Extreme close-up of Kuiper looking sad in the bath.

Mercury-Redstone 4

Kuiper reenacts Mercury-Redstone 4. 🏊

On July 21, 1961, the “Liberty Bell 7” (complete with painted “crack”) took flight, piloted by Virgil “Gus” Grissom. The mission was more or less the same as Shepard’s, with the additions of a nice big window (instead of a periscope) to look out of, and an explosive escape hatch. MR-2 (Ham) and MR-3 (Shepard) had a locking hatch which would be too heavy to use for an orbital flight. NASA wanted to test the new hatch design on Grissom’s suborbital flight before using it in orbit.

The flight itself went well (although Gus was a little distracted by the window.) The water landing went well, too. However, when the helicopter 🚁 came to pick him up, the hatch unintentionally blew open by itself, flew away from the capsule (as designed) and promptly sank. Liberty Bell 7 began taking on water.

Gus climbed out and started swimming. The helicopter pilots (as they had been trained to do) made a beeline for the capsule, which was starting to sink. They figured Gus was a good swimmer and would be fine with his watertight suit. However, the chopper pilots struggled with getting the capsule onto their hook as it sank lower and lower in the water. They decided to call a backup helicopter to pick up Gus.

Meanwhile, Gus discovered that he’d forgotten to close the air-intake valve on his suit, which rapidly started filling with water. 😟 Fortunately, the second helicopter got to him just in the nick of time. Just as Gus hooked himself to the rope, he dipped below the surface. After being hauled aboard, he immediately grabbed onto the nearest visible lifevest.

The first helicopter was having a heck of a time; all three wheels were in the water as they hooked the capsule and a warning light showed that the engine was overheating. They ended up having to cut Liberty Bell 7 loose, where it remained on the ocean floor until 1999. It was then brought back to the surface and expertly restored by @kscosmosphere (where I believe it is still on display.)

Next up we’re putting our first American into orbit, but first we’ll need a bigger rocket…

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bup_b7OjcSR/

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