Dr. William White was involved with the Manhigh project at Holloman Air Force Base before he was named personal physician to the Mercury Seven astronauts.

        It's hard to say how Manhigh contributed to the Mercury program. Mercury would have gone ahead anyway, even if there had never been a Manhigh, but this should not detract from Dave's accomplishments. We put a man in a terribly cramped cylinder. Put him in there, put him on the balloon, sent it up to 100,000 feet in the air, where he could see the curvature of the Earth, where he could look down on thunderstorms, where he was in a very dangerous and hazardous position in case the balloon ruptured. Whether he would have gotten out of that capsule was debatable. But when the detractors of Mercury said that you are going to put a man up there in a capsule and orbit the Earth three times at ninety minutes per orbit, he is going to suffer from sensory deprivation and isolation, confinement, all these terrible psychological problems. He is going to be exposed to cosmic radiation. Well, we could always point back to Dave Simons and say, look, here's a man who was in a much more cramped container that was much more hazardous than that. At the time, people couldn't imagine putting a man on the end of a rocket and blasting him off the Earth. It seemed much more hazardous than to put him up in a balloon, but not many people had seen how thin that balloon was and what could happen to that balloon.
        We could point back to Dave's experience and we could say that here's a man that was in a tiny, tiny compartment, up longer than the first few Mercury flights would be. He didn't suffer from sensory deprivation, isolation, confinement, any of these things. He's a normal human being, functioning well, making scientific observations, communicating back to the Earth, sending this valuable information back. So we could point to the role of man in space.
        We could point to Dave's experience and say that is the kind of person we want. We already know that people can survive these things, and not only survive, but function and return completely normal. That was a great contribution that Dave made. John Paul Stapp was sort of Dave's mentor, I think, and Dr. Stapp's great heroic work on the [high speed test track, see Chapter 6] sled was one of the other things that we could point to and say man can withstand these accelerative forces. Stapp has done it much higher than the Mercury people will ever experience and survived quite well. Each of these people, and the other people that participated in Manhigh, we were able to point to them and say, "Look, they did it." So each of these real pioneers contributed greatly to the program.
        Dave had cosmic ray track plates taped to his body. I recall, long after Manhigh, he showed me a white hair on his arm. Long before that, they had sent black mice up and as time went by, hairs naturally fell. And when they grew back, they grew back white. The implication was that a cosmic ray had destroyed the little cells that made the black pigment. Dave showed me a white hair on his arm around what was normally pigmented, and he said that this was an example of it. He said that a cosmic ray went through the track plate right at that spot where that white hair came out. We could point to these and say that Dave had clearly been exposed to cosmic rays and they didn't do any great damage to him. So, we know that men are exposed to them and we know now that people who have been up in the shuttle close their eyes and they see these little flashes of light, which are presumably caused by cosmic rays stimulating the retina or maybe even just making a flash somehow in the vitreous humor or the aqueous humor. I don't know the true reason for these flashes of light, but these things were sort of predictable. They were predictable on the basis of Dave's work and the other pilots that went into the Manhigh program.

This excerpt is from an October 2015 speech to a University of New Mexico Honors College class by former astronaut Mike Mullane, a mission specialist who flew on three space shuttle missions.

     "I was a child of the space race. When Sputnik was launched in 1957, I was here in Albuquerque. It was really exciting to be able to step out of my house, and I could watch these early satellites twinkling through the sky. I would dream of someday being an astronaut....
     New Mexico certainly has a storied history, going back when I was a kid, reading about John Stapp, the rocket guy down at Alamogordo, those balloons that they were launching. White Sands, the sounding rocketry, they were launching those V-2s that they had captured from the Germans. There's a big history there. If people have even a passing interest in it, I can see how New Mexico is seen as a space state."

[This entry is from a conversation Loretta Hall had with Rick Homans, the founding chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. In this excerpt he talked about how his entry into commercial space activities began in 2004, early in his tenure as New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development.]

