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NASA Facts Project Mercury and Gemini 1967

NASA Facts Project Mercury and Gemini 1967

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Published by Bob Andrepont

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Mar 29, 2011
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N A S A
~ i l l ~ ~ 
ANEDUCATIO
NAL
PUBL
IC
ATION OF
THENA
TIONAL AERO
NAUTICS AND
SPACE AD
MINI
STRATION
NF-
9/VOl.
II.NO.8
Mann
ed Sp
ace
Flight:
PrOjects
Mer
cu
ry
an
d
Gem
ini
MA
NNED
SPACE
FLIGHT
A majorgoal
of
the UnitedStates space program
is
manned flighttothe moon andsafe return to earth beforethe end
of
this decade.NASA'smannedspaceflight program
has
beendividedintothreestepsorprojects-Mercury, Gemini,andApollo. ProjectMercury
put
mannedspacecraft intoacontrolled earth
orbit
toinvestigateman's per formance capabilitiesand hiscapacitytowithstand theenvironment
of
spaceand to testand success- fully recover the vehicle.Project Gemini has fulfilleditsoriginal objectives; amongthem, extending orbitalmissionsup to two weeks at a time anddeveloping the techniques for orbital rendezvous anddocking,in which twospacevehiclesare maneuvered closetogether andfinally joined.That sametechnique
of
orbital rendezvous-butaround the mooninstead
of
earth -will enableastronautsin thethree-man Apollo spacecraft toachievelunar landin
gs.
O
ne-
m
anMe
rcu
ry
spacecr
aft
(fo
re
gr
ou
nd
)
al
on
gs
i
de
two-man Gemini spacecraft.
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PROJECT
MERCURY
Project Mercury became
an
official program of
NASA
on
November 26, 1958. A Space Task
Gro
up(the forerunner of today's Manned SpacecraftCenter,Houston, Texas)
was
formed at the LangleyResearch Center,Hampton, Virginia.
Seven
astronauts were chosen in April 1959 after a nationwi
de
call for
jet
pilot volunteers.The
one
-man Mercu
ry
spacecraft
was
designedand
built
with a maximum'orbitin'g weight of about 3,200 pounds. Shaped somewhat like a bell (truncated cone
),
the craft
was
74.5 inches wide acrossthe bottom and about 9 feet tall. The astronautescape tower
on
top added another 17 feet for
an
overall length
of
approximately 26 feet at launch.
Two
boosters were chosen -the Army's Redstone(78,000 Ibs. thrust) and Air Force's Atlas (360,
000
Ibs.
thrust)-for suborbital and orbital flights,
re-
Frogmen
fit
a flotation collar to Mercury spacecraft afterits completi
on
of
an
orbital flight missi
on
.
2
spectively.Before the manned flights
began,-
-
Ha
rn
,'the chimp,successfully achieved a suborbital Mercury-Redstone 2
(MR
-
2)
flight
on
January 31,1961.Then all
was
ready for the historic
MR-3
flightof
May
5,
1961,
as
Astronaut Alan B.Shepard, Jr.,made the first
U.S
.manned space flight. His suborbital mission of 15 minutes took his Freedom 7spacecraft 116 miles high into space.After another countdown for
MR-4
on
July
21
,1961, the Redstone booster hurled AstronautVirgil
I.
"Gus" Grissom through the seco
nd
ballistic(suborbital) flight in the Liberty Bell
7.
This ended the Redstone suborbital tests
as
theMercury-Atlas series of flights advanced'to orbit
al
missions. Before the first manned attempt anotherchimp,
Enos
,made
an
orbital flight (MA-5)
on
November 29,1961.
An
MA
-6 space milestone,
on
February 20,
Atlas launches Mercury spacecraft.
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L
-1962;' madeAstronaut John H.Glenn,Jr., thefirst American in orbit, completing threecircuits inFriendship
7.
On
the
MA-7
mission of May 24, 1962, Astronaut
M.
Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 completedanother three-orbitflight.
MA-8
of October
3,
1962,doubled the flighttimein space
as
Astronaut Walter
M.
Schirra, Jr
.,
orbited six times,landing Sigma 7 in the Pacificrecovery area, instead of the Atlantic.Finally,
