April 9, 1959: NASA Introduces the First Astronauts
On this day in 1959, NASA announced to the public the seven astronauts, also known as the Mercury 7, that would partake in Project Mercury, the first manned space program. The astronauts included: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton.
During this time period, the United States and the USSR were in a constant space race, where each country was aiming to explore outer space at a quicker pace than the other. Although the U.S. was restricted on time, they developed a thorough evaluation process to select their astronauts.
NASA placed its candidates under extreme pressure and temperature conditions in order to test their health, skills, and endurance. In addition, candidates were tested on how they managed psychological and physical stress.
Love their suits? Check out these classic images from Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo as well as space-suit prototypes that never made the cut.
Top Photo: The Project Mercury Astronauts, also known as the Mercury 7 Bottom Photo: The front wall of the Flight Control Area featured a large world map display with the path to be followed by the capsule (NASA)