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Grissom

Mercury 4
Credit - NASA

21 July 1961 12:20 GMT. Landing Date: 1961-07-21 12:35:37 PM. Flight Time: 0.0108 days. Flight Up: Mercury MR-4. Flight Back: Mercury MR-4. Call Sign: Liberty Bell 7. Crew: Grissom. Backup Crew: Glenn. Location of Capsule: In the Atlantic Ocean (5 km deep, 832 km NW of Grand Turk island, 1961-1999; Kansas Cosmosphere thereafter. Program: Mercury.

Quote: It's such a fascinating view out the window you just can't help but look out that way.

On the lighter side: Prior to Grissom's 15 minute flight, engineer Sam Beddingfield gave him a crossword puzzle...' since the flight load has been reduced, we didn't want you to get bored'...since the capsule had been named 'Liberty Bell', engineers painted a crack on it...after it sank in the Atlantic, it was agreed they would never do that again...

What went wrong: Hatch blew after splashdown; capsule sank; astronaut barely saved before drowning. The Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7, manned by Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, boosted by a Redstone rocket, reached a peak altitude of 190.3 km and a speed of 8,335 km per hour. After a flight of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, the landing was made 487 km downrange from the launch site. The hatch blew while still in water, and the capsule sank; Grissom saved, though his suit was filling up with water through open oxygen inlet lines.

This was the second and final manned suborbital Mercury Redstone flight, and the first flight with trapezoidal window. Further suborbital flights (each astronaut was to make one as a training exercise) were cancelled. An attempt to recover the capsule in very deep water in 1994 not successful. It was finally raised in the summer of 1999.

Official NASA Account of the Mission from This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, by Loyd S. Swenson Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander, NASA Historical Series SP-4201, 1966.


Grissom was unruffled, calm, and poised as he entered Liberty Bell 7. The count resumed and proceeded smoothly until 45 minutes before launch time, when a gantry technician discovered that one of the 70 hatch bolts was misaligned. A 30-minute hold was called, during which the McDonnell and STG supervisory engineers decided that the remaining 69 bolts were sufficient to hold and blow the hatch, so the misaligned bolt was not replaced. The countdown was resumed, but two more holds for minor reasons cost another hour's wait.
Mercury MR-4
Grissom is hoisted from the water...
Credit- NASA

Alone in his capsule awaiting liftoff, Grissom experienced a wide range of impressions. As the gantry, or service structure, moved back from the launch vehicle, he had the illusion that he was falling. His pulse rate ranged from 64 to 162 beats per minute, depending upon his feelings. His heart beat rose during the oxygen purge, fell while the hatch bolt repair decision was being made, rose again when the go decision was made, and finally doubled at launch. His liftoff was at 7:20a.m.

Grissom later admitted at the postflight debriefing that he was "a bit scared" at liftoff, but he added that he soon gained confidence along with the g buildup. Hearing the engine roar at the pedestal, he thought that his elapsed-time clock had started late. Like Shepard, he was amazed at the smooth quality of the liftoff, but then he noticed gradually more severe vibrations, never violent enough to impair his vision. To the watchers on the ground, the Redstone and the capsule appeared to rise slowly and to pass through a thin, broken cloud window. Then the rocket disappeared, leaving a contrail that was visible on the beach for about a minute. Grissom's cabin pressure sealed off at the proper altitude, about 27,000 feet, and he felt elated that the environmental control system was in good working order. The suit and cabin temperature, about 57.5 and 97 degrees F, respectively, were quite comfortable. Watching his instruments for the pitch rate of the Redstone, Grissom saw it follow directions as programmed, tilting over about one degree per second.

Under a 3-g load on the up-leg of his flight, Grissom noticed a sudden change in the color of the horizon from light blue to jet black. His attention was distracted by the noise of the tower-jettison rocket firing on schedule. The pilot felt the separation and watched the tower through the window as it drifted off, trailing smoke, to his right. At two minutes and 22 seconds after launch, the Redstone's Rocketdyne engine cut off after building a velocity of 6561 feet per second. Grissom had a strong sensation of tumbling during the transition from high to zero g, and, while he had become familiar with this sensation in centrifuge training, for a moment he lost his bearings.

The Redstone coasted for 10 seconds after its engine cut off; then a sharp report signaled that the posigrade rockets were popping the capsule loose from the booster. Although Grissom peered out his window throughout his ship's turnaround maneuver, he never caught sight of his launch vehicle. Angular motion was perceptible to Grissom only by watching the needle move on the dial or by seeing an Earth reference by chance. Another cue to the spacecraft's movement was the Sun's rays, which gradually moved up his torso toward his face, threatening temporary blindness. Grissom fretted over the automatic turnaround that should have reversed the capsule faster.
Mercury MR-4
Somber Grissom aboard the carrier...
Credit- NASA

With turnaround accomplished, the Air Force jet pilot for the first time became a space pilot, assuming manual-proportional control. A constant urge to look out the window made concentrating on his control tasks difficult. He told Shepard back in Mercury Control that the panorama of Earth's horizon, presenting an 800-mile arc at peak altitude, was fascinating. His instruments rated a poor second to the spectacle below.

