Encyclopedia Astronautica
Mercury MR-3A


Crew: Shepard. After booster problems on Mercury MR-2, von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test. This proved to be unnecessary. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, Shepard would have been the first man in space, beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks. Backup crew: Grissom.

After booster problems on the Mercury MR-2 chimp test flight, Von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test flight, against the wishes of Shepard and others at NASA. A Mercury boilerplate capsule was launched on a flawless test on 24 March. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, the manned Freedom 7 capsule would have flown instead. Shepard would have been the first man in space (though not in orbit), beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.

AKA: Freedom 7.
First Launch: 1961.03.24.

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Associated People
  • Shepard Shepard, Alan Bartlett Jr 'Al' (1923-1998) First American in space. Flew on Mercury MR-3, Apollo 14. Grounded due on medical grounds during Gemini, but reinstated, becoming fifth person to walk on the moon. Millionaire entrepreneur on the side. More...
  • Grissom Grissom, Virgil Ivan 'Gus' (1926-1967) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on Mercury MR-4, Gemini 3. Second American in space and first Gemini commander. Flew 100 combat missions in Korea. Died in on-pad fire of Apollo 1. More...

See also
Associated Programs
  • Mercury Mercury was America's first man-in-space project. Setting the precedent for the later Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, any capsule configuration proposed by the contractors was acceptable as long as it was the one NASA's Langley facility, and in particular, Max Faget, had developed. McDonnell, at that time a renegade contractor of innovative Navy fighters that had a history of problems in service, received the contract. The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result. More...

Mercury MR-3A Chronology


1961 March 24 - .
  • Mercury MR-3A (cancelled) - . Call Sign: Freedom 7. Crew: Shepard. Backup Crew: Grissom. Payload: Mercury SC7. Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Shepard; Grissom. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MR-3A. Spacecraft: Mercury. After booster problems on the Mercury MR-2 chimp test flight, Von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test flight, against the wishes of Shepard and others at NASA. A Mercury boilerplate capsule was launched on a flawless test on 24 March. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, the manned Freedom 7 capsule would have flown instead. Shepard would have been the first man in space (though not in orbit), beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.

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