Before Mercury, the US Air Force had a project 'Man in Space Soonest'. This chart summarizes the initial contractor proposals.
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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: .
H. Julian Allen of NACA Ames Laboratory conceived the "blunt nose principle" which submitted that a blunt shape would absorb only one-half of 1 perecent of the heat generated by the reentry of a body into the earth's atmosphere. This principle was later significant to ICBM nose cone and the Mercury capsule development.
USAF issues request for industry proposals for Project 7969 Manned Ballistic Rocket Research System. Two year study period.
Maxime Faget of NACA Langley proposed ballistic shape of Mercury capsule, while A. Eggers of Ames and E. S. Love and J. V. Becker of Langley proposed glider configurations of manned spacecraft later incorporated in Dyna-Soar and Apollo studies.
The Air Force received 11 unsolicited industry proposals for Project 7969, and technical evaluation was started. Observers from NACA participated.
A conference was held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to review concepts for manned orbital vehicles. The NACA informally presented two concepts then under study at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory: the one proposed by Maxime A. Faget involved a ballistic, high-drag capsule with heat shield on which the pilot lies prone during reentry, with reentry being accomplished by reverse thrust at the apogee of the elliptical orbit involving a deceleration load of about 8g, and proceeding to impact by a parachute landing; the other Langley proposal called for the development of a triangular planform vehicle with a flat bottom having some lift during reentry. At this same meeting there were several Air Force contractor presentations. These were as follows: Northrop, boost-glide buildup to orbital speed; Martin, zero-lift vehicle launched by a Titan with controlled flight estimated to be possible by mid-1961; McDonnell, ballistic vehicle resembling Faget's proposal, weighing 2,400 pounds and launched by an Atlas with a Polaris second stage; Lockheed, a 20 degree semiapex angle cone with a hemispherical tip of 1-foot radius, pilot in sitting position facing rearward, to be launched by an Atlas-Hustler combination; Convair reviewed a previous proposal for a large-scale manned space station, but stated a minimum vehicle - a 1,000-pound sphere - could be launched by an Atlas within a year; Aeronutronics, cone-shaped vehicle with spherical tip of 1-foot radius, with man enclosed in sphere inside vehicle and rotated to line the pilot up with accelerations, and launched by one of several two-stage vehicles; Republic, the Ferri sled vehicle, a 4,000 pound, triangular plan with a two-foot diameter tube running continuous around the leading and trailing edge and serving as a fuel tank for final-stage, solid-propellant rockets located in each wing tip, with a man in small compartment on top side, and with a heat-transfer ring in the front of the nose for a glide reentry of 3,600 miles per hour with pilot ejecting from capsule and parachuting down, and the launch vehicle comprising three stages (also see July 31, 1958 entry); AVCO, a 1,500-pound vehicle sphere launched by a Titan, equipped with a stainless-steel-cloth parachute whose diameter would be controlled by compessed air bellows and which would orient the vehicle in orbit, provide deceleration for reentry, and control drag during reentry; Bell, reviewed proposals for boost-glide vehicles, but considered briefly a minimum vehicle, spherical in shape, weighing about 3,000 pounds; Goodyear, a spherical vehicle with a rearward facing tail cone and ablative surface, with flaps deflected from the cone during reentry for increased drag and control, and launched by an Atlas or a Titan plus a Vanguard second stage; North American, extend the X-15 program by using the X-15 with a three-stage launch vehicle to achieve a single orbit with an apogee of 400,000 feet and a perigee of 250,000, range about 500 to 600 miles and landing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the pilot ejecting and landing by parachute with the aircraft being lost.
Lieutenant General Donald Putt, Air Force Director of Research and Development, sent a letter to Dr. Hugh Dryden, Director of NACA, inviting NACA participation in the Air Force effort in the manned ballistic rocket program. Dr. Dryden informed the Air Force that NACA was preparing manned spacecraft designs for submission in March 1958.
At the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, a working committee studied various manned satellite development plans and concluded that a ballistic-entry vehicle launched with an existing intercontinental ballistic missile propulsion system could be utilized fpr the first manned satellite project.
A working conference in support of the Air Force 'Man-in-Space Soonest' (MISS) was held at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles, California. General Bernard Schriever, opening the conference, stated that events were moving faster than expected. By this statement he meant that Roy Johnson, the new head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, had asked the Air Force to report to him on its approach to putting a man in space soonest. Johnson indicated that the Air Force would be assigned the task, and the purpose of the conference was to produce a rough-draft proposal. At that time the Air Force concept consisted of three stages: a high-drag, no-lift, blunt-shaped spacecraft to get man in space soonest, with landing to be accomplished by a parachute; a more sophisticated approach by possibly employing a lifting vehicle or one with a modified drag; and a long-range program that might end in a space station or a trip to the moon.
At that time, NACA was already actively engaged in research and study of several phases. For example, in the basic studies category effort had been expended on the study of orbits and orbit control, space physical characteristics, configuration studies, propulsion system research, human factors, structures and materials, satellite instrumentation, range requirements, and noise and vibration during reentry and exit. In addition, NACA outlined the complete program covering full-scale studies of mockups, simulators, and detail designs; full-scale vertical and orbiting flights involving unmanned, animal, and manned flights and recovery; and exploitation of the program to increase the payloads. As to the design concepts for such a program, NACA believed that the Atlas launch vehicle was adequate to meet launch-vehicle requirements for manned orbital flights; that retrograde and vernier controllable thrust could be used for orbital control; that heat-sink or lighter material could be used against reentry heating; that guidance should be ground programed with provisions for the pilot to make final adjustments; that recovery should be accomplished at sea with parachutes used for letdown; that a network of radar stations should be established to furnish continuous tracking; and that launchings be made from Cape Canaveral. It was estimated that with a simple ballistic shape accelerations would be within tolerable limits for the pilot. Temperature control, oxygen supply, noise, and vibration were considered engineering development problems, which could be solved without any special breakthroughs.
After serving as a liaison officer of NACA and as a participating member of an Advanced Research Projects Agency panel, Maxime A. Faget reported to Dr. Hugh Dryden on resulting studies and attending recommendations on the subject of manned space flight. He stated that the Advanced Research Projects Agency panel was quite aware that the responsibility for such a program might be placed with the soon-to-be-created civilian space agency, although they recommended program management be placed with the Air Force under executive control of NACA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The panel also recommended that the program start immediately even though the specific manager was, as yet, unassigned. Several of the proposals put forth by the panel on the proposed development were rather similar to the subsequent evolvement. The system suggested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency was to be based on the use of the Atlas launch vehicle with the Atlas-Sentry system serving as backup; retrorockets were to be used to initiate the return from orbit; the spacecraft was to be nonlifting, ballistic type, and the crew was to be selected from qualified volunteers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
NACA personnel discussed the proposed space agency budget, including the manned satellite project, with Bureau of Budget officials.
President Eisenhower assigned the responsibility for the development and execution of a manned space flight program to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. However, NASA did not become operational until October 1, 1958.
Study was started on the tracking and ground instrumentation networks for the manned satellite project.
A series of meetings were held in Washington, with Robert R. Gilruth serving as chairman to draft a manned satellite program and provide a basic plan for meeting the objectives of this program. Others attending included S. B. Batdorf, A. J. Eggers, Maxime A. Faget, George Low, Warren North, Walter C. Williams, and Robert C. Youngquist.
NASA was activated in accordance with the terms of Public Law 85-568, and the nonmilitary space projects which had been conducted by the Advanced Research Projects Agency were transferred to the jurisdiction of the NASA. Concurrently, NACA, after a 43-year tenure, was inactivated, and its facilities and personnel became a part of NASA.
Studies and plans of the manned satellite project were presented to Advanced Research Projects Agency on October 3 and to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, on October 7. On October 7, 1958, Dr. Glennan approved the project by saying, in effect, 'Let's get on with it.'
Personnel from the Langley Research Center visited the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to open negotiations for procuring Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles for manned satellite projects.
NASA formally organized Project Mercury to: (1) place manned space capsule in orbital flight around the earth; (2) investigate man's reactions to and capabilities in this environment; and (3) recover capsule and pilot safely. A NASA Space Task Group organized at Langley Research Center drew up specifications for the Mercury capsule, based on studies by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics during the preceding 12 months, and on discussions with the Air Force which had been conducting related studies.
In behalf of the manned satellite project, an air drop program for full-scale parachute and landing system development was started at Langley.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Supply and Logistics invited the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to submit nominations for materiel procurement urgency (commonly known as the DX priority rating).
Langley Research Center personnel visited the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Inglewood, California, to open negotiations for procuring Atlas launch vehicles for the manned satellite project.
A bidders' briefing for the Little Joe launch vehicle was held. As earlier mentioned, this launch vehicle was to be used in the development phase of the manned satellite project. The Little Joe launch vehicle was 48 feet in height, weighed (at maximum) 41,330 pounds, was 6.66 feet in diameter, consisted of four Pollux and four Recruit clustered, solid-fuel rockets, could develop a thrust of 250,000 pounds, and could lift a maximum payload of 3,942 pounds.
Preliminary specifications for a manned spacecraft were established with industry. These specifications outlined the program and suggested methods of analysis and construction.
A special Committee on Life Sciences was established at Langley to determine qualifications and attributes required of personnel to be selected for America's first manned space flight and to give advice on other human aspects of the manned satellite program.
A scale model of the Mercury spacecraft (without escape tower), oriented for the reentry phase, was tested at transonic Mach numbers in a 1-foot transonic test tunnel at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee.
The initial contingent of military service aeromedical personnel reported for duty and began working on human factors, crew selection, and crew training plans for the manned spacecraft program.
A contractor briefing, attended by some 40 prospective bidders on the manned spacecraft, was held at the Langley Research Center. More detailed specifications were then prepared and distributed to about 20 manufacturers who had stated an intention to bid on the project.
Specifications for the manned spacecraft (Specification Number S-6) were issued, and final copies were mailed on November 17, 1958, to 20 firms which had indicated a desire to be considered as bidders.
Twenty firms notified the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of their intention to prepare proposals for the development of the manned spacecraft. NASA set the deadline for proposal submission as December 11, 1958.
The highest national procurement priority rating (DX) was requested for the manned spacecraft project.
The Space Task Group placed an order for one Atlas launch vehicle with the Air Force Missile Division, Inglewood, California, as part of a preliminary research program leading to manned space flight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters requested that the Air Force construct and launch one Atlas C launch vehicle to check the aerodynamics of the spacecraft. It was the intention to launch this missile about May 1959 in a ballistic trajectory. This was to be the launch vehicle for the Big Joe reentry test shot, but plans were later changed and an Atlas Model D launch vehicle was used instead.
Project Mercury, U.S. manned-satellite program, was officially named by NASA.
A draft checklist entitled 'Overall Technical Assessment of Proposals for Manned Space Capsule,' was prepared by the Space Task Group for use by the Source Selection Board.
Design of the Big Joe spacecraft for the Project Mercury reentry test (the spacecraft would be boosted by an Atlas launch vehicle over a ballistic trajectory) was accomplished by the Space Task Group. Construction of the spacecraft was assigned as a joint task of the Langley and Lewis Research Centers under the direction of the Space Task Group. The instrument package was developed by Lewis personnel assigned to the Space Task Group, and these individuals later became the nucleus of the Space Task Group's Flight Operations Division at Cape Canaveral.
Space Task Group officials visited the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to determine the feasibility of using the Jupiter launch vehicle for the intermediate phase of Project Mercury, to discuss the Redstone program, and to discuss the cost for Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles.
The Space Task Group indicated that nine Atlas launch vehicles were required in support of the Project Mercury manned and unmanned flights and these were ordered from the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division.
An aeromedical selection team composed of Major Stanley C. White, Air Force; Lt. Robert B. Voas, Navy; and Captain William Augerson, Army, drafted a tentative astronaut selection procedure. According to the plan, representatives from the services and industry would nominate 150 men by January 21, 1959; 36 of these would be selected for further testing which would reduce the group to 12; and in a 9-month training period, a hard core of 6 men would remain. At the end of December 1958, this plan was rejected.
These were AVCO, Chance-Vought, Convair, Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin, McDonnell, North American, Northrop, and Republic. In addition, Winzen Research Laboratories submitted an incomplete proposal.
Space Task Group personnel began technical assessment of manned spacecraft development proposals submitted by industry. Charles Zimmermann headed the technical assessment team.
NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan announced that the manned satellite program would be called "Project Mercury."
A contract was awarded to North American Aviation for design and construction of the Little Joe air frame.
Space Task Group's technical assessment teams completed the evaluation of industry proposals for design and construction of a manned spacecraft and forwarded their findings to the Source Selection Board, NASA Headquarters.
The letter-of-intent was placed with North American Aviation for the fabrication of the Little Joe Test vehicle air frame. Delivery of the air frames for flight testing was scheduled to occur every three weeks beginning in June 1959. Space Task Group had ordered all the major rocket motors, which were scheduled for delivery well ahead of the Little Joe flight test schedule. The spacecraft for this phase of the program was being designed and construction would start shortly. Thus the Little Joe program should meet its intended flight test schedule.
Investigations were conducted at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, in support of Project Mercury. Models of the Mercury spacecraft were tested at speeds of Mach 8, 16, and 20 to investigate stability, heat transfer, and pressure distribution of Mercury components.
Balloon flights were planned for high-altitude qualification tests of the complete spacecraft, including all instrumentation, retrorockets, drogue parachute system, and recovery. Later balloon flights would be manned to provide as much as 24 hours of training followed by recovery at sea. The Space Task Group made surveys of organizations experienced in the balloon field and recommended that the Air Force Cambridge Research Center be given responsibilities for designing, contracting, and conducting the balloon program.
McDonnell, as prime contractor, selected Minneapolis-Honeywell as subcontractor for the Mercury stabilization system. At that time, other subcontractors were under consideration for the fabrication of various components: Bell Aircraft Rockets Division, reaction control system; and General Electric, Barnes Instruments, and Detroit Controls were being considered for fabrication of the horizon scanner. Later Bell and Barnes were awarded contracts for respective components.
Study contracts were awarded to Aeronutronics, Space Electronics, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory for assistance in developing plans for tracking and ground instrumentation for Project Mercury.
Qualifications were established for pilot selection in a meeting at the NASA Headquarters. These qualifications were as follows: age, less than 40; height, less than 5 feet 11 inches; excellent physical condition; bachelor's degree or equivalent; graduate of test pilot school; 1,500 hours flight time; and a qualified jet pilot.
NASA requested eight Redstone-type launch vehicles from the Army to be used in Project Mercury development flights.
The Source Selection Board at NASA Headquarters composed of Abe Silverstein, Ralph Cushman, George Low, Walter Schier, DeMarquis Wyatt, and Charles Zimmerman, completed their findings and reported to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, the Administrator. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was selected as the prime contractor to develop and produce the Mercury spacecraft.
12 capsules to be built. Other leading contender was Grumman. Original schedule was for manned flights from January - August 1960.
Preliminary negotiations were started with McDonnell on the technical and legal aspects of the Mercury spacecraft research and development program.
During a meeting of the Space Task Group, it was decided to negotiate with McDonnell for design of spacecraft that could be fitted with either a beryllium heat sink or an ablation heat shield. Robert R. Gilruth, the project director, considered that for safety purposes, both should be used. He also felt that the recovery landing bag should be replaced by a honeycombed crushable structure. At this same meeting, a tentative decision was also made that design, development, and contract responsibilities for the Mercury tracking network would be assigned to the Langley Research Center.
NASA requested the Army Ordnance Missile Command, Huntsville, Alabama, to construct and launch eight Redstone launch vehicles and two Jupiter launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury manned and unmanned flights.
The pilot egress trainer was received from McDonnell and rough water evaluation of the equipment was started immediately by Space Task Group personnel.
NASA completed contract negotiations with McDonnell for the design and development of the Mercury spacecraft. At that time, McDonnell estimated that the first 3 spacecraft could be delivered in 10 months. Spacecraft refinements slipped this estimated goal by only 2 months.
This plan was updated on April 14, 1959. Primary objectives of the test were to investigate flight dynamics, check drogue parachute operations, determine physiological effects of acceleration on a small primate, and, to some extent, check the spacecraft aerodynamic characteristics.
Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, advised Dr. T. Keith Glennan that Navy candidates for Project Mercury had started in the first selection process.
During a meeting between personnel of the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the responsibilities of the two organizations were outlined for the first two Atlas firings. Space Technology Laboratories, under Air Force Ballistic Missile Division direction, would select the design trajectories according to the specifications set forth by the Space Task Group. These specifications were to match a point in the trajectory at about 450,000 feet, corresponding to a normal reentry condition for the manned spacecraft after firing of the retrorockets at an altitude of 120 nautical miles. Space Technology Laboratories would also provide impact dispersion data, data for range safety purposes, and the necessary reprograming of the guidance computers. The spacecraft for the suborbital Atlas flights would be manufactured under the deriction of the Lewis Research Center, based on Space Task Group designs. Space Task Group was developing the spacecraft instrumentation, with a contingent of personnel at the Lewis Research Center. The attitude control system was being developed by Lewis.
Some 508 records were reviewed for prospective pilot candidates of which about 110 appeared to qualify. The special committee on Life Sciences decided to divide these into two groups and 69 prospective pilot candidates were briefed and interviewed in Washington. Out of this number, 53 volunteered for the Mercury program, and 32 of the 53 were selected for further testing. The committee agreed there was no further need to brief other individuals, because of the high qualities exhibited in the existing pool of candidates. These 32 were scheduled for physical examination at the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Following industry-wide competition, a formal contract for research and development of the Mercury spacecraft was negotiated with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. The contract called for design and construction of 12 Mercury spacecraft, but it did not include details on changes and ground support equipment which were to be negotiated as the project developed. Later, orders were placed with the company for eight additional spacecraft, two procedural trainers, an environmental trainer, and seven checkout trainers. McDonnell had been engaged in studying the development of a manned spacecraft since the NACA presentation in mid-March of 1958.
At the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the medical tests for the Mercury astronaut selection were started.
By the end of the year, over 70 different models had been tested by facilities at the Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center and the NASA Langley, Ames, and Lewis Research Centers.
Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel met at Huntsville, Alabama, to discuss Redstone and Jupiter flight phases of Project Mercury. During the course of the meeting the following points became firm: (1) Space Task Group was the overall manager and technical director of this phase of the program, (2) ABMA was responsible for the launch vehicle until spacecraft separation, (3) ABMA was responsible for the Redstone launch vehicle recovery (this phase of the program was later eliminated since benefits from recovering the launch vehicle would have been insignificant), (4) Space Task Group was responsible for the spacecraft flight after separation, (5) McDonnell was responsible for the adapters for the Mercury-Redstone configuration, and (6) ABMA would build adapters for the Mercury-Jupiter configuration. Because many points could only be settled by detailed design studies, it was decided to establish several working panels for later meetings.
Discussions were held at Langley Field between the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division covering aspects of the use of Atlas launch vehicles in Project Mercury. Specifically discussed were technical details of the first Atlas test flight (Big Joe), the abort sensing capability for later flights, and overall program objectives.
The medical examinations at the Wright Air Development Center for the final selection of the Mercury astronauts were started.
The first formal meeting of the Navy-NASA Committee on Project Mercury search and recovery operations was held. They decided that joint recovery exercises would be initiated as soon as possible. The committee members determined that the Navy, particularly the Atlantic fleet, could support operations from Wallops Island; could perform search and recovery operations along the Atlantic Missile Range, using of the selected Project Mercury vehicles; and that naval units could support operations in the escape area between Cape Canaveral and Bermuda.
Members of the Space Task Group, Langley, Ames, McDonnell and NASA Headquarters drafted a coordinated program for wind tunnel and free-flight tests in support of Project Mercury.
In a speech, Dr. T. K. Glennan estimated that Project Mercury would cost over $200 million. The cost, he said in effect, was high because a new area of technology was being explored for the first time and there were no precedents or experience factors from which to draw, and because the world-wide tracking network construction was a tremendous undertaking.
Responsibility for planning and contracting for Project Mercury tracking facilities was formally assigned to the Langley Research Center.
Mercury-Redstone-Jupiter Study Panel Number IV (choice of trajectory, aerodynamics, and flight loads) met at Redstone Arsenal. Subjects studied included pilot safety, simulation of entry from orbit, length of zero-g time, missile stability and aerodynamics, ascent accelerations, and range. This group reconvened on March 13, 1959.
