Space Center Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Sandra Johnson
Houston, Texas – 6 March 2009
Today is March 6, 2009. This interview with John Hirasaki is being
conducted in Houston, Texas, for the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral
History Project. The interviewer is Sandra Johnson, assisted by Jennifer
Ross-Nazzal. I want to thank you again for joining us today, and I
will start out by asking you about your background and how you first
became interested in working for NASA.
That’s very interesting, and it all depends on how far you want
to go back. Probably just to say why did I even get interested in
space program goes back to my childhood. I grew up on a farm. My parents
ran a rice farm here in south Texas, and out on a farm, if you want
adventure, you have to use the imagination a lot. But I was always
fascinated with what could happen in the future, and especially during
my high school, college years, I read a lot of science fiction. Both
of my parents went to college, so they had encouraged all of us to
go to college. I think it’s the encouragement of your parents
to be all you can, allowed me to get into the situation where I came
to work for NASA.
Coming out of college, I went into private industry for about a year
and a half, and during one visit back to see my friends, the subject
came up, “Hey, you realize that they’ve got job openings
over at NASA?” That piqued my interested because at that time,
you realize that going into space was really a very big thing. It’s
like taking part in an adventure that you just had only imagined you
could have become a part of this. It availed itself to me at that
Obviously I applied and was accepted. I applied to the Landing and
Recovery Division. That’s where the jobs were being offered
at the time. To me, and I think to a lot of people of that same era,
it represented a chance to take part in this great exploration that
our whole nation had undertaken. Matter of fact, I took a cut in pay
to come here. At that time, if you were working in the space program,
you would sort of wonder, “You realize they’re paying
us to do all of these neat things? They’re actually paying us
to do this!” Because people loved to do it if they had the opportunity.
They would even pay to do it. Well, you take space tourists these
days, twenty million a pop to go into space. You would pay to do it.
Well, we were being paid to work in the program, so that’s the
type of feeling and excitement that was generated in the country at
the time I joined NASA.
You said you applied to Landing and Recovery because that’s
where the jobs were being offered at the time?
Did you have any idea—what were your thoughts about what you
would be doing, or what did you know about your job when you first
I had one interview with the person who hired me. It was Wayne [E.]
Koons who was my ultimate supervisor. I didn’t know what was
really involved, so I came over to visit one day, just to sit down
with him and had a chat. Matter of fact, he invited me to his house.
The interview was held at his house. He explained what the division
did and what was involved with the job, and I was just glad to be
in any part of the program, because to me it was an adventure.
Let’s talk about those first days, when you first started working
here. What type of training did you receive, and what were some of
the first positions or assignments?
That’s very interesting because at that time, when I first started,
one of the first tasks I had to do was to do a failure modes and effects
analysis for the recovery systems that were aboard the Apollo Spacecraft.
In other words, you had to go through a system and say, “What
are the probable causes of any component in this system failing, and
what is the result of that failure?” So it allowed me to learn
a couple of systems that I worked on early in my career. Since the
Landing and Recovery Division was responsible for those type systems,
after the Apollo Spacecraft landed, they had the post-landing environmental
control system and they had all the recovery systems, the systems
associated with being able to recover the spacecraft. I was working
on two of the systems, the post-landing environmental control system
as well as the deactivation of the reaction control system. They are
somewhat disparate systems, but since the Landing and Recovery Division
was responsible for that, they had engineers that were looking after
each system and performing tests as well as review procedures, and
things of that nature.
With respect to the post-landing environmental control system, one
of the things that the Landing and Recovery Division was doing at
that time was going through a series of tests to qualify the equipment
and operation of that to support the survival of the crew for forty-eight
hours. If they landed, say, in a remote area, this system had to be
able to support the crew for forty-eight hours before they would have
access to recovery. We set that time to give us a buffer or to cover
what we would consider the worst-case scenario. Associated with that—and
I may be stepping ahead of myself—was the hardware that was
physically aboard Apollo 6. Apollo 6 was the last unmanned flight
prior to manned spacecraft, so we were actually flying hardware and
we were certifying the hardware for flight using that last unmanned
A problem that they were concerned about was after the valves were
launched into space and exposed to space environment and the spacecraft
landed, would the [post-landing ventilation] valves—because
they were electrically motor-driven valves—there was concern
that the seals that prevented air from leaking out would stick to
the surface to the point where they could not open after seeing this
environment. To make sure that we didn’t have a problem on there,
they actually sent me down to the Cape [Canaveral, Florida] with a
test setup, which was a recorder and a power supply to connect to
the valves to make the valves open and close, and measure the current
requiring these valves to operate. Interesting enough, here I am,
an engineer just a couple years out of college, “Here, go take
care of this.” So I get travel instructions, they sent me down
to the Cape by myself, “Go see these people and they’ll
give you access to the spacecraft.”
So I drive into KSC [Kennedy Space Center, Florida], get cleared in,
go up to the Vertical Assembly Building where the Apollo was stacked
up, and show them my papers. He says, “You want to go up in
the Command Module.” So he says, “Okay, first you’ve
got to take your personal effects out, put on a bunny suit [clean
room attire], sign these releases, and once you do that then you can
go on up to the Command Module.” So you go through all this,
and it’s sort of interesting the first time you do something
like that. So I said, “Well, how do you get to the Command Module.”
He said, “Well, just go through those double doors there and
take the elevator on up.” So I’m in my bunny suit, walk
through a set of double doors, and all I see is a white wall in front
of me. The wall is slightly curved. I say, “Where’s the
elevator?” So I went one way and it just seemed like it stopped,
so I went the other way. I started walking around this curved wall,
and I spotted an elevator. Then I realized, the curved wall isn’t
a wall. It is the Saturn 5 rocket. It was so huge, and since I did
not see the vehicle coming in, I just came in through the side and
went in, I didn’t realize what it was that I was actually seeing
in front of me.
So now comes this interesting ride all the way up to the top to get
into the Command Module. So you go up, you show them your papers.
“Yeah, you’re clear to go inside the spacecraft.”
Pull my electrical connectors, run my test, hook everything back up,
and come home. Well, the reason that we did that is they also tasked
me to go out on the recovery ship for Apollo 6. “Now, run that
same test post-landing.” So that was the tie-in I had as far
as the post-landing environmental control system. Because as a part
of the recovery team, I was performing the same test on the vehicle
after it had gone through the flight environment and had landed and
been recovered, back aboard the recovery ship. Because the valves
would not have been opened because it was just an unmanned flight,
so we simulated after we got the spacecraft onboard, connected the
power and saw how much power it took to drive these valves open and
But that’s just an interesting aside for a young engineer that’s
just fairly fresh out of college, to be given that sort of responsibility.
It also explains what was so neat about the program. You were part
of something that had never been done before. You were part of a program
that the President [John F. Kennedy] said, “Our nation will
undertake this, to send a man to the Moon and return him safely back
to Earth.” Not because it is easy; because it is hard. It pressed
everybody. You might say it’s a very challenging set of goals,
to be able to accomplish all those things. And I think that’s
why everybody who was involved in the program at that time had this,
“I’m doing something important. I’m part of something
that’s much bigger than myself.” It was just a great feeling.
As you mentioned, you were fresh, just a year or two out of college
and you were young, and everyone that was coming in that time, you
weren’t young compared to other people because everyone was
young and fresh out of college. But there were some engineers that
had been there for a while.
What was that relationship like for you coming in as this young engineer,
and working with some of the older engineers and getting that autonomy
to go out and just do something?
It was very interesting because, like you said, they were the original
core group that had worked from the Mercury/Gemini Programs and were
now in the, you might say, the supervisory or the management ranks.
They really enabled the engineers to do what was necessary, gave them
the guidance yet allowed them the autonomy to take it upon themselves
to make sure everything was done correctly. How you did it, you were
given quite a bit of time to do that.
It was an excellent mentoring experience, and I think one of the things
that we had in the Landing and Recovery Division as compared to a
lot of other divisions at NASA at the time, we built hardware in house,
we tested it, we developed procedures, and then we executed operations.
So you got to do all the various pieces—and I’m just giving
you one example for one piece of hardware. Then you understand the
relative importance of something working or not working, and the consequences
if it doesn’t work. You have a much more tangible—how
would you say it? Experience is a great teacher. People can tell you
all these things. Until you’ve done it for yourself, it’s
hard to appreciate how critical one little step is, or the design
of one piece of hardware is, and you realize how many pieces of hardware
it took to get a man to the Moon and back. So it just emphasized that.
There were other areas of Landing and Recovery. If you can just describe
some of the areas that Landing and Recovery was responsible for, and
maybe the area that you ended up working within. I know that they
had the deck force, like on the aircraft carriers. Then you had a
lot of the testing and everything that went on. If you can just describe
the department and a little bit about the department, how it was organized?
Well, like I said, the Landing and Recovery Division was an excellent
opportunity for engineers, because I could do a little bit of all
of the things I described. I could participate in operations. I could
participate in the development of the design. I had done each one
of those. I described test criteria to certify pieces of hardware.
Then we went out and then built the procedures, and then we implemented.
Before the Apollo Program, it was very shortly after I came to NASA,
we were still at the very tail end of the Gemini Program. On the Gemini
Program, we were at Gemini 12 when I was deployed. The Landing and
Recovery had their own internal training programs to teach each one
of the engineers, on various recovery ships, how to explain what had
to be done to safely recover the crew and the spacecraft. You had
the primary recovery ships, but you had multiple secondary, contingency
recovery ships. So we had deployed the personnel out of our division
to multiple locations, and I was assigned to a destroyer in the mid-Pacific.
I was the only NASA rep [representative], and I had one photographer
with me. But it just goes to emphasize the amount of responsibility
NASA provided engineers of my age to assist the infrastructure, the
DoD [Department of Defense] infrastructure, to enable the safe recovery
and return of the crew and the spacecraft.
There had been other cases where a spacecraft had come down in contingency
areas, unplanned landing areas. So you had to have that covered and
someone had to be there who knew what should be done, how to go about
it, and explain to the personnel—in our case which was DoD—how
to properly handle the equipment, how to safely recover the spacecraft,
and how to avoid the hazards. There are a lot of hazards aboard the
spacecraft. There are unexploded pyrotechnics, there are propellants
which are extremely, extremely toxic and flammable—and for good
reason, because in space, you have to resort to some very complex
systems in order to be able to control the spacecraft in a vacuum.
Those solutions end up with extremely toxic propellants for [spacecraft]
That was another one of my responsibilities, is after I had worked
on the Gemini recovery, on that last one, fortunately the spacecraft
did not land in my site so I was just there as a standby, had it landed.
But on the Apollo, they asked me to take part in the deactivation
of the spacecraft, which started after we got the spacecraft on deck,
there is a minimum set of deactivation to do just powering down the
spacecraft. Once it returned to the first land base, we had to remove
all of the propellant and safe all the pyrotechnics before we could
ship that spacecraft back to the manufacturer site.
So the propellants that were used on the spacecraft at the time, I
think Mercury had monopropellant, whereas both Gemini and Apollo had
bipropellants for the attitude control system. They used chemicals
like nitrogen tetroxide for the oxidizer, monomethylhydrazine for
the fuel. And these particular propellants are what they call hypergolic,
they ignite upon contact. So you don’t have to put a spark to
get them lit. All they had to do is physically come in contact; they
immediately combust. The other factor is we called them Earth storables.
In their separate states, if you store them in a container, they’ll
stay liquid at room temperature. So under normal atmosphere, normal
temperatures, they just stay in liquid form. But if you combine the
two, they immediately combust. So that made them extremely flammable.
At the same time, the chemical characteristics made them very, very
toxic. So, before we can ship these spacecrafts back to the manufacturer,
you have to purge or neutralize the system, so you make sure that
if you had any problems, you don’t have any leakage aboard the
aircraft or over the public, right-of-way transportation, you’re
not emitting toxic, flammable elements. So that was my involvement
in the post-flight deactivation of the early Apollo Spacecrafts.
You mentioned on the Gemini 12, and if we can go back to that just
for a second. You were on the ship that didn’t have anything
to do with the splash down because you were in a contingency area.
Can you just walk us through, or if you have any anecdotes about that
specific assignment or some of the things that you experienced while
you were on the ship? Talk about that relationship a little bit—since
you were the only NASA rep—and the DoD that was on the ship.
All right. Imagine yourself a young engineer, telling a captain of
a ship what to do.
So you can have an idea. This was the ship I was aboard [shows card
from wallet]. The reason I keep these things around, it’s just
sort of interesting to have participated in something like that. As
the NASA representative aboard a recovery ship, you’ve got to
explain to the captain as well as the crew exactly what techniques
should be used to safely recover the spacecraft as well as rescue
the crew. It gets into a lot of—even though we had standard
procedures that were sent out and developed for all recovery ships,
there’re always questions that come up. “Well, what do
you mean, you have to thread a line to this point here?” So
aboard each one of the recovery ships, you need a representative for
NASA to walk through, you might say these intricacies of what you
had thought to be [standard recovery] procedures.
Now, having performed these stateside and having developed procedures,
we understand—we in Landing and Recovery—understood what
had to be done. Matter of fact, each one of us, everybody who was
deployed, would go through a training session prior to deployment.
It says, “Here’s the things you need to watch out for.
Here’s the points you need to make sure that the crew very well
understand, so we have a safe recovery and don’t hurt anybody.”
So it’s interesting, because I think I was a GS-7 [general schedule
pay scale] at the time trying to explain to the captain of a guided
missile destroyer, “Here, you need to do it this way.”
It’s a lot of responsibility. If things go wrong, it’s
on your head too, by the way. You never quite thought of it that way,
but to us, you might say it was quite an honor to be able to take
part in it.
How did you receive that card?
I think it’s complimentary as the representative, as the NASA
representative for the ships. They would usually do that, a complimentary
card for the guest, because you’re the guest on the ship. Aboard
that particular ship in the North Pacific, I don't know if you’ve
been aboard a destroyer before.
No, I can’t say I have.
Well, the north Pacific is not exactly what you would say a tranquil
sea; matter of fact, it gets quite rough. We ran into some storms,
and they had berthed me all the way in the officers’ quarters,
near the bow of the ship. Well, it’s okay while you’re
sailing around in smooth water, but when you run into a storm—and
a destroyer’s not what you would say the most stable of cruise
ships. Matter of fact, they pitch and roll a lot. The seas got so
high that as the ship would go over a swell, it would drop in, it
would bury the bow below the next wave, and the water of that next
swell would come up and cover the bridge. So you can imagine, you’re
diving under this next wave and you get green water. Also, you see,
they have a meter which tells you how much list you have, and you
watch it and you say, “How far can this ship roll over before
it won’t right itself?”
So it was an interesting experience. But we were riding these seas
at night, and being berthed all the way forward, the ship is pivoting
by the midpoint, so as the ship went down, you felt very light. As
the bow buried, you hear water rush over you, and then you hear the
screws, the propellers of the ship, actually come out of the water
and shake the whole ship. It’s sort of like the tale of a fish
flapping in the air after it’s exposed. Then as the buoyancy
carries you back up, you feel like you’re about twice as heavy
as you normally are, laying in the bunk, until it pitches is all the
way up, and all of a sudden you start getting light again. So after
a while you start getting used to it, so all you do is just wedge
yourself in a bunk and just ride it out. It’s an interesting
ride for anybody who’s not been at sea aboard something like
Had you ever been on a ship or anything before?
Not before I went to Landing and Recovery Division, and I have a tendency
towards seasickness, so it takes you a few days to get acclimated.
But once you get acclimated, it’s okay.
Yes, that’s quite an introduction, I think, the North Pacific.
Well, it was also during that time period there was a lot happening
in the country, the Vietnam War and that sort of thing. Did you receive
a deferment to come to NASA because of your age?
Yes, I did. Because of my age and because they needed engineers to
support that activity, NASA submitted my name for deferment.
There was also a lot of other activity, and especially toward the
late sixties, things that were happening in the country. How aware
do you remember being of what was going on? We’ve talked to
so many people that were so focused on the mission and focused on
what you were trying to accomplish with Apollo, and that they were
somewhat unaware of what was going on outside of this circle of work.
Right. Well, you became very focused. That’s an interesting
point that you bring up. We had racial strife at that time period,
and one of the things that NASA did is they assigned me to be a member
of this forum which looked into racial intolerance. Except, they didn’t
call it that. It’s only after I came to this meeting, I realized,
“Hey, I’m representing an Asian. Somebody else is representing
Hispanic, somebody else is representing African American. Oh! That’s
what this is!” Because essentially, NASA was quite colorblind.
If you could do the job, that was what mattered.
You go back to growing up on a farm and then getting to work in a
space program, they were looking for good, hard-working people. And
if you had the education to where you could get a degree, where you
had some expertise, NASA was a great place to work because, like I
said, you were promoted on merit. It doesn’t matter what ethnic
group, religion, or whatever. It was just are you capable of doing
the job? The job is very challenging. So I’ve talked to different
school groups that have asked, and I’ve always emphasized that
that is one great opportunity you have in this country. If you get
a good education, the whole world is opened up to you, because too
many people just try to skate by and just get the minimum education.
But that’s your ticket out if you’re underprivileged in
some way, or you feel oppressed. Just get an education, because that
is your ticket out.
With that group that you were involved in, what type of issues did
you work on?
I just vaguely recall, it was an EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity]
type of thing, so you know the typical topics that come up. It’s
just, “Oh, well, now I’ve been reverse-discriminated against
by y’all sticking me on this particular forum!”
That’s funny. You mentioned some of the work you did with the
post-landing, the life support systems and the reaction control system,
when you were working with that. If you can just kind of describe
some of that testing that you were doing, like on the post-landing,
the life support [systems].
That’s very interesting because, like I said, one of the very
first jobs was doing the failure modes and effects analysis. The next
thing they said is, “All right, John, why don’t you define
the radiation test environment, because we’re trying to qualify
this spacecraft. Figure out what we need to design to simulate the
spacecraft being out in the Pacific for forty-eight hours.”
We had to simulate inside Building 260 a test of the Apollo Spacecraft.
We had to simulate the sea state, we had to simulate the humidity,
we had to simulate the temperature. So they asked me, “What
sort of solar radiation can we expect the spacecraft to see, and how
can we simulate it inside of Building 260?”
So once again, they send you back to the books. Do your research,
do your calculations. Okay, I need this amount of radiating heat over
the surface, and then you need to program it like the solar cycle
so it comes up, you know, like say you had a cloudless day, what would
the solar cycle look like? It ended up being a very complex set of
conditions to simulate what a spacecraft would see in open seas, and
to get the heat load that would represent, once again, the worst-case
environment. We were actually stacking worst on worst because we were
having worst-case thermal plus worst-case humidity, which it probably
would never get, but if you can survive these under normal conditions,
the spacecraft was qualified up to this. So that was another activity
which was strictly a design requirements activity that they had me
do very shortly after I joined NASA.
In addition, the other thing is because we were a fairly small division,
we did not just simply write up a test and turn it over to the test
division to do. We ended up writing up the test and being test subjects
of the procedures that we wrote. So you end up having to volunteer,
“Well, you be a test subject for this test. I want to run this
one,” but you ended up being a test subject for somebody else’s
test. So that’s why I’m saying you got to experience what
it takes to design systems very intimately, so you got to see various
aspects. Not only the calculations, not only procedure. You participate,
so we were actual participants. We were the guinea pigs in a lot of
Do you recall any of the ones where you were the test subject?
Yes. There were several. One was in a contingency egress test where
you had three incapacitated crew people in the water. We ran that
inside of Building 260 in a water tank we had built for the post-landing
qualification for ECLS [Environmental Control and Life Support]. They
suited us up in the crew suits because what they were trying to do
is develop procedures for the swimmers or the rescue team to open
the spacecraft, extract the crew, and secure the spacecraft so we
could have written procedures and know that they worked and you didn’t
have any gaps and you didn’t drown somebody in the process.
