SPECIFICALLY, THE DATE HAD BEEN October 8, 1958. On that date the Space Task Group was unofficially established at Langley Field, Va., where the NACA Langley Laboratory (now the NASA Langley Research Center) had been located since 1917. Robert R. Grilruth, who had headed the former NACA Pilotless Aircraft Research Laboratory at Wallops Island, Va., was named Project Manager, and Charles J. Donlan, Technical Assistant to the Director of the Langley Laboratory, was made Assistant Project Manager. Thirty-five key staff members of the Langley Laboratory, who had worked closely with the Wright-Patterson Laboratory personnel on the Man-in-Space plan, were transferred to the new Space Task Group, as were 10 other persons from Lewis Research Center, Ohio. These 45 persons were to form the nucleus of the Work force for the manned satellite program with headquarters at Langley. On November 14 the highest national priority procurement rating was requested for the manned spacecraft project (although it was not granted until April 27, 1959). On the 26th, the manned satellite program was officially designated "Project Mercury."1
Between Washington and Space Task Group headquarters at Langley—an hour’s flight by small plane—there was now ,an almost hourly exchange of information as plans began to crystallize. It was a period of test to determine whether national leadership and the democratic system could pursue such a vast undertaking without the impetus of a threat to national survival.
Of immediate concern was the type of individual who would function most effectively as an astronaut. What should be his professional qualifications? His training and experience? By what physical and mental criteria should he be judged? Who should determine his physical fitness? These problems would require the attention of both engineering and medical professions in the Space Task Group.2
1. James M. Grimwood, Project Mercury: A
Chronology, NASA SP-4001,
1963, pp. 31-32.
2. Project Mercury: Man-in-Space Program
of the NASA, S. Rept. 1014,
86th Cong., lst sess., Dec. 1959, p. 6. See also W. Randolph Lovelace II, A. H. Schwichtenberg, Ulrich C. Luft, and Robert R. Secrest, "Selection Find Maintenance Program for Astronauts for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration," Aerospace Med., vol. .33, no. 6, June 1962, pp. 667-6334.