Oral History Transcript — Dr. James Westphal
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Interview with Dr. James Westphal
James Westphal; August 12, 1982
ABSTRACT: Reviews Westphal's (b. June 13, 1930) family background, education, and early employment at the Seismograph Service Corporation (1948–53) and at Sinclair Research Labs (1954–60), where he gained experience in designing and constructing a variety of instrumentation. The bulk of the interview is devoted to a thorough discussion of Westphal's career at the CALTECH (1961– ), first as an instrumentation engineer and later as an associate professor and professor of planetary science (1971– ). The interview documents his initial activities in the design and improvement of infrared detectors and telescopes, and then his increasing interest and involvement in the science of infrared astronomy and planetary astronomy. Also covered in great detail is Westphal's work on the Wide Field Camera for ST, including discussion of the evaluation of detectors (SIVIT, SIT, CCD) , design, competing for the contract award, NASA’s procedures and structure and their effect on the development of ST and its instrumentation, and the use of ST and WFC after launch.
DeVorkin:I just walked in on you with not much notice and I appreciate the time you can give me. You just handed me copies of papers that we talked about last time. The papers by Bruce Murray and Robert Wildey that you were also involved in, 10-micron stellar and planetary photometry. Here's "10-Micron Photometry, 25 Stars from B8 to M7."* And then a Liège Symposium (it looks like) article, "10-Micron Stellar Photometry, First Results and Future Prospects."** To be clear then, these are the ones where you also participated, and where you took a stand on obtaining proper credit.
Westphal:Yes, these were a series of papers that were published of these first results, and as we talked about before, I decided that I really wanted to be involved in the science and not just be the chief engineer of the enterprise. So we had to have a discussion about that, which was resolved amiably, and then my name started appearing on the papers directly.
DeVorkin:Yes, and ever since.
Westphal:And ever since. But it clears up the mystery, you remember, of the paper we discussed on the issue of whether the photometry was any good because of the Wildey effect.
Westphal:This was the paper I kept talking about that I didn't remember my name was not on, having to do with 10 stars, or 25 stars from B8 to whatever.
DeVorkin:Yes, that sounds right. Okay, that's pretty straight- forward. We finished off last time in the mid-1960's; and the next item that I was ready to talk about was Don Rea's offer to you to use an aircraft as a platform for your infrared studies. Could you review how you knew Don Rea, and how he was in the position to make this offer, and what your reaction was?
This offer really resulted from the trip to Chacultaya that we talked about last time, where the object in our mind was to find the site with the lowest amount of sky emission, due to the atmosphere at 10 microns. As I said then, we really didn't appreciate clearly the fact that the telescope was the major problem *ApJ 139 (1964), 435-441. **Memoires Soc. R. Sc. Liège, cinquieme series, Tome IX, 1964, 460-F. from any reasonable site, and that you didn't gain anything going even from Mt. Wilson to White Mountain, much less from White Mountain to Chacultaya, until you fixed the telescope.
That problem was understood and first solved by Frank Low. It was only after he recognized that, that the rest of us got on the band wagon. And even now, you need only probably to go as high as Mauna Kea, where the infrared telescope facility is now. There the sky emission is, most of the time, not an issue. It is still the flux from the telescope, although the telescope was built to minimize that problem by making a small secondary and various other good things. I just got interested in the physics of why there is sky emission. What is the real cause of it, why does it seem to be different from point to point. And more especially, why does it seem to be different from second to second, minute to minute? The sky noise at 10 microns is the thermal emission coming from the atmosphere; yet it is not stationary or constant in time. There, in fact, is a kind of a l/F property to it, which is a common property of physical things.
DeVorkin:What did you call it?
One over F noise as it is commonly called, or 1 on F noise; that is, the noise goes up with one over the frequency, which means that it gets worse and worse as the frequency gets lower and lower. That is kind of a broad property of lots of things in nature that is not understood by me, at least. At any rate, sky noise is like that. It has very much a 1 on F character. So you solve that problem logistically on the telescope by the way you do the switching between sampling the sky and sampling the object plus the sky.
Clearly, if you could find a place where that problem was minimized by the very nature of the place, that would be very attractive. So when we went to Chacultaya we were thinking about that; but mainly at Chacultaya we were thinking of just finding out how transparent the atmosphere was from that high site of 5 kilometers, and also how much sky emission was present. We didn't have a very good way at that point of measuring sky emission, but we were beginning to recognize that it was a major source of our difficulties. It was a particularly serious source for those of us interested in planets, because planets are large in angle in the sky and cover a large part of the sky; so to be able to measure from one spot on the planet, you have to go quite a distance and angle to get out into open sky.
The sky noise problem was very much more severe in that case, the implication clearly being that as soon as you move in the sky, and it turns out the number is on the order of 10, 15 or 20 seconds of arc, the noise is essentially uncorrelated. That is, if you go to a place that is a degree away, the noise is not significantly worse. We are talking now about the difference between two spots in the sky. At any rate, I just got interested in the physics and meteorology of all of that. We did a lot of threshing around trying to find better sites. One of the sites that was obvious to us was Chacultaya, which was the highest place you could conveniently get to, and it was a place where, as I mentioned before, Barney Farmer had measured some very low levels of water vapor.
DeVorkin:But this was before the IRTF survey; wasn't it?
Oh yes, this was all before the IRTF survey. Those were the days when there really was money available. You could do things on short time scales. There was a way always to find some money to make it happen. The University of Hawaii was just starting to think seriously about putting an observatory on top of Mauna Kea. That site had been first brought to everybody's attention by Kuiper, who had been interested in sites, and had run around the world looking for all kinds of the best sites he thought he could find.
He had spent some money, and actually had built a kind of rudimentary cheap road well up on the side of Mauna Kea. I guess actually right to the summit. I can't remember for sure whether Kuiper completed a road to the summit, but he had done it near to the summit. He had done it up on the summit plateau, at least. So, by then we had replaced our 20-inch telescope that we had talked about before, which had been built from the surplus Palomar mirror. We replaced it with a 24-inch telescope that we also mentioned, which was a real telescope, instead of something lashed together to see what would happen.
DeVorkin:Was that 24-inch a Boller and Chivens up at Wilson?
Yes, actually the mirror was made by the local Perkin-Elmer place. This was before Boller and Chivens had anything to do with Perkin-Elmer. So Boller and Chivens had nothing to do with that. The mounting was designed by Bruce Rule and I, and built here in our own shops. It's a very, very nice telescope. It's, I think, one of the best small telescopes ever built, in the sense of having a massive mounting that you can hang hundreds of pounds of hardware on and make it all work. It has been a very successful telescope.
The 20-inch was essentially surplus to us at that point; so I called up John Jeffries who was then, and still is the director of what I guess is now the Mauna Kea Observatory facility. I don't remember its name then. He told me that they had just started to do some seeing tests up there and that a fellow by the name of Jim Harwood was doing that work, and that he would be pleased to support me logistically in getting our 20-inch telescope up there to try to measure some sky noise. So we started an enterprise all on our own to try to find out if some sites were better than others, anticipating that would be the case. So we did that and that was very successful. First we found out that the sky emission level was extremely low, much lower than anything we had ever seen. By then we had hardware that could measure the sky emission level directly and accurately.
DeVorkin:I'm confused, though, about one thing. I do have a card here that links the site survey, the 20-inch, Mauna Kea, and the IRTF survey. Did this later become part of it?
Westphal:This is kind of how that whole business started. So I think we will come to that as we go along here in a minute. I hope I don't get diverted too often with my own reminiscences.
DeVorkin:I'm not trying to restrict you. I just want to keep it straight.
Westphal:Right. That was the first time, by the way, that liquid helium had ever been on Mauna Kea, and that was a misery, hauling liquid helium all the way from Amarillo, Texas to the top of Mauna Kea.
DeVorkin:From Amarillo, Texas?
Yes, the source of all liquid helium at that time was in Amarillo, Texas, where the Bureau of Mines had the only helium liquifaction plant that was conveniently available. All liquid helium in those days came from Amarillo, Texas. The shipping losses are very large with liquid helium, particularly in the days before people understood the ways to keep that from happening. So we started out with, I think 100 liters, and we got to the top of the mountain with maybe 10, but that was still enough to do the measurements.
It was a pretty rudimentary enterprise, but of course it was great fun and a great advanture. It was clear that it was a spectacular site, an incredible site. We had been already at White Mountain. We did some measurements up there and found that for some of the year, particularly in the wintertime, it was a good site, but in the summer there was an awful lot of water vapor in the atmosphere, and it was not an especially good site. It was not, in fact, as good as Mt. Wilson was in the summertime, which was a big surprise to us. But once we thought about it some, and paid attention to it, especially all the thunder storms that were building up around White Mountain, we recognized that it was not such a surprise, really, at all. At any rate, we talked about all that stuff. In fact, I think there's a Liège paper from this same symposium.*
DeVorkin:That's right. *J. Westphal, "New Observations of Atmospheric Emission and Absorption in the 8-14 Micron Region" Memoires Soc. R. Sc. Liège, cinquieme series, tome IX, P. 357-361.
Westphal:It might talk about some of that stuff.
DeVorkin:That's right. That's where I got this.
Westphal:Don Rea was then at Berkeley, and was part of one of those University of California special institutes. I don't know the details of how that worked, but the University of California system had independent research institutes in those days in which the people working there were not necessarily faculty members. So they were kind of little private, independent enterprises on the side.
DeVorkin:Yes, there was a radio astronomy research group that Weaver was running.
That's right. There were a number of those around. There was one about space physics or something, I don't remember what it was called, but Don was a member of that, and so he called me and said, "hey, we have access to an airplane. Why don't we do this thing right?" Why don't we find out how the sky noise varies as a function of altitude by just going there. And that sounded like a nifty idea, until we thought through the problem and recognized that it was really not going to work for two reasons. One was that we'd have to have an open hole in the side of the airplane to see out at 10 microns.
And secondly, it was almost for sure that the turbulence around the aircraft was going to overwhelm anything that was out in the real atmosphere. So we talked about that and finally decided that it really was not worth the effort, particularly because of the perceived problems, I don't remember now whether or not we really approached anybody seriously about it. But the perceived problem of having an open hole in the side of an aircraft at high altitude was a problem that came back to haunt NASA at length when they started building the airborne observatories years later. And also, the problem of turbulence around the airplane has, of course, been a terribly serious problem. All of these airborne observatories make very poor images, because of the turbulence around the window and the skin of the airplane.
DeVorkin:I'd be interested in talking about that at some proper time. We're collecting some of that instrumentation.
Westphal:I'm only a bystander to that.You really ought to talk to Eric Becklin or to Fred Gillette about that. Neugebauer knows some about it, but I think that those two people are probably good choices, particularly Fred Gillette. Are you going to talk with him anyway somewhere along the line?
DeVorkin:No, I don't think so.
Westphal:He's the guy you probably really ought to talk to. He was a grad student in the days we're talking about now, with Ed Ney, as I remember. But he is one of the really first-class infrared astronomers and a very pleasant man.
DeVorkin:Where is he?
Westphal:He's at Kitt Peak.
DeVorkin:Could you tell me just very briefly if the open hatch was a real problem because of pressure?
Westphal:No, it's just the turbulence of the air going by. First, you had to have the open hatch to be able to see out, because there is no window that is adequately transparent.
You had to have this open hole; so the first issue was, could you have an open hole in an airplane, in a pressurized airplane? Well, the answer is, not if it's going to be pressurized. Are you going to fly an airplane at 40,000 feet unpressurized? The answer to that was fairly clearly, no. So what do you do? Well, it was ultimately solved by building the telescope as the window. That is, there is an unpressurized area of the airplane, which I guess is not a fair statement.
I guess it's just kind of a pipe, essentially, with optical systems in it. I've never worked on the airplane, so I don't know the engineering details of that. But essentially the optics of the telescope become the window, so the users are back in a pressurized part of the airplane, and the telescope is in an unpressurized part of the airplane. The seal between the two is essentially the detector with its window. I mean, it's not quite that simple, but that's conceptually how it is.
Westphal:The other problem with all airborne telescopes is that the airflow around the skin of the airplane and across this open hole is very turbulent, and that makes a poor optical medium and it makes the images very blurred. They are catastrophically blurred. They're ten times as bad as they are from the ground. That limits very severely some of the things that you could do.
DeVorkin:Yes. They were trying to do spectroscopy in a lot of these things, of course.
Westphal:But a lot of people were trying to do photometry; and they were trying to get the smallest image you can get, so you have the least amount of sky, even though you are already at 40,000 feet or so. As you got to 40,000 feet, the 10-micron problem went away. But now, of course, if you're greedy and you want to work at 200 microns, there is still enough atmosphere to matter. So you are always pushing this. That is inevitably the way it works. Only when you get to space telescope do you f inally get rid of all of it.
DeVorkin:I hope so. Let's go back then to the Mauna Kea story that attracted Don Rea to you, or you to Don Rea. Why didn' t you take advantage of it? Were these the reasons?
Westphal:There were reasons, yes. We anticipated particularly the turbulence problem, and the problem of having a hole in an airplane. We felt these were not soluble. I'm not sure that we actually ever talked to the airplane people about the hole in the airplane problem. But we anticipated, and I think correctly, that they would not be sympathetic at all with having an open hole in the side of their airplane. We did not have it in our mind to build some really very sophisticated piece of hardware that would have pressure seals and all of that in it.
DeVorkin:That's what Frank Low basically did with a Lear jet.
DeVorkin:Did you have any contact with him as he was building that?
No, not in that area, at least. I don't have a clear memory at all of when we first were aware of Low, but it had to be about this time or earlier than this. But Frank, as I mentioned before, had worked at TI, and developed his detector. He then went to Rice, I believe. In fact, I'm sure he was at Rice. For awhile he had a joint appointment between Rice and Arizona, as I remember, and then finally ended up in Arizona. I don't remember the timing of all of that. But we didn't have a very great interest in an airplane.
Frank was trying to expand the use of his detector into the far infrared. He correctly perceived that there was very important science to do out there. We perceived that he was correct about that, but were not driven to compete with him, or to be involved with him, because we had a 200-inch telescope that we were working on every day and night we could possibly find telescope time. It always happens in a case like this, when you have a new technology, there is just an unlimited number of nifty things to do. You do everybody, especially yourself, a disservice, if you try to do them all at once.
So we kind of carved out a little area from the whole range of possibilities, and worked very hard at that. I think that is a common and normal kind of way to proceed. So we never, here at Caltech, in our group, or in Neugebauer's group either, were at all compelled to go work with the aircraft. Particularly, since Frank was clearly doing a very good job. He was way ahead of us. He had the right detectors, and so one wouldn't normally have jumped into that kind of competition anyway.
DeVorkin:Now, you mentioned Gerry Neugebauer. A question that comes not too far down the pike here deals with Mariner 4.
Westphal:Four, the Mars one?
DeVorkin:That's right. I understand that you turned down an offer to work on Mariner 4. I'd be interested to know who made the offer, and what was it to do?
Well, I cannot at this moment tell you for sure who made the offer. It was either Leighton, Neugebauer or Bruce Murray. Bruce was involved. My guess is that it was probably Leighton and Murray, but I don't really remember. I was approached by somebody associated with it, and probably by one or more of those three people, to become "involved." I don't remember that there was anything specific about it. I think I was just being offered the opportunity to get involved in it. I can remember an earlier time when the first Ranger spacecraft succeeded.
These were the ones that crash landed on the moon. This is the one that took the pictures as it was approaching the moon, and crashed. You saw the pictures one after the other as it got closer and closer, and then a third of a picture, or a half or something, of the very last one. I remember, the day after that I was talking to Neugebauer, and he said, "why weren't you up at JPL last night?" — I think it was at night, as I remember — "to watch that happen?" And I mumbled something about, you know, I wasn't invited, or something. He said, "man, you just don't have any soul. You just should have been there. It was the most incredible thing you've ever seen, the most exciting thing in my whole life."
DeVorkin:His wife was working on that, wasn't she?
I don't know about that in any detail. That might well be. If so, I didn't ever know that. I think he was probably still at JPL, or had just come down here when that happened. At any rate, I remember that, and he described the scene. He and Leighton were standing there watching the pictures as they came in one after the other. They were all very enthusiastic about the space part of it. When I was approached about this I thought about it a little, and I thought, well, no — and this is what I told them — it's really not my style. They had lost Mariner 1 and Mariner 3, as I remember, both into the ocean. I don't remember just how that was.
Anyway, they lost one or more of them in the ocean on launch. I remember saying, it would just be more than I could stomach to spend two or three years of my life, and then have the thing go in the drink. The other thing that would be even worse would be to have the thing launched, have something wrong with it, which you knew exactly what it was, which if you could lay hands on it, you could fix it in 10 seconds and not be able to get to it to fix it. That would just be too much for me. So I thought I would stay doing the stuff we were doing on the ground, which was fun and great, and stay out of space work. I think that was a very good decision, looking back at it.
DeVorkin:You also mentioned, when we talked about this before, that you needed, wanted a more personal association, with your equipment.
DeVorkin:What did that mean?
Westphal:It means essentially what I just said right now, the frustration of knowing there was something wrong with it and not being able to lay hands on it to fix it.
DeVorkin:It wasn't so much the design constraint?
Westphal:Well, that was one element of it. The other element of it was that my style has always been, until the time of ST, the time of the wide field camera, to be very personally involved in the design, the construction, the checkout and the use of the hardware. When I'm building hardware, I am often in the machine shop, and I very often do the electronics, the wiring. It depends on the timing and who's around to help and so forth; but I am very intimately involved in it at every level.
DeVorkin:Is that true with the wide field camera, too?
Not so much so, and not as much as I would like, but perhaps we'll come to that a little later on. One of my frustrations with the wide field camera, is that it is not my style. And it is just a style. It is not an issue of what is the right way or wrong way. It really is just a personal style as to how you do things. But for me, as I guess I mentioned to you the last time, the real object of the exercise, if I stand back and ask, "why am I doing all of this," is really just to have fun. I wouldn't miss the fun of putting together a circuit board or checking the hardware out, or trying to figure out why it doesn't work the way we thought it did. I find that fun.
If I get into a situation as I am to a great extent in the wide field camera work, and I am not involved with it at that level, I'm missing an awful lot of fun, and I resent that. I would much rather be doing that and having that fun. That's a lot more fun than writing paper work and requirements documents, and sitting in mission operations working group meetings and so forth. It's a different perspective of what's fun.
DeVorkin:This is very interesting, because there are many ways to look at the goals of why you are doing these things in the first place. I know I've asked you this in different ways before, but when the fun is really building the thing, getting hands-on activity, then where does the science stand?
Westphal:Oh, but the fun is doing the science, too. And the fun is learning something new, as I mentioned to you last time when Bruce and I suddenly realized we knew which way the rotation axis of Venus was, that was great fun! So, that's the fun of science, from my viewpoint: to learn something new, to suddenly understand why something is the way it is, or how something is. Both things happen, and especially in astronomy, you do an awful lot of learning how things are, and not so much of why things are.
DeVorkin:So let's say, to try to create an analogy; if you were a computer programmer and you felt that programming a computer was fun, intrinsic fun.
Westphal:It is. I love to do Fortran programming.
DeVorkin:Would you find it more fun programming something for a scientific experiment as opposed to programming something of the same complexity with the same kind of problems, say to create some sort of data base system for a Government agency that had nothing to do with science, or whatever?
Westphal:Yes, sure. It's a lot more fun to be involved in the integrated enterprise from top to bottom, from the guy that's making the printed circuit board physically — the guy that is down there etching the board — all the way to the writing of the scientific paper at the end. From my view, it is great fun to have random access and be involved at every level of the activity.
DeVorkin:Okay, that happens to be true for science in this particular case; but what if the science got so big, as if, you know, it were a real big NASA operation? Did this bother you at the time, too? Is this another reason?
Westphal:Sure. That's what bothers me about the wide field camera; I am not involved in it at every level in the system. I am missing a lot of fun.
DeVorkin:But if you were in — getting right down to the kernel of the thing — let's say, some Government organization or if you were in IBM, trying to buiid a better core, or something on that order, where the outcome wasn't necessarily the pursuit of astronomical knowledge, could it still be as much fun, even if you had contact with every stage of the project?
Westphal:Well, that's very hard to say. My first gut reaction is to say, no, that wouldn't be as much fun. I'm not sure that that's really true. It's different. I guess it's more fun, and by that, in some sense, I guess I'm saying it's more satisfying in science, because at the gut bottom level, scientists are the modern-day explorers. We're the guys that are like Columbus. There are all kinds of cliches about it, "The Last Frontier," and on and on; but the point is that there is a certain — I don't have the right words instantaneously. There are a group of people who like to explore, and they were the people that rode canoes down the river to find out what was around the next bend. Scientists are among those people today. We're exploring. We're trying to understand what's over there. But there's a side activity that is another part of science; and that is to understand the how what's over there is over there, too. But I think my personal part of science, the science that I like the most, is the part that says, what's out there? What don't we know? What's over that next hill? What's behind the next star, and so on. So, I guess the answer is, that in your analogy, I would not find the same satisfaction. Of course, when I was in the oil industry, we were much more end product oriented. I'm sure that if I had stayed in the oil industry, I would have been economically much better off than I am now. But I really doubt I would have had as much fun as I've had. I don't know how you could have any more fun than I have had. (laughs). One's imagination is not broad enough, maybe, to answer really accurately a question like that.
DeVorkin:Well, back to Mariner 4 then. You chose not to be involved.
Westphal:I chose not to be involved. I chose not to be involved primarily because it just wasn't my style. As I said before, I think that was a good decision for me at that time, and at that point. For instance, there have been numerous opportunities since then to be involved in almost any one of the planetary missions that have occurred, not always in the formal sense, but if I had indicated some interest in that, there is not much doubt I could have gotten myself on one of those teams, one or more of those teams, or even perhaps all of those teams.
DeVorkin:Did you do any consulting in a formal way?
Westphal:Not in any formal way, but there is always somebody with questions; and I help any time I can; but not in a formal way.
DeVorkin:Were they primarily in planetary programs?
Westphal:Yes, that's just a reflection of it being done at JPL, I think. And the people that were working at JPL.
DeVorkin:Yes, so you continued, in large part, ground-based 10 micron studies.
Westphal:Well, until around 1970 or so. I don't remember those dates either, exactly any more.
DeVorkin:Is that after the IRTF Survey?
Westphal:Yes, probably. I can't remember those dates. That was in the early 70's, too. But that was a service activity, and before we branch off, we ought to sign that part of the thing off. Because of the stuff we had been doing, the papers we had published, and the fact that we were continuing at a low level of activity, I was involved, for instance, about that time in helping to select the site for the 60-inch telescope at Palomar, and picking specific sites in Chile for the Carnegie telescopes. We actually made some sky noise measurements in Chile, but not very many. It was not a big activity at the time I am talking about right now. The main thing we did down there was to install some 100-foot towers, and put micro thermal sensors up and down them, to try to understand the near-to-the-ground thermal environment which we believed, and I think is indeed the case, was a major controlling source of atmospheric turbulence in the visible region, and other regions as well, but particularly in the visible region where it is kind of the limitation of the so-called astronomical “seeing." What we did learn in that process is that, and we weren't the first people to say this at all, at some sites the seeing is really being controlled by what's happening in the bottom few 100 feet. And at other sites it's being controlled by what's happening quite high, several thousands of feet above you. At Palomar, as an example, it is primarily being controlled by the high-altitude stuff. In Chile, it is almost all being controlled by the stuff on the ground. One understands that meteorology in a simplistic way, not a detailed way. But at any rate, in those places where the seeing is mainly controlled by what happens near the ground, the micro thermal technique was very effective. At Palomar, in the end, it turned out it wasn't very effective, because it really didn't matter much where you put the telescope, I think. There is a tradition that the 60-inch site is worse than the 200-inch site, but I think that it would be awfully hard to demonstrate that.
DeVorkin:That's the Oscar Meyer telescope?
Westphal:Yes. Once that tradition gets established, why of course everybody knows it's true, and so it's self-propagating at some level.
DeVorkin:Yes, the band wagon.
Westphal:It was fairly well known around the country that I was interested in this sort of stuff. So when it looked like NASA was going to be able to fund a 100-inch class infrared telescope, specifically for infrared observations, it was understood by then, as I said by Frank Low first and then by everybody else, that you could optimize a telescope, especially one to be used in the thermal infrared, by the way you design and build it. Then the drive was that it ought to go in the best site in the world we can find. So I was approached by Bill Brunk from NASA, if I would be willing to organize and conduct a 10 micron infrared sky noise survey. There was quite a little discussion around by various people about what we should do and how we should do it. We finally concluded that realistically it ought to be done at sites that one's experience and/or intuition told you were the most probable sites. You couldn't support a 100-inch site survey. The numbers we talked about were of the order of 10. So it didn't make any sense to do a site survey in Southern Florida or the Virgin Islands, or Tahiti, or various places that you might find attractive to conduct a site survey. In due process, it was agreed that we would make, as I remember, 10, or originally 11, I guess it was, copies of a precipitable water meter that Fred Gillette had developed. He was at that time at the University of California in San Diego. This was a water vapor meter that utilized the sun as the source, and it looked at the ratio of the light from the sun in and out of the water vapor absorption band, at 1.65 and at 1.8 microns in the near infrared. It was a very simple kind of a thing; and we redesigned it somewhat, so that it would operate more simply and more fool proof than the original hand-built model that Fred had generated. Conceptually, it was an identical kind of a system. We would run those along with a device that would measure the 10 micron sky noise directly. So we were funded by Brunk for two or three years as I recall.
DeVorkin:Who was the driving force behind all of this? Behind the IRTF telescope itself?
Westphal:That's a very good question.
DeVorkin:Because I don't know Brunk, myself.
Westphal:Bill Brunk is the planetary science program officer, I guess that is his title, at NASA headquarters. He was, and is, responsible for the funding of all ground-based planetary astronomy. At that time, actually, NSF still had a little branch of planetary astronomy support, too, but when the guy that was running that retired, or left, I think they discontinued it. At any rate, there were various study groups and review groups. NASA was good, and is to this day, about doing that. They get all kinds of people together to talk about what to do next, and how to do it. I don't remember that there was a specific group, or a specific report that said we ought to go do this; so I don't really know how it got started. It might well have started internally in NASA at headquarters, but I can't really tell you the answer to that. But it was very broadly supported in the infrared astronomy community. The first step was to do this survey. We picked, I don't remember, 11 sites originally. I can probably remember where they were. One was Tololo in Chile. One was Mauna Kea. One was in the middle of Baja, California. I can't remember the name of the mountain top down there now. One was at Kitt Peak. One was at Mt. Lemmon, which was the site that Low primarily used. One was at Palomar. One was at White Mountain Summit and one was at Mt. Locke at McDonald. That may have been all of them. I can't remember now. There were actually more on the list originally, and then logistically we just couldn't support it. So we devised and built the hardware to do that. It used, as I remember, 16-inch off-axis paraboloid metal mirror telescopes, in which the primary mirror wobbled to do the chopping in the sky. There was nothing in the beam, because it was off-axis. They used liquid-helium-cooled mercury-doped Germanium detectors. We built the detectors here ourselves, actually. They didn't have to be very good detectors for that particular purpose, as there was a lot of flux. The survey ran officially for a year. It really ran something over an elapsed time of maybe 18 months or so. There was somebody hired at each of these sites who maintained the activity, who measured the precipitable water. That had to be done by hand with this machine, by looking at the sun every day at noon, and as I remember, at nine in the morning, and at 3 in the afternoon, or something at each of these sites. There were terrible, terrible logistics problems at some of the sites. The one that was the biggest problem was White Mountain. We got very little data from White Mountain, because it was being done at the summit, and the logistics of supplying it were just mind-boggling, because of the weather problems. Some of the log sheets kept by the guy who baby-sat this thing in the fall and early winter before he had to abandon it recorded some of the grimmest-sounding weather I have ever heard of, 100-knot winds and sleet and this and that. The site would be an almost impossible site, I think, to utilize seriously for an observatory, which is the reason we abandoned it ourselves, although it has reared its head various times in history as being the ideal site for one reason or another. Buit it's just not logistically a viable place. Of course, the easy sites were those at the established observatories, in some sense. What, we learned from the survey was that, first, some sites are very good occasionally. Some sites are terribly, terribly bad most of the time. In the end, it was quite clear to all, except one or two people in the community, that Mauna Kea was hands down the best site.
Westphal:First, it has a very much higher duty cycle than any place else. The weather is essentially positive the year around. It doesn't have seasons. And so it's a site that you can almost always depend on to have good weather. In contrast to Chile, for instance, where six or seven months of the year, it's very, very good; and then for three months out of the year, the weather is really bad. The wind is sometimes high for days and days, and it maybe snows or rains a little, or it's cloudy. Mauna Kea is very attractive, because the weather is so uniform the year around. There is really not much change of seasons there; there is a little bit of change in the sense that you have a little more cloudiness in January and February. The people that disagreed, I think, did so honestly. They seemed to be interested in promoting their own site. They thought their own site was the best site, and that's natural enough. I remember that early on when the survey was being discussed, Ed Ney, who lives in Minnesota and doesn't have a good astronomical site, except for a few weeks in the winter when it is 40 below or something, kind of discouraged everybody by saying, you know, you can go to a site and stay there for two days and if it isn't good once during the two days, you can abandon that site forever. That really wasn’t how it was, but Ed Ney is a very, very competent guy (laughs) and I think he maybe really said that a bit in jest. But a lot of people took it literally and there was a certain amount of threshing around about why did you want to do it for a year. Well, the answer turned out, when we did it for a year, it was surely a good thing; you learned that you really needed 10 years or 100 years, or a thousand years or something, because it's a nonstationary process. That indeed is the fatal flaw with all such site survey activity: the only site survey that would be worth anything really would be one in which you somehow knew what was going to happen for the next 100 years. Then you could make a decision that would really be meaningful. Otherwise, there are some sites you can throw away for a fact. And some sites you can say, boy, the odds are just awfully, awfully high it's going to be a great place. But most sites you come away from, at least, with any kind of site survey that I know about and that I have had anything to do with anyway, saying, well, this year was unusual. Every year is unusual. It's a nonstationary, statistically nonstationary process, and it's very discouraging in that sense.
DeVorkin:Yes. Well, you established the Mauna Kea site as the best.
Westphal:What I did was make a recommendation. I produced all the data. Bill Brunk covened a little group of infrared astronomers, and I presented the data, and I recommended that Mauna Kea was hands down the best site. That group consulted and discussed and argued and yelled at each other and so forth. The end product of that was that, with one or, I don't remember for sure, even two counter votes, out of that group of six or eight people, it was concluded that Mauna Kea was the best site, and that was where any such telescope should be built.
DeVorkin:Is there any need to identify the people who disagreed?
Westphal:Frank Low was one who did, and I don't remember whether anyone else did. It may have been that somebody else did. There was a group from the University of California at Berkeley who pushed White Mountain very, very strongly; and it may well have been that one of those people was there, but I can't remember. But Frank thought that Mt. Lemmon was still the right place to do it.
DeVorkin:Did you continue with the project after the site was chosen?
Westphal:No, the project was over. It was a little isolated thing that we did here, and a technician and I were paid to make this happen. It was just to do that, and that was the end of it. Then fairly soon after that, the IRTF telescope enterprise got started, and Brunk then appointed a working group to supervise the design of that facility. It had four or five of the very best guys, infrared types, in the country: Neugebauer, Fred Gillette, and Frank Low, at least in the beginning as I remember, were on it. Some other people I don't remember now were involved; but kind of the general run of big-name infrared astronomers. They worked very hard, especially Neugebauer and even more especially, Fred Gillette, on the engineering and design of it to make sure the thing was really done right. They began on it, and the company that had been selected by the University of Hawaii to do the actual design engineering was just not responsive to the problem.
DeVorkin:Who were they?
Westphal:Jones, I believe was the name of the company. It's a local company here. Charlie Jones is in my mind as the man that did it. I can't be absolutely certain. You can ask Neugebauer or one of those guys. At any rate, I was not involved in any of that, and so I don't really know the detailed history. But the end product was that the engineering and the management of the thing was given to a subgroup at JPL, and some of their mechanical engineers were on that project for some months, as I remember, getting the engineering straightened out. Then they hired — and I don't even know the detail of how that was done — a fellow by the name of Gerry Smith at JPL who went to Hawaii as the project manager. Now, he was not, I don't believe, a JPL employee at that point. Whether he actually was off their payroll, or whether he was on leave, I don't know. He was in Hawaii for two, or maybe even three years, making that happen. Gerry Smith is one of the really exceedingly technically competent people at JPL. He has most recently now been the project manager on IRAS. After IRTF was finished, he came back to JPL, so clearly, he had some sort of agreement. There was some sort of agreement about his leaving JPL and coming back. He was the guy that in the end really made it all happen. He was the guy that implemented the conceptual way of going about things that came from this group of Neugebauer and Gillette, primarily those two. It is without any doubt whatsoever the finest infrared telescope in the world. It's just a whole batch better than anything else. And that's a direct result of the conceptual design and the monitoring of that little subgroup of Neugebauer, Gillette, Low and whoever else was involved in it. It’s been a banging success. It's been recently under severe jeopardy of being shut down from lack of money from NASA.
