Physicist, Oceanographer, Aerospace Technologist, Rancher, Land Developer and Lecturer
NASA Manned Space Program
The official logo of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. the first NASA Flight Operations Director, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas. Dr. Kraft eventually became the Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center which was renamed the Johnson Space Center after Apollo.
When I left the Manned Space Center to help with the rebuilding of the Mission Control Center at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs at Cal Tech, Chris Kraft presented me with a photo of himself signed with very complementary words that I could post on a wall in my next office whereever that might be. To this day, some 45 years later, the photo now hangs on my office wall here at home. As I type this, it is right next to my right shoulder. It's almost as if he is still here, pushing me on to do good work. He was a real inspiration to all of us in the Program. I really enjoyed working for this brilliant man almost from the onset of manned space flight through the lunar landings. He became my mentor and friend. He was a tough boss, demanding the best from everyone. There was no such thing as "failure" in his dictionary. Later on, another of his sublings, like me, and also a gifted Flight Director during Apollo, Gene Kranz, wrote a book with that title, "Failure is not an Option".
If the words are difficult to read on this web page, he wrote: "You do good work. Your contributions to the success of manned space flight have been many. All the best to Dick Holt".
Dick Holt Joins NASA Manned Space Center in 1962
The Navy Dolphin Program has come to a standstill. The dolphins have all died, that is, all but one. The Navy is deciding, at the Navy Department level, if they want to continue the program. Management at the Naval Missile Center/Pacific Missile Range/Navy Dolphin Program looks for places to put people to work that are currently in the dolphin program. Dick Holt happens to have all the experience that is required to work on any part of the instrumentation of the range, so he is offered an opportunity to take over the management of an engineering section that is responsible for all the radars, telemetry, command systems and communications both at the Naval Missile Center and on the Pacific Missile Range. Little did he suspect that that experience would stand out in a major way in just a few months when he would interview with NASA – Houston.
The Navy brass then comes up with an idea in order to keep Dick involved in the oceanography programs of the Navy to offer him an opportunity to return to school and work toward getting his doctorate in Physical Oceanography, at Navy expense for two full years at full salary, at whatever school he might choose. Dick accepts the offer.
Dick enrolls at Texas A&M School of Oceanography in Bryan, Texas, and is accepted into the program, and wastes no time before he is on his way to College Station, Texas from Point Mugu. He decides to drive through Houston to visit with his former Program Director for the Eagle Missile Program at Point Mugu, a Navy Captain, Bill Wakeland. Captain Wakeland has been assigned to the brand new government Manned Space Program, NASA, in Houston as the Department of Defense rep for the booster rockets that will be used on the manned programs of Mercury and Gemini. Capt. Wakeland and his wife live near Houston, in Friendswood, Texas.
Dick calls them and tells them of his plans to go to Texas A&M and they invite him to drive through Houston on his way to College Station. When he gets there, he finds that Captain Wakeland has set up an interview for him with Chris Kraft. Kraft is looking for a person to be his Network Coordinator/Controller, to manage the setup and operation of the entire manned space tracking network which is made up of radars, telemetry, communications and data collection and transmission systems belonging to a plethora of government and private organizations. This network supports all the manned flights. Requirements for the flights are generated in Houston and given to the management of all the tracking network which then has their stations configure to those requirements. The Network Controller sits in the Mission Operations room right next to the Flight Director and reports directly to him on the status of all support equipment.
In addition to wanting a person to be his Network Director, Kraft is also looking for this same person to take charge of the design, building and putting into service the Mission Control Center for manned flight which will be relocated from Cape Canaveral, Florida to this facility in Houston. The organizational chart has not yet been drawn up for this total job. Kraft was to assign this job to Dick Holt.
When Captain Wakeland tells Mr. Kraft that Dick Holt has experience in all the systems that are part of the manned flight support network, Chris insists that he be given a chance to interview Dick. Dick has no plans to work in Houston, in fact, does not even speculate on this issue. But the interview is conducted, and Chris offers this job to Dick Holt and convinces him to accept it. He emphasizes that this is a brand new international effort to get man into space, and they need Dick's expertise to make this possible.
Redstone Booster with the Mercury Spacecraft and escape tower - from Cape Canaveral
The Gemini spacecraft on a Titan booster - from Cape Canaveral
Boy was I excited! In right on the ground floor of the beginning of a brand-new program, putting man in space. This was to be a first for the United States, and I was privileged to be here for that, and in the front seat no less! The Mercury program had just begun and had flown several successful flights, starting with the Redstone booster which was an old army missile. Its function was to test the launch characteristics with the spacecraft attached along with its escape tower. I wasn't there for the first few tests which were unsuccessful. But I was so excited to become a part of this brand-new program that again I felt like a kid in a candy store! How was I so lucky to have gotten in on this program at this point?
I crammed and crammed like studying for a final exam to learn everything I could about the worldwide tracking network that was being employed to support the program. It consisted of 17 tracking stations spread around the world in the latitude that the spacecraft's would be flying in the future. None of the stations belong to NASA-Houston; they belong to the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Department of Defense, and the JPL. In addition to the land-based stations there were three or four tracking ships that would be assigned to various locations to fill in holes in the tracking patterns. These were Department of Defense ships. They were also aircraft belonging to the Department of Defense that would be used for relay of voice from the spacecraft to ground stations. We did not have any satellites this early in the space program to be able to track the spacecraft, collect the information from the spacecraft, record that information and then dump it to a ground station. All that capability was to come some years down the road, and I would have a hand in developing that. What a wonderful position to be in.
The mission for NASA was fairly simple. Learn to put a man in space and bring him back safely, with the target being the moon, ultimately! But first there was a large learning curve to be able to do the first part of the task. I was thrilled to be a part of that.
The site of the NASA Manned Space Center in Clear Lake, Texas. The new Mission Control Center is the building in the center right side just below the building that looks like it has a white roof. It is a windowless building five stories tall.
The photo above is what the ultimate NASA Manned Space Center looked like in 1964-65 after it was completed. The land upon which it was built was donated to NASA by a former US Senator from Texas and had been pasture land for cattle for many years. It was swampy, and had to be drained and ditches had to be employed to keep it free of standing water. When heavy rains came, this became a problem. Another major problem was found during construction of the buildings in that the ground was a mud gumbo and steel supporters had to be driven deep into the ground to give the building some stability. The Mission Control Center encountered a whole lot of electrical grounding problems that gave our computers a fit for a long time.
At the top of the photo is Clear Lake, a name which belied its true condition. And off to the right side, contractors began an entire city which was to take the name of the Lake in the future when it was finished. Many of the employees of the Center lived in beautiful homes that had been built on the gumbo.
NASA began its manned space program with seven astronauts chosen from the military services. In this photo, they are from L to R, Carpenter, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Shirra, Shephard and Slayton
These first seven astronauts, known as the "We SEVEN", were soon joined in 1962 by nine more for a total at that time of 16 men who had been chosen to prepare for the Gemini and Apollo missions of the future.
While the Mercury Program was winding down with mission MA-9 of Cooper, the massive building program was going on in Houston for what was called the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) at that time, and the new Mission Control Center (MCC)was getting ready to take over control of the future flights. Control of flight in the earliest days of Mercury were from Cape Canaveral. The new MSC with its MCC was to be built in Houston. It would then take over control of future missions. This happened on the 4th Gemini mission, GT-4. The MA and GT signify the Mercury Atlas and Gemini Titan setups, the second letter designating the launch vehicle/booster that was charged with taking the spacecraft into orbit.
The Network Controller for Manned Flight
When I took the job with the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, (now renamed the Johnson Space Center), there were about 125 of us working for Chris Kraft in Flight Operations. There were no buildings where now the space center stands. We had temporary offices spread all over the south end of Houston wherever office space could be rented. Flight Crew Operations, the organization that was to be the home for the astronauts, had the original seven astronauts, and a new group of nine had just been announced that would be coming on board in the next few months. My office was on the second story of a warehouse belonging to a large sporting goods store in Houston (Oshman's Sporting Goods). Part of the Houston Petroleum Center complex was dedicated to office spaces for Kraft and his staff. The other parts of Flight Operations were also spread around in vacant office space in the south end of Houston. That was the Manned Spacecraft Center of 1962!
Since we were such a small group, all of us got to know each other very well as we began planning for missions of the Mercury, Geminin and Apollo Programs. Apollo was a long way off and we all had a lot to learn before we came to that lunar program. For now, it was a matter of learning how to launch a man into space and get him back to earth safely. No one had ever done that.
My job was to learn the technical aspects of the flights and to make sure that all the requirements for radar tracking, telemetry and up-link command were planned for. I also was responsible to see to it that all communications were established to be able to talk to the astronauts while in flight and to communicate between the Mission Control Room and the remote tracking stations. There were 17 tracking stations spread all around the world from about 30 degrees north latitude to 30 degrees south latitude. We had stations in deserts, on mountains, on islands all over the world, on ships and aircraft, and all of them had to be tied in to the control center, first at Cape Canaveral and when the new Center was to be built, back to this Center in Houston.
In order to do this job, I had to know all the technical requirements that had been laid on each mission and to make sure these requirements were being met by the owners of the tracking networks, NASA Goddard Space Center, the USAF Cape Canaveral launching and tracking facilities, and the other Department of Defense tracking stations in various locations all over the globe. It was a challenging task and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It kept me pretty busy. I also had the Mission Control Center and its massive data collection, analysis and distribution under me and that alone was a monster headache to keep track of.
The following paragraph is what was written about the job of the Network Controller into the Flight Controller's training manual. Every console, every display, every bit of information they were using for the flight control job they had was under the direct supervision of the Network Controller since he had the Mission Control Center under him as well as the Manned Space Tracking Network.
The right-most console on the third row is NETWORK, which functioned as the interface with the global network of MSFN data collection and transmission stations which served NASA. Not all of the ground stations were wholly reliable, and NETWORK often had his hands full ensuring that Mission Control was getting the data they needed; a downed computer at a site hundreds or thousands of miles away was NETWORK's problem to fix, and the controller was expected to keep the rest of Mission Control apprised of when things would be online again in the event of a failure. NETWORK's job didn't end there—he also had responsibility for data transmission inside the MCC complex, and even functioned as a kind of first-line technical support for the other consoles. "If we had a problem with a display, we'd talk to him," Sy recalled. "He had a really pressured job."
At the beginning, Mission Control was at the Mercury Control Center located at Cape Canaveral which was under the management of the US Air Force. Later when the launches were handled by NASA at Merritt Island Kennedy Space Center, control reverted to NASA for launch operations. Range Safety facilities were still handled by the Air Force. I was required to coordinate all of our requirements with each of these agencies, and during mission periods when NASA Houston was in charge of the flight, then I sat next to the Flight Director, Mr. Kraft, and kept track of the status of each piece of equipment and its readiness to support the mission.
The Mercury Control Center, located at Cape Canaveral, was a former storage building on the grounds of the USAF Eastern Test Range who's headquarters was at Patrick Air Force Base, Melbourne, Florida, just south of Cape Canaveral. This photo above is of the control room in that building. It houses a primitive set of display systems, vertical plotting boards displaying radar data coming into the building from local radars, plotting the x and y axis of the radar location of the spacecraft they were tracking.
Across the front of the room was a manually operated display of the orbits of the spacecraft as it made its way around the world. Each tracking station, and there were at one time 17 of these, was shown by a large circle which could be lit up from the console of the Network Status Monitor. This was the title of the person, fourth from the left in the second row down, that was to ultimately be called the Network Controller. I was privileged to sit at this console for the final missions of Mercury. As each station began tracking the spacecraft, the light around that station's location could be switched on and everyone in the room would know that was where the spacecraft was located. There were no computer generated displays at this time. This was state-of-the-art, primitive as it was.
The Flight Director sat at the center console, third from the left in the second row down from the top.
Mission Control Center, Manned Space Center, Clear Lake (Houston), Texas
This is a photo of the Mission Control Center, the windowless building almost in the center of the photo, after it was completed in 1964. It was a five story building and had three operating floors where two main mission control rooms were located, with the computer center taking up the entire bottom floor of the three. Adjacent to this control center building in the background, in the foreground in this photo is an office building where we all had our offices. I was responsible for the maintenance and operation of the entire mission control building during non-mission and mission periods, and that included the security of the facility.
