The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
After Apollo: What?
As the Soviets recovered from their tragedy
and evaluated their manned space flight plans, NASA continued its
preparations for Apollo 15. The agency's leadership was also looking
with uncertainty to the future of its man-in-space efforts. Prior to
his departure from NASA the previous autumn, Tom Paine had announced
a reshuffling of the remaining Apollo missions. In a press conference
on 2 September 1970, the Administrator had discussed these decisions,
which reflected a husbanding of NASA's dwindling share of the
national budget. The agency wanted to accomplish many goals, but
these had to be attained with a limited number of dollars. As the
1969 Space Task Group studies had suggested, NASA would have to
balance its present wants against future budgets. A shifting of
current project monies would have to take place if NASA wanted not to
jeopardize its plans for the future.64
Paine and his colleagues realized that during
the 1980s there would be no manned missions to Mars, no other bold
ventures equivalent to the lunar goal of the 1960s. Paine said that
the principal decision facing the agency was "how best to carry out
the Apollo and other existing programs to realize the maximum
benefits . . . while preserving adequate resources for the future."
 NASA had decided to concentrate its manned efforts on
three earth-orbit programs - Skylab in 1973 and Space Shuttle and
Space Station in the 1980s. The earth-oriented unmanned program would
include early development of the Earth Resources Technology
Satellites and the Applications Technology Satellites. An unmanned
planetary program would involve the Grand Tour flights to distant
planets, the Viking Mars orbiters and landers, and the Pioneer
missions to Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter. Add "a healthy aeronautical
research program" to that list, and the demands on a shrinking budget
One immediate way to conserve money was to
reduce the number of Apollo moon landings. To pare $42.1 million from
the fiscal year 1971 budget, two missions were canceled, and manpower
levels at the manned space centers were scaled down accordingly.
These decisions were taken not only reluctantly, but also against the
advice of scientific agencies external to NASA. Apollo's remaining
missions were redesignated 14 through 17, and the so-called
"residual" hardware would be made available for Skylab, Space
Station, and other programs that might follow the final lunar landing
With astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Stuart A.
Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell aboard, Apollo 14 conducted a
successful lunar exploratory trip in 1971. The 31 January-9 February
mission was slightly marred by the failure of the probe assembly to
operate smoothly as Commander Shepard tried to dock the CSM with the
LM. Shepard and Mitchell spent their 9 hours and 24 minutes on the
lunar surface exploring the terrain, but NASA hoped to increase
considerably time spent on the moon during the next
stressed longer EVA periods and use of the lunar roving vehicle. One
hundred hours after a 26 July launch, David R. Scott and James B.
Irwin separated their lunar module Falcon from the CSM
Endeavour piloted by Alfred M. Worden and headed for a touchdown
in the mountainous Hadley-Appenine region near Salyut Crater. The
results of their exploratory work were excellent, and Scott and Irwin
set several records in the process. They had spent over 63 hours on
the moon's surface, conducted a total of 18 hours and 35 minutes in
extravehicular activity and traveled 28 kilometers in their moon
buggy. But for all its success, Apollo
15 did not bring much joy to the NASA
people in Washington, Houston, and Huntsville, for only two more
lunar missions remained.66
When James Chipman Fletcher was sworn in as
the fourth Administrator of NASA on 27 April 1971, he became the head
of an agency that was entering a new era. Fletcher, a physicist by
professional training and a university president during the turbulent
1960s, had a personal background in the aerospace world and
understood some of the problems that NASA....
15 astronaut James Irwin,
on the moon, unloads equipment from the lunar rover. This photo, in
which Mt. Hadley looms against the horizon, was taken by David Scott.
....would be facing in the years ahead.
Reflecting the spirit of both the adventurer and the realist, he
commented to the press after the announcement of his appointment that
an important goal faced the agency - "to achieve . . . balance
between manned and unmanned programs. It would be very exciting for
man to go beyond the moon but that . . . is a little beyond the
nation's budget right now." Such a statement might at first appear to
have been somewhat flippant, but it could be taken as a manner of
saying to the NASA team, "Do not despair; there is still important
and exciting work to be done."67
Dr. Fletcher also announced very early that he
supported closer cooperation with the Soviets. On 10 March, during a
one-hour hearing before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and
Space Sciences, Fletcher told the Committee that the U.S. had made
"some small steps" toward cooperation with the U.S.S.R.; now "we can
make even larger steps." But the possibility of reducing the long
hiatus between the Skylab missions in 1974 and the first Shuttle
flights in the 1980s was another reason why Fletcher was interested
in talks about a joint mission with the Soviets.68
At a pre-launch press briefing for Apollo 15,
Dale Myers, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, had
spoken about the post-Skylab studies under way. He pointed out that
there would be four Apollo CSM's left over, three from the canceled
moon flights and one that had been set aside as a backup for Skylab.