Turning reluctantly to his dials and control stick, Grissom made a pitch movement change but was past his desired mark. He jockeyed the handcontroller stick for position, trying to damp out all oscillations, then made a yaw movement and went too far in that direction. By the time the proper attitude was attained, the short time allocated for these maneuvers had been used, so he omitted the roll movement altogether. The manual controls impressed Grissom as very sluggish when compared to the Mercury procedures trainer. Then he switched to the new rate command control system and found perfect response, although fuel consumption was high.

After the pitch and yaw maneuvers, Grissom made a roll-over movement so he could see the ground from his window. Some land beneath the clouds (later determined to be western Florida around the Apalachicola area) appeared in the hazy distance, but the pilot was unable to identify it. Suddenly Cape Canaveral came into view so clearly that Grissom found it hard to believe that his slant-range was over 150 miles.

He saw Merritt Island, the Banana River, the Indian River, and what appeared to be a large airport runway. South of Cape Canaveral, he saw what he believed to be West Palm Beach. He tried to report to Shepard on the high-frequency communications circuit every landmark he saw, but his transmissions were not received. These observations got Grissom behind in his work procedures, as he realized when he saw the periscope retract.

With Liberty Bell 7 at an altitude of 118.26 miles, it was now time to position the spacecraft in its reentry attitude. Grissom had initiated the retrorocket sequence and the capsule was arcing downward. His pulse reached 171 beats per minute.Retrofire gave him the distinct and peculiar feeling that he had reversed his backward flight through space and was actually moving face forward. As he plummeted downward, he saw what appeared to be two of the spent retrorockets pass across the periscope view after the retrorocket package had been jettisoned.

Pitching the spacecraft over into a reentry attitude of 14 degrees from Earth-vertical, the pilot tried to see the stars out his observation window. Instead the glare of sunlight filled his capsule, making it difficult to read the panel dials, particularly those with blue lights. Grissom felt that he would not have noticed the .05-g light if he had not known it was about to flash on.

Reentry presented no problem. Grissom could not feel the oscillations following the g buildup; he could only read them on the rate indicators. Meanwhile he continued to report to the Mercury Control Center on his electric current reading, fuel quantity, g loads, and other instrument indications. Condensation and smoke trailed off the heatshield at about 65,000 feet as Liberty Bell 7 plunged back into the atmosphere.

The drogue parachute deployed on schedule at 21,000 feet. Grissom said he saw the deployment and felt some resulting pulsating motion, but not enough to worry him. Main parachute deployment occurred at 12,300 feet, which was about 1,000 feet higher than the design nominal altitude. Watching the main chute unfurl, Grissom spotted a six-inch L-shaped tear and another two-inch puncture in the canopy. Although he worried about them, the holes grew no bigger and his rate of descent soon slowed to about 28 feet per second. Dumping his peroxide control fuel, the pilot began transmitting his panel readings.

A "clunk" confirmed that the landing bag had dropped in preparation for impact. Grissom then removed his oxygen hose and opened his visor but deliberately left the suit ventilation hose attached. Impact was milder than he had expected, although the capsule heeled over in the water until Grissom was lying on his left side. He thought he was facing downward. The capsule gradually righted itself, and, as the window cleared the water, Grissom jettisoned the reserve parachute and activated the rescue aids switch. Liberty Bell 7 still appeared watertight, although it was rolling badly with the swells.

Preparing for recovery, he disconnected his helmet and checked himself for debarkation. The neck dam did not unroll easily; Grissom tinkered with his suit collar to ensure his buoyancy if he had to get out of the spacecraft quickly. When the recovery helicopters, which had taken to the air at launch time and visually followed the contrails and parachute descent, were still about two miles from the impact point, which was only three miles beyond the bullseye, Lieutenant James L. Lewis, pilot of the primary recovery helicopter, radioed Grissom to ask if he was ready for pickup. He replied that he wanted them to wait five minutes while he recorded his cockpit panel data. Using a grease pencil with the pressure suit gloves was awkward, and several times the suit ventilation caused the neck dam to balloon, but the pilot simply placed his finger between neck and dam to allow the air to escape.

After logging the panel data, Grissom asked the helicopters to begin the approach for pickup. He removed the pin from the hatch-cover detonator and lay back in the dry couch. "I was lying there, minding my own business," he said afterward, "when I heard a dull thud." The hatch cover blew away, and salt water swished into the capsule as it bobbed in the ocean. The third man to return from space was faced with the first serious emergency; Liberty Bell 7 was shipping water and sinking fast.

