Program Growth

The dramatic series of events surrounding the MA-6 mission tended to obscure what was happening elsewhere in the national space program. While Project Mercury finally was fulfilling its prime objective, NASA picked the launch vehicle for its Apollo program. Headquarters announced on January 9, 1962, that a "Super Saturn" (also known as "Advanced Saturn" and "Saturn C-5") would be the Moon program rocket. The Saturn was then described as being as tall as a 27-story building generating 7.5 million pounds of thrust in its first stage, which would make it about 20 times more powerful than the Atlas. On January 25, the Marshall Space Flight Center received orders from NASA Headquarters to develop this booster that could support manned circumlunar flights and manned lunar landings. The Saturn was to place 120 tons in low-Earth orbit or send 45 tons of spacecraft toward the Moon. At the same time, the public got its first view of drawings of the Apollo and Gemini spacecraft.55

When the House Committee on Science and Astronautics opened its annual budget hearings on February 27, 1962, among the first witnesses to testify were John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and Virgil Grissom. Representative George P. Miller of California, chairman of the committee, introduced the three as "men who have been closest to the angels and still remain on Earth." All committee members expressed their satisfaction with the management of Project Mercury, and they reminded NASA that the agency was the committee's protege. Every tax dollar required to make Project Mercury and the rest of the civilian space program a success so far had resulted from the committee's study, approval, and authorization.56

[438] After the astronauts had made brief statements and answered some questions posed by the committee members, Administrator James E. Webb outlined the NASA budget request for fiscal year 1963. The total NASA request was for $3,787,276,000, of which $2.26 billion was earmarked for developing Gemini and Apollo and for further exploration with Mercury in manned space flight. Robert Gilruth testified about the Mercury portion of NASA's undertaking. By August 1962, when Congress passed the authorization bill, the NASA appropriation had been pruned to $3,644,115,000. This reduction included $90 million from research, development, and operational requests, and about $52.8 million asked for construction of new facilities. But the total NASA money bill, coupled with almost $1 billion that the Department of Defense received for its space projects, meant that the Nation was going to spend almost $5 billion annually on its space efforts.57 The second phase of the Space Age seemed about to commence.

[440] Meanwhile the Manned Spacecraft Center had been undergoing rapid changes, even though it was still located at the Langley Research Center pending the move to Houston. On January 15, 1962, the Mercury Project Office was established, reporting directly to Gilruth, together with the Gemini and Apollo management offices. Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, a former leader in NASA's X-15 project and technical assistant on Gilruth's staff since January 11, 1960, was picked to manage the completion of Mercury's program. Under its charter, the Mercury Project Office was "responsible for the technical direction of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and other industrial contractors assigned work on the Mercury Project."58

Project Office staffing and division of duties had been completed by the end of January. Kleinknecht chose William Bland, who had been associated with numerous engineering phases of the manned satellite enterprise since its inception, as his deputy. The internal labor divisions of the Office were: Project Engineering Office, Project Engineering Field Office (Cape), Engineering Operations Office, and Engineering and Data Measurements Office. At the outset, 42 people worked in the Project Office primarily on scheduling, procurement, and technical monitoring tasks. The similar management organizations set up for the Gemini and Apollo programs had James A. Chamberlin (manager of Mercury until the inception of Project Gemini) and Charles W. Frick as their managers, respectively.59

Moving MSC from tidewater Virginia to the Gulf Coast of Texas could have had adverse effects on its staffing. Quite a number of the employees had long years of service with NACA and its successor NASA, and had established deep personal roots at Langley and around Hampton, Virginia. Now they would be uprooted and transplanted some 1500 miles away in Texas. Many would face inconvenience and monetary and personal losses resulting from the transfer. Stuart H. Clarke, chief of the Personnel Office of MSC, polled the staff to determine how many favored the move. Of 1152 employees, only 84 indicated that they would not go.60 Gilruth and Williams decided that while people, records, and equipment were being transferred, the operational and Mercury Project Office activities should remain at Langley to prevent the disruption of Project Mercury's flight planning. This meant that management in Mercury would be directed from Langley at least through Mercury-Atlas 7.61

55 Washington Post, Jan. 10, 1962; Washington Evening Star, Jan. 6, 1962; David S. Akens, Paul K. Freiwirth, and Helen T. Wells, History of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, Ala., 1960-1962), I, 21; "Saturn Illustrated Chronology: April 1957-June 1964," NASA/MSFC, Aug. 10, 1964, 52-53; Newport News Daily Press, Jan. 4, 1962.

56 See Chap. X. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 87 Cong., 2 sess. (1962), 1963 NASA Authorization, Hearings, I, 2.

57 Ibid., 3-33; Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, 87 Cong., 2 sess. (1962), Independent Offices Appropriations, 1963, Hearings, II, 1503; Washington Evening Star, Jan. 7, 1962.

58 MSC announcement No. 9, Ref. 2-2, "Establishment of the Mercury Project Office," Jan. 15, 1962.

59 MSC announcement No. 12, Ref. 2-2, "Personnel Assignments for Mercury and Gemini Program Offices," Jan. 31, 1962; Maggie Taylor, Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, MSC, interview, Houston, Jan. 12, 1965; Grimwood, Mercury Chronology, 220.

60 Memo, Dir. of Personnel, MSC, to Philip H. Whitbeck, "Status Report for the Personnel Office," Jan. 26, 1962. At the time of the personnel survey about 400 to 500 could have been termed "old guard." The remainder, being essentially "new hires," did not really care whether they settled in Hampton or Houston. The 84 who chose not to go were mainly of the "old guard."

61 MSC announcement No. 21, Ref. 2-1, "Relocation of Manned Spacecraft Center Headquarters," Feb. 26, 1962. In reality the Mercury Project Office moved into the Farnsworth-Chambers Building in Houston on April 16, 1962, a move that preceded the MA-7 flight by a little over a month.

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