So doing it inside of a pool, you could go through the steps very
methodically. For that particular test, I was just simply a test subject.
What were some of the others?
That gets a little farther downstream. After I had worked a couple
of the Apollo recovery missions themselves, I got assigned another
duty, which was to be the project engineer for the Mobile Quarantine
Facility. You’re aware that we had imposed conditions that we
had to quarantine the crew after coming back from a mission. So we
now have the situation, you’ve got to develop hardware, qualify
it, develop procedures, and execute the quarantine of the crew that’s
been exposed to lunar surface.
The hardware was designed by the time I got to NASA. It was being
actually manufactured, I think, in the mid-1960s. I don’t remember
whether it was in 1967 or ‘68 I was asked to take over the project
for the final test and qualification, to prepare for operations. But
there, Melpar [Incorporated] was the design company. They subcontracted
to Airstream to build the shell. The quarantine facility was a fairly
complex—it looks like an Airstream trailer from the outside,
but on the inside it was very, very different because we had to maintain
biological isolation of the crew once we got them inside.
Now, in addition to making sure that the equipment would maintain
the biological isolation, there were multiple tests that we ran on
that. One, after the crew was brought inside the quarantine facility,
they were transferred from the ship to land to go over to the airport
and to be transported by aircraft back to JSC, and then transported
by land to the Lunar Receiving Lab. So we had to qualify the whole
unit for operations shipboard, we had to qualify it for operations
airborne, and we had to qualify it for all the immediate transport
activities, all while maintaining quarantine and biological isolation
of the inside from the outside.
To do the shipboard qualification after we had the first unit built,
we put the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard a destroyer in Norfolk,
Virginia, and took it out for sea trials. What we were trying to do
at that time is actually having the hardware aboard a ship in actual
sea-state environments. So you’re operating aboard, shipboard,
using shipboard power. You’re dependent upon the crew to provide
you all your external systems. You were exposing it to the sea environment.
All this time, you want to make sure everything operates and nothing
leaked, because that’s the conditions that you had to do. So
we did that particular test to qualify it for the shipboard environment.
To qualify it for the aircraft environment—now, once again,
I was a test subject inside of that one. To qualify it for aircraft
environment, we had this unusual situation. The Mobile Quarantine
Facility is designed to be transported by C-133 or C-141 aircraft,
and your cruising altitude was around 35,000 to 40,000 feet. If you
had rapid decompression aboard the aircraft, you wanted to make sure
that the structure of the quarantine facility would not destructively
fail. We had oxygen onboard the quarantine facility because if you
had loss of cabin pressure, you had to make sure everybody’s
got oxygen onboard. So that’s why it’s not quite your
standard Airstream trailer.
Aboard the aircraft, also you have different power supplies than what
you have shipboard or land-based. So to simulate the case of being
aboard an aircraft and going through rapid depressurization, we used
the vacuum chamber here on site. We put the whole unit in it with
test subjects inside, dropped the pressure to be equivalent to 35,000
feet, and depressurized the chamber. Is everything going to work?
Obviously you’ve got backup safety equipment, because you are
putting yourself at risk anytime you do any of these things.
In doing any test, you have to be very conscious of safety of personnel.
So not only are you testing systems to ensure that you have the failure
tolerance of any, you might say reasonable contingency, you actually
test the hardware under those same conditions. So that was to qualify
the equipment aboard rapid depressurization of aircraft. Obviously,
we didn’t go up on the aircraft and depressurize because you’re
putting too many people at risk to try to do something like that.
Now, what we finally did to get the final qualification of the Mobile
Quarantine Facility and its associated equipment was to do a parallel
mission on the Apollo 9 mission. We loaded the quarantine facility
aboard the prime recovery ship for Apollo 9, went out to sea, picked
up the crew and the spacecraft, and we simulated all of the steps
that we would have to go through from the time we recovered the crew
to the time we got to the Lunar Receiving Lab. So we did, literally,
a full dry run of everything we would have to do for the lunar mission
on Apollo 9. So that is to give you the idea of the extensiveness
of the test activities that we went through.
I know you worked with Apollo 6 on the ship, and Apollo 9. What other
missions prior to Apollo 11, the Apollo missions, were you covering?
I worked Apollo 7 and Apollo 8, but only for the deactivation part,
for the deactivation of the spacecraft. On those missions—and
at that time, I was heading up the deactivation team, the land-based
deactivation team, so I did not go aboard the ship. I waited until
the ship came into port, and then after they off-loaded the spacecraft
and brought it to the hangar where we could start our activities,
then we had a crew go in and safe the pyrotechnics, and they flushed
out all the propellant. So on those two missions, my recovery operation
was just limited to the post-flight deactivation of the spacecraft.
Did you ever go to Florida as part of the recovery work that they
were doing out there for the launch?
No, I did not cover any of the launch abort activities.
In 1967, though, you went to UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles]
for a technical course in advanced propulsions systems. How did that
That was a filler. The reason I say it’s a filler, we had the
Apollo fire [Apollo 1] earlier that year, as you recall. Now we had
to have an investigation. What caused the fire? What are we going
to do to correct it? So we ended up with a stand-down of flights.
So NASA offered, since we weren’t doing real-time missions,
do you want to take some of these courses which will give you some
insight, to develop your career is basically what it was. So there
was an assortment of courses being offered to NASA employees at the
time, because we finished the Gemini. Apollo is on hold. So what are
you going to do with the people? So that really was a filler activity
that allowed me some experience for later in my career, to understand
technologically what are involved with all these different propulsion
During that time, as you mentioned, the Apollo 1 fire. Can you talk
just for a moment about the atmosphere onsite and at the Center, and
how the fire affected any of your testing that was being done for
the MQF [Mobile Quarantine Facility] or for the fireproofing and that
sort of thing?
Very interesting you should ask that, because there was a direct relationship.
Because of the Apollo fire, we were asked to reexamine everything
inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility, because we could potentially
be in an oxygen-rich environment, which is the depressurization case
where you’re dumping pure oxygen inside the system. So we had
the design team go through the materials that were contained in the
Mobile Quarantine Facility and say, “Are any of these susceptible
to an oxygen-rich atmosphere?” The answer came up yes. There
was fabric material that could be potentially flammable in an oxygen-rich
environment, and a lot of the inner structure panels were made out
of wood, because we did not—it’s just, “Hey, we’ll
use what’s existing, you know, don’t redesign everything.”
But since we’d already accepted the design and we had it built,
we said, “Well, what can we do?”
