It was fifty years ago today (May 16, 2013) that R.E. Salient (Saillant), Bert Swift, and I (Richard G. Nickelson) placed the flotation collar on the Faith 7 Mercury capsule when it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Astronaut Gordon Cooper had just completed a record 23 revolutions of the earth and brought his capsule to within 4 miles of the recovery ship U.S.S. Kearsarge. This was a remarkable feat when you consider that he had to do this manually without the help of his computer or voice communication with the Cape, both had failed during the flight, thus he had only his wrist watch to rely on. So precise was the firing of the retro rockets that missing the exact timing by one second meant the craft would land 100 miles away from the recovery ship. Missing the mark by ten seconds would have caused Faith 7 to skip off of the earth’s atmosphere into space never to be seen again.
The years I spent in the Teams were definitely some of the best years of my life and the men I served with are the most remarkable men I have ever known. It is hard to believe that all this happened fifty years ago.