Kuiper poses with "Aurora," capsule flown on Mercury Atlas 7.

Mercury-Atlas 7

Kuiper poses with Aurora 7, flown on Mercury-Atlas 7. Thank you @msichicago for allowing Kuiper to make a special visit.

On May 24, 1962, Scott Carpenter became the 2nd American to orbit the Earth. 4 hours, 56 minutes and 5 seconds after launch, he splashed down in the Atlantic ocean 288 miles from where he was supposed to arrive. NASA knew pretty quickly that he had survived the landing, but they weren’t sure exactly where he was; Aurora 7 was farther than the recovery ship’s radar could reach.

Meanwhile, for over half an hour, the public didn’t know whether Scott was still alive. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, commenting live, said “While thousands watch and pray, certainly here at Cape Canaveral, the silence is almost intolerable.” He then choked up as he stated “We may have lost an astronaut.” ?

When the Navy ⚓ swung by to pick Scott up, he was chilling in his life raft with his feet propped up. He even offered the divers some food, which they politely declined. Flight Director Chris Kraft was REALLY displeased by Scott’s relaxed attitude, landing overshoot, and excessive fuel consumption during flight. He vowed that Carpenter would never fly again, and made good on his promise.

During the course of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that Scott Carpenter may not deserve the massive amount of blame he received for problems with MA-7. One of his position sensors was off by 20 degrees, he was arguably given too many science experiments to do in too short a period of time, and there was an issue with the way the capsule’s user interface was designed.

The autopilot and manual pilot systems were completely separate (for good reason.) When you turned on one system, it didn’t automatically turn the other one off. However, there was also no super obvious indicator when both were turned on. This made it easy to accidentally have both systems on, which would burn through fuel like crazy. That’s what happened on a good chunk of MA-7.

In any case, Scott did manage to solve John Glenn’s mystery of the “fireflies.” He determined that they were really “frostflies,” ❄️ i.e. bits of condensation falling off the capsule and sparkling in the sunlight. ?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvS4jd_jmm6/

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