One activity was, well, how do you reduce the flammability of the
wood panel? They came up with a fluorocarbon paint that you could
apply on both sides of all of the wooden panels, and that’s
what we did for the mobile quarantine. The fluorocarbon paint, you
could put a blowtorch on it, it would char but it would never openly
combust. It would never go into self-sustained combustion. So that
was another outcome of that wariness of the potential hazards to the
crew and personnel under these oxygen-rich environments.
Along with the Mobile Quarantine Facility, and because of the concern
over possible contamination from the astronauts bringing back from
the Moon, the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination—
—was formed. One of those projects that NASA developed to comply
with their requirements was the Biological Isolation Garment, or the
BIG. There was a lot of controversy about that because of the bulkiness
and the heat, and it was difficult to put on, when they were first
developing it. If you could discuss some of the work that you did
with that, and some of the—I think you did some work investigating
complaints—and some of the work on how the tests were conducting
I was not directly involved in the development of the BIG. My colleague,
Frank Janes, led that activity; matter of fact, this is once again
getting a little ahead. To support the lunar missions, since we didn’t
want the same person to work every mission and we wanted some backups
in every case, the Landing and Recovery Division asked for volunteers
to act as the recovery engineer that would be quarantined with the
crew. There were four of us that said, “I’ll do it.”
I guess before they did that, they put constraints that said they
would prefer you not to have a lot of family commitments and stuff
like that. (laughter) Because they didn’t want to put people
unnecessarily at risk that had a lot of responsibility. So young engineers
are the usual suspects. But those that volunteered besides myself
were [Brock] Randy Stone, Ralph [H.] Culbertson, and Frank Janes.
So there were four of us that volunteered, and we elected to rotate
who was on the inside and who was on the outside for each one of those
But Frank, who has since passed away, was responsible for the development
and qualification of the Biological Isolation Garment. Since that
was an ancillary piece of quarantine equipment that occurred in the
segment between the spacecraft recovery and the [Mobile] Quarantine
Facility, other than how it interacted with the quarantine facility,
I did not really take part in the qualification tests or the development.
But you were aware of some of the issues that they were having.
I’m well aware of that, and as you can read in historical documents,
that there was a lot of controversy over the use of that equipment.
But as you say, the ICBC wanted to take whatever measures they felt
appropriate without compromising the safety of the crew to protect
the other personnel from potential contamination from lunar surface
materials. So that was one of the measures that we took. Because when
you put yourself in a garment that doesn’t leak and you’re
operating in elevated, humid conditions, you run into this heat problem.
So after we did Apollo 12, I think that was the last time we used
that suit. Since Apollo 13 was an abort, we didn’t use it. But
by the time Apollo 14 came around, with the evidence of potential
contamination of lunar material being evaluated from two previous
flights, the ICBC agreed to relinquish the requirement to wear the
BIG between the time the crew was moved from the spacecraft and put
into the quarantine facility.
We talked about Apollo 6 briefly, but can we go back to that for a
minute and just talk about what was involved, maybe in a little more
detail, on making sure that the Command Module was safe once it came
onboard? What type of hardware was developed for any contingencies
or emergency situations? Like you were talking about the hypergolic
materials and that sort of thing. Was there anything that was specifically
developed to take care of any kind of emergency situations if anything
spilled and that sort of thing once it was onboard?
We did not build any special equipment; what we did was develop procedures
to address that particular contingency, because we were not actively
interfacing with the propulsion system, attitude control system, while
it was physically aboard the recovery ship. The system was put into
a safe mode while it was still on parachute. The Apollo Spacecraft
was designed where it would dump the propellants, any excess propellants,
while you were on main chutes. So most of the propellants would have
been dissipated to the atmosphere even before it touched down. At
touchdown, the systems were turned off so there was no power. The
valves would turn off so you got electrical and pressure isolation
to keep the valves from opening or any propellants from being expelled.
So it stayed in this particular configuration until we offloaded the
spacecraft at the land base, where then we hooked up specialized equipment
which would handle toxic and flammable propellants so we could then
actually flush those propellants outside of the spacecraft, and then
put neutralizing solutions to neutralize any residual that remained
What we did aboard the shipboard, and aware that if there was, say,
a broken pipe or there was a leak that occurred, is we had developed
procedures cautioning people that one, you always had the people upwind.
So any fumes or flames were downwind, and you had the sufficient fire
extinguishers and hoses already laid out to cover that contingency.
By anticipating the problem, we developed procedures or counter-measures
to minimize the hazard. So aboard the ship, we just used procedures
and available equipment, versus specialized equipment.
When you were preparing for the Apollo missions and doing the testing—and
this may go back to some of the life support work that you did after
they landed—how much involvement did the Apollo astronauts have
in any of the testing, or how much interaction did you have as an
engineer working on those systems that were going to be supporting
We did not usually interact directly with the crew. We usually had
a [Astronaut] Crew Office representative that would work with us.
So there were people who, like, on a lot of our dry runs, some of
the test subjects would come out of Crew Office. So we had those people
who were our direct participants in each one of the tests. Why put
the astronauts at extra risk doing these qualification tests? So they
had a representative who represented the Astronaut Office and who
looked after their interests and gave feedback to the crew. So that’s
who we interacted with the Crew Office and not directly with the astronauts
themselves. Now, the astronauts themselves did get training aboard
each one of the spacecrafts so they would be familiar with what to
expect and what were the procedures to go through. But since I was
more in systems side of the house and not the training side, I did
not interact directly.
Did you ever have anything to do with the Aircraft Deployed Drift
Reduction System, and the work that they were doing on that at that
No. I’m aware of it. I realize how it works. Once again, when
you’re a representative aboard a ship, you have to know how
it works, what to do about it, what are the intricacies of how it
does operate, because the recovery crews may not be familiar with
Let’s move on to Apollo 11. As you mentioned, there were four
of you that volunteered to be part of the possible quarantine with
the crews in those Apollo missions. Of course, for Apollo 11, you
were chosen as the first one to go in with the crew. How did that
come about that you got picked out of the four volunteers?
Well, it wasn’t a matter of getting picked. You might say it’s
the luck of the draw. We actually drew straws, and the short straw
went in first. I just happened to draw the short straw. Literally,
it’s, “Hey, how do we do this?” You know, everybody
wanted to do it, because to be a part of an event like that, it’s
just really great. But at the same time, I didn’t feel it would
be appropriate to say, “Well, I’m going to be first,”
because why should I be first? So we did that, we just drew straws.
Were you concerned before that? I know, as you mentioned, to be apart
of this history, but were you concerned at all? I think I read that
you had been married just prior to that.
Were you concerned about the possibilities of contamination, or did
your group really take that seriously as a true concern?
