These Little Joes Helped Put Men Into Space

These little rockets had a big impact on NASA's first spaceflight program, launching the first boilerplate test vehicles.

***Want to know more about the Little Joes?

Little Joe 1: August 21, 1959. Max Q abort and escape test failed when, half an hour before launch, the capsule-and-tower combination launched before the rocket. 

Little Joe 2: October 4, 1959. Test of Capsule aerodynamics and integrity was partially successful. 

Little Joe 1A: November 4, 1959. Another Max Q abort and Escape Test. Launch and recovery were successful but it the LES didn't quite launch at Max Q so it was partially successful. 

Little Joe 2: December 4, 1959. Primate escape at high altitude worked fairly well, but a windage error sent the capsule lower than planned peak altitude. Sam experienced only three minutes of weightlessness, not four; got my number wrong in the video and didn't catch the speako! 

Little Joe 1B: January 21, 1960. Yet another Max Q abort and escape test and this time it all worked out! 

Little Joe 5: November 8, 1960. Qualify MAC Spacecraft at Max Q. This was the one where the capsule separated too early. And if failed. 

Little Joe 5A: March 18, 1961. Max Q escape and impact test to demonstrate structural integrity during an Atlas orbital launch. The chutes deployed at 40,000 feet and spared the spacecraft serious damage. It was relaunched on Little Joe 5B.

Little Joe 5B: April 28, 1961. Max Q escape and sequence. The spacecraft test was successful but the rocket was only partially successful. 

For more details on the Mercury missions, including the early unmanned tests, check out NASA's page on the program.


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