Author Topic: The Original Apollo 1 Crew  (Read 3803 times)

Offline RIB

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The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« on: 03/11/2017 06:08 PM »
 I've read in a variety of places that ED White replaced Donn Eisele on the original Apollo 1 crew after Eisele had shoulder surgery. However, on page 31 of Apollo Pilot, The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele, Eisele states that " Two weeks before I went in(for surgery), Gus Grissom told me I was going to be on the first Apollo with him and Ed White". Eisele was a CMP and I assume that Chafee was an LMP. (Those designations  did not apply on Apollo 1). So did Eisele have a memory lapse or was Roger Chafee touched  by the fickle finger of fate?



Offline MattMason

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #1 on: 03/11/2017 09:40 PM »
I've read in a variety of places that ED White replaced Donn Eisele on the original Apollo 1 crew after Eisele had shoulder surgery. However, on page 31 of Apollo Pilot, The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele, Eisele states that " Two weeks before I went in(for surgery), Gus Grissom told me I was going to be on the first Apollo with him and Ed White". Eisele was a CMP and I assume that Chafee was an LMP. (Those designations  did not apply on Apollo 1). So did Eisele have a memory lapse or was Roger Chafee touched  by the fickle finger of fate?

Eisele was selected as prime crew of Apollo 1, if nothing more than on Gus's word (and he and Deke was buds, so this isn't a stretch).

NASA sources note Eisele entered surgery (for a ghastly reoccurring shoulder dislocation) one year prior to the pad fire, on January 27, 1966. Eisele's recovery time may have taken too long and no one wanted him to aggravate it in training, so Chaffee was rotated into his spot, announced on March 21, 1966. What would become the Apollo 9 crew (again, according to one of these series of press releases) was Apollo 1's backup, although this might've changed to what was the Apollo 7 crew later.

Despite Gus's influence, I guess that the flight surgeon's word on expected recovery time with Deke's recommendation made it simple for Gus to move on and take on Chaffee instead. Go Fever affected more than just the administrators and engineers. But others may know more from other sources.
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Offline RIB

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #2 on: 03/12/2017 12:00 AM »
You're missing my point. In his memoir, on page 31, Eisele states that Grissom told him  the original Apollo 1 crew was Grissom Eisele and White.  By all accounts I've read the original Apollo 1 crew was Grissom Eisele and Chafee, with White replacing Eisele after his surgery. Obviously, that's not what's in the book Apollo Pilot.

Offline Archibald

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #3 on: 03/12/2017 09:41 AM »
Someone should check Slayton autobiography Deke.

Offline dks13827

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #4 on: 03/12/2017 01:26 PM »
Walt Cunningham said Eisele told him that Eisele was supposed to be on Grissom's crew.

Offline Michael Cassutt

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #5 on: 03/12/2017 10:14 PM »
Someone should check Slayton autobiography Deke.

And as the co-author of DEKE! who got it _wrong_ (one of those mistakes you ought to catch and don't*), I can attest that those who were there have said all along.... the original AS-204 was Grissom, White, Eisele.  Eisele had to undergo surgery, which took him off flight status for several weeks.  Needing to announce a 204 crew and get it into training, Slayton assigned Chaffee in place of Eisele.

Michael Cassutt

* And come to think of it, ought to correct in the e-book......

Offline Proponent

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #6 on: 03/13/2017 07:58 AM »
So with regard to Apollo assignments, Eisele and Collins are nearly parallel cases, are the not?  Collins too began as an LMP.  Collins was assigned to a crew (with Borman and Lovell, IIRC), then pulled off because of surgery (spine related), and re-assigned as a CMP.

Offline GClark

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #7 on: 03/13/2017 01:24 PM »
Not quite.

Collins was the LMP of the original Borman crew (with Stafford as CMP).  When the crews were juggled, Collins was moved to CMP with Anders as LMP.

Lovell was the CMP on the backup crew (Armstrong's).  When he was moved to the Borman crew in place of Collins, Buzz moved to CMP and Haise moved into LMP.

IIRC, at that time it was thought necessary that CMPs have previous spaceflight experience.  Eisele could be CMP on Schirra's crew because there was no LM.

Offline Liss

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #8 on: 03/17/2017 06:26 PM »
Someone should check Slayton autobiography Deke.

And as the co-author of DEKE! who got it _wrong_ (one of those mistakes you ought to catch and don't*), I can attest that those who were there have said all along.... the original AS-204 was Grissom, White, Eisele.  Eisele had to undergo surgery, which took him off flight status for several weeks.  Needing to announce a 204 crew and get it into training, Slayton assigned Chaffee in place of Eisele.

Michael Cassutt

* And come to think of it, ought to correct in the e-book......

Michael, did I get it correct that the projected crews for AS-204 and AS-205 before the Eisele shoulder problem were

AS-204
Command Pilot: Grissom / McDivitt
Senior Pilot: White / Scott
Pilot: Eisele / Chaffee

AS-205:
Command Pilot: Schirra / Borman
Senior Pilot: Cunningham / Bassett
Pilot: Scheweickart / Anders ?
This message reflects my personal opinion based on open sources of information.