on
May 15-16,1963,Astronaut
L.
GordonCooper, Jr.'s, Faith7completed a 22-orbit missionof
34
1
/2
hours, triumphantly concluding the flightphaseof Project Mercury.Originally, Project Mercurywasassigned onlytwobroad missions
by
NASA-first, to investigateman's ability to survive and performinthe spaceenvironment;and second, to develop the basicspacetechnology and hardware for manned spaceflightprograms to come.Among the significant aerospace medicalinformation derived from Mercury were:Consumption offoodand beveragesandsleep i
ng
during space flight were proved possible.• Radiation dose received
by
the astronauts
was
considered medically insignificant.All measured physiological functions remainedwithinanticipated ranges throughout all flights.There
was
no
significant degradation of pilot functionattributable to space flight.• Therewas
no
evidence of abnormal sensory,psychiatric,or psychological responses tospaceflight.Thefollowing were also accomplished
in
ProjectMercury:Development of a
NASA
management systemthatcould carryoutmoreadvanced manned space flightventures.Exploration of thefundamenta
Is
of spacecraftreentry.Starting a family of launchvehicles from existi
ng
rockets
that
ledto newbooster designs. • Setting
up
of
an
earth-girdling spacetrackingsystem that was later modified for the Gemini andApollo projects.• Training
of
a pool of astronauts thatcould
be
augmentedto meet therequirements of futurespace exploration programs.
PROJECT
GEMINI
Project Gemini
was
named after the constellati
on
Gemini (Twins).
NASA
decided to follow the Mercury's basic"capsule" design for Geminispacecraft,saving timeand engineering efforts.
Bu
tthetwo-mancraft
was
wider
00
feet), taller
09
feet), and more thantwice
as
heavy(8300 Ibs.).Thesedimensionspro vided 50 percentmore cabin space,makingr
oo
mformuch newequipment andwith
it
fargreaterperformanceflexibility.SinceMercury's RedstoneandAtlas boosters lackedthepowerto
orbit
the heavier two-man craft,a modified version of themilitaryTitanII became the Gemini LaunchVehicle
(GLV),
witha'total thrustof 530,000pounds (first stage, 430,000 pounds). The hypergolic(self-igniting) propellants used were non-explosive,
an
astronaut safety factor.Chosen for Gemini'sprime mission of orbitalrendezvousanddocking
wa
sthe Agena-Dtargetvehicle,amodified version of the reliable Agena-B second stagethat, with Thor or Atlas boosters,
had
orbited many satellitesandlaunched Mariner and Ranger probes.Agena's"stop-and-resta
rt"
rocket engine,capableof
cu
toffand reignition atleast fourtimes,w
as
importantformaneuvers with
Gem
ini. Thehypergolic propellants are UDMH(unsymmetrical dimethylhydr
az
ine)and IRFNA (inhibited
red
fumingnitricacid). Agena-D
is
32feetlongand5feet in diameter andshapedlike a cylinder.
GEMINI FLIGHT STATISTICS
From the first Geminiunmanned flight
on
April,8,1964,to thefinalmanned flight ending Novem ber 15,1966, Geminiflight timetotaled974 hours, 37minutes, and 42seconds.Of this,969hours,
51
minutes,and 26seconds were manned.The highest altitudereached
by
the mannedGemini spacecraft
was
853milesduring theGemini
XI
mission.This
se
ta world's record.Orbitalrendezvous was accomplished 10 times;docking,9 times.Docking, first accomplished March16,1966,in the Gemini8experiment,is another
Gem
inifirstinspace. Gemini astronautsspent atotalof 12 hours 12 minuteswithout the protecti
on
of their spacecraft
in
"space-walk"andother activities.Ina gravity gradientexperiment
(See
Gemini Experiments."),GeminiandAgena,linked
by
atauttether, orbitedearthfor over 4 hoursina station-keeping exercise aimedatsavingmaneuvering fuel.
GEMINI
SPACECRAFT
The Gemini craftwas designedto
be
piloted
by
3
I
I
II
I
I
I
I
I
I
I

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