- [ ] Fuller biographies of
each of the eight hang glider pilots of the Paresev program.
- [ ] Is Hetzel living?
Does Ken know?
- [ ] Reporter Amy Shira
Teitel states "7" for the count. Clarifying this matter with her
is on the wish list. Or someone else might confirm the count.
The "8" is what is the theme. Thanks.
- [ ] Contact with the
families of the eight hang glider pilots. What do they recall about the
- [ ] Archive drawings
- [ ] Archive memos
- [ ] Photographers
- [ ] Detail specifications
of each glider variation
- [ ] Technicians and
crafts person that did the actual construction of each hang glider
variant of the program. Names, etc.
- [ ] Exact location of the
construction and repair. Any photographs of the shops.
- [ ] Complete bibliography
and set of URLs that well handle the PARESEV matters
- [ ] TIMELINE of the
- [ ] Location and
access of archives
- [ ] Ordering documents
- [ ] How much flight
footage is yet in archives, but not yet published?
- [ ] Accurate bio and
spelling for Charles Richards or does the "s" on the end of family name
- [ ] Collage of the eight
pilots ... photographs gathered into one art
- [ ] Trace the tale of the
battens in the hang gliders' sails through the variants. We see small and long on different
variants; what are the dates, counts, lengths, materials?
- [ ] Trace the "space
- [ ] Trace the seat
- [ ] Trace of the wheels
- [ ] The crash from 10 ft
above ground: exact injury report?
- [ ] News media references
that depicted or told the story of parts of the PARESEV program.
- [ ] Any letters by the
eight pilots to others where they talked about their hang glider
- [ ] Unofficial observer
notes, photos, comments?
- [ ] Photos of some of the
museum-held PARESEV hang glider variants.
- [ ] For each variant hang
glider: mass empty, mass with pilot for flight, distribution of mass.
- [ ] The Federal Aviation
Administration recognized Icarus II as an aircraft and issued a
registration number for it; the Rogallo wing hang glider for NASA
received FAA registration of N9765C. What other hang gliders
received registration numbers?
1. Pilot portraits …all 8
2. Collage of the sail variants
3. Collage tracing batten in the various sails from first variant to last
4. Collage to compare the many changes in undercarriage or pilot seat.
5. Collage to compare the many variants in the upper universal joint
- [ ] What variant of the
PARESEV hang glider is displayed at the Smithsonian Institute?
- [ ] Moon City flights
with wings used in the PARESEV hang glider program:
In light of that, I can see Neil extended into Moon City doing hang
gliding using the same wing that he used for some of his Paresev hang
Steve, would you be interested
in running the calculations for the sink rate in Moon City using the
wing of 150 sq. ft with a payload of Earth sea level weight of pilot of
say 180 lb all up (the weight would be about what... 1/6 at Moon City
indoors... so about 30 lbMoonweight for that Rogallo parawing used in
some of the Paresev hang glider flights on Earth? Thanks in advance if
you run the numbers. I do not see the body mass of Neil at his younger
age when he did his first Paresev hang glider flights. [ ]
[ ] Maybe someone will find the Earth body weights of all the 8 pilots in
focus at the time that they did the gliding flights. Thanks in advance.
- [ ] So, maybe in Oz
Report there is someone who is a car buff and can supply detail of the
1948 Pontiac part involved in the hang glider's hang-point joint? Thanks
- [ ] Could someone extract
just the Paresev portion of video
Flexible Paraglider Wing Research
and Development or verify that
such extraction is already available.
The caption needs verifying; "1962
Test conducted at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to supplement
research being preformed at Langley Research Center's Full Scale Tunnel.
Different paragliders were flown or dropped to test its characteristics.
- Compare with the
- [ ] Study closely frames,
as it seems several variants of hang glider are in the one film:
NASA Paresev (Paraglider Research
- [ ]
On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini by Barton C.
Hacker and James M. Grimwood Published as NASA Special Publication-4203
in the NASA History Series, 1977.
[ ] "North
American having been authorized to begin work on 20 November 1961"
The archives of North American on the hang glider (paraglider)
challenges would have thing for the hang glider world.
] This chapter of the book could be carefully studied by someone
and then reported for NASA hang gliders
(In context at
that time: paraglider was mechanically hang glider and came in
varieties of stiffness or limpness, solid boomed or inflated
boomed, etc.) Note:
The PARESEV, a
separate isolated program was for giving pilots hang
gliding practice with the airframed paraglider hang glider. The
many other hang glider contracts were focusing on deployment
challenges and specific variants of the hang glider that would fit
the space recovery challenges. Each contracted company seems
deserving of hang glider history study; their archives probably
would hold drawings and notes of interest to anyone caring about
hang glider development in the late 1950s and first couple years
of 1960. Hopefully some fun-loving hang glider
students will tackle some part of this large study and report for
the world of hang gliding, so we have a firm view of the NASA
arena contributions to hang gliding.
The Paraglider Controversy
The one real exception to Gemini's smooth progress through its
first half year was paraglider. Its development was a step ahead
of the rest of Gemini, North American having been authorized to
begin work on 20 November 1961, and the headstart may have
accounted for the earlier signs of trouble.
Paraglider was controversial. Although GPO,
and Chamberlin in particular, stoutly defended the concept, others
in MSC had strong doubts. The Engineering and Development
Directorate under Max Faget had been notably cool to the idea from
the outset. The key question had been, and still was, "whether the
deployment reliability of a single paraglider will equal that of a
main and back-up chute system."53 The
long-time efforts of Langley's Francis Rogallo, inventor of the
paraglider, to sell his concept had been repeatedly countered by
the argument that parachutes had proved they could be relied upon
to recover spacecraft. Instead of wasting time on an untried
concept, Faget's group favored efforts to improve parachute
technology to permit land landing. They advocated using a new form
of parachute that could be steered, with landing rockets to
cushion the final impact as the spacecraft touched down.54
Another source of opposition to paraglider
was the Flight Operations Division under Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.
Questions of reliability here took second place to concern for the
operational problems posed  by paraglider in the Gemini
program. For Kraft's division, using paraglider and using ejection
seats were two sides of the same coin: one required the other,
neither was reliable, and both promised immense practical
obstacles to the safe return of the astronauts.55 Kraft
himself urged on Chamberlin, and later on MSC Director Gilruth,
his objections to both systems.56
Paraglider critics found plenty of
ammunition in North American's slow progress toward a working
system. At first, paraglider development aim at landing system for
manned spacecraft in general. Early in 1962, however, GPO decided
that the program ought to be oriented explicitly to Gemini. North
American faced a large new effort and a major delay, and not just
because the Gemini spacecraft was much larger than the generalized
model first planned for. The half-scale free-flight test vehicle
would have to be redesigned to carry a flight control system, just
as the full-scale model did. North American had to join with
McDonnell to design a compatible landing gear system and check it
out in a test program. And, finally, North American now had to
develop and qualify emergency parachute systems for both
half-scale and full-size test vehicles.57
This last demand, in particular, delayed
North American, and it was mid-March before a subcontract for the
emergency parachute system could be placed.58 Norbert
F. Witte, North American's project manager for paraglider, planned
to begin free-flight tests of the half-scale model toward the end
of May. With its wing inflated and deployed before it left the
ground, the test vehicle needed no emergency parachute. It would
be towed into the air by a helicopter and released to fly under
radio control. This series of tests would allow North American
engineers to see how well the paraglider flew, how precise flight
control could be, and whether the vehicle could flare - raise its
nose to increase wing lift and drag and slow its rate of descent -
just before landing.59
These were all questions that needed
answers, but the most
crucial was still whether or not the wing would deploy in flight.
That had to wait for the emergency parachutes, since the
test vehicles were too costly to risk without a backup system.
