The Surveyor Lunar Orbiter—Jack Fisher

The Surveyor as originally planned by NASA in 1959 included a lander and a lunar orbiter; both were congressionally authorized programs. The early NASA concept considered an orbiter based upon a modified lander to be launched with an Atlas Centaur. However, the Surveyor orbiter did not materialize although studies were conducted by Hughes and others. Lunar exploration became much more focused with the beginning of the Apollo program and the need for a photographic atlas of the moon to aid in the selection of landing sites became a high priority goal. JPL had their hands full with the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor programs and Centaur development difficulties ruled out a timely launch of a lunar orbiter based upon this approach. In early 1963 the Langley Research Center developed a concept using an Agena-class spacecraft that was adopted by NASA. An RFP was released to industry on August 30, 1963. Five bidders submitted proposals including Hughes, STL, Martin, Lockheed and Boeing. I participated in the Hughes proposal that was managed by John Housego. Our proposal was not successful and the contract was awarded to Boeing. An account of these developments is presented in NASA TM X-3487 Destination Moon: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program by Bruce K. Byers published in 1977. This document includes a description and evaluation of the designs submitted by the five bidders. The program was very successful and provided photographs of the lunar surface that were used to select landing sites for both Apollo and Surveyor.

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About Jack Fisher

Jack was a systems engineer at Hughes from 1961 to 1992. He contributed to various programs including Surveyor, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, Intelsat VI and innumerable proposals. He was the manager of of the Spacecraft Systems Engineering Lab until his retirement. Upon retirement Jack taught systems engineering at a number of national and international venues.