Space Fact #1: Astronauts Have Cojones the Size of Manhattan

Illustration for article titled Space Fact #1: Astronauts Have Cojones the Size of Manhattan

This is Alan Shepard being lifted to a Navy's helicopter from his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule after a 15-minute suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He became America's first astronaut 48 years ago today.

This is particularly amazing—almost miraculous—because the Mercury program was developed from scratch in very little time. If you have never seen the Freedom capsules up close and personal, here's a description about how they are: Tiny tin cans. I saw one and I just couldn't believe how any human could have the guts to get into something a little bigger than a phone booth to get launched into a ballistic missile trajectory, all while on top of a few tons of highly flammable fuel. It just defies belief.

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You know, it STILL amazes me today that the Nintendo GAMEBOY ADVANCE had more computing power than the computers that went up with the astronauts.

The guys who were calculating the return trips, the length of burn, the angle, etc., were all doing it with slide rulers and pencils, not pocket calculators and computers. That STILL amazes me to this day, along with the fact that the guys were shoehorned into the itty bitty little capsules and strapped to several tons of fuel...WOW.

All this talk makes me want to go see if "The Right Stuff" is available on Blu-Ray. I want to add it to my copy of "When We Left Earth" that my dad was given. :)