Jay Greene


Jay Greene

Jay Greene is a retired NASA engineer. He worked as a flight controller during the Apollo Program and was a flight director from 1982 to 1986, most notably serving as ascent flight director at the time of the Challenger accident in 1986. Greene worked for four years as a manager on the International Space Station project, and received several awards for his work including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. After his retirement in 2004 he served as a part-time consultant on the Exploration Systems Architecture Study. NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden described him as "a famous technical curmudgeon in the Agency." [cite web| last = Cohen| first = Don| title = Interview with Rex Geveden| publisher= Academy Sharing Knowledge (NASA)
date = 2006| url =http://appel.nasa.gov/ask/issues/24/24i_interview_geveden.php| accessdate = 2006-09-21
]

Early life

Jay Greene grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Polytechnic in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. His first job was at North American Aviation in Downey, California, but he did not find the work particularly satisfying; less than a year later he accepted a job with NASA at the Manned Spacecraft Center (later Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas. [J. Greene, oral history, November 10, 2004, Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, p. 1.]

Apollo program

Despite the fact that his degree was in electrical engineering, Greene was assigned to the flight dynamics branch, and trained to be a Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO) for the upcoming Apollo program. His responsibilities in Mission Control would include monitoring the trajectory of the Apollo spacecraft, computing changes in orbit, and plotting course corrections and adjustments.

His first shift as a flight controller was during the launch of the unmanned Apollo 6. The launch turned out to be a memorable one, as two engines cut out on the second stage of the Saturn V booster, less than five minutes after lift-off. Although the mission was not aborted, it was a challenging launch for the Flight Dynamics officer; the spacecraft diverged from its intended trajectory so severely that Greene was nearly forced to call an abort. [C. Murray and C. Bly Cox, "Apollo: The Race to the Moon" (Simon and Schuster, 1989), pp. 310-12.]

In 1969, Greene was chosen to work the descent shift for Apollo 11, the first lunar landing. This was a coveted and prestigious assignment, showing the esteem in which he was held by his superiors. [C. Murray and C. Bly Cox, "Apollo: The Race to the Moon" (Simon and Schuster, 1989), p. 342.] Flight Director Gene Kranz, who also worked the descent shift, described Greene as "elite in the ranks of the FIDOs, cocky and crisp with his calls." [G. Kranz, "Failure is Not an Option" (Berkley, 2000), p. 258.]

During the Apollo 13 crisis, Greene played a relatively minor role. Unlike many other flight controllers—most notably Gene Kranz—he was not sanguine about the astronauts’ chance of survival. "A lot of them in retrospect will tell you how macho and cool [it was] ," he said in an interview some years later, "but it was pretty grim." [J. Greene, oral history, November 10, 2004, Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, page 29. ] Greene later told Bill Nelson that "when they opened up that capsule, I was sure all they would find would be three dead bodies. I honestly didn't see how we could get them home." [cite book | last = Nelson| first = Bill | coauthors = Jamie Buckingham | title = Mission: An American Congressman's Voyage to Space| publisher = Harcourt Brace Jovanovich| date = 1988| location = Orlando, Florida|page= 206]

pace shuttle program

After the Apollo program concluded, Greene spent two years as a Range Safety Coordinator, planning the procedures that would be followed if something went wrong with the trajectory of the Space Shuttle during launch. He fought to keep the Shuttle from being fitted with a range safety destruct system, which would allow it to be destroyed remotely from the ground. However, he was not successful, and believes that he was removed from the position as a result of his stand on the issue. [J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, page 2.]

Greene remained in the flight dynamics branch until 1982, spending 1976 through 1979 as section head, and 1980 through 1982 as branch chief. He worked his last mission as FIDO in 1981, when he was on console during the second Shuttle launch (STS-2). By that point, however, his responsibilities in the flight dynamics branch were largely managerial. [J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP.]

That year, at the request of center director George Abbey, he began the process of training to become a flight director. He worked STS-3 and STS-4 as a backup flight director, learning the job by being paired with the experienced flight director Tommy Holloway and observing Holloway at work. Greene's first mission as flight director in his own right was STS-6, which launched on April 6, 1983. [ J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP.] As a flight director, Greene specialized in the ascent shift, considered to be the one of the most demanding and dangerous phases of a mission. [ C. Murray and C. Bly Cox, "Apollo: The Race to the Moon", page 303.] He worked on ten flights between 1983 and 1986, including STS-61-C, which was notable for having included Rep. Bill Nelson (D-FL) as a member of the crew. In his book about the mission, Nelson characterized Greene as a "no-nonsense type of man," "underpaid and overworked," yet dedicated to his job. [cite book | last = Nelson| first = Bill | coauthors = Jamie Buckingham | title = Mission: An American Congressman's Voyage to Space| publisher = Harcourt Brace Jovanovich| date = 1988| location = Orlando, Florida|page= 206-07]

Challenger accident

Greene was not originally assigned to work the STS-51-L mission, which was scheduled to launch a mere ten days after the landing of STS-61-C. Due to staffing issues, however, he was pulled from supporting STS-61-C and reassigned as ascent flight director for STS-51-L; thus, he was on console when "Challenger" finally launched on January 28, 1986. As flight director, Greene was aware that there were concerns within NASA about the cold weather on the morning of the launch; however, he believed that these concerns had been resolved during the shift preceding his own, and his role in the wider decision to launch was minimal. [J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, pp 21-22.]

In the minutes following the loss of "Challenger", Greene's responsibilities as flight director centered on ensuring that data from the accident was properly recorded and preserved, and that incident reports were written up. [J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, p. 22.]

NASA adopted a policy of minimum engagement with the press in the immediate aftermath of the accident; on the following day, the "New York Times" noted that "neither Jay Greene, flight director for the ascent, nor any other person in the control room, was made available to the press by the space agency". [cite news | last = Reinhold| first = Robert| title = At Mission Control, Silence and Grief Fill a Day Long Dreaded| work = New York Times| pages = A8| date = January 29, 1986 ] He did, however, appear at a press conference later that day, where he answered questions about the accident. All the data received at Mission Control up to the time of "Challenger"'s disintegration appeared normal, he reported, and he was not able to shed light on the accident's cause. [cite news| title = NASA News Conferences: Emphasis Is on Ground Activities | work = New York Times| pages = A14| date = January 30, 1986]

Managerial positions

After "Challenger", Greene chose to retire as a flight director—feeling, as he later put it, "that I'd had all the fun I wanted to have in the Control Room." [ J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, page 23.] In October 1987, after a short period working with a study group on lunar exploration, he was appointed head of NASA's safety division. The division had been created after the "Challenger" accident at the recommendation of the Rogers Commission, which saw its establishment as key in creating a new, more vigorous "safety culture" at NASA.cite web| title = Report to the President: Actions to Implement the Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident | publisher = NASA| date = July 14, 1986| url = http://history.nasa.gov/rogersrep/actions.pdf | format = PDF] However, Greene feared that too much introspection by NASA engineers could lead to a damaging loss of confidence. In an interview a year later, he said that NASA had been on "a fantastic guilt trip," adding that "I believe NASA has been overly eager to defend itself against all critics ... Any time you have an independent panel, you ought to be able to name a defense attorney for the status quo." [cite news|author=K. Sawyer | title = The Struggle Back to the Launch Pad; After Shock and Disbelief, the Space Community's Sense of Purpose Reemerged | work = Washington Post| pages = A22| date = September 25, 1988]

In the following years, among other positions, he worked as Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC from 1991 through 1993. In 1995 he became Manager of the Space Shuttle Engineering Office, a technically challenging job that he enjoyed greatly. "That was an amazingly good feeling," he later said, "owning four Shuttles. Going down to the Cape and visiting them and actually feeling ownership and responsibility for them." However, his opposition to the creation of the United Space Alliance was controversial, and he spent less than two years in the position. [ J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, page 27.]

From 1996 to 2000, Greene was Deputy Manager for Technical Development on the International Space Station. He received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Rotary Stellar Award, and a Silver Snoopy award for his work on the station. Finally, between 2000 and 2004, he served as Chief Engineer at Johnson Space Center, where his role consisted primarily of advising the Center Director. [ J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP.]

Retirement

After retiring from NASA in 2004, Greene worked as a part-time consultant on the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which aimed to provide a blueprint for America's return to the Moon and Mars. "We put together a greybeard review team," explained NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, describing Greene as "a famous technical curmudgeon in the Agency." [cite web| last = Cohen| first = Don| title = Interview with Rex Geveden| publisher= Academy Sharing Knowledge (NASA)
date = 2006| url =http://appel.nasa.gov/ask/issues/24/24i_interview_geveden.php| accessdate = 2006-09-21
]

Greene also hoped to spend more time during his retirement riding his bicycle. [J. Greene, oral history, December 8, 2004, JSC OHP, page 34.]

In films

Greene was interviewed extensively for two History Channel documentaries about Mission Control, "Failure Is Not an Option" and "Beyond the Moon: Failure Is Not an Option 2".

Footnotes

References

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*cite book | last = Nelson| first = Bill | coauthors = Jamie Buckingham | title = Mission: An American Congressman's Voyage to Space| publisher = Harcourt Brace Jovanovich| date = 1988| location = Orlando, Florida
* cite news
last = Recer
first = Paul
title = Jay Greene: Challenger Destroyed Confidence For A Time
publisher = Associated Press
date = January 28, 1987

*
*cite news|last=Sawyer|first=Kathy | title = The Struggle Back to the Launch Pad; After Shock and Disbelief, the Space Community's Sense of Purpose Reemerged | work = Washington Post| page = A22| date = September 25, 1988


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