//
you're reading...
Daily History

April 9 1959 NASA Introduces First Astronauts


Project Mercury Astronauts

On April 9th 1959, America’s first seven astronauts were introduced to the public. They were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr, John H. Glenn Jr, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr, Alan Shepard Jr, and Donald Slayton. They were all military pilots, selected to take part in Project Mercury, America’s first manned space program. The project was run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), who planned to begin manned orbital flights in 1961.

Actually, prior to this group, another group of potential astronauts had been named on June 25th 1958, They were Neil Armstrong, William B. Bridgeman, Albert S. Crossfield, Iven C. Kincheloe, John B. McKay, Robert A. Rushworth, Joseph A. Walker, Alvin S. White and Robert M. White. These nine test pilots from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the United States Air Force (USAF), North American Aviation (NAA), and Douglas Aircraft Corporation were selected for the Man In Space Soonest project, a USAF initiative to put a man in space before the Soviet Union did. The project was cancelled on August 1st, before it “got off the ground,” but two of these men would later reach space. Walker made two X-15 flights above 100 kilometres in 1963. Neil Armstrong joined NASA in 1962 and flew in Project Gemini and Apollo, becoming the first human to set foot on the Moon on July 21st 1969.

The USSR had taken an early lead in the “space race” on October 4th 1957, when it successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into Earth’s orbit.The United States response was to consolidate its various military and civilian space efforts into NASA, which was dedicated to beating the Soviets to manned space flight. The astronaut selection procedure began in January 1959, when NASA began screening the records of 508 military test pilots, choosing 110 candidates. They were divided into three groups, and the first two groups reported to Washington. Because of the high rate of volunteering, the third group was eliminated. Of the 62 pilots who volunteered, six were found to have grown too tall since their last medical examination. An initial battery of written tests, interviews, and medical history reviews further reduced the number of candidates to 36. After learning of the extreme physical and mental tests planned for them, four of these men dropped out.

The final 32 candidates travelled to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they underwent exhaustive medical and psychological examinations. The men proved so healthy, however, that only one candidate was eliminated. The remaining 31 candidates then travelled to the Wright Aeromedical Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, where they underwent the most gruelling part of the selection process. For six days and three nights, the men were subjected to various tortures that tested their tolerance of physical and psychological stress. Among other tests, the candidates were forced to spend an hour in a pressure chamber that simulated an altitude of 65,000 feet, and two hours in a chamber that was heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of one week, 18 candidates remained. From among these men, the selection committee was to choose six based on interviews, but seven candidates were so strong they ended up settling on that number.

After they were announced, the “Mercury Seven” became overnight celebrities. The Mercury Project suffered some early setbacks, however, and on April 12th 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. Less than one month later, on May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard was successfully launched into space on a suborbital flight. On February 20th 1962, in a major step for the U.S. space program, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. NASA continued to trail the Soviets in space achievements until the late 1960s, when NASA’s Apollo program put the first men on the moon and safely returned them to Earth.

In 1998, 36 years after his first space flight, John Glenn travelled into space again. Glenn, then 77 years old, was part of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew, whose 9-day research mission launched on October 29th 1998. Among the crew’s investigations was a study of space flight and the aging process.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “April 9 1959 NASA Introduces First Astronauts

  1. Craig: Gee should have waited for this info, might have used it in The Yellowjac story, Thank’s for finding more about space flights from the past. Will

    Posted by yellowjac | April 9, 2012, 00:56
  2. Reblogged this on China Daily Mail.

    Posted by China Daily Mail | April 10, 2012, 12:15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,663 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

For the first time, China has released video footage of its latest Type 094A nuclear-powered ballistic missile sub (SSBN) and Type 093 nuclear attack sub (SSN), a potent show of naval might ahead of China’s 20th Communist Party Congress in October. Chinese state media featured the subs in a training video for Liaoning, China’s first […]

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

A few days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s arrest news took social media by storm. The atmosphere was jubilant as if the whole world looked forward to Xi’s exit. The rumor turned out to be fake news; Xi’s third term looks secured. Xi Jinping is all set to snatch the historic third term in the […]

China is coming for your land

China is coming for your land

Drought has plunged water levels to the lowest in China in decades. The temperatures have also soared to record levels, and hydropower plants failed to meet the sharp rise in power demand. However, this is just a glimpse of the worst things to come. Floods, droughts, and record-breaking temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on […]

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

The Chinese military has intensified its drone incursions into the skies above Taiwan with almost daily flights of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) TB-001 drone was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the island and China’s […]

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India’s foreign ministry said on Friday that disengagement along a disputed border area with China will be completed by Sept. 12. Both countries began disengaging from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area in the western Himalayas on Thursday, over two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties. The disengagement comes ahead of a meeting […]

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

Two electrifying moves in recent weeks have the potential to ignite electric vehicle demand in the United States. First, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, expanding federal tax rebates for EV purchases. Then California approved rules to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Inflation Reduction Act extends the Obama-era EV tax […]

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

In the post-cold war era, India has moved from a policy of non-alignment to a policy of multi-alignment. This means that India has friendly relations with almost all-powerful and developing nations. Today India is carving out a unique path for itself. Such an approach provides prominence and exposes India to the harmful behind-curtain activities by […]

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s frontline island of Kinmen was once again in the headlines when President Tsai Ing-wen paid tribute this week to the soldiers and civilians who “operated in solidarity and safeguarded Taiwan” 64 years ago. On Aug. 23, 1958 mainland Chinese troops attacked Kinmen in a key battle that marked the beginning of the Second Taiwan […]

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

The father of communism, Karl Marx, once famously said — “We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror”. This statement summarises how terrorism and communism go hand in hand. Maoist China alone destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives. During […]

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

China is attempting to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan’s territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say. Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China — and the […]

%d bloggers like this: