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Interview of C. Robert O'Dell by Robert Smith on 1985 May 21, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4802-1
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Discussion of O'Dell's role as Project Scientist on the Space Telescope Project, including various episodes in the history of the Project: difficulty in securing funding from Congress; how astronomers lobbied for the Telescope; the development of the project between 1977 and 1983, particularly during the crisis of 1980. Also prominently mentioned are: John Bahcall, Eddie Boland, Bob Brown, Margaret Burbidge, John Caldwell, Arthur D. Code, Bob Danielson, George Brooks Field, James Fletcher, Martin Frank, Riccardo Giacconi, Leo Goldberg, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Richard Harm, Noel Hinners, Warren Keller, George Levin, Rene Auguste Lucas, Aden Meinel, Les Meredith, John Earl Naugle, Theodore Bland Norris, Jean Oliver, Nancy Grace Roman, Alois Schardt, Fred Speer, Lyman Spitzer, Mona Tycz, Westphal; Astronomy Missions Board, Galileo (Spacecraft), Goddard Space Flight Center, International Ultraviolet Explorer Observatory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Marshall Space Flight Center, National Science Foundation (U.S.), Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, Perkin-Elmer Corporation, Princeton University, Rice Institute, Science Institute, Sky and Telescope, Space Shuttle, United States Congress, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, United States Office of Management and Budget, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, Wide Field Planetary Camera, and Yerkes Observatory.
I wonder if we could start by talking about when you first went to Marshall in '72. I think there were plans for stratoscope 3 under way, and there was even discussion, I think, about you becoming project scientist for Stratoscope 3.
That's right. It was kind of a natural thing for Marshall to want to take on Strastocope 3, because it had become involved, and indeed they launched one of the Stratoscope 2 flights from Marshall, of all things. So they were thoroughly involved. Marshall was quite willing to do anything, it seems, to get into the science business, which Goddard had basically shut it out of, up to that point. As a result, it had a certain alliance with Princeton, which was then the lead organization for the Large Space Telescope, and so that was an alliance very well worth cultivating, that Stuhlinger and the others knew what was happening, or going to be happening. Then when I arrived, I hadn't heard of Stratoscope 3 before. I don't know where it originated, that is, whether it was at Princeton or if it was someone at Marshall, but I came into a situation where there was almost no Princeton involvement.
It was essentially exclusively a Marshall activity. I'm not quite sure why there wasn't more Princeton involvement, whether it was lack of support of just the whole thing turned brown on them and they were discouraged and besides, they had their own Copernicus operating at the time. That was the bird in the hand. So there was no Princeton scientist playing what otherwise would have been the natural role, that is, Project Scientist for it. I was the only, if I may say, the only honest to God card carrying astronomer of repute there at the center. There were some astronomers there, but the selection factor that had been operating in that hiring — So I was the only one that could give that legitimacy and do that role. I was always wary of it (Stratoscope 3), because I had sensed Stratoscope 2 as a great failure, and to improve on it, when it had been a failure, by going to something even more ambitious wasn't the way to go. So I was never enthusiastic for it, although I could see it as being good for Marshall and in general being good for [studying the] technology [for] Space Telescope. And although I was realistic about how long it was going to take Space Telescope to get started, I thought that this would be an interference. I didn't expect launch to be in '77 or whatever they were talking about when I first went down there, but even if it were a few years beyond that, I say now and smile, it would still have been an interference in getting Space Telescope started, so I wasn't enthusiastic about getting involved myself.
There was one comment I saw that said Stratoscope 3 was a very important test bed for the more speculative aspects of the LST design. I wonder if the program, say, of getting ITEK to polish a 72-inch mirror and so on had made these kinds of activities superfluous, and that the supporting research and technology that was going on at Marshall was picking these things up anyway?
People were generally thinking in terms of going for what was called secondary guidance, that is, guiding by moving the secondary and articulating, rapidly articulating the secondary mirror, and this is what they were locked into, yet we knew that that wasn't the way to go with a 3 meter Space Telescope.
It would be body pointing with the 3 meter?
Right. So that was a problem there, where from balloons very clearly the best way was articulating the secondary mirror. So when it came down to it, it wasn't all that relevant. This precursor activity was occurring too close to Space Telescope. Also, I had a certain heritage from the DOD programs which preceded my involvement at Marshall, and I knew what was happening there, and therefore I was less enthusiastic for doing technology on balloons that might or might not be redundant with things that I knew had been done before.
So you were going to have to re-invent the wheel?
I wonder how you saw the Princeton role generally at the start? Whether that was the major institution identified with a drive towards the Large Space Telescope?
Well, I viewed it that way. I don't know if my view was in contradistinction to other people's, because after all it was Lyman Spitzer who had chaired the NAS committee and issued Chairman Spitzer's Little Black Book, on scientific justifications for Space Telescope. It was Spitzer who started conceptually the whole idea, and Princeton was one of the founding institutions of space astronomy, along with Wisconsin and Goddard, the three separately, but Spitzer had always been a space person in terms of what should be done. Then as they got in on the ground floor of the OAO [Orbiting Astronomical Observatories] program, to be sure, they were the last one, but they were really the most sophisticated one, and that was the right order. They had been doing this technology for evolving the OAO into an imaging system. It was just my perception that they were the dominant organization, as far as the concept of an LST was concerned.
So in my eyes, they were the institution leading on the LST. They'd done all the preparatory work and such. Whereas people like Wisconsin, and I think even Goddard, had not done the work directly leading towards a Space Telescope, which was then only confirmed when we got into Phase A, and they [Goddard] put their ringers onto it, they didn't put their first line troops — a talented center, and they put people like Ken Hallam and George Levin (?) Ken was one of my precursors as a graduate student at Wisconsin, so I knew his reputation then. He was pretty dull, and nothing [has] changed that opinion. So Goddard institutionally didn't seem to think it was all that important, maybe because they didn't think it was competitive, that there was no way they could lose it. So either Lyman or Bob Danielson, one of the Princeton people, was on the Nancy Roman committee [Committee in Phase A of the Large Space Telescope program, 1971/1972]. — [Princeton] didn't dominate it, but right from the beginning when we started getting presentations, we were getting presentations and work that was a direct outgrowth of what Princeton had been doing, and the background material we had to study was the reports and contracts that Princeton had let with Itek and such, so that furthered this image that they were the place where the LST was being pushed and (ideas developed.) (?) But I think really starting with the Nancy Roman committee, which was coincident with Phase A, that's when it really started to become operated and run out of headquarters, with they, headquarters, starting to pay serious attention to it.
Of course, they must, you know. It's a very different thing for Nancy Roman to spend some research and development [money], it's another thing if we have a Phase A activity. So they dominated, but they didn't dominate that committee, because it was a headquarters committee, and Nancy actually chaired it. And then their role continued to diminish. Now, the launch of Copernicus was summer of '72, and I think that had an effect, too. The year of [the] start of Phase A was a very busy time for them, and then once they started getting results out of Copernicus, they'd only come now and then. Danielson on whom the brunt of the activity had fallen, because Lyman Spitzer was heading Copernicus, was already a sick man at that time, so he wasn't operating anywhere close to 100 percent. So all those factors, other things to do with spacecraft being put together and operating, headquarters wanting to run it, and then Danielson being unwell, all started them out of the leadership position. And then at the end of that year, when the decision had been made to go with Marshall, and they wanted, we've been through this before, but they wanted Project Scientists, and negotiated with both Lyman and I. Lyman's level of commitment to the Large Space Telescope was such that he wasn't willing to come down to Marshall and spend a lot of time there, which I've always viewed critically. That is, if he really was a believer in the project, that he would have been willing to do it. But he was not willing give up, to risk, the good life he had at Princeton and the lifestyle and such to go down to the wilds of Alabama to head up this project, where in my ignorance, I was.
I've seen references to a Princeton lobby. Paul Hanle identified the Princeton lobby in his little paper in Sky and Telescope as a result of the effort to get OAO reinstated in the late sixties when there had been congressional pressure to cut OAO. I wonder if there was a wider meaning to that term?
No, I don't know anything about that, because, except for early graduate school, I didn't have much involvement with space science. And it was only when I was asked to serve on the Leo Goldberg Committee, Astronomy Missions Board, that I really got into space astronomy, and that was in, I guess about very early '68, so a lot went on in about that seven year period that I didn't know anything about. I was off doing pure science, as pure as I could make it. So I don't know.
OK. I wonder about another committee you were on a little bit later and that was the Greenstein Committee. There are references to the Large Space Telescope in the final report and they talk about it being [in] the next decade, [the 1980's]. I wonder if you were specifically told that Large Space Telescope was not to be considered for the seventies, or whether that decision that it should be pushed back to the eighties was generated within the committee, if you recall that?
It's not at all clear. The thing is, I can only give you my views on it. I was on the committee, I was a member of the optical astronomy panel. Jesse was still very much against space things, this emotional reaction he had to things space-wise. As I see it, he basically tried to sidestep the issue, and that NASA headquarters abetted that. NASA took a position that the LST was going to be done, yet it didn't go in to the Greenstein Committee and give them all the details that you would think would be appropriate for undertaking an enormously expensive mission like that, that would dominate the astronomy budget. So NASA wasn't anxious to go in and talk to the Greenstein Committee about the Space Telescope, perhaps in part because it feared Greenstein's known bias, that if it really got into a healthy discussion on it, that it would lose. It would get condemnation of it. Greenstein, it seemed, in practice, didn't want to address the issue.
