Encyclopedia Astronautica
1961.02.13 - NASA and McDonnell began discussions of an advanced Mercury spacecraft.


McDonnell had been studying the concept of a maneuverable Mercury spacecraft since 1959. On February 1, Space Task Group (STG) Director Robert R. Gilruth assigned James A. Chamberlin, Chief, STG Engineering Division, who had been working with McDonnell on Mercury for more than a year, to institute studies with McDonnell on improving Mercury for future manned space flight programs.

Work on several versions of the spacecraft, ranging from minor modifications to radical redesign, got under way immediately. Early in March, the prospect of conducting extravehicular operations prompted Maxime A. Faget of STG to query John F. Yardley of McDonnell about the possibility of a two-man version of the improved Mercury. Yardley raised the question with Walter F. Burke, a McDonnell vice president, who in turn ordered that a design drawing of a two-man Mercury be prepared. STG described the work in progress at McDonnell to Abe Silverstein of NASA Headquarters in a meeting at Wallops Island, Virginia, March 17-20. On April 1, James T. Rose of STG joined Chamberlin in studying possible objectives for the advanced Mercury; he concentrated on mission planning, trajectory analysis, and performance.

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