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The American Space Task Group

The Space Task Group was a working group of engineers based at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Created in 1958, the group was part of NASA and was tasked with superintending America's manned space-flight program.

Created on November 5, 1958, the Space Task Group was headed by Robert Gilruth. Originally it consisted of only forty-five people, including eight secretaries and "computers" (the term for women who ran calculations on mechanical adding machines). Of its thirty-seven engineers, twenty-seven were from Langley Research Center and ten had been assigned from Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Original members of the group included Charles Donlan, Gilruth's deputy; Max Faget, head of engineering; Chuck Mathews, head of flight operations; Chris Kraft, also in flight operations; and Glynn Lunney, who at twenty-one was the youngest member of the group.

In 1959, the group was greatly expanded by the addition of thirty-two engineers from Canada, who had been left without jobs when the Avro Arrow project was cancelled. These new additions, Canadians and some British, included Jim Chamberlin, George Harris, John Hodge, Owen Maynard, Bryan Erb, Rodney Rose and Tecwyn Roberts.

The basic flight-control concepts used for Apollo were developed by a small group of people on the Mercury Operations Team.

In 1958, under the leadership of Robert R. Gilruth, the Space Task Group had been given the responsibility of placing a man in orbit around the Earth. Those few young men who assumed this task did not have any previous experience on which to rely.

Other members of the Mercury Operations Team had experience with aircraft development and flight testing with the Air Force and Navy or with major aircraft companies, both within this country and in particular with AVRO of Canada.

That country's cancellation of the CF-105 with its attendant effect on the AVRO program proved to be a blessing to the United States space program. Many fine engineers came to work as members of the Space Task Group at Langley: Jim Chamberlin, John Hodges, Tecwyn Roberts, Dennis Fielder, and Rod Rose, to name a few.

The operational concepts that were developed by this cadre on Mercury were improved as experience was gained on each flight. As the Operations Team assumed the responsibility for flying Gemini, the concepts were further developed, expanded, and improved. There were many essential steps that had to be taken to get to the Moon. For the Operations Team, Gemini was one.
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