Milestone-Proposal:Mercury Spacecraft MA-6

Docket #:2009-12

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone Nomination

This proposal has been submitted for review.

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution)

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

February 20, 1962

Title of the proposed milestone:

Mercury Spacecraft MA-6

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

St. Louis Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

Milestone proposer(s):

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Boeing Bldg 100, St. louis, MO

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.

The milestone plaque will be mounted at or near the entrance of the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room: An Air and Space History Exhibit. The Prologue Room is located in The Boeing Company Building 100, headquarters for Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems business. This will provide public access to view the plaque. Inside the Prologue Room, there is an exact replica (mock-up engineering design fixture) of the Mercury Spacecraft MA-6 that Col. John Glenn piloted thru 3 earth orbits. The Mercury Spacecraft were designed, developed, and tested in nearby buildings less than 200 yards from where the plaque will reside.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The Prologue room is open to the public during the summer months and is visited by more than 5,000 non-Boeing people every year. In addition, the Prologue Room is used by The Boeing Company to explain the vast history of the company to domestic and foreign dignitaries. In addition, middle school students are given tours of the Prologue Room. They learn the mechanics of flight and they are encouraged to consider careers in math, science, and engineering. There is a visitor's parking lot next to Bldg 100 where the public may park and walk to the site of the milestone plaque. The Prologue is a secure area and Boeing provides daily security patrols of the area. The Prologue Room (site of Mercury Capsule MA-6 ) is inside the secure area of Bldg 100

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?


A letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property:

A letter or email from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application:

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Mercury Spacecraft MA-6, with Col John Glenn as pilot, was the first United States manned orbital flight. It occurred on February 20, 1962. He named his spaceship Friendship 7. This established the United States foundation for future spaceflight, eventually resulting in the landing on the moon of humans.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

When the request for proposals was issued by NASA, there had not been a manned spaceflight by the United States. Amazingly, James S. McDonnell, founder of the McDonnell Aircraft Company, dedicated resources and personnel to design a spacecraft capable of putting humans into space and returning them safely to earth at least two years before the signing of the Project Mercury contract. Because space flight was different than conventional air flight electrical systems had new challenges. The electrical and electronics systems had to be able to operate in a new environment including but not limited to the vacuum of space, the weightlessness of orbital flight, and the rigors of launch and recovery. MAC electrical and electronics engineers took extra precautions because the spacecraft had to be

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

Col Glenn's flight was the second manned orbital spaceflight. The first was USSR Yuri Gargarin's orbital spaceflight. However, Glenn's space flight was set apart by the electrical and electronic systems invented by the MAC engineers, some being members of IRE and then subsequently IEEE. Its systems epitomize the field of interest of the IEEE Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society. Project Mercury's electronics included Navigation and control instruments; auto pilot; rate stabilization and control, manual proportional control system and Fly-By-Wire (FBW)manual-electrical system. The FBW manual-electrical systems proved critical to Friendship 7's mission success because a yaw attitude control jet apparently clogged at the end of the first orbit, forcing astronaut Glenn to abandon the automatic control system for the manual-electrical fly-by-wire system. (ref

References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.