Morehead History

Part 3 – Astronaut Training I

Astronauts in training simulator
Astronaut Scott Carpenter prepares for his Project Mercury flight in 1962 as fellow Astronaut Walter Schirra and Planetarium instructor Dr. James Batten look on.

Ten years after opening, Morehead Planetarium was called to serve not only the people of North Carolina but also the nation’s burgeoning space program. Astronauts needed training in celestial navigation to ensure that they would be able to pilot their spacecraft if navigational systems failed.

Wadsworth, Glenn, Cooper, Carpenter
Planetarium Instructor Jim Wadsworth and Astronauts John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, and Alan Shepard in the Star Theater in 1960. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.
Between 1959 and 1975, nearly every astronaut who participated in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs trained at Morehead. While the need for such training ended in 1975 as computer navigation became more reliable, long-time Planetarium Director Tony Jenzano could once claim that, “Carolina is the only university in the country, in fact the world, that can claim all the astronauts as alumni.”

Constructing the special equipment for each mission’s training often tested the ingenuity of the Planetarium’s staff. One special projector for the Apollo trainings had to be put together from old car wax cans fitted with miniature light bulbs. The training device used for the Gemini missions was constructed from plywood, cloth, foam rubber and paper mounted on two barber’s chairs. Using this device, astronauts could control the movement of the star-field to simulate pitch and roll while technicians moved their chairs to simulate yaw (side-to-side movement).


Astronauts Who Trained at Morehead Planetarium

+List of training dates and missions.

Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.
Joseph P. Allen
William A. Anders
Neil A. Armstrong
Charles A. Bassett II
Alan L. Bean
Frank Borman
Vance D. Brand
John S. Bull
M. Scott Carpenter
Gerald P. Carr
Eugene A. Cernan
Roger B. Chaffee
Philip K. Chapman
Michael Collins
Charles Conrad Jr.
L. Gordon Cooper
R. Walter Cunningham
Charles M. Duke Jr.
Donn F. Eisele
Anthony W. England
Joe H. Engle
Ronald E. Evans
Theodore C. Freeman
Owen K. Garriott
Edward G. Givens Jr.
John H. Glenn Jr.
Richard F. Gordon Jr.
Virgil I. Grissom
Fred W. Haise Jr.
Karl G. Henize
James B. Irwin
Joseph B. Kerwin
William B. Lenoir
Don L. Lind
John A. Llewellyn
Jack R. Lousma
James A. Lovell Jr.
Thomas K. Mattingly Jr.
Bruce McCandless II
James A. McDivitt
F. Curtis Michel
Edgar D. Mitchell
Story Musgrave
Brian T. O’Leary
Robert A. Parker
William R. Pogue
Stuart A. Roosa
Walter M. Schirra Jr.
Russell L. Schweickart
David R. Scott
Elliott M. See Jr.
Alan B. Shepard Jr.
Donald K. Slayton
Thomas P. Stafford
John L. Swigert Jr.
William E. Thornton
Paul J. Weitz
Edward H. White
Clifton C. Williams Jr.
Alfred M. Worden
John W. Young