[Exhibit #1 and #2]
Replica of Friendship 7 capsule that carried John Glenn on his historic orbital flight of Feb. 20, 1962. The capsule was 9 feet long and 6 feet across at its base. At reentry it weighed about 3,000 pounds. Space inside was very tight, with room for only one man.
America's First Spacecraft
The bell-shaped capsule was about 9 feet high and 6 feet across at the base. It was made of resin and fiberglass, with and outer shell of titanium and shingles of nickel-steel and beryllium. Its weight at recovery was under 3,000 pounds — about that of an average car.
The spacecraft was small and designed for only one man. It had one side hatch and, after Freedom 7, one window. Its thrusters controlled the direction of the spacecraft and retrorockets dropped it out of orbit. Parachutes stowed in the top of the capsule were deployed before splashdown.
Sending a Man Into Space, Aboard the Mercury Atlas, Strapped to a Rocket
The Mercury Atlas Booster
The launch vehicle for Friendship 7 was a modified Atlas D rocket, the most powerful rocket the United States had in the early 1960s. The Mercury program used two different rockets (boosters): a Mercury Redstone for the two suborbital flights, and a Mercury Atlas for the four orbital flights.
The Mercury Atlas had been originally developed by the U.S. Air Force, but became known as a family of space launch vehicles.
It was liquid-fueled and reached a speed of 17,500 mph. An escape tower was attached to the cylinder of the spacecraft and would pull it away from the rocket in an emergency.
The Atlas was the United States' most successful commercial launcher of the communications satellites; versions of it were in use for more than 50 years.
Reaching For The Stars
Step One: Project Mercury
Putting a Man in Space....And Bringing Him Back
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was established in 1958 to lead the nation's space exploration program and it began its mission boldly. Only a few months after its formation it announced Project Mercury, the United States' first human space flight program.
The objectives were to orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, investigate human ability to function in space, and recover both astronaut and spacecraft safely.
The program began with unmanned flights, including two which sent chimps into space, and culminated in six manned flights from 1961-63.
With the launch of Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth three times.
"The New Ocean"
Space Race of the 1960s
At the time of the flights of John Glenn and the other Mercury astronauts the United States was locked in a "space race" with the Soviet Union — a technological competition to accomplish real-life exploration of space.
It began with the Soviet launch of the satellite Sputnik in 1957. NASA was established as a U.S. agency in 1958 and Project Mercury was announced soon thereafter.
Three weeks before American Alan Shepard made his flight in the first Mercury launch, the Soviets scored a victory. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, orbiting Earth once.
In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the nation's goal of sending a man to the moon before the decade was over.
"We have a long way to go in this space race. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it." — President Kennedy
On July 20, 1969, President Kennedy's dream was achieved when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong stepped onto its surface.
After almost 20 years, the space race was over. The United States and the Soviet Union would live and work together in space, on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, and today on the International Space Station.
[Exhibit #6 and #7]
John H. Glenn Jr. made history on Feb. 20, 1962, when he became the first American to orbit three times. An icon of the Space Age, he later became a U.S. Senator. In 1998, he returned to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming at 77, the oldest person ever to go into space.
"Godspeed, John Glenn"
John H. Glenn Jr.
On Feb. 20, 1962, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit Earth, making him a national hero and an icon of the Space Age.
As he blasted off in Friendship 7, his backup pilot, Scott Carpenter, pronounced "Godspeed, John Glenn," and the nation held its breath.
He hurtled past the Earth's horizon, approaching the coast of Africa within only 18 minutes. He circled the globe three times, traveling more than 75,000 miles, on a mission that lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds. he splashed down near Grand Turk Island and was recovered safely.
It was a stunning ride. "It's hard to beat a day in which you are permitted the luxury of seeing four sunsets," Glenn said.
Glenn was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. An accomplished Marine Corps fighter pilot, he was selected by NASA in 1959 as one of the Mercury 7 astronauts.
After his historic flight, John Glenn became a celebrity. he was splashed on the covers of magazines around the world. Headlines proclaimed "The Making of a Brave Man" and "Shower of Glory for New American Hero". He was congratulated by the president and Congress.
After retiring from NASA, Glenn entered business and public service. He was a U.S. Senator from Ohio for 25 years.
In 1998, at the end of his Senate career, then 77, he became the oldest person to go into space — bringing his space career full circle, and once again making history.
Embraced By Paradise
Splashdown at Grand Turk
"We'll see you in Grand Turk."
When John Glenn returned to Earth after his history-making orbit, he splashed down here, in the sparkling waters near Grand Turk Island.
Grand Turk was the site of a U.S. Air Force base and one of 18 tracking stations around the world used by the Cape Canaveral Air Force station Eastern Range.
As Glenn made his orbits, communication transferred in sequence from one tracking station to the nest. His target area in the ocean went by the code name "Area Hotel". As he circled the Earth, he looked out the small capsule window and spoke with fellow astronaut Gus Grissom at the Bermuda station.
Glenn: "This is Friendship 7, checking down in Area Hotel on the weather, and it looks good down that way."
Grissom: "Very good. We'll see you in Grand Turk."
Glenn: "I can see clear down, see all the islands clear down that whole chain from up here. Area Hotel looks excellent for recovery."
As Friendship 7 made its approach to splash down, parachutes slowed its fall. Lookouts on the destroyer USS Noa spotted the main red and white parachute from about five miles away.
"Ready for impact," Glenn said.
The capsule splashed down, and only 21 minutes later was hoisted, with Glenn inside, onto the USS Noa. He was transferred by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS Randolph and then flown to Grand Turk where he spent several days.
"There was quite a welcoming committee waiting for me on Grand Turk." — John Glenn, Life magazine, March 9, 1962
Fellow Mercury astronauts came to join Glenn on the island. On a spear fishing excursion Glenn and Carpenter rescued an unconscious skin diver.
Vice President Lyndon Johnson flew to the island to congratulate Glenn and take him home. A photograph taken that day shows Vice President Johnson in front of a building that still stands on the island. Many Air Force base buildings from that era remain, and can be seen as one leaves from the Grand Turk Cruise Center to see the island.
Several months later, Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth, on the Aurora 7 mission. He also splashed down nearby and was transferred to the base at Grand Turk. The island was once again in the news.
Eyes of the World
The splashdown of John Glenn threw this small island into the international spotlight. The island proudly celebrates its connection to the historic flight with this exhibit at the grand Turk Cruise Center.
Today the Air Force base is long since closed, with satellite technology eliminating the need for a tracking station.
[Exhibits #11 and #12]
Scaled replica of the Atlas D rocket which blasted John Glenn into orbit. It was the most powerful U.S. rocket in the early 1960's. The capsule was attached to the top and broke away from the rocket a few minutes after liftoff. Powered by liquid fuel, this rocket was 75 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter.
The Mercury 7
Fearless Explorers - America's First Astronauts
When NASA began planning in 1958 for Project Mercury, one of the earliest objectives was to select the men who would be the first to go into space.
Early in the space program, questions prevailed about the challenges and dangers of sending a human into space. Would his eyeballs lose their shape? Was it possible to swallow food? Would he become disoriented from prolonged weightlessness? Who would have "the right stuff"?
Through a rigorous screening process, out of a pool of more than 100 top military test pilots, eventually seven were chosen. All were under 40, and some faller than 5 feet 11 or more than 180 pounds.
On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced the astronauts to the public. The Mercury 7 captivated the nation and became American heroes — modern explorers in a brave new world of space travel.
Alan B. Shepard Jr.
Shepard was a naval aviator who flew the first Mercury mission, becoming the first American in space on a flight that lasted 15 minutes. In later years, he commanded an Apollo mission and landed on the moon.
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
A former Air Force pilot, Grissom flew the second successful Mercury mission, on the Liberty Bell 7. Six years later, we lost Grissom, White, and Chaffee, the crew of Apollo 1, in a command module fire.
L. Gordon Cooper
Cooper was the last U.S. astronaut to go into space alone. His flight on the spacecraft Faith 7 was the longest of the Mercury missions lasting 22 orbits. he later flew on Gemini, which carried two astronauts.
Walter H. "Wally" Shirra Jr.
A former naval aviator, known as a "textbook" astronaut for his precise style, Schirra piloted the Sigma 7 spacecraft. He splashed down within a few miles of his target after a six-orbit flight. he later flew on missions with Gemini and Apollo.
Donald K. "Deke" Slayton
Slayton, a former Air Force pilot, was the only one of the Mercury 7 who did not fly. He would have flown a second orbital flight, named Delta 7, after being grounded for an undetected medical condition. he was later reinstated and flew in the Apollo-Soyuz Test mission.
John Glenn Jr.
Glenn, a former Marine Corps pilot, was the first American in orbit. He circled the Earth three times on Friendship 7 and returned a celebrity. he later became a U.S. Senator, and returned to space in 1998 on the Space Shuttle Discovery, when he became, at 77, the oldest person to go into space. He splashed down in Grand Turk.
M. Scott Carpenter
Piloting Aurora 7, Carpenter became the second American to orbit Earth. His mission concluded near the Grand Turk shore. Later, on leave from NASA, he participated in the Navy's SEALAB project and became famous for being both an astronaut and an aquanaut.
Mercury and Beyond
NASA Moving Forward
In the years since Mercury, NASA has further pushed the boundaries of space exploration.
Following the Mercury program came the Gemini program, with the first U.S. spacewalks, and Apollo, which sent humans to the moon in perhaps the greatest technological achievement in human history.
Unmanned space probes launched from the 1960s on — Mariner, Voyager, Viking, Galileo, and others — have extended our reach into the solar system and have been our eyes, and ears, to the universe. Rovers have explored the Martian surface and the New Horizons probe sent back stunning images of Jupiter on its way to Pluto and beyond.
Just imagine what discoveries lie ahead?