That is, he would have loved to have shot it down, personally, but it was far enough along conceptually that he didn't want to take it on, and so it was like two people who weren't really anxious to shed blood, not wanting really to fight, who danced around a bit and then went on. The committee really did not address the Space Telescope (which was just in Congress then), but basically for those reasons. NASA didn't want to discuss it. It assumed it was home. It didn't feel that it had to discuss it — a little wary of it, as [if] you can only lose by going to the Greenstein Committee and having a full discussion. And Greenstein wasn't for LST, but he wasn't going to go out and try to scuttle it, so he didn't demand that NASA come in and give all the necessary information.
So the members of the Optical Committe, say, weren't sufficiently educated about LST by NASA for them to say, well, is it feasible for the seventies? Because at the same time you have NASA plans where you've got launch dates in the late seventies, assuming that the thing will be launched, and then Greenstein comes out and says "This is the 1980s."
Yes, because it was just viewed as something for the future. And that NASA didn't convince [the Greenstein Committee] that it was for the now. So you know, it was just not addressed, whereas we see in hindsight that NASA should have appreciated the importance of that committee and gone in and made the sell, whether or not they asked for it, and run the risk. But you remember, that would have been a grave risk, to sell it to Greenstein with his known biases.
And given that the discussion at that time is still on precursors to the Large Space Telescope, with the costs on the order of, in the early seventies, a billion.
So I think NASA really goofed on that, and it certainly came back later in the hearings, to bite it on the leg. I don't think that incompetence caused NASA to do that, but I can only observe that it was intentional, wanting to avoid the confrontation with Greenstein.
We can go and ask John Naugle perhaps. I wonder to what extent there was this antipathy towards Large Space Telecope in the early seven ties? You mentioned Greenstein. Or the existence of ambivalence and even sometimes hostility perhaps among many of the ground-based optical astron omers, and how you actually set about turning that around, educating people towards the virtue of LST? Was a conscious campaign waged to do that?
There was. It was conscious. I think there was a lot of anti pathy. The sixties was a period of enormous growth in astronomy. That's when it became a modern science. Large numbers of people came into it in the sixties, post-Sputnik generation. It was growing very, very rapidly. And although money was free, the NSF budget for astronomy was increasing every year, generally at a rate that would accommodate all these new scien tists, still we were always aware that these people started spending huge amounts of money, let's say at Goddard, and doing damned little pedestrian science. And Goddard was just hiring people like Hallam, Ted Stecker, who never finished his degree, by a wide margin not the first rate people. Al Boggess didn't look at all good as a scientist in those days, never pub lished his thesis, that kind of person. He's only really established him self as a scientist in the last few years, and that largely as a manager of science, at which he is very good.
We were aware that there were a lot of people spending a lot of money at Goddard and yet essentially no astronomy was being done. And we were all playing the game [of comparing the] budgets that would operate Palomar [and space science projects], that kind of thing — and it was perhaps justified, or at least a more understandable criticism then, when you were saying, "You're doing science that is overlapping a lot with what we're already doing on the ground." It's not like ST, where you can argue that you have something just vastly better than you can ever hope to do on the ground. The best argu ment you can muster is, we're working in a different wavelength range, and then the reaction is "Ho hum." Well, nature hasn't been all that unkind, we can still study the interstellar medium, we can still study stars from the optical window. It's not as though we don't understand stellar atmo spheres, etc., etc., from present observations. So the argument, "Well, we're working this wavelength" wasn't doing a lot for us. It wasn't very convincing at all, especially in the light of the big bucks. So there was this feeling of jealousy of "those people," those people largely being Goddard. That started to change, I think. Maybe it changed — I don't know if I reflect the changing times, or if what I'm going to say reflects my own changing perspective, that there was a future in space astronomy. But when I was asked to become part of the Goldberg Committee, the Astronomy Missions Board, I knew relatively little about space astronomy, but I started learning a lot at that point, good and bad.
That was a committee that to my knowledge, for the first time, really reached out and involved a large number of astronomers at respectable institutions, members across the country. The respectable institutions that were involved in space astronomy at this point were very few. The Astronomy Missions Board would do things like pick a traditional, and somewhat biased maybe, director of an observatory to be part of that, and that represented a big step, as I look back on it, because now it becomes "us" instead of "them" as far as space astronomy is concerned. So there were lots of people involved. And I think that was a watershed point, in terms of the acceptance of space astronomy in the community, so that would have been early '68, late '67. I know Goldberg approached me at the IAU meeting in the summer of '67, telling me that this group was being formed, so perhaps the first time they met was in the autumn of '67. So that by the time, summer of '71, four years later, that I joined the Nancy Roman Committee, there was a little more respectability [to space astronomy], and indeed that was a representative group. It had some people in there who had not been doing space astronomy, like Beve Oke of Caltech. But still it was generally not supported by astronomers, ground-based astronomers. And I'm not sure that I did so much directly to alter that. Certainly I knew that Greenstein was a major, major problem, because of the Greenstein Committee. And so at that AIAA meeting at Washington, [in January 1974], that symposium, it was brought out by Pete Simmons — and I bought the idea, became enthusiastic about it — then when we set up the list of speakers, then we drew in a lot of people, a few key people, who had been real critics. We could look at the contents [of the proceedings] there. [Dr. O'Dell is looking through the proceedings] I spoke. Lyman spoke on the history, the role of LST in astronomy in the eighties. Jesse Greenstein spoke.
If you read the text of that, you see it's really a very equivocating statement, but that he would come and get up and do that was a tremendous positive step, because a few years before he wouldn't have considered that. I assume a lot of the credit for that, because Jesse I think respected me. We have had our professional clashes, because of differences of opinion, and it probably turned out for the best, because he regarded me as a scientist that way, and the fact that he had been at Yerkes, and I was director of Yerkes, even though much his junior in years and achievement. I think he still respected that, so that I assume a lot of the credit for getting Jesse to come out and speak, and I think that was a watershed step. The other speakers — Alan Sandage, who was just domi nant in astronomy, deep space astronomy, at that time. Since then he's been kind of bypassed by a lot of other more modern people, but he was the dominant cosmologist of the day. He carried the banner of Hubble, that he had taken from the master's hand directly. I'm the one who got Alan to do it, again because I'd been a post-doc there and came to know him, liked the guy, and I think it was a reciprocal arrangement, as a post-doc. Ivan King, who later became president of the American Astronomical Society, therefore an important person, I talked him into it. He's someone I helped hire at Berkeley, and then left before he actually showed up so we didn't actually overlap. Margaret Burbidge, a woman who we know now by her achievements, AAAS, Royal Society, etc. I got her there because, she had no involvement in space astronomy, but she was someone I knew from when I was at Berkeley and Caltech, and she too had been at Yerkes.
So that's when you influenced her to apply for the Phase B working group?
That's right, so that through things like that, I was getting those people involved. And so it wasn't a campaign, but it was an inten tional effort to draw in people who had stayed aloof from space astronomy in the past. What was the date of the first Phase B working group?
It was well before this. But participation of people like Margaret, Gary Neugebauer, etc., were things that we got from going out and drumming up business, beating the bushes — NASA had never had a traveling dog and pony show in connection with an AO, so what we did was unique at this time. We prepared this Announcement of Opportunity for the Phase B activity, then the show opened at Harvard, right there at Harvard College Observatory, right in their library. Then we went to Chicago. Then we went to Caltech. So this was all done in that first spring that I was Project Scientist, and NASA had never done that, and it was something that I wanted to do in order to make ST look attractive. And it worked,. We got all these people that we other wise would not have expected to get as part of it. So that was part of my triumph, if I can speak in first person and take credit for it, by trying to draw in other people. And the visible thing next was this AIAA symposium, where you could get Greestein and Sandage, Ivan King and Margaret Burbidge up there talking, and by their presence, blessing, even though Jesse equivocated even then. Most people didn't read the speech or hear the speech, but a lot of people saw Jesse's name on the program.
And these are the leaders of the optical community?
That's right. George Herbig, who's a very important astronomer. Harlan Smith, who was at the peak of his visibility within our community. So it was all an intentional thing in this period on my part to do that. I shouldn't take all the credit, but Nancy Roman sure hadn't been doing it, at least she certainly hadn't succeeded in doing it. In part because of the personality, but also, she never was a peer. She had this unfortu nate employment history, which may have been because she was a woman — that is, she was an excellent graduate student at Chicago, then kept on as a lecturer or some kind of very junior appointment, but never as a regular appointment, and then after a while it became obvious that she had no future there, and she took about the only job that was open to her, Naval Research Lab, and that was really at the edge of doing astronomy. So she had never had even a brief period of being a peer with these people. She was like the other people who couldn't do astronomy so they went to Goddard. So she was being tarred with that brush, which I consider unfair. I consider Nancy's science that she did do was really very, very good. I think it reflects the times, her treatment as a woman. So she was bitter, and therefore she somewhat proceeded in her own way without trying to establish a base of support from the entire community. She was quite happy to have the support of a relatively few loyal people like at Princeton, Wisconsin and of course Goddard.
She wouldn't have the same status as [an ex-director of Yerkes] would have, in pulling —
Exactly. Exactly. So I shouldn't over-emphasize that, but I think the fact that a director of Yerkes would go to NASA did make people at least willing to talk about this. And then it was very effective — I really see the space astronomy and LST basis starting to gain acceptance a that period, that is, of my coming. I think for example of when we were talking earlier, before we started the tape, about the payload specialist [for the shuttle flight to launch the Space Telescope] business, that I really don't think we'd have a Space Telescope right now if I hadn't made that decision, if I hadn't gambled. Lyman wasn't willing to gamble. He would rather stay at Princeton and support the Marshall activity, which might never have gotten off the ground. So I really think, you know, it goes to my being willing to make that decision, that commitment, which even the father of the project was unwilling to do.
We were talking about the move to Marshall, getting the groundbased optical astronomers behind you. I wonder if in a way you were aided by the Congressional problems to gain support? Here you've got the Congress beating up on you, and NASA perhaps isn't going out selling the Telescope as they should be selling it — whether that helped in a way to pull the community together?
That was the first crisis, in early '74, I remember. I guess it did serve as a catalyst, although the key people in that activity were all already in bed with us. That is, John Bahcall, Lyman Spitzer, George Field. The others already were part of the investigators working — let me just call it the science working group though it was called something else then. Those were all on board already. Of course, when the write your Congressman campaign started, the structure was there, because now we had essentially all of the major institutions in the United States represented in that total actiity, between the teams and the working group itself, so then it became a relatively simple matter to have contact with lots and lots of astronomers, through that existing structure.
Not that we used it directly, but the contacts were all there, and there were people not involved but in states with key committee members that we would go out and contact separately. But I think what helped, probably what you're refer ring to, was the fact that this now could be a familiar voice calling the astronomers in the state of Kansas. You'd call up this Kansas astronomer and he'd say, "I know who that is. It's a colleague of mine asking for help." So I don't see that that caused the community to get behind Space Telescope in particular. I think that it caused some people to get their arms bent, and to have conversations on the LST that might not otherwise have occurred. Also, it caused them to do things which they hadn't done before, and gave them a certain feeling of power and influence — you write your Congressman and get a letter back, "hey, this is fine." And so that was a positive feedback. But I don't think it caused the astronomy community to get behind LST because of the occurrence, except in this indirect way that it would raise the consciousness and the involvement of legitimate people became very visible at that point.
I wonder about the events of '74, because I think Boland's sub committee voted it out in June of '74. I wonder if you'd had any inkling that that might happen, that they would deny the planning funds that NASA was applying for?
No. As I remember, it was out of the blue! There was always this division of responsibilities which Nancy — I sound a little bitter — very much kept to herself. That is, headquarters deals with Congress, peasants stand behind. And that's about the only area of bitterness I have in [my] relationship with her. But it meant that all those decisions were made at headquarters, with no conversation with the rest of us, even the NASA astronomers, let alone outsiders. So it really hit us by surprise, when that occured. Of course, you know how it happened. The under-emphasis in going in, giving ST the premature visibility wihout the necessary background. That's where we got into trouble.
I've been reading the testimony of March of that year before Boland's committee, and there were headings on the testimony like 'Delay of Large Space Telescope.' The questioning was extremely aggressive. If one reads that, it seems a fair bet that the Telecope might be denied funding. Shipley for example on the committee was extremely hard. So I was won dering if there had been any warning that something terrible —
We knew about those exchanges. We knew about the hearings. But I was naive. I didn't really understand the process at that point. And that's in part why I referred to my ignorance when I went to Marshall. I didn't know completely what I was getting into, or the risk I was running as such. I didn't buy everything they told me, but I was pretty naive. And we all were, and that's why we were caught so much by surprise. Now, whether or not the Marshall people were so surprised, I don't know. But since that's their business, they should have seen it coming.
You say you were ignorant of the processes. How did you get up to speed? How did you know what had to be done to get the project back into the budget?
A lot of conversations. Largely, who was it with — I've forgotten who it was with, but somebody explained to me the committee system, the difference between appropriations and budget committees, which I didn't know. I thought it was all one mass. Very quickly we got squared away on who did what and who was doing what individually, and of course Congressional Liaison Office at Marshall could provide us committee members, things like that, which is what I could provide to the people who were free to go out and act, people who were leading, like John [Bahcall] and Lyman, to a lesser degree George Field, what they could provide.
So it was institutional knowledge within NASA that you were tapping?
You weren't going say to high energy physicists at that stage saying, "How do you deal with the Congress?", that kind of thing?
No. I guess I never did that. And I don't think that any of us did. We were proceeding on our own. Even people like Field and Spitzer hadn't been close to big accelerator projects. They weren't in the insti tutions and they weren't talking to those people. They really were quite ignorant of that process. So we just learned it all in real time.
Just looking at the selling strategy for LST in '74, there seems to have been another potential problem, in that NASA was also trying to sell the 120 inch infra-red telescope on Hawaii in the same year as they were selling the 120 inch Large Space Telescope. And they sold the infra-red facility in terms of the Greenstein Report, so when the committee came back and said, "Look, the Greenstein Report says this is a second priority project —"
I wonder at what point the idea of the minimum LST emerged during these deliberations? I think in June, '74, the ST is knocked out by the Appropriations Committee. By late August it's back in again. Then in September there's talk at Marshall of a 2 meter class telescope, with a briefing to Hinners on the 18th of September, and then during that dis cussion of the minimum LST,—
What I can't remember is when we formally directed the contractors to look at the three different sizes. Because it would have been well along by then, because I remember what happened, we were in trouble — costs, uncertain but large, and we had our Phase B contractors on board at that point, and as I remember, the contracts were phased.
That's right, Itek and P-E were already on board then.
Even within the systems contrators, there was one phase and another.
That's right, I think it was November, 1974, the Phase B contracts for thei SM were let. And initially the contrators could work on all three apertures but they were to emphasize one aperture. Then there was a deci sion made in May '75 that everybody would work on 2.4 meters.
So that we would have known well before then that we had a problem. Then the Science Working Group meeting at Harvard, I don't recall the exact date [1-2 October 1974], was a time when we really came out with a minimum ST. We had the input from the contractor activities. And that's when we identified the 2.4 meter as the appropriate break.
Was that the 'Bloody Friday' that John Bahcall referred to the Working Group [meeting in May 1985]?
Yes. Now, this is going from seven to four instruments. I think that that would have occurred anyway, because what we had from Phase A was this universal instrument approach, of the Goddard built instruments, spectrograph, camera, all, everything at once, a combination of stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and disposal in one. You know, you combine those disparate functions. We had this large team that wanted many instruments, and we just natu rally evolved to what was the best way of accommodating many instruments. We had a lot of support from the contractors on this, whether it was a fixed array or a lazy susan approach, because clearly what we didn't want was the universal instrument, which forces them to one or the other. And you just start looking realistically at the size of independent instru ments, and you don't have room for everything.
And then it evolved towards this segmented Focal Plane, which had from the beginning this obvious side benefit — this goes to, I think, Ivan King — of being able to do parallel observations. The four instruments was less than five capability of that particular package, and I don't remember why the discrepancy, I think four included two spectrographs and two cameras, that was the attraction. But we knew even then that we didn't have to do everything at the beginning, and there fore it was not a particularly unhappy decision, that we were going that route.
Even without these extra Congressional pressures, it seems that the budget is such that if you had tried to go with seven, from the first, it would have been very difficult to have done that?
That's right, even without that financial pressure. It would not have been a logical thing to do, in a system that was an observatory, that was expected to be an observatory and be around for a long time. It was able to be upgraded, modified, added to. And indeed, that's part of the background I drew on on Black Saturday, the meeting where I stood up and proposed to headquarters, rather than cancelling the program, we ought to reduce the number of instruments even from five to three.
Right, that also seems to be an idea, that from the material I've been looking at, Al Schardt [in 1975 Director of Physics and Astronomy in NASA Headquarters] was investigating or wanting to push, that you go with this even lower capability, LST, than four instruments.
Yes. That I think goes back to Goddard ideas, that this advanced OAO, I think, which was their approach to ultimately the LST. And Al liked that approach. It made a lot of sense to him, to have that kind of evolu tion. And even once we were committed to an LST, he could see how you could build up a capability. It was a very natural thing for him to do.
Were you getting very much strong pressure from headquarters to drive lower than 2.4? It seems as if there was a continual probing going on?
It's more probing rather than driving, because what they were concerned with was money, and they didn't know where break points in money would occur in size. To be sure, the 3 meter figure was an arbitrary round number. And that as we ultimately developed the arguments, about the various sizes, then it worked itself out naturally. Now, the guy from Sky and Telescope, in that same issue, who wrote the article on the DOD connection, quote, according to Keyworth [George Keyworth — Science Advisor to President Reagan] and such there — I think it was a very well written article. Some facts are wrong in it, because they relate to classified things, I can't clarify those. But there was a general awareness — in that article, in fact, Keyworth talked openly about, tells us in the public record now that there were other things going on "behind the black curtain," and I had knowledge of a number of those things before I went to Marshall. And I found when I arrived there that a few people, in particular Jean Olivier, the chief engineer and at one time the project manager, had the same knowledge. So we could talk about that, and we could use that information.
Then they added people in headquarters, a few people in headquarters, with access to the same information, and what you can infer from this is that they saw that there were some natural breaking points on it, in aperture. Like these 1.8 mirrors that the Sky and Telescope article ref erred to — all of a sudden there are all these lightweight 1.8 meter mirrors available, and oh, there was a big reconnaissance mission cancelled about that time. A manned orbiting laboratory. It doesn't take a whole lot of smarts to put those together. And there were probably other break points too, that people identified, in coming up with those numbers, so the people at headquarters knew that there could be some natural break points in aperture. When we were given those numbers, we were all comfortable with selecting those. Not to say any of us were thrilled, but we knew what the technology activities were, and taking advantage of things like that, so what I have said here doesn't compromise anybody. So this was used by headquarters, this kind of insight was used in picking the options in size that we should study. And so it was a logical process.
I think the term that's used in the Congressional hearings is that a 2.4 meter primary is closer to "national industrial capacity," and there are also references to this I think in the Science Working Group minutes. There was a meeting in October, '74, where there were cost savings identi fied on the OTA because it wouldn't require so much retooling and construction of new facilities, that kind of thing.
It turned out to be entirely wrong. We haven't used any of that, as it turns out. So the pressure was on us to reduce costs. We had some actual points to use as targets. And the coming out to 2.4 meters was the right deci sion. We had things that we generally didn't expect, like this business about 2.4 meters being just about the largest size you could package with a low moment of inertia, a point I made in the review panel. That was really the driver, on 2.4 meters. That's what kept the costs down. That was the big break on the costs. The uncertainty of cost in making 3 meter optics was great, but very hard to define, whereas the certainty of the difference in cost between reaction wheels and control moment gyros was clear. That was black and white.
OK, if I could just finish up one thing. I understand that in September, '74, Jeff Rosendahl was calling people in the community saying, "What will you not go beyond?" I think there's a letter in an enclosure to a Science Working Group meeting from Margaret Burbidge which refers to this, and she was talking about getting Cepheids in the Virgo cluster. I'm not sure what the criteria were that came into play there, whether people were saying, "Well, we've got to do five times, ten timese better than we do from the ground, we've got to reach the Cepheids in the Virgo Cluster." I wonder if you can recall?
The Cepheids in Virgo were a driver. It turns out it's somewhat misused. Cepheids are indeed the best way of getting extragalactic dis tances, and here it is, it's a cluster that's in the supercluster that we belong to, and it's the key to the secrets of the universe, according to many at the time. And then they took certain values for the brightest Cepheids that one actually ends up working with, that one actually finds, and they used that as a driver, and indeed at 1.8 it just wouldn't have done it. Wouldn't have reached the distances if the distances are at all close to what we believe them to be. The other things were much more gentle, like 10 times better resolu tion. Well, that's a very round number, especially since the astronomical seeing varies so much on the average from site to site. The ability to go fainter was a very rough thing. That is, you somehow thought, it's not worth it unless it's several astronomical magnitudes, that kind of logic. And that meshed right in with the factor of ten on the spatial resolution. And we had to get the magnitude discrepancy in there, you change different delta, that we wanted. But there were the relatively few programs, such as Cepheids in the Virgo Cluster, that we could point at and say, this is a do or not do capability, — most of it was really rather general.
So you've got a kind of grey area?
You don't have a specific point where you can say, well, at 1.9 meters we drop off the cliff, or anything?
What was clear was that at 1.8, we would not be doing Cepheids in Virgo. That was about the only thing that was clear.
Yes, so I think when the MAOT [Medium Aperture Optical Telescope - the 1.8 m option] was being discussed, just from the tenor of the minutes of the Science Working Group, it was pretty clear that they wouldn't have gone for that. Is that right?
Yes, because it just wasn't a great increase in capability, and yet it looked really complex, potentially expensive and certainly would have delayed ST. That's the dilemma of optical astronomy. It's an inher ently expensive business because you have to solve these problems of stability and pointing and data recording, things like that, for even an intermediate size telescope. That's really why the big jump between OAOs and ST. It provided an imaging system, put so many systems requirements on to the first order independent of size, that you end up building something big that evolved from something smaller.
So the rationale for a precursor —
I wonder if I could start by asking again about '74, and why the main part of the lobbying fell to Bahcall and Sptizer?
That's a good question. It really fell to Bahcall, and he drew Lyman into it. And to answer it, you have to know John. John is one of these guys with just endless enthusiasm and energy. If you're around him for too long, he's too much, because sometime you just desire quiet and sleep and rest, and he will just go on into the middle of the night on science, whatever it is — a marvelous powerful intellect, a person of enormous energy, physical energy. And he was also naive, uninformed about a lot of things. So when he discovers something, he discovers that the discovery is accompanied by immediate insight, understanding and enjoyment of a discovery, of under standing something. This is what happened. This is what drew him into Phase B, where he never responded to that AO. What he did was write me a letter. You've heard the story, I'm sure. And in his enthusiasm — that's what brought him in. So he was still in this period of enormous enthusiasm for the project, and then for someone to scuttle it on him — how dare they? That kind of response. After all, he had helped launch the solar neutrino experiment, highly successful even though a curious result. So no one had more conviction of the rightness and the value of Space Telescope than John. Just no one involved anywhere in the project.
And when John says, "What can I do about this?" he means it. And he just started doing it. I was feeding him ammunition and he was just blasting, blasting away, charging off in the right directions, and just all on his own. No one delegated him. No one asked him. He was just there and willing to do it. Lyman was just caught up in this. In part, Lyman was Mr. Large Space Telescope, it was Lyman Spitzer's Telescope. Also John knows that he comes across as a very direct, somewhat brash Jewish kid. He always seems young in spite of his age, which is a couple of years older than me. And Lyman made the very important balance with him, the dignified stentorian voice, elderly statesman scientist, and it was just the perfect pair, and John recognized that. So Lyman didn't just come along but he was drawn into it by Bahcall. Most of the initiatives originated with John. And it was fun for him to do it. It was fun for him to bend the arms, to shake the hands, to make the appointments and come away with one more vote from a Congressman. I was a heady experience. It was his first power trip, and I can understand how that — to those of you who are used to rubbing elbows with the great in Washington, some of the luster may be gone, but you know, just the idea of going into the Rayburn Building with an appointment to see someone — it's kind of a heady thing. He did it for a long time, but even John burned out on it eventually. Fortunately by then we were home.
During '74 he was keeping you informed of what he was doing?
Oh yes. We spent a lot of time together then. In fact, that may be reviewed in my data and notes because those are the kinds of conversa tions that I tended to put down, on serious daily contacts although to be honenst, I may not have kept a lot of written records on that, because of the questionable legality of what I was doing — you know, if somebody was after me, they could probably have stuck it to me, because I was a civil servant at the time, so it may not be reviewed in the notes just because it was not prudent to keep a written record of these questionable activities. Moral, but questionable.
I wonder about contact with the contractors, how did you keep people from tripping over each other's toes?
They were the good ones, about that, and thinking back on our first taping sessions, they did play a real role. In fact, now that, you know the way your mind works, although we weren't —I wasn't thinking about this at lunch, but now it comes back to me, that it was the contractors who explained to me, I've forgotten which one, how the system works. That is — here is the structure, but this is really, these are the power points in the structure. And that's the kind of information that I could then use in not directing but coordinating the campaign — where to point John, you know. OK, which pillbox next shall I charge? You know, that kind of thing. So they were a lot of help individually, and of course we had them — who was it? Then, that first summer, that was on board? You told me earlier, when the SSM people came.
Right, there were five contractors who were going to propose, and the contract wasn't let until November, '74, so you've still got five contractors, I think the RFP for the Phase B SSM was let something like early July.
But they were all lined up.
I can remember talking to a Lockheed guy, and Boeing. And Simmons I guess was still at Grumman at that time.
I think he'd gone to Martin or to Grumman, and by early '74 he was at McDonnell-Douglas, who were lining up, right.
But he was very much a member. This was before he went to work for John Mansfield. And the contractors were therefore, as far as the science part of it, were largely sources of experienced information. They were of course doing their thing too. For example, Representative Hart has in his district the Martin Company, and so they had a speaking relationship with him. But Boulder, where the astronomers were, was in another Congres sional district, so they were helping identify how to get to that person. But it didn't appear that they all had war councils together, "you do this and I'll do that," but obviously there was a very open exchange, coordination, between the aerospace houses, because the important thing was to keep the project alive, rather than look better than the other guy in bids.
They all had the same problem?
Yes. And it was really quite a mature position to take. It indicated that they were mature companies who knew that they'd still be in business ten years from now, regardless of how it came out. So I'm trying to think — I was talking regularly, not like with John, but with the people who were working in those offices, because they were coming to me and asking me for the science rationale, developments that they could then use in their lobbying. So I was providing that to them, and what I was getting from them was reports on what they were doing and who were the key people, who you didn't need to worry about because we already had their vote, that kind of thing. How do you get to Boland, for example. After all, we had almost no astronomers in his district. That kind of thing.
Right. This is leaping forward, but I saw a reference, I can't remember whose papers it was now, that there was supposed to be a lunch set up between you and Boland at one point. And you mentioned this morning that you'd never met him, so I presume that must have fallen through?
Yes. I can't remember why. I think it was headquarters. It seems that that was it, that headquarters did not want the contact with me. Again, this just comes over and over, it's like headquarters used to not want me to have contact with the NAS. That Nancy was always the person who went to speak to the Space Science Board or the Astronomy Subcommittee. That changed with time. But it was part of this thing of headquarter versus the center people. So I had very few visits on the Hill, because clearly if I had gone on Marshall time and money, that would have been illegal, whereas in point of fact, I did go in and see Flippo (?) who was then the representative. I've forgotten when he was elected. This is later than '74. And he had a staffer who was a sharp cookie who gave me his views of what and — so the only time I've ever gone to the Hill to see someone about Space Telescope things was Flippo's (?) office, who was our Alabama representative, and indeed encouraged such contracts. I made it with the full knowledge of the center director.
I guess that must have been '77, the election would have been November, '76. This is leaping forward a bit, but I think there was Bevill who was on Boland's subcommittee whose district adjoined Marshall. I don't know if he was a —
Bevill. Does that ring a bell?
I'm glad you brought that up because I did go in and talk to Bevill, about ST in particular. And there was some smooth smooth staff worker, a real Alabama politician, who worked for him. I'm not sure Bevill did us any good. But at least we did try it at that time. That's right, I did go in and see him. Strange I should forget. I'd forgotten about that.
This is in DC? Just keeping within '74, there's one point I was interested in. That is, I think you were at the Institute for Advanced Study for a little while in '74. I guess I can find this out in your calendar. It was April.
Yes, just at the start of spring there. But it turns out to have been just before it hit the fan. And indeed, John and I were enjoying somewhat of a honeymoon at that time. John didn't know what kind of scien tist I was. And he set up this visit to Marshall, cooperatively. I went up there for several weeks. He got a lot out of it. And that may have helped in the bonding process. That we had that period together.
I was wondering if it would be too strong to say that it was even a kind of Princeton-Huntsville axis?
Well, no doubt about it, to be sure, that was an invitation from the Institute, rather than Princeton University. But they were one and the same. There was a lot of cross-breeding. Like John's wife Neta worked for the observatory of Princeton University. So it's a natural continuation of Princeton dominance, which in the end of course failed. They kept trying to resurrect it for example in the competition for the Science Institute, where most of the proposed sites were Princeton.
Right. I guess we'll get to that by tomorrow or Thursday. I wonder about the attitude of other space astronomers, those who didn't work say in optical or UV, what was their attitude to the Large Space Telescope? I'm thinking for example of the interactions with the Physical Sciences Committee, whether it took much persuading on their part.
The Physical Sciences Committee?
Physical Sciences Committee, the NASA committee, the one that I think had [Michael] McElroy chairman for a start, then George Field came in later. This was an advisory group to headquarters. This would have been advisory to I think Physics and Astronomy. I think NASA had Giacconi on it for a time, people like that. If that rings any bell?
I had no contact with them. Of course, they were a very divided group, because they were the dukes from all the little fiefdoms, each one wanting to watch out for their own nephews. I never had a presentation to that group in the entire time I was with NASA. Again, it may have been that Nancy was keeping such things at the appropriate level. There was just no interaction at all.
You mention people looking after their own interests. I wonder whether people in a sense felt threatened by Large Space Telescope, that here comes this 400, 500 million dollar project, if we're going to be spending this on Space Telescope, it's going to take money away from our projects — whether that was a concern that had to be met?
Since I wasn't really involved with that, I can't speak with information.
Right. A general point on this, I wonder about the kinds of ethics of the astronomical community, in that looking from the outside, it seems that people can be pretty competitive about a project, or competitive in which project they are pushing, until the project has got to the Congress. At that point the competition must end and everybody must get behind it. Whether that seems to be kind of the accepted ethical behavior?
Well, in the community we didn't have precedent. We had not been tested, because you consider your astronomers as being separate from the planetary, the solar system types, and separate from people like the high energy types, where in high energy there had been such competitions, and some were losers who then became the good sports. So we had no precedent to fall back on within the space program in optical astronomy. It had been a simple monotonic thing. To go back to your earlier question about how did the people who were working in space astronomy take to all of this. Basically not involved, within NASA. After all, the space astronomy part — well, space astronomy had only been done at Wisconsin, Princeton and Goddard, and of course Wisconsin and Princeton were both part of LST, through Art Code and Lyman Spitzer and Bob Danielson.
So they were involved. They saw it as the natural continuation. Now, Wisconsin, unlike Princeton, kept an involvement in small projects throughout that period. They still have it even now, whereas Princeton essentially put all its eggs in the LST basket, which proved to be the wrong thing. And the other people were Goddard people, and they were led by Boggess, head of the Spectrograph Team. But there was such a negative feeling about Goddard at the time, this was before the success of the IUE program, that most people, and certainly including myself, were down on them, and didn't make them feel like they were really wanted, and of course that becomes a negative feedback situation, and damned if they wanted to be part of it. So they very much pulled back from optical astronomy to work on other things. So they essentially set out that round, with the exception of Sobieski (?) — few people were assigned. It was not a good assignment to work on Space Telescope at Goddard in those days, either as a manager or as a scientist. Fortunately that changed later, but much later, well into Phase C/D, before we stopped going through this stream of overgrade man agers, trying to be kind, but we had some real ringers, which the Goddard peole knew were ringers. It only started changing in Phase C/D, but late in that.
That would be say when you got Frank Carr and people like that to come in?
Scientists just basically set out — and I can't blame them, because here Project Scientist, me, was saying it ought to be the Science Institute approach to this basically, because Goddard hasn't shown it has the scientific judgment to run something of this magnitude, and of course they responded to an insult like that. It wasn't me alone saying it. A lot of other people were going along with this idea. So there was a lot of withdrawal from what might have been good participation on LST.
OK, while we're on this, I wonder how much the fact that Goddard wasn't perhaps putting its best people on the project, or it wasn't an attractive project for Goddard people, how much of an impact that had on the program? Whether it was something that was an aggravation, or whether it seriously affects what's going on? I'm thinking of Phase B as well as into C/D. That's an extremely hard question to answer, I guess.
Well, we had this manager, George Levin, through Phase B, and George rose up through the grades quite rapidly, many arguing, through relationships with individuals. Just very, very junior to the normal experience you'd expect for something like that. But why George was there, I'm convinced, is, he was politically faithful to Les Meredith, and Les only came to accept things on Space Telescope within the last couple of years. Les told me this himself. He and I buried the hatchet recently, which I'm glad of. But Les was really pissed over the way things were shaping up on the Space Telescope. He wanted to do it just as a continu ation of the OAO, with them being in charge of everything, they were the science center — to be sure Les I think wanted an LST and not a precursor, but still, he would have liked to do it as they had before. So they picked a manager who was politically reliable, and George was very anxious to please his masters, so that it was a very political choice, very, very hard to work with, because he would take personal and institu tional umbrage at the slightest thing. "Well, I can't discuss that, I will have to go talk to the center director," that kind of response, anything that involved a give and take discussion on roles, for example.
So I think we were really hurt, in that case, by having a project manager there like that, rather than someone with the maturity to handle these things on his own and get mad only when it was appropriate to get mad. And Sobieski, who was their instrument scientist, it turns out was not a happy person. He was very insecure about dealing with a whole bunch of Big League astronomers, not happy personally with the institution, and indeed left to go to Perkin-Elmer after this was all over, and then, of all things, came back to Goddard. So he wasn't particularly valued even within Goddard. And people like the operations manager, Don West, who's a nice enough although dull guy, but nowhere like a Boggess, or flashy like Maran or solid like Ted Gull or Ralph Bohlin (?), who's now at the Science Institute. Just not the kind of people that they had, not like they have on the project now, so I think we were really hurt by that. If you're political and you say you want Marshall to run it, all good and well enough, we're doing you a favor, but it was obvious even then that the project would eventually end up at Goddard, because no one ever argued about the operational phase. So I think we were hurt by that.
Right. One point that I hadn't realized when I was writing the CCD paper was that for example the detector group that was referred to was set up without your agreement. That was something that Sobieski went off and did on his own, if I understand it. Is that the kind of example of the communication or lack of it?
Yes, that's a good example. And of course they lost. It's kind of typical of the situation and of the individuals, that they should just strain and strain over this problem of the ultraviolet response of the CCD, and went to the solution of having an image intensifier with the ultra violet cathode in front, which then fed the accelerated electrons to the CCD. Of course, it made a very complex and bulky detector system. Westphal did come in and scratch his head over the problem, and came up with coronene as a solution, which is now no longer necessary, with changed technology in the detectors, but was necessary then, so that they, the Goddard detector group, should solve the one limitation by great complexity and potential expenses, as compared with the elegantly simple technological approach. So that's the difference between winners and losers, and they were losers. They were not a first rank bunch, at Goddard.
I think, reading through that proposal, the Sobieski proposal, that there had even been some experiments with coatings at Goddard in '72, which was news to me when I read it, that they'd looked at some coatings, that they'd had problems. But I haven't had a chance to follow that up. Some body else was looking at it for IUE for some reason, might have been tracking... I wonder if we could talk about how film came to be considered once again as a possible detector for LST?
How film came to be considered once again, how it was reopened? I think that was pretty much my own wild hare, in that I thought it deserved a hard look in the light of everything that was happening on the project. Now, it was just very clear during the early phases how very, very limited the SEC Orthicon was as a detector, and it had just such low photometric accuracy and a small field of view as measured by total numbers of pixels that you could sum up. And then, as contrasted with the beginning, we still had a live Titan 3 C as a launch vehicle. It could either be that or the Shuttle, that eventually we were, you know, told it would be only Shuttle, we won't consider anything else. Then there was a certain period — of course, the agency was talking these wonderful numbers like 19 million dollars a Shuttle launch, haha. That was always the official position. But then it started [to rise].
