Aurora 7 Splashdown

Aurora 7, also known as Mercury Atlas 7, was launched into space on May 24th, 1962 with M. Scott Carpenter on board, with the intention of performing three orbits of the earth.

Although the launch conditions and procedures were perfect, the launch was delayed for fiteen minutes three times. The sole cause for this was the ground fog and broken cloud that would obscure perfect television viewing.

On the third and final orbit, Carpenter bumped his hand against the inside wall of the cabin and released some particles from the exterior surface, ice crystals that lit up as they moved into the direct light from the sun. This solved the mystery John Glenn raised in his flight in Friendship 7 (or Mercury Atlas 6), when he had reported fireflies outside the capsule.

Distracted by the fireflies, a situation exarcerbated by his workload, Carpenter overshot his reentry and splashed down 250 miles (400 kilometres) from his target.

Few people had been into space at the time of Aurora 7, and the human factors of the extraordinary environment had almost proved a very costly factor.


The launch decision should have been independent of non-technical issues.


"John Glenn: a Memoir" by John Glenn with Nick Taylor