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Miss Beth Beddingfield
Tusculum College
Greeneville, Tennessee

Dear Beth:

You asked what was happening in the Space Program the day you were born. For the part I played in it, it was a very busy day. We were trying to launch Mercury spacecraft on Redstone and Atlas rockets. During the day of July 17, 1961 I stayed home all day so I could go to work around 8:00 PM to start the countdown for Mercury-Redstone 4, the suborbital flight of Astronaut Gus Grissom.

We had launched Alan Shepard on May 5 for our first manned space flight, and we were working, trying to catch up with the Russians. I knew you were due any time, so I very carefully left phone numbers with your mother to cover every area I thought I would be working, i.e., the launch pad, blockhouse, office, etc.

After I got to Launch Complex 5-6 around 8:30 PM, we found that we had a problem with the weather that could prevent a launch on the 18th as we had planned. We decided to get the first part of the countdown started and get another check on the weather around 11:00 PM. The very first thing we had to do was for me and my crew to install the escape rocket igniter and check it out. Since this was considered a hazardous test, no people were allowed on the pad except for the three men in my crew. The blockhouse crew said they would page me if your mother called. About the time we got the igniter checked, we received word that the weather was not going to improve and a radar had failed, so we scrubbed the launch. I don't know why but I left with some of the other engineers, and for probably the first and only time, stopped by for a beer before I went home. I realized that Babs wouldn't know where I was, so instead of calling home I exceeded the speed limit in my little MG trying to get there in the shortest possible time.

When I got home, your mother was standing at the front door trying to decide whether or not to call our next-door neighbor, Bill McGee, to take her to the hospital in Orlando. Of course I drove her there, and since I had planned to stay up all night anyhow, I had no trouble waiting for your to show up around 5:00 on the morning of the 18th. You were beautiful!

You and your mother stayed at the hospital, and I went back to the launch pad. Some kind soul had brought in some cake and coffee to celebrate John Glenn's 40th birthday at the blockhouse. He was pleased that you were born on his birthday.

We finally launched Gus on July 21st, and after the launch I finally got to bring you and your mother home.

Your loving father,

S. T. Beddingfield
Chief, Space Shuttle Program Assessment and Integration Staff