The Tracking Stations
During the MA-6 flight, there were 34 radio connections made with the tracking stations, located underneath the trajectory of the Friendship Seven capsule. The stations had to perform as the:
EARS, LONG-RANGE EYES, RADAR and RADIO COMMUNICATORS for and across the whole Mercury Mission network. Then have the ability to relay that data back to the computer centre in the United States. Then down to Mercury Control at Cape Canaveral (in real time) and to the recovery ships waiting to fetch Glenn and craft from splashdown.
The technician-operators, engineers and medical doctors were a multi-national group, spread across the continents and oceans hosting their part of the operation. The script could demonstrate this through their accents, as they come "on mike" to assume duties whilst Glenn is over their territory (traveling at 17,500 mph or about 5 miles per second). On 20 February 1962, the stations had rostered teams of about 10-20 personnel. Some technical roles were to locate ('acquire') Glenn's radio signal, and hand it over to Cap Com; some 'stood in' representing Cap Com (Muchea in WA).
Stage Set Up
In this stage play, there are three (3) raised stage platforms for fading in/out each station as it comes on/off line. With small stages, this could be reduced to 1 or 2 platforms. Larger stages will obviously have the scale and usually height and depth to mount the stations at variable heights.
The type of stations varied considerably. The plans for the show will detail (based on external consulting advice) what parts of the station should or can be brought to the audience attention in a simplified by useful way.
Tracking Station Concept Set Designs
Physical stage and prop concepts for commercial production budgets.
Digital backdrop imagery (using a projector) for schools/community with minimal to no budget.
External: towers (all sizes), large antennas, ground to air transmitters, radar dishes.
Internal: Consoles, desks with equipment, telemetry, radar, signalling.
Expertise: telemetry, aero-medical monitoring, signal acquisition, flight plotting, voice communication, recording.
On 20 February 1962, Glenn's - Friendship Seven capsule, shot skywards on a Mercury-Atlas 6 rocket, and he became the first American to orbit earth. This followed Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagaruns historic first orbit on 12 April 1961.
The dramatic footage - of Glenn's capsule floating under parachutes, into the Atlantic ocean, many miles downrange from target - was a natural theme for this play.
The footage underscores the uncertainty of whether the heat shield would hold upon re-entry of Friendship Seven - and the retrieval of Glenn and capsule, back to safety.