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"When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" Mercury: Ordinary Supermen (TV Episode 2008) Poster

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Gene Kranz: Most of us came in from aircraft flight test. We knew nothing about rocketry, we knew nothing about spacecraft, we knew nothing about orbits.

Narrator: Gene Kranz joins the Flight Director's team in NASA's earliest days.

Gene Kranz: So it was a question of learning to drink from a fire hose. We had to learn all about trajectories; I'd never heard the term "retrofire," coming on down from orbit, getting the spacecraft back home.

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Jay Barbree: [about the Mercury Seven] You knew these guys. You lived with these guys, you socialized with them. They were the story. Wally Schirra made the best textbook flight of them all. Alan Shepard, extremely smart. Scott Carpenter, the first scientist astronaut. Gordo Cooper, the best pilot of the bunch. Deke, great human being in every way. Gus Grissom, engineering savvy. John Glenn, probably the most level-headed.

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Christopher Kraft: I saw a lot of rockets launched. I'd say that somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of them failed. A lot of them came up off the pad and went the opposite direction. Some of them got halfway off the pad and blew up, some of them got to 10 000 feet and turned the other way and blew up.

John Glenn: We're looking at this thing and we're looking at each other and deciding we want to go back and talk to the engineers a little more before we go further.

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Christopher Kraft: There was grave doubt in about 98 percent of the medical community that a man could perform a task while flying in zero gravity; that he would have trouble seeing, that he would have trouble swallowing, he would have trouble breathing, he would have trouble talking . . . we had to prove to the medical community that man would survive in the first place.

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Christopher Kraft: [about Freedom 7's launch delays] You could see Alan Shepard's heart rate go up, and it reached above 200. Lord knows what my heart rate was.

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