Author Topic: LM Hatch  (Read 749 times)

Offline Peter B

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LM Hatch
« on: October 04, 2019, 06:33:14 AM »
G'day everyone

One of the side stories that interests me about Apollo is the decision about which astronaut would go out first on the moonwalk - the CDR or the LMP.

The thing is, there seem to be two narratives going around. One is that NASA managers made the decision that the CDR should go out first (possibly as a way of getting Armstrong out ahead of Aldrin). The other is that the side the LM the hatch hinge was located made it impractical for the LMP to get out first.

But neither of these stories seems entirely satisfactory to me. The idea of having the CDR go out first seems a little arbitrary, although I can sort of see the reason for giving primacy to the "senior" crewman. And the idea that the hatch hinge dictated things doesn't make sense as I would have thought it would be a fairly minor issue to redesign the hatch to have its hinge on the opposite side - given the things that Grumman was redesigning on the LM (even after Apollo 11, such as the fuel tank baffles).

So does anyone have the inside story on exactly how the decision was made for who went out first, and what the logic behind the decision was?

Thank you!

Offline Allan F

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2019, 09:27:00 AM »
Redesigning a billion dollar spacecraft or telling the other guy to wait his turn?

Get in line!
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Offline Ranb

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2019, 07:25:05 PM »
What I read on the matter says it was not practical for the LMP to exit first or to changes sides with the CDR while suited up with the PLSS.  The simple solution I suppose is to change places prior to suit-up so either could go out first.  This tells me that the powers-that-be decided the CDR would be the first on the lunar surface long before the flight took place.

Offline Peter B

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2019, 09:32:26 PM »
What I read on the matter says it was not practical for the LMP to exit first or to changes sides with the CDR while suited up with the PLSS.  The simple solution I suppose is to change places prior to suit-up so either could go out first.  This tells me that the powers-that-be decided the CDR would be the first on the lunar surface long before the flight took place.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. And yet the story is presented that some time after Armstrong and Aldrin knew they'd likely be flying the first landing mission, Aldrin was lobbying to be the first one out. The story is told in a way that suggests the decision hadn't yet been made, and it took Aldrin to confront Armstrong in a scene that Collins witnessed, followed by a visit to Slayton's office, before anyone said openly that Armstrong would be first...

Certainly that's the way the story comes out in books like Chaikin's.

Offline Obviousman

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2019, 05:42:19 PM »
What I read on the matter says it was not practical for the LMP to exit first or to changes sides with the CDR while suited up with the PLSS.  The simple solution I suppose is to change places prior to suit-up so either could go out first.  This tells me that the powers-that-be decided the CDR would be the first on the lunar surface long before the flight took place.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. And yet the story is presented that some time after Armstrong and Aldrin knew they'd likely be flying the first landing mission, Aldrin was lobbying to be the first one out. The story is told in a way that suggests the decision hadn't yet been made, and it took Aldrin to confront Armstrong in a scene that Collins witnessed, followed by a visit to Slayton's office, before anyone said openly that Armstrong would be first...

Certainly that's the way the story comes out in books like Chaikin's.

It wouldn't have been practical to swap sides; they were all suited up as you have said. They couldn't have done it before as that meant the CDR would have been at the LMP station. They might have been able to do it afterwards but that meant taking off the suit, partially stowing them, changing sides, etc.

Consider also, though, that one of the early LM designs had that front hatch as a docking port; perhaps in that situation either could have gone out first. The design then changed, resulting in a square, hinged hatch. I suspect the hinge placement was almost random. I think the consideration was going to be how easy it would be open / close the hatch, from either side, and what hand the astronauts would have to use. I think it could have simply been a right-hand-dominant bias.

Offline Count Zero

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2019, 08:36:31 PM »
Note that on Apollo 9, it was the LMP who made the EVA.

That said, considering the need to have the EVA timelines & checklists written, and have the astronauts practice them as written (and make whatever changes are necessary), I would imagine the decision was made many months in advance.
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Offline ka9q

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2019, 07:05:02 AM »
I really wish people would stop arguing about this one. The real achievement was landing on the moon, which was a joint effort of the two crewmen (plus a thousand or so support people on Earth). Going out for a walk was trivial by comparison.

Offline Count Zero

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2019, 08:58:47 PM »
To me, it's not a matter of arguing.  I am simply interested in what factors drove the decision to do things a certain way.
"What makes one step a giant leap is all the steps before."

Offline Obviousman

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2019, 04:36:06 PM »
To me, it's not a matter of arguing.  I am simply interested in what factors drove the decision to do things a certain way.

Ditto. I'm curious as to what the actual reasoning was. I agree with ka9q that they both landed at the same time, and that was the most important thing.... but I am still interested in the details.

Offline Peter B

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2019, 04:56:45 AM »
I really wish people would stop arguing about this one. The real achievement was landing on the moon, which was a joint effort of the two crewmen (plus a thousand or so support people on Earth). Going out for a walk was trivial by comparison.

With respect, I don't think I'm arguing. Rather, I'm curious to know the sequence of events of one of the major decisions of Apollo (at least from the point of view of the public), and the thinking behind them.