DeVorkin:It has? I didn't know that.
Westphal:There's been a big flap about that over the last several months. I don't know the exact status of it right now. I'm in fact on a mission operations working group for the thing, which is going to meet sometime in the middle of September, I'm afraid, while I am in Greece. I hope not. Anyway, I don't have a hard date for that yet. I will know more about it at that time. But the last time we had a meeting, which was five or six months ago, it didn't look like there was any hope at all for saving it. It was going to be shut down for lack of money. Sad business, but those are hard decisions. I am reticent to criticize. One of the things I've learned in ST is that the people at NASA that have to make these decisions have many kinds of pressures on them, and the most obvious, rational scientific approach is just not the way that you have to go sometimes. Sometimes there are very clear and compelling reasons that they have to do it otherwise. I am much more sympathetic to those people than I was before I was around it more closely. I am also very impressed, with almost no exception, with their basic good intention and good will, and their real personal committal to try to make it all come out the best. They take a tremendous amount of heat and I feel that they don't have it coming, as it were, from the scientific community, because the community is uninformed. They really just don't understand the kinds of pressures and the kind of environment these guys work under. It's easy to stand up and say, "damn it, they should not have to work under those conditions,” but that's the way it is. You're not going to change the way the Federal Government operates, just because it's dumb. (laughs).
DeVorkin:Why is the community uninformed? Is it that maybe it doesn't want to be informed?
Westphal:I don't think so. I think it's intrinsically a noninteresting thing to them on a personal basis. You know, you counterselect scientists not to be managers. Why science has such a terrible management difficulty, is that when you select scientists to run things, you just almost for sure guarantee they are not going to be good managers. It's a rare counterexample that you can say, gee, there was a guy who was a great scientist and also was a really competent manager. It's just a different style and a different way of operating. So there is not sympathy with the problems. The first problem, of course, that any scientist has with the way the Federal Government operates, or lots of other things operate, is that it is irrational and illogical, and we spend all of our time trying to be rational and logical. I mean, that's our business; and yet that's not how Government works. It's not how industry works, either, on the first order. And it's not how politics works, and so, that's a great frustration. I can remember when the space program really got going, and the Mariners were being built and so forth, that there were bitter, bitter words from famous astronomers around Caltech and Santa Barbara Street about how many 200-inch telescopes you could build for what it cost to send Ranger to the moon or Mariner 2 to Venus, or whatever. They were mind-boggling numbers like 10, 20 or 50 200-inch telescopes. Therefore, how much more astronomy would you get done, if you did that instead of flying the spacecraft.
DeVorkin:Who were the most vocal people?
Westphal:I don't remember. Allen Sandage often talked about that. A lot of people did. All of us did at some level.
Westphal:Oh yes, sure. But I did also understand, although a lot of others, I think, really didn't understand, that it was an irrelevant comparison. The comparisons didn't have anything to do with each other. It was a true statement that you could build a hundred 200-inch telescopes for what it cost to build Viking, but it was irrelevant.
Westphal:Well, because you couldn't trade those dollars back and forth. It was not in the realm of feasible decisions to make a choice between the two, they were in a completely different world, and were completely different things. If you didn't spend the money doing Viking, the money would be spent to do something else, but it was sure as hell not going to be used to build 200-inch telescopes.
DeVorkin:The question always is, then, why is that? Because what was NASA interested in doing, or the Government interested in doing?
Westphal:Oh, I don't know that I have any special view of that. I think that it's obvious many times that the Government's motive to do those kinds of things was for international prestige, or in response to internal political pressures or to stay ahead of the Russians, on and on and on; but I don't have any special perception about that. There are people who do. There are people who are involved deeply in making those decisions and how that was done. But I wasn't one of them. Jessie Greenstein is an example locally that certainly understands how a large part of that really was done, and why the decision was made the way it was that week. I know nothing about that sort of stuff, personally. I hear lots of stories, and you don't need any more filters applied to those stories. But at any rate, it is clear that NASA'S motives and the Government's motives were not purely to maximize the amount of science. Nor do I think they necessarily should have been. I am willing to accept the priorities and the judgments they made. You can always point to some that were wrong, but you can point to a bunch of others that I think clearly were right, which does not say that the prime motive, the high priority, was to accomplish science. That is certainly true in modern times, like in the case of the Shuttle. The Shuttle never would have existed, if the only motive was to increase our capability in space science. And of course, now that money is very much shorter in NASA than it once was, those priorities are now beginning to be much more obvious, in the sense that space science is being cut out of the system. The budgets are going down, and that is simply reflecting the priorities.
DeVorkin:Let's go back, if you have finished your primary involvement with IRTF.
Westphal:Yes. That was really all that I had to do with it.
DeVorkin:I'll change the tape, and then we'll talk about the beginnings of your work with silicon vidicon tubes and that sort of thing. And that should lead us into the wide field camera.
DeVorkin:In 1971-72, you worked on an integrating two-dimensional silicon vidicon photometer with Thomas McCord. This was called the SIVIT.
Westphal:A Silicon Vidicon Photometer. SIVIT was a name that we coined locally.
DeVorkin:You coined that?
Westphal:Yes. That was not what it was named by RCA when they finally started building it commercially.
DeVorkin:Oh, what did RCA call it?
Westphal:I don't remember any more now, but not SIVIT.
DeVorkin:Now clearly, you were using these things in an experimental stage, and I would like to know how that particular project developed. How did you get interested in these tubes?
Westphal:Well, it was very apparent to all of us interested in doing photometry of extended objects like planets that to use one photomultiplier and a little hole that scanned across the face of the planet was a lousy way to do it. For all kinds of reasons, that was a lousy way to proceed. It was infinitely inefficient and produced bad data. So, the photographic plate was really the first photometer, and after that we went down hill as far as the problem of two dimensional photometry was concerned. If the photographic plate had been a nice linear, well-behaved, high quantum efficiency device, we'd be using it still, and all the rest of this would be irrelevant. (laughs). But at any rate, Tom had been a student here, and he had gone off to MIT. My memory of the matter was that he had a conversation with somebody at Bellcom; and that somebody almost surely was William Thompson. Thompson was the guy at Bellcom. At any rate, somehow it was that McCord got in contact with, apparently, this man Thompson at Bellcom, who said, "hey, did you know that Bell Telephone Lab has developed this nifty little twodimensional thing, which they are developing for the picture phone?"
DeVorkin:The movie industry.
Westphal:No, no, the picture phone, the telephone picture phone.
Westphal:Yes, yes, the telephone company, you remember, at several times in history, and I think again right now, is trying to get some kind of a television system tied to a telephone for conferences, and to look at drawings, and all that sort of thing, a noble cause. So, Tom called whoever he was referred to, and that man's name I don't remember; but it's probably in the paper.*
DeVorkin:Hinners was not involved?
Westphal:Hinners was not involved in any direct way, and I don't know how the first contact was made between Tom and Bellcom.
DeVorkin:You must have known Hinners by now. He had been through Caltech.
Westphal:I didn't know him. I came after he left here. He was an undergrad here, remember, and got his graduate degree at Princeton. No, I didn't know him until after he was at Headquarters. I didn't know he was at Bellcom, either. Tom found the name of the guy at Bell Telephone. Tom and I had discussed many times the utility of having such a system, and Tom and I worked very close together. He was officially Bruce Murray's student, but in fact, he worked very, very closely with me, with his thesis work.
DeVorkin:And your usual image orthicons, the RCA's, these were not sensitive enough in the range you wanted?
Westphal:Well, they had terrible problems in many ways. They were not sensitive in the red, which was especially scientifically interesting, but that wasn't the really crucial issue. The main reason was that they were nonphotometric; that is, they were not a linear reproducible device. They were much worse than a photographic plate. They also had a very small dynamic range, and they were expensive and miserable to operate. They were not a low light level device, and they didn't integrate for long periods of time, and all kinds of evil problems. So we had never worked with any of those things. Then Tom called somebody, as I say, I don't know the guy's name,** but a fellow at Bell Telephone, who was the right guy. Tom wanted to know a little bit about **Eugene *T. B. McCord & J. A. Westphal, "A Two Dimensional Silicon Vidicon Astronomical Photometer," Applied Optics 11 (1972), 522. **Eugene Gordon it. He indeed learned a little bit about it, and asked him if he could come and visit and see some of this stuff. So that was arranged, and then Tom called me and told me all about this. He wanted to know if I wanted to join him, and come back to Murray Hill and see what was there. Obviously I did, so he and I went to Murray Hill, and saw the device, and saw it in operation. They had, I believe, in the meantime sent us some literature about it, technical literature about the thing, and how it worked and so forth. It was obvious as could be that this had tremendous potential, at least, for bright object photometry. Since we were primarily, and Tom especially, interested in doing planetary work, where in general there is a lot of light, it had great potential from our view. So we described to them what we were doing. They thought it was really a very nifty idea to use these things for astronomy, so they actually gave us a device, a silicon vidicon,* and gave us some guidance on how to wire it up and turn it on. There were, however, clearly some problems with it that we identified. One was a problem with the filament inside. Remember, this is an electron gun type device. It has a hot filament in it, and that filament made so much light which scattered around the inside of the tube and illuminated the target from the back, that one had to solve somehow the problem of getting rid of that light. We did kind of the obvious thing. We turned the filament off while we were integrating. Then we turned it back on just before we got ready to read it out; but even then the amount of light that came from the filament just as it was warming up, and as we read the thing out, was a significant amount of light. We then recognized that, since we were reading it out very slowly in comparison to the way it's read out in a television system that we didn't need to have the filament turned on so bright. We didn't need so many electrons. How we really solved the problem then, was to run the filament very cold with just barely enough electrons to be able to read the tube out, which would cut down the light, because of course, the tube was sensitive on the blue side of the filament black body curve. So, cutting the temperature down really helped in a hurry in cutting down the amount of light.
DeVorkin:Yes, granted. But you were using this pretty far out in the infrared.
Westphal:Well, we wanted to use it everywhere. But one of its attractions was that the thing went out to one micron or so, and there had never been a device that came even close to that. And there were a lot of nifty things to do in stellar astronomy and in galactic astronomy, as well as in planetary astronomy.
DeVorkin:You started looking at the nuclei of galaxies, and all sorts of things. That's later. * This is one of the SIVITS I'm sending along.
Westphal:That's later. That's after we got it to work. We had a lot of trouble getting it to work. Neither one of us knew anything about operating vidicons, or anything like that at all. There is a lot of art in that business. Tom, of course, especially didn't. Tom's not really much of an electroniker on the scale of what you need to be in that business; he doesn't propose to be. So we got the thing back to MIT and started trying to get it fired up. They had given us not only the tube, but they had given us the deflection yoke and circuitry and so forth. Sure enough, we could get it to run, and all of that sort of good stuff. But we wanted to cool it, to get rid of the thermal background in the device. Tom had a very good electronic engineer, and he devised a set of hardware. I guess, actually the first electronics were built by that fellow, whose name I don't remember any more.* But the tube had infinite noise problems at that point, and so they finally brought it out here to CIT. We fairly quickly understood the source of that noise and got rid of it, and in the process, modified the electronics substantially.
DeVorkin:Did Bellcom realize these problems, or was this part of their motive in making this available to you?
Westphal:It wasn't Bellcom. Now, this is Bell Telephone Laboratories. Bellcom was out of it, except as a contact, of knowing that the thing existed, and knowing the name of the right guy. Then it was a Bell Telephone's lab in enterprise entirely. And I'm sure that Bell Telephone's motive was that it was nifty to use something that they had devised to do astronomy with. That's the history of astronomy. The same thing is true of CCDs and lots of other things, and the reason astronomers have these things is that astronomy is a fun and attractive thing to almost everybody, every technical person in the world, as well as all kinds of other people. So astronomers scrounge all kinds of things just because it's astronomy.
DeVorkin:That certainly was true in the history of photographic astronomy.
DeVorkin:You mentioned also in your paper that Frank Press at MIT enabled you to act on this idea earlier.
Westphal:Frank gave some money to Tom to be able to proceed. Frank was the division chairman, or whatever the proper title was at that time of the part of MIT that Tom was in, geology * Jay Kunin
DeVorkin:And so you had no direct contact with him?
Westphal:I knew him. He had been here at CIT, of course, but that was Tom's enterprise at that point. He just fed Tom some money to be able to build the stuff quickly. At any rate, I finally decided that there had to be somebody up at JPL that knew about vidicons, since they were already flying them on their missions. So I called somebody that I knew up there; at least, that I knew who was up there, and I can no longer tell you who that was. It may have been somebody that Bruce told me to call. I don't know. That person put me, through a couple of steps, actually, in contact with a young electronic engineer. His name is Gary Bailey. He is still at JPL. It turned out that Gary Bailey was the guy who really understood how vidicons worked, electronically: how to use them; what the subtleties were, how you adjusted them; how you lined them up, and all that sort of good stuff. So I just yelled, help, at the top of my voice; and he said, well, why don't I come down and take a look at what you are doing. So he did. It ended up that he, too, couldn't resist being involved. So he started working nights and week-ends helping us learn how to do all of this, all on his own. As far as I know, at the time, nobody in JPL management knew what was going on. It was essentially his private enterprise; just because it was, again, a nifty thing. Of course, one of the things that we have long since learned is that there is almost nobody in the world that can resist the opportunity to go down to the 200-inch on a special tour. It's the "coin of the realm" of the first order. It's better than gold.
DeVorkin:Just give me a reason!
Westphal:Yes. So Gary came; and not only did he help us, he educated us. He bailed us out, and within just days, or certainly a week or two, we really had the thing working great. Gee, it was gorgeous. We then started learning the business of turning the filament voltage down. We learned to start to cool it, and so forth. About that same time, we ran into a technical problem with it. It had to do with the fundamental way it was built, the result of which was that we couldn't cool it enough to get the dark current down to a level that we could integrate for long periods of time. Long periods of time being, say, 10 minutes or more. So we could integrate for a few minutes, and that would allow us to do just wonderful stuff. The thing was linear, and had a wide dynamic range, and its read-out noise was high, but for what we were doing it was just great. Tom immediately started using the thing to do his color work on the moon. It was just so much better in every way than anything he had ever used before. He had done his thesis in that area, measuring finally, accurately these subtle variations in the colors of the moon, that Bruce had started with when he first came to Caltech, as I mentioned before. So Tom started doing that. I started using it to make pictures at 8900 angstroms, in the bottom of the methane absorption band on Jupiter and Saturn, just spectacular pictures of the upper atmosphere with all kinds of structure in it. There was all kinds of nifty science coming out of it immediately, even with all the problems the thing had. And one day Bailey called up and said, "hey, we have an RCA silicon target vidicon."
DeVorkin:SIT you call it.
Westphal:No, this was still just a silicon target vidicon.
DeVorkin:This was still the Sivit?
Westphal:It was just a different company. RCA was making it now commercially. It was otherwise conceptually identical with the Bell Telephone tube. Bell Telephone, of course, had invented this thing. They invented it, by the way, for an interesting reason. At least, this is what we were told, that for the picture phone thing, you have to have something that's really "astronomer-proof." You've got to have it really people-proof. It's got to be so that you can drop it on the floor from five feet, and you can do this, that and the other thing, without doing it in. Nobody in the world knows how to build people-durable things like the telephone company that has to make telephones that keep from breaking every time you drop them on the table, or on the floor. So they had put a more or less conventional vidicon system into a pilot activity between Murray Hill and one or two of their other labs, Holmdale, I believe, was one of the labs; and I believe they had a third one. That had worked very well. So then they put it into kind of a semi-commercial situation; and it was some place like Cleveland or Detroit. The story that they told us was that they had installed all this stuff during the week, and checked it out on Friday afternoon; and everybody thought it was just great, and they went home. They came back on Monday morning, turned it all on, and about three or four out of a dozen or so sets that they had on people's desks had a big streak across the middle of the picture. After some investigation they discovered that the guy's desk was sitting next to a window and he had his picture phone sitting there. As the sun went down and shined on the front of the picture phone, it burned a hole across the center of the target of the vidicon. As the image of the sun was focused by the F-3 lens or whatever, it burned it up. A problem that NASA didn't learn until Apollo 12. That's the one where the astronaut pointed the television camera at the sun and wiped it out in the first 10 minutes after he had it going on the moon's surface. It was not Apollo 11. I believe it was 12. Yes, he was swinging the thing around and pointed it at the sun and burned it up, the same problem, a different kind of tube, but the same problem.
DeVorkin:Yes. That wasn't John Young, by any chance, was it?
