Lloyd Bott – My Association with NASA
Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Lloyd Bott, Ian Homewood, Deke Slayton.
My purpose in putting these documents together was to place on record how close were the relationships between U.S. and Australia in those great achievements which put man on the Moon and how much faith the U.S. people had in us.
They were wonderful, happy days. I had the great privilege to be given the responsibility for NASA projects in Australia from the first “small step” until the “great leap” which put man on the Moon for the first time.
I am very proud of my association with NASA projects and we are all proud of how magnificently Australians, associated with the missions, performed.
INTRODUCTION TO FLIGHT INFORMATION
The U.S. lunar landing process has been a gradual process. The one-man Mercury flights proved that man can survive in the hostile environment of space. The astronauts of the two-man Gemini demonstrated that man is able to live and work in weightless condition while orbiting in space and the December 1968 flight of Apollo 8 demonstrated the skill and engineering to send men away, out of the influence of Earth to the vicinity of another celestial body and bring them back safely.
Along with the manned space flights, American scientists launched a series of unmanned spacecraft to explore the secrets of the Moon and to plot a lunar landing. Ranger, Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor mark the milestones in this great scientific endeavour. (The Australian station at Tidbinbilla was deeply involved with these projects) These spacecraft photographed and mapped the Moon and landed on its surface and analysed its soil and all the information indicated that the Moon was ready to receive its first human visitors.
Apollo 9 proved, on its 10-day mission orbiting the Earth, that the incredibly complex Lunar Module could function effectively in space. Apollo 10, in its 9-day flight around the Moon, repeated the same tests at lunar distances. For the first time two manned spacecraft were orbiting the Moon simultaneously. This was the final prelude to the lunar landing by Apollo 11.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY EXHORTS NATION TO GO FOR THE MOON
IN HISTORIC SPEECH BEFORE CONGRESS, 25 MAY 1961
My association with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
A brief summary by Lloyd Bott
An eventful part of my life was the advent and development of the U.S. space programme, particularly the manned flight programme. NASA was established on 1st October, 1958 and, in the following few years, the Australian Department of Supply (of which I was then First Assistant Secretary and later Deputy Secretary) assisted NASA projects with some of our radar tracking facilities at Red Lake and Island Lagoon, Woomera in South Australia. (Woomera was the base of the U.K.-Australia Joint Project Rocket Range)
The U.S. Manned Space Programme was initiated immediately after NASA was created. The first manned Earth orbital flight was achieved in February, 1962 when John Glenn in Mercury “Friendship 7” orbited the Earth three times. Shortly after this flight a large party from NASA headquarters, from Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington DC, and from the Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas visited Australia in a Boeing 707 of the president’s fleet to thank us for our participation and to discuss their future plans. I accompanied them in the plane during the visit. It was at this time that I became responsible for the NASA activities in Australia.
The association with NASA led to the building of several NASA stations for tracking and communicating with space craft and our being responsible for maintenance and operation of the stations (this, of course, involved obtaining the land, building of roads etc and, in the case of Carnarvon, houses for the staff). For the Mercury programme, we built the station at Muchea near Perth; for Gemini we built a station with a 30 ft diameter dish antenna at Carnarvon, 600 miles north of Perth; and subsequently there were three big stations each with 85 ft diameter dish antennae in the Australian Capital Territory at Tidbinbilla (for deep space projects), at Orroral Valley (for communication and other scientific satellites) and at Honeysuckle Creek (for manned flights to the Moon). We also had a NASA Communications Center in Canberra, as part of the NASA communications network, which was the switching and control point for communications to and from the spacecraft for activities in our part of the world -from the NASA stations in Australia and from ships at sea in our area, primarily, in the Indian Ocean (four ships in the region had 30 ft antennae).
Australia’s geographic location was of vital significance. To maintain constant contact with space vehicles, it was necessary that stations be established at intervals of about 120° longitude around the world – in USA, Australia and Europe (Spain was selected). This enabled two stations to be monitoring the space satellites at anyone time. Australia was undoubtedly the closest partner of the US.
It was a great experience to be part of it all and I thoroughly enjoyed it and their trust and faith in me and our stations, in which they had the greatest confidence. It involved frequent visits to the USA including visits to the NASA stations in Hawaii and Bermuda. I met many of the people responsible for organising and controlling the programmes and several of the astronauts. I also travelled in Australia with many of the astronauts who visited Australia for various reasons including being a communicator with their fellow astronauts as they passed over this part of the world.
