Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

09 October 2011

"Okay, Hunt Club, are you ready for the pick up?" [pt.1]

To those of you who are a little bit more than just familiar with the early days of spaceflight this sentence will hopefully remind them of the troublesome rescue attempt of Liberty Bell 7, America's second suborbital spaceflight with Gus Grissom at the controls. It was when Grissom hit the water and was waiting for the helicopters to arrive. Callsigns 'Hunt Club 1' and 'Card File 9', two Sikorsky UH-34 Sea Horse helo's were approaching and Hunt Club was ready to hook on to the bobbing capsule on the waves while Card File hovered at a distance. Further away two more helo's hovered to film the procedures.
Hunt Club 1 radioed to Gus they were getting ready to hook on and Gus himself was getting rid of his helmet and some hoses. He answered to wait a moment before grabbing the spacecraft so he could jot down some measurements the gauges on the instrument panel showed. He readied the charge of the explosive hatch, so he could press the big knob in the capsule to blow it when Hunt Club 1 was hooked on. He prepared his neck dam, a rubber collar to prevent water to seep into his spacesuit and got a pencil to write down the numbers.

Outside the capsule the wires of the parachute, still in the nearness of Liberty Bell 7, got entangled in the outside emergency trigger for releasing the hatch when suddenly, without any warning the hatch was blown off with a loud bang and Gus was surprised by a gust of fresh cold sea air. a wave of water gushed into the capsule. Grissom immediately stopped what he was doing and crawled out of the spacecraft as fast as he could.

Jim Lewis, Hunt Club's pilot was surprised to see the hatch blow and Grissom dive out before he could grab the small dark bobbing spaceship on the waves. As quick as he could he steered his Sea Horse to the capsule and hooked on. The capsule was already filling with water and getting heavier by the second.

A few meters away Gus was in the ocean, treading water and having difficulties keeping afloat. Because he had to leave the capsule in a hurry he forgot to close one of the oxygen valves on his suit and now water was seeping in and making his suit less and less buoyant. He tried to signal that to the pilots of the helicopter but they were too busy with Liberty Bell 7 to notice. "Hey! he shouted. "I'm drowning!" The wash of the rotors blew his words away.

With its wheels in the water and the capsule barely visible beneath the waves, Hunt Club 1's engine started to overheat. The piston engine in the nose couldn't cope with the strain and Jim Lewis told the man at the winch to cut the line. The line snapped and Liberty Bell 7 sank to the bottom of the ocean, 2800 fathoms down, until it reached the sandy ocean bed and stood there, upright, with more than 5 kilometres of water above its nose cone.

Grissom, in the meantime could hardly keep his head above the waves. Hunt Club 1 rose higer and returned to the U.S.S. Randolph, the aircraft carrier that was waiting a couple of kilometres away. Card File 9 approached Gus just before it was too late and threw him a line with a lifting harness. He donned it and was winched aboard. Tired and devastated he lost his machine he was flown to the big ship at the horizon.

This was the story. Now I am going to try to do this as a diorama. Not sure yet if it will be before or after the blown hatch, I tend to choose the latter option but first I'll make the base. I am using the same method as with the STS-1 diorama, a frame with a carton mold frame and then gypsum for the filling. Here are the first results.

The cardboard frame I improvised to mould the waves to.

Waves. From gypsum. It might not look like waves now...

...but soon I hope it will.

The capsule is a reworking of Carl Hewlett's 1/48 mercury model.

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