Westphal:I don't remember which one it was, but there was a lot of pain and suffering about that; and all of us, of course, were watching. I knew what would happen, instantaneously. I mean, you could just see him panning across and up into the bright sky, and that was it. Anyway, so Bell Telephone decided the only way you could solve that problem — and you know, I can think of five other ways to solve it — but from their perception, the only way to solve that problem was build a vidicon that you could focus the bright image of the sun on without hurting. That was the pressure to devise the silicon target vidicon, which I think is a fascinating motive. Apparently that was at least a major motive in developing that tube for the picture phone.
DeVorkin:How was the silicon target vidicon then immune?
Westphal:Since it's silicon, a good thermal conductor, it can conduct the heat away without doing in the target. It works in a fundamentally different way. Regular vidicons work with thin films, and the silicon thing is 10 microns thick, which sounds thin, but that still is very thick in comparison with 50 or 100 or 500 angstroms, or whatever it is that's on the normal face of a vidicon. At any rate, that was Bell Telephone's motive, apparently among, I'm sure, others. There was this commercial RCA tube. Now, it wasn't actually commercial, in the sense that I couldn't call up RCA and buy one. But JPL had laid hands on a couple of them, because they were interested in them, of course, to replace the vidicons that were on the normal spacecraft. So, again, I think completely informally, pretty soon one of those appeared down here from somewhere in the north part of Pasadena; and along with some better yokes and other good stuff. So Gary got us going with those. They had, of course, two advantages; one, pretty soon you could buy them, which you would never have been able to do from Bell Telephone. Secondly, this fundamental problem that we had with the Bell Telephone tubes didn't exist in the RCA tube, because they had solved it in a different way, in a way that didn't cause us a problem. I don't want to go into great details of that, but at any rate, they had devised a different technique for solving the same problem about the nature of the way the target worked in such a way that when we cooled it, everything was fine. And boy, we could cool the dude down to the lowest temperature, and we could integrate for an hour.* There was just nothing to it. Also, they had recognized the filament problem; even for their purposes, there was a reason to fix the filament. So they had put the proper light baffling into the thing to block the light from the filament. So by running that filament at low voltage, we just didn't have any problem at all with the light from the filament. So the two fundamental problems that we had just disappeared over a week-end. Again, Bailey was the savior of all of it, and really the guy that made it all happen.
DeVorkin:You made a comparison of the silicon intensified, SIT, to the SIVIT, as you called it. This was your paper No. 40 on your list.** This seems to be between '72 and '75 that you did this work, and then you applied the SIT to spectrographs, and in '75, with Sandage and others, you got radial velocities of galaxies. Where did the SIT, the silicon intensified tube, come from?
Westphal:Well, it came down the same path, a few months later; or maybe, it might have been as much as a year later, but it wasn't all that long later. Bailey called up one day and said, "hey, you know what a SIT is?" I said, no, what is a SIT? He tells me what a SIT is. He says, "not only that; I got two of them. I'll lend you one."
DeVorkin:Now, is this the first one to use silicon diodes?
Westphal:No, they both have silicon diodes. They are identical, except for the front end. They are both silicon target vidicons, all right, but the SIT is a silicon intensified target vidicon, which means that it has an ordinary S-20 photo surface on the front, and then an image section that uses 10,000 volts that accelerate the electrons. They impinge upon the silicon target and make between one and two thousand carriers apiece every time one of these photoelectrons hits. *This is the tube in its yoke and electronix which I'm sending. **Westphal, J. A., "Application of Silicon Image Tubes (SIVIT & SIT) to Ground based Astronomy," NASA SP-338 (1973), 93-106.
DeVorkin:But this is the same kind of silicon diodes where they are scanned sequentially, electronically.
Westphal:That's right. In both cases. The back end of the tubes are identical. The only thing different is the front and what's in the front of the SIT is just this little intensifier stage. It has a fibre optics plug to take a flat image and convert it into a curved image, so that you don’t have to have a big magnet out there to do the electron optics. Again, RCA had built these; and of course they were essentially 2,000 times as sensitive. Now, they didn't collect as many photons; that is, their quantum efficiency was the quantum efficiency of an S-20 surface, so you know, five, ten, fifteen, twenty per cent at the best in comparison with sixty, seventy, eighty per cent in the case of the SIVIT. But the difference was the fact that in the SIVIT every time you read a diode out you get a noise level the equivalent of 1,000 electrons. But when you read out a SIT, since one photoelectron made 2,000 carriers, in principle at least, you could see a single photon. So it meant that the useful sensitivity of the device was improved by a factor of 1,000 or so. What that meant was that we now could use the thing on very faint objects. You still had to cool it and the electronics were identical. We had to make a mechanical modification that had to do with the fact that the tube was longer and was bigger around and so forth. So we very quickly had that thing into operation. We took it down to the 200-inch; and I remember vividly that Jerry Kristian was working with me very closely then at that point. He and I and Sandage had gotten together when we got the SIVIT going. I had known Sandage for a long time. I think Jerry had just come to Carnegie and Santa Barbara Street at that moment. The three of us were working together closely. McCord had decided, when the SIT came along, that he really didn't want to work with that, because he wasn't at that moment interested in faint things. So at that point we kind of separated our enterprises. McCord went off and continued to work with SIVITs, and continued to do groundbased, mainly lunar work, and work on Mars. He and I did a bunch of work on Mars as well, using those systems. He didn't need the intensified stage, so he didn't ever get into that business until very much later on, and never really up to his ears in that as we did. We fairly quickly abandoned the SIVIT and started using the SIT,* because we could do deep space astronomy that way, and could *The SIT I'm sending is this first one from JPL do other faint things that were interesting. We had both systems all the time for years.
DeVorkin:As I understand it, these are not necessarily infrared detectors. This is not an infrared interest. This is a general detector interest that you have at this point, perfecting and applying two-dimensional photometry.
Westphal:That's how it worked.
DeVorkin:You mentioned in this same paper, No. 40, that there was a problem with flat field calibration. You mentioned that the fibre optics were used to get away from the problem of magnetic focusing.
DeVorkin:But did you have to carefully grind and polish the fibre optic probe?
Westphal:Oh no, they came that way. That's the way RCA builds them. That's part of the tube. We didn't have to touch that. The flat field problem is a different problem. It's not independent of the issue of what kind of detector you're using; but it's a fundamental problem about how you do this, and we can come back to that, maybe in a minute, if you want to just consider it a bit. At any rate, what I started to mention was that the first time we had the SIT ready to use on the 200-inch, Jerry and I went down there, and I'm sure Gary Bailey was along with us. And I imagine by then, although I don't remember specifically, that Richard Lucinio, who is my digital electroniker, was probably with us. The way the thing worked, was that any time we took a new piece of hardware to the mountain, everybody that had anything to do with it went down there with it. So the whole crew was down there. We were using it in the Prime Focus Cage. There's room in the Prime Focus Cage officially for one person. But in fact a second person can be in there, if he is willing to sit on the floor with his legs wrapped around the pier. Now that doesn't allow him to move around very much; but at least you're there. So Jerry and I got in the cage and I sat on the floor. Jerry sat in the normal observing position, and we did some fiddling around to get it all going. We fiddled with it awhile to get it in focus and so forth. Then we went over to a place in the sky where there were a bunch of quite faint stars whose magnitudes had been measured by Allan Sandage somewhere along the line. By then the sky was dark. One of the advantages of a SIT is that you can control its sensitivity by the voltage you put on this intensifier. To focus it, we had been using low voltages, because we were using a bright star. So we turned the voltage up as high as it would go, 10,000 volts. We argued with each other, how long an exposure we should take. And so we finally decided we would take a 10-minute exposure just to see what we could see. So we took a 10-minute exposure and we read the tube out, and it was completely saturated. There was way too much light somehow. Well, we thought there was something wrong with it, and so we did a lot of thrashing around for awhile; and finally we decided that, well, maybe it was really that bright. I mean, the sky was maybe a little brighter than we thought it was. So we decided we would take a 10-second exposure. We took a 10-second exposure and all but one little corner of the picture was sti11 saturated. But in that little corner, there were some stars. So we right quick took a one-second exposure, and here were stars fainter than we could see on the Schmidt plate picture we had!!
Westphal:In one second. And like Jerry said, you know, "I almost peed my pants!" We were whooping and hollering. I bet we could have been heard all over the top of the whole darned mountain! We were just mind-boggled, how sensitive this thing was.
DeVorkin:Where did this picture appear?
Westphal:On a little TV monitor that we were sitting there watching. We stored the picture away temporarily on a magnetic tape, but we also stored it in a little digital storage device.
DeVorkin:Do you still have the tape, or the image? Do you have any record of that?
Westphal:Oh yes. I imagine I could lay hands on that tape. We've got those tapes, maybe not the very first one, but certainly some from very early on.
DeVorkin:It would be very nice, certainly to have a record of that along with the interview; that would be very useful.
Yes. Well, let me dig and see what I can find. At any rate, we were just beside ourselves. We had no idea it was going to work that well. Of course, all the calculations would tell you that; but things just don't usually work that well the first time out. (laughs). We could turn the voltage down to 3,000 volts so we could get better photon statistics, which would allow us to take a ten-times longer exposure, and collect ten times as many photons. It was just incredible! Just beyond any belief that we could have. Here were stars, like I say, that you couldn't see even on a Schmidt plate!
The stars you saw on the Schmidt plate were bright, so we were seeing stars that were 23rd magnitude, or something like that, just like that. It was just incredible! So of course then we started getting serious about things, and taking pictures on purpose, and over the next months, we took an awful lot of data. We learned a lot of things. One of the problems we found out was this thing called the flat field problem. Only in recent times now, in the last three or four years, have we come to understand many of the sources of that problem. The problem is the following one: the detector, any kind of a two-dimensional detector, is essentially a two-dimensional array of individual detectors.
They do not all have the same sensitivity. Depending on the kind of detector, they may vary by factors of two between each other. However, they tend to vary, not from pixel to pixel, picture element to picture element, detector to detector; but they vary kind of slowly over the picture. There are various causes of that. Some of it has to do with the electron optics in the case of the SIT vidicon. Some of it has to do, apparently, with the processing of the target and all kinds of mysterious things we don't understand. But actually in the SIT, there are in fact things of a few per cent variation from one pixel to the next one. So if you are interested in making measurements as we were, and as was the object of this whole exercise, that are good for one per cent, then you've got to correct for that non-uniformity somehow. So the obvious thing that you do is that you take a picture of some scene which is absolutely uniform. It's flat. Its profile is flat.
DeVorkin:Then this is flat in intensity, not in position, that you're talking about.
Westphal:Flat in intensity, we're talking about.
DeVorkin:You didn't have any positional warping, or warping of the image or anything like that.
Oh no, well, there wasn't much of that anyway in the SIT detectors, and of course there is none of that essentially in a CCD. But no, we're talking about intensity now. So we would take pictures of uniform things. Well, what's a uniform thing? Well, the daytime sky is a pretty uniform thing; but it's so darned bright that you really couldn't use it. You have to take the picture through the same filter, and through the same telescope in the same geometry as the actual thing, it turns out. We had to learn that the hard way, too. We first started just trying to do this in the laboratory where you could control things fairly easily. So a lot of time was spent for the first two or three years learning how to make that really happen.
The way we finally ended up doing it is that we closed the dome of the telescope. The 200-inch has a burnished stainless steel inside, and it has funny reflecting properties. It gets hot spots and so forth. So we in fact, have a gray square painted on the inside of the 200-inch dome to kill that reflection so it's kind of a uniform thing. It's not especially uniform, but it's only about 30 or 40 feet above the top of the telescope. So it means it's way out of focus, if you want to think of it that way. It's way too close to be in focus in the telescope. So that smears out all of the inhomogeneities in the brightness of this paint, or the reflectivity of this paint, by just being terribly out of focus.
Then we illuminate that with a flood light, and we take pictures of that. Now, all you have to do to correct the pixels is to proceed, pixel by pixel, to do the ratio arithmetically because you know what a uniform illumination causes, so you correct for it. And that's flat fielding. An unfortunate term, perhaps, left over from the days of JPL when they used a flat source; that is, a uniform source to do this with. That's where this jargon came from. It came with Gerry Bailey.
DeVorkin:They had the same problems with their vidicons?
Westphal:With all their vidicons. Although they didn't work that problem very strongly. They really weren't trying to do one per cent numbers. They were happy with 10% numbers. That's a little easier.
DeVorkin:Why was that? What was the purpose of all their imaging?
Westphal:To do geology.
DeVorkin:And so they didn't need 1% photometry?
Westphal:No, they didn't try to do photometry. Well, that's a wrong statement. They were not able to do good photometry. They did try it on occasion on star images and stuff; and they found that it gave 10% kinds of numbers. That's because those kinds of vidicons are very poorly behaved, photometrically.
DeVorkin:What I'm thinking of is to do a study with different filters of the surface of the various planets. Comparative planetology does require sensitive photometry.
They would have loved to do that, if those detectors had been that good. And it's only going to be now with "Galileo"* that they are going to have a detector that good, namely a CCD, that's a device that you can really do photometry with, But it is fortunate that the main motive at that point, remember, was taking pictures of the moon and Mars for surface morphology. This was mainly for geologists, and all you need for that is a picture. You don't care whether the brightness is off a factor or two or not. You want to measure how long the shadows are, and what does it look like; I mean, data reduction consists of a geologist sitting there and peering at the picture.
One of our problems with the wide field camera at JPL is that the Image Processing Lab at JPL, which has done this magnificent job of picture processing from all the Mariners, Viking and Voyager, and so forth, is just not geared to the idea that we are not taking pictures. We're doing two-dimensional photometry. So they have not been very much help to us, and we haven't had very much to do with them, because this is just not their business. There was another feature of it, too; and that was that they were too busy with Voyager, at the time when it mattered anyway, to be able to help It's a totally different enterprise, and it's very hard to convince people.
We forever are being called up by somebody in NASA, saying: "Why don't you use all this Landsat software that we have spent in tens of millions of dollars buying to reduce all of the wide field camera data?" You patiently go through the facts that boil down to the fact that it isn’t what we are about. It still keeps coming back, because it's really different, and there is apparently something subtle about it that doesn't seem subtle to us. It does so, unfortunately, to people that haven't been associated with it. So forever that kind of discussion is going on. It goes on a lot.
DeVorkin:Why are they calling you? Are they looking for business?
Westphal:Well, some people are looking for business, but some people are trying to save money. God knows, ST needs to save money, and so, you know, somebody has a meeting some place about how are we going to save some money? Somebody says, "gee, why don't we use all the good Landsat software?" Then you go through the whole new education process with a different group of people from last time. * Planned probe and Jovian orbiter for late 1980's.
DeVorkin:Has this been frustrating for you?
Westphal:No, not frustrating; but it's the kind of a thing you would just as soon not have to do. What's frustrating is when you have to do it with the same guy three times in a row, and that's happened, too, on occasion.
DeVorkin:What kind of person is that?
Westphal:Oh, there are people in NASA like that.
DeVorkin:Some can be pretty persistent?
Westphal:Well, you don't know why that is; either they weren't paying attention; or they didn't care; or they don't have a long memory, or whatever. But it comes back again. At any rate, that’s what the flat fielding is about; and it turned out that that problem is very, very severe in SIT vidicons, and the reason is that they are magnetically sensitive. The flat fielding problem was never solved with SIT vidicons so that you could do 1% photometry. You can do about 3% photometry.
DeVorkin:And that's why you turned to the CCD?
Westphal:Well, that was one of the reasons. There were lots of reasons to do the CCD.
DeVorkin:I’d like to turn to the Space Telescope Camera now. But before I do so, I want to make sure I get you into it in the right way. I know that you were into it in ‘76. In ‘78 you wrote a paper called: "Evidence for a Supermassive Object,"* so on and so forth, where you used both the SIT and the CCD, and you favored the CCD.
DeVorkin:Were you at that time trying to make up your mind as to whether your wide field camera proposal definition was going to use a CCD or a SIT?
Oh, no. The reason that happened that way was: it was the only data we could lay hands on. We had SIT data that covered a big piece of the sky, and we had CCD data that covered only a little piece. Once Peter Young recognized what was happening there, we didn't want to stop and wait for six months until M87 came around in the sky where we could observe it again.
So he used the *A. P. Young, J. A. Westphal, J. Kristian, C. Wilson, and F. Landaver, "Evidence for a Super Massive Object in the Nucleus of the Galaxy M87" ApJ 221 (1978), 721-30. data that we owned. There was no doubt, once we had a CCD on the telescope that that was the only way to do two-dimensional photometry, direct-imaging photometry. There was no competition whatsoever, and there was never any feasible way to use a SIT in a wide field camera. The reason for that had to do with power and weight, and magnets, and cooling, and all kinds of problems. It was not a viable technique. By '78 we had already been selected. We were selected in the late summer of '77. That's right, after the ANOUNCEMENT FOR OPPORTUNITY.* It was out in like March or sometime, and then we were selected. We were notified, I believe, around the first of November or so. Proposals went in the first of July, roughly.