Witte expected to have the half-scale emergency system tested by
the start of June, when deployment tests could begin. The
full-size emergency parachute would take longer but ought to be
ready by mid-July. There still seemed to be a reasonable chance to
complete this phase of the development program by September 1962.60
Timing was critical for paraglider development, since its place in
the Gemini program depended upon its meeting the very tight launch
schedule. Despite snags in the current phase of the program,
Chamberlin decided that North American needed to get started on
the next phase,  a 14-month effort to design, build, and test
an advanced two-man paraglider trainer, to start a flight
simulation program, and to design and develop a fully man-rated
prototype Gemini paraglider landing system.61 That
was in March 1962; by May the task was scaled down to require only
the design of the prototype system, rather than its complete
development. This was expected to reduce the time to five months
from the date of the contract award.62
The project office still expected the
paraglider to be ready on time, but warned in a 4 May schedule
analysis that the program "will require close monitoring to
prevent slippage." Paraglider was scheduled to be installed in the
second Gemini spacecraft, which would be the first to carry a
crew. The first spacecraft, since it was unmanned, was slated to
come down by parachute. A prudent response to delays already
incurred dictated that plans be laid for using a parachute system
in the second spacecraft as well. By mid-June, GPO conceded that
the paraglider would not be ready until the third flight.63
interview, Houston, 9 June 1966; "Project Gemini Schedule
Analysis," GPO, 4 May 1962; memo, Gerard J. Pesman to Engineering
Div., "Paraglider Landing System Design Studies: review and
evaluation of final report," 27 Sept. 1961.
Project Development Plan for a Controllable Parachute-Retrorocket
Landing System," STG, 21 June 1961; memo, Caldwell C. Johnson to
Jack C. Heberlig, 28 Aug. 1961.
William O. Armstrong to Chief, Flight Operations Div. (FOD),
"Review of the development effort of the parawing landing system
for the Gemini mission," 9 Feb. 1962; memo, Wayne E. Koons to
Chief, FOD, "Operational problems associated with the use of
ejection seats for Project Gemini," 23 Feb. 1962; memo, James M.
Rutland to Chief, FOD, "Recovery system for Gemini," 21 March
Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to Mgr., GPO, "Recovery operational
study and retrieval evaluation tests," 1 March 1962; memos, Kraft
to Dir., "Paraglider and ejection seats for Project Gemini," 26
April and 4 May 1962, with enclosures, "The Operational
Implications of Paragliders and Ejection Seats in Project Gemini,"
Lester A. Stewart to Procurement Officer, "Letter Contract NAS
9-167, Paraglider Development Program, Phase II-A," 22 Jan.1962,
with enclosure, "Suggested Revisions to Statement of Work for
Letter Contract NAS 9-167"; Crane to North American, Change Notice
No. 1, Contract NAS 9- 167, 8 March 1962.
D. K. Bailey to MSC, Attn: G. F. Bailey and Purser, 62MA2243, 1
March 1962, with enclosure, "Monthly Progress Letter No. 3,
Paraglider Development Program Phase IIA, 20 January 1962 to 20
February 1962," p. 1; TWX, G. F. Bailey to NAA, 9 March 1962;
memo, Ronald C. Bake to A. E. Hyatt, "Change Notice No. 1 to NAS
9-167," 13 March 1962; letter, Norbert F. Witte to MSC, Attn: G.
F. Bailey and Purser, 62MA3530, 29 March 1962, with enclosure,
"Monthly Progress Letter No. 4, Paraglider Development Program
Phase IIA, 20 February 1962 to 20 March 1962,"p. 1.
Progress Letter No. 4, Phase IIA," p. 1; "Final Report of
Paraglider Research and Development Program, Contract NAS 9-1484,"
North American SID65-196, 19 Feb. 1965, p. 184.
Progress Letter No. 4, Phase IIA," pp. 1, 3; "Schedule Analysis,"
4 May 1962, p. 2, Chart 4.
Chamberlin to Gemini Procurement Office, Attn: Bake, "Paraglider
Development Program, initiation of Phase II, Part B," GPO-00015,
19 March 1962, with enclosure, "Statement of Work for Phase II,
Part B, Prototype Development in the Paraglider Development
Program," 19 March 1962.
Chamberlin to Gemini Procurement Office, Attn: Bake, "Paraglider
Development Program, Initiation of Phase II, Part B (1),"
GPO-00086, 15 May 1962; letter, Witte to MSC, Attn: Bake,
"Contract NAS 9-539, Paraglider Development Program, Phase II,
Part B (1), Monthly Progress Letter No. 1," 62MA9042, 8 Aug. 1962;
letter, R. L. Thomas to MSC, Attn: Bake, 62MA-7227, 5 July 1962,
with enclosure, "Monthly Progress Letter No. 7, Paraglider
Development Program, Phase IIA, 20 May 1962 to 20 June 1962," p.
1; letter contract, NAS 9-539, for Paraglider Development Program,
Phase II, Part B (I), Advanced Trainer and Prototype Wing Design,
25 June 1962; "Abstract of Meeting on Paraglider Landing System,
July 19, 1962," 21 July 1962; negotiated contract, NAS 9-539, for
Paraglider Development Program, Phase 11, Part B(1), 31 Oct. 1962.
Analysis," 4 May 1962, p. 2; letter, Seamans to Rubel, 10 July
1962, with enclosure, "Program Summary for Gemini," 3rd, 10th, and
has many notes that apply to paraglider in the Gemini program.
Study is requested by someone. The full archives of
Ryan and archives of Goodyear on paraglider hang gliders
(canopy and stiffened wing sorts of hang gliders) would be
Some Foreseeable Problems and a Surprise
As Project Gemini moved from design into testing during the spring
and summer of 1962, problems multiplied, although not (with one
exception) beyond what might be seen as the normal headaches of a
large-scale research and development project. Those areas that
demanded the longest step beyond current practice were those where
trouble threatened. The paraglider program, with its early start,
began running into marked delays in planning and design before the
rest of Project Gemini. When actual testing began in May 1962,
only two contract months remained to settle on the best design for
a paraglider landing system.
The first task was qualifying an emergency parachute recovery
system for the half-scale vehicle. North American began on 24 May
with a successful drop test at the Naval Parachute Facility in El
Centro, California, near the Mexican border. Two failures followed
before a second success, on 20 June. What should have been the
final drop to complete qualification failed on 26 June, when the
vehicle's electrical system shortcircuited. North American
shuttled the vehicle 260 kilometers back to its plant in Downey
for a closer look, which revealed a design flaw. The company
reworked the test vehicle and returned it to El Centro for another
try, on 10 July, with no better luck. This time the drogue
designed to pull out the main parachute failed to do so. After
another round trip to Downey for changes, everything worked on 4
September. GPO agreed with North American that the half-scale
emergency landing system was now qualified. But two and a half
months had been lost.
The full-scale emergency system proved even harder to qualify.
First came design problems, then the parachutes were late in
arriving.  North American could not ship the test capsule to
El Centro until 20 July. The Air Force's 6511th Test Group, which
ran the El Centro test range, demanded a special test to be
certain the vehicle's pyrotechnic devices were safe - that delayed
the first qualification flight until 2 August. It was a success,
but more delays followed - first bad weather, then the lack of a
launch aircraft. The second drop, on 21 August, was marred by one
of the three main parachutes breaking loose. Damage was only
minor, as it was in the next test, on 7 September, when two
parachutes failed. Efforts to correct this problem took over two
months. On 15 November, some four months after the full-scale
emergency recovery system was supposed to have been qualified, the
fourth drop was a disaster. When all three parachutes failed, the
test vehicle was destroyed as it hit the ground. Clearly the
system could not be relied upon. GPO directed McDonnell to furnish
North American with a boilerplate spacecraft for further tests at
some later date.13
These problems, however
disheartening, should not have cast any shadow on the concept of a
paraglider. The emergency parachute systems were intended
only to back up testing; they were not part of the Gemini landing
system. Yet the pattern of delays, errors, and malfunctions that
marked North American's efforts to qualify the emergency system
proved to be symptomatic of a lingering malaise.
