Assessii crew assignments

Aside from the discussions about defining the MS role, there was also the need to assign crewmen to support the flights. In November 1976, Chris Kraft wrote to John Yardley, informing him of the decision to formally assign an astronaut to ASSESS-II by 15 December 1976.23 ''In order to establish proper selection criteria, the FOD is assigning Dr. Robert A. Parker and Dr. Karl G. Henize to work jointly in establishing formal relations with ASSESS Program elements, and to identify those requirements that should apply in selecting the ASSESS crewman.'' On the question of MS responsibilities, Kraft also assured Yardley that JSC personnel ''will constructively approach and support the resolution of this issue within the agency.''

Based on a general MS responsibilities memo, issued on 5 November 1976 by Bernard T. Nolan, the Program Manager of ASSESS-II, and on further discussions between Karl Henize and Lee Weaver in December 1976 to refine the role, the detailed responsibilities for the MS assigned to ASSESS-II were defined.24

Pre-mission, the MS would participate in both the crew training plan and the crew activity plan, contributing to payload crew safety and assisting the mission manager as required.

During the mission, the responsibilities of the MS would be divided into three phases. During pre-flight, he would schedule pre-flight activities and coordinate pre-flight planning. During the mission itself, he would coordinate PS activities with aircraft manoeuvres, resolve experiment conflicts caused by short-term changes to the flight plans (as a result of unexpected winds, changes in altitude and other factors), and coordinate long-term flight operation changes with the Payload Operations Control Center (POCC). He would also coordinate POCC-PS communications, act as a single interface between the aircraft flight crew and the payload crew, provide status reports to POCC and be responsible to the commander of the flight for in-flight payload and payload crew safety. Further, he would operate designated experiments and equipment, monitor power distribution and assist the PS as time permitted. During post-flight, he would schedule post-flight activities, complete the MS report, and participate in briefings.

Post-mission, the MS would write his own individual report and participate in the overall mission report.

The 5 November memo and additional notes by Henize and Weaver constituted the core document for a more general, NASA-wide agreement on the role of the MS, although this would not be reached for several months. With the role having been initially discussed in general terms, it was not until July 1976 that it was given more serious consideration. As a result, a stand-off developed between JSC and MSFC mission management, and even referring the dispute to NASA HQ failed to resolve the problem until November 1976, when the ASSESS Program Manager finally proposed MS role criteria that were accepted by the Office of Space Flight, JSC and MSC. All that remained now was to select the MS.

Initially Bill Lenoir was nominated, but due to his prior workload, he did not feel he could devote 100 per cent of his time to the role. Therefore, Dr. Karl Henize was nominated as prime MS for ASSESS-II early in December 1976, based upon his academic experience (astronomy), past astronaut assignments (support for Apollo and Skylab) and previous participation. In the first interim progress report on the ASSESS-II mission, it was noted that Henize was "working into the role very smoothly. His functions are developing and include management of several mission systems, experiments and ground communications. It appears this very difficult problem [that of defining the role of the MS] has reached solution in ASSESS and may set a proper pattern for Spacelab,'' That final comment raised some issues back at JSC, where (unidentified) handwritten notes questioned the statement: "Whose views does this comment represent.. .with what authority?'' Clearly, the subject of exactly what a mission specialist would be responsible for on Spacelab missions was still under debate.25

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