24 May 1962, 12:45:16 UTC, T minus Zero

MA-7, Aurora 7, lifts of from  Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 7:45:16 a.m., EST, 24 May 1962. (NASA)
MA-7, Aurora 7, lifts of from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 7:45:16 a.m., EST, 24 May 1962. (NASA)

24 May 1962: Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy, NASA Astronaut, was launched aboard Mercury-Atlas 7 at 12:45:16 UTC, from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the fourth manned space flight of the American space program. Carpenter was the sixth human to fly in space.

5 Minutes, 20 seconds after liftoff, Aurora 7 entered Earth orbit, having reached a speed of 17,549 miles per hour (28,242 kilometers per hour). The orbit was elliptical, with a minimum altitude of 83 nautical miles (153.7 kilometers) and a maximum of 140 nautical miles (259.3 kilometers). Carpenter completed an orbit every 88.3 minutes.

During the orbital phase of the mission, a pitch horizon scanner—part of the automatic flight control system—malfunctioned, causing the capsule’s attitude jets to fire to correct perceived errors in the ship’s attitude. This caused an excessive consumption of the hydrogen peroxide fuel for the reaction controls.

At T+04:30:00 (four hours, thirty minutes after launch) the Mercury capsule’s retrorockets fired to slow the capsule and begin the reentry phase of the flight. Each of the retro rockets fired at 5 second intervals and burned for 10 seconds. The capsule decelerated 550 feet per second (168 meters per second) and fell out of orbit. The PHS failed again, yawing Aurora 7 25° off track, which prevented the full thrust of the retrorockets from being directed along the correct path. Scott Carpenter had to fire the rockets manually and this slight delay along with the misalignment of the capsule, caused it to overshoot the planned splashdown point  in the Atlantic ocean by approximately 250 nautical miles (463 kilometers).

Autographed photo of Scott Carpenter being hoisted aboard Sikorsky HSS-2 (SH-3A) Sea King, Bu. No. 148964 (c/n 61-036), in the Atlantic Ocean, 24 May 1962. (U.S. Navy)
Autographed photo of Scott Carpenter being hoisted aboard Sikorsky HSS-2 (SH-3A) Sea King, Bu. No. 148964 (c/n 61-036), in the Atlantic Ocean, 24 May 1962. (U.S. Navy)

At 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) Aurora 7‘s main parachute opened. Aurora 7 splashed down at . The total duration of the flight was 4 hours, 57 minutes, 10 seconds.

Scott Carpenter and Aurora 7 were recovered by Sikorsky HSS-2 (SH-3) Sea King helicopters from USS Intrepid (CVS-11).

The flight of Scott Carpenter and Aurora 7 was a success, but Carpenter was subject to criticism for his performance during the mission. In 1963, he was injured in a motorcycle accident and lost some mobility in his left arm. Despite two surgical procedures, it was determined that he was ineligible for spaceflight. He resigned from NASA in 1967 and retired from the U.S Navy in 1969 with the rank of Commander.

The Mercury spacecraft, named Aurora 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 18th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. It was 9 feet, 7.72 inches (2.939 meters) long, and, bell-shaped, had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.5 inches (1.885 meters). The spacecraft weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 kilograms) at launch

The rocket, a “1-½ stage”, liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 107-D, was built by Convair at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle. The LV-3B was 94.3 feet (28.7 meters) tall with a maximum diameter of 10.0 feet (3.05 meters). When ready for launch it weighed 260,000 pounds (120,000 kilograms) and could place a 1,360 kilogram payload into Low Earth orbit. The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Canoga Park, California. The XLR89 booster had two 150,000 pound thrust chambers, and the LR105 sustainer engine produced 57,000 pounds of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Malcolm Scott Carpenter died 10 October 2013 at the age of 88. His spacecraft, Aurora 7, is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Lakeshore Drive, Chicago, Illinois.

Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy.
Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1953

Jackie Cochran with Major Charles E. Yeager, USAF, and Canadair's Chief Test Pilot, Bill Longhurst. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran with Major Charles E. Yeager, USAF, and Canadair’s Chief Test Pilot, William S. Longhurst, AFC. (Air Force Flight Test Center History Office, U.S. Air Force)

24 May 1954: At Edwards Air Force Base, Jackie Cochran sets a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record of 14,377 meters (47,168.635 feet) while flying the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mk. 3, serial number 19200. Cochran had set several FAI speed records with this Sabre in the previous days.