Paraglider advocates knew
that the program would be made or broken, so far as Gemini was
concerned, by the success or failure of flight testing, and time
was limited. North American had been chosen over Ryan and
Goodyear because of its first-rate job in testing the design
during the summer of 1961.14 But
on 28 November, scarcely a week after North American received word
to go ahead with paraglider development, NASA notified the company
that it had been selected as prime contractor for the Apollo
spacecraft. The impact on paraglider was catastrophic. North
American froze the number of engineers assigned to paraglider,
then allowed even that group to decline. The quality of work
suffered as well, becoming, in the opinion of one NASA engineer
assigned to the program, "abysmal."15
The pattern of trouble sketched in emergency system testing
persisted when North American began testing the paraglider itself
by flying half-scale models with wings inflated and deployed
before they left the ground. Scheduled to begin in May 1962, these
trials got under way in mid-August at Edwards Air Force Base, 100
kilometers north of Downey. North American's first try, on 14
August, got nowhere. Because a plug pulled loose inside the
capsule, the wing, which was tied down for takeoff, failed to
release after a helicopter had towed it to the proper height. The
wing released too soon in the second try, three days later,
although the capsule did go brief it into a stable glide. North
American also achieved a stable glide in the third flight, on 23
August, but an erroneous radio command caused the vehicle  to
come down too fast and suffer some damage in landing. The fourth
flight was postponed twice, each time because someone forgot to
charge the battery. Towed aloft on 17 September, the vehicle
failed to release on command, voiding the test. Twice in a row,
short circuits forced the contractor to call off the fifth flight
test, the second time on 21 September.16
That same day, James Chamberlin, MSC Gemini Project Manager,
ordered North American to halt flight tests of the half-scale
paraglider. He expressed "growing concern" over "the repeated
unsuccessful attempts of S&ID [North American's Space and
Information Systems Division] to conduct satisfactory predeployed
half-scale paraglider tests." Flights were not to resume until the
contractor had reorganized its paraglider project and could spell
out just what it intended to do about the test vehicle's
electronics and pyrotechnics and the company's own checkout and
North American had already made some moves along the lines
Chamberlin demanded. The paraglider effort was raised to the
status of a major program, and George W. Jeffs was named
Paraglider Program Manager on 1 September 1962. Norbert Witte, the
former project manager, stayed on as Jeffs' assistant.18 Jeffs
was something of a corporate troubleshooter, and he had the
respect of the NASA engineers working on paraglider.19 This
augured well for the future, but, in the meantime, a fully
successful flight test had yet to be performed.
North American reworked the half-scale vehicle in its plant, then
shipped it back to Edwards Air Force Base on 15 October for
another try. A bad ground transmitter stalled matters for a while
but, on 23 October, the fifth test flight was a complete success.20Even
with all its problems, the series of tests had met its main goal,
showing that the paraglider was stable in free flight.21 But
predeployed flight testing ended more than two months late, and
the crucial deployment flight tests - spreading the paraglider
wing in flight - had not even begun.
In the meantime, other problems were beginning to compete for the
attention of the overworked project office. Like the paraglider,
ejection seats had been a controversial innovation in manned
spacecraft, and their development problems also gave critics an
early opening. The reasons were much the same. Both systems were a
long step beyond current practice, both presented test problems
not clearly related to their final roles, and both were subject to
changing requirements that imposed makeshift adjustments, further
Although ejection seats were widely used in military aircraft,
they were designed to give pilots a chance to survive, not to
guarantee that survival. Manned spacecraft levied more stringent
demands. Most critical was the "off-the-pad abort mode." Before
liftoff, the spacecraft perched some 45 meters from the ground
atop a shell filled with potentially explosive chemicals, the
Titan launch vehicle.  However rigorous the precautions,
there was always the danger of some mischance setting it off. For
a length of time that might stretch into hours before they were
airborne, the crew would be aboard with no recourse, should that
mishap occur, save their ejection seats. The Gemini seat had to be
able to propel itself from a starting point 45 meters in the air
in a trajectory stable enough to get clear of an exploding booster
and high enough to allow parachutes to open. No existing seat
could do that, and developing one that could was the crux of the
McDonnell chose Rocket Power, Inc., of Mesa, Arizona, to supply
the rocket catapult (or rocat) for the Gemini escape system.23 For
the seat itself, McDonnell turned to Weber Aircraft, of Burbank,
luck would have it, the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake
in the middle of California's Mojave Desert had earlier
constructed a 45-meter tower for Sidewinder missile tests. This
tower was admirably suited for simulated off-the-pad ejection (or,
acronymically, Sope) tests.25 Kenneth
F. Hecht, who left the ordnance test station in January 1962 to
take charge of Gemini escape and recovery systems, set up a
special working group to oversee seat development and
was convinced, and in this he was seconded by those who knew most
about ejection seats, that the key problem was finding ways to
control the relationship between the rocat's line of thrust and
the shifting center of gravity of the seat-man combination while
the rocket was burning. Without this control, a trajectory of the
proper height and stability could not be achieved. This was one of
the reasons why Hecht insisted the tests be conducted with a dummy
in the seat, rather than with a solid mass. He also knew that
haste was vital, since the seat design could not be settled until
the answers were in.26
The first Sope test came off on schedule 2 July 1962, followed by
four more over the next month. All produced their share of
problems and mechanical failures, each dealt with as quickly as
possible to get on with the next test. None of these mechanical
problems much bothered Hecht and his colleagues, because they had
their eyes on the dynamic problem of rocket thrust and center of
gravity. They were concerned with ejection at this point, not the
complete escape sequence through recovery, and thought they were
close to solving that key problem.27 From
this viewpoint, the first five tests were a success. But if the
goal were seen as a complete system with all parts working as they
should in the final version, the tests left much to be desired.
The seat seemed to be turning into a maze of makeshift fixes, and
the personnel recovery parachute system (the crewman's landing
device) had failed twice.
 At an extended meeting in Houston on 6 and 7 August, the
total system viewpoint prevailed. Sope testing was halted until a
complete design of the whole system was ready and the personnel
parachute had been fully tested.28
A month elapsed before McDonnell was able to report on 6 September
that seat design and testing were complete, clearing the way for a
new round of Sope trials. Tests on 12 and 26 September went well
but highlighted a set of problems with the rocket motor. Some were
functional and some structural, but all affected, however
slightly, the direction of thrust and so made accurate control
impossible. Testing stopped again, pending the availability of the
rocat in its final form.29 This
delay was much prolonged, lasting well into 1963.
Other major Gemini systems seemed less troublesome. Through the
summer and early fall of 1962, such problems as appeared could be,
and were, regarded as nothing more than the routine hurdles in a
large program. One possible exception was the fuel cell, which,
like paraglider and ejection seats, was new to manned spacecraft
and had aroused some debate, at least in its General Electric
The basic source of electrical power in the spacecraft was to be
batteries. The weight of ordinary batteries, however, became
prohibitive as missions increased in length. Something more was
needed, and the choice was fuel cells. That choice was resolved in
January 1962. After analyzing the merits and defects of competing
approaches, Robert Cohen of MSC strongly recommended the General
Electric fuel cell as lighter, simpler, and more generally suited
to Gemini needs than other designs he had investigated.30
In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen react to produce water and
heat. The unique feature of the General Electric design was its
use of a solid ion-exchanging membrane in which electrolyte and
water were chemically bound; most other cells diffused gases into
a liquid electrolyte. A separate stream of coolant condensed the
water produced at the cell, then removed it through a series of
wicks to keep the reaction going at a constant rate. This used
little of the cell's own power, in contrast to the gas-diffusion
cells that required a complex self-powered process of flushing
with hydrogen, condensation, and centrifuging to remove the water
produced. General Electric had devoted intense research to the
design since 1959 and had already set up a fuel-cell facility, the
Direct Energy Conversion Operation in West Lynn, Massachusetts.31 McDonnell
shared Cohen's view and formally recommended General Electric for
a subcontract, to which NASA agreed.32
Nonetheless, in early 1962 the General Electric fuel cell was
still no more than a laboratory device, however promising.33 NASA
Headquarters was looking into fuel cells for Apollo, which raised
some questions about Gemini's choice of General Electric. The
Office of Manned Space Flight's survey of General Electric alleged
that the company was  understaffed, slow in getting started,
and unlikely to meet Gemini schedules - all this in addition to
what seemed to be an untested and questionable design concept.34Cohen
responded to these charges for GPO. He saw no reason to doubt that
General Electric would meet its commitments: the company was
adding to its staff and improving its effort, which had only begun
with an order from McDonnell two and a half weeks earlier. More
important, the much tested General Electric design was at least as
far along as any other and was inherently simpler to boot.35 That
settled the issue.
