beamjockey (beamjockey) wrote,

From the Mojave Desert to My Library

For some time, I've been looking for a copy of Manned Spacecraft: Engineering Design and Operation, edited by Paul Purser, Maxime A. Faget, and Norman F. Smith. Abebooks often lists copies for $150 or more, but I was looking for an inexpensive one. Last week, I found one for about forty bucks, and ordered it.

This book is a compendium of spacecraft engineering as understood by the leaders of Project Apollo in the early Sixties. As the effort moved to Houston and got a lot bigger, they briefed new arrivals in a series of technical lectures. An alternate title might be "How We Plan to Build a Moonship." Lots and lots of wonderful detail, not only on Apollo, but also on Mercury and Gemini. Mission planning. Launch vehicles. Electrical power. Envionmental controls. You can see why I wanted a copy.

The bookseller described this as an ex-library copy, with usual markings. When it arrived, I saw that the markings had been eradicated with a black marker. On front and back inside covers, and the reverse of the title page, there had been rubber-stamped notices:

Peering closely at the not-quite-eradicated markings, I can just make out what they said. I can see a bit more with my eye, but here's a contrast-stretch which might give you an inkling:

That's right. This copy formerly belonged to


I am happy with my purchase.

From Paul Purser's oral history interview (PDF):
When we came down here [to Houston]—really, before we came down here, we
started giving a series of lectures to the new employees and some of the old employees to
kind of acquaint them with what needed to be done. Sometime in '63 or '64, "Shorty" [John
A.] Powers, who was head of public affairs at that time, said, "Gee, this would make a great
textbook on spacecraft engineering." So we put it together. "Shorty" had some contacts with
Fairchild Publications, and he got them to publish it for us, so it was the first graduate-level
textbook on spacecraft engineering. It came out of the Space Center here in 1964, and Faget
and I and Norman [F.] Smith were the editors of it.

I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter, because the guy who was going to write
the last chapter never got around to it. We had various people working [on their specialties]
writing the chapters in between. But we had to do it all on our own time, so it meant that I
had to take the stuff home with me, proofread it, and get it set up. My wife typed it. It's
about a half-million-word book.

Here's a photo of two engineers who contributed to the volume, Ted Hays (space suit and life support guy) and Max Faget (designer of the Mercury spacecraft).
Hays & Faget S63-20184 480p tall

Tags: air force, apollo, books, edwards, faget, flight test center, gemini, hays, manned, mercury, operations, purser, smith, spacecraft, usaf, used
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.