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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Harold Masursky

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Interview with Dr. Harold Masursky
By Ronald E. Doel
At US Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Arizona
June 19, 1987

 
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Harold Masursky; June 19, 1987

ABSTRACT: Covers his education and career through the early 1970s. Youth in Fort Wayne, Indiana; education at Yale University in early 1940s; war-time involvement with Army Corps of Engineers; graduate work at Yale; early career with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Other topics include: his geological field studies in the American Southwest; the Atomic Energy Commission-sponsored surveys for uranium deposits; initial involvement in lunar and planetary geology; the development of astrogeological studies within the USGS and NASA; Yale's Department of Geology; his mapping of the Red Desert, Wyoming; AEC nuclear explosion crater studies; Lick Observatory lunar mapping project; and the founding of astrogeological research within the USGS. Includes recollections of Falmouth summer study on Apollo, 1965; arguments over methodologies for lunar science; research on terrestrial meteorite craters; laboratory studies of high velocity impacts; and involvement in geologic training for astronauts, 1960. Also, impressions of Soviet science; involvement in Mariners 4, 6, 7, and 9; appointment as leader of imaging team of Mariner 9; becomes Branch Chief of Flagstaff branch of U.S. Geological Survey, early 1970s.

Transcript

Session I | Session II | Session III

Doel:

There's one question I'd like to get back to concerning your education at Yale University. I'm curious if you had any contact with the astronomers there during that time? With Brouwer and with Wildt?

Masursky:

A very small amount. I knew a number of the scientists, and because I did interviews for the YALE SCIENTIFIC MAGAZINE, I talked to most of these people, and had several of them write articles for this scientific magazine. But no formal contact. I really majored in engineering, with geology as cultural electives, and I took some English lit courses. I had a very difficult time because I was trying to carry in effect parallel majors. I also took courses in engineering which were very difficult and took a great deal of homework. The geology courses were easier. I took the courses for majors in each of the subjects I took, so they were always difficult courses. I did a lot of very fast running because I worked very seriously at fencing and at the scientific magazine and a number of other clubs. So I stayed very busy.

Doel:

Were there any colloquia that they presented at that were memorable? Did you have a chance to hear them speak?

Masursky:

Oh yes, I went to a number of the university lectures, and I guess I got a taste for Renaissance and earlier music, because Pro Musica Antiqua was there. They had a collection of ancient instruments at the Yale auditorium, and people started playing them totally informally. I started going to those, then it became a formal group. And I've always treasured a taste for that music.

Doel:

Do you play a musical instrument yourself?

Masursky:

I took a few violin lessons when I was little. I started learning the piano by myself many years ago when I lived in East Denver, and I bought all of my daughters recorders. But I never actually got to taking lessons in them myself. One of these days I'll take the time to do that.

Doel:

I'm curious too about what you read once you became part of the Astrogeology branch on the geology of the moon. Do you remember any books or articles which particularly impressed you?

Masursky:

Well, the best early works were the ones by Baldwin, and so I read those and everything else that was available Urey's things and Kuiper's things. But that wasn't a very long list. I was very impressed by Tommy Gold's 1956 paper, when he went through the origins of the fragmental material on the moon. He had about eight different origins, and of course the one that got most of the attention覧so he dropped all the rest of them覧was the levitating dust and the sinking out-of-sight of things. And we paid a bitter price for that. We did an enormous amount of work to show that that was not the case. But Tommy never changed on it. Even though the Surveyors landed successfully, he still was in favor of the first astronauts wearing snow shoes and tying an orange avalanche cord on their helmets so that it trailed behind them. That came of course from his skiing he spent many years in Switzerland, and if you ski on glaciers, then you're liable to fall through, and they find the crevice into which you've fallen by tracing the avalanche cord. So he was still pushing for it, even though the rest of us were satisfied from seeing boulder tracks bouncing down hills and rolling across the plains. These were things that weigh tons, and of course they made very shallow marks, so we knew damn well that if boulders didn't sink out of sight, men weren't going to. But it was of great concern for the Surveyors, and of course they landed perfectly safely and we took pictures of their pads. There was some dust thrown up, but it became a non-issue. We had one violently amusing session. Tommy wanted to put mirrors on the Surveyor parts so that the camera could look at the mirrors and then look at grazing incidence on the electronic boxes and the footpads, to see whether his dust that should have been floating all over the place was actually moving. We got a very, very low angle picture which showed a very rough surface, so he wrote, as usual, his separate article disagreeing with the rest of us, and said that he had been right, that the surface of this box was covered by levitated dust. One of the JPL-ers did an experiment by taking a similar box from another Surveyor and illuminating it with this very grazing illumination. He took a picture of it, and of course it showed the surface. It was the paint surface. So that blankety-blank guy called Tommy and got him to withdraw the article. We wanted him to publish it, and then jump on Tommy, because we were still paying the bitter price of all these meetings on the soil mechanics of the lunar surface. He never deviated from his belief that levitated dust was still there, and it's probably a real process. We flew the special little device to make an impression and collect dust from the very surface, and developed a camera that took pictures of the dust at very very high resolution. We spent millions of dollars, millions of dollars, on this this issue, in many different ways. I went to many meetings where the Apollo was going to fire white balls at the lunar surface, and see whether those disappeared, and if they disappeared, hit the abort button. And Tommy was still talking this, even though we'd had many successful Surveyor landings. So we got very angry with him, because he didn't let any of the data that we'd accumulated have any effect on his thinking. He still insisted that this was a great hazard. And we were well aware of the fact that these efforts of Tommy's cost incredible amounts of money. Like the mirrors that were glued on the Surveyor at the Cape, just before the launch.

Doel:

That's interesting.

Masursky:

And without Tommy's enormous scientific political power, it couldn't have been done. And then the JPL engineers who had to carry this out got hysterically angry at him, because he never came to look at the pictures.

Doel:

Is that so?

Masursky:

It must have cost millions of dollars to take those pictures, to put the mirrors on and design the sequence. And Tommy never bothered to look at them. So that was part of the, how shall I say, the growing anti-Tommy Gold feeling. We finally started calling this "Gold dust." That was a great joke because it was non-existent. But Tommy would have been happy because then it would have made a fortune for him. But he hasn't changed since. He still is backing such ideas. He is a very smart man and has made some very fundamental contributions, and that '56 paper was a real gem. He really summarized the processes. But he got so much attention from the levitated dust and the fairy castles that he forgot about the rest of them and never went back to them, because that one made everybody's hair stand on end. I mean, the idea that the engineers were going to land these guys and the spacecraft and the guys would sink out of sight was a very unpleasant thought.

Doel:

It certainly became a very public issue.

Masursky:

Oh my, yes. Because Tommy is a very public personality. He likes debating in public. But he also had a lot of training in Britain, where you learn how to debate. These arguments were really not scientific arguments, they were debates. I saw many people try to debate with him. They would come up with a telling point, and then about ten seconds later, Tommy was using that telling point against them. He was very fast and very clever. But we got very angry with him because we didn't think that this was a debating society. We were really trying to discover what the problems were, and we had lots of them. What the real problems were, as well as the levitated dust覧which was, as far as we were concerned, a non-problem. But we had to keep killing this dragon many many times, and it would not stay dead. It would rise like the phoenix and we'd have to kill it the next time.

