Thursday, May 5, 2011

Then and Now

Today is the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard's 15 minute suborbital Mercury flight, which initiated the U.S. manned space program. According to the NASA press kit for the MR-3 launch, the combined height of the launch vehicle and spacecraft was 83 feet, with a liftoff weight of about 66,000 pounds.

Compare this to the lift-off of the space shuttle Atlantis on the nearly 12 day STS-132 mission. The NASA press kit for STS-132 lists combined weight of the shuttle system at launch as 4,519,769 pounds, with a height of 184 feet.

Mercury Redstone 3 and Atlantis are perhaps the bookends for the NASA manned spaced program; the last flight of Atlantis (STS-135) may well be the last time U.S. astronauts fly aboard spacecraft designed and built by NASA.