As development got under way, General Electric began to run into
problems that seemed to suggest that theory had outpaced practice.
The most serious in mid-1962 was how to achieve a satisfactory
bond between cell membrane and frame. Solving these problems
appeared more likely to tighten the schedules than to threaten the
program as a whole. In any case, the worst appeared to be over by
the end of August.36
During the last half of 1962, the paraglider's troubles probably
posed the greatest threat to an approved Gemini objective, that of
land landing, although ejection seats and, to a lesser extent,
fuel cells were also worrisome. The paraglider was a major new
system that demanded a large-scale effort. Ejection seats and fuel
cells, though not so novel, were still major innovations in manned
space flight. In all three cases, the novelty of the application
and the advance beyond current practice imposed a greater
development effort than required for other Gemini systems. Given
that fact, the problems should have come as no surprise. A quite
unexpected source of trouble loomed in another quarter. The
suitability of Titan II as a launch vehicle for manned space
flight came into question.
Responsibility for developing the Titan II missile belonged to the
Ballistic Systems Division (BSD), like SSD a part of Air Force
Systems Command. Titan II research and development test flights
began on 16 March 1962, with a launch from the Atlantic Missile
Range in Florida. In its first flight, Titan II displayed a
disquieting characteristic. A minute and a half after it lifted
off, while the first-stage engine was still firing, the missile
began to vibrate lengthwise like an accordion about 11 times a
second for roughly 30 seconds. This was not likely to bother a
missile too much, but it implied real trouble for a launch vehicle
with a manned payload. The steady acceleration of a booster like
Titan II pressed a crewman to his couch with about two and a half
times the force of gravity at that point in a normal flight.
Bouncing at an extra two and a half gravities (+ 2.5g) could badly
hamper a pilot's efforts to respond to an emergency, a matter of
special concern in Gemini since the crew played so large a role in
flying the spacecraft.37
Titan II's longitudinal oscillations quickly acquired the nickname
"pogo stick," soon simply Pogo. Its cause remained unclear, how to
get  rid of it a matter of guesswork. By July, Pogo was
becoming a regular topic at MSC's weekly senior staff meetings,
and BSD had formed a special Committee for Investigation of
Missile Oscillations.** 38 The
problem turned out to be surprisingly easy to solve for the
missile: higher pressure in the first-stage fuel tank cut Pogo in
half during the fourth test flight, on 25 July, although nobody
was quite sure why.39
There were some ideas, however. Martin engineers thought the
culprit might be oscillating pressure in propellant feedlines,
analogous to the chugging of water in pipes, or "water hammer."
This suggested the use of something like the surge tanks familiar
as devices to stabilize pressure in the flow lines of
hydroelectric plants and pumping stations. Martin proposed to
install a surge-suppression standpipe in the oxidizer line of a
later Titan II. MSC endorsed the plan, and BSD agreed. By the end
of August, GPO was cautiously optimistic. The lowered Pogo level
of plus or minus 1.25g achieved in the fourth Titan II test flight
was still too high for manned space flight, but the water hammer
analogy at least suggested an answer.40
GPO was also watching another problem. In two of its first four
test flights, Titan II's second-stage engine failed to reach full
thrust. The causes appeared to be different in each case and
unrelated to one another. Just how serious this might be could not
be foreseen. Much depended upon whether or not it recurred, and
GPO adopted a wait-and-see stance.41
Project Gemini's technical problems in the summer and fall of 1962
might have aroused more concern if a far more serious threat had
not intruded. The financial structure of the program began to
totter. Two circumstances combined to produce a major crisis. On
one hand, Gemini contractors were spending money at a much faster
rate than the project office had expected. On the other, Congress
was slow to approve NASA's appropriation for fiscal year 1963,
which restricted the funds available to Gemini. However serious
development problems might be, or become, they could always be
resolved if there were enough money. But now the question was how
to spread limited funds over an ever more costly program.
group included Edward A. Armstrong, Louis A Bernardi, Frederick T.
Burns, Paul R. Penrod, Hilary A. Ray, and Stanley White.
of the special committee was Abner Rasumoff of Space Technology
R. L. Thomas to MSC, Attn: Ronald C. Bake, 62MA-7227, 5 July 1962,
with enclosure, "Monthly Progress Letter No. 7, Paraglider
Development Program, Phase IIA, 20 May 1962 to 20 June 1962";
letter, Thomas to MSC, Attn: Bake, 62MA-7728, 1 Aug. 1962, with
enclosure, "Monthly Progress Letter No. 8, Paraglider Development
Program, Phase IIA, 20 June 1962 to 20 July 1962"; letter, Norbert
F. Witte to MSC, Attn: Bake, "Contract NAS 9-167, Paraglider
Development Program, Phase II, Part A, Monthly Progress Letter No.
9," 62MA10200, 1 Sept. 1962; letter, George W. Jeffs to MSC, Attn:
Bake, "Contract NAS9-167, Paraglider Development Program, Phase
II, Part A, Monthly Progress Letter No. 10 (21 August-21 September
1962)," 62MA13775, 26 Nov. 1962; letter, H. C. Godman to NASA
Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), "C-130 Support of NASA
Gemini Program (Paraglider Development)," 18 Sept. 1962; TWX, A.
A. Tischler to MSC, Attn: Bake, "Preliminary Test Evaluation
Review - Full Scale Dummy Drop No. 2," MA21334, 28 Aug. 1962;
Quarterly Status Report No. 2, for period ending 31 Aug. 1962, p.
13; Quarterly Status Report No. 3, for period ending 30 Nov. 1962,
p. 13; letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Bake, "Contract NAS 9-167,
Paraglider Development Program, Phase II, Part A, Monthly Progress
Letter No.12 (21 October-20 November 1962)," 62MA15807, 31 Dec.
1962, p. 6 (with annotation, probably by Bake); memo, Lester A.
Stewart to Joe W. Dodson, "Performance by Northrop Ventura in
Developing Parachute Systems for Use in Project Gemini,"
GPO-00493, 13 Dec. 1962.
Paul F. Bikle to STG, Attn: Rodney G. Rose, "Synopsis of Flight
Test Portion of Paraglider Development Study - Phase I," 12 Sept.
1961; memo, Stewart et al. to Dir., STG, "Paraglider Development
Program; Evaluation of Design Studies; Contract NAS 9-135, Ryan
Aeronautical Company; Contract NAS 9-136, North American Aviation,
Inc.; Contract NAS 9-137, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation," 22 Sept.
News Release 61-263, "Apollo Contractor Selected," 28 Nov.1961;
Rose, telephone interview, 13 June 1969. A widely known and
influential RAND study first published in 1960 had pointed out the
dangers of limiting competition between prospective contractors to
the design phase instead of continuing it through early
development; Charles J. Hitch and Roland N. McKean, The
Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age (New
York, 1965), p. 251.
letter, 62MA10200, 1 Sept. 1962; Jeffs letter, 62MA13775, 26 Nov.
1962, pp. l-3; letter, Jeffs to MSC. Attn: Bake, "Contract
NAS9-167, Paraglider Development Program, Phase II, Part A,
Monthly Progress Letter No. 11, 20 September - 20 October 1962,"
62 MA 13843, 26 Nov. 1962, p. 1.
Chamberlin to North American, Attn: Harrison A. Storms, Jr.,
"One-Half Scale Paraglider Program," GPO-50222, 21 Sept. 1962.
letter, 62MA 10200, 1 Sept. 1962.
letters, 62MA13843, 26 Nov. 1962, pp. 1-2, and 62MA15807, 31 Dec.
1962. n. 2.
Report of Paraglider Research and Development Program, Contract
NAS 9-1484," North American, SID65-196, 19 Feb. 1965, p. 188.
Status Report No. 1, pp. 20-21; Gordon P. Cress, interview,
Burbank, Calif., 5 July 1966.
Chamberlin to Gemini Procurement Office, Attn: James I. Brownlee,
"Contract NAS 9-170, Ejection Seat Rocket Catapult -
Recommendation for Authorization for Procurement," GPO-00024, 28
March 1962; Arthur H. Atkinson, "Gemini - Major Subcontracts,
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation," 3 July 1962.
"Gemini Major Subcontracts"; memo, Chamberlin to Gemini
Procurement Office, Attn: Berg, "Project Gemini Ejection Seat
Development Test Program," GPO-00097, 21 May 1962.
activity report, 28 May 1962, p. 1; Chamberlin memo,, GPO-00097,
21 May 1962; Cress interview.
F. Hecht], "Comments on Chapter 5, Expansion and Crisis," [10 Feb.
1970], p. 1; memo, Hecht to Historical Office, "Comments on
Chapter 6: The Nadir," 22 Sept. 1970; Hecht, telephone interview,
14 Nov. 1972; memo, Hecht to Mgr., GPO, "Gemini Escape System
Management," 26 March 1962; "Abstract of Meeting on Ejection
Seats, March 29, 1962," 3 April 1962.
of Meeting on Ejection Seat Developmental Test Program, May 29,
1962," 4 June 1962; memo, Chamberlin to Dir., "Gemini Weekly
Status Report (June 18, 1962)," GPO-00145, 18 June 1962; Quarterly
Status Report No. 2, p. 17; Richard S. Johnston, "Life Systems
Division Weekly Activities Report, 7/16/62 - 7/20/62," p. 3;
Raymond L. Zavasky, recorder, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting,
July 27, 1962," p. 4; memo, Richard P. Parten to Chief, Flight
Operations Div., "Project Gemini Coordination Meeting on
Mechanical Systems," 30 July 1962; memo, Chamberlin to Dir.,
"Gemini Weekly Status Report (August 6, 1962)," GPO-00257, 6 Aug.
1962; "Abstract of Meeting on Mechanical Systems, August 1-2,
1962," 7 Aug. 1962; Hecht, "Comments on Chapter 5," p. 1.
of Meeting on Ejection Seats, August 3, 1962," 17 Aug. 1962; TWX,
R. W. Miller to MSC, Attn: Chamberlin, "Gemini Ejection Seat
Tests," 306-450-23281, 10 Aug. 1962; "Abstract of Meeting on
Ejection Seats, August 6-7, 1962," 9 Aug. 1962; Weekly Activity
Report for Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, 5-11 Aug.
1962, MSC, p. 2; memo, Chamberlin to Dir., "Gemini Weekly Status
Report (August 13, 1962)," GPO-00263, 13 Aug. 1962; Chamberlin,
activity report, 27 Aug. 1962, p. 1.
of Meeting on Ejection Seats, September 6, 1962," 11 Sept. 1962;
TWXs, Miller to MSC, Attn: Chamberlin, "Gemini Ejection Seat
Tests," 306-450-23965, 13 Sept. 1962, and 306-450- 24240, 28 Sept.
1962; "Abstract of Meeting on Ejection Seats, September 26, 1962,"
3 Oct.1962; Quarterly Status Report No. 3, p. 18.
Cohen, "Summary of analysis for selecting the power source for the
Gemini Project," Gemini Project Note of January 23, 1962, 27 Jan.
pp. 3-4; letter, Walter F. Burke to Wilbur H. Gray, "Selection of
Equipment, Contract NAS 9-170, Fuel Cell System," 306101-142, 23
Feb. 1962, with enclosures, "Chosen System Advantages, General
Electric Fuel Cells" and "Substantiation of Selected Vendor
Capability"; R. H. Blackmer and G. A. Phillips, "Ion-Exchange
Membrane Fuel Cell for Space Vehicle Electric Power," presented at
the Society of Automotive Engineers National Aerospace Engineering
and Manufacturing Meeting, Los Angeles, 9-13 Oct. 1961; J. L.
Schanz and E. K. Bullock, "Gemini Fuel Cell Power Source - First
Spacecraft Application," ARS Paper No. 2561-62, presented at the
American Rocket Society Space Power Systems Conference, Santa
Monica, Calif., 25-28 Sept. 1962; "Fuel Cells for Spacecraft,
Including Determination of Fuel Battery Size for Specific
Application," brochure by Direct Energy Conversion Operation,
General Electric, January 1964, pp. 3-4.
letter, 306-101-142; letter, Gray to Burke, "Selection of
Equipment, Contract NAS 9- 170, Fuel Cell System," NAS/170-265, 21
H. Russell, interview, West Lynn, Mass., 24 April 1968.
George F. Esenwein to George M. Low, "Informal Visit to General
Electric Direct Energy Conversion Operation on March 26, 1962 to
discuss possible Apollo Fuel Cell Backup and Polymer A Status," 2
April 1962; James F. Saunders, Jr., telephone interview, 14 Nov.
Chamberlin to NASA Hq., Attn: Low, "Fuel Cell for Gemini,"
GPO-00026, 5 April 1962, with enclosures, memo, Cohen to Mgr.,
Project Gemini, "Status of General Electric Co. Fuel Cell
Development for Gemini," 5 April 1962, and Cohen, "Summary of
Gray to Chamberlin, "Visit to Direct Energy Conversion Operation,
General Electric Go., West Lynn, Mass.," NAS/170-706, 5 Sept.
1962; Quarterly Status Report No. 2, pp. 21-22.
H. Prause and R. L. Goldman, "Longitudinal Oscillation Instability
Study: POGO," Martin ER-13374, December 1964, pp. 1-3; Quarterly
Status Report No.6, for period ending 31 Aug. 1963, fig. 4; Jerome
B. Hammack, interview, Houston, 19 Aug. 1966.
"Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting[s], July 13, 1962," pp. 1, 3,
"July 20, 1962,"p. 3, and "July 27, 1962," pp. 1, 3; Prause and
Goldman, "POGO Study," p. 3.
"Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting[s], July 27, 1962,"p. 3, and
"August 3, 1962," p. 2; Quarterly Status Report No. 6, fig. 4.
Status Report No. 2, pp. 24-25; Prause and Goldman, "POGO Study,"
pp. 3, 20; Zavasky, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, August 10,
1962," p. 4; "Joint Titan II/Gemini Development Plan on Missile
Oscillation Reduction and Engine Reliability and Improvement,"
[Air Force Systems Command], 5 April 1963 (revised 7 May 1963),
enclosure 3, "Missile Configuration/Oscillation Summary."
Status Report No. 2, p. 25.
[ ] has
a note for closer study, please:
Despite some talk about dropping paraglider from Gemini to meet
fiscal constraints, paraglider development came through largely
unscathed. While other major systems suffered more or less drastic
cutback paraglider's budget expanded. By the end of 1962, contract
changes and overruns had raised the price of the current phase of
paraglider development from four and a half to over seven million
North American Aviation, the paraglider contractor, was still
having problems with flight testing. The success of 23 October
1962, which concluded the test series of a half-scale model
launched with its wing already deployed, proved only a respite.
The next step was trying to deploy the wing in flight. North
American refitted the half-scale test vehicle at its plant in
Downey, California, and shipped it back to Edwards Air Force Base
for its first flight test, scheduled for 27 November. The
all-too-familiar pattern of minor problems, mostly electrical,
delayed the flight day by day until 10 December, and then the
results were disappointing. The capsule tumbled from the
helicopter, fouling the drogue parachute intended to pull the can
in which the wing was stored away from the paraglider. Wing
inflation intensified the tumbling and the emergency drogue
parachute ejected too soon. When the capsule spun down past 1600
meters, the minimum recovery altitude, radio command detached the
wing and allowed the capsule to descend on its emergency
The next attempt, on 8 January 1963, after its share of delays,
produced even worse results. There was no tumbling, but the
storage can was late in separating; so the capsule was falling too
fast when the wing started to inflate and its membrane tore. As
the capsule fell below 1,600 meters, its wing not yet fully
deployed, emergency recovery was ordered to no avail. The main
parachute remained packaged, and the capsule crashed. Picking
through the wreckage, North American  inspectors found that a
squib switch in the emergency parachute's electrical system had
misfired. That was not the only problem, but it was the most
discouraging--the switch was a standard item, much used in the
space program and not known to have failed in 30,000 successive
firings. GPO warned North American to be sure everything that had
gone wrong was corrected before trying again.24
A month later, North American reported to the paraglider
coordination panel that five distinct failures had been spotted,
studied, and fixed. The panel was convinced, but Chamberlin was
not. After an extended meeting with George Jeffs, manager of the
paraglider program for North American, Chamberlin decided to give
the trouble plagued half-scale flight-test program another chance.25 Once
again, the current crop of troubles had little impact on plans for
the next phase of development, which covered the rest of flight
testing, pilot training, and paraglider production. Part of Phase
III, gearing up for production, was worked out and under way by 22
January. North American's proposals for the rest of the program
were ready by the end of the month. GPO approved and, with the
concurrence of NASA Headquarters, readied a new contract.26 But
the Office of Manned Space Flight had second thoughts and stopped
the procurement action "for the time being."27 The
halt proved to be permanent.
The Gemini paraglider program foundered on North American's third
attempt to deploy a half-scale wing in flight. Although the first
two flights had been at least partial successes, the third, on 11
March, offered no comfort at all, The storage can failed to
separate, so the wing could neither eject nor inflate. When the
radioed command to deploy the emergency parachute produced no
response, the second half-scale test vehicle joined the first as
testing came to an abrupt halt.
challenges, not the hang glider wing itself, was heart of the
halt. Unfortunately text on Internet blame the hang glider
wing itself, but that was not the case. The mechanics of deploying
from stored-in-spacecraft mode was the problem; the breakout
process was not solved. NOTE AGAIN: these North American
matters are NOT THE PARESEV where pilot hang gliding testing was
|Further into early
1963 for Gemini paraglider (recall, this is not Paresev hang
where the paraglider deployment-challenge history continues:
[ Partial page clip for study:]
Attacking Paraglider and Titan II Problems
The most pressing worry when Mathews took charge of the project in
mid-March 1963 was what to do about the trouble-plagued paraglider
development program. Back-to-back failures, as North American
tried to deploy the wing in flight, had destroyed both half-scale
test vehicles. GPO had been funding paraglider on an interim basis
since February, little money was left, and North American was
ready to quit unless it got new directions. With neither time nor
money enough to replace the two lost test vehicles, GPO had to
work out a new test program with North American, using the
hardware still on hand or almost ready - the two full-scale test
vehicles slated for deployment tests,  the half-scale
boilerplate left over from emergency parachute system
qualification, and the paraglider trainer that North American was
Spokesmen for North American and MSC met in Houston 27-28 March to
discuss the options. Telephones in GPO, in the Gemini Procurement
Office, and in North American were busy over the next two weeks as
the main features of a revised test program were argued, talked
out, and settled. The key decision was to divide the flight
sequence in half and work through the problems of each phase
separately before trying to demonstrate a complete flight from
deployment through landing.56
Spreading the wing in flight was still the crucial problem, and it
was to be tackled with the two full-scale test vehicles. The new
test plan, however, was simpler than the old. As the vehicle
dropped from a high-flying aircraft, its wing would inflate and
deploy to convert its fall into a glide down to 3,000 meters. That
ended the test sequence. Explosive charges would sever the cables
that suspended the test vehicle from the wing, and the now
wingless vehicle would descend to Earth beneath a large parachute.
The rest of the flight sequence, gliding from 3,000 meters to a
landing, was to be studied with two tow-test vehicles, modified
versions of the paraglider trainer. Towed by a helicopter to the
proper altitude and then released, this vehicle would be flown by
a pilot down to the California desert. In the final stage of the
program, Gemini static articles would be fitted with standard
paraglider gear and flown through the complete flight sequence
from deployment to landing.57
If everything went according to plan, the paraglider landing
system could be ready for the seventh Gemini spacecraft. By the
time McDonnell started building the tenth spacecraft, paraglider
gear could be installed at the proper place on the production
On 12 April 1963, Mathews outlined for North American what had to
be done at once to put the new program into effect. The company
was to stop all work on landing gear for the full-scale test
vehicle, since it would now land via parachute, and to forget
about trying to convert the half-scale boilerplate into a
half-scale test vehicle. Instead, the boilerplate would be used as
a tow-test vehicle to work out takeoff techniques needed later for
manned flights. North American also had to qualify the new
full-scale parachute system, which differed substantially from the
emergency system - using three Mercury-type parachutes - that
North American had tried hard to qualify, without much success,
during the summer and fall of 1962. By the end of April 1963,
North American had shifted gears and was working along the lines
laid out earlier that month.59
The reoriented paraglider program was formalized in a new contract
between North American and NASA on 5 May 1963 that also 
closed out the earlier contracts. MSC and the contractor agreed on
a year-long program (to May 1964) more tightly focused on the
basic design of a workable paraglider system than the old had
been, with such matters as flight training and production
postponed until the design had been proved.60 NASA
settled the earlier contracts with North American for $7.8 million
and negotiated a $20-million price for the new effort that was
intended to save paraglider landing for Gemini.61
Although doing something about paraglider was the most pressing
problem Mathews faced when he took over Gemini, Titan II was the
greater concern for the program as a whole. ...
|Further in the
book, but recall that PARESEV is a distinct separate program than
the North American paraglider situation. Notice whereas Gemini
deployment explorations via North American involved the two types
of hang glider paraglider: 1. Just canopy gliding parachute type
hang glider AND 2. The inflated boom stiffened
sail parawing type hang glider wing. DIFFERENTLY
AND SEPARATELY was the 1961 intiated PARESEV program for actual
pilot hang gliding practice in the mostly metal-tube-boomed hang
Paraglider on the Wane
SEE FULL PAGE THERE. VOLUNTEER STUDY IS INVITED for the aspects
pertinent to the hang gliding involved. We clip for
study here that chapter:
Work on the reoriented paraglider program of May 1963 got off to a
quick start. Before the end of the month, North American Aviation
was working out techniques for launching a tow-test vehicle from
the ground. This preliminary effort, which involved first a
car-towed half-scale vehicle and then one towed by helicopter, was
designed to show what the paraglider would do during towing and
liftoff and to work out proper towing techniques, all this to
prepare for that part of the new test program in which a pilot
would fly the test vehicle from an altitude of 3,000 meters to a
landing. NASA's Flight Research Center also conducted a series of
tow tests, the whole effort being completed in mid-October 1963.21
If Gemini were forced to use parachutes instead of the
trouble-plagued paraglider for landing the spacecraft, the landing
sites would shift from land to sea.
May 1963 also saw North American begin work on the other phase of
the new test program, testing the deployment sequence with the
full-scale test vehicle. Since this phase of testing called for
the test vehicle to land by parachute, the first step was to
qualify a parachute recovery system, one standard Gemini parachute
backed up by a second. North American got off to a smooth start.
Two drops of a small bomblike test vehicle on 22 May and 3 June
showed that the system's two small stabilization parachutes
worked. The contractor quickly began testing the full system on a
boilerplate test vehicle. A minor malfunction marred the first
drop on 24 June, but three good tests followed in July, with only
one more needed to prove the system. What was to have been the
final drop, on 30 July, brought a crucial setback. Both main and
backup parachutes failed, and the boilerplate crashed.22
The company wanted to get on to the next phase of testing and
argued that the failure could be safely ignored, partly because
North American believed it knew how to correct the problem partly
because further tests would require a new boilerplate and mean a
delay in the program. The logic was sound enough, but GPO feared
that, although the immediate problem might be easily corrected,
its root cause - the instability of the vehicle - might produce
other, and worse, problems.  GPO and North American agreed on
two further drop tests. McDonnell furnished the new boilerplate,
which North American, on the basis of spin-tunnel tests, modified
to provide a more stable suspension system. That took time; over
three months elapsed before the next drop, on 12 November 1963.
Everything worked, and another test three weeks later confirmed
the result; the parachute recovery system was at last qualified
for full-scale vehicle deployment tests.23
Proving the parachute system was not the only source of delay.
Design engineering inspections of the full-scale test vehicle on 1
August and the tow-test vehicle on 27 September produced the
normal share of required changes. Wind tunnel tests of North
American's first full-scale prototype wing at Ames Research Center
in October yielded too little data and had to be repeated in early
December. So it was late November before the contractor could
deliver the first tow-test vehicle to Edwards Air Force Base to
begin its manned program and mid-December before the two
full-scale vehicles arrived.24 With
almost two thirds of the time available under the new contract
exhausted, North American had yet to begin the major
flight-testing portion of the program.
By the fall of 1963, the status of paraglider in Gemini was once
more in jeopardy only partly because of North American's troubles.
The inflated frame used in the paraglider design was being
challenged by advocates of what seemed to be a viable alternative
- an all-flexible gliding parachute, the so-called parasail. This
device offered a lift-to-drag ratio ranging from 0.9 to 1.2, lower
than paraglider's but still enough to provide worthwhile range and
control. It was further handicapped by its relatively high rate of
descent, which required landing rockets to cushion impact with the
ground. But, overall, parasails matched conventional parachutes
closely enough to promise a reasonably quick and relative cheap
development of a reliable device for land landing.
The gliding parachute had, in fact, competed with the
inflated-frame paraglider design back in 1961, when the choice of
a land-landing technique for what was then the Mercury Mark II
project was being made. Although rejected for Mark II, the concept
persisted as the subject of a modest research and development
program at MSC.25 As
paraglider faltered, parasail seemed more attractive. Project
Gemini's new manager, Charles Mathews, was more receptive to
parasail - or less committed to paraglider - than James Chamberlin
had been. Supported by MSC Director Gilruth, Mathews called on GPO
for another look at parasail. In April 1963, after the second
half-scale test vehicle had crashed but before the future of the
paraglider program was decided, he asked McDonnell to study
changing Gemini's landing system from paraglider to parasail.26
While McDonnell pursued its study, MSC's Flight Operations
Division  and Systems Evaluation Division continued testing a
parasail system and pressing for its adoption. Paraglider still
had highly vocal backers, however, who denied that its problems
involved anything more than sequential details that would have to
be ironed out for any recovery device, even conventional
parachutes. Claiming that paraglider development had been known
from the first to be a hard task, they objected to dropping it
after so much of the work had already been done.27 The
lines were drawn here they had been in 1961: Flight Operations
Division and the Engineering and Development Directorate still
opposed paraglider; most of the project office and the prospective
pilots, supported by Flight Crew Operations, favored it.
When McDonnell finished its study early in September 1963, the
issue was carried to NASA Headquarters. The company's informed
guess at the cost of a parasail and landing-rocket system for the
Gemini spacecraft was $15.7 million, with a good chance to be
ready for Spacecraft 7. When the parasail proposal was informally
presented to NASA Headquarters on 6 September, it was rejected.
Dropping paraglider on the verge of flight testing, leaving
nothing to show for all the time, money, and effort already spent,
was out of the question. The alternative, going ahead with
parasail development as something to fall back on if paraglider
failed, was ruled out for lack of funds to support both tasks at
Although reprieved, the paraglider program did not come through
unscathed. High-level talks between MSC and NASA Headquarters
produced still another reorientation of the program.* The
paraglider landing system program was stripped of all other
objectives, leaving as its only goal proving paraglider's
technical feasibility - which meant primarily showing that the
wing could be inflated and deployed in flight to achieve a stable
glide - with the accent on staying within the $16.1 million
budgeted for fiscal year 1964. Until that goal had been met, there
was to be no further work on a prototype system for Gemini, much
less on production. Gilruth insisted on a clear understanding that
paraglider might still fly on Gemini if the flight tests
succeeded, that paraglider's future in Gemini had not been
implication of foreclosure was nonetheless there.
Under orders from MSC, North American ceased its efforts to keep
the full-scale test vehicle fitted with the latest Gemini
equipment. MSC also directed McDonnell to stop all testing related
to installing the paraglider, to design parachute versions of all
Gemini spacecraft, and to plan on putting paraglider in the last
three, the last two, or  only the last spacecraft. Nothing of
paraglider was to remain in the spacecraft except the option to
put everything back if the flight testing succeeded. Parachutes
had, by late 1963, displaced paragliders as the planned means of
recovery through the ninth mission. Paraglider landing was still
listed for the last three Gemini flights, but some planners, SSD
Commander Ben Funk among them, assumed paraglider would not be
included in the tenth mission, either, "and probably will not be
carried on any of the twelve flights."30 The
very fact of paraglider's doubtful status had already begun to
close off any real chance to fly in Gemini, whether it proved
itself or not.
A common feature of spacecraft development, and always a matter of
concern, seems to be an innate tendency toward weight growth.
Gemini was no exception. A complete paraglider landing system
weighed almost 360 kilograms more than a conventional parachute
recovery system. Once paraglider's place had been questioned, that
difference was seen as a bonus and was simply used up.
Experiments, for instance, began to encroach on as yet unfilled
space allotted to paraglider, especially after January 1964, when
the Manned Space Flight Experiments Board was formed. Gemini's
planners were beginning to look on paraglider as an extra demand
on the payload budget, already pushing the limits set by the
booster. If paraglider were to be restored, some other mission
objectives would have to give way.31 In
other words, even if North American succeeded in showing that
paraglider worked, that could no longer guarantee an attempt to
fly the system in Gemini. Everything rested on the outcome of
North American's upcoming effort to deploy the wing on the
full-scale test vehicle in flight; although success could not
ensure a place for paraglider, failure would surely bar it.
participants were MSC Director Gilruth, NASA Associate
Administrator Seamans, George E. Mueller (who had recently
replaced Brainerd Holmes as Deputy Associate Administrator for
Manned Space Flight), and George Low (Mueller's Deputy Director
George M. Low to James C. Elms, 13 April 1963; letter, Gilruth to
Dir., Flight Research Center, "Participation of Flight Research
Center in Paraglider Flight Test Program," GPO 00851, 6 May 1963;
letter, Paul F. Bikle to MSC, Attn: Gemini-Paraglider Program
Manager, "Paraglider Program status report, June 15, 1963, to July
15, 1963," 18 July 1963; Quarterly Status Report No. 7, p. 33;
letter, Harrison A. Storms, Jr., to MSC, Attn: Stephen D.
Armstrong, "Contract NAS 9-1484, Paraglider Landing System
Research and Development Program, Transmittal of the Final Fee
Settlement Proposal," 65MA3479, 18 March 1965, with enclosure, "A
Final Fee Settlement Proposal for Contract NAS 9- 1484," 18 March
1965, p. V-111; letter, George W. Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline,
"Contract NAS 9-1484, Paraglider Landing System Program, Monthly
Progress Report No. 5 (September 1963)," 63MA 14952, 16 Oct. 1963,
p. 4; letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484,
Paraglider Landing System Program, Monthly Progress Report No. 6
(October 1963)," 63MA16325, 15 Nov. 1963, p. 3; memo, Kenneth F.
Hecht to MSC Historical Office, "Comments on Chapter 6: The
Nadir," 22 Sept. 1970.
chapter V, pp. 98-99; letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline, "Contract
NAS 9-1484, Paraglider Landing System Program, Monthly Progress
Report No. 1 (May 1963)," 63MA8801, 15 June 1963, p. 2; Weekly
Activity Report, 2-8 June 1963, p. 2; letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn:
Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484, Paraglider Landing System Program,
Monthly Progress Report No. 2 (June 1963)." 63 MA10508, 19 July
1963, pp. 2-4; Weekly Activity Report, 23-29 June 1963, pp. 1-2;
Consolidated Activity Report, 16 June - 20 July 1963, pp. 87-88;
letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484,
Paraglider Landing System Program, Monthly Progress Report No. 3
(July 1963)," 63MA12060, 15 Aug. 1963, p. 1; Mathews, activity
report, 28 July-3 Aug. 1963, p. 1; "GPO Information for Management
Council Meeting," prepared for meeting of 24 Sept. 1963; Hecht
memo, 22 Sept. 1970.
R. S. Maynard to MSC for Kline, MA24858, 30 Aug. 1963; letter,
Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484, Paraglider
Landing System Program, Monthly Progress Report No. 4 (August
1963)," 63MA12926, 13 Sept. 1963, p. 1; Consolidated Activity
Report, 18 Aug. - 21 Sept. 1963, p. 79; Jeffs letter, 63MA16325,
15 Nov. 1963, p. 1; "Consolidated Activity Report, 20 Oct. - 16
Nov. 1963," pp. 20-21; Quarterly Status Report No. 7, p. 32;
letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn: Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484,
Paraglider Landing System Program, Monthly Progress Report No.7
(November 1963)," 63MA16756, 13 Dec. 1963, pp. 1-2; Weekly
Activity Report, 1-7 Dec. 1963, p. 1; letter, Jeffs to MSC, Attn:
Kline, "Contract NAS 9-1484, Paraglider Landing System Program,
Monthly Progress Report No.8 (December 1963)," 64MA632, 13 Jan.