It’s interesting you ask that. The ICBC, National Academy of
Science, was very concerned. That’s why we had all these constraints
placed upon us, and that’s why we took what we thought were
all possible measures without impacting the safety of the crew to
ensure that we minimize the hazards. As ICBC stated, there is a potential
back contamination from the lunar surface. Because of problems of
importing pathogens from another environment, you had to take that
concern seriously; therefore, we did everything we thought prudent
to satisfy those concerns. About that time, there was a book out by
Michael Crichton, and I read that book.
I was going to ask you if you read it. (laughter)
I read that book before the mission. Andromeda Strain. Have you read
Okay, so you know the scenario. So you can imagine, there were mixed
feelings floating around about is this real or is this imagined or
what are the possibilities? At the same time, another side of your
brain says, “Well, what are the chances really?” I’d
say that really, if you want to sterilize an environment, what do
you do? You heat it up. You freeze it. Or you expose it to hard radiation.
Right? So you stop and think, “What does the lunar surface see?”
They see these extreme cycles of heat and cold. It’s in a hard
vacuum. It’s been bombarded by harsh radiation all the time.
There’s no atmosphere to filter it. So the chances are that
the lunar surface is very, very sterile under those conditions.
Had there been an atmosphere, say like in Mars—Mars is a different
case because Mars has an atmosphere. I don't know if you’ve
been watching the recent photos back from the [Mars Exploration] Rovers.
Is there moisture? That was the other thing. In a hard vacuum, it’s
hard for life to exist that we know of that would affect biological
processes. You literally have to have moisture, otherwise now we’re
talking about—life without moisture, you’re talking a
completely different realm than what would directly affect us biologically.
So under those conditions, I felt the risks were very, very minimal.
As you mentioned, when they wanted you to have as few as possible
family connections, but then you married just prior to that. Was your
wife concerned at all, or was she worried about it?
I don't know how much she was concerned. It was a situation I had
already agreed to do it, so it’s a little late to back out on
deals like that. So I think you go in there with knowledge, there
is some risk involved, but you agreed to sign up because you think
the risk is minimal. The astronauts, on every flight they go on, they
go over a much higher degree of risk than I was exposed to for back
contamination. You think about the crew going up on any Shuttle flight,
any of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo flights, and think about the dangers
they expose themselves to. To them, the risk is acceptable for what
Let’s talk about your experience on Apollo 11, and if you could,
just walk us through when you went to the ship and when you actually
entered the Mobile Quarantine Facility. If you will, just walk us
through that experience and what your duties were, from once they
came down to when the astronauts were put in, and then when you were
moved here to Houston.
Okay. That’s going to take awhile.
Well, that’s okay. Do you want to take a break first?
Yes, why don’t we take a break?
Because that gets quite involved.
When we stopped we were going to start with your experiences on Apollo
11, so if you want to walk us through those?
All right. I guess, just like on other missions, we had to deploy
all of our hardware to be prepared aboard ship. The port that we sailed
out was Pearl Harbor [Hawaii]. So we went out ahead of the missions,
delivered the hardware, made sure everything was onboard, and checked
everything before we parted dock to make sure we had everything we
needed. Typically, they run recovery exercises with the ship as they’re
going to their recovery point. So you had all of their trial runs
of actually recovering the crew and going through those exercises.
To avoid any problem with the doctor and I being contaminated by a
person aboard the ship, they put us into the [Mobile] Quarantine Facility
and isolated us from outside direct contact, and I don't know exactly
how many days before the lunar landing. It was just about that same
time, because I recall that Dr. [William R.] Carpentier and I were
sitting inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility listening to the voice
down of the lunar landing. So we could follow along, we could follow
along and keep track of how things were going.
Now, the way we maintained biological isolation of the crew from the
recovery personnel after we got the crew inside the Mobile Quarantine
Facility was the Mobile Quarantine Facility was at a slightly lower
pressure than outside, so we had fans that always kept the air coming
into the quarantine facility—if you have any cracks, air would
tend to go in. But all air that was being expelled went through a
very fine porosity biological filter—and speaking of tests,
I had a test over here onsite where personnel from Fort Detrick [Frederick,
Maryland] came by and they actually put spore samples inside the quarantine
on the surfaces. They dusted atmosphere, they put it into liquid systems,
and they then checked for any spores getting out or any spores surviving
a decontamination process.
We did have what was called a decontamination lock built into the
quarantine facility so we could bring things into the quarantine facility
and send things out. The way that the decontamination lock worked
was before anything was sent out of the quarantine facility, the object
was double vacuum packed and sealed in polyethylene containers. It
was then placed in the lock. The lock was then flooded with a sodium
hypochlorite solution and remained in that state for some period of
time, and then the lock was drained down to empty the sodium hypochlorite.
Then, once that cycle was complete, the outer lock door could be opened
so they could remove the item from the lock that was built on the
side of the quarantine facility. That way we didn’t have to
store all of our food onboard, and we could get the samples, the lunar
samples and things, outside the quarantine facility. So that’s
how we operated preceding the crew coming onboard.
Now, as you recall, after the crew were taken out of the spacecraft,
they had their Biological Isolation Garments on. They were then scrubbed
down, I believe, with Betadine [topical antiseptic], with a rescue
swimmer who was also in a suit. The hatch area was also scrubbed down,
and then the crew were picked up by helicopter and then transported
by helicopter while they were in the Biological Isolation Garments
to the deck of the ship. The helicopter was brought down into the
hangar deck and moved over close to the Mobile Quarantine Facility,
and the crew exited there along with Dr. Carpentier. Dr. Carpentier
was aboard the helicopter at that point, and he came in with the crew.
Once we got the crew inside, [we closed the door to the MQF].
I should mention that we had a tunnel that was partially erected but
sealed off on the end. This tunnel was made out of a polyvinyl type
of material, translucent material, and its shape was kept and supported
by metal poles, so it would retain its shape. So it was restrained
to stay open against the negative pressure. It was set up so the end
was sealed off, so when the spacecraft came onboard, the spacecraft
would be brought from the flight deck, lowered down to the hangar
deck, and then towed on a trailer in the hangar deck up to a position
where we could connect the tunnel to the spacecraft.
