View Full Version : Liberty Bell 7

tony draper
25th May 2012, 20:48
Watched a repeat of the excellent two part Documentary about the search for Gus Grissoms sunken Mercury Space Capsule Liberty Bell 7,once they located it after many trials and tribulatlons hauled it up and got it on deck it was revealed it still had a 1Kg unexoloded bomb aboard that had to be rendered safe.
It was stated that this device was a depth charge set to go off if the capsule sank,well it did sink and obviously it did not go off,begs the question,why?
The particular bomb once they got it out had 'Set to 4000 Feet' write large upon its side,seems a bit sinister to me,in those days with the technology that existed then it would have been unlikely that Ivan or anyone else for that matter would have been able to locate and recover the craft from a mile or so down
So,as you all know one is far from a consiracy theorist(apart from the Hess Flight to Scotland) but what was its real purpose?to save the distress of a Astronaut if the retros failed to fire in orbit?could it be detonated from ground control?would a black pill or a good honest pistola not be trusted.
PS I remember the event at the time being summat of a space nerd.
Anyway discuss?

25th May 2012, 21:14
The French submersible Archimede was commissioned in July 1961, and completed its first test dive to 5,000 ft in the same month as Liberty Bell 7 flew. It achieved over 31,000 ft depth, as designed, by the next summer.

The Soviets might have nicked the plans. The depth charge seems reasonable.

tony draper
25th May 2012, 21:31
The Mercury Space Capsule was not much more than a tin can to contain the astronaut and his life support system and coms gear hardly full of secrets,dont think it even had a computer aboard or anything in the way of the Pilot actually controlling the flight,dont get me wrong I have nothing but admiration for the chaps that built and flew it.
Just seems to me that adding a bomb to what was already a leathal bit of kit on top of another leathal bit of kit like a redstone rocket was a tad over the top.

25th May 2012, 22:19
Perhaps they didn't mention that bit to the astronauts?

25th May 2012, 22:27
If the retro rockets didn't fire, an onboard bomb wouldn't have been needed. If the parachutes hadn't have fired, then hitting the sea would have been plenty enough to liquify the occupants.

I suspect that line from Contact might have been front & centre - We've been giving these to the Astronauts for years. They're not for the things we can think of, but for the things we can't.

tony draper
25th May 2012, 22:34
I was thinking more in terms of a failed retro meaning the astronaut would be stuck in orbit with a live mic to shout into,it did happen to the Russians,though the poor chap was not stuck in orbit.
I read somewhere that the cyanide capsule option was concidered for the Apollo program but was decided against.
I believe the CIA did issue U2 Pilots with a death pill and were a tad ticked off Gary Powers didn't go for that option.

25th May 2012, 23:00
More likely to bounce of the top & into deep space? If it were me, I'd hit the door lock - all over in five seconds. Maybe it was to curtail undesirable transmissions from the doomed man?

"George, you could have used the right effin spanner, you effin spanner" etc etc.

Edited for spelling. Also, recall from Apollo 13 books, the angle of re-entry is pretty narrow, so the retro rockets thing is, apart from slowing the thing down, leds to either catastrophic burn up or bouncing if it goes wrong, but not perma orbit under more or less any feasible scenario??

tony draper
25th May 2012, 23:30
Both your scenarios require the retros to fire,if they dont you just remain in orbit,possibly for years,you would of course eventualy re enter and burn up but you would be long past caring.

25th May 2012, 23:40
Oh right, you're thinking of orbit & I'm thinking of incoming from lunar. I see what you mean. I had in mind the 13 return where they need the angle just so.

Still wallop the door though if Houston couldn't find enough duct tape & toilet roll to work it all out.:uhoh:

25th May 2012, 23:42
Mr. Draper,

I believe this be your answer:

In oceanography, a sofar bomb (SOund Fixing And Ranging bomb), occasionally also referred to as a sofar disc[1], is a long-range position-fixing system that uses explosive sounds in the deep sound channel of the ocean to pinpoint the location of ships or crashed planes. This depth of water is ideal for the device, as the minimal speed of sound helps with the positioning calculations and improves the signal's traveling ability. A position is determined from the differences in arrival times at receiving stations of known geographic locations. The useful range from the signal sources to the receiver can exceed 3,000 miles (4,800 km).

Sofar bomb - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOFAR_bomb)

tony draper
25th May 2012, 23:44
Read somewhere that the Apollo 13 Astronauts are the fastest travelling human being ever in that they came in at a bit more of a lick than the normal re entry for Apollo.

25th May 2012, 23:46
the fastest travelling human being ever
Relative to what ?

25th May 2012, 23:49
Everyone else.

tony draper
25th May 2012, 23:52
Read somewhere that the Apollo 13 Astronauts are the fastest travelling human being ever in that they came in at a bit more of a lick than the normal re entry for Apollo.
Hmmm a quick google says 13 came in at 36 210.6 feet per second.
Note! feet per second, none of these daft furrin metres.
Normal re entry for Apollo was 25,000 MPH
Note! miles per hour,none of these daft furrin kilometers.
Man went to the moon in Imperial Measure
Hmmm,according to my calculations Apollo 13 came in slower than normal Apollo re entry speed,hmmm, mebee me calculator needs new betteries.

