How I Met Al, Gus and John

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Apollo 09 David Scott podczas lotu Apollo 9 GPN-2000-001100.jpg This article is a Historical Essay
Written and submitted by
Grady Woodard.

Grady’s Space Chronicles


The first astronauts I met was Alan Shepard, Gus Grison and John Glenn of the Mercury-Redstone Program. Al was chosen in 1960 to be the first American in space.

I had the assignment to beef up the Redstone A7 engine for man flight and to hand-select the components with the highest acceptance values for our first man rocket flight.

In January 1960, Dr. von Braun called my Lab to tell us he was bringing over the astronauts, Shepard wanted to “see his ride,” I got the job to give them the tour.

I called the shop (Harold Parker, from my hometown) to give them the “heads up” alert for important guest!

We walked down the back street to the shop. Everyone was hard at work.

Parker was a horseman and had brought in a saddle that day for a co-worker.

We viewed the work being done and I was explaining how we used the best and most reliable hardware for safety. I was removing the blue cover from the engine (talking and trying to give Shepard some encouragement).

The astronauts and Dr. von Braun looked astonished! Gus had a grin, John was awed, Dr. von Braun was stomping his feet and saying to us, “Get Serious!” Al was laughing and pushed me aside to climb up on the engine’s thrust chamber and into the saddle strapped on it. Al asked that the left foot strap be adjusted.

The workers in the shop were laughing and “rolling on the floor” pointing to us! I just had a joke pulled on me at the worst moment. Dr. von Braun stormed out of the building.

I just knew I was going to be fired. John says, “fellows, we need to catch up with the boss, let's go!”

Alan Shepard followed up with more visits himself to ask questions and see the progress of his rocket.

Al was launched May 5, 1961, on rocket MR-3 for a 60-mile ride into space (up and down). After his brief 15-minute flight Shepard splashed down near Bermuda.

An ear problem grounded Shepard and he was put in charge of the Astronauts’ Office until his private doctor did unauthorized surgery and Al went to the moon on Apollo 14.

Al, with his humor, hit a golf ball a mile with his sampling tool.

Grady 02:45, 8 June 2012 (UTC)“