As the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s first American manned spaceflight approaches on 5 May, the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) decided it was time to recognise the achievement of the McDonnell Aircraft team of retired engineers and technicians who designed and built the Mercury spacecraft that took Shepard to space, and set the US on course to the first Moon landing eight years later.
Speaking on 25 February in St Louis, where McDonnell – later McDonnell Douglas and, today, Boeing – built the capsules, IEEE president Moshe Kam told an audience largely made up of retired Project Mercury engineers that time had not forgotten their contributions:
“The often nameless, the often somewhat forgotten technicians, engineers, physicists, mathematicians and other thinkers and doers from whose imaginations and minds enhance this spectacular achievement – we came today to acknowledge what you have done and to commemorate it.”
Kam left Boeing with an IEEE Milestone award in electrical engineering and computing for the Mercury spacecraft; this video charts the day, and looks back at the Mercury project.
By Dan Thisdell, Flightglobal’s business editor