Grissom had difficulty recollecting his actions at this point, but he was certain that he had not touched the hatch-activation plunger. He doffed his helmet, grasped the instrument panel with his right hand, and scurried out the sloshing hatchway. Floating in the sea, he was thankful that he had unbuckled himself earlier from most of his harness, including the chest restraints. Otherwise he might not have been able to abandon ship.

Lieutenant John Reinhard, copilot of the nearest recovery helicopter, reported afterward that the choppers were making their final approach for pickup. He was preparing to cut the capsule's antenna whip (according to a new procedure) with a squib-actuated cutter at the end of a pole, when he saw the hatch cover fly off, strike the water at a distance of about five feet from the hatch, and then go skipping over the waves. Next he saw Grissom's head appear, and the astronaut began climbing through the hatch. Once out, the pressure-suited spaceman swam away.

Instead of turning his attention to Grissom, Lewis completed his approach to the sinking spacecraft, as both he and Reinhard were intent on capsule recovery. This action was a conditioned reflex based on past training experience. While training off the Virginia beaches the helicopter pilots had noted that the astronauts seemed at home in and to enjoy the water. So Reinhard quickly clipped the high-frequency antenna as soon as the helicopter reached Liberty Bell 7. Throwing aside the antenna cutting device, Reinhard picked up the shepherd's hook recovery pole and carefully threaded the crook through the recovery loop on top of the capsule. By this time Lewis had lowered the helicopter to assist Reinhard in his task to a point that the chopper's three wheels were in the water. Liberty Bell 7 sank out of sight, but the pickup pole twanged as the attached cable went taut, indicating to the helicopter pilots that they had made their catch.

Reinhard immediately prepared to pass the floating astronaut the personnel hoist. But at that moment Lewis called a warning that a detector light had flashed on the instrument panel, indicating that metal chips were in the oil sump because of engine strain. Considering the implication of impending engine failure, Lewis told Reinhard to retract the personnel hoist while he called the second chopper to retrieve the pilot.

Meanwhile Grissom, having made certain that he was not snared by any lines, noticed that the primary helicopter was having trouble raising the submerged spacecraft. He swam back to the capsule to see if he could assist but found the cable properly attached. When he looked up for the personnel line, he saw the helicopter start to move away.

Suddenly Grissom realized that he was not riding as high in the water as he had been. All the time he had been in the water he kept feeling air escape through the neck dam. The more air he lost, the less buoyancy he had. Moreover, he had forgotten to secure his suit inlet valve. Swimming was becoming difficult, and now with the second helicopter moving in he found the rotor wash between the two aircraft was making swimming more difficult. Bobbing under the waves, Grissom was scared, angry, and looking for a swimmer from one of the helicopters to help him tread water. Then he caught sight of a familiar face, that of George Cox, aboard the second helicopter. Cox was the copilot who had retrieved both the chimpanzee Ham and Astronaut Shepard. With his head barely above water, Grissom found the sight of Cox heartening.

Cox tossed the "horse-collar" lifeline straight to Grissom, who immediately wrapped himself into the sling backwards. Lack of orthodoxy mattered little to Grissom now, for he was on his way to the safety of the helicopter, even though swells dunked him twice more before he got aboard. His first thought was to get a life preserver on. Grissom had been either swimming or floating for a period of only four or five minutes, "although it seemed like an eternity to me," as he said afterward.

As the first helicopter moved away from Grissom, it struggled valiantly to raise the spacecraft high enough to drain the water from the impact bag. Once the capsule was almost clear of the water, but like an anchor it prevented the helicopter from moving forward. The flooded Liberty Bell 7 weighed over 5,000 pounds, a thousand pounds beyond the helicopter's lifting capacity. The pilot, watching his insistent red warning light, decided not to chance losing two craft in one day. He finally cast loose, allowing the spacecraft to sink swiftly. Martin Byrnes, aboard the carrier, suggested that a marker be placed at the point so that the capsule might be recovered later. Rear Admiral J. E. Clark advised Byrnes that in that area the depth was about 2,800 fathoms.

On the carrier Randolph, examining physicians Strong and Laning, the same men who had gone over Shepard, found Grissom extremely tired. But the MR-4 astronaut elected to proceed with his preliminary debriefing before going on to Grand Bahama. The recovery finale, of course, continually intruded in the discussion. Grissom said he was extremely grateful to Walter Schirra for the developmental work he had done on the neck dam. He felt that this had saved his life, although later tests disclosed other difficulties. The debriefing sessions aboard the Randolph and at Grand Bahama centered on the need for more egress training (there had been none since April) and the formulation of specific emergency recovery procedures. Grissom said that he thought he should have been a little more precise in his attitude control functions. This was a moot point in view of the sluggishness he had encountered with the manual system and the apparent play in the control stick linkage. Other than this anomaly, the spacecraft had performed well; noises of the sequential events had provided good cues; vibrations had been minimal; the new window had been a delight and should prove useful on orbital flights; and the environmental control system had functioned well. But, said Grissom, there were too many couch restraint straps; the panel lights were too dim; the oxygen consumption rate was high; the urinal device needed further development; the high-frequency communication circuit was unsuccessful; and hydrogen peroxide fuel consumption proved to be high on the rate control system. The last item of that list caused little concern among the Space Task Group engineers, for they had decided that the rate command mode would be used primarily for reentry, when fuel economy was less important.

