Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

Organizing for the Debus-Davis Study

High-level agencies in Washington took a hand in the matter. On 16 June 1961 Roswell L. Gilpatric, Deputy Secretary of Defense, alerted the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to the joint planning by NASA and the Department of Defense concerning all elements of the space program, "including the extension of ground facilities."8 He directed them to instruct commanders of national ranges and other officers in charge of space resources to lend their full support. At the Cape this responsibility fell to Gen. Leighton Davis. Montana-born, Davis had excelled at West Point as a student and instructor. After the entry of the United States into World War II, he had expressed dismay at the quality of the sighting equipment on the planes in his bomber command. The Army transferred him to research and development of gun and bomb sights at Wright Field in Ohio. Other R&D assignments followed, prior to his taking command of the Air Force Missile Test Center in May 1960.9

On 23 June, Robert Seamans formally requested Debus and Davis to study all major factors concerning launch requirements and procedures for Direct or orbital flights to the moon (chapter 4-8). NASA was to set up criteria for mission facilities, and AFMTC was to arrange for support facilities; both were to suggest guidelines for management structure and division of authority. On the 30th Seamans asked the two men to study all possible sites - mainland, offshore, and island locations. Their responsibility extended to the facilities and the acquisition of land, but not to worldwide tracking and command stations.10

On 6 July, Petrone for the Director of the Launch Operations Directorate, Col. Leonard Shapiro for the Air Force, and Col. Asa Gibbs, NASA Test Support Office Chief, drew up a detailed outline for the Debus-Davis study of the facilities and resources required at the launch site to support NASA's manned lunar landing program.* Petrone was responsible for operational plans and concepts and mission functions, launch facilities, operations control, and support requirements. Shapiro would develop plans for range support to be provided by the Department of Defense, including support facilities, utilities, and instrumentation in the launch area and downrange. Gibbs was responsible for analyzing and recommending appropriate management relationships at the range, including flight control and ground safety.11 Since Shapiro had limited experience in this field of work, Col. Verne Creighton took his place for a time. Later, Shapiro returned to finish the report.12

While the opening section of the Debus-Davis Report explicitly set out a "NASA Manned Lunar Landing Program," the section on funding revealed a different point of view on the part of the Air Force representatives. NASA's proposal called for NASA to provide funds for construction of range support facilities, all mission facilities, and all instrumentation required for the Manned Lunar Landing Program. The Department of Defense would budget and fund for operation and maintenance costs of the range in support of this program, and NASA agreed to assist the Department of Defense in justifying these costs.13

The Air Force, on the other hand, saw the program as "national," combining civilian and military control, rather than as a strictly civilian (NASA) enterprise. In the same Debus-Davis Report, the Air Force recommended that NASA and the Department of Defense budget their needs separately. NASA would budget and fund mission requirements. The Department of Defense would budget and fund range support requirements. The Defense proposal then spelled out its viewpoint: "Budgetary requirements for the Manned Lunar Landing Program will be submitted and justified as a 'Joint Package,' segregated by agency and department," and "funds apportioned to the respective organizations will be administered according to policies and procedures internal to the agency or department."14 Several years would elapse before the two organizations would clarify this delicate matter.

* As Chief of the NASA Test Support Office since its inauguration in April 1960, Gibbs had served as liaison officer between the Launch Operations Directorate and the Air Force Missile Test Center.