St. Louis had a major role in putting a man on the moon

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - It is Apollo 11 week, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing. For some St. Louisans, part of the space program has a direct line through St. Louis.

The moon has been on the mind of Norman Beckel, an electronics engineer on the Mercury and Gemini projects.

As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and moon landing is celebrated, Beckel shared some stories of those monumental achievements,” said Norman Beckel/Communications Engineer Mercury and Gemini program.

“Mercury and Gemini were required to test out all the things in order to go to the moon.  In Mercury, we were trying to see if we could put a person in space and have them live.   And we accomplished that.”

Before it became Boeing, St. Louis based McDonnel Douglas, was where the U.S. space program got off the ground.

“The Russians were about a year ahead of us but the difference was we did ours in plain sight.”

In Hazelwood, at the Boeing prologue room which is open to the public, a Mercury and Gemini capsule tell of the St. Louis role in early space exploration.

“The Mercury project was monumental.  So, such craft existed or had ever flown.  And with Gemini, they had to double their efforts.  They had not just one astronaut but two,” said Patrick Clark.

“And the other difference between Mercury and Gemini was Mercury was strictly an analog system.  We had no digital systems,” said Beckel.

“In Mercury we showed we could put a man in space, orbit him and recover him safely.  Gemini went the next step.  We knew Apollo was going to rendezvous.  It wasn`t just going to be a missile firing from earth and land on the moon.”

And Beckel is proud of St. Louis role in outer space.

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