Mercury Medical Operations
As HAS BEEN NOTED, on November 29, 1961, while Enos orbited the earth, Project Mercury officials had announced that John H. Glenn would be the prime astronaut for the first manned orbital mission with M. Scott Carpenter as backup, and that Donald Slayton would be the prime astronaut for the second manned orbital mission with Walter Schirra as backup.1
Through the next weeks the tension once more built tip at Cape Canaveral as the pattern of the Shepard and Grissom flights was repeated on an even more intense scale. Perhaps no part of history has been better documented than the U.S. orbital flights. To recount again the emotional drama that accompanied them-particularly the first U.S. orbital flight-would be anticlimactic. Yet each, in its own fashion, led man progressively further toward his goal of space exploration.
At Cape Canaveral, countdown for Marine officer Glenn began again and again, only to be postponed for first one reason and then another. Disciplined patience now became the supreme virtue as the astronautís will was tested no less than that of the Nation. The fruits of technology were not perfect and there were to be malfunctions; the weather yielded itself to no manís convenience. Astronaut Glenn waited . . .
On February 20, 1962, after eight postponements, he was finally launched and successfully completed three orbits of the earth in his spacecraft Friendship 7. This flight was followed on May 24, 1962 by the MA-7 flight, M. Scott Carpenter's three-orbit flight in the Aurora 7 spacecraft. Originally it had been planned that this flight would be made by "Deke" Slayton, whose grounding for medical reasons in March 1962 is discussed in the next section. Walter M. Schirra, made a six-orbit flight in the Sigma 7 spacecraft (designated the MA-8 flight) on October 3, 1962. On May 15, 1963, Gordon M. Cooper flew the final Mercury orbital mission in the Faith 7 (MA-9 flight), bringing to a close the first phase of the United Statesí manned space flight effort.2
1. Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, Report of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives, 87th Cong. 2d sess. June 7. 1962, p. 68.
2. See: (1) Results of the First
United States Manned Orbital Space Flight. February 20, 1962, Manned Spacecraft
Center, NASA. (2) Results of the Second United States Manned Orbital
Space Flight, May 24, 1962, NASA SP-6. (3) Results of the Third United
States Manned Orbital Space Flight, October 3, 1962, NASA SP-12, 1962.
(4) Mercury Project Summary Including Results of the Fourth, Manned Orbital
Flight, May 15 and 16, 1963, NASA SP-45, 1963.