At Grand Bahama, Grissom rested and appeared to have suffered no abnormal effects from flight into space. The evaluators conceded, however, that the abnormal recovery experience would have made any such effects difficult to analyze or to attribute to flight causes. Further questioning of the astronaut followed the routine established in Shepard's debriefing.

Obviously one of the major problems to be explained and resolved following the flight of Liberty Bell 7 was the malfunction of the explosive egress hatch. Before the mission, Minneapolis-Honeywell had conducted environmental tests to qualify the hatch and igniter assembly. Although the tests had been run with the pin installed, conditions had been severe. The component had been subjected to low and high temperature ranges, a 100-g shock force, and salt-spray and water-immersion tests. After MR-4, the Space Task Group established a committee that included Astronaut Schirra to study the hatch problem. Tests were conducted in an environment even more severe than that used by the manufacturer, but no premature explosions occurred. Studies were made of individuals operating the panel switches on the side nearest the actuator; the clearance margin appeared to be adequate. According to Schirra, "There was only a very remote possibility that the plunger could have been actuated inadvertently by the pilot."

The mystery of Grissom's hatch was never solved to everyone's satisfaction. Among the favorite hypotheses were that the exterior lanyard might have become entangled with the landing bag straps; that the ring seal might have been omitted on the detonation plunger, reducing the pressure necessary to actuate it; or that static electricity generated by the helicopter had fired the hatch cover. But with the spacecraft and its onboard evidence lying 15,000 feet down on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, it was impossible to determine the true cause. The only solution was to draft a procedure that would preclude a recurrence: henceforth the astronaut would not touch the plunger pin until the helicopter hooked on and the line was taut. As it turned out, Liberty Bell 7 was the last manned flight in Project Mercury in which helicopter retrieval of the spacecraft was planned. In addition, Grissom would be the only astronaut who used the hatch without receiving a slight hand injury. As he later reminded Glenn, Schirra, and Cooper, this helped prove he had not touched his hatch plunger.


Excerpts from the Flight Transcript

Complete MR-4 Mission Transcript

00:01 Stony: Lift-off.

00:03 Bell 7: Ah, Roger. This is Liberty Bell 7. The clock is operating.

00:08 Cap Com: Loud and clear, Jose, don't cry too much.

00:11 Bell 7: Oke-doke.

00:18 Bell 7: OK, it's a nice ride up to now.

00:20 Cap Com: Loud and clear.

00:00 Bell 7: Roger.

00:28 Bell 7: OK. The fuel is go; about 1 1/2 g's; cabin pressure is just coming off the peg; the O2 is go; we have 26 amps.

00:00 Cap Com: Roger. Pitch [attitude] 88 [degrees], the trajectory is good.

00:39 Bell 7: Roger, looks good here.

00:54 Bell 7: OK, there. We're starting to pick up a little bit of the noise and vibration; not bad, though, at all. 50 secs, more vibration.

00:01 Bell 7: OK. The fuel is go; 1 1/2 g's; cabin is 8 [psi]; the O2 is go; 27 amps.

00:01 Bell 7: And...

01:09 Cap Com: Pitch is...

01:10 Bell 7: 4 [g], 5 [g]...

01:11 Cap Com: Pitch [attitude] is 77 [degrees]; trajectory is go.

01:13 Bell 7: Roger. Cabin pressure is still about 6 [psi] and dropping slightly. Looks like she's going to hold about 5.5 [psi].

01:23 Bell 7: Eh...

00:01 Cap Com: Cabin...

01:24 Bell 7: Believe me, O2, is go.

01:26 Cap Com: Cabin pressure holding 5.5 [psi].

01:29 Bell 7: Roger, roger.

01:31 Bell 7: This is Liberty-Bell 7. Fuel is go; 2 1/2 g's; cabin pressure 5.5; O2 is go; main [bus] 25 [volts], isolated - ah, isolated [bus] is 28 [volts]. We are go.

00:01 Cap Com: Roger. Pitch [attitude] is 62 [degrees]; trajectory is go.

00:01 Bell 7: Roger. It looks good in here.

01:56 Bell 7: Everything is good; cabin pressure is holding; suit pressure is OK; 2 minutes and we got 4 g's; fuel is go; ah, feel the hand controller move just a hair there; cabin pressure is holding, O2 is go; 25 amps.

02:15 Cap Com: Roger, we have go here.

00:02 Bell 7: And I see a star!

02:17 Cap Com: Stand by for cutoff.

02:23 Bell 7: There went the tower.

00:02 Chase: Roger, there went the tower, affirmative. Chase.

02:26 Bell 7: Roger, squibs are off.

00:02 Cap Com: Roger.

02:33 Bell 7: There went posigrades, capsule has separated. We are at zero g and turning around and the sun is really bright.

00:02 Cap Com: Roger, cap. sep. [capsule separation light] is green; turnaround has started, manual handle out.

02:47 Bell 7: Oh boy! Manual handle is out; the sky is very black; the capsule is coming around into orbit attitude; the roll is a little bit slow.

03:01 Cap Com: Roger.

03:02 Bell 7: I haven't seen a booster anyplace. OK, rate command is coming on. I'm in orbit attitude, I'm pitching up. OK, 40... Wait, I've lost some roll here someplace.

00:03 Cap Com: Roger, rate command is coming on. You're trying manual pitch.

00:03 Bell 7: OK, I got roll back. OK, I'm at 24 [degrees] in pitch.

00:03 Bell 7: Roger, your IP [impact point] is right on, Gus, right on.

00:03 Bell 7: OK. I'm having a little trouble with rate, ah, with the manual control.

03:28 Cap Com: Roger.

03:31 Bell 7: If I can get her stabilized here, all axes are working all right.

03:36 Cap Com: Roger. Understand manual control is good.

00:03 Bell 7: Roger, it's - it's sort of sluggish, more than I expected.

03:45 Bell 7: OK, I'm yawing.

00:03 Cap Com: Roger, yaw.

03:50 Bell 7: Left, ah.

00:03 Bell 7: OK, coming back in yaw. I'm a little bit late there.

00:03 Cap Com: Roger. Reading you loud and clear, Gus.

00:04 Bell 7: Lot of stuff - there's a lot of stuff floating around up here.

04:02 Bell 7: OK, I'm going to skip the yaw [maneuver], ah, or [rather the] roll [maneuver] because I'm a little bit late and I'm going to try this rough yaw maneuver. About all I can really see is clouds. I haven't seen any land anyplace yet.

04:15 Cap Com: Roger, you're on the window. Are you trying a yaw maneuver?

00:04 Bell 7: I'm trying the yaw maneuver and I'm on the window. It's such a fascinating view out the window you just can't help but look out that way.

04:25 Cap Com: I understand.

00:04 Bell 7: You su, ah, really. There I see the coast, I see.

00:04 Cap Com: 4+30 [elapsed time since launch] Gus.

04:33 : 4+30 [elapsed time since launch] he's looking out the window, A - OK.

00:04 Bell 7: I can see the coast but I can't identify anything.

04:42 Cap Com: Roger, 4+30 [elapsed time since launch] Gus.

04:44 Bell 7: OK, let me get back here to retro attitude, retro sequence has started.

04:48 Cap Com: Roger, retro sequence has started. Go to retro attitude.

04:52 Bell 7: Right, we'll see if I'm in bad, not in very good shape here.

04:57 Cap Com: Got 15 seconds, plenty of time, I'll give you a mark at 5:10 [elapsed time since launch].

00:05 Bell 7: OK, retro attitude [light] is still green.

05:05 Cap Com: Retros on my mark, 3, 2, 1, mark.

00:00 Cap Com: He's in limits. [Falls in the middle of last Cap Com communication.]

00:05 Bell 7: OK, there's 1 firing, there's 1 firing.

05:12 Bell 7: Retro 1. [Cuts out Bell 7.]

00:05 Cap Com: Roger, retro 1.

05:19 Bell 7: There's 2 firing, nice little boost. There went 3.

05:21 Cap Com: Roger, 3, all retros are fired.

00:05 Bell 7: Roger, roger.

00:05 Bell 7: OK, yeh, they're fired out right there.

05:29 Cap Com: Roger, retrojettison armed.

00:05 Bell 7: Retrojettison is armed, retrojettison is armed, going to rate command.

05:36 Bell 7: OK, I'm going to switch.

05:38 Cap Com: Roger. Understand manual fuel handle is in.

05:41 Bell 7: Manual fuel handle is in, mark, going to HF.

00:05 Cap Com: Roger, HF.

05:52 Cap Com: Liberty Bell 7, this is Cap Com on HF, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. How do you read [Bell] 7?

00:00 Bell 7: I got you.

06:08 Bell 7: ... here, do you read me, do you read me on HF? ... Going back to U [UHF]... [received by ATS ship]. Boy is that... Retro, I'm back on UHF and, ah, and the jett - the retros have jettisoned. Now I can see the Cape any, oh boy, that's some sight. I can't see too much.

06:25 Cap Com: This is Cap Com on HF, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. How do you read, [Bell] 7?

06:34 Bell 7: Roger, I am on UHF high, how you read me?

06:38 Cap Com: Roger, reading you loud and clear UHF high, can you confirm retro-jettison?

06:41 Bell 7: OK, periscope is retracting, going to reentry attitude.

06:47 Cap Com: Roger. Retros have jettisoned, scope has retracted, you're going to reentry attitude.

00:06 Bell 7: Affirmative.

00:06 Cap Com: Bell 7 from Cap Com, your IP [impact point] is right on.

00:07 Bell 7: Roger. I'm in reentry attitude.

00:07 Bell 7: Ah.

07:07 Cap Com: Roger, how does it look out the window now?

00:07 Bell 7: Ah, the sun is coming in and so all I can see really is just, ah, just darkness, the sky is very black.

00:07 Cap Com: Roger, you have some more time to look if you like.

07:27 Cap Com: [Bell] 7 from Cap Com, how do you feel up there?

07:30 Bell 7: I feel very good, auto fuel is 90 [percent], manual is 50 [percent].

00:07 Cap Com: Roger, 0.05 g in 10 [seconds].

07:37 Bell 7: OK.

00:07 Bell 7: OK, everything in very good, ah.

07:54 Bell 7: I got 0.05 g [light] and roll rale has started.

07:57 Cap Com: Roger.

00:08 Bell 7: Got a pitch rate in here, OK, g's are starting to build.

08:09 Cap Com: Roger, reading you loud and clear.

08:11 Bell 7: Roger, g's are building, we're up to 6 [g].

08:17 Bell 7: There's 9 [g].

08:19 Bell 7: There's about 10 [g]; the handle is out from under it; here I got a little pitch rate coming back down through 7 [g].

08:32 Cap Com: Roger, still sound good.

00:08 Bell 7: Oh, the altimeter is active at 65 [thousand feet]. There's 60 [thousand feet].

00:08 Cap Com: Roger, 65,000.

08:42 Bell 7: OK, I'm getting some contrails, evidently shock wave, 50,000 feet; I'm feeling good. I'm very good, everything is fine.

00:08 Cap Com: Roger, 50,000.

08:52 Bell 7: 45,000, do you still read?

08:54 Cap Com: Affirmative. Still reading you. You sound good.

00:09 Bell 7: OK, 40,000 feet, do you read?

09:07 Bell 7: 35,000 feet, if you read me.

09:19 Bell 7: 30,000 feet, everything is good, everything is good.

09:24 Cap Com: Bell 7, this is Cap Com. How...

00:00 Bell 7: Cape, do you read?

09:28 Bell 7: 25,000 feet.

00:09 Bell 7: Approaching drogue chute attitude.

00:09 Bell 7: There's the drogue chute. The periscope has extended.

09:45 Cap Com: This is... we have a green drogue [light] here, 7 how do you read?

00:09 Bell 7: OK, we're coming down to 15,000 feel, if anyone reads. We're on emergency flow rate, can see out the periscope OK. The drogue chute is good.

00:00 Cap Com: Roger, understand drogue is good, the periscope is out.

00:10 Bell 7: There's 13,000 feet.

00:00 Cap Com: Roger.

10:14 Bell 7: There goes the main chute; it's reefed; main chute is good; main chute is good; rate of descent coming down, coming down to - there's 40 feet per second, 30 feet per, 32 feet per second on the main chute, and the landing bag is out green.

00:00 Bell 7: Ah, it's better than it was, Chuck.

00:10 Bell 7: Hello, does anybody read Liberty Bell, main chute is good, landing bag [light] is on green.

00:00 Cap Com: And the landing bag [light] is on green.

00:00 ATS: Liberty Bell 7, Liberty Bell 7, this is Atlantic Ship Cap Com. Read you loud and clear. Our telemetry confirms your events. Over.

00:00 Bell 7: Ah, roger, is anyone reading Liberty Bell 7? Over.

00:00 Card File 23: Roger, Liberty Bell 7, reading you loud and clear. This is Card File 23. Over.

10:52 Bell 7: Atlantic Ship Cap Com, this is Liberty Bell 7, how do you read me? Over.

00:00 ATS: Read you loud and clear, loud and clear. Over. Liberty Bell 7, Liberty Bell 7, this is Atlantic Ship Cap Com. How do you read me? Over.

11:12 Bell 7: Atlantic Ship Cap Com, this is Liberty Bell 7, I read you loud and clear. How me? Over.

00:00 ATS: Roger, Bell 7, read you loud and clear, your status looks good, your systems look good, we confirm your events. Over.

11:28 Bell 7: Ah, Roger, and confirm the fuel has dumped. Over.

00:00 ATS: Roger, confirm again, confirm again, has your auto fuel dumped? Over.

00:11 Bell 7: Auto fuel and manual fuel has dumped.

00:00 ATS: Roger, roger.

00:11 Bell 7: And I'm in the process of putting the pins back in the door at this time.

12:04 Bell 7: OK, I'm passing down through 6,000 feet, everything is good, ah.

12:15 Bell 7: I'm going to open my face plate.

12:35 Bell 7: Hello, I can't get one; I can't get one door pin back in. I've tried and tried and I can't get it back in. And I'm coming, ATS, I'm passing through 5,000 feet and I don't think I have one of the door pins in.

00:00 ATS: Roger, Bell 7, Roger.

13:04 Bell 7: Do you have any word from the recovery troops?

00:00 Card File 23: Liberty Bell 7, this is Card File 23; we are heading directly toward you.

13:18 Bell 7: ATS, this is Cap - this is Liberty Bell 7. Do you have any word from the recovery troops?

00:00 ATS: Negative, Bell 7, negative. Do you have any transmission to MCC [Mercury Control Center]? Over.

13:33 Bell 7: Ah, Roger, you might make a note that there is one small hole in my chute. It looks like it's about 6 inches by 6 inches - it's a sort of a - actually it's a triangular rip, I guess.

00:00 ATS: Ah, roger, roger.

13:49 Bell 7: I'm passing through 3,000 feet, and all the fuses are in flight conditions; ASCS is normal, auto; we're on rate command; gyros are normal; auto retrojettison is armed; squibs are armed also. Four fuel handles are in; decompress and recompress are in; retro delay is normal; retroheat is off, cabin lights are both. TM [telemeter] is on. Rescue aids is auto; landing bag is auto; retract scope is auto; retroattitude is auto. All the three, five pull rings are in. Going down through some clouds to 2,000 feet. ATS, I'm at 2,000 feet; everything is normal.

00:00 ATS: Roger, Bell 7, what is your rate of descent again? Over.

14:39 Bell 7: The rate of descent is varying between 28 and 30 feet per second.

00:00 ATS: Ah, roger, roger, and once again verify your fuel has dumped. Over.

00:00 : Seven ahead at bearing 020. Over.

14:54 Bell 7: OK. My max g was about 10.2; altimeter is 1,000 [feet]; cabin pressure is coming toward 15 [psi].

00:00 : We'll make up.

00:00 Bell 7: Temperature is 90 [oF].

00:00 : We'll make up an eye rep.

00:00 Bell 7: Coolant quantity is 30 [percent]; temperature is 68 [oF]; pressure is 14 [psi]; main O2 is 60 [percent]; normal is, main is 60 [percent]; emergency is 100 [percent]; suit fan is normal; cabin fan is normal. We have 21 amps, and I'm getting ready for impact here.

00:00 Bell 7: Can see the water coming right on up.

00:00 ATS: Liberty Bell 7, Liberty Bell 7, this is Atlantic Cap Com, do you read me? Over.

00:00 Bell 7: OK, does anyone read Liberty Bell 7? Over.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: Liberty Bell 7, Hunt Club 1 is now 2 miles southwest you.

00:00 Card File 9: Liberty Bell 7 this 9 Card File. We have your entry into the water. Will be over you in just about 30 seconds.

16:35 Bell 7: Roger, my condition is good; OK the capsule is floating, slowly coming vertical, have actuated the rescue aids. The reserve chute has jettisoned, in fact I can see it in the water, and the whip antenna should be up.

00:00 : Hunt Club, did you copy?

00:00 : OK, Hunt Club, this is... Don't forget the antenna.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: This is Hunt Club, say again.

18:07 Bell 7: Hunt Club, this is Liberty Bell 7. My antenna should be up.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: This is Hunt Club 1... your antenna is erected.

18:16 Bell 7: Ah, roger.

18:23 Bell 7: OK, give me how much longer it'll be before you get here.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: This is Hunt Club 1, we are in orbit now at this time, around the capsule.

00:18 Bell 7: Roger, give me about another 5 minutes here, to mark these switch positions here, before I give you a call to come in and hook on. Are you ready to come in and hook on anytime?

00:00 Hunt Club 1: Hunt Club 1, roger we are ready anytime you are.

18:44 Bell 7: OK, give me about another 3 or 4 minutes here to take these switch positions, then I'll be ready for you.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: 1, wilco.

00:00 Card File 9: Hey Hunt Clubs, Card File, Card File 9, I'll stand by to escort you back as soon as you lift out. I keep other aircraft at at least 2,000 feet.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: Ah, Bell 7 this is Hunt Club 1.

20:15 Bell 7: Go, go ahead Hunt Club 1.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: Roger, this is 1, observe something, possibly the canister in the water along side capsule. Will we be interfering with any TM [telemetry] if we come down and take a look at it?

20:26 Bell 7: Negative, not at all, I'm just going to put the rest of this stuff on tape and then I'll be ready for you, in just about 2 more minutes, I would say.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: 1 Roger.

