Little Bits of History

Miss Sam

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 21, 2011

Miss Sam

January 21, 1960: Little Joe 1B launches successfully and returns to Earth soon after. The flight was a Launch Escape System of the Mercury space program. The US had fallen behind the USSR in the Space Race and was trying valiantly to catch up. Little Joe 2 had launched on December 4, 1959 with the first live passenger. Sam, a Rhesus monkey, was aboard. The test was to see if there would be adverse effects on humans. Sam made it up into space and back, returning to Earth about eleven minutes later. Miss Sam only was aloft for about eight-and-a-half minutes. Two other monkeys were also sent into space – both chimpanzees and launched in 1961. All animals survived.

The Mercury Project ran from 1959 through 1963. The goal of the program was to put a man into orbit around the Earth. This was achieved on February 20, 1962 when John Glenn became the first American in orbit. The entire program included 20 unmanned launches and two suborbital flights followed by four orbital flights with astronaut pilots.

The craft used for the launches was a McDonnell Mercury spacecraft. All manned flights had a crew of one. The height of the capsule was 11.5 feet with a diameter of 6.2 feet. It was cone shaped and had a volume of 60 square feet. The maximum endurance performance was 34 hours or 22 orbits. The astronaut was in a sitting position in the capsule without room for movement. The entire Mercury program cost about $384 million or about $2.9 billion in 2010 USD.

Alan Shepard, Jr. was the first American to launch into space and completed a suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. Gus Grissom followed on July 21, 1961 (Gus died during a pre-launch test of Apollo 1 in 1967). John Glenn’s historic orbit came next. Both Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra, Jr. went into orbit in 1962. The last flight of the Mercury project was in 1963 with Gordo Cooper, Jr. as pilot and the flight was the first to last for more than one day. Three more missions had been scheduled, but were cancelled for various reasons.

“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.” – John Glenn

“It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” – Alan Shepard

“Each test pilot I know considers him, or herself, now that there are women, to be the very best. It’s very demeaning to step down the ladder once in a while.” – Wally Schirra

“Father, we thank you, especially for letting me fly this flight – for the privilege of being able to be in this position, to be in this wondrous place, seeing all these many startling, wonderful things that you have created.” – Gordon Cooper

Also on this day:
The Evil Weed – In 1908, the Sullivan Ordinance, an early smoking ban, was passed and vetoed.
Concorde – in 1976, the Concorde began service.


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