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Project Mercury: Photos of NASA's 1st Crewed Spaceflights

Mercury Astronauts at April 9, 1959, News Conference

NASA

During the April 9, 1959 news conference that introduced the Mercury astronauts, they were asked, "Who wants to be the first man launched into space?" all seven raised their hands -- Walter Schirra and John Glenn raising both hands. From the left, are Donald Slayton, Alan Shepard, Schirra, Gus Grissom, Glenn, Gordon Cooper and Scott Carpenter.

Alan Shepard Speaks with Gus Grissom

NASA

Alan Shepard speaks with Gus Grissom (on left, back to camera), prior to climbing aboard his Freedom 7 capsule for his Mercury-Redstone 3 mission on May 5, 1961. John Glenn (behind Shepard) waits to help strap Shepard into the spacecraft.

Wernher von Braun and Gordon Cooper

NASA

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Wernher von Braun looks on as Gordon Cooper serves as capsule communicator, or cap comm, for Alan Shepard's Mercury Redstone-3 countdown in the blockhouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Pad 5. Astronauts serve as "cap. Comms." to facilitate only one voice speaking to the spacecraft pilots.

John Glenn Running

NASA

John Glenn stays fit by running on the beach at Cape Canaveral.

Scott Carpenter in Pressure Suit

NASA

In the Hanger S crew quarters prior to the Mercury Atlas-7 flight in May of 1962, Scott Carpenter participates in a checkout of his pressure suit.

Gordon Cooper Departs the Crew Quarters

NASA

On May 15, 1963, Gordon Cooper departs the crew quarters at Hangar S for the trip to Launch Pad 14 for the Mercury Atlas-9 mission to orbit the Earth 22 times. Following astronaut Cooper to the transfer van is Walter Schirra.

Project Mercury Astronauts and Convair F106-B Aircraft

NASA

Standing beside a Convair F106-B aircraft in a January 1961 photograph are the nation's Project Mercury astronauts. Left to right, are M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Walter M. Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepherd Jr. and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton.

Mercury Astronauts

NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration came into being on October 1, 1958. NASA announced the seven Project Mercury Astronauts on April 9, 1959, only six months later. They are: (front, l to r) Walter H. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and Scott Carpenter; (back, l to r) Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Gus Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper.

Projecy Mercury Explained

NASA

Less than a year after its birth, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency announced its first astronaut class, the Mercury Seven, on April 9, 1959. Project Mercury proved that humans could live and work in space, paving the way for all future human exploration.

The Mercury Project

NASA

This 1958 scale model shows the Mercury capsule shape B design, indicating the position of the astronaut.

NASA's First Spaceship: Project Mercury (Infographic)

Karl Tate/SPACE.com

See how the first American astronauts flew in space on NASA's Mercury space capsules in this SPACE.com infographic.

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