Draw From the Right Stuff

By David Miller

April 2016

There are so many stories I could share from my 60 years of service with McDonnell and Boeing, but I feel the one that takes on a very personal and significant aspect has to do with the Mercury program.

I was assigned to the structural design team and specifically I worked on the design of the Hat sections of the capsule structure. I even recall the characteristics of the material itself -- .010-inch-thick Inconel X steel. One day while working at my drafting table (CAD had not been perfected as yet), a young man came up to me and asked if I thought this thing would fly.

In my usual honest sense, I said I doubt it, since it has no wings!

He said, "I sure hope so, since I am supposed to fly it!"

That young man was Alan Shepard! Alan was the first American in space and later also walked on the moon. I had the significant opportunity to meet all seven of the Mercury astronauts -- what a lasting experience.

Project Mercury Familiarization Manual Drawings -- Unclassified.

McDonnell Aircraft Company