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Robert O. McBrayer Collection

Identifier: MC-57


  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 2010-12-20


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.”

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


8 Linear Feet (8 boxes.)

Biographical / Historical

Robert McBrayer attended Georgia Tech, earning a degree in mechanical engineering in 1962, but graduating in the class of 1963. After an interview mix-up, he went to work for Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta Georgia, staying on for a month and a half. He got an offer from Houston, which he accepted, so he moved there in 1963, staying until 1966. He then moved to Huntsville.

Most of McBrayer’s career was in Human Factors. He researched protecting the Apollo astronauts’ hearing, and after finishing that, he moved into fabrication testing, providing flight hardware for the Apollo survival equipment.

Later, he moved closer to his family in Georgia, and he looked for a new job. Thanks to his background with flight crew members and the survival equipment, he was moved to Human Factors. He oversaw the first crew station review for the Skylab program on the old workshop. He helped design the crew’s toilet. It was designed for males, but they decided to make it female-compatible.

They did studies on the concept verification test program that were precursors to Spacelab missions, and McBrayer’s heavy involvement in this led to his involvement in the payload project office.

Around this time, McBrayer started transitioning into crew operations “kinds of things,” and when he went over to the payload project office, he was put into a group that worked on mission operations. He helped develop the training programs for the crews, particularly the payload specialists. He worked out the process for selecting/hiring payload specialists to fly on Spacelab payloads.

There was resistance against letting non-astronauts fly, so he and his team had to be careful in the legal sense because of all the liability issues that had to be resolved in the standpoints of payload specialists breaking things or causing accidents or from the standpoint of payloads specialists getting hurt through accidents they didn’t cause.

McBrayer said the benefit of a very thorough training program is that you understand how to do the nominal timeline, so when things go off nominal, you are familiar with the hardware and the processes and the procedures. This way, you can react very quickly and adapt and perform the tasks of other crew members with the same efficiency.

According to McBrayer, the times that things went off schedule demonstrated the value of having humans in space because humans can react and adapt. “Humans are the real key to successful research” in large structures like space stations or space labs. Regarding what changed/what will change in terms of training, McBrayer said he thought training flight crews to operate the hardware will stay mostly unchanged because they have segments that they go up for, and they’re well-trained on what they’re supposed to do during that segment. He thought computers have made it much easier for crew members to train themselves.

McBrayer considered his job his hobby because he enjoyed it so much. When he retired from NASA, he spent about three years in the contractor community in different things. After that, he decided to move into consulting work when “something came along that was really interesting to do.”

McBrayer was involved at the Michoud assembly facility at MSU, the place where external tanks were built and assembled and shipped out. McBrayer helped develop management systems so the MATH facility could be expanded. As part of the management system on which he was working, he tried to get schedules in place so they would have everything in its proper place.

McBrayer believed testing will always be necessary in the space program; computers will help, but they won’t be able to solve everything.

Adapted from oral history found

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert McBrayer, 2010.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.



Torey Badar
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America