Liftoff of Mercury-Atlas 8!
October 3, 1962, Walter “Wally” Schirra lifted off from Launch Complex 14 (pictured above) in his Sigma 7 capsule.
Schirra rode atop a Mercury-Atlas rocket on NASA’s fifth crewed spaceflight. He orbited Earth six times over a 9 hour and 13-minute long mission, the longest of Project Mercury up to that time.
Unlike some of the other Mercury missions, Schirra’s flight focused on navigation and engineering. Figuring out the specifics of navigation and spacecraft control was critical for Gemini and Apollo, so much of Sigma 7’s mission focused on these engineering goals.
After nine hours, it was time for reentry. Schirra started going through the checklists for what needed to be accomplished before he could perform the retrofire and reentry.
He splashed down and was recovered by the USS Kearsarge, an Essex Class aircraft carrier that entered service just after WWII ended. The USS Kearsarge also participated in the recovery of Sigma 7 and Faith 7.
The last picture shows Schirra’s suit on display in the Cosmosphere’s Hall of Space Museum.
Image credit: NASA and Cosmosphere
Post copy: Cosmosphere volunteer, John Mulnix