These fragments are all that are left of Mercury capsule number 4, launched on July 29, 1960, on the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) mission, the first launch of a production Mercury spacecraft on the Atlas booster. At 59 seconds after launch, the Atlas broke up and exploded as it was passing through the region of maximum dynamic pressure. The structural failure appears to have occurred near the adapter between the Mercury spacecraft and the Atlas booster, resulting in the spacecraft and the attached adapter falling to the sea and being destroyed on impact. Mercury capsule 4 did not have an escape tower, environmental control system or cockpit instruments, but carried much instrumentation for what was intended to be a suborbital test of the Mercury-Atlas vehicle and the Mercury reentry protection system.
In 1985, Marks Morrison, Don Schoffield and Howard Robertson gave the surviving pieces to the Smithsonian.
Gift of Marks Morrison, Don Schoffield and Howard Robertson