DeVorkin:Yes. Well, let's talk first, then, about how you became involved; when, why and how.
Westphal:Okay, that takes just a little bit of backing up. Somewhere around '74 or '75, 1 can't tell you in my head. We could look it up fairly trivially. Gerry Wasserberg came into my office and said, "I want you to be a member of COMPLEX." I said, "what the hell is COMPLEX?" He says, "Well, dummkopf, COMPLEX stands for the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration. It is a sub-committee of the Space Science Board." I said, "what's the Space Science Board?" He says, "double dummkopf. Dummkopf squared," I think is what he said. "It is in turn a standing committee of the National Academy of Sciences." (laughs).
DeVorkin:And you didn't know what the Space Science Board was at that time?
Westphal:Never had any contact with it, didn't know it from Adam. I'm sure I had heard of it, but I knew nothing about it whatsoever. I never was involved in that kind of "astrogeopolitics," I think is a word somebody around here coined for that. Anyway, he said, "I've been made chairman of it, and I want you to be on this committee." I said, "what does it do?" He told me a little bit about it, and I said, I wouldn't touch it with a 20-foot pole, Gerry. So, after a fair amount of pressure, why I finally told him, all right, I'll come to your first meeting and see what I think about it all. Besides, he had told me that Jim Van Allen was on the committee, and that was an irresistable attraction from my view. I had never met Jim Van Allen, and he was a hero of mine from as far back as the space program existed.
DeVorkin:You had never met him?
Westphal:I had never met the man, never had any opportunity to meet him. * Announcement of Opportunity for Large Space Telescope, AO No. OSS-1-77, 18 March, 1977.
DeVorkin:Just expand on that. I'm very interested in your hero worship, as you described it.
Westphal:Well, I mean, Jim Van Allen invented space science, did the first space science on Explorer I. He was Mr. Space Science. He did it all with his own hands, he and his crew, and a bunch of guys in the back room. So he was clearly a guy with my kind of style. He just seemed like a kindred soul. So he was one of my heroes. I had several heroes like that. John Strong was another hero of mine. I don't believe I ever met John Strong. Is that true? Yes, I guess I did meet him once, but never had any real contact with him.
DeVorkin:The fascination I have with that, of course, is that, in my mind, Van Allen's space science started in World War II. Were you familiar with all the stuff he was doing beforehand?
DeVorkin:Not at all?
Westphal:I'm not even familiar with it now in that sense. My first memory, and the only thing I really knew about Jim Van Allen was when Explorer I happened. He had to have been doing that all those years. But I have never been interested in that science in enough detail to know anything about its history. It was strictly just a style and a man, and so forth.
DeVorkin:So knowing that he was on this committee was enough of an inducement for you to participate.
Westphal:That, plus Gerry put very heavy pressure on me to do this. I kept telling him that I was not the right person. He said, I know what I'm doing, and you are going to be on this committee; and I need you and you've got to do it. If you won't agree, why, I'll sic the president of Caltech on you, and so forth and so on.
DeVorkin:Did he say that?
Westphal:Yes, and that wouldn't have helped any, of course. The president of Caltech wouldn't have had anywhere near the influence on me that two or three other people around here had.*
DeVorkin:Would he have done that, though?
Westphal:No. He knew that that wouldn't have done anything. But at any rate, I finally agreed to go to the first meeting. *Bob Sharp, Hewitt Dix, and Bob Leighton I didn't agree to be on the committee. So, there was a very funny thing that happened at the first meeting. Maybe I told you about this before, the thing about the "penetrator?"
DeVorkin:You did not tell me about this, or you might have in Washington.
Westphal:It wouldn't have been in Washington, if I told you. Well, let's leave that lie on the side, and maybe we will some day come back to it. It's irrelevant. It was just kind of funny. I did go to the first meeting, and it was populated by some exceedingly competent and some very famous guys. It was fun; and I had to agree it was fun. Van Allen was such a delight; we immediately clicked it off. There was a big battle going on right then as usual, about him getting his data. He had just at that time, sometime just a little before that, found a surplus 85-foot dish, and installed it in Iowa and was collecting his own data directly from the spacecraft. NASA was just livid because he was bypassing the whole system to lay hands upon his own data.
DeVorkin:Why was that a problem in the first place?
Westphal:Oh, NASA had this history of sitting on people's data for months and years, and god knows why, not being able to get it through all of their system of handling data.
DeVorkin:Why is that?
Westphal:Galloping incompetence and lack of interest. That's unfair. That's really unfair.
DeVorkin:But, has IUE helped somewhat?
Westphal:Oh, IUE was the biggest disaster of them all. People didn't get data for over a year after their observations on IUE. .
DeVorkin:But on the IUE you had direct control.
Westphal:Yes, but you still want your data on a magnetic tape to take home and work on it. People were not getting their data. People walked away from their observing session with a bunch of polaroid pictures off of the monitor, and that was all they had for a year.
DeVorkin:But the data was right there.
Westphal:The data was right there, and it was lost in Goddard's internal system. It was a very, very severe problem and it made astronomers livid. In fact, that experience rattled into ST, and you know, that is another whole branch of the story of ST. But a bunch of us just said, "We will not use that Goddard facility. It is unacceptable to us, and we will have a requirement in the system that our data will be in the hands of the Space Telescope Science Institute within 24 hours of the time it hits the ground." There was an immense flap about that, and we made it stick and that's the way it's going to be. It was strictly a reaction to the IUE experience in which people were not laying hands on their data for literally a year. In one case, Greenstein and Bev Oke didn't get some data for more than a year after they collected it.
DeVorkin:That's amazing. Where does Noel Hinners stand on all this?
Westphal:Well, he understands that problem in spades. (laughs).
DeVorkin:How so? Educated, or firsthand experience?
Westphal:Both, I think, but he has certainly been aware. People have talked to him at length about it, even in quite recent times. Some real efforts have been made at Goddard to solve that problem. Tom Young worried about the problem in spades, and he spent a lot of effort getting it fixed. He has improved it immensely.
Westphal:Tom Young, when he was the director at Goddard. He was the predecessor to Noel Hinners.
DeVorkin:Right. Who would I talk to, or where would I go to gain the best documentation on this problem, historically. I guess it was the same for the Mariner program. Was it the same all over the place, or just Goddard?
Westphal:No, it was very, very grim at Goddard, and got worse as time went on, because of the nature of organization at Goddard, and the nature of their priorities, and who their boss was and all that sort of stuff. It's the result of a very fundamental organizational problem in NASA. At least, it is the result of that. It's also the result clearly of individuals. No, the problem in the Mariners and in Voyager and Viking were not nearly so severe. That was a JPL enterprise. They were severe enough there. The person you ought to talk to about all of those problems at JPL is Ed Danielson, who is two doors down here. He was involved from, I guess, Mariner 4, and maybe before, in all of that, and specifically in the data handling. Another person who is closer to you and much easier to get to, who can tell you about it, at least from Viking on is Nancy Evans, and she is in NASA Headquarters. She is a detailee from JPL for a year at NASA Headquarters. She is a delightful lady, and I'll comment on something about her having to do with our proposals. She was very influential in our winning the ST proposal, for an interesting reason.
DeVorkin:You're still trying to work back to the Wasserberg meeting?
Westphal:Yes. I'm trying to get to how we got involved in ST at all. One of the things COMPLEX did was review NASA's pending space program.
DeVorkin:COMPLEX was a part of the Space Science Board?
Westphal:It was a subcommittee of the Space Science Board, right.
DeVorkin:What was the approximate date of this meeting?
Westphal:Oh, this must have been maybe 1974 or 1975. It was when Gerry took over as chairman of the thing, anyway. One of the normal things we had at each of these meetings, which we had I think twice a year, or maybe four times a year and at various places, was a NASA review of their plans, technically as well as programmatically.
DeVorkin:It sounds like you got hooked onto this committee, and that you became a member.
Westphal:Yes, that's right. After the first meeting there I didn't fight any more. It was a delight to be around that particular group of guys. Very quickly, you know, your ego was stroked that you were doing something special, nifty and important, and powerful and all that crap. It's the kind of a thing that appeals to people's egos. So, some few meetings later, I don't remember any more now when, JPL gave a presentation on what they were going to do with something called JOP, which is what is now called Galileo. JOP stood for Jupiter Orbiter Probe, but it became Galileo. Specifically, they indicated what they were going to do with imaging; and that they were in fact going to use this wonderful new detector called a CCD.
DeVorkin:Who had decided that, do you think?
Westphal:I'll tell you that in a moment. I do know the answer to that question. I just recently found it out for Jerry. Jerry Kristian has just written a paper with Morley Blouke at TI on the CCD7s in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.*
DeVorkin:Is that something to come out pretty soon?
Westphal:Yes, it will be out, I think he said in the November or December issue.
DeVorkin:Will it be the kind of article that historians can finally read to understand how the CCD works?
I think so. The attempt is to do that, anyway. So I was aware the CCD's existed. In fact I had heard a presentation at one point earlier. I had been asked to come to NASA Headquarters because I was involved in detectors and listen to various people talking about detectors to be used on ST. This was early on in phase A, or something earlier than that. Anyway, somebody from Bell Telephone came and described this wonderful new device called a CCD.
I remember vividly at that time thinking, well, with that kind of performance, that thing is never going to be interesting to us. That really was all I had heard of it until the COMPLEX meeting where JPL gave a presentation saying that that was what they were going to use. One of their main motives in using this on Jupiter was to make pictures in the bottom of this 8870 angstrom methane absorption band, that I mentioned that I had been doing before.
We had had some problems with silicon target vidicons at that wavelength, having to do with the detail nature of the membrane. It was acting as a little Fabry-Perot plate, and it caused something called interference fringes. They were very severe, and you couldn't get rid of them with a flat field conceptually even, much less in practice. So I questioned them about that, and they said there was no such problem. I said, there is a very severe problem, and we had better be finding out what it is.
DeVorkin:They said there was no such problem with the CCD?
Westphal:With the CCD. They had never seen anything like that, is what they said, actually. I said, well, you probably haven't used the thing in the way that makes it show up vividly. So, Gerry Wasserberg came to me afterwards and said, "Would you be willing to go up to JPL and work with those guys and find out how this really is?" So I called up the guy that had given the presentation at JPL, and said, "Why don't I bring you a filter that makes the problem show up, and let's see what it looks like?" He said, great, bring it up. We'll do it. So I took the filter up there, and his name was George Root, and he was one of the electronic *Kristian and Blouke, "Charge-Coupled Devices in Astronomy," Scientific American, 247, pp. 66-74. engineers at JPL associated with CCDs. He took some pictures. In fact, he was right. The problem was almost nonexistent, which told us something about CCD's which nobody had ever thought about before, which was something about the details of the uniformity of the membrane. They are extremely uniform. So, I was very pleased by that, and that gave me contact with the guys at JPL. Well, they immediately said, gee, wouldn't you like to put one of these things on a telescope? I said, you'd better believe it!
DeVorkin:Let me just ask you about the uniformity real quickly. Is it because it's not scanned, but it's sampled in batches?
Westphal:No, no, it's physical uniformity. In both cases it has nothing to do with the scanning process or anything. It's the actual physical uniformity of thickness of the membrane. It's a little Febry-Perot plate, so it's an internal reflection problem. If you use a narrow enough wavelength for each band, then it destructively interferes in one place, and constructively in another place, and it makes the CCD or the SIVIT look like it has great big variations in response, which of course it does. But that depends precisely on the wavelength and on the mechanical distribution of the light. If you make a star image, it gets little rings around it. But clearly, if I take a picture of the ceiling, I'm not going to get any little rings right where that star is, so in principle you can't flat field in this. It's that simple minded.
DeVorkin:That's the SIT we're talking about?
No, no, this is silicon target vidicon; SIVIT in that case, and, in the latter case, the CCD. At any rate, that gave me contact with the guys at JPL. Then there was the discussion about what the performance of these things were electrically, read-out noises and stuff like that. And this guy, Root, said, gee, wouldn't you like to put one on a telescope. I said, boy, I sure would like to, but I don't think they are really going to do much better than a SIVIT does. That's when he gave me the noise performance figures which were a factor of 10 better. Well, that was pretty attractive, but it was still not nearly as good as a SIT, which was another factor of 100 or 50 better than that, as far as the noise was concerned because of the intensification.
At any rate, it was interesting. I kept watching, and one day he calls up and says, well, we're improving things. He says, we've got a new chip with a new amplifier, and the noise level now is down to 35 electrons instead of 100. I said, boy, that's really getting competitive; so I told Jim Gunn about it, who was, of course, here at that time. We mused about that, and neither one of us thought about it real clearly that second. It was an hour or so later when Jim Gunn called me, and he said: "my god, Jim, do you realize that with a 35 electron noise and 80% quantum efficiency, that detector is the best detector in the world for direct imaging!" So he came back over to my office, and we went through all the numbers again to make sure we had our heads screwed on right. And it was true. So, boy, we thought, this is just an incredible thing. But how do you lay hands on one? Well, I said, this guy kind of hinted that maybe he would lend us one, but not probably one of these that has the lowest noise level.
DeVorkin:This was the JPL guy?
This was Root, the guy at JPL. So I called back there, and started talking about it. He said, well, you'd better start talking to the guy that's really running this enterprise, now. His name is Fred Landauer. You see his name on the paper, too, there, one of the M87 papers, I think.* In fact, the very one you were picking on there, the one about the black hole. I believe he was the co-author of it. Fred is an electronic engineer, basically. He is a very, very competent and very, very inventive guy, but he is also a guy whose personality is such that some people don't get along with him very well. He's brusque. He's straightforward. He'll yell bullshit when it's time to yell "bullshit," no matter if it's the Queen of England standing there.
So people like that end up with two-thirds of the people liking them and one-third hating him, or vice versa. People are very polarized about that. Well, for some reason, which I guess isn't all that mysterious, he and I hit it off just instantaneously, and so the first thing I know, why, there's all kinds of support coming from that system without it's being any official thing at all. So a few weeks, or maybe a month or two later, one day Jim Gunn calls me and he says, "You in your office?" Obviously. And he said, "Can I talk to you for five minites?" I said, "always, Jim, always." He came to my office, closed the door, stood by the side of the blackboard, looked me dead in the eye, and said, "We've got to build a wide field camera for the Space Telescope." I said, "You're out of your bloody mind."
DeVorkin:What date was this, approximately?
Westphal:Oh, I don't know. This was probably in the middle of 1976. * ApJ 221 (1978), 721-30. 1976, probably summertime I said, "Why in the name of Christ would either one of us ever want to get ourselves involved in that mess!" He said, "Because if we don't, we're not going to be doing astronomy 10 years from now." I said, "Come on, Jim, that's just nonsense." He said, "Tain't nonsense; I'll show you."
DeVorkin:What did he show you?
So he started doing a bunch of calculations on the board, what you could do, and what the advantages were; not the obvious things, like a UV instrument, which was obviously a good thing. You can't do that kind of astronomy from the ground, because the atmosphere is not transparent. So, you know, the first thing of obvious utility of ST is that you can work in the ultraviolet region. Now the calculations that he did were with the CCD performance that we knew about, and the quality of the images that we knew about.
We knew the images were going to be 10 times better than the groundbased images, or better. We knew they were going to be a 10th of an arc second or better. The numbers were just mind boggling. A factor of 10 improvement in the image size meant a factor of 100 in detectivity of faint objects, of faint stars, of faint point sources. Over the course of over 45 minutes, he had obviously been thinking about this, and he just had a list of 20 obvious things that you could do that you just couldn't do from the ground, no matter what. And it was extremely convincing. I finally said, "Well, what do you want me to do?" He said, "I want you to be PI." I said, "You're crazy, Gunn!" I said, "You're the PI, if anybody's going to be the PI." He said, "Nah, you be the PI."
DeVorkin:Did you have other projects at this time?
Westphal:Oh, yes, we're up to our ears in alligators, doing all kinds of SIT work. Jerry Kristian and I, and Sandage were still doing all this faint galaxy red shift work, and so forth. I wasn't looking for anything to do, not by a lot, I wasn't looking for anything to do. So, finally I said, "Okay, let's at least write down on the board who we would want to be on this team." So we wrote, I think, eight names on the board, maybe six names, I'm not sure. I guess six names were written on the board, because there were eight of us altogether. Yes, six names written on the board. We were trying to cover the waterfront with people that we thought of. I said, "Okay, Gunn, I'll make you a deal. There isn't any way we're going to get more than one or two of those six. But if we can get as many as four out of those six, I believe four is what I said, or something like that, whatever the number was, some finite fraction more than half, if they would agree to do this, I would be willing to be the PI. Otherwise, if we were going to do it, he was PI. He said, "Okay, that's a deal."
DeVorkin:So you decided to do it. It was just a question of who was to be the PI?
Westphal:We decided to it. I'm not sure I realized that so clearly, as you obviously did. (laughs). Anyway, I was sure, knowing the list, that this wasn't going to happen. So we split the names up into groups, half and half, as I remember, that he knew well and I knew well, and we agreed that we would go off and call these guys. When we got them all done we would compare notes. So I started calling mine, and the first guy I came to, said, "Boy, I'd love to do that." The next guy said the same thing, and the next the same thing. I just had a sickening feeling right then. But I had a trump card. I knew very well that one guy on my list was sure not going to do it, because not only was he smart enough to know not to do it, but it was even less his kind of thing than it was mine.
DeVorkin:Who was that?
Westphal:That was Roger Lynds at Kitt Peak. Now Roger Lynds is famous for being unattainable by a telephone. You can't call him up and ever get him. You leave a message, and maybe some day he will call you back. But you can locate his wife, B.D., who was I guess, at that time the associate director, or assistant director at Kitt Peak. At any rate, she is also an astronomer and she is also at Kitt Peak, and you can always find B.D. So the way to get hold of Roger is to find B.D. (Beverly). I called Roger and of course got no answer, and so I called B.D. and asked her if she could get Roger to give me a call sometime. She said, "Do you want to tell me what it's about?" I said, Well, Gunn and I were talking about being involved with the space telescope, and maybe building a wide field camera, and we wanted to invite Roger to join us. I don't have any hope that he would do that." She said, "Don't be too sure." About 10 minutes later, the phone rings, and I hear this voice at the other end that said, "Yep" (laugh). He didn't say, "I'm Roger" or anything else. He said, "Yes." Then I knew I had had it. So I called Jim and told him that. He said, "I've talked to all my four, and they are all happy too, enthusiastic, and want to do this." So that's how we got into it.
DeVorkin:When did you start thinking about your competition?
Westphal:Well, we knew the competition. There had been, actually a bunch of stuff ahead of this that I didn't talk about. There had been a Phase B study of ST, of course.
DeVorkin:Right, and in fact, in the announcement of opportunity, there was sort of a push to a Phase C that almost destroyed the instrument, I understand.
Westphal:That's right. But at any rate, there had been a science working group associated with Phase B. And there had been a detector group. The detector group in fact had been run by a fellow by the name of Stan Sobieski. Stan Sobieski was at Goddard. The Instrument Definition team for the wide field camera was run by Bob Danielson from Princeton, the fellow that died soon after that.
DeVorkin:Yes. You mean, the Sobieski definition team?
Westphal:This was the wide field instrument definition team. Then there was a detector team that Sobieski ran, but somehow Gerry Smith, the very Gerry Smith that later went on to Hawaii to do the IRTF, was somehow the chairman of some subpart of that, as I remember. Anyway, he was very much in it. I had been invited back to a meeting of that group a year or more before that when they were still seriously thinking about SITs, and this was before CCDs were viable.
DeVorkin:What was the relationship to Spitzer's SEC?
The main heart of this was that the wide field camera was going to be an SEC, which stands for Secondary Electron Conduction. It's a tube that's old. It's been around for a long time. I can't tell you how long, Korean wartime, I suppose, at least. It’s a very sensitive tube, but it has all manner of problems. Let's not get into the horrors of that. It's manufactured by Westinghouse, and I guess invented by them. Anyway, they manufactured it. NASA ultimately spent a very large amount of money, a big part of $5 million, as I remember, trying to develop a large format SEC tube which was going to be the wide field camera. In all of that time it was assumed that the wide field camera would be what's known as a facility instrument; that is, there wouldn't be a PI associated with it.
It was assumed all this time that Princeton would be hired to build this instrument and furnish it for the telescope, and there would not be a science team associated with it directly. It would just be the prime instrument of the telescope, and it would be furnished as part of the telescope, just like the primary mirror or anything else. There had been a meeting here at Caltech of the science working group, near the end of Phase B in which the issue of detectors once more came up, and so I was again invited. By then we had already seen the CCD at JPL, and so Root again, and a fellow by the name of Dave Norris at JPL, gave a presentation (maybe Norris gave the presentation and Root just was in the room) on the status of that detector.
It was perceived that that detector was not appropriate for use on ST, because it was too small. I was there again just to discuss SITs, although I knew about this CCD thing. In fact I kind of prompted Norris as to what this group would be interested in hearing and what properties he ought to emphasize, and so forth, to contrast its use on Galileo. The whole thing was being developed for Galileo at JPL. So Bob O'Dell was the chairman of that science working group. He was aware that the CCD existed; and I can't tell you any more now how he came to know that, whether he had talked to me or what, but he knew that it was an awfully good detector. It was clear that he was very uncomfortable with the SEC, as he properly should be, because they as yet had not been able to build one. They ultimately never did build one of the big ones that really worked. They couldn't, they had all manner of problems with it.
DeVorkin:By big, how big do you mean, several inches?
Westphal:It was 50 millimeters square. A 50-millimeter squared format, so it was roughly 80 millimeters across the corners.
DeVorkin:Yes, pretty big.
Westphal:Anyway, he was very uncomfortable about that. Now, Lyman was on that science working group, as well as John Bahcall, and a lot of other people, too. I think Neugebauer was actually on it, as I remember, and that's probably why it was in fact meeting here, because of the infrared interest.
DeVorkin:Yes, that was something I hadn't had a chance to talk to Neugebauer about, the fact that there was a definition team for an infrared photometer.
Westphal:That's right, yes. At any rate, this thing was, as I say, going to meet, and just before the thing started, Bob O'Dell and I were talking and he wanted to know what the status of the CCDs was. I told him and he said, boy, I sure wish you could put them on ST. and I said, well, everybody thinks they are too small. Maybe there will be a 500 by 500; right now there is a 400 by 400, we hope.
Westphal:Pixels. And, you know, TI mumbles, maybe they could make an 800 by 800, but there it is. You guys want a 2,000 by 2,000, and it's just not going to happen, as a detector. He said, "Well, why don't you use the following idea: split the image into four pieces?"
DeVorkin:This is what O'Dell said?
Westphal:Yes, to me. I said, "Gee, that's an elegant idea. I've never seen that before."
DeVorkin:Did that originate with O'Dell?
Westphal:I can't tell you. To me it originated from O'Dell. I never asked him whether he thought of it. I should have asked him that. It's a good question; but he was the one that suggested it to me. Now, I have no idea where it came from.
DeVorkin:This was after you and James Gunn had begun to express an interest in ST?
Westphal:This was before.
DeVorkin:So he didn't know that you were interested, because you didn't know.
Westphal:I didn't know. No, I had no interest in ST. I went to their meeting because I knew about SITs; and I also knew about the sad state of the SEC business. I was willing to be the heavy and stand up and say the damned things don't work.
DeVorkin:O'Dell was just talking to you as an aside, and this was just serendipity?
Westphal:I cannot tell you what Bob had in mind. You would have to ask Bob what he was thinking about, but it was clear that he wanted to get CCDs. He was worried about the SECs, and he knew he couldn't use a SIT. I had been saying all along, you can't cool it. There was not enough power in a spacecraft to get it cold, and you've got to have it cold. He knew about CCDs from somewhere. I don't know where; it might even be from me. As I say, I can't remember, and he was just saying, gee, I wish we could use CCDs, and I was saying, we can't because they are not big enough. He said, why don't we do it this way? And I said, gee, Bob, that's elegant. So in the meeting, the issue all came up again. Various people, including me, said that the SEC is not a viable detector for ST; and therefore, ST doesn't have a wide field detector.
DeVorkin:Did Spitzer argue for the SEC?
Westphal:No, but he had his man there that was really the guy doing all of that, John, the engineer at Princeton who had been the guy actually doing all the work. I could even look up his name* fairly trivially here, but he gave all the presentations. They were making the best interpretation they possibly could on what was going on with their work. It was clear to anybody that looked at it, given the amount of effort and money that had gone into it, that it just wasn't going to come to be. That of course was a fatal problem, because at least most people felt that you couldn't sell ST without a wide field camera on it. I believe that is accurate. I believe you couldn't. So John Bahcall said — you understand, now, John works at the Institute for Advanced Studies but his wife works for Spitzer at Princeton, or did then.
DeVorkin:Yes. I know the Bahcalls.
Westphal:And so, okay, you know the subtleties of some of that interaction.
DeVorkin:Well, no, I'm not sure.
Westphal:I'm not sure, either, so I'd just as soon not pursue it any further than that, and spread rumors that may well not be so. But at any rate, it was clear that John was tied fairly closely to Lyman in many ways. John, of course, is not a person of technical engineering competency, but he was raising the question. He said, is there any way in the world we could use these wonderful new detectors, these CCDs?
DeVorkin:But he did raise the question.
Westphal:Yes, he raised the question. I don't know why he did. I don't know how he knew about CCDs. I don't know whether he had been talking to Bob, or whether somebody had been talking to him, I don't know. Anyway, I said, "Well, one way that one could conceivably proceed is this elegant idea that Bob O'Dell just told me, which is to split the image into four pieces, or n pieces in principle, but at least four, re-image it and use it on the CCDs, and that would give us at least 800 by 800." If TI really did the things they talked about, CCDs might someday be 800 by 800, which would give you 1600 by 1600, which is getting fairly close to the 2,000 by 2,000. So it was kind of dropped like that. Well, somebody else * John Lowrance said, "Oh, this is going to be a facility instrument and we are not going to do something like that." We're committed to the SEC. We've got to somehow make it work, and on and on. There was then a lunch break, as I remember. Right after lunch there had clearly been some discussion in that group.
Westphal:During lunch, not with me, but in that group. So, right after lunch, as I remember the matter, or at least very soon after lunch, John Bahcall said to Bob O'Dell: "I would like to reconsider the fundamental question of whether the wide field camera should be a facility instrument or whether we should open it up as a PI instrument." Bob said, "Okay, we can. That's our privilege to raise that question." So it was discussed at length among the committee, and of course, the rest of us were just there as observers. It was discussed at length, and they took a vote. By golly, they said it was going to be a PI instrument.
DeVorkin:And the reason was?
Westphal:This is conjecture. John, I suppose, thought there was some finite possibility that there would be somebody out there that would figure out a way to do it. There had been just enough of a hint in O'Dell's idea that it might be feasible, that he felt that that was the only mechanism by which you could smoke out nifty new ideas. Now, that's conjecture on my part. I never asked him why he did that.
DeVorkin:Because it was a facility instrument, it wouldn't be a competitive situation?
Westphal:No, it just means that they would hire Lyman Spitzer and Princeton to build the instrument. That had been the plan all along. It's not an unusual thing for NASA to do. I mean, they hired JPL to build the cameras on Voyager; in fact, all of the cameras on JPL spacecraft. They have always been facility instruments, and they have had a science team with an imaging team leader, like Brad Smith is for Voyager. But they were not PI instruments. When a principal investigator is hired, he then goes off and procures the instrument wherever he might procure it. He can go to industry, or he can go any place he wants to. He can build it at home, if he can convince NASA he can do it, like Bob Bless did in the case of the high-speed photometer for ST.
DeVorkin:He did it at home?
Westphal:Yes. It was all done in his own shops in Wisconsin.
DeVorkin:By home, that means the university?
Westphal:Yes, I mean, he didn't hire an outside industrial organization, or a NASA center to build it for him. They had a history of building smaller instruments of other kinds at Wisconsin. And so, NASA was fairly comfortable with that. The HSP was also an instrument that was not perceived to be a total disaster if it didn't fly. It was kind of stuck in at the last minute.
DeVorkin:Did it replace the infrared photometer?
Westphal:No, there was apparently not perceived to be an adequate proposal for that. I am not privy to that, so I don't know how those decisions were made.
DeVorkin:Do you know who put in a proposal?
Westphal:For the infrared instrument? I think there was one from Goddard, as I remember.
DeVorkin:Wasn't there one from Neugebauer?
Westphal:I don't think so, unless he was partner to the Goddard one.
DeVorkin:We didn't get that far in our interview with him, but he certainly talked about the use of the space telescope.
Westphal:Well, maybe he was partner to that one, or I don't know how it was. I was not involved in it.
DeVorkin:That's something I'll talk to him about.
Westphal:Yes, you should. This meeting of the Phase B science working group made the decision right then to make it a PI instrument. Rumor has it that it ricocheted around in NASA catastrophically, and it was awhile before NASA would agree to do that. I have no idea of the details of that.
DeVorkin:By that time, certainly Hinners was already running the ST project?
DeVorkin:And it must have gotten to him.
Westphal:I would guess so, but I have no way to know that. I mean, that's something you will have to ask O'Dell or somebody like that who can tell you how far it was necessary to go up in the system to get the decision made, in fact. There was unanimity with one or two abstentions, as I remember, in the vote; but I'm not certain how that was. But essentially the committee voted overwhelmingly to proceed that way. So, that made it an open game. It was after that then that Jim came to me and said we ought to do this. Still at that point, I had no intention whatsoever to do it.
DeVorkin:But you already had a perceived, visible role in the discussions. Was Gunn at those meetings, too?
Westphal:No, I don't believe Jim was there, and my discussion really was about the SIT until this one question was asked, whether maybe there is some way we can use a CCD. I piped up and said, "Well, O'Dell has suggested a very elegant way to do that." That was really my only input about CCDs in that. JPL had done all the rest of it.
DeVorkin:But did that let the cat out of the hat, as far as the CCD was concerned?
Westphal:No, I still had no intention at that point of having anything to do with it. It just seemed to me to be an elegant way to proceed, and provided a chance to use CCDs. If I thought of it at all, I assume I thought that somebody at JPL would probably be the person that would be involved in that, since they were the keepers of the CCDs. But no, I had no intention, nor any interest at all in doing that. So it was later than this time when Gunn came to me in my off ice and convinced me that we really ought to do this thing. Then we had a fundamental problem, once he and I decided this was a viable thing. That is, we had to figure out how to make a CCD work in the ultraviolet. They don't intrinsically work in the ultraviolet for reasons of physics.
DeVorkin:They were primarily visual and infrared?
Well, they start working around 4,000 angstroms, and then go on out to about 11,500 or 12,000 angstroms. Now, for ground-based work, that's almost good enough. I mean, if they went to 3200, it would be perfect. If it went to 3500, it would be as good as you really needed. 4,000 is a little grim, because there is a lot of neat stuff around 37-3800 angstroms that you would like to use it for. They really, in general, are pretty good at that wavelength, although some of the more modern ones made by RCA actually are quite good down into those regions.
But nobody's CCD works substantually below 3,000 angstroms, and certainly not then. Since ST was obviously an ultraviolet instrument, it just seemed that, I think accurately, there was no way in the world that we would be selected, no matter how good this detector was, if it didn't work in the ultraviolet. I didn't know anything about the ultraviolet, never had anything to do with it, no experience with it whatsoever at all. I knew the word. I didn't know the technology. I had no idea how people did things in any real way.
I had some passing knowledge; I knew that photomultipliers of course worked down in that wavelength region. I knew that magnesium fluoride was transparent to Lyman alpha, and that one of the problems of the SEC vidicon was the mag fluoride window seal, this huge big window. I knew there were photo surfaces that worked especially well in the ultraviolet that didn't work in the visible, so-called solar blind surfaces and things like that. I knew only just the most rudimentary sort of stuff. So Jim and I talked about that; and I said, let me go off and read the literature. Jim didn't know anything about the technology either. So I went off and found the literature and read it, to see what we could learn, to see if there was any conceivable way we could solve this problem. You know, it just seemed to be a completely insoluble problem.
It was a throw-away idea, almost, to do that. In fact, I guess that discussion must have occurred before we actually called these other guys, because we really didn't believe we had anything. I can't tell you that. It might not. It may have been that I was so convinced, and Jim was so convinced that we had to do something, that it may not have really been tied to the CCD, as it seems like it should have been. It may not really have been at that instant. I'm not so sure. At any rate, I went off to the Caltech Library, which is one of the smallest, lousiest technical libraries in a substantive university in the world. It's just pathetic, the Caltech Library.
DeVorkin:Why is that?
Westphal:They just don't want to spend the money.
DeVorkin:This is the "Millikan Bank?"
Westphal:The Millikan Bank, and that's a well-known thing. We've been criticized by all kinds of accreditation organizations for not having proper resources.
DeVorkin:Do you think the departmental libraries are strong?
