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|Mission type||Test flight|
|Mission duration||16 minutes, 39 seconds|
|Distance travelled||679 kilometers (422 mi)|
|Apogee||253 kilometers (157 mi)|
|Launch mass||1,203 kilograms (2,652 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||January 31, 1961, 16:55 UTC|
|Rocket||Redstone MRLV MR-2|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral LC-5|
|End of mission|
|Recovered by||USS Donner|
|Landing date||January 31, 1961, 17:12 UTC|
Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) was the test flight of the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle just prior to the first crewed American space mission in Project Mercury. Carrying a chimpanzee named Ham on a suborbital flight, Mercury spacecraft Number 5 was launched at 16:55 UTC on January 31, 1961 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capsule and Ham landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean 16 minutes and 39 seconds after launch.
The previous Mercury-Redstone mission, MR-1A, flew a trajectory that was too steep with accelerations too high for a human passenger. MR-1A had climbed to its programmed apogee of about 130 miles (209 km) and landed 235 miles (378 km) downrange. Mercury-Redstone 2 would follow a more flattened trajectory. Its planned flight path was an apogee of 115 miles (185 km) and a range of 290 miles (467 km).
Mercury spacecraft No. 5 contained six new systems that had not been on previous flights: environmental control system, attitude stabilization control system, live retrorockets, voice communications system, "closed loop" abort sensing system, and a pneumatic landing bag.
Six chimpanzees (four female and two male) and 20 medical specialists and animal handlers from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where the chimpanzees lived and were trained, were moved into quarters behind Hangar S at Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 2, 1961. The six chimpanzees were trained in Mercury simulators for three weeks. The day before the flight, two chimpanzees were chosen for the mission: one primary, Ham, and one backup, a female chimpanzee named Minnie. The competition was fierce, but Ham was full of energy and good humor. Ham was named in honor of Holloman Aerospace Medical Center. Ham was from Cameroon, Africa, (original name Chang, Chimp No. 65) and was purchased by the USAF July 9, 1959. He was 3 years 8 months old at launch.
At 12:53 UTC, January 31, 1961, Ham was inserted into the spacecraft. The countdown was then delayed almost four hours because of a hot inverter, and several other minor problems.
At 16:55 UTC the MR-2 lifted off. One minute after the launch, computers reported that the flight path angle was at least one degree too high and rising. At two minutes, the computers predicted a 17 g (167 m/s²) acceleration. At 2 minutes 17 seconds into the flight, the Redstone's liquid oxygen (LOX) fuel was depleted. The closed-loop abort system sensed a change in engine chamber pressure when the LOX supply was depleted and fired the launch escape system. The abort signaled a Mayday message to the recovery forces.
The high flight angle, and the early abort, caused the maximum velocity of the spacecraft, relative to the Earth's surface, to be 7,540 ft/s (2,298 m/s) instead of the planned 6,465 ft/s (1,970 m/s). The retrorockets had been jettisoned during the abort and therefore could not be used to slow down the spacecraft. All of this added up to an overshoot of the planned landing area by 130 miles (209 km) and an apogee of 157 miles (253 km) instead of 115 miles (185 km).
Another problem occurred at 2 minutes and 18 seconds into the flight, when cabin pressure dropped from 5.5 to 1 lb/in² (38 to 7 kPa). This malfunction was traced later to the air inlet snorkel valve. Vibrations had loosened a pin in the snorkel valve and allowed the valve to open. Ham was safe in his own couch spacesuit and did not suffer any ill effects from the loss of cabin pressure. His couch spacesuit pressure remained normal, and suit temperature stayed well within the 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 26 °C) optimum range.
Because of over-acceleration of the launch vehicle and the boost from the escape rocket, a speed relative to the Earth's surface of 5,140 mph (8,270 km/h) was reached instead of the 4,400 mph (7,081 km/h) planned. At apogee Ham's spacecraft was 48 miles (77 km) farther downrange than planned. Ham was weightless for 6.6 minutes instead of the 4.9 minutes that were planned. The spacecraft landed 422 miles (679 km) downrange after a 16.5-minute flight. He received 14.7 g (144 m/s²) during reentry, almost 3 g (29 m/s²) greater than planned.
Ham performed his tasks well, pushing levers about 50 times during the flight. Onboard cameras filming Ham's reaction to weightlessness showed a surprising amount of dust and debris floating around inside the capsule during apogee.
The spacecraft splashed down about 12:12 pm. EST, out of sight from recovery forces. About 12 minutes later, the first recovery signal was received from the spacecraft. Tracking showed it was about 60 miles (96 km) from the nearest recovery ship. Twenty-seven minutes after landing, a search plane sighted the capsule floating upright in the Atlantic. The search plane requested that the Navy send its rescue helicopters from the closest ship carrying them.
When helicopters arrived they found the spacecraft on its side, taking on water, and submerging. Upon water impact, the beryllium heat shield had bounced against the capsule bottom, punching two holes in the titanium pressure bulkhead. The landing bag had worn badly, and the heatshield was torn free from the spacecraft before recovery. After the craft capsized, the open snorkel valve let still more sea water enter the capsule. When the helicopter crew finally latched onto and picked up Ham's spacecraft at 18:52 UTC., they estimated there was about 800 pounds (360 kg) of sea water aboard. The spacecraft was flown to and lowered to the deck of USS Donner. When the spacecraft was opened Ham appeared to be in good condition and readily accepted an apple and half an orange.
With the malfunctions during the flight, the Mercury-Redstone was deemed not ready for a human passenger planned for MR-3. It was postponed pending a final booster development flight, Mercury-Redstone BD.
After his spaceflight, Ham was transferred to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for 17 years and then in 1981 was moved to a zoo in North Carolina to live with a colony of other chimpanzees. He died on January 19, 1983, at the age of 26. Ham is buried at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, New Mexico. He was one of many animals in space.
Ham's backup, Minnie, was the only female chimpanzee trained for the Mercury program. After her role in the Mercury program ended, Minnie became part of an Air Force chimp-breeding program, producing nine offspring and helping raise the offspring of several other members of the chimpanzee colony. She was the last surviving astro-chimp. She died at the age of 41 on March 14, 1998.
Mercury spacecraft No. 5, used in the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission, is currently displayed at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, California.
|T+00:00:00||Liftoff||Mercury-Redstone lifts off, onboard clock starts.|
|T+00:00:16||Pitch Program||Redstone pitches over 2 deg/s from 90 deg to 45 deg.|
|T+00:00:40||End Pitch Program||Redstone reaches 45 deg pitch.|
|T+00:01:00||Anomaly||Computers report pitch angle is 46 deg and rising.|
|T+00:01:24||Max Q||Maximum dynamic pressure ~575 lbf/ft² (27.5 kPa).|
|T+00:02:17||BECO||Redstone engine shutdown – Booster Engine Cutoff 3 seconds early.|
|T+00:02:17||Abort, Capsule Separation||Launch escape system fired, mayday message signal sent to the recovery forces.|
|T+00:02:18||Malfunction||Snorkel valve opened, cabin pressure dropped from 5.5 to 1 psi (38 to 7 kPa).|
|T+00:02:19||Retro Pack Jettison||Retro pack is jettisoned, leaving heatshield clear.|
|T+00:02:20||Tower Jettison||Escape Tower Jettison.|
|T+00:02:35||Turnaround Maneuver||Capsule ASCS system rotates capsule 180 degrees, to heat shield forward attitude. Nose is pitched down 34 degrees.|
|T+00:05:00||Apogee||Apogee of about 157 miles (252.7 km) reached at 198 miles (317 km) downrange from launch site.|
|T+00:05:45||Retract Periscope||Periscope is automatically retracted in preparation for reentry.|
|T+00:06:20||Retro Attitude Maneuver||ASCS orients capsule in 34 degrees nose down pitch, 0 degrees roll, 0 degrees yaw.|
|T+00:08:24||.05 G Maneuver||ASCS detects beginning of reentry and rolls capsule at 10 degrees per second to stabilize capsule during reentry.|
