Илья - Reading log
[Recent Entries][Archive][Friends][User Info]
Gene Kranz, Failure is Not an Option (2000). Gene Kranz wanted to be a pilot since childhood. After graduating from college, he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve and started flying the F-86 Sabre fighter. The Korean War had just ended, and Kranz's unit enforced the ceasefire. After the ceasefire had proven to last, Kranz's next assignment was to train to fly tankers. Kranz found this beneath his dignity as a fighter pilot, resigned from active duty, and applied to several aviation-related positions. McDonnell was the only company that hired him, not to fly but to manage missile tests from the ground. He once encountered a situation similar to ones he would later see at NASA: a B-52 was supposed to launch a missile; it lowered it, but suddenly the missile lost all power and couldn't be launched. Should the crew have ejected and lost the plane; should they have tried to land on top of the missile; should a crewman have climbed down the bomb bay and tried to repower the missile? Kranz took command of the brainstorming missilemen, and they came to the decision to softly land the B-52 on top of the missile, which shouldn't explode; the plane landed, and the missile didn't explode.
After the McDonnell job, Kranz applied to rejoin the Air Force, was rejected, applied to NASA instead, and was hired by Mission Control. This is where he spent most of his career, working on projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, eventually rising to the position of Flight Director. It made for great management-problem solving-operations drama. The first Mercury-Redstone rocket flew 4 inches into the air and dropped back; the escape rocket flew away and the capsule released parachutes. Now the thin cylinder with rocket fuel and liquid oxygen was standing on the launch pad with parachutes hanging; a gust of wind could overturn it and cause an explosion. Sending a man to reconnect the cables could get him killed; taking a crane to the rocket to cut the parachute cords was also too risky. Somebody proposed shooting holes in the fuel and oxidizer tanks with a rifle to relieve pressure. Fortunately, Mission Control had the sense to wait until the batteries have been drained and the liquid oxygen has boiled away; wind wasn't forecast and in fact didn't blow and topple the rocket. There was more such drama on many following missions.
The high point of Kranz's career was the Apollo 13 mission, where he was the lead flight director. After the explosion in the spacecraft's service module, it was Kranz's subordinates who made the decision to have the damaged spacecraft go round the Moon, using the lunar module as a lifeboat, and have the astronauts make a duct-tape-and-cardboard contraption to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the air. No, he did not really say "Failure is not an option"; it was the invention of the filmmakers who made the 1995 movie. Kranz stayed at NASA until the 1993 Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, for a total of 34 years. What a career! I am having a hard time imagining someone who would write non-ironically, "[...] our bonding produced a spirit that responded to the challenge of John Kennedy's inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Yet as far as I know, this indeed was the spirit that animated the Space Race.
|From:||e2pii1 — |
|Date:||October 7th, 2013 12:16 pm (UTC)|| |
> B-52 was supposed to launch a missile; it lowered it, but suddenly the missile lost all power and couldn't be launched.
Неудачей закончилось испытание "умной ракеты" - ракета отказалась покидать самолет :-)