The Mission Control Center was a five story building but had only three working floors. The first floor is devoted to the large mission computing center and the adjacent network communications computers. Each floor has a large sub-floor that was used for the extensive wiring and air conditioning required. The seond and third floors house the Mission Control Rooms and the mission support rooms where staff engineers supporting the activity going on in the main control room are housed.
This building proved to be very difficult to get a good grounding sysem in place for the massive (at the time) computing center which required huge air conditioners as well as expansive grounds that would keep stray signals down during use. In today's world of computers, all of this computing capability could probably be handled by a group of desk top computers, maybe! But at the time, this was state-of-the-art in computers. We had the brand new IBM 360 series computers and in the data communications area, Univac 494 processors, the latest in computing technology at the time.
I was named the Chief of Network Operations which included all the tracking stations, the ships and aircraft that were data collection and transmission locations, the launch faciity tracking, telemetry and command systems, and finally, the brand new Mission Control Center in Houston. For that facility, I had the responsibility for the maintenance, operation and security of the control center. I had by this time achieved the pay grade of GS-15 in the Civil Service System of the U.S. Government/NASA. But we had a little special thing that was done to make it easier for NASA to be able to hire the people we wanted and didn't want to go through the hassle of the selection process of the typical hiring that was required for a Civil Service hiring. NASA created the category named Aerospace Technologist, and anyone we wanted to hire was put on that listing which was brand new to Civil Service and therefore had no competitive problems in hiring someone from the list of those available.
By the time we had gotten to this point in the programs, I had over 600 people working for me in my organization which was called Network Control and Operations, a part of the Flight Control Division which was headed up by Christopher Kraft, Jr.
If you read to the bottom of this page, you will find another very exciting thing I got involeved with while doing the job of the Network Controlller for the manned space program.
Technology Advances in the Manned Space Program
I don’t have enough room in this website to cover all of the thousands of innovations and inventions that resulted from the space program. But I’d like to mention just a few that may be of interest to some of you. Each flight produced many innovative techniques used for flight control in outer space. I’ve mentioned a few of these such as the astronauts being able to operate outside of the spacecraft in a space atmosphere. Their spacesuits alone were a major invention in being able to fly in outer space. In addition there were many innovative flight dynamics techniques derived to be able to calculate orbits, location of spacecraft in space, rendezvous of vehicles in outer space in different orbits. Space flight dynamics were so important to ensure that our vehicles did not re-exit the earth’s atmosphere.
The massive software requirements for our real-time computing center were in themselves a major task that was accomplished during these flight missions.
As I noted in the photograph of the Mission control Center at Cape Canaveral, flight displays during missions were prehistoric in the Mercury program. Verticle plotting boards for radar tracking and a mechanical display for stations was not going to meet the needs of the new programs. This could not continue in the new mission control center. A system called Eidophor for projection of data and movies had been invented in Switzerland in 1946. Such a system was currently being envisioned in movie theaters to project movies onto screens from the rear.
During the design phase for the Mission Control Ctr., Philco Ford our general contractor for the mission control center based in Palo Alto California came up with the idea that such a system as the Eidophor could be used to project all our data needs onto screens in the front of the mission control rooms in the new control center. This was presented to me at a meeting in Houston and at a subsequent meetings in Palo Alto. I became enamored with the possibility of this system being used in the mission control center. I gave the go-ahead for Philco Ford to proceed with evaluating the design of an Eidophor projection system for Houston.
Data Generation, Collection, and Transmission in the Manned Flight Program
Never had such a massive data collection system been conceived as this new manned program. We had complex space flight vehicles and we wanted to know how every system in the spacecraft was operating or not operating. That meant every valve, switch, flow device, control device, everything, had to be instrumented. And that also meant that that instrumentation had to be connected to the data collection telemetry on board and that telemetry had to be connected to the data transmission system which in turn transmitted the data to ground stations in the radio waves of the atmosphere. The data collection system in the spacecraft was taking analog signals from the sensing devices, and converting them to digital form for processing and transmission. Then on the ground end, the signals were changed back to analog if they were to be presented to a Flight Controller at that station, or if they were to be send back to Houston to the MCC, then they would go in digital form through the data communications computers to Houston, sent to the RTCC for processing, then to the Flight Controller console for his analysis of the information. Quite a load was placed on the network of data collection, processing and transmission.
