Mercury-Atlas 9

The mission Mercury - Atlas 9 (MA -9 ) was the last manned space flight within the U.S. Mercury program.


On 13 November 1962, shortly after the successful flight of Mercury - Atlas 8, NASA announced that the next and final Mercury flight of Gordon Cooper would be carried out. Ensure that the last still waiting astronaut of the Mercury program got its mission. Five of the seven Mercury astronauts had already been carried out flights - the seventh, Deke Slayton, the airworthiness was withdrawn.

As a substitute Alan Shepard was divided, had 3 already conducted on May 5, 1961, Mercury - Redstone ballistic space flight.


This flight was to last with planned 18 orbits significantly longer than the previous, so that some systems of the Mercury spacecraft had to be converted. Four Mercury space ships with the serial numbers 12, 15, 17 and 20 were intended.

The Mercury spacecraft with the serial number 20 was delivered on 9 October 1962 in Cape Canaveral, where further changes were made to her. The Atlas launch vehicle left the factory on 30 January 1963, although first fell through the quality control of NASA, but then was on March 15. On March 21, the rocket on the launch pad was built, the Mercury spacecraft was mounted on 22 April 1963.

Due to increased supplies of water, fuel and oxygen, the weight of the spacecraft took what was offset by the fact that some technical equipment were removed. Among other things, the periscope was removed, which had not been found in previous flights as particularly helpful.

A novelty on board was a special TV camera that could send two frames per second. Appropriate reception facilities there were three of the ground stations. Even Cooper's spacesuit was an evolution of the suits used previously.

Since the earth would rotate under the flight path of MA -9 on, the Mercury spacecraft would sweep over the entire surface of the earth between the 33rd parallel north and 33 degrees south latitude. For this reason, more communication and rescue facilities were still necessary.

Traditionally, the astronaut was allowed to give his spaceship a name. Cooper chose Faith 7 (English Faith = belief ) to be so " trust in God, his country and his teammates " to symbolize.

The launch was scheduled for May 14 first. However, because first a radar station on the Bermudas had problems, and later a diesel drive failed in the launch tower, the schedule had been delayed so far that the launch has been postponed to the following day.

History of the flight

Mercury - Atlas 9 with the spacecraft Faith 7 on the top lifted off on May 15, 1963, reached shortly after an elliptical orbit of 163 km perigee and 265 km apogee. At this height, the friction was so low through the atmosphere that a flight duration was targeted by at least 24 hours.

During the flight, Cooper led by eleven scientific experiments. Among other things, he put out a Weltraumboje of 15 cm diameter to investigate with the help of her flashing light visibility of other missiles. It was the first time that a spacecraft has been exposed to another satellite.

Gordon Cooper was the first American astronaut who was sleeping in orbit. During the waiting time on the launch pad he had dozed off several times. Now In weightlessness, he had to make sure that he does not accidentally touched switches and levers, with its floating arms.

Cooper reported that he could see even relatively small objects such as trucks and houses on the earth's surface, with proper lighting and good contrast from orbit. From the trails of smoke he could estimate wind direction and wind speed.

Towards the end of the flight fell from multiple systems, and Cooper had to initiate the re-entry manually, he was supported by the connection spokesman John Glenn. Faith 7 splashed down near the Midway Islands and was still heaved with Cooper on board the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge, which had already Wally Schirra salvaged with Sigma 7.

Importance for the Mercury Program

MA -9 was the last flight as part of the Mercury program and formed a glittering finale. The initial objectives had been achieved and exceeded. The attention of NASA focused now on the Gemini space ships that were designed for two astronauts in orbit could be controlled. In addition, the Gemini Program couplings saw before in Earth orbit and exits of astronauts, what with Mercury spacecraft was technically not possible.

But because the first Gemini launch had to wait a long time coming, was another Mercury flight in conversation, which should extend the flight duration up to three days. This valuable experience with long -duration flights should be obtained. A Mercury spacecraft with the serial number 15 -B was still available and with Alan Shepard and Gordon Cooper were also prepared two astronauts who were not so much involved in the Gemini program, that they would be there indispensable. The Ministry of Defence had already promised to provide again ships and aircraft for communication and salvage available.

Shepard, who legitimately made ​​his big hopes of a spacecraft in orbit, had already let the name Freedom 7 II paint on the ship, but on June 12, 1963 confirmed the NASA director James E. Webb to the U.S. Senate that it would not be another Mercury flight. Money and labor could thus be concentrated on the Gemini program, which has already suffered delays.

Due to health problems, Alan Shepard was canceled in October 1963 from the list of active astronauts, so that another Mercury flight only by Gordon Cooper could have been carried out as all the other astronauts were already involved in the Gemini project.