for Voyager and the Houston study. On the 22d, the House approved a $4588,9 million budget for NASA, $511 million less than the agency's request. President Johnson did not care to fight the reduction: "Under other circumstances I would have opposed such a cut. However, conditions have greatly changed since I submitted my January budget request," While Johnson went on to say that "these [budget] reductions do not signal slack of confidence in our space venture," they did signal the end of Voyager. 84
Despise last minute attempts in October in both the Senate and the House to save Voyager, the program died in the final deliberations of the appropriations conference committee (see table 17 for 1968 budget). 85 After seven years of work, the planetary project had been killed, leaving NASA with no program for the exploration of the solar system. The 1969 Mars Mariner was the last approved flight, since she 1971 Mariner had been cut with Voyager. Much of the responsibility for planning a reduced and revised space Science program fell on John E. Naugle, who succeeded Newell as associate administrator for space science and applications. Newell had been appointed in late August to the number three position, NASA associate administrator (see Organization chart in appendix G), and Seamans had become deputy administrator on 28 January 1966, having occupied that office in an acting capacity since Hugh Dryden's death the previous December.
When asked what he would do in his new job, Newell responded, "My first assignment will be to develop an orderly, routine planning approach for the agency." The major problem he saw was "defining the major new objectives of the space program." While Newell and his colleagues publicly held out hope for a resurrection of Voyager-"My only hope is that we've sold Voyager and that we're just experiencing a delay because of war and problems on the homefront"-privately they knew that future planetary projects would have to be on a smaller scale, in both physical size and budget. 86 NASA was embarked on a nest era-one of ever-tightening budgets and closer congressional scrutiny.

Table 17 [whole page 119]
Final NASA Budget, Fiscal 1968
(in millions)









Apollo Applications




Advanced missions




Physics and astronomy




Lunar and planetary












Space applications




Launch vehicles




Space vehicles








Human factors




Basic research




Space power




Nuclear rockets




Chemical propulsion








Tracking & data aquisition




University program




Technology utilization




Research & development total








Administrative operations








SOURCE: Space Business Daily, 27 Oct. 1967.

* It has been noted that Phased Project Planning bears remarkable resemblance to the Air Force approach to systems management-conceptual phase, definition phase, acquisition phase, operation phase-as set forth in the Air Force Systems Command's 375 manual series. Arnold A. Levine, Managing NASA in the Apollo Era, NASA SP-4102 (Washington, 1983).
** J. E. Naugle, chairman, P. Tarver, E. Levinthal, U. Liddle, J. Hall, O. Reynolds, C. Goodman, R. F. Fellows, F. Johnson, H. M. Schurmeier, C. F. Capen, L. Lees, and G. Munch.