Official NASA Memo About Glenn Flown Currency

I received a copy of a March 9, 1962 NASA memo from the John Glenn Archives that gives insightful information not only on the bills flown on Glenn's flight, but the formation of the tradition of flying bills on the early Mercury flights. This memo, which was sent to me by Jeff Thomas, archivist of the John Glenn Archives at Ohio State University, is located in the John Glenn archives, Non-Senate Papers sub-roup, NASA series, Mercury 7 sub-series, box 66, folder 7. It was written by Charles L. Buckley, Jr., NASA Security Officer, Atlantic Missle Range, stationed at the Launch Operations Directorate, Cocoa Beach, Florida, and sent to Lloyd Blankenbaker, Director of Security, at NASA in Washington. The memo included newspaper clipings from the Associated Press and the UPI, all of which discussed the issue of bills being carried into space in his capsule, and concerns by Senate officials that this would cause a hazard. The memo copies R. R. Gilruth, W.C. Williams, G.M. Preston, Col J.C. Powers, Deke Slayton, and Glenn himself.

The memo states, in full:

"This is a report based on recent news releases similar to those attached and distributed by the Associated Press and UPI. The report concerns money placed aboard Col. Glenn's capsule just prior to the February 20th flight.

Investigation has revealed that two bundles of bills having a total value of approximately $52 to $56 or a total of 32 bills of one and two dollar denomination were placed aboard the capsule by a McDonnell Aircraft employee under the direction of the McDonnell Launch Pad Foreman and approved by the McDonnell Pad Leader and NASA Inspectors. The bills belonged to both NASA and McDonnell employees who were assigned to work on the launch pad and capsule. The money was placed in the capsule at 10:30 pm, February 19th during the early part of the final countdown. It was secured in thermofit tubing which was attached to a wire bundle (group of wires) by nylon cord and then low temperature heat was applied. The heat shrunk the tubing, making it tight and fast to the wire bundle. This method secured it in a manner safe for flight. In fact, it was more secure than some of the necessary equipment the Astronaut took with him. One bundle was located on the main trunk line and the other attached to a wire bundle under the head rest. There was absolutely no danger of "jamming delicate equipment" as stated in the news articles. There was no danger of a conflagration due to external heat since the money was within the internal capsule atmosphere. The money was as clean as the outside of the Astronaut's suit or the typed flight instructions on the instrument panel. NASA inspectors verified and approved the installation.

Every capsule, with the exception of "Capsule 8-A" has carried money installed in approximately the same manner. Alan Shepard's capsule for MR-3 flight carried an American flag, which has been presented to a local elementary school. Several officials questioned mentioned that they were aware of the tradition, and indeed, that is what the action has become. They stated that "it's just as American as apple pie." The people closely associated with the Astronauts and the capsule have a warm and tender feeling that is difficult to understand for outsiders and are justly proud of their work. The money is tangible evidence that they have been close to the Astronaut and capsule and affords them a memento similar to those kept by World War II veterans, which were called "short snorters."

The money was exstracted on February 21st at approximately 5:00 pm after the capsule was returned to Cape Canaveral for examination. Since that time, it has been kept intact and at the present time it is in the Astronaut Quarters, Hanger S, where it awaits Col. Glenn's signature. The dollar bill shown to the press by Col. Powers was not aboard the capsule and was given to him for autographs by a man who failed to get his dollar aboard the capsule before flight.

Although this procedure has become tradition, it was confined to those workers closely associated with installation and inspection of the capsule and with the knowledge of NASA and McDonnell officials."

A great memo, that not only establishes the tradition of carry the bills being tied to the Short Snorter tradition, but also the exact chain of custody and provenance of these bills until they were signed and notarized by Glenn post flight. A great memo now in the Jefferson-in-Space Museum archives. Many thanks to the Ohio State University John Glenn Archives archivist Jeff Thomas (what an appropriate last name!) for providing me with a copy.