Chapter 8

Gemini Rising

[165] The faith that sustained Project Gemini's managers and workers through the dark days of 1963 was not misplaced. Even before the year was over, some of the hardest problems had begun to yield. Gemini's prospects were far brighter by the spring of 1964 than they had been in the fall of 1963. There was still much work to be done, and not every effort at problem-solving was crowned with success. The project that stood on the verge of proving itself in the spring of 1964 was not the same project that had begun two years and more before, nor even the same project that emerged from the budget and managerial crises of late 1962 and early 1963. But most of what its founders had set out to prove had survived, and what had been lost could be balanced with what had been gained.

On 1 November 1963, "Program" replaced "Project" in the title of the office that directed Gemini. This change reflected its responsibility for the program as a whole, and not merely for the spacecraft. Since that had been true from the outset, the new name did no more than underwrite a reality that already existed. MSC Director Robert Gilruth announced it as part of a major reorganization designed to strengthen both Gemini and Apollo now that Mercury was over.* [166] Mercury's manager, Kenneth Kleinknecht, joined Gemini as deputy manager under Charles Mathews. Kleinknecht brought with him about a third of his former staff.1

On the same day, 1 November 1963, an important realignment of NASA Headquarters also went into effect, and for much the same reason: Project Mercury's demise was a chance to reassess the agency's management structure. James Webb, Hugh Dryden, and Robert Seamans had become dissatisfied with the November 1961 reorganization. Headquarters had failed to secure the strong program direction over Apollo that Webb had wanted. When hardware development problems continued to mount, with attendant escalating costs and slipping flight schedules, something very definitely had to be done. Moreover, having a program the size of Apollo, along with all the other programs NASA was pursuing, made it difficult for one man - Seamans in this case - to serve as "general manager" over day-to-day affairs. In 1961, Webb had needed decision makers at the program level, but in 1963 he needed this talent, armed with the proper authority, at the administration level to unify the agency, provide direction to the field centers, and lessen some of the autonomy the latter had held onto so tightly. The major change involved putting the field centers under Headquarters "Associate Administrators" for special activities - George Mueller for Manned Space Flight, Homer Newell for Space Science and Applications, and Raymond L. Bisplinghoff for Advanced Research and Technology - rather than under the Associate Administrator as they had been. Mueller, who had replaced Brainerd Holmes as chief of manned space flight, now took charge of both the program and the centers carrying it out - MSC, Marshall Space Flight Center, and Launch Operations Center. Mueller also set up a Gemini Program Office in Washington,** chiefly as a device to oversee Gemini and to bring together in a single group all those in NASA Headquarters whose work related to Gemini. William Schneider had taken over a tiny liaison office of seven people from Colonel Daniel D. McKee earlier in the year. Now he headed a program office seven times that size. Several months would elapse before the effects were felt in Houston.2 In the meantime, some of Gemini's most severe technical problems were at last beginning to respond to hard work in the field.


* Other major elements affected by the reorganization were Flight Crew Operations Divisions, which emerged as Directorates. Walter Williams went to NASA Headquarters as Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Operations, leaving James C. Elms as sole Deputy Director of MSC. But Elms, who had come to MSC to strengthen its organization, decided his work was done and resigned in January 1964 to return to industry. George Low, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, was appointed Deputy Director of MSC on 19 January, to take effect on 1 May 1964.

** This was for NASA the beginning of the "five-box" program organization that Mueller demanded. In Headquarters, under Acting Gemini Program Director George Low and his Deputy, Schneider, were Major Richard C. Henry, Program Control, Acting; Eldon Hall, Systems Engineering; LeRoy E. Day, Test; John A. Edwards, Flight Operations; and Dwight C. Cain, Reliability and Quality.


1 MSC Announcement No.268, "Reorganization of MSC and Key Personnel Assignments," 5 Nov. 1963; MSC News Release 63227, 5 Nov. 1963; Robert B. Merrifield, "Men and Spacecraft: A History of the Manned Spacecraft Center (1958-1969)," draft ms., [1972], pp. 5-28 to -41; NASA Release 63-237, "Williams to Head Manned Space Flight Operations for NASA," 23 Oct. 1963; "Williams Gets New NASA Job," Missiles and Rockets, 28 Oct.1963, p. 12; MSC Announcement No64-2, "Resignation of J. C. Elms, Deputy Director," 17 Jan. 1964; MSC News Release 64-13, 17 Jan. 1964; NASA News Release 64-13, "NASA Names Low Deputy Director of Manned Spacecraft Center," 19 Jan. 1964; MSC Announcement No.64-5, "Deputy Director," 21 Jan. 1964; "Deputy Director Elms to Return to Private Industry; George M. Low, NASA Hq., Named as Replacement," MSC Space News Roundup, 22 Jan. 1964.

2 Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963, NASA SP-4101 (Washington, 1966), pp. 289-97; U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1965 NASA Authorization, Hearings on H,R. 9641 (Superseded by H.R. 10456), 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 69-70; NASA Release 63-225, "NASA Announces Reorganization," 9 Oct. 1963; NASA Release 63- 241, "NASA Realigns Office of Manned Space Flight," 28 Oct. 1963; William C. Schneider, interview, Washington, 23 Jan. 1967; William A. Summerfelt, interview, Washington, 24 Jan.1967; LeRoy E. Day, interview, Washington, 25 Jan.1967; NASA Headquarters Telephone Directory, February 1964, p. 29.


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