McDonnell Gemini spacecraft

Veteran McDonnell Spacecraft Team Honored on 50th Anniversary of Gemini Manned Flights

The fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of manned Gemini spacecraft missions was marked by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society during their monthly meeting on Thursday evening.  The event was a cooperative effort among aerospace organizations to honor the contributions of McDonnell Aircraft, including a select group of veteran Gemini program engineers, to successful manned space flight involving America’s dual-crew spacecraft.

Missouri Aviation Historical Society President, Dan O’Hara, coordinated the event and provided an informational presentation about the Gemini space program.  A display of Gemini spacecraft memorabilia was provided by the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia, IL:

Project Gemini mission patches and thrusters

 

Models of Gemini spacecraft include Rogallo Wing concept

 

Moderator Earl Mullins

Following the introductory program, a panel discussion, featuring veteran McDonnell Aircraft engineers who designed portions of the Gemini spacecraft, was moderated by Earl Mullins, Curator and Founder of the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO.  Members of the guest panel were: Ray Tucker, electrical ground support engineer who worked on cable systems within the launch complex; Dean Purdy, electrical engineer who worked in the St. Louis Gemini test complex; Norman Beckel, electronics engineer who developed and tested communication systems on the Gemini spacecraft; Earl Robb, structural and mechanical design engineer who designed portions of the Gemini spacecraft, including the equipment module; and Jerry Roberts, engineer who worked on guidance and control systems for the Gemini Spacecraft.

Panel members (L-R): Ray Tucker, Dean Purdy, Norman Beckel,
Earl Robb,  and Jerry Roberts

 

Earl Robb makes a point about the design of the equipment module

 

Jerry Roberts discusses the guidance and control system

Several themes emerged during the discussion, including the importance of the space program in technological as well as geo-political terms.  The Gemini program developed techniques and practices needed to maneuver and navigate in space – essential capabilities for the upcoming Apollo lunar missions.  The Gemini astronauts, most of whom went on to fly Apollo lunar missions, learned how to rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft, work effectively outside of the spacecraft, and practice precision recoveries.  The panelists shared their behind-the-scenes anecdotes, remembering those like astronaut Gus Grissom and McDonnell Aircraft flight nurse Rose Church who devoted their lives to making the program succeed.  Questions from the audience were fielded prior to wrapping up the program with the presentation of a special fiftieth anniversary cake sponsored by McArthur’s Bakery.  The panelists were also presented with a copy of the book, NASA Gemini Owner’s Workshop Manual as a special gift.

Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O’Hara presents
the NASA Gemini Owner’s Workshop Manual to the panelists

Special thanks to the McDonnell Aircraft Gemini panelists, Missouri Aviation Historical Society, Creve Coeur Airport, the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO, the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, the St. Louis Space Frontier, the Boeing Company and McArthur’s Bakery for contributing to the program.  Video from the program will appear on the Missouri Aviation Historical Society website in the near future.