HAYS COUNTY GUARDIAN, SAN MARCOS TEXAS, MARCH 1989

HEADLINE: COMMANDER WILSON MEETS WITH
DAN QUAYLE & VALERY BARSUKOV


San Marcos this is Commander Wilson Mission Control
Houston. Prepare to copy text as follows. After consulting
with the staff of the Hays County Guardian I have agreed to
transmit a biweekly column. We will be answering common
questions like: "Just how does an atomic clock work?", "What
is Quayle really like?" and "How will Magellan probe Venus?".
Please note However and be advised the opinions expressed in
this column are not necessarily the official view of NASA or
this Newspaper. Fortunately, for these United States, they
are at least my views.

In a special session I attended March eighteenth of the
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at JSC, Leaders of the
United States' and the Soviet Union's space programs
discussed complementary and joint exploration missions.
Valery Barsukov academician from the Soviet Vernadsky
Institute of Sciences received spontaneous audience applause
when he produced new slides of the Martian moon Phobos. The
Soviet spacecraft took the pictures from a distance of 320
kilometers and is expected to come within 50 kilometers of
the surface. Deployment of two landing probes should take
place in April. Phobos is of particular interest because some
evidence suggests it's composition may be carbonaceous
hydride. Translated that means prime real estate for a full
service gas station. They also think it's possible that there
may be some form of life on mars similar to slime. Wouldn't
that be a slick discovery to stumble across.

The American & Soviet panel continued to discuss the
possibility of joint missions and missions that could
complement each others accumulated data. I started to think
about that idea. Our governments sharing information and
knowing everything the other knows. No duplication of
efforts. We could share expenses. When the meeting ended
everyone applauded the idea, including the girl sitting next
to me. I leaned over to her and said "This whole cooperation
idea sounds good, but I really don't think it's the best way
to get the job done". She looked up at me like I just kicked
her dog. I said "what I mean is the Spanish didn't send ships
to the new world in the spirit of cooperation, they sent them
to glut out on all the riches they could claim." She backed
away in horror, started flirting with some Soviet and ignored
me. So I left, feeling like a kicked dog. My point is if we
are afraid the Soviets learn something we don't know or beat
us to the punch, we would get the funding we need. I hate to
say it but I think cooperation will result in a slow poorly
funded program.

Vice President Dan Quayle visited Johnson space Center
Friday March thirty-first, calling it his first official act
outside of Washington as head of the resurrected National
Space Council. As he visited the Mission Control building I
monitored him on surveillance cameras from my console one
floor above. The Vice President said the words "Mission
Control Houston" were synonymous with "efficiency, dedication
and success." I thought that was nice of him and wished I had
time to give him one of my Mission Control lapel pins as a
souvenir. Later I proceeded to the cafeteria with the
intention of getting some sandwiches for my crew. The Place
looked like a convention for hearing impaired aerospace
engineers. It was being overrun by the S.S.. After placing my
order to go I walked around the corner to pay and the Vice
President walked up beside me to pay for his order. I handed
him the pin off my lapel and said "have a souvenir from
Mission Control." He smiled and said thanks. A moment later
a Secret Service agent snatched it and handed it back to me
saying "you can't give him that." I stepped back startled and
said "who do I give it to?" He replied in a firm tone "any
one of his staff." There were hundreds of people around, all
wearing dark suits with ties. "who's that?" I asked, he
gives me the eye and says "I can't say." My heart had reached
panic beat level by this time. It was lucky for me the next
guy in was JSC Director Aaron Cohen. I handed it to him and
asked if he would present it to Mr. Quayle. He thanked me
and said it was a nice gesture. Fleeing the cafeteria I felt
sorry for Mr. Quayle after noticing he had ordered a B B Q
sandwich. About that time an ambulance pulled up. Workers
joked about it for several days. End of Transmission (EOT)


HAYS COUNTY GUARDIAN, SAN MARCOS, TEXAS, APRIL 1989

HEADLINE: HANG TIGHT, WE'RE GO By Commander Wilson


We all remember the disaster of the Space Shuttle
Challenger. Most of us remember other sad moments NASA has
had in the past. The thing we tend to forget is the many
successes our programs have had. I bring you a rarely
remembered story of one of man's greatest achievements with
only 20 seconds to spare.

I grew up next to Johnson Space Center, my father was an
engineer for NASA. He provided me with a wealth of
information about the space program. Now that he is retired I
keep him informed. I was 12 years old in July of 1969 when
Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The men walking on the moon
were my schoolmates' fathers. It looked easier than mowing
the lawn, but for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin it was no
joy ride.

After a flawless launch and flight to the moon the Lunar
Module named "Eagle" started its powered decent toward the
moon. Early on they had indications the decent was far from
nominal. Checking against landmarks it looked as if they were
going to land beyond their intended target. The next hint of
this came while sighting through a targeting grid in a
triangular window using computer coordinates. The flight plan
called for an obstacle-free plain to the landing sight. They
found themselves aimed for a ridged crater 600 feet across
littered by huge boulders.

Now plunging down off course, communications with Mission
Control Houston begin dropping in and out. Without a link to
Ground Control the landing would have to be aborted. To bring
tension to a peak the critical onboard computer alarms
illuminate warning signals "1201" and "1202"; indications of
computer overload. If the alarms were to remain constant,
correct calculation of altitude and velocity would not be
possible; critical for a successful landing. The astronauts
didn't have time to say much as they struggled to bring the
vehicle down to a safe landing. Like a sports announcer Aldrin
relays critical information to the worried controllers on
earth. "Hang tight, we're go, 2000 feet." He crackles. The
airwaves remain silent as Ground Control telemetry indicated
more computer warnings and their altitude dropping. Now 1250
feet lower Aldrin transmits "750 (altitude), coming down at 23
(feet per second drop, 16 mph) ... 600 feet, down at 19 ...
540 feet, down at 15 ... 400 feet, down at 9 ... 8 forward ...
330, 3 1/2 down." At this time the vehicle has almost stopped
decent at around 250 feet high, but has started sliding
forward over 50 mph. The flight controllers' nervous systems
accelerate with the craft. Just as they bring it back to a
tolerable rate a new dreaded red warning light flashes on in
the spacecraft and Mission Control. Low fuel warning, only 5%
remained for the decent engines. That amounts to 94 seconds of
flight. If not on the moon by that time the assent engines
would have to be fired and landing aborted. The flailing
spacecraft, with overloaded computers is running out of gas.

Now with less than 60 seconds remaining Aldrin continues,
"down 2 1/2 ... forward, forward ... good ... 40 feet, down 2
1/2 ... picking up some dust ... 30 feet, down 2 1/2 ...
faint shadow ... 4 forward ... 4 forward, drifting to the
right a little. The Houston Capcom interrupts "thirty
seconds." Aldrin keeps up "forward, drifting to the right ...
contact light ... ok, engine stop." Armstrong comes on
"Houston, Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed."
Capcom replies "Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground.
You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing
again. Thanks a lot." Cheers roared from the Mission Control
room all the way around the world. The lunar module had landed
with only 20 seconds to spare. America had triumphed.



HAYS COUNTY GUARDIAN, SAN MARCOS TEXAS, MAY 1989

HEADLINE: ALONE AT LAST By Commander Wilson


People are always curious to know what it's like to work
in Mission Control. This week I will critique the recent
mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from my point of view.
Like any job this one also has its' share of ups and downs.
In this business it's better put as "assents and descents."

It was Thursday May 4, 1989, the new launch date set for
Atlantis. Alarms rang in the background while the radio
blared. As if in a dream I felt like a satellite floating in
space. In fact it was a dream, I was at home asleep on my
waterbed. After a rapid deployment my K-5 vehicle delivered
me to face what could only be called "the mission parking
situation." I finally found a parking place next to the
space station. It was only a long hike as opposed to the
epic journey of parking in the north fourty. As I puffed into
work my co-workers cheered saying "ok, now we can launch, the
commander is here." What they really meant is "let the
teasing begin." We joke a lot, in addition to being fun it
helps relieve stress.

As we sat poised on the edge of our chairs, like
Shuttles ready to launch, we discussed the weather. The
launch count was on hold due to clouds. Just as the launch
window neared a close the order was issued to continue the
count at T- 5 minutes. Captain Tom Strange, an airforce
meteorologist summarized the decision by saying the winds
changed the cloud condition from broken to scattered, a fine
distinction, but significant enough to satisfy safety
constraints. We all smiled while it lifted off, but there
was still concern, as it was still in the dangerous accent
phase.

Only 2 minutes after lift off and at an altitude of
153,405 feet we watched the solid rocket boosters separate
from the orbiter. Video of the separation was unusually
good. As we watch, 4 minutes into he flight Capcom transmits
"negative Return." The velocity is mach 7.39 at an altitude
of 319,008 feet. Now 8 minutes 31 seconds after launch the
indicators verify main engine cutoff (MECO). The Shuttle is
traveling at mach 22.7 and 362,243 high. The almost silent
internal voice loops in the mission control center erupt with
information. The flight controllers are checking all the
shuttle's systems for orbit operations. It wouldn't be honest
not to admit we all were relieved. Prior to STS-51L the mood
during launch was festive, now it's anxious concern. How do
we spell relief? MECO.

We did it, our Shuttle was there, in orbit. For the
first time since Feb. 1987 the United States was alone in
space. No peeping Soviets were around to stare out the
windows of their MIR spacestation. At a mission elapsed time
(MET) of 6 hours and 18 minutes deployment of the Venis probe
Magellan was completed. Approximately 2 hours later I watched
video downlink replays of the deployment in flight control
room 2. Viewed on the 10 foot by 10 foot screen it didn't
even look real. It looked like an artist's conception of a
hoakey sci-fi. It reminded me of a guy I had met a few days
earlier. He believed the space program was a hoax and that we
never even landed on the moon. I thought about how fakey it
looked and then realized no one would admit to spending 378
million dollars on a probe unless it was really true. One
hour later the 45 thousand pound Magellan/IUS fired boosters
beginning its' 15 month journey.

Magellan's trajectory is a Type IV transfer. This
requires the probe to go 1 1/2 times around the sun before
going into orbit around Venus. The journey will last 700
million miles, just a little further than my car. It was
originally scheduled to launch in October of this year. That
trip would have lasted only 4 months and 56 million miles.
Somehow they figured out how to make it fly in circles,
allowing the Galileo probe to launch October. Galileo's new
trajectory is even wilder, swinging all over the place.

The following 2 days were just routine. Astronauts on
the shuttle performed experiments, like the shocking
Mesoscale Lightning Experiment (MLE). Other experiments
included the Fluids Experiment Apparatus (FEA) and the eye
opening Air Force Maui Optical Site Calibration Test (AMOS).
There was also several Detailed Supplementary Objectives
(DSO). One medical test called the In-Flight Salivary
Pharmacokinetics of Scopolamine and Dextroamphetamine
involved taking saliva samples of a fasting crew member. The
experiment was to test anti-motion sickness drugs. It sounded
to me more like Pavlov's research with dogs.

On the fourth day of the mission one of the Shuttles
onboard general purpose computers (GPC) failed. The shuttle
uses 5 GPC's but can land using only one. Using several GPC's
helps reduce the number of manual adjustments required during
descent. Having several computers online also provides
redundancy and error checking. A decision was made to replace
the faulty GPC with a spare stowed in a mid-deck locker. This
made for interesting viewing. On our monitors we watched the
astronauts replacing the computer. It's a job normally done
by experienced technicians. They managed to replace the
computer without any major problems. The operation went very
well. We couldn't keep from chuckling about the worried look
on their faces. Everyone was very happy when it was powered
up and working perfectly. At the shift debrief the Flight
Director expressed his satisfaction. He opened by joking,
saying we had spent the whole shift fixing what the previous
shift broke.

The landing went quite well. Winds reported above the
Orbiter's crosswind landing limits prompted flight
controllers to shift from primary runway 17 to runway 22. The
change was transmitted to the vehicle approximately 13
minutes before touchdown. At that time the Shuttle was at an
altitude of 181,000 feet and traveling at mach 13. The change
did send the landing crew and camera crews scurrying to the
other runway. Our crew had arrived safely and the Magellan
probe was on its way to Venus. EOT.



HAYS COUNTY GUARDIAN, SAN MARCOS TEXAS, JUNE 1989

HEADLINE: HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM By Commander Wilson

The date was April 13, 1970, the place 200,013 miles
from earth, over half way to the moon. The vehicle was the
Apollo 13 spacecraft named Odyssey and lunar landing module,
Aquarius. The three man crew consisted of Captain James A.
Lovell, Commander; Fred W Haise, Lunar Module Pilot; and John
L. Sweigert Jr., Command Module Pilot. Thomas K. Mattingly
III, had originally been scheduled for the flight, but was
replaced by "Rusty" Sweigert after being exposed to rubella
(German measles) five days before.

