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

[268] During the remaining year and a half before the Viking launches, a number of changes were made in the top management structure at NASA. The first of these was announced by Administrator Fletcher on 5 March 1974. Rocco A. Petrone, director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, was appointed NASA associate administrator, the number three position at headquarters, replacing Homer Newell who retired in late 1973. John E. Naugle, named Petrone's deputy, continued to act as associate administrator for space science until Noel W. Hinners, director of lunar programs in the Office of Space Science, * was selected in June to fill the space science slot. When Petrone left NASA for a job in industry in April 1975, Naugle assumed his duties on an acting basis until 23 November, when he was appointed to that position.
Fletcher in March 1974 also announced a headquarters reorganization, with two primary objectives. First, he sought to consolidate under one senior official, the associate administrator, the planning and direction of all NASA's research and development programs. And second, by creating a new position-associate administrator for center operations, to whom the center directors would report-the administrator funneled the responsibility for the field centers to one office. George Low, deputy administrator, temporarily took on this new task until Edwin C. Kilgore was appointed in May 1974.
Fletcher stressed that the changes were necessary in this era of consolidation, an era of tightening budgets and reducing manpower levels.
As we approach the time when the Space Shuttle becomes operational, there needs to be a mechanism for the orderly phaseover from conventional launch vehicles to the shuttle: at the same time we need to take an innovative and coordinated approach in planning and developing all of our future payloads-manned and unmanned, science, applications, and technology. Our aim is to achieve this consolidation of all Aeronautics and Space Activities through the office of the Associate Administrator.
NASA's administrator believed that the future of the agency's activities depended entirely upon the strength "of NASA's most important resource-the 25,000 people located primarily at our field centers." This figure was down from a peak of nearly 36000 in fiscal year 1967. 31
Petrone and Hinners had the unenviable task of keeping Viking project costs from escalating further. When Petrone assumed his responsibilities [269] as associate administrator in March 1974, the projected completion cost of Viking had risen to $927.5 million, and nearly all of the cost problem was associated with the lander-the biology instrument, the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, and the guidance, control, and sequencing computer were among the leading troublemakers. As table 46 illustrates, the price of the orbiter was repeatedly pared to help pay for the lander. Money for support activities was held relatively constant. Actual costs for the orbiter and support activities were below the June-July 1970 estimates, but the lander was costing nearly $200 million more than it was projected to in l970. 32

Table 46

Viking Cost Projections, 1974 (in millions)




Total Estimated Cost at Completion
(Estimated Total + APA a)

Cumulative Total

July 1970








$750.0 + $80.0 = $830.0


$ 51.0


Dec. 1970




750.0 + 80.0 = 830.0


June 1971




750.0 + 80.0 = 830.0


Jan. 1972




785.0 + 44.7 = 829.7


June 1972




801.2 + 28.2 = 829.4


Dec. 1972




809.6 + 19.8 = 829.4


June 1973




826.7 + 11.3 = 838.0


Dec. 1973




838.0 + 0.0 = 838.0


Mar. 1974




894.5 + 33.0 = 927.5


Apr. 1974




901.2 + 18.8 = 920.0


Dec. 1974




926.4 + 3.6 = 930.0


July 1975




926.2 + 3.5 = 929.7


July 1976




935.3 + 0.3 = 935.6


Jan. 1977

actual costs







972.4 b




a AIIowance for program adjustment (APA), or reserve funds.

b Estimate through end of prime mission.

In October 1974, Petrone and Hinners tightened the purse strings considerably. Viking budget ceilings were established for fiscal 1975 and 1976, and deviation from these amounts required Petrone's personal approval. Before any increase in the budget would be permitted, Petrone wanted to see documented evidence of steps taken to squeeze the dollars from else- where in the Viking budget. The reserve funds (allowance for program adjustments) were directly controlled by Petrone. Hinner's staff provided Petrone with weekly status reports on project costs and manpower levels for Martin Marietta, JPL, TRW, and Honeywell throughout the winter of 1974. 33
[270] Two important management changes also took place at the centers during the summer of 1975. At Langley in September, Ed Cortright, after 27 years of government service, retired and entered private industry and also served as president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was replaced by Donald P. Hearth, who since leaving the Lunar and Planetary Programs Office at NASA Headquarters in 1970 had been deputy director of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. On the West Coast at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bruce Murray had been appointed in April to succeed William Pickering, who was retiring after having led the laboratory since 1954. Hearth and Murray were old Mars program men. Occasionally they had disagreed over budget, manpower, and managerial issues during Mariner and the early years of Viking, but they would cooperate on the team that would launch, fly, and land the Viking spacecraft. Present from nearly the beginning of the search for life on Mars, Hearth and Murray would see the fruition of years of work from the inner NASA circle. 34
In September 1974 when the second flight orbiter was canceled and the proof-test orbiter converted to a flight article, the third lander, the backup, was also terminated. By this move, Petrone and Hinners hoped to save an additional $9 million. As the project moved closer and closer to the billion- dollar mark, members of Congress had told NASA that no further reprogramming of funds, like shifting $40 million of the fiscal 1974 budget to Viking, would be allowed. In an across-the-board cost-reduction exercise, Jim Martin's project office searched for ways to save dollars to cover the expense of such items as the biology instrument and the GCMS. 35
Three landers had been planned originally to ensure that at least two would he ready for launch. Had one of the prime landers suffered a last minute problem that required a violation of sterilization procedures and then reassembly and resterilization, the backup could have been used. With this third lander gone, only parts would be available for substitution should either flight lander have preflight troubles. The need for a backup orbiter had never been as critical as for the lander, since the orbiters did not have to go through the subassembly and completed assembly rigors of sterilization. Resterilization of either lander would have required precious time during the 65-day Viking launch window. The process at the Cape would require about 5 days, although only about 48 hours would actually be spent in the oven at microbe-killing temperatures.
If the first lander should fail at the time of launch, the second lander could replace the first with a minimum of lost time. If difficulties occurred during the second launch, however, it could take up to 27 days to remove the lander from its sterile capsule, disassemble it, find the malfunction, repair it, reassemble the lander, and then resterilize it. Under such a contingency, Martin and his people believed that they could carry out the work and still launch the second craft it, time; it would be tight, but if the lander was repairable they thought they could get it on its way. 36

* In December 1971, a reorganization set up an Office of Space Science and an Office of Applications, replacing the Office of Space Science and Applications.