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I saw the movie #Apollo13 with #LunarModule Program Director #JoeGavin. Now it’s time to tell the forgotten story—which that film doesn’t show—of how he & his #Grumman #Team helped rescue the astronauts with a #LMLifeboat while the world watched:… #Apollo50
Five decades ago, during the aborted #Apollo13 mission of April 1970, #Grumman Aerospace Corporation’s #LunarModule saved 3 astronauts by becoming a lifeboat-tugboat. Throughout the crisis, #LM Program Director #JoeGavin manned his post @NASA’s #MissionControl Center in #Houston.
Gavin led a multi-hundred-person team in Houston & Bethpage, NY to help coordinate assessment & use of the #LM’s capabilities for emergency #LunarLifeboat role.

Gavin, virtually all of his colleagues + contemporaries & #Grumman itself have subsequently departed from the scene.
Recent popular commemorations, such as the movie #Apollo13, were made w/o consulting them, leaving their lifesaving legacy largely forgotten.

Half a century later, it’s time to finally tell their own story in their own words.

I’m trying to make a start:…
True to its conservative design philosophy #Grumman had added extra capacity & consumables to power the #LM as a #lifeboat & #tugboat of last resort.

The LM’s linchpin role was anticipated overall, unanticipated in some specifics & enabled throughout by systematic preparations.
In 1964 @NASA initiated #Grumman-led #Apollo Mission Planning Task Force “to examine the various phases..& look for ways to make them safer.”

“One major result” had been “the ID of the ‘#LMLifeboat’ mission,” which triggered prescient increases in tank size for consumables...
#TomKelly, ChfDesEng for #LM's 1st7yrs:
“planners realized that a # of [failures] could be countered by using the LM as a lifeboat & utilizing its propulsion, guidance & control, life support & other systems to return the crew to..vicinity of..atmosphere”…
Kelly: “To provide this #rescue capability, some of the #LM consumables, such as O2, H20 & electrical power, would have to be increased by 10-15% above that needed to perform the basic mission. Because LM then existed only on paper, we decided to make the tanks that much larger.”
#Grumman’s foresight exceeded that of @NASA, whose otherwise extremely detailed contractual scenarios never envisioned a #LM #rescue mission.

Grumman would earn no incentive rewards for saving the day for #Apollo13.

On April 13, 1970, two days after LM-7 was launched as part of the #Apollo13 mission spacecraft, #JoeGavin & several colleagues were concluding a long day at #Grumman’s Mission Evaluation Room (MER) at the Manned Space Center in #Houston with dinner at their nearby motel...
It was 10:30 p.m.—typical of their challenging hours.

“We were just about to order when the motel manager leaned over my shoulder,” Gavin recalled. “He said he’d heard there was a problem at #MissionControl & he thought we might like to get over there. That did it for dinner.”
#JoeGavin summarized #Apollo13's #BreakingNews in his dayplanner:

“mid-evening CSM power failure—#LunarLanding aborted—desperate effort to do return mission on #LM—”

“I think all of us had a sense of tension in those hours that we’ve not felt before or since,” he later said.
#JoeGavin led with full knowledge that he had ultimate responsibility:

“One thing we did think about was: ‘Who speaks for the company if there is a catastrophe?’ And we worked that out, & I drew the short straw. My wife quizzed me about this & asked me: ‘What happens if…?’”
“And I said: ‘Well, we’ve thought about it. We know what has to be done.’ …when you’re defying gravity, you have to know that sometime you’re going to have a problem... And I think we had a team at #Grumman that thoroughly understood this.“…

#JoeGavin directed the #Apollo Mission Support Center back in Bethpage to address the new emergency-imposed priorities:

“Hoarding the consumables was 1st on the list.
...we had to get backup crews in the 2 #LM test modules, 1 in Houston & 1 @ Bethpage”…
#Apollo13 was truly an all-hands-on-deck time for #Grumman!

By midnight phone call, #JoeGavin recalled #TomKelly from @MITSloan & fellow #LM engineer Howard Wright from @HarvardHBS. They boarded a 2 AM chartered flight for Grumman’s Airport in Bethpage.…
As he rushed into #Grumman’s #Apollo Mission Support Center at 3 AM, #TomKelly saw a “flood tide” of engineers entering the building--assembling of their own accord to serve as needed to bring #Apollo13’s crew safely home.…

Meanwhile, in Houston, Gavin was appointed to NASA’s Mission Review Council. Maintaining his post atop Grumman’s multiple layers of technical support, throughout “the tensest episode in my career,” Gavin estimates that he only “got 2 hours of sleep in that whole [4-day] mission.”
#JoeGavin’s frontline VIP room was connected by “an open line” to a nearby building, itself connected by another “open line” to #TomKelly & his 200-plus colleagues back in Bethpage.

