The Space Race and the ultimate United States' victory in reaching the Moon began with a bell-shaped spacecraft built for just one human. The second manned spacecraft launched by the U.S. was Liberty Bell 7, on display now at the Cosmosphere.
July 21, 2021, the Cosmosphere celebrated the 60th Anniversary of Liberty Bell 7’s launch. Learn more about the dramatic story of the capsule’s life-threatening splash-down and dramatic recovery below.
On July 21, 1961, with a 15-minute suborbital flight of the Mercury spacecraft Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom became the second American in space.
The flight was by-the-book until splashdown when the explosive-powered hatch jettisoned prematurely, flooding the capsule and Grissom’s space suit. Grissom scrambled out of the spacecraft and nearly drowned in the swells.
With the spacecraft full of water, the weight was too much for the recovery helicopter. Liberty Bell 7 was released and the spacecraft sank nearly three miles to the bottom of the Atlantic.
As part of the Mercury Program, Mercury-Redstone 4 was the fourth mission in the Mercury-Redstone series of flight tests and the second U.S. manned suborbital spaceflight. It was the next step in the progressive research, development and training program leading to the study of man's capabilities in a space environment during manned orbital flight.
The main objective was to corroborate the man-in-space concept. The main configuration differences between the MR-3 spacecraft was the addition of a large viewing window and an explosively actuated side hatch.
On July 20, 1999, nearly 38 years after it was lost to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, a deep sea salvage expedition funded by the Discovery Channel, resurrected Liberty Bell 7 from its watery grave. It was then brought to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, for restoration by SpaceWorks, a division of the Cosmosphere internationally known for spacecraft restoration and preservation, as well as replica fabrication.
The Cosmosphere is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Hutchinson, KS and the proud home and owner of the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft. The craft will be on display in the Cosmosphere's Grand Lobby through the summer of 2021.