This week’s image comes to you from the Air Force Space and Missile History Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It’s a boilerplate (“dummy”) Mercury spacecraft, 11’6″ (3.5 meters) long, and 6’2″ (1.88 meters) in diameter:
Boilerplate vehicles are non-functional craft used for various tests. Different boilerplate spacecraft are used for early flight tests (testing aerodynamics and escape towers), handling tests (rehearsing pre-launch spacecraft installation on the launch vehicle), splash-down tests, recovery tests, and the like.
This is one of only eleven boilerplate Mercury capsules that were manufactured. The placard for this item was not specific as to how it was used, but did state that it was not flown. So given that it appears to be well sealed, and given its high-visibility paint job (which may or may not actually reflect how it was painted while in use), I’d suspect that this item was originally used as a recovery training aid. If this is correct, it would have been dropped in the ocean, with recovery crews then rehearsing the recovery of the bobbing (dummy) capsule.