The United States' first manned space flight project was successfully accomplished in a 4 2/3 year period of dynamic activity which saw more than 2,000,000 people from many major government agencies and much of the aerospace industry combine their skills, initiative, and experience into a national effort. In this period, six manned space flights were accomplished as part of a 25-flight program. These manned space flights were accomplished with complete pilot safety and without change to the basic Mercury concepts. It was shown that man can function ably as a pilot-engineer-experimenter without undesirable reactions or deteriorations of normal body functions for periods up to 34 hours of weightless flight. Directing this large and fast moving project required the development of a management structure and operating mode that satisfied the requirement to mold the many different entities into a workable structure. The management methods and techniques so developed are discussed. Other facets of the Mercury experience such as techniques and philosophies developed to insure well-trained flight and ground crews and correctly prepared space vehicles are discussed. Also, those technical areas of general application to aerospace activities that presented obstacles to the accomplishment of the project are briefly discussed. Emphasis is placed on the need for improved detail design guidelines and philosophy, complete and appropriate hardware qualification programs, more rigorous standards, accurate and detailed test procedures, and more responsive configuration control techniques.
By Walter C. Williams, Deputy Director for Mission Requirements and Flight Operations, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center; Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Manager, Mercury Project, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center; William M. Bland, Jr., Deputy Manager, Mercury Project, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center; and James E. Bost, Chief, Engineering Operations Office, Mercury Project Office, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center.
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