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Paul Dye was NASA's lead flight director for three Phase 1 missions: STS-79, STS-86, and STS-91. As a flight director, Dye was responsible for planning, directing, and controlling the activities of the space shuttle team during these human space flight operations.
Prior to Phase 1, Dye was a section head in the Mechanical Systems Section of NASA's Systems Division, where he worked with spacecraft systems. During this time, he was a member of a team that traveled to Russia to ascertain the feasibility of docking the shuttle to the Mir.
Dye made a number of subsequent trips to Russia to support Phase 1 activities. While on one of his trips to Russia, he was in the Russian Mission Control Center when the Spektr was rammed June 25, 1997, by the Progress resupply ship.
In his Oral History, Dye commented on being a flight director. The following remarks focus on one aspect of what might happen as the team approaches a launch date:
"You never really relax when you're flying with a big spacecraft and you're responsible for half a million pounds of spacecraft up there, but I think the more tense times come, for instance, in the last two weeks before flight.
"We have something that we talk about, that was described to me when I came here. I wasn't here for Apollo, but it was described to me as the 'burning rocks syndrome.' People tend to keep little problems in the back of their minds until they get really close to flight, and they can't stand it anymore and they have to bring those issues up.
"It's called 'burning rocks' because apparently just before the Apollo 11 moon landing, some scientist, who was well respected in his field said, 'I'm really afraid that when the lunar module engine touches the moon, that it could be the wrong composition of chemicals and the moon might explode.' And, of course, he brought this up a couple of hours before powered descent. Well, [I'm sure the flight director thought], thank you very much, but couldn't you have told me about this before we went to the moon? Now what do I do with this problem?"
Paul Dye Oral History (PDF)
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