Space Task Group and Langley Research Center personnel visited the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, to ascertain if the AEDC facilities were equipped to perform tests on scale models of the Mercury spacecraft and to arrange a testing schedule.
Panel Number I (Design Subcommittee) met at Redstone Arsenal for the first time to discuss integration requirements for the Mercury spacecraft with the Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles.
Space Task Group personnel established the design trajectory for the Big Joe flight test. Convair Astronautics and Space Technology Laboratories personnel provided consultation and advice on ways in which these trajectory requirements could be met.
Space Task Group and McDonnell officials met in St. Louis, Missouri, to discuss spare part and ground support equipment requirements for Project Mercury. Shortly thereafter, McDonnell submitted a preliminary plan for spare parts and check-out equipment to Space Task Group and NASA Headquarters for review.
An abort test was conducted at Wallops Island on a full-scale model of the spacecraft with the escape tower, using a Recruit escape rocket. The configuration did not perform as expected (erratic motion), and as a result, the Langley Research Center was requested to test small-scale flight models of the abort system to determine its motion in flight.
Tests were in progress at Langley and Wallops Island on several types of ablating materials under environmental conditions that would be experienced by a spacecraft reentering from orbit.
The Space Task Group was notified by McDonnell that several of its subcontractors were experiencing difficulties in procuring material necessary to fabricate Project Mercury components. This delay was being caused by the lack of a DX priority procurement rating.
Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division conducted, at Wallops Island, the first full-scale test simulating a pad-abort situation. A full weight and size spacecraft was used. For the first 50 feet the flight was essentially straight, indicating the successful functioning of the abort rocket. Thereafter, the spacecraft pitched through several turns and impacted a short distance from the shore. The malfunction was traced to the loss of a graphite insert from one of the three abort rocket nozzles, which caused a misalignment of thrust.
Purchase approval in the amount of $125,000 was requested by the Space Task Group from NASA Headquarters for the procurement of five developmental pressure suits for Project Mercury.
A Mock-Up Inspection Board meeting was held at the McDonnell plant to review the completed spacecraft mock-up. As a result of this meeting, the contractor was directed to restudy provisions made for pilot egress; rearrange crew space to make handles, actuators, and other instruments more accessible to the pilot; and modify the clock, sequence lights, and other displays. This same type of meeting was held on many subsequent occasions to review production spacecraft.
Funds were requested to purchase 6 main parachute and 12 drogue parachute canisters from the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in support of the Little Joe and Big Joe phases of Project Mercury.
Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter test objectives were discussed in a meeting at Langley between Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel. At that time it was decided that the first flights of both the Redstone and Jupiter would be unmanned. The second flights would be 'manned' with primates, and the Jupiter phase would end at that point. The six remaining Redstones would be used in manned flights for astronaut training.
As of this date, the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation listed some 32 items that required a DX priority procurement rating in support of Project Mercury. This highest national priority procurement rating had been requested by NASA on November 14, 1958.
The Langley Research Center received approval for funds to conduct hypersonic flight tests for the Mercury spacecraft. Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division would conduct tests on heat transfer rates at a velocity of mach 17, and dynamic behavior tests from a velocity of mach 10 to a subsonic speed.
Space Task Group, Langley Research Center, and Air Force School of Aviation Medicine personnel met to plan bio-pack experiments that would be placed in several of the Little Joe research and development test flights.
Space Task Group officials were involved in an investigation as to whether the escape system should be changed. In the original proposal, McDonnell's plan was to use eight small rockets housed in a fin adapter, but this plan was set aside for a NASA developed plan in which a single-motor tripod would be used. Later, during a test of the escape system, the escape rockets appeared to fire properly but the spacecraft began to tumble after launch. This tumbling action caused concern, and Space Task Group engineers felt that the tower-escape system might have to be discarded, and a 'second look' was taken at the McDonnell proposal. The engineers concluded, however, that there were too many problems involved and the single-motor tripod concept was retained and has been proven to be quite effective.
Studies were in progress to determine the optimum altitude for separation of the Little Joe spacecraft from its launch vehicle.
Space Task Group personnel visited the Atlantic Missile Range at the invitation of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to observe a Jupiter launch vehicle firing and the procedures followed on the day preceding the firing. The group toured the blockhouse and received briefings on various recorders that might be used in the centralized control facility for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter flights.
Range Safety personnel at the Atlantic Missile Range were briefed by Space Task Group personnel on the description of the Mercury spacecraft, how it would function during a normal flight on an Atlas launch vehicle, and suggest methods for initiation of an abort during different powered phases of a flight. Atlantic Missile Range personnel discussed their past experience, and work was started to draft a Project Mercury range safety plan.
In the recovery landing system, the extended-skirt main parachute was found to be unsafe for operation at altitudes of 10,000 feet and was replaced by a 'ring-sail' parachute of similar size. This decision was made after a drop when the main parachute failed to open and assumed a 'squidding' condition. Although little damage was sustained by the spacecraft on water impact, parachute experts decided that the ring-sail configuration should be adopted, and the air drop spacecraft were fitted.
NASA and the military services conducted meetings to draft final plans for the Project Mercury animal payload program. The animal program was planned to cover nine flights, involving Little Joe, Redstone, Jupiter, and Atlas launch vehicles.
After responsibility for the worldwide tracking range construction of Project Mercury had been assumed by the Langley Research Center, the following study contracts were placed: (1) Aeronutronics to study radar coverage and trajectory computation requirements, (2) RCA Service Corporation for specification writing, (3) Lincoln Laboratories for consultant services and proposal evaluations, and (4) Space Electronics for the design of the control center at Cape Canaveral.
|Mercury Gemini - Comparison of the Mercury and Gemini capsules.|
Credit: © Mark Wade. 6,253 bytes. 399 x 415 pixels.
Seven astronauts were selected for Project Mercury after a series of the most rigorous physical and mental tests ever given to U.S. test pilots. Chosen from a field of 110 candidates, the finalists were all qualified test pilots: Capts. Leroy G. Cooper, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Donald K. Slayton, (USAF); Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Lt. Comdr. Watler M. Schirra, Jr. (USN); and Lt. Col. John H. Glenn (USMC).
A preliminary briefing was conducted for prospective bidders on construction of the worldwide tracking range for Project Mercury. This meeting was attended by representatives from 20 companies. At this time the preliminary plan called for an orbital mission tracking network of 14 sites. Contacts had not been made with the governments of any of the proposed locations with the exception of Bermuda. It was planned that all the sites would have facilities for telemetry, voice communications with the pilot, and teletype (wire or radio) communications with centers in the United States for primary tracking. The tracking sites would provide the control center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with trajectory predictions; landing-area predictions; and vehicle, systems, and pilot conditions.
Investigations of two escape configurations for Mercury spacecraft were conducted in a 16-foot transonic circuit at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for determination of static stability and drag characteristics of the configurations.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan announced the seven pilots had been selected for the Mercury program.
Escape-motor canting-angle tests were completed at Wallops Island. Tests were conducted in 5 degree increments between 10 degrees to 30 degrees, and visually it appeared stability was better at the larger angle.
Tests were in progress at Langley in which an aluminium honeycomb structure was used partially to absorb the spacecraft impact load. Robert R. Gilruth, Project Mercury Director, had stated his belief of this requirement on January 16, 1959.
A deliberate thrust misalignment of 1 inch was programed into the escape combination. Lift-off was effected cleanly, and a slow pitch started during the burning of the escape rocket motor. The tower separated as scheduled and the drogue and main parachutes deployed as planned. The test was fully successful.
NASA placed a request with the Navy for the use of its Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory at Johnsville, Pennsylvania. NASA desired to use the laboratory's AMAL human centrifuge in support of the Mercury astronaut training program.
Two small-scale spacecraft escape-tower combinations were launched successfully at Wallops Island. On the next day a full-scale spacecraft escape system was launched. The complete sequence of events - escape system firing, escape tower jettisoning, parachute deployment, landing, and helicopter recovery - was satisfactory.
Ground-instrumentation requirements for firing Little Joe test vehicles at Wallops Island were drafted. These requirements involved pulse radars, camera, Doppler radar, wind-monitoring instruments, telemetry equipment, and a ground destruct system.
NASA requested that the Air Force furnish two TF-102B and two T-33 aircraft to be used by the Project Mercury astronauts. One of the requirements in the astronaut training program was to maintain proficiency in high performance aircraft.
NASA and the military services held a meeting to discuss the search and recovery aspects of Project Mercury. Admiral Gannon, the service spokesman, stated that the meeting was exploratory but that the Navy and other services would support the project.
Space Task Group, Langley Research Center, and Lewis Research Center personnel met to discuss development plans regarding construction and instrumentation of Big Joe Number I reentry spacecraft test vehicle. During the course of this meeting, milestone objectives of the work to be accomplished were drafted.
In a meeting at Langley, NASA officials concluded that the tower configuration was the best escape system for the Mercury spacecraft and development would proceed using this concept. However, limited studies of alternate configurations would continue.
The seven Project Mercury astronauts reported for duty. A tentative schedule of Mercury astronaut activities for the first months of training was issued. Actual training began the next day. Within 3 months the astronauts were acquainted with the various facets of the Mercury program. The first training week was as follows: Monday, April 27, check in; April 28, general briefing; April 29, spacecraft configuration and escape methods; April 30, support and restraint; May 1, operational concepts and procedures. These lectures were presented by specialists in the particular field of study. Besides the above, unscheduled activities involved 3 hours flying time and 4 hours of athletics.
Meeting of DOD working group on Project Mercury search and recovery operations was held at Patrick Air Force Base, with major emphasis placed on the first two ballistic Atlas shots, and command relationships.
A Little Joe Project Coordination Meeting, attended by personnel from Space Task Group, McDonnell, and Wallops Island, was held for the first time. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the status of various developmental phases and whether or not proper coordination was being effected with other related projects in the Mercury program (Big Joe, Mercury-Atlas, Mercury-Redstone, and Mercury-Jupiter). The important factor with regard to the latter item was whether or not a reasonable launch schedule could be established and maintained.
Space Task Group personnel held a meeting to discuss the complete recovery test program. Items of consideration included the availability of model spacecraft for the test, deciding the areas in which the tests would be held (Phase I - Wallops Island drops, and Phase II - Atlantic drops), and establishing the time schedule for the test program.
Pigs were eliminated as Little Joe flight test subjects when studies disclosed that they could not survive long periods of time on their backs. However, McDonnell did use a pig, 'Gentle Bess,' to test the impact crushable support, and the test was successful.
An informal meeting of the Mock-Up Inspection Board was held at McDonnell to review changes to the spacecraft development program resulting from the March mock-up meeting. Besides the review, a number of suggestions were made for changes in the crew space layout to permit more effective use of the controls, particularly when the astronaut was in the pressure suit in a full-pressurized condition. Among suggested changes were the shoulder harness release, the spacecraft compression and decompression handles, the ready switch, and the spacecraft squib switch. Test subjects also found that when in the fully pressurized suit none of the circuit breakers could be reached. McDonnell was directed to act on these problem areas.
The Langley Research Center was in the process of preparing a one-fourteenth scale model of the Mercury spacecraft for launch from Wallops Island on a five-stage rocket to a speed of mach 18.
Langley Specification Number S-45, entitled 'Specifications for Tracking and Ground Instrumentation System for Project Mercury,' was issued. Proposals were received from seven contractor teams by June 22, 1959, and technical evaluations were started.
The Space Task Group, in the process of negotiations with the Army Ordnance Missile Command on the cost of Redstone and Jupiter boosters in support of Project Mercury, received revised funding estimates for study covering Contract HS-44 (Redstone) and HS-54 (Jupiter).
The Space Task Group oficials determined that the spacecraft could be tested environmentally in the Lewis Research Center's altitude wind tunnel. This included correct temperature and altitude simulations to 80,000 feet. The pilot could exercise the attitude control system and retrorockets could be fired in the tunnel. Because an active contract did exist with the Air Force, it was decided the two balloon drop tests with unmanned boiler-plate spacecraft would be accomplished.
A meeting was held at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, to consider astronaut training programs on the centrifuge. During this meeting, Space Task Group personnel reviewed a draft memorandum prepared by the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory concerning the methods they felt should be used. Also, possible centrifuge training periods for the astronauts were discussed, and tentative dates were set for August 1959 and January 1960.
North American Aviation delivered the first two Little Joe booster airframes, and noted that the four remaining were on fabrication schedule. The planned program was moving smoothly, for rocket motors to be used in the first flight were available at Wallops Station, Virginia, the test flight launching site. In addition, procurement of the test spacecraft incorporating Mercury flight items was on schedule, and the first spacecraft had been instrumented by Space Task Group personnel. Work was also in progress on other test spacecraft.
The design consisted of a continuous double explosive train to assure that all bolts were actually broken upon activation of the device.
McDonnell selected Northrop as the subcontractor to design and fabricate the landing system for Project Mercury. Northrop technology for landing and recovery systems dated back to 1943 when that company developed the first parachute recovery system for pilotless aircraft. For Project Mercury, Northrop developed the 63-foot ring-sail main parachute.
The Space Task Group furnished several boilerplate spacecraft to DesFlotFour (naval unit involved in Project Mercury recovery plans) for use in developing detailed recovery techniques.
Personnel strength in support of Project Mercury included 204 at the Space Task Group, 98 at the Langley Research Center, 44 at the Lewis Research Center, and 21 on the Mercury tracking network, for a grand total of 363.
Space Technology Laboratories and Convair completed an analysis of flight instrumentation necessary to support the Mercury-Atlas program. The primary objective of the study was to select a light-weight telemetry system. A system weighing 270 pounds was recommended, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration concurred with the proposal.
The drogue parachute configuration was changed from 19.5 percent porosity, flat circular ribbon chute to a 28 percent porosity, 30 degree conical canopy.
The Army Ballistic Missile Agency submitted a proposal (Report No. DG-TR-7-59) for a Mercury-Redstone inflight abort sensing system. This system would monitor performance of the control system (attitude and angular velocity), electrical power supply, and launch vehicle propulsion. If operational limits were exceeded, the spacecraft would be ejected from the launch vehicle and recovered by parachute.
The Space Task Group advised the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics of Government-furnished survival items that McDonnell would package in containers. These included desalter kits, dye marker, distress signal, signal mirrors, signal whistle, first aid kits, shark chaser, PK-2 raft, survival rations, matches, and a radio transceiver. Navy assistance was requested in the procurement of these items.
Space Task Group officials met with representatives of the School of Aviation Medicine to discuss detailed aspects of the bio-packs to be used in the NASA Little Joe Flight program. The packs were to be furnished by the school. The purpose was to gather life support data that would be applicable to the manned flights of Project Mercury.
A Source Selection Panel and a Technical Evaluation Board were organized and manned at the Langley Research Center to evaluate Mercury tracking and ground instrument action proposals. Technical evaluation of proposals was started on June 23, 1959, with seven companies under consideration. These were - in addition to Western Electric - Aeronutronics, Radio Corporation of America, Pan American Airways, Brown and Root, Chrysler Corporation, and Philco Corporation.
A visit was made to McDonnell and it was learned that the Mercury spacecraft was being designed structurally to withstand 149 decibels overall noise level. McDonnell, however, anticipated that the actual maximum level would not be above 128 decibels. Space Task Group personnel felt that even the 128 decibels were too high for pilot comfort, and extensive research toward the resolution of this matter was started.
A centrifuge program was conducted at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, to investigate the role of a pilot in the launch of a multi-stage vehicle. Test subjects were required to perform boost-control tasks, while being subjected to the proper boost-control accelerations. The highest g-force experienced was 15, and none of the test subjects felt they reached the limit of their control capability. As a note of interest, one of the test subjects, Neil Armstrong, was later selected for the Gemini program in September 1962.
A Mercury Capsule Review Board was established to review, at regular intervals, action taken by the Capsule Coordination Office. Paul E. Purser was appointed chairman, with division heads, Coordination Office head, and Project and Assistant Project Directors serving as members.
J. A. Chamberlin was appointed head of the office. Duties were divided into four major categories as follows: (1) loads, thermodynamics, structures, and aerodynamics; (2) cabin, life support, and controls; (3) electronics, recovery, and sequencing; and (4) transportation and handling, schedules and testing, and standards and specifications. This action assured continuity of effort in monitoring the McDonnell contract. Also, this office arranged and coordinated meetings with McDonnell personnel and served as a clearing house for all NASA-McDonnell contracts. The committee, of course, received a majority of its data from technical sources within the formal Space Task Group organization.
Against an original estimated cost of $15.5 million for eight Redstone launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury, the final negotiated figure was $20.1 million.
Navy surface vessels and aircraft were used in a recovery operation after an airdrop of a spacecraft off the coast from Jacksonville, Florida. The spacecraft was purposely dropped 40 miles away from the predicted impact point and 45 miles away from the nearest ship. Recovery was effected in 2 and one half hours.
Between June 28 and July 11, 1959, 12 heat-transfer tests were made in the Preflight Jet Test facility at Wallops Island on several ablation materials being considered for use on the spacecraft afterbody (not heat shield) for the Little Joe flights. Test conditions simulated those of actual Little Joe trajectories. Of the materials used, triester polymer and thermolag demonstrated the capability to protect the spacecraft against expected heat loads.
A longitudinal static stability investigation was carried out for the Mercury manned orbital spacecraft model in the 16-foot transonic circuit at the Arnold Engineering Development Center.
A pressure suit compatibility evaluation in the Mercury spacecraft mock-up was performed in suits submitted by the David Clark Company, B. F. Goodrich Company, and International Latex Company. Four subjects participated in the tests.
The order for Jupiter launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury was canceled because the same or better data could be obtained from Atlas flights.
The Mercury astronauts completed disorientation flights on the three-axis space simulator at the Lewis Research Center.
Project Mercury astronauts completed disorientation flights on three-axis space-flight simulator, the MASTIF (Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility), at NASA Lewis Research Center.
The Pilotless Aircraft Research Division of the Langley Research Center launched a 1/14th-scale model of the Mercury spacecraft at Wallops Island to a speed of Mach 3.5 and at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The model spacecraft went into a continuous tumble from separation to landing.
Minneapolis-Honeywell delivered the first automatic stabilization and control system for the Mercury spacecraft to McDonnell.
Results of the technical and management evaluations of Mercury tracking network propsals were presented to the Langley Research Center Source Selection Board.
As a result of a discussion between Maxime A. Faget, Space Task Group, and John E. Naugle, Space Science Division, NASA Headquarters, it was concluded that there were several important scientific experiments in the field of energetic particles research that could be performed by placing packets of emulsion within the Mercury spacecraft. Work was started to determine a suitable packet location, along with other details associated with conducting such experiments.
As developmental planning for Project Mercury evolved, NASA notified the Army that to reduce the variety of launching vehicles to Jupiter missile would not be used for Project Mercury tests.
An agreement was made with the Air Force for Space Task Group to place microphone pickups on the skin of the Atlas launch vehicle as a part of the instrumentation to measure noise level during the Big Joe-Atlas launching. Distribution of the microphones was as follows: one inside the Mercury spacecraft, three externally about midway of the launch vehicle, and one on the Atlas skirt.
The Western Electric Company and associates were announced as winner of the competition for construction of the Mercury tracking network.
Negotiations for construction of the Mercury tracking network were started with the Western Electric Company and their subcontractors (Bendix Aviation, International Business Machines, Bell Telephone Laboratories, and Burns and Roe), and a letter contract was signed on July 30, 1959, for the entire range. This included radar tracking; telemetry receiving, recording, and display; communications to both the spacecraft and surface stations; and the computing and control facilities.
The Space Task Group forwarded Big Joe postflight requirements to Pan American personnel at the Atlantic Missile Range for use in preparing their documents concerning postflight handling of the Mercury special test spacecraft.
NASA selected Western Electric Co. to build worldwide network of tracking and ground instrument stations to be used in Project Mercury.
Alterations to Building 'S' at Cape Canaveral for Project Mercury support were discussed in a meeting at Cape Canaveral. A target date of December 1, 1959, was set for project completion. Therefore, this meant that Vanguard activities would have to be phased out of the building.
A successful pad abort flight of a Mercury boilerplate spacecraft with a production version of the escape tower and rocket was made. The escape rocket motor was manufactured by Grand Central Rocket, and the flight was the first operational test of this component.
The B. F. Goodrich Company was selected as the contractor to design and develop the Mercury astronaut pressure suit. Company technology in this field dated back to 1934, when it developed the first rubber stratosphere flying suit for attempts at setting altitude records.
