NASA’s Mercury capsules are located in various museums and institutions across the United States.
The Mercury program was the first human spaceflight program by the United States, and it operated from 1958 to 1963, aiming to put an astronaut into orbit around the Earth. The spacecraft used for the program were called Mercury capsules.
There were a total of six manned missions between 1961 and 1963. Each mission had a specific name and number. Six NASA Mercury capsules were built, and most of them have been preserved for historical and educational purposes.
These six capsules were instrumental in paving the way for future human spaceflight programs, such as the Gemini and Apollo missions.
Here are the locations where you can find NASA’s Mercury capsules:
Mercury-Redstone 3 (Freedom 7):
Launched on May 5, 1961, this was the first manned spaceflight of the Mercury program, and it carried astronaut Alan Shepard into space. The mission lasted approximately 15 minutes.
NASA gave the “Freedom 7” capsule to the Smithsonian Institute in October of 1961, making it the first human spacecraft accessioned into the National Collection.
The capsule is usually on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC but has temporarily been removed to due renovations at the museum and is currently on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.
Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7):
Launched on July 21, 1961, this mission carried astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom into space. The capsule was named “Liberty Bell 7.”
After splashdown, the capsule sank in the ocean due to the premature firing of the explosive hatch. The Liberty Bell 7 was later recovered from the Atlantic Ocean in 1999 and is currently on display at the Cosmosphere in Kansas. Also on display at the museum is the Gemini 10 capsule and the Apollo 13 capsule.
The Liberty Bell 7 does go on tour throughout the year so please check with the Cosmosphere’s box office prior to your visit to see if the spacecraft will be there.
Mercury-Atlas 6 (Friendship 7):
Launched on February 20, 1962, this mission carried astronaut John Glenn, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. The capsule was named “Friendship 7.”
NASA gave the Friendship 7 to the Smithsonian Institution in 1963 and it is on display in the Human Spaceflight exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. Also on display at the center is the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Mercury-Atlas 7 (Aurora 7):
Launched on May 24, 1962, this mission carried astronaut Scott Carpenter into space. The capsule was named “Aurora 7.”
Carpenter’s mission, Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7), lasted 4 hours and 56 minutes and included a number of scientific objectives such as making observations of Earth’s weather, land masses, and horizon as well as its sunrises and sunsets.
In October of 1967, the Smithsonian Institution received Aurora 7 from the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Aurora 7 is currently on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Also on display at the museum is the Apollo 8 capsule.
Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7):
Launched on October 3, 1962, this mission carried astronaut Wally Schirra into space. The capsule was named “Sigma 7.” Schirra’s mission lasted 8 hours, 56 minutes and 22 seconds.
The Sigma 7 capsule is currently on display in the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Also on display at the space center is the Gemini 9 capsule, the hatch to the Apollo 1 capsule, the Apollo 14 capsule, a Saturn V rocket, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and wreckage from the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia.
Mercury-Atlas 9 (Faith 7):
Launched on May 15, 1963, this mission carried astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. The capsule was named “Faith 7.”
This was the final manned mission of the Mercury program and the last time an American astronaut flew alone in space until the Space Shuttle era.
Cooper’s mission lasted 34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, orbiting the Earth 22.5 times. The flight set the record at the time for spaceflight by an American.
The Faith 7 capsule is currently on display at Space Center Houston in Texas. Also on display at the space center is the Gemini 5 capsule, the Apollo 17 capsule and a Saturn V rocket.
“Mercury Capsule 15B, Freedom 7 II.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/mercury-capsule-15b-freedom-7-ii/nasm_A19680241000
Nuefeld, Michael. “The Sinking of Liberty Bell 7: Gus Grissom’s Near Fatal Mission.” National Air and Space Museum, 21 July. 2021, airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/sinking-liberty-bell-7-gus-grissoms-near-fatal-mission
“Celebrating Liberty Bell 7.” Cosmosphere, cosmosphere.lpages.co/liberty-bell-7/
“Heroes and Legends.” Kennedy Space Center, kennedyspacecenter.com/explore-attractions/heroes-and-legends/featured-attraction/heroes-and-legends
“Mercury 9 ‘Faith 7.’” Space Center Houston, spacecenter.org/exhibits-and-experiences/starship-gallery/mercury-9-faith-7/
“Capsule, Mercury, MA-7.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/capsule-mercury-ma-7/nasm_A19680263000
“Mercury Friendship 7.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/capsule-mercury-ma-6/nasm_A19670176000
“Capsule, Mercury, MR-3.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/capsule-mercury-mr-3/nasm_A19620021000
“Mercury Redstone 3.” NASA, nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=MERCR3