Liberty Bell 7

After spending 40 years submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the NASA space capsule Liberty Bell 7 (which carried astronaut Gus Grissom into orbit in 1961) was recovered, restored, and put on display at the museum in 2001.

In October 2000 the museum hosted the special exhibit, The Lost Spacecraft: Liberty Bell 7, which featured the Mercury space capsule that carried Indiana native Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom into orbit in 1961 and then was lost after splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. Grissom escaped and was rescued. Recovered from the sea after almost 40 years, the capsule began a nationwide tour.

The exhibit allowed visitors to climb into the pilot’s seat of a capsule simulator and perform reentry duties developed from actual Liberty Bell 7 flight data, use a periscope to watch video footage from one of six NASA rocket launches, and control the pitch, roll, and yaw of a Mercury capsule to reorient it for reentry. Children and families could also use a joystick to control a model helicopter for rescue of a miniature Liberty Bell 7 capsule, experience two G forces in a capsule simulator, try to attach a harness to a clamp in a remotely operated vehicle simulation, and select a sonar image within a grid to determine the identity of an object, just as the recovery team had done to locate the Liberty Bell 7 capsule in the ocean depths.

After the Liberty Bell 7 flight Gus Grissom resumed his astronaut duties, taking part in the first manned Gemini space flight in 1965. He and two other astronauts perished in an explosion on the launch pad in 1967 during the Apollo 1 mission. The Lost Spacecraft: Liberty Bell 7 was on display at The Children’s Museum from Oct. 7, 2000 to Jan. 7, 2001. The museum worked closely with Grissom’s widow, Betty Grissom, to honor her husband.