America’s First Astronauts- The Mercury 7
On April 9th, 1959, NASA announced its first seven astronauts, later dubbed the “Mercury Seven”.
The American public first met the seven men chosen to be this country’s first human space voyagers on April 9, 1959, at a press conference in Washington. The men were dubbed “astronauts.” The term was a cross between “aeronauts,” as ballooning pioneers were called, and “Argonauts,” the legendary Greeks in search of the Golden Fleece. These new explorers were being prepared to sail into the new, uncharted vastness of space.”
America’s first astronauts were Walter M. Schirra Jr., Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, John H. Glenn Jr., Scott Carpenter, Alan B. Shepard Jr. , Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper.
In August 1959, they and their wives signed a contract with Life magazine for $500,000 in exchange for exclusive access to their private lives, homes, and families. Through Life Magazine, you got first-hand accounts of their preparation for the Mercury missions, and got to learn who each individual was. These Astronauts became a part of your family.
If you want to learn more about America’s first manned-flight space program read the Tom Wolfe classic The Right Stuff. Wolfe’s book also became a great movie with the same name directed by Philip Kaufman.