A Brief History
On May 24, 1962, an American Atlas LV-3B rocket blasted off, carrying astronaut Scott Carpenter in his Project Mercury space capsule he had named Aurora 7, the 6th manned space flight in history.
Manned space flight began in April of 1961 when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made his historic trip into orbit, and a month later the Americans launched astronaut Alan Shepard into space, although on a sub-orbital flight.
Project Mercury was the NASA answer to the Soviet Vostok manned space capsule, and each Mercury capsule contained a single astronaut. Designed by Belize born engineer Maxime Faget, the Mercury capsule first was launched using a Chimpanzee named Ham as the “astronaut,” and then a second chimp named Enos before NASA risked a human flight.
In all, there were six manned Mercury flights, each given a name ending in the number 7, denoting the number of Mercury astronauts. Astronaut Deke Slayton never did make it space in a Mercury capsule, although he finally made into space in 1975.
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For more information, please see…
Cadbury, Deborah. Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space. Harper Perennial, 2007.
Reichi, Eugen. Project Mercury: America in Space Series. Schiffer Military, 2016.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Scott Carpenter looking into his Mercury-Atlas 7 spacecraft, the Aurora 7, before being inserted to begin the launch, is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted“. (See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.)
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