Miscellaneous Parts, Capsule, Mercury


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

On September 9, 1959, NASA launched the "Big Joe" unmanned 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. This nitrogen bottle, skin section and bolts came with the spacecraft when NASA transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1967.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

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

Credit Line

Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Aluminum, Steel, Rubber (Silicone), Micarta, Adhesive


  • Overall (Container): 1ft 3in. x 4 1/8in. (38.1 x 10.48cm)
  • Other (Panel): 9in. x 9 1/2in. x 1in. (22.86 x 24.13 x 2.54cm)
  • Overall (Screw): 2in. x 3/8in. (5.08 x 0.95cm)

Country of Origin

United States of America


SPACECRAFT-Manned-Test Vehicles

Inventory Number