Back in the early 1960′s, NASA conducted an unmanned test of the ejection system for its new Gemini spacecraft. The ejection seat performed perfectly; unfortunately, the spacecraft’s clam-shell hatch failed to open. The rocket-powered seat blasted right through the 2-inch thick hull plating.
Watching nearby, astronaut John Young – destined to fly the first Gemini mission with Gus Grissom – was horrified but maintained his sense of humor. “That’s one hell of a headache, but a short one!” the laconic Texan remarked.
NASA’s astronaut corps is probably feeling much the same these days following the July 31 failure of the parachute system for the agency’s new Orion spacecraft. The set-up parachute for the full-scale mock-up failed to inflate, causing the test vehicle to plunge to the desert floor at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Testing Grounds in Arizona. The vehicle, shown above, was heavily damaged.
Fortunately no one was aboard, but the failure represents yet another headache for NASA as it attempts to get the Apollo-style capsule flying. The vehicle and its Ares I and V launch vehicles are running significantly behind schedule amid reports of major development problems and cost overruns.