A new Division of Life Sciences Programs was created in March at NASA Headquarters, with Clark T. Randt, a neurosurgeon from Cleveland, as its director. Part of this division's purpose was to ensure machine-rated men for the future of manned space flights. Earlier in the year an Air Force aeromedical leader, Brigadier General Don D. Flickinger, reported to NASA and STG on his recent trip to Russia and on the opinions he had formed about Soviet progress toward manned space flight. Flickinger estimated that the Soviets would attempt without prior announcement to orbit a two-man laboratory about mid-year. The American astronauts were "anxious to do anything possible to speed things up."74
But the hardware was simply not yet hard enough or wearable enough for the insiders to get deeply excited about beating the Russians into space. Just after capsule No. 4 arrived at Langley, Purser went to look at it and reported to Gilruth:
Although there are evidences of careless workmanship, I don't think it is too much worse than standard aircraft practice. Also, most of the bumps, patches, etc., seem to be on the unpressurized part of the structure. It was also mentioned by one of the boys that Capsule 4 was never intended as a flight vehicle, but only as a vibration-and-static test article; this can account for a lot of the errors. While many of the bad spots could be caught by inspection and corrected, a lot are non-fixable except by junking a capsule. These can only be avoided by inspiring in some way, better workmanship. I would suggest documenting the bad spots on Capsule 4 and then having a good inspection by STG people of the flight capsules now on the line. This could be repeated in 6 to 8 weeks to catch the next batch and probably would cure the troubles.75After the late February meeting on reliability in Washington, a great deal of ferment was evident in systems testing, quality control, engineering inspection, and a new order of reliability testing. At the McDonnell factory, Robert L. Seat, who together with George Waldram had drawn up the first capsule systems test plan, began to clarify the differences between acceptable aircraft qualification test practices and spacecraft systems integration and reliability tests.
 In early March, STG sent a delegation to Huntsville and Detroit for the latest word on reliability program upgrading at ABMA and at Chrysler. Joachim P. Kuettner, Eugene J. Buhmann, and von Braun's deputy, Eberhard F. M. Rees, conducted tours and arranged presentations for March 7 and 8. The next day at Chrysler's missile plant in Michigan, C. A. Brady, Bernard J. Meldrum, and L. L. Baker presented a similar review, which apparently satisfied their visitors from STG that the Redstones for Mercury could be trusted.76
Through March and April the pressure on McDonnell to deliver the goods unfinished and yet with perfect reliability records became so acute that James S. McDonnell and his board of directors in St. Louis appointed their factory manager, Walter F. Burke, to meet and satisfy that pressure. Burke, already a company vice-president, was named general manager for Project Mercury. Logan MacMillan remained as "company-wide project manager" for McDonnell, but the addition of Burke signified the scale of the growth in size and scope of the Mercury contract.77
McDonnell would have been remiss if it had not responded at the highest level to NASA's pressure. All the aerospace companies knew that Faget and Robert Piland were traveling around the country during April 1960 presenting their preliminary ideas and plans for "advanced vehicular" space flight programs to other members of the NASA family. Technical speculation was rife over how best to accomplish manned circumlunar flight. Other corporate giants, including Grumman and Convair/Astronautics, were competing for snippets of knowledge about what was going on in these confidential deliberations within NASA. But James Chamberlin, among others, was wondering, as he watched the difficulties in manufacturing and ground testing McDonnell's first capsules, difficulties particularly acute with the sequence and wiring systems, whether speculation about spacecraft ten years hence was legitimate, profitable, or even necessary.78
While uneasiness over reliability was interminable, there were limits - practical, political, and social - to the amount of time that could be sacrificed for quality assurance. Decisions had to be made and, after close calculation, risks taken. Abe Silverstein at NASA Headquarters intervened at this point, deciding to short-circuit a duplicate set of prelaunch checkout operations. On March 29, two weeks after President Eisenhower had ordered that the big new NASA facility at Huntsville should be called the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Silverstein wrote von Braun a lengthy letter of explanation:
I have just completed an extensive reexamination of all Mercury schedules, from the point of view of expediting the entire Mercury program. As a result of this reexamination, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is of utmost importance to obtain flight performance data of certain critical components of the Mercury systems at the earliest possible time. More specifically, it is important to initiate the Mercury-Redstone flights as soon as possible in order to obtain inflight evaluations of the Mercury capsules at an early date.But a week later Kuettner persuaded Silverstein to relent on this decision and to agree to a compromise: the capsule for MR-1 would be shipped to Huntsville for a much shorter period to test the mating and to check on problems of radio frequency and electrical compatibility. Silverstein now wrote von Braun a letter of appreciation for reducing the Huntsville checkout time "from 8 weeks to 16 days, so that the Mercury-Redstone program can proceed as rapidly as possible." Shortly thereafter, Silverstein also learned that the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Thomas D. White, was reaffirming in strong language to his troops that the Air Force should cooperate with NASA "to the very limit of our ability, and even beyond it to the extent of some risk to our own programs" if that were necessary.80
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 A detailed study of the checkout programs at McDonnell, Huntsville, and Cape Canaveral has revealed that there exists a great deal of duplication; in particular all the booster capsule compatibility checks are performed both at Huntsville and at the Cape. The only unique tests scheduled to be made at Huntsville (on MR-1 only) is a vibration and noise test to be performed during the booster static firing.
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In view of these facts, it appears that the capsule prelaunch operations at Huntsville are no longer required. I have therefore directed that the Mercury capsules assigned to the Redstone program be shipped from St. Louis directly to Cape Canaveral, thereby gaining approximately two months in the launch schedule. I suggest that all parties concerned meet at NASA headquarters in Washington in the near future to discuss detailed arrangements necessitated by this new procedure.79
Scheduling problems continued, becoming acute toward the end of June, when the schedules for qualification flight tests were recognized to have slipped by at least six months. Complete capsule system testing seemed to require new organization, new procedures, and new ground test equipment. Purser filed a note for himself on a major meeting on June 27-28, attended by Silverstein and Director Harry J. Goett of Goddard, wherein the top technical managers of Mercury and STG began to admit that perfect reliability is indeed impossible. Quality control and reliability testing must be raised to a new level of effort, and not only man and machine but man-rating and machine-rating processes must be integrated, reflected Purser.
One of the major problems facing Mercury management is the conflict between a real desire to meet schedules and the feeling of need for extensive ground tests. The MAC capsule systems tests are not meeting this need since they were not intended for this purpose and since the pressure of time sometimes forces bypassing of some details (to be caught later at the Cape). Further, there has not been time available (or taken) on the part of MAC to study and update the CST procedures and SEDR's. It was concluded that a group (mostly MAC effort) should be set up to review and update the CST and SEDR procedures. It is also firm that no details will be bypassed in the Cape checkout without the express approval of STG management.Just before the reliability meeting in February, the Task Group had received welcome news of improving Atlas reliability as a result of more series-D firings since Big Joe. Already in mid-February STG had assigned a rough reliability coefficient of 75 percent, based on virtually perfect ignition and running of the engines and excellent performance from airborne and ground guidance systems in recent tests. Studies of the Abort Sensing and Implementation System for Mercury indicated that 13 of 43 series-D flights would have been aborted had the ASIS been aboard; only one of those 13 would have been terminated unnecessarily by the system's sensors.82 Hopes were high, therefore, that whenever qualification flight tests should begin with Mercury-Atlas No. 1 (MA-1), they would follow each other rapidly at monthly intervals.
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 There was considerable discussion of a proposal to eliminate the unmanned orbital shots on the basis that the systems could be qualified in unmanned and manned ballistic shots and that the presence of the man would reduce the possibility of failure in the first orbital shots and thus reduce chances for a consequent delay in the program . . . it was decided to not change [sic] the program now but to keep the door open and reconsider when MA-5 and MA-6 are closer. Since the astronauts have expressed considerable interest in this proposal STG management is to discuss the above decision with them.81
While Edison M. Fields and Sigurd A. Sjoberg of STG began the arrangements for adapting Atlas 50-D to capsule No. 4 for the MA-1 flight, Hohmann's engineers at STL, including Jarnes W. McCurry and Ernst Letsch, together with a reliability team supporting Philip E. Culbertson at Convair/Astronautics, were all warning of the consequences from the predicted increase in capsule weight. Guidance and trajectory equations, dependent upon moments of inertia, center of gravity, and a gross capsule weight now over 3,750 pounds at launch, had to be recalculated.83
The first Mercury-Atlas test flight was to be virtually a repeat of Big Joe, with the significant difference that a McDonnell capsule was to be qualified rather than a NASA model demonstrated. The primary objectives for MA-1 were also similar to those for Big Joe: to determine the integrity and stability of the McDonnell-built structure and to measure heating rates on the afterbody shingles during a critical abort and reentry.
MA-2, scheduled for September, should test the integrity and flight dynamics of McDonnell capsule No. 6 during a simulated nominal reentry from orbit. Having decided to change the materials and increase the thickness of the outer shingles on both the conical and the cylindrical section of the capsule, STG had added 63 more pounds by specifying the use of René 41 nickel alloy .016-inch thick on the conical section and 12 beryllium panels .22-inch thick on the cylindrical afterbody. The reinstatement of the impact bag and the drogue chute, plus the addition of insulation, a super sarah beacon, and heavier batteries, raised the estimated weight of the orbital configuration of the capsule to 3,000 pounds.84
Feverish, if not frantic, work and worry went into these decisions, beginning  as soon as capsule No. 4 arrived at Langley. But Bond, Fields, and Meyer, taking up where they had left off with Big Joe, ran a taut project through mid-April; they "pessimistically and therefore," they believed, "realistically" estimated again that they would see this rocket's red glare on July 4, 1960. Caldwell C. Johnson and Jack Kinzler supervised the polishing of capsule No. 4 as they had for the Big Joe payload.
But summer arrived, and Chamberlin reported continual capsule delivery delays at the weekly STG capsule review board meetings. The slowdown and stretchout of the flight-test schedule became ever more vexing and costly. Meanwhile NASA Headquarters began to centralize and simplify its launch operations under Ostrander, leaving to Silverstein preflight worries and responsibility for Mercury boosters only. Warren North justified a $7 million overrun on the prime contract for which STG was seeking approval:
This overrun was, of course, anticipated. A major factor involved in the McDonnell overrun is the high level of engineering required in support of the testing program. McDonnell previously planned to reduce their engineering effort in early 1960. However, because of the increased scope of the testing program and the capsule changes, these engineering reductions have not taken place; in fact, in their last monthly report, McDonnell shows their engineering head count at 913 and increasing. The procurement overrun is due primarily to subcontract overruns at Bell, AiResearch, Collins, Radioplane, and Perkin-Elmer.85To try to speed things up and to keep safety paramount, Silverstein instituted biweekly meetings at NASA Headquarters with Walter Burke of McDonnell and Gilruth of STG. Both quality control and urgency militated against keeping cost ceilings permanent. They also militated against the schedule. Glennan had directed that no flight schedule changes should be made without his personal explicit approval. But the technological realities of ensuring highest technical performance and STG's priority concern for the orbital objectives of Mercury, rather than for suborbital man-in-space, allowed the first Mercury-Redstone flights to slip past, or at least alongside, the Mercury-Atlas qualification flights.
73 "Reliability Program Review - Project Mercury," McDonnell Aircraft Corp., Feb. 27, 1960; John C. French, interview, Houston, Aug. 3, 1964. For a retrospective view of reliability in all of the Mercury program, see Walter C. Williams, "On Murphy's Law," in Paul Horowitz, ed., Manned Space Reliability Symposium, Vol. I, American Astronautical Society Science and Technology Series (New York, 1964), 1-11.
74 Purser, log for Gilruth, Jan. 6, 1960; Richard M. Mansfield, "Project Mercury Revisited," Virginian-Pilot and Portsmouth Star, March 27, 1960; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 2 sess. (1960), Life Sciences and Space, Aug. 15, 1960, 13; Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 86 Cong., 2 sess. (1960), Space Research in the Life Sciences. At this juncture, Astronauts Shepard and Grissom were asking for permission to ride the next Little Joe shot into space. Virgil I. Grissom, interview, Houston, March 29, 1965.
75 Purser, log for Gilruth, Feb. 9, 1960. See also Robert L. Seat, interview, St. Louis, Sept. 1, 1964; Seat and Waldram, "Project Mercury Test Plan," McDonnell Aircraft Corp., Feb. 19, 1959.
76 Purser, log for Gilruth with enclosures, agenda for conferences on reliability test program, March 9, 1960. Two other Chrysler Corp. engineering executives responsible for factory management of man-rating the Redstone were Robert P. Erickson and Edward J. Dofter: H. D. Lowrey, interview, Washington, Nov. 17, 1965. For details of the factory test programs see R. M. Torigian, "Reliability Test Or the Redstone A-7-1 Rocket Engine, RE 711 2a," Chrysler Corp. Missile Division Technical Memorandum ML-M125, April 14, 1960; and G. S. Upton, "Mercury-Redstone Aft Section Test Report," CCMD Technical Report GLC-R5, Oct. 1960.
77 Walter F. Burke, interview, Aug. 31, 1964; MacMillan, interview, St. Louis, Sept. 1, 1964. See also minutes, Jerome B. Hammack and Jack C. Heberlig, "ABMA-MAC-NASA Panel No. 1 Meeting," March 22, 1960; memo, Curtis L. Ferrell to Emil P. Bertram, MFL, "Mercury-Redstone [capsule-booster documentation problem]," May 18, 1960.
78 James A. Chamberlin, interview, Houston, June 1, 1964; and comments, Sept. 9, 1965. See also memo, Gilruth for all organizational units, "Organization of NASA Participation in CST at MAC," May 12, 1960.
79 Memo, Silverstein to Dir., Marshall Space Flight Center, "Mercury Capsule Prelaunch Operations at Huntsville," March 29, 1960. A recent revision of ABMA's checkout plans had not shown much effort to save time. See "Mercury Checkout at Systems Analysis and Reliability Laboratory," ABMA-DOD Report No. DRT-TM-5-59, Aug. 13, 1959, Rev. A, March 5, 1960.
80 Memo, Silverstein to Dir., Marshall Space Flight Center, "Review of Mercury Capsule Prelaunch Operations at Huntsville," April 5, 1960; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 87 Cong., I sess. (1961), Defense Space Interests, Hearings, statement and documents, General Thomas D. White, USAF, 91-97.
81 Purser, "Notes on Manned Space Flight Management Meeting, June 27-28, 1961," 1, 2. See also Gilruth memo, "Organization of NASA Participation in CST."
82 Memo, Robert E. McKann to Chief, Flight Systems Div., "Visit to STL, CV/A, and Rocketdyne (NAA) Feb. 15-18, 1960 ," Feb. 29, 1960. See also P. I. Harr, "Results of Reliability Evaluation Test Program for Mercury-Atlas Abort Sensing and Implementation System," Convair/Astronautics report No. AX62-0008, April 24, 1962.
83 Memo, Edison M. Fields to Chief, Flight Systems Div., "Visit to BMD/STL at Los Angeles," Jan. 19, 1960; letter, Hohmann to Gilruth, March 25, 1960; letter, Williams to Hohmann, April 18, 1960; Convariety, Feb. 17, 1960. See also transcript, "Proceedings of the Mercury-Atlas Booster Reliability Workshop," San Diego, July 12, 1963, passim. The reliability team at Convair/Astronautics consisted of factory manager J. P. Hopman, reliability chief H. F. Eppenstein, and quality control manager D. R. Archibald. For similar concerns on the Redstone, see memos, Debus to Earl M. Butler, "Weight and Balance Measurements on Project Mercury," Dec. 23, 1959; and H. R. Palaoro to Butler, "Weight and Balance Measurement Requirements for Project Mercury-Redstone," Feb. 16, 1960.
84 "Status Report No. 6 for Period Ending April 30, 1960," STG; "MA-l Report No. 3 for Period Ending Jan. 27, 1960," STG; "MA-I Report No. 4 for Period Ending Feb. 3, 1960," STG; "MA-l Report No. 5 for Period Ending Feb. 4, 1960," STG; "MA-l Report No. 10 for Period Ending April 15, 1960," STG; memo, Bond to Chief, Engineering Div., "MA-l Test Flight," Feb. 1, 1960.
85 Memo, North to Dir., Space Flight Programs, "Request for Approval of Mercury Funding," June 24, 1960. See also Evert Clark, "NASA Centralizes Launch Management," Aviation Week, LXXII (May 30, 1960), 28, 29.