Studies conducted in Houston indicated that these spacecraft could be
flown in earth-orbital missions for about $75 to $150 million each.
One possible use for these CSMs would be to launch one a year,
beginning in 1975, for earth resources surveying missions lasting
from 16 to 30 days each. Of these four spacecraft, one could be set
aside for a rendezvous and docking mission with the Soviets. Still
another possibility would be orbiting a second Skylab, using the
backup CSM for the flight  planned for 1973,
but that would be very expensive and would require developing new
mission goals for Skylab B.69
An interim manned program of some kind was
highly desirable. In the first place, it would permit NASA to hold
together its launch and flight control teams. Keeping these people
together was as much a question of morale as it was money. The men
working at Houston and Cape Canaveral were action-oriented; they
needed the challenge of actual flights. And second, the crewmembers
who trained for the last Apollo flights would still be eligible to
fly in the Shuttle period, but they too might grow restless and
disinterested if there were a four- or five-year break in flights.
Availability of funds would determine the feasibility of an interim
project for the space agency.
Myers said that there would probably not be
money enough for both a full-scale Shuttle program and interim Apollo
flights. If NASA decided to develop the Shuttle booster and orbital
stages simultaneously, then there was little likelihood of any
flights between the last Skylab visit and the first Shuttle launch.
He pointed out, however, that a second approach might be taken. NASA
could develop the Shuttle orbital spacecraft first, and while glide
tests were being conducted with the early prototypes continue
development on the reusable launch boosters. Under such a "phased
approach," it might be possible to finance some other missions. But
the key guideline was to undertake only those efforts that could be
carried out without draining resources from the major effort -
64. NASA News Release
[unnumbered], "FY 1971 Interim Operating Plan News Conference," 2
Sept. 1970; and "New Yew Prospects Glum in Aerospace Industry,"
San Diego Union, 3 Jan. 1971.
65. NASA, MSC, "Apollo
14 Mission Report" MSC-04112, May 1971; and NASA, MSC, "Apollo 14
Mission Anomaly Report No. 1; Failure to Achieve Docking Probe
Capture Latch Engagement," MSC-05101, Oct. 1971.
66. Ronald Kotulak,
"Manned Moon Flight Program Nears End," Chicago Tribune, 14 Feb.
1971; NASA, MSC, "Apollo 15 Mission Report," MSC-05161, Dec. 1971;
"America's Future in Space," Washington
Post, 16 Aug. 1971; Walter Sullivan,
"Apollo 15: New Clues from the Men on the Moon," New York Times, 8 Aug.
1971; and Thomas O'Toole, "Our Surprising Moon," Washington Post, 8 Aug.
67. "New Director of
Space Agency: James Chipman Fletcher," New York Times, 2 Mar.
68. Thomas O'Toole,
"NASA Nominee Favors Cooperation with Russia" Washington Post, 11 Mar.
1971; and U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space
Sciences, Nomination of Dr. James C.
Fletcher to be Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, 92nd Cong., 1st sess.,
1971, p. 14.
69. John Noble Wilford,
"U.S., Soviet Weigh Space Linkup," New
York Times, 18 July 1971; NASA, MSC,
"Post Skylab Mission: Summary Report," 17 Mar. 1971 (enclosure to
letter, Gilruth to Myers, 25 Mar. 1971); Maxime A. Faget to
distribution, memo, "Post-Skylab Mission Study," 30 Apr. 1971;
Berglund to distribution, memo, "Post-Skylab Mission Study," 14 May
1971; Gilruth to Myers, 25 Aug. 1971; NASA News Release Apollo 15
PC22, "Space Shuttle Briefing, Kennedy Space Center," 24 July 1971;
and interview, Christopher C. Kraft-Ezell, 29 Mar. 1976.
70. John Noble Wilford,
"U.S., Soviet Weigh Space Linkup," New
York Times, 18 July 1971; and
interview, Kraft-Ezell, 29 Mar. 1976.