NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts set standard

17 Feb

NASA’s original Mercury Seven astronauts were the best of the best. The requirements: military test pilots between 25 and 40 years old, in exceptional health, and no taller than 5-feet-11 because of the size of the capsule.

All but one flew in Project Mercury, the single-seaters. Three went on to fly in Gemini aboard two-man capsules. One — Wally Schirra — flew in all three of NASA’s pioneering programs, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Another actually walked on the moon.


The seven in the order they flew:

— Alan Shepard: May 5, 1961. Suborbital flight aboard Freedom 7. Grounded by inner ear ailment, which eventually was corrected. Fifth man to walk on moon, as Apollo 14 commander in 1971. Died in 1998 at age 74. Navy.

Gus Grissom: July 21, 1961. Suborbital flight aboard Liberty Bell 7. Flew during Gemini. Killed in Apollo 1 spacecraft fire on launch pad in 1967 at age 40. Air Force.

John Glenn: Feb. 20, 1962. Orbital flight aboard Friendship 7. World’s oldest spaceman, flying at age 77 aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. Now 90 and living in Columbus, Ohio. Marines.


Scott Carpenter: May 24, 1962. Orbital flight aboard Aurora 7. Now 86 and living in Florida and Colorado. Navy.

— Wally Schirra: Oct. 3, 1962. Orbital flight aboard Sigma 7. Flew in Gemini and Apollo. Died in 2007 at age 84. Navy.

Gordon Cooper: May 15-16, 1963. Orbital flight aboard Faith 7. Flew in Gemini. Died in 2004 at age 77. Air Force.

Deke Slayton: Grounded years by heart condition. Flew on Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, orbital linkup of U.S. and Soviet spacecraft. Died in 1993 at age 69. Air Force.



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