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Sunday, December 5, 2004

Reading List: Freedom 7

Godwin, Robert ed. Freedom 7: The NASA Mission Reports. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Apogee Books, 2000. ISBN 1-896522-80-7.
This volume in the superb Apogee NASA Mission Reports series covers Alan Shepard's May 5th, 1961 suborbital flight in Freedom 7, the first U.S. manned space flight. Included are the press kit for the mission, complete transcripts of the post-flight debriefings and in-flight communications, and proceedings of a conference held in June 1961 to report mission results. In addition, the original 1958 request for astronaut volunteers (before it was decided that only military test pilots need apply) is reproduced, along with the press conference introducing the Mercury astronauts, which Tom Wolfe so vividly (and accurately) described in The Right Stuff. A bonus CD-ROM includes the complete in-flight films of the instrument panel and astronaut, a 30 minute NASA documentary about the flight, and the complete NASA official history of Project Mercury, This New Ocean, as a PDF document. There are few if any errors in the transcriptions of the documents. The caption for the photograph of Freedom 7 on the second page of colour plates makes the common error of describing its heat shield as "ablative fiberglass". In fact, as stated on page 145, suborbital missions used a beryllium heat sink; only orbital capsules were equipped with the ablative shield.

Posted at December 5, 2004 17:18