TO OVERSEE THIS MASSIVE SYSTEM WAS THE JOB I TOOK ON AS THE NETWORK CONTROLLER FOR MANNED SPACE FLIGHT!!!
Then a man was put into the equation, and two men, and then three men. We had to know how every "system" in the man was operating, body temperature, blood pressure, skin temperature, urine status, space suit systems, etc. and this data then had to also get into the telemetry stream passing on to the ground stations and then to a controller/doctor somewhere who could look at it and make decisions that were needed to continue or abort the flight.
We also needed an "up link", a command link from the ground to the spacecraft to send commands to the spacecraft or to the men on what the ground controllers had decided to do with any given situation. This meant that between a flight controller in the MCC in Houston and the remote tracking station there had to be a working data transmission system which allowed all of this to take place. It meant taking analog data straight from an operating system on board the spacecraft, changing it into a digital signal, and then sending that on via links to a control device or person somewhere on the ground. And then getting the information back to the spacecraft the data had to go in the reverse direction.
A decision in the MCC made by a Flight Controller, such as Flight Dynamics data, which changed orbital commands to the spacecraft control surfaces, had to be generated from the console, through the MCC communications system, through the digital communications system to the remote station in digital form, then transmitted via telemetry and command systems to the spacecraft to have the appropriate action take place on the spacecraft.
Multiply this by the number of Flight Control Positions and the decisions each of them were making in "real time", and you can begin to imagine the immense amount of data handling that was required for a flight.
And then on top of all that data collection and transmission, we also had to accurately track or locate the spacecraft in its orbit and get that information to the Flight Dynamics people who made decisions on changing of the orbit, firing of the engines, etc. while in flight or when changing orbits.
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System - a space-based tracking system in orbit that would track manned vehicles
We had already determined that the use of land based tracking stations was not going to work for long - so a low orbit satellite tracking system was developed that would be able to track the orbiting spacecraft. This became especally important when we were planning trips to "outer space" such as the moon.
The Eidophor Projecting System as written in Wikipedia
This is the write-up that Wikipedia has for the Eidophor and one which I had seen somewhere in the literature during the time we were discussing the need for a better system for projecting tracking data and critical operational data from the Real Time Computing Center (RTCC) and the communications system. No one had such a system in use, not even in the best of movie theaters in the U.S. So we were pushing state-of-the-art!
Eidophors used an optical system somewhat similar to a conventional movie projector but substituted a slowly-rotating mirrored disk or dish for the film. The disk was covered with a thin film of high-viscosity transparent oil and through the use of a scanned electron beam, electrostatic charges could be deposited onto the oil, causing the surface of the oil to deform. Light was shone on the disc via a striped mirror consisting of strips of reflective material alternated with transparent non-reflective areas. Areas of the oil unaffected by the electron beam would allow the light to be reflected directly back to the mirror and towards the light source, whereas light passing through deformed areas would be displaced and would pass through the adjacent transparent areas and onwards through the projection system. As the disk rotated, a doctor blade discharged and smoothed the ripples in the oil, readying it for re-use on another television frame.
The Eidophor was a large and cumbersome device and not commonly used until there was a need for good quality large screen projection. This opportunity arose as part of the NASA space program where the technology was deployed in mission control.
A different view of an Eidophor projector
A less-than-good image of how the system worked for the flight control team. The rear projection system, the Eidophor was located behind the wall in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) projecting images generated from the Real Time Computing Center (RTCC) through the Eidophor, using mirrors to take the small image and blow it up to be able to see across the entire screen. Later on, this was to become standard for projecting movies and live TV that we now see in football stadiums. But this was the first of its kind.
A partial view of the MOCR with a Flight Controller console in the foreground and the large screen displays showing pertinent data from the Eidophor rear projection system
Different types of images that could be generated by the RTCC and then projected into the MOCR through the Eidophor
Flight Control consoles in the MOCR with TV monitors showing whatever data that particular position required in order to do his job. This console happens to be the Environmental Systems Engineer. The console has not only the TV display coming from the RTCC, but has all the communications buttons that are required for that console to communicate within the MCC and to tracking stations around the world and to their support room in the back area of that floor of the MCC
Another view of a different console with its own needs programmed for the TV screen in front of the operator. My people doing the maintenance and operation of the MCC were responsible for the total maintenance, display and operation of every piece of equipment in the MCC - a major task for all of us in the operation of the Network.
A beautiful view of typical displays that were generated by the RTCC as per the requirements of the different Flight Contollers in the MOCR
And while these buildings were being built at Clear Lake, the Gemini Program was going along at full speed. Things that had never been done, were being carried out by the Flight Team. Astronaut Ed White, who was later to lose his life in the terrible fire in Apollo 1, was outside the Gemini spacecraft, moving about in space, something that some people said could never be done. But the need to be able to move about in space outside of the spacecraft was to be a vital part of future programs. How could we go on to the moon and get out of the spacecraft after it landed on the moon if we had not learned to operate in space outside the spacecraft?
The life support system of the suits had to be invented and tried out. The techniques for opening and closing of the spacecraft also had to be perfected.
And in addition to these factors, we had to be able to rendezvous in space, i.e. two spacecraft, flying in different orbits had to be brought together and then dock if we were ever going to be able to go to the moon. No one had done that!
Astronaut Ed White exits the spacecraft tethered to the life support systems inside the vehicle.
Ed White with his maneuvering unit and life support hoses hanging onto the outside of the Gemini spacecraft.
Rendezvous in space between two Gemini manned spacecraft.
The Agena unmanned spacecraft 50 feet away from the manned Gemini spacecraft just prior to docking.
Preparing to dock the Gemini spacecraft with the unmanned Agena spacecraft.
We now have learned to operate outside in space with a good spacesuit and life support lines attached to the spacecraft. Next comes being able to operate outside the spacecraft using some kind of propulsion system so that the astronaut can operated freely tethered only by a retaining line and carrying all his own life support system with him.
We've also learned to rendezvous two vehicles in space launched at different times and into orbirts which had to be overlapped so that this docking in space could take place.
And then, not to forget the precision data requirements for the flight that had to be constantly monitored along with the command and control portions of that monitoring, the Manned Space Flight Tracking Network had to be able to handle all the load during the entire time the data was required. That included moving the data about from the ground to the spacecraft and back again, and then between stations, and to the Mission Control Center where the data was collected and analyzed in the Real Time Computing Center (RTCC) on the first floor of the Mission Control Center.
The Mission Control Center in Houston Goes Into Operation GT-4
Lecture by Dick Holt in the viewing room at the Mission Control Center - Houston to the Senior class from the Air Force Academy
Tour of the Mission Control Center for the President of Mexico and his State Governors. In the photo on the right next to Dick is Dr. Robert Gilruth, the Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center. This lecture and tour of the Control Center by Dick was all in Spanish.
And by the way, Spanish doesn't have a technical language, at least not in those days of early manned space flight, so I invented words that didn't exist when I gave these lectures in Spanish. It was a lot of fun. I noticed one day during a tour of the President of Mexico, a gentleman in the back of the group taking notes and I didn't really pay much attention to him. Every once in a while he would ask me where I got this or that word, for example, "guided missile", which didn't exist in Spanish. Some few years later, I got my own personal copy of a book this man had written from his position in the language department of the University of Mexico which had a complete language listing of words to use in Spanish for all the technical terms used in the space flight program; the name on the book, by the way, wasn't mine - it was HIS BOOK! MY WORDS! HIS BOOK!
Dick Holt sitting at his console in the Mission Control Room talking to USAF Colonel Henry Clements, assigned to NASA from the Air Force and acting as the Director of the Mission Support Division. The Flight Director sits at the console in the immediate background.
The opening of the new Mission Control Center brought with it the requirement for every notable and dignitary in the world, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Leaders of Industry, Movie Stars, and many more wanted to get a look inside the new exciting control center. So Dick Holt gets an additional assignment. He gets to lead tours for these dignitaries that could not be kept out. And in addition, since he is the only one in the Center in Operations that speaks Spanish fluently, he gets to lead every tour of those dignitaries that only can speak and understand Spanish. These duties took a lot of time away from the normal load of managing the Mission Control Center (hereafter called the MCC). But it did make for meeting some great people. One of the most interested visitors was the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson for whom the entire Center was to be named later. Dick was to lead him on a personal look at every nook and cranny of the MCC. He asked a lot of very good questions.
An interesting side note: My brother George was laying in a hospital bed in Chicago, Illinois and just happened to have his TV on when President Johnson was taking his tour of the MCC. George saw me leading the President around the MCC and yelled out to everyone that could hear him that his brother was on TV with the President in the MCC in Houston. Big thrill for him.
Sports stars were also a constant group to visit the MCC. One of the most interesting happened during the 1965 All-Star Baseball game when the "oldies" of baseball visited. Dick got to lead this group, and Dizzy Dean was the one who, for that group, needed to stick his nose into every nook and cranny. Ed White, the Astronaut, was Dick's partner for this group, and Dick and Ed were asked to let Dizzy get into a spacecraft training model, into which Dizzy could not fit because of his size. We did get him to squeeze into a Gemini spacecraft model by having both doors open and getting Dizzy to get into one door and squeeze across the seats and have one half of his body on one side and the other half on the other side - no room for another astronaut in this case! ((-:
If you had enough influence in the political world, you could wrangle a group tour of the MCC with someone like Dick Holt giving your group the tour. I was "stuck" with this kind of duty too many times. It really interfered with my job requirements, but on the other hand, some of these groups included people that pulled the purse strings in Washington for NASA. This particular group was made up of Congressional Representatives and their wives who thoroughly enjoyed being toured where few people got to visit in these early days of the manned space flight program. It did give me a lot of exposure to the world of giving lectures which was to pay off many years later when I began giving lectures on cruise ships after my retirement.
Gemini Titan GT-7 Spacecraft on display
Gemini spacecraft with Dave Scott and Neil Armstrong still in the water with the Navy Recovery rescue team assisting
The three different spacecraft of the NASA Manned Space Program - Mercury (one man) at the top, Gemini (two man) on the left, and Apollo (three man) on the right.
Mercury MA-9 (Atlas) launch
Gemini GT-4 (Titan) launch
Apollo 11 (Saturn) liftoff going to the moon
The Massive Data Handling Needs of Manned Flight
Spacecraft and their systems, the man in flight and his monitoring, the tracking data to place the spacecraft in space, the huge calculatons needed to compute orbits and re-entry trajectories, and hundreds of other data collection and manipulation needs amplified to a huge size the need for the computer in the system. The Mission Control Center (MCC) alone required a massive need for computing power. The Manned Flight Tracking Network (MSFN) also had a massive need for information manipulation both at the remote tracking stations, the communications network holding the whole program together, and at the Mission Control Center.
An IBM-360 Real Time Computing Center (RTCC) located on the first floor of the MCC took care of most of the data analysis for calculating many of the critical needs for each flight. This was state-of-the-art in all aspects of computing, the latest in computer technology. An adjacent buildfing also housing massive IBM computers handled the pre-flight requirements for all the calculations of the flight mechanics. In the MCC, a large communications complex housed the largest of the Univac series of communications computers, the Univac 490's to start with, later growing to the 494 series. These took care of the flow of data to and from the tracking stations. The RTCC took care of the displays of data to the consoles and the large screen displays. All the incoming data passed through the first floor communications processors from where it was distributed as required throughout the MCC.
Another massive processing center located at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland was a part of the system, receiving data from NASA tracking stations in the MSFN and sending that data on to the MCC in Houston. The huge data processing computers at Cape Canaveral belonging to the Air Force did the same with data from their tracking stations, especially the critical early flight tracking stations that were a part of the downrange network of the USAF Eastern Test Range.
Overall, for manned flight, we had the largest configuration of computers and therefore computing capability of any nation in the world.
The other side of Dick Holt at the Manned Spacecraft Center
A brand-new Black Angus calf
The Angus cattle and me: You may be very surprised to see this photo of a Black Angus calf in my description of the work I did at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. I have always had a personality that required my keeping busy all the time, and it didn't matter how many things I had to do, I always found a way to do something else that I really wanted to do. When I had the job working for the U.S. Navy at the Point Mugu Naval Missile Center, I spent all my spare time teaching SCUBA diving classes mostly to Navy people. And if I had any spare time when I wasn't teaching an actual class, I was taking the students on diving trips to the offshore islands to get them in the water to learn firsthand what SCUBA was all about!