A boilerplate spacecraft, instrumented to measure sound pressure level and vibration, was launched in the second beach abort test leading to the Little Joe test series. The purpose of the instrumentation was to obtain measurement of the vibration and sound environment encountered on the capsule during the firing of the Grand Central abort rocket. Memo, Charles A. Hardesty to NASA Langley IRD files, subject: Sound Measurements on the Second Beach Abort Test on the Little Joe Capsule, Oct. 9, 1959.
Letter Contract NASA 1-430 was awarded to the Western Electric Company for construction of the Mercury tracking and ground instrumentation system.
Personnel from the Aeromedical Field Laboratory inspected the first animal couch fabricated by McDonnell to be used in the Mercury animal flight program. The objective of the animal program was to provide verification of successful space flight prior to manned missions; to aquire data on physical and mental demands which will be encountered by the astronauts during space flight; to provide dynamic test of technical procedures and training for support personnel in handling the aeromedical program for manned flight; and to evaluate spacecraft environmental control systems and bioinstrumentation under flight conditions.
Qualification tests, which were started in May 1959, were completed for the 63-foot ringsail, main parachute. After this, complete parachute landing tests were initiated by spacecraft drops from a C-130 at Salton Sea, California.
Four F-102 aircraft were made available for use by the Mercury astronauts to maintain proficiency in high performance vehicles.
NASA Headquarters approved a Space Task Group proposal that negotiations be undertaken with McDonnell for the fabrication of six additional Mercury spacecraft.
The astronauts began their initial centrifuge training at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory. During the first part of the month Space Task Group personnel had installed and checked out Mercury spacecraft simulation equipment at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory in preparation for the astronaut centrifuge training program.
During the countdown of the first programed Little Joe launching (LJ-1 beach abort test) at Wallops Island, the escape rocket fired prematurely 31 minutes before the scheduled launch. The spacecraft rose to an altitude of 2,000 feet and landed about 2,000 feet from the launch site. Premature firing was caused by a faulty escape circuit.
Testing was completed to check the effectiveness of the drogue parachute as a stabilizing device. The drogue parachute was fully qualified for deployment at speeds up to Mach 1.5 and altitudes of up to 70,000 feet. Ordinarily, during the operational phase of Project Mercury the drogue parachute was deployed at 40,000 feet, so the component well met operational requirements.
NASA Headquarters authorized the Space Task Group to enter into negotiations with the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division for the procurement of additional Atlas launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury. The authorization was to be incorporated into Contract No. HS-36.
McDonnell moved a segment of its Mercury effort to Cape Canaveral in preparation for the operational phase of the program. Personnel were immediately assigned to committees to develop the plans for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas missions. The McDonnell office was located in Hanger S.
An operational analysis study report of possible recovery forces required for a three-orbit Mercury mission was received from the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. By using this document, the Space Task Group was continuing to refine recovery requirements for all Mercury flights. This work involved the development of a satisfactory helicopter recovery technique and the conduct of tests to determine optimum spacecraft location aids.
Launching of Mercury capsule mockup from Wallops Station to test the escape and recovery systems; emergency escape rocket accidentally fired 30 minutes before scheduled firing of the Little Joe booster.
Suborbital. NASA boilerplate model of Mercury capsule successfully launched on an Atlas (Big Joe) missile from AMR and recovered in South Atlantic after surviving reentry heat of more than 10,000°F.
The Space Task Group provided McDonnell with guidance in the development of the 'Astronauts' Handbook.' Topics included such items as a descriptive resume of normal and emergency procedures to be followed on the check lists. The book was divided into three sections: 'The Normal Operational Procedures,' 'The Emergency Operational Procedures,' and 'The Failure Analysis Procedures.'
A Big Joe Atlas boilerplate Mercury spacecraft model was successfully launched and flown from Cape Canaveral, although booster-engine separation did not occur. Objectives of this test flight were to determine the performance of the ablation shield and measure afterbody heating; to determine the flight dynamics of the spacecraft during reentry; to evaluate the adequacy of the spacecraft recovery system and procedures; to familiarize operating personnel with Atlas launch procedures; to evaluate loads on the spacecraft while in the flight environment; to observe and evaluate the operation of the spacecraft control system; and to recover the spacecraft. The flight was considered to be highly successful, and a majority of the test objectives were attained. The heat shield temperatures (reaching a peak of 3,500 degrees F) were below those expected, but were close enough to provide data for the engineering design of the Mercury heat shield. Space Task Group officials were also pleased that the spacecraft could reenter the atmosphere at high angles-of-attack and maintain its heat shield in a forward position without using the control system. The spacecraft was picked up by the recovery force about 8 hours after lift-off. Because of the success of this flight, a similar launch was considered unnecessary and accordingly was canceled.
At a spacecraft mock-up review, the astronauts submitted several recommended changes. These involved a new instrument panel, a forward centerline window, and an explosive side egress hatch.
After a preliminary study of the Mercury environment with regard to astronaut food and water requirements, Dr. Douglas H. K. Lee estimated that water use would be in the order of 500 cu cm/hr and that the caloric intake per day would be about 3,200 calories of food. Dr. Lee was a member of the Natick Quartermasters Research and Engineering Laboratory.
Walter C. Williams was appointed Associate Director for Project Mercury Operations, and also the prime NASA-Department of Defense contact for Mercury flight operations.
An air launch of a Mark II parachute (drogue) test vehicle was conducted by the NASA Flight Research Center. This test, the 15th in the series, concluded the Project Mercury drogue parachute development and qualification tests.
Between September 21 and October 10, 1959, a research program was carried out by the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory to measure the effects of sustained acceleration on the pilot's ability to control a vehicle. Various side-arm controllers were used, and it appeared that the three-axis type (yaw, roll, and pitch) was the most satisfactory. Later this configuration was extensively evaluated and adopted for use in the control system of the Mercury spacecraft.
A paper was issued covering 'Results of Studies Made to Determine Required Retrorocket Capability.' The intent of this study was to provide for pilot safety for landing during any emergency condition, as well as at the end of a normal mission.
Funds were approved by NASA Headquarters for the following major changes to the Mercury spacecraft: egress hatch installation (CCP-58-1), astronaut observation window installation (CCP-73); rate stabilization and control system (CCP-61-2), main instrument and panel redesign (CCP-76), installation of reefed ringsail landing parachute (CCP-41), and nonspecification configurations of spacecraft (CCP-8). With reference to the last item, the original contract with McDonnell had specified only one spacecraft configuration, but the various research and development flight tests required changes in the configuration.
McDonnell received the first ablative heat shield, designated for installation on Spacecraft No. 1. This particular heat shield was based on the Big Joe design, and was manufactured by General Electric.
North American Aviation and Minneapolis-Honeywell were notified to proceed with the production of hardware for an air-supplied launch-vehicle control system.
The suit procurement program was divided into two phases: Phase I, operational research suits which could be used for astronaut training, system evaluation, and further suit development; and Phase II, Mercury pressure suits in the final configuration.
NASA Little Joe launch vehicle carrying a boilerplate Mercury capsule with a dummy escape system successfully launched from Wallops Station, Va.
A Little Joe launch vehicle carrying a boilerplate spacecraft (LJ-6) was successfully launched from Wallops Island. Objectives of the flight were to check the integrity of the launch vehicle airframe and motor system, check the operations of the launcher, to check the validity of the calculated wind corrections, to obtain performance and drag data, and to check the operation of the destruct system. The flight, lasting 5 minutes 10 seconds, gained a peak altitude of 37.12 statute miles, and a range of 79.4 statute miles. The destruct packages carried on board the Little Joe launch vehicles were successfully initiated well after the flight had reached its apex. There was a slight malfunction in the Little Joe launch vehicle when ignition of the two second-stage Pollux motors fired before the exact time planned. Actually, the planned trajectory was little affected and the structural test of the vehicle, really greater than planned, was benefited.
Explorer VII achieved orbit and began providing significant geophysical information on solar and earth radiation, magnetic storms, and micrometeorite penetration. This satellite also successfully demonstrated a method of controlling internal temperatures.
Space Task Group personnel held a meeting at Langley with representatives from the Lewis Research Center to clarify Project Mercury research support needs at Lewis. During the course of discussion, several test and support areas were agreed upon. As an example, Lewis would conduct separation tests in which full-scale hardware was used to determine if a satisfactory separation existed. In these tests separation would occur when the posigrade rockets were fired after burnout of the Atlas during an ordinary mission. Lewis would seek to determine if there were any harmful effects due to flame impingement either on the Atlas booster or on the wiring of the retrograde package. In addition, Lewis would determine the actual effective impulse of the posigrade rockets during separation. Lewis also agreed to support Space Task Group in developing pilot techniques in a special tunnel at Lewis. The objectives were to determine a pilot's capability to stabilize spacecraft attitudes in space. Lewis had a large gimballed system in the tunnel that would simulate the motions of space conditions, but in a sea-level environment. It was thought, however, that experience in the gamballed system would be beneficial to the pilots. A third area of support involved retrorocket calibration tests. At that time, Space Task Group was concerned that when the retrorockets were fired, the spacecraft would be considerably upset while in orbital flight. Lewis would use its high-altitude tunnel at maximum capability to determine the extent of the upset and assist in devising means to control the situation. Lewis also agreed to check the hydrogen-peroxide-fueled control system to obtain starting and performance characteristics of the reaction jets. In the last area of this series of studies and tests, Lewis was to study the escape rocket plume when the rocket was fired at high altitudes to determine the effect of the plume on the spacecraft. It was believed that the plume would completely envelop the spacecraft.
Requests were initiated to test the Mercury spacecraft afterbody shingles at the Navy's Dangerfield test facility for heat resistance and dynamic-pressure capabilities.
A meeting of Space Task Group, Wallops Station, and McDonnell personnel was held to review and evaluate Mercury escape-system qualification-test results. In the continuing efforts of this activity, the responsibility in attaining test objectives was apportioned among the three organizations.
Between November 1959 and January 1960, 10 developmental Mercury full-pressure suits were delivered. These suits were used in various Mercury training and development programs. Several problem areas were denoted. One involved stretching which complicated the suit mobility problem. This matter was being investigated, and one of the solutions was felt to be undersizing to allow for a suit growth factor. In addition, modifications would have to be made in suit insulation to provide for better pilot mobility. These problems were to be expected in a developmental program.
The first manned development system tests were completed at the AiResearch Manufacturing Division, Garrett Corporation. Tests were conducted in the altitude chamber to determine proper functioning of all system valves and components. A McDonnell subject was clothed in a Mercury-type presure suit for these tests. Preliminary data from these tests indicated that the system functioned satisfactorily.
Prototype Goodrich full-pressure Mercury astronaut suits (modified Navy Mark IV) were delivered to NASA. Navy Air Crew Equipment Laboratory (NACEL) of Philadelphia fitted suits and indoctrinated the astronauts on their use.
The 'Handbook of Operation and Service Instructions, Horizon Scanner Test, Serial MDE 4590011' was published. This document was revised and reissued on June 6, 1960.
Between November 1959 and January 1960, the general design of the Mercury couch was completed, and couches were molded for the astronauts and medical personnel associated with the program.
Little Joe 1-A (LJ-1A) was launched in a test for a planned abort under high aerodynamic load conditions. This flight was a repeat of the Little Joe (LJ-1) that had been planned for August 21, 1959 (escape rocket fired 31 min before the intended launch of the Little Joe launch vehicle). After lift-off, the pressure sensing system was to supply a signal when the intended abort dynamic pressure was reached (about 30 sec after launch). An electrical impulse was then sent to the explosive bolts to separate the spacecraft from the launch vehicle. Up to this point, the operation went as planned, but the impulse was also designed to start the igniter in the escape motor. The igniter activated, but pressure failed to build up in the motor until a number of seconds had elapsed. Thus the abort maneuver, the prime mission of the flight, was accomplished at a dynamic pressure that was too low. For this reason a repeat of the test was planned. All other events from the launch through recovery occurred without incident. The flight attained an altitude of 9 statute miles, a range of 11.5 statute miles, and a speed of 2,021.6 miles per hour.
Credit: © Mark Wade. 1,404 bytes. 135 x 220 pixels.
The astronauts were fitted with pressure suits and indoctrinated as to use at the B. F. Goodrich Company, Akron, Ohio.
Between this date and December 5, 1959, the tentative design and layout of the Mercury Control Center to be used to monitor the orbiting flight of the Mercury spacecraft were completed. The control center would have trend charts to indicate the astronaut's condition and world map displays to keep continuous track of the Mercury spacecraft.
Space Task Group personnel visited McDonnell to monitor the molding of the first production-type couch for the Mercury spacecraft.
A NASA-Department of Defense agreement was signed by NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan and Deputy Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates, relevant to the principles governing reimbursement of costs incurred by NASA or the Department of Defense in support of Project Mercury.
Wearing the Mercury pressure suits, the astronauts were familiarized with the expected reentry heat pulse at the Navy Aircrew Equipment Laboratory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the fifth Mercury Coordination Meeting, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency proposed the installation of an open-circuit television system in the Mercury-Redstone second and third flights (MR-2 and MR-3). The purpose of the system was to observe and relay launch vehicle and spacecraft separation data.
The Arnold Engineering Development Center tested the Grand Central solid-fuel rocket motor used to propel the Mercury spacecraft escape system.The purpose of the test was to verify altitude ignition and to determine the combustion-chamber-pressure-time curve.
The Air Force School of Aviation Medicine agreed to provide a biopack experiment for the Mercury Little Joe 2 flight. Included in the pack were track plates of barley, nerve cells from a rat, tissue culture, and other specimens of that type.
A weightless flying training program was started by the Mercury astronauts in the F-100 aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Eating, drinking, and psychomotor tests were conducted while the astronauts were in a weightless state.
In the development of the Mercury spacecraft reaction control system, Bell Aircraft Corporation started the preliminary flight rating test of the automatic subsystem.
The Space Task Group approved monitoring facilities proposed by the Stromberg-Carlson Division for the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral and Bermuda.
LJ-2 was launched from Wallops Island to determine the motions of the spacecraft escape tower combination during a high-altitude abort, entry dynamics without a control system, physiological effects of acceleration on a small primate, operation of the drogue parachute, and effectiveness of the recovery operation. Telemetry was set up to record some 80 bits of information on the flight. The abort sequence was initiated by timers after 59 seconds of elapsed flight time at an altitude of about 96,000 feet and a speed of Mach 5.5. Escape motor firing occurred as planned and the spacecraft was whisked away at a speed of about Mach 6 to an apogee of 53.03 statute miles. All other sequences operated as planned, and spacecraft recovery was effected in about 2 hours from lift-off. The primate passenger, 'Sam,' an American-born rhesus monkey, withstood the trip and the recovery in good condition. All objectives of the mission were met.
Tenney Engineering Corporation was chosen by the Space Task Group to construct the Mercury altitude test chamber in Hanger S at Cape Canaveral. When completed, altitude pressure would simulate 225,000 feet. The chamber, a vertical cylinder with domed ends, was 12 feet in diameter and 14 feet high. The chamber was designed to allow a partial spacecraft functional check in a near-vacuum environment.
Two Thiokol retrorockets for the Mercury spacecraft were tested at the Arnold Engineering Development Center engine test facility. The test objectives were to evaluate ignition characteristics.
The Redstone launch vehicle for the first Mercury-Redstone mission (MR-1) was installed on the interim test stand at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency for static testing.
At the end of the year, NASA funds in support of Project Mercury had been obligated to the listed organizations as follows: Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, NASA Order HS-36, Atlas launch vehicles, $22,830,000; Army Ordnance Missile Command, NASA Order HS-44, Redstone launch vehicles, $16,060,000; and McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, NASA Order 5-59, Mercury spacecraft, $49,407,540.
Mercury astronauts completed basic and theoretical studies in their training program and started practical engineering studies.
Since being awarded the Mercury contract, McDonnell had expended 942,818 man-hours in engineering; 190,731 man-hours in tooling; and 373,232 man-hours in production.
Thrust cut-off sensor reliability and qualification tests were accepted, because of the similarity to Lockheed functional environmental evaluation tests of similar units used in the Polaris program. This component, fabricated by the Donner Scientific Company, was accepted by NASA.
Specifications for equipment and systems to be used for the training of the remote-site flight controllers and Mercury control center operations personnel were forwarded to the Western Electric team. The remote-site training was divided into two stages: off-range and on-range. The off-range portion consisted of practice runs on a typical set of controllers' consoles tied into an astronaut procedures trainer. The on-range part was planned at two stations within the United States and from here, controllers would be assigned to tracking sites for full range rehearsals and a mission.
Qualification tests were completed on the Mercury spacecraft pilot cameras and instrument viewing cameras.
NASA presented its basic communications requirements for Project Mercury to Western Electric, and the Company's interim proposal to satisfy these requirements was accepted in February 1960.
Space Task Group's study entitled 'Semi-Automatic Data Reduction' had been completed and submitted to NASA Headquarters for review on December 21, 1959.
A contract (NAS 1-430) was signed by NASA and the Western Electric Company in the amount of $33,058,690 for construction and engineering of the Mercury tracking network.
Qualification tests on a programmer fabricated by the Wheaton Engineering Company for Project Mercury were started and completed by March 28, 1960.
A document entitled 'Overall Plan for Department of Defense Support for Project Mercury Operations' was reviewed and approved by NASA Headquarters and the Space Task Group.
Based on requirements listed in Space Task Group Working Paper No. 129, covering the Project Mercury recovery force, the Navy issued 'Operation Plan COMDESFLOTFOUR No. 1-60.' This plan provided for recovery procedures according to specified areas and for space recovery methods. Procedures for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas missions were covered.
A proposal was made by Walter C. Williams, Associate Director of Project Mercury Operations, that the Mercury-Atlas flight test working group become an official and standing coordination body. This group brought together representation from the Space Task Group, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Convair Astronautics, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, and the Atlantic Missile Range. Personnel from these organizations had met informally in the past on several occasions.
Walter C. Williams proposed the establishment of a Mercury-Redstone Coordination Committee to monitor and coordinate activities related to Mercury-Redstone flight tests.
In keeping with a concept of using certain off-the-shelf hardware items that were available for the manufacture of Project Mercury components, companies around London, England, were visited throughout 1959. Potential English vendors of such items as the SARAH beacon batteries (later chosen), miniature indicators, time delay mechanisms, hydrogen-peroxide systems, and transducers were evaluated. A report of the findings was submitted on the cited date.
Little Joe 1-B (LJ-1B) was launched from Wallops Island with a rhesus monkey, 'Miss Sam,' aboard. Test objectives for this flight were the same as those for Little Joe 1 (LJ-1) in which the escape tower launched 31 minutes before the planned launch, and Little Joe 1-A (LJ-1A), wherein the dynamic buildup in the abort maneuver was too low. A physiological study of the primate, particularly in areas applying to the effects of the rapid onset of reverse acceleration during abort at maximum dynamic pressure, was also made. In addition, the Mercury helicopter recovery system was exercised. During the mission, all sequences operated as planned; the spacecraft attained a peak altitude of 9.3 statute miles, a range of 11.7 statute miles, and a maximum speed of 2,021.6 miles per hour. Thirty minutes from launch time, a Marine recovery helicopter deposited the spacecraft and its occupant at Wallops Station. 'Miss Sam' was in good condition, and all test objectives were successfully fulfilled.
At a meeting to draft fiscal year 1962 funding estimates, the total purchase of Atlas launch vehicles was listed as 15, and the total purchase of Mercury spacecraft was listed as 26.
McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft to the Space Task Group at Langley in less than 1 year from the signing of the formal contract. This spacecraft was a structural shell and did not contain most of the internal systems that would be required for manned space flight. After receipt, the Space Task Group instrumented the spacecraft and designated it for the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) flight.
Six chimpanzees were rated as being trained and ready to support Mercury-Redstone or Mercury-Atlas missions. Other chimpanzees were being shipped from Africa to enter the animal training program.
Agreements were signed with two Spanish firms to provide communications at the Grand Canary Island Mercury tracking site.
A study was completed on the 'External and Internal Noise of Space Capsules.' This study covered the acoustic environments of missile and space vehicles including noise generated by the rocket engines, air-boundary layers, and on-board equipment. Data used included noise measurements compiled from the Big Joe I and Little Joe 2 flight tests. These tests were a part of the internal and external noise study that had been in progress since early 1959. NASA officials were still of the opinion that the internal noise level was too high for pilot comfort. Space Task Group felt that data were needed on noise transmission through an actual production-model spacecraft structure.
As part of their training program, the astronauts received 2 days of instruction in star recognition and celestial navigation presented by Dr. James Balten at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The purpose of this training was to assist the astronaut in correcting spacecraft yaw drifts. Practical experience was gained in this task by using a motorized trainer that simulated the view of the celestial sphere through the spacecraft observation window.
The Navy's School of Aviation Medicine modified a standard 20-man raft in such a way that it could be placed around the base of a floating spacecraft with impact skirt extended. When the device was inflated, the spacecraft rode high enough in the water to permit easy egress from the side hatch.
Reliability test of this equipment was completed on February 27, 1960.
A meeting was held to relay the decision that beryllium shingles would be used as the best heat protection material on the cylindrical section of the Mercury spacecraft.
Colonel George M. Knauf of the Air Force Surgeon General's office began the compilation of a medical-monitor training program in support of Project Mercury. The aims of this program were to brief the monitors on medical problems in space prior to their participation in support of Mercury flights. Colonel Knauf is now a member of NASA Headquarters Manned Space Flight Office.
Tests were started by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency for the mission abort sensing program to be integrated in the Mercury-Redstone phase of Project Mercury.
Responsibilities of the Mercury launch coordination office were specified by the Space Task Group. A few of the listed duties included responsibilities associated with Department of Defense support; overall coordination of launch activities; compilation of information related to launch support requirements; and representing Mercury at Atlas or Redstone Flight Test Group meetings. Walter C. Williams made a proposal for an activity along these lines on January 18, 1960.
With Project Mercury about to enter a heavy operational phase, an operations coordination group was established at the Atlantic Missile Range. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. was appointed to head this group.
Training was inaugurated by a series of Space Task Group lectures that covered facilities, network systems, operations, and other details. In addition, a program was established for familiarization, orientation, and specialized instruction of the Department of Defense group of aeromedical staff personnel designated as members of flight controller teams.
The Space Task Group placed a requirement with NASA Headquarters for the purchase of an analog computing facility. Planned use of this facility was to establish and verify Mercury system requirements; it also could be used for Mercury follow-on programs such as a manned circumlunar vehicle program and other outer space program requirements of this nature. Cost of this facility was estimated to be $424,000.
The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the 'Overall Plan for Department of Defense Support for Project Mercury Operations' submitted by their representative, Major General Donald N. Yates. Following this decision, the Space Task Group prepared a series of documents to establish the required operations support. One was an 'Operations Prospectus' which set forth the management techniques by which NASA planned to discharge its overall program responsibility in the operations area. A second was a 'Programs Requirements Document' directed toward continuing operational support.
These tests were completed at the end of July 1960. As a part of the qualification program, three escape-rocket motors were successfully fired on a spacecraft model at conditions corresponding to approximately 100,000 feet altitude in the Lewis Research Center altitude wind tunnel. One motor was tested on a four-component balance system to determine thrust misalignment of the rocket motor. According to test results, the rocket motor appeared to meet operational requirements.
The Mercury-Atlas working panels were reorganized into four groups: coordination, flight test, trajectory analysis, and change control. Each panel was composed of at least one representative from NASA (Space Task Group), McDonnell, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratory, and Convair-Astronautics.
An indoctrination program in free-floating during weightless flight was conducted for the astronauts at the Wright Air Development Center. The rear end of a C-131B aircraft was cleared and padded. Some 90 parabolas of 12 to 15 seconds of weightlessness each were flown. The objective was to present orientation problems of floating in space with the eyes opened and closed. Also, the astronauts made attempts to use tools and move weights while they were in a weightless condition.
During the flights, 15 major positions were assigned to Mercury Control Center, 15 in the blockhouse and 2 at the launch pad area. The document also specified the duties and responsibilities of each position.
The initial payment was made to the Australian Government by the Chase National Bank, New York City, on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for support of the Mercury network.
Pioneer V, launched as a probe of the space between Earth and Venus, began to provide invaluable information on solar flare effects, particle energies and distributions and magnetic phenomena. Pioneer V continued to transmit such data until on June 26, 1960, when at a distance of 22.5 million miles from Earth, it established a new communications record.
An agreement between the United States and Spain on the Project Mercury tracking station in the Canary Islands was announced.
United States-Spanish agreement on Project Mercury tracking station in Canary Islands was announced (1 of 16 similar agreements with other nations).
Between March 28,1960 and April 1, 1960, the astronauts received their first open-water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in cooperation with the Navy's School of Aviation Medicine. The training was conducted in conditions of up to 10-foot swells, and no problems were experienced. The average egress time was about 4 minutes from a completely restrained condition in the spacecraft to being in the life raft.
A decision was made by NASA Headquarters that the spacecraft prelaunch operation facility at Huntsville, Alabama, was no longer required. Spacecraft that were designated for Mercury-Redstone missions were to be shipped directly from McDonnell to Cape Canaveral, thereby gaining approximately 2 months in the launch schedule.
Building 575, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, was in the process of being refurbished for occupancy by NASA personnel in July 1960. This building was designated for Space Task Group use in Mercury launch, network, and data coordination.
The first McDonnell production spacecraft was delivered to NASA at Wallops Island for the beach-abort test.
Seven Mercury astronauts completed training session at the Navy Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory, Johnsville, Pa.
The Space Task Group notified the Ames Research Center that preliminary planning for the modification of the Mercury spacecraft to accomplish controlled reentry had begun, and Ames was invited to participate in the study. Preliminary specifications for the modified spacecraft were to be ready by the end of the month. This program was later termed Mercury Mark II and eventually Project Gemini.
Ablation tests on nine Mercury heat shield models in the subsonic arc tunnel at the Langley Research Center were completed.
Construction of an altitude facility chamber to simulate space environment was completed in Hanger S at Cape Canaveral. The purpose of this facility was for spacecraft checkout and astronaut training. Acceptance tests for this installation were completed on July 11, 1960.
First production model of McDonnell-built Mercury capsule was delivered to NASA.
The first three rocket motors subjected to these tests were successfully tested in a more stringent vibration spectrum than that required for Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1), the maximum dynamic reentry and maximum heat on afterbody test flight.
One of the main purposes of this program was the development of a better igniter. The igniter tested was attached to the head end of the propellant grain and coated with a pyrotechnic. Based on three tests it appeared that the delayed ignition problem had been resolved. Thereafter, several other tests were run until the igniter was adjudged to be reliable.
Fabrication of the manned environmental-control-system training spacecraft was essentially completed and a test program on the equipment was started at McDonnell. This test was completed on April 25, 1960.
Tests were completed on the maximum altitude sensor. This component was fabricated by the Donner Scientific Company.
Construction was proceeding on schedule at Cape Canaveral, Bermuda, Grand Canary Islands, the Woomera and Muchea Australian sites, and at the demonstration site on Wallops Island, Virginia. The survey of Guaymas in Western Mexico completed that phase of the program, but the construction was yet to be accomplished.
Milestone achieved in completion of interim or formal agreements concluded for all oversea Mercury tracking stations.
McDonnell delivered the flight-pressurized couches to be used in the animal phase of the Mercury flight test program. According to test results, the couches appeared to be satisfactory, with the exception of a slight sealing problem. McDonnell was attempting to resolve this problem.
Training classes started for 30 physicians who had been selected by the Department of Defense to serve as medical monitors in support of Project Mercury operations. These personnel received a 2-week indoctrination program. The first week was spent at Cape Canaveral where they were briefed on the medical aspects of missile operations. The second week was spent at Space Task Group for a series of lectures and demonstrations on spacecraft systems, astronaut medical histories, and monitoring stations. This was followed by practice training sessions.
The astronauts and medical personnel who had tested the developmental suits received in November 1959 recommended a number of changes to increase the physical mobility of the astronaut before the production effort began. Evaluation of the test suits with the suggested modifications indicated that the mobility and suit-spacecraft compatibility had been greatly enhanced. The stretching which once had been a problem area had been significantly decreased.
Number 1, delivered on May 4, 1960, was used for astronaut training in the management of the spacecraft systems at Langley Field and Number 2, delivered on July 5, 1960, was installed at Cape Canaveral, also for space flight preparations. The trainer at Langley Field, along with other equipment, later designated flight simulator, was moved in 1962 to Houston, Texas, location of the Manned Spacecraft Center, the successor to the Space Task Group.
McDonnell's first production spacecraft, with its escape rocket serving as the propulsion force, was launched from Wallops Island. Designated the beach-abort test, the objectives were a performance evaluation of the escape system, the parachute and landing system, and recovery operations in an off-the-pad abort situation. The test was successful.
First production model of Project Mercury spacecraft was successfully launched from NASA Wallops Station to test escape, landing, and recovery systems. Known as the "beach abort" shot, the Mercury capsule reached 775 m before parachute landing and pickup by Marine helicopter returned it to Wallops' hangar 17 minutes after launch.
The Space Task Group established a field representative office at the McDonnell plant in St.Louis, Missouri. A technical liaison representative, W. H. Gray, had already been assigned to the plant. A resident systems test engineer, a resident instrumentation engineer, and a team of inspectors were added to the staff.
The first production Mercury spacecraft, used in the beach-abort test, was returned to the McDonnell plant for an integrity test.
Spacecraft No. 4 (production number), after being instrumented and prepared by the Space Task Group and the Langley Research Center for flight tests, was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the first Mercury-Atlas mission (MA-1).
This trailer was used at Cape Canaveral to house equipment which provided real-time telemetry read-outs during Mercury-Redstone flights.
In the overall NASA space program, Project Mercury was the only program which included a recovery capability. For this reason, Space Task Group officials felt there were a number of experiments in the science and bioscience fields that could be placed aboard Mercury spacecraft during mission flights. An example of such experiments would be an ultra-violet camera which would provide data to assist in the design and development of an orbiting astronautical observatory; another might be bio-specimens. Obviously, decisions in experiment selections would have to be made to prevent any dilution of the primary Mercury mission.
In considering the possible meteoroid damage to the Mercury spacecraft in orbital flight, it was concluded by the Space Task Group that damage likelihood was small even during periods of meteor showers. However, it was recommended that Mercury missions not be scheduled during forecasted shower periods.
The United States Weather Bureau estimated that it would require $50,000 during fiscal year 1961 in support of Project Mercury. Bureau responsibilities included weather forecasting for Mercury launching and recovery activities, climatological studies along the area of the Mercury ground track, and environmental studies of specified areas. With reference to the last item, a study was completed in early August 1960 of annual conditions along the Atlantic Missile Range including wind velocity, visibility and cloud coverage.
The subjects were clothed in pressure suits and subjected to postlanding conditions for 12 hours without serious physiological effects. The purpose of this test was to evaluate human tolerance, and the results indicated that no modification to the system were necessary. However, the postlanding ventilation conditions would continue to be monitored and requirements for any modifications would be evaluated.
A sandblast technique was employed in these tests, and measurements revealed that transmissibility was reduced in direct proportion to the area sand blasted. Tests covered 25, 50, and 75 percent of a germanium specimen.
As a complement to the Mercury spacecraft reliability program, a decision was made that one production spacecraft would be withdrawn from the operational program for extensive testing. The test environment would involve vacuum, heat, and vibration conditions. This test series was later designated 'Project Orbit.'
Spacecraft No. 2 was delivered to the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, for compatibility tests with the Redstone launch vehicle, and was shipped to Cape Canaveral on July 23, 1960.
The vehicle was delivered to Cape Canaveral on October 24, 1960.
A reporting plan for Mercury-Atlas and Mercury-Redstone missions was issued. This document was amended on February 17, 1961, and April 10, 1961.
The first meeting of the Mercury Network Coordination Committee was held at Cape Canaveral for the purpose of initiating action on existing problem areas. Subjects under review included operational procedures, range readiness, and other items associated with network operation during a mission.
Major General Leighton I. Davis was appointed Department of Defense representative for Project Mercury support, replacing Major General Donald N. Yates.
The astronauts underwent a five and one half day course in 'desert survival' training at the Air Training Command Survival School, Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. The possibility of an arid-area landing was remote but did exist. So this training was accomplished to supply the astronaut with the confidence and ability to survive desert conditions until recovery. The course consisted of one and one half days of academics, one day of field demonstrations, and three days of isolated remote-site training. Survival equipment normally installed in the Mercury spacecraft was used to provide the most realistic conditions.
This included 419 assigned to the Space Task Group, and 124 personnel from the Langley Research Center.
Mercury spacecraft No. 2 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 1-A (MR-1A) mission.
Mercury launch site recovery forces exercised in recovery operations following simulated spacecraft landings off Cape Canaveral. Coordination and control of the recovery forces were rated highly satisfactory.
Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range in a test of spacecraft structural integrity under maximum heating conditions. After 58.5 seconds of flight, MA-1 exploded and the spacecraft was destroyed upon impact off-shore. None of the primary capsule test objectives were met. The mission objectives were to check the integrity of the spacecraft structure and afterbody shingles for a reentry associated with a critical abort and to evaluate the open-loop performance of the Atlas abort-sensing instrumentation system. The spacecraft contained no escape system and no test subject. Standard posigrade rockets were used to separate the spacecraft from the Atlas, but the retrorockets were dummies. The flight was terminated because of a launch vehicle and adapter structural failure. The spacecraft was destroyed upon impact with the water because the recovery system was not designed to actuate under the imposed flight conditions. Later most of the spacecraft, the booster engines, and the liquid oxygen vent valve were recovered from the ocean floor. Since none of the primary flight objectives was achieved, Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was planned to fulfill the mission.
The astronauts were briefed on the Tiros weather satellite project as a means providing them with information that could be used to recognize and report on weather phenomena during orbital flight.
The first phase of the program in which boilerplate spacecraft with impact skirts were dropped by helicopters on water and land surfaces was completed. These tests were performed to investigate spacecraft dynamics, effects of parachute restraint and release time on spacecraft dynamics, and to determine maximum landing decelerations. During the drops into the water spacecraft water stability was shown to be unacceptable, because a portion of the spacecraft cylindrical section remained under water. McDonnell immediately investigated this problem and performed such experiments as redistribution of weight to obtain center-of-gravity positions which were acceptable but yet provided satisfactory flotation characteristics. Space Task Group was investigating the possibility of extending the heat shield from the remainder of the spacecraft and thereby creating a greater stabilizing moment. Results from the drops on land appeared to be acceptable because of the relatively low decelerations and the overall low probability of a landing on land.
Marshall Space Flight Center published the 'Final Standard Trajectory for MR-1 (Mercury-Redstone).'
The astronauts later received refresher training prior to mission flights. In fact, during the refresher phases, better procedures were developed. An example was the helicopter mode in which a line was attached to the top of the spacecraft and the spacecraft was partially raised by the helicopter. Then, the astronaut emerged from the side egress hatch and was raised by a second line to the helicopter.
Because of the failure of the Big Joe Atlas test flight and the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) flight to attain all its mission objectives, the overall Mercury-Atlas program underwent an exhaustive review. In the Big Joe firing, velocity and range had been considerably below nominal values because the launch vehicle had failed to stage, and spacecraft separation had been delayed because of recontact. In the Mercury-Atlas 1 flight, launch vehicle performance was normal until about 57.6 seconds of flight, and the launch vehicle was destroyed at 59 seconds. Neither flight had sufficient instrumentation to pinpoint the exact cause of the failures; therefore, an extensive evaluation and test program was initiated. Meetings on these matters began immediately among the interested parties to coordinate findings and recommendations for solutions (for instance, Aug. 9 - summary evaluation of Mercury-Atlas 1 data at Los Angeles; Aug. 11 - evaluation summary meeting at the Atlantic Missile Range; Aug. 22 - Investigation Panel meeting at McDonnell; Sept. 9 - Investigation Panel meeting at Convair Astronautics; Sept. 14 - management meeting at Atlantic Missile Range; Sept. 26 - Instrumentation and Wind Tunnel Test Conference at Space Task Group; Oct. 3-8 - Vibration Tests at McDonnell; Oct. 3-8 - wind tunnel tests at the Arnold Engineering Development Center; and Nov. 16 - test program summary at Space Task Group. During the course of these meetings and tests, it was the considered opinion of Space Task Group and other interested parties that the trouble had developed in the spacecraft interface area. One of the tests involved stiffening the adapter rings, and later tests showed that this solution was quite satisfactory. Tests also showed there were some moderately high stresses in the launch vehicle near a welded joint just aft of the adapter, and this area was strengthened by adding a band stiffener, which proved to be satisfactory. It was also decided for the upcoming Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission that additional instrumentation would be integrated with the spacecraft and launch vehicle in order to define loads on the vehicle in the interface area, to measure pressure on and in the adapter, and to measure any undue responses in this area. Still another decision was that the Atlas launch vehicle, commencing with Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) would be a 'thick-skin' configuration. These findings and recommendations were presented to a NASA/Air Force ad hoc group on February 13 through 17, 1961, commonly known as the Rhode (NASA)-Worthman (Air Force) committee. The committee studied the Space Task Group proposals for the Atlas launch vehicle and adapter modifications and approved the test findings and the contemplated action.
|Pigs In Space - Pigs In Space - NASA used pigs to test human survivability in case of a land 'splashdown' by using pigs - they showed no apparent ill effects - truly 'Spam in a Can'.|
Credit: NASA. 40,742 bytes. 343 x 459 pixels.
The Wright Air Development Center requested that NASA Headquarters provide the Center with pertinent working papers and reports on Project Mercury, especially on human factor aspects, for possible application in the X-20 Dyna Soar program.
The entire qualification testing program consisted of 56 airdrops of full-scale engineering models of the Mercury spacecraft from C-130 aircraft at various altitudes up to 30,000 feet and from helicopters at low altitudes to simulate off-the-pad abort conditions. This test program, under contract to Northrop, had spanned one and one half years.
Representatives of NASA, McDonnell, Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratories, and Convair met at Cape Canaveral and later at Convair Astronautics (Aug. 30, 1960) to discuss the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) mission malfunction. James A. Chamberlin of the Space Task Group was appointed chairman of a joint committee to resolve the problems and to provide a solution prior to the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission. Work accomplished at this meeting is as follows: A complete analysis of Mercury-Atlas 1 flight data and correlation of the data with data of all previous Atlas flights; a special dynamic load analysis; study of vibration tests of spacecraft, adapter, and the Atlas upper tank section; and review of wind tunnel studies of buffeting loads on spacecraft, adapter, and the Atlas upper tank sections.
Weather Bureau fund estimates for Fiscal Year 1961 for support of Project Mercury were adjusted to $180,000, but in April 1961, the Bureau Director stated he believed that actual costs would not exceed $150,000.
At the design engineering inspection of spacecraft No. 7, a number of requests for changes in the control panel area were made by the astronauts to facilitate pilot operation. Later, meeting procedures for design engineering inspections were standardized and conducted by a permanent team at appropriate intervals.
Coordination effectiveness among organizations directly involved in the Mercury development and test program was reviewed by the Space Task Group at the request of NASA Headquarters. Conclusions were that the interchange of information had been excellent. The coordination panel meetings were cited as a fine medium for information exchange. The Mercury-Atlas Coordination Panel first met on February 19, 1959, and by the date of the review, a total of 29 days had been spent in these meetings. Interchange of visits had started even before the cited February date and had been continued with good results.
Flight-type pressure suits were received from the B. F. Goodrich Company and were immediately used on the human centrifuge to assist in determining final adjustments that were necessary in preparation for manned space flight.
The Space Task Group drafted and forwarded to McDonnell the specification requirements for spacecraft on-board data system instrumentation tests. McDonnell was to demonstrate the satisfactory performance of all space communication and instrumentation systems.
for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) unmanned mission intended to gain data on maximum dynamic pressure and maximum heat on the spacecraft afterbody.
Aircraft telemetry requirements were deleted from the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) and Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) missions, as the spacecraft had been modified to provide telemetry transmissions from the point of main parachute deployment to landing.
McDonnell forwarded its plans to the Space Task Group for the spacecaft systems tests and Cape Canaveral checkout plans for spacecraft Nos. 5 and 7. Later, spacecraft No. 7 was the first to undergo this type of test.
'Flight Test Evaluation Report, Missile 50-D', Report No. AE 60-0323, was published. The launch vehicle was used in the unsuccessful Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) reentry test mission.
The format of subject matter coverage for the first Mercury-Redstone postlaunch (MR-1) report was issued. This report, covering a full range of topics related to the mission, was to be submitted within 5 days after the launch.
The Atlas launch vehicle 67-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) reentry test mission.
Because of poor tower separation of the production spacecraft in the off-the-beach abort test at Wallops Island, NASA personnel at Langley started a series of jettison rocket tests. It was found that rocket performance had been only about 42 percent of the desired level, and experiments were started to raise thrust effectiveness. Measures taken included canting the motor, adding a cone to the blast shield, and, in one instance, deleting the blast shield. Space Task Group personnel advised McDonnell that plans were made to test a redesigned jettison rocket nozzle, consisting of three nozzles spaced 120 degrees apart and canted at a 30 degree angle to the rocket centerline. The three-nozzle effect, which produced the desired results, was another NASA engineering contribution.
This was the third type of aircraft used by the astronauts in such training. The previously mentioned F-100 provided a weightless period of some 40 to 50 seconds; the C-131, 15 seconds; and the C-135, 30 seconds. During the C-135 flights, the astronauts were checked for changes in normal speech and their ability to control a tracking problem while undergoing moderate g-loads prior to entering the weightless periods.
The roll-out inspection of Mercury Atlas launch vehicle 77-D was conducted at Convair-Astronautics. This launch vehicle was allocated for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission, but was later canceled and Atlas booster 100-D was used instead.
Mercury spacecraft No. 3, initially delivered to Langley on July 29, 1959, for a noise and vibration test, was erected at the Wallops Island launch site for the Little Joe 5 (LJ-5).
Mercury spacecraft No. 5 was delivered to the Marshall Space Flight Center for booster compatibility checks, and was shipped to Cape Canaveral on October 11, 1960, for the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) ballistic-primate (Ham) mission.
The third Mercury centrifuge training program was conducted for the astronauts at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory. This was considered the final major centrifuge training preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone flight. No difficulties were encountered; a decided improvement in the performance of 3-axis hand-controller tasks by the astronauts was noted. The Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) flight activities were adhered to as closely as possible - actual spacecraft couches were used, a production hand-controller assembly was installed, the latest model pressure suits were worn, and the environmental control system was equipped with a freon coolant. Failures in spacecraft sequencing were introduced which required the astronaut to initiate an appropriate manual override.
DESFLOTFOUR personnel, designated previously by the Department of Defense to provide recovery support for Project Mercury, conducted a communications exercise in the recovery room of Mercury Control Center. This was the first time these communication facilities had been used since the installation of the equipment. During the exercise, voice and continuous-wave communications were established with two destroyers 120 miles at sea. The purpose of this successful exercise was to acquaint personnel with equipment layout and communication procedures.
Project Mercury weather support group established at NASA's request in the Office of Meteorological Research of the Weather Bureau.
A Project Mercury weather support group was established in the Office of Meteorological Research of the United States Weather Bureau at the request of NASA.
James Carter of the Marshall Space Flight Center submitted a study on Mercury Crew Support Equipment.' This type of equipment was defined as that which is not an integral part of or attached to a space vehicle or space station. Specific equipment categories discussed in the report included personal safety, recovery, survival, food supplies, portable respiratory devices, and hand tools.
The Mercury spacecraft checkout facility at Marshall Space Flight Center was transferred to Cape Canaveral.
A revision was published on Nov. 1, 1960.
Space Task Group officials presented the status of qualification and reliability activities for Project Mercury to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator.
The Goddard Space Flight Center computing and communications center became operational. Goddard's mission was to serve as a communications center, and two IBM 7090 computers, operating in parallel, would compute the smoothed exact position at all times during the flight, predict future spacecraft positions, and shift the coordinates to provide acquisition information for all observation sites. In addition, Goddard calculated certain quantities needed for display purposes at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The importance of the Goddard computers was graphically demonstrated when they predicted the amount of overshoot within seconds after landing during the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7, Carpenter) mission. This action significantly reduced the time to find and recover the astronaut.
During the Mercury-Redstone 1 (MR-1) and Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) launches, the complete Mercury Control Center staff operated for the first time.
Little Joe 5 with a Mercury production spacecraft was launched from Wallops Island to test the spacecraft in an abort simulating the most severe launch conditions. At 15.4 seconds after liftoff, the escape rocket motor and tower jettison motor ignited prematurely. Booster, capsule, and tower remained mated through ballistic trajectory until destroyed on impact.
LJ-5, the first of the series with a McDonnell production spacecraft, was launched from Wallops Island to check the spacecraft in an abort simulating the most severe launch conditions. The launch was normal until 15.4 seconds after lift-off, at which time the escape rocket motor was prematurely ignited. The spacecraft did not detach from the launch vehicle until impact and was destroyed. Failure to attain mission objectives was attributed to several possible causes. One of these was failure of the spacecraft-to-adpater clamp-ring limit switches. Another possibility was failure of the escape tower clamp-ring limit switches. And the third was improper rigging of the limit switches in either of those locations so that vibration or deflection could have caused switch closure. Since the test objectives were not met, a repeat of the mission was planned.
System checkout tests were completed on spacecraft No. 7. In the opinion of McDonnell, the results demonstrated that this spacecraft was adequate for a manned mission.
A meeting was held at Langley Field by NASA personnel to discuss the results of Mercury test programs which had been conducted. Of particular interest was the estblishment of the causes for the failure of the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) mission and to determine the status of readiness or the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission.
The Space Task Group requested that McDonnell submit a proposal for conducting a test to determine the capability of an astronaut to make celestial observations through the Mercury spacecraft observation window.
Spacecraft No. 8 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) unmanned orbital mission.
The 'Standard Procedures Mercury Control Center for Flight Control and Overall Options' was published.
Suborbital launch attempt. After a four- or five-inch liftoff, MR-1 launched its escape tower but not the capsule. The undamaged spacecraft was recovered for reuse.
One of the objectives of these tests was to drop a spacecraft during wind conditions of 18 knots, and this phase was successful. Secondary objectives of the program were to investigate spacecraft dynamics and water stability. Both spacecraft flotation and righting characteristics were found to be acceptable.
This unmanned mission was unsuccessful because premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines activated the emergency escape system when the vehicle was only about 1 inch off the pad. Engine cut-off was caused by premature loss of electrical ground power to the booster. The launch vehicle settled back on the pad with only slight damage. Since the spacecraft received a cut-off signal, the escape tower and recovery sequence was initiated. The undamaged spacecraft was recovered for reuse.
A 16 and one half foot recovery whip antenna replaced the balloon-borne system on the Mercury spacecraft.
Qualification tests for this component were started immediately.
Spacecraft weight and balance values for the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) mission were forwarded by the Space Task Group to the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 3 was shipped to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) mission.
Spacecraft No. 7 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) manned ballistic mission (Shepard).
A contract with the Waltham Precision Instrument Company for the development of a satellite clock was canceled. Technical difficulties were encountered in the manufacturing of the device, previously scheduled for delivery in August 1960, and there was little assurance that these problems could be resolved in time for the clock to be used in any of the Mercury flights. McDonnell fabricated an orbital timing device, which proved to be very satisfactory.
Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a repeat of the November 21, 1960, mission and was completely successful. This was the third attempt to accomplish the objectives established for this flight. The first attempt on November 7, 1960, was canceled as a result of a helium leak in the spacecraft reaction control system relief valve, and on November 21, 1960, the mission could not be completed because of premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines. Objectives of the MR-1A flight were to qualify the spacecraft for space flight and to qualify the flight system for a primate flight scheduled shortly thereafter. Close attention was given to the spacecraft-launch vehicle combination as it went through the various flight sequences: powered flight; acceleration and deceleration; performance of the posigrade rockets; performance of the recovery system; performance of the launch, tracking, and recovery phases of the operation; other events of the flight including retrorocket operation in a space environment; and operation of instrumentation. Except that the launch vehicle cut-off velocity was slightly higher than normal, all flight sequences were satisfactory; tower separation, spacecraft separation, spacecraft turnaround, retrofire, retropackage jettison, and landing system operation occurred or were controlled as planned. The spacecraft reached a maximum altitude of 130.68 statute miles, a range of 234.8 statute miles, and a speed of 4,909.1 miles per hour. Fifteen minutes after landing in the Atlantic Ocean, the recovery helicopter picked up the spacecraft to complete the successful flight mission.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 2 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) mission (chimpanzee 'Ham' flight).
Prior to entering the operational phase of Project Mercury, a decision was made by Robert R. Gilruth and James E. Webb that the astronaut selected for each flight would have the right to name his spacecraft, which is in keeping with past traditions. Therfore, the astronaut advised Robert R. Gilruth of the name of the spacecraft which he had chosen (Freedom 7 in the case of the first flight) and Mr. Gilruth, in turn, advised Mr. Webb of the name. The Federal Communications Commission was also notified of the name since the spacecraft would be using communications frequencies controlled by the Commission.
Mercury astronaut training was centered on a close study of spacecraft systems in final preparation for manned space flight. A series of lectures was presented to the astronauts by the Operations Division of the Space Task Group in this respect.
The Space Task Group, charged by NASA to conduct Project Mercury and other manned space-flight programs, officially became a separate NASA field element directly under NASA Headquarters. Prior to this time, the Space Task Group was organized under the Goddard Space Flight Center and was administratively supported by the Langley Research Center. As of this date, the personnel strength of Space Task Group was 667.
NASA's Space Task Group, charged with carrying out Project Mercury and other manned space flight programs, officially became a separate NASA field element.
The Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) postlaunch system evaluation tests were completed at Cape Canaveral. Data disclosed that the instrumentation system, communication system, and other components had operated satisfactorily during the flight mission.
Mercury spacecraft No. 14 was delivered to Wallops Island for the Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) maximum dynamic pressure abort test.
Ham, a 37-pound chimpanzee, was aboard the spacecraft. The over-acceleration of the launch vehicle coupled with the velocity of the escape rocket caused the spacecraft to attain a higher altitude and a longer range than planned. In addition, the early depletion of the liquid oxygen caused a signal that separated the spacecraft from the launch vehicle a few seconds early. However spacecraft recovery was effected, although there were some leaks and the spacecraft was taking on water. Ham appeared to be in good physiological condition, but sometime later when he was shown the spacecraft it was visually apparent that he had no further interest in cooperating with the space flight program. Despite the over-acceleration factor, the flight was considered to be successful.
The estimated cost of NASA Order HS-36, Atlas launch vehicles, was $51,504,000, of which, definitive documents in the amount of $43,671,000 had been processed as of the cited date. NASA Order HS-44 for Redstone launch vehicles was $14,918,182 and $12,534,182 had been processed. On contract NAS 5-59, Mercury spacecraft, costs were $79,245,952, and approximately $9.5 million of this figure was classed as 'Undefinitized Obligations.'
As of this date, McDonnell had expended 2,616,387 man-hours in engineering; 383,561 man-hours in tooling, and 1,538,476 man-hours in production in support of Project Mercury.
Instruction was provided to the astronauts to develop techniques and procedures for using the personal parachute as an additional safety feature in the Mercury program. This parachute was only used during the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission manned by Alan Shepard.
Measures to be taken for hydrogen-peroxide fuel economy for the Mercury spacecraft attitude control system were studied at a coordination meeting. Items considered were orbital attitude, retroattitude hold sequence, and salvo versus ripple retrorocket firing. Astronaut Virgil Grissom reported that the salvo method had already been proven to be unsatisfactory on the Mercury procedures trainer.
Mission rules for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3 - Shepard's flight) were published. Revisions were issued on February 27, and April 28, 1961.
Spacecraft, mission, and launch vehicle flight safety rules for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission were reviewed by Space Task Group personnel.
The Space Task Group requested that McDonnell design and install a manual bilge pump in Mercury spacecraft No.7 to allow the removal of any seawater resulting from leakage after spacecraft impact.
Egress hatch procedures for Mercury recovery force operations were discussed at a coordination meeting. One suggestion involved the installation of a pull-ring for activating the hatch explosive charge. Another proposal was made for a paint outline of an emergency outlet that could be cut through, if necessary.
Information was released by NASA Headquarters that Space Task Group engineers directing Project Mercury had selected the flight trajectory for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission. This trajectory was designed to provide the most severe reentry heating conditions which could be encountered on an emergency abort during an orbital flight attempt. The reentry heating rate was estimated to be 30 percent higher than a normal Mercury orbital reentry, and temperatures were predicted to be about 25 percent higher at certain locations on the afterbody of the spacecraft. In addition, the deceleration g-load was calculated to be about twice that expected for a normal reentry from orbit.
Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a test to check maximum heating and its effects during the worst reentry design conditions. The flight closely matched the desired trajectory and attained a maximum altitude of 114.04 statute miles and a range of 1,431.6 statute miles. Inspection of the spacecraft aboard the recovery ship some 55 minutes after launch (actual flight time was 17.56 minutes) indicated that test objectives were met, since the structure and heat protection elements appeared to be in excellent condition. The flight control team obtained satisfactory data; and the complete launch computing and display system, operating for the first time in a flight, performed satisfactorily.
NASA Space Task Group selected John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Alan B. Shepard, Jr., to begin special training for first manned Mercury space flight.
Astronauts John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, and Alan Shepard were selected by the Space Task Group to begin special training for the first manned Mercury flight.
As of this date, the Space Task Group, Convair-Astronautics, Space Technology Laboratories, McDonnell, and the Marshall Space Flight Center had completed a number of extensive studies on the subject of the safe separation of the Mercury spacecraft from the launch vehicle during an emergency. The following papers include a report of these studies: NASA Project Mercury Working Paper No. 111, 'Mercury-Redstone Separation Distance ...'; NASA Project Mercury Working Paper No. 141, 'Dispersion Study of Separation Distance ...for Mercury-Redstone'; and NASA Working Paper No. 152, 'Determination of Mercury Escape Rocket Thrust Eccentricity ...from Mercury-Atlas Booster.'
Spacecraft No. 9 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital primate (Enos) mission.
McDonnell conducted a successful drop test, using a boilerplate spacecraft fitted with impact skirt, straps and cables, and a beryllium heat shield. During the tests the stainless steel straps were successfully stretched to design limits.
Evaluation of the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) flight results disclosed that the spacecraft afterbody temperatures were somewhat lower than had been anticipated.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle No. 100-D was conducted at Convair-Astronautics. This launch vehicle was allocated for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission.
At this time, spacecraft Nos. 12 and 15 were inspected, and some 50 requests for alterations were made.
Spacecraft No. 11 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) ballistic manned (Grissom) flight.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 5 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone, Booster Development flight (MR-BD).
Spacecraft No. 10 was accepted and delivered to the McDonnell altitude test facility on March 31, 1961, for an orbital-flight environmental test.
Atlas launch vehicle 100-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission.
United States and United Kingdom signed formal agreement covering Mercury tracking stations on Bermuda.
The Space Task Group advised the Goddard Space Flight Center that for all Mercury orbital missions, beginning with Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3), trajectory data would be required for postflight analysis.
The Space Task Group recommended that the Department of Defense give consideration to assigning weather reconnaissance missions to the Air Weather Service preceding Mercury orbital missions beginning with Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4).
It was allocated to a ground test simulating orbital flight environmental conditions at the McDonnell plant site.
Mercury Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A), the sixth in the series of Little Joe missions, was launched from Wallops Island. This flight was intended to satisfy test objectives, which were not met previously because of the failure of the spacecraft to separate from the launch vehicle during the Little Joe 5 (LJ-5) mission flown on November 8, 1960. For reference, the purpose of this test was to demonstrate primarily the structural integrity of the spacecraft and the escape system during an escape maneuver initiated at the highest dynamic pressure anticipated during an Atlas launch for orbital flight. Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) lifted off normally, but 19 seconds later the escape tower fired prematurely, a situation closely resembling the November 1960 flight. The signal to initiate the abort maneuver was given; and the launch vehicle-adapter clamp ring was released as intended, but the spacecraft remained on the launch vehicle since the escape motor was already expended. The separation was effected by using the retrorockets, but this command was transmitted before the flight had reached its apex, where separation had been planned. Therfore, the separation was rather violent. The parachutes did deploy at about 40,000 feet, and after recovery it was found that the spacecraft had actually incurred only superficial structural damage. In fact, this spacecraft was later used for the subsequent Little Joe 5B (LJ-5B) flight test. Test objectives of the Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) were not met.
Trajectory data for the Mercury-Redstone Booster-Development (MR-BD) flight test were forwarded by Marshall Space Flight Center to the Space Task Group and other interested organizations. The purpose of this flight test was to provide a final check of the launch vehicle system prior to the manned suborbital flights.
Primary objectives of the drops were to study further the spacecraft suitability and flotation capability after water impact. Six drops were made, but later (April 24-28, 1961) the tests were extended for two additional drops to monitor hard-surface landing effects. In the water phase of the program, spacecraft components under particular scrutiny were the lower pressure bulkhead and its capability to withstanding heat shield recontact without impairing flotation capability. Helicopters were used to make the drops.
The Mercury-Atlas Missile Range Projects Office, headed by Elmer H. Buller, was designated as a staff function of the Space Task Group Director's office.
After booster problems on the Mercury MR-2 chimp test flight, Von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test flight, against the wishes of Shepard and others at NASA. A Mercury boilerplate capsule was launched on a flawless test on 24 March. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, the manned Freedom 7 capsule would have flown instead. Shepard would have been the first man in space (though not in orbit), beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.
After analyzing launch vehicle behavior in the Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) and Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2), officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Space Task Group were of the opinion that there were a number of problems that needed to be corrected prior to the advent of manned flight. The problems to be resolved included jet-vane vibration, instrumentation compartment vibration, failure of the thrust-controller system, and several other areas that needed attention. Many of these problems were studied by the personnel of engineering activities and proposed solutions were formulated. It was felt, however, that flight was necessary to verify the corrections and the Mercury-Redstone Booster Development test was scheduled and flown. All test objectives were met; as a result of this test, the launch vehicle was man-rated for the planned suborbital flights.
Suborbital test of Redstone modifications using a boilerplate Mercury capsule. The test was done at von Braun's insistence against Shepard's wishes, thereby putting the first US manned flight after Gagarin's.
In a NASA Headquarters' note to editors of magazines and newspapers, a procedures and a deadline were established for submitting the applications of accredited correspondents to cover the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) flight mission. As of April 24, 1961, the deadline date, 350 correspondents were accredited to cover the launch, the first manned suborbital flight of Project Mercury.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 7 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission.
An industrial team headed by the Western Electric Company turned over the $60,000,000 global network (figs. 48 and 49) to NASA in a formal ceremony later in the year.
The first simulated orbital mission, with the Mercury spacecraft in the altitude chamber, was conducted.
To satisfy the national interest in Project Mercury, Robert R. Gilruth designated the Public Affairs Office as the point of contact for Space Task Group activities to supply information, within the limits of security, for news dissemination.
Three astronauts selected for Mercury-Redstone flight (MR-3) were ordered to take refresher course in Navy centrifuge at Johnsville, Pa.
Glenn, Grissom, and Shepard began refresher course on centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight. John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, and Alan Shepard began a refresher course on the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight.
It would be used for the Little Joe 5B (LJ-5B) maximum dynamic-pressure abort mission. This spacecraft was first used in the Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) mission and was then refitted for the LJ-5B flight.
The United States Weather Bureau stated that funds in the amount of $200,000 would be required to support Project Mercury during the fiscal year of 1962.
Spacecraft, mission, and launch vehicle flight safety were reviewed by Space Task Group personnel in preparation for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission.
Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) was launched from Cape Canaveral in an attempt to orbit the spacecraft with a 'mechanical astronaut' aboard. After lift-off, the launch vehicle failed to roll to a 70 degree heading and to pitch over into the proper trajectory. The abort-sensing system activated the escape rockets prior to the launch vehicle's destruction by the range safety officer after approximately 40 seconds of flight that had attained an altitude of 16,400 feet. The spacecraft then coasted up to 24,000 feet, deployed its parachutes, and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 2,000 yards north of the launch pad. The spacecraft was recovered and was found to have incurred only superficial damage; it was then shipped to McDonnell for refitting.
A simulated countdown for the first Mercury-Redstone manned suborbital flight (MR-3) was successfully completed.
Little Joe 5B (LJ-5B) was launched from Wallops Island to test the Mercury escape system under maximum dynamic pressure conditions. At the time of lift-off, one of the launch vehicle rocket motors did not ignite until after 4 seconds had elapsed. This delay caused the launch vehicle to pitch into a lower trajectory than had been planned, with a result that the abort maneuver experienced greater dynamic pressures than had been specified in the flight test plan. Other than this, all other sequential systems operated according to plan, and after landing, a normal helicopter recovery was accomplished. Thus, all test objectives were met and were actually exceeded because the spacecraft withstood the higher dynamic pressures.
NASA Administrator Webb issued a statement concerning the 2-year Mercury manned space flight program, which said, in part: "NASA has not attempted to encourage press coverage of the first Mercury-Redstone manned flight. It has responded to press and television requests, with the result that over 100 representatives of the press, radio, and TV are now at Cape Canaveral. . . . We must keep the perspective that each flight is but one of the many milestones we must pass. Some will completely succeed in every respect, some partially, and some will fail. From all of them will come mastery of the vast new space environment on which so much of our future depends."
Manned Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) launch postponed because of rain squalls in the recovery area.
Alan Shepard first American in space, less than a month after Gagarin and only on a 15 minute suborbital flight. Only manned flight with original capsule (tiny round porthole and periscope a la Vostok). If NASA had not listened to Von Braun, Shepard would have flown on the MR-BD flight of 24 March, beating Gagarin by three weeks and becoming the first man in space (though not in orbit). Shepard's capsule reached an altitude of 115.696 miles, range of 302 miles,and speed of 5,100 miles per hour. He demonstrated control of a vehicle during weightlessness and high G stresses. Recovery operations were perfect; there was no damage to the spacecraft; and Astronaut Shepard was in excellent condition.
A document was issued regarding use of a Scout test vehicle to evaluate the performance of the Mercury tracking and real-time computing system. NASA Headquarters tentatively approved the plan on May 24, 1961.
Astronaut Alan Shepard, pilot of the Freedom 7 spacecraft (MR-3) was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal by President John F. Kennedy in a ceremony at the White House.
Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Mercury astronaut, was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal by President Kennedy in a special White House ceremony. It was followed by an informal parade to the Capitol by the seven astronauts for lunch, and a press conference at the State Department auditorium.
Senator Robert S. Kerr, chairman of the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, told a group at the National Radio and Television Convention that President Kennedy accepted the views of NASA and congressional leaders in approving the manned Mercury-Redstone flight of May 5.
Mercury spacecraft 8A was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) orbital unmanned (mechanical astronaut) mission.
NASA submitted its legislative program for the 87th Congress (S. 1857 and H.R. 7115), asking for authority to lease property, authority to acquire patent releases, replacement of semiannual reports to Congress with an annual one, and authority to indemnify contractors against unusually hazardous risks.
An Atlas investigation board was convened to study the cause of the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission launch vehicle failure. Several possible areas were considered, and three were isolated as probable causes based on a review of test data.
NASA Headquarters and the Space Task Group began a concerted effort in reviewing Mercury progress to identify technical developments that were potential inventions, discoveries, improvements, and innovations. This action was in keeping with the policy and concept of providing information on technical advances, within security limits and when appropriate, to other agencies of the government and to American industry.
Inspection activities were primarily centered on spacecraft No. 18, and some 45 requests for alterations were initiated.
Until June 4, 1961, the Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7 (MR-3) was displayed at the Paris International Air Show. Some 650,000 visitors received the details on the spacecraft and on Shepard's suborbital flight.
Freedom 7, Mercury spacecraft in which Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made his space flight on May 5, was a major drawing card at the Paris International Air Show. Details of the spacecraft and of Shepard's flight were related to about 650,000 visitors.
A 30 day centrifuge training program was conducted at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory directed entirely toward training the astronauts for the Mercury-Atlas orbital missions.
Biomedical results of the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3), Shepard's suborbital space flight, were reported in a Washington conference jointly sponsored by NASA, National Institute of Health, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 8 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) suborbital flight mission.
Freedom 7 Mercury capsule displayed to approximately 750,000 visitors at the Rassegna International Electronic and Nuclear Fair at Rome, Italy.
The Freedom 7 (MR-3) spacecraft was viewed by approximately 750,000 visitors at the Rassegna International Electronic and Nuclear Fair at Rome, Italy.
The Space Task Group forwarded to NASA Headquarters the details for the Mercury-Scout instrumentation system. This mission was to check the operational effectiveness of the Mercury global tracking network.
Over the following 24 days, as a part of the Mercury-Atlas animal program, chimpanzees received training in acclimation to noise and vibration and to centrifuge runs at the University of Southern California. Two of the animals flew parabolas in a C-131 aircraft for weightlessness training. The animals were also trained in advance psychomotor problems.
Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery requirements were forwarded by the Space Task Group to the Navy.
The Redstone booster for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission was erected on Pad 5, at Cape Canaveral.
Modifications were made to the spacecraft designated for the second manned suborbital Mercury flight. An observation window replaced two view ports and an improved manual control system was installed.
Tracking network requirements for the Mercury extended range or 1 day mission were discussed between Space Task Group and Goddard Space Flight Center personnel.
Using spacecraft No. 5, a spacecraft seaworthiness test was conducted 65 miles east of Wallops Island. Sea conditions varied with 2 to 4 foot ground swells and wave heights of from 1 to 2 feet. Spacecraft flotation characteristics were found to be quite satisfactory.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle 88-D, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission, was conducted at Convair.
Responsibility for the operation of the Mercury global network was assigned to the Goddard Space Flight Center. During active mission periods, network control would revert to Space Task Group personnel.
The assignments were made by Walter C. Williams, Project Mercury Operations Officer, for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission. These appointments included on-site liaison and consultation, public affairs, photo couriers, and technical observers. Stations covered were Mercury Control Center, Atlantic Missile Range Central Control, landing area aircraft carrier, supporting destroyers, support aircraft, and Base Operations at Patrick Air Force Base.
A spacecraft, launch vehicle, and mission flight safety review was held in preparation for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission.
The Redstone launch vehicle designated for the Mercury-Redstone 6 (MR-6) mission was static tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure satisfactory operation of the turbopump assembly.
Mercury-Redstone 6 was static tested for 30 seconds at Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure satisfactory operation of the turbopump assembly.
Atlas launch vehicle 88-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission.
Two attempts were made to launch Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) with astronaut Virgil Grissom aboard the spacecraft, but unfavorable weather forced mission postponement.
Mercury-Redstone (MR-4) with manned Liberty Bell 7 capsule canceled within minutes of launch because of adverse weather.
The Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7, manned by Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, boosted by a Redstone rocket, reached a peak altitude of 190.3 km and a speed of 8,335 km per hour. After a flight of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, the landing was made 487 km downrange from the launch site. The hatch blew while still in water, and the capsule sank; Grissom saved, though his suit was filling up with water through open oxygen inlet lines.
This was the second and final manned suborbital Mercury Redstone flight, and the first flight with trapezoidal window. Further suborbital flights (each astronaut was to make one as a training exercise) were cancelled. An attempt to recover the capsule in very deep water in 1994 not successful. It was finally raised in the summer of 1999.
Astronaut Virgil Grissom, pilot of the MR-4 Liberty Bell 7, was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by NASA Administrator James Webb at the conclusion of the MR-4 press conference held at Cape Canaveral.
Astronaut Virgil Grissom was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by Administrator Webb at conclusion of MR-4 press conference at Cape Canaveral.
After the 2-man space concept (later designated Project Gemini) was introduced in May 1961, a briefing between McDonnell and NASA personnel was held on the matter. As a result of this meeting, space flight design effort was concentrated on the 18-orbit 1-man Mercury and on a 2-man spacecraft capable of advanced missions.
The astronaut centrifuge training program at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory was directed entirely toward the Mercury-Atlas orbital missions.
Conditions during the test varied from ground swells of 5 to 15 feet, wave heights of 2 to 10 feet, and winds of 6 to 20 knots. The test lasted for 33 hours and was quite successful.
A series of environmental tests was conducted on the spacecraft explosive egress hatch because of the difficulties experienced during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) mission.
Key personnel operational assignments for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) unmanned orbital mission were made by the Space Task Group.
Retrofire-from-orbit mission rules were published for the unmanned Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) orbital flight.
It was returned to McDonnell to be reconfigured to the orbital-manned 1-day mission and tentatively assigned for Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). Redesign was completed, and the spacecraft, then designated number 15A (later redesignated 15B), was delivered to Cape Canaveral on November 16, 1962.
NASA announced that analysis of Project Mercury suborbital data indicated that all objectives of that phase of the program had been achieved, and that no further Mercury-Redstone flights were planned.
Between August 22 and September 12, 1961, mission, spacecraft, and launch vehicle flight safety reviews were held for the unmanned Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) orbital flight.
This particular vehicle was designated for the first manned Mercury-Atlas orbital flight (MA-6, Glenn). Test and checkout work on the spacecraft was started immediately.
An investigation was conducted as a result of the premature activation of the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) explosive egress hatch. Tests were initiated in an environment more severe than had been conducted in prelaunch activities and tests, but no premature firings occurred. As a backup, McDonnell was asked to design a mechanical-type hatch. The model weighed some 60 pounds more than the explosive type, so other methods had to be sought to prevent any recurrence of the incident. A procedure was initiated which stipulated that the firing plunger safety pin would be left in place until the helicopter hook was attached to the spacecraft and tension was applied to the recovery cable.
The original Mercury project plan envisioned all of the astronauts making an initial suborbital hop aboard a Redstone booster before making an orbital flight aboard an Atlas. However delays in the program resulted in the Redstone flights coming much closer to the Atlas flights than planned. By the time of the first suborbital Mercury flight, the Russians had already orbited Yuri Gagarin. After Grissom's capsule sunk, it was still planned to fly Glenn on a suborbital flight to prove the capsule. But Gherman Titov was launched on a full-day orbital flight in August 1961, making NASA's suborbital hops look pathetic. Glenn was moved to the first orbital Atlas flight, and further suborbital Mercury flights were cancelled.
Three rocket sled tests were conducted at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California, to study the detailed launch vehicle-spacecraft, clamp-ring separation. From run to run, minor modifications were made, and by the third run the separation action was perfected.
A few of these are listed: (1) attenuation of impact force from astronaut couch by using crushable honeycomb structure; (2) interchangeable couch configuration for Mercury spacecraft; (3) modified tower clamp ring to improve stability in abort attitude; (4) hydrogen peroxide thrust chamber improvements; (5) oxygen pressure transducer improvements; (6) de-stabilization flap to prevent spacecraft wrong attitude reentry; (7) Mercury spacecraft landing bag design; and (8) multi-nozzle rockets.
Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) was launched from Cape Canaveral with special vibration and noise instrumentation and a mechanical crewman simulator aboard in addition to the normal spacecraft equipment. This was the first Mercury spacecraft to attain an earth orbit. The orbital apogee was 123 nautical miles and the perigee was 86 nautical miles. After one orbit, the spacecraft's orbital timing device triggered the retrograde rockets, and the spacecraft splashed in the Atlantic Ocean 161 miles east of Bermuda. Recovery was made by the USS Decatur. During the flight, only three slight deviations were noted - a small leak in the oxygen system; loss of voice contact over Australia; and the failure of an inverter in the environmental control system. Overall, the flight was highly successful: the Atlas booster performed well and demonstrated that it was ready for the manned flight, the spacecraft systems operated well, and the Mercury global tracking network and telemetry operated in an excellent manner and was ready to support manned orbital flight.
Mission rules for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital flight were published. Revisions were issued on October 16 and 25, 1961, and November 11, 1961.
Announced at Space Task Group that a 30-cubic-foot balloon would be installed in Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should helicopter be forced to drop it as happened during the MR-4 recovery.
The Space Task Group announced that a 30-inch diameter balloon would be installed in the Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should the helicopter br forced to drop the spacecraft, as happened during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery operations.
Evaluation of the inflatable flotation collar, attached by ground personnel to sustain spacecraft buoyancy during recovery operations, was completed.
NASA Administrator Webb announced major organizational changes and top-level appointments to become effective November 1. The reorganization should provide a clearer focus on major programs and allow center directors to have a louder voice in policy making. The new appointments included the following Directors of major program offices: Ira H. Abbott, Office of Advanced Research and Technology; Homer E. Newell, Office of Space Sciences; D. Brainerd Holmes, Office of Manned Space Flight; and an as yet unnamed Director of Office of Applications Programs. Also, Thomas F. Dixon was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator; Abe Silverstein was named Director of the Lewis Research Center, and Robert R. Gilruth was chosen Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center.
Bland demonstrated capability of a destroyer to recover MR-2 Mercury capsule, with Virgil Grissom aboard, from water in series of pickups in lower Chesapeake Bay.
It was a backup for the MA-8 mission (six-orbit flight), but immediate consideration was given for its modification to the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission. The capsule was returned to McDonnell, reconfigured and stored.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas booster No. 93-D was conducted at Convair. This booster was designated for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) mission.
Atlas booster No. 93-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital flight mission.
The Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) data aquisition plan was published by the Mercury Data Coordination Office of the Space Task Group's Flight Operations Division.
Freedom 7, the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) spacecraft, was presented by NASA to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Freedom 7 Mercury capsule in which Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made the first suborbital space flight, was presented to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. In his presentation, NASA Administrator Webb said: "To Americans seeking answers, proof that man can survive in the hostile realm of space is not enough. A solid and meaningful foundation for public support and the basis for our Apollo man-in-space effort is that U.S. astronauts are going into space to do useful work in the cause of all their fellow men."
Ship retrieval tests were conducted to establish procedures for recovery of a manned Mercury spacecraft. No difficulties were encountered.
An announcement was made that a Mercury-Scout launch would be made to verify the readiness of the world-wide Mercury Tracking network to handle further orbital flights.
NASA announced that first Mercury-Scout launch to verify the readiness of the worldwide Mercury tracking network would take place at Atlantic Missile Range.
Small satellite was to have verified the readiness of the worldwide Mercury tracking network
An attempt was made to launch Mercury-Scout 1 (MS-1) into orbit with a communications package further to qualify the radar tracking of the Mercury global network prior to manned orbital flight. Shortly after lift-off, the launch vehicle developed erratic motions and attending high aerodynamic loads, and was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer after 43 seconds of flight. No further attempts were planned. The Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission and the successful Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5), flown on November 29, 1961, disclosed that the network met all requirements.
Slayton would probably have flown the fourth manned suborbital Mercury. But after the Russians began orbiting cosmonauts, NASA cancelled further suborbital flights. The MR-6 mission was cancelled by NASA administrator James Webb at the beginning of July, 1961.
Mercury-Atlas 5, scheduled for launch no earlier than November 14, ran into technical difficulties, postponing launch for several days.
Mercury spacecraft No. 18 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the second manned (Carpenter) orbital flight, Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7).
For the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital mission, the Mercury astronauts were assigned as spacecraft communicators at six of the Mercury global network tracking stations.
Astronaut John Glenn was selected as the pilot for the first Mercury manned orbital flight, with Scott Carpenter as backup pilot. Immediately, training was started to ready these two astronauts for the mission. The five remaining astronauts concentrated their efforts on various engineering and operational groups of the Manned Spacecraft Center in preparation for the mission.
Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5), the second and final orbital qualification of the spacecraft prior to manned flight was launched from Cape Canaveral with Enos, a 37.5 pound chimpanzee, aboard. Scheduled for three orbits, the spacecraft was returned to earth after two orbits due to the failure of a roll reaction jet and to the overheating of an inverter in the electrical system. Both of these difficulties could have been corrected had an astronaut been aboard. The spacecraft was recovered 255 miles southeast of Bermuda by the USS Stormes. During the flight, the chimpanzee performed psychomotor duties and upon recovery was found to be in excellent physical condition. The flight was termed highly successful and the Mercury spacecraft well qualified to support manned orbital flight.
Atlas launch vehicle 109-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) first manned orbital mission.
NASA Headquarters announced that the first Mercury manned orbital flight was scheduled for early 1962. This decision was made when the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) mission data indicated that the spacecraft system, launch vehicle, and tracking network were ready.
In a joint ceremony, astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom were awarded the first Astronaut Wings by their respective services.
NASA postponed its projected manned orbital flight from December 1961 until early in 1962 because of minor problems with the cooling system and positioning devices in the Mercury capsule, Dr. Hugh Dryden, Deputy Administrator of NASA, said in a Baltimore interview. "You like to have a man go with everything just as near perfect as possible. This business is risky. You can't avoid this, but you can take all the precautions you know about."
Plans for the development of a 2-man Mercury spacecraft were announced by Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center. On January 3, 1962, this program was designated Project Gemini.
Spacecraft egress exercises were conducted for the astronauts in the Back River near Langley Field. This training was especially conducted for the pilots selected for the manned orbital mission and for helicopter recovery teams. The astronauts made both top and side hatch egresses from the spacecraft and no problems were encountered.
Spacecraft ultimate pressure tests to 20 pounds per square inch were conducted, and subsequent inspection disclosed there was no structural damage, deformation or failure.
NASA Administrator James E. Webb said in a speech in Cleveland that the United States would follow its first manned orbital flight in January 1962 with similar manned orbital flights every 60 days. These would gather data on effects of weightlessness, needed to determine the pacing of the two-man flight program later on. Mr. Webb also forecast the launching of 200 sounding rockets, 20 scientific satellites, and 2 deep-space probes in 1962.
Subsequent inspections of the spacecaft structure and ablation heat shield disclosed no structural damage.
Walter C. Williams told a University of Houston audience at Houston, Texas, that the Mercury spacecraft had served and would continue to serve as a test bed for developing orbital flight techniques and hardware for more ambitious space programs.
Mercury spacecraft external pressure tests were conducted at pressures up to 15 pounds per square inch. Bulkhead deflection was slight and well within tolerable limits.
Modifications were started in order to use the New York-Bermuda submarine cable for the transmission of high speed radar data from the Bermuda network site to the Goddard Space Flight Center computers.
These were: Grand Turk, Midway Island, and the Japanese-Philippine Island area.
Twenty spacecraft aerial drop tests were planned for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission. One of the prime objectives was to determine if the 63-foot ringsail main recovery parachute met all Mercury mission weight requirements. Tests were scheduled to be conducted at El Centro, California, and all tests would be land drops. This test program was designated Project Reef.
Exercises were held at the Lynnhaven Roads Anchorage near Norfolk, Virginia, to determine the feasibility of using the auxiliary flotation collar in recovery operations. The tests were successful and the collar was adopted.
Flight controllers, excluding the medical monitors, were given a final briefing prior to deployment to remote sites for the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) mission.
Major organizational division of this staff element included Office of Project Manager, Project Engineering Office, Project Engineering Field Office (duty station at Cape Canaveral), Engineering Operations Office, and Engineering Data and Measurement Office. Kenneth Kleinknecht was appointed Manager of Project Mercury.
Recovery area swimmers were trained at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida, for use in the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission. Instruction included films, briefings, auxiliary flotation collar deployment, and jumps from a helicopter.
Spacecraft 16 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the third manned (Schirra) orbital flight, Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8).
Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, was awarded the Louis W. Hill Space Transportation Award by the Institute of Aerospace Sciences for his 'outstanding leadership in technical development of spacecraft for manned space flight.'
The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital flight was postponed at T-minus 29 minutes due to weather conditions.
The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) mission was postponed because of technical difficulties with the launch vehicle.
NASA Headquarters announced that the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission would be scheduled no earlier than February 13, 1962, and that repair of the Atlas launch vehicle fuel tank leak would be completed well before that time.
Unfavorable weather conditions caused the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission to be postponed.
Walter C. Williams, Project Mercury Operations Director, announced that because of weather conditions February 20, 1962, would be the earliest date that the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission could be launched.
First US manned orbital mission. John Glenn finally puts America in orbit. False landing bag deploy light led to reentry being started with retropack left in place on heat shield. It turned out that indicator light was false and a spectacular reentry ensued, with glowing chunks of the retropack whizzing by the window. After four hours and 43 minutes the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere and landed at 2:43 pm EST in the planned recovery area NE of the Island of Puerto Rico. All flight objectives were achieved. Glenn was reported to be in excellent condition. Beause of failure of one of the automatic systems, the astronaut took over manual control of the spacecraft during part of the flight. With this flight, the basic objectives of Project Mercury had been achieved.
A metal fragment, identified by numbers stamped on it as a part of the Atlas that boosted Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) into orbit, landed on a farm in South Africa after about 8 hours in orbit.
In a ceremony at Cape Canaveral, President John F. Kennedy awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to John Glenn and Robert R. Gilruth.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle 107-D, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, was conducted at Convair.
This featured the reception of the astronaut at the White House, a parade, and his address to joint session of Congress.
An estimated 4 million people lined the streets of New York City for John Glenn Day. Mayor Robert Wagner presented Glenn and Robert R. Gilruth the city's Medal of Honor.
The PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) reporting system became operational on an experimental basis for Mercury. The first PERT report on the Mercury 1-day mission schedule and cost analysis was issued by the Manned Spacecraft Center on April 26, 1962.
The Mercury astronauts were guests of the United Nations, and John Glenn acted as spokesman during an informal reception given by Acting Secretary General U Thant.
Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra, designated (but not publicly) as pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, underwent water-egress exercises. Several side-hatch egresses were made in conjunction with helicopter pickups.
Atlas launch vehicle 107-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) mission.
The first Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) performed remarkably well in conducting the thirteen different experiments for which it was programmed. Especially relevant to manned space flight were its measurements of solar radiation in high frequency ranges, of cosmic dust effects, and of the thermal properties of spacecraft surface materials.
John Glenn became the third man to be presented with Astronaut Wings in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
During the period of the move of the Manned Spacecraft Center from Langley Field to Houston, Texas, primary Mercury operational activities remained at Langley to prevent any disruptions in the Mercury operational program.
NASA Headquarters publicly announced that Scott Carpenter would pilot the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission replacing Donald Slayton. The latter, formerly scheduled for the flight, was disqualified because of a minor erratic heart rate.
Spacecraft 19 was delivered to Cape Canaveral in the orbital-manned configuration, but this mission was canceled after the successful six-orbit flight of Schirra.
Manned Spacecraft Center personnel briefed the Chief of Naval Operations on the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) flight and ensuing Mercury flights. This material was incorporated in a document entitled, 'NASA Project Mercury Advance Recovery Requirements.'
Development of an advanced state-of-the-art pressure suit and helmet was started. This action was taken in preparation for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission program. The objectives were aimed at improvements in unpressurized suit comfort, suit ventilation, pressure suit mobility, electrically heated helmet visor with additional light attenuation features, and the fabrication of a mechanical visor seal mechanism.
NASA sponsored a 1-day symposium in Washington on the results of the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) three-orbit flight of John Glenn. One of the items of particular interest was Glenn's 'fire-flies,' or luminous particles, and their possible origin.
This award has been made only 20 times since its origination in 1906. Glenn joined such recipients as Admiral Robert A. Peary, Charles A. Lindbergh, Roald Amundsen, and Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra, designated as pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, underwent a water exercise training program to review procedures for boarding the life raft and the use of survival packs.
NASA announced that the spacecraft, Friendship 7, used in the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned obital mission would be lent to the United States Information Agency for a world tour, involving 20 stops and touching all continents. This tour was known as the 'fourth orbit of Friendship 7.' William Bland of the Mercury Project Office served as tour officer.
Some 27 items of bite-size food were sampled and tested for possible inclusion in the Mercury space flights.
Swimmer training was started for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission recovery area. Instruction consisted of films, briefings, exercises in deploying the auxiliary flotation collar, and jumps from a helicopter.
Decision was made between April 29 and May 5, 1962, that leg supports would be removed from the Mercury couch. It had been determined that the heel and toe supports could be used as the sole supports for the lower leg.
A gas analysis laboratory was installed in Hanger S at Cape Canaveral to analyze gases used in the Mercury spacecraft.
Scott Carpenter, designated as the primary pilot for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital flight completed a simulated MA-7 mission exercise.
This action was in keeping with a statement made by Walter C. Williams before a University of Houston audience that the spacecraft would be used as a test bed for more ambitious space projects.
NASA announced that the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital flight would be delayed several days due to checkout problems with the Atlas launch vehicle.
Scott Carpenter, designated as the primary pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital flight, flew a simulated mission with the spacecraft mated to the Atlas launch vehicle.
The Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission was postponed a second time because of necessary modifications to the altitude-sensing instrumentation in the parachute-deployment system.
A third postponement was made for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) flight mission due to irregularities detected in the temperature control device on a heater in the Atlas flight control system.
Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 is enthralled by his environment but uses too much orientation fuel. Yaw error and late retrofire caused the landing impact point to be over 300 km beyond the intended area and beyond radio range of the recovery forces. Landing occurred 4 hours and 56 minutes after liftoff. Astronaut Carpenter was later picked up safely by a helicopter after a long wait in the ocean and fears for his safety. NASA was not impressed and Carpenter left the agency soon thereafter to become an aquanaut.
Astronaut Deke Slayton was to have been the second American in orbit. When Slayton was selected as an astronaut in 1959, it was known he had a minor heart fibrillation. This however did not prevent him from being an Air Force test pilot or being selected as an astronaut. But on January 23, 1962 John Glenn's wife refused to do a television appearance with Vice President Lyndon Johnson after a launch scrub of Glenn's mission. Soon thereafter rumours began in McNamara's Pentagon that Glenn had a secret heart condition. It was not Glenn, and his flight went as planned, but in the process Slayton's heart fibrillation came up. After a series of quick developments, Slayton was told he couldn't fly, and was forced to appear at a press conference making that announcement on March 16. The action was seen by many as a warning to the astronauts who was really in charge, although Slayton didn't think there was a direct cause and effect. Slayton's three orbit flight would have been called Delta 7. Instead Carpenter was selected for the mission, and Schirra, Slayton's backup, was moved to the Mercury 8 flight.
Scott Carpenter and Walter C. Williams were awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by James Webb, NASA Administrator, in a ceremony at Cape Canaveral.
For possible application purposes, and upon request, the Manned Spacecraft Center shipped Mercury-type survival kits to the Air Force for its X-20 Dyna Soar development program and to the Navy.
Flight and ground tests disclosed that Mercury retrorocket heater blankets were unnecessary to the spacecraft, and this item was removed.
Technical Report No. 138, entitled 'Results of Project Mercury Ballistic and Orbital Chimpanzee Flights,' was completed.
According to the proposal, sheets of aluminium would be extended from the Mercury spacecraft and exposed to a meteoroid environment for a period of about 2 weeks. The sheets would then be retracted into the spacecraft for protection during reentry and recovery.
Scott Carpenter was the fourth individual of Project Mercury to be presented Astronaut Wings by his respective service.
Project Reef, an airdrop program to evaluate the Mercury 63-foot ringsail main parachute's capability to support the higher spacecraft weight for the extended range or 1-day mission was completed. Tests indicated that the parachute qualified to support the mission.
D. Brainerd Holmes, NASA Director of Manned Space Flight, announced that the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission would be programed for as many as six orbits. Walter Schirra was selected as the prime pilot with Gordon Cooper serving as backup.
The Manned Spacecraft Center requested that the Langley Research Center participate in acoustic tests of ablation materials on Mercury flight tests. Langley was to prepare several material specimens which would be tested for possible application in providing lightweight afterbody heat protection for Apollo class vehicles. Langley reported the results of its test preparation activities on September 21, 1962.
Engineering was completed for the spacecraft reaction control system reserve fuel tank and related hardware in support of the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission.
NASA scientists concluded that the layer of haze reported by astronauts Glenn and Carpenter was a phenomenon called 'airglow.' Using a photometer, Carpenter was able to measure the layer as being 2 degrees wide. Airglow accounts for much of the illumination in the night sky.
Tests were conducted with a subject wearing a Mercury pressure suit in a modified Mercury spacecraft couch equipped with a B-70 (Valkyrie) harness. When this harness appeared to offer advantages over the existing Mercury harness, plans were made for further evaluation in spacecraft tests.
President John F. Kennedy announced that Robert R. Gilruth, Director of Manned Spacecraft Center, would receive the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. This award was made for his successful accomplishment of 'one of the most complex tasks ever presented to man in this country. . . the achievement of manned flight in orbit around the earth.'
Atlas launch vehicle No. 113-D was inspected at Convair and accepted for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission.
The Friendship 7 spacecraft of the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission (Glenn flight) was placed on display at the Century 21 Exhibition in Seattle, Washington. After this exhibition, the spacecraft was presented to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, at formal presentation exercises on February 20, 1963.
Spacecraft 9 (redesignated 9A) was phased into the Project Orbit program in preparation for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission.
Atlas launch vehicle 113-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission.
NASA announced the appointment of Dr. Robert L. Barre as Scientist for Social, Economic, and Political Studies in the Office of Plans and Program Evaluation. Dr. Barre will be responsible for developing NASA's program of understanding, interpreting, and evaluating the social, economic, and political implications of NASA's long-range plans and accomplishments.
Data compiled from this test was used to evaluate the thermal and thruster configuration of the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission spacecraft.
Navy swimmers, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission recovery area, started refresher training at Pensacola, Florida. Instruction included installing the auxiliary flotation collar on a boilerplate spacecraft and briefings on assisting astronaut egress from the spacecraft.
Negotiations were completed with McDonnell for spacecraft configuration changes to support the Mercury 1-day manned orbital mission. The design engineering inspection, when the necessary modifications were listed, was held on June 7, 1962.
A conference was held at the Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas, on the technical aspects of the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission (Carpenter flight).
The results of a joint study by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, and NASA concerning the possible harmful effects of the artificial radiation belt created by Operation Dominic on Project Mercury's flight MA-8 were announced. The study predicted that radiation on outside of capsule during astronaut Walter M. Schirra's six-orbit flight would be about 500 roentgens but that shielding, vehicle structures, and flight suit would reduce this dosage down to about 8 roentgens on the astronaut's skin. This exposure, well below the tolerance limits previously established, would not necessitate any change of plans for the MA-8 flight.
Atlas launch vehicle 113-D for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission was static-fired at Cape Canaveral. This test was conducted to check modifications that had been made to the booster for the purpose of smoother engine combustion.
The Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission was postponed and rescheduled for September 28, 1962, to allow additional time for flight preparation.
Studies completed by the Navy Biophysics Branch of the Navy School of Aviation Medicine, Pensacola, Florida, disclosed that astronaut Glenn had received less than one-half the cosmic radiation dosage expected during his orbital flight. The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) spacecraft walls had served as excellent protection.
Donald Slayton, one of the seven chosen for the astronaut training program, was designated Coordinator of Astronaut Activities at the Manned Spacecraft Center.
The NASA spacecraft test conductor and the Convair test conductor notified the interface committee chairman of the readiness-for-mate of the adapter-interface area of the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8).
As an experiment, Walter Schirra planned to carry a special 2.5-pound hand camera aboard the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) spacecraft. During the flight, the astronaut would attempt to arrive at techniques that could be applied to an advanced Nimbus weather satellite.
Walter Schirra made a 6.5 hour simulated flight in the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) spacecraft. The worldwide tracking network of 21 ground stations and ships also participated in the exercise.
Tropical storm 'Daisy' was studied by Mercury operations activities for its possible effects on the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission, but flight preparations continued.
The Sigma 7 spacecraft with Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., as pilot was launched into orbit by a Mercury-Atlas vehicle from Atlantic Missile Range. In the most successful American manned space flight to date, Schirra traveled nearly six orbits, returning to earth at a predetermined point in the Pacific Ocean 9 hours, 13 minutes after liftoff. Within 40 minutes after landing, he and his spacecraft were safely aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kearsarge. Schirra attempted and achieved a nearly perfect mission by sticking rigorously to mission plan.
A U.S. Air Force spokesman, Lt. Colonel Albert C. Trakowski, announced that special instruments on unidentified military test satellites had confirmed the danger that astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., could have been killed if his MA-8 space flight had taken him above a 400-mile altitude. The artificial radiation belt, created by the U.S. high altitude nuclear test in July, sharply increases in density above 400-miles altitude at the geomagnetic equator and reaches peak intensities of 100 to 1,000 times normal levels at altitudes above 1,000 miles.
Dr. Charles A. Berry, Chief of Aerospace Medical Operations, Manned Spacecraft Center, reported that preliminary dosimeter readings indicated that astronaut Schirra had received a much smaller radiation dosage than expected.
Mercury Spacecraft 16, Sigma 7, was returned to Hanger S at Cape Canaveral for postflight work and inspection. It was planned to retain the Sigma 7 at Cape Canaveral for permanent display.
Astronaut Schirra expressed his belief that the spacecraft was ready for the 1-day mission, that he experienced absolutely no difficulties with his better than 9 hours of weightlessness, and that the flight was of the 'textbook' variety.
Spacecraft 20 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission flight.
Walter Schirra was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by James Webb, NASA Administrator, for his six-orbit Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) flight in a ceremony at his hometown, Oradell, New Jersey.
A high frequency direction finding system study was initiated. This study, covering a 12-month period, involved the development of high-frequency direction finding techniques to be applied in a network for locating spacecraft. The program was divided into a 5-month study and feasibility phase, followed by a 7-month program to provide operational tests of the procedures during actual Mercury flights or follow-on operations.
Walter Schirra became the fifth member of the Project Mercury team to receive Astronaut Wings.
McDonnell reported that all spacecraft system tests had been completed for spaceraft 20, which was allocated for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day orbital mission.
The Air Force Missile Test Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, submitted a report to the Secretary of Defense summarizing Department of Defense support during the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) six-orbit flight mission.
Major General Leighton Davis, Department of Defense representative for Project Mercury Support Operations, reported that support operation planning was underway for the Mercury 1-day mission.
NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., presented Outstanding Leadership Awards to Maxime A. Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development, Manned Spacecraft Center, and George B. Graves, Jr., Assistant Director for Information and Control Systems. Also, at the NASA annual awards ceremony the Administrator, James E. Webb, presented Group Achievement Awards to four Manned Spacecraft Center activities: Assistant Directorate for Engineering and Development, Preflight Operations Division, Mercury Project Office, and Flight Operations Division.
NASA announced realignment of functions within the office of Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. D. Brainerd Holmes assumed new duties as a Deputy Associate Administrator of Manned Space Flight. NASA field installations engaged primarily in manned space flight (Marshall Space Flight Center, MSC, and Launch Operations Center) would report to Holmes; installations engaged principally in other projects (Ames, Lewis Research Center, Langley Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Wallops Island) would report to Thomas F. Dixon, Deputy Associate Administrator for the past year. Previously, most field center directors had reported directly to Dr. Seamans on institutional matters beyond program and contractural administration.
Mercury Procedures Trainer No. 1, redesignated Mercury Simulator, was moved from Langley Field on July 23, 1962, and installed and readied for operations in a Manned Spacecraft Center building at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Texas.
Enos, the 6-year-old chimpanzee who made a two-orbit flight around the earth aboard the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) spacecraft (November 29, 1961, entry) died at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The chimpanzee had been under night and day observation and treatment for 2 months before his death. He was afflicted with shigella dysentary, a type resistant to antibiotics, and this caused his death. Officials at the Air Medical Research Laboratory stated that his illness and death were in no way related to his orbital flight the year before.
Gordon Cooper was named as the pilot for Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day orbital mission slated for April 1963. Alan Shepard, pilot of Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) was designated as backup pilot.
The B. F. Goodrich Company reported that it had successfully designed, fabricated, and tested a pivoted light attenuation tinted visor to be mounted on a government-issued Mercury helmet.
Mercury spacecraft 15A was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) orbital manned 1-day mission.
The Manned Spacecraft Center presented the Department of Defense with recovery and network support requirements for Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day manned orbital mission.
On this date, the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation reported that as of October 31, 1962, it had expended 4,231,021 man-hours in engineering; 478,926 man-hours in tooling; and 2,509,830 man-hours in production in support of Project Mercury.
Retrofire was reported to have initiated 2 seconds late during the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission. Because of this, the mechanics and tolerances of the Mercury orbital timing device were reviewed for the benefit of operational personnel, and the procedural sequence for Mercury retrofire initiation was outlined.
Mercury Simulator 2 was modified to the 1-day Mercury orbital configuration in preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight.
Three categories of experiments were proposed for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) manned orbital mission: (1) space flight engineering and operations, (2) biomedical experiments, and (3) space science. The trailing balloon, similar to the MA-7 (Carpenter flight), was to be included. This balloon would be ejected, inflated, trailed, and jettisoned while in orbit. Another experiment was the installation of a self-contained flashing beacon installed on the retropackage, which would be initiated and ejected from the retropackage during orbital flight. And a geiger counter experiment was planned to determine radiation levels at varying orbital altitudes.
A pre-operational conference for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission was held at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, to review plans and the readiness status of the Department of Defense to support the flight. Operational experiences during the six-orbit Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission were used as a planning guideline.
Information was received from the NASA Inventions and Contributions activity that seven individuals, a majority of whom were still associated with the Manned Spacecraft Center, would receive monetary awards for inventions that were important in the development of Project Mercury. These were: Andre Meyer ($1,000) for the vehicle parachute and equipment jettison equipment; Maxime Faget and Andre Meyer (divided $1,500) for the emergency ejection device; Maxime Faget, William Bland, and Jack Heberlig (divided $2,000) for the survival couch; and Maxime Faget, Andre Meyer, Robert Chilton, Williard Blanchard, Alan Kehlet, Jerome Hammack, and Caldwell Johnson (divided $4,200) for the spacecraft design. Formal presentation of these awards was made on December 10, 1962.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory, charged with the development of the Apollo guidance and navigation system, was in the process of studying the earth's sunset limb to determine if it could be used as a reference for making observations during the mid-course phase of the mission. To obtain data for this study, the laboratory requested that photographic observations be made during the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day orbital mission. Photographic material from the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7 - Carpenter flight) had been used in this study.
Notice was received by the Manned Spacecraft Center from the NASA Office of International Programs that diplomatic clearance had been obtained for a survey trip to be conducted at the Changi Air Field, Singapore, in conjunction with Project Mercury contingency recovery operations. Also, the United Kingdom indicated informally that its protectorate, Aden, could be used for contingency recovery aircraft for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission.
Facilities at Woomera, Australia, a segment of the Mercury global network for telemetry reception and air-to-ground voice communications, was declared no longer required for Mercury flights.
As of this date, the cumulative cost of the Mercury spacecraft design and development program with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, Contract NAS 5-59, had reached $135,764,042. During the tenure of this contract, thusfar, there had been 56 amendments and approximately 379 contract change proposals (CCP). At the end of the year, McDonnell had about 325 personnel in direct labor support of Project Mercury. Between March and May of 1960, the personnel complement had been slightly better than 1,600, representing a considerable rise from the 50 people McDonnell had assigned in January 1959 when study and contract negotiations were in progress. Peak assignments by month and by activity were as follows: Tooling - February 1960; Engineering - April 1960; and Production - June 1960.
After reviewing Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) recovery and network support requirements, the document covering the Department of Defense support of Project Mercury was forwarded to appropriate Department of Defense operational units for indication of their capability to fulfill requirements.
Tentative plans were made by NASA to extend the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight from 18 to 22 orbits.
Final acceptance tests were conducted on the Mercury space flight simulator at Ellington Field, Texas. This equipment, formerly known as the procedures trainer, was originally installed at Langley Field and was moved from that area to Houston. Personnel of the Manned Spacecraft Center and the Farrand Optical Company conducted the acceptance tests.
Mercury spacecraft No. 9A was cycled through Project Orbit Mission Runs 108, 108A, and 108B in the test facilities of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. These runs were scheduled for full-scale missions and proposed to demonstrate a 1-day mission capability. In otherwords, plans called for the operation of spacecraft systems according to the MA-9 flight plan, including the use of onboard supplies of electrical power, oxygen, coolant water, and hydrogen peroxide. Hardlines were used to simulate the astronaut control functions. Runs 108A and 108B were necessitated by an attempt to achieve the prescribed mission as cabin pressure difficulties forced a halt to the reaction control system thrust chamber operations portion of Run 108, although the other systems began to operate as programed. Later in 108 difficulties developed in the liquid nitrogen flow and leaks were suspected. Because of these thermal simulation problems, the test was stopped after 1 hour. Little improvement was recorded in Run 108A as leaks developed in the oxygen servicing line. In addition, cabin pressures were reduced to one psia, and attempts to repressurize were unsuccessful. The run was terminated. Despite the fact that Run 108B met with numerous problems - cabin pressure and suit temperature - a 40-hour and 30-minute test was completed.
The Project Engineering Field Office (located at Cape Canaveral) of the Mercury Project Office reported on the number of changes made to spacecraft 20 (MA-9) as of that date after its receipt at Cape Canaveral from McDonnell in St. Louis. There were 17 specific changes, which follow: one to the reaction control system, one to the environmental control system, seven to the electrical and sequential systems, and eight to the console panels.
The Manned Spacecraft Center presented the proposal to NASA Headquarters that the ground light visibility experiment of the Schirra flight (MA-8) be repeated for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. Objectives were to determine the capability of an astronaut visually to aquire a ground light of known intensity while in orbit and to evaluate the visibility of the light as seen from the spacecraft at varying distances from the light source. Possibly at some later date such lights could be used as a signal to provide spacecraft of advanced programs with an earth reference point. This experiment was integrated as a part of the MA-9 mission.
In the event Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) were flown, 15B would be the prime spacecraft. Modifications were started immediately with respect to the hand controller rigging procedures, pitch and yaw control valves, and other technical changes.
Asked by a Congressional committee if NASA planned another Mercury flight after MA-9, Dr Robert C. Seamans stated, in effect, that schedules for the original Mercury program and the 1-day orbital effort were presumed to be completed in fiscal year 1963. If sufficient test data were not accumulated in the MA-9 flight, backup launch vehicles and spacecraft were available to fulfill requirements.
After reviewing the MA-9 spacecraft system and mission rules, the Simulations Section reported the drafting of a simulator training plan for the flight. Approximately 20 launch reentry missions were scheduled, plus variations of these missions as necessary. Instruction during the simulated orbital period consisted of attitude and fuel consumption studies, and from time to time fault insertions would be integrated to provide a complete range of activities covering all mission objectives. By the end of April 1963, the pilot and backup pilot had accumulated 50 hours in the simulators.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center on a study conducted to ascertain temperature effects on the spacecraft as a result of white paint patch experiments. On both the MA-7 and MA-8 spacecraft, a 6-inch by 6-inch white patch was painted to compare shingle temperatures with an oxidized surface; the basic objective was to obtain a differential temperature measurement between the two surfaces, which were about 6 inches apart. Differences in spacecraft structural points prevented the tests from being conclusive, but the recorded temperatures during the flights were different enough to determine that the painted surfaces were cooler at points directly beneath the patch and on a corresponding point inside the spacecraft. According to McDonnell's analytical calculations, white painted spacecraft were advantageous for extended-range missions. However, McDonnell pointed out the necessity for further study, since one limited test was not conclusive.
Specialty assignments were announced by the Manned Spacecraft Center for its astronaut team: L. Gordon Cooper, Alan B. Shepard, pilot phases of Project Mercury; Virgil I. Grissom, Project Gemini; John H. Glenn, Project Apollo; M. Scott Carpenter, lunar excursion training; Walter M. Schirra, Gemini and Apollo operations and training; Donald K. Slayton, remained in duties assigned in September 1962 as Coordinator of Astronaut Activities. These assignments superseded those of July 1959. Assignments of the new flight-crew members selected on September 17, 1962, were as follows: Neil A. Armstrong, trainers and simulators; Frank Borman, boosters; Charles Conrad, cockpit layout and systems integration; James A. Lovell, recovery systems; James A. McDivitt, guidance and navigation; Elliott M. See, electrical, sequential, and mission planning; Thomas P. Stafford, communications, instrumentation, and range integration; Edward H. White, flight control systems; John W. Young, environmental control systems, personal and survival equipment.
John A. Powers, Public Affairs Officer, Manned Spacecraft Center, told an audience of Texas Associated Press managing editors that Gordon Cooper's MA-9 flight might go as many as 22 orbits, lasting 34 hours.
The Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center published the 22-orbit version of the worldwide Mercury tracking chart. The version of August 1962 covered 18 orbits.
Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Manager, Mercury Project Office, reported the cancellation of a peroxide expulsion experiment previously planned for the MA-9 mission. Kleinknecht noted the zodiacal light experiment would proceed and that the astronaut's gloves were being modified to facilitate camera operation.
Personnel of the Manned Spacecraft Center visited the McDonnell plant in St. ouis to conduct a spacecraft status review. Units being inspected were spacecrafts 15B and 20. In addition, the status of the Gemini Simulator Instructor Console was assessed. With regard to the spacecraft inspection portion, a number of modifications had been made that would affect the simulator trainers. On spacecraft 15B, 15 modifications were made to the control panel and interior, including the relocation of the water separator lights, the addition of water spray and radiation experiment switches and a retropack battery switch. The exterior of the spacecraft underwent changes as well, involving such modifications as electrical connections and redesign of the fuel system for the longer mission. The reviewers found that spacecraft 20 conformed closely to the existing simulator configuration, so that modifications to the simulator were unnecessary.
Manned Spacecraft Center officials announced a delay of the MA-9 scheduled flight data due to electrical wiring problems in the Atlas launch vehicle control system.
At a Development Engineering Inspection for the spacecraft 15B mockup, designated for the MA-10 mission, some 42 requests for alterations were listed.
Originally scheduled for April, the launch date was delayed by a decision to rewire the Mercury-Atlas flight control system, as a result of the launch vehicle checkout at the plant inspection meeting.
This was the ninth flight of a production Mercury spacecraft to be boosted by an Atlas launch vehicle and the sixth manned United States space flight. According to plans, MA-9 would complete almost 22 orbits and be recovered approximately 70 nautical miles from Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean. Primary objectives of the flight were to evaluate the effects of the space environment on an astronaut after more than 1 but less than 2 days in orbit. During this period, close attention would be given to the astronaut's ability to function as a primary operating system of the spacecraft while in a sustained period of weightlessness. The capability of the spacecraft to perform over the extended period of time would be closely monitored. From postflight information, data would be available from the pilot and the spacecraft to ascertain, to a degree, the feasibility of space flights over a much greater period of time - Project Gemini, for example. In addition, the extended duration of the MA-9 mission provided a check on the effectiveness of the worldwide tracking network that could assist in determining the tracking requirement for the advanced manned space flight programs.
The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center on the results of Mercury Project Orbit Run 109. This test run completed a 100-hour full-scale simulated mission, less the reaction control system operation, to demonstrate the 1-day mission capability of the Mercury spacecraft. Again, as in earlier runs, the MA-9/20 flight plan served as the guideline, including the use of onboard supplies of electrical power, oxygen, and coolant water, with hardline controls simulating astronaut functions. During the 2-hour prelaunch hold, a small leak was suspected in the secondary oxygen system, but at the end of the hold all systems indicated a 'GO' condition and the simulated launch began. System equipment programing started and was recycled at the end of each 22 simulated orbits covering 33 mission hours. Test objectives were attained without any undue difficulty.
In announcing a realignment of the structure of the Office of Manned Space Flight, Director D. Brainerd Holmes named two new deputy directors and outlined a changed reporting structure. Dr. Joseph F. Shea was appointed Deputy Director for Systems, and George M. Low assumed duties as Deputy Director for Office of Manned Space Flight Programs. Reporting to Dr. Shea would be Director of Systems Studies, Dr. William A. Lee; Director of Systems Engineering, John A. Gautrand; and Director of Integration and Checkout, James E. Sloan. Reporting to Low would be Director of Launch Vehicles, Milton Rosen; Director of Space Medicine, Dr. Charles Roadman; and Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions, presently vacant. Director of Administration, William E. Lilly, would provide administrative support in both major areas.
The Smithsonian Institution received the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft (MA-6 Glenn flight) in a formal presentation ceremony from Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, the NASA Deputy Administrator. Astronaut John Glenn presented his flight suit, boots, gloves, and a small American flag that he carried on the mission.
Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard, pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission, received a 1-day briefing on all experiments approved for the flight. Also at this time, all hardware and operational procedures to handle the experiments were established.
The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation notified the Manned Spacecraft Center that the ultra high frequency transceivers were being prepared for the astronaut when in the survival raft. During tests of these components, an effective range of 5 to 10 miles had been anticipated, but the actual average range recorded by flyovers was 12 miles. Later, some faults were discovered in the flyover monitoring equipment, so that with adjustments the average range output was approximately 20 miles.
Manned Spacecraft Center checkout and special hardware installation at Cape Canaveral on spacecraft 20 were scheduled for completion as of this date. However, work tasks were extended for a 2-week period because of the deletion of certain experimental hardware - zero g experiment and new astronaut couch. In addition, some difficulties were experienced while testing the space reaction control system and environmental control system.
Mercury spacecraft 9A, configured for manned 1-day mission requirements, completed Project Orbit Run 110. For this test, only the reaction control system was exercised; as a result of the run, several modifications were made involving pressurization and fuel systems.
NASA Headquarters published a study on the ejection of an instrument package from an orbiting spacecraft. By properly selecting the ejection parameters, the package could be positioned to facilitate various observation experiments. From this experiment, if successful, the observation acuity, both visual and electrical, could be determined; this data would assist the rendezvous portion of the Gemini flights.
Based on a request from the Manned Spacecraft Center, McDonnell submitted a review of clearances between the Mercury spacecraft 15B retropack and the launch vehicle adapter during separation maneuvers. This review was prompted by the fact that additional batteries and a water tank had been installed on the sides of the retropack. According to the McDonnell study the clearance safety margin was quite adequate.
The Manned Spacecraft Center received a slow-scan television camera system, fabricated by Lear Siegler, Incorporated, for integration with the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. This equipment, weighing 8 pounds, could be focused on the pilot or used by the astronaut on other objects inside the spacecraft or to pick up exterior views. Ground support was installed at three locations - Mercury Control Center, the Canary Islands, and the Pacific Command Ship - to receive and transmit pictures of Cooper's flight. Transmission capabilities were one picture every 2 seconds.
The National Rocket Club presented to John Glenn, pilot of America's first orbital manned space flight, the Robert H. Goddard trophy for 1963 for his achievement in assisting the advance of missile, rocket, and space flight programs.
For the purpose of reviewing the MA-9 acceleration profile, pilot Gordon Cooper and backup pilot Alan Shepard received runs on the Johnsville centrifuge.
Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard, MA-9 pilot and backup pilot, visited the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina to review the celestial sphere model, practice star navigation, and observe a simulation of the flashing light beacon (an experiment planned for the MA-9 mission).
Langley Research Center personnel visited Cape Canaveral to provide assistance in preparing the tethered balloon experiment for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. This work involved installing force measuring beams, soldered at four terminals, to which the lead wires were fastened.
Full-scale recovery and egress training was conducted for Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard in preparation for the Mercury MA-9 mission. During the exercise, egresses were effected from the spacecraft with subsequent helicopter pickup and dinghy boarding. The deployment and use of survival equipment were also practiced.
The Manned Spacecraft Center published a detailed flight plan, and the assumption was made that the mission would be nominal, with any required changes being made by the flight director. Scheduled experiments, observations, and studies would be conducted in a manner that would not conflict with the operational requirements. Due to the extended duration of the flight, an 8-hour sleep period was programed, with a 2-hour option factor as to when the astronaut would begin his rest period. This time came well within the middle phases of the planned flight and would allow the astronaut ample opportunity to be in an alert state before retro-sequence. In addition to the general guidelines, the astronaut had practically a minute-to-minute series of tasks to accomplish.
Subjects under discussion included recovery procedures, network communications, spacecraft systems, flight plan activities, and mission rules.
In all, the system consisted of a 4-pound, built-in tank, a 3.6 pound auxiliary tank located under the couch head, and six 1-pound auxiliary plastic containers. The total capacity for condensate water storage was 13.6 pounds. In operation, the astronaut hand-pumped the fluid to the 3.6 pound tank to avoid spilling moisture inside the cabin from the built-in tank. Then the 1-pound containers were available.
The Bendix Corporation reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center that it had completed the design and fabrication of an air lock for the Mercury spacecraft. This component was designed to collect micrometeorites during orbital flight. Actually the air lock could accommodate a wide variety of experiments, such as ejecting objects into space and into reentry trajectories, and exposing objects to a space environment for observation and retrieval for later study. Because of the modular construction, the air lock could be adapted to the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft.
Scott Carpenter told an audience at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Second Manned Space Flight Meeting in Dallas, Texas, that the Mercury program would culminate with the 1-day mission of Gordon Cooper.
Spacecraft 20 was moved from Hanger S at Cape Canaveral to Complex 14 and mated to Atlas launch vehicle 130-D in preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. The first simulated flight test was begun immediately.
A number of improvements had been made to the Mercury pressure suit for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight. These included a mechanical seal for the helmet, new gloves with an improved inner-liner and link netting between the inner and outer fabrics at the wrist, and an increased mobility torso section. The MA-9 boots were integrated with the suit to provide additional comfort for the longer mission, to reduce weight, and to provide an easier and shorter donning time. Another change relocated the life vest from the center of the chest to a pocket on the lower left leg. This modification removed the bulkiness from the front of the suit and provided for more comfort during the flight. These are but a few of the changes.
Some 1,020 reporters, commentators, technicians, and others of the news media from the U.S. and several foreign countries gathered at Cape Canaveral, with another 130 at the NASA News Center in Hawaii, to cover the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. Over the course of these days at Cape Canaveral, Western Union estimated that approximately 600,000 words of copy were filed, of which 140,000 were transmitted to European media. This does not include stories phoned in by reporters nor copy filed from the Pacific News Center, or for radio and TV coverage. During the 546,167-statute-mile flight, television audiences could see the astronaut or views inside and outside the spacecraft from time to time. Approximately 1 hour and 58 minutes were programed. Visual coverage was relayed to Europe via satellites.
Dr. Charles A. Berry, Chief, Aerospace Medical Operations Office, Manned Spacecraft Center, pronounced Gordon Cooper in excellent mental and physical condition for the upcoming Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission.
An attempt was made to launch Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9), but difficulty developed in the fuel pump of the diesel engine used to pull the gantry away from the launch vehicle. This involved a delay of approximately 129 minutes after the countdown had reached T-60 minutes. After these repairs were effected, failure at the Bermuda tracking station of a computer converter, important in the orbital insertion decision, forced the mission to be canceled at T-13 minutes. At 6:00 p.m. e.d.t., Walter C. Williams reported that the Bermuda equipment had been repaired, and the mission was rescheduled for May 15, 1963.
As of this date, the number of contractor personnel at Cape Canaveral directly involved in supporting Project Mercury were as follows: McDonnell, 251 persons for Contract NAS 5-59 and 23 persons for spacecraft 15B (MA-10 work); Federal Electric Corporation, 8. This report corresponded with the launch date of astronaut Gordon Cooper in the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9).
Final Mercury mission, Faith 7, was piloted by Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. After 22 orbits, virtually all spacecraft systems had failed, and Cooper manually fired the retrorockets and the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean 34 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds after liftoff. Cooper was reported in good condition, and this turned out to be the final Mercury flight.
On a national televised press conference, emanating from Cocoa Beach, Florida, astronaut Gordon Cooper reviewed his experiences aboard the Faith 7 during the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. Cooper, in his discussion, proceeded systematically throughout the mission from countdown through recovery. He opened his comments by complimenting Calvin Fowler of General Dynamics for his fine job on the console during the Atlas launching. During the flight, he reported that he saw the haze layer formerly mentioned by Schirra during the Sigma 7 flight (MA-8) and John Glenn's 'fireflies' (MA-6). As for the sleep portion, Cooper felt he had answered with finality the question of whether sleep was possible in space flight. He also mentioned that he had to anchor his thumbs to the helmet restraint strap to prevent his arms from floating, which might accidently trip a switch. Probably the most astonishing feature was his ability visually to distinguish objects on the earth. He spoke of seeing an African town where the flashing light experiment was conducted; he saw several Australian cities, including the large oil refineries at Perth; he saw wisps of smoke from rural houses on the Asiatic Continent; and he mentioned seeing Miami Beach, Florida, and the Clear Lake area near Houston. With reference to particular problems while in flight, the astronaut told of the difficulties he experienced with the condensate water pumping system. During the conference, when Dr. Robert C. Seamans was asked about the possibilities of a Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) flight, he replied that 'It is quite unlikely.'
In a White House ceremony, President John F. Kennedy presented astronaut Gordon Cooper with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Other members of the Mercury operations team receiving medals for outstanding leadership were as follows: G. Merritt Preston, Manager of Project Mercury Operations at Cape Canaveral; Floyd L Thompson, Langley Research Center; Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Manager of the Mercury Project Office; Christopher C. Kraft, Director of Flight Operations Division, Manned Spacecraft Center; and Major General Leighton I. Davis, Commander, Air Force Missile Test Center.
President Kennedy at a regular press conference responded to a question regarding the desirability of another Mercury flight by saying that NASA should and would make that final judgement.
William M. Bland, Deputy Manager, Mercury Project Office, told an audience at the Aerospace Writers' Association Convention at Dallas, Texas, that 'contrary to common belief, the Mercury spacecraft consumables have never been stretched like a rubber band to their limit in performing any of the missions.' He pointed out that consumables such as electrical power, coolant water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide absorption were always available with large safety margins at the close of the flights. For example, astronaut Walter Schirra had a 9-hour primary oxygen supply at the end of his flight.
The Department of Defense submitted a summary of its support of the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission, with a notation that the department was prepared to provide support for the MA-10 launch. Other than the provision of the Atlas launch vehicle, the Department of Defense supplied the Air Force Coastal Sentry Quebec, positioned south of Japan to monitor and backup retrofire for orbits 6, 7, 21, and 22. In the southeast Pacific, the Atlantic Missile Range telemetry command ship Rose Knot Victor was positioned to provide command coverage for orbits 8 and 13. At a point between Cape Canaveral and Bermuda, the Atlantic Missile Range C-band radar ship Twin Falls Victory was stationed for reentry tracking, while the Navy's Range Tracker out of the Pacific Missile Range provided similar services in the Pacific. Other Department of Defense communications support included fixed island stations and aircraft from the several services. Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen was in command of Task Force 140, positioned in the Atlantic Ocean in the event of recovery in that area. In addition, aircraft were available at strategic spots for sea recovery or recovery on the American or African Continents. In the Pacific, recovery Task Force 130, under the command of Rear Admiral C.A. Buchanan, was composed of one aircraft carrier and 10 destroyers. This force was augmented by aircraft in contingency recovery areas at Hickam; Midway Island; Kwajalein; Guam; Tachikawa, Japan; Naha, Okinawa; Clark Field, Phillippines; Singapore; Perth, Australia; Townsville; Nandi; Johnston Island; and Tahiti. Pararescuemen were available at all points except Kwajalein. The Middle East recovery forces (Task Force 109) were under the direction of Rear Admiral B.J. Semes and consisted of a seaplane tender and two destroyers supported by aircraft out of Aden, Nairobe, Maritius, and Singapore for contingency recovery operations. For bioastronautic support, the Department of Defense deployed 78 medical personnel, had 32 specialty team members on standby, committed 9 department hospitals and provided over 3,400 pounds of medical equipment. During the actual recovery, the spacecraft was sighted by the carrier USS Kearsarge (Task Force 130), and helicopters were deployed to circle the spacecraft during its final descent. Swimmers dropped from the helicopters to fix the flotation collar and retrieve the antenna fairing. Cooper remained in his spacecraft until he was hoisted aboard the carrier. A motor whaleboat towed the spacecraft alongside the ship.
Officials of the Manned Spacecraft Center made a presentation to NASA Administrator James E. Webb, outlining the benefits of continuing Project Mercury at least through the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission. They thought that the spacecraft was capable of much longer missions and that much could be learned about the effects of space environment from a mission lasting several days. This information could be applied to the forthcoming Projects Gemini and Apollo and could be gained rather cheaply since the MA-10 launch vehicle and spacecraft were available and nearing a flight readiness status.
In preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, should the flight be approved by NASA Headquarters, several environmental control system changes were made in spacecraft 15B. Particularly involved were improvements in the hardware and flexibility of the urine and condensate systems. With regard to the condensate portion, Gordon Cooper, in his press conference, indicated that the system was not easy to operate during the flight of Faith 7 (MA-9).
Testifying before the Senate Space Committee, James E. Webb, the NASA Administrator, said: 'There will be no further Mercury shots . . .' He felt that the manned space flight energies and personnel should focus on the Gemini and Apollo programs. Thus, after a period of 4 years, 8 months, and 1 week, Project Mercury, America's first manned space flight program, came to a close.
NASA and the Mercury managers had to decide whether to undertake another Mercury after Cooper's planned 22 orbit Mercury 9 flight. Walter Williams, Alan Shepard, and others at MSC pushed for a three-day Mercury 10 endurance mission. A capsule was allocated and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission unless Mercury 9 failed. By May 11, 1963 Julian Scheer, the new NASA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, announced 'It is absolutely beyond question that if this shot (MA-9) is successful there will be no MA-10.' The massive breakdown of nearly all systems aboard Mercury 9 convinced NASA that this was the right decision. Aerospace writer Martin Caidin used the Mercury 10 scenario as the basis for his novel, Marooned. In the book, the capsule's retrorockets fail, stranding astronaut Pruett in orbit. He is saved by the combined efforts of NASA Gemini and Russian maneuverable Voskhod spacecraft.