A little bit of NASA history finds its way to Planet Comicon in Kansas City April 22-24. Liberty 7, a Mercury capsule piloted by Virgil “Gus” Grissom, is being loaned to the pop culture convention at Bartle Hall. It’s part of an exhibit at the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Grissom flew the second manned mission for American astronauts in 1961, taking Liberty 7 118 miles into outer space, before starting his descent after more than 15 minutes in space. His reentry was rough, with Liberty 7 traveling 11 times the force of gravity. As the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, there was an issue with opening the hatch, nearly killing Grissom. But, the hatch was eventually opened and the astronaut rescued.
However, the capsule sank to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Recovered in 1999 by a Cosmosphere team members as part of a deal that gave the capsule to Kansas attraction, Liberty 7 became the only Mercury or Apollo capsule not owned by NASA. Cosmosphere displays Liberty 7 in a special case, so visitors to Planet Comicon are among a handful of people who will have seen the sunken capsule up-close outside of Hutchinson. Comicon’s programs also focus on enhanced science and STEM-based exhibits.
While Grissom survived the July 1961 splashdown, he was among three astronauts – along with Ed White and Roger Chaffee – to die in a fire aboard Apollo 1 during a 1967 prelaunch inspection.
Celebrity panels and autograph sessions rank among the highlights of Planet Comicon. Scheduled to appear are actors, musicians, wrestlers, authors and voice actors, such as Ralph Macchio from The Karate Kid movies and Cobra Kai television series, Joey Fatone from INSYNC, Cassandra Peterson (AKA Elvira), and stars from CW programs, including cast members from Legends of Tomorrow. Other notable names include Adam Savage from Mythbusters, WWE Hall-of-Famer Booker T and comic book author Jason Aaron.
Of course, Planet Comicon features a ton of fun and interesting exhibits, including Star Wars and cosplay equipment vendors.
Cosplayers – professional and amateur – fill the convention. It’s always interesting to see which characters will be the most popular. Saturday’s events are capped with a cosplay pageant, featuring some of the most popular and intriguing outfits.
The three-day event offers something new each day, so you won’t want to miss any of it. For tickets and other information, please check out the website here.