National Geographic : 1960 Jul
naut's globe-girdling flight. Next year an Atlas rocket will blast a man into orbit at five miles a second, and he will circle our planet three times in a mere 4/ hours. But sometime before the end of 1960 an astronaut will take the first tentative step into space. One morning, probably before the first hint of dawn, he will climb into a one-ton conical capsule atop a Redstone rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. He will recline upon a contour couch, sweat out a long countdown, then endure an accelerative force nine times his weight as the missile blasts him a hundred miles high. Sixteen and a half minutes after take-off his capsule will parachute into the sea Little Joe Rocket Hurls a Space-suited Monkey Into the Stratosphere If the booster rocket launch ing an astronaut fails, the Mercury capsule blasts itself free of the booster and para chutes into the sea. Last January NASA scientists tested the escape procedure with a capsule carrying a specially trained, six-pound rhesus monkey, Miss Sam. Raging streamers of fire lift Little Joe, a solid-pro pellant booster, from Wal lops Island, Virginia (left). Metal tower atop the cap sule supports an escape rocket. At 36,500 feet, the escape rocket ignites; in a single second it whisks the capsule 250 feet to the right of its booster (above). Para chutes eased Miss Sam down to the Atlantic for a quick recovery. Going up, the monkey endured an accel erative force 14 times her weight, but she emerged from the capsule frisky and unscathed. Dressed for take-off in a custom-tailored space suit (right), Miss Sam smiles like a model in a toothpaste advertisement. Her scientist friends say she will marry Sam, a rhesus monkey who survived an earlier rocket voyage 100 miles high.