Mercury Recovery Ship Covers
(Dr Ross J. Smith)
There have been many articles written on Recovery and Tracking Ship covers over the years. In addition, there are lists and partial lists on the Internet. Unfortunately none of these sources has proved to been entirely correct in identifying the Recovery ships involved in each mission. Even some documents from both NASA and the DOD have proved to be wrong. NASA can't even get the spelling correct for some of their ships! And the DOD can't even get the ocean correct; they managed to mix up the Atlantic and the Pacific in one document. Neither source correctly names all the ships involved in most missions. In addition no single source names the tracking ships involved in each mission.
Steve Durst and I have been working on Recovery and Tracking Ship covers from the Mercury program. Steve has written a wonderful series of chapters on each of the missions and I'm updating my previous articles. This has involved trying to sort out the differences between documents and determining who is right and who isn't. In many cases I've been able to go back to documents written immediately after the mission to correct some problems, in particular the number of ships involved. Unfortunatley, although the documents go into great detail as to where the ships were positioned and how many were involved, they don't actually name the ships.
As well as this, a series of Secondary Recovery ship covers for MA-6, which were largely unknown, has recently appeared on the market, meaning that this list is the most updated list of known Mercury Ship covers available.
Below is an Excel spreadsheet outlining the result of our efforts. I believe this list is as close to being correct as possible, except where noted.
1) The list does not go into any detail on the different types of cachets, postmarks etc that are available for some of the ships. Ray Cartier's must have 'Primary Recovery Ship Cover Handbook' lists most of the variations available for the Primary Recovery Ships. Also, Steve Durst is writing an extensive series of articles on the subject which will illustrate even more covers. These will appear in 'Astrophile' in due course and are definitely a must read and a very useful addition to and expansion on Ray's handbook.
2) Covers exist from ships not on the list. These ships were not part of the Secondary Recover Force. A small number were probably involved as Contingency Recovery Ships, Supply ships or for some other specific purpose. However, it is believed that the majority of such ships were not involved and the associated covers should be considered commemorative only.
3) The Secondary Recovery Ship covers for missions before MA-7 are, in general, so rare that they may even be rarer than the Primary Ship cover for the particular mission.
4) Our research has raised further questions over the infamous USS Noa cover backdating incident. An article in the process of being written will present strong arguements that many of the covers presently considered valid are, in fact, backdated. It is entirely possible that only a handfull of covers were actually postmarked aboard the USS Noa on the recovery day.
Mercury Recovery and Tracking Ship Covers
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