Encyclopedia Astronautica
Mercury MA-10


Crew: Shepard. Planned second one-day Mercury flight. Cancelled as too risky after Mercury MA-9 achieved objective, but only after failure of many spacecraft systems. Backup crew: Cooper.

Mercury 10 was originally planned to be the first one-day Mercury flight. This objective was later assigned to Mercury 9 and Mercury 10 then became the second one-day flight. Later there was budgetary pressure to shut down Mercury and move funds and workers to the Gemini program. NASA and the Mercury managers had to decide whether to undertake another flight after Cooper's planned 22 orbit Mercury 9. By May 11, 1963 Julian Scheer, the new NASA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, announced 'It is absolutely beyond question that if this shot (MA-9) is successful there will be no MA-10.' But at the end of Cooper's flight there was enough oxygen remaining for five days, six days left until his capsule decayed from orbit, and enough attitude control propellant for another two days.

Walter Williams, Alan Shepard, and others at MSC pushed for a three to six day Mercury 10 endurance mission. This would give America the manned space endurance record for the first time and also cover the biological objectives of the first two Gemini missions. The Mercury 15B capsule had already been modified for long-duration flight and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission unless Mercury 9 failed. The massive breakdown of nearly all systems aboard Mercury 9 convinced NASA that this was the right decision. Their risk assessment was also influenced by Martin Caidin's novel, Marooned. In the book, Mercury 10's retrorockets fail, stranding astronaut Pruett in orbit. He is saved by the combined efforts of NASA Gemini and Russian modified Vostok spacecraft. Such resources were not available in real life. On June 12 NASA administrator James Webb told Congress that there would be no Mercury 10 mission. It would have only cost $ 9 million to fly the mission, but deleting it freed up 700 workers to concentrate on project Gemini, which was behind schedule and over budget. On June 13 McDonnell's remaining contract work for Mercury was terminated.

In actuality astronaut Shephard was removed from flight status in October 1963 due to Meniere's syndrome. So if Mercury 10 had occurred, it might well have been flown by Cooper.

AKA: Freedom 7 II.
First Launch: 1963 October.

More... - Chronology...


Associated People
  • Shepard Shepard, Alan Bartlett Jr 'Al' (1923-1998) First American in space. Flew on Mercury MR-3, Apollo 14. Grounded due on medical grounds during Gemini, but reinstated, becoming fifth person to walk on the moon. Millionaire entrepreneur on the side. More...
  • Cooper Cooper, Leroy Gordon Jr 'Gordo' (1927-2004) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on Mercury MA-9, Gemini 5. First American to spend over a day in space. High spirited, and reportedly denied an Apollo assignment. More...

See also
Associated Programs
  • Mercury Mercury was America's first man-in-space project. Setting the precedent for the later Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, any capsule configuration proposed by the contractors was acceptable as long as it was the one NASA's Langley facility, and in particular, Max Faget, had developed. McDonnell, at that time a renegade contractor of innovative Navy fighters that had a history of problems in service, received the contract. The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result. More...

Mercury MA-10 Chronology


1961 July 27-28 - .
  • Advanced Mercury concepts - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury Mark I; Gemini. After the 2-man space concept (later designated Project Gemini) was introduced in May 1961, a briefing between McDonnell and NASA personnel was held on the matter. As a result of this meeting, space flight design effort was concentrated on the 18-orbit 1-man Mercury and on a 2-man spacecraft capable of advanced missions.

1961 August 13 - .
  • Mercury spacecraft No. 15 delivered to Cape Canaveral. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. It was returned to McDonnell to be reconfigured to the orbital-manned 1-day mission and tentatively assigned for Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). Redesign was completed, and the spacecraft, then designated number 15A (later redesignated 15B), was delivered to Cape Canaveral on November 16, 1962.

1961 October 25 - .
1962 January - .
  • Aerial drop tests planned for the Mercury 1-day mission. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury; Mercury Parachute. Twenty spacecraft aerial drop tests were planned for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission. One of the prime objectives was to determine if the 63-foot ringsail main recovery parachute met all Mercury mission weight requirements. Tests were scheduled to be conducted at El Centro, California, and all tests would be land drops. This test program was designated Project Reef.

1962 January - .
1962 March - .
  • PERT system for Mercury. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. The PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) reporting system became operational on an experimental basis for Mercury. The first PERT report on the Mercury 1-day mission schedule and cost analysis was issued by the Manned Spacecraft Center on April 26, 1962.

1962 April - .
  • Development of an advanced Mercury suit started. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury Space Suit. Development of an advanced state-of-the-art pressure suit and helmet was started. This action was taken in preparation for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission program. The objectives were aimed at improvements in unpressurized suit comfort, suit ventilation, pressure suit mobility, electrically heated helmet visor with additional light attenuation features, and the fabrication of a mechanical visor seal mechanism.

1962 June 26 - .
  • Mercury Project Reef - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury; Mercury Parachute. Project Reef, an airdrop program to evaluate the Mercury 63-foot ringsail main parachute's capability to support the higher spacecraft weight for the extended range or 1-day mission was completed. Tests indicated that the parachute qualified to support the mission.

1962 June 29 - .
  • Changes to fuel tank for the Mercury 1-day mission. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: Engineering was completed for the spacecraft reaction control system reserve fuel tank and related hardware in support of the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission..

1962 August - .
1962 August 8 - .
1962 August 11 - .
  • Mercury spacecraft reaction control system test was completed. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: Data compiled from this test was used to evaluate the thermal and thruster configuration of the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission spacecraft..

