Mercury Capsule


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Human Spaceflight exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

On September 9, 1959, NASA launched this unoccupied Mercury spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a suborbital flight that lasted 13 minutes. Its launch was the second in the Mercury program and the first using an Atlas booster. The flight helped NASA evaluate the booster, the new ablative heat shield, the capsule's flight dynamics and aerodynamic shape, and spacecraft recovery systems and procedures.

The heavily instrumented "Big Joe" was the most massive American spacecraft launched up to that time. It weighed about as much as a manned version would, and its success paved the way for the beginning of manned Mercury launches in 1961.

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Country of Origin

United States of America


  • Structure: Inconel alloy; Heatshield: Phenolic Fiberglass
  • Heatshield: phenolic resins, fiberglass


Overall: 9 ft. 4 in. tall x 6 ft. 1 in. wide, 2555 lb. (284.5 x 185.4cm, 1158.9kg)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


SPACECRAFT-Manned-Test Vehicles