Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft|
Chariots for Apollo, Appendix A
Manned Spacecraft Center
Site Selection Procedure
Abstracted from James E. Webb, NASA Administrator, "Memorandum for
the President," 14 September 1961, and attachment.
The procedure for selecting a site for a manned space flight laboratory,
one of four major facilities required for the manned lunar landing
mission set by the President, was as follows:
On 12 August, the Administrator and Deputy Administrator reviewed the
factors that had influenced the approved criterion on climate: "A
mild climate permitting year-round, ice-free, water transportation; and
permitting out-of-door work for most of the year to facilitate
operations, reduce facility costs, and speed construction."
- I. The selection of the site would be made by the NASA Administrator
in conjunction with the Deputy Administrator.
- II. As the first step in collecting information to assist the
Administrator in the selection, on 7 July 1961 the Associate
Administrator instructed the Director, Office of Space Flight Programs,
to establish preliminary site criteria and to propose membership for a
site survey team. The team, appointed on 7 August 1961, consisted of
John F. Parsons, Chairman, Associate Director, Ames Research Center; N.
Phillip Miller, Chief, Facilities Engineering Division, Goddard Space
Flight Center; Wesley L. Hjornevik, Assistant Director for
Administration, and I. Edward Campagna, Construction Engineer, Space
Task Group. When Hjornevik was suddenly taken ill on 12 August 1961, he
was replaced by Martin A. Byrnes, Project Management Assistant, Space
- III. The site survey team met on 11 August with the Director, Office
of Space Flight Programs; the Associate Director, Space Task Group; and
the Assistant Director for Manned Space Flight, Office of Space Flight
Programs. During this meeting, tentative site requirements were
- IV. The site requirements were formulated in detail by the site
survey team. At a meeting with the Deputy Administrator, Director of
Space Flight Programs, Director of the Office of Programs, and the
Assistant Director for Facilities of the Office of Programs, the
Administrator approved the following criteria:
- 1. Transportation:
- Capability to transport by barge large, cumbersome space vehicles (9
to 12 meters in diameter) to and from water shipping. Preferably the
site should have its own or have access to suitable docking facilities.
Time required in transport would be considered. Availability of a
first-class all-weather commercial jet service airport and a Department
of Defense air base installation in the general area capable of handling
high-perfomance military aircraft.
- 2. Communications:
- Reasonable proximity to main routes of the long-line telephone
- 3. Local Industrial Support and Labor Supply:
- An existing, well-established industrial complex, including machine
and fabrication shops, to support a research and development activity of
high scientific and technical content and to fabricate pilot models of
large spacecraft. A reliable supply of construction contractors and
building trades craftsmen to permit rapid construction of facilities
without premium labor costs.
- 4. Community Facilities:
- Close proximity to a culturally attractive community to permit the
recruitment and retention of a staff with a high percentage of
professional scientific personnel. Close proximity to an institution of
higher education, with emphasis on one specializing in the basic
sciences and in space-related graduate and postgraduate education and
- 5. Electrical Power:
- Strong local utility system capable of developing up to 80,000 KVA
of reliable power.
- 6. Water:
- Readily available, good-quality water system capable of supplying
more than a million liters per day of potable water and the same amount
of industrial water.
- 7. Area:
- 4 square kilometers with an available adjacent area for further
development. Suitable areas in the general location for low hazard and
nuisance subsidiary installations requiring some isolation.
- 8. Climate:
- Mild, permitting year-round, ice-free water transportation and
out-of-door work for most of the year to facilitate operations, reduce
facility costs, and speed construction.
- 1. Impact on Area:
- Compatibility of proposed laboratory with existing regional planning
and ability of community facilities to absorb the increased population
and to provide the related industrial and transport support required.
- 2. Site Development Costs:
- Consideration of costs for site development required for proposed
- 3. Operating Costs:
- Consideration of costs for normal operations, including utility
rates, construction costs, wage scales, etc.
- 4. Interim Facilities:
- Availability of reasonably adequate facilities for the temporary use
of up to 1,500 persons in the same general area as the permanent
- V. The site survey team was instructed to survey possible sites
using all available information and using the approved criteria to
decide which should be visited by the team, visiting these sites and
such others as might be directed by the Administrator, and preparing a
report, including a listing of the advantages and disadvantages of each
- VI. A team review of climatological data furnished by the United
States Weather Bureau and information on water-borne commerce in the
United States provided by the Corps of Engineers, Department of the
Army, resulted in the following preliminary list of prospective areas
that met the essential criteria of water transportation and climate:
Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia;
Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans
and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Houston and Corpus
Christi, Texas; San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San
Francisco, California; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.
This list was then reviewed in light of the other essential site
criteria and, through consultation with the General Services
Administration, available surplus Government property. The list was
reduced on 16 August 1961 to the following nine areas:
Jacksonville (Green Cove Springs Naval Station) and Tampa (MacDill Air
Force Base), Florida; Baton Rouge and Shreveport (Barksdale Air Force
Base), Louisiana; Houston (San Jacinto Ordnance Depot), Victoria (FAA
Airport), and Corpus Christi (Naval Air Station), Texas; and San Diego
(Camp Elliott) and San Francisco (Benecia Ordnance Depot),
To evaluate each area properly, a physical inspection by members of the
team was essential. Accordingly, arrangements were made to visit these
nine possible sites. In certain areas, additional possibilities were
brought to the attention of the team and these localities were also
visited. Hence, the 9 sites were increased to 23 by the inclusion of the
Bogalusa, Louisiana; Houston (University of Houston site, Rice
University site, and Ellington Air Force Base), Liberty, Beaumont, and
Harlengen, Texas; Berkeley, Richmond, and Moffett Field (Naval Air
Station), California; and St. Louis (Daniel Boone site, Lewis and Clarke
site, Industrial Park site, and Jefferson Barracks), Missouri. Visits to
the 23 sites began on 21 August and ended on 7 September 1961. The team
agreed that locations north of the freezing line were unlikely to meet
the requirements and planned no visits in these areas. While the team
was visiting the sites, however, several presentations were made
directly to the Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and other NASA
officials, notably by proponents of sites in the Boston, Rhode Island,
and Norfolk areas. It was agreed that these cities would be considered
in the final review.
The considerations leading to this requirement were:
In summary, the selection of a site in an area that met the stated
climate criterion would minimize both cost and time required for this
project. A mild climate would also permit year-round construction,
thereby accelerating the development of the project.
- The reasons for specifying year-round, ice-free water transportation
were self evident. It would be necessary to move the spacecraft and its
components by water to other sites at any time of the year to avoid
delays in the overall program.
- The requirement for out-of-door work most of the year stemmed from
experience with aircraft and large missiles. The spacecraft would be of
comparable size, and an appreciable amount of fitting, checking, and
calibration work would have to be done out of doors. Also the
possibility of handling much larger spacecraft, such as a 10- to 15-man
space station, had to be considered. The climate factor would become
more important as larger spacecraft became part of the program.
- A mild climate would avoid the necessity of special protection of
the spacecraft against freezing of moisture in the many complicated
components while transferring to and from sites and between site
facilities. Providing such protection would be time-consuming and
- A mild climate would facilitate recovery-procedure training of the
astronauts, as well as other activities that must be conducted out of
- A mild climate would permit a greater likelihood of day-to-day
access by air to and from other parts of the country.