Launch from Cape Canaveral; landing northwest
of Puerto Rico in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island (Atlantic Ocean).
After two ballistic flights by Alan
became the first American in orbit. Three problems occurred during the flight.
First, a yaw thruster was causing attitude control problems, forcing the
astronaut to abandon the automatic control system for the manual electrical
fly-by-wire system. Second, a faulty switch in the heat shield circuit
indicated that the clamp holding the shield had been prematurely released - a
signal later found to be false. During reentry, however, the retropack was not
jettisoned but retained as a safety measure to hold the heat shield in place in
the event it had loosened. If the signal had been correct, John
would have not survived this flight. Moreover, the temperature in John
's spacesuit was too warm. During the landing the
astronaut could not manually control the ship, while more and more fuel was
being lost. John
decided to deploy the drogue chute manually to regain attitude stability. Just
before he reached the switch, the drogue chute opened automatically at 8,5 km
(not as planned 6,5 km), but in any case the spacecraft regained stability.
Friendship 7 splashed down in the Atlantic about 40 miles (60 km) away
from the planned landing zone. Retrofire calculations had not taken into
account the spacecraft weight loss due to the use of onboard consumables. The
spacecraft was recovered by the destroyer
During pickup John
remained in the spacecraft.