Mercury Atlas with mercury MA-1 and flown insulation
Mercury Atlas-1 (MA-1) was launched at 8:13 AM on July 1960 from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Mercury spacecraft was unmanned and carried no launch escape system. The mission was to the first launch of a production Mercury spacecraft in a suborbital test flight to confirm the structural integrity of the space and the performance of the afterbody shingles.
The Atlas rocket suffered a structural failure 58.8 seconds after launch. The vehicle at that moment was at an altitude of approximately 30,000 feet (5.65 miles) and was 11,000 feet (2.11 miles) downrange. The failure occurred near the spacecraft adapter section. The rocket and spacecraft hit the Atlantic Ocean, broke up and sank. The spacecraft and portions of the rocket were recovered from the ocean bottom and reconstructed to determine the cause of the failure. The flight lasted 3 minutes and 18 seconds.
This artifact is a fragment of one of the actual afterbody shingles recovered from the MA-1 spacecraft. It is made of Rene 41, an alloy containing nickel, chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium, as well as several other metals. It was designed to withstand tremendous heat generated by reentry through our atmosphere. This piece, deemed non-critical to the reconstruction, was kept as a souvenir by an engineer working on the project.
Certificate of Authenticity included.