CAPE CANAVERAL, Fl. (KMOX)-Nearly a dozen retired McDonnell-Douglas engineers are returning to St. Louis today after spending last week in Florida, celebrating the 50th anniversary of America’s first orbital spaceflight, which was made in a St. Louis-made Mercury capsule.
Among them is communications engineer Norman Beckel, who was in the launch blockhouse when John Glenn’s Friendship 7 took off on February 20th, 1962, “The test conductor came around and polled everybody and I was the communication engineer and when it came my turn I said, ‘com system is go.’”
Many remember capsule communicator Scott Carpenter calling out, “Godspeed John Glenn” moments before the launch, but Beckel remembers another exchange between Carpenter and Glenn, “Just before the umbilical fell away (from the capsule) he said, ‘Remember John, this whole thing was built by the low bidder.’ That added a little lightness to the atmosphere.”
Beckel says this weekend, Glenn paid tribute to those who got him into space. and safely back home, “He said we were the giants and they stood on our shoulders to make that leap into space.”
Beckel says, “We were just young engineers. We were assigned to do the job and we got ‘er done.”
Click here to learn more about the McDonnell-Douglass engineers who designed and built the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.
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