Offline TJL

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #9 on: 03/18/2017 11:31 PM »
Someone should check Slayton autobiography Deke.

And as the co-author of DEKE! who got it _wrong_ (one of those mistakes you ought to catch and don't*), I can attest that those who were there have said all along.... the original AS-204 was Grissom, White, Eisele.  Eisele had to undergo surgery, which took him off flight status for several weeks.  Needing to announce a 204 crew and get it into training, Slayton assigned Chaffee in place of Eisele.

Michael Cassutt

* And come to think of it, ought to correct in the e-book......

Michael, did I get it correct that the projected crews for AS-204 and AS-205 before the Eisele shoulder problem were

AS-204
Command Pilot: Grissom / McDivitt
Senior Pilot: White / Scott
Pilot: Eisele / Chaffee

AS-205:
Command Pilot: Schirra / Borman
Senior Pilot: Cunningham / Bassett
Pilot: Scheweickart / Anders ?


It was actually:

AS-204
Command Pilot: Grissom / McDivitt
Senior Pilot: White / Scott
Pilot: Eisele / Schweickart

AS-205:
Command Pilot: Schirra / Borman
Senior Pilot: Cunningham / Bassett
Pilot: Chaffee / Anders

Offline CitabriaFlyer

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #10 on: 03/19/2017 06:33 PM »
Question for Michael Cassett (big fan of your biography and your novel Missing Man)

Deke said something to the effect of Apollo 1 being a chance to try out two guys (Chaffee and Eisele) that he thought were weaker.

Was wondering if you had any insight into why Deke made that subjective observation?  Eisele was near the top of his Naval Academy class, had a masters in astronautics, and graduated #3 in his test pilot school class.  Seems like he would have been a pretty strong guy. After reading Eisele's bio I see two things that may have biased Deke.

1)  The shoulder dislocation was a recurring problem. It happened more than once although Deke mentioned the KC135 injury. Maybe that was a reason Deke felt like he couldn't get him into a Gemini slot.

2)  I think the USAF jerked Eisele around at the end of test pilot school (in my experience the 21st century USAF never does that) In 1962 the space part of the curriculum was not part of the standard course.  Shortly thereafter it would be rolled into one course Aerospace Research Pilot school that multiple astronauts attended.  Col Eisele graduated #3 in his class behind Charlie Bassett and Ted Freeman but unlike those two he was not ruled into the space class.  The USAF dropped hints that they would take Eisele but he had a great tour lined up at Kirtland AFB and it would have not made a lot of sense to keep pursuing space school when he had a great job already lined up.  Did Eisele miss something at space school that would have made him appear a little weaker than Scott, Bassett or Collins?


Offline Michael Cassutt

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #11 on: 03/21/2017 10:45 PM »
Someone should check Slayton autobiography Deke.

And as the co-author of DEKE! who got it _wrong_ (one of those mistakes you ought to catch and don't*), I can attest that those who were there have said all along.... the original AS-204 was Grissom, White, Eisele.  Eisele had to undergo surgery, which took him off flight status for several weeks.  Needing to announce a 204 crew and get it into training, Slayton assigned Chaffee in place of Eisele.

Michael Cassutt

* And come to think of it, ought to correct in the e-book......

Michael, did I get it correct that the projected crews for AS-204 and AS-205 before the Eisele shoulder problem were

AS-204
Command Pilot: Grissom / McDivitt
Senior Pilot: White / Scott
Pilot: Eisele / Chaffee

AS-205:
Command Pilot: Schirra / Borman
Senior Pilot: Cunningham / Bassett
Pilot: Scheweickart / Anders ?


It was actually:

AS-204
Command Pilot: Grissom / McDivitt
Senior Pilot: White / Scott
Pilot: Eisele / Schweickart

AS-205:
Command Pilot: Schirra / Borman
Senior Pilot: Cunningham / Bassett
Pilot: Chaffee / Anders


That's how it appears to me, too.  Slayton was aiming the 204/205 backup crews at the more challenging Block II missions. The four unflown astronauts on the prime crews were probably destined for AAP, though circumstances could have changed that.

MC

Offline Michael Cassutt

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #12 on: 03/21/2017 10:57 PM »
Question for Michael Cassett (big fan of your biography and your novel Missing Man)

Deke said something to the effect of Apollo 1 being a chance to try out two guys (Chaffee and Eisele) that he thought were weaker.

Was wondering if you had any insight into why Deke made that subjective observation?  Eisele was near the top of his Naval Academy class, had a masters in astronautics, and graduated #3 in his test pilot school class.  Seems like he would have been a pretty strong guy. After reading Eisele's bio I see two things that may have biased Deke.

1)  The shoulder dislocation was a recurring problem. It happened more than once although Deke mentioned the KC135 injury. Maybe that was a reason Deke felt like he couldn't get him into a Gemini slot.

