As Apollo lunar efforts gathered pace, activities under AAP remained very much in its shadow. While assignment to the first Apollo ''test'' missions was widely seen as a step toward a higher profile lunar landing crew, an assignment to the equally important

AAP development work to ensure mission success and crew safety was often perceived as a slower progression in an astronaut's career. The other factor involved in preparing crews for missions was the availability of simulators and crew training teams. With the priority to get Apollo to the Moon at least once by the end of 1969, it was necessary to assign Apollo astronauts to training cycles to give them as much simulator time as necessary. By December 1966, there were twenty-seven astronauts (all from the pilot groups of 1959, 1962, 1963 or 1966) named in nine "crews" for the first Block I and II Apollo missions. The system developed for crew assignment under the Gemini programme was modified to work for Apollo as well. A back-up crew on one mission would skip the next two missions in order to train to fly the fourth. Despite a number of necessary individual crew member changes, this was essentially how the Apollo crewing system worked from 1966 to 1972. The Apollo 1 pad fire of 27 January 1967 was a tragic blow that set the maiden launch of a manned Apollo back over eighteen months, but the crews continued generic training until a new manifest was devised.

In May 1967, twelve astronauts assigned to AAP completed a walkthrough of the proposed Saturn S-IVB workshop mock-up, in order to evaluate habitability, stowage and simulated EVA operations. This came as part of their programme of visits to AAP contractors, NASA field centres and proposed experiments across the country. An astronaut's diary during such technical assignments was usually filled with attendance at countless meetings, reviews and briefings, before returning to report to other members of the Branch Office, or to the CB in general if it related to the wider Apollo programme. The technical support areas given to the four AAP-assigned scientist-astronauts at this time were:

Garriott: Communications

Gibson: Crew quarters layout and controls

Kerwin: Food, water and IVA

Michel: Hand holds, tethers and foot rails

As a professional geologist and scientist-astronaut, Jack Schmitt was assigned to Apollo development issues rather than to AAP, utilising his unique talents in support of the early landing missions while hoping for an assignment to the Moon himself. He did not participate in the S-IVB workshop review, focusing instead on AAP lunar plans.

In addition to the three astronauts lost in the Apollo 1 pad fire, there were two further losses to the corps in 1967. Ed Givens died in a car crash in June and C.C. Williams in a plane crash that October. The loss of five of the assigned Apollo crew members meant others had to be reassigned in their places. Al Bean moved. Pete Conrad's Apollo crew and was replaced as Head of AAP by Gordon Cooper. He in turn was moved to a back-up position on Apollo in early 1968. Owen Garriott filled the AAP role until November 1968, then Walt Cunningham took the reins. By August 1967, the second group of eleven scientist-astronauts had completed their academic training and were about to undergo a year at flight school. By 1969, only nine of the group were available for astronaut assignment, with Tony Llewellyn and Brian O'Leary having left the astronaut programme during 1968.

In April 1969, the new astronauts received their technical assignments, which divided the group between Apollo and Apollo Applications. Five of them (Joe Allen, Phil Chapman, Tony England, Karl Henize and Bob Parker) were assigned initially to Apollo support issues, while the other four (Don Holmquest, Story Musgrave, Bill Lenoir and Bill Thornton), together with Group 5 pilot (and space physicist) Don Lind, were assigned to the AAP group. Some fifteen years later, Karl Henize stated that although he was assigned initially to support an Apollo mission (Apollo 15), his real goal lay elsewhere. ''By that time [1970], there was no hope of my getting a lunar flight, but that had never been my ambition anyway. My aim when I entered the programme in 1967 was to fly on a Skylab mission, of which there were several more planned at that time than were actually flown.''6

Holmquest's AAP assignment was on habitability and medical experiments, which he worked on for the next eighteen months. According to Walt Cunningham,7 Holmquest thought that working with the staff assigned to develop Skylab medical experiments would be an advantage in securing an early seat on the Skylab mission, while still retaining links to his medical career. This was all to no avail, however, and when it became evident that he would not fly on Skylab or receive a back-up assignment, he opted for a leave of absence. This became a second leave and led to him resigning from NASA in September 1973, around the time of the second manned Skylab flight. Lenoir, Musgrave and Thornton all received initial technical assignments on AAP/Skylab (in hardware and experiment development) pending assignment to back-up or support roles.

When Chapman came back from flight school, he was assigned to Frank Borman's team evaluating future space station designs after the first OWS. Part of these studies related to the potential for using the Saturn V to launch larger ''Skylab''-type space stations pending the availability of more permanent structures in orbit. In December 1969, the CB became involved in evaluating crew stations for such a workshop. The design of what was termed the Saturn V Workshop (SVWS) featured elements that were being developed for Skylab A/B, such as a Multiple Docking Adapter to accommodate both Apollo CSMs and Shuttle orbiters, and an upgraded Apollo Telescope Mount facility. There were also discussions to consider whether gravitational experiments could be included on the research programme for the second ''Skylab''. During most of 1969, the Measurement Systems Laboratory at MIT had been investigating such experiments and their potential for future programmes. The team at MIT had hoped that the experiment could be formally proposed as an SWS-II experiment by March 1970, but it soon became clear that a second workshop was not a realistic option given the existing budget restrictions. Though the idea of''Skylab B'' rumbled along for some months, the programme never formally received funding. Had the gravitational experiment actually been assigned, Chapman (with his former association with MIT) would have been a likely candidate to act as the principal investigator, or at least as a co-investigator.8

This experiment would be proposed for a circum-solar probe after first evaluating the technology aboard Skylab B. As Chapman pointed out in his memo, ''There are good reasons for considering flying a version of the proposed apparatus on a manned orbital workshop. This would provide a zero-G checkout of the advanced inertial instrumentation required and make good use of the capabilities of man as a developmental test engineer.'' The design of the experiment featured a large sphere (the size of which depended upon the final configuration) mounted on three gimbals in a cube frame measuring a metre on each side, and as close to the centre of mass of the station as possible to reduce external forces. There would also have been a separate electronics box of about 30 cm square, with approximately 100 kg of mass and a power supply of up to fifty watts. It was envisaged that twenty hours operation would be sufficient during the mission, with onboard recording available, although it would have taken up to ten man-hours to set up and calibrate the experiment. Unfortunately this experiment, like the follow-on ''Skylab'' OWS, never proceeded to flight status.

In August 1969, seven former USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory astronauts transferred to NASA upon the cancellation of that programme. Their previous training on Gemini systems under the MOL programme meant they would be helpful in both AAP and Apollo. From this group, Bob Crippen, Bob Overmyer and Dick Truly were assigned to the AAP Branch Office, with the other four (Karol Bobko, Gordon Fullerton, Hank Hartsfield and Don Peterson) assigned initially to the Apollo Branch Office.

With Apollo on track to achieve its primary goal, developments under AAP picked up pace as the pressure to prove the Apollo hardware eased. Now, with the prospect of launching at least one orbital workshop with three manned missions in the early 1970s, and the possibility of a second laboratory in the middle of the decade, NASA began to confirm plans that it had been debating for some years. In May 1969, the space agency decided to follow the ''dry'' workshop profile for AAP instead of the more complicated ''wet'' workshop. Then, on 17 February 1970, the name AAP was dropped in favour of a more publicly appealing name - Skylab (laboratory in the sky). In August 1970, Pete Conrad became the new Chief of the CB Skylab Branch, a position he held until the end of the flight programme in 1974.

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