First American space flight
Photo of planet Earth from the ship Freedom 7
The first Soviet man to go into space on April 12, 1961 is our Yuri Gagarin. But the Americans made their flight into outer space only a month later.
In total, the Americans first selected 110 people for the test group of astronauts.
At the same time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) immediately rejected everyone whose height was over 180 centimeters, since the cabin of the American ship was simply not designed for such dimensions. The second criterion for not admitting was age - everyone who was over 40 was eliminated.
The basic mandatory selection criteria were the following: pilot's qualifications, from XNUMX flight hours, education - at least a bachelor's degree, and excellent health.
There remained thirty-two applicants who were subjected to various numerous severe physical, psychological and emotional tests. They had to undergo immersion tests in extraordinary situations, such as abnormal heat or cold, as well as in an environment with powerful vibrations and background noise, simulating rocket launch characteristics.
Only seven of them passed the tests this time. All of them had no medical contraindications. NASA recommended them as potential candidates.
The list of these seven lucky ones was made public in April 1959: Malcolm Carpenter, Leroy Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Walter Schirra, Donald Slayton and Alan Shepard.
It became clear that one of them would definitely be the first American astronaut. Therefore, the US media began to closely monitor each of them.
The specifics appeared already at the beginning of 1961. Since February, Alan Shepard has become the main candidate, and Gus Griss has been appointed as his backup.
So the Americans became the second to fly into space.
The second person in the world went to the stars from America on the spacecraft "Mercury-Redstone 3". It is known how his pre-flight period was organized.
For the last three days before the flight, the potential astronaut was isolated in a separate apartment on Cape Canaveral. There he was provided with good conditions in seclusion with an excellent bed and personal space, providing him with television and radio broadcasting and the press.
On the one hand, he was hidden there from the annoying paparazzi. On the other hand, such isolation guaranteed the necessary degree of prevention of various infections, that is, protected against diseases.
Pre-flight preparation, among other things, consisted of a mandatory strict diet. For this, even a personal chef was assigned to the candidate astronaut.
Reporting documents contain information that the author of the set of dishes (menu) was
Take, for example, the breakfast of the first American astronaut, compiled by B. Finklestein:
semolina porridge - 1 portion;
scrambled eggs - from two eggs;
white bread toast - 1 pc .;
crispy bacon - 2-3 slices;
butter - 1 tsp;
strawberry jam - 1 tbsp a spoon;
coffee with sugar - unlimited. "
It is indicated that the list of foods was constant, that is, it did not change.
As a rule, several identical dishes were prepared at once: moreover, only one portion of them was intended for the astronaut himself. Others were eaten by other people. But one control portion was necessarily kept for 24 hours in the refrigerator. This was done in case the astronaut suddenly had some kind of unforeseen digestive situation. Then research was relied on.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's recommendations for astronauts included advice to go to bed early. However, this rule did not have to be followed.
It is recorded that the evening before the upcoming flight, Alan Shepard fell asleep at a quarter past ten (22:15). The report also contains a commentary that the astronaut slept dreamlessly that night (no dreams).
Of the curious American rules before the flight, we will mention one more: in the United States, it is forbidden to drink coffee about 24 hours before the flight. Reason: Its aphrodisiac and diuretic effect.
Alan Shepard. Freedom 7. At the start
Takeoff of "Mercury"
Experts compare the sending of American astronauts, rather, to a "jump" into space.
The fact is that the Redstone launch vehicle did not master the first space speed and could not enter orbit near the Earth. The flight turned out to be purely suborbital. But recognized by the Americans - space.
The aircraft reached an altitude of 187 km, after which it went back and landed. In total, the flight itself lasted 15,5 minutes.
Moreover, it is generally accepted in America that Shepard had to fly into space on March 24 so that he, and not the Soviet citizen Yuri Gagarin, was named the world's first cosmonaut. But this was not destined to happen, as the wrong position of NASA, where Von Braun was listened to, prevented.
So, it is known that on the eve of the flight, Shepard got up very early, namely at 1:10 am. And he immediately took up the usual procedures.
He first had breakfast with backup pilot Grissom. And then he went to the doctor for an examination. There, his body was hung with biosensor sensors. The day before, doctors marked special places for their connection on the pilot's skin.
And at exactly a quarter past five (at 5 hours 15 minutes) Shepard was on the site, prepared for takeoff. There he was housed in a capsule on a spaceship.
Dimensions of the ship "Mercury": height - about 3 meters, diameter - almost 2 meters (1,9 m).
And the habitable zone itself was only the size of the cockpit of a conventional fighter.
The flight was monitored using two cameras. The first one wrote down the dashboard data. And the second was aimed at the face of the American space pilot. Of the interesting details: the USS Mercury differed from our Soviet ship Vostok also in that the Americans did not have a porthole.
Further, according to the report, Shepard was helped to close the hatch. This was done by NASA technician Schmitt. Before that, he first shook Alan's hand (in a glove) and said the phrase:
Shepard later recalled that for him this was the most significant episode in his life. He carried the smallest details of those fifteen minutes of flight through his entire life.
At first, he said, his heart pounded often, but he managed to calm down quickly. The launch of the ship was postponed a couple of times. The fact is that literally a quarter of an hour before the flight, the weather deteriorated: clouds covered the sky, which caused a sharp drop in visibility.
But that was short-lived. However, the moment the sky cleared, there was another unexpected delay. This time in Maryland, an IBM 7090 computer malfunctioned. And the system needed to be restarted. Thus, the launch of the ship was postponed for an additional couple of hours.
I must say that at that time Shepard had been waiting for takeoff in the cockpit of the ship for more than four hours. And, sorry for the details, but he urgently needed to empty his bladder.
This circumstance literally excited the entire starting team. After all, the closet in the habitable area of the ship, of course, was not provided. But seriously, the calculation was that the start would be carried out without delays, and the flight itself would last a little more than 15 minutes.
The flight control center was worried in earnest only because Shepard's spacesuit was literally studded with electronic sensors. And the ingress of moisture (and even more so liquid) on them would inevitably lead to a short circuit. Imagine what a disgrace the States would have to endure when it was necessary to announce to the whole world that their very first cosmonaut / astronaut died during the launch of the spacecraft due to a short circuit from his own urine!
The team had to confer and find a way out. Shepard was saved. That is, he was allowed to relieve a small need directly into the spacesuit, but was ordered to first turn off the power supply. Fortunately for the United States, the pilot did not die: the urine was absorbed by the laundry. And the contacts remained dry, that is, there was no short circuit at that time. America's reputation also remained intact.
And after such a long wait, the start of "Mercury" still happened - after half past three, namely at 14:34 GMT.
It should be noted that at this moment all of America held its breath: cars stopped on the highways, work stopped in offices. The live broadcast from the Cape Canaveral launch site has attracted the attention of over 70 million US residents.
And the flight itself took place in a normal mode. The calculation was made every second, as the Americans said, almost everything went according to plan.
By about the 45th second, the astronaut felt a very strong shaking in the launch vehicle. On the one hand, the pilot was prepared for this turn of events. However, the shaking itself was so powerful that Shepard lost the ability to read data from the instruments. As noted in the report, after some time, the vibrations decreased, and the readings of the equipment became clearly distinguishable again.
In accordance with the plan, the pressure in the habitable zone was restored. Having survived an overload of 6 G during the second minute of the flight, the astronaut finally reported to the control center that all the systems of the spacecraft were functioning normally.
In the 142nd second, the Redstone stage separated. And the acceleration of the capsule reached 8 thousand kilometers per hour.
As for the flight deviation from the planned course, it was only 1 degree. In terms of temperature: on the outside, the cladding heated up to 104 ° C, but inside it was much more comfortable - only 32 ° C.
Shepard switched to manual control three minutes after the start. Now he could deflect the nose of the capsule ship to the sides, as well as rotate along the axis. Shepard said that from that moment he looked through the periscope: his gaze opened up beautiful views, and he tried to estimate the distance in his mind.
Through the clouds, the American astronaut could distinguish the continental contours and claimed to have a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico, the west coast of Florida, and the lake in the center of that state. As for the cities, according to the report, Shepard was unable to recognize any of them.
May 5, 1961. Start MR-3.
So, the ship "Mercury" has reached an altitude of 187 kilometers.
After five minutes and ten seconds from the start, the braking system worked: the brake motors were turned on.
When the deceleration began, Shepard decided to try to see the stars, but was unable to see at least the horizon. Later he talked about how those vain search for the stars tore him away for some seconds from the main mission. But, according to the pilot, it was just that one and only moment in the entire flight when he lost control of the situation.
He points out that for a moment hesitated, but it passed.
Weightlessness ended a minute earlier than planned, and after that the overload increased to 11,6 G.
The speed of the ship's descent to the water was 11 meters per second. During the descent, Alan prepared to land.
Flooding took place in the area of the Grand Bahama Island: about 130 kilometers east of it. Rescue helicopters were already waiting for the cosmonaut. First, Alan freed himself from the suit and then set foot on Earth.
Less than half an hour after landing, Shepard was called to the phone. It was the President of the United States himself. Kennedy watched Alan's landing on TV. He hastened to personally congratulate Shepard on a successful landing after the first space flight.
And immediately after landing Shepard was surrounded by doctors. They asked him about his health and how he had endured overload and weightlessness. Some physiologists believed that the consequence of being in zero gravity for about five minutes could be disorientation.
However, Shepard assured that those 300 seconds that he was in zero gravity ran unnoticed: and he did not reveal any anomalies. This is confirmed by the fact that Alan performed the manual control masterfully.
Nevertheless, it was soon discovered that the first American astronaut had suffered hearing damage during his debut flight. So the consequence of the record for Shepard was the suspension from space test flights for several years.
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