Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Space Savvy

The Mercury Program Part 2

A continuing series on the history of the NASA program.

Scott Carpenter was the second American to orbit the Earth and the fourth American in space. He is also one of the two surviving Mercury Seven along with John Glenn. He may be lucky to be alive at all.

After the Freedom 7, Liberty Bell 7 and Friendship 7 came Scott Carpenter's spacecraft named _______________.

1. Rainbow 7
2. Jupiter 7
3. Venus 7
4. Aurora 7
5. Pluto 7

The answer is 4. Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962. His flight lasted five hours and his craft attained a maximum altitude of 164 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,532 miles per hour. He identified the mysterious fireflies reported by astronaut John Glenn as small particles of frozen liquid which he nicknamed "frostflies."

Scott Carpenter's flight was very controversial. Some reports claim he was so taken with the view that he used up much of his fuel moving his craft around to sightsee. As a result, it was unknown if he had enough fuel available for re-entry. For the first time, conflicts developed between Mission Control and the astronaut. Carpenter had to manually turn the capsule and fire the retrorockets to enter the atmosphere. While mission control waited in tense silence, Scott Carpenter entered radio blackout and lost contact with Mission Control for:

1. 4 minutes

2. 6 minutes

3. 10 minutes

4. 20 minutes

5. 4o minutes

Scott Carpenter was out of contact for 40 minutes. Mission Control feared his craft had entered at the wrong angle and burned up. They were on the verge of declaring the first astronaut had been lost in the space program when he was located in good health. Because of his manual reentry, he splashed down about 250 miles beyond the recovery area. He floated in the Atlantic for three hours awaiting recovery.

Some accounts claim Carpenter's craft had a pitch horizon scanner that malfunctioned, resulting in the overconsumption of fuel and the loss of fuel was not due to his efforts to see the sights.

Carpenter took a leave of absence from the program in late 1963 to train as:

1. a photographer

2. a member of the Sealab

3. a racecar driver

4. an actor

5. an airline pilot

Carpenter trained for the Navy's Sealab program. After injurying his left arm in a motorbike accident, he failed to regain mobility in his arm after two surgeries in 1964 and 1967. He was then ruled ineligible for spaceflight and resigned from NASA in August 1967. He then became the director of Aquanaut Operations for Sealab III.

Walter Schirra was the next astronaut in space. How many orbits did he fly?

1. Six

2. Four

3. Two

4. One

5. He never made orbit

Walter Schirra's Sigma 7 Mercury flight lasted 9 hours, 15 minutes and he completed six orbits of the Earth. Schirra was later in the pilot command seat for both the Gemini 6 and Apollo VII missions.

Gordon Cooper was the final astronaut to fly a Mercury spacecraft in Faith 7. He completed twenty two orbits over the course of 34 hours and 20 minutes, traveled 546,167 statute miles, was the last man to fly solo in Earth orbit and was the first to do what in space?

1. play cards

2. read a book

3. sleep

4. see Venus

5. eat dinner

Gordon Cooper was the first astronaut to sleep in space. Cooper later participated in Gemini flights and captured the top number of man-hours in space by accumulating a total of 225 hours and 15 minutes.

Recap of the Mercury Program Flights:

Alan Shepard - Freedom 7 - launched May 5, 1961, suborbital flight

Gus Grissom - Liberty Bell 7 - launched July 21, 1961, suborbital flight

John Glenn - Friendship 7 - launched February 20, 1962, first orbital flight, 3 orbits

Scott Carpenter - Aurora 7 - launched May 24, 1962, second orbital flight, 3 orbits

Walter Schirra - Sigma 7 - launched October 3, 1962, 6 orbits

Gordon Cooper - Faith 7 - launched May 15, 1963, 22 orbits

Full Names, Ranks and Branch of Service of the Mercury 7:

Lieutenant Malcolm Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy

Captain LeRoy Gordon Cooper, Jr., U.S. Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

Lieutenant Commander Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., U.S. Navy

Lieutenant Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., U.S. Navy

Captain Donald Kent Slayton, U.S. Air Force

Next Post in the Series: The Gemini Program

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