Project Mercury

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Started in 1958 and completed in 1963, Project Mercury was the United States' first human-in-space program. The objectives of the program, which made six manned flights from 1961 to 1963, were to orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, to investigate human ability to function in space, and to recover both man and spacecraft safely. Project Mercury was a success and led to Project Gemini.

The Mercury Seven

The Mercury Seven were the original seven astronauts designated to fly in Project Mercury. They were M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Walter "Wally" Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald "Deke" Slayton. Selected for their performance in the Air Force, several of these pioneer astronauts (including Wally Schirra) flew in all NASA rocket spacecraft - from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo.

The successful mission of Apollo 11 could not have been conducted without their efforts, for which one (Gus Grissom) gave his life in the Apollo 1 tragedy, alongside fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Mercury Missions

Mercury-Atlas 9 on the launchpad.
Project Mercury Designation Mission Mission Date
Mercury-Jupiter Test of Jupiter missile. Cancelled
Little Joe 1 Test of launch escape system during flight. August 21st, 1959
Big Joe 1 Test of heat shield and Atlas rocket. September 9th, 1959
Little Joe 6 Test of Mercury capsule aerodynamics and stability. October 4th, 1959
Little Joe 1A Second test of launch escape system during flight. November 4th, 1959
Little Joe 2 Carried a monkey 52.8 miles in altitude. December 4th, 1959
Little Joe 1B Carried a monkey 9.3 miles in altitude January 21st, 1960
Beach Abort Test of the Off-The-Pad abort system. May 9th, 1960
Mercury-Atlas 1 First test flight of Mercury spacecraft and Atlas rocket. July 29th, 1960
Little Joe 5 First flight of a standard Mercury capsule. November 8th, 1960
Mercury-Redstone 1 First test flight of Mercury spacecraft and Redstone rocket. (Failure) November 21st, 1960
Mercury-Redstone 1A First test flight of Mercury spacecraft and Redstone rocket. December 19th, 1960
Mercury-Redstone 2 Carried a chimpanzee 129.8 miles in altitude. January 31st, 1961
Mercury-Atlas 2 Second test flight of Mercury spacecraft and Atlas rocket. February 21st, 1961
Little Joe 5A Third test of the launch escape system. March 18th, 1961
Mercury-Redstone BD Redstone rocket upgrade test flight. March 24th, 1961
Mercury-Atlas 3 Third test flight of Mercury spacecraft and Atlas rocket. April 25th, 1961
Little Joe 5B Fourth test of the launch escape system. April 28th, 1961
Mercury-Atlas 4 First orbital spaceflight of Mercury spacecraft and Atlas rocket. September 13th, 1961
Mercury-Scout 1 Test of Mercury tracking network. (Failure) November 1st, 1961
Mercury-Redstone 3 Carried first American to make a suborbital flight into space. May 5th, 1961
Mercury-Redstone 4 Carried second American to make a suborbital flight into space. July 21st, 1961
Mercury-Atlas 6 Carried first American to orbit the Earth. February 20th, 1962
Mercury-Atlas 7 Manned spaceflight-3 orbits. May 24th, 1962
Mercury-Atlas 8 Manned spaceflight-6 orbits. October 3rd, 1962
Mercury Atlas 9 Carried first American in space for over a day and last American to fly alone in Earth orbit. May 15th-May 16th, 1963
Mercury 10 3 day manned spaceflight mission. Cancelled