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  Ranking Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts

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Author Topic:   Ranking Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts
LeviM
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Posts: 13
From: Sweden
Registered: Dec 2011

posted 03-17-2012 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LeviM   Click Here to Email LeviM     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you want to make a "top ten" astronaut list of the early astronauts (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo). How would your list look like?

I'm thinking of qualifications like best flying skills, best performance before, during and after NASA, most contribution to the space program during the 60's/70's and best personality.

DChudwin
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Posts: 972
From: Lincolnshire IL USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-17-2012 06:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some of your criteria may be contradictory. For example, Frank Borman at the time was not known for his interpersonal skills yet was one of the "top ten" (I am told he has since mellowed).

Of all the early astronauts, I admire most Wally Schirra and John Glenn from the 1959 Original Seven. The 1962 Next Nine were actually the strongest group of astronauts and I would include Jim McDivitt, Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad and Tom Stafford among them. From the third group in 1963, Mike Collins, Dave Scott, and Buzz Aldrin get my vote. My runners up are John Young, Ed White and Al Bean because you asked for only ten.

It is interesting that McDivitt, Borman and Armstrong were the only Gemini astronauts who commanded a mission on their first flight.

Glenn had the first orbital flight as did Schirra for Apollo.

Skylon
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posted 03-17-2012 11:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Top 10? I can't. And some of these categories need to be broken down more, but I'll bite.

Best Flying Skills: I am in no way qualified to guess this. Usually the better "stick and rudder guys" are cited as Gordon Cooper and Joe Engle. Overall, Deke Slayton considered Alan Shepard the best pilot in the program.

Best Performance Before NASA: Tough because this could go some ways....as a test pilot? Neil Armstrong or Joe Engle (X-15 flyers). As a combat pilot, probably John Glenn.

Best Performance During NASA: John Young for sheer length of his tenure.

Best Performance After NASA: Again, in what regard? In service to the program? Out reach? In other civil service? For out-reach I'd say Jim Lovell has been an excellent spokesman for the Apollo-era.

Most Contributions to the Space Program in the 60's and 70's: Deke Slayton.

Best Personality: Pete Conrad if you spoke to another astronaut, but I'd say a toss-up between Mike Collins and Alan Bean.

Rick Mulheirn
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From: England
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posted 03-18-2012 05:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting quetion but one I would prefer to dodge. It would be like asking which of my children I prefer and why?

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 03-18-2012 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My initial response to the question was that one would have to construct a weighting matrix to deal with all the factors you have mentioned. Are these even the right factors? For example, "best flying skills" would not matter to an astronaut whose duties never allowed him to fly the spacecraft but who nonetheless fulfilled his role with distinction, such as Ed White. Is "best performance during NASA" more important than "best performance after NASA"? How much more or less important? And then, what are the observable behaviors that you are going to use to objectively rate each of the criteria?

Without this kind of approach, ultimately a person's response is going to be whoever his or her favorite astronaut was anyway, and then justifying the answer with whatever of these factors he chooses to emphasize or downgrade.

(Sorry for ranting...one of my many sins is to consult companies in developing employee assessment processes...)

Skylon
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posted 03-18-2012 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
For example, "best flying skills" would not matter to an astronaut whose duties never allowed him to fly the spacecraft but who nonetheless fulfilled his role with distinction, such as Ed White.
They'd also need to be broken down. For example, I took "Best pilot" to mean aircraft flying, whereas you took it to mean flying the spacecraft. They are too broad.

Delta7
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From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-18-2012 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Weighing all criteria, my 2 cents:
  • Shepard;
  • McDivitt;
  • Grissom;
  • Borman;
  • Armstrong;
  • Stafford;
  • Conrad;
  • Scott;
  • Young;
  • Bassett.

ea757grrl
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Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 03-18-2012 12:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know this thread is meant to be a fun diversion, and while I hate to be a wet blanket, I just don't have the qualifications to make any kind of judgment on this. I have zero experience in high-performance aircraft and have never flown in space, nor do I have any real experience in management. And so far as quantitative evaluation, I've also had experience enough with that to know there are some qualities that just can't be reduced to numbers.

All I can say with any certainty is that from the history I know of American spaceflight, the astronauts selected for each mission did what was asked of them and performed admirably, probably much better than I ever could. And as far as my feelings about them, I'm not even worthy to carry their garment bags through the airport, let alone trying to rank them.

Joel Katzowitz
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Posts: 326
From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 03-18-2012 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with most of the comments stating the criteria is too vague and probably too broad.

That said, as far as overall impact on the space program I'd have to vote Deke Slayton my number one pick. Following the devastating loss of his Mercury flight status, he continued to stay with the program and had a huge impact on all of the following missions, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

canyon42
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Posts: 170
From: Ohio
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 03-18-2012 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's an easy solution. First, you assign various random point allotments for each of the criteria you named. Then you add them all up for each person. Finally, you count wrong and send the "winner" to New York City.

Oh wait, wrong ranking. Not that I'm still wallowing in bitterness or anything...

