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At the time it consisted of only about 8,000 employees and an annual budget of 0 million. 1958 NASA research pilot John Mc Kay made the last flight in the X-1E, the final model flown of the X-1 series. 1961 The second piloted flight of a Mercury spacecraft took place on this date when astronaut "Gus" Grissom undertook a sub-orbital mission. The hatch blew off prematurely from the Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7, and it sank into the Atlantic Ocean before it could be recovered.