Apollo Guidance Computer Activities

AGC: Conference 4 - Bill Tindall and Conflict within Apollo

Apollo Guidance Computer History Project

Fourth conference

September 6, 2002

Bill Tindall and Conflicts within Apollo

ED COPPS: Did you ever talk to Bill Tindall from NASA?

DAVID MINDELL: We have his Tindallgrams. Actually, we've been in touch with his daughter. She's been looking at our Website with a lot of interest.

ED COPPS: I met a lot of people on Apollo at NASA and everywhere and I would say that certainly he was one of the really giant figures. There were plenty of people that got more credit than he did and plenty of people that had higher positions and people that got in the New York Times and people that actually went to the moon. But Bill Tindall as far as the guidance and navigation issues, and I'm sure there were many others, he had a very prominent role. His role--it wasn't a prominent role. He had a very important--

DAN LICKLY: --behind the scenes.

ED COPPS: --behind the scenes role in making the thing successful.

DAN LICKLY: Tindall meetings, where he'd get everybody together and knock their heads.

ED COPPS: : He'd come up, and we'd have luncheon. We used to have beer, and somebody would go out for subs and the beer would come in and the subs and people would sit around. One day Tindall just gave us hell, you know? He really beat us up. "How can you possibly do this? Here you sit at the very center of the success or failure of this extremely important program. You're behind. Get it through your head you are fucking this thing up." And he was right in many ways. And I don't think there are many people who we could have taken that from, because we were pretty snotty and pretty arrogant people. We really were pretty arrogant people. He was the only guy that had the personal integrity that we could listen.

DAN LICKLY: He didn't just deal with us, though, he had meetings in Houston with everybody. He knocked everybody.

ED COPPS: He helped to shape us up, and we needed shaping up. We spent a lot of years running at a pace that never would have succeeded.

JOHN MILLER: I would say there were two generalizations. First of all, there was a constant battle or debate going on about the automation aspects, and that the astronauts on one side wanted to fly the vehicle. I mean they were test pilots, they wanted to fly the vehicle. Over on the instrumentation side, were, you know, automatic control, we're going to run this thing and the computer will run the thing. And that battle went on kind of constantly.

The second thing is in the development of the whole guidance navigation control system one must separate out certain aspects, the software from the rest of the hardware from the following perspective: once the hardware design was done and the prototypes had been built, it went to contractors and the contractors, you know, they were in the revenue profit motive operations. The only real flight deliverable that came out of the Instrumentation Lab was the software, that then went to Raytheon to be made into hardware.

Because of this operation, that went on and the difficulties of getting the software done--there was two sides. NASA wanted it earlier and the lab, you know, was working as hard as it could to produce it. It so colored the relationship following Apollo, that NASA would not put the laboratory into an online position again to develop something and produce it that was required for flight.


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