Launch of the ill fated mission had been achieved on
April 11, at 2:13 p.m. EST. Watching one of these rockets
launch was actually very impressive. It would sit on the
launch pad building thrust for 9 seconds and burn 135
thousand pounds of propellant before lift-off. The total
vehicle weight was 3000 tons. While it did put on a good
show, I wouldn't call it thrifty, burning 15 tons of
propellant per second. Energy output was equivalent to 85
Hoover dams. The sound created was not small either, the
equivalent of 8,000,000 home stereos (200,000,000 watts) all
playing a different rock-n-roll tune. That's why they call
it a rocket. You could actually see the sound flapping your
clothes like a strong breeze. While slow to start it would
accelerate to orbital velocity in 12 minutes. After
checkout, the vehicle would then climb to the escape velocity
of 24,900 MPH. Now that's a rocket.

Up to this point NASA had made only one mistake: calling
this thing Apollo 13. I'm not superstitious, but it seems to
me that's asking for it. Nobody wants to stay in something
numbered 13, even Hotels call their 13th floor 14th. NASA did
learn from this obvious mistake. When it came time for the
Space Shuttles 13th flight they called it 41G. The flight was
a complete success with a crew of 5 men and 2 women lasting 8
days.

One anomaly did occur during the Apollo 13 launch. One
out of the five, S-2 stage engines had shut down prematurely.
The vehicle was so large and well built it didn't matter.
Guidance computers immediately reacted, correcting the
situation by burning the remaining stages longer. The next
step was to separate from the S-4B stage, housing the lunar
landing module (LM). It was then turned around and docked to
a hatch on top of the command module (CM) containing the
crew. Springs would release and push the S-4B housing away
leaving the LM secured to the CM. At this time they were on
their way to the moon and so was the jettisoned S-4B stage.
Mission control fires the S-4B attitude control thrusters.
This sends the expended 30,000 lb booster ahead of the
spacecraft to crash on the moon. (lunar litter bugs)

In order to make the long journey possible the command
module (CM) has a service module (SM). This remains attached
to the bottom of the CM until they return to earth and
prepare for reentry. The SM contains attitude control
thrusters, for navigation. It also carries 3 cryogenic oxygen
and hydrogen tanks. These tanks provide life support for the
crew and fuel for electrical power. The CM only carries
enough battery power and oxygen for reentry.

Things had gone well so far. The crews inspection and
checkout of the LM was completed. After putting on a TV show
and joking with each other the crew was performing their
presleep checklist. It was at this time mission control
requested "we've got one more item for you, we'd like you to
stir up your cryo tanks". Sweigert acknowledges "ok, stand
by". An explosion occurs and the side of the SM is blown
off. The CSM high gain antenna is damaged. Loosing
directional lock it switches from narrow band to wide band,
causing a 1.8 second loss of telemetered data to mission
control. The spacecraft was thrown off course and the
attitude control thrusters fire in an attempt to correct the
flight path. The oxygen valves shut, while the tanks began
to leak. Sweigert reports "ok, we've had a problem here".
Mission control replies "this is Houston, say again, please".
Sweigert reiterates "Houston, we've had a problem, we had a
main B bus undervolt and we had a pretty large bang
associated with caution and warning lamps". For the next five
minutes mission control tried to determine what had happened.
Flight controllers started reporting spacecraft systems
malfunctions. No one understood the original cause. The
crew was directed to perform an emergency power-down to save
energy. Within one hour and a half they determined how
serious the problem was. It is concluded that an explosion
in oxygen tank #2 has crippled the spacecraft. The command
module had no life support systems and no electrical power.

Mission control went into overdrive. Additional
computers were brought online. Expert tiger teams were
briefed. The crew moved into the lunar module (LM), to use
its life support systems as they hurdled towards the moon.
Engineers worked around the clock. The world held it's
breath. Flight controllers struggled to calculate ways to use
the LM descent engines. Using LM engines the crew would
manually perform the critical course corrections needed for a
return to earth. The damaged craft circled the moon, firing
the engines to escape lunar orbit and started home.

The remainder of the mission was a struggle to conserve
power, consumables and navigate using the LM. The LM was
designed for a short duration mission, landing on the moon
with only 2 crew members. The CM had only enough battery
power and oxygen for reentry after jettisoning the SM and LM.
In order to make the long journey back using the LM as a life
preserver, its systems would only be powered on when
necessary. For the crew it was a dark, damp, cold trip
without comfort. Another problem was carbon dioxide
poisoning. The LM systems were not removing enough. The crew
was advised to utilize and modify the lithium hydroxide
filter canisters from the failed CM systems. Using tape,
plastic and cardboard checklists, the crew constructed a
device to filter the air in the LM cabin more efficiently.

As they neared earth the cabin temperature dropped to 38
degrees while the windows and walls dripped with dew. They
sat anxiously in the dark watching the moon shrink away.
After making one final burn the crew crawled into the
crippled CM, Odyssey. The SM and LM were jettisoned. At a
mission elapsed time of 142 hours 57 minutes Odyssey splashed
down. In less than one hour they were standing on the deck of
the U.S.S. Iwo Jima. The fateful mission had come to a happy ending.

Mission control had reallocated resources and replanned
every step of the mission. Using systems in ways never
dreamed of before the crew was saved. My only question is
where did the SNAP 27 reactor aboard the LM land? In a
graphite cast designed to withstand reentry heating it is the
largest amount of plutonium-238 (8.36 lbs) ever lost. The
reason oxygen tank #2 exploded is a odyssey and a bit
complicated. To put it simply it seems the tank was dropped
2 inches. That may have caused a fitting to leak, making the
tank not empty properly after testing. Next, ground crews
applied the wrong voltage to the tank heaters. The safety
switch specified for use was inadequate and insulation burned
off some wires. Half way to the moon the wires short
circuited and a $400,000,000 mission was aborted. Months
later the bump and couple small mistakes united the whole
world. Everyone wanted to see the astronauts return. After
the largest scale, around the clock, emergency rescue
operation NASA had ever undertaken, America had 3 new heroes.
EOT


HAYS COUNTY GUARDIAN, SAN MARCOS TEXAS, JULY 1989

COMMANDERS CORNER By Commander Wilson


Good evening. Your mission should you decide to accept
it is to read this article. As always should you or anyone
you know be caught doing so, this newspaper and staff will
deny any knowledge of your existence. This newspaper will not
self-destruct in 5 paragraphs. Good luck.

This week I will take this opportunity to bite the hand
that feeds me. My raise and promotion hasn't come through, so
I'm in a pretty knarly mood. What's wrong with NASA anyway?
The answer is nothing that's not wrong with every other
federal agency. Mismanagement, Fraud, Waste and bureaucracy
has run ramped. I will say in NASA's defense that it doesn't
appear as bad as some other federal agencies. But that that's
like saying this school bus driver only had 10 wrecks while
that one had 20. Wrong is wrong.

We have a group of companies that thrive only on
government contracts and can't make a profit in the private
sector. They win with the lowest bid and when the contract is
completed they have charged more than the highest bidder. I'm
not going to talk about any specifics. I don't want anyone
talking specifically about me. The fact remains when the
government is overcharged we all pay. It hurts the program
and it hurts America. A few words from the President on
ethics is not going to correct these problems.

Congress deserves a some blame too. Even the most honest
Congressmen will admit they can be swayed by companies in
their own districts. They all want the big money in their
town, state or their back pocket. We need to take a serious
look at our whole procurement system. Firm legislation to
deal with these issues is a must.

Another problem with Congress is the "on again, off
again" games they play with funding. Some of those
Congressmen could use a good paddling. I shake my head
everyday driving into work when I see a complete Saturn 5
moon rocket laying on its side as a display. It is a neat
rocket to look at, but it was built to go to the moon. After
we paid to build it, Congress cut the funding for the program
off. You will never see a unused rocket laying around Russia.
They build it, they use it.

Now for my pet peeve. Rise up Engineers and Technicians,
your hour has come. Perhaps the most dangerous problem is the
managers. Sometimes these "people Managers" (the boss) will
not accept the technical advice given to them. Conclusions
made by the expert technicians and engineers. You know the
little people that don't have business degrees. The EXPERTS.
This kind of thing may have contributed to the Challenger
disaster. NASA has done a lot to correct this kind of
problem, but there may be room for improvement. In the words
of Richard Feynman of the Rogers Commission: "For a
successful technology, reality must take precedence over
public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." EOT



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