Block II Is Born

Despite the resistance, Shea made at least one major contribution that helped create hope that the drifting program would actually get to the moon. The number of design changes required to produce a spacecraft was so overwhelming and constant that the contractor could not make progress in the face of the evolving requirements. Shea decided that the existing spacecraft design would be frozen and designated ''Block I.'' It might fly a test mission or two in earth orbit, but not all the way to the moon. It would not be suitable for lunar landing because it would lack the LM docking adapter and a tunnel to transfer the crew between the two spacecraft. After Block I was completed, the required changes would be incorporated all at once into an entirely new design that would become the hardware that would really fly to the moon. As Shea wrote to Mueller, ''Block II was born.''42

Aaron Cohen, though part of the Houston culture, recalled Shea's decision ''like coming out to really realizing we really had to go build a piece of hardware to go to the moon.'' Cohen gave Shea great credit for getting the Apollo program serious and moving: ''He kept us on the right track. He didn't let us overdo it and he didn't let us underdo it.''43 Cohen believed that the Block II decision represented the turning point in Apollo.

In far-away Cambridge, these changes in the Apollo program would have direct bearing on the engineering of the guidance system and on the astronauts' roles in flight. Because headquarters was increasingly concerned about the IL's ability to handle the program, its managers realigned the contract to offload some of the work to the contractors so the IL engineers could take on the job of redesigning Block II.44 Now AC Sparkplug was the prime contractor, reporting directly to NASA Houston, and Kolls-man, Sperry, and Raytheon would report to them. The IL would also report to Houston, and serve as designer and systems integrator, but without cognizance over the contractors or authority over production hardware.

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