Doel:

Did he have supporters in other disciplines for his levitating dust hypothesis?

Masursky:

Well, he made a very convincing case. He did some experimental work with very very fine-grained dust, and it makes a reasonable story. So a lot of people believed it. But when we started looking in detail at the high resolution pictures of the moon, then as far as we were concerned, it just went away. But he didn't accept that as evidence.

Doel:

What kind of support did he have from NASA?

Masursky:

Oh, he was on the President's Science Advisory Commission, PSAC, and on the Physical Sciences Committee, so he had very high standing in the science community. The NASA people were scared to death of him. If they ignored what he said, then they could imagine themselves facing a Congressional investigative committee, after the guys were done in. Then they would have been told, "This guy was telling you this stuff, why didn't you pay attention?" So they would pursue every one of his suggestions to the bitter end, because Tommy was so public that they were scared to death not to follow them. Then they would be able to show they really had taken all of these seriously. The other one that came up覧and I've forgotten the monster that he first came up with覧was that the fine-grained material on the lunar surface would be highly reduced, and if it were brought into the pure oxygen cabin atmosphere, that it would spontaneously combust, and it would burn the astronauts up. Of course, since we had lost three astronauts to a fire in Apollo 1 training, then they took it very seriously. The chemists finally concluded that this was nonsensical, but they were still vastly relieved after Apollo 11 when they brought the material in, and it didn't burn up. But those kinds of issues got a great deal of attention. They were afraid to ignore these hypothetical hazards, and so they had to do enough to show that they really had paid attention.

Doel:

A very delicate political situation.

Masursky:

Oh my! I was always aware that we scientists kept pushing those in the program. We tried to make them land in places that they didn't want to land, because we wanted to do science, and they wanted to do things safely. We had to convince them that the science we wanted to do was non-hazardous, so it took a great deal of work, facing these issues. For example, on Apollo 11, there were various things that could go wrong in a countdown, so they had this scenario for contingency landing points. I think we ended up by making geological maps of 37 sites for the Apollo 11 landing. Of course, my guys did all of it, and I don't think they've ever forgiven me for making them do 37 geological maps for 37 landing sites. But I didn't have any choice. The NASA people said, "This could happen and this could happen and this could happen, therefore we might land here and not there." So we did everything. We tried to think of every possible contingency and prepare for it. But the poor guys that had to do the work, they knew only one of those was going to be used and the other 36 would be papers in somebody's drawer. They didn't like it too much.

Doel:

That's understandable. Did you ever meet Ralph Baldwin personally?

Masursky:

Yes.

Doel:

Were you actively in communication with him?

Masursky:

Oh, he came to a number of meetings, so I heard him talk a number of times. We discussed things. He even was invited into some of the discussions on site selection, because he probably knew more in the early days than anyone else. But he didn't keep up. He stopped with the flood of new data. He did a fine job of working up the earlier telescopic data, but he was not really a participant in the struggles to get and absorb the new data and apply that to the ongoing program. I would guess, nobody could keep up with that without working full time at it.

Doel:

And he of course was no longer working professionally in astronomy.

Masursky:

That's right.

Doel:

Do you recall any discussions with him in particular?

Masursky:

No, because I think we agreed with much of what he said. The differences that came up were differences in the resolution of the observations. We saw things more clearly than you could see from the earlier telescopic views. But exactly contrary to Tommy and to Urey, who would often have a very difficult time accepting new divergent ideas that really didn't fit very well with their proposals覧most of the things that we found sort of fit within the context of the things that Baldwin had suggested. There were great elaborations as we got into much, much higher resolution things.

Doel:

What sort of issues?

Masursky:

Baldwin was much closer to coming up with a rational observational framework. He didn't have the skill in geologic relationships that Shoemaker had. I think we verified his early ideas by the more detailed observations. I admired Kuiper because he got very interested in geologic features as we got higher and higher resolution pictures, the Ranger images. He saw a lot of vague, closed depressions, so he had a friend at Indiana University who took some pictures of snow-covered topography. Karst topography are solution holes in limestone. Kuiper said, "with the snow covering them they look just like the lunar surface." And I think we gave him such a hard time about his proposal that we had limestone beds on the surface that had been dissolved by seeping water and then covered by the lunar fine-grained material, that he decided that he should stop playing geologist and go back and do astronomy, which he was very good at. He made some very fundamental contributions, and I admired him enormously for going back and doing what he had made fundamental contributions in. And he did more of them.

Doel:

Do you recall when that discussion took place?

Masursky:

I think that was after the first successful Ranger, when we saw the high resolution pictures of the lunar surface. We could dig this out, because he wrote an article citing this. The geologists gave him a very hard time about that, because we didn't really think there were dissolved limestone beds on the moon. We thought that was really very unlikely.

Doel:

We can add that to the transcript later on. Did you also have discussions with Donald Menzel? Menzel was also interested in geology.

Masursky:

Well, he was not a serious contender in lunar geology. But I had a great deal to do with him, because he was the head of the Lunar Nomenclature Group. I was named to that, very early.

Doel:

What year was that when he came on board?

Masursky:

I'll have to look it up, but I took the place of a very famous Belgian astronomer whose name escapes me also, but I'll think of it. I think I have records that show that. So I became a member first of the Lunar Nomenclature Group, because I was doing a great deal of mapping and we had use for the names. Of course Menzel was a typical astronomer. He had been director of the observatory. And observatory directors answer only to God. You know, there's nobody else on earth that they owe any allegiance to. So they do things in this very arbitrary way, and they don't expect any questions, and I'm afraid we had a difficult time with him, because he would do things sort of on the spur of the moment. We would make rules, and then he would just totally ignore them.

Doel:

Can you give me an example?

Masursky:

Oh yes. We were supposed to only name features for deceased contributors to natural science. Then they got into all kinds of people, and he pushed very hard in this direction. He went to a banquet, because he was a big gun in the Smithsonian. The secretary of the Smithsonian had a hundredth birthday so they had a big party for him. Menzel gets up and says, "We're going to name a crater on the moon for you. "Well, you know, the one rule that we'd followed up to that point was, you don't name craters for living people. So, we were a little unhappy with him. But he totally ignored our objections that this was a signal honor, and then two or three years later somebody else reached a hundredth birthday. The Europeans of course were furious at him, because here was a totally capricious thing that he did, and we were supposed to approve of it. And he treated the Soviets very badly. And oddly. So finally there was a change. I've forgotten the Soviet who was replaced by Levin. But Levin was a very tough guy, and he braced Menzel on many issues. Finally he wrote a letter which went through the Soviet Academy, that he didn't like attending meetings and making comments which were totally ignored. Either they took the Soviet objections seriously, or they would withdraw. We got in another hassle, because the 300th anniversary of Copernicus was coming up, and they wanted the IAU to meet in Poland. The IAU said, "Well, we've already chosen Sydney, Australia, and we can't change it at this late date." So with that and the nomenclature, the Soviets said, "There are no issues that we ever win in the IAU, and we'll just withdraw." Of course all the Eastern bloc countries would have withdrawn with them. So suddenly the IAU leadership got very interested in nomenclature, and the president of the IAU came to our meetings. Now, this was particularly delicate because the president of the IAU was Leo Goldberg, who was the head of Kitt Peak. He had been Donald Menzel's prize graduate student. So here he had to come and kick old Donald Menzel in the ass, and stop him from being so nasty to the Soviets. Menzel kept saying, "I know how to handle them, just leave it up to me." And they were saying, "We don't like the way we're being treated and we're going to withdraw from the IAU." So I admired Goldberg's being able to wade through that minefield without setting a mine off, because we did change. Menzel was a very old man and his health was failing, but he always had this very strong view. He would hear the problem and give a dictate, and by God, we were all supposed to fall in line. So we fought him bitterly for a number of years, because he did things capriciously, and it took us a long time to undo many of the things that he left with us.

Doel:

That's very interesting. Did he ever talk to you about his political beliefs?

Masursky:

I don't recall. He talked a great deal about his early life, you know, when he grew up in a little mining town. He'd invested a lot of money in mining properties, and he was a very wealthy man. So he told stories which I was interested in, because

Doel:

擁t was your territory?

Masursky:

Mining and that kind of thing. He was a very, very pleasant person, and could entertain children just incredibly well. He was a delight to work with, except that he was so authoritarian that it made things very difficult. Particularly where the course he would embark on was not good, for he had really very bad ideas. But he couldn't be diverted, or at least I never got the magic formula of how to divert him.

Doel:

Did you talk to Goldberg at that time about measures that could be taken?

Masursky:

Oh yes, we had many discussions. But he was obviously very reluctant to tell Menzel to change, but he was in a very difficult circumstance, because he had to. He managed to push on Menzel some, but it really didn't get cured until Menzel had to step down, because his health got very very bad. I think he was caught in a big wave. He had a summer place, I've forgotten where it was, but he was wading and a big wave came in and tumbled him. I think it broke a couple of vertebrae, and he had a very difficult time after that. But the problem really wasn't solved until we had a replacement, and that made life a great deal easier. I also started working with Gerard de Vaucouleurs, who was then at the University of Texas. He had done a map of Mars from many, many years of telescopic observations. I think it was paid for by the Air Force. He was a little tiny guy, very precise, did everything just exactly so. But as sometimes happens with people like that, he was very difficult to divert. Also he had absolute certainty that what he said was right. We got very uncomfortable because many of the names for craters on the moon were repeated on Mars. He came in with a listing showing exactly what percentage of them were repeated, but unfortunately he hadn't counted all the new names. It turned out there was about between 80 and 90 percent repetition, and we got a good deal of static from the community about that issue.

Doel:

What do you recall about de Vaucouleur's map?

Masursky:

Well, his map was a respectable map. The incredible thing was its detail. I'll never forget the first time I saw Mars through the Lowell telescope. It was such a tiny, tiny object. To think that there were like 3700 names that had been given to features, and the whole body was less than the size of a pencil eraser.

Doel:

Do you recall when that was? In the late 1950s?

Masursky:

No, early sixties. We had some astronauts coming, and we would have them put time in on each of the telescopes around Flagstaff. Preparatory to that, we went up to Lowell to arrange things. I think that was the first time that I saw Mars through the 24-inch refractor. I was very impressed with the incredible amount of detail that they had managed to extract from that very careful work. But de Vaucouleurs was very precise, and he had a very European sense, again, of observatory dynamics. You know, secretaries do things for you. You tell them, and they're supposed to snap to and do them. He came in and worked with us for several weeks one time, because we were doing airbrush maps of the moon and Mars. In a very short while we almost had a rebellion on our hands, because our gals were not used to being given orders in that tone of voice. We had to try to shield them from him, try to get his work done but not let him tell them about it. Things went much better after that. He was very impressed with our airbrush people, who were very good. They had worked for a number of years for the Air Force when they were doing their Lunar maps at Lowell Observatory using the 24-inch. We hired the best of their people. They had gone through an enormous number of people, trying to pick out capable people. So we did things at a rate of speed that he found astonishing. I think we clearly had the best people in the world, and they have remained so, for the many years since that time. We were very lucky to inherit them from the Air Force when they dismantled their operation, because we started taking very high resolution pictures with the Lunar Orbiter. That made the observations through the telescope in effect obsolete.

Doel:

This was the mid-1960s when de Vaucouleurs was here?

Masursky:

Yes.

Doel:

What impressions do you have of de Vaucouleurs? Do you recall any discussions with him in particular?

Masursky:

Oh yes, many. We had many meetings on the Mars nomenclature. The stellar work he eventually went back to was not a subject that we really ever discussed. As I said, he was very precise, very meticulous. I think he's done very good astronomic work, and I think his map was a very respectable map. Our tendency is to go back to the Antoniadi-Schapiarelli Mars maps for the nomenclature, because they were so much earlier. We've tried to preserve the historical flavor. The other area of difficulty that we ran into was that Audouin Dollfus was the first IAU person put in charge of Mars. I think out of the thousands of names, he accepted 58 as being IAU recognized names. Of course, de Vaucouleurs thought that Dollfus was a four letter word, and he didn't see any reason for us to pay any attention to the IAU approval of those names. I remember having a conversation with him, saying that, "It doesn't matter whether you like what was done, it was an IAU action. It was in the TRANSACTIONS, and if we're going to change that we have to formally do it. We can't just pretend that this didn't happen." It really pained him to recognize that Dollfus's subcommittee of the IAU had to be recognized, and we had to add to that. I said, "Well, if we don't do this, then why doesn't the next person who comes along ignore what we've done?" If we ignore previous IAU work, why should anybody pay any attention to what we've done? The logic was difficult for him, because he had such a violent personal antipathy. But eventually we talked him into accepting that and building on the old order even if he didn't like it. We came to a very good compromise, because much of the work had been done in France by Schapiarelli and then Antoniadi as well as in Milan where they did their fundamental work. I think maybe most of their work was actually done in France, so he didn't think it was too bad to accept their work, and we accepted a lot of his nomenclature also. But we tended - if there were any differences - to accept Schapiarelli first and then Antoniadi second. We devised the scheme for the moon, where we only had a few different kinds of features then elaborated this for the planets. Mars is much more varied. What we did was to take the name from the Schapiarelli and Antoniadi maps closest to the feature that we wanted to name. If there were, let's say, a mountain, then we would take the nearest named feature, and then put Montes or Mons after it. The name used by Antoniadi was Nix Olympica for this bright feature, so we named it Olympus Mons, and everybody liked it. The snows of Olympus. We thought it applied beautifully to that feature. That was a happy solution. I think we did a lot of useful work. He was difficult but not impossible the way Menzel was, so it was an enormous step forward. But he was also a much younger man then, and I think therefore a little more flexible.

Doel:

Did he ever talk to you about his difficulties with Dollfus?

Masursky:

No. No, he never did. We thought it was such an unpleasant subject that we never pushed him on it. But see, we knew Dollfus very well too, and he was a very active member. Dollfus was much more interested in the science of the moon and Mars than de Vaucouleurs was. I don't know what impelled him to do the many, many years of observations of Mars, and very careful drawings of the maps, but I think he viewed himself as being a follower of Schapiarelli and Antoniadi. de Vaucouleurs provided the benchmark depictions of the Mars surface.

Doel:

He was also strongly influenced by others who were at Meudon and Pic de Midi. I'm curious what general impressions you had, to move back just a little bit, of Ralph Baldwin as a man or as a scientist.

