We love old videos that show the early days of America’s space program. This particular one, made in 1960 shows some neat drop testing as part of what was known as Project Mercury Couch. The idea here was to develop a system that would protect the returning astronauts as they splashed down into the ocean in the space capsule. While rudimentary computing existed in 1960, the best way to actually test this stuff was to use it and use it with a guy strapped in. While this sounds nuts, you will see that it really wasn’t. Knowing how fast the capsule should be coming down, they devised an experiment to drop a model of one from the proper height to create the same forces. In this case the number was 49Gs.
The stuff they built worked perfectly. Using crushable aluminum blocks as a shock absorber you will see the “capsule” land with a thud but the guy inside get cushioned perfectly. There’s a few outside angles of this and then there is an “in capsule” view that shows the effects the landing has on the passenger’s body.
We’re just wondering how the selection process for the “rider” was performed. Did someone lose a bet or perhaps there was some extra pay involved? Either way, this is not the most extreme experiment that was performed with a human guinea pig during the Mercury program but we found it to be one of the most interesting.