The logic, at the time — it wasn't just me thinking it, many were thinking it — was there's no way that the agency could afford to develop the scien tific payloads for all of the flights that they were projecting, 65 a year or something like that. And therefore it didn't seem out of place to say, well, let's go to consider an operational mode that's very dependent on the Shuttle. The Shuttle costs are going to be made low, they want to have many flights in order to keep them low, to keep using the machine, so let's think of something that's very dependent on it, give ourselves an option that we had not had before. Certainly if you're evolving from a Titan 3 C launch configuration. The other driver was the fact that quite large image intensifier tubes were being built for the first time then, large and good quality, and this is a bit of a simplification but it comes down to this — the disadvantage of film is this low detective quantum efficiency, plus limited dynamic range. If you put an image intensifier in front of it, where say you have a photocathode in front and a phosphorus screen at the back, and if that phosphorus screen gives out say a thousand photons, for every one photon that comes into the cathode end, then the fact that the photographic film, which then views the photograph screen, detects only one in a hundred is of no matter, because your have recorded an event for each photoelectron that entered up front, and you've done it over an enormous field of view.
So the plan in my mind at least was always to work with an intensified film rather than raw film. So you got around the sensitivity [problem]. Of course that didn't get you around the limited dynamic range, which meant that you'd have to have lots and lots of exposures. But if you're able to go up every month anyway, what the hell? So it was worth a try, and I still think that it was. We were still seriously compromised by fields of view, and there are a lot of programs that if we had designed the Telescope to be able to image the entire field of view, rather than this small section that goes into the Wide Field Planetary Camera, we could do a lot of science there. So it wasn't such a crazy thing to look at. But when you go into it, it really would have impacted the design, besides the manned aspects, because we would have to move away from the shared Focal Plane, image surface, concept, and would have had to have gone to something like a lazy susan, or to something with a tertiary flat that would move into position, give the whole field of view to the film camera, so it would just have been a very, very big impact.
I guess by then you were pretty well into Phase B?
Yes. There was a time when we went through some pretty bad periods there, when dramatic changes had to be considered, and indeed they should be in Phase B, to sound out everything so you come up with something that's reasonable in the end. In my own case too, I was drawing on the DOD legacy, that I knew, and it was public knowledge, that those parachuting capsules off Hawaii were picking up film to be developed on the ground, and obviously the technology of handling film in space was quite advanced at that point. To the astronomer, the response of my colleagues was largely, film's tough to work with, and indeed it is, unless you completely automate it. If you've ever developed a roll of film yourself, you know. I just marvel that you can get film developd so cheaply and of such high quality. The reason is, it's completely automated, and of course it's a medium that lends itself to that. But we weren't used to it.
Even in the very first meeting of Nancy Roman's group, 1971, there was a brief discussion on film. Aden Meinel said he thought film should be considered, everybody else said 'No'. Perhaps the reason was his back ground and knowledge?
Exactly. Exactly, in that Aden as a optician, in addition to that special legacy that we shared, he was an optician and he loved the design of telescopes that produced exquisite images over a wide field of view. And why throw it away?
I wonder where on the list of your concerns you put the issue of detectors? Was that something you metaphorically lost sleep over?
Well, it was always there. The SEC Orthicon was never good. It was just all we had. So that just slowly other people wanted to look at other things, like the spectrographs, it just slowly evolved, from the original position of using those to, there's got to be much better ways of doing what we want, especially in the light of the size and the price of incorporating the SEC Orthicons into the designs. And these huge units, like the pedestal of a desk, you know, the drawer side here, just great big things, with lots of power and magnetic field requirements, just really hard to incorporate into a scientific instrument. And the idea of incorpo rating them into each of the instruments, let alone four, and seven was just inconceivable. So the realization of the impact of using them grew to be so serious that no one was happy with it, and I suspect even the Princeton people. After all, they did buy some insurance policies there. And the Goddard people abetted the demise of the SEC Orthicon because they were funding the work up there. I guess it was transferred from head quarters, where Nancy was doing it, to Goddard, and it ended up with Mona Tycz, now a familiar name to you I'm sure, have you ever met the person? But what's relevant for this is that she was a young person determined to make her mark. This was her chance.
In some ways, out of the same mold as George Levin, except she wasn't a politically important person. At heart she wanted to do the right thing, rather than please Les Meredith. She wanted to please us, the scientists, and thereby advance herself, and she just loved it when she got to be in charge of the Princeton detector activity. But for some reason, I suspect it's because by then everyone viewed the Princeton activity, the SEC, as something we're stuck with, not something that was ideal, and there must have been some problems of person ality too with Lowrance and Spitzer. They didn't take kindly to having this new boss. She kind of looked on herself as the new boss of that activity. Big step. Big assumption. And they just clashed, clashed, clashed, —- to the point of asking to get her off the project, which is something very uncharacteristic of Spitzer, to have done. So they felt a little badly treated because they were saddled with this supervisor who wanted to be their boss, over their project, and that just made things all the much worse for them, and it tended to polarize them, to dig in in their defense of the SEC.
Was there also an issue of moving what was previously a grant towards the contractor approach —
— that would provide detectors to all of us, yes. And that just didn't happen. And that was the idea about someone like Mona coming in and picking up on things, because, although Princeton may have been in a position to ultimately provide the things, it was still Goddard that would have to live with the results of the Princeton work. So it was not capri cious and arbitrary that Mona would be acting the way she had been.
I wonder, about some of the other points I've seen around things like detectors, I came across in the presentations at Marshall around 1975 or early 1976, even having the SEC managed at JPL as an option. I wonder if that ever was serious?
I don't think it went very far. I think it was considered because they after all had been flying cameras to celestial objects. But not seri ously. What I remember most with them is their CCD work, not the one that ultimately came to be the Wide Field Planetary Camera, but where they presented an alternative approach using a CCD to the Fine Guidance System, which was then later resurrected when Westphal with the help of Lockheed, tried to say that the P-E design wouldn't work and Lockheed ought to do it. They brought out that design later. That's what I remember best. They got a fair day in court on that one.
It seems as if CCDs were around quite a time. I was just looking through the notes from '72, the conference at NASA headquarters on detectors. When we spoke on the telephone about this a little while ago, you pointed to the fact that CCDs died in the UV, and that was then as a major problem.
Yes, and they were just not considered for that fundamental reason, but also they had a lot more noise then, and they were a lot smaller.
These were problems with the amplifiers?
Yes. And also the construction of them physically has improved considerably, so that the inherent noise quality has improved considerably. They came a long way very, very fast, surprisingly fast. If it hadn't been for the Princeton tradition of working with the SEC, we probably wouldn't have started [that effort]. From the day I entered the project, it was clear that SECs were an old-fashioned, dying technology, rather than some thing that was, had been in on the come. But it would have been wildly speculative to have acted otherwise, with no adequate detector in sight.
And looking for a launch late seventies, early eighties?
That's right, you had to [look to the SEC].
These would be reasonably mature?
Yes. And there was only one thing available, film and the SEC. And in those early days, the Shuttle wasn't real, and therefore that wasn't a consideration.
One of the things I think Joe Tatarewicz and I argued in the paper was that the budget problems were tying the project in more to the SECs, that it was hard to get extra funding to include other options.
Yes, that's certainly true.
I'm just trying to find how that changed, from having the SEC as a kind of facility class instrument. You talked earlier about what was going on during the summer of '76. There seems to be a lot of pressure from people interested in doing planetary science with Space Telescope at that time, that seems to have taken up very much the CCDs, and then there's a crucial meeting, or what Joe and I saw as a crucial meeting, at Caltech in October. I wonder if you recall that?
Oh yes. Viewed by some as a very sad day, because that was a great blow to the Princeton people. I guess that was after Bob (Danielson) died.
That's right, he died earlier in '76.
So there was only Lyman and this was like it had all come apart on him, at that point. But what else could we do, in the light of the situ ation? The CCDs were coming on, came on even faster than I anticipated then. The SEC wasn't getting any better.
I wonder about Danielson's role with the SEC? Exactly what he was doing at Princeton towards the SEC, because he seems very much to have been an advocate of the CCD, also the Wide Field Planetary Camera, or a plane tary camera.
It was more the planetary camera. I don't remember the strong identification with the CCD. But I do remember the identification with the red response, as always being very important. And I don't know, to be honest, just what the responsibilities were within Princeton on the detec tors. After all, I was in Huntsville and those were being run out of Mona's office from Goddard. So I didn't honestly track it all that closely.
Right. I wonder also about this point about the AO we discussed before we got on the tape. It seemed to be looking at some early drafts of AOs that the SEC was going to be a facility kind of instrument. Then there's a Science Working Group meeting in October —
That was the Caltech meeting.
That's right, the Caltech meeting in October. I don't find any more references to the SEC being a facility class after that.
Yes. That's why I consider that the watershed, in time, that meeting.
And that had convinced you that the CCDs were the —
— no, rather that it should be competing. That's right. It wasn't this situation we had before, where we had to go with the one, we had to make it work. At least it could be competing, because now there were different types of detectors becoming available. Like the linear detectors, in addition to the CCDs.
But before that time, you were taking the position of having the SEC as a facility class, that's what had been discussed in the Phase B working group and they had agreed to that. But once the Working Group votes for competition — then it seems that issue dissolves, if I'm making sense.
Yes. From that point on, anyone else could seize the momentum.
Again getting back to some of these points about the interactions with Congress, I wonder about your relationship with John Naugle? I think from David's interview, he was the person who did much to recruit you.
At moments when things became very tight, you felt you could go directly to Naugle and end run the system?
Yes. Because of that aspect, the real convincing thing to me was John's phone call saying, "It's a risk but I wish you would take it. That's exactly what the project needs." But then I didn't have much opportunity to call on that invitation, because I guess it was that first summer when, or the summer of '74, when things came apart on us, that Noel Hinners stepped in, and so all of a suddeen John was gone and here was this stranger. I can remember calling, and Noel answers the phone himself — no, he returns my call, instead of John. I called John and Noel returns it. I say, "Who the hell are you?" He says, "I'm his replacement."
That was a surprise?
Yes! There he was, and right in the midst of all this. So basically I had nothing else to do with John from then on, because didn't he then become the Chief Scientist of the agency?
Some title like deputy associate administrator for a time, then chief scientist.
Yes, but we all viewed it, and he acted like it was, retiring him in harness. As is not uncommon with bureaucracies. So he was effectively removed, from the project and from consideration at that point.
I wonder how [long] you felt it took to get Hinners up to speed?
I'm not aware of any problems with it. In fact, I can remember at the time being surprised, pleasantly, how somebody who came from outside of the agency, someone who had a very different background experience, could be both so informed and sympathetic with it. So I don't think we were really hurt by that.
I wonder about the attitude of some of the other managers, even the administrator? I'm thinking of, for example, Jim Fletcher, how you saw his thinking towards Space Telescope? A lot of what went on in 1976 seemed to be directed to keeping Fletcher behind the Telescope and in support of it.
Yes. I often wondered where he was. He's kind of one of these guys you give a presentation to, that kind of cheek sucking "Hm" chin nodding response, which doesn't tell you a whole lot except that he's hearing you. And there was this impatience on my part that Hanle refers to in that Sky and Telescope article, to get on with it. And he was shuffling a lot of pieces around the table, and I had one, so I was concerned whether my rook or bishop, whatever you want, it turns out to be a queen, how it fared, but he was looking at the whole game, so I can understand it better. But never saying those words that make you feel that he's really on your side. I was never sure of where we were. Because this was enough money where it wasn't just going to be an OSS project, where you could basically decide on your own and get it blessed upstairs. This was going to be an agency thing.
I wonder, what was your reaction to hearing that Space Telescope had not made it into the President's budget for fiscal '77, when it would have been aiming for a new start with '77?
What was my reaction? Multiple. Anger, frustration, fear, betrayal, gutless wonders thoughts went through my mind. I felt everything was primed, everything was "go for it," and we had somehow turned the crisis of the summer of '74 on into something that was very favorable. That is, we had genuine communication with the people outside of the agency who were going to be making these decisions. And we all, with our great sense of ego, thought that the way was greased and that, you know, we're home. All the agency had to do was ask. A great feeling of betrayal.
Was that directed at NASA or towards OMB?
NASA. Somehow we thought we were done in, that NASA rolled over very easily, in the push and shove of the closed period of the budget considerations. And that they weren't a strong position going in, and then when you get this long period of silence that the budget goes through, in the autumn, between the NASA submission and the President's release of the budget, then we felt like they'd betrayed us, that they'd given the project away. That's what it came down to.
Was that feeling compounded by the fact that there wasn't any planning money in '77, so you might be left with absolutely nothing, if I read that correctly?
Yes. That sure didn't help; it makes you really wonder if they're not going to scrap the whole damn thing, when they do something like that. And of course the efforts were made by the scientists, operating open loop, to get it inserted into the NASA bill, by the committees. And of course NASA didn't want that, in the worst way they didn't want it, and I can understand if you're running an organization, and a Congressional committee in response to lobbyists is telling you what you should be doing, then that's really eroding your authority and your ability to run the place. Especially if that money given for that would be at the expense of other things within the agency. But nonetheless John Bahcall and others really did try to get it in and really felt that it [should be reinserted] — I was torn, myself, because I could recognize that they could very well sour the whole thing with the NASA administration by this kind of end run thing, that it was to a degree violating the trust, when you enter the advisory system, when you enter into the structure of the system, and now they're bypassing everyone. In future years the planetary people and the infrared people and the X-ray, etc. etc., would have carte blanche to do the same thing when they didn't get their way. So I was rather torn about it, myself, and did not play an active role, like I had in the earlier lobbying, in trying to get it writ ten in to the bill.
One of the astronomers wrote a few months afterwards that he'd spoken with Fletcher and Fletcher had said that twice he'd taken the Telescope back to the President, but at some point, Fletcher said, he'd begun to see what he called weak spots in the program and areas for further cost cutting. Now, we haven't spoken yet with Fletcher. Obviously we have some questions to put to him. I wonder if you ever were given a rationale for why Fletcher did not put the Telescope in, and why OMB had asked for extra money to be taken out of the NASA budget, if that was ever explained clearly?
No. No help at all.
OK, I guess this brings us naturally to the May 19  meeting.
That was when we got together with Fletcher and asked him to tell us he wanted it, in person, that he really did want it after all, in spite of how we were reading the signs, which turned out to be a very satisfac tory meeting. Although we could not have expected him to give us all an individual hand shake on it. You just don't commit yourself to that. So as I recall the meeting, we got a statement of intent, but not a promise out of that.
Clearly there was in fact an effort to go and try and get approval for the program and perhaps a small amount of funds in fiscal '77. I've seen some of the material from John Bahcall's papers and George Field's papers. What I gather happened early in January was that you were speaking with John Bahcall, and there was at one time a telephone poll, and a number of leading optical astronomers like Leo Goldberg, for example, were asked whether you should or should not try and get funds in fiscal '77. I don't know if you remember that poll?
I didn't do the poll.
You didn't do the poll.
Wasn't it John or someone like that?
That's not clear. It's just a list of names.
I did not do the poll. It would have been inconsistent with my impression which I gave you before about my role in that, to have done it.
When you said you felt uneasy, is that also perhaps because if you didn't get anything in fiscal '77 you might sour relationships not just with NASA but also with people like Eddie Boland and other Congressman? In that, the other option would have been, OK, let's wait, go in in fiscal '78 for a new start?
The whole system would have come apart, the whole approval system, if we'd started, you know, adding things to our project, and [taken money from] somebody else's project.
There must have been some kind of implied blessing coming from NASA for the campaign to roll ahead?
Not really. Because the people in headquarters, they enjoyed their work too much, that is, they enjoyed their pay too much, having their present jobs, which they stood ready to lose if they did participate in something like that. They had to be loyal to the system. That is really a scientist thing. As I said, you know, they were really feeling pretty cocky and pleased, powerful, with all these relationships that had been cultivated over the years. You know, we can do anything. So it really was an outsider's activity.
Did anybody actually actively try and stop the lobbying?
I did not. And I don't remember anyone from headquarters trying to do it, not because they didn't want it to stop but rather, this is an activity with life of its own, and this is an activity that they had tacitly condoned being started in previous years when it clearly served the project's interest, without being at the expense of the agency as a whole. So you could kind of assume a certain distance, but bless it. And then it's very hard to come back and say, "Ah, but now you've got to do it our way!" So you have no direct control. You don't have those close ties. So there was an uncontrolled activity, unsupervised and unstoppable, except for the agency to be consistent in its position, and what it said in the testimony.
How did the campaign in fiscal '78, when the Telescope had to be included in the budget, differ from the one in '77?
Well, as I said before, it was anticlimactic. So much had been put into the other years. And also people were beaten down, burned out is the term, by this. You can only sustain a level of activity for a finite period, and it didn't seem like it was necessary, because the votes were there. The people who were willing to consider writing it in, the previous year, were certainly going to vote for it, the next. So it was just a very low level of activity, in the year that counted.
You were even confident about Boland's vote?
Yes. Yes, definitely.
What had caused the swing around? Was it just the number of votes that had been accumulated in that committee?
Yes. Just so many people who were obviously convinced that it could be done or should be done. A basic sense of trust of people, whereas the politicians could very well have reversed their position if they had needed to. That's the nature of the animal. The only thing that really concerned me and a few others was the fact that they're asking for the Galileo start at the same time, and we had been in competition for a long time, and of course, I really believe that we had to wait for the Mars lander, the Viking, to get out of the way, [to start the ST]. And a lot of astronomers felt that, OK, they [the planetary scientists] had their turn, it's ours now. The planetary people were riding high then, and they had no qualms about going for the natural successor, the Galileo program. We felt we were ahead in the queue, that it was our turn. And also, in a push and shove situation, we really felt that we had the votes, that we had done the legwork in the science community and on the Hill to have good ST support, and we could have therefore beat out Galileo in a fight, and that they therefore should have been deferred to the next year, fiscal '79 new start. But Noel, whom I have great admiration for, and indeed I have a phone call in for him right now but he'd already left for downtown, in connection with this payload specialist business, I'm going to ask him to be one of those references. I feel it's something I can ask him for. I wouldn't do that for someone I didn't like and trust. But I felt that he didn't have the balls to stand up to the planetary people and say, "You're going to have to wait." Because he had people like McElroy and such who were just — they'd get ugly! Always claiming: but it's their whole game, that they had to have this. And he just couldn't stand up to that pressure. So he put us both in to the same year. And that was the only risk I saw in that budget.
