What mock up did NASA launch?

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Nasa actually launched a mock up of the Mercury Capsule which was designed to be used for the first manned space flights.  It was launched on a Big Joe rocket, the successor to the Little Joe rocket.  It was the first of a number of test flights including those with monkeys or chimpanzees designed to test the effects on the body of the forces applied during a sub orbital or orbital launch.

For Homer, this represented an entirely new raft of ideas and he of course started daydreaming about spacecraft of all kinds, perhaps even those that could lift entire families to the moon or beyond to Mars, etc.

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