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

[182] As another step toward regularizing the management of the Viking "project, Jim Martin arranged for the first of a series of project-wide quarterly reviews at the end of the first week of October 1969. Each systems manager was given 90 minutes to summarize progress in his area of responsibility. Henry Norris noted that this process was less detailed than the reports he had given in similar reviews at JPL in the past; instead his presentation was" delivered in tutorial style." 46 What is the orbiter? What is its function? How does it work? What is the progress to date? Are there any problems? If so, do they affect other systems and what steps are being taken to solve the difficulties? Over two days, many, many topics were covered.
The JPL presentations on the orbiter were typical of those given during the quarterly review. Norris opened with a brief overview of the schedule for the orbiter and his projected activities for the next three months. Richard K. Case of the orbiter design team reported on the configuration of the orbiter as it had evolved to date, summarizing telecommunications plans for the orbiter, lander, and Earth stations and briefing the group on steps being taken to integrate scientific experiments. Peter T. Lyman told his colleagues about the orbiter guidance and control propulsion subsystem, a complex subject to master. Lyman, a new member of the orbiter team, was the perfect man to tackle it. After 10 years at the University of California at Berkeley, he had worked on Mariner 64 and helped plan hardware for the ill-fated Voyager. During Mariner 69, Lyman had been the project engineer from the Engineering Mechanics Division, overseeing much of the construction of the two successful Mariner craft. G. P, Kautz, in his turn, reviewed the manpower and funding JPL would need to develop the orbiter, closing with a list of the problems it faced. 47
[188] The quarterly review was followed up by two additional meetings in October. Langley Director Edgar Cortright held a session for the other center directors and key Viking project personnel, and Jim Martin convened a Viking Project Management Council meeting. The consensus was that the project was off and moving at a reasonable pace. Fewer problems seemed to have surfaced than might have been expected at this stage. Harris Schurmeier, the Mariner 69 project manager, noted that Viking was more complex than earlier projects because so many more partners were in the game. With all the different groups involved and with the limited dollars available, he thought the participants needed to establish clearer channels for handling problems.
Jerry Soffen also commented on the need for better communications. Although the quarterly review had been held to secure the participation of the many constituencies in the decision-making and reporting process, many of the scientists had left the meeting before the second day's discussions. Soffen's observation triggered a 45-minute session on how best to integrate the scientists into the project. Nearly everyone agreed that the investigators had to understand the fiscal and technical aspects of Viking so that they could appreciate the relationships of their own activities to the whole enterprise. The scientists would have to learn that their experiments were only a part of a very large undertaking. 48 As the specialists returned to....

Table 30

Viking Project Orbiter System: Critical Schedule Activities, 1969


Required Date

Project spec approved

1 Dec. 1969

Orbiter investigators identified

15 Dec. 1969

Concepts approved and first drafts covering orbiter-lander interfaces

1 Nov. 1969


2 Jan. 1970

Orbiter system design concepts and general configuration established to allow subsystem function and design requirements to be prepared

15 Jan. 1970

Critical problems:

1. Many activities must start with preliminary data, requirements

2. Schedules must be achieved

3. Little or no recovery time

SOURCE: Martin Marietta Corp., Denver Div., "Viking Project Quarterly Review Held October 7 & 8, 1969 at Langley Research Center; Presentation Material," PM-3700005, Oct. 1969. Since events were to alter the Viking's project's calendar, the systems management offices would be forced to revise their plans many times. This is one early schedule.


Table 31

Viking Project Orbiter System: Baseline Conceptual Design Changes, Expected Weights, 1969

Item Changed


Weight (kg)


Weight (kg)


Orbiter (less propulsion)



1. Design to "flight loads" analysis

2. Use of lightweight solar cells

3. Reevaluation of expected subsystem weights

Propulsion (inerts and residuals)



1. Substitution of helium for nitrogen as pressurant

2. Reduction of required Delta V = 1575 mps to Delta V = 1420 mps

3. Increase in nozzIe expansion ratio frmn 40:1 to 60:1

Usable propcellant



4. Use of selected injectors for Isp = 289 sec.

Lander capsule adapter



1. Design to "flight loads" analysis

Lander capsule



Spacecraft adapter (includes destruct package and transition adapter)



1. Design to "flight loads" analysis

Viking spacecraft launch weight



SOURCE: Martin Marietta Corp., Denver Div., "Viking Project Quarterly Review Held October 7 & 9, 1969 at Langley Research Center: Presentation Material." PM-3700005, Oct. 1969.

[184] . . . .their various tasks after the saturating experience of the review at Langley, storms began to gather on the project's horizon.
During the remainder of 1969, one of the questions that nagged NASA managers who were looking for ways to pare the budget was, Is the orbiter essential to the Viking mission? This was an especially difficult question because eliminating the orbiters would obviously save a great amount of money, $100-165 million. For project personnel at headquarters and Langley who thought that the direct- versus out-of-orbit delivery issue had been settled nearly a year before, the revival of this question was disturbing.
On 13 September 1969, NASA's Lunar and Planetary Missions Board, an advisory group, agreed that the orbiters should be preserved, as they would give greater mission flexibility and a higher chance of mission success. When released from orbit, the landers could be expected to touch down in an elliptical area (called a footprint) 180 by 530 kilometers; with a direct entry that footprint would be increased to 500 by 900 kilometers. An [185] orbiter-based mission would use the orbiter cameras to survey potential landing sites, which although not guaranteeing success would permit the Viking team to assess and eliminate obviously hazardous landing regions. But most significant, an orbit relay link would allow two-thirds more information to be sent to Earth than the lander alone could manage. With these considerations, the Lunar and Planetary Missions Board drafted the following resolution:
A balanced program in develop a deeper understanding of man's neighborhood of the universe should remain a goal of NASA's lunar and planetary program. After examining Mariner 6 and 7 results, the [Lunar and Planetary Missions Board] emphasizes that landing of scientific instruments on Mars in 1973 remains a task of major importance.
The cost of the Viking program now represents a substantial part of the funds at present available to the planetary program. Nevertheless, the[Lunar and Planetary Missions Board] considers the Viking program should go forward as planned.
A Mercury-Venus flyby, the continued exploration of Venus, the introduction of a small planetary orbiter program, and the initiation of a major program to explore the outer planets are all essential to an orderly exploration of the solar system. NASA should develop those programs as required for this exploration. 49
Although there would be several delays and unexpected twists and turns along the way, this resolution described the basic Strategy NASA's planetary programmers would follow during the 1970s. Before it could be implemented, however, Walt Jakobowski and his team in the Viking Program Office at NASA Headquarters had to fight many battles just to preserve the basic Mars orbiter-lander mission. All of their work would be affected by a worsening budget crisis in Washington.