Masursky:

Well, he was very quiet. He came to many meetings, but I'm not sure that he literally ever spoke up. I think a few times he was asked direct questions that he'd answer, but he never volunteered information or opinions. He was so quiet he was almost invisible. We talked to him at coffee breaks and lunches and things like that, but he was not an active participant in these meetings. He impressed me as being a very smart, very capable man, but very shy. So we were happy to award him one of our awards the award that the Planetary Geology Division of GSA gives. We tried to go back and recognize the fundamental contributors, and we were delighted to name his. I think he was like the second person that we gave the award to.

Doel:

What is the name of this award?

Masursky:

G. K. Gilbert Award, because of his fundamental early work. We made a very attractive award that we give to each person. Robin Brecht [unclear] got a big Antarctic meteorite that we sliced, and then mounted in plastic. It had a nice commemorative statement and his name, so that I'm sure he has it on his desk.

Doel:

An interesting idea.

Masursky:

We thought it brought together meteorites and impacts and all those things. I think it has been very well received, because the people that we've named to it I think have been the really good people.

Doel:

You also read G. K. Gilbert's writings on lunar craters?

Masursky:

Oh, of course. That was our Bible. Even though he was wrong, he had the right idea. He did telescopic observations, observations of craters, and experimental work. Of course he was wrong in his experimental work, because he said only a small part of the lunar population of craters would be from vertical impacts. And he fired bullets into clay, and he found that at lower angles, they made elliptical craters. But the bullet was low velocity impact. It didn't generate a shock wave which goes out in a spherical shock front. His thinking was very cogent, but his experimental apparatus wasn't adequate to test. That's why geologists have a great deal of suspicion of laboratory work. It's very hard to duplicate the conditions, and geologic processes are usually contaminated by many different aspects that control the reactions. Chemists and physicists do much better at isolating a particular phenomenon, and they can duplicate it and make a test case. It's very hard to duplicate the temperatures and pressures that give you folded rocks that flow. People have finally gotten diamond anvils where they can get very high pressures that duplicate some of the processes in the deep mantle or the deep crust and upper mantle, but it's taken an enormous growth of technology to get so that you can do experimental work that really duplicates geological processes. I've read-just this morning I think, as a matter of fact-an article in EOS on, "Is sea floor spreading a revolution? Or just a much lesser thing?" They keep talking about experiments. Well, geologists work on observations. It's very hard for a geologist to do experiments duplicating fault belts; it's really hard. It's very hard for astrophysicists to make galaxies in their laboratory. They can do particle physics and understand the physics, but they can't do enormous things that they have to deal with. So in my view, geology and astrophysics are observational sciences, where it's very hard to do appropriate experiments. But there's a whole wing of geology where people do this sort of thing and try to duplicate magnetic phenomenon in the laboratory. They've been quite successful with this, measuring remnant magnetism, and understanding what chemical and crystallographic phases the magnetism goes with. The whole group of people that do phase chemistry and crystallography are separate. They're a different branch of geology, and they're really physicists. They're not geoscientists, for we think that is more observational. It's very hard to say, what are the phases of ice that occur on the surface of Europa. It's very difficult to deal with satellite scale things. And heat flow, although it's a powerful technique-and there are heat flow people that have done some very good work-is a very difficult subject to deal with.

Doel:

Fundamentally a question of scale?

Masursky:

Yes. Scale and other conditions: temperature, pressure. Many of the geological processes遥ou said earlier, you're really dealing with geophysics. We really don't. We deal with geology. Geochemistry and geophysics are important parts of that, and atmosphere-surface interactions, and the distribution of material in the interior. When I did general geology, I always had geochemists and paleontologists visiting me. Geophysicists would do gravity work and seismic work and magnetics work. But we found that we had to watch them like a hawk, because they would invoke a model, and almost always the observations were diametrically opposed. I'd get my magnetic observations in the Cortes Range, Nevada, where we had a commercial iron mine. I found that where I tried to apply the geophysics, I had to reverse most of the things. Their predictions of what would happen were often 180 degrees off. They scared me to death of saying what the geology was on the basis of geophysics, when it took their very cleverest guys not to be totally misled by the models that they invoked. That happened over and over again.

Doel:

Their methodologies were inverted from those that you practiced.

Masursky:

Yes. The problem is that they would create the model, and then we would test it, and the model was wrong. They didn't know why it was wrong. I always found that you could pay attention to geophysics, if you got far enough back from it to not get caught up in the model parameters. In most of planetary sciences, it's very difficult to understand the appropriate parameters to apply to the model. The difficulty is, you change the parameters and it reverses the results. I mean, you're not just wrong, you're really wrong. I think I learned something from doing field work with geophysicists and geochemists, to try to test the real observations continually. Never get very far away from them. And I think I've carried that with me. I dislike intensely houses of cards, where you make model assumptions and then you build theories that go 7 steps beyond that. Any more than one step away from the observations is nonsense. You're dreaming. It's a virtual planet that you're dealing with, not a real one. I dislike these stacked hypotheses. They make an incredible statement which applies all over the solar system, and you try to find out, how do they get to there? You find buried way down in this are a few facts that got so far left behind that the results are-where you can test them-very frequently wrong. It's very good to do, but I find that they're not aware of what the observational constraints are that should govern the modeling. Some of the guys are very clever, and they really stay close to the facts. But I would say many of them get away from the few observations that we have. It harks back to the Harry Hess view, that geologists often have such a scattered array of facts that creating an idea is really an art form. I mean, it's a different kind of science than being able to set up and isolate something and test it experimentally. I wish we could do things like that better.

Doel:

That's a very interesting point. Were you reading the papers on methodology by G. K. Gilbert?

Masursky:

Well, yes. And T. C. Chamberlin. I still find that right today. Chamberlin formally invoked a method of multiple working hypotheses, rather than a controlling prejudice. I find very few, particularly of our young scientists, practice this. They get an idea and try to prove it, and they ignore everything that doesn't fit with it. A lot of problems we don't know that well. So we try to say, this is an idea that might explain it. This is an alternate idea. This is an alternate idea. And they all fit the few facts. So don't kid yourself that we can pick the one and say, that's right. Because it takes enormous luck to have the observations come so you can do that.

Doel:

Do you advise your students to read Chamberlin ?

Masursky:

Sure. Well, it's not a question so much of students as of colleagues. I have tried to stay-how shall I say?-in the center of the stream, because I don't want to work on science which is for itself. I want to work on science will affect the next mission, and will help us get the next mission. In other words, I don't like esoteric things that are sort of cute but don't lead anywhere. I like to try to work on things that will have children. They'll say, here's a really good problem and we could solve it if we did this, so we need to fly another mission. This is what we can find out. And I try to guide the things that I work on by saying, "Does it matter to anyone? Will it encourage the managers and the politicians to say, yes, that's an interesting problem?" But if you divert them with a hell of an interesting problem that doesn't lead anywhere, then I don't like it. I mean, it seems to me that the funds are limited, and we need to work on things that maintain the mainstream of investigations. That comes back to my saying, we have to observe. The only way we can advance is to not spin more theories, but to say, here's a possible mechanism. What do we have to do to test it? And how does that convert into something that we can fly? I got violently angry with a recent effort. We were working on something called major directions: what shall we do for the next thirty years? They had Gene Levy write a piece on accumulation of the early proto-planets, and this was our centerpiece. We were building our major direction on this fundamental piece of science. First order question is the nonsense that's often applied to that. And I said, "What are we doing? What are we going to fly that tests that?" We can fly astronomic things and look at the formation of new planets, and that's how we test that. We can't fly a spacecraft by one of those places覧hell, it takes 105 years to get there! Why don't we use as a centerpiece something that says, here's an interesting idea and if we fly something we can test it? I said, "We can't find any tests? Gene's thing is beautiful. It's a wonderful intellectual exercise and it's important. But we can't test it. We can't say we're going to fly something in 2010 that will settle this issue. You know, we've got to fly something 300 years from now that will test those ideas." I thought it was interesting but irrelevant.

