Sunken treasure hits the road
The Mercury space capsule, Liberty Bell 7, emerged from its waterygrave on July 21, was lifted onto a truckbed, and began its new life as a monument to space exploration.

In 1961, Astronaut Gus Grissom made a 15-minute suborbital flight aboard Liberty 7. After splashdown, Grissom was rescued, but the capsule sank about 300 miles off Cape Canaveral. A search team discovered the capsule earlier this year and salvaged the capsule in July.

OOIDA members Max and Shirley Davis recently teamed to haul the space capsule from Port Canaveral to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS. "This was the load of all loads and I was probably picked for the haul because about 90 percent of the loads we haul are military," Davis said. He has been driving for 28 years, is a million-miler, and has a perfect safety record. Shirley is a road veteran of 13 years. Morning Star Transport, the Davis' company, owns both a lowboy and a dropdeck. Government officials picked the lowboy because of the size of the container that held the capsule.

The 3,000-pound, Volkswagen-sized capsule was supported by 5,000 gallons of seawater in a special container. The container weighed nearly 35,000 pounds and was 10-foot-2-inches high and 96 inches wide. "Because of the way it was strapped down, there was hardly any water sway," said Davis of his trip. For security reasons, the Davis couple avoided busy truck plazas, making quick rest stops along the route to Kansas. They bedded down only at alerted weigh scales. "I am just so tickled that the trucking industry gets to be part of history in this way," declared Davis.

Davis admits he was surprised at how many kids knew what he was hauling. Kids in cars waved at the container and people asked to take photos of the capsule at rest areas along the way. One boy said he had studied about the capsule in history class. The trucker said he was in college when the capsule sank in 1961 after Gus Grissom's flight. "I think it's remarkable that the capsule that circled the earth 38 years ago, splashed down and sunk, is now being moved with the help of a truck," he said. Max and Shirley delivered the capsule to the space center where it will be housed in a special exhibit so the public can watch it being disassembled and cleaned. The Discovery Channel financed the recovery expedition and will take it on a three-year tour before returning it to the museum for permanent display.

Max and Shirley say they enjoyed all the media attention. But it was time to get to work and they headed for their hometown of Mineral Point, MO, to pick up another load. 

–by Donna Carlson