The Space Shuttle program was the centerpiece of American space exploration for more than 30 years. Its first launch was in 1981. Our space shuttle is the world's only reusable space vehicle, which could take off like a rocket and glide back to Earth for a landing. The program was a huge success, flying more than 133 missions. It also had its tragedies, with the loss of the Challenger spacecraft in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. The orbiters Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavor completed the fleet. By 2011, the program will reach the end of its journey.
International Space Station (ISS): The largest and most complicated spacecraft ever built.
An engineering marvel, the International Space Station is a global endeavor f 16 countries. Construction of the ISS began in 1998. As large as a football field, it could be viewed from Earth with the naked eye. It allows NASA to conduct scientific research to improve life on earth and to prepare for long duration space flights to other destinations beyond "low earth orbit".
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope, a long-term space observatory, was transported into orbit and launched from the space shuttle Discovery in April 1990. it has been an eye in the sky, allowing us to peer deep into the universe and expand our understanding of the cosmos. In the decades since its launch the Hubble Space Telescope has sent back to Earth stunning images that have thrilled the public and revolutionized astronomy.
How Far We've Come.....How Far We'll Go
Space Travel Then and Now
When America's first astronauts ventured into space, a modern age of scientific achievement had dawned.
The Mercury spacecraft was small and cramped compared to modern spacecraft. There was room for only one person, strapped into a molded seat, with one small window. Some say the astronaut "wore" it, rather than riding in it. On the Space Shuttle, each crew member had about 10 times the space that Mercury Astronauts had.
There were no computers and communication was only by radio. Knowing how few technological advantages they had makes their achievement even more remarkable>
In the light today's technology it is difficult to imagine how little was known about the effects of the Space environment on human beings — or to measure the extraordinary courage of the men who went there for us in the beginning.<
[Exhibits #16 and #17]
The sign for Project Mercury, the first U.S. human spaceflight program, is a combination of the astrological symbol for the planet Mercury and the number 7, to represent the number of America's original astronauts.
Meaning of the Mercury 7 Symbol and Spacecraft Names
The symbol for the Mercury space flight program combines the astrological sign for the planet Mercury with the number 7, for the number of the original astronauts.
In astrological symbolism, the crescent of the Mercury symbol represents the mind poised over a circle, representing divine spirit, and a cross, representing physical matter. The crescent points toward the heavens and the cross is rooted in the Earth. Held in balance between the circle of spirit embraces the 7.
Following the long tradition of the pilots naming their own aircraft, the Mercury astronauts chose the names of their spacecrafts.
Chosen for patriotism
Chosen to honor the connection between the astronauts
The mathematical symbol for "sum" — to represent the sum of engineering knowledge
Liberty Bell 7
A reference to the capsule's shape and a symbol of America's freedom
Chose for its significance as a spectacular astronomical phenomenon
Chosen for faith in the success of the mission
The Flight of Aurora 7
Scott Carpenter - 2nd American In Orbit
Only a few months after John Glenn's splashdown in nearby waters, fellow Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit Earth. On May 24, 1962, he blasted off in Aurora 7 and circled the Earth three times.
He completed several scientific experiments in orbit, proving that an astronaut could work in space.
Like Glenn, Carpenter also returned to Earth here. After splashdown, he was transported to Grand Turk Island for two days of debriefings and medical tests.
His mission had its dramatic moments: The spacecraft overshot its target landing area by 250 miles, far from recovery ships. It took on water, and Carpenter had to wait several hours on a life raft for rescue.
From Space To Sea
Carpenter is known for his accomplishments in not only the "new ocean" of space, but also the oceans on Earth. he has the distinction of being called both an astronaut and an aquanaut. In 1965, he participated in the Navy's SEALAB project, working on the ocean floor. He has dived in most of the world's oceans including the Arctic under ice — boldly venturing, yet again, into more frontier.
Back To The Future
The Space Age in Popular Culture
The 1960s marked the height of the fascination with space travel and technology. As the Mercury astronauts bravely blasted off into the unknown, a breathless public watched and waited, thrilled by their journey to a new frontier.
Space fever raged, and influenced popular culture. The imagery and themes of the new era of exploration were everywhere. Movies and TV shows of the '60s — 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lost in Space, The Jetsons, I Dream of Jeannie — imagined the life of astronauts and the world of the future.
The Space Age inspired the design of cars, clothing, furniture, and many consumer products, transforming them with sleek lines and geometric forms.
Fashion models posed in stark, ultramodern designs, with space-like helmets and goggles.
Cars resembled rockets, with exaggerated tail fins and glistening with chrome.
Architecture was influenced, as buildings rose with wing-like rooflines, domes, starburst motifs, and satellite shapes.
Children played with rockets and robots, carried spacemen lunchboxes and drank Tang to be "like the astronauts".
Today, the futuristic looks of the '60s remind us, not so much of an imagined future, but of a time when the promise of space travel first captivated a generation.
This exhibit was designed in collaboration with NASA and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
For more information visit: www.KenedySpaceCenter.com and www.nasa.gov