It was produced in From the History Channel website  :. Failure Is Not An Option tells the story of the men and women behind the space program — the men and women of mission control. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 23, Entertainment Weekly. Word of Mouth.
New Hampshire Public Radio nhpr. Failure Is Not An Option. Berkley Publishing. Part II: Page 3. IEEE Spectrum magazine. Archived from the original on August 15, When communications failed, the remote site teams were on their own, improvising and taking any action necessary during the period the capsule was in view to restore contact.
The key sites were located at the points for the major Go NoGo decisions, and the locations of the deorbit maneuver.
These sites were usually designated as critical, and the team was augmented with an astronaut CapCom. World War II cargo vessels had been converted into floating sites to track satellites. They were the length of a football field, manned by a makeshift crew recruited from the hiring halls at the local ports. Since the ships carried no cargo, a foot of concrete was poured on the top deck to make them ride lower, and the superstructure was filled with antennas and electronics. Chris Kraft developed the concept of Mercury Control and taught the first generation of controllers.
Like everyone else, he was drinking from a fire hose and needed every bit of help he could get. I was the operations and procedures officer. The job description consisted of keeping anything from falling through the cracks before or during the mission. I wrote the countdowns, prepared all message traffic, made sure the communications were working, briefed the tracking stations on the mission, and gave Kraft any assistance he needed.
I became the scribe of Mercury Control, originating and approving every outgoing Teletype message and most voice communications. Within weeks after I had come on the job in , my relationship with Kraft was solid enough for me to take on responsibility to clear virtually all of the messages without having to bother him. On the first Mercury deployment this got me into big trouble with the U. I sent out a message to one of our controllers requesting information on the health conditions at one of our sites in Nigeria.
There are no nightclubs or bars.
Temperatures are as high as with frequent dust storms. The Nigerian government intercepted the message and threatened to remove the Peace Corps unless the U. The flap filtered down through the NASA chain of command until it got to me. The teams stayed on site and I got my first lesson in international diplomacy. On the last day of March , five months after my arrival, the tracking network was declared operational. We had twenty-one sites, thirteen of which were manned. The Soviet Union was our rival in space. While we were blowing up rockets, they were impacting the Moon with a probe.
They even photographed the far side. Each Russian breakthrough came as a shock. Most Americans followed the selection and training and further adventures of the seven original astronauts. That was about all they really knew about our infant manned space program.
The astronauts were instant celebrities, not so much selected as anointed. The public, as well as the Mission Control team, was caught up in the beauty pageant aspect of the first manned launch: Which astronaut would be first? Who was the best? In April, as we were deploying for a pair of missions, the Russians beat us again.
Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, and in orbit to boot, and we neophytes in the Space Task Group viewed the Russian success with both frustration and admiration. We packed up our bags, kissed the wife and kids goodbye, and, a few hours later, were once again at Mercury Control.
Marta was now expecting our third child. We were launching increasingly complex missions from the Cape every month. Over half of the year we were TDY, on temporary duty, at the Cape. Unlike the later years in Houston, our wives did not know each other and often lived pretty far apart, so it was a lonely time for them. Compounding the problem was the dispersal of so many of our people to far-flung remote sites.
We felt this pressure and knew we could not resolve it. Once we had the words on paper, each controller taught the entire team about the system he had studied. We did not have this luxury. During a hold in the countdown to fix a leak in the Redstone's hydrogen peroxide system that fueled the control thrusters, Kraft turned to me and said, "How about getting me a couple of cartons of milk from the roach coach? Television cameras showed the events on the pad as the main and reserve landing parachutes popped out of their stowage compartment at the nose of the capsule, ejected upward and partially opened up. Browse the products and services designed to meet the needs of these common industry roles:. And it added a lot to my already big preexisting respect to the pioneers of space flight learning how brave and sometimes how lucky they were.
Working in Mercury Control, I was fortunate: I could easily stay in touch by phone—and I could share with Marta the excitement and pride that we felt as the program went forward. Following two successful Redstone launches, we moved on to the unmanned Atlas mission, which was designed to test the spacecraft and the global network. The mission that would follow was the one we had been waiting for. It was planned to launch the first American into space. After we arrived at the Cape, we found that the military, which actually ran the Cape and nearby Patrick AFB, as well as the recovery forces, had pulled the plug on our resources and reallocated them to deal with one of the worst crises of the Cold War.
Initially planned under the Eisenhower administration, this ill-advised invasion had probably been doomed from the outset, but its fate was sealed when President Kennedy, only a few months into his term and ambivalent about the entire operation, withheld American air support. All this was happening a few hundred miles to the south of the Cape. We sat in our hotel rooms, anxiously waiting to recover the resources we needed for the next two missions, our eyes glued to the television sets. The message was understood in Washington, and it was taken to heart at the Cape.
I find it difficult today to convey the intense frustration and near despair as we picked ourselves up after each setback, determined to break the jinx on the program.
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Now we were going for two back-to-back missions—launching an unmanned Atlas downrange and then carrying out our first manned Redstone mission. We tried not to think about the gaps in knowledge, experience, and technology in our program—they were big enough to drive a truck through—and we could never forget that while we were screwing around with baby steps in suborbital missions the Russians had put a man in orbit.
So we would continue with our preparations at the Cape, tired of being one step behind. It seemed like no matter what we did, the Russians were always one step ahead. Testing went smoothly once we regained the test range and network resources. The Mercury network, operational less than a month when we deployed, was working beautifully.
We split the Canary Islands team and sent a small group to Nigeria and Zanzibar. The simulation team was composed of another small group of controllers. Their task was to create what we now call virtual reality—to replicate, in chillingly convincing detail, every element of the mission, from countdown to completion.
The simulation supervisor SimSup had five people playing the roles of thirty. They would supply a data stream—telemetry, command, radar tracking, voice reports—and our controllers would have to respond. How quickly would they recognize and solve problems? How well did the mission rules and the procedures used in the various facilities and the network function in real time?
Were we ready?
SimSup would prepare and send out magnetic tapes to each of the Mercury facilities. For instance, a single orbit takes ninety minutes. The tapes would be played in sequence, starting at the Mercury Control Center at the Cape. At four minutes after simulated launch, Bermuda would start playing their tape—so for about six minutes MCC and Bermuda could compare data—then MCC would lose data and a few minutes after that the Bermuda tape would end.
There would be an eight-minute gap before the tape at the Canary Islands site would start running.