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Memorial Tributes, Volume 12
the end of World War II. Thus it is not surprising that the first design of the Mercury capsule featured a periscope rather than a window.
After the war, Max was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, which later became NASA) Division of Pilotless Aircraft Research, an engineering and design team that flew rocket-powered models of airplanes and missiles to supersonic velocities to obtain aerodynamic data. During this time, he was exposed to the idea of space flight and the methods one might use to deal with the high temperatures and dynamic pressures caused by the hypersonic velocities of space vehicles. At NACA, Max became an expert on supersonic inlets, ramjets, and the heating and aerodynamic properties of blunt bodies. He also contributed directly to the design of the X-15, an experimental aircraft that flew at speeds up to Mach 6.
In 1957, shortly after the successful flight of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, Max joined a small group of individuals in the NACA Space Task Group investigating ideas to make human space flight possible. By the summer of 1958, he had conceived and proposed the development of a blunt-bodied, one-man spaceship for Project Mercury, the goal of which was to put an American into Earth orbit. The first drawing of this spacecraft, by C.C. Johnson, chief designer of Max’s engineering concepts, was completed in June 1958, a full three months before NASA itself was formed.
The complete list of Max Faget’s honorary and professional awards takes up two full pages in his biography. A partial list includes NASA medals for outstanding leadership, for distinguished service, and for exceptional engineering achievement; honorary doctorates of engineering from the University of Pittsburgh (1966) and LSU (1972); the Goddard Astronautics Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and the Arthur S. Flemming Award. In recognition of his work on the design of the Mercury and Apollo spacecraft and the Space Shuttle, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and National Space Hall of Fame in 2003, the centennial year of the Wright brothers’ first