Probably the highlight of it all was to be present at Cape Kennedy in Florida for the launch of Apollo 11 to the Moon on July 16th, 1969, as a guest of the Vice President of the United States and NASA. It was a tremendous occasion, witnessed by a million people around the Cape and an estimated five hundred million on television around the world. The atmosphere was full of drama, expectation and excitement as we waited for the rocket motors to ignite to launch man on his mission to set foot on the Moon for the first time. It was a great thrill to be there to see the 3000 ton vehicle on its way. As matter of interest, on the evening before the launch, there was a small dinner for the VIPs at the Cocoa Beach Country Club. If my memory serves me right, Charles Lindbergh, the fIrst man to fly the Atlantic [in 1927] was there and General Westmoreland – the US General in Vietnam. Our escort was Astronaut Tom Stafford who had commanded the Apollo 10 mission over the Moon on the dress rehearsal flight less than two months earlier. Indeed a great honour for us.
After the launch we were flown by VIP aircraft to the Mission Control Center at Houston, Texas. I was there when Apollo 11, after orbiting the Earth to check out its systems, was given the all-clear to proceed to the Moon. Whilst at the Operations Room (we looked in through windows) I had a chat with my old friend Christopher Kraft who was then the Director of Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center. It was an experience to be there at the heart of the operation on the ground. (As a matter of interest, Carnarvon gave Apollo 11 its final all-clear to blast into a Moon trajectory.)
I was back in Australia and out at Honeysuckle Creek station in the ACT to witness the landing on the Moon (July 20 US EDT, July 21 Australian EST). Actually it had been programmed that Honeysuckle Creek would be the back-up station for this part of the mission but, in the event, as the U.S. station was having difficulties in communication, Honeysuckle Creek was called on and sent those first pictures to the world. Shortly afterwards, the CSIRO 210 ft radio telescope at Parkes in NSW took over as its pictures were superior. The Prime Minister, John Gorton, was at Honeysuckle Creek to see the astronauts step on to the Moon (12.56pm Australian EST, July 21, 1969).
Mr Gorton sent the following message to the American President (Mr Nixon):
I left the NASA programme in August 1969 (just three weeks after the Apollo 11 mission) when I was appointed as Permanent Head of the Department of National Development in Canberra. As the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping were part of the Department I was able to keep an association with NASA through their Scientific Satellite Programme.
Statements of manned space flights in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes, are a very important part of this document. It will be observed that each mission was designed to confirm (step by step) technical development and to prepare and test Man for further activities in his new Space environment. It will also be noted that, as these developments proceeded in Mercury and Gemini, research and development was proceeding on the launch vehicle, command and service module (CSM) and the lunar module (LM) for Apollo.
I am also including a number of photographs and other documents which give a picture of, and dramatically show, the progress of the overall programme. The press statement from the Minister for Supply (Senator Ken Anderson) of 10th July, 1969 indicates the degree of the Australian participation in the historic Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.
It is important that I should place on record what part Australia played, and how well we performed in the NASA space programme. I personally received commendations and thanks from important officers at NASA Headquarters, at Goddard Space Flight Center and the Manned Spacecraft Center, including many of the astronauts. Perhaps the following extract from a letter I received in April, 1967 from Christopher Kraft of the Manned Spacecraft Center speaks for them all:
Manned Space Programmes – U.S. (unless otherwise indicated)
14 May 1973 Skylab 1 Space Station launched by Saturn V and is damaged, a solar panel and insulation are ripped away, rendering the spacecraft short of power and causing it to overheat
25 May 1973 Skylab 2 Modified Apollo CSM launched by Saturn IB; first manned visit to Skylab.
Crew: Charles Conrad, Joseph Kerwin, Paul Weitz.
28 July 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo CSM launched by Saturn IB on second manned mission to Skylab.
Crew: Alan Bean, Owen Garriott, Jack Lousma
Recovered 25 September in Pacific.
16 November 1973 Skylab 4 Apollo CSM launched by Saturn IB on third and final manned mission.
Crew: Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson, William Pogue
Recovered 8 February 1974. Mission lasted a record 84 days 1 hour 16 minutes.
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project 15 July 1975
First international space link-up – final Apollo project. Tom Stafford, Donald Slayton, Vance Brand in Apollo CSM dock with Soyuz Soviet Cosmonauts (over Europe) – Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Recovered 24 July in Pacific.
(Donald ‘Deke’ Slayton, one of the original seven Astronauts, had been precluded from earlier flights because a heart murmur had been detected.)
This was the end of the expendable era of manned spacecraft.
The next time the astronauts sped into orbit, it would be in a revolutionary new vehicle, the re-usable space shuttle. But that would not be for another six years.
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER ATTACHMENTS
(See here for some of the photos which are listed below.)