Astronomy

Mercury Space Program



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The Mercury Space Program was made up of six manned flights, and was mandated with three main objectives; to orbit a manned space craft around earth; to experiment with man's abilities to function in the weightlessness and cold of the void of space; and to safely recover both the landing capsule and the astronauts within. Out of the six Mercury Programs, the first, on May 5, 1961, was the first sub-orbital space flight. After it's successful landing, President Kennedy announced to the World that the USA would land a man on the moon within the decade. The Mercury space program, which lasted from May 5th, 1961 to May 15th, 1963, of which the longest flight was 34 hours and 19 minutes, was the first of the three staged missions to put a man on the moon by the American Space Program.

The Mercury Space Program was followed by the Gemini space program, of which the mission objectives were to teach the astronauts how to fly the craft during space flight, to rendezvous with an orbiting craft and successfully dock with it, and to re-enter the atmosphere safely and land in a safe place, preferably the Ocean. After the successful completion of the Mercury Space Program, the Gemini Space Program was given the green light.

The Mercury Space Program was the first step in the United States' objective of beating the Russians to be the first nation to safely put a man on the moon. The Apollo space program was the third and final program for placing a man on the moon, and was done in stages, from reaching, then orbiting, then landing on the Moon. Over a period of two years and eleven days, the Mercury Space Program was designed to teach the astronauts, doctors and mission specialist about the effects of space flight on man, and their ability to function in the cold expanse of space.

There were 6 Mercury flights, each with one astronaut. The last flight was manned by L. Gordon Cooper Jr., and was the first American Space flight to last longer than 24 hours, and the first mission, manned by Alan B. Shepard II, the first American in space, lasted all of 15 minutes. The second Mercury flight lasted a much longer 16 minutes. The Mercury Space Program was the precursor to manned space flight, and taught the astronauts, mission control specialists and space craft designers what types of fuels, materials and equipment were required to successfully allow astronauts to fly into space, orbit the Earth, and re-enter the atmosphere safely. Once completed, the Gemini Space Program would teach the astronauts flight controls and docking procedures.

The most important aspect of the Mercury Space Program, as with the Gemini and Apollo Space Programs, was that they were successful, save for a few catastrophic explosions that destroyed the rockets and delayed the program. With all objectives of the Mercury Space Program successfully completed, the Gemini and Apollo Space Programs were initiated, and eventually, during Apollo VIII, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on the Moon, fulfilling President Kennedys mandate to be the first Nation to put a man on the Moon.

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