|T+00:10:47||Drogue Parachute Deploy||Drogue parachute deployed at 22,000 ft (6.7 km) slowing descent to 365 ft/s (111 m/s) and stabilizing capsule.|
|T+00:10:54||Snorkel Deploy||Fresh air snorkel deploys at 20,000 ft (6 km). ECS switches to emergency oxygen rate to cool cabin.|
|T+00:11:24||Main Parachute Deploy||Main parachute deploys at 10,000 ft (3 km). Descent rate slows to 30 ft/s (9 m/s)|
|T+00:11:29||Landing Bag Deploy||Landing bag deploys, dropping heat shield down 4 ft (1.2 m).|
|T+00:11:29||Fuel Dump||Remaining hydrogen peroxide fuel automatically dumped.|
|T+00:16:39||Splashdown||Capsule lands in water about 422 mi (679 km) downrange from launch site.|
|T+00:16:39||Rescue Aids Deploy||Rescue aid package deployed. The package includes green dye marker, recovery radio beacon and whip antenna.|
Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States, running from 1958 through 1963. An early highlight of the Space Race, its goal was to put a man into Earth orbit and return him safely, ideally before the Soviet Union. Taken over from the US Air Force by the newly created civilian space agency NASA, it conducted 20 uncrewed developmental flights, and six successful flights by astronauts. The program, which took its name from Roman mythology, cost $2.27 billion. The astronauts were collectively known as the "Mercury Seven", and each spacecraft was given a name ending with a "7" by its pilot.
Ham, also known as Ham the Chimp and Ham the Astrochimp, was a chimpanzee and the first great ape launched into space. On January 31, 1961, Ham flew a suborbital flight on the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission, part of the U.S. space program's Project Mercury.
Vostok 2 was a Soviet space mission which carried cosmonaut Gherman Titov into orbit for a full day on August 6, 1961, to study the effects of a more prolonged period of weightlessness on the human body. Titov orbited the Earth over 17 times, exceeding the single orbit of Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1 − as well as the suborbital spaceflights of American astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom aboard their respective Mercury-Redstone 3 and 4 missions. Titov's number of orbits and flight time would not be surpassed by an American astronaut until Gordon Cooper's Mercury-Atlas 9 spaceflight in May 1963.
Mercury-Redstone 3, or Freedom 7, was the first United States human spaceflight, on May 5, 1961, piloted by astronaut Alan Shepard. It was the first crewed flight of Project Mercury. The project had the ultimate objective of putting an astronaut into orbit around the Earth and return him safely. Shepard's mission was a 15-minute suborbital flight with the primary objective of demonstrating his ability to withstand the high g-forces of launch and atmospheric re-entry.
Mercury-Redstone 4 was the second United States human spaceflight, on July 21, 1961. The suborbital Project Mercury flight was launched with a Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, MRLV-8. The spacecraft, Mercury capsule #11, was nicknamed the Liberty Bell 7. It was piloted by astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom.
Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) was the first American orbital spaceflight, which took place on February 20, 1962. Piloted by astronaut John Glenn and operated by NASA as part of Project Mercury, it was the fifth human spaceflight, preceded by Soviet orbital flights Vostok 1 and 2 and American sub-orbital flights Mercury-Redstone 3 and 4.
Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) was the fifth United States crewed space mission, part of NASA's Mercury program. Astronaut Walter M. Schirra Jr., orbited the Earth six times in the Sigma 7 spacecraft on October 3, 1962, in a nine-hour flight focused mainly on technical evaluation rather than on scientific experimentation. This was the longest U.S. crewed orbital flight yet achieved in the Space Race, though well behind the several-day record set by the Soviet Vostok 3 earlier in the year. It confirmed the Mercury spacecraft's durability ahead of the one-day Mercury-Atlas 9 mission that followed in 1963.
