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July 16, 2015

The Original Seven – America's First Astronauts

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. Image Credit: NASA

The first U.S. astronauts were a magnificent seven—military test pilots all, three Air Force, three Navy, one Marine—designated to fly Project Mercury capsules into space, then land them back on Earth. When the seven were selected in 1959, no one had ever come close to leaving our planet's atmosphere—and no one knew exactly what might happen if they actually succeeded.

Alan B. Shepard Jr. – A close-up image of Alan Shepard Jr., the first American Astronaut to in space. This photo of Shepard was taken inside the Mercury Capsule at Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 5, 1961.

Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom – The second American in space in front of Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom. He was the first NASA Astronaut Corps member who traveled twice in space.

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. – Mercury’s final and longest spaceflight in 1963 was piloted by L. Gordon Cooper. During their 34-hour mission, he became the first American to sleep in space.

Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra, Jr. – He was the 9th man and the 5th American who traveled into space. Schirra flew the Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) during their six-orbit mission lasting 9:13:11 on October 3,1962.

Donald K. Slayton – He was one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury. Slayton was designated to fly the Mercury -Atlas 7. But due to erratic heart rate, his flight was grounded on September 1962, And he was the only member in the program who never flew into space.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. – On board in Friendship 7, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American orbited the earth. He was the pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 6 carrying the mission to orbit earth three times on February 20, 1962.

Malcolm Scott Carpenter – The Aurora 7 was the name of the spacecraft that made Malcolm Scott Carpenter as the fourth American in space and the second to orbit the earth. Since Slayton was withdrawn to the spaceflight due to health reasons, Carpenters flew the Mercury-Atlas 7 rocket carrying a mission to orbit the earth three times lasting 5 hours.

Scott Carpenter entering Aurora 7 capsule.

Creating the first manned spacecraft at Mcdonnell Aircraft , St. Louis, Missouri.

John Glenn checking out the artwork that will be painted on Mercury-Atlas 6.

Alan Shepard’s view of earth during his first spaceflight on May 5, 1961.


  1. 'Gus' Grissom died, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee, on the launch pad when a flash fire engulfed their command module during testing for the first Apollo-Saturn mission. They are the first U.S. astronauts to die in a spacecraft. (27 Jan 1967)

  2. I'm 99 44/100% sure that the first photo is Scott Carpenter rather than Al Shepard. Those are Carpenters eyebrows and nose freckles!

  3. Don't worry, your day will come too




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