26th May 2012, 03:51
Should have calculated it in Km/h to save some batteries :}

26th May 2012, 05:34
I wonder why they were even looking for Grissom's capsule. Surely the assumption would be that the 'bomb' went off at 4000ft. If the bomb didn't go off, would they have had any means of knowing that it had failed?

26th May 2012, 08:30
Most current sources credit Apollo 10 with the highest re-entry speed at 24,791 mph;)

AFAIK I believe the Apollo 13 crew do however hold the "altitude" record.

As for the "bomb" on Liberty Bell 7, that rings no bells with this space geek either....as TD has said I can think of nothing in the capsule that needed hiding from prying eyes and since Liberty Bell 7 was always slated for a suborbital flight, and indeed was not "rated" for orbital flight ( e.g. the heat shield) there would be no need to provide contingency plan for a failure of the retros to fire.

I wonder if something has, err, been lost in translation in the making of the documentary. The parachute systems on Mercury/Gemini and Apollo utilised some fairly powerful explosive devices, especially to deploy the intial drogue parachute/s. Was this "bomb" an unfired, back-up or secondary part of the this system? Was the "4000' " an altitude rather than a depth?

B Fraser
26th May 2012, 08:31
Apollo 13 was a bit light in that they were not bringing back boxes of moon ballast so their terminal velocity would have been reduced.

A former neighbour of mine is ex-NASA and had an office next door to Fred Hayes. A thoroughly nice chap by all accounts. I wonder if he ever complained when his car broke down ? Very small beer in comparison.

tony draper
26th May 2012, 08:39
Anyway it was a great time to be alive for a space geek,what do we do now? send clockwork space capsules loaded wi tins of beans and bread buns up to a huge white elephant in low Earth orbit.

26th May 2012, 08:51
Very true Mr Drapes,

Whilst I'm sure good work continues to be done "out there" I suspect the Apollo speed and "height" records for human flight will remain number one in the record books for many years to come. :(

B Fraser
26th May 2012, 08:56
Being a sprog in the early 1970's with Airfix kits to build of Saturn 5's and lunar modules while James Burke was busy explaining it all live on TV was indeed a magical time. To be fair, there have been many spectacular achievements such as parachuting through the atmosphere of one of Saturns moons and taking pictures of lakes of liquid methane while a robot trundles across mars taking snaps of sedimentary rocks. Not having someone physically there just isn't quite the same.

I remain an optimist that we'll walk on Mars or an asteroid within my lifetime. I may be peeing down my leg in the old folks home by the time it happens.

tony draper
26th May 2012, 09:24
Agree Mr B the unmanned exploration of our solar system has been a spectacular success.

Windy Militant
26th May 2012, 11:28
I seem to recall that it was found that the wrong SOFAR unit was installed in Liberty Bell 7 but I'm blessed if I can find any reference to this now.

Apollo 13 was a bit light in that they were not bringing back boxes of moon ballast so their terminal velocity would have been reduced.

It may have been a tad light but the capsule had to have it's C of G in the correct place in relation to the centre of pressure to retain control so a load of stuff which would have been discarded in place of the moon rocks were used instead.

Mr D don't knock the ISS it's providing valuable duration experience which will prove vital on longer missions. ;)

26th May 2012, 19:05
I read somewhere that the cyanide capsule option was concidered for the Apollo program but was decided against.

Somewhere in my archives ( i.e. the dusty boxes Mrs Wiggy wants rid of) I have a VHS copy of a spaceflight series (can't remember the name) shown on UK TV 20+ years ago. In it Jim Lovell was asked about such a pill. As I recall it he was of the opinion that there was no need, there was enough stuff in the medical kit to do the trick, and if all else failed you could just dump cabin pressure PDQ. Of course on Mercury it would have been even quicker, you could just pull the pin and blow the hatch..........:hmm:

tony draper
26th May 2012, 22:04
Hmmm wonder if anybody has ever been given a fake cyanide pill,imagine the disapoinment after you bite the buggah.:E

AN2 Driver
26th May 2012, 23:39
Re the Apollo 13 lack of moonrock, what they did to compensate that is to transfer equipment from Aquarius (the LEM) to the Odyssey (CMD Module) before re-entry.

Re cyanide pills or other such devices, Jim Lovell mentioned about them that they never existed. He went on saying that if that eventuality would ever have arisen, the easiest way to achieve that result would have been to simply open the depress valve. However, in their way of thinking, they never even considered the possibility.

That attitude was very evident in the case of the Apollo 1 disaster. Up to the point when they died, all 3 astronauts there did exactly what procedures told them to do. Likewise, in the Challenger disaster, it was found IIRR that at least one of the crew members had activated some backup system for life support after the explosion and separation. According to one guy I knew from the program (worked at the LEM for Grumman) that was how these people dealt with the dangers involved, to which, most of them test pilots or at least military, none of them were strangers.