Doel:

Is this an idea Gene Shoemaker is advocating?

Masursky:

No, this is Gene Levy. Gene Levy is the current head of the Lunar and Planetary Lab. He succeeded after several people the outfit that Gerald Kuiper started. Kuiper was better at this. He worked on things, like what's the atmospheric pressure on Mars, and he discovered Miranda. Now this is a hell of an interesting object, and here's something that made a measurement. He was very good at setting up astronomic observations that would test things. And most of the young guys who are now powers in our field were educated by Kuiper. I mean, he had an enormous effect, not only building his laboratory, but to engender a whole group of young people who are good, really good people.

Doel:

How closely did you work with Kuiper?

Masursky:

On Ranger and Surveyor. You know, he was very involved in our Lunar Theories and Processes Working Group. And then he was always interested in the nomenclature, so I had a lot of contact with him there. We didn't have that much contact after he reformed and stopped trying to do geology, because I didn't really like to debate with him or Urey. I wouldn't have tried to debate with them about spectroscopy of the gasses and figuring out what the pressure was by the broadening of the spectral lines. I know about this stuff but I don't have a real feeling for it. Similarly, they didn't really have a feeling for geology, and when they tried to look in detail at geologic processes, they were lost. You know, they didn't have the feeling for what things could be true and what things not. So we always had a very pleasant relationship because we were non-competitive. When he got so he did astronomy, which he did a hell of a lot better than me, and I did geology better than he did, we got along very well. He was considered to be a monster, but I never saw that side of him. The people who worked more closely with him I think had a difficult time. But we always had very, very pleasant relationships. He was very smart, and I think more flexible than say Menzel or de Vaucouleurs. He's the one that made planetary astronomy respectable. I honor him for that. And I honor Urey, because I don't think we would have a space program without him. But I didn't like the fact that he didn't think that geologic processes and engineering hazards were something that were really worth bothering with. I mean, that really was not in his view of fundamental chemical processes. But he trained some guys who did some fine work, and again, some young people. I feel the same about Bruce Murray. I don't think Bruce has ever said anything that I agreed with scientifically. Yet half the guys that work here were trained by Bruce. So I honor him for having good students.

Doel:

I'm curious about the relationship that you had with Bruce Murray then.

Masursky:

Well, Bruce worked with Bob Leighton. Bruce was really interested in infra-red astronomy, and he was very influential in the early days of trying to get better infra-red devices to hang on telescopes. And Bruce also understood the JPL system, and knew how to push on them to get flight programs changed to do better things. But Bruce had and has a sort of a view of reality which I find very difficult. He and Leighton were very careful about Mariner 4 and Mariner 6 and 7 data. He said, "Well, we have to protect the people from themselves. Keep the data and you write all the papers about it before you let anyone else have it, because if they get it early, they don't really understand what all the problems are in interpreting something." And we thought that he should pay less attention to protecting people from themselves. You let the data go sooner and you let the debate about the issues be a more open one. And I think Bruce has gradually changed from that position, because in several flight programs since then we've been much freer. We had a great confrontation several years ago with a student of Al Cameron's. This person wrote a paper which went into the SCIENCE magazine report of the early results on Voyager. We were 99.9 percent sure that he had used the Voyager data, and he was publishing at the same time as we were. That's not considered to be courteous. That is, you let the experimenters write their articles, then you say whatever you want. He claimed of course that he had arrived at all of this totally independently before the flight. That made it very difficult, because the Space Science Board is the court of last resort, but since it was a student of the head of the Space Science Board, there was no one to appeal to. It led to some very bitter feelings. We thought that he should have written the article, but later, not as though he had magically come by these brilliant ideas which we thought were almost surely a result of the Voyager data; he should have published them in the next SCIENCE, not the same issue. These are the same kinds of concerns, getting back to Bruce. It always amazed me when he could be so vigorous in pursuing the science idea, for he was a very conservative person. I became head of the imaging team on Mariner 8 and 9 to Mars in 1971. This was the first imaging experiment that was not controlled by the Leighton-Murray cabal. Actually, there were three groups that had proposed. All three were accepted, and they stuck us all together as one team, rather than choosing one of the three teams. We got all three groups. Then I became the team leader, so I had to try to get the three groups to work together. I was very pleased that people said I had succeeded in surviving Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan on the team. They thought I should have gotten a medal for that, and the fact that the spacecraft did a lot of good things was second to being able to cope with the two of them.

Doel:

That would have been difficult to publish in SCIENCE.

Masursky:

Yes. But in psychosociology, it was a notable event, because they both come on pretty strong.

Doel:

I'd like to turn to your Mars work in just a moment, but there are a few items which came before that I'd like to talk with you about. The astrogeology project set up in the U.S.G.S. Center in Menlo Park in the early 1960s; how many people became part of that group? How quickly did it grow?

Masursky:

When I agreed to go there, a number of months before I arrived, I think there was Shoemaker, Eggleton and Hackman. About the time I arrived, I came as part of a whole wave of people. Then in a few months then we started the Flagstaff operation. It started with an office in the bank building that had two people in it, and then in about, oh, two or three years, we grew to 250 people in both branches. It was initially astrogeology and then it broke into surface planetary exploration-that did Apollo field geology experiment-and everything else. The science really was in the other part of astro, and that's when it became `studies' versus surface planetary exploration. We were taking on people in large numbers. We ended up with a group in Reston who were the petrology types; and Ed Chao was there. We also had a group in Denver that were an engineering geology group, and a group in Menlo who were sort of a science group, and then the Flagstaff operation, which was really built for the Apollo field geology experiment. Then years later they tried to pull everybody in here. But the chemists weren't about to leave Washington because that's where all the chemists are. They weren't about to come to Flagstaff where there ain't no chemists. So after the period of very high growth, we gradually shed the Denver group and the Reston group, and we still have the small remnants of the group in Menlo Park, who were all convinced that Flagstaff was the end of the earth and that they wouldn't move here no matter what. So we had a period of very very rapid growth. I would guess we went from ten people to a hundred people in about two years, three years.

Doel:

That would be approximately 1964-when the Flagstaff branch was fully in operation.

Masursky:

Yes.

Doel:

What was the atmosphere like in Menlo Park when you joined there?

Masursky:

It was a delightful place to work, because we were working at Lick Observatory. We had a very congenial environment. Menlo was small and it was all concentrated on one campus, and so we knew everyone. And there were a lot of very good, very smart people. About that time, they started the Kentucky mapping program, the state cooperative. Most people were scared to death of it and didn't want to work at it, so a bunch of people were transferred to it from Reston and from Denver. A few of them quit. Not one single person left Menlo Park. They all either resisted going or went to universities. It was the smallest group. I think they had a lot of very good people, like at Denver and Reston, but I don't think the general tenor of the group was as intellectually stimulating. I think they were just a nicer bunch of people. I found it a very very pleasant place to work and live.