FAI Record File Num #12858 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Feminine
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 14 377 m
Date: 1953-05-24
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Jacqueline Cochran (USA)
Aeroplane: Canadair F-86 E “Sabre”
Engine: 1 Avro Canada Orenda

Jackie Cochran and the Canadair Sabre Mk.3 in flight. (LIFE Magazine)
Jackie Cochran and the Canadair Sabre Mk.3 at high altitude over the Southern California desert. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

As I climbed. . . I noticed that the sky above was growing darker until it became a dark blue. The sun is a bright globe up there above but there are no dust particles at that height to catch the sun’s rays, so there is not what we know as “sunshine” down on the surface. Yellow has given way to blue. The gates of heaven are not brilliantly lighted. The stars can be seen at noon.

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter XII, at Page 238.

During May and June 1953, Cochran, a consultant to Canadair, flew the Sabre Mk.3 to FAI records over the 15/25 kilometer straight course, the 100-kilometer closed circuit, the 500-kilometer closed circuit. She was the first woman to “break the Sound Barrier” when she flew No. 19200 to Mach 1.04.

The Sabre Mk.3 was a one-of a kind CL-13 Sabre (an F-86E Sabre produced by Canadair Ltd. at Montreal, Quebec, under license from North American Aviation, Inc.) built to test the prototype Avro Canada Orenda 3 turbojet engine. Modifications to the airframe were required to install the larger engine. The Orenda produced 6,000 pounds of thrust, a 15% improvement over the J47-GE-13 installed in the standard F-86E.

After the speed and altitude records, No. 19200 was sent to North American Aviation for evaluation. Today, it is on static display outdoors at Wetaskiwin Regional General Airport (CEX3), Alberta, Canada.

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair Sabre Mk.3 No. 19200 at Edwards AFB. (LIFE Magazine)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair Sabre Mk.3 No. 19200 at Edwards AFB. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1948

Jackie Cochran with NX23888, May 1948. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with NX23888, May 1948. (FAI)

24 May 1948: Two days after setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record and U.S. national record with her P-51 Mustang, Jackie Cochran sets another. Flying her green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA, serial number 43-24760, civil registration NX23888, Cochran flew an average of 693.78 kilometers per hour (431.09 miles per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer (621.371 miles) closed circuit, without payload, at Santa Rosa Summit, near Indio, California.

FAI Record File Num #12148 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km without payload
Performance: 693.78 km/h
Date: 1948-05-24
Course/Location: Santa Rosa Summit, CA (USA)
Claimant Jacqueline Cochran (USA)
Aeroplane: North American P-51 Mustang (NX28388)
Engine: 1 Packard V-1650 (RR Merlin)

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.18.19The P-51B was the first version of the North American Aviation fighter to be powered by the Merlin engine in place of the Allison V-1710. Rolls-Royce had selected the Packard Motor Car Company to build Merlin aircraft engines in the United States under license. The Packard-built V-1650-3 was based on the Merlin 63. It was a 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.40 meters).

The P-51B was 32 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, ¼-inch (11.284 meters). It was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5352 kilograms). Its cruise speed was 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the combat range was 955 miles (1,536 kilometers).

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant. 1,750 of the nearly identical P-51C variant were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

Jackie Cochran's green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran’s green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran's National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record at the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives (© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record at the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives (© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1930

Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.
Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.

24 May 1930: After a 19-day, 11,000 mile (17,700 kilometer), solo flight from Croyden Aerodrome, London, England, 26-year-old Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin, Australia in her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, named Jason. She received a £10,000  prize from the Daily Mail newspaper.

For her accomplishment she was made Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). She was also awarded the Harmon Trophy, “for the most outstanding international achievements in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Amy Johnson lands at Darwin, Australia. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)
Amy Johnson landing at Darwin, Australia. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)

Her Gypsy Moth is in the Science Museum, London, England.

Flying Tonight. Portrait of Amy Johnson, 1930.  © Ruth Hollick, Melbourne.
Flying Tonight. Portrait of Amy Johnson, 1930. © Ruth Hollick, Melbourne.

Amy Johnson had set many flight records, both individually and with her husband, James Mollison, whom she had married in 1932. He proposed to her during an airplane flight, only eight hours after having met her

During World War II, Amy Johnson flew for the Royal Air Force as a First Officer of the Air Transport Auxiliary (equivalent to the RAF rank of Flight Lieutenant). Tragically, on 5 January 1941, while flying over London, she was challenged by an RAF fighter. Twice she gave the incorrect recognition code and she was then shot down. Her airplane crashed into the Thames, where she was seen struggling in the water. Lieutenant Commander Walter Fletcher of HMS Haslemere dived into the river to rescue her, but both died. This incident was kept secret and it was publicly reported that she had run out of fuel.

Amy Johnson's de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London.
Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London. (nmsi.ac.uk 10216060.jpg)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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