25 February 2008

Little Joe, Ham, and the Liberty Bell

After the successes of Sputnik and the American satellite, Explorer I, the race for space was on! Well chronicled in titles such as We Seven, The Right Stuff, and others, the American space program and astronauts became the new heroes in the Cold War with the Soviets.

The next big question was getting a man in space. Could it be done? Would they die? It was all unknown at this point.

So we started Project Mercury.....

(Source: Nasa)

Started in 1958 and culminating with a series of manned flights in the early 1960's, Project Mercury, without a doubt, proved man in space was feasible. Said Nasa:

"...Largely because of Project Mercury, which fostered Project Apollo and fathered Project Gemini, the United States had become committed to send men to explore the Moon only 350 years after Galileo first turned a telescope toward Earth's natural satellite...."

(Source: Nasa-This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury)

The program, however, did not always have 100% success. There was wrangling over costs as well as the new, unproven technology. In fact, one of the launches only went four or five inches after liftoff:

"...The expected blast momentarily churned the air around launch complex No. 56. But then the roar stopped as suddenly as it had started. Watching by periscope from the blockhouse, the startled engineers saw the booster wobble slightly on its pedestal and settle back on its fins after, at the very most, a four- or five-inch liftoff. The Rocketdyne A-7 engine shut down, and the escape pylon zipped up 4,000 feet and landed about 400 yards away from the launch site. Three seconds after the escape rocket blew, the drogue package shot upward, and then the main chute spurted out of the top of the capsule followed by the reserve parachute, and both fluttered down alongside the Redstone...."

While today's space travel doesn't seem to make the front page news anymore, it wasn't always this way. Perhaps because of the pioneers such as this first project, this is why. In all, Project Mercury provided leadership, technology, and exploration of space.

Have a great day, see you tomorrow!

Don't forget the links below for much more information in detail.


Nasa Project Mercury

This New Ocean (online book)

Project Mercury (Wikipedia)

Bibliography (Background on Project Mercury)

Nara (search for Project Mercury)

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