This way, “you could get an answer on almost everything in 1-2 minutes.”

Photo C/O @XuluDelgado
“Successful [#Apollo13] splashdown—all safe!” #JoeGavin wrote on April 17.

@NASA administrator George Low invited him to leave his post against the glass surrounding #MissionControl to enter the main floor.

The room “just burst into cheering…the atmosphere was…so buoyant…”
Watching the movie #Apollo13 in retirement, #JoeGavin observed that its depiction of the successful #splashdown from #MissionControl included neither the small American flags that people waved in celebration nor the cigars of which he declined to partake.…
“There was a level of emotion in that group—you could cut it with a knife, because the odds of it being a successful return were pretty small. In fact, if the [#Apollo13] accident hadn’t occurred @ the right point, the options to go around the moon & return wouldn’t have worked.”
NASA awarded Gavin its Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1971 “as the leader & rep of the #LunarModule team…in recognition of the team’s outstanding skill which made possible the successful use of the lunar module as a rescue vehicle for the safe return [of] #Apollo13 crew.”
In 1974, in one of his proudest career accomplishments, Gavin was elected to @theNAEng “for leadership in the design & the production of the Apollo #LunarModule.” In accepting recognition, he always credited these technical feats to spirited teamwork at #Grumman & across America.
In Congressional testimony, #JoeGavin highlighted “the continuing priority given to the safety of the men who pilot our flying machines. We can think of no better proof... than the #Apollo13 [mission].”

His photo @nytimes was captioned, “Thinks always of safety of the spacemen.”
“The team at #Grumman developed a personal relationship with every one of the astronauts in the Apollo era,” Gavin stressed.

“We were building machines that our friends would operate, not some faceless individuals unknown to us. It was not just ‘put it in a package & ship it.’”
#Grumman was founded by #WorldWarI @USNavy aviator #LeroyGrumman.…

The legendary leader, #JoeGavin recalled, “had one basic direction to all of us..‘You bring the pilot back one way or another.’”…

@NASA very wisely saw to it that 1 or 2 of the astronauts would be in the plant every mo.,” Gavin explained. “The astronauts ended up knowing more about the [#LM] than we did. The principal example is Freddy Haise…he knew the machine better than we did.”…
So intense was his personal involvement, Haise later recalled, that when seconded to #Grumman he often slept in #LM during tests stretching as long as 27 hours.

“There were times I’d be here a whole week & never get any further than Vito’s Deli, which is just across the street.“
On May 5, 1970, the #Apollo13 astronauts “came to Bethpage to thank... the #LM team for saving their lives….”

Haise addressed hundreds: “We thought, when we were out there floating [post-splashdown], ‘if we don’t do anything else, let’s get back up to #Grumman & say ‘Thanks.’”
#JoeGavin enjoyed an extraordinary engineering-executive career in an extraordinary age for American #aerospace accomplishments. From 1976-85, he was #Grumman's President & COO. For both, it was during the #LM years (1962-72) that their space-related efforts reached their apogee.
An aerospace engineering career gave #JoeGavin fascinating experiences, including meeting #LBJ & #Nixon.

Most meaningful to him: “I met Orville #Wright before he died… showed Charles #Lindbergh the #LunarModule under construction; [and] survived the anxious hours of #Apollo13.”
#JoeGavin: “...#aerospace engineering is a little bit different. The margins are less, & you’re defying gravity every day. The results, if you fail, are quite notable. Being an aeronautical engineer myself, [I can attest that] we live more dangerously. And so we’re more careful.“
#JoeGavin: Aerospace Project Engineer must answer “a few very basic ?s…in ~ every instance;

If I permit the project to progress in this direction
*Would I go as a pilot?
*Would I ask my best friend to go as a pilot?
*Would I invest my own money?
*Does this action really count?”
#JoeGavin never failed to give satisfactory answers to these questions.

The results live on in the families of 3 astronauts who never would have returned home without a conservatively-engineered lifeboat: the #Grumman #LunarModule...…


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