00:00 Cap Com: Liberty Bell 7, Cap Com at the Cape on a test count. Over.

00:00 Cap Com: Liberty Bell 7, Cape Cap Com on a test count. Over.

00:00 Card File 9: Any Hunt Club, this is 9 Card File.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: Station calling Hunt Club, say again.

00:03 Card File 9: This is Niner Cardfile, there's an object on a line in the water, ah, just about 160 degrees. The NASA people suspect it's the dye marker that didn't activate, ah, say it's about, ah, 3/4 of a mile out from the capsule. Ah, after the lift out, will you take a check on it? Over.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: All, this is Hunt Club 1, Roger, will have Hunt Club 3 check at this time, you copy 3.

00:00 Hunt Club 3: Hunt Club 1, believe he said 3/4 of a mile?

00:00 Card File 9: This is 9 Card, that is affirmative.

00:25 Bell 7: OK, Hunt Club. This is Liberty Bell 7. Are you ready for the pickup?

00:00 Hunt Club 1: This is Hunt Club 1; this is affirmative.

01:30 Bell 7: OK, latch on, then give me a call and I'll power down and blow the hatch, OK?

00:00 Hunt Club 1: This is Hunt Club 1, roger, will give you a call when we're ready for you to blow.

01:42 Bell 7: Roger, I've unplugged my suit so I'm kinda warm now so.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: 1, Roger.

00:25 Bell 7: Now - if you tell me to, ah, you're ready for me to blow, I'll have to take my helmet off, power down, and then blow the hatch.

00:00 Hunt Club 1: 1, Roger, and when you blow the hatch, the collar will already be down there waiting for you, and we're turning back at this time.

02:09 Bell 7: Ah, Roger.


Mercury MR-4 Chronology

  • 1961 Mar 7 - Mercury spacecraft No. 11 delivered to Cape Canaveral  Spacecraft: Mercury. Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    Spacecraft No. 11 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) ballistic manned (Grissom) flight.

  • 1961 Jun 12 - Mercury Redstone launch vehicle No. 8 delivered to Cape Canaveral  Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    Redstone launch vehicle No. 8 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) suborbital flight mission.

  • 1961 Jun 22 - Mercury MR-4 recovery requirements  Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery requirements were forwarded by the Space Task Group to the Navy.

  • 1961 Jun 22 - Redstone for Mercury MR-4 manned suborbital flight erected  Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    The Redstone booster for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission was erected on Pad 5, at Cape Canaveral.

  • 1961 Jul 11 - Key Mercury personnel assignments 

    The assignments were made by Walter C. Williams, Project Mercury Operations Officer, for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission. These appointments included on-site liaison and consultation, public affairs, photo couriers, and technical observers. Stations covered were Mercury Control Center, Atlantic Missile Range Central Control, landing area aircraft carrier, supporting destroyers, support aircraft, and Base Operations at Patrick Air Force Base.

  • - 1961 July 13-15 - Flight readiness review for Mercury MR-4 

    A spacecraft, launch vehicle, and mission flight safety review was held in preparation for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission.

  • 1961 Jul 13 - Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission rules were published.  Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

  • - 1961 July 18-19 - Two attempts made to launch Mercury MR-4 

    Two attempts were made to launch Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) with astronaut Virgil Grissom aboard the spacecraft, but unfavorable weather forced mission postponement.

  • 1961 Jul 19 - Mercury MR-4 launch scrubbed.  Spacecraft: Mercury. Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    Mercury-Redstone (MR-4) with manned Liberty Bell 7 capsule canceled within minutes of launch because of adverse weather.

  • - 1961 August 5 to October 12 - Tests conducted on the Mercury spacecraft explosive hatch  Spacecraft: Mercury.

    A series of environmental tests was conducted on the spacecraft explosive egress hatch because of the difficulties experienced during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) mission.

  • 1961 Aug 30 - Investigation of the Mercury MR-4 explosive egress hatch.  Spacecraft: Mercury. Launch Vehicle: Redstone.

    An investigation was conducted as a result of the premature activation of the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) explosive egress hatch. Tests were initiated in an environment more severe than had been conducted in prelaunch activities and tests, but no premature firings occurred. As a backup, McDonnell was asked to design a mechanical-type hatch. The model weighed some 60 pounds more than the explosive type, so other methods had to be sought to prevent any recurrence of the incident. A procedure was initiated which stipulated that the firing plunger safety pin would be left in place until the helicopter hook was attached to the spacecraft and tension was applied to the recovery cable.

  • 1961 Sep 22 - 30-inch balloon to be installed in the Mercury spacecraft  Spacecraft: Mercury.

    The Space Task Group announced that a 30-inch diameter balloon would be installed in the Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should the helicopter br forced to drop the spacecraft, as happened during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery operations.


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