Kuiper poses thoughtfully in a replica Mercury capsule.

Mercury-Atlas 6

Friendo 7 is go for launch. Dogspeed, Kuiper Glenn.

Kuiper explores a replica Mercury capsule at @chabotspace. Thank you Chabot Space & Science Center and Mike M for making this special visit possible.

On February 20, 1962, Friendship 7 shot into space with John Glenn aboard. Thus commenced the first manned orbital Mercury mission. The launch itself went well, and according to the Mercury-Atlas 6 transcript Glenn found zero-g “very comfortable….very normal and very good.” He also observed “thousands of small, luminous particles swirling around the capsule” (a mystery which we’ll solve in the next mission.)

Meanwhile, flight controllers at the Mercury Control Center were trying to fend off heart attacks. A sensor had indicated to the folks on the ground that Friendship’s heat shield might not be securely attached. No-one wanted an extra crispy John Glenn upon re-entry, so this posed a problem. In addition, half of the ground stations were reporting the error and half of them weren’t. Thus Mission Control considered that it could just be a false alarm. If it wasn’t, however, the results could be disastrous.

At first, Mission Control kept Glenn in the dark while they gathered more information and worked out a plan. They even hung up the phone ☎️ on President Kennedy, who had planned on speaking with the first American in orbit. After asking Glenn if he’d heard any “banging noises,” (answer: no) Mission Control eventually settled on the idea of keeping the retrorocket pack on during reentry.

The retros are a set of small engines strapped to the bottom of the capsule that help slow it down for re-entry before it enters atmosphere. Keeping them attached to the capsule after they’d done their job was risky; if one of the 3 engines failed to fire, its unused fuel would likely explode upon hitting atmosphere. However, any possibility of the heat shield flying off was even riskier.

Mission Control’s idea worked and all 3 retros fired. ? After a harrowing few minutes, Glenn successfully splashed down (though 40 miles off course.) He and his capsule were recovered by the USS Noa, upon which JFK was finally able to get through to him on the phone. ??

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvMjh6yjlx_/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *