NASA's Junkmen Shove Off

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.: In a very NASA-like moment, salvage expert Curt Newport had to delay the launch of his search for Gus Grissom's sunken space capsule after a power switch in a hydraulic power unit went on the fritz Sunday. But the team set off Monday with high hopes of finding the Liberty Bell 7 capsule, which had to be abandoned after splashdown in 1961 when its hatch was opened prematurely. TIME senior writer Jeffrey Kluger says that even with the latest sonar equipment, the team has its work cut out.

"Remember, this isn't the Titanic," he says. "The saying was back then that you didn't so much get into the Mercury capsule as put it on." Not to mention that the Liberty Bell's resting place is some 3,000 feet deeper than the Titanic's North Atlantic grave. And the blown hatch, which would be investigators' best (if still very slim) hope of determining whether the hatch release malfunctioned as Grissom claimed, could be as far as a mile away from the craft. Kluger says NASA, which exonerated Grissom, isn't too interested in reopening the case, although Newport's partner in this venture -- the Discovery Channel -- just might be.