What they did is then they restrained the tunnel against the spacecraft,
strapped it in place, and now, since the inside of the tunnel was
connected to the Mobile Quarantine Facility, I could go inside the
tunnel, and open up the inner flap. That allowed me to open the spacecraft
door. Once I opened the door, one of the first things that you do
with a spacecraft is you do a photo documentation of what the configuration
is. So here is the as-recovered condition. That’s the very first
thing you do. Then there is a switch configuration check to make sure
exactly what position are all of the switches, so you do that sort
of recording. After those two things were done, then I proceeded to
go ahead and remove—the first thing they really wanted was the
There is a little aside here, that when I opened up that spacecraft—and
people have asked me this. I noticed an unusual smell of this spacecraft
as compared to the other spacecraft I opened, and the smell was like
Fourth of July after fireworks, there’s that scent that you
smell of black powder after firecrackers explode. It’s also
the scent—and this is the country boy speaking—if you
strike two pieces of flint together, you get that same scent. Do you
know what I talking about? I suspect what it was is the lunar surface
has been constantly bombarded by micrometeorites and meteors and things
like that, so it’s churned up. But, like I said, it’s
exposed to a vacuum environment so nothing reacts, because there is
no moisture, there’s no atmosphere, there’s no oxygen
to react the broken rock surface. So I suspect what I was smelling
was some slow oxidation or reaction of the lunar surface material
with our atmosphere and humidity in our atmosphere. Because scents
require a carrier for them to occur, and the nose is quite sensitive
to that sort of thing. I’ve read excerpts from other crew that
they’ve also noticed this somewhat unique scent, the lunar surface
Anyhow, first things they wanted out was the lunar samples. The lunar
samples were contained in an aluminum container that was machined
out of two blocks of aluminum, and they had an iridium knife edge
seal. So anything that they picked up on the lunar surface and placed
in that, once the container was closed, inside the container would
remain in a hard vacuum so you’d have no atmosphere actually
contaminating the sample, so to speak. By the way, those boxes were
actually built here, onsite. They just had machines and machined those
boxes straight out of chunks of raw aluminum. That’s the other
thing about NASA. At that time, you had to build things uniquely for
spaceflight because there was no need nor anything built to deal with
things like this, because you’d never done it before. Anyhow,
having removed the lunar sample turn container from the spacecraft,
I brought it in, double vacuum-packed it, put it through the lock,
and sent it outside. Then Randy [Stone] would tell you what happened
with it after it got outside. I cannot because that’s the last
I saw of it.
In the meantime, I proceeded to go ahead and get the other items out
of there, the film canisters and things like that nature. There was
also a contingency lunar sample bag that I don't know if you’re
aware of. One of the first things that the crew were supposed to do
is—and this is not a sterile sample—but was to put into
a beta cloth bag some rocks and dirt from the lunar sample, because
if they aborted the mission, they didn’t want to go home empty-handed.
So there’s this little bag of rocks and dirt that we brought
inside and kept with us in the Mobile Quarantine Facility because
we didn’t want to lock that out. So it came back to us, all
the way to JSC, inside with us. During that time, you see all the
media of the President [Richard M. Nixon] coming aboard, talking to
crew, so there was a lot of press exposure and excitement. Meantime,
the doctor and I just kept to the background because it’s the
crew’s show, because they’re the one that took the adventure.
But it was interesting talking with the crew just on the off-times,
because we’re just all sitting around chatting about, “What
was it like to go to the Moon and back?”
Were they ready to talk about it at that point?
Yes, they were. Matter of fact, they were very enthused and quite
excited about it. I really think they wanted to share it with the
world, the experience, the uniqueness of the adventure. I don't know
how you would characterize it. I guess any exploration that mankind
has done is an adventure. Just you stop and think of the old world
exploring out and discovery, or looking for a route to China and you
think you’re going there, then you find something else that
you never expected. The explorers that come back from this, carrying
the news, “You won’t believe what we saw, you can’t
imagine these things.” That all out there, that’s beyond
our shores. So the crew were very much like that. They wanted to express,
“Hey, it really was a new and unique experience,” and
everybody was very up, as you can well imagine.
Meanwhile, we did have these nice little off-the-book conversations.
When we got back to Pearl Harbor, we were off-loaded amongst pomp
and ceremony and put aboard a mobile transporter and brought over
to Hickam Air Force Base [Hawaii], where they loaded us aboard a [C]
141 Aircraft, which was the standard aircraft that transported the
Mobile Quarantine Facility. On the way, I guess the word is out, so
the local residents just lined [the roads], so the crew is watching
through the windows.
So they didn’t have it covered? They could see?
No, no, no, they could see the people on the route. They were enjoying
the situation as much as the people that were observing and standing
by to see them come by. At that time, this is the first time humans
have set foot on another body other than the Earth. The enormity of
that accomplishment, it’s amazing. You could tell they were
very happy to be home too, because I think there was, that’s
a very big undertaking and you don’t know what all can get you,
and there are many things that can get you, like I said, that you
had to watch out for. But we were put aboard the aircraft and flew
into Ellington [Air Force Base, Houston, Texas], where we once again
off-loaded in Ellington and put aboard another mobile transporter
and brought back to JSC. Also from the time we landing at Ellington
to the time we went to JSC, the route was lined by spectators and
well-wishers. So I guess at Ellington, they were greeted by their
family on the outside, so they did get to chat with them for a short
Once we got to the Lunar Receiving Lab, we backed the quarantine facility
up to one door, where we sealed the aft section of the Mobile Quarantine
Facility with the Lunar Receiving Lab. Once again, the Lunar Receiving
Lab is also under delta P relative to atmosphere, so any leakage would
have gone in, so we’re not leaking anything out. So we egress
the Mobile Quarantine Facility, went into the Lunar Receiving Lab,
and then I closed up the quarantine facility. We kept the equipment
running so for the time period of the quarantine, the delta P fans
were always maintained at a constant lower pressure, and just like
we do, we made sure we had redundancy both in power supply as well
as equipment. So you do hold the quarantine, so a single failure would
not have breached quarantine while you tried to keep the crew quarantined.
We stored the quarantine facilities—well, I didn’t, but
the quarantine facility was stored onsite under lock, until the time
the quarantine period was lifted.
Inside the Lunar Receiving Lab, we had a little bit more room. To
the crew, the Mobile Quarantine Facility was big compared to the Apollo
Spacecraft, so they really didn’t worry about being cramped
in there because we weren’t in there that long. But in the Lunar
Lab, now you’ve got separate quarters and everything. The crew
went about their debriefs as well as their PAO [Public Affairs Office]
Meanwhile, a couple of days later, first they had to deactivate the
Apollo Spacecraft at Hickam Air Force Base, and then it was shipped
by a C-133 to Ellington, and it was also transported to another bay
at the Lunar Receiving Lab, where they closed the whole bay off with
the spacecraft in it.
After the spacecraft was sealed inside the lunar receiving lab, one
of my other jobs was to finish the equipment removal and decontamination
of the interior of the spacecraft. Because before we released it—the
interior of the spacecraft had a lot of lunar dust and stuff like
that, so it’s considered contaminated. Also, by the flight time
back, your systems, your ECLS systems, your air circulation fluid
systems, were seeing exposure to the lunar surface material. So I
had to go inside the Command Module once it got back to the Lunar
Receiving Lab, remove any other—and at this point, I can’t
remember what else I removed. I thought I had removed a flight recorder
aboard the spacecraft, but I may have removed it inside the Lunar
Receiving Lab. It’s been too [long ago;] procedures will tell
you where it got removed.
