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Space History Photo: Big Joe Ready for Launch at Cape Canaveral

space history, nasa, mercury
Big Joe, a test rocket, had a successful yet failed test flight in 1959. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, Big Joe is ready for launch at Cape Canaveral, FL.

The objective of "Big Joe" was to test the ablating heatshield. The flight was both a success and failure – the heatshield survived reentry and was in remarkably good condition when retrieved from the Atlantic. The Atlas-D booster, however, failed to stage and separated too late from the Mercury capsule.

Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

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U.S. Space Agency

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: nasa.gov