"MAC's Old Team" Wins the National Space Society's 2017 Space Pioneer Award for Special Merit

“MAC’s Old Team,” consisting of former employees of the McDonnell Aircraft, McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing Companies in the St. Louis area, is the winner of the National Space Society’s 2017 Space Pioneer Award in the Special Merit category. This award recognizes the exemplary work this team did building our nation’s historic Mercury and Gemini spacecraft beginning 59 years ago!

The National Space Society invites the public to join them in presenting the Pioneer Award to MAC’s Old Team on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at the 36th NSS International Space Development Conference® (isdc2017.nss.org). The conference will be held in St Louis, Missouri, at the Union Station Hotel, running from May 25-29, 2017.

Macs Old Team
MAC’s Old Team. Photo taken at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium at the Saint Louis Science Center.

Members of MAC’s Old Team feel privileged to have worked on the Mercury and Gemini programs and are proud of a series of firsts which include:

  • The first American to fly in space
  • The first American to orbit the Earth
  • The first spacecraft to change orbits
  • The first American to perform an EVA
  • The first in-orbit rendezvous between two spacecraft
  • The first docking between two spacecraft
  • The setting of spacecraft flight endurance and altitude records

As historically significant as these achievements may be, however, the team is most proud of the safety record. Over a period of more than five years and sixteen manned flights, nineteen different astronauts flew on Mercury and Gemini missions with durations ranging from fifteen minutes to two weeks without injury or loss of life.

About MAC’s Old Team

Members of this team under McDonnell Aircraft Company worked on the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft, which supported, developed and proved the methodology necessary for the Apollo Program to reach the Moon. The company was “ground zero” for America’s first human spaceflight program, flying six Mercury and ten Gemini manned missions for those programs. James S. McDonnell, company founder and CEO, had the foresight to use company funds to carry out original design studies for a manned satellite well before the launch of Sputnik 1 and well before being chosen as a prime contractor, which was announced on February 13, 1959. Beyond designing and building the spacecraft, much of the simulation and training for America’s first astronauts also happened in St. Louis, and those astronauts worked closely with the McDonnell employees.

MAC’s Old Team’s influence on the nation’s space programs did not end with Mercury and Gemini. Team members continued to work on several programs including: Skylab, the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle), the International Space Station, Hexagon, and other NASA, military and company-funded programs.

Why are they called MAC’s Old Team?

“THIS IS MAC CALLING THE TEAM. THIS IS OLD MAC CALLING ALL THE TEAM.” All employees would hear these words over the company PA system announcing special events and introducing visiting dignitaries which included the President of the United States. What could be more fitting to honor Mr. McDonnell’s memory than ‘MAC’s Old Team’?

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at right, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by the greatly respected Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, Apollo Astronaut Russell L. Schweickart, Dr. Michael Griffin, and the Rosetta Mission Team.


Picture of National Space Society

National Space Society

1 thought on “"MAC's Old Team" Wins the National Space Society's 2017 Space Pioneer Award for Special Merit”

  1. I have recently learned of the passing of one of Mac’s Old Team, Ken Sennert. His widow, Gloria, said the viewing will be Thursday, April 27 at the Neiburg-Vitt Thiebes Mortuary in Pacific, MO from 4 to 8 PM.


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