SBRC/SBRS Evolution of Company Personality
We waited for approval to start work on the ATS camera. The general instrument plan was established. The time schedule was extremely short. The day we received project approval I wrote a one paragraph description for the necessary Flight optical elements and carried it to Manny Rey in purchasing. We selected a suitable vendor. There was no drawing or specification. There was no project manager approval. Manny placed the order within two hoursand parts were delivered within the month. No drawing for this hardware was ever prepared. The instrument worked flawlessly for 8 years.
Even in early years we worked closely with Quality Assurance. Only one time do I remember intentionally evading quality assurance rules. (Lional Altman was no pussycat.) This was the second generation color version of ATS camera. Project manager Roger Thomson was working late to wrap up paperwork, planning to make a midnight drive to Hughes for the Friday deadline, This was last possible delivery date as the satellite integration was complete and was being shipped to the Cape the very next day. At midnight Roger called asking if the curious final test data might be incorrect. Back to work (There was no guard at night so some of us had keys.) We called Dean Upton to help and we repeated final tests. Wow – my goof and the instrument was out of focus. The problem was promptly and quietly corrected. Roger put everything in the trunk of his car and delivered it to Hughes before the 8:00 AM deadline. That was 55 years ago and this may be the first public admission to QA of that nighttime activity.
When the MSS was started years ago we had too much work as two other Mars projects had received recent approval. All experienced employees had been assigned to other programs. Jim Young asked (directed) me to lead the optics team under for MSS with Ralph Wengler as project engineer. Jim indicated that we would try to hire new people for support. Several new hires arrived (Dick Roberts, Dick Howett, Joe Kekoanui,) and all struggled to organize tasks and meet the project milestones. It soon became apparent that the new individuals were a tiger team. We wrote specs, ordered hardware, tested delivered parts and started assembly. We were having so much fun that other people would sneak over and join the project. (It did happen once.) Midnightwork was common as milestones were treated as absolutes. Soon Quality Assurance discovered that this team had completed the engineering model assembly and were assembling flight hardware. It was time to slow down. Dick Roberts was reassigned to lead electronic manufacturing activity. Dick Howitt and Joe Kekoanui became part of the night shift instrument assembly. It was their pride that each night they would complete at least 3 pages of the assembly plan while the daytime shift struggled to complete one page. They maintained a cooperative relationship with everyone else. Each of thes e individuals became respected and moved on to much more responsible positions.
Some individuals stand out in memory. Joe Kekoanui is remembered by all who worked with him. First impressions were not always favorable. Joe would be standing near the hardware laughing as he talked with someone else. But everyone liked Joe. It became apparent that he accomplished as much as anyone else. We also discovered that his personality was a big asset. Whenever we needed tools or test equipment Joe knew where to find it. People would happily loan it to Joe. (Sometimes they did not know they had loaned it to Joe.) Long hours, tense operations, stretch the rules, Joe got the job done. We wanted another lab file cabinet and it happened to coincide with disappearance of a cabinet intended for delivery to a different lab. People on a cross country airline flight found a pleasant young man helping the stewardess deliver drinks. During one system integration session at Hughes our program never lacked the essential liquid nitrogen. Some time later it became clear that Joe maintained impeccable records for assembly and test activities. Joe bulldozed along and left a wake of happy people.