50th Anniversary of Project Gemini

The Missouri Aviation Historical Society was thrilled to formally hold a fiftieth anniversary celebration of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation’s Project Gemini program on Thursday, June 18th. Designed and built in St. Louis, Missouri, project Gemini became one of the most important aspects of the NASA space program. Held as a direct sequel to our Project Mercury celebration in 2013, former engineers and communication experts re-joined together for a live Q&A panel that included pre-selected and audience chosen questions and stories. An audience of 60+ guests were treated to frank accounts of the challenges of space travel, humorous commentary, and exclusive insight into world famous aviation heroes such as Gus Grissom and James S. McDonnell.


Panelists included:

  • Norman Beckel- Electronics engineer, charged with testing the communications system. During lift-off he would hold his breath when the launch would reach the point of no turning back.
  • Dean Purdy– An electrical engineer who worked on multiple fighter jets, missile programs and eight space programs. Purdy worked with the original seven astronauts and heavily influenced the designs on Gemini.
  • Earl Robb– Structural and mechanical design engineer who worked on the heat shields and hatches for Project’s Mercury, Gemini, and SkyLab.
  • Jerry Roberts– Engineer who worked on several McDonnell programs in the fields of guidance and control systems. He retired as Chief Design Engineer for the company.
  • Ray Tucker– An electrical ground support engineer who helped establish a complex cabling system for project Mercury. He would be present for EVERY launch of both Mercury and Gemini.

Earl Mullins from the Bonne Terre Space Museum acted as moderator and kept things moving swiftly with talk about the impact and history of Gemini. In addition, Project Gemini patches and thrusters were provided for display by the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum. A reception sponsored by McArthur’s Bakery immediately followed with an extravagant Gemini themed cake. As a final token of appreciation, MOAVHIST President Dan O’Hara presented all five panelists with copies of the new book ‘NASA Gemini- Owner’s Workshop Manual’, by David Woods & David M. Harlan, just in case another capsule was needed to be built!

The society would like to formally thank our panelists, moderator and volunteers for making this event possible. As always special thanks to Creve Coeur Airport for providing our meeting space and refreshments. SPECIAL THANKS to McArthur’s Bakery and Haynes Publishing for the wonderful books.


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Additional coverage can be found via our friends at the Aero Experience.

Update: View the full presentation online: Part 1   Part 2