NASA Podcasts

Historic Recordings: KSC Reports 28, Interview with John Gossett, Centaur Launch Vehicle
1967
 
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LAUNCH COMMENTATOR:
Five... four...

Sound of rocket engines firing

NARRATOR:
KSC Reports... a weekly coverage of events at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's John F. Kennedy Space Center.

NARRATOR:
Launch crews at the Kennedy Space Center are preparing to send another unmanned spacecraft to the moon in the next few days to gather more information about a possible landing site for the Apollo astronauts who will later explore the moon. John Gossett, chief of Centaur launch operations branch at the center, says the launch is set for no earlier than July 13th. The payload is a Surveyor spacecraft that is designed to make a soft landing on the moon.

GOSSETT:
The mission is going to be to take a television camera to look around at the various lunar surface and its rocks, and the spacecraft itself to determine whether or not it settled in dust or how deep it settles, what the terrain looks like, whether it looks like it's eroded, or whether it looks like it doesn't change with time. And all of this information is going to be sent back to us by television. We'll also have a little digger on the spacecraft, a little hand that can reach out and dig around on the lunar surface to see the composition of the soil around it to see whether it is dusty or easily dug, or contains rocks. And we can use all this information to determine how safe it might be for an astronaut to land, get out of his capsule, and walk around. It's the principal purpose of this experiment to ensure that the astronaut can land, get around on the moon in as much safety as possibly can have.

NARRATOR:
Two previous Surveyors have soft landed on the moon and sent back to Earth pictures and data about conditions at two other possible landing sites. Centaur launch vehicles are used in the Surveyor program, combining an Atlas booster with an upper stage rocket propelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen -- two extremely cold elements that required development of new technology to harness their potential power for rocket flights.

GOSSETT:
It's had quite a history to get to the place to where it is today where it successfully launches these Surveyor spacecraft. It was the lead vehicle in the development of liquid hydrogen as a fuel and it underwent about every problem that could be associated with the use of such a super-cooled fluid as hydrogen. Though the effort has been worth it, because what we're after is the most possible energy, and therefore the most capability that we can get out of any given size of launch vehicle. Hydrogen affords us the maximum in this area.

NARRATOR:
Gossett says the Centaur development began back in 1958, when liquid hydrogen was little more than a laboratory curiosity. Experiments with this four-hundred-twenty-three-degrees-below-zero liquid led to the development of pumps that could operate at temperatures only 25 degrees above absolute zero, and to rocket engines using liquid hydrogen as fuel. Flight tests of the Centaur stage began in 1962, with a dozen vehicles launched to date. Gossett says Centaur will be the launch vehicle for other scientific unmanned spacecraft after the Surveyor program is competed.

GOSSETT:
In the near future, it will launch the OAO, which is an orbiting astronomical observatory, which will be a telescope in the sky, which will greatly enhance our knowledge since it doesn't have to look through the atmosphere and undergo all of the distortions associated with looking at stars. Principally, it would eliminate the twinkling that you might see as you look up at the stars. Other than that, there will be additional Mariner missions, which we will launch payloads to Mars to get much better and closer looks. We will launch the so-called applications technology satellites where we have satellites that are looking to the future and types of systems that can be used. They're experimental satellites which try out new techniques and new ways of accomplishing things.

NARRATOR:
Centaur is expected to be one of the principal launch vehicles used in our national space program in the immediate years ahead.

LAUNCH COMMENTATOR:
"Five... four..."

Sound of rocket engines firing

NARRATOR:
This has been KSC Reports... a weekly coverage of events at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's John F. Kennedy Space Center.

 
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