Doel:

How much freedom did you have to choose your research topics?

Masursky:

Oh, a great deal. But, I had migrated into the General Geology branch, which is a little tiny branch in Denver. It was the smallest branch in the Survey. But it also had some of the best people in the Survey, and they pretty well did whatever the hell they pleased. I'd gotten used to that atmosphere, and there were a lot of people like that. The Survey has changed a great deal in the years I've been with it. The rest of the government has gradually learned how to control the Survey. But we were a little tiny group and we just did things the Survey way, and didn't follow the government regulations, except in the most dire cases. And gradually they found out how to constrict us, so it's much harder to do things in an efficient effective way. Now we do them more in the government way, and they're a real pain. We had a great deal of flexibility. At Flagstaff, we had very clever administrative officers. Our second one had been the administrative officer for the guy who was chief geologist and then became director, that's Pecora. He'd worked in Washington for many years; his name was Al Honka. You went to Al, and Al could always get anything done. He just had an incredible savvy about how the system worked. He'd always find a way to do what we wanted to do, and he was our real jewel. Of course the other people had been good, but nobody was in the same class. He was a world-class administrative officer. He could do anything. And when we were growing that fast and doing a lot of very strange things, it really helped. Flagstaff really consists of a topographic mapping branch and a photogrammetric branch and an illustrations group. We also have our own photo lab, and the scientific groups, and then we had in effect engineering geology. We really had a miniature Geological Survey. In many of the things that we did-because we were up against such terrible competition-we had to get the latest fanciest gadgets to stay up. So we were usually many years ahead of the rest of the Survey. We got computer-driven plotters. The Survey didn't adopt them for ten more years. And they finally bought, I think, 24 of them. We had trained I think eight guys (on them). Everyone here we trained almost from the ground up. When they finally bought the plotters, they came in and hired every single one of our guys away, because they offered them higher rates, and they were temporary employees with us. They'd give them offers they couldn't refuse. Every single one of them since then has tried to come back, because they found working in a big organization in Reston or Denver was less desirable. Some of our people have left here and done very well in other groups.

Doel:

That's an interesting observation, that Flagstaff became a leader of the Geological Survey in instrumentation.

Masursky:

In our arena. The Survey had computers, but they didn't know what image processing was. And we invented ways of showing geophysical and geochemical data as images on computers, comparing them. Now everyone does that, but it was done first here.

Doel:

Were you responsible for bringing particular geologists into the astrogeological project when you were in Menlo Park?

Masursky:

Yes. But I commuted between the two places, and we hired, I don't know, eight or ten people, because the big wave of rapid hires was over. We hired lots of people. As for the real scientists, I got Larry Soderblom who is a real jewel in anyone's crown. But that was easy. I went to the Caltechers and said, "Do you know anybody really good?" They said, "Yeah, Soderblom is the best student we've had in twenty years." I said, "Let's hire him. I don't want to talk to him." You know, if four or five Caltechers agree with each other妖o it!

Doel:

That's rare enough.

Masursky:

Yes. And I hired a bunch of gals. I think I hired four women. I hired like three or four men. I hired Keith Howard. I went back to Yale to give a colloquium, and hired him there. He stayed with us for several years, was very good, and is now working other parts of the Survey. And all of the women, only Baerbel still works for us. All the rest of them went to other parts of the Survey, and they've become big guns. They've held very high administrative posts. So I don't think I was wrong. All of them were very difficult. I find the women I've had to deal with are more difficult than the men. Maybe it's that they're different, but I find them more difficult. Their whole sociology is very different. I thought I could handle it because I grew up with five sisters. But I found that their response under pressure is very different. It's not that it's worse, it's different.

Doel:

Simply different?

Masursky:

Yes. And I've tried very hard. I started a minorities program when I was in Menlo, and I hired a bunch of high school kids who were very bright and who needed money to stay in school. They came to work. The US government adopted a program like that three years later, but I had one in Menlo Park, and we had a whole bunch of kids. Most of them were women and they did fine. Our best gal won a four year scholarship to Berkeley. But the best kid of them all was a very poor white kid, and half or three-quarters of them were black. The Menlo people said, "You aren't going to win any points by saying that the best guy is a white kid. You're supposed to be doing minorities." Well, he was a poor minority and I think he probably did something good. I didn't get to follow the kids because I left and moved here. But that was one of the things that I thought that I did that was significant. The fact that I brought a bunch of women in was a good thing, I thought, because NASA is the most WASPish organization left in the country. It is a meritocracy and there is enormous competition. The number of minority people and the number of women in NASA science and engineering is tiny. They could all sit around this table, I mean, literally, the whole God damned crew, and it always bothered the hell out of me that we weren't better at that.

Doel:

NASA had got a special exemption, in fact, from hiring quotas in hiring practices.

Masursky:

I didn't know that. But the things that we do are so difficult, and we really need the best God damn people there are, and they have to do the best they can do. And you can't bring people along. It's like when tennis went popular in California. All kinds of minority people grew to the top, but it was rare in the East because it was much more restricted. There weren't as many public courts and you had to belong to a tennis club, and you don't do that if you're a poor minority kid. I tried to push it when I was doing things to improve this. I knew the black guy who ran the photo lab in Menlo Park, and I really tried to get him to come here. He would have come, but his wife was chief nurse at the hospital in I think Redwood City. He said, "Hell, if we come to Flagstaff, she ain't even going to be able to get a job at the hospital, let alone be chief nurse." He was right and I didn't have an answer. He was much better than any photographer we ever had. He was really good. He was one of these very flexible good people who does superb work. But I couldn't bullshit him. I couldn't say that things were fine, because I'd lived in Boulder. They got a black faculty member there. It took him four years to find a house that he could buy in Boulder, because Boulder still had a law that no blacks could be in town after dark.

Doel:

This is when?

Masursky:

1965. Yes. So the prejudices are still very strong and very common. And that's always made me uncomfortable. I love NASA's work and the way they do things, but the fact that we've done such a terrible job of bringing minorities in I think is disgraceful, because I think we should have worked harder at bringing them in. But you know, if the competition is so severe that you have to take the top, top kid, then it's hard to find them. You really have to look.

Doel:

Did you talk with colleagues about this?

Masursky:

Oh yes. But nobody gives a damn. I mean, they're interested in NASA being the best in the world, and if minorities make it, fine. But that's not their concern. Their concern is, how do you get the best students? How do you get the best post-docs? I mean, how do you skim the cream? And the cream unfortunately turns out to be mostly WASP. But, I don't know what to do about that. One of the NASA managers tried to spread money out. He tried to give a lot of little grants to small schools, not the Berkeleys and Stanfords and Yales and MITs. He got kids, or young faculty guys, from a whole variety of schools; he had several black guys. But they didn't do too well. They're good and competent and they could have done fine jobs for other people, but not in our work. I always called NASA Headquarters "the pirana pit." You never want to let your hand over the side of the boat because your fingers will be missing. The science group takes on a lot of that same very bitter competition. A lot of our university people, they're very good guys and very smart but I don't like them because of this competitiveness. As far as I can tell, in any university, every faculty member is an enemy of every other one. You know, the guy does good work down the hall, you don't like it悠 mean, you have to work harder in order to get more brownie points in the little community. We used to get our funding as a group here, and for many years we had much better cooperation here than any of the NASA centers, because they work the same way and if the guy down the hall does good stuff you denigrate him. Because that means that he's competition. After we started getting funded not as the Flagstaff operation or Astro, but rather after they had decided every contract had to be competitive, I haven't liked working with the group nearly as well.

Doel:

When did that occur?

Masursky:

Oh, I guess six or eight years ago. And I think it's changed the sociopathology of our group. Flagstaff has become much more like the NASA centers. We used to be able to compete against Houston and JPL. They had ten times as many guys and a hundred times as much money, but we'd do better things, because we had this incredible spirit of everybody pitching in. We had a lot of people come work here. They had to work under high pressure and they'd go some place else. I mean, we're paying government salaries, and they could get the same damn salary for a lot less work and a lot less tension. But there are people who like it, and that's the people we have here.

Doel:

Was that also the organizational style in Menlo Park?

Masursky:

Sure.

Doel:

And the other branches of USGS you'd worked in? Colorado?

Masursky:

Yes. The Survey is really different. We have an annual Pick and Hammer Show, where everybody plays all the managers or all the people who are worth imitating, and just tear hell out of them. That's been going on for, I don't know, 40 years. When the Survey administrator serves his tour, he becomes a project geologist again. You won't find many places in the country or the world, where a guy becomes chief geologist or director and then retires and becomes a scientist again. It's very healthy, because I used to meet with the branch chiefs and former branch chiefs and office chiefs in Menlo Park. When we'd get idiot directions, one of them would call Washington and say, "What the hell are you trying to do?" It was a very effective damper on nonsense. But you know, it would never happen in NASA. It would never happen in any of the companies that we work with. I mean, you don't get to be a vice president of a company and then go back and become a project engineer. They'd think you're crazy to suggest such a thing. They don't understand the power of that way of doing business, that science is our business, not running an operation. That the best of all fates is becoming a manager. In the Survey, the thing was for many years, anyone who wants to be a manager, God, don't let him become one! It's dangerous. Because he becomes a professional administrator rather than somebody who says, "The purpose of the Survey is to do science."

Doel:

That's an interesting point.

Masursky:

It's very important. Very important. I think that's why Astro has been able to survive, with not that much money and not that many people. It's the dedication of the group and willingness to work. And it's hard to do now, because we have new regulations. We used to bring our people to Houston and JPL and hell, they'd work 22 hours a day. They'd literally work till they had to go to the hospital. And you can't do that now. You can't work more than eight hours. You can pay overtime. So, you know, it's a different world. We can see it in our young people. They just don't have the same habits. But they haven't been exposed to the mission environment. People would get in and get so God damn excited. They'd fight with each other to do the extra work. I think the best thing that Tim Mutch and Carl Sagan did was to get the Viking intern program, where we got kids from all over the country. We had about 30 at a time, went through maybe 120 kids over that summer.

Doel:

What educational level were they at?

Masursky:

Undergraduates. We had superb kids, you know, and they came in, and they got in this incredible environment. The pictures that came down, no human being had ever seen them before. And they liked it. That was exciting stuff. I was in charge of site certification. We had to make mosaics and count craters and do roughnesses, and hell, we couldn't have done it without those kids. It was just too much work to do too fast. And they just busted their ass. Every once in a while I get on an airport shuttle and somebody will come up and say, "You don't remember..." That's a long time ago. Kids have changed a lot. "I was a Viking intern and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me." The real-time stuff on a mission is very heady stuff. That's why I dearly loved it. You work your butt off but it's so much fun to do. You have to be willing to take risks. You say something and they say, "OK, what do we do now?" We've got to go send this command to the spacecraft in twenty minutes, so do whatever you want to do except the command goes up then. I have a very fond memory of Sagan, who was, you know, the great liberal. Still is, except when he found out that the spacecraft might crash, and his experiment of the camera might not see the giraffes galloping by. Then Carl became conservative. Gerry Soffen was the project scientist. He was an old time friend of Carl's. I urged him not to have Carl on that group. I said, "You know Carl, that's not his game." Carl can think of more things-you get a new fact, he can think of more explanations faster than any human being I've ever seen. We finally got to the place where we had to make a decision, and the vote would go around the table. I'd see Carl sitting there. He'd start sweating, literally sweat pouring off, because he had to say, yes or no, and he knew it mattered. It really mattered. It scared the ass off of him. He's not an operations guy. There are some people who are willing to say yes or no. Those are rare, rare people. Most people want to say, "yes but...." A project manager doesn't give a shit about the buts, he's got to have a yes or no.

Doel:

I'd like to turn back to an issue from an earlier period of time. How did you learn about the nuclear crater studies, those which the Atomic Energy Commission was conducting in the Nevada desert? Did that affect your thinking about the formation of lunar craters?

Masursky:

Oh, enormously, yes. Well, it wasn't just nuclear craters. It was explosion craters. Gene had worked of course on Meteor Crater, and I got a lot more work started on several other natural craters like Odessa.

Doel:

Do you recall when you first began doing that research?

Masursky:

Oh, as soon as I joined. We started looking for additional places to send people, and then I sent two guys out to White Sands Proving Grounds where they had missiles coming in. These were better than explosion craters because they were honest-to-god impact craters. Jack Macauley and Henry Moore did some very very nice work with different angles of entry of missile impact craters. They studied what the impact ejecta looked like, and what were the physics of the ejecta. Don Gault started running experiments at Ames. We worked very closely with those at Ames, and I looked at the high speed movies that Don took. We were particularly interested in lunar craters. I was not only interested in the science, but more what was the distribution of ejecta? Where did you have to go in order to get appropriate samples? What were the hazards for landing and roving and walking in those? I took it again as a mission requirement that we understand all this. I thought I saw from the impact studies with the very high speed film the projectile enter and the ejecta come out in Shoemaker style. The thing that impressed me was that it all broke into filaments and that's what made the rays. That was our first real understanding that this is a fundamental physical process. Gault still doesn't agree actually happened, except I must have looked at those high speed films hundreds of times. Then I saw, I thought, a rebound jet that came out late in the formation of a crater which was the central peak forming. I got very excited about that because we could see those stages in the lunar craters. In Aristarchus I can actually see the blocks that came out of the central peak and now lie on top of it. It was the high speed movies that let me see this. Then I found that I could get a film of the Bikini nuclear device. That added another lovely piece. First we saw the filament as ejecta. Then we saw the ejecta coming out, landing successively farther and farther out. The farther out they went, the higher the velocities were, and we see that in the secondary ejecta around the secondary craters. And I wrote a paper, I think, with John O'Keefe about what we called crow's feet or bird feet, the little ejecta patterns from the secondaries. These got to be very fundamental because you were trying to figure out where the stuff came from that you picked up on the surface. We found we needed the highest resolution pictures, and that it wasn't easy. Only rarely could we find the original ejecta. It was often the second or third generation of ejecta. And then we had to understand: where did the ejecta go from these various layers in the crater? We did experimental work and could confirm it by the high speed movies and by careful mapping of missile impact craters, and experimental craters. I learned something. I came to it totally new. I got interested in something else. I read the accounts of the Bikini studies-these were classified when I first got them. They talked about a base surge, and I got intrigued with that. There were many different accounts of how the surge formed, and that's what made the continuous ejecta blanket. The question was, where did it come from? Where in the sequence of the development of the crater? Where did the surge material go? How could you restore it to the crater hole? I finally became convinced that base surges happened not only with impact craters but with volcanic craters. If you had a big plume of material that came out, and it fell back down and surged out, then you could see this. We got movies of the explosion of Paola Taal in the Philippines. We could actually see the big surge in the palm trees. It blasted off the bark on the side towards the explosion, and then there was a shadow behind the trees. Then we got interested in the dune forms of the deposits. We went on a field trip or a meeting in Italy, and we did a field trip with a very good guide.