1962 August-September - .
  • Mercury spacecraft configuration changes for a one-day manned orbital mission. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10; Mercury MA-11; Mercury MA-12. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: Negotiations were completed with McDonnell for spacecraft configuration changes to support the Mercury 1-day manned orbital mission. The design engineering inspection, when the necessary modifications were listed, was held on June 7, 1962..

1962 November 16 - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas D.
  • Mercury spacecraft 15A delivered to Cape Canaveral - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: Mercury spacecraft 15A was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) orbital manned 1-day mission..

1963 January 14 - .
  • Mercury spacecraft 15A was redesignated 15B and allocated as a backup for the MA-9 mission. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: In the event Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) were flown, 15B would be the prime spacecraft. Modifications were started immediately with respect to the hand controller rigging procedures, pitch and yaw control valves, and other technical changes..

1963 February 7 - .
  • Inspection for the Mercury spacecraft 15B mockup. - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: At a Development Engineering Inspection for the spacecraft 15B mockup, designated for the MA-10 mission, some 42 requests for alterations were listed..

1963 March 11 - .
  • Clearances between Mercury spacecraft retropack and launch vehicle adapter - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury; Mercury Retrorockets. Based on a request from the Manned Spacecraft Center, McDonnell submitted a review of clearances between the Mercury spacecraft 15B retropack and the launch vehicle adapter during separation maneuvers. This review was prompted by the fact that additional batteries and a water tank had been installed on the sides of the retropack. According to the McDonnell study the clearance safety margin was quite adequate.

1963 May 15 - .
  • Mercury contractor personnel at Cape Canaveral - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10. As of this date, the number of contractor personnel at Cape Canaveral directly involved in supporting Project Mercury were as follows: McDonnell, 251 persons for Contract NAS 5-59 and 23 persons for spacecraft 15B (MA-10 work); Federal Electric Corporation, 8. This report corresponded with the launch date of astronaut Gordon Cooper in the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9).

1963 May 19 - .
  • Cooper reviewed his experiences aboard Mercury Faith 7 - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10. Summary: On a national televised press conference, emanating from Cocoa Beach, Florida, astronaut Gordon Cooper reviewed his experiences aboard the Faith 7 during the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. . Additional Details: here....

1963 May 22 - .
  • Kennedy leaves decision to NASA for Mercury MA-10 flight - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kennedy. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Summary: President Kennedy at a regular press conference responded to a question regarding the desirability of another Mercury flight by saying that NASA should and would make that final judgement..

1963 May 24 - .
  • Mercury spacecraft consumables never stretched - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10. William M. Bland, Deputy Manager, Mercury Project Office, told an audience at the Aerospace Writers' Association Convention at Dallas, Texas, that 'contrary to common belief, the Mercury spacecraft consumables have never been stretched like a rubber band to their limit in performing any of the missions.' Additional Details: here....

1963 May 29 - .
  • Department of Defense support of the Mercury MA-9 - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9; Mercury MA-10. Summary: The Department of Defense submitted a summary of its support of the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission, with a notation that the department was prepared to provide support for the MA-10 launch. . Additional Details: here....

1963 June 6-7 - .
  • Mercury MA-10 pitched to Webb - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Webb. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury; Mercury ECS. Officials of the Manned Spacecraft Center made a presentation to NASA Administrator James E. Webb, outlining the benefits of continuing Project Mercury at least through the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission. They thought that the spacecraft was capable of much longer missions and that much could be learned about the effects of space environment from a mission lasting several days. This information could be applied to the forthcoming Projects Gemini and Apollo and could be gained rather cheaply since the MA-10 launch vehicle and spacecraft were available and nearing a flight readiness status.

1963 June 8 - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas D.
  • Mercury MA-10 environmental control system changes - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury; Mercury ECS. In preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, should the flight be approved by NASA Headquarters, several environmental control system changes were made in spacecraft 15B. Particularly involved were improvements in the hardware and flexibility of the urine and condensate systems. With regard to the condensate portion, Gordon Cooper, in his press conference, indicated that the system was not easy to operate during the flight of Faith 7 (MA-9).

1963 June 12 - .
  • Webb rules out Mercury MA-10 shot - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Webb. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury Mark I; Mercury. Testifying before the Senate Space Committee, James E. Webb, the NASA Administrator, said: 'There will be no further Mercury shots . . .' He felt that the manned space flight energies and personnel should focus on the Gemini and Apollo programs. Thus, after a period of 4 years, 8 months, and 1 week, Project Mercury, America's first manned space flight program, came to a close.

1963 June 13 - .
  • McDonnell's Project Mercury contract was terminated. - . Nation: USA. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. McDonnell had already essentially concluded its Mercury activities and spacecraft 15-B had been delivered to Cape Canaveral. A termination meeting held at the Manned Spacecraft Center on June 14 settled the disposition of Mercury property and personnel. McDonnell was to screen all Mercury property for possible use in the Gemini program; any property McDonnell claimed would be transferred to Gemini by authority of the contracting officer at St Louis or the Cape. McDonnell was directed to furnish Gemini Project Office with a list of key Mercury personnel who might be reassigned to Gemini.

1963 October - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas D. LV Configuration: Atlas D Mercury s/n 144D.
  • Mercury MA-10 (cancelled) - . Call Sign: Freedom 7 II. Crew: Shepard. Backup Crew: Cooper. Payload: Mercury SC15B. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Shepard; Cooper. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-10. Spacecraft: Mercury. Alan Shepard, and others pushed for a six day Mercury 10 endurance mission. This would give America the manned space endurance record for the first time and also cover the biological objectives of the first two Gemini missions. The Mercury 15B capsule had already been modified for long-duration flight and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission.

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