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Ex-Astronaut Truly Named Shuttle Chief

February 20, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Former astronaut Richard H. Truly was named today as director of the battered space shuttle program and immediately vowed to help find and fix the cause of last month's Challenger disaster so the manned space flight program can resume.

"If nobody else does it, I will," the two-time shuttle pilot told a 75-minute news conference dominated by questions about the accident and its aftermath. He later added, "I don't have the slightest idea" when the shuttle will fly again.

Truly's appointment was announced as a presidential commission demanded all "documents, memoranda or personal notes" of NASA and industry officials who engaged in a hotly debated decision to launch Challenger despite misgivings about cold weather. (Story on Page 6.)

Questions About Accident

Although NASA called the news conference to announce that Truly would replace Jesse Moore as shuttle director, many reporters' questions dealt with the probe into the Challenger accident.

Moore, whose appointment as director of the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston had been announced before the accident, said he had no knowledge in the hours before the launch that there had been a heated debate about whether cold weather posed a threat. If he had known, Moore said, "I would certainly have asked a lot of questions."

Truly's appointment means that Moore will move to Houston a few months earlier than originally expected.

Truly's appointment was announced by acting NASA chief William R. Graham, who said the former astronaut's duties will include directing the space agency's own internal probe into the Jan. 28 shuttle disaster and cooperating with the presidential commission.

Disputes Infighting Reports

Graham also disputed reports of NASA infighting, and said space agency morale is good despite the accident.

Truly said he had virtually no firsthand knowledge of what went wrong last month but suspected there was no single cause of the accident that destroyed Challenger and killed its seven-member crew. He said he expected a chain of events would prove to be responsible, and said whatever the cause "we will take action . . . to correct it."

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