The 'Mercury Seven' astronauts, 1959.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
A group photo in spacesuits of the seven test pilots chosen in April 1959 to participate in Project Mercury, NASA's manned space project. The astronauts are: (front row, left to right) Walter Schirra, Donald Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, (back row, left to right) Alan Shepard, Virgil Grisom and Gordon Cooper. On 5th May 1961, Shepard became the first American in space when he made a 15 minute 28 second suborbital flight in a Mercury spacecraft, and on 20th February 1962, Glenn made the first orbital flight by an American astronaut, orbiting the Earth 3 times in a flight lasting 4 hours 55 minutes and 28 seconds. In May 1963, Cooper flew the last Mercury mision, a 22-orbit flight designed to evaluate the effects on the human body of an entire day in space.