Mercury-Atlas 5 was an American spaceflight of the Mercury program. It was launched on November 29, 1961, with Enos, a chimpanzee, aboard. The craft orbited the Earth twice and splashed down about 200 miles (320 km) south of Bermuda, and Enos became the first primate from the United States and the third great ape to orbit the Earth.
Before humans went into space in the 1960s, several other animals were launched into space, including numerous other primates, so that scientists could investigate the biological effects of spaceflight. The United States launched flights containing primate passengers primarily between 1948 and 1961 with one flight in 1969 and one in 1985. France launched two monkey-carrying flights in 1967. The Soviet Union and Russia launched monkeys between 1983 and 1996. Most primates were anesthetized before lift-off.
Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) was the first attempt to launch a Mercury capsule and occurred on July 29, 1960 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft was unmanned and carried no launch escape system. The Atlas rocket suffered a structural failure 58 seconds after launch at an altitude of approximately 30,000 feet (9.1 km) and 11,000 feet (3.4 km) down range. All telemetry signals suddenly ceased as the vehicle was passing through Max Q. Because the day was rainy and overcast, the booster was out of sight from 26 seconds after launch, and it was impossible to see what happened.
Mercury-Redstone 1 (MR-1) was the first Mercury-Redstone uncrewed flight test in Project Mercury and the first attempt to launch a Mercury spacecraft with the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle. Intended to be an uncrewed sub-orbital spaceflight, it was launched on November 21, 1960 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch failed in abnormal fashion: immediately after the Mercury-Redstone rocket started to move, it shut itself down and settled back on the pad, after which the capsule jettisoned its escape rocket and deployed its recovery parachutes. The failure has been referred to as the "four-inch flight", for the approximate distance traveled by the launch vehicle.
Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) was launched on December 19, 1960 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission objectives of this uncrewed suborbital flight were to qualify the spacecraft for space flight and qualify the system for an upcoming primate suborbital flight. The spacecraft tested its instrumentation, posigrade rockets, retrorockets and recovery system. The mission was completely successful. The Mercury capsule reached an altitude of 130 miles (210 km) and a range of 235 miles (378 km). The launch vehicle reached a slightly higher velocity than expected - 4,909 miles per hour (7,900 km/h). The Mercury spacecraft was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by recovery helicopters about 15 minutes after landing. Serial numbers: Mercury Spacecraft #2 was reflown on MR-1A, together with the escape tower from Capsule #8 and the antenna fairing from Capsule #10. Redstone MRLV-3 was used. The flight time was 15 minutes and 45 seconds.
Mercury-Redstone BD was an uncrewed booster development flight in the U.S. Mercury program. It was launched on March 24, 1961 from Launch Complex 5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission used a boilerplate Mercury spacecraft and Redstone MRLV-5.
Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was an unmanned test flight of the Mercury program using the Atlas rocket. It launched on February 21, 1961 at 14:10 UTC, from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Little Joe 5 was the November 8, 1960, unmanned atmospheric test flight of the Mercury spacecraft, conducted as part of the U.S. Mercury program. The objective was to test a production Mercury capsule (#3) and the launch escape system during an ascent abort at maximum dynamic pressure. The mission was launched from Wallops Island, Virginia. Sixteen seconds after liftoff, the escape rocket and the tower jettison rocket both fired prematurely. Furthermore, the booster, capsule, and escape tower failed to separate as intended. The entire stack was destroyed on impact with the Atlantic Ocean. The Little Joe 5 flew to an apogee of 10.1 miles (16.2 km) and a range of 13 miles (20.9 km). Some capsule and booster debris was recovered from the ocean floor for post flight analysis.
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The Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, designed for NASA's Project Mercury, was the first American crewed space booster. It was used for six sub-orbital Mercury flights from 1960–1961; culminating with the launch of the first, and 11 weeks later, the second American in space. The four subsequent Mercury human spaceflights used the more powerful Atlas booster to enter low Earth orbit.
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This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents ofthe National Aeronautics and Space Administration .
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