Mercury Manned Flights
Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., made six orbits of the Earth in the Sigma 7 spacecraft on October 3, 1962, in an almost completely successful 9-hour flight that focused primarily on technical evaluation rather than on scientific experimentation.
Since the Mercury capsule had only been designed to perform three orbits, it was modified with about 20 changes to provide more onboard expendables. Although everyone held their breath when a steering malfunction on the Atlas booster caused the big rocket to go through an unscripted slow roll after it left the pad, Schirra performed the six orbits and came back safe.
The public and political reaction to the Sigma 7 mission was greatly reduced compared to earlier missions, as the Cuban Missile Crisis quickly eclipsed the space race in the news.
The recovery group in the prime target area, in the central Pacific, consisted of an aircraft carrier, the USS Kearsarge, in the centre of the landing area, with three destroyers strung out along the orbital path. Four search aircraft were also assigned to the area, and three recovery helicopters were based aboard the Kearsarge.
The landing spot was surprisingly precise, just 4.5 miles from the target point and only 1/2 mile from the USS Kearsarge. The capsule hit the water, sank and bobbed to the surface again, righting itself after about 30 seconds. Three rescue swimmers were deployed to help Schirra to climb out, but Schirra radioed that he prefer to be towed to the carrier. A whaleboat was dispatched from the Kearsarge with a line to be pulled back to the carrier.
The Sigma 7 capsule is now on display in the Astronauts Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida.