Chapter 7

Biomedical Planning for Launch, Tracking, and Recovery

While the astronauts were in the midst of their training and indoctrination program in the summer of 1959, plans were underway to develop testing facilities for both manned and un-manned vehicles. NASA had turned for assistance to DOD, which controlled the Atlantic Missile Range, including Cape Canaveral Missile Test Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla. Since 1951 this range had been used to test missiles.1

The Executive Agent for DOD was the USAF, with its Air Force Missile Test Center at Patrick Air Force Base, a few miles inland. Organizationally, the Test Center was a part of the Air Force Research and Development Command. Maj. Gen. D. N. Yates was commander of AFMTC and Col. George M. Knauf, USAF (MC), was staff surgeon at AFMTC, Patrick AFB. These two officers were to play an increasingly important role in the development of NASA’s Project Mercury.

On August 10, 1959, the Secretary of Defense designated General Yates the Department of Defense Representative for Project Mercury Support Operations.2 There would be a Naval deputy to assist in recovery operations for Project Mercury.3 As DOD Representative for Project Mercury Support Operations, General Yates would be responsible for the preparation and submission for review and approval of top-level plans and requirements in support of Project Mercury, including appropriate recommendation for implementation. (During development, these plans would be coordinated as appropriate with the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, office of the Secretary of Defense. Completed plans would be forwarded by DDR&E to the Joint Chiefs of Staff who in turn would review them and provide comment and recommendation for final approval by the Secretary of Defense.) General Yates would direct and control DOD facilities, forces, and assets assigned for support of Project Mercury. DOD performance of specific missions assigned for support of Project Mercury was also his responsibility, although budget as-pects of DOD participation would conform with policies and procedures of the Office of the Comptroller and Director of Public Affairs.

In the basic memorandum of August 10, the Deputy Secretary of Defense clarified policies and procedures:

For the next 11 months General Yates would serve both as Commander, AFMTC, and as DOD representative for support of Project Mercury. On July 9, 1960, he was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, USAF.5  Meanwhile, on December 1, 1959, General Yates officially designated his staff surgeon, Colonel Knauf, as his Assistant for Bioastronautics.6 He served in this capacity for the next 25 months.7

1.  Cape Canaveral (later Cape Kennedy) had originally been chosen as a launch site by the DOD for four reasons: (1) The 15,000-acre tract was remote enough to be a safe place for launching test missiles, (2) it provided a vacant area (the Atlantic Ocean) over which the missiles could travel, (3) the climate was suitable for year-round operations, and (4) there was to the southeast a chain of islands on which tracking and telemetry stations could be built. In addition, there was an inactivated Navy base 18 miles south of the cape which would be reactivated (as Patrick AFB) to support AFMTC.

2.  Thomas S. Gates, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Memo for Secretaries of the Military Depts., the Director of Defense Res. and Engineering, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Asst. Secretaries of Defense, the General Counsel, the Director, Advanced Res. Projects Agency. and the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Subj.: Assignment of Responsibility for DOD Support of Project Mercury, Aug. 10, 1959.

3.  See p. 89, for further discussion.

4.  Gates, op. cit. See also Thomas S. Gates, Memo for Maj. Gen. Donald N. Yates, USAF, Subj.: Responsibility for DOD Support of Project Mercury. Aug. 10, 1959.

5.  The Honorable James H. Douglas, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Memo for Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, USAF, July 9,1960.

6.  Maj. Gen. D. N. Yates, DOD Representative, Project Mercury Support Operations, Memo for Col. George M. Knauf, USAF (MC), Subj.: Designation of Assistant for Bioastronautics, Dec. 1, 1959.

7.  On Jan. 1, 1962, Colonel Knauf was transferred to Hq., NASA, to serve as Deputy Director of Aerospace Medicine, Office of Manned Space Flight (Special Orders AC-809, Hq. AFASC). He was succeeded by Col. Raymond A. Yerg, USAF (MC), who on Oct. 9, 1961, had been designated Deputy Assistant for Bioastronautics [Maj. Gen. L. 1. Davis, DOD Representative, Project Mercury Support Operations, Memo for MTD (Col. Raymond A. Yerg), Subj.: Designation of Deputy Assistant for Bioastronautics, Oct. 9, 1961].

 Previous  Index  Next