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Vintage Photos of the First Original American Astronauts

Neil Patrick
The Project Mercury's seven Astronauts.
The Project Mercury's seven Astronauts.

In the mid-1950’s, two Cold War rivals, The United States of America (USA) and The Soviet Union had initiated a competition that would show superiority on spaceflight capability. The Space Race was a battle that gave a great contribution in human history. The first nation to grasp the title to have a successful space program was The Soviet Union by launching the Sputnik 1 on 1957, an artificial satellite. And on April 6, 1961, by putting the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard on Vostok 1, The USSR was also the first nation to have a successful manned-spacecraft that orbited the earth. Though America encountered some delay, the launching of Project Mercury on 1959 became the first American successive spaceflight.

The first American space program had undergone so many test in order to ensure the safety and success of the project.


The original seven first American Astronaut

Starting at the back : Alan B, Shepard Jr., Virgil Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper. The front row: Walter M. Schirra Jr., Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn Jr., Scott Carpenter. [Via]

Alan B. Shepard Jr.

A close-up image of Alan B. Shepard Jr., the first American Astronaut to in space. This photo of Shepard was taken inside the Mercury Capsule at Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 5, 1961. [Via]

Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom

The second American in space in front of Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom. He was the first NASA Astronaut Corps member who traveled twice in space. [Via]

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr.

Mercury’s final and longest spaceflight in 1963 was piloted by L. Gordon Cooper. During their 34-hour mission, he became the first American to sleep in space.  [Via]

Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra, Jr


He was the 9th man and the 5th American who traveled into space. Schirra flew the Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) during their six-orbit mission lasting 9:13:11 on October 3,1962.  [Via]

Donald K. Slayton


He was one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury. Slayton was designated to fly the Mercury -Atlas 7. But due to erratic heart rate, his flight was grounded on September 1962, And he was the only member in the program who never flew into space.[Via]

John Herschel Glenn Jr.

On board in “Friendship 7”, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American orbited the earth. He was the pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 6 carrying the mission to orbit earth three times on February 20, 1962. [Via]

Malcolm Scott Carpenter


The Aurora 7 was the name of the spacecraft that made Malcolm Scott Carpenter as the fourth American in space and the second to orbit the earth. Since Slayton was withdrawn to the spaceflight due to health reasons, Carpenters flew the Mercury-Atlas 7 rocket carrying a mission to orbit the earth three times lasting 5 hours.[Via]




Scott Carpenter entering Aurora 7 capsule.[Via]

Creating the first manned spacecraft at Mcdonnell Aircraft , St. Louis, Missouri. [Via]

John Glenn checking out the artwork that will be painted on Mercury-Atlas 6. [Via]


Alan Shepard’s view of earth during his first spaceflight on May 5, 1961. [Via]



The spacecrafts that took on board the first original American astronauts.


Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News