But after everything that they wanted out of the spacecraft was taken
out, I had to then go in and use decontaminants for the atmosphere
of the spacecraft as well as the fluid systems inside there, where
I had to put decontaminants inside the fluid system and put para-formaldehyde
inside the Command Module just for atmospheric decontamination. So
it kept me quite busy, so there’s enough work that I did not
get bored while I was inside the Lunar Receiving Lab.
While I was there, I think the crew did take one of them. I do recall
them coming into the spacecraft area, and [Michael] Collins had signed
the spacecraft because he was in Command Module Pilot. He did put
his signature on it while it was inside the Lunar Receiving Lab. While
we were there, we did get to have visitors. My wife did come visit
me occasionally, and it’s nice, but you’ve got this nice
little barrier between you. (laughter) And being newlyweds, you sort
of hated to be separated, but we all endured. So everybody was glad
when the quarantine was over and they let us out.
How long were you in there?
Well, they were counting twenty-one days from the time of departure
from the lunar surface to the time that the quarantine was over. I
think that’s how they counted it. I may be off, from the first
exposure versus departure from the lunar surface, but basically we
had twenty-one days of required quarantine. That included the exposure
time, flight time, and all the travel time.
Describe the MQF and the interior and how it was designed, and maybe
some of the things you did while you were still in that on the ship.
Okay. As I said, Melpar designed the MQF uniquely for this mission.
We used the exterior shell structure and a lot of the interior paneling
that was available. We did not redesign drawers. They already had
drawers, they already had sinks, they already had mirrors, they already
had a shower and a tub. So why go design that? So we used what equipment
we could use that already existed. But even though it may look like
an Airstream trailer from the outside, the entire substructure was
made out of extruded aluminum, and the reason it was built that way
was for structural rigidity, because it had to withstand the landing
loads of the aircraft. So it had rails that were specifically designed
to lock into the cargo rails that are built in the bottom of the C-141
and C-133 aircraft. Of that mass of trailer, they had to withstand
landing loads, so it was much, much stronger than what you would have
in a typical travel trailer.
In addition, we had to put in the decontamination lock. We had to
have aircraft quality seats because we were going to be flying in
an aircraft. We had to have oxygen, emergency oxygen. We had to have
a communication patch panel so we could get signals in and out. So
that’s how we had communication inside and out, for the press
and whatever. We had an interface, we built in a patch panel. The
filters and their fans and the electrical systems that support them
were unique because you don’t run negative delta pressure inside
of travel trailers. We had our onboard power supply, so while we’re
being lifted between the ship and the transporter—matter of
fact, the transporter does not provide us power—so we had to
have a system which was compatible with the shipboard power, which
was one type of power; with the aircraft power, which is another type
of power; with ground facilities power, which is three types. So the
system had to be able to work with any one of those different power
sources. In addition, it had to operate on its own, so we had diesel
generators onboard plus battery backups. So you had multiple power
systems that were built in there, both for redundancy as well as compatibility
for the means of transport or connection to power source.
The tankage it had for holding the wastewater and stuff like that
was conventional materials, but we had to make sure we had the isolation,
sufficient isolation or decontamination. If the case we had to vent
atmosphere, you always vented it through a filter. We had built on
the sides of the quarantine facility two blowout panels, so if you
did suffer rapid decompression, if the decompression was rapid enough,
the panels would fracture rather than the structure failing. But we
utilized things like the air conditioning, we used conventional air
conditioners. We used the existing bunks other than the fireproofing.
We used the existing lavatory and conventional water supply. So we
used available equipment where it suited the purpose, and we designed
unique equipment where the situation demanded it. So even though it
has the shape, it’s not the same thing. Just because it looks
Was there anything, any special requests or any type of food that
the astronauts had requested to have once they came back, and were
you the chef while you were inside?
Well, that goes back to the sea trials. Remember the first sea trials
I told you about where we put it aboard a destroyer? At that time,
the food was provided to us. On those sea trials, I forget who provided
the food, but they had lobster thermidor, they had eggs benedict,
they had all these exotic meals. They don’t mix well with shipboard
operations, especially if you’re feeling a little queasy, so
we asked for quite a bit blander food when we went to the dry run,
for instance. So once again, that’s why you do these tests.
In a real environment, is the food compatible with what you’re
doing? The answer was no. So you change it to suit the situation.
But the crew did not specifically—if they did, they didn’t
One other thing we had aboard the quarantine facility was a Litton
microwave oven. Stop and think, in 1969, microwaves were not very
common; matter of fact, they had just come out. In the sea trials,
there was an interesting meal. Because all you did was just put the
meal in, you just turn the dial, and you nuked it. But interesting
thing happened on the eggs benedict, for instance. You put it in.
It says how long you’re supposed to cook it. You cook it so
many minutes. Take it out. It’s sitting on a plate, and the
egg explodes. So now they tell you about it, “Don’t ever
microwave an egg!” Because it will explode on you.
That’s funny. During the time once you got back to Houston,
you were in the LRL [Lunar Receiving Laboratory]. You were joined
by some people that were inadvertently exposed.
Right. In the LRL, we did have additional people accompany us. We
had a PAO rep. I think we had some LRL support people already were
preplanned to be on the side with the crew, just to facilitate food
preparation and things like that. However, the rules that the ICBC
put down were that if any person handling lunar sample became directly
exposed to the lunar surface materials, they would have to be required
to go in quarantine with the crew at the time of exposure. There were,
I think, two incidents I recall. One was a glove tear. I forget what
the other one was. But in each case, because they were working with
lunar samples, quarantine was compromised with that individual. That
individual had to go through a double-lock to the quarantine side,
to the crew side of the quarantine facility, LRL. Once again, those
were the conditions that we set procedurally up ahead of time.
So you’d already made arrangements in case something happened?
That’s right. So those procedures were already in place, and
that was the protocol that you had to follow if there was a violation
of quarantine or exposure to lunar surface material.
The bag that you brought in that had the rocks and the dirt and everything,
you had that with you as well once you got to the LRL?
Yes. I forget how we turned that over, but we carried it back with
us in the quarantine facility.
Had it been opened up while you were in the MQF?
Took a peek.
So you did look a little. Well, if you want, it’s almost three
o’clock and we talked about stopping about three. We can stop
here and make arrangements for you to come back and we can talk about
your experiences starting with Apollo 12, and if there’s anything
we haven’t talked about Apollo 11 then we can talk about that
then, if that’d be okay.
That’d be fine.