Let's just backtrack a couple of years to Pioneer Venus. I think in 1975, the Boland subcommittee was trying to get a tradeoff between LST and Pioneer Venus, and deferred Pioneer Venus for a year, in this tradeoff. I wonder if you could see something like that happening again in fiscal '78? That's the risk you're talking about?
It's that kind of thing. Not that they would support one and kill the other. That would be very uninstitutional. That is, one would have been stretched out, deferred. That was the risk. Of course, if you're the one that gets deferred — you know, you're not married till the ring is on, and that kind of thing. You're still in limbo. And we'd been in limbo quite long enough, we thought, at that time. So that was the only risk, apprehension. So people went through the moves, but without the large number of letters being written and without the sense of anxiety over it, in part because the competition was another science program, and people are very reluctant to improve your own spot by nay saying, badmouthing the other. That can turn into a situation where everyone loses.
That was the interpretation put on some of the things that were said about the ST by the Boland Subcommittee when they took out Pioneer Venus in '75. They said that they had been approached by some astronomers who said that more of the money should be given to stellar astronomy. Therefore we take 50 million out of Pioneer Venus.
Yes. So we're in kind of an impotent position. We'd made our case as well as we could. The only risk was one that could have been attacked by being negative about somebody else's project, which wasn't the way to play the game.
Were there efforts taken to make sure that that wouldn't happen?
No. Not to my knowledge.
The reason I mentioned that idea — I guess a JPL director doesn't have nearly as many constraints on him as say Dr. Lucas [Director of Marshall Space Flight Center] or someone. They can't march openly into OMB or go to the Hill — whereas a JPL director can.
No. That's certainly true. Which indeed they did on the solar sailing business. Remember that? That was riding very high and they were just doing everything they could to raise money for that idea, and lots of direct interaction with the Hill. So they certainly acted that way in that case.
I wonder about the overall relationship with the planetary science community to Space Telescope? How you saw that develop?
I felt in Phase B that they just weren't represented except by Danielson, and the imaging activity they did wasn't really very convincing at all, and you look back and you can see why. They were getting all these missions there, and we were basically proposing to do traditional ground based planetary astronomy, except from a powerful orbital telescope. And then, the JPL business of calling the WF/PC the Wide Field Planetary Camera I thought was strictly a sop to them, you know, to get their support in this competition that was going on with Galileo for the ST mission. The WF/PC would have been built the way it is regardless of the planetary functions. It simply needed that resolution for too many astronomical things. When we had the competition for scientists, in spite of all they'd been saying, hardly any planetary people proposed. And it ends up with this guy John Caldwell, who's alleged by some not to even be very smart, let alone very sharp. Someone, you know, that John Bahcall has trouble staying in the same room with, and he says these embarrassing things when he does open his mouth. And he was the best. And by a good margin, he was the best. And where were all these planetary scientists? They were off doing their own things. They were the ones claiming that they wanted a guaranteed fraction of the use of Space Telescope. Yet none of them proposed. So I was mad. That these guys had given us so much trouble. The out siders saying, "It's got to be able to do more for planetary science," and then nobody thinks it's important enough to even propose. So it really made me conclude that this was a bunch of people that would say whatever was necessary at the time, to further their own inter ests. And nothing has changed since then.
I think on a number of occasions in the Phase B Science Working Group, for example, Nancy Roman made the point that their support might be necessary.
Yes. Very much so. And yet, they weren't saying it. They weren't taking the initiative in doing that. Nancy is the one who essentially picked John Caldwell, for the Phase C/D. Somehow they had good chemistry and she thought a lot of him. Other wise, I think we might have ended up without any planetary people on it. They were such low quality, that she pushed for him, and insisted he was good quality and that there had to be a planetary scientist.
I wonder about his relationship with Danielson. He was supposed to have been something of a prote'ge' of Danielson's, whether that would have been another signal to the planetary community.
Yes. There is that continuity. He had been there [Princeton], before he went on to Stonybrook as a research associate. So it was kind of like [Richard] Harms — a person who wasn't necessarily supported at home. Eventually John got to the professorial ranks in large part because of his ST involvement. It never worked for Harms. So he was an anomaly on the selection, being very junior, but he was all we had in terms of planetary. Oh, there were others, but he looked good in comparison.
I wonder about some of the events of the summer of '76? We alluded a little to this in the CCD paper. I think Nancy Roman forms a group to look at the instruments, specifically what they could do in terms of plane tary science, and there was a meeting in headquarters in August '76. I wonder if you —
I don't think I was involved with that. I don't think I attended that meeting.
This would have been with Brad Smith, Westphal was there, Bob Brown was the center's replacement for Goody, Lecrone, a few others, I think — I've only seen rather cryptic minutes from that meeting.
It doesn't ring a bell, that I was there. And I think that whole thing was something that she ran. I don't know if I boycotted or if I just simply couldn't come to that, what I viewed as a headquarters meeting. But that it was done and that she ran it is consistent with this whole picture and what you said before, that she was sensitive to the politics and seemed to be willing to kiss ass with that bunch, which she had no control over because she wasn't funding them. It was the other side of the fifth floor that was.
So it was Bill Braurk (?) and people like that?
That's right. So she was probably right, that is, I didn't under stand it or appreciate it at the time, but I think she was right in doing it. She didn't do a thing that was wrong, in all that.
I wonder about another event connected with the planetary people, and that's a lecture that George Field gave to DPS in late '76. I wonder if you ever got any feedback on that? The reason I mention is, in corre spondence that you had with George, he asks for some slides for example and advice on what he might say, and you wrote back describing the things that had already been done to make ST capable of making planetary observations, but there seems to have been some sort of feeling after George had actually given his lecture. I wonder if that ever came back to you?
Where was that?
This was in Hawaii.
Yes, I remember the location because it was not unrelated to his decision to do it, his willingness to do it. Somehow, this is all very general and vague — when was the date on that?
OK, I think it would have been late '76 or perhaps very early '77. For example, your answer to him was on the 22nd of November, and you pointed out to him that many things had been incorporated into the LST design to allow observations of solar system objects.
So that was while we were in the OMB period of silence with the budget. I remember my concern was that there would be a sellout, of our having to end up accepting something like a constraint which they actually talked about for a while. You know, it would be used 20 percent of the time for planets or otherwise we won't let it happen. And so I was con cerned with a sellout there. That just fits right in with that concern we had when we ended up both being in the same budget, right after. That DPS meeting would have been held in connection with the AAS. They still were then, I think. Therefore it was a Christmas time meeting, just before we saw the budget. So I don't have many facts on this subject, I'm afraid.
Right. Again, George Field is one person we haven't got onto the tape yet. I wonder in fact what was actually going on in the period from, say, late '76 to about October '77 when you were actually into a new start. I wonder what sort of activity was going on, I know there were RFPs and so on.
When was the AO released?
OK, so we were well into the preparation of it during that period. And the RFP selection too, because we did get the preselection authority on that. That was the bulk of the activity.
Essentially all the Phase B trades had been established?
Yes. Those had to be resolved before the RFP was released.
And this is also the period when you become associate director?
That was before then. That would have been like '75. Yes. And let's face it, things were a lot slower moving when we entered this period of stretch-out, and therefore, it made it reasonable to do two jobs at once. And also, it was hard to say no. That was sure a nice office! A view of the landing field and the sunsets and such. Also I was very much into power. I loved being director of Yerkes. I loved being the head of Space Telescope. And to be in an organization that there was a position that was nominally higher than yours — you know, I loved being first. And it was hard to say no. I can't say that I coveted the position because it was always this anomaly, of being a general but without any troops to command, that kind of thing. Nonetheless I wanted it. Then I held onto that until the aftershocks from Black Saturday. Of course none of this was pre-planned with headquarters, that's a measure of the communication we had with headquarters, and Frank [Martin] was so mad he almost hit me. You know, just thought I was an absolute traitor. And of course I still don't think I was being a traitor. I was naive in believing that we really were in a box that tight, that it was a live or die situation, unless we did slash the costs. But Frank just really let me have it, over that, and I've never really forgiven him for that, because he indulged his anger, his humors, without realizing what [limits] I was working within — because I considered him party to imposing these severe money constraints on the project, and then for him to turn around and say, "You're wrong to have believed me, we can find some more money" — I didn't know the game was played that way. So he really chewed my ass over that. You know, called [me into his office] — "No, don't sit down, just stand there while I talk to you." That kind of thing. And that was personally very irritating, to get that from somebody who had never really been a scientist, but only a manager, and that he was pretending he was being a more loyal scientist than I was. That really hurt.
One of the things I want to do during this visit is try and con struct a context of Black Saturday.
OK. But just to finish off that one subject, the truth in what he was saying was that, and he didn't say this directly, I did, that maybe I would have been in better communication with headquarters about that situ ation, and not have done what I had, if I had been full time. And that's why, on my own, I stepped out of the one position and went back full time to ST. It was the right thing to do.