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Mercury program

The Mercury program was the United States's first successful manned spaceflight program. It ran from 1959 through 1963 with the goal of putting a man in orbit around the Earth. Early planning and research was carried out by NACA, while the program was officially carried out by the newly created NASA. The name Mercury comes from the Roman god (it is also the name of the innermost planet of the solar system).

Table of contents
1 Spacecraft
2 Boosters
3 Astronauts
4 Flights
5 Follow On Programs
6 Further reading
7 External link


Mercury spacecraft were very small one-man vehicles; it was said that the Mercury spacecraft were not ridden, they were worn. The spacecraft had only attitude and reentry thrusters. They could not effect any orbital changes apart from the reentry burn. The spacecraft were designed to be totally controllable from the ground in the event that the space environment impaired the pilot's ability to function. Suborbital Mercury capsules used beryllium heat-sink heat shields, orbital ones used ablative shields.


The Mercury program used three boosters: Little Joe, Redstone, and Atlas. Little Joe and Redstone were used for suborbital flights, Atlas for orbital ones. The Atlas boosters required extra strengthening in order to handle the increased weight of the Mercury capsules beyond that of the nuclear warheads they were designed to carry. Little Joe was a solid-propellant booster designed specially for the Mercury program.


Mercury had seven prime astronauts, all former military test pilots, known as the "Mercury 7."


The program included 20 unmanned launches. Not all of these were intended to reach space and not all were successful in completing their objectives. The fifth flight in 1959 launched a monkey named Sam into space. Other non-human space-farers were Miss Sam the monkey and
Ham and Enos, both chimpanzees.





(Mercury 5 was an orbital flight manned by Enos the chimp.) A seventh flight (MA-10) was cancelled due to a need to move onto the Gemini program but would have probably been flown by Alan Shepard. On June 12, 1963 NASA Administrator James Webb told Congress the program was complete.

Follow On Programs

Gemini program Apollo program Space Shuttle program

Further reading

External link