Scott Carpenter & Aurora 7

Uploaded by NASAtelevision on 22.05.2012

5-4-3-2-1- Lift Off…
Aurora Seven.  A capsule named by its pilot, Astronaut Scott Carpenter, leaves earth for
the vastness of space.  
It is the second time the United States will send an American into orbit around the Earth. 
  The first orbiting astronaut, John Glenn,
launched a few months earlier and proved the United States could indeed successfully send
a human being into space, navigate his ship in orbit, and come home to a pre-determined
spot on the planet.   
However… could NASA do it again?  And if so, what difficulties might an astronaut face
with a more rigorous experiment schedule on board.  These and other questions await answers
from Aurora 7.  
For months, the second Mercury capsule planned to take an Astronaut into orbit has steadily
been readied on Launch Pad LC-14.  
Spacecraft No. 18, fresh from McDonnell’s assembly line in St. Louis Missouri, has been
placed above an Atlas D rocket and painstakingly readied for the next opportunity to leave
The official mission objective is simple: “Corroborate man-in-orbit.” The task however,
was anything but.  It would be complex, sophisticated and potentially dangerous.
Project Mercury, named for the mythical speedy messenger of ancient Roman gods, was selected
as the program name to take American astronauts likewise speeding into the heavens.  The
mission would be to study the physiological and psychological affects of space travel
on the human body.   
In total, twenty Mercury vehicles were built and delivered to NASA at Cape Canaveral Florida
between January 12, 1959 and May 16, 1963.  Of the twenty, six carry astronauts for a
total 54 hours of flight time in space; a huge feat for space ship the size of a Volkswagen
Starting in 1959, a total of 508 volunteer military service records are screened and
whittled down to 110 active duty military pilot candidates. 
  From there, the number was finally reduced
to seven, the Mercury Seven, as they would be known. The word Astronaut (beat) would
still need to be invented.  
Over a year of training would follow for newly minted Astronaut Scott Carpenter. Both he
and his equally new Aurora Seven capsule would help take the fledgling NASA onto a journey
with the odds slightly in favor of success.  
While John Glenn’s’ first orbital mission was focused on the effects of microgravity
on the astronaut and his control of the capsule, Carpenters mission is more narrowly focused
on observing the happenings of his spacecraft and the experiments taking place outside the
The early morning launch of the Atlas D rocket was near perfect (beat) however trouble soon
arrived as Aurora 7 slipped into orbit.  
As was experienced by John Glenn in the Friendship 7 capsule, the spacecrafts’ pitch horizon
scanner, an important navigation device for properly aligning the spacecrafts orientation
to the planet had malfunctioned.  
Upon discovery of the malfunctioning scanner, steps are taken to manually correct the flight
However, the adjustments only address a few of the problems that will plague the mission.
  During the first dark side pass, Carpenter
maneuvers his craft to observe ground flare experiments in Australia.  By too eagerly
pulsing the maneuvering jets to rotate the capsule from side to side, (beat) as apposed
to a much slower method of a controlled “rotate and wait method,” the limited hydrogen peroxide
fuel supply is depleted faster than ground controllers anticipate.
  With the aggressive rotations comes an excessive
heat build up inside the capsule.  Carpenter reports that sweat is interfering with his
vision and making course adjustments much more difficult. 
NASA Flight Doctors note a spike in Carpenters body temperature to 102 degrees which may
explain the slowed speech pattern in various reports the astronaut has made to ground control. 
Engineers meet to plan an abort, however a discussion with ground technicians and flight
controllers resolve to continue the mission.  
Soon, planned observations of weightless liquid and orbital targeting balloons, photography
of terrestrial features and other meteorological phenomena are carried out.
  All the while, ground control stations around
the globe maintain a watchful eye on the slowly depleting fuel supply. 
  Unknown to Carpenter or anyone on else the
ground, another malfunction awaits.  
A timing mechanism for the retro rockets attached over the ablative heat shield and key to slowing
the capsule for reentry, is not working properly.  
As the time to fire the rockets automatically fire comes and goes, Carpenter must manually
flip the trigger switch within a second.  Two seconds later, the light of the three
rockets illuminate the night.  
Although three seconds may not appear critical, when one is travelling over seventeen thousand
- five hundred miles an hour or literally five miles per second, three seconds equates
to fifteen miles back on the ground.  
The incorrect angle of reentry puts the Aurora Seven spacecraft nearly two hundred and fifty
miles off course and further away from the US east coast. 
   To survive his decent back into the thick
atmosphere of earth, Carpenter would need to gingerly coax what little fuel remained
and make minor reentry angle adjustments to control his falling capsule by manually steering
the capsule and keeping the horizon in view through his one and only window.
  G forces last longer than originally expected
on the descent but they are welcome as it means aerodynamic pressure is being exerted
against the capsule and helping to keep an even trajectory on the way down.
At 120,000 feet, Carpenter exhausts the very last of his fuel controlling the plummeting
capsule.  If he failed to do so, the capsule might have toppled completely 180 degrees
and face topside down.  Such an occurrence would point the drogue parachute in the wrong
direction and snap the capsule back around so violently that the chute could be destroyed
or severely injure Carpenter.
Oscillations become worse and the capsule begins to sway through a 270 degrees arc;
almost a full circle.  Carpenter has no choice but to manually deploy the drogue chute early
at 26,000 feet, 5,000 feet higher than anticipated, to stabilize the craft.
He holds his breath as the six-foot drogue comes out (beat) in good shape, and the descent
comes back into control.  
Soon, the altimeter shows 10,000 feet, Carpenter manually deploys the chute and slows the craft
before splashdown. 
Back on the ground, Gus Grissom, the second American in space and now capsule communicator
or CAPCOM at Cape Canaveral Control Center advises Carpenter he had indeed overshot his
target area and that recovery teams were on their way.  
Approximately 45 minutes after his splashdown, 1000 miles southeast of the Cape, planes from
the USS Intrepid spot his location.   Two rescue swimmers soon leap from orbiting helicopters
to ensure Carpenter is safe and then proceed to secure a flotation collar to the bobbing
With the capsule secured from sinking, Carpenter offers the rescue swimmers food and water
from his survival kit thankful for a safe return.
  A few hours later, the second American astronaut
to orbit the earth arrives aboard Intrepid and then to Grand Turk Island for debriefing.
  Carpenter is later awarded the NASA Distinguished
Service Medal by Administrator James Webb during a ceremony held at Cape Canaveral on
May 27, 1962 on behalf of a grateful nation.  
His successful mission to carryout important tests and experiments will ultimately show
the Mercury spacecraft system can be improved and become a stable and safe capsule for other
manned orbital missions to follow.  
From Mercury to Gemini.  From Apollo to the Space Shuttle and eventually, Orion.  The
contribution of Scott Carpenter and the thousands of men and women who helped get him to orbit
and safely home, started a legacy that continues to this day. 
  A uniquely American legacy to learn and create
a safe, durable and reliable method for our Astronauts to explore our world and those
beyond the solar system.  
But it is only a part in the larger effort to pioneer the future in space exploration,
to lead scientific discovery and pursue aeronautic research here at home.
  Aurora Seven.  A critical step on the path
to where we will walk (beat) tomorrow.