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Topics - Naraht

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General Discussion / Challenger STS-51L Flight Director loop
« on: November 22, 2023, 07:42:21 am »
Apologies that this is slightly off-topic, but I thought people might be interested to listen to an extended version of the flight director loop during and after the Challenger disaster. This apparently isn't new but I hadn't heard the full recording before, which goes up until the controllers are released from their duties.

In particular, those of you who are acquainted with Jay Greene as an Apollo-era FIDO may be interested to hear him here as a Flight Director, during one of NASA's darkest hours. (His last mission. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he chose not to return to Mission Control after this.)

Having heard him frequently joking around when calling checkpoints during the Apollo program, I find it almost unbearably poignant to hear him here reminding the GC that they need a checkpoint. Not to mention his words at the end telling controllers not to speak with anyone about what happened.


Chuck Deiterich takes a little while to remember why he called re-entry support.

"I've got too many things going on in my ear... Let me pull myself together. I'm floundering."


Gran Paules, Steve Bales' boss in the Guidance section, calls him to check in before heading off for his Navy Reserve duty in Galveston. This is the longest check-in call I've encountered so far, around 10 minutes of wide-ranging conversation, much more informal than exchanges on the loop. Subjects of discussion include:

The fact that Bales was asleep at his console with his headset off (and is terrified that he was spotted asleep on TV!)
The eternal question of the SIVB impact point
Midcourse correction ("big Booster screwup")
Who went to the Booster post-launch party
Jack Swigert having set a "new all-time speed record" doing P23
Bales complaining again about how tired he is ("you woke me up by calling though, that's good")
Bales complaining about the "slow-rent, low-rent Procedures guy" (you can hear this incident here:

All kinds of gossip.


Kerwin (Capcom): And, 13, Houston. Check your Noun 17 for extraction pitch attitude. It should be 319 degrees. Over.
Garman (AGC): Noun 22, Noun 22!

Guidance (Yaw?) tells him they'll wait and see what happens. Garman replies, "if the Capcom is gonna say something, he should say it right."

Later, Garman, watching what the crew are doing: "Now maybe he's catching on.... Yay! He figured it out.... No, he still didn't figure it out. Let's see what he does. No, no! I'm gonna have a heart attack... If I were you I'd lean back and tell the Capcom that he figured it out despite him."

It's easy to be a critic from the back room...


"AGC from Yaw... uh, Guidance. Which one of the fellows did the P23, was it Lovell or was it the other one... the CMP?"

He makes the "Yaw" mistake several times, which I guess is unsurprising given that those two roles did swap off (Yaw usually being a more junior, assistant role). Forgetting Swigert's name is a bit less forgivable, even if he was a last minute replacement!


Steve Bales has a mini panic over a 'dead' PTC program (did he really say "shit!" on the loop?) and then gets mockingly told off by Jack Garman.


Jay Greene: What do you want?
Unknown caller: Hey babe, have you updated since 45+38?
Greene: What's this 'hey babe' stuff?
Caller: I learned it from you!
Greene: Listen babe, we're in the control center, this conversation is being recorded, you call me "FIDO, sir"
Caller: Control center conversation mode: FIDO, sir.
Greene: Go.

And after a conversation they close with...
Greene: We'll see you, babe.
Caller: Appreciate it, FIDO, sir.
Greene: Ciao, ciao.


A long telephone discussion between Chuck Deiterich and his fellow Retro John Llewellyn, in which they discuss all the key planning meetings that are happening, and who needs to go to what.

Deiterich says that Jay Greene is going to the Data Priority Meeting but he's happy once Llewellyn offers to go too. "I don't think it would hurt anything... I could imagine a Johnny Mayer type [head of MPAD] bringing in data like he did yesterday... I got really bent out of shape with Greene... I says you weren't around yesterday before that burn, everybody with their plans..."


Not my find but worth sharing for those who didn't see it on Twitter...

Retro updates Flight about the new weight of the spacecraft - 32 pounds heavier due to one crewman. In other words because Jack Swigert replaced Ken Mattingly!


Retro calls Steve Bales in the middle of a very quiet night shift:

"Just to see if you're on the loop there. Looked like you might have been snoozing."

Bales' only response is: "Really? Oh."

I think he might have been! He was apparently notorious for oversleeping unless someone called him a couple of hours before his shift started.


I'm convinced this is why they so often called their backroom controllers "babe"! It saves a lot of brainpower not having to remember everyone's names.


RETRO Chuck Deiterich contacts Procedures: "hey, this is not in your bailiwick but we only got one chair down here."

The reply? "There's about three behind the Flight console."

"Yeah, but they got people in them, don't they?"


RETRO Chuck Deiterich is getting calls that shouldn't be coming to his console. "They ought not be using that 5607 number."

He tackles an offender directly a few minutes later:

But then literally 4 minutes before liftoff he's having to tell someone else, "don't call me unless you think it's real important":

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