Wednesday, September 14, 2011

50 YA - Mercury makes an orbit!

MA-4 blasts off from Cape Canaveral.

With the Soviets still gloating about their successful man-in-space program, the NASA engineers were trying to catch up. Fifty years ago on September 13 they made a big step forward. NASA was moving on from the Redstone rocket and was ready to try the Atlas. The Atlas had suffered quite a few malfunctions, some of them tragic, and NASA officials (and astronauts I might add!) were very apprehensive about putting a man on the Atlas.

MA-4 was a test flight for the combination. An unmanned Mercury capsule (8A, which had been previously #8 on an aborted mission) was placed on Atlas rocket LV3-B #88D. It lifted off perfectly from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral in FLorida. The capsule separated as expected and completed an orbit. It successfully returned through the atmosphere and was recovered by the destroyer USS Decatur (DD-936). All of the tests were performed well, relieving the scientists and helping us prepare for the eventual manned flight.

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