The Institute - June 2019 - 7

employee from McDonnell's publishing department came by to give Shepard the updated version of the capsule flight-operations manual.
The astronaut threw away his old copy. Chavez
retrieved the discarded manual [right] and asked
Shepard if he would sign the first page. Chavez
considers it a cherished memento from his time
working on Project Mercury.
When Werhner von Braun, an aerospace engineer who helped shape space science in the
United States, and his team of scientists and
engineers working on the Mercury-Redstone
asked to see the re-flight checkout trailer, Chavez
got the chance to meet him.
The trailer housed instruments that NASA
engineers used to assure that the machinery in
a particular spacecraft was working properly.
Chavez said he was told that no one except the
facility's three engineers, which didn't include him, could
give a tour of the trailer and explain what the instruments
were used for. Von Braun and his team arrived an hour early,
and Chavez was instructed to go to the trailer to warn those
three engineers. As he was leaving, von Braun entered the
trailer with his team. Von Braun introduced himself to Chavez,
and when Chavez tried to exit the facility, the group blocked
him, so he stayed.
"It's an experience I won't forget," Chavez says.



Crom detailed his project in the wiki and wrote about the
struggles he faced when designing "hats," which connect
coaxial cable to antennae.
He and his colleagues worked at the Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station with the Douglas missiles and space division. They
were assigned the job of building antennae for the spacecraft.
Once the antennae were built, the Cape Canaveral engineers planned to test the closed-loop system. A week before

From far left: Rufus Chavez at
the electrical monitoring console
on 8 September 1961. Blockhouse
personnel during the flight
test of Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2)
in February 1961. Launch of the
unmanned MA-2 suborbital test
flight took place on 21 February
1961. Technicians working on the
Mercury spacecraft in 1960. Carol
Crom [left] receiving an award
shortly before leaving the military
and joining Douglas Aircraft.

testing started, the engineers asked the Tulsa division
engineering representative where the hats were for the
closed-loop tests. Crom said no one in his division had any
idea what the engineers were talking about. Crom was put
in charge of designing them.
"The engineers at the Cape were not too pleased with my
hats, because they wanted to be able to check the antenna
impedances through them," he wrote. "I told them that
was impossible, and they would have to be satisfied with
the coupling coefficients that I gave them. Time was too
short for them to complain, so they accepted the hats that
we gave them. The hats worked fine for their purposes."
This article was written with assistance from the IEEE
History Center, which is funded by donations to the IEEE
Foundation's Realize the Full Potential of IEEE campaign.
These articles originally appeared online as "IEEE Commemorates Anniversary of Human Space Travel" and "Rufus Chavez Shares His Experiences
Working on Project Mercury."


JUN 2019



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