[Dec. 19, 1960] A Very Good Day (Mercury Redstone 1A)

There are days when everything goes right.

Here we are at the end of a difficult year for space travel.  The Air Force had nearly a dozen failures in a row with its Discoverer proto spy satellite.  The Pioneer Atlas Ables moon shots were all a bust.  Even the successful probes rarely made it into space on the first try, viz. the communications satellites, Echo and Courier.  The American manned space program was dealt a number of setbacks, limping along at a pace that will likely get it to the orbital finish line quite a bit behind the Soviets. 

But Discoverer now has enjoyed a several-mission success streak.  The latest Explorer probe is sending back excellent data on the ionosphere, and its elder sibling is still plugging away in orbit, returning information on the heat budget of the atmosphere.  TIROS 2 provides up-to-date weather photos from overhead.

And this morning, just a few hours ago, Mercury Redstone 1A carried a production model Mercury spacecraft into outer space.  The suborbital mission took only 15 minutes, but it was an exact duplicate of the trip a human astronaut will take in the next few months.  The capsule was retrieved from the Atlantic in short order, and to all accounts, the flight was a complete success.  Just one more mission, crewed by a trained chimpanzee, and after that, America will have a man in space.

It is still unknown just who that person will be.  Any of the “Mercury Seven” are qualified, of course.  Moreover, the group includes representatives all three branches of service that fly jet planes (Air Force, Navy, and Marines) so I don’t think that will be a factor.  John Glenn is the most charismatic; Alan Shepard has the most test pilot hours; Scott Carpenter is the handsomest; Donald K. (Deke) Slayton has the most appealing nickname. 

It’s probably a good thing I’m not in charge of the selection process!

Speaking of good days, I am currently holed up in The Book Tree, a lovely little book store on Adams in San Diego.  The proprietor is kindly allowing me to bang on the keys of my portable typewriter so I can get this stop-press out.  He has an excellent science fiction selection, including an intriguing new book I picked up by Ben Barzmann: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, which I hadn’t seen on the shelves of my normal haunts.  I highly recommend this establishment!

And now, back up Highway 395, the fast way to Escondido from San Diego.  See you soon with a review of this month’s Analog

6 thoughts on “[Dec. 19, 1960] A Very Good Day (Mercury Redstone 1A)”

    1. Newish… I think it’s a ’55 Bel Air…like I know from cars.  Granted, it’s a lot nicer than my pre-War vintage truck!

      There were definitely a lot of the lean, goateed types hanging around book row.  It’s a far out scene, but I can dig it.  Luckily, I don’t look too square.

  1. Well, that’s certainly good news hard on the heels of the last Atlas-Able.

    I won’t presume to guess which of the Mercury Seven (which now I think about it sounds like a car) will be first. Probably comes down to whether there are more Navy men or Army Air Corps men among the decision makers. Which leaves Glenn out of luck, I suppose. You offer good cases for several of them, though.

    1. Our incoming President is ex-Navy.  Might that point to Shepard or Schirra being the first up?

      (Note: Nixon was ex-Navy, too, so that’s a factor that wouldn’t have been affected by the election…)

      1. Carpenter is Navy, too. I’m going to guess Shepard or Carpenter. It’s unfortunate, but Schirra may just be a little too ethnic a name for the strait-laced PR boys in Washington.

  2. I don’t honestly care which of them get the call; I just want them to get it and come back safely.

    But if I had to bet, I’d get on charisma. This is, after all, very much a propaganda race as much as a technical race.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.