Ruled Out as Passengers Not as Pilots

By the end of 1962, the Apollo guidance system was well on its way. The IL felt confident enough in their preliminary designs to begin briefing the users and asking for their input. In December, astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Deke Slayton (the first three of whom had already flown in space) came to Cambridge for two days of meetings with the IL team to discuss skills, training, and automation for the Apollo system. ''We expect a visit from several astronauts,'' Milt Trageser told his engineers. Asking them to define the ''astronaut-system relationship'' for the visitors, Trageser admonished, ''Care should be taken to avoid accidents in presentation which give the impression of complicated operational requirements. I think we have a simple system;let's present it well.''74 The team made a broad introduction to guidance and navigation, the characteristics of the computers, and asked the astronauts to operate early simulators and mockups, discuss training issues, and explore inflight maintenance.

The technical engineering trip became a public event, and the astronauts, who ''had to fight their way through crowds of giggling girls and goggling newsmen,'' held a short press conference. Shepard pointed out that much of the day's discussion was taken with ''the percentage of guidance that will be automatic as compared with piloted'' in the vehicle. Glenn added, ''Our experience has shown that human reaction, especially in decision making, is superior to automated equipment.'' When asked if they wouldn't be too old to fly to the moon by the time Apollo actually landed, She-pard responded ''we've been ruled out as passengers, but not as pilots'' (indeed Shepard would be the only one of the Mercury Seven to fly to the moon).75 Despite the success of Mercury, the question of pilot control was still on the table. The astronauts' first meeting with the computer reminded them that the answers were not determined ahead of time, but the product of numerous engineering decisions and evolving operational plans.

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