For a manned vehicle to land safely, the Apollo directors wanted stereoscopic images to identify slopes of seven degrees, and obstacles less than 1m wide or deep. JPL was already over-burdened with existing projects, and the Langley Research Centre (LRC) took over. The LRC would choose and manage the contractors, and approve the technical decisions.
This choice didn’t impress the experts. “How in the world could the Langley Research Center, which is nothing more than a bunch of plumbers, manage this scientific program to the moon?” asked the prominent Nobel-prize winning scientist Harold Urey, to NASA’s administrator James Webb.