Having read the relevant pages of "First Man" again, I'm wondering if maybe the "first-out" issue was simply a long way down the list of issues NASA management had to deal with in those rushed months from Apollo 7 onwards. That is, worrying about who went out first wasn't mission-critical when compared with, say, the LM's software or ensuring the spacesuits worked as intended.

Offline Dandy

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2019, 06:23:55 PM »
I have always been a little annoyed by the reasons given for choosing the astronauts. Like why they chose Neil to be the first man on the moon. The way the story goes, he was next in the line. I don't believe that it was merely incidental. I want to hear about the meetings and the votes likely cast by the different seniors and what their reasoning was. When Buzz lobbied to be first out, I can bet it had nothing to do with the hatch or seniority. I also want to know why they chose Buzz to be second instead of any of the other astronauts. Why did they pick the teams the way they did?

Offline Obviousman

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2019, 08:07:01 PM »
I have always been a little annoyed by the reasons given for choosing the astronauts. Like why they chose Neil to be the first man on the moon. The way the story goes, he was next in the line. I don't believe that it was merely incidental. I want to hear about the meetings and the votes likely cast by the different seniors and what their reasoning was. When Buzz lobbied to be first out, I can bet it had nothing to do with the hatch or seniority. I also want to know why they chose Buzz to be second instead of any of the other astronauts. Why did they pick the teams the way they did?

The teams were essentially selected for their first Apollo missions, when they - as a team - were assigned a place on a backup crew and thus entered the 'crew rotation'. I am sure a lot of factors came into play: the skills required for the mission (e.g. being assigned as a CMP instead of a LMP), the way personnel interacted together, who was available at the time, etc.

And let's not forget that it was only a twist of fate that changed the name of the first person to walk on the Moon from Commander Charles 'Pete' Conrad.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 08:14:13 PM by Obviousman »

Offline Northern Lurker

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2019, 04:20:59 PM »
I have always been a little annoyed by the reasons given for choosing the astronauts. Like why they chose Neil to be the first man on the moon.
<snip>
 I also want to know why they chose Buzz to be second instead of any of the other astronauts. Why did they pick the teams the way they did?

My understanding is that Neil earned his seat with his coolheaded handling of Gemini 8 emergency. Buzz earned his with his doctoral thesis - Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous.

Lurky

Offline Kiwi

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2019, 09:38:17 AM »
I have always been a little annoyed by the reasons given for choosing the astronauts. Like why they chose Neil to be the first man on the moon. The way the story goes, he was next in the line. I don't believe that it was merely incidental. I want to hear about the meetings and the votes likely cast by the different seniors and what their reasoning was. When Buzz lobbied to be first out, I can bet it had nothing to do with the hatch or seniority. I also want to know why they chose Buzz to be second instead of any of the other astronauts. Why did they pick the teams the way they did?

Most of the answers are in the book mentioned by Peter B in the last paragraph above your post.

The authorized biography of Neil Armstrong, "First Man", James R Hansen, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2005 (also available from S&S as Audio and eBook) has a 14-page chapter on the subject -- chapter 25, "First Out", pages 360 to 373, plus a few closing remarks on page 374, chapter 26, "Dialectics of a Moon Mission". Pages 695 and 696 have over 50 notes about the sources for chapter 25.

Also read the surrounding chapters for much more information about crew selection, training, etc. For instance, chapter 24 uses as its title Mike Collins's description of the crew of Apollo 11, "Amiable Strangers".

Some important points in chapter 25:--

9 January 1969 - p360 - The crew of Apollo 11 were introduced to the media at a press conference. The very first question asked by a reporter was about who would be first out.

Late-February 1969 - p361 - There were newspaper reports, probably based on the procedures used during the Gemini missions, that Aldrin would be the first man to step on the moon.

3 to 13 March 1969 - p361 - During Apollo 9 Dr George E Mueller told some reporters that Aldrin would be first out.

Mid-March 1969 - p370-372 - Apollo managers Deke Slayton, Bob Gilruth, George Low and Chris Kraft got together informally to decide on the issue. They agreed that the first guy on the Moon would be like Lindbergh -- a legend and an American hero beyond Lindbergh and any soldier, politician or inventor. "It should be Neil Armstrong... Calm, quiet, and absolute confidence." He was the Lindbergh type. He had no ego... Reticent, soft-spoken, and heroic, Neil was their only, and unanimous, choice.

At no time was was the LM's interior design or hatch design discussed by the four. Those later became a technical justification for the decision which Bob Gilruth passed on to George Mueller and Sam Phillips at Nasa HQ, and Deke told the crew.

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An extra detail that I'd appreciate members' help with. On one of my many space DVDs, I recall either Charlie Duke or Al Bean saying in recent years that he agreed fully with the selection of Neil as First Man, and praised him highly for proving he was best of the Apollo astronauts for the position.

Unfortunately I haven't recorded the details, and seem to remember it was after the excellent movie "The Wonder of it All" came out, 2007. Help! Where is that comment?
« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 09:53:58 AM by Kiwi »
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Offline ajv

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Re: LM Hatch
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2019, 02:59:26 PM »
I recall either Charlie Duke or Al Bean saying in recent years that he agreed fully with the selection of Neil as First Man, and praised him highly for proving he was best of the Apollo astronauts for the position.

Collins writes in "Carrying the fire": Neil Armstrong - "Neil is a classy guy, and I can't offhand think of a better choice to be first man on the moon."