Signed by all seven.
In response to the success of the launch of the first satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957, the United States determined to initiate a space program on an expedited basis. On October 7, 1958, the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Project Mercury, its first major undertaking. The objectives...
In response to the success of the launch of the first satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957, the United States determined to initiate a space program on an expedited basis. On October 7, 1958, the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Project Mercury, its first major undertaking. The objectives were threefold: to place a human spacecraft into orbital flight around Earth, observe human performance in such conditions, and recover the human and the spacecraft safely. At this early point in the U.S. space program, many questions remained. Could a human function ably as a pilot-engineer-experimenter in the harsh conditions of weightless flight? If yes, who were the right people for the challenge? The NASA selection committee recognized that the unusual conditions associated with spaceflight are similar to those experienced by military test pilots. In January 1959, it received and screened 508 service records of a group of talented test pilots, from which 110 candidates were assembled. Less than one month later, through a variety of interviews and a battery of written tests, the NASA selection committee pared down this group to 32. Each candidate endured even more stringent physical and psychological, examinations, and afterwards of the 32 candidates, 18 were recommended for Project Mercury. The initial group would consist of seven.
On April 1, 1959, NASA selected the first American astronauts, and at a press conference in Washington D.C., 8 days later, it introduced the men to the public. The "Mercury Seven" were Scott Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.
An 8 by 10 inch black and white glossy NASA photograph taken on January 20, 1961, showing the Mercury Seven astronauts taking flight training in the newest jet available, a Convair 106-B, signed by all 7 in the same order as they are listed above.
During the five-year life of Project Mercury, six human-piloted flights and eight automated flights were completed, proving that human spaceflight was possible. For this achievement, in 1963 President Kennedy awarded the men the Collier Trophy for pioneering human spaceflight in the United States. Their missions paved the way for the Gemini and Apollo programs as well as for all further human spaceflight.
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