Rescue and Recovery Timeline
p.m. Splash down. On impact the heat shield punctured
the capsule in two places and it started to take
p.m. Electronic recovery signal received from capsule.
plane spotted capsule floating upright in Atlantic
60 miles from the nearest ship. It would take
at least two hours for the ship to sail to the
capsule, so Navy helicopters were dispatched from
U.S.S Donner - the landing ship dock.
the time between the aircraft sighting and the
helicopter arrival, the waves ripped up the landing
bag and the heat shield sank. When the helicopter
arrived, the capsule had capsized. An earlier
fault with a pressure valve near the nose of the
capsule meant that yet more water came in once
the capsule was on its side. This posed two problems
for the helicopter - how to latch onto the capsule
and the extra weight of the sea water on board.
hrs, 40 min.
p.m. The helicopter finally latches onto the capsule
and lifts it out of the ocean. The helicopter pilot
estimated that 800lbs of water had leaked into the
capsule - this is approx. 12.5 cu. ft. filling almost
a third of the volume inside the capsule. Ham was
protected from the water inside his couch and was
'safe inside his couch' as long as the capsule stayed
afloat, and it isn't clear just how much longer
the capsule would have floated.
hrs, 28 min.
p.m. Helicopter returns capsule to the deck of the
hrs, 30 min.
p.m. Hatch opened. Moisture on the inside of the
window of the couch meant that the crew could not
see Ham, only hear him.
hrs, 32 min
p.m. Environmental Control System switched off and
fresh pressurized sea air let into Ham's couch.
The air cleared away the condensation and the crew
could see that Ham's condition appeared normal.
hrs 37 min.
p.m. Ham taken to sick bay for physical examination,
which he passes with flying colors.
Times are all Eastern Standard.
Swenson L.S., Grimwood J.M., Alexander C.C., This
New Ocean. A History of Project Mercury, NASA
J.P., Mosely J.D. eds, Results of the Project Mercury
Ballistic and Orbital Chimpanzee Flights, NASA 1963