Mercury Atlas 5
AKA: Freedom 7 II. Launched: 1963 October. Number crew: 1 .
Mercury 10 was originally planned to be the first one-day Mercury flight. This objective was later assigned to Mercury 9 and Mercury 10 then became the second one-day flight. Later there was budgetary pressure to shut down Mercury and move funds and workers to the Gemini program. NASA and the Mercury managers had to decide whether to undertake another flight after Cooper's planned 22 orbit Mercury 9. By May 11, 1963 Julian Scheer, the new NASA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, announced 'It is absolutely beyond question that if this shot (MA-9) is successful there will be no MA-10.' But at the end of Cooper's flight there was enough oxygen remaining for five days, six days left until his capsule decayed from orbit, and enough attitude control propellant for another two days.
Walter Williams, Alan Shepard, and others at MSC pushed for a three to six day Mercury 10 endurance mission. This would give America the manned space endurance record for the first time and also cover the biological objectives of the first two Gemini missions. The Mercury 15B capsule had already been modified for long-duration flight and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission unless Mercury 9 failed. The massive breakdown of nearly all systems aboard Mercury 9 convinced NASA that this was the right decision. Their risk assessment was also influenced by Martin Caidin's novel, Marooned. In the book, Mercury 10's retrorockets fail, stranding astronaut Pruett in orbit. He is saved by the combined efforts of NASA Gemini and Russian modified Vostok spacecraft. Such resources were not available in real life. On June 12 NASA administrator James Webb told Congress that there would be no Mercury 10 mission. It would have only cost $ 9 million to fly the mission, but deleting it freed up 700 workers to concentrate on project Gemini, which was behind schedule and over budget. On June 13 McDonnell's remaining contract work for Mercury was terminated.
In actuality astronaut Shepard was removed from flight status in October 1963 due to Meniere's syndrome. So if Mercury 10 had occurred, it might well have been flown by Cooper.
After the 2-man space concept (later designated Project Gemini) was introduced in May 1961, a briefing between McDonnell and NASA personnel was held on the matter. As a result of this meeting, space flight design effort was concentrated on the 18-orbit 1-man Mercury and on a 2-man spacecraft capable of advanced missions.
It was returned to McDonnell to be reconfigured to the orbital-manned 1-day mission and tentatively assigned for Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). Redesign was completed, and the spacecraft, then designated number 15A (later redesignated 15B), was delivered to Cape Canaveral on November 16, 1962.
Twenty spacecraft aerial drop tests were planned for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission. One of the prime objectives was to determine if the 63-foot ringsail main recovery parachute met all Mercury mission weight requirements. Tests were scheduled to be conducted at El Centro, California, and all tests would be land drops. This test program was designated Project Reef.
The PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) reporting system became operational on an experimental basis for Mercury. The first PERT report on the Mercury 1-day mission schedule and cost analysis was issued by the Manned Spacecraft Center on April 26, 1962.
Development of an advanced state-of-the-art pressure suit and helmet was started. This action was taken in preparation for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission program. The objectives were aimed at improvements in unpressurized suit comfort, suit ventilation, pressure suit mobility, electrically heated helmet visor with additional light attenuation features, and the fabrication of a mechanical visor seal mechanism.
Project Reef, an airdrop program to evaluate the Mercury 63-foot ringsail main parachute's capability to support the higher spacecraft weight for the extended range or 1-day mission was completed. Tests indicated that the parachute qualified to support the mission.
Based on a request from the Manned Spacecraft Center, McDonnell submitted a review of clearances between the Mercury spacecraft 15B retropack and the launch vehicle adapter during separation maneuvers. This review was prompted by the fact that additional batteries and a water tank had been installed on the sides of the retropack. According to the McDonnell study the clearance safety margin was quite adequate.
As of this date, the number of contractor personnel at Cape Canaveral directly involved in supporting Project Mercury were as follows: McDonnell, 251 persons for Contract NAS 5-59 and 23 persons for spacecraft 15B (MA-10 work); Federal Electric Corporation, 8. This report corresponded with the launch date of astronaut Gordon Cooper in the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9).
William M. Bland, Deputy Manager, Mercury Project Office, told an audience at the Aerospace Writers' Association Convention at Dallas, Texas, that 'contrary to common belief, the Mercury spacecraft consumables have never been stretched like a rubber band to their limit in performing any of the missions.' Additional Details: here....
Officials of the Manned Spacecraft Center made a presentation to NASA Administrator James E. Webb, outlining the benefits of continuing Project Mercury at least through the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission. They thought that the spacecraft was capable of much longer missions and that much could be learned about the effects of space environment from a mission lasting several days. This information could be applied to the forthcoming Projects Gemini and Apollo and could be gained rather cheaply since the MA-10 launch vehicle and spacecraft were available and nearing a flight readiness status.
In preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, should the flight be approved by NASA Headquarters, several environmental control system changes were made in spacecraft 15B. Particularly involved were improvements in the hardware and flexibility of the urine and condensate systems. With regard to the condensate portion, Gordon Cooper, in his press conference, indicated that the system was not easy to operate during the flight of Faith 7 (MA-9).
Testifying before the Senate Space Committee, James E. Webb, the NASA Administrator, said: 'There will be no further Mercury shots . . .' He felt that the manned space flight energies and personnel should focus on the Gemini and Apollo programs. Thus, after a period of 4 years, 8 months, and 1 week, Project Mercury, America's first manned space flight program, came to a close.
McDonnell had already essentially concluded its Mercury activities and spacecraft 15-B had been delivered to Cape Canaveral. A termination meeting held at the Manned Spacecraft Center on June 14 settled the disposition of Mercury property and personnel. McDonnell was to screen all Mercury property for possible use in the Gemini program; any property McDonnell claimed would be transferred to Gemini by authority of the contracting officer at St Louis or the Cape. McDonnell was directed to furnish Gemini Project Office with a list of key Mercury personnel who might be reassigned to Gemini.
Alan Shepard, and others pushed for a six day Mercury 10 endurance mission. This would give America the manned space endurance record for the first time and also cover the biological objectives of the first two Gemini missions. The Mercury 15B capsule had already been modified for long-duration flight and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission.