Thursday, April 9, 2015
Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton. Known as the Mercury Seven, these test pilots were the first astronauts selected by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration.) They were introduced to the American public at a press conference in Washington DC on April 9, 1959.
The three goals of the NASA Mercury Project were to place a spacecraft carrying a human into orbital flight around Earth, to observe how man performed in the weightless space environment, and to return the astronaut and the spacecraft safely to Earth. This early in the space program scientists, engineers, and physicians did not know how the human body would react to the g-force acceleration required to put a spacecraft into space, the effects of weightlessness, or the psychological challenges related to the mission. They believed, however, that the best candidates for space travel were test pilots who endured similar physical conditions and had advanced technical training.
One hundred ten candidates were interviewed and given rigorous written tests. Thirty-two men with the highest scores were then subjected to batteries of physical, mental and psychological tests. The Mercury Seven were selected from the eighteen individuals who completed all the tests and were recommended for the program. Once introduced to the public they quickly became American heroes.
The Mercury Seven: Left to right, back row: Shepard, Grissom, and Cooper; front row: Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, and Carpenter.
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at email@example.com.