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Home > Mercury, Redstone, Atlas, Gemini > Notes on Virgil Grissom's Flight

Notes on Virgil Grissom's Flight

Overview of Mercury Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7), July 21, 1961, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom

Gus Grissom's suborbital mission was essentially a repeat of Shepard's, again using the Redstone launcher instead of the more powerful Atlas. Grissom's Mercury capsule had a few minor improvements, including new, easier-to-use hand controllers, a window, and an explosive side hatch, which the astronauts had requested for easier escape in case of an emergency.

Since Shepard's flight had been overly busy, Grissom's duties were deliberately reduced, and he spent more time observing the Earth. The only significant failure came at the end of the 15-minute flight, after Liberty Bell 7 had parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. While Grissom waited inside the floating capsule to be picked up by helicopter rescue teams, the side hatch opened, filling the tiny spacecraft with seawater. Liberty Bell sank, but a wet Grissom was safely recovered, and the Mercury program was able to move on to orbital flights.