1964, p. 2; Quarterly Status Report No. 8, p. 25; Hecht memo, 22
letter, 63MA12926, 13 Sept. 1963, p. 1; Weekly Activity Report, 28
July-3 Aug. 1963, p. 3; Jeffs letter, 63MA14952, 16 Oct. 1963, p.
1; Quarterly Status Report No. 7, p. 33; Weekly Activity Report,
27 Oct. - 2 Nov. 1963, p. 1; Jeffs letter, 63MA16756, 13 Dec.
1963, p. 6; Jeffs letter, 64MA632, 13 Jan. 1964, p. 1.
Project Development Plan for a Controllable Parachute-Retrorocket
Landing System," STG, 21 June 1961; U.S. Congress, House,
Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical
and Aeronautical Events of 1962: Report, 88th
Cong., 1st sess., 12 June 1963, p. 256; Zavasky, "Minutes of
Senior Staff Meeting, March 22, 1963," p. 2; Consolidated Monthly
Activity Report, 24 Feb. - 23 March 1963, p. 39.
J. Meyer, Jr., notes on GPO staff meeting, 9 May 1963, p. 2; TWX,
John Y. Brown to MSC, Attn: Mathews, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini,
Study of Incorporation of Parasail," 16-DAH-2582, 26 May 1963;
memo, Mathews to Wilbur H. Gray, "Information and Equipment Needed
for Parasail Program," GPO-03044-A, 8 Aug. 1963.
Maxime A. Faget to dist., "Parasail - Landing Rocket Program," 4
March 1963, with enclosure, "Parasail - Landing Rocket Program
Description"; Consolidated Activity Report, 19 May - 15 June 1963,
p. 47; memo, Kraft to Chief, Systems Evaluation and Development
Div., Attn: John W. Kiker, "Status of Pilot Visualization Program
as of June 1, 1963," 17 June 1963; Consolidated Activity Report,
18 Aug. - 21 Sept. 1963, p. 59; Quarterly Status Report No. 6, pp.
21-22; memo, Kiker to GPO, Attn: Mathews, "Development status of
the Para-sail - landing rocket," 21 Oct. 1963, with enclosures;
memo, Warren J. North and Donald K. Slayton to Dir., "Continuation
of paraglider effort," 3 Sept. 1963.
Brown to MSC, Attn: Mathews, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini,
Budgetary Estimate for Production Incorporation of Parasail,"
16-DAH-3393, 5 Sept. 1963; Zavasky, "Senior Staff Meeting,
September 13, 1963," p. 6; Quarterly Status Report No. 6, p. 22.
Low to MSC, Attn: Elms, "Paraglider development program," M-C S
1312-503, 3 Oct. 1963; letter, Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn: Low, "Realinement
[sic] of Gemini Paraglider Program," GPO-01076-M, 16 Oct. 1963;
letter, Low to MSC, Attn: Gilruth, "Gemini Paraglider Program,"
M-C S 1312-701, 30 Oct. 1963.
Final Fee Settlement Proposal," pp. III-1, V-36; memo, Wilburne F.
Hoyler et al. to Actg. Mgr., GPO, "Paraglider Reorientation with
the Gemini Program," 14 Oct. 1963; Low memo, M-C S 1312-503, 3
Oct.1963; Quarterly Status Report No. 8, p. 58; letter, Funk to
Gilruth, "Evaluation of the Paraglider," 29 Nov. 1963.
"Management Panel Meeting, November 13, 1963," p. 5; "Abstract of
Meetings of Gemini Launch Vehicle Panels and Coordination
Committee, January 9-10, 1964," 20 Jan. 1964; memo, John A.
Edwards to Dep. Dir., Gemini Program, "Gemini Water Landings," 18
Feb.1964; Purser, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel
Meeting. . . , February 7, 1964," pp. 6, 7; letter, Holmes to
Gilruth, 23 Aug.1963; memo, Verne C. Fryklund to Dir., Office of
Space Sciences, "Manned Space Flight Experiments Board," 28 Oct.
1963; memo, Willis B. Foster to Chief, Lunar and Planetary Br.,
"Establishment of Manned Space Flight Experiments Board," 9 Jan.
1964; NASA Management Instruction M 9000.002, "Establishment of a
Manned Space Flight Experiments Board," Coordination Draft #6, 14
Jan. 1964; letter, Schneider to Mathews, 24 Jan. 1964; Hecht,
telephone interview, 23 Jan. 1973.
Haig mentioned that book in a post:
which has things to study
related to NASA hang gliders of the canopy and stiffened-canopy sort.
See the notes regarding the Apollo program, Rogallo, the work in 1959,
etc. The document can be studied for its hang glider
(paraglider) works. The archive files for the "three" contractors
mentioned in this study clip would be something that could be placed on
the hang glider table. Space Task
Study clip from the book:
displayed much active interest in Francis Rogallo's flexible wing
concept after the
initial flurry in early 1959.76 Rogallo
and his co-workers at Langley had pushed ahead with their studies in the
details of that "flurry" is important for the hang:
STG had not displayed much active interest in Francis Rogallo's flexible
wing concept after the initial flurry in early 1959.76 Rogallo
and his co-workers at Langley had pushed ahead with their studies in the
meantime. By mid-1960, they had convinced themselves that a
controllable, flexible wing could carry a returning spacecraft safely to
land, thus providing "a lightweight controllable paraglider for manned
space vehicles."77 STG
rediscovered the paraglider at the start of 1961 as a by-product of work
on Apollo. A technical liaison group on Apollo configuration and
aerodynamics met at Langley on 12 January.** In
the course of describing his center's work for Apollo, the Langley
representative mentioned the paraglider landing system: "The feeling at
Langley is that if the paraglider shows the same type of reliability in
large-scale tests . . . that it has achieved in small-scale tests, the
potential advantages of this system outweigh other systems." Engineering
design of large paragliders appeared to be no problem and would be
demonstrated in manned and unmanned drop tests.78
Space Task Group engineers met informally with Rogallo and his
colleagues in February, March, and April to explore the use of a
paraglider in the Apollo program.*** The
STG team was less than enthusiastic. They believed much work was yet to
be done before the device  could be seriously considered as a
landing system for Apollo. The biggest unknown was the deployment
characteristics of an inflatable wing; no inflatable structure had ever
been successfully deployed in flight. Other questions - how the
paraglider was to be packaged, whether the pilot's view from the capsule
would be good enough for flying and landing with it - were nearly as
important and also largely unanswered. The STG team advised gathering at
least six months of data before awarding any paraglider development
the same time, however, McDonnell engineers were looking at a paraglider
for the modified Mercury, and Marshall Space Flight Center had already
let two contracts to study paraglider as a booster recovery system. The
idea clearly had promise, and in May 1961 Gilruth decided to contract
for further study.
each got $100,000 for two and a half months to design a paraglider
landing system and define potential problem areas.**** The
best design was expected later to become the basis for a development
contract to "provide the modified [Mercury] spacecraft with the
capability of achieving a controlled energy landing through the use of
aerodynamic lift."80 In
fact, the design studies soon received a new name - Phase I of the
Paraglider Development Program.81 Observed
by a small technical monitoring group from STG, the paraglider design
studies were under way before May ended.# 82 McDonnell
engineers also maintained close liaison with paraglider work,
independent though it was of the Mercury Mark II study contract.83 The
redesigned Mercury, as presented by Chamberlin and Blatz to the Capsule
Review Board in June, could he adapted to a paraglider landing system,
once it was developed.84
STG engineers were John W. Kiker, Richard C. Kennedy, Fred J. Pearce,
Jr., and Gerard J. Pesman. Rogallo's team consisted of Delwin R. Croom,
Robert T. Taylor, Donald E. Hewes, Lloyd J. Fisher, Jr., and Lou S.
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Space Task Group engineers (STG)
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WHICH LINE ITEM WILL YOU ENERGIZE
AND MAKE interesting and fun FOR ALL?