Historian’s Corner (Oct. 2009)
By: Carlos de Moraes


THE DATE- December 20, 1960. THE OCCASION-delivery of the last P5M-2 to the U.S. Navy. THE SPEAKER- William B. Bergen, President of the Martin Co. Quoted the next day in the   Baltimore Sun, Mr. Bergen noted that  “...During the past 50 years The Martin Co. has built 12,400 planes, but has now closed the books on aircraft production as it turns to the business of spaceflight.” He  added  that “... Martin has every expectation that Baltimore, with the start we already have here , will emerge in the future as the space capital of the free world. Now on our horizon are such projects as Dyna-Soar and Apollo -    beginnings of Martin’s contribution to an exciting and dynamic era in which man will delve into space.”  The prophesy he was expounding
would take a tortuous trail and a decade just to get to Viking, the starting point.

The start he referred to includes the first Martin Viking, a research rocket designed to probe the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, The Vanguard rocket for launching small satellites into earth orbit, and the Dyna- Soar and Gemini launch vehicles.  The Vanguard initially stubbed its toe, but was ultimately successful. The Dyna-Soar program was subsequently cancelled.

The Apollo contract was  one of three awarded by NASA to originate preliminary designs and plans for the nations lunar exploration program- Convair and G.E.’s  Space Vehicle  Department were the other two. A lot of internal interest developed during this contract as it offered fulfillment of President Bergen’s prophesy. When we went down to make our final presentation in Hampton, Va. We were cheered on by a crowd, our bus was bedecked with ribbons and sign urging us to beat Convair and G.E. much like a send off to a football bowl contest. Unusual in my experience!                                                                                            

NASA’s RFP for the Apollo Spacecraft System followed some nine months later. It is well known that Martin did not win this contract. It is less well known that, as reported in “Chariots for Apollo” one of the NASA history series, NASA’s Apollo Source Board recommended the Martin Co. concluding that “ The Martin Company is considered the outstanding source for the Apollo prime contractor.”

Loss of the Apollo prime contract was followed a year later by the loss of the Lunar Exploration Module. NASA reported, “A major factor in Grumman’s selection had been its facilities.”  Another factor was the merger with American Marietta. Martin Marietta was born, and in the  process corporate management was not able to focus on the LEM Proposal as it had with  the
Apollo Proposal. Having been unsuccessful in the manned spacecraft arena, the focus turned to the unmanned scientific spacecraft arena. The first success was winning a program definition phase for a proposed Solar Probe spacecraft. This was a joint proposal with the RIAS group. Unfortunately. the program never materialized.      

It was becoming clear that Martin had recognized technical skills in the space arena, but something was missing in the quest to win major space programs. Hence, in 1964, President Bergen established in his office a Space Exploration Group under the direction of Bud Carlson. The purpose was to facilitate bringing to bear the capabilities of the whole company in the pursuit of space business. Our initial focus was the NASA’s evolving Mars exploration program, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where we had not been a particularly visible voice. That had to be corrected. We had to expand our R&D program to the technologies requisite to a Mars                                                                       exploration program, including the issue of  planetary quarantine. We got active in the AIAA  Spacecraft committee. We won the right to sponsor AIAA’s Mars symposium, “Stepping Stones to Mars,” in Baltimore in March1966. Some 600 AIAA members converged on the city. Speakers included NASA Headquarters and JPL personal  associated with the Mars exploration program. Keynote speakers included Dr. William Pickering, Director of the JPL Laboratory, Dr. Edward C. Welsh, Executive Secretary to the National Aeronautics and Space Council, Edgar Cortright, Director of Planetary Exploration at NASA Headquarters, and William Bergen, President of Martin Marietta. We were getting to know the customer.

The Mars exploration program , Voyager, was to be based on the Saturn V launch vehicle, and consisted of an Orbiter Bus and two Mars lander spacecraft. We were unsuccessful in our bid for the Lander definition contract. During our debriefing re. our proposal Dr. Pickering commended Martin Marietta for its overall proposal, but made it clear that our ability to acquire later phases of the program depended in large measure on having laboratories and other facilities pertinent to the design ,manufacturing, assembly and testing of spacecraft on our campus. Martin Marietta’s response to this was to commit some $20 million to the acquisition     of such facilities. The corporation’s decision was to place them in Denver. Accordingly, on    April 1, 1966 some 35-40 people were transferred from Baltimore to Denver, and ultimately housed on the new second floor of the R&D building. Supporting R&D programs were also transferred, and program direction came under the Denver Division, specifically Al Kullas. Having the corporate commitment for the new facilities we went after the program definition phase of the orbiter bus, and were successful. That win kept us engaged with the customer. The most significant outcome of the Lander and Orbiter phase 1 contracts was that the program was too expensive, and a different approach would have to be conceived. That program was the Viking program. It also consisted of an orbiter bus and a lander, but small enough to be  launched by the Titan III / Centaur.  At the same time, NASA shifted their internal program responsibilities; the Langley Research Center became responsible for the Viking overall program, and for the lander. JPL became responsible for building the orbiter bus in addition to operating the deep space tracking network. Martin Marietta made the decision to continue to support the program while the other potential prime contractors dropped out awaiting for the prime system RFP to follow the conclusion of Phase 1.

We were awarded the only Phase 1 program definition contract for the newly named Viking Spacecraft destined to land on Mars in the mid 1970's. This fact and the corporate commitment for the new facilities, made us think that things seemed to be finally going our way; that is until NASA’s administrator gave a speech in which he announced .the Viking program, and then opined that it was so complex that only the companies in the east or west coast aerospace complexes would be capable of handling it. Denver was, and is still, 1000
miles from the west coast.
We had to face this issue head on! Not only to convince the Administrator of Martin Marietta’s  capabilities, but with those of the Rocky Mountain Region i.e. a third aerospace complex. Remember, it was in his office that The Martin Co. lost the Apollo program. The vehicle we chose for this was a technical symposium  demonstrating those capabilities, and to get him to be the keynote speaker. Colorado’s senior U.S senator  at the time, Gordon Allot, was also the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that approved NASA’s annual  budget.  He agreed to invite Mr. Webb and got him to  commit to July 15 - 16, 1968.The American Astronautical Society, George Morgenthaler president, committed to sponsoring  it, and invited the AIAA to join them as co- sponsors. The stated purpose of the symposium,      “SPACE PROJECTIONS from the ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION,” was to “... exchange recent university, government and industry space developments....and to display the substantial resources resident in the Rocky Mountain Region supporting the national space program.” The Rocky Mountain Federation of States, which was formed by the governors of the seven states, also agreed to co-sponsor the symposium with five governors agreeing to speak at the opening session to present to Mr. Webb the current space research going on at the various facilities in their respective states. In all, 75 technical papers were presented from all seven states in the ten technical sessions..Mr. Webb also toured the research labs at Martin Marietta, Ball Brothers, and the Denver, Colorado and Colorado State universities. At the end of a reception in his honor, Mr. Webb expressed his appreciation of the reception he had received, and of the message we were conveying.

The Phase 1 contract with NASA Langley allowed us to spend six months with our new customer office and its people, helping them to define a Viking program they met their scientific objectives within their budget.

The Viking Lander and Program Integration proposals were submitted in early 1969. NASA visits to competitor facilities were in April, and on May 29, Martin Marietta received a fax from NASA Langley that stated, in part, “ .....you are hereby formally advised that the Martin Marietta Corp. has been selected by the NASA as the contractor with whom negotiations will be Conducted.

The decade long quest from the P5M-2 to a major spacecraft program was over. You all know the rest of the story !