After Scott Carpenter’s science heavy Mercury-Atlas 7 flight, Nasa’s next mission would concentrate on the technical and engineering aspects of space travel. Mercury Atlas 8 became the third manned orbital flight of the Mercury program. The pilot selected was Walter M. Schirra, Jr., but most people called him Wally…
CAPCOM Number 1 (Deke Slayton): Okay. I think you ought to clearly understand there is absolutely no experience at all with landing without the helmet on.
SCHIRRA: And there no experience with the helmet either on that one.
CAPCOM: That one we’ve got a lot of experience with, yes.
SCHIRRA: If we had an open visor, I might go along with that.
CAPCOM: Okay. I guess you better be prepared to discuss in some detail when we land why we haven’t got them on. I think you’re too late now to do much about it.
SCHIRRA: That’s affirmative. I don’t think anybody down there has worn the helmets as much as we have.
SCHIRRA: We tried them on this morning.
CAPCOM: Understand that. The only thing we’re concerned about is the landing. We couldn’t care less about the reentry. But it’s your neck, and I hope you don’t break it.
SCHIRRA: Thanks, babe.
CAPCOM: Over and out
Had it not been for the fact that Eisele damaged his shoulder during a zero-G training flight aboard a KC-135 aircraft just before Christmas 1965, he might have been in the senior pilot’s seat aboard Apollo 1, instead of Ed White.
When Deke Slayton and Stu Roosa arrived at pad 34 they saw ambulances waiting in vain at the base of the launch tower. They boarded the small elevator and rode to level A-8, 218 feet up, and headed across the swing arm to the clean room…
Mercury-Redstone 4 was the fourth mission in the Mercury-Redstone series and the second U.S. manned suborbital spaceflight. The mission was essentially a repeat of Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 flight. So why was it necessary to launch another sub-orbital mission? Why not proceed with an orbital flight to match the Soviet Vostok 1? Among other things the U.S. needed more space experience to corroborate the “Man-in-Space” concept. Also the Redstone was the only booster NASA had that was approved for manned launches. The Atlas booster was available but not ready. Atlas was capable of putting a Mercury Capsule into orbit, but it had been launched three times with unmanned capsules, and it had exploded on 2 of the 3 attempts.
“Some of those guys came in figuring, “I’ll write my textbooks and my thesis and teach [university courses] and I’ll come by twice a week and be an astronaut.” Well, that didn’t work …. We were devoting our lives to this whole thing, and you couldn’t devote anything less, I don’t care what your discipline was.”
With Group 4, for the first time, the selection criteria did not include a requirement for test pilot proficiency. Selectees who were not qualified pilots would be assigned to the Air Force for a year of flight training. The primary scientific requirement was a doctorate in medicine, engineering, or one of the natural sciences.
Selection of Group Two virtually depleted the pool of qualified candidates from the small corps of test pilots in the country, and it was the last group for which test-pilot certification would be a requirement. The new trainees reported to Houston in October 1962 to begin a two-year training course. A four-day work week was normally scheduled, the fifth day being reserved for public relations duties or for travel.