     "This package arrived on my desk from a group called the X Prize Foundation. It was requesting a letter of interest to see if New Mexico would be interested in bidding on this thing called the X Prize Cup. It was an explanation of the X Prize, which was the ten million dollar prize for the first company to launch into suborbit, return, and do it again in two weeks-which was how they were defining a reusable launch vehicle. As I opened this envelope and laid it out, there were, I think it was twenty-four 8-by-10 color glossies of different kinds of technologies from all over the world for reusable launch vehicles. And as I had it out there and saw this description of the X Prize Cup, it just hit me that this is what the beginning of a new industry looks like. It's not Mr. Lockheed or Mr. Boeing walking into the office and saying, 'we're starting a new industry.' It's a bunch of inventors and somewhat crazy people and others, who all have different ideas, but there was a critical mass of this occurring, where it just hit me that this is what these guys were talking about and this is the moment that's happening on our watch. After talking with the governor and with my staff, we realized if we are going to claim the right to help give birth to this new industry, we have to win the right to hold the X Prize Cup because this is what it's all about. We don't know what the future of it is, but if we don't grab this right now from the big guys, then we will have lost before the race even started. So ... we put together a very generous and well thought-out proposal, and we won the right to do the X Prize Cup here. That put us on the map. There was already the beginnings of some editorials out of Florida saying, "What is going on here?" They were already seeing that the future of the shuttle was kind of in doubt, and they are the space headquarters of the country, and here's New Mexico coming forward and the X Prize Cup. It was an idea where there was a lot of media attention to it.

[This entry is excerpted from Men, Rockets and Space Rats by Lloyd Mallan, 1958.]

     Sitting on Ed Francisco's desk, in his office [as Chief of the Propulsion Branch] at White Sands [Missile Range], is an ash tray that is symbolical and unique. It doesn't look like much: it's a symmetrical dish of grayish metal, probably aluminum, with depressions along its circular edges to hold cigarettes. But it's as significant as a section of wing strut from the Wright Brothers' first airplane. It's a part of the gyroscope assembly of the first gyro-controlled rocket evern to fly. In 1935 it zoomed 7,500 feet above the Earth at Roswell, New Mexico, and cracked through the sound barrier in route. It showed the way for stability of the V-2 as well as for all research sounding rockets and missiles today. It was in Dr. Goddard's gyro-stabilized platform and it was presented to Ed as a gift of respect by Charlie Mansur [who worked with Goddard for many years], who now works with him as Chief of the Design and Preparation Section of the Propulsion Branch. Mansur, like Francisco, and the greatest of them all, Robert Goddard, is a rocket age man in his guts.

[This entry is excerpted from
Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words.]
        Lewie "Tiny" Harris was a mechanic who worked on various vehicles and equipment at White Sands Proving Ground during the time when the Paperclip Scientists were working with the U.S. Army on the V-2 missiles they had developed in Germany during World War II.

        I was almost too close to one V-2 launch. I was uprange, and I was taking care of generators that morning. I had checked at the office before I left, asked for a Range count, and were there any launches coming into our area that day. So I went to a couple of stations and then I went to the little generator that was running at the target area. I immediately climbed in the shop truck and turned around. I got about four or five hundred feet from the generator when the missile came in. It liked to have turned that shop truck over end-over-end. It caved in the back door. The concussion broke the glasses in the back of the shop truck. It hit within about thirty feet of the little target building.

        Another time, they were starting to launch a V-2 and it got up oh, probably 20 feet above the ground and it set back down and turned over on its side and down through the sand dunes it went. It caught fire, and became a real roadrunner. Fortunately, it was pointed away from the blockhouse. It ended up within about quarter of a mile, I guess, of Highway 70 [the highway connecting Alamogordo and Las Cruces].


[This entry is excerpted from
Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words.]

Dwight Ohlinger came to Alamogordo as an insurance agent in 1950. One evening in 1973, he was watching television and saw a commercial for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It struck him that there's also a Football Hall of Fame, a Cowboy Hall of Fame, and several others. Why shouldn't there be a Space Hall of Fame? In a May, 1998, oral history interview, he picked up the story:

I was just sitting in my chair, and I looked at that and a thought hit me. I thought, gee, let's get one of those in Alamogordo for the research people that have done all of this. Because actually, all of the history was done here. It was all tried out here before it went back to Cape Canaveral [NASA's manned spaceflight launch facility in Florida]. We did the dangerous work. And I had known quite a few of those people, personally. So I thought this is the biggest natural I ever saw, and it would be a shame if we would let that skip by without taking advantage of it....

When we first got going, a lot of those people came to us and said, "Let me help." I think Dr. Stapp [former head of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo] was here from the very first. Dr. Steinhoff [one of the German missile experts who joined the US space program after World War II] was here from the very first. We made many trips together up to Santa Fe and back when we were trying to get this place [established]. It has made life so interesting. I still remember one of the darndest characters I ever met. [Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronaut] Gus Grissom came to visit here. We went to church all the time with Major [David] Simons [head of the Space Biology Branch at Holloman]. You know, you mingle with these people and didn't even think anything about it.

[New Mexico Governor] Bruce [King] and his wife were here [for the groundbreaking ceremony]. We came out here the first day and flattened a little land, and got some bushes out of the way so you could drive up here and park. We got all set and were going to dedicate the thing, and they got the dynamite and the plunger ready. They said, "Okay, here we go." Everybody is taking a picture and they signaled Bruce to go ahead. He goes zunk on the handles and nothing happens. And zunk again. Somebody said, "I think we had better fix the plunger." Somebody went and rechecked. I guess there was a loose wire or something and they fixed it up. Then they had a small piece of dynamite that finally went kerbloom! and the Space Hall got dedicated.

Dr. Robert Goddard moved to New Mexico in July 1930. In 1929, in his fourth liquid-fuel rocket test in Massachusetts, he had sent up the first rocket-borne scientific experiments. He described the payload this way:

"On the present rocket an attempt was made for the first time to install recording instruments. A small aneroid barometer was used, just above the combustion chamber, the needle being painted white, and a black paper with white divisions was placed under the glass and over the scale. An alcohol thermomenter, showing a wide red line, was wired to a cross-brace over the combusion chamber, and an 'Expo' camera was fastened below the alcohol stove, so that the two instruments were in the center of the field, there being a 3.5 convex eyeglass lens 4" in front of the camera. Thus the instruments were in focus in the center of the field, and a view of the ground could be seen around this central part. A curved arm, 2" long, was fastened to the camera level and a small ring on this lever was arranged to be pulled, thus exposing the camera, when the parachute emerged from the rocket, a wire extending down from the parachute cord to the ring. It was planned to take one picture before the rocket started in order to show the temperature and pressure at ground level and one at the rocket's peak altitude....

"The ascent was about 100 feet.... Everything about the test except the guiding during the flight functioned beautifully, releasing, starting, and operation during the flight. Of course, as the rocket did not come down to a stop vertically, the parachute did not operate, and the camera was not exposed [during the flight]....

[The rocket flew for 17 seconds and then crashed into the ground.]

"The gasoline tank exploded just after the rocket struck the ground, probably owing to the liquid moving forward and allowing the gas to pass into the combustion chamber....

"The camera on the rocket was scorched, but still operated. The spectacle lens was intact and the barometer continued to read accurately, although the glass covering the dial was broken. The thermometer was broken, however, evidently owing to heating higher than it could register."
From The Papers of Robert H. Goddard, Volume II: 1925 - 1937:

"Rocket Airship Almost Ready for Voyage to Moon; Propulsion Scheme Perfected"; article in Osaka Mainichi, December 15, 1930:
NEW YORK, DEC. 15 [1930]-The rocket airship designed by Dr. Goddard of the Clark University, Massachusetts, is now completed and is almost ready for a voyage into the unexplored space toward the Moon, according to an announcement made by the Smithsonian Institution of Washington.
The rocket airship now awaits the completion of automatic recording devices to ensure a successful practical flight to the outer layers of the atmosphere and its return with the first records of that unknown region.
Dr. Goddard has finally worked out a scheme for the propulsion of the rocket by steady combustion of hydrocarbon in liquid oxygen, and the final tests have demonstrated the practicability of the device. He has developed stabilizers, which make possible to direct the course of the rocket airship.

R. H. Goddard to K. M., Okura and Company
Roswell, January 19, 1931
In reply to your letter of the thirteenth, I must explain that the newspaper article was too optimistic. I am not at all ready to send a rocket to "the outer layers of the atmosphere."
The work is still in the development stages, and is not yet ready for publication.
The following are excerpts from the Author's Preface to Project Mars - A Technical Tale, a novel written by Wernher von Braun in 1949 while he was working at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico:

"There are few dreams of the future which have woven so fascinating a web around human fantasy as flight through space."

"The object of this book is to assist the eye of the public to penetrate the thicket of confusion in which the future of rocket power now lies hidden. The follosing pages present a sketch of inter-planetary travel as visualized by one who for more than two decades has tumbled along the thorny path leading to the development of large rockets. The author has had his full share of bitter disappointments, nor does he underestimate the height and ruggedness of the barriers to be conquered before the first manned rocket shall be projeted into illimitable space."

"It is the vision of tomorrow which breeds the power of action."
The following excerpts from Robert Goddard's diary describe is first liquid-fuel rocket launch in New Mexico:

December 30, 1930
Went out to tower in morning. Had sandbags put in front of 1000-ft shelter, and hole for 6½" X 8½" camera. Tried test at 3 P.M. It went about 2000 ft up and 1000 ft away, time of ascent 7 sec, no explosion, and little damage. Parachute opened partly, and was not much damaged. Went to Princess Theatre with E. [Goddard's wife, Esther], in evening, and saw Billy the Kid.

January 6, 1931
Worked assembling static rocket all day. [Goddard's assistant, Henry] Sachs worked on gimbals etc.... Sachs brought movie of tests, and we had them all in and showed it. It shows a very smooth course during the flight, which was followed up for perhaps 500 ft. It appeared to curve toward the right soon after leaving the tower, but did not increase in deflection very rapidly.
After Dr. Randy Lovelace finished conducting physical exams on the Mercury astronaut candidates, he conducted the same exams on a group of women volunteers, who were not elegible for the NASA program. The following is an excerpt from NASA's oral history of Wally Funk, one of those women:

        It wasn't until I graduated from Oklahoma State and went down to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where I was a flight instructor, that I learned that Jerrie Cobb had been in phase two [of the astronaut tests], off the magazine cover of Life magazine, and I wrote immediately to the doctor that had used her as a subject, was Dr. [Robert] Secrest at the VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital. He puts me in touch with Dr. Randy Lovelace at Albuquerque, New Mexico, and within two days Dr. Lovelace writes back, "Fill out this form and your date is a month away. Can you come?" So I was not on the original list, and I was twenty-one and I was too young, so they had to get extra permission for me to take the same test as the Mercury 7 astronauts took.
        [They picked twenty-five women to take the tests.] They found women that had a college education, over 1,000 hours of flight time, and had to have a commercial instrument rating, top physical condition, and be willing to go through these tests. So I said, "Yes, of course I want to go, and, yes, of course get information for me to go, because I'm just a kid." Well, it turned out that was to my benefit, because I had no preconceived ideas of what was going to happen in any of these tests. I had no idea that things could be done to my body and to my mind that they did do, as a youngster, as you will. Being a grownup now, I might have had some reservations going in, as many of these other women probably did. [Laughter] ....
        Sarah [Gorelick] Ratley, said she had her hair all done up the day before she went to Lovelace. And, of course, the minute you go in, you're handed a weekly sheet of expectations, and the first thing was "Wash your hair thoroughly and don't do anything with it. And you're going to take an enema." Da-da, da-da, da-da. So we did everything we were supposed to.
The following is an excerpt from Out of this World: New Mexico's Contributions to Space Travel:

        LANL [Los Alamos National Laboratory] has its own observatory, on Fenton Hill in the Jemez Mountains, about 30 miles west of Los Alamos. Several of the instruments located there are RAPid Telescopes for Optical Response (RAPTORs). One of them is paired with a twin located 20 miles away to achieve stereoscopic vision, which allows observers to distinguish between distant objects and space junk orbiting the Earth. It would also allow them to detect a "killer asteroid" heading for Earth.
        The RAPTORs are designed to swivel to any point in the sky within a few seconds so they can focus on interesting transient events. They are also robotic telescopes programmed to recognize and focus on interesting events as they happen. For example, in February 2006, one of the telescopes locked on to the afterglow of a 7-second-long gamma-ray burst (caused by a star collapsing to form a black hole). The telescope watched the afterglow for an hour, taking a photograph every 30 seconds. During that time, the telescope's computer analysis system recognized that the afterglow was behaving in an unexpected manner, rebrightening rather than fading. At that point, the RAPTOR placed a cell phone call to one of the researchers, awakening him and alerting him to the unusual event.
        "This was a first, an autonomous optical telescope finding an anomaly on its own with no human intervention," said Tom Vestrand, RAPTOR's team leader, in a 2008 article in LANL's science and technology magazine. "If humans had been in the loop they would have said, as we did, 'Gamma-ray bursts don't act like that. Forget it.' And RAPTOR wouldn't have found anything." Instead, astronomers now know that a gamma-ray burst can be followed by an intense glow of visible light. This previously unknown phenomenon may lead to more frequent and better observations that will help scientists understand the mysterious, extremely high-energy gamma-ray bursts that occur throughout the universe.

Photo Credits
Robert Goddard towing one of his rockets to the launch site near Roswell about 1931, courtesy of NASA.

WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo at Spaceport America runway dedication flyover, photo by Loretta Hall.
Unless otherwise credited, all material on this site is © Loretta Hall 2010-2014.
2015 Voices Archives
Visit 2011 Voices Archives for quotes posted during 2011
Visit 2012 Voices Archives for quotes posted during 2012
Visit 2013 Voices Archives for quotes posted during 2013
Visit 2014 Voices Archives for quotes posted during 2014