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What is the Mercury Program?

The Mercury Program began in 1959 by the just-born, Nationa Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It included a number of unpiloted test flights, followed by six piloted missions between 1961and 1963. The Mercury Program marked the U.S. entry into the space race, the contestbetween the United States and Russia.

What were the Mercury spacecraft like?

The Mercury space capsule was bell-shapedand a little less than 9 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It was so small that it could only carry one astronaut at a time. Every Mercury capsule was launched by Redstone rockets, but later in the program they began useing Atlas rockets.      The Redstone rocket was largely developed by Werner von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists who migrated to the United States after World War II and worked at the US Army Ballistic Missile Authority (AMBA) in Huntsville, Alabama. The rocket started as a development for an intermediate range ballistic missile in 1950, and achieved this goal in 1958.  It was first launched at Cape Canaveral in 1961 by NASA. In its original form, the Redstone launched some of the Mercury manned flights. (shown at right)      A solid fuel fourth stage was added to it and the Redstone became the Jupiter C rocket that launched Explorer 1, America's first satellite.    

Who was Ham?

Ham, a chimpanzee, flew into space in January of 1961 as a test flight. Ham returned unharmed, and Mercury was now ready for a human pilot.

Who were the Mercury 7 ?

They were the top U.S. mlitary pilots chosen. They included M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John Glenn Jr., Gus Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepaed Jr., and Donald "Deke" Slayton. All but Slayton, who was discovered to have an irregular heartbeat, flew Mercury missions.
John Glenn Alan Shepard
Did anything ever go wrong with any of the Mercury mission?

Yes, on the second suborbital Mercury flight in July 1961 by us Grissom in the Liberty Bell capsule. On the splashdown, the Liberty Bell took in water and sank, becoming the only Mercury capsule not recovered. Grissom, however, was pulled from the ocean unharmed. Just recently some researchers discovered the Liberty Bell's location and pulled it out of the water to be shipped to a museum where they will restore the capsule.