Doel:

Do you recall when this was?

Masursky:

There are good records of it. I'll have to get the date.

Doel:

We'll check on that.

Masursky:

These were all volcanic deposits. We had found what we thought were dunes and anti-dunes, and that says the shape of the dunes is different on high velocity turbulent flow. And we could find those things in impact ejected deposits. We were talking about having one of the little lunar craters as one of our missions, so we worked out this whole sequence of how you could get samples from this very fresh crater. We knew exactly where they came from. So by understanding the physics of the distribution of the materials, then you knew what the Ray patterns meant and what the continuous ejecta blanket meant. Then you could restore things. You could say, these are the layers that we can sample on the moon. We tried to do that for imbrium. Of course it's such an enormous event, and because of this I got interested in the tectonics. We found from Gene's studies here that the minor fractures in Meteor Crater area control the outermost shape, so it's highly polyganal. Here we had this incredible shock wave which was supposed to treat everything uniformly, except as it migrated out and got lower and lower velocity, finally it was controlled by little fractures in the rock. So we thought this was a real kick, because a lot of lunar craters showed that same thing. And we could find tectonic patterns that were part of the so-called lunar grid, or fractural patterns, that are all over the moon. When the Imbrium event took place, it re-activated those ancient fractures. Then there were other internal events that re-activated those, and by looking at the layers of lunar stratigraphy, you could actually tie tectonic events to pre-crater and post-crater, so we could actually date their re-activation. I was interested in that because we'd seen re-activated faults that were active from early pre-Cambrian right up through Tertiary in Montana and Wyoming. So I thought, if it happens on earth, why doesn't it happen on the moon? And I thought we'd succeeded in demonstrating it. The nuclear craters were important in developing this. We could look at Bikini and see the formation of two phases of the surge. Actually it turned out to be three. There was the overturn flap, the big column which flowed out and then later, the central peak event. We could actually see three phases of the surges. I actually think that I was able to understand that process, to try to figure out where you would send guys on the moon. "Here's where you have to go. Don't just close your eyes and go around and pick up rocks. Here's what to look for, and here's where you try to sample them."

Doel:

Were you ever present at a nuclear explosion?

Masursky:

No, I've never been at one of Dave Roddy's things. But I've looked at movies of them for literally hundreds of hours, because you can't see this stuff. I mean, it's difficult to see visually. If you have very, very high speed movies, then you see these phases taking place. On some of Gault's experiments, we had a camera going at a million frames a second, and that's what it took to see the changes in the ejecta blanket as they happened.

Doel:

What was the source of your disagreement with Don Gault?

Masursky:

Well, I saw what I thought was the formation of the central peak, the nuclear. It was so big and it threw up so much material that it made the base surge deposits. We could see them, and they did a nuclear悠 saw in Don Gault's pictures not only the formation of the overturned flap, and the eviseration of the crater, but I thought I saw in his high speed movies the rebound material coming out of the central peak. So I said I now know how central peaks form. That's where it comes from.

Doel:

And Gault disagreed with this?

Masursky:

Yes. Never had admitted that anything in his craters had anything to do with central peaks. But I know I'm right, because I could see the lines of ejecta in Aristarchus going to the central peak, and on top of the evisceration of the crater, and flowage of the melt material. All this happens real fast. We could actually find lines of boulders. Then it got to be important, when we were talking about Imbrium and Orientale. Where do you go and how do you identify the materials? We had these fantastic flow patterns around Orientale. Lessened because they get destroyed by micrometeorite bombardment, but we could see them, and we could see topographic obstacles causing the material to flow around them. So this wasn't ballistically emplaced ejecta. That's where I disagreed. Jim thought everything was ballistic. It was ballistic as it came out, and then it flowed, and the base surge was affected by the topography. We had some pre-existing tectonic valleys where the Orientale ejecta flowed down the valleys. Gene did a beautiful job of showing how obstacles interfered with ballistic ejecta and made shadows, but I think most of the material comes out and flows in the base surge, so the ballistic stuff is a small part of the eviscerated material from the crater. The Orientale study was important, because we always wanted to go there. Almost got there, but didn't quite. It was too close to the limb.

Doel:

You'd be out of direct communication.

Masursky:

Yes. And so that seemed to me a very important process. Then when we saw that the same things happened with volcanic things, we could begin understanding the physics of emplacement, where the material that we collected came from. Then we could try to restore it so that you could understand from the samples on the surface what the internal structure was. That's why it seemed important.

Doel:

One last question I'd like to ask you during this session. Were the security restrictions on the atomic testing programs ever a major hindrance to you in doing your research?

Masursky:

Well, it prevented us from talking about this process for some time, until we got cleared pictures. Actually that happened fairly early in the game, because the biggest tests had taken place earlier. Then we got confirmation of this from little tiny dunes around...damn. I didn't think I could forget the name of a small nuclear device at Nevada Test Site. We could see the forms of the dunes. In about a month the wind had blown them all away, so we got pictures right afterwards and could see the dune and anti-dune patterns, because they have different shapes. We could see the process in the early nuclear tests, and then in the later ones, the much smaller tests at the Nevada Test Site. I'll dream up the name. I must have given a hundred talks about that process. We thought it was really important because, as I said, it told you where the samples would have come from. We were trying to understand what the layered structure of the moon was and how to restore samples from the place where you picked them up to where they had come from.

Doel:

Which was crucial for the pending Surveyor and Apollo projects.

Masursky:

Yes. So I thought that was a lot of fun. I remember, I lived in the old Wilson house which I leased from Jack McCauley for two years then he later bought. It's right below Lowell Observatory, about a hundred yards. Nice old stone house. I was out shoveling the driveway, because as the wind rises over that little hill, it dumps more snow in your driveway there than it does anywhere else in town. So I was working my butt off, and there had been a big snow storm with a lot of snow in the trees. The wind started blowing, so these great globs of snow and dry snow would cascade out. They hit and then flowed out in base surges, filaments and base surges, and I guess I went hysterical. My wife remembered that event for many years, of how I was stomping around and screaming, "Base surge, base surge! I just saw one!"

Doel:

It's a remarkable confirmation.

Masursky:

I never did use that in a scientific paper because I didn't have my video camera going.

Doel:

How new technology might have changed things. I'd like to thank you very much for this long session. We will of course—and this should go on the tape—not make this tape available to anyone, or its transcript, without your express knowledge and approval as defined in the permission forms that we have here for you, with an edited transcript. Thank you very much.

Session I | Session II | Session III