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Project Mercury

This training photo is autographed by six of the original seven astronauts.  Photo Credit: NASA
Mercury 7 Astronauts Posing In Front Of JetProject Mercury began in 1958. The previous year on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union had stunned the world by orbiting the first artificial satellite of the Earth. It was called Sputnik and it served as a wake-up-call to the United States.

To answer this challenge, a new governmental agency, called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created in 1958.  NASA was charged with guiding the space exploration efforts of the United States. The manned space flight initiative was called Project Mercury.

Project Mercury had three main goals.

  • Orbit a manned spacecraft around the Earth.
  • Investigate man's ability to function in space.
  • Recover both man and the spacecraft successfully.

Seven men were selected from a pool of 508 volunteers to train as astronauts for Project Mercury.  The original seven consisted of Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. John Herschel Glenn, Jr. Virgil Ivan Grissom, Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. and Donald Kent Slayton.

Six manned Mercury flights were flown
between May of 1961 and May of 1963.

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UPDATED : January 9, 2007
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