[Dec. 5, 1959] Sam and Joe (The successful launch of Little Joe 2-A)

I admit it.  I splurged last night.

I’m not the poorest of people, but I am thrifty.  Last night, however, I took a detour on the way home.  I ended up at my favorite cafe off Grand Avenue in downtown Escondido.  They sell pizza, which I’ve noticed is becoming as commonplace as burgers these days.  I ordered a slice pepperoni, a salad, and I washed it down with a beer.  Then I sauntered down to a local coffee shop and enjoyed a day-old brownie and a cuppa joe.  For dessert, I had a new 35 cent Ace Double (novel, that is). 

The night set me back 16 bits, but all of the week’s stress washed away.  It beats a head shrinker, right?

Now, you might expect that this is a lead-in to a review of the Double, but I haven’t finished it yet, so you’ll just have to wait.  In the meantime, here’s an exciting Double Dose of Space News.

Remember Little Joe?  It’s that cluster of rockets with a Mercury capsule on top designed to test out the abort systems on the spaceship.  That little tower on top has rockets that will propel a Mercury and its pilot to safety if something goes wrong during booster launch.  The first flight was a total bust.

Since then, there have been two missions, the first of which was not entirely successful.  Little Joe 1-A, launched November 4, seemed to go off okay, but the escape rocket went off too late, and the pressure on the capsule was far too low to make a good test of the system. 

December 4 saw the next flight, Little Joe 2.  NASA decided to go for broke with this one and fully equip the capsule with a host of biological specimens.  One minute into the flight, the escape rocket blasted the Mercury and its contents, including seeds, bugs, cell samples, and a rhesus monkey named “Sam,” at Mach 6 to an altitude of 53 miles.  Sam experienced a good three minutes of weightlessness during the flight.  All occupants were recovered several hours later, safe and sound.

The flight was a complete success, but it was not as strenuous a test as it might have been.  The next mission will feature an abort rescue at “max q,” or the craft’s strongest acceleration.  If the escape system works then, it will be probably be rated safe for actual use.  Exciting stuff!

Next up: 1959’s Galactic Stars awards!

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P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns.  While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!

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