I really wanted to raise Black Angus cattle! So I looked around for a place to live where I could actually have a small herd of cattle right there in Houston while I was working at the Manned Spacecraft Center. I found it! I found 66 acres, about 6 miles from the center, that was available, not to buy, but to lease, from a lady whose husband had just passed away and she was anxious to get somebody on the property to take care of it. It had a ranch house that had been Colonel's quarters at Ellington Air Force Base that had been moved from the base to the farm property which was just a stone's throw from the airbase; a very large storage shed with all kinds of shop space; a huge garage that parked as many as six vehicles; a large barn and corrals that could handle quite a lot of cattle; a lot more than what I would have.
I called the lady, Mrs. Saunders, who had the property and she met me one afternoon to discuss my moving on to her property. She immediately fell in love with me because she said I looked just like her husband who had passed away just a few months before. She was then in her early 80s, and was a super nice woman. I leased the acreage and all the buildings from her. My next move was to move into the house, and then start looking for cattle to purchase.
By the time I moved into the house on the ranch, I had found an Angus cattleman whose ranch was just across the freeway (Gulf Freeway) from the property. He was excited, not only because of my current job, but because I had enough gumption to try to learn something about cows while I was trying to do my job in the space program. The deal we made was that he would sell me six registered Angus cows that had already been bred by his registered Angus bull and who would have calves in just a few months. That way I would get experience in dealing with the cows as they went through the calving period. And by the time the calves came along, I would know a lot more about how to handle them. In addition to that, he also had a beautiful yearling registered bull that he offered me as a starter bull for my little herd. I named the little bull Mr. Speck. I can't remember now where the name came from.
Bobby MaGeehee was his name, and he was a retired Texas Ranger who was to teach me a lot about cows and calves and bulls and how to take care of them. What a stroke of luck to have gotten into the business in this manner. He took me to cattle shows, to sales yards and showed me how to distinguish which cows had been stolen by looking at the brands, and then took me to breeders shows where I could learn more about the breed itself. What an education I got!
A young Black Angus Bull
Besides the help that I got from my Texas Ranger friend from whom I had bought the cattle, I was also very very fortunate to have a valuable contact in Huntsville, Texas, just a short drive north of Houston. That contact was Mr. James B. Hall who was the father in law of my former high school and college roommate, Jim Dolby. Jim had transferred from Wheaton College in our second year to Baylor University, in Texas, and had met a beautiful young lady who was also the head majorette for the Baylor University band. It so happened that Jan's father owned a large ranch just outside of Huntsville on which he raised Black Angus cattle. I had met Mr. Hall on many occasions before this, and when I decided to start my own cattle business, he was thrilled to death and offered to help in any way he could. I knew that he raised beautiful Coastal Bermuda hay with a very high protein content, and I asked him if I could purchase hay from him. He was very pleased to help me in this way.
So because I only had 66 acres, and most of it not really good grazing ground, most of the feed my cows got was from Mr. Hall's hay. I had a barn on the property especially made for feeding cattle under all weather conditions. The hay was stored on one half of the long shed under a roof with sides, and on the other side of the shed it was open to the outside with the feed bins where I could throw the hay over a wall right into the feed bins. I didn't even have to go outside to get the hay. A beautiful set up that Mr. Saunders had built. It only took me a few minutes each morning and evening to feed my little herd. That way I could keep up with the work without any problem.
Black Angus cows and calves pasturing – notice the sparse grass growth. I fed the animals twice a day Coastal Bermuda hay that I purchased from my former high school and college roommate's father-in-law which he grew on his ranch just north of Houston.
In the evening when I would come home, very exhausted and tired of dealing with people, I would sit on the wall dividing the inside of the barn while the cows were eating and just talk to them about all the problems I had had during the day. They listened! And would you believe they never talked back to me! What therapiy this turned out to be! It is what kept me going during the difficult days of the new space program.