A Look Back At George Mueller's Contributions To Manned Space Missions

The man who oversaw the Apollo project died last week at age 97

Wernher Von Braun and George Mueller

NASA via Flickr

On October 12, George Mueller died of congestive heart failure at the age of 97. The NASA engineer's ideas were instrumental in sending men to the moon in 1969. Instead of testing rockets one stage at a time, adding live stages with each successful flight, Mueller's all-up method proposed to test all three live stages in the rocket's first flight test, while it carried a real Apollo module as a payload. Though many thought his plan was reckless, the all-up method worked and helped the U.S. to beat the Soviet Union in a manned lunar landing.

In honor of Mueller's memory, we turned to our archives.

Wernher von Braun quoted Mueller a number of times in his columns for Popular Science, for his expertise in manned space flight.

In a January 1964 Popular Science article, von Braun detailed a November 1963 meeting with President John F. Kennedy:

In the Complex 37 blockhouse, Dr. George E. Mueller, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, gave a rundown on his program. He had hardly finished when the trim, sun-tanned President jumped up and grabbed an 18-inch model of the Redstone/Mercury, the bird Shepard and Grissom rode on their suborbital flights. He held it up to the huge, six-foot model of the Saturn V/Apollo which will carry our first astronauts to the moon and back. “Are these two models the same scale?” the President asked. When he heard they were, he exclaimed with a boyish smile, “Looks like we’ve come a long way!”

In March 1968, von Braun wrote about the success of the Saturn V-Apollo's flight test using the all-up method for Popular Science:

It was the most difficult mission ever attempted in our space program—in terms of size, power, weight, costs, lack of precedent. Some news commentators even called it the most ambitious technological task ever undertaken by man. […] Its success was a personal triumph for NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, Dr. George E. Mueller. It was he who, in the face of a more cautious and conservative attitude on the part of his closest associates (including myself), staunchly upheld the all-up testing concept.

You can read a 1969 article Mueller wrote for the New York Times about the manned lunar landing and his ambitions for the future here, and read his NASA oral history interviews done in 1998 and 1999 here.