2)  I think the USAF jerked Eisele around at the end of test pilot school (in my experience the 21st century USAF never does that) In 1962 the space part of the curriculum was not part of the standard course.  Shortly thereafter it would be rolled into one course Aerospace Research Pilot school that multiple astronauts attended.  Col Eisele graduated #3 in his class behind Charlie Bassett and Ted Freeman but unlike those two he was not ruled into the space class.  The USAF dropped hints that they would take Eisele but he had a great tour lined up at Kirtland AFB and it would have not made a lot of sense to keep pursuing space school when he had a great job already lined up.  Did Eisele miss something at space school that would have made him appear a little weaker than Scott, Bassett or Collins?



Thanks for the kind words re DEKE! and MM.  Sometime next year, assuming I get it done this summer, you'll have the chance to read a book of comparable interest, I hope: my biography of George W. S. Abbey.

As for why Deke judged Eisele to be weaker in comparison to his contemporaries -- notably Scott, Bassett, Collins, Freeman -- I can't say. Yes, on paper he should have been a Gemini astronaut... but then, you could say the same of Bean or Williams, both of them test pilots. I believe, without checking, that Bean was #1 in his Pax River test pilot class.

For what it's worth, and I didn't know the man, only what's been written and said about him, Eisele seems to have lacked the drive that, say, Scott possessed. Or just decision-making, choosing to go to Kirtland when he had the chance to attend ARPS. (Was that a "great job"?  We have Eisele's word for it, but even his description makes it sound banal. And Kirtland was not considered a plum flight test assignment.)

Recall Cunningham's report (in THE ALL-AMERICAN BOYS) of an Eisele quote that while he'd felt "like a real tiger" in his operational squadron, that he wasn't sure he was a stand-out at NASA.  That's probably the best we can say.

MC

Offline Archibald

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #13 on: 03/22/2017 03:27 PM »
Quote
: my biography of George W. S. Abbey.

That will be... interesting. Abbey has been somewhat "demonized" by some astronauts because of the way he managed crew rotations in the 80's. Then others praised his skills.
I do hope your book re-establish some truth about the men.

Offline Brovane

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #14 on: 03/22/2017 10:34 PM »
Question for Michael Cassett (big fan of your biography and your novel Missing Man)

Deke said something to the effect of Apollo 1 being a chance to try out two guys (Chaffee and Eisele) that he thought were weaker.

Was wondering if you had any insight into why Deke made that subjective observation?  Eisele was near the top of his Naval Academy class, had a masters in astronautics, and graduated #3 in his test pilot school class.  Seems like he would have been a pretty strong guy. After reading Eisele's bio I see two things that may have biased Deke.

1)  The shoulder dislocation was a recurring problem. It happened more than once although Deke mentioned the KC135 injury. Maybe that was a reason Deke felt like he couldn't get him into a Gemini slot.

2)  I think the USAF jerked Eisele around at the end of test pilot school (in my experience the 21st century USAF never does that) In 1962 the space part of the curriculum was not part of the standard course.  Shortly thereafter it would be rolled into one course Aerospace Research Pilot school that multiple astronauts attended.  Col Eisele graduated #3 in his class behind Charlie Bassett and Ted Freeman but unlike those two he was not ruled into the space class.  The USAF dropped hints that they would take Eisele but he had a great tour lined up at Kirtland AFB and it would have not made a lot of sense to keep pursuing space school when he had a great job already lined up.  Did Eisele miss something at space school that would have made him appear a little weaker than Scott, Bassett or Collins?

I think from my readings that part of Slayton selecting astronauts was subjective.  We are all human, are we not?

Slayton had a large authority over crew assignments and few of his selections were ever challenged by NASA management above him. 

Some of the early astronaut's personalities didn't fit into the typical test pilot personality in the Astronaut Office. For example Aldrin, Slayton tried to dead end job him as a backup for Gemini-10 which means he wouldn't have been on the early Apollo missions.  Even though Aldrin was very strong technically, he just got on other people's nerves.  If you later look at his original selection as Shepard for Commander Position of Apollo-13, one of his few selections that was over-ridden by NASA management. 

What this means is that maybe Eisele wasn't weaker than anyone else.  Trying to figure it out decades later just leaves us scratching or heads because there wasn't any objectivity to it.     
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline Skylon

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Re: The Original Apollo 1 Crew
« Reply #15 on: 04/17/2017 03:36 PM »
Was wondering if you had any insight into why Deke made that subjective observation?  Eisele was near the top of his Naval Academy class, had a masters in astronautics, and graduated #3 in his test pilot school class.  Seems like he would have been a pretty strong guy. After reading Eisele's bio I see two things that may have biased Deke.


I still have yet to read "Apollo Pilot", but the reason I find it fascinating to finally get Eisele's POV is because everybody seemed to give him a bum reputation.  Slayton, Cunningham, Collins - from my understanding Stafford in "We Have Capture" (still haven't gotten around to that one either) all seem harsh on Eisele to greater and lesser degrees.

The bias was not just in Slayton based on those sources, but it is refreshing to know at least there is some form of rebuttal out there that can lead to a long term, even-handed picture of the man.

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