First-Hand:Reliability Engineering at GE Apollo Support Department

Submitted by Larry Miller

I am an an 84 year-old IEEE Life Member (#03201803) and retiree from General Electric who worked as a Reliability Engineer for the GE Apollo Support Department (ASD) in Daytona Beach, FL from April 1964 to Sept. 1966. My last assignment at ASD specifically tasked me with researching and identifying anything that might cause a delay in successfully launching the manned moon landing mission during it's prescribed pre-launch window to achieve mission success. In this assignment I had occasion to witness several counterproductive turf battles between different NASA organizations over access to mission critical telemetry data during the Apollo launch phase when mission control transfers from the folks at Cape Kennedy to those in Houston.

At that time, no acceptable compromise seemed possible. I grew increasingly disheartened and was forced to conclude in my final report to ASD Engineering that, in my opinion, only a 'catastrophic incident' could force NASA to make the changes necessary to achieve mission success. I was basically told by my superior that my report would not be shared outside ASD. ASD HR was then the busiest part of GE/ASD. It was like a revolving door with the disappointed and disillusioned leaving while the excited and optimistic hopefuls entered to be part of the bold new frontier of space exploration. I finagled a transfer to Aircraft Electrical Systems Engineering in Waynesboro, VA in Sept. 1966. On Jan 27, 1967 the Apollo 1 crew of Grissom, White, and Chafee were incinerated alive at Launch Complex 34, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.......and became the first humans sacrificed to clear the path for the first dusty walk on the surface of the moon two and one-half years later.