This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Mercury

Mercury Proposals
Mercury Proposals
Before Mercury, the US Air Force had a project 'Man in Space Soonest'. This chart summarizes the initial contractor proposals.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 4,074 bytes. 611 x 318 pixels.

Program: Mercury. Objective: Manned. Type: Spacecraft.

Mercury was America's first man-in-space project. Setting the precedent for the later Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, any capsule configuration proposed by the contractors was acceptable as long as it was the one NASA's Langley facility, and in particular, Max Faget, had developed. McDonnell, at that time a renegade contractor of innovative Navy fighters that had a history of problems in service, received the contract. The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result. While the Vostok was capable of missions of up to a week, the Mercury's final 24 hour mission was barely completed, with virtually all of the spacecraft's systems having broken down by the end. NASA felt lucky to have astronaut Cooper back alive (although the flight demonstrated a pinpoint re-entry was possible with no electrical power, no ECS, no guidance or instruments!) and cancelled Alan Shepard's desired week-long Mercury 10 flight. Major Events: .

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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .