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 had three main goals.
manned spacecraft around the Earth.
man's ability to function in space.
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.