Tyler
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From: Auburn, Alabama, United States
Registered: Aug 2009

posted 03-18-2012 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tyler   Click Here to Email Tyler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This effort to rank astronauts also begs the question as to how much fate plays into the ranking. There is no way to know if Grissom would be known as the greatest contributor had he lived past 1967, or how we would view Bassett, See, or Williams had their tragedies not happened.

SkyMan1958
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Posts: 355
From: CA.
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posted 03-18-2012 07:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd say that Schirra would have to be #1 simply because he was the only one that flew on all three spacecraft. Also, for what it's worth, he did fly the first successful rendezvous, and in my opinion after Apollo 1 if Apollo 7 had had major issues, then the Apollo program could very well have been terminated.

Once you get to the "who contributed more" aspect of the question that really is leaving it up to a wide assortment of variables, and I could list a whole bunch of people that were important... the vast majority of whom were not astronauts... most importantly the US Taxpayers who footed the bill for all of the Buck Rogers...

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 03-18-2012 08:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What? No love for shuttle astronauts?

LeviM
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Posts: 13
From: Sweden
Registered: Dec 2011

posted 03-19-2012 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LeviM   Click Here to Email LeviM     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting thoughts, but somehow I think that people takes this to seriously. The meaning with the question was to just know if people have a top ten astronaut list, or call it top ten favorite astronaut list.

Yes, I have a top ten astronaut list. My top ten list is basically based on the criteria I listed above (more or less). That's why astronauts like Cernan, Lovell, Scott, Borman, Collins, Duke, Glenn, Shepard, McDivitt and Armstrong are higher rated than Aldrin.

Jim Behling
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Posts: 537
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 03-19-2012 02:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SkyMan1958:
I'd say that Schirra would have to be #1 simply because he was the only one that flew on all three spacecraft.
There are more than three spacecraft. Young flew four of five: Gemini, CSM, LM and shuttle.

Being a MGA astronaut does not mean that they are better than Shuttle astronauts. Penalizing shuttle astronaut just because they were born later?

Does that mean Vietnam pilots are better than Desert Storm pilots?

What about a non pilot astronaut who was a pilot and Renaissance man like Story Musgrave?

It boils down to a beauty pageant. No one here (aside from a very few authors) has the data or the insight to make intelligent decision. It would be no different than picking the best Power Ranger or Ninja Turtle.

LeviM
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From: Sweden
Registered: Dec 2011

posted 03-20-2012 01:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LeviM   Click Here to Email LeviM     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Like I said. Don't take this list too seriously! Compare it to Ninja Turtle list if you like, I don't care. But I'm still curious if people have a top ten list and how this look like.

Gilbert
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Posts: 935
From: Carrollton, GA USA
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 03-20-2012 06:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, here's mine:
  1. Wally Schirra
    Scott Carpenter (tie)
    John Glenn (tie)
  2. Gordon Cooper
    Jim Lovell (tie)
    Pete Conrad (tie)
  3. Virgil Grissom
    Alan Shepard (tie)
    Gene Cernan (tie)
  4. Alan Bean
That's my 10 in the top 4 spots. Obviously I'm a fan of the early astronauts.

BBlatcher
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Posts: 47
From: Savannah, GA, USA
Registered: Aug 2011

posted 03-20-2012 08:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BBlatcher     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
  • Schirra
  • Borman
  • McDivitt
  • Stafford
  • Armstrong
  • Conrad
  • Lovell
  • Scott
  • Young
  • Cernan
In short, all the commanders of the Apollo missions, except for Shepard. Why exclude him? The list was limited to 10 and Shepard's jumping to the head of the line for Apollo 13 (later 14) and then failing to reach Cone Crater demonstrates he wasn't quite as sharp as he may have thought he was. Plus he picked rookies for his crew, which sounds like he didn't want to be overshadowed by a more experienced astronaut. Sounds petty, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that point.

If it was the top 11, I'd put Collins on the list, since by all outcomes he was good pilot and slotted to be Commander but turned it down to focus on his family. That's good character right there. Plus he was the best writer of the Apollo astronauts, it would have been great to read his impressions of being on the moon.

Top 12? Add Haise because Slayton said he was the best of his group. And to do backup duties on 8 & 11, come close to landing on 13 and then do backup again in the hopes of landing with 19 indicates he had a lot of heart also. He was willing to put in the hours and earn his place, unlike some prima donnas.

Top 13? I don't know. Schweickart or Anders maybe?

BBlatcher
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From: Savannah, GA, USA
Registered: Aug 2011

posted 03-20-2012 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BBlatcher     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh shoot, I forgot to place Grissom! I'm not sure where I would put him, perhaps replace Cernan for Gus on the top 10. My thinking is based on Slayton's thoughts about him and French's and Burgess' "In the Shadow of the Moon," which revealed new details (to me anyway) about Grissom's struggle to save his crew in the midst of the Apollo 1 fire. The man was Commander for a reason, just a shame he and the others perished in such a preventable way.

Delta7
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Posts: 1153
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-21-2012 09:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Plus he picked rookies for his crew, which sounds like he didn't want to be overshadowed by a more experienced astronaut. Sounds petty, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that point.
I would defend Shepard on that last point. The veteran CDR/rookie CMP and LMP lineup became the standard Apollo crew composition starting with Apollo 13.

When Slayton was putting together these crews in 1969-70, there were many more rookies than veterans. Some of the veterans had announced their intention to retire; some weren't available (Eisele fell out of favor, Schweickart prone to nausea etc.) and some were picky in their assignments (Anders not wanting to fly to the moon again unless he got to land; Cernan wanting to command etc.). Slayton did have a discussion with McDivitt about the latter being Shepard's LMP, but McDivitt quickly put the kibosh on that idea.

Ed Mitchell simply rotated into the spot he normally would have as Apollo 10 backup LMP. As for Roosa, he replaced Eisele in the rotation because as mentioned, the latter fell out of favor with Gilruth, Kraft and Slayton over his "extra-curricular" activities. He wasn't going to get another flight anyway after completing his Apollo 10 backup assignment.

And Roosa seemed to have been held in high regard by Slayton, probably being groomed for eventual command of Apollo 19 or 20 by Slayton at the time.

While Shepard my have had some input and influence on the composition of his crew, the assignments don't really reflect any specific demand outside what might have been expected regardless of who was in command.

LeviM
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From: Sweden
Registered: Dec 2011

posted 03-21-2012 09:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LeviM   Click Here to Email LeviM     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wondering if McDivitt had accepted to command Apollo 14 if he got the chance?

There are some of these people I really look up to because of their dignity. McDivitt is one of them as he didn't say yes to be LMP to Shepard who jumped from a 15 minutes flight to command a moon landing. He was not even flying in the Gemini. I don't think any astronaut thought good thoughts about that decision, except Slayton and Shepard.

Another one is Collins who also refused to command Apollo 17 because family reasons.

The last one is Cernan. To command a moon landing was so important for him that he took a decision, which could put him on the ground forever. How many had the "balls" for that?

robsouth
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Posts: 607
From: West Midlands, UK
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 03-21-2012 07:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I conducted a vote of members on another site and John Young came out top with the most votes, I think he got over 100 points. He also appeared in the most top tens of the voters.

WAWalsh
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Posts: 791
From: Cortlandt Manor, NY
Registered: May 2000

posted 03-22-2012 01:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agree that few are going to be in the perfect place to assess the individuals. Enthusiasm for the program and a fair amount of reading does permit a little bit of opinion. How people rank astronauts will be based on personal opinion (much like crew assignments)
  1. Alan Shepard (first among the Seven)
  2. Pete Conrad (did it all and saved Skylab)
  3. Jim Lovell (most traveled)
  4. Neil Armstrong (the engineer)
  5. John Young (really did do it all)
  6. Ed White (his EVA provided the image for the program early on)
  7. Dave Scott (man must explore)
  8. Harrison Schmitt (very different from the rest of the astronaut corps. but should receive that much more respect for tackling a completely different field and doing very well in it)
  9. Buzz Aldrin (Dr. Rendezvous)
  10. Frank Borman

drifting to the right
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posted 03-22-2012 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for drifting to the right     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Polled the local high school:
  • John Glenn - first man in space, subsequently flying nearly every early space mission, up to and including the first space shuttle. Scheduled to be first man on Mars.
  • (Tie) Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom -assisted John Glenn.
  • Lance Armstrong - famed cyclist tapped for first Moon landing, afterwards gave up space and racing, becoming semi-recluse
  • Buzz Lightyear - landed with Armstrong, had iconic picture taken on behalf of sponsor, MTV
  • (Tie) Flash Gordon Cooper and Richard Flash Gordon - One or both flew into space and had a comic book series and movie
  • Tom Hanks - saved Apollo 13 and kept that other crew member from thrashing Kevin Bacon
  • Ben Affleck and that old guy [Bruce Willis] - landed upon and destroyed an asteroid, saving that totally rad babe,
    Liv Tyler
  • Charles Lindburgh - early Mercury pioneer, first to land suborbital flight in Europe, just outside Paris, beating the Russians and Chinese. He got an awesome parade.
  • Duuhhhhh...
  • Oh yeah, Ashton Kutcher - Though not an early astronaut, he will accompany John Glenn on that first Mars trip, and is totally paying for the whole thing, TOTALLY DUDE!
Apologies, Jerry

sts205cdr
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Posts: 534
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Jun 2001

posted 03-22-2012 11:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sts205cdr   Click Here to Email sts205cdr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm glad to see Tom Stafford listed several times. Al Worden would agree.

alanh_7
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Posts: 889
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 03-23-2012 07:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To borrow a phrase: All gave some...some gave all.
  • Gus Grissom
  • Ed White
  • Roger Chaffee

moorouge
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Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 03-23-2012 04:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My list for what it's worth -
  1. Jose Jiminez
  2. Tied second place - every person brave enough to sit on top of a controlled explosion and be blasted skywards to face the dangers of the 'final frontier'.

All times are CT (US)

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