The NPR.org news item and audio podcast JoAnn Morgan: The Only Woman In The Firing Room During Apollo 11 features an excellent interview with JoAnn Morgan and other KSC personal.

It's a short but excellent report and worth a listen.

MORGAN: At first, a test supervisor came over and said, oh, we don't have women here. Eek. I didn't know what to do, so I called my director - Karl Sendler was his name - and I said, Mr. Sendler, this test supervisor tells me that women aren't allowed out here. He said, oh, JoAnn, you get the test done. Bring me the data. You know, don't worry about it.

BYRNE: And she did. She became a familiar face in the testing rooms. She monitored sensors, and she monitored Soviet signals attempting to scramble communication and sabotage the flight. This was the Space Race, after all.

MORGAN: They got used to me, and they accepted me. And so by Apollo 11, them putting me out there to be there at liftoff was probably not that big a surprise. And after launch, the test supervisor, who happened to be the same one who'd told me I couldn't be at blockhouse 34, he came down and gave me a cigar when he was handing out cigars.

Question: What was the nature of the Soviet signals (if there were any) that attempted to interfere with the Apollo mission?

  1. Were they simply jamming signals meant to interfere with basic reception, or were they engineered to do something in particular; block only a certain channel or generate spurious data?
  2. Were the signals directed at Apollo spacecraft and meant to overwhelm powerful legitimate Earth transmissions, or were they directed at Earth receivers attempting to pick up the far-weaker transmissions from the Apollo spacecraft(s)?


For reference:

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    $\begingroup$ Your bolded statement may not apply to Apollo 11 specifically. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ Luna 15 mission at the same time space.stackexchange.com/questions/10342/… $\endgroup$
    – A. Rumlin
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 7:27
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    $\begingroup$ The wording indicates she looked for Soviet attempts at jamming, it doesn't indicate any jamming was found. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ I read somewhere that the soviets actually refrained from broadcasts on frequencies which would interfere. Sorry I've no source for that though $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ @A.Rumlin It could certainly be true that it never happened and the quote is wrong. That could be the answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


The Americans did worry about the possibility of Soviet interference. The navigation computer was could be updated from the ground, but this was only done after confirmation via a voice channel:

Apollo’s design did reflect some early concern about possible Russian sabotage. For example, in the air-ground conversations you’d often hear the ground ask the astronauts to go to “p00 and accept” when doing a ground navigation update and “go back to block” afterwards.

This referred to a switch in the cockpit that normally blocked the onboard computer from accepting commands from the ground unless one of the astronauts explicitly allowed it.

NASA installed ESM equipment at Cape Canaveral (i.e. systems aimed at detecting interference). This is the equipment JoAnn Morgan used, I suspect.

So her job was to monitor radio frequencies used by Apollo for Soviet transmissions. The question is, did she ever find any?

By the time of Apollo 8, this worry had already been reduced:

Apollo 8 was the moment when the Soviets were no longer a contender in the race to the moon, but already by then the Cold War had eased to the point that NASA was less worried about Soviet jamming of US Lunar missions.

I have found no documents in NTRS that discuss Soviet interference or jamming.

IMO, Soviet jamming would be unlikely: the source of a jamming signal is easily found, and such obvious sabotage would be seen as an act of war by the US.

During Apollo 11, the Soviets informed NASA of Luna 15's trajectory and coordinated to prevent interference.

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    $\begingroup$ Given what we did not do to the DPRK over the Pueblo or the Israelis over the Liberty, the statement "such obvious sabotage would be seen as an act of war by the US" is grossly overblown. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn I agree. I think it's more a variant of MAD (mutually assure irritation). If country A started interfering with radio transmissions between country B and its spacecraft, then country B would have to start interfering with Country A's spacecraft, and it would end up just an irritating mess. Not to say that it didn't happen for short wave radio, but that's a different SE ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ The CIA and KGB had an informal agreement not to assassinate each other's agents, for this exact same it will inevitably escalate reason. Just as importantly, the US would have told everyone that the Sovs were jamming transmissions, provided evidence to the UN and it would have been a huge PR black eye to the Workers' Paradise. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 22:33

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