Well, no, because they have all been moved into Millikan. That's the whole smear together. It's just one of those crazy things. It makes people have a library of their own on their own shelf, I suppose; but it's an inexcusable situation, but there's nothing the administration is prepared to do about it, or able to do about it, perhaps. At any rate, I went over. I looked under ultraviolet in the card catalog and here was a book called — let's see what it was called. In fact, it's out of print, so I did something illegal which you can see, but we need not discuss. It's called: TECHNIQUES OF VACUUM ULTRAVIOLET SPECTROSCOPY,* written by a man by the name of James Sampson in England, and it's a very nice book.
I looked in the index and found in the index that there was a chapter on detectors. I looked back in the chapter on detectors and came across the technique — this is a very old one — in ultraviolet spectroscopy, which is to use an ordinary photomultiplier and coat the outside of it with some material that fluoresces in the ultraviolet. It was discovered that oils do that, as all of us know. It was discovered that aspirin was, in fact, very much better than oil, and for many years aspirin was used commonly for that purpose.
The best material for use with normal kinds of blue sensitive photomultipliers at the time of this book was sodium salicylate, which is related closely to aspirin. Aspirin being the acid form. Sodium salicylate is just a sodium compound of salicylic acid. But in there was a little short discussion of some more modern kinds of materials that were thin films of organics, and these were mainly discussed as being potential replacements for sodium salicylate. One of those was one which fluoresced down in the green.
Most of them fluoresced in the blue, and that of course is handy, because that is where most of the photomultipliers are most sensitive. But there was one called coronene, for which there were some curves of its emission spectrum, and some discussion about it. There was also a kind of a throw-away, passing comment that the material was deposited in a vacuum, by vacuum evaporation, and made a thin clear film. I thought about that, and I realized that by golly there was a chance. That if this stuff by some chance was sensitive to ultraviolet photons as short as, say, 3800, or 3900, or 4,000 angstroms, and if it really was fairly clear, optically clear longward of that, then it might work.
The book also discussed the thickness. You needed something on the order of a couple of thousand angstroms thickness. So that was plenty thin enough so that the spatial resolution of our 15-micron pixels that we expected to have would not be compromised by such a thin layer like that, so it might work. So I went off to our resident geology department chemist, George Rossman, who is actually a mineralogist, and said, where *J. Samson, New York, Wiley 1967. might I lay hands upon some of this material. He pulled an Eastman organic catalog off the shelf, and one or two others, including one from Aldridge Chemical.
He looks it up, and by golly, here it is, available off the shelf at Aldridge Chemical. So, there were some references to this material in the book. We went off and dug up the references, and everything just looked great. I learned that quite clear films could be formed with the material. I ordered some of it, and got it. It was kind of a yellow-greenish powderlike material, and I learned that it was a carcinogen, a low order carcinogen, so you needed to be kind of half careful with it. I decided to learn how to vacuum evaporate it and found out that it doesn’t melt before it evaporates, that it goes from the solid right into the vapor phase.
So I had to develop a way to keep the powder from blowing all over the chamber in the process. I evaporated some of it on some quartz windows, or glass windows, or something, and took our little ultraviolet rock lamp and turned it on; and sure enough, it fluoresces up this beautiful yellow-green color. Of course, since we evaporated it, we could see that it was a nice thin film. We took it over and ran its transmission spectrum on the Carie spectrometer, and found out that in fact at 4,000 angstroms longward it was just as clear as you could ever ask for. It just looked like, from all the evidence, that the thing was going to work.
DeVorkin:Let me change the tape.
Westphal:So there we were with what looked like a viable ultraviolet technique. Of course, we didn't have the slightest idea what the quantum efficiency of that process was. The literature seemed to lead us to believe it was very high, but when we read the papers about it, it was clear to us, anyway, that the measurements were nonsense. The measurements they described would not lead you to an answer that was believable by orders of magnitude, so it was just a lousy technique. Clearly, they had not thought through what they were doing, and had measurements made by a bunch of people not in that business, obviously. In fact it was clear to us at that point that nobody from the book and from the literature we were reading knew what the absolute quantum efficiency was for any of these phosphors.
DeVorkin:That wasn't something they were concerned with?
Westphal:Well, no, they didn't really care, because that's what they had and it worked; and they couldn't do anything about it anyway. Nobody was curious enough to really do it right, I guess. So we debated about how to try to find the answer, and we finally concluded the only way that somebody like Gunn and I could find the answer was to coat a CCD with it and take it down to the 200-inch and measure how much response the thing gave to a standard star that Bev Oke had measured all the way down to 3200 angstroms. We put in a filter between 3300 and 3400, so we were clearly outside the response of the CCD and in the response range of the coronene.
DeVorkin:Was this sort of destructive testing of the CCD?
Westphal:No. We just took it down to the telescope and used it as a CCD imager, and took a picture of a star with it and found out how many photons we saw.
DeVorkin:By coating it, that means you simply laid a film over it.
Westphal:We evaporated a film on it. Now, actually by then Landauer and his crew were all strongly supporting us, even though we had no money, or anything else. They were very anxious to get in this act.
DeVorkin:Let me clear up one thing, though. This is after you decided to be the PI?
Westphal:Probably. Yes, I'm sure it was by then.
DeVorkin:You didn't have any funds for this?
Westphal:No, it was all an enterprise of our own.
DeVorkin:You must have some operating funds.
Westphal:No. Caltech pays half of my salary, so I support the other half out of grants; and so, half of my time is supported by Caltech.
DeVorkin:Okay. What about the rest of the people on your team?
Westphal:They just had said, yes, we'll be on the team, but we had had no team meeting, no nothing, at this point.
DeVorkin:So you got these people on the team, and then you went to work, yourself.
Westphal:We went to work to see if we had something viable, yes. There were these fundamental questions to be solved. If you failed, you didn't have an enterprise.
DeVorkin:When were you planning to bring in the other people like Roger Lynds?
Westphal:Oh, we talked to them all the time about what we were doing; but nobody had any money to support it or anything. There wasn't really any need for them to have any support, if each of them was on their own time, or talking on the telephone or arguing how to do it. Ultimately we had a team meeting before anybody had any money, and each one found their travel money somehow. I don't know where they got their travel money. But you know, usually around a university, if you've got something that's really hot, the administration will find some money somewhere to support it. Certainly that is true around Caltech. For example, it was true with regard to Tom McCord back when we were talking about the SIVIT. So actually, we went up to JPL and said, look, we used the stuff and it looks like it's going to work, but there are a lot of questions.
DeVorkin:With the coronene?
Westphal:Coronene. So Landauer said, why don't you take one of these 100 by 160 CCDs, one of those that we are never going to use in any real way. It's got high noise and all kinds of things, but it's a good CCD. Why don't you coat half of it? Then we will be able to tell one side from the other. We will see what happens. So I brought it down here and laid a piece of aluminum foil as close to the surface as I dared to mask it off, and evaporated coronene on half of it. I took it back up to JPL, and George Root put the thing in the camera and it seemed to work fine. It didn't do it in or anything.
DeVorkin:He was just testing in the visual?
Westphal:Yes. Everything looked okay. In fact you could tell which side had the coronene on it, because it was a little bit more sensitive on that side than it was on the other.
DeVorkin:Because it was fluorescing?
No. It was not fluorescing. The reason it turns out, was that the film has got an index of refraction of about 1.7, higher than you would guess, and it's acting as an anti-reflection coating. So in the part of the region in which it is transparent, it increases the local quantum efficiency by about 10%, which was just an added bonus that we never thought about, but it was nice. He looked at, I don't remember, 5,000, 7,000, 9,000 angstroms, several wavelengths, and the thing looked perfectly okay and made good images; and still, no evidence of any degradation of the images.
So then it was clear we needed to run the thing in the ultraviolet somehow. So he had an ultraviolet lamp, a mercury arc lamp that has got a line at 2537 angstroms. But the question was, how do you get rid of the extra lines that are down in the visible from a mercury lamp like that. So we called a local optical place called Roylyn and said, "Do you by any chance have a 2500 angstrom mercury line isolation filter?" The guy said, "Yes, I think I've got one left, we don't sell very many of them." We sent somebody out there and got the thing. We took it up to JPL and put it on there. The guy took a picture of the thing, with a target and everything. The coronene half has got this gorgeous picture on it, and on the non-coronene half there is not a sign of anything. We knew we were home free at that point. I think I can show you that picture actually.
DeVorkin:Is this in the publication?
Westphal:No, this picture isn't.
DeVorkin:What is it you are looking for then?
Westphal:I'm actually looking for a lab notebook. We decided that we needed to at least consider the possibility of patenting this idea. So we got a bunch of witnesses to the book and so forth. Well, look, that's not important at this second. I can lay hands on it. It's here in the room some place. I'm not finding the right log book at this second, but here is what we did to illustrate coronene properly in our proposal, and you have a copy of our technical proposal there.
DeVorkin:Yes, I do.
Westphal:That's what's in your hand.
DeVorkin:Great. Page 37 of Technical Proposal, Investigation Definition Team, Wide Field Planetary Camera.*
So here you see now, here's the whole detector. This half has been treated, and this half is untreated. So at 7,000 angstroms there are wide images everywhere, and you see this side is a little brighter than the other side is, down to 5,000. It's quite a bit brighter at 4075. At 3650, and at 2551, only the coronene side has an image on it. But we still didn't know the quantum efficiency, although we were pretty well convinced that the idea was going to work.
Those images were perfectly good there. No problem at all with that, and so that was when we took *Cal-Tech Technical Proposal Investigation Definition Team Wide Field 'Planetary Camera For Space Telescope' SAOHP-SSE Working Files. the half coated CCD down to the 200-inch. We put the image of the star first on the untreated half, and then on the treated half, so that we could be sure the filter we were using wasn't leaking in some funny way, or something. As I remember, and I think it probably says there next to the picture somewhere in the text, we got a quantum efficiency of 14%. And that just blew our minds. Until then we didn't know that it wasn't one-tenth of 1%. And at that point we really knew we were home free. In fact, 14% is approaching what you can do with a photocathode in the far ultraviolet.
We knew from the literature that the coronene was going to work all the way down to wavelengths, at least as short as 300 angstroms, way far to the UV below where we were. In fact, what will finally happen, I guess, down there somewhere, it will start having double the quantum efficiency. It will start getting two visible photons for every UV photon. Once there is enough energy to induce that, it seems to me that it should happen. I don't know that anybody has ever seen that happen. So at that point we decided that coronene, plus the idea of the pyramid, meant that we had a wide field camera.
DeVorkin:Now, who developed the pyramid?
Westphal:That came to us from Bob O'Dell, remember? To split the image into four pieces optically. So now we had an ultraviolet detector, and we had a way to get a field of view that we perceived was big enough that we could compete with any other wide field camera proposal that might surface.
DeVorkin:Yes, but you have a double pyramid, in a sense.
Westphal:A pyramid with four faces on it.
DeVorkin:Yes, but you have two modes.
Westphal:Oh yes, but that hadn't come to us yet. At this point, we were talking only about a wide field camera.
DeVorkin:Okay. Now, I see in this technical proposal a lot of examples of CCD work, obviously ground-based. M87, here, Figure 3-16.
Westphal:That's the data from the paper you were talking about from Peter Young, the very data set.
DeVorkin:Right. Now I'm wondering. It looks as if certainly you are doing a lot of this work to prove the efficacy of CCDs.
Westphal:Oh yes. That's exactly what we were doing. We took special pictures on the 200-inch for this proposal to demonstrate the device. We did a lot of photometry and a bunch of other stuff. It's all in here. So we had done quite a large amount of work by the time of the proposal.
DeVorkin:There is no question that was what you were doing.
Westphal:Our intent was to sell the device, to sell the CCD, to sell the wide field camera. We did that on purpose, recognizing that if we were to compete with whoever else might be out there competing for the wide field camera, including Princeton with the SEC vidicon, that we had to have a really overwhelmingly believable case. That was our perception of the selection environment.
DeVorkin:Yes. Absolutely. Who were you up against?
Westphal:Well, we didn't know, of course. We assumed that Princeton was going to make a proposal, but we didn't know that for sure. We didn't know whether anybody else was or not. We did not know until after the fact that there was a Goddard proposal being generated by this guy Sobieski.
DeVorkin:Oh, the guy who was running the definition team in the first place?
Westphal:That's right, he in fact proposed an intensified CCD; that is, the same ideas as the SIT, only with a CCD in place of the silicon target vidicon. He had a lot of NASA money to develop one, and had gone down to TI and Vero to make that happen. Now we knew that there was an activity like that at Goddard to develop those tubes. They are tubes in fact. But we didn't know that there was going to be a proposal like that, and didn't know it until after the proposals were all in. But we anticipated that there would be one from Princeton, and we did, later on before it was over, before we even turned our proposal in, know for a fact that they had made a proposal with Ball Brothers.
DeVorkin:With Ball Brothers?
Westphal:Ball Brothers was their contractor. Like JPL was our contractor, if you want to look at it that way. So at this point now we knew enough; namely, that the quantum efficiency was adequate; and that there was a conceptual optical design that would give us an adequate field of view. Therefore, we thought we had a viable thing.
DeVorkin:This was still late '76, or now '77?
Westphal:This was still in '76, I'm sure. So I went to Bruce Murray, who was the director of JPL, and said, "Will JPL support this enterprise? I need a subcontractor. And clearly, if it's going to work, it's got to be JPL, because you've got the CCDs. He said, "Why don't you get Ed Danielson — who I knew actually in a completely different context — to work with you a little bit, and let's see what you guys can develop. Why don't you turn in a proposal to the Director's Discretionary Fund for money to write a proposal. That's what my director's discretionary fund, among other things, supports. Get Ed to help you." So I recruited Ed to do that, and he was very enthusiastic. We turned in the DDF proposal and Bruce gave us the money. It was pipelined I'm sure, in some sense. He wouldn't have suggested to us to do that, if the money wasn’t there.
DeVorkin:It was a proposal to write this technical proposal.
Westphal:To generate a technical proposal to NASA which takes money and time, if you are really going to do it, because we had to now get the JPL engineering people to help us to do a conceptual design. So we were given, I believe, $60,000, as I remember it, which to me was just a mind-boggling amount of money to spend writing a proposal. I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of. Ed kept telling me that that was barely enough money. It would not in fact be enough money, and little did I understand where the money sinks were in JPL to do something like this; but Ed did. He then recruited Nancy Evans, the Nancy Evans I suggested you talk to at Headquarters about the data handling business. Nancy is a jack-of-all-trades type lady with an engineering background, clever and smart, and congenial.
DeVorkin:Would she be at Headquarters for a while longer?
Westphal:I think so, yes. I don't know when she comes back. She may be there for two years, in which case she has almost a year yet to go. I think she went there about a year ago. She works for the planetary group. At any rate, she then immediately dug in and helped us, mainly with the preparation of the proposal itself. And many, many people at JPL were helping us, particularly Landauer and his people, who was in charge of the CCD business. We all ran off to the telescope getting data to go into the proposal, and started writing the proposal. Our co-PIs still didn’t have any money, because there was no source of money for them. Of course Jim Gunn had agreed to be the Deputy Principal Investigator when we split the thing between us. So we then went to work writing the proposal. Now, actually, we didn’t start writing the proposal until the AO came out, so by then it was March 1977.
DeVorkin:That's right. That was the Announcement of Opportunity that was misspelled.
Westphal:Yes. There were a lot of funny things in that Announcement of Opportunity. And boy, did I not understand things. 1 found something in there that I just couldn't understand, so I called Goddard, and said, what does this mean? Boy, there was panic, of course. Now, I understand why there was panic. You can't talk to some potential contractor or bidder on something like that.
DeVorkin:Who did you talk to, Mona Tycz?
Westphal:Well, I called George Levin, who was the official contact, and he sent me to Mona, and I had never heard of Mona before. Here came this delightful lady on the phone, and I told her what I wanted. She kind of mumbled and she said, "I'm sorry. I can't discuss that with you." I said, "Why can't you discuss it?" (laughs). She says, "It's against the law. I said, "So what do I do?" She said, "I don't know; it's your problem." (laugh).
DeVorkin:Was it that you couldn't understand something?,
Westphal:Yes, there's half a paragraph in there that's probably missing a sentence or something, and it doesn't make any sense. It was in the instructions on what you are supposed to do, and the English simply doesn't make sense. I'm sure it's a typo. I've never pursued it since then. Now clearly, I could ask.
DeVorkin:Can you recall where it is in the AO?
