Description

    Apollo 11 Grumman Lunar Module Handwritten Construction and Testing Log Book. A July 19 to August 26, 1968 log containing sixty-eight handwritten single-sided 8" by 11" pages in a binder, particularly rich in the number of personal and historical notations about the demands of constructing LM-5 (Eagle), the first ship to land a crew on the moon. Each page includes a sign-in at the top by the Apollo engineer(s) who made the entries, recorded in their original print and script, and occasionally (as on July 23) in their finger-printed ink smudges (the log, maintained in its original condition and original page sequence, records even coffee breaks during the exhausting, 24/7 schedule). This volume includes three major events in LM-5 construction that came perilously close to aborting (A) the launch and (B) the landing of Apollo 11. This is one of Project Apollo's most unusual and fascinating time capsules. Very fine.

    This log was cross-referenced with LM-5 engineer interviews, by Charles Pellegrino, during the writing of Chariots for Apollo. It includes notes about the newer "better" water-glycol cooling fluid for the ship's electronics. Kodak's new glycol formula developed a tendency for crystallizing to the consistency of orange juice and on at least one occasion springing leaks in LM-5 during testing, requiring days of clean-up (as during August 21-26). The newer, more expensive glycol was just one example of what test pilot Tommy Attridge called, "better becoming the enemy of best." As Attridge noted in Chapter 43, "Some Demands of Destiny," in an act of desperation Apollo 11's Eagle was allowed to fly with Kodak's "orange juice." All subsequent missions flew with "the older, cheaper stuff from some small company in New Jersey - enough to last beyond Apollo 18 at a total cost of $100." In two other Attridge examples, memorialized in this log, the Bit Error Comparator (BEC) problem comes and goes, with the BEC often working in conflict with the "newer, better" radar, creating computer overloads that tended to trigger the Master Alarm - a problem that almost led to a mission abort during LM-5's descent to the Sea of Tranquility. The hazard arose largely from the abrupt replacement of G.E.'s already perfectly-tested-in-vacuum radar system, with a "better" system that included RCA/ Motorola's still embryonic invention: integrated circuits. Attridge lamented the new system - which (as verified in this log), despite being "better," had a tendency to get confused by its own signal and lock up on itself (and on other spacecraft being tested). On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin ignored the faulty radar signal processor and Master Alarm warnings and landed Eagle by hand-eye coordination.

    The log opens with a voltage problem, consistent with an observation from Ross Fleisig (Grumman project leader for controlling the LM in spaceflight): That batteries were unpredictable - the LM's "black art." July 22, 1968: Tests lead up to a "bugaboo" with the LM-5 signal processor (for radar). Against wishes of Apollo engineer Notar's team, "A decision has been made to put back (defective) unit!" Complaint of this "only received a deaf ear." By July 27, the new Motorola system "has gone out again." Meanwhile, the biomedical output for the simulation crew is miss-wired (a glitch that could give a false reading of crew death).

    While LM-4 and LM-5 lock on each other's radar, shutting down BEC tests and requiring an emergency call to RCA ("WE ARE DEAD," a LM-5 engineer writes, July 29), and while a subsequent troubleshoot involves borrowing parts from LM-6 (Apollo 12), the log illustrates how each LM was, like a Stradivarius, a continually perfected, hand-made marvel. It also highlights the human element, including the unknown history of competition bordering on animosity between the different LM teams: On August 7, LM-5 engineer Nestor recorded, "Concerned that LM-4 Team may take new unit just manufactured, leaving us with none." Days earlier (August 2), BEC test was running well when new integrated circuitry interfered, "when LM-6 landing radar... turned on and ruined [our LM-5] count." Meanwhile, a new RCA replacement flown to Kennedy Airport by TWA and met by Grumman/NASA team, ends up broken... August 4: BEC failures result in emergency calls to Ross Fleisig and loss of a full day's construction... August 8: BEC difficulties continue and the first Master Alarm anomaly is recorded (a prelude to Eagle's landing problems).

    August 21 marks the first account of "coolant failure": "Water glycol break, mop-up procedure under way"... August 26: "Water glycol clean-up still in process. No retest accomplished today." By this time, it has become clear that neither LM-3 nor LM-4 will be ready for Apollo 8. The mission, four months away, is thus prepared for an orbital flight to the moon without a LM (a configuration that would have proved lethal had an Apollo 13 situation developed).

    The very last page is a copy of a photo from the cover of Ross Fleisig's LM-5 Phase III Reliability Report, dated Nov. 20, 1968: "Reportable failures have gone down from (205 for) LM-3, to (74 for) LM-4, 57 (for) LM-5... Significantly improved vehicle... Low [says] this is very likely to be the LM to land on the moon - it should be."


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    November, 2015
    6th Friday
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