Westphal:I could probably find it. It's something to do with the instructions for the management proposal. There's a technical proposal, a management proposal and a summary, three items. It was something in the management proposal. It was just the logistics. How you were supposed to do something, or when you were supposed to do something. What she led me to believe was that it didn't make any damned difference. I was perfectly happy to accept that and proceed. So we really didn't start writing a proposal until we got the AO, because we didn't know what we were going to have to do, but we were already working on the problem like mad at JPL. We already had Bruce's money, and so we were already in the process of conceptually designing the instrument, and we were working on the telescope to get the supporting data and all of that.
DeVorkin:So this was JPL money, not Caltech money.
Westphal:This was money called the director's discretionary fund. NASA gives JPL and all of the other centers a pile of money once a year, a quarter of a million dollars or something, maybe half a million dollars nowadays. They also give the president of Caltech Wesrphal—202 an equal amount, in our case. And so there is also a president's fund. They are supposed to do different things. The president's fund is to encourage cooperation between scientists, not just at Caltech with JPL. The director's discretionary fund is to support potential new JPL activities, studies, and things exactly like this, but also internal research. So we had this little pile of money, and away we worked. Essentially, it was all being done by Gunn and Ed and I, with some help from Jerry Kristian. Jerry Kristian was one of the guys that we had asked to be on the team.
DeVorkin:This is Jerome Kristian?
Westphal:Jerome Kristian. We worked like hell and made the proposal. Nancy did two things that were crucial to the matter. I wanted to say that. One was, she convinced us that we should put in sections dividers as pretty pictures. First, they had to be color pictures; and secondly, every separate section in the technical proposal, would start out with a picture appropriate to that section.
DeVorkin:That's a marketing technique.
Westphal:That's a marketing technique. Now when she proposed that to me, I said that is hokey. I'm not going to do that. And she said, "do it." Ed kept saying, listen to Nancy, she knows what of she speaks. So we put these things in there.
DeVorkin:Who had to read this?
Westphal:Well, all of the NASA Headquarters people, and the selection committee, and all of that sort.
DeVorkin:Not just the selection committee, but a lot of NASA people.
Westphal:A lot of NASA people, yes. So, you know, there is a picture of the Virgo cluster and the 48-inch Schmidt plate that Jim had, and it was a gorgeous picture!
Westphal:So we did that. Particularly Jerry Kristian was just adamant that that was hokey and we should not do it, and so forth. I agreed with him. Ed convinced me that it was really the right thing to do. Of course, in some fundamental sense, it is against the rules. Later on, NASA said, "We will not accept proposals that are all jazzed up like that." Not in response to this one, I don't think, but the idea spread quickly after this happened. At any rate, we then worked night and day and on week-ends. We stole Bruce's personal. secretary. She had the only one of these automatic typing machines that was much simpler than a word processor, but at least you could put the thing on tape so you could edit it and fix it.
DeVorkin:Exactly. By the time you wrote this and submitted it, it was a Wide Field and Planetary Camera.
Yes. What had happened was that once we had the switching idea, and got to thinking about the thing, we considered a planetary camera, too. In fact, it happened in a meeting, the first meeting we had with all the team members here, on their own money. We had a several day meeting, in which we batted around every neat idea anybody had, and argued about filters, and on and on and on. Somebody in that meeting — and I can't tell you who it was any more, it might have been me, it might have been Jim, it might have been almost anybody —said, hey, look, you can rotate the bloody pyramid 45 degrees and have four more! Everybody said: "WONDERFUL!" We can change the scale with that.
Actually, we were in a big argument over what scale we would use. We had to re-image, so we could choose how many seconds of arc per pixel. The planetary ones among us were very sad about the idea that we were only going to have a 10th of a second of arc resolution in the wide field mode. Although the planetary types were not really proposing that we should not have a wide field mode, because that’s what it was supposed to be, was a wide-field camera. Then somebody had this nifty idea, and of course it made everybody tickled to death.
DeVorkin:Who were the planetary people? Bill Baum was in that?
Westphal:Baum, Brad Smith, me and Ed Danielson. The non-planetary people were — you know, really Roger was the only non-planetary person.
Westphal:Doug Currie is an applied physicist. He is famous in astronomy for doing elegant interferometry of sizes of stars and double stars from the ground.
Westphal:No, it's done with a Mester's prism. It's classic interferometry, but done in a very elegant way.
DeVorkin:Roger Lynds was stellar and James Gunn was —
Westphal:Jim was primarily stellar, but he's a planetary freak, too.
DeVorkin:I read the article that recently came out in Scientific American* by Spitzer and Bahcall, that largely describes the wide field camera.
Westphal:Yes, I was surprised by that.
DeVorkin:Why were you surprised?
Westphal:Yes, I was. I'm not sure but that they should have described all the instruments as broadly as the WF/PC.
DeVorkin:Well, they mentioned this rotating mirror, but I don't understand how it achieves its purpose.
Westphal:Okay, I will give you a copy of the technical proposal, and in there you can see how it all happens. It won't, unfortunately, have all the pretty pictures. That's the last one I own with the pretty pictures.
DeVorkin:Well, can I have one of these copies?
Westphal:No. (laughs). This is the summary, and I'm going to talk about it in just a second. But I don't have any more with colored pictures. These are the last two in captivity with colored pictures. You're going to get black and white pictures, essentially, and the same text. Anyway, one of the things that Nancy said was, "Use these kind of clear covers like this, see, so you don't goof up the pictures." A very, very clever lady. We had made the summaries with, as you see here, a nice pretty picture. But it was our last thing off the 200-inch telescope two weeks before the proposal. The picture shows a star of 25 1/2 magnitude! Nobody had ever seen anything that faint before.
DeVorkin:Yes, the brighter ones are solarized and reversed?
Westphal:No, that's just the overflow in the digital data, which is a way of stretching it. The summary had some of the stuff out of the technical proposal, but it had the 25.5 magnitude star picture in it. The idea was to hit the people who were not going to wade through the technical proposal with the fact that the CCD was real, and it was a real detector that really existed and worked.
DeVorkin:In the wide field, there is a picture of the light path in there that is very nice. Is it in here? *L. Spitzer and J. Bahcall, 'The Space Telescope' Scientific American 247 (July 1982), 40-51.
Westphal:Yes, that's in the back of that one. But there's a much better one now.
Westphal:In fact I'll lay a much better one on you. There's the real instrument. You can have that if you like. That's the way it really is going to look. At any rate, we had the summary proposals like this, and they were laying on a table in the form that you see it here, with this picture on it. I think it actually didn't have the transparent cover laying on it. Nancy Evans came walking in the room, and she said, "gee, look at that." I said, "What do you see?" She said, "Look, somebody out there likes us." I said, what do you mean “somebody out there likes us?" She said, "Look!" She turns this thing around. She says, "See, two eyes and a big smile!"
DeVorkin:I'll be darned. This is the Lagoon?
Westphal:This is the Lagoon.
DeVorkin:Upside down, and it looks like a smiling person.
Westphal:You will never ever look at it again without seeing that smile, I'll guarantee you.
DeVorkin:I never saw that before.
Westphal:We looked at that, and I said, "Stop! Upside down they are. We're going to flip them!" We spent the last day or something turning these pictures all upside down! This is the last one in the original upside down form. That's why I have to keep this one. (laugh). We turned them all around this way.
Westphal:So we turned the proposal in, and on time. I went off to Hawaii to do volcano magnetics on Mauna Loa.
DeVorkin:You were still doing other work?
Westphal:Oh, I was doing all kinds of things on the side, as I could handle them. But this proposal was really eating up my time like mad, toward the end especially, in the last month or so.
DeVorkin:Did you drop the SIVIT stuff for awhile?
Westphal:No, Jerry and Gunn and other people were using it on the telescope. Really, most of the effort at this point was done by Wesrphal—206 Danielson and me, and Cunn, and Jerry were just helping. All the day-by-day, hour-by-hour effort was ours. They went on about their normal business. So about a month, I would guess, or maybe two months after the proposals went in, something like that, why I got a formal letter.
DeVorkin:As soon as somebody saw that you could rotate the mirror and get the two different detectors, you included that in the proposal?
We put that in right away. Then we had an argument about what the F ratio for that should be, and we decided that we would pick an F ratio that would let us take a picture of Jupiter all in one click. So that set the F-30 mode of the thing. That's how that happened. Of course, that was a planetary camera as well. So then it became a wide field planetary camera. Now we knew already then that the majority of the use of the so-called planetary camera would be in fact high resolution pictures of deep space things, but we will take planetary pictures with it without a doubt. But its real use is to do high resolution kinds of stuff. In fact, we have had a recent discussion, and finally decided that the pyramid, of course, since it's a mechanical thing, could conceivably fail and not move.
So we built it in such a way that, if it fails, we can send a command and it will pull a pin out of it, and a spring will rotate it around, if the motor burns up or something. So it's fail-safe in that sense. Then the issue was, which way do we want it? Do we want it in a planetary mode, or in the wide field mode? Well, you know, the instantaneous reaction of everybody is, obviously, in the widefield mode. But our team first voted one time to have it in the planetary mode.
Then I told the Science Working Group that and there was a lot of mumbling and groaning, so I took it back to the team, and by then some of them had changed their minds, too. So we ended up putting it in the wide-field mode. But it shows you how close the scientific interest is to doing it all in a planetary mode. About four or five days before we were to send the proposal in, I became aware that a copy of our proposal had ended up at Ball Brothers in the hands of the people writing the proposal for Spitzer.
Within a few hours of when I knew about it, I got a phone call from Lyman. Now, I don't think I had ever actually met Lyman; certainly I was not well acquainted with Lyman. I knew who he was, of course. Clearly, I had met him at the time of the Phase B Science Working Group meeting in Pasadena. Anyway, Lyman and I were not close friends. We had very little previous contact with each other. He said, "I have to tell you that I received in the mail today a copy of your proposal from Ball Brothers, and I want you to know that I was not partner to that. I don't know how they got it, but I am told that you were not aware that it was going to happen, that you didn't send it to them or anything." I said, "Yes, I just learned yesterday that that had happened."
DeVorkin:You wouldn't want them to have it, would you?
Westphal:In general, no. You wouldn't want your competition to see your proposal, even five days before the proposal was due.
DeVorkin:And that's when this was?
Westphal:There is a subtlety to that. It wasn't just the five days, I mean, there was probably not an awful lot they could have done in five days. But the fact is that NASA will accept a late proposal, if NASA perceives it to be in their interest. So in fact until the official selection was made, which was supposed to be around the lst of November, any time up to then, somebody could send in a late proposal, or a modification of their proposal. So it really mattered. He said, "I want you to know that I am not going to allow anybody to take into consideration the fact that that proposal has been seen.” He said, "It's a very nice proposal, I must say." He said, "I have sent you a copy of ours by special delivery mail." I said, "Well, I will not react to anything I see in yours in any way. I thank you very much and I don't consider it a serious problem."
DeVorkin:Any idea who sent your proposal to Ball Brothers?
Westphal:It turns out that there are a group of people that are contractors at JPL, a company called Time-Zero, who are in fact a branch of Ball Brothers.
Westphal:I am not going to finish today. And so I will be in Washington, as I say, in the middle of September. There is still an issue of just which days it will be, so I can't tell you. I'll let you know as soon as that is settled.
DeVorkin:When you know, that will be great.
Westphal:I have to be there the 14th, I think, but it depends on another matter.
Westphal:Let me finish this, though.
DeVorkin:Time-Zero turned out to be a Ball Brothers subsidiary.
Westphal:That was known. I knew that all the time. Somebody from Time-Zero, that was a contractor up at JPL, decided that would be a nifty thing to steal a copy. They would get brownie points at Ball Brothers for slipping out a copy of this proposal. I could have found out who it was, but I didn't really care an awful lot, and so I didn't make any big stink about it. What actually happened was that they did it and then they came to me and said, was it okay? They suddenly decided that it was maybe not too cool an idea, and so they came to me and said, is it okay? I said, I really don't care. I was led to believe when they asked me that they hadn't actually done it yet; but they had in fact already done it. At any rate, about a month or a month and a half after the proposals were in I got a very formal letter, as I remember, saying that there had been a detector investigation group formed that was going to tour all of the proposal submitters to discuss their detectors, technically. They wanted to meet on a certain date. So that group was run by a very bright young fellow, who is now at Headquarters.
Westphal:No, it was before his time. I can tell you here in a second, Jeff Rosendhal. He was the chairman of it, and it had a bunch of really good people on it. It had Kent Ford, for instance, whom we knew, and who was a detector type. It had some people from Kitt Peak, Livingston, for instance. It had a man by the name of Bucky Freeman on it, who was from the Night Vision Lab. So, they came. As you will notice in our proposal, we never name this phosphor, what its actual name is, or what our internal name was. We needed some name to talk about it without saying what it was, because we were really worried about somebody else thinking of the idea. We started calling it "mouse milk". Fred Landauer was the one that called it mouse milk.
Westphal:Yes, I don't know where he got that, but one day he said, "Let's call the stuff mouse milk, so we don't spill the beans." So it was known as mouse milk.
DeVorkin:So you were applying for a patent.
Westphal:No, we weren't; but we had covered ourselves so that we could; that is, we had made the lab notes with all of the witnesses of dates and so forth. Caltech was deciding whether they were going to do anything about it or not. They ultimately didn't do anything about it, fortunately. I think it would have been stupid for them to do so, and unfortunate. So NASA didn't know, and the proposal doesn't tell what this stuff was; and. they were very suspicious of that. And I can understand why they were. Why won't these guys tell us what it is.
DeVorkin:Didn't they understand the possibility of espionage?
Probably not. I don't know. So they came in, and that was their first question: What is it? I had anticipated this, so I said, here are copies of the scientific papers that discuss it. The papers that were referenced in the book I mentioned earlier. I said, it's a material called coronene, and it's a hydrocarbon. There's nothing in it but hydrogen and carbon, and it's one of these funny structures. Here's all that's known about it right here. That just completely defanged the whole thing.
There was a two-minute discussion about it, and it was the end of that. Somebody had told me beforehand that they were really up tight about this, and they were going to make a huge big battle about this, if I wasn't prepared to tell them what it was. I had no problem in telling them what it was. All I said was, "Gentlemen, (they had said that the ground rules were that they wouldn't publish the results of what they were doing or anything else) under those conditions I have no problem about this whatsoever. My only problem about it is this potential for a late proposal.
After the selection is made, I have no problem at all about it." So then there was a discussion that Freeman started about what did I know about the MTF of the sensor. The Modulation Transfer Function. So I then went into a discussion about modulation transfer functions, and what we knew about it and how we had measured it, and so forth. He said, well, thank god, I've finally found some one that knows what the hell a modulation transfer function is! (laughs). It turned out that they made a report, which of course we didn't see. And they made a report on each of the sensors of all the proposals, including the SEC sensors that Princeton was proposing. After the selection, after we were selected, Lyman Spitzer, for some reason, got very uptight about all of this. He threatened a Freedom of Information Act action against NASA, if he was not allowed to see the reports from this detector committee.
DeVorkin:This is after the selection?
Westphal:This was after we were selected. This was like the first of 1978. So, rather than getting into a big hassle, they gave him his report, and they sent each of us our reports; that is, the subsection of the report having to do with our detectors. As Jerry Kristian said, when we read it, "Jesus, I would have been embarrassed to write anything so positive about our detector as that detector committee did. " (laughs). Now I understand, and I don't know this for a f act, that Lyman was also allowed to look at all of them, or at least, look at the other two camera ones. I don't know that for a fact, but I suspect that that was true. It was clear that that's what he really wanted to see. I never have seen the one about the SEC; but I'm sure that the committee had great problems with it, because it was clear that it was not something that anybody could build. NASA had already spent, like I say, some big part of $5-million trying to make it happen.
DeVorkin:How do you feel about that? This was obviously a privilege that Lyman Spitzer was given, but he had a privileged role.
Westphal:Oh sure, I had no problem with that. I mean, I would not have done that under those circumstances, but that's just the difference in people and style. I don't think it was inappropriate for him to do that.
DeVorkin:You didn't think it was inappropriate?
Westphal:No. I didn't have any problem with him doing that at all.
DeVorkin:He was sincerely committed to his SEC.
Westphal:Yes, he was.
DeVorkin:Could there have been any time when he could have changed?
Westphal:No, not realistically. Actually what Ball Brothers did was a little grim; they actually plastered a CCD into their instrument off to the side some place. It was clearly done, not after they got our proposal, but in response to the potential of CCDs. We were quite open during the writing of the proposal and everything; it was going to have CCDs in it. So it was their, Ball Brothers, response to not having the red response of the CCD in their original proposal. But they had generated an instrument that was very easy for NASA to turn down, because it mechanically blocked the light path to an axial instrument, and a whole bunch of problems like that.
DeVorkin:I see. Okay. How do you feel about your time?
I had better go rescue my wife. So why don't we stop at this point? (laughs).